On the Insufficiency of the Notion of Sufficiency Among Some Calvinists, part 2 of 3

July 24, 2013

by David L. Allen
Dean, School of Theology
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

(Ed’s. note: A careful researcher and Southern Baptist statesman, Dr. Allen does not ascribe a singular view of Christ’s atonement to all Calvinists, universally; however, his sensitive use of qualifying terms provide both clarity and distinction regarding the topic at-hand.)

IV. John Owen’s Problematic Revision of the Lombardian Formula

When John Owen formulated his argument for limited atonement, he did so using the problematic categories of a commercialistic sense of the atonement where the sins of the elect only were imputed to Christ. This approach led Owen to modify the traditional sufficiency-efficiency model originally promulgated by Peter Lombard and accepted by all the Schoolmen and the early Reformers: “sufficient for all; efficient for the elect.” This modification prompted Richard Baxter, who himself held to an unlimited atonement, to call Owen’s sleight-of-hand “a new futile evasion.”[5] For Owen, as for all who affirm limited atonement, the atonement can only be sufficient for those for whom it is efficient. Forget the fact, according to all Calvinists, that the non-elect will not be saved given God’s discriminating purpose of election; this particular problem involves the fact that there is no atonement made for them in the first place! Double jeopardy indeed!

V. John Owen Contrasted with Calvin and the Early Reformers

Owen’s difference with Calvin and the first generation of Reformers on the question of the extent of the atonement becomes evident. For Calvin, Christ’s death sufficiently paid the price for the sins of all people, and so all may receive God’s offer of salvation. Muller correctly noted: “Yet, as we have seen, Calvin also consistently points to Christ’s death as full payment for the sins of the world, undergirding, as it were, the indiscriminate proclamation of the gospel.”[6]

This was also the view of all first generation Reformers, and has been the view of all moderate Calvinists since. Behind this was a particular understanding of the Lombardian formula “sufficient for all, but efficient for the elect only,” namely, that Christ’s death paid for the sins of all people, yet “efficient for the elect alone” in the sense that the benefits of the atonement are applied only to those who believe, namely, the elect. Calvin and all the early Reformers understood the Scriptures to teach that people perish not for a lack of an atonement for their sins, but because of their own unbelief. Of course, all Calvinists, regarding the efficiency side of the formula, affirm that the special grace necessary to bring the unbelieving elect to a state of belief is, at the time of the Spirit’s effectual calling, “irresistible.”

For John Owen, on the other hand, Christ’s death had no direct relationship or reference to the sins of the non-elect. There is a limited sin-bearing in the death of Christ: he died only for the sins of the elect. Owen and Calvin differ with respect to the “sufficiency” aspect of the Lombardian formula.

VI. Andrew Fuller Contrasted with Abraham Booth on Sufficiency

Andrew Fuller came to see the problem of the free offer of the gospel from the platform of limited atonement in his debates with the General Baptist Dan Taylor. Fuller came to reject limited atonement and rewrote the section on the extent of the atonement in his second edition of The Gospel Worthy accordingly.[7]

Fuller and Abraham Booth clashed over this issue. Booth also revised the language of the Lombardian Formula to make the sufficiency of Christ’s death a hypothetical sufficiency. For Booth, the death of Christ is only sufficient for those whom Christ substituted for on the cross: the elect. He wrote:

While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to him; and had he, as the Universal Representative, sustained that curse of the law which was due to all mankind; yet we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude, that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which he did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom he did not represent, as a sponsor, when he expired on the cross. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sin to him, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus.–We may, therefore, safely conclude, that our Lord’s voluntary substitution, and redemption by his vicarious death, are both of them limited to those, for whom he was made sin–for whom he was made a curse–and for whose deliverance from final ruin, he actually paid the price of his own blood.[8]

Notice Booth’s two kinds of sufficiency: hypothetical and actual. Booth, like Owen before him, has knowingly revised the Lombardian Formula.


[5] Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption of Mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ (London: Printed for John Salusbury at the Rising Sun in Cornhill, 1694), 345. The revision of the Lombardian formula has been noted by many Calvinists themselves, including, for example, L. Berkhof, A. Booth, J. Walker, and W. Cunningham.

[6] Richard Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), 82. See also Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition, 105: “…since Christ paid the price for all sin and accomplished a redemption capable of saving the whole world, his benefits are clearly placed before, proffered, or offered to all who hear….”

