Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thoughts on Progress in the Atonement Debate

As some of my readers may be aware, there is an ongoing - fairly informal - debate on the atonement in progress at Contend Earnestly. I've posted the following comment there, and I'm reposting the comment here (with minor revisions):

Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

I had made a prima facie case for the limited atonement by suggesting that "he hath perfected for ever" is a reference to ensuring the salvation of "them that are sanctified," and by suggesting that "them that are sanctified" is a reference to those for whom Christ died.

The first leg of the argument seems to be agreed by both sides, but the second leg is (apparently) denied.

Now, there are really only two options:
"them that are sanctified" refers to
a) "all those for whom the one offering was made" or
b) "less than all those for whom the one offering was made."

I've provided four reasons to adopt (a), and no one has provided any reasons to adopt (b). Thus, even if my reasons were not particularly strong reasons, they would still carry the day, because there is nothing to counterbalance them. That is how burdens of proof work: once a prima facie case has been set forward by the affirmative, the negative needs to rebut.

In other words, for the "unlimited/limited" side to prevail on this point, they could:
a) demonstrate that not one of my four explanations has any weight at all (i.e. that they are all utterly incredible); or
b) demonstrate that a "less than all" interpretation (i.e. a "subset" interpretation) has more weight than the "all" interpretation.

So, to the pending outstanding questions, I append this additional one for my opponent(s) in that debate:

Can you say with a straight face that my explantions linked to above are utterly incredible, and consequently entitled to zero weight, or alternatively can you provide a reason to suppose from the context that "them that are sanctified" refers to anything less than "all those for whom the one offering is made"?

If the answer is"no" (and I'll accept refusing to answer the question as a "no") then I think any unbiased observer would have to conclude that as to this particular verse, I've carried the day.

If the answer is "yes" (based on the first alternative), then we should just move on to another verse, because I don't think a more detailed explanation would help if the short explanation provided at the link above is really utterly incredible.

If the answer is "yes" (based on the first alternative), then it would be helpful for the readers to see that alternative explanation, so that the weight of the arguments could be compared.


No comments: