Archive for the ‘Limited Atonement’ Category

Innocent X vs Sound Doctrine

March 18, 2015

In 1653, Innocent X released the constitution “Cum Occasione” (May 31, 1653)(full text here). In that document, there were errors said to have been extracted from the Augustinus of Cornelius Jansen. These are also printed Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma (1957)(Dz. 1092-1096)(link)

1. Some of God’s precepts are impossible to the just, who wish and strive to keep them, according to the present powers which they have; the grace, by which they are made possible, is also wanting.

Declared and condemned as rash, impious, blasphemous, condemned by anathema, and heretical.

2. In the state of fallen nature one never resists interior grace.

Declared and condemned as heretical.

3. In order to merit or demerit in the state of fallen nature, freedom from necessity is not required in man, but freedom from external compulsion is sufficient.

Declared and condemned as heretical.

4. The Semipelagians admitted the necessity of a prevenient interior grace for each act, even for the beginning of faith; and in this they were heretics, because they wished this grace to be such that the human will could either resistor obey.

Declared and condemned as false and heretical.

5. It is Semipelagian to say that Christ died or shed His blood for all men without exception.

Declared and condemned as false, rash, scandalous, and understood in this sense, that Christ died for the salvation of the predestined, impious, blasphemous, contumelious, dishonoring to divine piety, and heretical.

The condemnation of these five statements was then affirmed by Alexander VII (Constitution, “Ad sacram beati Petri Sedem,” October 16, 1656 and Constitution “Regiminis apostolicis,” February 15, 1665)(more discussion and links here)

It is interesting to note that Innocent X appears to be affirming perfectionism (contra 1), denying irresistible grace (contra 2 and 4), denying compatible free will (contra 3),and denying limited atonement (contra 5), and on each of these points appears to err, since Scriptures teach that we continue to struggle with sin in this life, Scripture teaches irresistible grace, Scripture teaches that free will is compatible with divine necessity, and Scripture teaches that Christ died specifically for the elect.

– TurretinFan

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High Priest Argument for Definite Atonement aka Particular Redemption aka Limited Atonement

February 6, 2014

Sometimes it is hard to explain to people why the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death is relevant to the question of the scope of the atonement: i.e. whether the atonement was made for all, hypothetically all, or particularly the elect.  One way to explain this is by reference to the fact that Christ is not just the lamb of God, whose death takes away the sins of the world, but that Christ is also the High Priest who makes the offering.  The following provides an easy explanation of this argument, so that you can present it to your friends, without requiring them to know everything about the Old Testament sacrificial system.

At the heart of it, the offering of a lamb as a burnt offering involved killing the lamb and roasting it in fire.  That’s quite similar, as hopefully you’ve noticed, to the core of having lamb for dinner.  What then differentiates lamb chops from a sacrifice?

It’s not the fact that the lamb can still be eaten in the dinner context.  Yes, there were “whole burnt offerings” where the entire animal was fully consumed by the fire, but the more typical context of animal sacrifices involved the cooked animal being eaten – partly by the priest and partly by the person offering the sacrifice. That’s why the apostles taught gentile Christians, you may recall, to buy their meat without asking whether it was a sacrifice to one of the gods.  So, it is not the degree of cooking that distinguishes the sacrifice from the dinner.

Instead, what distinguishes the two is the ritual, especially the prayer.  The prayer asks God to accept the animal as a sacrifice and consequently to accept the person for whom the sacrifice is offered.

Furthermore, sacrifice could be made for one person or a group of people.  For example, when sacrifices were made on behalf of Israel as a nation, sometimes lots of animals were killed, but there was not a one-to-one relationship between the animals and the people of Israel.  Likewise, in some cases a sacrifice might involve more than one animal, but only one person.  How could these situations be distinguished?

Again, the answer lies in the ritual – particularly in the prayer.  The prayer is what distinguishes a sacrifice from one person from a sacrifice for a family, tribe, or nation.

Now, apply that principle to Christ’s death.  For whom does Christ pray? Does Christ pray for all mankind indiscriminately? Or does Christ pray for all the believers – all the elect?  Does Christ specifically pray for those given to him by the Father?

