Archive for the ‘Atonement’ Category

The Necessity of the Atonement

May 25, 2011

One thing that differentiates genuine Christianity from some counterfeits, such as Islam, is that the Living and True God is too holy to simply ignore sin. Instead, God’s holiness and justice demand satisfaction for sin. There are a number of ways that this can be seen in the Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testaments. The following is one example

2 Samuel 24:10-25

And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.”

For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,

Go and say unto David, “Thus saith the LORD, ‘I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.'”

So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, “Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. “

And David said unto Gad, “I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.”

So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, “It is enough: stay now thine hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.

And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, “Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.”

And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, “Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.” And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.

And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground. And Araunah said, “Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant?”

And David said, “To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.”

And Araunah said unto David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.” All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, “The LORD thy God accept thee.”

And the king said unto Araunah, “Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.

There are a few points to notice from this passage. First, notice that God chastises David for his sin. This chastisement comes upon David, even after he expresses remorse for his sin and asks for forgiveness.

Second, notice that God sends this chastisement upon those whom David as King represents. There is a federal headship of Israel that is found in David, such that David’s sins are not only brought against David but against Israel in general.

Third, notice that David foreshadows the coming penal substitution of Christ, when he requests that the people of Israel be spared but that the sin be placed against him and and his father’s house, that is to say, his family. David’s theory is that the people have not sinned, but David has sinned. Nevertheless, God has placed the iniquity of our transgressions on Christ, the son of David, and he has borne them for us.

Fourth, notice that although God first desires not to destroy Jerusalem, and God stays the hand of the angel in advance, God does not simply say “never mind.” Instead, God demands sacrifice. It is on the basis of the sacrifice (which itself foreshadows Christ’s work on the cross) that God’s wrath against the land was propitiated.

From this we can learn that God did not have to wait until the coming of Christ to spare those who trusted in Christ. There was no need for a limbus patrem in which the patriarchs waited for Christ’s sacrifice to be performed. God could and did show mercy to the ancient based on the expectation of Christ’s sacrifice.

From this we can also learn to trust in God and not in man. David shows us the way in which we should repent of our sins. We ought humbly to go to God and confess our sins to Him. We ought to cast ourselves on his mercy – and we ought to avail ourselves of the sacrifice of Christ to turn away judgment from us.

We should not falsely imagine that God will be happier to judge us than to spare us. Rather, we should see from this passage that although God is a holy God who cannot ignore sin, nevertheless God delights in mercy and spares those who turn humbly in repentance and faith to Him.

-TurretinFan

Advertisements

Scriptural Doctrine of the Atonement Defended – against John Martin

April 28, 2010

John Martin has also responded to another of my previous posts (link to post, his comments are in the comment box there).

I had written: “The Christian position is that Christ is our substitute.”

JM responded: “If Christ is our substitute and we are impute a legal righteousness, even though the Father knows we are sinners, means”

Christ is our substitute, and we are imputed the righteousness of Christ … let’s examine the supposed implications:

“1 – Jesus has deceived the father and therefore the Father and Jesus are not God because God cannot be deceived, or sin.”

No. The Father has graciously permitted the substitution.

“2 – The Father sent the son to do a sinful act to deceive the father into believing we are righteous even though we are not.”

No. It’s absurd to say that Father sent the Son to deceive the Father – how could that even be possible? More to the point, the Father sent the Son to die in the place of the elect, so it was known to the Father all along.

“3 – There is no need for faith, because a substitute is a substitute for all our sins. Yet the scriptures say we need faith to be justified.”

Faith is the instrumental means of justification, not a meritorious cause of justification. Thus, faith does not satisfy divine justice, only Christ’s work does that.

“4 – Nobody can go to hell, because Jesus has already taken the punishment for sin as a substitute.”

None of the elect can go to hell (or the Romanist fiction of purgatory), because that would imply double payment.

“5 – The scriptures nowhere say Jesus was a substitute for our sins.”

a) You’ve lost track of supposed implications. That isn’t an implication of the doctrine.

b) It’s also not a true allegation. The Scriptures do teach that Jesus was a substitute for the sins of his people. I can provide a more extensive discussion on this, if needed.

“6 – The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son, after the Son has deceived the Father into thinking we are righteous, even though we are sinners. Therefore the Holy Spirit has been sent on a mission by a deceiver and the deceived, to guide the church into the truth of forensic imputation of righteousness, which is itself a deception. Evidently the Holy Spirit is also a deceiver and has been deceived.”

This blasphemy is built in the previous false claim that forensic imputation is deception.

“7 – There is no precedent in the OT for a substitute atoning for a sinner and the sinner having the substitutes righteousness imputed to the sinner, therefore if penal substitution is correct, it is not base upon the OT, so Jesus cannot be the Messiah, because he didn’t fulfill the OT.”

This simply shows JM’s unfamilarity with the OT sacrificial system. Practically the whole system was one of substitution and imputation. Of course, it was in shadows and types, but Hebrews helps us to see the connection between the shadow and substance.

“8 – There is no need for repentance because the substitute has been made and the Father sees all men as righteous.”

Repentance is not a meritorious cause of justification. See discussion of faith above.

“9 – According to Calvinism, the substitute only has limited value because it’s not applied to all men, even though it’s a perfect substitute. Somehow the father is deceived into thinking the substitute is only satisfactory for some men and not others, even though the Son was a perfect substitute. So the Father has been deceived in sending the Son as a substitute because the substitute didn’t work for some men even though Jesus was the perfect substitute. What’s a God got to do to be a substitute and perfect savior when not even an imputed exchange that is external to the sinner cannot cover all men’s sins?”

a) This misrepresentation of Calvinism is possibly the result of reading Dave Armstrong on Calvinism rather than reading Calvinists on Calvinism.

b) “the substitute only has limited value” That’s not the Calvinist position. The Calvinist position is that the value of the substitute is limitless – sufficient for all.

c) “Somehow the father is deceived into thinking the substitute is only satisfactory for some men and not others, even though the Son was a perfect substitute.”

The Son, as Priest, only offers himself (as sacrifice) for many (not all). That many is the elect.

“10 – The scriptures have deceived us into thinking we need to do something to be justified and pleasing to God, even though according to Calvinism, man is depraved and cannot do a good act in the eyes of God. Therefore we are told on one had to have faith and this is enough to be justified by a legal process, yet we are also told men cannot do an act pleasing to God, so God justifies man, even though He is not pleased with men’s acts. What’s a man to do to be justified after all? Does he have to do an act pleasing to God and if so, is this is a meritorious act? (Yep!) If not, then why does man have to do any act at all to receive justification, when the perfect sacrificial substitute has already been made?”

a) “we need to do something to be justified and pleasing to God”

Scripture’s message is clear that we cannot do anything to be justified and pleasing to God. Justification is by grace, through the instrumental means of faith in Christ and His work.

b) “man is depraved and cannot do a good act in the eyes of God.”

Until God’s Holy Spirit regenerates him, right. As Jesus said, “Except a man be born again … .”

c) “What’s a man to do to be justified after all?”

