Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 2

Read the series so far.)

Canons of Dort on Limited Atonement

The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world (Second Head, Article 3).

For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever (Second Head, Article 8).

That God the Father has ordained His Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by His death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person (Rejection of Errors 2:1).

My Response

Contemporary explanations of limited atonement rest upon a basic syllogism:

  • P1: None of Jesus’ blood was wasted
  • P2: His blood provided a complete satisfaction for sin wherever it is efficacious
  • C: Jesus could only have died for the elect, who would ultimately receive redemption

Interestingly, this syllogism is not found explicitly in Calvin’s writings, the Canons of Dort, or the Westminster Confession. However the Dort statement (Rejection of Errors 2:1) provides the logical basis for it: only the elect can be saved, and Christ’s death would have been wasted if never applied to any person. This Dort statement assumes the necessity of unconditional election, and undergirds the efficacy of the atonement upon that principle. In short, if Jesus paid the price for the sin of those who wouldn’t believe, then His blood was wasted. The Belgic Confession (Article XXII) illustrates the significance of this: “Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow that Christ was but half a Savior.” Gross blasphemy.

The logic is not too difficult to follow, and if the premises are correct, then the conclusion is also correct. However, that Jesus did die to pay the penalty for all (elect or not) is clearly stated in 1 John 2:2—“and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” This simply stated passage underscores the fact that the limited atonement view is not accurate. It is better to understand Christ’s sacrifice through the lens of the Passover illustration. The blood shed by the lambs was perfectly efficacious blood, but it had to be applied in a specific manner, otherwise it did not provide benefit for the individual (Ex 12:7,13). The only way to justify the limited atonement view is to change the meaning of the words in 1 John 2:2, and that is not allowed by the literal grammatical-historical hermeneutic.

Canons of Dort on Irresistible Grace

That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it, proceeds from God’s eternal decree.

“For known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18 A.V.). “who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:11). According to which decree He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe; while He leaves the non-elect in His just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy. And herein is especially displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which, though men of perverse, impure, and unstable minds wrest it to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation (First Head, Article 6, emphasis mine).

This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect in due time may be gathered together into one, and that there may never be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity (Second Head, Article 9, emphasis mine).

My Response

In my estimation, this is probably the best (most biblically) stated of the five points. This point reflects accurately the process described in Romans 8:28-30, that the foreknowledge of God with respect to the ones He predestines and calls and justifies concludes with their glorification. The Dort statements logically presuppose double election, and I have already addressed the exegetical challenge there: while logically possible, it is not exegetically certain. These Dort statements of irresistible grace come close to what is biblically certain, with only the subtle extension beyond what is written.

Dort and Westminster on Perseverance of Saints

And as God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient, and omnipotent, so the election made by Him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled, or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished (Canons of Dort, First Head, Article 11).

May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from a state of grace? True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God, and His decree and covenant to give them perseverance, their inseparable union with Christ, His continual intercession for them, and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q&A 79).

My Response

The Dort statement appeals to election, while the Westminster statement appeals to God’s giving of perseverance. The conclusion that believers are eternally secure is biblically accurate, but the means of arriving at that conclusion is better connected to (1) the present tense possession of eternal life by the believer in Jesus Christ (Jn 6:47), and (2) the protection of God (1 Pet 1:5). In 1 Peter 1:3-5, for example, there are eleven statements affirming the security of the believer, and none of them depend on or are focused on the believer, but all are focused on God’s activity. The issue here is that the phrase perseverance of saints implies some activity on the part of the believer, whereas the biblical data is explicit regarding God as exclusive Protector. If this fifth point was referred to as protection of saints, I think the point would be positioned more biblically, with a theocentric focus.

(To be continued.)

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Mike Harding's picture

The biblical concept is the preservation of the saints by God and the resulting perseverance of the saints.  One without the other often leads to antinomianism (i.e. Zayne Hodges).  Paul uses this tension throughout his writings, particularly in Philippians.  Paul exercises a wholesome self-distrust and a simultaneous unreserved trust in God.  This explains that while upholding security he would also affirm, "If I might attain unto the resurrection" or "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that God is working in you to will and to do"  or "I keep under my body lest having preached to others I myself would be 'adokimos' (rejected, reprobate, disqualified)".  