In theological terms, this is the “impetration” aspect of the atonement – for whom does Jesus ask the Father for forgiveness of sins and eternal life? Without any request, the sacrifice is just a tasty meal.  With the request, the sacrifice is made for the people identified in the request.

Now, someone might try to claim that Jesus asks for life for everyone, but the Father turns Jesus down except in the case of those who make the difference and autonomously cooperate in some way.  Such an idea, though, lacks any Scriptural testimony and drives a wedge between the Father and the Son, which contradicts the idea that “I and my Father are one.”

Indeed, the Scriptures do not describe that Jesus prays for each and every individual, that the Father would accept His sacrifice on their behalf.  For example, Jesus says: “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. … For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:1, 2, and 8-10)

-TurretinFan

Charles Hodge Against 4 Point Calvinism

January 16, 2014

From Volume 2 of his Systematic Theology (link):

S: 4. Hypothetical Redemption.

According to the common doctrine of Augustinians, as expressed an the Westminster Catechism, “God, having . . . . elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.” In opposition to this view some of the Reformed theologians of the seventeenth century introduced the scheme which is known in the history of theology as the doctrine of hypothetical redemption. The principal advocate of this doctrine was Amyraut (died 1664), Professor in the French Protestant Seminary at Saumur. He taught, (1.) That the motive impelling God to redeem men was benevolence, or love to men in general. (2.) From this motive He sent His Son to make the salvation of all men possible. (3.) God, in virtue of a decretum universale hypotheticum, offers salvation to all men if they believe in Christ. (4.) All men have a natural ability to repent and believe. (5.) But as this natural ability was counteracted by a moral inability, God determined to give his efficacious grace to a certain number of the human race, and thus to secure their salvation.

This scheme is sometimes designated as “universalismus hypotheticus.” It was designed to take a middle ground between Augustinianism and Arminianism. It is liable to the objections which press on both systems. It does not remove the peculiar difficulties of Augustinianism, as it asserts the sovereignty of God in election. Besides, it leaves the case of the heathen out of view. They, having no knowledge of Christ, could not avail themselves of this decretum hypotheticum, and therefore must be considered as passed over by a decretum absolutum. It was against this doctrine of Amyraut and other departures from the standards of the Reformed Church that, in 1675, the “Formula Consensus Helvetica” was adopted by the churches of Switzerland. This theory of the French theologians soon passed away as far as the Reformed churches in Europe were concerned. Its advocates either returned to the old doctrine, or passed on to the more advanced system of the Arminians. In this country it has been revived and extensively adopted.

At first view it might seem a small matter whether we say that election precedes redemption or that redemption precedes election. In fact, however, it is a question of great importance. The relation of the truths of the Bible is determined by their nature. If you change their relation you must change their nature. If you regard the sun as a planet instead of as the centre of our system you must believe it to be something very different in its constitution from what it actually is. So in a scheme of thought, if you make the final cause a means, or a means the final cause, nothing but confusion can be the result. As the relation of election to redemption depends on the nature of redemption the full consideration of this question must be reserved until the work of Christ has been considered. For the present it is sufficient to say that the scheme proposed by the French theologians is liable to the following objections.

Arguments against this Scheme.

1. It supposes mutability in the divine purposes; or that the purpose of God may fail of accomplishment. According to this scheme, God, out of benevolence or philanthropy, purposed the salvation of all men, and sent his Son for their redemption. But seeing that such purpose could not be carried out, He determined by his efficacious grace to secure the salvation of a certain portion of the human race. This difficulty the scheme involves, however it may be stated. It cannot however be supposed that God intends what is never accomplished; that He purposes what He does not intend to effect; that He adopts means for an end which is never to be attained. This cannot be affirmed of any rational being who has the wisdom and power to secure the execution of his purposes. Much less can it be said of Him whose power and wisdom are infinite. If all men are not saved, God never purposed their salvation, and never devised and put into operation means designed to accomplish that end. We must assume that the result is the interpretation of the purposes of God. If He foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, then events correspond to his purposes; and it is against reason and Scripture to suppose that there is any contradiction or want of correspondence between what He intended and what actually occurs. The theory, therefore, which assumes that God purposed the salvation of all men, and sent his Son to die as a means to accomplish that end, and then seeing, or foreseeing that such end could not or would not be attained, elected a part of the race to be the subjects of efficacious grace, cannot be admitted as Scriptural.

