Definite Universal Atonement unto Resurrection

This thread was created as an offshoot to my comment made in this thread (about 1 Jn 2:2). I've opened this thread for purposes of any continued discussion/questions of my views.

Let me first copy the bulk of my previous main comment here, along with two answers I've already provided as a starting point.

*** Begin copy of my original comment (with a few extra links back to the originating post) ***

The problem with "sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” for one trying to argue an unlimited atonement is that the atonement must be viewed as potential, not actual, and because a substitution cannot be merely potential (once a substitution is done, it has an effect), then Christ really did not die for (in the place of) all people if it is viewed as merely potential for all. This point is one of the most significant ones advanced by limited atonement advocates—a penal substitutionary atonement must be effectual. As Part III here indicates, Dr. Cone [in Part III of his series] has still taken the approach that “God’s grace is provided for all” and then “belief as the means of accessing God’s propitiatory grace.”

This logical failure of viewing a substitutionary atonement as merely potential in effect is one major driving force that propelled my studies of atonement. I felt there were truths that both limited atonement and unlimited atonement people correctly came to, some that at first glance seemed contradictory, but nevertheless which needed a proper synthesis.

In my dissertation (link is external), I have argued from across various Scriptures for a definite universal penal substitutionary atonement that was designed and executed by God to be effectual for all (believers and unbelievers).

The passage of 1 John 2:2 is just one of many Scriptures supporting this fact, but I will attempt to summarize the dissertation here, and then specifically address 1 John 2:2. In the dissertation, I further argue that what has been largely missed in historical discussions (though not by all in history) is that payment of the penalty for sin for all was designed to do one thing objectively of itself (i.e. apart from election)—allow for God’s righteous resurrection of anyone and everyone from physical death—His ordained penalty for sin which mankind was already judged for corporately in Genesis 3. The objective benefit of the payment of the penalty is applied at the resurrection of the individual, whether believer or unbeliever. Thus, Christ did die for (in a substitutionary, in place of sense) all people, which application of freeing (redeeming) from that penalty comes at their individual resurrection.

This is why I have labeled the view Pananastasism (i.e. all-resurrected-ism). God through Christ did this for all people, in order to corporately deal with the corporate penalty Adam brought upon mankind. It is God’s forgiveness of sins (loosing from sins), which forgiveness must be received (acknowledged) by a person in order to have the further benefits God has planned. God’s objective forgiveness is the basis for the call for one to come to repentance (Lk 24:27; Acts 2:38; i.e. after Christ’s work for people, that work becomes the chief basis for why they should repent of their view of God and believe in what He has done for them). But He did His work on the cross specifically to save a particular people for Himself—believing people, those who are both redeemed and are also in Christ, having acknowledged by belief what God has done for them.

I also argue that this saving from the penalty of sin is the lesser eschatological salvation done for “all men,” making Christ the Savior of all from physical death, while there is still a greater eschatological salvation in which God becomes especially a Savior “for those who believe” (1 Tim 4:10). This greater salvation is from His wrath, manifested in the second death, the casting into the lake of fire, which comes from His second judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment, which judgment is upon resurrected (physically saved) unbelieving individuals for their lack of proper (perfect) righteousness.

This righteousness is part of what mankind was designed to reflect in being made like God. Unbelievers lack the proper righteousness because they

  1. have not repented on account of God’s objective work to forgive of sins, have not had God’s righteousness imputed to them through faith,
  2. have not had their spirits washed from sin by the blood application of Christ’s atonement (note that this is similar, though distinct, from Cone’s approach in Part II of [his] series where blood application is indicated as being distinct from the payment of the price itself), and
  3. have not had the Holy Spirit regenerate their spirits to be sinless in nature.

Yet they do have the immortality of the resurrected body granted to them as part of the corporate grace shown to mankind (applying to each equally for what it is intended to do), and thus cannot and will not be consumed by the eternal fire.

I additionally point out that this view of a universal atonement, while avoiding universal salvation, also allows individuals holding varying views of election to actually agree about the nature of atonement. That is, if one is convinced God chooses who will believe, this view of a universal atonement fits just fine, because the objective work of the atonement only results in the resurrection; the righteousness application comes from God’s having elected the individual to faith, and the full, greater salvation comes from the combination of the two works of God—atonement and election to faith. However, if one is convinced a person is free to believe or not through the hearing of the Gospel and the illumination of the Spirit, this view of election fits as well, because the righteousness application comes from God having elected individuals because of faith. In other words, it effectively divorces the objective work of the atonement from the discussion of election, which discussion will no doubt continue to occur.

