A Selective Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2D

August 16, 2012

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.


(Ed.’s note: What follows below is Part 2D. This follows Part 2C that appeared on Aug. 15.)

 

6) The Efficacious Nature of the Atonement.

On pages 85-90, Schrock moves from the discussion of the particular nature of Christ’s atonement to the efficacious nature of it. Here there is less to disagree with, but some troublesome spots occur. Schrock writes, “Historically, those who have defended penal substitution have usually embraced definite atonement” (88). In light of the large variety of Calvinists throughout Reformed history who have affirmed a form of unlimited atonement, coupled with the large number of non-Calvinists like John Wesley who affirmed unlimited atonement along with penal substitution, this statement needs qualification. In the footnote, he mistakenly cites Shedd who was actually moderate on the question of the extent of the atonement. (I am here assuming Schrock is citing Shedd as a proponent of Limited Atonement.)

On 88-89, Schrock in a lengthy footnote appeals to Owen’s famous “trilemma argument.” He cites Clifford’s critique of it along with my approving appeal to Clifford, then cites Trueman’s critique of Clifford. As I have noted in Whosoever, Owen’s trilemma argument has been criticized by Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike. Schrock’s last sentence in the footnote is especially egregious: “It is the text of Scripture that must be ‘defeated’ in order to deny definite atonement.” (89). See my comments in part one of my review of WHW for this kind of mindset and its inappropriateness for theological dialogue. Schrock is confusing his interpretation of Scripture with Scripture itself.

Owen’s trilemma argument faces some problems, two of which appear to be insurmountable.

The first is the problem of the issue of original sin. Notice it is not original “sins” but original “sin.” If Christ died for original sin, then he died for at least one of the sins of the non-elect. If this is the case, then Owen’s argument is defeated for Owen must admit that Christ died for some of the sins (original sin) of all men. Calvinist James Daane, in arguing that we can tell all in a lost audience that “Christ died for you,” approached this type of argument. He wrote:

Moreover, if we wholly reject every possible meaning of the statement, Christ died for you, what shall we do with original sin? Christ’s death atoned for original sin, that one sin which is the fountain of all other sins, that one sin which entered the world, and as Paul teaches, brought death upon all men, that one sin which is every man’s sin. One can, conceivably, say that Christ did not die for all the sins of every man, but one cannot say – and remain within Biblical teaching – that Christ did not die for that one sin which is every man’s sin. Not every meaning of “for” can be rejected in the statement, “Christ died for your sins. (James Daane, “What Doctrine of Limited Atonement?” The Reformed Journal 14:10 [December 1964], 16.)

At the foundation of this problem is Owen’s second problem which is thinking of the imputation of sin to Christ as a transference of the guilt of specific trasgressions. Would Owen consider the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers as the transference of so many acts of law-keeping? It would seem not. Are believers credited with specific acts of righteousness on Christ’s part? No, we are credited with a quality of righteousness. All of Christ’s acts of obedience fall under the somewhat abstract class of “righteousness.” Just as believers are not imputed with something like so many bits of righteousness but rather with righteousness, so also Christ was not imputed with “sin-bits” but rather with sin in a comprehensive way. He was treated as though he were sinful. Owen, and it would seem Schrock as well, has a faulty notion of imputation. Christ died one death that all sinners deserve under the law. In paying the penalty of what one sinner deserves, he paid the penalty of what every sinner deserves. He suffered the curse of the law as defined by the law. Owen’s trilemma argument undermines the true meaning of imputation and operates on the assumption of the transference of specific sins.

Charles Hodge, in contrast, has retained the proper understanding of imputation:

What was suitable for one was suitable for all. The righteousness of Christ, the merit of his obedience and death, is needed for justification by each individual of our race, and therefore is needed by all. It is no more appropriate to one man than to another. Christ fulfilled the conditions of the covenant under which all men were placed. He rendered the obedience required of all, and suffered the penalty which all had incurred; and therefore his work is equally suited to all. (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993], 2:545.)

At the end of this section (89), Schrock writes: “If Christ really gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28), if He really bore the curse in our place (Galatians 3:13), if He really became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21); then it must hold that there are some for whom He did not die. Otherwise, how could the ones He ransomed, freed from the curse, and imputed righteousness perish, unless the extent of His propitiation was less than universal. [sic]”

Schrock’s argument here entails that all the elect as a class (believing and unbelieving) were actually “freed from the curse” and “imputed with righteousness,” at the cross. This is the error of justification at the cross of all the elect.

He then quotes Letham. Of course this is an appeal to Owen’s famous “double payment” argument which I have critiqued in my chapter in Whosoever. Schrock mentions in footnote 48 my critique of Owen’s dependence on the double payment argument as relying heavily on a scholastic double-payment for sins to defend definite atonement (89). He then states “Greg Wills sets the record straight.” Wills stated Owen “relies not so much on the double-payment argument as on the Bible’s teaching . . . .” On page 15 of Wills’ review, he states that Owen placed “little weight” on the double payment argument. But the greater point Wills’ misses is that the concept of a “literal payment” for sins by Christ to God undergirds Owen’s entire argument for double payment and for limited atonement. On page 16 of the review Wills states that “Owen concluded repeatedly, all persons should be redeemed” if Christ atoned for the sins of all. Note the use of the word “repeatedly.” On page 15 Wills says Owen “relies not so much on the double-payment argument” then on page 16 asserts “Owen concluded repeatedly” based on the use of the double payment argument. These statements would appear to be incompatible.

A careful reading of Owen reveals he did indeed rely heavily on the double payment argument. It is one of the key linchpins of his whole attempt to argue for limited atonement. Virtually every contemporary Calvinist attempting to support limited atonement does so by appeal to Owen’s double payment argument. Remove the errant commercial notion of a “literal payment” for sins and Owen’s double-payment argument collapses.

There are four key problems with the double payment argument. First, it is not found in Scripture. Second, it confuses a commercial view of debt and the atonement with a legal or penal view of debt and atonement. Third, it fails to take account of the fact that the elect are still under the wrath of God until they believe according to Ephesians 2:1-3. Fourth, it negates the principle of grace by entailing that the application of the atonement is owed to the elect by God himself since Jesus has literally purchased it from God on their behalf. Neither Schrock nor Wills address these problems (See pages 83-86 in Whosoever for my critique of Owen’s double payment argument and note I quote or reference the following Calvinists who critiqued it: Ursinus, Davenant, Lazarus Seaman, Polhill, Dabney, A. A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, Shedd, and Curt Daniel.). Neither Schrock nor Wills address what these fellow Calvinists have said in critique of the double-payment argument.

In a forthcoming part two installment, I will evaluate the rest of Schrock’s chapter.

 

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John Wylie

Great article and series Dr. Allen,

I really think that this is one of those issues that people have made overly complicated. The scriptures make it very clear that Christ died for all people. But when people reject that sacrifice the atonement is not applied to them. The whole universalism charge comes from human logic and has no basis in the scriptures. Salvation is ultimately a deep doctrine and election in particular according to Romans 9 is extremely deep. I think that whether we are traditionalists, Calvinists, or something else, we need to just accept the scriptures at face value. To my knowledge there is no scripture that states definitively that Christ died exclusively for the elect, but there are several that state that He died especially for the elect.

Thanks again for the articles Dr. Allen.

John Wylie
Springer, OK

    Robert

    Hello John,

    You wrote:

    “Great article and series Dr. Allen,”

    I whole heartedly agree, Dr. Allen has presented outstanding material here in this series.

    I also remind everyone, if you have been enjoying this material, if you have not yet read the book WHOSOEVER WILL: A BIBLICAL THEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE OF FIVE POINT CALVINISM, you really should do so. Dr. Allen’s article in the book, “Chapter 4 – “The Atonement Limited or Universal” is fantastic. And this article is more in depth than what he is presenting here in this series.

    “I really think that this is one of those issues that people have made overly complicated.”

    Agreed.

    “The scriptures make it very clear that Christ died for all people.”

    Yes, it seems really clear unless one has some sort of theological agenda (i.e. one holds to a deterministic system of theology/calvinism, so one must argue for “limited atonement” because of the logic of the sytem) that causes them to reinterpret the texts away from their clear and intended meanings.

    “But when people reject that sacrifice the atonement is not applied to them.”

    Right. The atonement is provided for all, but applied only to those who trust the Lord for their salvation.

    “The whole universalism charge comes from human logic and has no basis in the scriptures.”