2. The Bible clearly teaches that the work of Christ is certainly efficacious. It renders certain the attainment of the end it was designed to accomplish. It was intended to save his people, and not merely to make the salvation of all men possible. It was a real satisfaction to justice, and therefore necessarily frees from condemnation. It was a ransom paid and accepted, and therefore certainly redeems. If, therefore, equally designed for all men, it must secure the salvation of all. If designed specially for the elect, it renders their salvation certain, and therefore election precedes redemption. God, as the Westminster Catechism teaches, having elected some to eternal life, sent his Son to redeem them.

3. The Scriptures further teach that the gift of Christ secures the gift of all other saving blessings. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. vii 32.) Hence they are certainly saved for whom God delivered up his Son. The elect only are saved, and therefore He was delivered up specially for them, and consequently election must precede redemption. The relation, therefore, of redemption to election is as clearly determined by the nature of redemption as the relation of the sun to the planets is determined by the nature of the sun.

4. The Bible in numerous passages directly asserts that Christ came to redeem his people; to save them from their sins; and to bring them to God. He gave Himself for his Church; He laid down his life for his sheep. As the end precedes the means, if God sent his Son to save his people, if Christ gave Himself for his Church, then his people were selected and present to the divine mind, in the order of thought, prior to the gift of Christ.

5. If, as Paul teaches (Rom. viii. 29, 30), foreknowledge precedes predestination, and if the mission of Christ is the means of accomplishing the end of predestination, then of necessity predestination to eternal life precedes the gift of Christ. Having, as we are taught in Eph. i. 4, 5, predestinated us to the adoption of sons, God chose us before the foundation of the world, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. This is the order of the divine purposes, or the mutual relation of the truths of redemption as presented in the Scriptures.

6. The motive (so to speak) of God in sending his Son is not, as this theory assumes, general benevolence or that love of which all men are equally the objects, but that peculiar, mysterious, infinite love in which God, in giving his Son, gives Himself and all conceivable and possible good. All these points, however, as before remarked, ask for further consideration when we come to treat of the nature and design of Christ’s work.

And again:

Hypothetical Universalism.

A class of theologians in the Reformed Church who did not agree with the Remonstrants against whom the decisions of the Synod of Dort, sustained by all branches of the Reformed body, were directed, were still unable to side with the great mass of their brethren. The most distinguished of these theologians were Amyraut, La Place, and Cappellus. Their views have already been briefly stated in the sections treating of mediate imputation; and of the order of decrees and of the design of redemption. These departures from the accepted doctrines of the Reformed Church produced protracted agitation, not in France only but also in Holland and Switzerland. The professors of the University of Leyden. Andreas Rivet and Frederick Spanheim, were especially prominent among the opposers of the innovations of the French theologians. The clergy of Geneva drew up a protest in the form of a Consensus of the Helvetic Churches which received symbolical authority The doctrines against which this protest was directed are, (1.) That God, out of general benevolence towards men, and not out of special love to his chosen people, determined to redeem all mankind, provided they should repent and believe on the appointed Redeemer. Hence the theory was called hypothetical universalism. (2.) That the death or work of Christ had no special reference to his own people; it rendered the salvation of no man certain, but the salvation of all men possible. (3.) As the call of the gospel is directed to all men, all have the power to repent and believe. (4.) God foreseeing that none, if left to themselves, would repent, determines of his own good pleasure to give saving grace to some and not to others. This is the principal distinguishing feature between the theory of these French theologians and of the Semi-Pelagians and Remonstrants. The former admit the sovereignty of God in election; the latter do not.