So 1 John 2:2 fits into the Pananastastic argument like so:

  • Christ was a “propitiation” for God’s righteous need to inflict the penalty He had demanded, freeing God to righteously bring people out of the penalty through resurrection to immortality.
  • “Our sins” refers to John’s own and the little children’s sins (v.1), which I would equate to all children of God (i.e. believers), and not Jews only, as some have attempted to argue. There is nothing in the context of the letter itself that indicates John is addressing Jews apart from Gentiles, but much showing he is addressing children of God as distinct from the world of ungodly unbelievers.
  • “Whole world” indicates the entirety of what John often means by “world,” the world of people who are unbelievers.  This is evident because other common uses for the term (the entire cosmos, the earth itself, the sinful world system that manifests as animosity to God) do not themselves have “sins” to propitiate—only individuals have sins to propitiate.

The 1 John 2:2 passage becomes one of many texts pointing to the actual, effectual, objective work of God through Christ on the cross to bring about freedom from the penalty of death and free all mankind from that death through the resurrection. There is no concern at all that God does fails and/or Christ is disappointed—all people are graciously saved from the death due their sins, and believers are further saved to God and Christ, away from His wrath; both just as was intended, one as a grace done for all, the other as a grace intended only for those who believe God.

While the concept I argue is not wholly unrecognized in history, the view has not been articulated well and has been overshadowed by the other, more common back-and-forth banter between the typical limited and unlimited atonement positions. I hope that my dissertation (link is external) presents what will be a first step toward a true “rethinking” of atonement by both sides.

*** Copy of Answers to Alex O.'s questions ***

I do not believe the “propitiation” is “present and ongoing” as an action (as I understand Cone to be arguing), but rather a completed act. Christ “is” (remains in a present and ongoing state) the locus of that propitiation in His Person and the completed work on the cross.  This completed act forms the basis for Him being able to be an advocate for believers. The completion of the One sacrifice is that act that satisfied God such that He is now righteously able to (when He chooses) release people from death through the resurrection (He has not yet done so because He is still working out other purposes).But that act also frees God to righteously cleanse individuals, of which He has chosen to only cleanse those who believe.

The washing and regenerating work of the Spirit falls within a second part of my thesis that is outside the main scope of my dissertation except to help clarify the aspects related to atonement that are not penal and substitutionary in nature, and so are not objective to all people (so if you are expecting much clarification on that in my dissertation, you will not find it). But I will attempt to clarify here. 

Scripture indicates there is a washing done through the regeneration (Titus 3:5), which I believe eradicates the believer’s human spirit from sin by changing its nature, and then allows the Holy Spirit to dwell within the believer. But those renewed spirits of believers still dwell within sinful bodies (Rom 7:21-24; until the resurrection of the believer when the body of sin is done away with [Rom 6:6-7] and a new, spiritually related body given [1 Cor 15:44]). The regenerated spirit dwelling in bodies of sin before the resurrection allows for sin to temporarily taint believer’s regenerated spirits (2 Cor 7:1). So I do believe Christ has a continued spiritual cleansing ministry (not propitiatory ministry) performed in heaven on behalf of believers during this present life, where His blood cleanses our conscience from dead works (Heb 9:14) just as the blood of OT sacrifices cleansed the flesh temporarily (Heb 9:13). His blood washes us from the spiritual tainting of our sins (2 Pet 1:9; Rev 1:5), something that is reapplied during our earthly lives as we confess our sins and are cleansed of unrighteousness in this life (1 John 1:8-10). This cleansing ultimately allows us to be clothed in His righteousness eternally (e.g. Rev 7:14), but is needed in this earthly life to maintain fellowship with God (we are to be righteous as He is righteous, so when we are unrighteous, we need spiritual cleansing again to be in right fellowship while still dwelling in sinful bodies but committing sins).

Note that the 1 John 1:8-10 passage on cleansing immediately precedes the passage in question here—1 John 2:1-2. Christ’s finished propitiation to pay the penalty for sins for all people is the basis John is using here to prove His advocacy for anyone who chooses to approach for the cleansing from sin that is needed. The unbeliever can begin to have that advocacy by repenting of that unbelief and believing in what Christ has already done (the initial washing of regeneration comes), whereas the believer can call upon the advocacy afresh when sin occurs, and maintain fellowship with God just as if the believer that sinned had never done so, being cleansed from all the unrighteousness that the believer’s sin brought.

I hope that clarifies for you my view of spiritual washing that occurs and how it relates to regeneration. Regeneration is the initial purge done in conjunction with belief; further spiritual washing is the maintenance to keep sin’s taint from affecting the fellowship a believer should have with the righteous God because of that believer’s unrighteous acts.

