Archive for October, 2008

Response to Anonymous Diatribe against Theonomy

October 31, 2008

Some anonymous person wrote the following diatribe. It’s worth reviewing it, since the spirit behind the diatribe walks to and fro and up and down in the Earth, ensuring that this won’t be the last time we hear these sorts of things:

theonomists believe in following the OLD LAW rather than the NEW TESTAMENT, and in murdering blasphemers, heretics, idolators [sic]. And yes, its murder, because the New Testament has removed any and all religious authority for this type of action. “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone” condemns all theonomists to hell. Now, TF says he wouldn’t kill someone for wearing wool and linen together…..but that’s only because the American government won’t let him, not because he doesn’t want to. Admit it, TF, just like all your buddy theonomists you wish that Calvinists were in control of the government so they could flay Hindus alive, bore the tongues of Arminians through with hot irons, crucify Roman Catholics, and burn people at the stake for “breaking the sabbath” or wearing wool and linen together. Just admit it. Any theonomist is an extreme theonomist, because the New Testament nowhere tells Christians to take control of the government and punish people for not being Christian. Calvinists just love to persecute, however, and convert by threat of death or injury, because they are Judaizing scum on the worst sort.

First of all, it should be clear that I don’t endorse anything that this anonymous person (who sounds more or less like Beowulf2k8) has to say. We’ll call this poster just “the Accuser” for short. Let’s pick apart his rant, piece by piece, expose it to the light of truth, and watch it dematerialize.

Accuser’s Accusation: “theonomists believe in following the OLD LAW rather than the NEW TESTAMENT, and in murdering blasphemers, heretics, idolators [sic].”

a) One God gave both testaments. There’s not a disunity between them. They are two edges of the same sword of the spirit.
b) Blasphemers are worthy of death, according to the law of God. A civil government that executes them (or murderers, or anyone else worthy of death) is not “murdering” them. If the Accuser has a problem with that, he needs to take it up with God, under whose law blasphemers were put to death.
c) Heretics and idolaters, as such, were not subject to capital punishment under the law of Israel. So, one would not expect theonomists to support capital punishment of such folks. A civil government that kills people simply for being heretics and/or idolaters would not seem to have any Biblical justification for their judgment.

Accuser: “And yes, its murder, because the New Testament has removed any and all religious authority for this type of action.”

Answer: The Accuser is a bit vague in his accusation here. The question of whether something is “murder” or proper execution is a moral question. Questions of morality are religious questions – or at least have a significant religious aspect. If it was just under the Old Testament law (and it was) for someone to be stoned to death, one wonders whether the accuser imagines that justice itself changed.

Accuser: “‘Let him that is without sin cast the first stone’ condemns all theonomists to hell.”

Even if we moderate the Accuser’s comment to say that the phrase “contradicts the theonomists”:
a) This is not a verse to which a “two kingdoms” kind of person could appeal for that kind of concept, because the punishment of death here was not for a violation of the first table of the law (crimes against God) but the second table of the law (crimes against man).
b) This is not a verse to which those fond of modern textual criticism could appeal for that kind of concept, because most modern textual critics deny the originality of this passage, since it does not appear in the earliest manuscripts that we have today.
c) This is not a verse to which any person who believes that crimes should be punished (but only that capital punishment is out) can appeal to for that kind of concept, because Jesus does not fine the woman, or sentence her to life in prison, but simply lets her go free.
d) This is not a verse to which any person that values consistency of Scripture could appeal to for that kind of concept, because Paul clearly states:
Romans 13:3-4
3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
e) So who could appeal to this kind of verse for that concept? Someone who has only a cursory understanding of the Scriptures and/or someone who wishes to justify his conclusion ex post facto. There are a thousand better ways to understand the comment, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” than to view it as a condemnation of capital punishment.

