Monday, March 10, 2008

Misleading Information from "Calvin and Calvinism"

I was disappointed to see more misleading information appear over at "Calvin and Calvinism," this time on Hodge.

Hodge was a firm believer in 5 point Calvinism. This web page (link - not recommended in any way, shape, or form) tries to present a slightly different view. The problem seems to be that the person posting the article is unable to grasp the relevant theological terminology, and is unwilling to accept correction of his ignorance from actual Calvinists.

For example, the page states:
With Hodge, there are essentially three questions to be asked with reference to the nature and extent of the death of Christ:
I) Q. For whom did Christ engage as surety in order to effectually save?A. The elect
II) Q. For whom did Christ die?A. For all men generally, but for the elect especially.
III) Q. For whose sins did Christ suffer and bear punishment?A. Christ suffered and bore the punishment for the sins due to every man, that is all men, even the sins of the whole world.

This is - at best - misleading. I should note that the post author goes on in a comment to claim, "To me it would be true if I tried only to represent C Hodge as affirming unlimited sin-bearing. But I have not. I have included samples from the other side of the coin too." (Interestingly, the post author claims to have done the same thing in his recent post of selections from Calvin.)

Nevertheless, what Hodge has to say about the matter has already been previously identified by this blog, and it is opposed to the post-author's quasi-Amyraldian position (link to Hodge on Atonement).

Let's look, though, at the questions:

1. For whom did Christ engage as surety in order to effectually save?

Here the author gives the correct answer: the elect.

2. For whom did Christ die?

Here the author gives the wrong answer, or - at least - a misleading answer. Hodge does sometimes speak about Christ's death in a universal sense - but he does so as as to the nature and sufficiency of Christ's death: enough for or sufficient for all mankind.

3. For whose sins did Christ suffer and bear punishment?

Again, the author gives the wrong answer, or - at least - a misleading answer. Hodge does sometimes speak about Christ's death in relation to sins generally: but he does so as to propriety. Christ's suffering and death was an appropriate punishment for all the sins of mankind. Christ's death was suitable universally.

These are really not an excusable mistakes, because the author, one David Ponter, has been previously placed on notice regarding Hodge's plain teachings regarding the extent of Christ's work. Hodge is unambiguous in affirming the normal Calvinistic position, that Christ died for the elect alone. There are certainly incidental benefits (if we may call them such) to the non-elect, but Christ did not atone for their sins. Had he done so, they would be saved.

There are certainly isolated quotations from Hodge that might sound to the contrary, and someone who has an "unlimited atonement" ax to grind can find those isolated quotations. The problem is, at the end of the day, that's not what Hodge held, and that's not - even more importantly - what Scripture teaches.

Hopefully, soon (which may mean several or many months), I will provide something from Turretin that will address these and other errors. As Ponter knows, Turretin was opposed to the Limited/Unlimited view (see here) and (compare here).

May the Savior of all men and especially the elect be praised,



GeneMBridges said...

A simple reading of Hodge's commentary on the pertinent section of Romans 5 (which, as I recall,he cross-references with the parallel passage in 1 Corinthians) is enough to disabuse any notion of Hodge affirming anything close to the Neo-Amyraldian position, for Hodge is plain that the choice is not between Definite Atonement and Indefinite and Amyraldian atonements, but between universal atonement and definite atonement. He is therefore equally plain that any construal of the atonement in universal terms as to any extrinsic and intrinsic benefits that accrue to the non-elect necessarily leads to universalism, for such passages do not draw a distinction between universalistic atonement and universal salvation. (Perhaps you'd like to quote that section under a separate header and offer a "blow by blow" analysis. I believe it begins around p. 165.)

The only "benefit" that really
accrues from the atonement
with respect to the reprobate, according to Hodge, is the underwriting of the "Free Offer," and that is highly restrictive in his theology, and I wouldn't call that a "benefit" at all, for it actually become a judgment to them.

In Hodge's theology, he is very, very clear that sufficiency relates to the perfection of the Victim, such that the atonement is in every way perfect, suited to atone for any sin for which any man comes to Christ. Thus, no man can say that the atonement is unable to cover his sin, should he repent, due not to extrinsic "hypothetical" benefits, but due to the intrinsic perfection of it. It does not, therefore, follow that this means Christ's work covers the sin of the reprobate in some way, for Hodge is equally clear that what the atonement does is set up a covenantal obligation within the Godhead such that if even one of those for whom Christ died is not saved, via the application of the benefits of redemption, the Spirit and Father fail to uphold their end of the covenant. This is impossible. Ergo, Hodge holds to limited redemption - not some quasi Amyraldian version of it.

This is what you get when folks start trying to make historical theology our rule of faith at a functional level. They can't make the case exegetically, so they try to run to the Reformed "Fathers." How, pray tell, does this differ at all from the Roman rule of faith in practice? Perhaps that's why they don't seem to want to interact with the Romanists.

Turretinfan said...


I think Hodge may have (it certainly wouldn't surprise me, though I cannot specifically recall him saying so) said that the reprobate also receive the deferment of their punishment as an ancillary benefit from Christ's work for the elect.

Sort of like the parable of the wheat and tares: God permits the tares to grow until the wheat harvest is complete.

Ultimately it is worse for those whose punishment is deferred, because they use that time for sin. So, "benefit" is in quotation marks in my personal writing style.

Other "benefits" are the benefits generally associated with having Christian neighbors, Christian rulers, living in Christian countries, and so forth. Yet, again, because they do not put it to good use, but to evil use, it enhances their judgment.

The Jews were blessed with the promises and the law, and the Messiah, but these "benefits" only made their judgment greater.


GeneMBridges said...

That's true. I was thinking specifically of spiritual benefits related to sin and salvation itself.

Personally, since like you (I assume), I see the Noahic Covenant as an administration of the Covenant of Grace, I see even the diurnal cycle as a benefit of the cross. The NC was made with Noah and his family, elect persons, with the ultimate goal of bringing Christ into the world and,thus, the salvation of the elect. Certain things are necessary for that to happen,like, you know, springtime and harvest, night and day, etc. Thus I see the NC's benefits as, ultimately, being indexed to the atonement, since it's via the cross that the elect are saved. Since these benefits are for the everyday working of the planet itself, touching the very ecosystem, I therefore index "common grace" to the cross, by way of the NC. Make sense?

Turretinfan said...

Yes, Gene, makes sense.