Theology Thursday - Atonement and the Holy Spirit

In this excerpt from his systematic theology text, Lewis Chafer explains that the cross is not the only saving instrument God employs to redeem His people. He argues against limited redemption partially on this basis:1

It is one of the points most depended upon by the limited redemptionists to claim that redemption, if wrought at all, necessitates the salvation of those thus favored. According to this view, if the redemption price is paid by Christ it must be exagoradzo or apolutrosis, rather than agoradzo, in every instance.

It is confidently held by all Calvinists that the elect will, in God’s time and way, every one, be saved, and that the unregenerate believe only as they are enabled by the Spirit of God; but the question here is whether the sacrifice of Christ is the only divine instrumentality whereby God actually saves the elect, or whether that sacrifice is a divine work, finished, indeed, with regard to its scope and purpose, which renders all men savable, but one applied in sovereign grace by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit only when the individual believes.

Certainly Christ’s death of itself forgives no sinner, nor does it render unnecessary the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Any one of the elect whose salvation is predetermined, and for whom Christ died, may live the major portion of his life in open rebellion against God and, during that time, manifest every feature of depravity and spiritual death. This alone should prove that men are not severally saved by the act of Christ in dying, but rather that they are saved by the divine application of that value when they believe. The blood of the passover lamb became efficacious only when applied to the door post.

The fact that an elect person does live some portion of his life in enmity toward God and in a state in which he is as much lost as any unregenerate person, indicates conclusively that Christ must not only die to provide a righteous basis for the salvation of that soul, but that that value must be applied to him at such a time in his life as God has decreed, which time, in the present generation, is almost two thousand years subsequent to the death of Christ. By so much it is proved that the priceless value in Christ’s death does not save the elect, nor hinder them from rejecting the mercies of God in that period of their life which precedes their salvation.

The unlimited redemptionist claims that the value of Christ’s death is extended to all men, but the elect alone come, by divine grace wrought by an effectual call, into its fruition, while the nonelect are not called, but are those passed by. They hold that God indicates who are the elect, not at the cross, but by the effectual call and at the time of regeneration.

It is also believed by the unlimited redemptionists that it pleased God to place the whole world in a position of infinite obligation to Himself through the sacrifice of Christ, and though the mystery of personal condemnation for the sin of unbelief when one has not been moved to faith by the Spirit cannot be solved in this world, the unregenerate, both elect and nonelect, are definitely condemned for their unbelief so long as they abide in that estate (John 3:18).

There is nothing more clarifying in connection with this agelong discussion than the recognition of the fact that while they are in their unregenerate state, no vital distinction between the elect and the nonelect is recognized in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 1:24 and Heb. 1:14 might suggest this distinction along lines comparatively unimportant to this discussion).

Certainly, that form of doctrine which would make redemption equivalent to salvation is not traceable when men are contemplated in their unregenerate state, and that salvation which is delayed for many years in the case of an elect person might be delayed forever in the case of a nonelect person whose heart God never moves.

Was the objective in Christ’s death one of making the salvation of all men possible, or was it the making of the salvation of the elect certain? Some light is gained on this question when it is thus remembered that the consummating divine acts in the salvation of an individual are wrought when he believes on Christ, and not before he believes.

Notes

1 Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: DTS, 1948), 3:193-194.  

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G. N. Barkman's picture

Obviously I must be missing something, because this does not seem to address the issue.  Calvinists agree that the justifying benefits of the atonement are applied to the elect when they believe.  (Athough some hypers speak of eternal justification.)  Sinners are justified by faith.  However, Chafer's explanation avoids dealing directly with the SAVING intent of the atonement.  Why is this such a difficult issue?  If the Father elected His people in eternity past, and the Holy Spirit applies the benefits of Christ's atonement to the elect in the present, why would the Son pay for the sins of everyone without exception?  Would Christ pay for the sins of those whom the Father did not choose, and the Holy Spirit will not regenerate?  What drives this inconsistency?  Why are the three persons of the Godhead not unified in the work of redemption?

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

That is an important consideration. I still remember the first time I read Berkhof make that point very emphatically. But, that just isn't the angle Chafer is addressing, here.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

G. N. Barkman's picture

Interesting.  I didn't remember that Berkhof made that point, but Berkhof was my textbook for Systematic Theology.  At the time, I remember disagreeing with much of what he said.  However, I believe more was implanted than I realized.  It was several years later that I began to appreciate what Berkhof taught.

But  back to the thread, I wasn't saying that Chafer was dealing with the Trinitarian argument.  I was trying to say that denying definite atonement, as Chafer does, flies in the face of this argument.  I see no reason to argue against it.  Why defend what is clearly an inconsistency?  Beyond that, it seems to me that Chafer is trying to deny limited atonement by shifting the focus away from the salvific intent.  So what if there are other factors involved in salvation beyond the atonement?  Of course there are!  Do you know anyone who says otherwise?  But that's not the issue.  Throwing a red herring at the question does not successfully avoid the central issue, which is, what was God's intention in the atonement?  To save everyone?  To make salvation possible for all, but certain for none?  Or to purchase salvation for the elect?