Accuser: “Now, TF says he wouldn’t kill someone for wearing wool and linen together…..but that’s only because the American government won’t let him, not because he doesn’t want to.”

a) Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:11 both proscribe (forbid) garments made from a mixture of wool and linen. There is not, however, any sentence of death proclaimed on people who violate this law. In fact, the law of Moses doesn’t indicate any punishment for violation of this law.
b) The prohibition on garments of mixed fibres was a ceremonial law pointing to separation and physical purity. It was fulfilled in Christ, who was free from impurities.
c) I am in favor of the death penalty, for example, for rape of a married woman, although “the American government won’t let” the state governments execute this just punishment for that particular form of the general category of adultery. I do not suggest that Christians should take the law into their own hand in this matter, or the matter of punishment for murder. In short, my position with respect to what is just is framed by the Word of God, not the opinion of the American (or any other) government. If I thought people should be sentenced to death for wearing garments of diverse sorts, I’d just say so.

Accuser: “Admit it, TF, just like all your buddy theonomists you wish that Calvinists were in control of the government so they could flay Hindus alive, bore the tongues of Arminians through with hot irons, crucify Roman Catholics, and burn people at the stake for “breaking the sabbath” or wearing wool and linen together. Just admit it.”

Answer: See above. I don’t have any problem speaking clearly. I have elsewhere identified what the Old Testament laws were that carried the penalty of death. Simply being a Hindu (pagan) or Romanist (heretic) would not qualify. Wearing mixed garments clearly wouldn’t qualify. Breaking the sabbath would qualify as a capital crime. Torture (such as burning holes in people’s tongues – even those of “Arminians” who Arminius would not recognize as his followers) is not part of the Mosaic administration of justice.

Accuser: “Any theonomist is an extreme theonomist, because the New Testament nowhere tells Christians to take control of the government and punish people for not being Christian.”

a) Christians are not commanded to try to “take control of the government.”
b) I certainly don’t, and I think most theonomists would agree, think that people should be punished “for not being Christian.”

Accuser: “Calvinists just love to persecute, however, and convert by threat of death or injury, because they are Judaizing scum on the worst sort.”

a) Calvinists, in general and especially these days, are not necessarily theonomists. Furthermore, even among Christian theonomists, I’ve never seen a love of persecution.
b) Calvinists deny the possibility of conversion through threat of death or injury. Unlike Arminians, who imagine that conversion is simply a decision of man, Calvinists believe that it is grace (not the sword) that converts.
d) Conversely, one could deny TULIP and be an Arminian or Amyraldian theonomist. I cannot think of any off hand. There are, however, Federal Visionists (I would not consider them to be Calvinists, because of at least a formal rejection of the “P” in TULIP) who also appear to be theonomists of some kind.


The Old Testament Law – Tripartite Analysis

October 31, 2008

To provide some background for discussion of the law of God, it is important to understand the categories involved:


The law of God in the Old Testament is of three kinds:

1. Moral

Moral law, because it reflects the character of God, is enduring and immutable. It never was and it never will be permissible to worship any god but God, it never was and never will be permissible to worship God other ways than He ordains, it never was and never will be permissible to dishonor God’s name, it never was and never will be permissible to appropriate all seven days of the week for our work, it never was and never will be permissible to dishonor the authorities over us, to kill, to steal, to lie, to covet, and so forth. In short, it is always the case (for all history) that we must love the Lord our God wholeheartedly and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

2. Ceremonial

Under the Adamaic, Noahic, Abramic, Mosaic, and Solomonic administrations of the covenant of grace, the worship of God was manifested in certain outward ceremonies that were designed to point to Christ. Eminent among these ceremonies were the rite of animal sacrifice, the practice of tabernacle and later temple worship, and in some cases a specialized priesthood. These things all have been fulfilled in Christ, the one true and perfect sacrifice. He is our high priest and his sacrificial work is finished. Consequently there is no more sacrifice and no more priestly class among us. There were other associated ceremonies as well, such as dietary laws and laws related to physical cleanliness as a picture of spiritual cleanliness. All these ceremonial laws, being fulfilled in Christ, have been done away.

3. Civil / Judicial / Juridical

This third category of laws were the laws specific to the Mosaic administration of the nation of Israel. They are the laws by which the country was run. They are not binding on all humanity. Nevertheless, they are important as to their “general equity,” by which I mean that they show to us a just system of government. There are moral aspects of the civil law of Israel, and these moral aspects remain significant. There were circumstantial aspects, and these aspects necessarily vary under different circumstances. Finally, there were ceremonial aspects, and these aspects have been fulfilled or supplanted in the New Testament.