There is nothing a man can do to be justified. “In thy sight shall no flesh be justified.”

Instead, man must place his hope in the works of another so that he may be vicariously justified.

d) “Does he have to do an act pleasing to God and if so, is this is a meritorious act? (Yep!)”

That is the alternative to the Christian view of the atonement. The alternative is that man merits justification by an act that is pleasing to God.

“11 – If God sends anyone to hell then He is being unjust, because Jesus has already taken the punishment for sin.”

If God received Christ’s payment for the sins of anyone and still punished them for those sins, there would be a double punishment. Thus, none of those for whom Christ was offered will go to hell.

-TurretinFan

Athanasius to Marcellinus: How Sufficient are the Psalms?

March 16, 2010

Athanasius wrote a letter to Marcellinus regarding the Psalms (full text). Athanasius wouldn’t have fit into post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism very well for a lot of reasons, but one reason is his comment in this letter: “the knowledge of God is not with [the heathen and the heretics] at all, but only in the Church.” Vatican II stated: “In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.” (Lumen Gentium, 2:16).

Bigger than that, however, the letter is a testimony to Athanasius’ very non-Romanist views of Scripture. It’s also a testimony to the same views of Athanasius’ friend whom Athanasius relies on extensively throughout the letter so that is sometimes hard to say which part is originally Athanasius and which part is originally the work of his elderly friend.

Private Possession of Copies of Scripture

It’s interesting to note that Athanasius points out that the old man who told about the Psalms did so while holding in his hands his own copy:

I once talked with a certain studious old man, who had bestowed much labour on the Psalter, and discoursed to me about it with great persuasiveness and charm, expressing himself clearly too, and holding a copy of it in his hand the while he spoke.

There is a popular myth spread by Rome’s apologists today that folks of ancient times were too poor to have their own copies of Scripture and too illiterate to read it, even if they could own a copy. These sorts of comments from the ancients help us to see that the picture of ancient literacy and possession of Scripture was not quite as bleak as Rome’s apologists like to suggest.

Scriptures Open to Individual Study

Athanasius’ substantive comment begins:

Son, all the books of Scripture, both Old Testament and New, are inspired by God and useful for instruction [2 Timothy 3:16], as it is written; but to those who really study it the Psalter yields especial treasure.

Before we even get to the substance we can note how Athanasius (adopting his old friend’s words – his old friend calls him “son”) understands 2 Timothy 3:16 to be referring not only to the Old Testament Scriptures but also to the New Testament Scriptures. This isn’t a surprising interpretation, but it is an interpretation that contradicts the erroneous position taken by many contemporary Roman Catholics who try to say that Paul was referring only to the Old Testament Scriptures.

The substance here is that the Scriptures, but especially the book of Psalms, yields a treasure those who really study it. After a brief passage on the canon of Scripture (which we discuss below under the issue of the canon), Athanasius explains:

Each of these books, you see, is like a garden which grows one special kind of fruit; by contrast, the Psalter is a garden which, besides its special fruit, grows also some those of all the rest.

Athanasius comes back to this garden theme toward the end of the letter as well, when Athanasius writes:

So then, my son, let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need.

Notice how individual this metaphor is. Each individual person can go into the garden and get from it whatever help he thinks he needs.

It gets yet more individual after the discussion of how Scripture interprets Scripture, which we discuss below. The more individual part is that the Psalms describe you, the reader:

And, among all the books, the Psalter has certainly a very special grace, a choiceness of quality well worthy to be pondered; for, besides the characteristics which it shares with others, it has this peculiar marvel of its own, that within it are represented and portrayed in all their great variety the movements of the human soul. It is like a picture, in which you see yourself portrayed, and seeing, may understand and consequently form yourself upon the pattern given. Elsewhere in the Bible you read only that the Law commands this or that to be done, you listen to the Prophets to learn about the Saviour’s coming, or you turn to the historical books to learn the doings of the kings and holy men; but in the Psalter, besides all these things, you learn about yourself. You find depicted in it all the movements of your soul, all its changes, its ups and downs, its failures and recoveries.

Notice how he says not simply that the Psalter is like a picture, but almost as though it is a mirror: it is a picture of you the reader. In it, you the reader learn about yourself.

The idea is not simply that the church can extract good medicine from this garden for you, or interpret the picture for you. Instead, Athanasius and the old man insist that the individual can pick out his own cure from this medicine chest:

Moreover, whatever your particular need or trouble, from this same book you can select a form of words to fit it, so that you do not merely hear and then pass on, but learn the way to remedy your ill.

After some commentary on the sufficiency of the Psalms (which we discuss below), Athanasius and the old man re-emphasize the individual’s ability to learn from the Psalms to his own advantage:

In fact, under all the circumstances of life, we shall find that these divine songs suit ourselves and meet our own souls’ need at every turn.

Thus, there is a theme that the individual needs to read and apply the words of the Psalms to his life.

There is also a theme presented in the letter that the Psalter is something that the individual is supposed to make his own:

And herein is yet another strange thing about the Psalms. In the other books of Scripture we read or hear the words of holy men as belonging only to those who spoke them, not at all as though they were our own; and in the same way the doings there narrated are to us material for wonder and examples to be followed, but not in any sense things we have done ourselves. With this book, however, though one does read the prophecies about the Saviour in that way, with reverence and with awe, in the case of all the other Psalms it is as though it were one’s own words that one read; and anyone who hears them is moved at heart, as though they voiced for him his deepest thoughts.

It’s interesting to note in this selection that it is not simply that the reader can start to internalize and take personally the Psalms, but that this is (according to Athanasius and the old man) an intended purpose of the Psalm – one of the reasons for which it is written.

After some brief Scriptural demonstration, Athanasius continues to emphasize how the Psalms are intended to be read, understood, and taken personally by the individual reader:

For he who reads those books is clearly reading not his own words but those of holy men and other people about whom they write; but the marvel with the Psalter is that, barring those prophecies about the Saviour and some about the Gentiles, the reader takes all its words upon his lips as though they were his own, and each one sings the Psalms as though they had been written for his special benefit, and takes them and recites them, not as though someone else were speaking or another person’s feelings being described, but as himself speaking of himself, offering the words to God as his own heart’s utterance, just as though he himself had made them up. Not as the words of the patriarchs or of Moses and the other prophets will he reverence these: no, he is bold to take them as his own and written for his very self. Whether he has kept the Law or whether he has broken it, it is his own doings that the Psalms describe; every one is bound to find his very self in them and, be he faithful soul or be he sinner, each reads in them descriptions of himself.

