Archive for the ‘Infralapsarian’ Category

One of my Theological Opponents on the Atonement

April 19, 2008

The following is a passage on the atonement from one of my theological opponents. Can you, without doing an Internet search or looking for the answer below the quotation, discover who it is?

Here is what he says:

What you say concerning the virtue and efficacy of the price, paid by Christ, needs a more careful consideration. You say, that “the efficacy of that price, as far as merit is concerned, is infinite;” but you make a distinction between “actual and potential efficacy.” You also define “potential efficacy” as synonymous with a sufficiency of price for the whole world. This, however, is a phrase, hitherto unknown among Theologians, who have merely made a distinction between the efficacy and the sufficiency of the merit of Christ. I am not sure, also, but that there is an absurdity in styling efficacy “potential,” since there is a contradiction in terms. For all efficacy is actual, as that word has been, hitherto, used by Theologians. But, laying aside phrases, let us consider the thing itself. The ransom or price of the death of Christ, is said to be universal in its sufficiency, but particular in its efficacy, i.e. sufficient for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all sins, but its efficacy pertains not to all universally, which efficacy consists in actual application by faith and the sacrament of regeneration, as Augustine and Prosper, the Aquitanian, say. If you think so, it is well, and I shall not very much oppose it. But if I rightly understand you, it seems to me that you do not acknowledge the absolute sufficiency of that price; but with the added condition, if God had willed that it should be offered for the sins of the whole world.
So then, that, which the Schoolmen declare categorically, namely, that Christ’s death was sufficient for all and for each, is, according to your view, to be expressed hypothetically, that is, in this sense the death of Christ would be a sufficient price for the sins of the whole world, if God had willed that it should be offered for all men. In this sense, indeed, its sufficiency is absolutely taken away. For if it is not a ransom offered and paid for all, it is, indeed, not a ransom sufficient for all. For the ransom is that, which is offered and paid. Therefore the death of Christ can be said to be sufficient for the redemption of the sins of all men, if God had wished that he should die for all ; but it can not be said to be a sufficient ransom, unless it has, in fact, been paid for all.
Hence, also, Beza notes an incorrect phraseology, in that distinction, because the sin-offering is said to be absolutely sufficient, which is not such, except on the supposition already set forth. But, indeed, my friend [TurretinFan], the Scripture says, most clearly, in many places, that Christ died for all, for the life of the world, and that by the command and grace of God.
The decree of Predestination prescribes nothing to the universality of the price paid for all by the death of Christ. It is posterior, in the order of nature, to the death of Christ and to its peculiar efficacy. For that decree pertains to the application of the benefits obtained for us by the death of Christ: but his death is the price by which those benefits were prepared.
Therefore the assertion is incorrect, and the order is inverted, when it is said that “Christ died only for the elect, and the predestinate.” For predestination depends, not only on the death of Christ, but also on the merit of Christ’s death; and hence Christ did not die for those who were predestinated, but they, for whom Christ died, were predestinated, though not all of them. For the universality of the death of Christ extends itself more widely than the object of Predestination.
From which it is also concluded that the death of Christ and its merit is antecedent, in nature and order, to Predestination. What else, indeed, is predestination than the preparation of the grace, obtained and provided for us by the death of Christ, and a preparation pertaining to the application, not to the acquisition or provision of grace, not yet existing? For the decree of God, by which he determined to give Christ as a Redeemer to the world, and to appoint him the head only of believers, is prior to the decree, by which lie determined to really apply to some, by faith, the grace obtained by the death of Christ.

A brief response from me:

1. My theological opponent’s point about the difference between “actual and potential efficacy” seems to gloss over an important point. Something has potential efficacy if it is able to do something. Thus, for example, an analgesic tablet (sitting on the shelf) may have the potential efficacy to relieve a headache. Sitting on the shelf, however, the tablet does not exercise or actuate that efficacy.

Thus, “actual efficacy” or (more simply) “efficiency” is to be ascribed only to the analgesic that is actually efficacious, that alleviates pain, and not merely that has the ability to alleviate pain if properly used.