This system necessitates a thorough change in the related doctrines of the gospel. If fallen men have power to repent and believe, then original sin (subjectively considered) does not involve absolute spiritual death. If this be so, then mankind are not subject to the death threatened to Adam. Therefore, there is no immediate imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity. As they derive a polluted nature from him, which is the ground of the displeasure of God, they may so far be said to share in his sin. This is mediate imputation. Again, if the death of Christ does not render certain the salvation of his people, then it was not vicarious in the proper sense of that word; nor did He die as a substitute. His satisfaction assumes of necessity the character of a general display, a didactic exhibition of truth. At least this is the logical tendency, and the actual historical consequence of the theory. Moreover, if Christ did not act as the substitute and representativc of his people, there is no ground for the imputation of his righteousness to them. The French theologians, therefore, denied that his active obedience is thus imputed to believers. The merit of his death may be said to be thus imputed as it is the ground of the forgiveness of sin. This of course destroys the idea of justification by merging it into an executive act of pardon. Moreover, the principles on which this theory is founded, require that as every other provision of the gospel is general and universal, so also the call must be. But as it is undeniable that neither the written word nor the preached gospel has extended to all men, it must be assumed that the revelation of God made in his works, in his providence, and in the constitution of man, is adequate to lead men to all the knowledge necessary to salvation; or, that the supernatural teaching and guidance of the Spirit securing such knowledge must be granted to all men. It is too obviously inconsistent and unreasonable to demand that redemption must be universal, and ability universal as the common heritage of man, and yet admit that the knowledge of that redemption and of what sinners are required to do in the exercise of their ability, is confined to comparatively few. The “Formula Consensus Helvetica,” therefore, includes in its protest the doctrine of those “qui vocationem ad salutem non sola Evangelii praedicatione, sed naturae etiam ac Providentiae operibuis, citra ullum exterius praeconium expediri sentiunt,” etc. [574] It is not wonderful, therefore, that this diluted form of Augustinianismn should be distasteful to the great body of the Reformed Churches. It was rejected universally except in France, where, after repeated acts of censure, it came to be tolerated.

Francis of Rome on Atheists and Redemption

June 2, 2013

Francis of Rome was recently reported speaking about good works and atheism:

Wednesday’s Gospel speaks to us about the disciples who prevented a person from outside their group from doing good. “They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

“Doing good” the Pope explained, is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”

Where is Francis of Rome correct?

Atheists can do civil good. They can outwardly conform to the law of God in a variety of ways. They can (and many do) give to the poor. They can (and nearly all do) abstain from killing their neighbors. These things do not fully comply with the law of God, because they do not arise from right motives. Nevertheless, we sometimes refer to these deeds as good in view of their outward conformity to the law of God.

That we do good to our neighbors is written in the law. The second great commandment commands us to do good to our neighbor. Moreover, the parable of the good Samaritan commends to us the activities of an unbeliever, as an example of what our behavior should be. Thus, there is Biblical warrant for using the actions of unbelievers as examples of (partial, outward) compliance with God’s law.

Atheists have the law of God written on their heart. They have a conscience. That which may be known of God is manifest to them, for God has shown it to them. That conscience may be seared. The image of God may be damaged, distorted, and perverted, but it is there.

Where has Francis of Rome erred?

Francis was wrong to say that all are redeemed. The Israelites were redeemed – the Egyptians were not. By analogy, the elect are redeemed, the reprobate are not.

Francis was wrong to say that we are all “children of God of the first class.” There may be some sense in which all humans are God’s children, but not in the highest sense. Recall that Jesus himself compared the Jews to God’s children and the non-Jews to dogs. There is a distinction between the people of God and those outside the people of God.

Response to Some Objections

Some of Rome’s apologists will respond, like Bryan Cross:

It is important, as you mentioned, to distinguish between redemption accomplished objectively, and redemption applied subjectively. Pope Francis was speaking of the former when saying that Christ has redeemed all men, and therefore not implying universalism.

Bryan may be right to insist on that distinction, but Francis is not making that distinction – he’s arguing that the “this Blood makes us children of God.” The consistent reference to “us” in Francis’ lecture is everyone, and specifically not just Roman Catholics. The blood acting on subjects to make them something is not simply objective redemption accomplished, contrary to Bryan’s wish.

Jason Stellman, recent apostate/revert to Rome (it is unclear if he was baptized RC or not) put it this way:

Again, it’s not that “our sins are paid for” in the sense Protestants think of it (i.e., God imputing our guilt to Christ, pouring out his wrath upon him, and then imputing his righteousness to us). So the reason redemption accomplished doesn’t imply redemption applied is that the former doesn’t mean for Catholics what it does for Protestants. Jesus did not suffer divine anger and retribution for a certain group of people who then cannot but be saved. Rather, he recapitulated Adamic humanity in himself by offering a sacrifice that pleased the Father more than our sins displeased him. When seen in this way, redemption applied ceases to be a foregone conclusion and actually becomes something we must actively pursue through faith and the sacraments.

Expressing the recapitulation theory this way, however, doesn’t rescue Francis. Francis is talking about something that has been applied to people, not something that is merely available to people.

Jimmy Akin similarly says:

So far so good: Christ redeemed all of us, making it possible for every human to be saved.

That is not what Francis said, though. Francis did not say simply that it was possible for them to be saved, but that this redemption had made them children of God “of the first class.”

Jimmy Akin continued:

We can be called children of God in several senses. One of them is merely be being created as rational beings made in God’s image. Another is by becoming Christian. Another sense (used in the Old Testament) is connected with righteous behavior. And there can be other senses as well.

Here Pope Francis may be envisioning a sense in which we can be called children of God because Christ redeemed us, even apart from embracing that redemption by becoming Christian.

Had Francis not added “of the first class,” then this avenue might be available. Yet Francis talked about them being made children of the first class.

Mark Shea took umbrage with the way the story was reported in HuffPo (and who can blame him). However, Shea (and Andrew Preslar) helpfully pointed out that CCC 605 specifically states, “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer,” quoting from the regional council of Council of Quiercy of 853, as reported in Denzinger’s Sources at item 624 (Latin numbering, corresponding to item 319 in the English). That original source stated:

316 Chap. 1. Omnipotent God created man noble without sin with a free will, and he whom He wished to remain in the sanctity of justice, He placed in Paradise. Man using his free will badly sinned and fell, and became the “mass of perdition” of the entire human race. The just and good God, however, chose from this same mass of perdition according to His foreknowledge those whom through grace He predestined to life [ Rom. 8:29 ff.; Eph. 1:11], and He predestined for these eternal life; the others, whom by the judgment of justice he left in the mass of perdition,* however, He knew would perish, but He did not predestine that they would perish, because He is just; however, He predestined eternal punishment for them. And on account of this we speak of only one predestination of God, which pertains either to the gift of grace or to the retribution of justice.

317 Chap. 2. The freedom of will which we lost in the first man, we have received back through Christ our Lord; and we have free will for good, preceded and aided by grace, and we have free will for evil, abandoned by grace. Moreover, because freed by grace and by grace healed from corruption, we have free will.

318 Chap. 3. Omnipotent God wishes all men without exception to be saved [1 Tim. 2:4] although not all will be saved. However, that certain ones are saved, is the gift of the one who saves; that certain ones perish, however, is the deserved punishment of those who perish.

319 Chap. 4. Christ Jesus our Lord, as no man who is or has been or ever will be whose nature will not have been assumed in Him, so there is, has been, or will be no man, for whom He has not suffered- although not all will be saved by the mystery of His passion. But because all are not redeemed by the mystery of His passion, He does not regard the greatness and the fullness of the price, but He regards the part of the unfaithful ones and those not believing in faith those things which He has worked through love [Gal. 5:6], because the drink of human safety, which has been prepared by our infirmity and by divine strength, has indeed in itself that it may be beneficial to all; but if it is not drunk, it does not heal.

Setting aside the problems of this nearly Arminian/Amyraldian view of the atonement, notice that this text does state that Jesus suffered in some sense for all, but simultaneously states that “all are not redeemed.”

Moreover, redemption is (in the Bible) explicitly expressed in terms of distinction:

Revelation 14:3-4
And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

Moreover, redemption is expressed as the basis for the effectual call:

Zechariah 10:8
I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.

Stellman tries to defend the claim of universal redemption by citing:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:15-20).

The problem with an appeal to that text is that if Stellman is saying that “all things” there refers to each and every human being that ever was or will be, and he is saying that this passage refers not just to a desire but something actually done, then he’s stuck with saying that God reconciles all men to himself and is at peace with them. In what sense, then, could they said to be “children of wrath”? No, the attempted justification cannot stand.

Finally, note Francis’ concluding prayer:

“Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible. Amen.”

In this prayer (to Rita) he asks (of her, not of God) grace to do something that allegedly by created nature and redemption they already can do, namely good works. Moreover, Francis insists on a universal love of God, and asserts that we are all children of God, as he had already done in his homily. I would just note finally how this teaching by Francis eviscerates the doctrine of adoption.

John 1:12
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

1 John 3:1-2
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Francis is wrong on redemption and wrong on adoption.

-TurretinFan

Sincere Offer, Election, and Limited Atonement

August 24, 2011

My friend Paul has posted a response to David Ponter’s response to James Anderson’s comments on Limited Atonement and the Free Offer. It’s a very detailed and worth reading. Allow me to post some shorter thoughts on the topic, namely the objection:

Is the “free offer” of the gospel really “sincere” if Jesus only died for some men and not all? If there is no atonement available for them, the offer seems insincere.

This is a frequent objection, particularly from Amyraldians and Arminians. If you think that the gospel is “Jesus died for you,” then this objection makes a lot of sense. If we’re supposed to tell people indiscriminately that Christ died for them, but he didn’t, that doesn’t seem very sincere.

Scriptures, however, don’t present the gospel that way. In Scripture, the gospel is expressed in terms of repenting of your sins and believing on (i.e. trusting in) Jesus Christ for salvation. If you trust in Christ and repent of your sins, God will have mercy on you.

There is a world of difference between those two messages. One message makes an unconditional assertion regarding what Christ has done. The other message makes a conditional assertion about what God will do.

Yet, even among those who will grant to us that the gospel is not, “Jesus died for you,” some people still don’t like the idea of salvation being offered to those for whom God has not made any provision. Indeed, our Amyraldian and Arminian friends sometimes urge on us the idea that such a conditional offer is not “sincere” unless God has made preparations for those people.

The mere absence of enough provision for everyone to be saved, however, doesn’t explain this objection. Suppose a company offers to “anyone who is willing to come down here and listen to us explain the benefits of our new tractor,” an incentive of “$5, just for coming down and listening to the talk.” No one would consider it “insincere” if the company doesn’t actually have $5 times the number of people who will hear the offer, so long as they have $5 times the number of people that they think will accept the offer.

So, as long as the provision is sufficient for those who will “accept” the offer, we don’t view the offer as insincere. Since, under the Calvinist framework, God has made provision for all who will come to Christ, the offer of the gospel should also be considered to be sincere by this standard.

The intuition behind the objection that remains, however, is that an “offer” doesn’t seem sincere, if you have no intention of giving the offered thing to the person to whom you are offering it. For example, when a child offers to share an ice cream cone, it sometimes happens that this is simply an imitation of a parent’s offer to share the parent’s cone. If the parent were to try to accept the child’s offer, the child might greedily refuse to allow the parent to have a bite. So, the child has only offered to share the cone because the child thought the offer would be refused. Such an offer is insincere.

Of course, by this time we are now dealing with the kind of objection that an Amyraldian, or someone like Ponter, cannot consistently make. After all, the problem with the child’s offer is not that he doesn’t have a cone to share, but that he does not intend to give up the cone. The Amyraldian admits that God does not intend to save the non-elect. Therefore, whether or not a provision is made seems utterly moot.

Nevertheless, for those who insist that God must intend to save, we may still legitimately question the weight of this objection. Isn’t it enough that God intends to save everyone who “accepts” the “offer”? The idea that God must intend to save all those whom he knows will refuse seems absurd when expressed that way. Thus, we may conclude that while such an objection may have some limited intuitive appeal, it does not hold up to intellectual scrutiny.

-TurretinFan

Sungenis: Defending Purgatory By Attacking Limited Atonement

July 4, 2010

In my previous post (link to post) I highlighted Sungenis’ admission that Roman Catholicism cannot answer with any certainty even such a basic question about Purgatory as whether it is a place or state. In the same oddly titled article (link to article), Sungenis purports to respond to Dr. White’s criticism of the Roman view of Purgatory with respect to the Atonement.

The bulk of the discussion, however, is simply an attack on Limited Atonement. It includes one of the typical misrepresentations of the Reformed position (the allegation that we or Calvin held that “Christ went to hell for [the elect].” In his Institutes, Calvin explicitly ties the credal expression “descended into hell” to Christ’s suffering on the cross, rejecting the idea that it refers to somewhere he went after his death and even responding to the objection that it would lead to the creed expressing the phrase out of order:

Those who — on the ground that it is absurd to put after his burial what preceded it — say that the order is reversed in this way are making a very trifling and ridiculous objection. f441 The point is that the Creed sets forth what Christ suffered in the sight of men, and then appositely speaks of that invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he underwent in the sight of God in order that we might know not only that Christ’s body was given as the price of our redemption, but that he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man.