    The universalism charge comes from theological determinists attempting to argue for their limited atonement view by suggesting that if the atonement was for all people then if must save all people. But this again completely forgets/ or neglects that application of the atonement is conditional upon faith and repentance. No individual personal faith = no application of the atonement to the individual. Continual individual nonbelief and rejection of God and the gospel = no application of the atonement to that individual and no salvation for that person.

    “Salvation is ultimately a deep doctrine and election in particular according to Romans 9 is extremely deep. I think that whether we are traditionalists, Calvinists, or something else, we need to just accept the scriptures at face value.”

    And if we accept the scriptures at face value then we will not hold to the Calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement. It is significant that four point calvinists have recognized this. So they affirm their calvinism while also affirming unlimited atonement. If you look at other threads you will see some very good arguments being presented by four point calvinists like David.

    “To my knowledge there is no scripture that states definitively that Christ died exclusively for the elect, but there are several that state that He died especially for the elect.”

    And that really is the bottom line on this.

    There is substancial biblical evidence for unlimited atonement, there is no bible verse that says that Jesus died only for the preselected elect.

    Because they have no such bible verses theological determinists who are five pointers have to resort to Owenesque type arguments like the double payment argument. But as Dr. Allen points out in his chapter, there are major problems with Owens’ arguments for limited atonement. So much so, that even other calvinists have written arguing against Owen and showing the problems (for example Dr. Allen brings up [footnote 64 p. 79] the especially good one by N. Chambers titled “Critical Examination of John Owen’s Argument for Limited Atonement,”)

    Robert

      Joseph

      and nothing you say, Robert, carries any weight because you make, evil, sinful accusations about fellow believers and yet have remained unrepentant.

        volfan007

        Robert,

        We all know what you meant, and we all know what Peter meant. Joseph is just going overboard. He’s taken it wrong.

        Joseph,

        Robert was not calling you a deceiver, nor was Peter calling you a snake. Re read what both of these men wrote, and read it with an open mind; and you’ll see.

        They were not calling you names.

        David

          Robert

          Hello David,

          I appreciate your post as it is nice to see direct confirmation that others understood what I was getting at.

          You wrote:

          “We all know what you meant, and we all know what Peter meant. Joseph is just going overboard. He’s taken it wrong.”

          You are absolutely correct here.

          David did you read my clarification/response to Joseph in the “A Selective Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2B” thread?

          I made it clear there that Joseph is neither a deceiver nor a con man as his actions do not fit either.

          I also said that I do not believe that anyone posting here at SBC TODAY is a “deceiver” because though people hold differing positions they are not intentionally presenting something they know to be false. They all believe that what they are presenting is true. Now it seems evident to me that some of us are mistaken in some of our views, but none of us are “deceivers,” (nor are we “heretics”, nor “Semi-Pelagians”, nor “Pelagians”, nor “people who worship at the altar of free will”, etc. etc).

          And again I bring up Peter’s valid and astute observation, as it is both true and a helpful reminder:

          “Indeed I rarely (if ever) employ ad hominem arguments in exchange, especially in exchanges over Calvinism. There is no need actually. Calvinism has plenty of vulnerable points to expose without falling back on arguing personally against the Calvinist himself.”

          Robert

            Joseph

            “scripture in the hands of Joseph becomes merely a means to perpetrate a CON”.
            -Robert

            Robert: You have no crediblity and everything you say is worthless to me. Don’t bother ever commenting to me because I don’t care what you think.

          Joseph

          David, you are really gracious, WITH OTHER TRADS!! You say “Robert, we all know what you meant.” You do???? You know what he meant? Looks at what Robert SAID to me to decern what he MEANT!!:

          “Since I work with literal con men and so am familiar with many cons and schemes, I can spot a CON probably more quickly than most people. And I really hate to see when someone’s “CON” involves the misuse of scripture, THE USE OF SCRIPTURE TO CARRY OUT THEIR “CON.”
          JOSEPH ATTEMPTS TO PULL A DETERMINISTIC CON from Romans 8:32. Before looking at HIS ATTEMPTED CON….
          ….the scripture in the hands of Joseph becomes merely a means to perpetrate a CON on God’s people.
          Notice THE ATTEMPTED CON continues….
          It bothers me to see CONS manipulating and fooling people via their CONS. It is even worse when the bible is used as part of A CON TO FOOL OTHER BELIEVERS.
          Robert

          Accusing me of my “attempted con”. I attempted “to pull a deterministic con”. I used Scripture to “carry out their [my] con”, which is my “con to fool other believers”. This is all straightforward laugnauge accusing me of being a deceiver. If you can’t see that David, there is a problem.

          Oh, Robert, I notice you finally commented after 48 hours. But your words speak for themselves.

            volfan007

            Joseph,

            I think the point Robert was trying to make is that you were using a debate tactic to try to win the arguement. I’ve seen people using debate tactics, all in an attempt to “win” the arguement. I did not see Robert calling you a con man, or a deceiver. He was simply saying that you were using a debate tactic, like a con man uses his cons to win….

            Anyway, Robert said that he wasnt calling you a con man. And, Peter said that he was not calling you a snake. Why dont you take them at thier word? They both have said that they didnt mean any ad hominem attack against you. So, why not believe them?

            BTW, I do not think that you’re a con man, or a snake. :)

            David

            Joseph

            Thanks David.

            Yes. I admitted right away to Peter that I had misunderstood his comment. I was blinded by Roberts attacks.

        Lydia

        …does not carry any weight with whom, Joseph?

        Joseph, So many here have been called heretics and labels have been afixed to them they do not accept and have explained why ad nauseum. Yet, they are told they have to accept these labels and heretical names because they are correct according to those who insist upon using them. And by not accepting them they are not accepting truth.

        It seems to me the New Calvinist/YRR/ Reformed movement is very thin skinned, overreaches and is arrogant beyond the extreme. That is what indoctrination does. It is not the same as being educated. The same sort of indoctrination will convince you that Calvin was only carrying out the law when Servetus was burned at the stake.

          Joseph

          I’m too old to be YRR.

          Joseph

          Carry no weight with “me”. I can’t speak for you Lydia. Maybe you hang upon Robert’s every word. How would I know?

            Lydia

            “Carry no weight with “me”. ”

            Thank you for qualifying that, Joseph.

peter lumpkins

Dr. Allen,

Once again you’ve demonstrated the theological difficulties sometimes subtly but inevitably deeply embedded within strict Calvinism, especially pertaining to Christ’s cross-work. Limited Atonement was the weakest link in the Calvinistic chain that began my personal theological descent from Calvinism’s lofty summit. Once I came to reject limited atonement, the entire system collapsed in on itself–at least that’s how it happened in my own journey of faith.

Grace, brother. We’re privileged to have scholars such as yourself pointing out the theo-biblical flaws about which we may not possess a keen enough mind to discern.

With that, I am…
Peter

Godismyjudge

“Christ was not imputed with “sin-bits” but rather with sin in a comprehensive way. He was treated as though he were sinful. Owen, and it would seem Schrock as well, has a faulty notion of imputation. Christ died one death that all sinners deserve under the law. In paying the penalty of what one sinner deserves, he paid the penalty of what every sinner deserves. He suffered the curse of the law as defined by the law. Owen’s trilemma argument undermines the true meaning of imputation and operates on the assumption of the transference of specific sins.”

I doubt even the transference of specific sins would be problematic for unlimited atonement, provided the transfer is conditional rather than unconditional. Since Christ volunteered His life and the Father mercifully accepts His death on our behalf, they have every right to stipulate whatever condition they want as to the application of the benefits of Christ’s death. Christ’s offer for His death to take the place of this or that sinner (and the Father’s acceptance of that offer) is conditional, on faith.

With this in mind, even a specific transfer of this penalty for this sin, is consistent with unlimited atonement.

God be with you,
Dan

Joseph

I found this statement VERY helpful: “Moreover, if we wholly reject every possible meaning of the statement, Christ died for you, what shall we do with original sin? Christ’s death atoned for original sin, that one sin which is the fountain of all other sins, that one sin which entered the world, and as Paul teaches, brought death upon all men, that one sin which is every man’s sin.”

This issue can go a long way in explaining how infants go to Heaven. If they are not guilty of person sin and original has been paid for, that may be the solution needed in why personal faith and repentance are not required of them. THANK YOU! I know this was not the point the author was making, but that is what I got from the statement. Very helpful.