I’m not sure one could express a more individual understanding of the text than that. Yet Athanasius follows this passage with another of the same kind. In this instance he finally uses the mirror metaphor:

It seems to me, moreover, that because the Psalms thus serve him who sings them as a mirror, wherein he sees himself and his own soul, he cannot help but render them in such a manner that their words go home with equal force to those who hear him sing, and stir them also to a like reaction. Sometimes it is repentance that is generated in this way, as by the conscience-stirring words of Psalm 51; another time, hearing how God helps those who hope and trust in Him, the listener too rejoices and begins to render thanks, as though that gracious help already were his own. Psalm 3, to take another instance, a man will sing, bearing his own afflictions in his mind; Psalms 11 and 12 he will use as the expression of his own faith and prayer; and singing the 54th, the 56th, the 57th, and the 142nd, it is not as though someone else were being persecuted but out of his own experience that he renders praise to God. And every other Psalm is spoken and composed by the Spirit in the selfsame way: just as in a mirror, the movements of our own souls are reflected in them and the words are indeed our very own, given us to serve both as a reminder of our changes of condition and as a pattern and model for the amendment of our lives.

The use of the mirror metaphor is a great way to show that the individual is to look to the Scripture, since a mirror is the sort of thing that is distinctively individual – one doesn’t ask his friend to look in the mirror for him – the mirror is specifically a tool for self-help.

After a very detailed explanation of how the Psalms can be applied to various occasions, Athanasius notes:

Such, then, is the character of the Book of Psalms, and such the uses to which it may be put, some of its number serving for the correction of individual souls, and many of them, as I said just now, foretelling the coming in human form of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Notice that in the quotation above, the individual is made explicit.

We see this same theme of individual benefit in Athanasius’ argument as to why the Psalms must be sung:

But we must not omit to explain the reason why words of this kind should be not merely said, but rendered with melody and song; for there are actually some simple folk among us who, though they believe the words to be inspired, yet think the reason for singing them is just to make them more pleasing to the ear! This is by no means so; Holy Scripture is not designed to tickle the aesthetic palate, and it is rather for the soul’s own profit that the Psalms are sung.

Furthermore, Athanasius insists that one cannot sing the Psalms simply to amuse oneself but specifically to learn from them:

Well, then, they who do not read the Scriptures in this way, that is to say, who do not chant the divine Songs intelligently but simply please themselves, most surely are to blame, for praise is not befitting in a sinner’s mouth. [Sirach 15:9] But those who do sing as I have indicated, so that the melody of the words springs naturally from the rhythm of the soul and her own union with the Spirit, they sing with the tongue and with the understanding also, and greatly benefit not themselves alone but also those who want to listen to them.

Then Athanasius continues with the repetition of the garden metaphor (already discussed above) and he accompanies that with a summary of the preceding admonition that the Psalms have whatever we need for any occasion:

So then, my son, let whoever reads this Book of Psalms take the things in it quite simply as God-inspired; and let each select from it, as from the fruits of a garden, those things of which he sees himself in need. For I think that in the words of this book all human life is covered, with all its states and thoughts, and that nothing further can be found in man. For no matter what you seek, whether it be repentance and confession, or help in trouble and temptation or under persecution, whether you have been set free from plots and snares or, on the contrary, are sad for any reason, or whether, seeing yourself progressing and your enemy cast down, you want to praise and thank and bless the Lord, each of these things the Divine Psalms show you how to do, and in every case the words you want are written down for you, and you can say them as your own.

The final words of the letter re-emphasize that the investigation of Scripture is properly and fruitfully an individual task:

And so you too, Marcellinus, pondering the Psalms and reading them intelligently, with the Spirit as your guide, will be able to grasp the meaning of each one, even as you desire. And you will strive also to imitate the lives of those God-bearing saints who spoke them at the first.

We should also agree with Athanasius that of course the Spirit’s guidance is not an optional component, as much as we have not specified that guidance above.

Scripture Interprets Scripture

One interesting point that Athanasius (and the old man) makes is that the Psalter is almost a stand-alone Bible. However, Athanasius is quick to point out that the Psalter must be interpreted harmoniously with the rest of Scripture because they have a common author, namely the Holy Spirit:

My old friend made rather a point of this, that the things we find in the Psalms about the Saviour are stated in the other books of Scripture too; he stressed the fact that one interpretation is common to them all, and that they have but one voice in the Holy Spirit.

The single voice is the explanation, of course, for the single common interpretation. After some Scriptural proof, the old man (and Athanasius with him) concludes:

You see, then, that the grace of the one Spirit is common to every writer and all the books of Scripture, and differs in its expression only as need requires and the Spirit wills.

This provides a slightly different twist on the comments above, in that it indicates that one may simply find the same thing expressed in different terms in the different books.

Sufficiency of Scripture

One of the points that the old man and Athanasius make is that the Psalter provides the final component and makes the rest of Scripture sufficient to the man of God:

Prohibitions of evil-doing are plentiful in Scripture, but only the Psalter tells you how to obey these orders and abstain from sin. Repentance, for example, is enjoined repeatedly; but to repent means to leave off sinning, and it is the Psalms that show you how to set about repenting and with what words your penitence may be expressed. Again, Saint Paul says, Tribulation worketh endurance, and endurance experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed [Rom 5:3, 5]; but it is in the Psalms that we find written and described how afflictions should be borne, and what the afflicted ought to say, both at the time and when his troubles cease: the whole process of his testing is set forth in them and we are shown exactly with what words to voice our hope in God. Or take the commandment, In everything give thanks. [1 Thess 5:18] The Psalms not only exhort us to be thankful, they also provide us with fitting words to say. We are told, too, by other writers that all who would live godly in Christ must suffer persecution;[2 Tim 3:12] and here again the Psalms supply words with which both those who flee persecution and those who suffer under it may suitably address themselves to God, and it does the same for those who have been rescued from it. We are bidden elsewhere in the Bible also to bless the Lord and to acknowledge Him: here in the Psalms we are shown the way to do it, and with what sort of words His majesty may meetly be confessed.

In other words, the entire Bible tells us how to live, but the Psalter shows us more clearly the way to fulfill the commands found throughout Scripture. The conclusion sentence talks explicitly about the ability of the Psalter to be sufficient, namely to meet the reader’s needs:

In fact, under all the circumstances of life, we shall find that these divine songs suit ourselves and meet our own souls’ need at every turn.

Another place where Athanasius makes the sufficiency point is in this comment:

For I think that in the words of this book all human life is covered, with all its states and thoughts, and that nothing further can be found in man.

It’s hard to be more sufficient than “nothing further can be found” – he might as well have said, “this is as good as it can possibly get.”

As strong as that statement of sufficiency is, the sufficiency of Scripture gets even more underscored by Athanasius’ insistence on the unadorned Psalms:

There is, however, one word of warning needed. No one must allow himself to be persuaded, by any arguments what-ever, to decorate the Psalms with extraneous matter or make alterations in their order or change the words them-selves. They must be sung and chanted in entire simplicity, just as they are written, so that the holy men who gave them to us, recognizing their own words, may pray with us, yes and even more that the Spirit, Who spoke by the saints, recognizing the selfsame words that He inspired, may join us in them too. For as the saints’ lives are lovelier than any others, so too their words are better than ever ours can be, and of much more avail, provided only they be uttered from a righteous heart. For with these words they themselves pleased God, and in uttering them, as the Apostle says, they subdued kingdoms, they wrought righteousness, they obtained promises, they stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies of aliens, women received their dead by resurrection. [Heb 11:33-36]

The ideas that their words are “better than ever ours can be” is a great way of showing that the Scriptures themselves, standing alone, are sufficient.