*** Copy of Answers to APWard's Questions ***

Your summary is somewhat accurate, but I will clarify further:

  1. The atonement was effectual for every individual, therefore every sin is forgiven (ἄφεσις; i.e. every person will be released from the captivity of and pardoned from the penal guilt of having to serve eternally sin’s penalty, physical death).
  2. The work of atonement is a fundamentally separate work from the work of election in Christ, though the two function jointly for God’s purposes for believers. Like buying a bag of MM’s (price paid for all), but selecting out from among it to only eat the green one’s (because you adore those), the purchase from bondage is distinct from the election to glory (or eating, in the case of MM’s). Also like all Israel was redeemed (loosed) from Egypt, but only true believers that had, from the heart, entered into the covenant with God survived His wrath on the way to the Promised Land—that is, God elected the true Israel, the believers from among the Israelites freed from Egypt to be blessed.
  3. Individuals who are forgiven (but who are not in Christ) are subject to God’s eternal wrath in the lake of fire (Gehenna; I make a clear distinction of that from hell [Hades]), not as a legal penalty for their sins, but because they lack being righteous by nature as God designed them to be, which nature God only changes if one believes in what He has already done for them. The unbelievers must become a believers to have righteousness imputed and natures renewed, avoiding the second judgment of their works based on whether they were righteous or not (and not simply whether they violated law or not).

Now to address your other particulars:

a. Sinful behavior (works/deeds) is being judged in Rev 20:12-13, but not on the grounds of particular legal violations of a command (law), such as Adam was, but on natural grounds of not meeting the standard of righteousness, which is far more than any set of commands could ever encompass. God’s laws are righteous, but do not express the sum total of being and acting righteous. The unrighteous works express the nature of the person, and this expression of their nature is what condemns them, for even what they deem to be righteous is not so (Isa 64:6), and so their own works fall far short of where they need to be to stand against the plumb-line of God’s righteous nature that mankind was designed to reflect.

b. Eph 1:5-8 is speaking of believers, those that have been chosen to adoption (v.5) and made acceptable “in the Beloved” (v.6). This relationship “in Him” (v.7) is what makes having “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness [loosing] of sins” (the freedom from physical death that sin caused) allow for God’s grace to abound toward those so related (v.8). The equating of election to redemption is a major interpretive flaw to those that hold such a view. God has an intention to save the elect, but being the elect is distinct from the saving of the elect, and likewise the redeeming of mankind (including the elect) is distinct from the adopting of the elect to the blessing of the family of God.

c. I agree Heb 9:12 does indicate the propitiatory atonement is the means to obtain redemption. Redemption is the freeing of mankind from God’s legal penalty of sin (physical death; Gen 2:17) that Satan leveraged to his own power (Heb 2:14-15) by deceiving Eve to tempt Adam to sin (Gen 3:1-7). All mankind is redeemed from this due to Christ’s atoning work, and precisely because that redemption is eternal is why the second death, the experience of the lake of fire, does not re-destroy the body by death.

d. Atonement is distinct from the act of justification, though related to it. There would be no (ultimate) justification possible without atonement, but the atonement is not the totality of what is needed for justification. Notice that Rom 8:28-30 no where mentions atonement (neither the penal substitutionary payment for sin aspect of it, nor the cleansing blood application from it). It mentions God’s calling (twice, v.28 and 30), His foreknowledge, His predestinating to a conforming of Christ, His justifying, and His glorifying. People need their sins’ penalty legally paid for in order for God to justly justify anyone (what the penal substitution provides all people); people also need their sin nature cleansed from sin for God to justly justify anyone (what the blood cleansing provides believers); people also need their relation rightly restored with God for God to justly justify anyone (what the new covenant by His blood provides for those who have entered into it with Him, the believers). So the various ways that Christ’s atoning work functions allow for justification, but the justification itself comes by God accounting it so, which He has chosen to only account faith for that (Rom 4:5, 13). For more on the relation of atonement and justification, see the next answer.

e. Rom 3:23-26 is extensively treated in my dissertation (pages 270-287), so I leave that to explain in more detail. The summary is this—the passage outlines God’s three step plan to justly allow Him to gift righteousness to believers, the three steps being “(1) through redemption [worked out by propitiation], (2) through faith, and (3) locating the believer in Christ’s blood” (page 280, bracketing added here to more directly relate to the question you asked). Propitiation is not one action with justification, propitiation is a part of the actions necessary for justification.

I hope I have sufficiently answered your questions. The dissertation primarily focuses on the texts that demonstrate the atonement functions universally to allow for the resurrection of all people, but I did know that I had to include enough of a sketch of my overall understanding of soteriology (justification being part of that) to help others understand the context of my argument since that argument is atypical from the standard argument schemes brought forth (being a synthesis of points that I believed valid from both Provisionalist [a.k.a. unlimited] and Particularist [a.k.a. limited] viewpoints on atonement).

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alex o.'s picture

The reader of scripture often comes to a place where a question is raised of reference to a concept. A certain concept may have many possible references and so an interpretational fork is created where 2 or most often many possible avenues may be taken (often it is best to keep options fluid until further knowledge is given).

One such fork was taken, Scott, when you assigned "physical death" to the promised penalty for breaking the command given to Adam and Eve. To me it is clear physical death was not the reference. "In the day you eat of it you shall die" did not produce physical death. Spiritual death did happen however a displayed in the couple's alienation from each other and God. The N.T. tells us we are dead "in trespasses and sins", so this is not physical death either but spiritual in nature just as we saw the couple's reaction immediately after partaking this forbidden fruit. The "death" was clearly fulfilled and was spiritual.