In contrast, “potential efficacy” or “sufficiency” goes to the intrinsic merit of the work of Christ. Christ’s death was sufficient not only for all the men that ever have been and ever will be, but also for an infinite number of men – more than ever there will be. Christ’s work is super-abundant in merit. As is typified by the blood poured out upon the foot of the altar, as so well explained by Thomas Boston (“5. And all the rest of the blood shall be poured out at the foot of the altar. Figuring thereby, the abundant shedding of the blood of Christ, and superabundant merit thereof, Acts, xxii. 16 ; 1 John, i. 7. As likewise, that although it be so abundant and sufficient for all, yet it is not efficient to all, but is unprofitably poured out to many, through their own contempt and incredulous induration, Mat. xxiii. 37 ; Heb. x. 29.” – Thomas Boston, Crook in the Lot, p. 26, 1841 ed. [available here] [note especially the connection between this OT type and the NT ante-type in Hebrews 10:29])

2. As to the type of sufficiency, my theological opponent is correct in understanding that we do not believe only that Christ’s death is sufficient, and that is efficiently applied by regeneration which produces faith (leaving aside the issue of the order of those, and the issue of their relation to the sacraments). Instead, we also believe that Christ’s atonement would similarly have been efficient to every man, if God had so willed it – i.e. if it had been offered on their behalf.

You see, we believe that the efficacy of Christ’s blood extends further than to merely working when applied: it secures the elect. In that respect it is a redemption – a ransom – a payment. The elect have been purchased by Christ as his peculiar possession (Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. ).

3. My theological opponent’s comment, “For if it is not a ransom offered and paid for all, it is, indeed, not a ransom sufficient for all,” is incorrect because it assumes that the payment was commercial, when (in fact) it was penal. The payment made was not “this much for that many” but instead it was life for life. It was not that Christ had to spill 1000 drops of blood for 1000 souls, but that he had to give his life to save all those that were his. As it is written, “The good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep,” (John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.)

4. My theological opponent’s position that Scripture plainly states various things may be fully correct, but the question that divides us not whether Scripture plainly states thus-and-such, but how the words used in those passages are to be understood. For example, it would be absurd to interpret the words for “the world” and “to love” in the same sense in the expression, “For God so loved the world” and in the expression, “if any man love the world.” Both are plain statements of Scripture, and yet there sense must be properly understood if we are to make sense of them.

5. At this point, we see my theological opponent taking a position on an order and the decrees of God, which we might take to be a statement about the order of the decrees. My theological opponent has taken a position that is not merely infralapsarian (i.e. it does not merely subordinate predestination to the fall), but goes further – placing predestination in a place subordinate to the work of Christ. This order makes little sense, because Christ’s work is not the end but the means: and the predestination to glory with God is the end.

6. My theological opponent insists that those for whom Christ died were predestinated, though not all of them. We recognize that this is his position, but we cannot understand why (from Scripture) it is thought to follow. Indeed, Scripture reverses (as my theological opponent claims) the order and says that Christ went to the cross with joy in mind, which could be none other than our salvation (Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.).

7. My theological opponent finally argues, “What else, indeed, is predestination than the preparation of the grace, obtained and provided for us by the death of Christ, and a preparation pertaining to the application, not to the acquisition or provision of grace, not yet existing? For the decree of God, by which he determined to give Christ as a Redeemer to the world, and to appoint him the head only of believers, is prior to the decree, by which lie determined to really apply to some, by faith, the grace obtained by the death of Christ.” (emphasis added) The answer there is that predestination is the reason for Christ’s death – it is not the preparation of previously obtained grace, instead it is the decree that the grace would be both obtained (by the work of Christ) and applied (by the work of the Spirit) to the elect. Scripture confirms this, placing Christ’s obtaining of our inheritance logically subsequent to our predestination (Eph 1:7-11 7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:).

Conclusion
It’s worth pointing out that I’ve taken out the name of the person to whom this theological opponent of mine was responding and substituted my own name, not because I adopt everything that person may have said, but because this theological opponent of mine is generally setting forth a position that I could take. The name of that person opposed by my theological opponent was Perkins. Perhaps with that further clue, you can now identify my theological opponent. If you have not, I’ll spell it out for you. His name was Arminius. His theology was not supralapsarian, it was not infralapsarian, it was not even Amyraldian, it was Arminian. Nevertheless, in contrast to the supralapsarian position, it shared the commonality with infralapsarian of placing the decree to predestine after the fall, it shared the commonality with the Amyraldian of placing the decree to predestine after the decree to atone, and it differentiates itself from the Amyraldian in a way that is not reflected in the discussion above – by placing the decree to predestine subsequent to a recognition of those who would (will?) respond to the gospel call.

If you scanned down here to see who the theological opponent was, consider reading the arguments without knowing who the people are. If you insist on knowing who they are, the name is in the previous paragraph.

Praise and thanks be to our Substitute!

-Turretinfan

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Classifying Baxter and a Free Offer to my Theological Opponents

April 18, 2008

Classifying Baxter

Phillip Johnson has an article (to which Trey Austin thoughtfully directed me) in which he provides a fairly helpful and quick guide to some distinctions among Evangelical views of the order of decrees, ranging from Supralapsarianism to Arminianism.

In the section on what Johnson prefers to call Amyraldism (as opposed to Amyraldianism), Johnson states: “Puritan Richard Baxter embraced this view, or one very nearly like it. He seems to have been the only major Puritan leader who was not a thoroughgoing Calvinist. Some would dispute whether Baxter was a true Amyraldian. (See, e.g. George Smeaton, The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991 reprint], Appendix, 542.) But Baxter seemed to regard himself as Amyraldian.” (emphases omitted)

Free Offer to my Theological Opponents

This is interesting, because it seems that certain folks have been quoting Baxter on the issues related to the atonement, as though he and they were in agreement. This may have lead to certain misconceptions from my side, so – in the interest of fairness – I want to extend an offer (a well-meant offer) to those who have been quoting Baxter in support of their view of the atonement, as well as to any of my other theological opponents that have expressed a view that Christ died for each and every man without exception.

The offer is this:

Try to explain in what sense you think it is appropriate to say that Christ died “for” each and every person.

– Do you mean that Christ’s death had an intrinsic worth that was sufficient (if it were to be applied) for the atonement of the elect and reprobate together? If so, you’ll find us in agreement.

– Do you mean that Christ’s death was to no eternal benefit to the reprobate, but only (from an eternal standpoint) increased their guilt by making them in essence doubly guilty. If so, you’ll find us in agreement.

– Do you mean that Christ’s death had some temporal, incidental benefit to the reprobate, as the benefits of Christ’s death for the elect’s sake overflow to the rest of mankind? If so, you’ll find us in agreement.

– Or do you mean something more than that? Are you taking the position that Christ actually redeemed the reprobate? Are you taking the position that Christ’s death actually expiated the guilt of the sins of the reprobate? Are you taking the position that Christ’s death actually reconciled the reprobate to God? Are you taking the position that the sins of the reprobate were taken away, having been nailed to the cross? Are you taking the position that the reprobate died with Christ on the cross and were raised with Christ in his resurrection? Are you taking the position that Christ, as high priest, offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father on behalf of the reprobate? Are you taking the position that the Father does not accept Christ’s sacrifice for some for whom Christ offered that sacrifice? Are you taking the position that Christ actually substituted himself for the reprobate? Are you taking the position that Christ actually paid for the sins of the reprobate? Are you taking the position that Christ purchased the reprobate by his death? If so, we disagree.

It seems that answering these questions should help us determine our differences, if indeed there are differences.

This free offer, well-intentioned is open to all without exception (including Arminians, Amyraldians, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and anyone else who calls themsevles Christians). Also, if someone wants to respond by email (so as not to make the responses public), my email is accessible through my profile.

-Turretinfan


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