 

Sufficient for all; efficient for those who believe.  Does that accurately blend the two ideas without formally holding to a LA position?  If we don't limit the atonement's application to non-believers, universalism may not be too far off!

Pastor Mike Harding

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
If we don't limit the atonement's application to non-believers, universalism may not be too far off!
Yes, this is the problem with the understanding of 1 John 2:2 as provided in the article. A propitiation is the satisfaction of God's wrath. To argue that the verse intends "whole world" to mean all humanity means that God's wrath toward all men was satisfied on the cross. If that is the meaning, then what is the basis for God sending anyone to hell, since God's wrath toward all humans has already been satisfied? I think trying to use this verse to refute limited atonement creates more problems for the Arminian-leaning apologist than it solves.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

gpinto's picture

"that Jesus did die to pay the penalty for all" (1John 2:2) sounds like the theme song of universalism.  Christ's propitiation was of sufficient value to include both Jew and Gentile and all categories of men, and it is in that sense that He makes atonement for the whole world. The use of the term "world" in the NT often refers to neither the entire world nor all persons living (Lk2:1)

 

gpinto

Mike Harding's picture

The biblical concept is the preservation of the saints by God and the resulting perseverance of the saints.  One without the other often leads to antinomianism (i.e. Zayne Hodges).  Paul uses this tension throughout his writings, particularly in Philippians.  Paul exercises a wholesome self-distrust and a simultaneous unreserved trust in God.  This explains that while upholding security he would also affirm, "If I might attain unto the resurrection" or "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that God is working in you to will and to do"  or "I keep under my body lest having preached to others I myself would be 'adokimos' (rejected, reprobate, disqualified)".  

 

Sufficient for all; efficient for those who believe.  Does that accurately blend the two ideas without formally holding to a LA position?  If we don't limit the atonement's application to non-believers, universalism may not be too far off!

Pastor Mike Harding

JohnBrian's picture

In his first post Christopher informed us that he was neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian but rather was a Biblicist. Unfortunately that term doesn't mean much in the discussion he is engaged in. It's not enough to use the phrase "clearly stated" and determine that a "simply stated passage" proves a view inaccurate, without engaging the opposing arguments.

Christopher wrote:
However, that Jesus did die to pay the penalty for all (elect or not) is clearly stated in 1 John 2:2—“and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” This simply stated passage underscores the fact that the limited atonement view is not accurate.

A simple google search on "calvinism 1 john 2 2" brings up a number or responses, showing that the issue is not as clear as the author insists.

In Understanding 1 John 2:2, John Samson notes that

John writes of Jesus Christ being "the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only (Hebrews), but also for the whole world (the Gentiles)."

He also shows the similarity between John 11:51-52 and 1 John 2:2

John Piper sees the same parallels and comes to the same conclusion as Samson

This does not mean that Christ died with the intention to appease the wrath of God for every person in the world, but that the “sheep,” “the children of God” scattered throughout the whole world, “from every tongue and tribe and people and nation” are intended by the propitiation of Christ. In fact the grammatical parallel between John 11:51-52 and 1 John 2:2 is so close it is difficult to escape the conviction that the same thing is intended by John in both verses.

With regard to perseverance, Christopher writes:

The issue here is that the phrase perseverance of saints implies some activity on the part of the believer, whereas the biblical data is explicit regarding God as exclusive Protector.

The problem with the TULIP acronym is that it is very easy to misunderstand (or misrepresent) the meaning of each phrase. Since it was not established by Dort and it's first documented use was in 1913, it's not helpful to argue against Calvinism by arguing against the wording of the acronym.

No Calvinist has ever taught or believed that perseverance is based on "activity on the part of the believer." All (can I use that word) Calvinist's affirm "God as exclusive Protector."

p.s. some people prefer 5 strips of BACON over the TULIP (there's even an FB group)

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Steven Thomas's picture

The issue here is that the phrase perseverance of saints implies some activity on the part of the believer, whereas the biblical data is explicit regarding God as exclusive Protector. If this fifth point was referred to as protection of saints, I think the point would be positioned more biblically, with a theocentric focus.