[7] See David L. Allen, “Preaching for a Great Commission Resurgence,” in The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Time, eds. C. Lawless and A. Greenway (Nashville: B&H, 2010), 281-98.

[8] Abraham Booth, “Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character,” in The Works of Abraham Booth (London: Printed by J. Haddon, 1813), 3:61.

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available

rhutchin

Allen writes of Owen’s “using the problematic categories of a commercialistic sense of the atonement .” Interesting way to describe it. Statements like that make my eyes glaze over.

Owen views God as operating with complete wisdom and always acting according to purpose. So, when Owen looks at God’s offer of Christ as the atonement for sin, he asks the question, “What purpose did God have in offering Christ as atonement for the sins of the non-elect.” Owen’s answer is that no purpose is served, so God did not offer Christ as atonement for the sins of the non-elect but for the sins of the elect only. This then leads to the discussion on 1 John 2:2 of the translation of hilasmos as propitiation or expiation.

It also leads to Owen’s second question. If God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of both the elect and the non-elect as some maintain, then why aren’t the sins of those people actually atoned? If God’s purpose was to atone for the sins of all people, then why aren’t the sins of all people atoned – and all saved?

Allen, at least in the argument above, goes off on a tangent that accomplishes nothing – the Lombardian Formula is not the real issue here. He writes, “For Owen, as for all who affirm limited atonement, the atonement can only be sufficient for those for whom it is efficient. Forget the fact, according to all Calvinists, that the non-elect will not be saved given God’s discriminating purpose of election; this particular problem involves the fact that there is no atonement made for them in the first place!” This is a great opening for a great discussion of the issues Owen raises. Unfortunately, no discussion follows – at least not in this limited forum. Sorta like coming down on Christmas Day and finding no presents under the tree.

    Norm Miller

    “Owen views God as operating with complete wisdom and always acting according to purpose. “
    I know of no serious Christian who would believe otherwise.

    “So, when Owen looks at God’s offer of Christ as the atonement for sin, he asks the question, ‘What purpose did God have in offering Christ as atonement for the sins of the non-elect.’ Owen’s answer is that no purpose is served, so God did not offer Christ as atonement for the sins of the non-elect but for the sins of the elect only.”
    So, Owen (and Calvinists) rejects John 1.29? John the Baptist declares the Lamb of God “takes away” the sins of the world (cosmos, not the elect only).

    “Takes away” is the Greek word airo, and the NAS Greek Lexicon defines the term this way:
    to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear
    to bear away what has been raised, carry off
    to move from its place
    to take off or away what is attached to anything
    to remove
    to carry off, carry away with one
    to take away from another what is his or what is committed to him, to take by force
    to take from among the living, either by a natural death, or by violence
    cause to cease

    When Owen asked: “What purpose did God have in offering Christ as atonement for the sins of the non-elect,” he should have answered: “I just don’t know.” Owen’s answer of “… no purpose is served” is merely that, Owen’s answer — or, rather, his finite, fallen opinion.

    Will I believe Owen, or will I believe the inspired, inerrant, infallible Scriptures?

    And by the way – whether in 1 Jn 2.2 the debate is about propitiation or expiation – let us not overlook the phrase “whole world.” Surely, that cannot mean the elect only.

    Additionally, saying that this is a “limited forum” makes my eyes glaze over. In a recent month, SBCToday had 12,000 unique visits. And, the IP addresses are lopsidedly numerous that hit this site from cities in our SBC Zion – cities like Louisville, Wake Forest, Nashville, etc.

    One reason there is little discussion on Dr. Allen’s posts may be that the overwhelming majority of our readers agree with him, and those who don’t dare not engage the erudite Allen. I admire your spunk, rhutchin.

    Oh, you better watch out
    You better not cry
    You better not pout
    I’m tellin’ you why
    Dr. Allen’s blogging, again!

      rhutchin

      Norm writes, “When Owen asked: “What purpose did God have in offering Christ as atonement for the sins of the non-elect,” he should have answered: “I just don’t know.” Owen’s answer of “… no purpose is served” is merely that, Owen’s answer — or, rather, his finite, fallen opinion.”

      While that would be a correct response, we still know that God’s purpose would have nothing to do with salvation. This is because God identified the non-elect before He created the world and they are not to be saved nor intended to be saved (unless God’s knowledge is faulty which all agree, it is not).