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

There is no inconsistency if ... you take a multi-intentioned view of the atonement (cue sinister laugh). But, on a serious note, I don't recall how Chafer addressed this. This evening, I'll take a look at it and let you know. In the meantime, if anyone here has Chafer, you can look somewhere around 3:190f and let us know!

Erickson was the systematic I used in Seminary, and I still think it's the best. I love Erickson, even when I disagree with him.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

Here is the quote that I remember from Berkhof:

The question with which we are concerned at this point is not (a) whether the satisfaction rendered by Christ was in itself sufficient for the salvation of all men, since this is admitted by all; (b) whether the saving benefits are actually applied to every man, for the great majority of those who teach a universal atonement do not believe that all are actually saved; (c) whether the bona fide offer of salvation is made to all that hear the gospel, on the condition of repentance and faith, since the Reformed Churches do not call this in question; nor (d) whether any of the fruits of the death of Christ accrue to the benefit of the non-elect in virtue of their close association with the people of God, since this is explicitly taught by many Reformed scholars.

On the other hand, the question does relate to the design of the atonement. Did the Father in sending Christ, and did Christ in coming into the world, to make atonement for sin, do this with the design or for the purpose of saving only the elect or all men? That is the question, and that only is the question.

This is, indeed, the question. The way Berkhof framed this issue hit me like a thunderbolt a long time ago. I remember reading this, putting the book down, and thinking, "Well, I guess I believe in limited atonement!"

 Yet, I also believe Christ's death is legitimately condemnatory for those who refuse to repent and believe. This means that, in some way, it could have been efficacious for them, too.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bruce Rettig's picture

There is nothing more clarifying in connection with this agelong discussion than the recognition of the fact that while they are in their unregenerate state, no vital distinction between the elect and the nonelect is recognized in the Scriptures (1 Cor. 1:24 and Heb. 1:14 might suggest this distinction along lines comparatively unimportant to this discussion).

How does this help his argument? God sees a distinction between the elect and non-elect prior to regeneration (John 10:3, 16, 26). Maybe it's my head cold, but this one went right by me.

Bruce

O taste and see that the Lord is good:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in him. 

Psalm 34:8

Paul Henebury's picture

"Did the Father in sending Christ, and did Christ in coming into the world, to make atonement for sin, do this with the design or for the purpose of saving only the elect or all men? That is the question, and that only is the question." - Berkhof

Well, does the Bible address THAT question?  If it doesn't then it cannot be THE question.  If someone thinks it is when it isn't then fallible deductive logic will be relied upon no matter what.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

ScottS's picture

The Trinitarian purpose and effects of the atonement function salvifically at two levels, in perfect harmony between the Persons of the Trinity:

Universally ("God ... is Savior of all men ..." 1 Tim 4:10)

  • God the Father intended the atonement to be a penal substitution for sin's legal penalty of death for all men, the propitiation for sin, so that He could righteously* resurrect them from that penalty He had declared, saving all people from that physical death (and thus saving along with all people, the particular group He cares most about: see "particularly" below). *NOTE: "Righteously" here meaning so that God could counter His own declared penalty of death for sin and yet remain true and right to Himself by making sure the penalty was paid in full, not simply "dismissed"; death should have been irrevocable (eternal) for sinners, but if that eternal punishment is paid by another, then it allows freedom from it to be given.
  • God the Son worked the Father's will in the atonement to bring about the Father's intention, functioning as High Priest and Second/Last Adam (and thus the Lamb sacrifice) for humanity, being sacrificer and sacrifice, offering and paying the penalty for all through death, so that all could be righteously saved from physical death by the resurrection.
  • God the Spirit will work the Father's will, in the Father's time, through resurrecting all people out from that penalty of death, saving them for an eternal, bodily existence to come**—whether in a condemned or a justified state for eternity. **NOTE: God designed mankind to have a body, so the salvation of the body from death is half of what is necessary for saving any person from sin's effects.

Particularly ("[God is] ... especially [Savior] of those who believe" 1 Tim 4:10)