Errors Distinguished

There are four major (and numerous minor) errors that arise from holding to expired portions of the law (Judaizers and “Extreme” Theonomists) or to disposing of still-relevant portions of the law (“Extreme” Two-Kingdomists and “Extreme” Dispensationalists / Antinomians).

1. Judaiziers

Judaizers seek to impose part (or perhaps all) of the ceremonial law on Christians. Thus, for example, the Judaizers argue that it is necessary for Christians to be circumcised.

2. “Extreme” Theonomists

The term “theonomist” has a wide range of meanings. In some cases, folks who call themselves “theonomists” will insist that virtually all and every detail of the Mosaic law with respect to the Nation of Israel must be followed. The problem with this approach is that it overlooks the fact that the Mosaic law was tailored to two particular forms of government and accompanied a nation-state that has ceased to be.

3. “Extreme” Two-Kingdomists

I am using the term “extreme” here because I’m not sure all “two-kingdom” folks would say this description applies to them. In some cases, it appears that “two-kingdoms” folk treat the civil law of Israel as though it were entirely ceremonial. Thus, these folks say that the civil law is essentially done-away-with and consequently for instruction on how governments should be just, we must appeal exclusively to “natural law,” the light provided by God in general revelation.

4. “Extreme” Dispensationalists / Anti-Nominians

“Extreme” Dispensationalists and also Anti-Nominians take the view that all the laws of the Old Testament are done away with, including the moral law. This error arises from a failure to understand the nature of the moral law, and the relation of God to the law of God. God does not change, and consequently the definition of morality does not change.


The issue of God’s law is not a simple one to be handled carelessly or callously. We must be careful to observe to do all that God has commanded us, and yet we need to be careful not to bind men’s consciences beyond what the Word of God states. Excess in the first regard leads to legalism, excess in the second regard leads to antinomianism. There is one way to see the path to stay on it, without going either to the left or to the right: that one way is by careful attention to the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures.


What If Natural Law Teaches Theonomy?

October 31, 2008

Let’s grant, for the sake of the argument, some of the apparent theses of the “Two Kingdoms” folks, and assent to the idea of “natural law” as being the normative principle for civil governments. What if, just as the light of nature points us to find the revelation from God and read it in things spiritual, so also the light of nature points us to find the revelation from God and read it in the moral aspects of civil law?

Is it possible that natural law leads to theonomy?


P.S. I want to be very clear: I hold to the tri-partite division of Old Testament law: the moral law is constant, the civil law is abrogated but relevant as to its general equity, and the ceremonial law is fulfilled in Christ. This is the “Confessional” position and different from the novel position espoused, it seems, among “two kingdoms” folks that the civil law was essentially ceremonial and consequently fulfilled in Christ.

Part of the Problem of the Label "Theonomy"

October 30, 2008

For example, I tend to call myself a “theonomist,” and yet I reject (for the reasons mentioned in the article) the “theonomy” described in this excellent article (link) by Pastor Sherman Isbell.

UPDATE: (New Link)


The Real Turretin on: The Righteousness of Christ

October 30, 2008

Richard Smith, at The Spurgeon Blog has provided an interesting post in which he considers what the real Turretin had to say about the Righteousness of Christ (link). Turretin’s perspective here is quite informative as he Biblically contrasts Christ and our faith in Christ.


Wes White on the Sabbath

October 30, 2008

Pastor Wes White has, as usual, provided an excellent well-thought-out blog article, this time on the Sabbath (link). It helps to clear up a number of misconceptions regarding the Sabbath.


R. Scott Clark on Theonomy and the Reformed Confessions

October 30, 2008

R. Scott Clark has a piece that, from its absurd opening, I at first thought was intended as a humorous article (link).

RSC writes, “One of the more interesting ways in which theonomy is contra confessional is its Barthian-like rejection of the classic Reformed doctrine of natural law and implicitly it’s skepticism regarding natural revelation.”

I. The Evidence
Let’s explore this claim, using the WCF as approved by the PCA. Nature as a revelatory source is mentioned exactly five times in the WCF.

1) I:1

1. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manner, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.

2) I:6

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

3) XX:4

And because the powers which God hath ordained, and the liberty which Christ hath purchased, are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ hath established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account.