In fact, the biblical data explicitly teach both--and there is no contradiction so long as we properly frame the relationship between the two.  We give priority to God's preserving power as the cause of the believer's security, but the believer's ongoing faith and obedience are the essential effect.  I think the Canons of Dort and the Westminster Divines would be in complete agreement on this point for neither group would deny the essential union of perseverance and preservation grounded in God's sovereign election. 

Selectivity of Scriptural texts and binary analysis enters the discussion the first article in this series, as well.  For example,

In short, depravity seems to include representation in Adam, but extends beyond that to an ontological depravity due to our own individual natures: we are born from a sinner—in the image and likeness of that sinner—therefore, we are by nature, sinners.

Representation in Adam is inseparable from the reality of our depraved nature; it explains the origin of that nature.  And, I would argue, depravity not only "seems to include representation in Adam," but this representation is essential to our understanding of the gospel itself, according Romans 5.

Steven Thomas

Greg Long's picture

Full disclosure: I am a 4.5ish Calvinist. LA makes sense logically, but I have never been able to reconcile it with the clear biblical statements that say otherwise. I realize this issue has been debated ad infinitum here on SI, but I just want to make two points.

  1. If we're going to examine John's writings by comparing 1 John 2:2 with John 11:51-52, why wouldn't we rather compare 1 John 2:2 with 1 John 5:19, where he uses the same phrase in the very same letter. Talk about context! Is anyone prepared to argue that "whole world" in 1 John 5:19 does not refer to the evil, fallen world system as a whole? Wouldn't it mean the same in 1 John 2:2?
  2. Regardless of where we come down on this, I hope we can all agree with Wayne Grudem (who believes in LA), who writes:

Finally, we may ask why this matter is so important at all. Although Reformed people have sometimes made belief in particular redemption a test of doctrinal orthodoxy, it would be healthy to realize that Scripture itself never singles this out as a doctrine of major importance, nor does it once make it the subject of any explicit theological discussion. Our knowledge of the issue comes only from incidental references to it in passages whose concern is with other doctrinal or practical matters. In fact, this is really a question that probes into the inner counsels of the Trinity and does so in an area in which there is very little direct scriptural testimony--a fact that should cause us to be cautious. A balanced pastoral perspective would seem to say that this teaching of particular redemption seems to us to be true, that it gives logical consistency to our theological system, and that it can be helpful in assuring people of Christ's love for them individually and of the completeness of his redemptive work for them; but that it also is a subject that almost inevitably leads to some confusion, some misunderstanding, and often some wrongful argumentativeness and divisiveness among God's people--all of which are negative pastoral considerations. Perhaps that is why the apostles such as John and Peter and Paul, in their wisdom, placed almost no emphasis on this question at all. And perhaps we would do well to ponder their example (Systematic Theology, 603).

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Greg,

I am with you that this is more semantics than anything else where the rubber meets the road. Historic Arminianism does not teach universalism, so we both come to the place where only certain people, the elect, are redeemed. That said, I am curious how you understand the rest of I John 2:2 if you accept the "whole world" as meaning all humanity? How is it that propitiation is provided for the non-elect who still suffer eternal damnation?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Greg Long's picture

Chip, the Bible neither asks nor answers that question. Just like with divine sovereignty and human responsibility, there is a tension there that is beyond human comprehension. The Calvinist explanations of 1 John 2:2 and other passages just seem like forcing a theological system upon the text. But of course we are all probably guilty of doing that at some point or another. Smile

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Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

dgszweda's picture

I feel that the author does himself disservice by just glossing over 1 John 2:2.  It is not as easy as he states.  There are solid arguments otherwise from some very solid theologians, which I won't rehash.  I know Greg that you state that it seems like forcing a theological system onto the text, but I think that we must also question our interpretation if a significant amount of Scripture points one way, and a single verse is interpreted a different way, whether we should look at our assumptions on this verse?  For me, I became very convinced after reading John Owen's "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" along with Packer's intro.  I think a broader amount of Scripture supports the framework.  While I feel that there are tensions in Scripture, I don't feel that 1 John 2:2 presents that kind of tension for a Calvinist, and I think there are solid interpretations that maintain the framework, without doing disservice to Scripture.

Don Johnson's picture

We've all heard them before.

In my opinion, the reason many Calvinists hold so tenaciously to Limited Atonement is that the whole system really breaks down without it. If the Atonement is not Limited, then grace is available to a whole whack of people who aren't appropriating it. So much for "Irresistable"...