      However, as God is all wise, He cannot be thought to do anything without purpose as this would suggest some lack of wisdom on His part. Being all wise means that God’s decisions reflect His wisdom. To argue that wise decisions can be purposeless decisions strikes me as oxymoronic so it would be interesting to see how someone would actually makes that argument.

    Aaron Kahler

    “It is evident, that many benefits have been provided by God for angels and men… and duly ordained to a certain end, which God at the same time knew would never profit them, nor avail to produce such an end.” — John Davenant, Dissertation on the Death of Christ.

    God gave the apostate angels great gifts, gifts intended to produce obedience, yet God knew that they would be rebellious.
    God gave Adam, upon his creation, knowledge and warnings intended to produce a blessed life of obedience in the garden, yet God knew that they would be unheeded.

    So in the cross of Christ, God’s providing a sufficient ransom for all men demonstrates His character (John 3:16, Ezekiel 18:23) while highlighting the sinfulness of those who reject the ransom provided.

      rhutchin

      I don’t think it is possible for a person to reject a ransom as he was not involved in any part of the ransom. The ransom is paid without his consent by those who do not ask his consent – the person ransomed can react to having been ransomed, but he cannot change the fact that he was ransomed.

      You say that God provided a sufficient ransom for all men. You do not say, God provided a ransom for all men. A sufficient ransom is sufficient to ransom all but not efficient to ransom any. A second step, at least, is required to apply a sufficient ransom to the actual ransom of those who are included under the sufficiency of the ransom.

      The death of Christ most certainly highlights the sinfulness of those ransomed, but it has absolutely nothing to do with their rejection of the ransom.

JimP

I am becoming more and more convinced the crux of division here is the meaning of ‘election.’

From my readings and studies on the word, elect or election, along with a ‘sense’ of harmony from scripture, I find, is that election refers to God’s choice of individuals or nations for His service in His over riding plan for the restoration of Creation, not election to salvation. This needs to be persued within Baptist circles by those more qualified then I am.

If it is true then Calvinist and non-Calvinist are butting heads relentlessly because they both hold to a missed use of the word election used in scripture.

    rhutchin

    Election is only material if totally depravity is true, as Calvinists and Arminians claim, which then makes God’s grace a requirement to negate total depravity and thereby allow the elect to respond positively to the gospel. If Total Depravity is not valid, as Dr. Allen is said to have shown, then grace is not necessary to effect any ability in a person to respond positively to the gospel (as that ability inherently exists) and election is a moot point as there is no opportunity for God to choose.

    The contention between Calvinists and non-Calvinists where the non-Calvinists deny Total Depravity then would focus on God and who He is. As both seem to agree that God is omniscient and knows the identity of the elect and non-elect when He creates the world, then the non-Calvinist would trace the opposite responses to the gospel back to some personal advantage in the elect and a corresponding deficiency in the non-elect.

    Regarding the issue of election being individual or corporate, the discussion seems to revolve around the exegesis of Romans 9. Non-Calvinists want to deny that this has anything to do with two individuals, Jacob and Esau, and that we should view this language as only metaphorical and extrapolate to a corporate understanding. However, the Bible is to be taken as literally being true at the lowest physical level. When it says Jesus or Peter walked on water, it means they physically walked on water. When it says that Jesus turned water into wine, it means that Jesus turned physical water into physical wine.When it says God chose Jacob over Esau, it means God chose a physical Jacob over a physical Esau. In each of these instances one may also suggest attaching an additional metaphorical meaning to walking on water, turning water into wine and choosing Jacob over Esau, and that is OK. However, it is wrong to deny the plain reading of the Scripture – except in cases where it is known that imagery may be intended as, perhaps, in Revelation – just because one seeks to advance a metaphorical meaning.

wingedfooted1

Here is a quote from John Hendryx of the Reformation Theology website regarding the issue of Limited Atonement.

“Historically many of THE GREATEST MINDS THE CHURCH HAS PRODUCED were 5 pointers, not four. Some of the more well known ones were Jonathan Edwards, C.H. Spurgeon, A.A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, John Owen, John Calvin, George Whitfield, Thomas Goodwin and more recently, J.I. Packer, R.C Sproul, John Piper, Iain Murray, Michael Horton, James Boice and John Murray”

Greatest minds???

Come, Lord Jesus.

wingedfooted1

wingedfooted1

Another quote from John Hendryx of Monergism.com in regards to Limited Atonement……..