4) XXI:1

The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

5) XXI:7

As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

II. The Analysis
1) Of the five instances, all are fully acceptable to “theonomists,” at least in the broad sense of the term “theonomist” (which itself is a problem with RSC’s post).
2) Of the five instances, three (numbers (1), (4), and (5)) are fully supportive of the theonomist position that (where it speaks) Scripture is more clear than nature.
3) Of the remaining two instances:
i) The first (number (2)) assigns to the “light of nature” a role in determining the circumstances of worship. If this contradicts theonomy, then it also (and even more clearly – since the section is on the law of worship, not of nations and societies) contradicts the Regulative Principle of Worship. But, however, such a conclusion is absurd. Therefore, the premise that this contradicts theonomy is false. In fact, a better interpretation is to suggest that “light of nature” in this section means that we use “common sense” to govern the circumstances of worship.
ii) The second (number (3)) is negative: it prohibits people from using the pretense of Christian liberty to publish opinions that are contrary to the light of nature. If the meaning of the “light of nature” is roughly the same here as in the other sections, i.e. essentially “common sense,” then there is nothing unacceptable to the theonomist here either. Furthermore, this does not relate specifically to the law of nations (to civil law), but to the moral law.


A second claim by RSC: “For the divines, as for Calvin, civil government is one thing, salvation is another. Theonomists confuse these two things far too often.” This sounds absurd. RSC unfortunately fails to provide any examples to substantiate his over-the-top claim.


A third claim by RSC: “Unlike our theonomists, the divines believed that there is a natural law, that it can be and is known, that it contains specific precepts that are revealed with sufficiently clarity to be applied, even by the unregenerate, to specific instances.” If, for the sake of the argument, we grant this assertion, that kind of claim is not embodied in the confessions. Instead, quite the opposite. The Confession clearly contrasts the general (it even uses the term “in general” in instance 5 above), vague light of nature with the clear light of Scripture.

Given that the confession appears to contradict RSC’s claim that “natural law … contains specific precepts that are revealed with sufficient clarity to be applied … to specific instances,” and given that the light of nature itself reveals that nature’s light provides general principles rather than specific precepts, we can properly reject this RSC’s claim.

Furthermore, even if it were not the case that the confession outright contradicts RSC’s claim and even if the light of nature did not undermine RSC’s “specific precept” assertion, still RSC’s indictment would not address theonomy. Why? Because theonomy simply maintains the Reformation hermeneutic that the less clear should be interpreted by the more clear. Scripture is more clear than nature, as it itself teaches and the confession (following Scripture) clearly indicates.

Therefore, I would respectfully call on RSC to revise his posting against “theonomists,” or perhaps come up with a new title for those who
a) confuse civil government and salvation (unlike any “theonomists” I know);
b) refuse to accord the light of nature a revelatory role (unlike any “theonomists” I know); or
c) argue that the light of nature is a non-existent thing (unlike any “theonomists” I know).

Or perhaps RSC meant his post as a joke, in which case the pie is on my face for getting at first and then falling for his very out of season April Fools’ Joke.


UPDATE: From his comment box, RSC adds this sentiment: “I don’t write these posts to convince the invincible theonomists but to provide help to those who know that theonomy is wrong but who are unaware of the alternative offered by an adaptation of the historic Reformed theory of natural law.” That’s an interesting thought, don’t you think?

An Electoral Day at the Beach

October 29, 2008

Part I: The Set Up

Imagine the voting populace as people out sunning themselves (or swimming, watching whales, searching for buried treasure, building sand castles, etc.) at a beach. Along the beach there runs a long boardwalk. On the boardwalk are two ice cream vendors, one “Republican” and one “Democrat.” Both have the same ice cream for sale (exercise of political power), but the selling point of the two vendors is convenience.

Initially, the vendors try to position themselves in the way that best suits the average beachgoer. The Republican cart is about one third of the way from the right end of the beach and the Democrate cart is about one third of the way from the left hand side of the beach.

This works fine for a while, as both of the vendors get about the same number of customers, and everyone is happy to have a convenient source of ice cream.