    Joseph

    I remember reading a similar quote in Boettner’s book. He was directing it to people who don’t like the doctrine of predestination. He pointed out that many of these people believe that infants and preborns are saved; and based on that they agree that the majority of people in heaven are there solely by the work of God apart from any human effort at all.

    Tony Byrne

    Here’s an interesting historical note for you and others, Joseph.

    William Lorimer (a 17th century moderate Calvinist or a Baxterian on the extent of the atonement) was accused of being a Pelagian for his views, which is obviously ridiculous. In reply, Lorimer noted that it was actually the Pelagians who limited the atonement , at least by implication. How so? In assuming that infants did not have original sin, they also assumed that Christ did not need to die for them. It was the Augustinians who used the argument of universal redemption (i.e. universal satisfaction of sin in Christ’s death) to prove all had original sin. If Christ died for all men without exception, then He must have died for infants also. Ergo, infants have sin (i.e. original sin but not actual sin).

    Interestingly, it was the Pelagians who limited the atonement, not the Augustinians. On the contrary, the Augustinians viewed Christ’s death as universal in order to argue for the all-pervasiveness of original sin. See the writings of Prosper.

    Lorimer noted:

    “But Pelagius denied that these infants who so die in their infancy, have any sin either original or actual to be redeemed from, and therefore he must needs deny also that they were redeemed, and consequently he must needs deny universal redemption of all mankind. Where there is no manner of sin, there is no manner of punishment due for sin, and consequently no room for redemption by the blood and death of Christ either from sin or punishment. But Pelagius denied that infants who die in their infancy have any manner of sin, or that any manner of punishment is due to them for their sin. Therefore Pelagius denied that such infants are redeemed by the blood and death of Christ either from sin or punishment, and consequently he denied universal redemption.” William Lorimer, An Apology for the Ministers (London: Printed for John Lawrence, at the Angel in the Poultry, 1694), 185.

    With that, Lorimer, the moderate middle-way man, effectively refuted his high Calvinist opponent who was quite ignorant of history :-) I’ve been meaning to blog the entire section in Lorimer on pages 184-186 of his book but I have not done it yet.

      Robert

      Hello Tony,

      Thanks for sharing this very interesting historical anecdote. This bit of history is fascinating.

      I glanced at your website and you seem very well informed concerning the controversy regarding limited atonement among Calvinists. I usually refer to calvinists like yourself and Bruce Ware as “4-pointers” in contrast to people like John Owen, John Piper, etc. whom I refer to as “five pointers” (these are not pejorative terms at all, merely common usage terms, so please don’t take them in a negative way).

      My question for you is this:

      I have sometimes heard the five pointers claim that you four pointers are not consistent calvinists: what is your reply to this claim?

      Robert

        Tony Byrne

        Hi Robert,

        The whole “4-pointer” and “5-pointer” terminology, while not pejoratives, are problematic, since they function on the basis of modern TULIP construct, not the teachings of the Synod of Dort. There’s a difference. As Dr. Allen has pointed out in his reviews and elsewhere, “limited atonement” is an ambiguous label. What is “limited”? The intent? OK, all Calvinists agree in that area. What else is “limited”? The effectual application of Christ’s death to the believing elect alone? OK, all Calvinists agree with that. But if one is referring to the additional limitation of sin-bearing in the death of Christ that Owenists (what I call high Calvinists) maintain, not all Calvinists agree, and I am an example of one who disagrees with that strict view.

        Even the term “atonement” has been used differently in history. Some older theologians used it in the classical sense of the at-one-ment with Christ that the BELIEVER experiences when the Spirit applies the saving benefits of the death of Christ to them. Others use it in the modern sense of the expiatory act of Christ’s death on the cross itself. R. L. Dabney speaks of these different uses of the term “atonement” and prefers the classical sense. W. G. T. Shedd is one who uses it in the modern sense for that event on the cross wherein Christ satisfied for sin. Both Dabney and Shedd agree in theory that Christ expiated for every man, but with an effectual intent to apply to the elect alone. However, they LABEL their conceptual categories differently. Oddly, then, one can be a moderate Calvinist with these two men and say they believe in Dabney’s “limited atonement” (i.e. effectual application to the elect alone) and Shedd’s “unlimited atonement” (i.e. universal sin-bearing) at the same time but in different respects :-) This shows you how misleading the simplistic label “limited atonement” is in the modern TULIP acrostic, and therefore how misleading the labels 4- and 5-pointer are.

        When high Calvinists call me an “inconsistent Calvinist,” they are just begging the question. First, I would maintain that Calvin himself did not hold their view, but that he held the “forgotten classical” position, as Pieter L. Rouwendal called it. Calvin himself is in the older, moderate trajectory that I am in. Second, I think my opponents are presupposing that their arguments are logically sound, when they are in fact faulty. The double-payment argument, for example, is not sound to biblical teaching for the reasons that C. Hodge, Dabney and others have pointed out. I find all of their other arguments for a STRICTLY LIMITED view to be unsound as well. Consequently, I just ask they WHY they think I am “inconsistent.”

        Do they consider Ursinus inconsistent? How about Bullinger? What about several of the most outstanding delegates to the Synod of Dort, like John Davenant? Do they think James Ussher is inconsistent? On what basis? I usually find that those making the accusation of my inconsistency are severely unstudied in the area of historical theology on the issue, so I often like to point that out when they speak of us as inconsistent CALVINISTS.

          Robert

          Hello Tony,

          Thanks for a well thought out answer to my question. Some observations on your comments:

          “The whole “4-pointer” and “5-pointer” terminology, while not pejoratives, are problematic, since they function on the basis of modern TULIP construct, not the teachings of the Synod of Dort. There’s a difference.“

          You may be right that the terminology is problematic, at present though, it is all that poor blokes like me have to differentiate differing views among calvinists. In my opinion, many calvinists are just unfamiliar with church history and even the church history specifically related to their beliefs. So they will act as if TULIP has been propounded by most Christians (not true at all) and at least all theological determinists throughout church history with no development at all (again not true at all). As if it just dropped out of the sky like Manna, fully formed and miraculous! :-) But, as I am sure you know, that is not the real story at all.

          “But if one is referring to the additional limitation of sin-bearing in the death of Christ that Owenists (what I call high Calvinists) maintain, not all Calvinists agree, and I am an example of one who disagrees with that strict view.”

          According to your words here Tony, perhaps a better way of referring to the differing calvinistic positions is that some are “high calvinists” and some are “moderate” or “forgotten classic calvinists”? Do you think that would be better terminology?

          “This shows you how misleading the simplistic label “limited atonement” is in the modern TULIP acrostic, and therefore how misleading the labels 4- and 5-pointer are.”

          You say that the term “limited atonement” in the modern acrostic is misleading, what terminology would you suggest in its place?

          “When high Calvinists call me an “inconsistent Calvinist,” they are just begging the question. First, I would maintain that Calvin himself did not hold their view, but that he held the “forgotten classical” position, as Pieter L. Rouwendal called it. Calvin himself is in the older, moderate trajectory that I am in.”

          Calvin from what I have read is ambiguous in this area as sometimes he seems to make statements that are more in line with the “unlimited atonement “ view, while other times he makes statements that are more in line with the “limited atonement” view. Hence I have seen calvinists take both positions regarding Calvin (e.g. you take him to be more unlimited atonement view while Paul Helm takes the other position).

          Regarding the inconsistency claim, in my opinion it is made in reference to being inconsistent with TULIP not Calvinism.

          Calvinistic beliefs predated TULIP, so calvinists such as yourself and others historically did not hold or advocate TULIP though they/you certaintly are calvinists.

          “Second, I think my opponents are presupposing that their arguments are logically sound, when they are in fact faulty.”

          I agree with you on this. These logical arguments that they present have all sorts of weaknesses and problems. For example, Owen’s arguments have been shredded, and much of the shredding has been done by calvinists themselves!! I have also noted that advocates of the limited atonement view bring up all of these supposedly logical arguments because they do not have the biblical textual warrant to support their view. In contrast 4 pointers such as yourself better interpret the bible verses so you end up with the “unlimited atonement” view. To put it simply some are better exegetes and some are trying to get by, by being more clever logicians.

          But the “logicians” have the much weaker position than the “exegetes”, because without the verses they have to resort to contrived and invented logical arguments. And the “exegetes” who have the bible verses in support need only present them and simultaneoulsy show the problems with the contrived logical arguments of the “logicians”.