  • God the Father intended the atonement to cleanse sin for all those who identify with it by faith, saving believers from their sinfulness (the sinful nature), and He intended that faith as a vehicle to righteously declare believers as righteous now, on the grounds that God will make the believer righteous when the body of sinful flesh is replaced by the resurrected (spiritual) body to come (when both the human spirit and the resurrected, spiritual body will be without sin forever), saving believers from having their worthiness (as humans who were designed to be image bearers of God, and so expected to be as righteous as He) from being judged based upon their own works, for they are justified based on Christ's work and through their faith instead, and so they are saved from the condemnation of the second death, to be in a special, right and restored, relationship as God's people through eternity.
  • God the Son worked the Father's will to supply the Son's own blood on behalf of those who believe to cleanse them of sin, saving them from the nature of sin by its application for them (at level deeper than the temporary washing of animal sacrifices), and having paid their penalty of sin (see "universally" above), the Son provides the universally salvific basis of the good news (the gospel) to be preached to all people (a Lamb has been provided, their penalty has been paid, whaa hooo!—now identify with that sacrifice) so that faith may come to some, whose faith is grounded on the truth of the resurrection to come by that purchase, and through faith, righteousness comes to save them from their sinful works and save them from the second death, to eternal life with Him and the Father (and the Spirit).
  • God the Spirit works the Father's will to apply the blood cleansing to believers' spirits at the time they come to faith and renewing the believers' spirits, saving them from their spiritual sinfulness at that time (awaiting the removal of the sinful flesh at the resurrection for the saving of them from sinfulness in total), which cleansing and renewing comes through the faith that the Spirit elicits in a person by the gospel of what God has done (and will do if they believe) through the Spirit's calling and illumination, saving them from their spiritual blindness so that they are saved from standing in their own works by standing in Christ's work, and so saved from condemnation, to a justified eternal relation with God.

For brevity's sake, I've omitted numerous verse references that I could pair with the statements above; I've also probably missed some other parallels and points to make (but I believe I've hit on most of the main ones).

But I believe I've established clearly how the various saving aspects of the atonement (and some other,non-atonement factors, which I think is part of Chafer's point in his passage) are in harmony in the Trinity to do what they are intended, having effects part on a universal level, and part on a particular level.

This understanding of atonement I've labeled as pananastasism, though the label only classifies a view of atonement that has been expressed by others in history (for more on the historical aspect than what I covered in my dissertation, see my article "A Defense of the Early Theological Recognition of a Universal, Effectual, Salvific Aspect to the Nature and Extent of Christ's Atonement.")

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

TylerR's picture

Paul wrote:

Well, does the Bible address THAT question?  If it doesn't then it cannot be THE question.  If someone thinks it is when it isn't then fallible deductive logic will be relied upon no matter what.  

This is one reason why I'm sometimes wary of trying to over-systematize things. Sometimes the Scriptural evidence cannot be neatly tied up with a bow. Sometimes ambiguity remains. Sometimes you'll still have evidence that doesn't fit into the neat systematic box.

But, I suppose we can ask - does Scripture ever address whether Christ died to specifically redeem all or some? Forget the potential extent of the atonement for the moment; does Scripture address the salvific intent of Christ's work? When you frame it the way Berkhof did, it really becomes a question about individual, single election - not atonement. These issues are inter-connected.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

G. N. Barkman's picture

I think I understand what you are trying to communicate, but if cleansing the soul from sin is the focus of the question, "For whom did Christ die," the answer remains, "For the elect."   I recognize that this is actually what you said.  I consider your statement a novel, but acceptable description of limited atonement.  I don't know anyone who denies the atonement accomplished more than the salvation of the elect, but when the issue is the eternal salvation of souls, (not bodily resurrection, etc.) the design was intended for the elect only.  Although your emphasis upon bodily resurrection is a new angle, at least to me, when all is said and done, your statement lands on the right answer, unless I am misunderstanding you.  When the question is narrowed to the eternal salvation of souls, the answer is that Christ's atonement was intended to save the elect, and it accomplished exactly that for which it was intended.

G. N. Barkman

G. N. Barkman's picture

Yes.  A careful exegesis of II Corinthians 5:14,15, allows for no other possibility.  The "all" for whom Christ died all died in Christ.  (vs. 14)  Furthermore, the "all" for whom Christ died now live, and because they live, they should henceforth live, not for self, but Christ who died for them.  (verse 15)

The death of verse 14 cannot be physical death, for physical death did not come about because of Christ's death, but because of Adam's sin.  But "if One died for all, then all died" means that everyone for whom Christ died on the cross, died with Him and in Him.  To put it the other way around, no one for whom Christ died fails to die with Him and in Him.  Conclusion?  Christ died for the elect, and every elect person for whom Christ died will be saved because every one of them were in Christ when He died.  To put it another way, every one who was in Christ when He died lives.  No one who does not live eternally was in Christ when He died.

That's the Biblical explanation of limited atonement.  It is also the text that forced S. Lewis Johnson to resign from the DTS faculty, for he could no longer subscribe to the required doctrinal statement embracing universal atonement.

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

Brother Barkman said, "When the question is narrowed to the eternal salvation of souls, the answer is that Christ's atonement was intended to save the elect, and it accomplished exactly that for which it was intended."

But does the Bible address the issue in this way or does this question pave the way for an answer not provided by the Bible itself, taking us off course from what it actually does address?  I am open to being corrected, but I believe the question, and therefore the answer, is non-sequitur.      

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

ScottS's picture

You do misunderstand me some.