– John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16.10

The Continental Reformed likewise teach:

Question 44. Why is there added, “he descended into hell”?

Answer: That in my greatest temptations, I may be assured, and wholly comfort myself in this, that my Lord Jesus Christ, by his inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors, and hellish agonies, in which he was plunged during all his sufferings, (a) but especially on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and torments of hell. (b)

(a) Ps.18:5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. Ps.18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Ps.116:3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Matt.26:38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. Heb.5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Isa.53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Matt.27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (b) Isa.53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

– Heidelberg Catechism, Question/Answer 44

While the Scottish Reformed teach:

Question 50: Wherein consisted Christ’s humiliation after his death?

Answer: Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which has been otherwise expressed in these words, he descended into hell.

– Westminster Larger Catechism, Question/Answer 50

(see also Pastor Danny Hyde’s historical discussion)

Thus, it is misrepresentation of the Reformed position (either in General or as “Calvinistic” in particular) to say that we teach that Jesus “went to hell” for our sins. As to his humanity, he suffered on the cross and he remained under the power of death for three days. That’s our view, not the typical misrepresentation.

After all the criticism of the Reformed view of the atonement is complete, Sungenis remarkably offers only general characterizations of what his own view of the atonement is and no link at all between that view of the atonement and Purgatory:

The Catholic doctrine of the Atonement is the only one that answers ALL of the relevant Scripture passages. I go through them all in my book Not By Bread Alone. God predestinated, but not without man’s free will. God desires all men to be saved even though not all men will be saved. Christ’s atonement was given to the whole world, and from it all men have the potential to be saved. Christ did not go to hell to pay for man’s or the elect’s sins; rather, Christ propitiated the Father and made salvation possible for all men. All of these are taught in Scripture, and we arrive at these truths by combining ALL of what Scripture teaches.

Notice how, even in this brief paragraph, Sungenis again manages to insert his misrepresentation of the Reformed position on the atonement as a contrast to what he calls the “Catholic doctrine of the Atonement.”

While I understand that he is referring to the reader to his book (where one would hope to find a more detailed explanation), it’s worth noting that he simply offers a series of assertions, none of which really address the issues that Dr. White (and other Reformed critics) raise against Purgatory.

Also note the claim: “we arrive at these truths by combining ALL of what Scripture teaches.” This is a comment that is obviously tailored toward a “Protestant” audience. But is it true? Does Sungenis arrive at his view of the atonement by combining all of what Scripture teaches? It seems unlikely that this is really how Sungenis arrives at his view – though it may be how the more “Arminian” listeners in the audience may have arrived at their view of the atonement.

It’s easy to look at the explanation that Sungenis has provided and think that his goal is to trick Arminian hearers into thinking that the Roman Catholic view of the Atonement is essentially the same as their view of the Atonement by emphasizing certain differences between Roman theology and Reformed theology (as lampooned). I hope that’s not his intention, but it is certainly a danger in his approach.

Because he has not actually presented a full and relevant discussion of the Roman Catholic view of Christ’s work and its relation to the forgiveness and remission of the guilt and punishment of sins, Sungenis has not begun to answer the criticisms to which he purports to be responding in the article. In short, the article falls short of a rebuttal. Instead, some stones are thrown at a misrepresentation of the Reformed position.

-TurretinFan

What Catholic Answers Isn’t Telling You About the New Mass Translation

June 3, 2010

Over the past few months I’ve seen a number of requests for funding from Catholic Answers to support what is billed as the “new translation” of the Order of the Mass. Some of the earlier requests seemed vague as to why this is important. The latest email claims that the issue is that the current translation is “clunky” whereas the mass is supposed to be “sublime.”

On the one hand, one can hardly imagine this same conversation happening 50 years ago, when it had been Rome’s practice for centuries to essentially use Latin only (plus the Greek words kyrie eleison) in the order of the mass (with a few exceptions, such as the homily). To that time, one would expect to see reused the arguments against the Reformers as to why it is better not to place the mass into English.