          “The double-payment argument, for example, is not sound to biblical teaching for the reasons that C. Hodge, Dabney and others have pointed out. I find all of their other arguments for a STRICTLY LIMITED view to be unsound as well. Consequently, I just ask they WHY they think I am “inconsistent.””

          The fact that calvinists such as Hodge, Dabney, et all have found problems with these logical arguments should give modern proponents of strict calvinism/high calvinism pause. But it doesn’t, as you will see many of these YRR calvinists today parroting Owen as if his arguments are gospel. They are not, and they have been refuted and dismissed by other calvinists already.

          “Do they consider Ursinus inconsistent? How about Bullinger? What about several of the most outstanding delegates to the Synod of Dort, like John Davenant? Do they think James Ussher is inconsistent? On what basis? I usually find that those making the accusation of my inconsistency are severely unstudied in the area of historical theology on the issue, so I often like to point that out when they speak of us as inconsistent CALVINISTS.”

          Again, history is clearly on your side, but most of these modern YRR calvinists have an abysmal knowledge of church history. It seems as if they hear someone present Owens’ arguments and then they just go running with them, completely unaware of their own history in which Owens’ arguments have been severely and repeatedly criticized and found wanting by **other calvinists**.

          Tony I appreciate your bringing out this historical information, but I feel sorry for you as I am sure that you probably regularly get blasted by zealots on the other side! How does the other side usually treat you?

          Do you have any resources that you would recommend if someone wants to be better informed historically about these things?

          It should be observed by non-calvinists that the image that Calvinism presents this monolithic unified view is just false. There are all sorts of disagreements among Calvinists and the nature of the atonement is just one of them.

          Robert

            Tony Byrne

            Robert asked:

            “According to your words here Tony, perhaps a better way of referring to the differing calvinistic positions is that some are “high calvinists” and some are “moderate” or “forgotten classic calvinists”? Do you think that would be better terminology?”

            Yes. The highest of the high are the Hyper-Calvinists. Below them are the High Calvinists. Next are what I call the classic-moderate position. See the conference chart I made that Dr. Allen distributed at the John 3:16 Conference here (click). Or see my “Explanation of a Few Calvinistic Labels” here (click).

            Robert asked:

            “You say that the term “limited atonement” in the modern acrostic is misleading, what terminology would you suggest in its place?”

            It depends. You’ll notice that Dr. Allen is deliberately defining “limited atonement” for the idea of limited substitution or limited sin-bearing that the High Calvinists maintain. For that specific view, I tend to prefer the expression “limited imputation.” I think that is fair, and I have yet to encounter a High Calvinist that didn’t think it fairly described their view. I think it is best to stick with labels that are not pejoratives. Stick with labels that even your opponents can generally accept as being non-critical labels.

            Anyway, there are no two words that can sum up a Calvinist position of whatever kind with respect to the design and extent of the atonement. Given the complexity, even the classic “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” needs clarification. We’re dealing with a very complex subject since it is like the top of the theological pyramid. Underneath it are areas that require careful qualifications. I don’t find that any two words can be used to contrast the consensus view among Calvinists (as expressed at Dort) with non-Calvinistic positions. “Limited Atonement” just doesn’t cut it, and such labels are not only misleading the common Christian in the pew, but the theologians who are writing books as well. High Calvinists say they prefer “Particular Redemption” or “Definite Atonement.” These also are problematic. You’ll notice that even J. L. Dagg (a strict or high Calvinist) acknowledged different conceptions of “particular redemption.” Allen notes this in his chapter on Whosoever, but it appears the Founders guys have just ignored it in their vast historical incompetency in this area. Dagg wrote of some particular redemptionists: “who maintain the doctrine of particular redemption, [and yet] distinguish between redemption and atonement, and because of the adaptedness referred to [i.e. that Christ’s death is adapted to the needs of every sinner], consider the death of Christ an atonement for the sins of all men; or as an atonement for sin in the abstract.” J. L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, VA.: Gano Books, 1990), 326.

            See it? The Founders Calvinists don’t seem to see it yet, or even to acknowledge it. Dagg is speaking of some particular redemptionists who believed Christ atoned for the sins of every man. That’s my position :) See the problem with the label “particular redemption” now? There are two kinds within that position, as Dagg notes, so it shouldn’t be singularly associated with Owenism, as is so common today among all the TULIP folly. Similar complications come up with respect to the label “definite atonement” since the term “atonement” has been variously used. But, in so far as “definite atonement” is meant to capture the idea of a strictly limited substitution on behalf of the elect alone, I suppose it is adequate. Still, though, there are complications. No two words will suffice, and to stick with TULIP jargon is terribly misleading, but it is not likely to be abandoned in a culture engaged in bumper sticker theology and sloganeering.

            Robert said:

            “Tony I appreciate your bringing out this historical information, but I feel sorry for you as I am sure that you probably regularly get blasted by zealots on the other side! How does the other side usually treat you?”

            Frankly, some commonly treat me like dung, to use a mild expression. Think of synonyms and you’ll get my point :) Speaking of labels, they are VERY quick to use pejoratives in order to smear and malign.

            Lastly, Robert asked:

            “Do you have any resources that you would recommend if someone wants to be better informed historically about these things?”

            Besides what I have documented on my own blog, I would encourage everyone to regularly read David Ponter’s “Calvin and Calvinism” blog (click) in order to see a kind of “Elenchus for Classic and Moderate Calvinism.” He’s a friend of mine and an outstanding student of Calvinistic history. In my opinion, he surpasses the scholarship of Dr. Curt Daniel, at least in the area of the atonement. His blog is even organized in an excellent manner for ease of research.

            Grace to you,
            Tony

            Tony Byrne

            I left a comment for you yesterday in reply to your questions, Robert, but it is still pending due to the HTML coding. Anyway, check back some time to see it.

            GTY,
            Tony

      Joseph

      Tony,
      That is interesting. Would you say that William Lorimer would have accused Baptist Traditionalists of being Pelagian since they too deny that original guilt from Adam comes upon the human race and further deny that infants have any guilt that needs to be atoned for, thus limiting Christ’s atonement? Just curious what you think.

        Tony Byrne

        First may have misunderstood the situation I described above. It wasn’t Lorimer (the moderate Calvinist) who was accusing others of Pelagianism, but his unnamed high Calvinist oppoent accused him of being a Pelagian for teaching that Christ died for all men. Such accusations and pejoratives being thrown around by high Calvinists is nothing new. Even Amyraut’s oppoents (the Rivet family, Spanheim, etc.) accused him of being a papist, an Arminian and even a Socinian (see Frans Pieter Van Stam’s The Controversy Over the Theology of Saumur, 1635-1650 (APA-Holland University Press, 1988) for details). Lorimer replied to the “you’re a Pelagian” slander by showing that it was actually Pelagius that limited the atonement. Lorimer was actually representing true Augustinianism in affirming universal redemption, contra his critic.

        Second, I have not studied what some Baptists are saying when they deny that infants have “original guilt.” I heard about the position just after Paige Patterson spoke at the John 3:16 Conference, but I haven’t paid attention to what so called “Traditionalists” are saying. Someone mentioned a Baptist systematician who also argued Patterson’s view, but I can’t remember his name at the moment. I would need to understand their distinctions to comment on it. Meanwhile, it seems absurd to me to think infants who die do not have the guilt of original sin. They don’t have actual sin, but they do have the guilt of original sin in my view.

        Since I don’t the details about what is being said about original sin by some “Traditionalist” Baptists, I really can’t speak to it. I highly doubt they are opting for the *heretical* position of Pelagius. Even some critics of the Traditional Statement only went so far as to accuse them of semi-Pelagianism, not full-blown Pelagianism.

        Anyway, enough of that. We’ll try to stick to the present topic of the extent of the atonement from here on out, but I wanted to thrown in the interesting information about Lorimer above. What he says about Augustinianism hasn’t been documented since the 1690’s, so far as I know, but his moderate views have been documented. He’s a known “middle-way” man, as Baxterians and others were once called.

          Joseph

          Tony,

          It has been the standard position argued by many Traditionalists who debate at this site that infants have no original guilt. That is the position they have had to take in order to justify a certain sentence in the Traditional Statement. It is too bad none of them have commented on this thread. I agree with you, Tony, that it is an absurd position.

Randall Cofield

Just as believers are not imputed with something like so many bits of righteousness but rather with righteousness, so also Christ was not imputed with “sin-bits” but rather with sin in a comprehensive way. He was treated as though he were sinful.