“Those whom God elects, He redeems, and those He redeems, He regenerates and sanctifies. All that believers have they owe to the Triune God. The ELECTION of God the Father, the REDEMPTION of God the Son, and the REGENERATING work of God the Spirit, ought never to be separated. They arise from one and the same Will. The Trinity works in harmony to bring about our salvation. So any theology which disconnects unconditional election from particular redemption is not only inconsistent within their own theology, but makes the Trinity out to have a confused, disharmonious will in the purposes of redemption.

So-called four-point Calvinism fails the test of biblical Calvinism because this view tends to see the TULIP as an abstraction rather than seeing it Christocentrically. The TULIP only works when we see Christ at its center. Consider the TULIP as a chiasm with the ‘L’ at the top of the pyramid. It is Jesus Christ which makes sense of all the doctrines of grace. Four-point Calvinists who reject Limited Atonement but embrace irresistible grace must consider this: Irresistible grace is not some abstract doctrine but must be seen in relation to Jesus Christ, specially in relation to the grace purchased by Christ upon the cross. The Spirit of Christ illuminates, regenerates and effectually brings to faith his elect. And this enabling, effectual grace is, from first to last, Christ-centered. It does not come out of a void, nor from some hidden source of grace in God the Father. Therefore Christ must have died for the elect so as to purchase that grace in a way – a redemptive way – that he did not die for the non-elect. That is why we often call it particular redemption. Irresistible grace is one of the redemptive benefits purchased by Jesus Christ … and it was never granted to the non-elect nor intended for them. Four point Calvinism not only fails the test of Christocentricity but fails to acknowledge that the Trinity always works in harmony. The Father elects a particular people for himself, Christ dies to secure their redemption and the Holy Spirit unites the same to Christ applying the benefits of Christ’s redemption to them. I believe that until Jesus Christ is seen as central to the TULIP then four-pointers will continue to reject the christocentric nature of the Scripture and the gospel is partly distorted as a result.”

A rejection of calvinism’s limited atonement is a partial distortion (perversion) of the gospel??

wingedfooted1

wingedfooted1

I have a question, or questions, I want to ask regarding an observation by Hendryx’s quote above.

Hendryx states “….those He redeems, He regenerates….” and “irresistible grace is one of the redemptive benefits purchased by Jesus Christ”.

So according to Hendryx, man is redeemed to faith. Faith is the fruit of redemption according to Hendryx. We don’t believe in order to be redeemed. We believe because we are redeemed. Is that what the apostle Paul teaches?

If “irresistible” (regenerating) grace is “one of the redemptive benefits” of the cross and if regeneration precedes faith (as high calvinism teaches), then isn’t the unbelieving sinner at least partially redeemed before he or she comes to faith in Jesus Christ so that the other remaining “redemptive benefits” can then be applied?

Hendryx clearly states that “those He redeems He regenerates” and for Hendryx “regeneration precedes faith”. Thus for Hendryx “redemption precedes faith”.

Is any one else picking us on this??

wingedfooted1

David

Hey Rhutchin, You say: “It also leads to Owen’s second question. If God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of both the elect and the non-elect as some maintain, then why aren’t the sins of those people actually atoned? If God’s purpose was to atone for the sins of all people, then why aren’t the sins of all people atoned – and all saved?”

David: thats the double payment argument. If you are interested, Charles Hodge, Robert Dabney and W.G.T. Shedd rejected it. If you want to read C Hodge, go here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?p=66

David.

    rhutchin

    I went to the site you listed (a really great site I think; lot of good work has been done) and read a little and I am somewhat confused as to the problem.

    God offered Christ as an atonement for sin so no further atonement for sin can be required. A debt was paid so debt can exist – How could it? If God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of Joe, then Joe no longer need atone for his sins but even if Joe were still required to atone for his sin, how could he do so? God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of the elect; thereby the elect have had their sins atoned and their debt to God is done away. I don’t see any way around this and that is what I see Owen arguing. I did not see Hodge arguing against this – his seemed to be a technical argument that did not object to Owen’s conclusion (and once he started into “confounding a pecuniary and a judicial satisfaction,” I knew I was in challenging territory).

    This raises questions, but the questions raised do not reject the conclusion that atonement fully and completely cancels the debt of sin. If it were true that God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of each and every person, then the debt of each and every person has been paid, and they can no longer be punished for their sin.