One day, however, the Republican vendor realized something: if he moves a little to the left, he’ll be more convenient for some of the folks in the “middle third” of the beach, who would otherwise go to the “Democrat” cart. The “Democrat” vendor realizes the opposite thing (he needs to move to the right) after sales start to drop off. Eventually, we wind up with two carts essentially in the very middle of the boardwalk. In reality, there are some aspects of tradition, inertia, marketing, and so forth that keep each of the two vendors from being right in the very middle.

Part II: The Movement

There is no reason that Republican vendor is going to move much to the right. If he does, the Democrat will follow, and now more than half the beach will find the Democrat more convenient. The same principle holds true for the Democrat – if he moves to the left, the Republican will follow and more than half the beach will find the Republican more convenient.

Frankly, the people at the middle of the beach are pleased as can be about the arrangement. They have easy access to the ice cream, regardless of which vendor is slightly closer to them. On the other hand, those at the ends of the beach (the “extremists” we will call them) are pretty unhappy about the “compromised” position of the vendors. It’s surely not convenient for the far left to go to the Republican cart, but it is only slightly more convenient for the far left to go to the Democrat cart.

Thus, both ends of the spectrum would like to see either a different system (a three-vendor system) or at least a change in the position of the vendors carts. The former approach turns out to be untenable in practice on this particular boardwalk. Although it sounds good on paper, for some reason it just doesn’t work in practice.

With respect to the latter approach: there are two main ways the extremists can change things:

1) By attracting more beachgoers to their cause. This, in effect, rebalances the beach. It gives the two vendors a reason to move slightly in their direction.

2) By leaving the beach. If they leave the beach, the vendors will move slightly away from the direction that they were.

Choosing not to vote in a given election is leaving the beach. The result when “Conservatives” refuse to vote for the more “right” candidate is that the vendors both move to the left. Likewise the result when “Liberals” refuse to vote for the more “left” candidate is that the vendors both move to the right.

Just a little ice cream for thought.


Clarifying Atonement Analogy

October 29, 2008

I had written:

To go back to the ransom analogy, if the cost to ransom any and all captives is $1 Million, then a payment of $1 Million is sufficient for all, even if it is not intended or used to free all the captives.

As I feared, this appears to have led to some misconceptions by at least one of my readers. Accordingly, I’d like to take the opportunity to clarify.

Although the “ransom” metaphor is a valid and Scriptural one, it is not the only metaphor and not a complete picture. It breaks down when we stretch it beyond the bounds that Scripture uses it. There are other ways of considering the matter, such as that of a penal substitute. That is to say, Christ – in his sacrifice – was a substitute for the penalty our sins deserved. Another way to consider the matter is as a covenantal transaction between the Father and the Son.

Putting those thoughts on pause for a minute, let’s consider what my reader had to say:

My question is this: Do you believe that Christ suffered a certain “fixed” amount of wrath “for sin in general” on the cross… thereby securing life for any number of elect (or put another way… is the amount of suffering Christ endured in his death– perhaps “the unit called death that was his”– would have been the same regardless of the number of elect)?

There are two slightly different concepts here, and it is important to distinguish.

a) Christ’s suffering and death was for the sins of his people. Contrary to certain universal redemptionists, we reject the idea that Christ died for “sin in general.”

b) On the other hand, Christ’s suffering and death has merit (which we usually refer to as intrinsic merit). The merit of his suffering and death is representable by an equation in which there is, on the one hand, the penalty received (suffering and death) and a multiplication factor (if you will) of the dignity of the victim.

This is related to the power to expiate sin. Thus, for example, although the animal sacrifices were of the proper suffering and death, even the pure and spotless lambs that were offered were unable to take away sin, because the victim was of very low dignity (not being in the image of God).

From a second perspective, for a mere man to take away sin by suffering and death, he must suffer eternally. Eternal suffering “balances the equation” as it were, although of course no man can expiate his sin in any finite period of time. This principle is the reason that the concept of purgatory is so nonsensical. No finite suffering in the afterlife can take away sin.

From a third perspective, Christ suffered and died. The dignity of his person, being both God and man in two distinct natures and one person, is so much greater than the dignity of a mere man that the man to beast comparison is inadequate to convey the difference. Though we are made in the image of God (unlike the beasts), He was very God of very God. Thus, his suffering and death were of infinite intrinsic worth.