1Pe 2:24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness––by whose stripes you were healed.

    Tony Byrne

    Randall,

    We all know about such verses. 1 Peter 2:24 and like verses do not refute Allen’s point. Let me try to explain the idea.

    I, Tony, have committed the act of theft before, and so have you, Randall. Our acts of stealing are distinct, but they fall under the broad category of theft that the law condemns: don’t steal. In dying the death that thieves deserve for their theft, Randall, Christ has satisfied for all particular acts of theft. He answered to the law what all thieves deserve, i.e. death. When Peter says that “Christ bore our sins,” the idea is as Charles Hodge says: “He rendered the obedience required of all, and suffered the penalty which all had incurred.” This is why Hodge can then assert that “What was suitable for one was suitable for all.” In dying the one death that all sinners and their sin deserve, He fully satisfied what the law demands of all kinds of sin, though not dying exactly as each sinner deserves (not the idem but the tantundem).

    If this confuses you, think about Allen’s point regarding the imputation of righteousness to us believers. It’s not as though we are credited with all the miracles Christ did, or for feeding thousands of people. We’re not credited with each particular righteous act of Jesus’ obedience to His parents. Bits of righteousness are not transferred to us. Rather, in having His righteousness imputed to us, we’re treated as though we had fulfilled the law’s requirement to honor our parents. His particular acts of righteousness fall under the broader category of law-obedience. We are now treated as law-keepers, not as though we had done all of Jesus’ particular acts of righteousness.

    That’s Allen’s point in the argument above. To get away from the faulty idea of transference of sins to Christ on the cross, try thinking correctly about the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer. The same principle of imputation is at work there, as with the imputation of sin to Christ on the cross. Hodge captures the parallel when he says, “The righteousness of Christ, the merit of his obedience and death, is needed for justification by each individual of our race, and therefore is needed by all. It is no more appropriate to one man than to another.”

    Christ’s particular acts of righteousness fulfills what the law demands broadly, under the category of legal obedience. All men stand equally in need of this legal obedience, and what Christ did was suitable for one and all men alike. Even so, when he satisfied the penalty of law-breaking, He did was was suitable for one and all men alike.

    When Christ “bore our sins,” He died the one death that the law demands of one and all sinners alike. “He became sin” in that sense. That’s what the text has in mind. If we cite the texts that refer to our “becoming the righteousness of God” in Christ, it means that we now are treated as though we had answered all that the law demands for our obedience, not that we are credited with doing all the particular acts of legal-obedience that Jesus did..

      holdon

      “Rather, in having His righteousness imputed to us, we’re treated as though we had fulfilled the law’s requirement to honor our parents. His particular acts of righteousness fall under the broader category of law-obedience. We are now treated as law-keepers, not as though we had done all of Jesus’ particular acts of righteousness.”

      This is not Scriptural. Christ did not “keep the law for us”, so that we get a “legal obedience” transferred to us. Our righteousness is “apart from the Law” and “apart from works of obedience”, Rom. 3:21,28; 4:6, etc..
      We are not “treated as law-keepers”: we are dead to the law. Any baptist should know Romans 6 and 7. Read 7:6 “we are now free from the Law”.

      I think this reveals a fundamental misunderstanding that not only Christ sacrificial death on the cross is enough to save us, but that also somehow we need also His righteousness transferred to us. But Scripture is clear: it is only His death that clears us from sins and sin. Nothing else could do. Of course He was the Lamb without blame or spot: only such a sacrifice would demonstrate that He died not for anything in Himself. But that sinless life does not give us righteousness (actually, it rather condemns us), but His death and resurrection do.

        Tony Byrne

        Our righteousness is “apart from the Law” and “apart from works of obedience”, Rom. 3:21,28; 4:6, etc..

        What the text means is that our righteousness is apart from our own keeping of the law, and in that sense apart from [our] works of obedience. The righteousness we need is from that same law we have broken. Christ fulfilled all of it on our behalf and it is His obedience that we have imputed to us, not something apart from that which we broke and needed to fulfill.

        We are not “treated as law-keepers”: we are dead to the law. Any baptist should know Romans 6 and 7. Read 7:6 “we are now free from the Law”.

        To say we are not dead to the law and are free from the law is no refutation of my point. Believers are dead to the law as a code that binds them. Paul is not saying Christ did not fulfill the law for us, but that due to our being in Him, that law no longer has a condemning power over us.

        Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). How? By becoming a curse for us. (ibid.) He fulfilled the righteous requirement of the the law that we violated.

        Galatians 4:4-5 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

        Using texts that point out the liberty from the law that the sons of God have now by way of their adoption does not negate the fact that Christ both obeyed the precepts of it on our behalf (what some theologians call His “active obedience”) and paid its penalty on our behalf (what some theologians call his “passive obedience”). He answered to the law in every way in our nature in order that we through faith may not be treated as righteous by a righteousness we have extra nos.

        That’s standard evangelical theology. I don’t want to pursue this distracting red-herring issue further, “holdon,” so I will wait for a response from Randall (if he chooses) and interact with him.

          Tony Byrne

          correction: “To say we are dead to the law and…”

          Tony Byrne

          second correction: He answered to the law in every way in our nature in order that we through faith may *now* be treated as righteous by a righteousness we have extra nos.

          Sheesh.

          holdon

          It may be a red herring: but they are thrown all around us here.

          You say “The righteousness we need is from that same law we have broken.” Paul says that the righteousness by law of which Moses speaks, is different, yeah opposite to the righteousness by faith.

          “what some theologians call His “active obedience”) and paid its penalty on our behalf (what some theologians call his “passive obedience”).
          That’s standard evangelical theology”

          Exactly: it is theology. Not Scripture at all. This theology diminishes the value of the cross in serious ways and undermines the fundamental righteousness of God: no righteous acts of another could repair my state. No man is justified by works of law: not my own, not anybody else’s. If Christ’s life could justify me, then He wouldn’t have had to die.
          Righteousness imputed to a man, is the same as that man being considered righteous. It has nothing to do with a transfer from someone else. We are justified by faith in His blood, not by faith in His life.

            Joseph

            “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

            Why did He need to fulfill the law if not in our place?

            “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”

            How can you be sure this is only speaking of His death and not also His life?

            “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

            He, Jesus, is our righteousness. His own personal righteousness has been imputed to us.

            John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
            15But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

            Why did Jesus need to be baptized “to fulfill all righteousness”? His bapism was for us!

            holdon

            “Why did Jesus need to be baptized “to fulfill all righteousness”? His bapism was for us!”

            How? How was His baptism for us?

            “His own personal righteousness has been imputed to us.

            Where does it say that?

            ““For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
            How can you be sure this is only speaking of His death and not also His life?”
            Because of this verse: “so then as it was by one offence towards all men to condemnation, so by one righteousness towards all men for justification of life.”

            “Why did He need to fulfill the law if not in our place?”

            Do you really think that His law keeping could make us righteous? Please answer that.

            Joseph

            The main reason most Reformed people today believe that Charles Finney was a heretic is because he denied that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and because Finney denied that one man’s righteousness could be imputed to another.

            holdon

            “The main reason most Reformed people today believe that Charles Finney was a heretic is because he denied that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and because Finney denied that one man’s righteousness could be imputed to another.”

            Are you sure? Because I think you could be wrong.

            But is this how you argue your points? What happened to what God teaches rather than those “Reformed”?

            Joseph

            Holdon, I absolutely believe that Christ’s life and His death are necessary.

            His death takes away our sin, but it does not merit heaven for us. His righteous life is what merits our right to enter His Kingdom.

            Joseph

            Holdon, here is a quote from Finney. There are many like this one. He is very clear. You would probably like him. He says a lot of the things you have been saying:

            “The Doctrine of a literal imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity, of the literal imputation of all the sins of the elect to Christ, and of his suffering for them the exact amount due to the transgressors, of the literal imputation of Christ’s righteousness or obedience to the elect, and the consequential perpetual justification of all that are converted from the first exercise of faith, whatever their subsequent life may be- I say I regard these dogmas as fabulous, and better befitting a romance than a system of theology.

            Charles Finney, Systematic Theology, pp. 333.

            holdon

            If Finney is saying (not clear to me; I prefer Scripture) that Christ’s righteousness during His life is not imputed to the believer, then Finney was right (and most Reformed wrong).