      Bob Hadley

      rhutchin,

      “If it were true that God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of each and every person, then the debt of each and every person has been paid” and the “atonement fully and completely cancels the debt of sin” then what is the purpose of repentance? If Jesus’ death on the cross cancelled the sin debt there is NOTHING for those for whom Jesus died to repent of for as you state, they can no longer be punished for their sin that was cancelled on the cross.

      If on the cross provision for atonement was made that is a different story for then is sufficiency is effectual for those who believe and the atonement is completed when the condition God set has been met.

        rhutchin

        I don’t see you claiming that people have an unpaid debt because there was something lacking in Christ’s atonement. I think that would be a hard position to support. When you say, “the atonement is completed when the condition God set has been met,” I don’t think you mean that some additional payment must be made by the one wanting salvation. Christ’s atonement was full and complete, lacking nothing, in satisfying God’s divine justice.

        The purpose to repent is not to atone for his sin. Repentance does not pay off debt. How can it? Repentance is the turning away from sin; it does not redress the sins that were committed and satisfy divine justice regarding those sins.

        So, if one’s sins have been atoned, what purpose repentance? Repentance is one of the confidences a person has that God has provided Christ as atonement for his sin. Do people repent in order to gain salvation? Of course not. Repentance is the reaction by people who have been confronted with Christ. It is the admission that Christ is the truth and they have been living a lie in denying Christ. The exhortation of Christ is to repent and believe the gospel. When Saul was confronted by Christ on the Damascus road, Christ affected a change in his life. Paul’s response was submission (Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?). What did Christ require of him but repentance (the turning away from his old life of sin) and belief in the gospel (living as a new man under the control of the Holy Spirit). Paul is a different man not because he repented but because of his confrontation with Christ. His repentance was a reaction to that confrontation. But, why did Christ confront Saul in the first place? Was it not because He had atoned for Saul’s sins and was now bringing Saul to salvation. Can a person come to the point of repentance outside such grace?

        Bob Hadley

        rhutchin,

        You stated, “I don’t see you claiming that people have an unpaid debt because there was something lacking in Christ’s atonement.” I think you and I are looking at “Christ’s Atonement” from two very different perspectives. I see His atonement as complete for those who believe. The provision was completed at Calvary but atonement itself is completed when one repents and exercises believing faith THEN the lost person passes from death unto life as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the new born Christian’s heart. I see atonement as complete.

        I do not see atonement complete on the cross for if one does as I pointed out in your comments earlier, the debt of every person is “paid for on the cross” and those for whom Jesus died have no sin debt to repent of. You yourself made the following statement: “If it were true that God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of each and every person, then the debt of each and every person has been paid, and they can no longer be punished for their sin.”

        Your statement was to refute the concept or else one would have to acknowledge universal salvation. I understand WHAT you were saying but in the same line of thinking, if it is true that God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of the elect, as you contend, THEN by your own argument the elect have no sins to repent of. They are ALL forgiven and paid for in full on the cross.

        There is a big difference in saying provision for the forgiveness was fully satisfied on the cross and asserting atonement itself was completed on the cross. That is the point I am making here. I believe the former to be true.

          rhutchin

          I take a narrow view of atonement – one that I think accurately reflects that which atonement is – while I think you have joined atonement with justification. The atonement was complete. The sacrifice of Christ did that which God intended. Christ’s sacrifice sufficiently atoned for the sins of the elect and nothing else is needed to make that atonement complete. If not, we need to examine how it is that a sacrifice of this nature could be deficient in any respect.

          While the atonement for sin deals with one aspect of the problem sinners have, the other part is that sinners are still sinners. The atoning of sin does not make a sinner righteous. There is still the need to justify the sinner. I think you are emphasizing the need to complete the salvation process and not the need to complete the atonement in your comments above.

      David

      Hey Rhutchin

      You say: God offered Christ as an atonement for sin so no further atonement for sin can be required. A debt was paid so debt can exist – How could it? If God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of Joe, then Joe no longer need atone for his sins but even if Joe were still required to atone for his sin, how could he do so? God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of the elect; thereby the elect have had their sins atoned and their debt to God is done away. I don’t see any way around this and that is what I see Owen arguing. I did not see Hodge arguing against this – his seemed to be a technical argument that did not object to Owen’s conclusion (and once he started into “confounding a pecuniary and a judicial satisfaction,” I knew I was in challenging territory).

      David: The fact that you use “debt” language highlights the problem. When you have a fine or a debt, say $50, and someone else pays the money, you are ipso facto discharged from the obligation. The creditor or judge cannot not demand a second payment. Thats how pecuniary or commercial satisfactions work. But in criminal law, it does not. In criminal law, there is no monetary debt. No one else can “pay” for you. You, in your own person, must suffer.

      Thats the difference between a properly penal satisfaction and a pecuniary or monetary satisfaction. Owen’s trilemma works, only works, on the assumption that the death of Christ literally works like a money satisfaction. But it doesnt, so Owen’s trilemma falls apart.

      C Hodge is saying that in any penal crime the judge may add conditions. So for example, and here I will use a money metaphor for the sake of the analogy.

      Two brothers, both poor. One is a gambler. He borrows money from a man to pay off his gambling debts. But then it turns out he cant pay his new creditor. It turns out that the new creditor is a rich farmer. The old brother steps in to help out his younger brother. He arranges with the creditor that he will work as a mechanic for 6 months to pay off the debt of his brother. The creditor agrees, but adds a condition, that the younger brother go into rehab. If the brother does not go to rahab, then the work of the older brother is voided and the younger brother must pay the debt himself in debtor’s prison.

      This extra condition is not part of the original satisfaction. It is an added condition. So Christ can step in, and in his own person, take the punishments due to us, originally, but now, the Father adds another condition: faith. So while Christ may make satisfaction for unbelief, a deficit, belief is still required of the person.

      You have to think about, but especially think about not converting the penal satisfaction into a monetary satisfaction.

      You say: This raises questions, but the questions raised do not reject the conclusion that atonement fully and completely cancels the debt of sin. If it were true that God offered Christ as atonement for the sins of each and every person, then the debt of each and every person has been paid, and they can no longer be punished for their sin.

      David: Debt language again. Thats not a penal satisfaction, thats thinking it as a pecuniary or monetary satisfaction. I found this site the other day, this essay nails it. It might help you: http://tmcgilvreay.blogspot.com/2007/11/satisfaction-of-christ-penal-or.html

      David.

JB

“Calvin and all the early Reformers understood the Scriptures to teach that people perish not for a lack of an atonement for their sins, but because of their own unbelief.”

Why do men perish? Because of unbelief?

For the wages of unbelief is death….wait thats not how it goes.

rhutchin

Unbelief is the initial condition of all people. We are all born unbelievers – unbelieving sinners. Salvation is the process whereby people are converted from unbelievers to believers and belief in Christ. So, Calvin and others correctly say that people perish because of unbelief – because they are sinners and naturally express their unbelief through sin. However, should God choose to save any person in unbelief, then atonement must be made for the sins of that person. God made atonement for sin through the sacrifice of Christ; that atonement then allowed God to save as few or as many people as He willed.

    Norm Miller

    If we “are all born unbelievers – unbelieving sinners,” then infants who die go to heaven or hell? Some, not all, Calvinists would put dead infants in hell. Many, not all Calvinists, say they will be in heaven. How is it that “unbelieving sinners” can be in heaven?

      rhutchin

      To Calvinists, there is one plan of salvation – God chooses whom He will save. So, can God save infants? Of course He can. The issue is, of course, does God save infants or all infants. You say that God is required to save all infants; I am not so confident. The Calvinist parents pray for the salvation of their children often before the child is conceived and certainly beginning with conception. What about the atheist parents who reject God and never appeal to God on behalf of their children. Are their infants saved? Certainly God may save those babies, but I would not tell the atheist that it is a foregone conclusion. Atheists (who are merely the Devil’s agents) do not engage in the wholesale slaughter of infants through abortion because they think to save those babies. Perhaps, God will frustrate them in their efforts.

jpoulos

The passage John 3:16 – 20 reveals man’s inherent problem: what men LOVE (it is their affections) that is the obstacle to their believing. ‘they LOVE the darkness rather than the light.’ That LOVE is shown by their deeds and one of those (careful as I can here) ‘deeds’ is not coming to Christ in faith. It is not faith keeping them from coming to Christ for Salvation it is that they LOVE those things having nothing to do with Christ.

JimP

The passage John 3:16 – 20 reveals man’s inherent problem: what men LOVE (it is their affections) that is the obstacle to their believing. ‘they LOVE the darkness rather than the light.’ That LOVE is shown by their deeds and one of those (careful as I can be here) ‘deeds’ is not coming to Christ in faith. It is not faith keeping them from coming to Christ for Salvation it is that they LOVE those things having nothing to do with Christ.