Yet, Scott, you build a framework with the wrong reference. So, along the way it seems you are on the wrong interpretive path and the superstructure underpinning your conclusions faulty. Really, there is no other way than to go back and rework the framework.

Yet, Scott, there is hope, much hope! You (and Dr. Cone) are highly developed academically. Though God is in no way limited to using already trained folks (He may just choose to save a highly developed person from another field and start without all the excessive baggage preconceived and faulty that so many theologians possess). It is hoped of course folks will respond to the Spirit and shed the baggage and then go with God. 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

ScottS's picture

I agree with your fork comment, but I disagree with the fork many (including you) have taken. I believe one reason atonement has failed to be fully properly understood in its universal aspect is precisely because a wrong fork is taken in believing spiritual death is the penalty for sin.

I cover this fact fairly extensively in my dissertation, and am currently working on a journal article to argue further that physical death was the penalty. "In the day" they ate, they fell under the obligation of having to face death. This is born out by the fact that every other instance in the Pentateuch the phrasing מ֥וֹת תָּמֽוּת ("surely die") refers to a physical death penalty being declared for a particular transgression, not necessarily the immediate fulfillment of that death (see Gen 26:11, Exo 19:12, 21:12, 15-17, 22:19, 31:14-15, 20:2, 20:9-13, 15-16, 27, 24:16-17, 27:29; some repeats of those in Numbers, but additionally Num 15:35-36, 26:65, 35:16-18, 21). It is a statement of law regarding what is obligated to occur, and so "in the day" they would eat, they would fall under an obligation of coming to a physical death. They were, without fail, going to die eventually. The "death" penalty was clearly physical (Genesis chapter 5; Rom 5:12-14).

The concept labeled by many (but not Scripture) as spiritual death is valid, but the label I have come to realize is unfortunate. Relationship was severed and "alienation from each other and God" did occur; but that has been inappropriately labeled as "spiritual death," and then that concept imported into the meaning of the word "death" (especially imported into the whole OT, where death is almost exclusively a reference to physical death, a few times used figuratively to refer generally to the ceasing of something). Even the "best" passage used for defending the word death as possibly linked more directly to the idea of alienation, Eph 2:1, has to import the idea of "spiritual death" to that passage (it does not explicitly state spiritual death there). I argue in my dissertation that Eph 2:1, however, is still best viewed as a reference to physical death (I give eight evidences, pages 331-347), being a proleptic reference to the death due people for sin because of Adam. But I also note that even if one believes it is referencing a spiritual death concept there, it does not defeat my thesis, because the use of the term death in the NT to possibly refer to the alienation does not mean it should be imported back into the OT and the penalty for sin. Additionally, the Bible does speak explicitly of only two deaths, for there is the second death that is clearly defined (Rev 20:6,14, 21:8), and I would argue the first death is without fail clearly defined both by the plenitude of physical death in Scripture, but also the human experience of it (for believer or unbeliever) due to Adam's fall.

So I believe a relational rift has occurred, an alienation from God, but that was not the legal penalty for sin, it was the natural consequence of now being "unlike" God. So I believe essentially everything noted about what one might argue are the issues of "spiritual death," but not that those issues are from a legal penalty being enacted for sin. Rather, they are consequences for being unrighteous, unlike God.

Yet you are right also, there is hope. I believe the truth of Scripture will avail to those willing to step out of what they have learned theologically, when Scripture so clearly indicates there is an error in mislabeling, and realize that what needs reworking (the proper fork to take) is the framework of what is understood as the penalty for sin (physical death) versus the natural consequence for sin (alienation from God). The result, for me, was finally resolving the truths held by universal atonement advocates with the truths held by particular atonement advocates, and finally match Scripture together in a far more coherent whole than I was finding in the arguments from either group.

Thank you for your interaction. While I hope we will not continue to disagree, I also realize that not all will be convinced of my view and the view of others in history that directly tied the atonement to the universal salvific aspect of that atonement, which is the resurrection (as opposed to particular salvific aspects applicable only to believers).

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

alex o.'s picture

Hi Scott,

Thanks you for your comments, I will consider what you said without a change of mind of course until everything is processed. I believe you will have a hill to clime but will wait until 'I have heard you out.'

I do have one question in your response. Do you think it possible for spiritual death in Gen. while subsequent references physical? Again, I want to point out how context (theological context also in what God was trying to tell them)? 

Today is not good for me to discuss things and this weekend doesn't look good either. I despise any Halloween things so it is not that keeping me away. A busy phase where others depend on me for my part is arriving so it is not for me to discuss a lot in the near future. I do want to have a look at what you wrote and I think its worth hearing what you say. Also, I am not done on what you wrote in this post, so be patient please since I do want to hear your response.