            And if you want to call me a heretic, (which you seem to imply; you who were so sensitive elsewhere) go ahead. They accused Christ of worse.

            Joseph

            Holdon,
            I was not calling you a heretic. That is not what I was implying. Sorry if it came across that way.

            Did you catch that one sentence in the Finney quote: “and the consequential perpetual justification of all that are converted from the first exercise of faith, whatever their subsequent life may be”

            Finney also denies eternal security. He was convinced believers could and do lose their justification. And, further, Finney believed that our justification was based on our own obedience to the law (rather than Christ’s obedience to the Law). There are many reasons for Calvinists and Traditionalists alike to consider Finney a heretic.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Joseph, I can think of one very popular Reformed guy who rejects the idea of the imputation of Christ’s own righteousness. It isn’t just Finney.

      Randall Cofield

      Hi Tony,

      Sorry for the delay in replying. Long day.

      I did (I think) understand Dr. Allen’s view of the atonement, though I must admit your post added substantial clarity.

      Though I find this view intriguing, here’s were I get hung up. You said:

      In dying the one death that all sinners and their sin deserve, He fully satisfied what the law demands of all kinds of sin, though not dying exactly as each sinner deserves (not the idem but the tantundem).

      First, if the demands of God’s perfect law are satisfied by Christ on behalf of all sins and sinners without exception, why eternal punishment (second death)?

      And secondly, how would you square this view with that of Christ’s atonement being substitutionary in nature (e.g. the rich man of Lk. 16 suffering for his sin in hell though Christ was to die in his stead)?

      Grace to you, brother.

      Soli Deo Gloria

        John Wylie

        Randall,

        I know you were not addressing your comment to me, but I must respectfully disagree with you. I understand your question about people being punished for sins that Christ already paid for. But ultimately the scriptures in a number of places tell us that Christ died for all mankind.

          Randall Cofield

          Hi John,

          I don’t deny that Christ, in some sense, died for all mankind. The question I am grappling with is did He make atonement/satisfaction/expiation for all the sins of all mankind.

          Grace to you.

          Soli Deo Gloria

            holdon

            “The question I am grappling with is did He make atonement/satisfaction/expiation for all the sins of all mankind.”

            The problem why people are grappling with this is because the word “atonement” is not just one simple thing. I comprises of various aspects wrought by Christ on the cross. Clearly not all sins (of everyone) are done away at the cross. “if you con’t believe, you will die in your sins” says He. And Paul: “because of these things the wrath of God will come”, etc… Unbelievers will be judged according to their sins: works done in the body.
            It is only those who confess their sins by putting their hand on the sacrifice of the one animal (conform the imagery of Lev 16, the Great Day of Atonement) that their sins are carried away, never to be found again. This Christ did in the believer’s stead. Christ was delivered for our offences.
            But the blood of the other animal is put on the mercy seat before God. That blood is between God and all of mankind. And there is no way around that so to speak: it is between God and all persons. Christ’s blood is there. It is the ground for God’s universal outgoing grace.

            These two aspects are brought out consistently through Scripture. The “many” verses are those who actually have put their faith in Christ. The “all” verses express the scope of His work. Diminishing any of the aspects of the atonement, is diminishing the value of His sacrifice.

        Tony Byrne

        Randall asked:

        “First, if the demands of God’s perfect law are satisfied by Christ on behalf of all sins and sinners without exception, why eternal punishment (second death)?”

        Me now:
        Each of your questions seem to be various ways of getting at the double-payment argument. Here’s a quick reply to your first question. I’ll get to the other one later.

        The reason why some perish for whom Christ satisfied is because they fail to appropriate the remedy offered them in Christ death through faith. Ursinus pointed this out long ago in answer to a Socinian. He wrote:

        Objection: 4. If Christ made satisfaction for all, then all ought to be saved. But all are not saved. Therefore, he did not make a perfect satisfaction.

        Answer: Christ satisfied for all, as it respects the sufficiency of the satisfaction which he made, but not as it respects the application thereof; for he fulfilled the law in a two-fold respect. First, by his own righteousness; and secondly, by making satisfaction for our sins, each of which is most perfect. But the satisfaction is made ours by an application, which is also two-fold; the former of which is made by God, when he justifies us on account of the merit of his Son, and brings it to pass that we cease from sin; the latter is accomplished by us through faith. For we apply unto ourselves, the merit of Christ, when by a true faith, we are fully persuaded that God for the sake of the satisfaction of his Son, remits unto us our sins. Without this application, the satisfaction of Christ is of no benefit to us.

        Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans. G.W.Willard, (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1994), 215.

        All unbelievers, i.e. the elect and the non-elect alike, abide under God’s wrath. There is no difference. They stand condemned in unbelief and God sincerely threatens them all with perishing if they remain in unbelief. Just because Christ satisfied for a person, it does not ipso facto liberate a person, or relieve them of their obligation to believe in order to escape punishment. Paul, speaking by the Spirit, says that Randall was once a child of wrath, EVEN AS THE REST, even though Christ had died for him.

        Eventually, by an effectual operation of the Spirit, He quickens us (all the elect) through the preached word and grants us the moral ability to believe. The rest are left in an unbelieving, rebellious state and suffer eternal wrath. Their punishment is aggravated because God once loved them and sent His Son to save them, but they refused and spurned their own remedy. It is precisely because Christ died for them that their misery is aggravated. As Jonathan Edwards said:

        “And all this [the misery of the damned] will be aggravated by the remembrance, that God once loved us so as to give his Son to bring us to the happiness of his love, and tried all manner of means to persuade us to accept of his favor, which was obstinately refused.”

        Check out all of these sources (click) and read them thoroughly in order to see the Calvinistic replies to the double-payment fallacy. Be sure to check out C. Hodge, Dabney and Shedd in particular.

        Tony Byrne

        Randall asked:

        “And secondly, how would you square this view with that of Christ’s atonement being substitutionary in nature (e.g. the rich man of Lk. 16 suffering for his sin in hell though Christ was to die in his stead)?”

        Me now:
        We agree that Christ’s death is substitionary, but remember that is a penal substitution, not a commercial transaction. Penal obligations do not function like money debt. Let me explain by means of a couple of scenarios.

        First, imagine that you and I are eating at a restaurant and I decide to pay your bill. Whether you know it or not, you are immediately freed from the obligation to pay your bill. The thing is paid, and the owner has no grounds to pursue you to pay the bill now that it is paid. The payment of the thing ipso facto liberates you from making payment. It matters not who pays it, but only that it is paid.

        Penal or criminal law functions differently. Imagine now that I committed some terrible crime, but you were suspected and convicted of the crime. You serve the time (let’s say 10 years) in prison. After some time passes, new evidence is discovered that I actually committed the crime. I get convicted and put in prison to do the time. I cannot reply and say, “but Randall paid it already! He did the 10 years! The thing is paid!” No one would say this is a case of unjust “double-payment” if I am put in prison after you have also served the time. Criminal/penal debt functions differently from pecuniary transactions.

        While our indebtedness to God due to sin is often compared in scripture to money debt, these instances are metaphorical, not literal. We are criminals, and we are in moral debt to the law. If God should graciously allow a substitute to suffer for our criminal behavior and then adds a condition in order for us to be pardoned, there is no injustice if we go on to suffer in prison ourselves because we refuse to meet the condition. It’s not a case of the same person suffering twice, aka double-jeopardy. W. G. T. Shedd makes this point here (click).

        Some have confused a penal substitution with a commercial transaction because they have conceived of Christ’s death as a “literal payment,” though they deny and repudiate commercialism. The double-payment argument can only function by importing commercial causality into the argument, while they forget the concepts involved in penal or criminal situations.

        There is no injustice in God punishing Dives (the rich man) for his sin in hell if Christ died for him. As W. G. T. Shedd said:

        “When an individual unbeliever is personally punished for his own sins, he receives what he deserves; and there is no injustice in this. The fact that a vicarious atonement has been made that is sufficient to expiate his sins, does not stop justice from punishing him personally for them, unless it can be shown that he is the author of the vicarious atonement. If this were so, then indeed he might complain of the personal satisfaction that is required of him. In this case, one and the same party would make two satisfactions for one and the same sin one vicarious, and one personal. When therefore an individual unbeliever suffers for his own sin, he receives the due reward of his deeds, Luke 23:24. And since he did not make the vicarious atonement “for the sins of the whole world,” and therefore has no more right or title to it, or any of its benefits, than an inhabitant of Saturn, he cannot claim exemption from personal penalty on the ground of it.”