Reply

Norm Miller

“You say that God is required to save all infants.”
I did not, nor do I say that. I do believe God mercifully saves all infants. I ‘require’ God to do nothing.

“The Calvinist parents pray for the salvation of their children often before the child is conceived and certainly beginning with conception.”
Why? What prayer will change the “before-the-foundations-of-the-earth” decrees of God?
Those must not be very *good* Calvinists, as many believe that the offspring of believers are already elect. This, of course, is how some Calvinists’ soteriology puts babies in heaven.

“What about the atheist parents who reject God and never appeal to God on behalf of their children. Are their infants saved?”
Is that a serious question? It seems to presuppose that the unborn are in some sort of prenatal purgatory.

“Certainly God may save those babies, but I would not tell the atheist that it is a foregone conclusion.”
Why is that not a foregone conclusion — that God may save *some* of the infants? Are you positing that God may or may *not* save all deceased infants? I would think God would save all or none regardless of the prayers of believing parents, or the lack of prayers from atheistic ones.

Also: Unless I have overlooked your reply, I am still interested in whether you see total depravity as total inability.

    rhutchin

    Total Depravity = Total Inability. People are born with a sinful nature and it is natural for them to sin. People are not born with any affection or attraction to God – people do not desire the things of God; the preaching of the gospel is only foolishness to them – this condition exists from conception (Psalm 51:5). All babies are born with sinful natures and are sinners because of that nature. A baby does not become a “sinner” when he sins; his sin only reveals his sinful nature and that he already is a sinner. Thus, even babies are in need of salvation. To be saved, even babies require God’s grace to change their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh and draw them to Christ.

    It is God who prompts believers to pray for the salvation of their children. This is not to influence God, for He certainly knows that which He has already decreed as enshrined in His omniscience, but to fulfill God’s promises and purposes. Through such discipline, believers come to know that they can trust God. For the atheist, there is no prompting to pray. Should the atheist care to ask of the condition of an infant who has died, they should not be given confidence that there rejection of God should relieve them of concern that they should rightly evidence for the lost child.

    Any Calvinist who has been taught to believe that the offspring of believers are automatically elect and saved, absent any prompting of their conscience by God to petition God for that salvation, has been done a disservice. The promise, and command of God, is ask and you shall receive; it is not, take for granted that God has done that which is neglected. We earnestly pray for the lost, not because we seek to influence God to act, but because we are confident that God has already acted in response to our prayers and has designed our prayers to be part of His plans for the salvation of the lost.

JimP

One additional point should be made to the above:

It is NOT God not electing them that a person does not come to Christ. 1 Tim 2:3 & 4 “…God our Savior, Who will have ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Calvinism convoluted system is simply trying to do an impressive little jig around the above truths.

    rhutchin

    OK. Why is it that one person comes to Christ and another does not if not that God has elected the one and not the other?

JimP

OK. I believer there is a very sensible answer and I will offer it. But before I do I want to present why it is so difficult for Calvinist to be sensible.

Calvinism is built on propositions. Proposition are cold, lifeless unthreatening premises that an elaborate system is built that SEEM to answer all challenges. On the other hand GOD is and will always be threatening and unchallenged. He is too fearful to have to live under. A neat little system is a good substitute for many people.

Now the Answer: This answer is an illustration. I just found a perfectly rapped snickers candy bar along side the road in the rain. I wouldn’t eat it because I had no idea were it came from. There was a day when I would have been absolutely convinced that that candy bar along side the road in the rain was a gift from God to me.

That the Father leads a person to His Son can come in many ways. The Father knows the heart of every man and He know the buttons that need to be pressed to bring whomever He choses to their knees and call out to His Son in faith. The New Testament and billions of Christians can attest to that truth. Q.E.D.

    rhutchin

    You write, “That the Father leads a person to His Son can come in many ways. The Father knows the heart of every man and He know the buttons that need to be pressed to bring whomever He choses to their knees and call out to His Son in faith.”

    That is what Calvinists say. I think you meant to add that a person has the ability to say No, anywhere in that process – but that would mean that God really doesn’t know the buttons that need to be pressed. It’s hard to avoid Calvinist conclusions when God is the one pressing the buttons.

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available