G. N. Barkman wrote:

I think I understand what you are trying to communicate, but if cleansing the soul from sin is the focus of the question, "For whom did Christ die," the answer remains, "For the elect."   I recognize that this is actually what you said.  I consider your statement a novel, but acceptable description of limited atonement.  I don't know anyone who denies the atonement accomplished more than the salvation of the elect, but when the issue is the eternal salvation of souls, (not bodily resurrection, etc.) the design was intended for the elect only.  Although your emphasis upon bodily resurrection is a new angle, at least to me, when all is said and done, your statement lands on the right answer, unless I am misunderstanding you.  When the question is narrowed to the eternal salvation of souls, the answer is that Christ's atonement was intended to save the elect, and it accomplished exactly that for which it was intended.

My intent is to show that the atonement is not wholly limited to the elect, but has an unlimited aspect as well that is more than merely potential (it is actual) in its saving efficacy. "For whom did Christ die" is for all to save them from the physical penalty of death (which is a necessary part of saving anyone from the effects of sin), and then for the believers to cleanse the soul from sin. The issue of "the eternal salvation of souls" includes the necessity for the salvation of the body via the resurrection. This aspect of salvation is universal (and intended to be so), and it saves even the unbelievers from being able to physically die again (which is why they end up eternally experiencing the wrath of God in the lake of fire for their unrighteousness, because He paid for them to be freed from that physical death). But it saves the elect relationally (no wrath) because they are cleansed and made right spiritually.

 

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

TylerR's picture

What struck me so forcefully about Chafer's argument is that he's saying, "Yes, the atonement is important. But, the point of discrimination between elect and non-elect has nothing to do with atonement - it has to do with the sovereign application by the Spirit." To paraphrase John Frame, the Father plans, the Son executes, the Spirit applies.

Chafer makes a good point. Should we be talking about the extent of the atonement, when the application on the basis of election comes by the Spirit anyway? And, as Paul asks, does Scripture ever frame the matter like Berkhof did? Are we doing what Cinderella's stepsisters tried to do with the glass slipper; to "make it fit" into a mold it wasn't designed for?

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

G. N. Barkman's picture

Scott, because it seems to me that you have said again exactly what you said before, and that leads me to believe that your position is a rather novel version of limited atonement.  To say the atonement is universal because it secures the resurrection of the bodies of the unjust does not address the question of the eternal salvation of men.  To say that physical resurrection is half of salvation still doesn't address the most meaningful half.  What makes the difference between those who spend eternity in Heaven and those who go to Hell?  It is cleansing from sin.  What was the intended purpose of the atonement in regard to cleansing from sin?  It was intended to cleanse the sins of the elect alone.  That is what you state, and that is what I believe.  Bringing the resurrection of the body into the discussion seems a diversion from the real  issue.  Chafer, Tyler, and you all seem unwilling to embrace the obvious.  What is so difficult about definite atonement?  Why such elaborate attempts to deny limited atonement, when you actually seem to agree with it?  It seems to me that you own it with your explanations, but are unwilling to say that you believe it.  Why?  Is there an emotional barrier to identifying yourself with limited atonement?

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

Tyler: "I suppose we can ask - does Scripture ever address whether Christ died to specifically redeem all or some?"

My response is that it depends on what is meant by "specifically".  If by it is meant "actually redeem" this means that the accomplishment of redemption and the application of it are coterminous.  Scripture does address the question of those for whom Christ died.  Another question would be, who receives the application of the atonement?  

N.B. I note in his first comment that Bro. Barkman separates the achievement of the atonement from its application.  This is unusual for those who hold to limited atonement.   

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I have reduced my library by a third, and gave away my Chafer's Systematic and other books by him.

But as I recall, Chafer adds that lost people are condemned not only because of their sin, but because Christ atoned for their sin and yet they rejected Him.  The atonement, therefore, adds an additional justification for God's condemnation of the lost, not that He needed those additional grounds 2 Thessalonians 2:12.  In John 3:18, men are condemned not because of their sin in general (as is the case a few verses down in John 3:20-21), but because of their rejection of Jesus.

I think the fact that Christ died for even the non-elect (2 Peter 2:1) adds (an unnecessary -- but God goes beyond quite frequently) a layer of justification for God's condemnation of Christ rejectors.

I think even most five pointers would agree that the death of Christ is sufficient for all to be saved, which may make the point a bit moot.  Still, the idea of who God had in mind when Christ died is an attempt to read God's mind apart from Scripture.

"The Midrash Detective"

Andrew K's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
-

N.B. I note in his first comment that Bro. Barkman separates the achievement of the atonement from its application.  This is unusual for those who hold to limited atonement.   

You mean he separates achievement and application chronologically, with the application coming after belief of an individual? That's pretty standard, actually. It's what I've always heard. The application must occur in time, after all, even though the salvific event itself occurred nearly 2k years ago now.