 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

ScottS's picture

I’ve pulled together some more time to answer Larry’s questions, which were still posted in the original comment thread. I will not quote the entirety here (he gave his questions in context to some of my statements), just his questions

I’m going to answer those questions in reverse order, as I think it will be clearer what I am arguing.

1. “What is the difference between ‘righteous or not’ and ‘violated the law or not’? Isn't the essence of sin (unrighteousness) the violation of the law of God?”

I noted previously righteousness is far more encompassing than anything law can circumscribe. God could not give enough laws (do’s and do not’s) to encompass the totality of what righteousness is or what is right in every circumstance. Something becomes sin when one has become aware about a particular instance of what is good, but then violates that (Jam 4:17). Whereas someone may be totally ignorant of any law expressing God’s way of goodness and rightness, yet violating that standard is still unrighteous, because it is not God’s way and it is not what mankind was designed to reflect.

The Scripture is not clear at all if any particular laws of God for mankind as a whole existed prior to the Flood, other than the general commands found within Genesis 1:26-29. Yet God judged Cain for his improper spirit (Gen 4:5-6), not doing well (Gen 4:7), and his murder of Abel (Gen 4:10-11). He also judged the pre-Flood population as “wicked” to an extended degree (Gen 6:5). This was all judgment, as far as can be surmised, based on mankind not being and acting like he was supposed to be, as God designed him, to be like God. It is a judgment based not on law, but a higher standard of righteousness. Such is what God judges the Gentile nations by as well, who were not under the OT law.

But Adam did have a specific law, the violation of which brought death (Gen 2:17), which death penalty perpetuated into human nature itself, such that others died (e.g. Gen 5), even though sin was not imputed to them since they were not under law and so not transgressing laws (Rom 5:12-14). Mankind as a whole violated this law through Adam (which I take as both seminal and federal head) and pays the price. This legal penalty (as violation of a law) is what Christ’s universal penal substitutionary atonement resolves, such that all mankind will not face an eternal physical death, but in fact be resurrected from the prison of that death. This death was God’s first judgment upon people, against this corporate sin done in Adam.

But God will still ultimately judge people based upon whether they are, in His sight, righteous as He designed them to be. For those that stand in Christ’s righteousness, having it accounted to them by faith, they pass scrutiny. For those that stand in their own righteousness, they do not, and their works are evidence against them. This is the nature of the second judgment of Rev 20:11-12.

2. “Since we are commanded to be holy, isn't it a sin to lack the righteous nature God requires? And if this sin has been forgiven, what are they being punished for?”

The command to be holy is actually only given to those groups especially related to God (Israel in covenant originally [Lev 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7], and all believers now [1 Pet 1:15-16; cf. 2 Cor 7:1]). So holiness is not a law for unbelievers, but since God is holy, then it is unrighteous for all people not to reflect that likeness in their lives. So I do believe failing to be holy will be judged in the second judgment.

3. “What is the biblical basis for someone being forgiven but not in Christ?”

The following points from Scripture bear this out:

  • Luke 7:40-50 gives Christ’s illustration to Simon. In that illustration, by which he then  compares Simon with the woman, he is indicating that forgiveness is granted to both in the illustration (and by extension, to Simon and the woman), but those that do not perceive the importance of the debt owed nor the amount forgiven do not love the forgiver—but those that do understand, and trust that the forgiveness is granted, love abundantly, and it is that trust that saves one within being forgiven.
  • Mat 18:21-35 is an illustration that shows this (related to the ideas as well in Mat 6:8-15 and Luke 11:2-4). The master grants forgiveness of the debt (Mat 18:27), but the one already forgiven never sought forgiveness, but rather to pay the debt owed (Mat 18:26), and that is still the mindset of the servant after being forgiven, which forgiveness he shows contempt for in trying to extract money still (Mat 18:28-30), and so at the second judgment, the master revokes the forgiveness that was never received by the servant (Mat 18:31-32), and then he gives the wicked (unrighteous) servant what he desired, the opportunity to pay the debt owed in full (Mat 18:34).
  • Christ’s blood was shed, in part, for the forgiveness of sins (Mat 26:28; Heb 9:22; also for establishing the new covenant and for purification, as those two verses also indicate). Christ’s sacrifice for sin was needed to remit (forgive) sins (Heb 10:12, 17-18), but the perfect outcome of all that only comes to those “being sanctified” (Heb 10:14), who through the new covenant relation gain a new heart and mind (Heb 10:16). This remission is permanent for that group, their actions remembered no more (Heb 10:17; cf. Jer 31:34), but as illustrated above in Mat 18, actions will be brought back to remembrance if a person chooses to stand in their own righteousness for judgment (i.e. those not being sanctified).
  • Redemption is directly tied to forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; there in context of those that are “in Him”); Christ died for the category of people that are ungodly (i.e. all people, Rom 5:6), purchasing even those that are not merely unbelievers, but actively against Him (2 Pet 2:1), even while doing so to specifically gain His Church (Acts 20:28). I will not belabor much here, but my dissertation is an argument that redemption is the freeing from sin’s penalty of death in the resurrection (it is the body that is redeemed, Rom 8:23, via resurrection). What I do not do in the dissertation as much is tie to its relation to forgiveness specifically. So to clarify on that further, this is the forgiveness that God gives to all people of their sins, the initial forgiveness granted to mankind (His creature made so serve Him; cf. the Mat 18 passage above). Those that choose not to receive this forgiveness are treated as they desire, having their own “righteousness” examined instead (the forgiveness revoked) by their works being examined—but they were still redeemed from the first death (shown forgiveness initially), and now will experience the second death.
  • Acts 10:43 indicates that the believing ones receive remission of sins (acknowledge and accept what has been granted; the verb there is Aorist Active Infinitive, not directly future); it is that belief that entails their receiving of what God has already said He has done. God forgave through Christ, and this fact becomes part of the gospel message to unbelievers (Acts 12:38) that they ought to believe, because by believing, they will be justified (Acts 12:39). The fact of forgiveness is the basis for why people should repent and identify with the Christ through believer’s baptism (Yes, I'm Baptist; Acts 2:38-39; compare the similar message prior to Christ’s work as well: Mark 1:4; Luke 24:46-48); that is, forgiveness is a basis for the call to the change of heart in which one receives (accepts) that forgiveness. Paul’s ministry was so that Gentiles would accept the forgiveness offered (Acts 26:18). Believers have already received forgiveness, but acknowledging their later (post belief) sin brings us back into fellowship with God, who never stopped forgiving, for He is faithful (1 Jn 1:9), but does allow us to remember that such a sin is forgiven.
  • Mt 12:31-37 and Mk 3:28-30 speak of the something that is not forgiven, “blasphemy against the Spirit.” There are obviously differing views on what this means, but I take it to mean rejection of the Spirit’s ministry, and thus equivalent to remaining in unbelief. Notice, however, that in those passages, blasphemies are separated out from sins (i.e. there is no distinct law given that one shall not blaspheme the Spirit; blasphemy of the Spirit is a form of unrighteousness without law defining it). This unrighteousness act will never be forgiven because it is the one act that without fail will ultimately prevent people from coming to faith, and so every sin, and all other types of unrighteous works and words will be forgiven, but not this unrighteous action.
  • Jesus prayed at the cross the Father’s forgiveness would come to those who were not “in Him” (Lk 23:34); a prayer that I believe God answers in the forgiveness that is the redemption Christ purchases on the cross that brings the resurrection.

The forgiveness of sin (ἄφεσις) that ultimately brings resurrection is distinct from (greater than) the passing over of sin (πάρεσις) that God had been doing (Rom 3:25) that prevented God from immediately killing people for any sin, for by the forgiveness people will be resurrected. 

So I believe God not only has an attitude of forgiveness toward all people, and told people of it, but actually will demonstrate concretely and actually that forgiveness by the resurrection from the dead as the culmination of His initial showing of that forgiveness that He had called people to believe in to begin with. But those that have not accepted the Father’s work for them, to save them from death, having not repented of their unbelief, they have the forgiveness revoked at the second judgment, God giving them what they want and rewarding them with what they deserve as they attempt to stand upon their own works. 

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

ScottS's picture

You ask:

Do you think it possible for spiritual death in Gen. while subsequent references physical? Again, I want to point out how context (theological context also in what God was trying to tell them)?

First, let me ask you to really consider that statement "while subsequent references physical." That is really a huge point I make. The "context" of Israel being given the Pentateuch (I hold Mosaic authorship of nearly all, if not all [Joshua perhaps filling in some at the end]) shows that they would have most certainly understood the statement as physical death, for that was so much a part of their (ending of their) lives, but also of the OT law itself, and chiefly in the obligatory deaths they were to face given violations of certain laws.

Secondly, the context of Adam and Eve and the early history of Genesis makes it evident. Genesis chapter 5 is a graveyard of those people in a better line than any others (with respect to righteousness), but also specifically tied to Adam directly, and hence showing the consequences of his sin. Abel, a chapter earlier, is the first to die because of sin's effects.

Thirdly, I believe Adam was "preprogrammed" with language, hence why God could communicate at all with him. So "death" had meaning to Adam, even though he had never experienced it before. There is no reason to believe Adam understood that term any differently than we do, or people throughout history, that it was the ceasing of physical life.

So it seems highly improbable that God would take a theological context primarily built loosely from the NT, and expect that to be understood in the theological context of the OT, especially in light of the association of terminology with the Mosaic Law as obligatory penalty. Given that I do not deny the alienation present in Genesis 3 (I just do not theologically label it as spiritual death nor equate it to sin's legal penalty), there is nothing in the context of Genesis arguing for it being equated with alienation.