Finally, Athanasius gets explicit – even using the word “sufficient”:

For God commanded Moses to write the great song [Deut 31:19] and to teach the people, and him whom He had appointed leader He bade also to write Deuteronomy, to have it ever in his hand and to meditate unceasingly upon its words [Deut 17:18-19]; because these are sufficient in themselves both to call men’s minds to virtue and to bring help to any who ponder them sincerely.

Notice that it doesn’t just say “sufficient” leaving open the option of sufficient materially but not formally, but it even goes so far as to remove an doubt by saying “sufficient in themselves.”

The parting words of the letter confirm the same thing:

And so you too, Marcellinus, pondering the Psalms and reading them intelligently, with the Spirit as your guide, will be able to grasp the meaning of each one, even as you desire. And you will strive also to imitate the lives of those God-bearing saints who spoke them at the first.

Notice how positive Athanasius is: he says not simply that Marcellinus “may” be able to grasp the meaning, nor does Athanasius qualify the quest by whether Marcellinus adheres to the unanimous consent of the fathers or the guidance of an infallible magisterium. Instead, Athanasius insists that if Marcellinus has the Spirit he will, by intelligent study, grasp the meaning of each of the Psalms.

Scripture as a Teacher

Athanasius, as noted above, refers to the Scriptures as a teacher:

Briefly, then, if indeed any more is needed to drive home the point, the whole divine Scripture is the teacher of virtue and true faith, but the Psalter gives a picture of the spiritual life.

Athanasius even goes further and compares Scriptures a teacher to mere human teachers:

Never will such a man be shaken from the truth, but those who try to trick and lead him into error he will refute; and it is no human teacher who promises us this, but the Divine Scripture itself.

Thus, for Athanasius, the Scriptures themselves are a teacher and the best possible teacher.

Scripture as the Rule of Faith and Life

Athanasius is very plain about this aspect of Scripture:

Briefly, then, if indeed any more is needed to drive home the point, the whole divine Scripture is the teacher of virtue and true faith, but the Psalter gives a picture of the spiritual life.

Notice how he treats the Psalter as almost filling in what would be a gap in the rest of Scripture. With the Psalms, the Scripture is a thorough and sufficient teacher of virtue and true faith.

Christ Himself is in Scripture

Sometimes Rome’s apologists like to use the metaphor that the Church is Christ’s body to emphasize the Church’s authority. Athanasius makes an even stronger claim about Scripture:

On the other hand, daemons fear the words of holy men and cannot bear them; for the Lord Himself is in the words of Scripture and Him they cannot bear, as they showed when they cried out to Christ, I pray you, torment me not before the time.

Notice that Athanasius claims that “the Lord Himself is in the words of Scripture,” which is as strong a claim as one can make about them.

Canon of the Old Testament

The old man’s canon of the Old Testament only ends up referring to the canonical works:

Each book of the Bible has, of course, its own particular message: the Pentateuch, for example, tells of the beginning of the world, the doings of the patriarchs, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, the giving of the Law, and the ordering of the tabernacle and the priesthood; The Triteuch [Joshua, Judges, and Ruth] describes the division of the inheritance, the acts of the judges, and the ancestry of David; Kings and Chronicles record the doings of the kings, Esdras [Ezra] the deliverance from exile, the return of the people, and the building of the temple and the city; the Prophets foretell the coming of the Saviour, put us in mind of the commandments, reprove transgressors, and for the Gentiles also have a special word.

Furthermore, the old man ends up excluding the Apocrypha (deutero-canonical books) fairly plainly by (after discussing only the canonical works) stating:

You see, then, that all the subjects mentioned in the historical books are mentioned also in one Psalm or another; but when we come to the matters of which the Prophets speak we find that these occur in almost all.

Of course, the canon of the Old Testament is not the main point of the letter, and consequently there is no explicit discussion of the topic.

Unsurprisingly, one apocryphal part of one book is mentioned: “as when Daniel relates the story of Susanna …” and the Septuagint (or similar related Greek translation) title of the Psalms are referenced “if you want to know how Moses prayed, you have the 90th … .” There’s also an allusion to Sirach 15:9 (“Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner, for it was not sent him of the Lord.”) as noted above.

Penal Substitution

It is interesting to note that the old man (Athanasius adopting his words) explains that the atonement, and particularly penal substitution, is set forth in the Psalms:

For He did not die as being Himself liable to death: He suffered for us, and bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression, even as Isaiah says, Himself bore our weaknesses. [Mt 8:17] So in Psalm 138 we say, The Lord will make requital for me; and in the 72nd the Spirit says, He shall save the children of the poor and bring the slanderer low, for from the hand of the mighty He has set the poor man free, the needy man whom there was none to help.

It’s interesting that he even brings Isaiah into the discussion. I’ve left the editorial bracketed citation to Matthew 8:17.

That’s not the only place that Athanasius mentions this theme – he repeats it slightly later on:

This is the further kindness of the Savior that, having become man for our sake, He not only offered His own body to death on our behalf, that He might redeem all from death, but also, desiring to display to us His own heavenly and perfect way of living, He expressed this in His very self. It was as knowing how easily the devil might deceive us, that He gave us, for our peace of mind, the pledge of His own victory that He had won on our behalf. But He did not stop there: He went still further, and His own self performed the things He had enjoined on us. Every man therefore may both hear Him speaking and at the same time see in His behavior the pattern for his own, even as He himself has bidden, saying, Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart. [Mt 11:29] Nowhere is more perfect teaching of virtue to be found than in the Lord’s own life. Forbearance, love of men, goodness, courage, mercy, righteousness, all are found in Him; and in the same way no virtue will be lacking to him who fully contemplates this human life of Christ. It was as knowing this that Saint Paul said, Be ye imitators of me, even as I myself am of Christ. [1 Cor 11:1] The Greek legislators had indeed a great command of language; but the Lord, the true Lord of all, Who cares for all His works, did not only lay down precepts but also gave Himself as model of how they should be carried out, for all who would to know and imitate. And therefore, before He came among us, He sketched the likeness of this perfect life for us in words, in this same book of Psalms; in order that, just as He revealed Himself in flesh to be the perfect, heavenly Man, so in the Psalms also men of good-will might see the pattern life portrayed, and find therein the healing and correction of their own.

Notice how Athanasius indicates that Christ both serves as penal substitute (“He … offered His own body to death on our behalf”) but also as example of the godly life.

Conclusion

This letter of Athanasius has value for a variety of reasons. For example, included in the letter are some very detailed and at-length suggestions for times and occasions upon which to sing the various psalms. This is of great practical value to those planning worship, either their own worship or corporate worship.

Athanasius’ letter also has value for providing insight into many aspects of Athanasius’ view of Scripture:

  • the practice of private possession of Scriptures,
  • individual study of the Scripture and the fruitfulness of such study,
  • the self-interpretation of Scripture,
  • the sufficiency of Scripture,
  • the magisterial role of Scripture,
  • Scripture as the rule of faith and life,
  • Christ himself being “in” Scripture, and
  • the canon of the Old Testament.