As far as the atonement is concerned, have any of the Limited Atonement advocates considered that the Day of Atonement (Lev 16) covered believing and unbelieving Israel? Atonement makes God propitious (willing and just to save), but doesn't by itself save. 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Long's picture

dgszweda wrote:

I feel that the author does himself disservice by just glossing over 1 John 2:2.  It is not as easy as he states.  There are solid arguments otherwise from some very solid theologians, which I won't rehash.  I know Greg that you state that it seems like forcing a theological system onto the text, but I think that we must also question our interpretation if a significant amount of Scripture points one way, and a single verse is interpreted a different way, whether we should look at our assumptions on this verse?  For me, I became very convinced after reading John Owen's "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" along with Packer's intro.  I think a broader amount of Scripture supports the framework.  While I feel that there are tensions in Scripture, I don't feel that 1 John 2:2 presents that kind of tension for a Calvinist, and I think there are solid interpretations that maintain the framework, without doing disservice to Scripture.

I understand. Keep in mind, however, it's not just 1 John 2:2, but also 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9-10; and 2 Peter 2:1. Not that there aren't any Calvinist explanations for those verses (although again I don't find them convincing), but it doesn't all rise and fall on 1 John 2:2.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

gpinto's picture

The Day of Atonement was not a "get out of jail free" card for corporate Israel. Paul makes it abundantly clear in Romans that "they are not all Israel who are of Israel" (Rom 9:6). The Day of Atonement did not atone for the sin of unbelieving Israel.

gpinto

dgszweda's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

We've all heard them before.

In my opinion, the reason many Calvinists hold so tenaciously to Limited Atonement is that the whole system really breaks down without it. If the Atonement is not Limited, then grace is available to a whole whack of people who aren't appropriating it. So much for "Irresistable"...

As far as the atonement is concerned, have any of the Limited Atonement advocates considered that the Day of Atonement (Lev 16) covered believing and unbelieving Israel? Atonement makes God propitious (willing and just to save), but doesn't by itself save. 

I wouldn't put it that simple.  To me it is a framework to understand Scriptures.  It doesn't fall or die on a single verse, nor does it rise on a single verse.  It is the grand story that is told.  Maybe it can be said the grand exposition of the entirety of the Bible.  I also wouldn't be so quick to call them tired.  There is no framework that is free of any holes.  This is the great mystery and the depth of salvation, that is not fully revealed in Scripture.

Jay's picture

Greg Long wrote:

Full disclosure: I am a 4.5ish Calvinist. LA makes sense logically, but I have never been able to reconcile it with the clear biblical statements that say otherwise. I realize this issue has been debated ad infinitum here on SI, but I just want to make two points.

  1. If we're going to examine John's writings by comparing 1 John 2:2 with John 11:51-52, why wouldn't we rather compare 1 John 2:2 with 1 John 5:19, where he uses the same phrase in the very same letter. Talk about context! Is anyone prepared to argue that "whole world" in 1 John 5:19 does not refer to the evil, fallen world system as a whole? Wouldn't it mean the same in 1 John 2:2?

Game, set, match.

There's also John 3:

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Don Johnson wrote:

In my opinion, the reason many Calvinists hold so tenaciously to Limited Atonement is that the whole system really breaks down without it. If the Atonement is not Limited, then grace is available to a whole whack of people who aren't appropriating it. So much for "Irresistable"...

This has been my experience as well, and the thing that scares me the most about the Calvinist system is that more than a few people I've talked to about Calvinism are far more concerned with the system than they are in anything else, and they will break fellowship - or treat you as a lesser Christian - if you do not agree with them.  When I worked at BJU, we had to explicitly ask one student to stop bringing the subject up, because it became a staff morale issue. There is another guy in my church who looked at me like I didn't believe in the Trinity when I told him I wasn't a five pointer.  It's sad.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

DavidO's picture

Jay wrote:
Game, set, match.

Yes, in his single paragraph Greg undoes all the defenders of definite/limited atonement because they never ever deal with those verses.

:eyeroll:

Mike Harding's picture

Dr. McCune who was not a LA advocate argued that the atonement enabled God to justly give common grace to all men and the offer of the gospel to all men.  At the same time, he believed that the atonement was applied personally to a man's sin only when that man became a believer in Christ.  McCune clearly limited the atonement in its application to believers.  He says, "The atonement of Christ has certain benefits that are limited to those who receive them---i.e., believers or the elect.  These benefits are saving or redemptive in nature.  Election limits the atonement in its application.  Thus, the atonement is both universal (1 Jn 2:2) and in some respects, limited (Jn 15:13; Matt 1:21; Jn 10:15; Eph 5:23--26; Titus 2:14). Clearly, there is something in the design of the atonement of Christ that is for  believers that does not obtain for one who ends up in perdition.  That factor is in the application of the atonement's accomplishments and benefits. . . . There is an internal redemptive value of Christ's atonement that is infinite, but the application, and thus the limitation, is based on external considerations, either the will of man of the absolute will of God.  The latter is the obvious biblical teaching."

Pastor Mike Harding

David R. Brumbelow's picture

“I’ve never been able to understand how the Calvinists, some of them, believe in a "limited atonement." That is, the sacrifice of Christ applied only to those who are the elect, but there is no sacrifice of Christ for the whole world—when John expressly says He is the sacrifice, the atoning, dedicated gift of God in our lives for the whole world [1 John 2:2]. And it is just according to whether we accept it or not as to whether the life of our Lord is efficacious for us in His atoning death.”

-W. A. Criswell; wacriswell.com

There is not one single statement in Scripture that overtly states Christ died only for the sins of the elect. There are easily a dozen New Testament Scriptures overtly stating Christ died for all people.

-Dr. David Allen, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

David R. Brumbelow

JohnBrian's picture

Mike wrote:
McCune clearly limited the atonement in its application to believers.

Every believer affirms a Limited Atonement! The non-Calvinist affirms that it is limited in its application, the Calvinist affirms that it is limited in its intent.

Since the Calvinist affirms that the Trinity is unified in its purpose, we insist that it is the intent that is limited. God elected persons; Christ atoned for those persons; the Holy Spirit regenerates those persons.

The question for the non-Calvinist who affirms conditional election is "why does God require Christ to atone for those persons whom God knows will not believe?"

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Greg Long's picture

Again, John, a question the Bible never asks nor answers.

These questions are along the lines of the same questions asked of Calvinists:

  • "Why would God command us to believe if He's already decided who will be saved and who won't be?"
  • "Why should we pray if God has already decided everything that will come to pass?"
  • "If the elect can never fall away, why are there commands to persevere in the faith and warnings against falling away?"

Of course every theological system is required to reconcile seemingly paradoxical or even contradictory teachings of Scripture, but there is a point at which we say, "I don't know. I guess God didn't think it necessary to explain that to us. We just hold these paradoxical (or better put, complementary) truths in tension, and believe God at His Word."

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

JohnBrian's picture

Criswell's quote has been responded to above

Allen's first statement may be right that there is no overt statement that "Christ died only for the sins of the elect." 

His second statement though is debatable. Calvinists would object that there are NT passages that "overtly" state that Christ died for all people.

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Jay's picture

JohnBrian wrote:

Allen's first statement may be right that there is no overt statement that "Christ died only for the sins of the elect." 

If his statement is right - and no one I've seen disputes that - then why is there a whole theological system built upon it?  And why do we tolerate that?

Hello?  Do we not believe in the perspicuity of Scripture?  Did we all skip Hermeneutics class in college or seminary?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jay wrote:

 

JohnBrian wrote:

 

Allen's first statement may be right that there is no overt statement that "Christ died only for the sins of the elect." 

 

 

If his statement is right - and no one I've seen disputes that - then why is there a whole theological system built upon it?  And why do we tolerate that?

Hello?  Do we not believe in the perspicuity of Scripture?  Did we all skip Hermeneutics class in college or seminary?

Perhaps we tolerate it on the same grounds we tolerate teaching on the Trinity, about which there are no overt biblical statements either despite being considered a fundamental issue of the faith.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Dr. McCune's explanation of the atonement from his systematic is excellent, and was very helpful to me personally. The excerpt that Mike Harding quoted above is one that hit me right between the eyes when I read McCune's systematic. I also benefited enormously from Chafer's discussion (3:193-194; 210-224), who isn't as succinct as McCune but rightly emphasizes the Spirit's role in the salvation of the elect. I think we sometimes get tunnel vision on Christ and ignore the work of the Spirit when we have these discussions.