        Grace to you,
        Tony

          Randall Cofield

          Tony,

          Thanks for the thorough reply. (BTW: Your site is excellent!)

          I’m familiar with Shedd, Hodge, et al arguments for a universal aspect of the atonement. I lean more toward J. Owens view, as evidenced by my questions. I think it allows for a residual effect of the atonement (common grace) that does lend a universal aspect. But I could certainly be wrong.

          That aside, it seems to me we have a limited atonement either way. It is either limited in execution (Christ atoned only for the sins of the elect) or in application (Christ’s atonement is only efficacious for the elect).

          I don’t think that is what Dr. Allen and the Traditionalists are contending, do you?

          Grace to you, brother.

          Soli Deo Gloria

            Tony Byrne

            Thanks, Randall. I understand. I was once in the Owenic position myself. In fact, I was as high as Tom Nettles’ equivalentist view on the atonement. But, since I began studying the revealed will of God in the early 2000’s as it relates to the well-meant offer, common grace, general love, etc., I came around to the moderate position. I was surprised to find out how many Calvinistic stalwarts in the past held this dualistic perspective. All the first generation Reformers held to it, it appears, but we need someone to tap into Martin Bucer’s writings in Latin to check him out. J. C. Ryle says Bucer took a universal reading of John 3:16, but he provides no source. Contrary to what the guys in the Founders movement think, Jonathan Edwards and the later Andrew Fuller held to the moderate view. Fuller was also persuaded that Christ must have substituted for every man in order for the gospel offer to be legitimate for every man. Few Calvinists today know about John Davenant’s writings and the other moderates who were present at the Synod of Dort. Even less are familiar with the excellent treatise of Edward Polhill on the extent of the atonement. Check here (click) if you want to work through some of their material.

            David Allen is standing on the common ground that we moderate Calvinists have with him. It is the common ground of the EXTENT of the atonement, so he is using the arsenal of the moderates to go after the common stricter view among Calvinists today. It is correct that he does not agree with me in the area of INTENT and in the area of the ultimate cause of the effectual APPLICATION. He and I disagree on the will of God and related areas. However, Dr. Allen is a friend of mine and an idea conversation partner to have. He’s mature, humble, teachable, well-studied, not condescending, considerate and he desires to judge things in a fair manner. He disagrees with my theological paradigm, but he’s quite willing to learn about it in an objective manner.

            If you think about it, Randall, the non-Calvinists are attempting to use the passages that speak of God’s universal love, universal grace, God’s desire to save all men and Christ’s death for all men to undercut the Calvinistic view of election and effectual grace. As Dabney noted:

            “It is at this point,” says Dr. A. A. Hodge’s Atonement, “very wisely, as we think, the Arminian [and other non-Calvinists] erects his main citadel. We freely admit that just here the advocates of that system are able to present a greater number and variety of texts which appear to favor the distinguishing principles of their system than they are able to gather in vindication of any other of their main positions.” . . . “Then gathering together their scriptural evidence for the general and indefinite design of the Atonement, they proceed with great appearance of force to argue inferentially against the outflanked Calvinistic positions of unconditional election and efficacious grace.”

            The fundamental assumption of the non-Calvinists in the SBC is that God cannot sincerely will something He nils. In other words, if God, as the Calvinists say, has only appointed some men to eternal life, and wills to effect their salvation alone, He cannot consistently be said to sincerely wish or desire the salvation of any others. Again, He cannot truly will (in the revealed will) what He nils (by way of decree).

            As I see things, Randall, that is EXACTLY the same rationalistic assumption of the Hyper-Calvinists. That’s one of the reasons why they think the Hyper-Calvinists are “consistent” in denying God’s desire for the salvation of the non-elect in the free offer given Calvinistic assumptions. If you probe deeply, most of their questions and objections boil down to various ways of presupposing that God cannot be said to truly will what He nils.

            If Christ died for all men, they think that presupposes God EQUALLY wills the salvation of all men.

            If grace is universal, and in some sense resistible, they think that presupposes God’s EQUAL desire to save all men.

            If God sincerely loves all men, they think that necessarily presupposes that He EQUALLY desires their salvation.

            Some High Calvinists get sloppy and lean on Hyper-Calvinistic assumptions in reacting to these non-Calvinists. They sometimes seems to argue that God only desires the salvation of the elect, and no others. The non-Calvinists are quick to jump on that, and say, “See?! That’s what they really think! They don’t believe God loves all men! They believe in a symmetry respecting God’s decrees! He wills the salvation of the elect and predestines the rest to hell!” And on and on it goes until a thorough amount of confusion and caricature results.

            Nota Bene: Never forget, THE fundamental assumption of theological rationalists (including all forms of free will theology and also the Hyper-Calvinists) who err is that God cannot be said to truly will in one respect what He nils in another sense. To them, that is blatant contradiction.

            Grace to you,
            Tony

            Tony Byrne

            I just sent forth a reply but it is awaiting moderation since I used so much HTML coding and hyper-linking. Anyway, check back to see it once it is approved as not being spam.

          Joseph

          Tony,
          What about propitiation?? If Christ has really “propitiated” God on behalf of all man, God would not still have in Himself any anger at their sin, and therefore would not punish them for their sins. Otherwise biblical word propitiate has been redefined. This is why I think 1John 2:2 supports a Calvinistic interpretation. What do you think.

            Tony Byrne

            I would say that you’ve collapsed the idea of God being rendered propitious toward someone [or the whole world] with the idea of forgiveness of sins. That’s a mistake, Joseph. If you were talking to a Hyper-Calvinist that believes in eternal justification, or at least the justification of all the elect prior to faith (i.e. theoretical antinomianism), they would use the parallel argument and say, “if Christ has really “propitiated” God on behalf of all [the elect], God would not still have in Himself any anger at their sin, and therefore would not punish them for their sin, [even when they are still in unbelief].” You’re just reiterating the double-payment argument through your conception of propitiation.

            To think about the difference between God being rendered propitious to the world and the forgiveness of sins, think about the difference between fallen men and fallen angels for a moment. In the case of fallen angels, God does not approach them with offers of pardon and mercy. They are locked in to their condition, so to speak. It is not possible for them to be offered pardon since they have no satisfaction for their sin. Legal barriers remain such that they cannot be forgiven. No one has taken their nature and made atonement for sin. Therefore, God is not propitious to them.

            On the other hand, look at fallen men. God is now approaching unbelieving men (both elect and non-elect) with offers of pardon and mercy in the gospel call. How can He do that? It’s because Christ has assumed our nature and removed the legal barriers that NECESSITATE our condemnation. It is now possible for all men to be saved. If it were not, free offers would not be made. God is treating fallen man differently since Christ has assumed our nature. As Jonathan Edwards puts it:

            “God deals with the generality of mankind, in their present state, far differently, on occasion of the redemption by Jesus Christ, from what he otherwise would do; for, being capable subjects of saving mercy, they have a day of patience and grace, and innumerable temporal blessings bestowed on them; which, as the apostle signifies, (Acts xiv. 17.) are testimonies of God’s reconcilableness to sinful men, to put them upon seeking after God.”
            Jonathan Edwards, “The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols. (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:227.

            God can be propitious toward a man even though that man abides under the wrath of God and is not forgiven. That’s the category missing from your system since you’ve collapsed the two notions into one. But think about it. That is even the case with the unbelieving elect. The unbelieving elect still stand condemned and abide under the wrath of God EVEN AS THE REST of unbelieving mankind, until they believe. Nevertheless, though they are unbelieving, God is propitious to them. How? As Edwards notes, all unbelievers are 1) “capable subjects of saving mercy,” and 2) “they have a day of patience and grace, and innumerable temporal blessings bestowed on them.” These things are “testimonies of God’s reconcilableness to sinful men, to put them upon seeking after God.”

            This sort of thing is not the case with fallen angels. They are not capable of saving mercy. They do not have a day of grace and patience. They were immediately thrown out and rejected and their day of doom is fixed. Why? Their legal barriers remain. God is not propitious to them. But, in the case of fallen men, God is showing himself reconcilable to them “on occasion of the redemption by Jesus Christ,” as Edwards puts it. This is how God can be rendered propitious to every man in the death of Christ and yet some men remain under his wrath. He is still approaching those in a state of enmity with offers of pardon and proposals of mercy, as Christ is a sufficient provision for them all, and has removed the legal barriers that necessitate their condemnation. Do not confuse these things with forgiveness of sins. That is distinct, and gained through faith. God, on his side, is reconciled to men in that he offers them pardon (unlike the angels) but man must be reconciled to God now through the gospel call. “We beseech” all men now to “be reconciled to God,” says Paul to the Corinthians.