Athanasius’ letter even provides some insight into Athanasius’ view of the atonement. The discussion on the atonement even provides some discussion related to the doctrine of penal substitution.

In all, the letter is a very rich work. I hope that the reader of this article will not content himself with my report above, but will follow the link I have provided and see for himself not only that I have reported Athanasius accurately, but that I have not provided the full treasure that this letter offers.

– TurretinFan

Wayne Grudem on the Atonement

October 19, 2009

Wayne Grudem has provided his Systematic Theology: an enormous (1291 pages) and apparently popular (the cover of one recent printing claims sales of over 1/4 million) tome. Chapter 27 (pp. 568-607 in what appears to be the 2000 printing) addresses the topic of the atonement. Much of the material serves as a helpful general introduction to the atonement from a broadly Calvinistic perspective. There are a number of helpful explanations in the chapter that are geared toward frequently asked contemporary questions, such as the question “did Christ endure eternal suffering.”

There were also, however, a few disappointments with the chapter. Pages 582-94 include a very lengthy discussion of the credal phrase “he descended into hell.” While this may be an important discussion, it seemed out of place at least as to the proportion of emphasis in the chapter. Grudem’s discussion is quite detailed and provides an uncharacteristically (for Grudem on the atonement) deep look into history. Although it was quite detailed, I think I still prefer the explanation provided by Danny Hyde, which I discussed previously (link).

The chapter was especially weak in its defense of particular redemption, also called “limited atonement.” The exegetical analysis of the passages relied upon by Amyraldians and Arminians seemed cursory at best, and omitted some of the best explanations of the sense of those passages. Furthermore, while little space was devoted to establishing the doctrine from Scripture many times more space was devoted to accommodating those who disagree with this doctrine.

Especially disappointing was Grudem’s naive assertion that “It seems to be a mistake to state the question [of the extent of the atonement] as Berkhof does and focus on the purpose of the Father and the Son, rather than on what actually happened in the atonement.” What actually happened, after all, depends largely on the intent and purpose of the Father and the Son.

In his ecumenical efforts, Grudem ends up providing a number of confused statements regarding characterizations of the atonement, such as affirming that it is proper to say that “Christ died to bring the free offer of the gospel to all people” or “Christ died to make salvation available to all people.” The problem with these statements becomes clear when we realize that Grudem’s statements are statements about the purpose and intent of the atonement (and statements that get that purpose and intent wrong, at least formally), rather than about what the atonement actually did.

The above criticism should not be taken as suggesting that Grudem is an Amyraldian. He is insistent that the atonement only paid for the sins of the elect. Nevertheless, his chapter contains a number of significant weaknesses, which prevent it from receiving the highest praise. Lest we end on a sour note, it should be observed that Grudem provides an interesting (if somewhat incomplete) bibliography at the end of the chapter, as he does at the end of many (perhaps all) of the chapters of his Systematic Theology. All in all, it is a good introduction to the topic, but you can get a more accurate and more detailed explanation in a number of the books to which Grudem refers his readers.

Offered Often or Once?

September 15, 2009

We’re sometimes told that it an incorrect “either/or” mentality that causes us to reject the sacrifices of the mass on the basis that Christ was offered only once and not often. Yet Scripture itself has that mentality.

Hebrews 9:24-28
24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Notice that there is a continual either/or mentality exhibited in the text. Jesus is not in a holy place that men built (sorry, my Roman Catholic friends, he is not in your golden tabernacles) but in heaven itself. It is an either/or.

Again, it is not “often” like the priests of old but “once in the end of the world.” It is not both, but either/or.

He will appear a second time, coming from heaven to judge the world in righteousness on the last day. That is when he will come back to earth, not pulled down by priestly incantations however biblical the words are that they utter.

The Bible expresses it in either/or terminology. You cannot have it both ways. The Bible says Jesus offered himself once. Rome says that Jesus offers himself daily, even while elsewhere inconsistently affirming the Biblical truth.

Example:

Of course, the most excellent prayer of all is the one offered daily at the altar by Christ Jesus, the High Priest, to God the Father when the holy sacrifice of Redemption is renewed.

– Pius XII, Fidei Donum, Section 52, 21 April 1957

And likewise:

Above all, you will be ministers of the Eucharist: you will receive this sacrament as a priceless inheritance in which the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice is renewed daily and the decisive event of his Death and Resurrection for the world’s salvation continues. You will celebrate the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine, as he himself offered it for the first time in the Upper Room, on the eve of his Passion. You will thus be personally associated with the mystery of the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep.

– John Paul II, Priestly Ordinations, Section 2, 3 May 1988

And again:

The third end proposed is that of expiation, propitiation and reconciliation. Certainly, no one was better fitted to make satisfaction to Almighty God for all the sins of men than was Christ. Therefore, He desired to be immolated upon the cross “as a propitiation for our sins, not for ours only but also for those of the whole world” and likewise He daily offers Himself upon our altars for our redemption, that we may be rescued from eternal damnation and admitted into the company of the elect.

– Pius XII, Mediator Dei, Section 73, 20 November 1947

Alternatively, the priestly role is given to the church and specifically the priests, but still it is a daily thing:

Example:

There is one amongst all others, the loss of which is more deplorable than words can express; We allude to the most holy Sacrifice in which Jesus Christ, both Priest and Victim, daily offers Himself to His Father, through the ministry of His priests on earth. By virtue of this Sacrifice the infinite merits of Christ, gained by His Precious Blood shed once upon the Cross for the salvation of men, are applied to our souls.

– Leo XIII, Caritatis Studium, Section 9, 25 July 1898

And again:

Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19) and “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19; cf. 1 Cor. 11.24), i.e:, an obedience to the command to announce the Gospel and to renew daily the sacrifice of the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for the life of the world.

– John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, Section 1, 25 March 1992

And similarly:

Most abundant, assuredly, are the salutary benefits which are stored up in this most venerable mystery, regarded as a Sacrifice; a Sacrifice which the Church is accordingly wont to offer daily “for the salvation of the whole world.”

– Leo XIII, Mirae Caritatis, Section 17, 28 May 1902

And consequently we even see this embodied in Canon law:

they are to nourish their spiritual life from the two-fold table of sacred scripture and the Eucharist; therefore, priests are earnestly invited to offer the eucharistic sacrifice daily and deacons to participate in its offering daily;

Code of Canon Law, Book 2, Part 1, Title, 3, Chapter 3, Canon 276, Section 2, Subsection 2

Offered once or offered often? You can pick the Bible or you can pick Roman Catholic theology, but since the Bible expresses itself in a mutually exclusive way, you cannot have it both ways. It is not both once and often, but only either once or often. The Old Covenant sacrifices were often, the New Covenant sacrifice is once for all time. While Roman Catholic theology will affirm that Christ is offered once for all (in some places), in many other places (some of which are illustrated above) Rome makes the offering of Christ a daily event, not a once-for-all event. As such, Rome’s theology is unbiblical and ought to be rejected and/or reformed.