ScottS's picture

Brother Barkman, what I'm trying to communicate is that lost in much of the theological discussions on the extent of the atonement has been the facts that

  1. the resurrection of the body is eternally salvific from sin's penalty of death and is brought about because of Christ's propitiating, substituting death on the cross

    • limited atonement advocates say that God has done nothing toward the eternal salvation for those who remain in unbelief (the non-elect), because they only view salvation wholistically in its effects (i.e. God only plans to save the elect, God succeeds at what He plans, so only the elect have a part in God's salvific work), and so they relegate resurrection to something less than salvific in nature (since scripture has clear points that all people will experience resurrection, and since they do not believe God has done anything salvific for the non-elect, they are forced to categorize resurrection as non-salvific [against the evidences from Scripture]).
    • unlimited advocates say He has done something toward the salvation of those who remain in unbelief, but generally articulate that something as only potential, not something effectual apart from faith; as such, most also ignore the resurrection (which is something effectual, and happens apart from faith), though some do mention it as an effect of the universal atonement they are advocating for (without having worked through the logic that it is something not merely potential).
    • So my view of pananastasism aligns more with unlimited advocates in that something has been done, but it does agree with the limited advocates that what that something is must be an effectual salvific work.
  2. the resurrection of the body is a necessary part of the eternal salvation of anyone
    • limited atonement advocates, as I noted above, have ignored or been opposed to the resurrection being an aspect of salvation (which is basically what you have been saying to me in this discussion, that the resurrection is irrelevant to the discussion of eternal salvation)
    • unlimited atonement advocates, as I noted above, have largely been so focused on the potential of the atoning work for the non-elect, that they have ignored the actual of what comes from that (or, as I said, they include the resurrection, but then do not advocate for an effectual part that is accomplished regardless of faith).
    • So my view corrects the error of the limited atonement view (that resurrection is not part of the salvific work) and the error of the unlimited view (that God only did something potential, rather than effectual, toward all people).

So when you say

to say that physical resurrection is half of salvation still doesn't address the most meaningful half,

you miss half the point! The resurrection is just as meaningful to the salvation of a person as the cleansing, without either one, a person is not saved from the effects of sin. Each saves from different parts of sin's consequences, but each has an eternal salvific effect related to its part. Then you ask:

What makes the difference between those who spend eternity in Heaven and those who go to Hell?

Faith makes the difference, but from the perspective of the atoning work, both the resurrection makes a difference and the cleansing makes a difference. Without the resurrection, bodies would remain in the grave (hell) under the penalty of death and no one would "live" again (eternally or otherwise), but without the cleansing, spirits would remain tainted by sin and the wrath of God abide on them still. But because of the salvific work of the resurrection, bodies will die no more (death is abolished), which allows the cleansed spirits to live eternally, while the uncleansed spirits spend eternity, not in hell, but in the lake of fire (which I happen to believe is a location whose fire is the manifestation of God's holy presence for eternity against those who are unprepared to handle it, and so He is their eternal consuming fire that never consumes them because of their immortal, resurrected bodies).

Now you are correct that we both believe:

What was the intended purpose of the atonement in regard to cleansing from sin?  It was intended to cleanse the sins of the elect alone.  That is what you state, and that is what I believe.

But I hope I've cleared up why resurrection is half-central to the issue, rather than

Bringing the resurrection of the body into the discussion seems a diversion from the real  issue.

Now as to

What is so difficult about definite atonement?  Why such elaborate attempts to deny limited atonement, when you actually seem to agree with it? 

Because I do not agree with it, in that I do not believe God has done nothing salvific for those who remain in unbelief.  He has paid the penalty for their sins. He will resurrect them because He has paid that penalty. He will then judge them on whether they meet His righteous standards as image bearers of His likeness, and He will find them lacking because they are still in their sin, and cast them away from the blessing of an eternal, right relationship with Him.

It seems to me that you own it with your explanations, but are unwilling to say that you believe it.  Why?  Is there an emotional barrier to identifying yourself with limited atonement?

I think my explanation above shows where I do not "own" limited atonement "with [my] explanations," though I have owned some of their logical reasons they reject the standard views of unlimited atonement, and applied that reasoning in defense of my revised unlimited atonement view. The reason I am "unwilling" to believe limited atonement is the same as why most unlimited advocates reject it, it does not fit the plain meaning of many Scriptures (you are aware of the standard ones, 1 Jn 2:2, 1 Tim 2:4-6, 4:10, 2 Pet 2:1, et al., but also I use 2 Cor 5:14-15, the passage you noted above, as well in defense of my view [see pages 258-267 of my dissertation]).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Andrew K's picture

ScottS wrote:

Brother Barkman, what I'm trying to communicate is that lost in much of the theological discussions on the extent of the atonement has been the facts that

  1. the resurrection of the body is eternally salvific from sin's penalty of death and is brought about because of Christ's propitiating, substituting death on the cross

     