That's my thoughts. "Possible," yes, if one wants to rely on (loosely associated to the term death) NT revelation for everyone in the OT to understand what God was trying to say. But that makes no sense to me, and so "improbable" and not the "best" answer from the evidence would remain my reply.

I understand your limited time to interact. I need to call a halt to some of my interaction for now as well. I've spent a lot of time on my replies here (but not, I trust, wasted time).

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

JNoël's picture

I'm very interested to hear comments/objections from Blumer, Brumbelow, TylerR, Cone, Vasicek, or others.

Your silence comes across as either an inability to refute ScottS's perspective or as viewing it as a fringe argument, unworthy to spend time even considering.

Forgive me if any of you have addressed it elsewhere on SI; I have been Googling, trying to find more conversation on the subject, but I have only been able to find two threads on it and I read through all of the comments already.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't really want to characterize Scott's view at the moment. Mainly it would fair to say I am not yet very interested in it. In general I lean towards an Occam's Razor approach to theology.

JNoël's picture

Hmmm. That's interesting, seeing as how Scott's approach seems the one with the fewest assumptions; his piece resolves the conflicts that arise from the assumptions made by the two popular opposing theories.

But thank you for the reply, nonetheless.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It seems overly complex to me but maybe I need more time to understand it.

ScottS's picture

JNoël wrote:

Scott's approach seems the one with the fewest assumptions; his piece resolves the conflicts that arise from the assumptions made by the two popular opposing theories.

Jason, I'm glad you have gleaned that through my communication of my view. My pursuit of an answer to the extent of the atonement very much tried to stick with what the text of Scripture actually says (not assuming some meaning to the words, but taking them in what would be the most natural reading), and trying to follow where Scripture lead on that.

Regarding Aaron's Occam Razor comment and that my view 

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Seems overly complex to me but maybe I need more time to understand it.

I can understand one needing to take time to understand my view. All the views, however, have there deep intricacies and complexities, so I'm not sure mine is any more complex than others' views. But my view can be boiled down to a fairly simple expression. Some other details can be found in this comment of mine, but the most simple form is probably this:

  1. Mankind has two primary issues due to sin: a legal penalty for sin against them for disobedience (death) and a relational rift with God for not being like Him, specifically as righteous as He as they were designed to be, resulting in a relational opposition (wrath).
  2. Christ's penal substitutionary death paid for the righteous, universal resurrection of all people from that penalty of death, this is the universal aspect of atonement purely based on Christ doing the work of sacrifice for the corporate body of the humanity he joined.
  3. Acceptance of that death of Christ by faith causes the blood application of the atonement to cleanse the sinner of sin and be accounted righteous, alleviating wrath, and its final, full expression in the second death, the lake of fire, and instead giving eternal life.

The payment for the resurrection is God's good will showing to mankind that He desires to save all people, but He only desires to give them eternal life if they will come to Him on His terms of faith; if they reject what God has already done for them, His wrath righteously still abides on them.

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for the summary. Helpful.
Maybe this has been discussed already, but in this view, what is the condition of man with respect to Adam's sin, total depravity/inability, etc?

ScottS's picture

There were two primary issues that occurred in relation to God, the legal violation of His word and the relational violation of refusing to be like Him. But the latter was also an ontological shift, that is sin affected the nature of man. Now I view depravity in a binary fashion. The standard is God (100%) that humanity was designed to be like morally, anything less (99.999%) does not meet standard, and is still unrighteous, unholy, etc., equal to as if it were 0% in God's sight. So God sees it binary, you are equal to what He intended (1) or you are not (0). You are equal to what He expects or totally depraved as far as such an evaluation goes. Yet God can recognize when depraved people have acted righteously or not, so he would see the 99.999% if someone were really that good (no one is, but for sake of argument), but it is still not good enough, for all have sinned (in Adam, and once they know good from evil [Jam 4:17], personally).

However, that perspective is not necessarily germane to my view on atonement (beyond that we need to be accounted equal to God's own righteousness in His sight). So regarding ability/inability of mankind to exercise faith (which I think is your primary question), either concept of that can fit my atonement model, because faith is not tied to the scheme other than as the hinge point between the two roles atonement plays. If man is unable to come to faith, and God grants it, that model fits my atonement view; if man is able to come to faith (by whatever factors one deems needed for that), and so receives God, that model fits my atonement view. What does not fit, however, is the common particularist statement that Christ purchased faith for the elect, which I find no warrant for in Scripture. I can see arguments that He has freely given faith, but not that such faith ever needed a payment to give; if the model of unconditional election is correct, then God's selection alone (unconditionally) would be all that is needed for Him to grant faith.