            I would also note that I think you have made a mistake in speaking of the Calvinistic interpretation of 1 John 2:2. By saying “a Calvinist interpretation,” is seems you really man “the Calvinist interpretation.” Calvinists differ. Bullinger, for example, took the “world” in 1 john 2:2 to include the non-elect. So did Dabney and C. Hodge. Other Calvinists take your interpretation. The point is that the Calvinistic tradition is not monolithic in its interpretation of that passage. Some take my view as well as yours.

            I would argue that the “world” of 1 John 2:2 is that “whole world” of 1 John 5:19. It is the “whole world” that lies under the sway of the wicked one, i.e. all UNBELIEVERS, both elect and non-elect. And though the world includes all UNBELIEVERS, even the non-elect, I would say that God is propitious to them by way of Christ’s all-sufficient death in the way I outlined above. It doesn’t mean they are all forgiven or that they no longer stand under condemnation. Even the unbelieving elect stand condemned and under God’s wrath, even though God is reconcileable to them and offers them pardon.

            Grace to you,
            Tony

            Joseph

            This is very helpful Tony. Thank you. I guess for my ideas on propitiation to actually work, the elect could not be under the wrath of God even before they believed, and that clearly does not seem to be the case (Eph 2:3). So I think you win. Now I am throughly confused! I believe in both definite redemption and universal atonement. Seems like a contradition. Is that your position though. You also believe in the “definite redemption” aspect of the limited atonment doctrine?

            Tony Byrne

            Joseph said:
            “This is very helpful Tony. Thank you.”

            Me now:
            You’re welcome :)

            Joseph said:
            “I guess for my ideas on propitiation to actually work, the elect could not be under the wrath of God even before they believed, and that clearly does not seem to be the case (Eph 2:3). So I think you win.”

            Me now:
            Yes, it seems to be an effective defeater for the Owenic position since it entails what you said above.

            Joseph said:
            “Now I am throughly confused! I believe in both definite redemption and universal atonement. Seems like a contradition.”

            Me now:
            Welcome to the moderate position :) Take your time and study some of the primary sources and the confusion will eventually go away. Believing that Christ satisfied for all men in conjunction with a special effectual intent toward the elect is no more of a contradiction than saying God wills the salvation of all men, but especially the elect, or saying that God loves all men but especially the elect. God gave Christ to the world to bear their sin in order to express His willingness to save all men through the gospel offer, but He wills to effect the salvation of the elect alone and so Christ Himself gives the Spirit and the everlasting benefits of his triumphant death and resurrection to the elect alone. Once you’ve come to terms with how God can consistently both will and nil something at the same time but in different respects, you’ll see that any lingering confusion is just due to a lack of clarity on the various ways in which the difficulty of God’s will is brought up. Christ can express a genuine willingness to save all men by substituting Himself for them all, while keeping a special purpose to effect the salvation of the elect alone through His death. It is precisely this point that Hyper-Calvinists, High Calvinists and Arminians fail to grasp. I would be more than glad to help you work through these matters if you want. Feel free to contact me by checking out my email address on my profile page on my blog. Maintain your adherence to the ultimate authority and reliability of the scriptures and clarity will eventually come.

            Joseph asked:
            “Is that your position though. You also believe in the “definite redemption” aspect of the limited atonment doctrine?”

            Me now:
            Moderate Calvinists basically have the same conceptual categories but they differently label them. What we believe is that Christ, like the Father and the Spirit, desires the salvation of all men in the revealed will, but purposes to effect the salvation of the elect alone. So, when the Father sends the Son, these two aspects of God’s unified will are expressed. The Son therefore lays down his life as a substitutionary sacrifice in the stead of the whole human race in order to express God’s loving desire that they all be saved, but He also had a special intent concerning the elect alone. Consequently, the Spirit is sent in a special way to grant all the elect at an appointed time the moral ability to believe. Because of this, the elect alone obtain the everlasting benefits of Christ’s death. The universal aspect of Christ’s death includes the idea of universal sin-bearing, according to moderates. Some within this position label it “universal redemption” (Bullinger, Zwingli, Ussher, Davenant, Baxter, Edwards, etc.). Others prefer to reserve the term “redemption” for that moment when the elect are made free through faith (Fuller, Shedd, Dabney, etc.). Either way, these men believe the same thing in terms of having the component of an unlimited imputation of sin to Christ when He died. Because of various passages of scripture, I am content to call my view “universal redemption” in the classic Augustinian sense. But, I could still call my view “particular redemption” in the sense of Dabney, Shedd and others as well. Even J. L. Dagg (a strict particularists) noted in his Manuel of Theology that some who maintain “particular redemption” yet maintain that Christ atoned for the sin of all men. This view is strongly within the pale of Calvinistic orthodoxy, and it has a noble pedigree, even going back to Augustine and Prosper, at least. Few understand it today, even among well-respected scholars who are writing the books on Calvinism, unfortunately. However, it is starting to make a comeback due to the objective and thoroughly scholarship of men like Dr. Richard Muller. Muller has acknowledge that the moderate view (what he calls “Hypothetical Universalism” — a bad label in my view) goes back to many first generation Reformers, and was even taught by Ursinus, Bullinger, Zanchi, Twisse, Bunyan and others.

            So long as you keep the concepts or categories clear in your mind (as I outlined above), you will be prepared to carefully navigate through the rather complicated terrain of Calvinistic history, due to the ambiguity and misleading nature of some labels.

            Anyway, I hope that helps for now.

            Grace to you,
            Tony

            Joseph

            Thanks for all this, Tony. I have copied all of your recent comments to my computer so I can read them a few more times till it all sinks in.

            Blessings to you, brother.
            Joseph

Joseph

Most all Christians, whatever their theological bent, believe that infants and preborns are saved; and based on that they all agree that the majority of people in heaven are there solely by the work of God apart from any human effort at all.

Daniel Wilcox

So much wrangling over obtuse theological constructions!

How about the Good News for everyone?
Becoming like a child…as Jesus says.

Like Charles Finney preached…
Like Billy Graham preached…
Like George Beverly Shea wrote and sang…
“O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.”

John 3:16 for everyone

But, no, instead, we humans concoct complex theories and decrees,
poisonous TUILPS, claiming
God wills for most humans NOT to be saved, and that Jesus died
extensively, but not intensively for us…

How tragic,

Daniel

    Joseph

    “Like Charles Finney preached”

    What? Calvinists and Traditionalists both have good reason to consider Charles Finney a heretic. His “gospel” was a different gospel. Finney even admitted as much!

Joseph

I appreciate Randall Cofield’s comment the most:

“I don’t deny that Christ, in some sense, died for all mankind. The question I am grappling with is did He make atonement/satisfaction/expiation for all the sins of all mankind.”

The Calvinist can say that Christ died for the whole world in some sence, but that does not mean that Christ died for each and every person in the same way he died for the elect.

I agree with you Randall.

    Tony Byrne

    While Randall’s statement is in agreement with the standard, orthodox view among high Calvinists, it still has problems. God is not offering incidental or mere common grace benefits (which are certainly fruits that accrue to all men by means of Christ’s death) to the non-elect in the gospel call, but salvation. If Christ did not satisfy for the sins of the non-elect, on what basis can He offer them salvation? Therein is the issue that moved Andrew Fuller later in life to opt for the particular redemption view that includes the idea that Christ substituted for all men as sinners (see my citation of Dagg above).

    And, even if one opts for the moderate position, it is still not the case that Christ died with the same intent toward every man, contra the Remonstrants. There is still something special and efficacious in Christ (as with all the members of the Trinity) that pertains to the elect alone. The moderate view still preserves the Father’s efficacious intent in the death of Christ which manifests itself in the Spirit’s effectual application of Christ’s death to the elect alone by enabling them to believe in the gospel (i.e. the effectual call).

      Randall Cofield

      Tony,

      Don’t know if you’ll be back here, but a quick question on a statement you made:

      If Christ did not satisfy for the sins of the non-elect, on what basis can He offer them salvation?

      Where in scripture do we find salvation “offered” (in a take-it-or-leave-it sense)?

      Soli Deo Gloria

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