Nevertheless, it was put into English and, as Catholic Answers’ recent email has noted, they (the mysterious “they” that makes decisions for the English-speaking portion of Rome’s church) did not simply reuse the existing parallel English that had been prepared for the aid of English-speaking priests. Instead, a new translation was provided.

What Catholic Answers hasn’t been mentioning in the emails I’ve seen (though perhaps I’m not privy to all their communications) is that there are theological issues with the translation that has been in use for the last few decades. One prominent example is the issue of the very wording of the consecration.

The order in use offered four alternative “Eucharistic prayers” but all of the alternatives stated:

Take this, all of you, and drink from it;
this is the cup of my blood,
the blood of the new and everlasting covenant.
It will be shed for you and for all
so that sins may be forgiven.
Do this in memory of me.

(source – see the “institutive narrative” section)

The new translation of the mass fixes this erroneous statement with respect to the atonement. In relevant part it states:

TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT,
FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD,
THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT,
WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY
FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.
DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.

(caps in source)

This is a theologically significant change, and one that has been grist for the mill of sedevacantists, as can be seen at the following link from a sedevacantist site (link to arguments for the invalidity of the new mass).

While it may be true that the order of mass in use for decades in the English-speaking world has been clunky, has Catholic Answers’ mission ever been to improve the style of American Romanism? One possible explanation is that at least some of the arguments of the sedevacants against the new mass are compelling enough to force a revision that reverts the language to the more traditional form.

I’ve addressed one issue, an issue that was brought to my attention by Peter Dimond’s debate with William Albrecht on the subject (link to debate). I’ve also addressed this theological issue because it has significance to the issue of the atonement.

The words “shed for many for the remission of sins” should remind us:

1) That the shedding of Christ’s blood, not the drinking of his blood, is the way by which the guilt of sins is remitted. Not “drunk … for the remission of sins” but “shed … for the remission of sins.”

While we are taught that we must eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ to have life in us:

John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

It is because Christ is our source of life, not because it is the eating and drink that provides forgiveness. It is the shedding of the blood that provides the forgiveness.

2) The only way that sins are forgiven is by the shedding of Christ’s blood.

Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

3) The sacrifice of Christ is a time-bound event. It was future at the time of the institution of the sacrament, though it is past now.

Hebrew 9:26 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.

4) Christ’s aim in having his blood shed was to remit the sins of many, not all.

Thomas Aquinas explains it this way:

Objection 8: Further, as was already observed, Christ’s Passion sufficed for all; while as to its efficacy it was profitable for many. Therefore it ought to be said: “Which shall be shed for all,” or else “for many,” without adding, “for you.”

Reply to Objection 8: The blood of Christ’s Passion has its efficacy not merely in the elect among the Jews, to whom the blood of the Old Testament was exhibited, but also in the Gentiles; nor only in priests who consecrate this sacrament, and in those others who partake of it; but likewise in those for whom it is offered. And therefore He says expressly, “for you,” the Jews, “and for many,” namely the Gentiles; or, “for you” who eat of it, and “for many,” for whom it is offered.

– Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Third Part, Question 78, Article 3 (Objection/Response 8)

– TurretinFan

Arminius’ Supposed Impact on Calvinism

December 5, 2009

Dan (aka GodIsMyJudge) has provided a post alleging another impact of Arminius on Calvinism (link to his post). The first part of his post I’ll pass over, since I feel my previous post (link to my previous post) has adequately addressed that issue.

However, Dan states:

TF notes well the WCF is open to supra, but WCF is also open to unlimited atonement. It was written such that both 5 point Calvinists and 4 pointers would be satisfied. TF himself has noted Arminius’ influence on Amyraldianism. So that’s another way in which Arminius impacted Calvinism.

No, the WCF is not open to unlimited atonement. The WCF states:

To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.

– Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 8, Paragraph 8

Similarly, the Westminster Larger Catechism explains:

Q. 59. Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?

A. Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.

– Westminster Larger Catechism, Question/Answer 59

So, no. While Arminius may have been an influence on Amyraut and the school of Saumur, the Amyraldian position is excluded by the Westminster Confession of Faith.

-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.

Hays on the Atonement

September 14, 2009

Steve Hays at Triablogue has a succinct response to a commonly heard Wesleyan argument against limited atonement (link).


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