Accordingly, there is a discontinuous set of paths:
a) Beasts’ suffering and death => No eternal benefit, because of the lack of dignity of the beast (They merely serve to illustrate for us our need of sacrifice to satisfy justice)
b) Mere human’s suffering and death => Simply the just punishment for his sins, even when suffering is extended to eternity, because of the finite dignity of the man (This is what every man will receive who has even the least sin in God’s sight on the judgment day)
c) Christ’s suffering and death => Infinite eternal benefit, even though Christ’s suffering was finite, because of his infinite dignity (This is our Redeemer).

My reader continued:

… OR… do you believe that Christ suffered the equivalent wrath of an eternity of hell for each individual who was given to him to die for? (put another way, if the number of the elect had been one more than it actually is, would Christ have suffered “that much more” on the cross to cover that additional individual’s sin debt to the father?

This sounds like a “this much for that many” kind of pure commercial view of the atonement. We reject that idea. The merit of Christ’s suffering and death was infinite, not finite. It would have been necessary if Christ had wanted to save only one sinful man, and it would have been sufficient if Christ had wanted to save every sinful human.

My reader continued:

It seems to me that Justice would dictate that Christ suffered in equivalency to the suffering of hell, times the number of elect individuals. (And this seems fitting with terms like “ransom” and other price motifs in scripture). However, it appears to me (per your ransom analogy) that the amount of Christ’s suffering is not correlated to the number of the elect.

That is an understandable position. Nevertheless, it is not the position we hold, because the price motif is qualified by the stronger punishment motif. The price is a valid analogy but the “this much for that many” perspective (while very helpful from a Calvinistic point of view) doesn’t seem to have strong support in the Old Testament typology. For example, the sacrifice for the day of atonement was the same regardless of the size of Israel’s population.

While it may be difficult dogmatically to rule out this purely commercial view of the atonement, there is a reason it is not the view of the major Reformed writers. It is certainly a tempting position, but it seems better to view the atonement in terms of being an acceptable sacrifice to God. A payment for sins, yes – but not a monetary or quantized payment.

My reader continued:

An analogy that would fit the “justice equivalency” view might be that of a Lamborghini/etc sports car. The engine in the car is sufficient to propel the car to 200 MPH… however, the driver of the car may elect to use that massive engine to propel the car only 15 MPH, by applying less than full pressure to the accelerator pedal. The engine in this case is sufficient to drive 200 MPH, but efficient to drive only 15 MPH (or whatever speed happens to be chosen by the driver). Your “million dollar” analogy (as written) would seem to be translated to the car as follows: The car engine must put out maximum power at all times (the pedal is floored, regardless of speed). Only some of that power is transferred to the wheels, and this is how the car is moved at speeds less than 200 MPH.

One difference between the analogy and the thing signified here, though, is that a sports car engine is not needed to make the car go 15 mph. The suffering and death of the God-Man is necessary, even to save a single man. In short, I’m not sure its a very fitting analogy.

My reader continued:

Which view do you hold? If you do not hold the “justice equivalency” (for lack of a better term) view… why not? If the amount of suffering in Christ’s death is a unit, how does this differ from the LFW “bank account theory” (which says that Christ basically put sufficient funds to ransom everybody into a heavenly account, and all that is done at belief is that some of the funds are withdrawn and applied to the person… and at the end of the day, any unused funds are wasted).

The Arminian view of essentially a divine bank account of funds to be drawn down, is a “this much for that many” view of the atonement with the additional problem that the “that many” is not the “that many” described in Scriptures.

Some Arminians (perhaps many), however, would reject the “bank account” metaphor in favor of some other metaphor. In any event, they tend to view the sufficiency of Christ’s death is being “sufficient to place everyone into the balance of their own free will,” which is an entirely different type of sufficiency than the type of sufficiency we are speaking about.


The Real Turretin on: The Use of Faith in Justification

October 29, 2008

Richard Smith, at The Spurgeon Blog has provided an interesting post in which he considers what the real Turretin had to say about the use of faith in justification (link). Specifically Turretin provides “proof that the act of believing is not our righteousness.”


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