    • limited atonement advocates say that God has done nothing toward the eternal salvation for those who remain in unbelief (the non-elect), because they only view salvation wholistically in its effects (i.e. God only plans to save the elect, God succeeds at what He plans, so only the elect have a part in God's salvific work), and so they relegate resurrection to something less than salvific in nature (since scripture has clear points that all people will experience resurrection, and since they do not believe God has done anything salvific for the non-elect, they are forced to categorize resurrection as non-salvific [against the evidences from Scripture]).
    • unlimited advocates say He has done something toward the salvation of those who remain in unbelief, but generally articulate that something as only potential, not something effectual apart from faith; as such, most also ignore the resurrection (which is something effectual, and happens apart from faith), though some do mention it as an effect of the universal atonement they are advocating for (without having worked through the logic that it is something not merely potential).
    • So my view of pananastasism aligns more with unlimited advocates in that something has been done, but it does agree with the limited advocates that what that something is must be an effectual salvific work.
  2. the resurrection of the body is a necessary part of the eternal salvation of anyone
    • limited atonement advocates, as I noted above, have ignored or been opposed to the resurrection being an aspect of salvation (which is basically what you have been saying to me in this discussion, that the resurrection is irrelevant to the discussion of eternal salvation)
    • unlimited atonement advocates, as I noted above, have largely been so focused on the potential of the atoning work for the non-elect, that they have ignored the actual of what comes from that (or, as I said, they include the resurrection, but then do not advocate for an effectual part that is accomplished regardless of faith).
    • So my view corrects the error of the limited atonement view (that resurrection is not part of the salvific work) and the error of the unlimited view (that God only did something potential, rather than effectual, toward all people).

So when you say

to say that physical resurrection is half of salvation still doesn't address the most meaningful half,

you miss half the point! The resurrection is just as meaningful to the salvation of a person as the cleansing, without either one, a person is not saved from the effects of sin. Each saves from different parts of sin's consequences, but each has an eternal salvific effect related to its part. Then you ask:

What makes the difference between those who spend eternity in Heaven and those who go to Hell?

Faith makes the difference, but from the perspective of the atoning work, both the resurrection makes a difference and the cleansing makes a difference. Without the resurrection, bodies would remain in the grave (hell) under the penalty of death and no one would "live" again (eternally or otherwise), but without the cleansing, spirits would remain tainted by sin and the wrath of God abide on them still. But because of the salvific work of the resurrection, bodies will die no more (death is abolished), which allows the cleansed spirits to live eternally, while the uncleansed spirits spend eternity, not in hell, but in the lake of fire (which I happen to believe is a location whose fire is the manifestation of God's holy presence for eternity against those who are unprepared to handle it, and so He is their eternal consuming fire that never consumes them because of their immortal, resurrected bodies).

Now you are correct that we both believe:

What was the intended purpose of the atonement in regard to cleansing from sin?  It was intended to cleanse the sins of the elect alone.  That is what you state, and that is what I believe.

But I hope I've cleared up why resurrection is half-central to the issue, rather than

Bringing the resurrection of the body into the discussion seems a diversion from the real  issue.

Now as to

What is so difficult about definite atonement?  Why such elaborate attempts to deny limited atonement, when you actually seem to agree with it? 

Because I do not agree with it, in that I do not believe God has done nothing salvific for those who remain in unbelief.  He has paid the penalty for their sins. He will resurrect them because He has paid that penalty. He will then judge them on whether they meet His righteous standards as image bearers of His likeness, and He will find them lacking because they are still in their sin, and cast them away from the blessing of an eternal, right relationship with Him.

It seems to me that you own it with your explanations, but are unwilling to say that you believe it.  Why?  Is there an emotional barrier to identifying yourself with limited atonement?

I think my explanation above shows where I do not "own" limited atonement "with [my] explanations," though I have owned some of their logical reasons they reject the standard views of unlimited atonement, and applied that reasoning in defense of my revised unlimited atonement view. The reason I am "unwilling" to believe limited atonement is the same as why most unlimited advocates reject it, it does not fit the plain meaning of many Scriptures (you are aware of the standard ones, 1 Jn 2:2, 1 Tim 2:4-6, 4:10, 2 Pet 2:1, et al., but also I use 2 Cor 5:14-15, the passage you noted above, as well in defense of my view [see pages 258-267 of my dissertation]).

Jumping in here for a moment: I believe sin's penalty involves two deaths, no? I'm personally a bit hesitant to call "salvific" something that only deals with the first, which ultimately came on us by virtue of our sins in Adam, rather than our own specific sins.

Paul Henebury's picture

if you read most 5 pointers on the subject they are adamant that the elect were actually atoned for at the Cross.  Also, they hold that the elect are regenerated in order to believe.  Logically, this means that the elect must be considered as having received the benefits of the Cross already.  E.g., Greg Forster asserts several times in his The Joy of Calvinism that the elect were all “saved at the Cross and the empty Tomb." 

This has to be the case, says Forster, because Jesus died for “you” (individual elect sinners), “and when he did, he actually saved you.” (59 my emphasis).

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Andrew K's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

if you read most 5 pointers on the subject they are adamant that the elect were actually atoned for at the Cross.  Also, they hold that the elect are regenerated in order to believe.  Logically, this means that the elect must be considered as having received the benefits of the Cross already.  E.g., Greg Forster asserts several times in his The Joy of Calvinism that the elect were all “saved at the Cross and the empty Tomb." 

This has to be the case, says Forster, because Jesus died for “you” (individual elect sinners), “and when he did, he actually saved you.” (59 my emphasis).

The redemptive event, yes. But the application comes later. It must. How could the elect receive those benefits at that point in time when they, as yet, didn't even exist?

ScottS's picture

Andrew,

Andrew K wrote:

Jumping in here for a moment: I believe sin's penalty involves two deaths, no? I'm personally a bit hesitant to call "salvific" something that only deals with the first, which ultimately came on us by virtue of our sins in Adam, rather than our own specific sins.

My articulation of it is that sin's effects involve two deaths, but physical death is the legal penalty (it is the penalty God laid down to Adam if he transgressed the command), but the relational rift (or as many like to call it, spiritual death, but I prefer to avoid that term as then people eisegete that death into the Genesis 2 statement of legal penalty) is the natural consequence of a person failing to be what God made them to be, like Him, and this naturally breaks the relationship with God, incurring His wrath. But both are in need of being saved from: penalty and wrath (but they are distinct).

So one illustration I use is that if a person is going to live in a right relationship with another, that person needs to (1) be free to do so and (2) be willing to do so. So if a person is in prison because of legal penalty (or the grave, because of sin), they must be freed to have a real relationship with another (with God); so if that other (God) frees the imprisoned person from the legal penalty (the grave), then there is still an issue of whether the one who was imprisoned is willing to be in a right relation with the one who freed them; if that one imprisoned spits in the face of the one who freed them, there is a cause for a righteous anger in the one spit upon, but facing the anger is different from facing the penalty. Where this illustration breaks down is that in our case, God owns all people, including unbelievers, as they are all His creation, and He has expectations that those creatures were to be perfectly representative of Him as He designed them to be, so failing to do so even more righteously evokes His wrath. But in the illustration (and reality), there is something all those imprisoned are freed from, so they are saved from prison (the grave), even if they still face a different consequence that they may or may not be prepared to deal with. Saving from prison (the grave) is as much a need as saving from eternal wrath (second death).

But my question is why do you consider (or are at least are hesitant in) handling one of the effects of sin being taken care of as not being salvific?

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Andrew K's picture

ScottS wrote:

Andrew,

 

Andrew K wrote:

 

Jumping in here for a moment: I believe sin's penalty involves two deaths, no? I'm personally a bit hesitant to call "salvific" something that only deals with the first, which ultimately came on us by virtue of our sins in Adam, rather than our own specific sins.

 

 

My articulation of it is that sin's effects involve two deaths, but physical death is the legal penalty (it is the penalty God laid down to Adam if he transgressed the command), but the relational rift (or as many like to call it, spiritual death, but I prefer to avoid that term as then people eisegete that death into the Genesis 2 statement of legal penalty) is the natural consequence of a person failing to be what God made them to be, like Him, and this naturally breaks the relationship with God, incurring His wrath. But both are in need of being saved from: penalty and wrath (but they are distinct).

So one illustration I use is that if a person is going to live in a right relationship with another, that person needs to (1) be free to do so and (2) be willing to do so. So if a person is in prison because of legal penalty (or the grave, because of sin), they must be freed to have a real relationship with another (with God); so if that other (God) frees the imprisoned person from the legal penalty (the grave), then there is still an issue of whether the one who was imprisoned is willing to be in a right relation with the one who freed them; if that one imprisoned spits in the face of the one who freed them, there is a cause for a righteous anger in the one spit upon, but facing the anger is different from facing the penalty. Where this illustration breaks down is that in our case, God owns all people, including unbelievers, as they are all His creation, and He has expectations that those creatures were to be perfectly representative of Him as He designed them to be, so failing to do so even more righteously evokes His wrath. But in the illustration (and reality), there is something all those imprisoned are freed from, so they are saved from prison (the grave), even if they still face a different consequence that they may or may not be prepared to deal with. Saving from prison (the grave) is as much a need as saving from eternal wrath (second death).

But my question is why do you consider (or are at least are hesitant in) handling one of the effects of sin being taken care of as not being salvific?

Largely because that doesn't seem to be how Scripture uses the term or its cognates--at least not when in a soteriological context.

ScottS's picture

Andrew, if you actually search an electronic Bible for the "term" penalty, I think you will find very few uses of that term period, and even less (if any, depending on the translation) in a soteriological context. Punishment is far more common, but there are differing types of punishment: penal (which by definition is a punishment for a legal infraction, hence why I use the term penalty for the first part), correctional (i.e., to correct the error of one's ways: this could or could not overlap with penal), and retribution (i.e. vengeance for a perceived wrong).

So I would argue (and did, in part, in my dissertation) that Scripture clearly discusses and distinguishes both the penal (physical death) and retributive (wrath; second death) as punishments for sin, with both types in need of being saved from the effects. And of course, in the OT, oftentimes both types occurred together (God killed people in his wrath for breaking His commands).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Paul Henebury's picture

Andrew, with respect, you didn't read the quote from Forster carefully.  He does say that the elect were redeemed at the cross.  The logic of this is that if one separates the accomplishment of the cross from the application then there is no reason to delimit the atonement only to the elect.  Thus, what Forster says is,

T1 = "when Christ died" (the accomplishment)

T2 = "He actually saved you" (application)

Hence T1 and T2 are coterminous.

You appear to be saying,

T1 = the atonement made for sin at the cross

T2 = the application of the merits of the atonement to the elect upon belief

Hence, there is a separation between T1 and T2.

Notice that actual redemption of a person under this view means that no one is "actually saved" at the cross (contra Forster).  They are potentially saved.  Hence there is no reason to limit the accomplishment to the elect, since the elect are not actually atoned for at the cross but later when they believe.  But it is the potentiality of salvation that the limited redemptionist wants to argue against.  It is a particular redemption, not a potential or hypothetical one.  So,

"Christ's atonement did not make men merely hypothetically savable, but actually accomplished the salvation of all those who the Father gave him." - O. Palmer Robertson, "Definite Atonement", in After Darkness, Light, ed. by R.C. Sproul Jr., 99-100

But the only way to stop speaking of the potentially redeemed is to have the elect actually atoned for at Calvary.  If we say that Christ died for all mankind but only the elect will believe and have the merits of the cross applied to them then one is espousing the basic position of universal redemptionists like Chafer.  I would say that this is the teaching of Scripture.  If we say that Christ died only for the elect at the cross but the elect are not saved until they each believe, the first part of that sentence will have to be asserted via deduction not texts.  This is especially true since most Reformed soteriology states that faith is not a condition for God to be satisfied.              

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Andrew K's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:

Andrew, with respect, you didn't read the quote from Forster carefully.  He does say that the elect were redeemed at the cross.  The logic of this is that if one separates the accomplishment of the cross from the application then there is no reason to delimit the atonement only to the elect.  Thus, what Forster says is,

T1 = "when Christ died" (the accomplishment)

T2 = "He actually saved you" (application)

Hence T1 and T2 are coterminous.

You appear to be saying,

T1 = the atonement made for sin at the cross

T2 = the application of the merits of the atonement to the elect upon belief

Hence, there is a separation between T1 and T2.

Notice that actual redemption of a person under this view means that no one is "actually saved" at the cross (contra Forster).  They are potentially saved.  Hence there is no reason to limit the accomplishment to the elect, since the elect are not actually atoned for at the cross but later when they believe.  But it is the potentiality of salvation that the limited redemptionist wants to argue against.  It is a particular redemption, not a potential or hypothetical one.  So,

"Christ's atonement did not make men merely hypothetically savable, but actually accomplished the salvation of all those who the Father gave him." - O. Palmer Robertson, "Definite Atonement", in After Darkness, Light, ed. by R.C. Sproul Jr., 99-100

But the only way to stop speaking of the potentially redeemed is to have the elect actually atoned for at Calvary.  If we say that Christ died for all mankind but only the elect will believe and have the merits of the cross applied to them then one is espousing the basic position of universal redemptionists like Chafer.  I would say that this is the teaching of Scripture.  If we say that Christ died only for the elect at the cross but the elect are not saved until they each believe, the first part of that sentence will have to be asserted via deduction not texts.  This is especially true since most Reformed soteriology states that faith is not a condition for God to be satisfied.              

 

With respect returned, I'm not particularly interested in Forster's quote. I do not confess him, and he is simply one Reformed voice among many. A separation is assumed by such worthies as John Murray (see Redemption Accomplished and Applied).

And I do not simply make application of atonement "upon belief" as such, but rather upon specific points in the lifetime of the elect (thus regeneration as well). Other applications of the merits of the atonement would include sanctification and glorification, no? And those obviously could not come into play chronologically at the redemptive event. The point of limited atonement is that the atonement of the elect is certain, not that all the benefits would be realized by concerned individuals at one, historic moment. And this view is rather common among Reformed. In fact, I don't know that I've met anyone personally who would dispute it. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Anyone who has not read John Murray's classic, "Redemption Accomplished and Applied," should put it on your short term "to do" list.  Those who read it thoughtfully will have an accurate understanding of Calvinist soteriology.

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

I don't have access to Murray right now (hopefully Monday), but Packer should do.  Please read this short exposition of LA carefully.  He makes it clear that the application happened at the cross.  That is also where the gifts of regeneration and faith were purchased. - http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/Packer,%20J.I.%20-%20Definite%20Redemption.pdf

He states: "that the death of Christ actually put away the sins of all God’s elect".  It didn't happen AFTER the death of Christ.

Again, if the application does not occur until individual faith is exercised then the cross was not actually a substitution.  The actual substitution would happen upon belief.  This is what Andrew K said:

"he separates achievement and application chronologically, with the application coming after belief of an individual?"    

What is applied after the cross is the gift of faith, sanctification etc, not the atonement.  

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

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