Now my personal view on election, which again, is not the only view that would fit my atonement theory, is that a person is made able to come to saving faith through the hearing of God's word (not through atonement, but rather through revealing of truth, illumination, God's drawing, which overcome the mind's darkness of understanding and desires), and God has elected Christ and those in Him, which are believers (the group). So I hold more of a corporate view of election, where the election is of believers, but this group (as all are) is made up of individuals, and those are all known by God.

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for clarifying.

I have to "admit" to a strong bias against theological novelty. I just don't see the need to reinvent the wheel on these questions. I would vote in favor of one of the more historic views. So far, the Reformed views of original sin, depravity and atonement don't seem to me to need fixing, apart from various ways to understand "limited" as having to do with intention or ultimate result or both.

ScottS's picture

Aaron, regarding:

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I have to "admit" to a strong bias against theological novelty. I just don't see the need to reinvent the wheel on these questions. I would vote in favor of one of the more historic views. So far, the Reformed views of original sin, depravity and atonement don't seem to me to need fixing, apart from various ways to understand "limited" as having to do with intention or ultimate result or both.

That is fair enough, in that many choose between the common historic views. For me, as I've noted elsewhere, those common historic views each had faults that failed to make sense either exegetically or logically (or both). So I could not "fit" myself into one, yet could not (until now) articulate what I felt Scripture was saying about atonement to resolve all the issues of the other views.

However, my view actually has "historic" support, just not as common. I cover that in my dissertation also (pp. 351-400). It was important for me, before pressing forward with my research/argument, to find out if any other theologians had directly tied the resurrection of all people to the penal substitutionary atonement, even if not articulating how that "works" as I have attempted to do (even the other more common views on atonement have developed over time, becoming more articulated during history, so theological development is not itself a bad thing). Not only did I find a few (I survey eight that are reasonably clear to meeting my parameters I set up), some were quite notable (Athanasius of Alexandria, Thomas Aquinas, John Wesley), and the connection has persisted over time (assuming one does not count the Bible itself, which I would, but just looking at theological works related to that then the idea persists from 3rd c. A.D. to present). My work I consider a more logical and scriptural development of the connection that these men often simply "make" without much elaboration (or their elaboration has some logical flaws that needed worked out in my opinion).

I personally believe what has held up discussion of this aspect has been one or more of the following things: (1) as I also noted elsewhere, the improper focus on final intent/result, rather than the process to get to that intended result, (2) the tendency for people to simply "rehash" the same arguments for their view, and same critiques against the other views, without really giving good "answers" to some of the critiques and without stepping back and reexamining if something is being missed from Scripture in the whole discussion (which is what I did), (3) the inability to step out of their greater "theological system" in which they then come with some preconceived ideas of what atonement "has to be" to fit that, and/or (4) many who could not find a "fit" moved away from trying to make atonement be penal substitutionary in nature (and so in a sense, sidestepped out of the conversation from that perspective).

I appreciate whatever consideration, questions, and feedback you do give to my view, but also understand if you feel it is not worth your time to consider.

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate the background on that. Is the dissertation published? There's probably a link to it around, that I've overlooked (I'm popping in and out of way too many threads right now, which gets confusing!), but if it's out in PDF or something a link would be welcome. It may be a case of "I'd feel more open to it if I read some old timers putting it into traditional and familiar language." Then again, if you go back far enough, there isn't so much traditional language because the tradition doesn't exist yet.

ScottS's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Is the dissertation published? There's probably a link to it around, that I've overlooked (I'm popping in and out of way too many threads right now, which gets confusing!), but if it's out in PDF or something a link would be welcome. It may be a case of "I'd feel more open to it if I read some old timers putting it into traditional and familiar language." Then again, if you go back far enough, there isn't so much traditional language because the tradition doesn't exist yet.

Yes, the dissertation is freely available and I've linked to it regularly in the threads here on SI where I mention it. But I don't mind posting another link, and I'll give the full title this time: Pananastasism—A Penal Substitutionary Model of a Definite Universal Atonement: God’s Gracious Substitution to Pay the Penalty Due Every Individual in order to Righteously Resurrect All Mankind and Save a Particular People for Himself.

But regarding "traditional and familiar language" with "old timers," I think you are right on the observation that the "tradition" doesn't exist yet (Augustine, Calvin, etc., do not speak in terms that we have generated post-Calvin in relation to the atonement, so familiar language may be not so forthcoming). I do, generally, try to stick to scriptural language, however, in my view. So you cannot get much more traditional than that :-).

I'm still researching and developing the theory based on Scripture, refining some points. Indeed, discussion on SI help me to see areas that need more clarification or more research to answer. And since the dissertation primarily focused on the universal aspect of my theory (the penal substitutionary death to resurrection), there is more to be said about the particular aspect that is only just touch on in the dissertation (the blood cleansing and covenant joining aspect to bring right relationship for believers). I'm planning at some point to publish a more layperson friendly work covering the whole scheme, but even in that, I want to provide scholars with some of the needed information should one perfer that depth.

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