-TurretinFan

Why Say Mass Sacrifices Christ Again?

August 3, 2009

Luka asked:

If You truly understand how both biblical statements: that Christ died once for sins, and that -at the same time- He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, are simultaneously correct, then why do You persist in Your conviction that Mass or Liturgy sacrifice Christ “again”? :-|

I answer:

a) As I pointed out at this link, the term “from the foundation of the world” is best understood as modifying “written” not “slain.”

b) As also pointed out there, if the term were to be referred to “slain” we would simply understand that as being a figurative expression as to the intent and purpose of the lamb from all eternity, namely to be slain.

c) One of our complaints about the Roman masses is that they don’t claim to represent the sacrifice of Christ, but actually to involve the sacrificing of Christ. The Lord’s Supper does illustrate for us the death of Christ: it is the true icon of his body and blood, which was shed for many for the remission of sins. The historical event of the cross, however, is complete. It is finished. It cannot be repeated or continued.

-TurretinFan

Camping and the Atonement

August 1, 2009

In a previous post (link) we discussed how Mr. Harold Camping errs on the simple question of who Moses’ father is, according to the Scriptures, and how this has a chain reaction effect on his chronology. There are other clear errors in Mr. Camping’s theology that relate less directly to his date-setting error.

Scripture Says Christ Died Once

Scripture is perfectly clear that Christ died only once:

Hebrews 9:26-28
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

And again, we see the same clear teaching in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:

Romans 6:8-10
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

Mr. Camping Says Christ Died Twice

Mr. Camping claims:

Later in this study, we will learn that the Lord Jesus Christ died twice in connection with the atonement. He died before the foundation of the world as the Lamb that was slain (Revelation 13:8). He also died when He was on the cross, demonstrating to us and the world how He paid for our sins. The doubling of His punishment agrees with the principle set forth in Genesis 41:32, that is, that which is doubled is established by God.

(To God be the Glory, p. 25)

Mr. Camping also claims:

Now we understand that Christ suffered once to pay for our sins, and He suffered a second time to demonstrate how He paid for our sins. Now we can understand why Pilate, the Roman governor, repeated again and again, “I find no fault in him” (Luke 23:4, 22; John 19:4, 6; also see Matthew 27:19, 24). Christ stood before him absolutely sinless. Yet He had to be punished as if He were still laden with all of the sins of those who were elected to become saved in order to demonstrate how He suffered for those sins.

(To God be the Glory, p. 34)

Exploring Camping’s View of Revelation 13:8

As to Mr. Camping’s view of Revelation 13:8, the verse states:

Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

I can understand how that verse might sound at first (and in English) as though it were saying that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world. It is, however, also legitimate to understand “slain” as modifying “Lamb” and “from the foundation of the world” as modifying “written.” We find confirmation of this from another discussion of this book:

Revelation 17:8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

Notice how here, again, “from the foundation of the world” is not right next to “written” but nevertheless the reader can figure out that it does not modify “life” but “written.”

There’s another aspect that we must consider as well. The expression “the Lamb slain” is a picture that John used previously in Revelation 5:

Revelation 5:6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

Revelation 5:12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Finally, we see a parallel expression to that in Revelation 13:8 without the reference to slaying:

Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Mr. Camping, however, prefers to quote Revelation 13:8 selectively. For example:

  • “The first surprising information that we learn as we carefully study all that God teaches us in the Bible about the atonement is that it was completely finished before God created mankind. In Revelation 13:8, we read of “…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”” (To God be the Glory, p. 32)
  • “Now, Jesus is the great “I AM,” God Himself, who has no beginning, and the Bible tells us in Revelation 13:8, that He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”” (I Hope God Will Save Me, p. 8)
  • “But nobody except God Himself knows who they are. Only after they receive their new resurrected soul, that is, after they have become saved, will they begin to understand that God had saved them. But the fact is that they were justified from the beginning of time because Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).”(I Hope God Will Save Me, p. 9)
  • “Since Christ was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (rev. 13:8), this again shows that it has always been God’s intention to save people out of the Gentile nations as well as out of the nation of Israel.”(An Exposition of Galatians, at Galations 3:14, p. 15)

Mr. Camping doesn’t always quote the verse without context, but the many times he does tend to reinforce the reading he is insisting on, even when he occasionally provides the more complete context.

Incidentally, this ambiguity regarding the reference of “from the foundation of the world” is removed in many more recent translations:

  • (ASV) And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain.
  • (BBE) And all who are on the earth will give him worship, everyone whose name has not been from the first in the book of life of the Lamb who was put to death.
  • (CEV) The beast was worshiped by everyone whose name wasn’t written before the time of creation in the book of the Lamb who was killed.
  • (Darby) and all that dwell on the earth shall do it homage, every one whose name had not been written from the founding of the world in the book of life of the slain Lamb.
  • (ESV) and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.
  • (GNB) All people living on earth will worship it, except those whose names were written before the creation of the world in the book of the living which belongs to the Lamb that was killed.
  • (Holman NT) All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered.
  • (NASB) All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.
  • (MKJV) And all dwelling on the earth will worship it, those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world.
  • (MSG) Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast.
  • (RSV) and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.
  • (TEV) All people living on earth will worship it, except those whose names were written before the creation of the world in the book of the living which belongs to the Lamb that was killed.
  • (WE) Everyone on earth will worship the beast, if they do not have their names in the book of life. The book of life belongs to the Lamb who was killed. That was God’s plan since the world was made.

Additionally, the NIV provides as its main reading a form similar to the KJV, but provides as a footnote: (a) Revelation 13:8 Or written from the creation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain

Same for the TNIV, and the Amplified Bible provides a similar footnote (a): ‘Revelation 13:8 Alternate translation: “recorded from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb that was slain [in sacrifice].'”

My reason for pointing this out is not to try to win the battle by pointing out that more translators translate the text one way than anther way. Nor am I trying to cast negative light on the most popular edition of the KJV, a version that preserves the ambiguity in a way that I think is admirable. Instead, I’m simply pointing out that a significant number of committees and translators of the Greek have viewed the phrase “from the foundation of the world” as modifying the writing, rather than as modifying the slaying.

What if “from the foundation of the world” Modifies “slain”?

I should point out that the first edition of the KJV (like the prior printed English versions, such as the Bishops’ Bible and the Geneva Bible) punctuated the verse in a way that is different from the most popular edition of the KJV. Specifically, the KJV1611 places a comma between “Lambe” and “slaine,” which tends to force the “from the foundation of the world” to modify “slain.”

So, what about my dear friends who only use KJV1611 or who strongly prefer it. Does that version support Mr. Camping’s view? Is the KJV1611 endorsing a “two deaths of Christ” view? Of course not.

Even if we are to read “from the foundation of the world” as modifying “slain,” the bigger question is why on earth anyone would interpret that literally? No one in their right mind interprets “Lamb” literally, and most people would have the sense to realize that there could be no literal book before the foundation of the world.