I believe that Christ died for the sins of the whole world, but the benefits of that atonement are only applied to the elect by the sovereign work of the Spirit - which is the only reason why men repent and believe. 

I personally think James White's The Potter's Freedom is an excellent book if anyone hasn't read it. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Perhaps we tolerate it on the same grounds we tolerate teaching on the Trinity, about which there are no overt biblical statements either despite being considered a fundamental issue of the faith.

But we have formulations for the Trinity as early as, what, 50-60 AD?  Calvinism popped up in the fifteenth century, if I remember correctly, although it wasn't formulated as such until the 16th.  There's a massive difference between something formulated twenty years after Jesus and 1540 years after Jesus.  Not to mention that there are hints of the Trinitarian formula in the OT.

Wikipedia:

Trinitarians view these as elements of the codified doctrine. Ignatius of Antioch provides early support for the Trinity around 110, exhorting obedience to "Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit". Justin Martyr (AD 100–c. 165) also writes, "in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit".  The first of the early church fathers to be recorded using the word "Trinity" was Theophilus of Antioch writing in the late 2nd century. He defines the Trinity as God, His Word (Logos) and His Wisdom (Sophia) in the context of a discussion of the first three days of creation. The first defence of the doctrine of the Trinity was in the early 3rd century by the early church father Tertullian. He explicitly defined the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and defended the Trinitarian theology against the "Praxean" heresy.

Another early, and already more philosophic, formulation of the Trinity (again without usage of that term) is attributed to the Gnostic teacher Valentinus (lived c.100 – c.160), who according to the fourth century theologian Marcellus of Ancyra, was “the first to devise the notion of three subsistent entities (hypostases), in a work that he entitled On the Three Natures”. The highly allegorical exegesis of the Valentinian school inclined it to interpret the relevant scriptural passages as affirming a Divinity that, in some manner, is threefold. The Valentinian Gospel of Phillip, which dates to approximately the time of Tertullian, upholds the Trinitarian formula. Whatever his influence on the later fully formed doctrine may have been, however, Valentinus' school is rejected as heretical by orthodox Christians.

Although there is much debate as to whether the beliefs of the Apostles were merely articulated and explained in the Trinitarian Creeds, or were corrupted and replaced with new beliefs, all scholars recognize that the Creeds themselves were created in reaction to disagreements over the nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These controversies, however, were great and many, and took some centuries to be resolved.

Of these controversies, the most significant developments were articulated in the first four centuries by the Church Fathers in reaction to Adoptionism, Sabellianism, and Arianism.

Dr. McCune - care to weigh in on this if you are reading? 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

dgszweda's picture

Jay wrote:

 

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

 

Perhaps we tolerate it on the same grounds we tolerate teaching on the Trinity, about which there are no overt biblical statements either despite being considered a fundamental issue of the faith.

 

 

But we have formulations for the Trinity as early as, what, 50-60 AD?  Calvinism popped up in the fifteenth century, if I remember correctly, although it wasn't formulated as such until the 16th.  There's a massive difference between something formulated twenty years after Jesus and 1540 years after Jesus.  Not to mention that there are hints of the Trinitarian formula in the OT.

 

Lets skip the term Calvinism, because most Calvinist don't call it that.  Calvin didn't even espouse it, as others have said.  Definite Atonement is much better.  The book "From Heaven He Came and Sought Her", outlines in the first few chapters on how Definite Atonement was found in the earliest days of the church and was much more widespread than only beginning with Calvin or at Dort.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You wrote:

Surely James White believes in definite atonement

He does, but he is arguing against a synergistic view of redemption. He doesn't address the Amyraldian arrangement (which I hold to) at all - he was responding to Geisler's book. If you are looking for a book that, in my opinion, effectively destroys a synergistic approach to salvation, White's book is one to get. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I have Lightner's The Death Christ Died and need to read it again. I also have From Heaven He Came and Sought Her and I look forward to getting into it sometime down the road. If I ever write anything on this topic, they'll be two books I consult. Owen's writing is just too tedious and impenetrable for me. My sympathies to folks who have managed to read him. Andy Naselli has written a summary of Owen's views and also laments Owen's writing! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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