No, even if “from the foundation of the world” as modifying “slain,” we would still view the imagery as symbolic and not literal. We would view him as “slain from the foundation of the earth” in the sense of that being his eternal purpose, not as him actually having been slain before the world was founded. There’s no particular reason to take that kind of plainly symbolic comment literally: we don’t view Jesus as a literal lamb, we don’t view the book of Life as a literal book, and we don’t view the writing in the book as literal writing. Jesus is a lamb in that he is the sacrifice for sin. The writing in a book symbolizes the fixity of God’s decrees.

This is confirmed by, for example, the marginal note in the Geneva Bible (1599) on the word slain: “As God ordained from before all beginning, and all the sacrifices were as signs and sacraments of Christ’s death.”

In short, there is no reason to think that there was a literal slaying before the foundation of the world, even if the phrase “from the foundation of the world” as modifying “slain,” which does not appear to be the best understanding of the text.

Conclusion

How does this error on Mr. Camping’s part influence his end times prediction? It does not have a very direct and immediate impact. It’s significance is that it is one of several ways that Mr. Camping tries to treat the entire life of Jesus as simply being a spiritual picture, thereby reinforcing Mr. Camping’s attempt to avoid the literal sense of Scripture in favor of specific, selective spiritualizing interpretations. This particular error does not have such a direct, chain reaction effect as Mr. Camping’s error regarding Moses’ father, but it does help to serve to show a second instance in which Mr. Camping’s spiritualizing agenda places him in direct contradiction with the plain teachings of Scripture.

-TurretinFan

Some Church Fathers on the Atonement

June 11, 2009

The following is a list of several patristic quotations (previously posted here) that relate to the topic of the atonement. Some affirm limited atonement, some are simply germane to the topic of the atonement without necessarily affirming limited atonement.

Ambrose (c. 339-97): Although Christ suffered for all, yet He suffered for us particularly, because He suffered for the Church. Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Book VI, §25, p. 201.
Latin Text: Et si Christus pro omnibus passus est, pro nobis tamen specialiter passus est; quia pro Ecclesia passus est. Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, 6.25, PL 15:1675.

Ambrose (c. 339-97): Great, therefore, is the mystery of Christ, before which even angels stood amazed and bewildered. For this cause, then, it is thy duty to worship Him, and, being a servant, thou oughtest not to detract from thy Lord. Ignorance thou mayest not plead, for to this end He came down, that thou mayest believe; if thou believest not, He has not come down for thee, has not suffered for thee. “If I had not come,” saith the Scripture, “and spoken with them, they would have no sin: but now have they no excuse for their sin. He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also.” Who, then, hates Christ, if not he who speaks to His dishonor? — for as it is love’s part to render, so it is hate’s to withdraw honor. He who hates, calls in question; he who loves, pays reverence. NPNF2: Vol.: Volume X, Of the Christian Faith, Book IV, Chapter 2, §27.

Ambrosiaster: The people of God hath its own fulness. In the elect and foreknown, distinguished from the generality of all, there is accounted a certain special universality; so that the whole world seems to be delivered from the whole world, and all men to be taken out of all men. See Works of John Owen, Vol. 10, p. 423.
Latin text: Habet ergo populus Dei plenitudinem suam, et quamvis magna pars hominum, salvantis gratiam aut repellat aut negligat, in electis tamen et praescitis, atque ab omnium generalitate discretis, specialis quaedam censetur universitas, ut de toto mundo totus mundus liberatus, et de omnibus hominibus omnes homines videantur assumpti: De Vocatione Gentium, Liber Primus, Caput III, PL 17:1084.

Jerome (347-420) on Matthew 20:28: He does not say that he gave his life for all, but for many, that is, for all those who would believe. See Turretin, Vol. 2, p. 462.
Latin text: Non dixit animam suam redemptionem dare pro omnibus, sed pro multis, id est, pro his qui credere voluerint. Commentariorum in Evangelium Matthaei, Liber Tertius, PL 26:144-145.

Hilary of Arles (c. 401-449) commenting on 1 John 2:2: When John says that Christ died for the sins of the “whole world,” what he means is that he died for the whole church. Introductory Commentary on 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 177.
Latin text: et non pro nostris tantum. set etiam pro totius mundi peccatis; Aecclesiam mundi nomine appellat. Expositio In Epistolas Catholiicas, Incipit Epistola Sancti Iohannis Apostoli, Cap. II, v. 2, PL Supp. 3:118.

Augustine (354-430): 2. But alongside of this love we ought also patiently to endure the hatred of the world. For it must of necessity hate those whom it perceives recoiling from that which is loved by itself. But the Lord supplies us with special consolation from His own case, when, after saying, “These things I command you, that ye love one another,” He added, “If the world hate you, know that it hated me before [it hated] you.” Why then should the member exalt itself above the head? Thou refusest to be in the body if thou art unwilling to endure the hatred of the world along with the Head. “If ye were of the world,” He says, “the world would love its own.” He says this, of course, of the whole Church, which, by itself, He frequently also calls by the name of the world: as when it is said, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” And this also: “The Son of man came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” And John says in his epistle: “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also [for those] of the whole world.” The whole world then is the Church, and yet the whole world hateth the Church. The world therefore hateth the world, the hostile that which is reconciled, the condemned that which is saved, the polluted that which is cleansed.
3. But that world which God is in Christ reconciling unto Himself, which is saved by Christ, and has all its sins freely pardoned by Christ, has been chosen out of the world that is hostile, condemned, and defiled. For out of that mass, which has all perished in Adam, are formed the vessels of mercy, whereof that world of reconciliation is composed, that is hated by the world which belongeth to the vessels of wrath that are formed out of the same mass and fitted to destruction. Finally, after saying, “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own,” He immediately added, “But because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” And so these men were themselves also of that world, and, that they might no longer be of it, were chosen out of it, through no merit of their own, for no good works of theirs had preceded; and not by nature, which through free-will had become totally corrupted at its source: but gratuitously, that is, of actual grace. For He who chose the world out of the world, effected for Himself, instead of finding, what He should choose: for “there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace. And if by grace,” he adds, “then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” NPNF1: Vol. VII, Tractates on John, Tractate LXXXVII, §2-3, John 15:17-19.

Augustine (354-430): Hence things that are lawful are not all good, but everything unlawful is not good. Just as everyone redeemed by Christ’s blood is a human being, but human beings are not all redeemed by Christ’s blood, so too everything that is unlawful is not good, but things that are not good are not all unlawful. As we learn from the testimony of the apostle, there are some things that are lawful but are not good. John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., Works of Saint Augustine, Adulterous Marriages, Part 1, Vol. 9, trans. Ray Kearney, O.P., Book One, 15, 16 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1999), p. 153.

Chrysostom (349-407) on Hebrews 9:28. “So Christ was once offered.”: By whom offered? evidently by Himself. Here he says that He is not Priest only, but Victim also, and what is sacrificed. On this account are [the words] “was offered.” “Was once offered” (he says) “to bear the sins of many.” Why “of many,” and not “of all”? Because not all believed, For He died indeed for all, that is His part: for that death was a counterbalance against the destruction of all men. But He did not bear the sins of all men, because they were not willing. NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Epistle to the Hebrews, Homly 17.

Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 463): He is not crucified with Christ who is not a member of the body of Christ. When, therefore, our Saviour is said to be crucified for the redemption of the whole world, because of his true assumption of the human nature, yet may he be said to be crucified only for them unto whom his death was profitable. . . . Diverse from these is their lot who are reckoned amongst them of whom is is said, ‘the world knew him not.’
Latin text: Non est autem crucifixus in Christo, qui non est membrum corporis Christi, nec est membrum corporis Christi, qui non per aquam et Spiritum sanctum induit Christum. Qui ideo in infirmitate nostra communionem subiit mortis, ut nos in virtute ejus haberemus consortium resurrectionis. Cum itaque rectissime dicatur Salvator pro totius mundi redemptione crucifixus, propter veram humanae naturae susceptionem, et propter communem in primo homine omnium perditionem: potest tamen dici pro his tantum crucifixus quibus mors ipsius profuit. . . . Diversa ergo ab istis sors eorum est qui inter illos censentur de quibus dicitur; Mundus eum non cognovit. Responsiones ad Capitula Gallorum, Capitulum IX, Responsio, PL 51:165.

Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 463): Doubtless the propriety of redemption is theirs from whom the prince of this world is cast out. The death of Christ is not to be so laid out for human-kind, that they also should belong unto his redemption who were not to be regenerated.
Latin text: Redemptionis proprietas haud dubie penes illos est, de quibus princeps mundi missus est foras, et jam non vasa diaboli, sed membra sunt Christi. Cujus mors non ita impensa est humano generi, ut ad redemptionem ejus etiam qui regenerandi non erant pertinerint. Responsiones ad Capitula Objectionum Vincentianarum, Capitulum Primum, Responsio, PL 51:178.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466) commenting on Hebrews 9:27-28: As it is appointed for each human being to die once, and the one who accepts death’s decree no longer sins but awaits the examination of what was done in life, so Christ the Lord, after being offered once for us and taking up our sins, will come to us again, with sin no longer in force, that is, with sin no longer occupying a place as far as human beings are concerned. He said himself, remember, when he still had a mortal body, “He committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth.” It should be noted, of course, that he bore the sins of many, not of all: not all came to faith, so he removed the sins of the believers only. Robert Charles Hill, Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on the Letters of St. Paul, Vol. 2 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001), p. 175.

Bede (672/673-735) commenting on 1 John 2:1: The Lord intercedes for us not by words but by his dying compassion, because he took upon himself the sins which he was unwilling to condemn his elect for. On 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 177.
Latin text: Interpellat ergo pro nobis Dominus, non voce, sed miseratione, quia quod damnare in electis noluit, suscipiendo servavit. In Primam Epistolam S. Joannis, Caput II, PL 93:89.

Bede (672/673-735) commenting on 1 John 2:2: In his humanity Christ pleads for our sins before the Father, but in his divinity he has propitiated them for us with the Father. Furthermore, he has not done this only for those who were alive at the time of his death, but also for the whole church which is scattered over the full compass of the world, and it will be valid for everyone, from the very first among the elect until the last one who will be born at the end of time. This verse is therefore a rebuke to the Donatists, who thought that the true church was to be found only in Africa. The Lord pleads for the sins of the whole world, because the church which he has bought with his blood exists in every corner of the globe. On 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 178.
Latin text: Qui per humanitatem interpellat pro nobis apud Patrem, idem per divinitatem propitiatur nobis cum Patre. . . . Non pro illis solum propitiatio est Dominus, quibus tunc in carne viventibus scribebat Joannes, sed etiam pro omni Ecclesia quae per totam mundi latitudinem diffusa est, primo nimirum electo usque ad ultimum qui in fine mundi nasciturus est porrecta. Quibus verbis Donatistarum schisma reprobat, qui in Africae solum finibus Ecclesiam Christi esse dicebant inclusam. Pro totius ergo mundi peccatis interpellat Dominus, quia per totum mundum est Ecclesia, quam suo sanguine comparavit. In Primam Epistolam S. Joannis, Caput II, PL 93:90.

Enjoy!

-TurretinFan

Responses to Audience Questions About the Substitionary Atonement Debate

April 29, 2009

I’ve received a couple of comments on the Substitutionary Atonement debate. One of the commenters was someone using the nick “Michael”. Michael asked:

1) What do you mean by “wrath of God?” Is it the same thing as Godforsakenness or is there a distinction? Has there ever been a case or will there ever be a case of a person who has been regenerated and justified experiencing the wrath of God?

I answer:

I believe that when Scripture speaks of the wrath of God being upon Christ and upon the reprobate it is intended to convey that judgment is coming against them. That judgment took the form of an horrible and excruciatingly painful death for Christ, and the form of eternal torment in hell for the reprobate: for all those who do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone, for salvation.

But those who are regenerated and justified will also be glorified, as the Scriptures teach. Therefore, the wrath of God will not come upon them, although it was hanging over them before they were converted.

2)Nick cited a number of Reformed authors. Do you agree or disagree with their statements?

I answer:

I don’t agree that Nick’s quotations accurately represent the teachings of all of the Reformed authors that he quoted. This is something I want to address at greater length in the future. I think Nick’s fundamental objection seems to be that he doesn’t see how the Father could have wrath toward the Son: but the Father quite clearly gave over the Son to die for the elect. On any analogical level, mere wrath is less than giving someone over to death. So, Nick’s objection is rather irrational, because he objects to the gnat while swallowing the camel.

3) Do you believe Nick gave an accurate presentation of the Catholic position on the atonement?

I answer:

I assume you mean the Roman Catholic position. There is no “universal” (Catholic) teaching among the Christian church on this doctrine, since Christians can (and do) disagree with each other over doctrines that are not fundamental to the faith (and understanding the atonement in a very detailed way is not fundamental).

Nick didn’t really provide any support for the “Catholicity” (in either sense, i.e. as being Roman Catholic or as being universal) of his position, he just asserted it. That was one of my criticism of Nick’s presentation: he provided no coherent, cogent alternative.

Nick did seem to argue for a pure commercial satisfaction view. Whether that it is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, I leave for others to say. I cannot recall (offhand) any “infallible” teaching in Catholicism that would necessitate that, while I can think of fallible teachings within Catholicism (especially at the liberal end of Catholicism’s spectrum) that would contradict that (link).

Nick’s position certainly is not the position of the early church, as was demonstrated over and over again in the debate. In fact, the Reformers may have explained the doctrine in ways that are more clear than many of the medieval predecessors, but the basic doctrine that Christ’s death was to satisfy God’s justice on behalf of sinners is found not only in the medieval writers but in the early writers of Christianity.

-TurretinFan

Atonement Debate vs. Catholicism – Complete

April 27, 2009

“Catholic Nick” and I have concluded the debate we were having on the Atonement. One can access all the parts of that debate via an index page that I have created (link) or via the debate blog more generally (link). Between the two, the index page may be easier to use.

Enjoy!

-TurretinFan


%d bloggers like this: