Friday, April 18, 2008

Classifying Baxter and a Free Offer to my Theological Opponents

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

17 comments:

Ben Douglass said...

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?

Yes. I would add that Christ's death merited not only the graces which save the elect, but also the graces whereby the reprobate do whatever spiritual good they do before going to hell. Christ's death merited all the grace which ever has been and ever will be given. This would include both the final perseverance of St. Therese and the conversion of Tertullian.

On a related issue, James White has been asking people to define what they mean by asserting that God has a salvific desire towards the non-elect. Below is the explanation I sent him.

Antecedently, God wills the salvation of all men, but consequently, only the salvation of the elect. To will a thing antecedently means to desire a thing according as it is good in itself, independent from all the concrete circumstances in which one finds it. To will a thing consequently means to desire a thing both in itself and in its particular concrete circumstances. Thus, for example, a boxer may have an antecedent desire to drink water, but he will not have a consequent desire to drink water during a match because he knows it will cause cramps. Again, I have an antecedent desire to get a good night's sleep, but I may not wish to sleep at all tonight because of some urgent business which demands my attention.

God wills the salvation of all men antecedently because salvation is an intrinsically good thing. However, for the sake of a greater good He chose to save only certain men and to allow the rest to sin and perish. Suppose, for instance, God desired to sanctify a martyr through the torments of His martyrdom. For this reason God might permit a Roman soldier to degenerate into the sort of person who tortures Christians.

All human acts, good and evil, bear some realtion to the totality of the plan by which God has decreed to glorify Himself in creation, redemption, damnation, and salvation. God does not have a consequent and efficacious desire to save the reprobate because they fit into the concrete circumstances of this plan precisely by doing evil and being damned. In their sin and damnation, they serve a greater good and accomplish God's purposes.

Turretinfan said...

Ben:

Thanks for your comments.

I know I asked a lot of questions, but I would also be interested in your answers to the other questions I posed - especially since obviously we would all agree with you 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.

Incidentally, I think most of the Reformers would at least mostly (that double "most" sounds bad, but I cannot think of a handy way to revise it) agree with the antecedent/consequent distinction mentioned.

But the distinction must be made carefully: after all, it is not that God has any internal conflict among desires. Instead it is that these senses of "desire" are distinct - they are speaking about different things.

Repentance and faith is commanded by God as something pleasing to him, something he - in that sense - desires.

But we must distinguish between that and saying that God necessarily desires that Mr. Osteen repent and believe some time between now and the time he dies.

-TurretinFan

Martin said...

Hello,
I'm a little confused by the comments here. Also, I'm not sure I fully understand the terms antecedent and consequent in this context but they don't seem any different to what I've heard described as God's secret and revealed wills?

Anyway,my question to Ben is:
You seem to be implying that God has a desire in some sense (what you call antecedently) for the salvation of all (and hence including the reprobate) not because he has any salvific desires to them as individual image-bearers but for no other reason than because, implicitly, the means of salvation itself is good. A sort of mere velleity for the concept but not for the people themselves? Am I reading you right?

Martin said...

T'fan,

I agree that there is no conflict with God but as I read Ben's definition of antecedent and consequent it seems to me, specifically with regard to the examples, that the whole point is that there *are* apparently contradictory desires. God desires something because it is in accordance with His character but that doesn't mean he has purposed to carry out every desire. It seems to me that His consequent will would be God's wise choice of the greatest good out of a range of choices which seem good to Him. So, I'm left unsure as to whether you and Ben are in agreemtn on this or not?

Martin said...

Hi Tfan,

I'm afraid I'm a little confused by your last two paras. You seem to be saying that God desires repentance from the reprobate - because repentance is pleasing to Him. But then in your next paragraph you seem to be implying, similar to Ben, that this does not however, mean that God desires that any individual reprobate repents. That seems odd. If I'm reading you right it would seem to imply you don't think God, in any sense, loves the reprobate - unless in the penultimate paragraph you are speaking of the antecedent will and in the last paragraph of the consequent will? But then, if true, that just raises the question what desire do you think God has in His antecedent will towards the repentance of individual reprobates?

Turretinfan said...

"God desires something because it is in accordance with His character but that doesn't mean he has purposed to carry out every desire."

It's important to distinguish the senses in which we speak of "desire." God's desire for his moral law to be obeyed is a divided sense of the term "desire," because it considers an act in isolation, and with reference only to the law, rather than as part of a whole, and with reference to God's glory, his mercy, and his wrath.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"You seem to be saying that God desires repentance from the reprobate - because repentance is pleasing to Him."

Yes. In the abstract. Note that I think that using the term "desire" for that in today's English can be confusing. Repentence is something we do that is in accordance with the law of God, something pleasing to God in that sense, and something he "desires" in that sense, i.e. as a thing in itself and considered as to its intrinsic value.

"But then in your next paragraph you seem to be implying, similar to Ben, that this does not however, mean that God desires that any individual reprobate repents. That seems odd."

It may seem odd because "desire" is being used in a different sense. Before we were talking about the preceptive will: i.e. the moral law. Now we are talking about the secret will of God: i.e. the decree of Providence.

"If I'm reading you right it would seem to imply you don't think God, in any sense, loves the reprobate - unless in the penultimate paragraph you are speaking of the antecedent will and in the last paragraph of the consequent will?"

God does give many good things to the reprobate. Nevertheless, any love God has for the reprobate (leaving aside whether such benefits that ultimately leave the reprobate worse off should be considered "love") is hatred by comparison to the love God has for the elect.

"But then, if true, that just raises the question what desire do you think God has in His antecedent will towards the repentance of individual reprobates?"

If I follow Ben's explanation correctly (and perhaps I have not), the "antencedent will" in his explanation corresponds to the decree of Providence. In the decree of Providence, it is self-evident that God does not desire the repentence of the reprobate, or he would decree it. God's choice reveals God's desires.

-TurretinFan

Ben Douglass said...

Dear Francis,

Certainly, I would be happy to answer your other questions.

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?

Yes.

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.

I distinguish. The reprobate consists of men who are never justified or who, having been justified, lose their justification through sin and persist in this sin until death. The reprobate are capable of achieving sanctity and doing supernaturally good works while in a state of justification. Under the operation of actual grace, they are even capable of doing supernaturally good works while they are in a state of sin.

The sacrifice of Christ purchased all these graces (justification, sanctification, good works, etc.) which the reprobate receive before going to hell. The question, then, is "will a reprobate man's eternal punishment be greater or lesser on account of having received these graces?" The pains of hell are meted out in proportion to the gravity of the individual's sins. So, the question above is formally equivalent to the question, "would the reprobate man have sinned more gravely or less gravely if he had never received the grace of God?"

It seems to me that the answer to this question will vary between individuals. For two opposing principles are at work. On the one hand, these graces will surely prevent the man from committing many sins. On the other hand, the man will be more culpable for the sins he does commit, having known the grace of God. So, the answer to thins question is known by God alone, and I think it should suffice to say that some of the damned are punished less on account of the cross of Christ and some are punished more.

Ben Douglass said...

Are you taking the position that Christ actually redeemed the reprobate?

In the sense that Christ superabundantly satisfied God's majesty which was offended by the sins of men (elect and reprobate) and demons, yes. In the sense that Christ purchased the reprobate with His blood, no.

Are you taking the position that Christ's death actually expiated the guilt of the sins of the reprobate?

Christ's death actually expiated the guilt of whatever of their sins God forgives. Christ's death did not expiate the guilt of the sins that they are damned for. If a murderer repents, and God forgives him, but he then commits adultery, dies, and goes to hell for adultery, then Christ's death expiated the guilt of murder, which was forgiven, but not the guilt of adultery, for which he was damned.

Are you taking the position that Christ's death actually reconciled the reprobate to God?

Some of the reprobate are never reconciled to God, and some are reconciled for a time, but are estranged at the point of death.

Are you taking the position that Christ, as high priest, offered himself as a sacrifice to the Father on behalf of the reprobate?

Yes, but not in order to secure their salvation: rather, to secure for them the particular graces mentioned above.

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?

By these words, I assume you mean "was Christ imputed with the guilt of the sins of the reprobate?" The answer is no. Christ was not imputed with the guilt of anyone, elect or reprobate.

I know that is not a complete answer to all your question, but I think it should be enough.

Turretinfan said...

Ben,

Thanks very much for your answers to those questions. Perhaps you'd agree with me that you seem to fall more towards the Thomistic end of the Roman Catholic spectrum.

There are certainly points over which I would disagree with the positions you've set forth. Nevertheless, I don't think this combox is the place for that debate.

It continues to impress me that you have taken the time to answer these questions, whereas those who seem to make this particular doctrinal issue their hobby horse, have not.

Still, perhaps they are simply delaying in answering because they have so much to say.

I'm waiting eagerly to see whether they will be as forthcoming as you have been. Thanks very much!

-TurretinFan

Ben Douglass said...

Dear Francis,

To say that I fall more towards the Thomist end of the spectrum is an understatement. I am a rigorist Thomist die-cast in the mold of Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

As for why your opponents have been less forthcoming with answers to your questions, I think it is because they don't have answers. No Protestant who believes in penal substitution can affirm unlimited atonement without formal contradiction. If one believes in penal substitution, then the question, "did Christ die for the reprobate?" is equivalent to the question "was Christ imputed with and punished for the sins of the reprobate?" Put in those terms, the answer to the question has to be no. If Christ was punished for these sins, how could they ever be punished again? To say that someone will have to pay the penalty for sins whose penalty Christ already paid, would be an insult to the Cross of Christ. It would, indeed, deny the sufficiency of Christ's atonement. This is why particular redemption is a necessary logical consequence of penal substitution.

Wes said...

I have never seen the atonement put the way the Ben Douglass put it in his last reply. What an interesting question, Was Christ imputed with and punished for the sins of the reprobate? Would the answer be yes, but since it was not applied to the reprobate they still suffer eternal damnation. Yet does not penal substitution mean that full payment was made for ALL sins, so would the advocate for unlimited atonement then say that yes but God does not accept the payment for the reprobate since they did not repent and believe?

Turretinfan said...

Wes, that is an interesting puzzle. It - or something close to it - was in my mind when I formulated the original question that Ben answered.

Martin said...

As for why your opponents have been less
forthcoming with answers to your questions, I think it is because they don't
have answers.


Although Ben said this, my comment is directed more to T'fan. Actually, I think
there could be any number of reasons and one should not be too quick to jump to
conclusions, e.g. they haven't read it, they are tired of the debate, they have
decided that your mind is too set and that there's no point trying to persuade
you, they recognise that responding might tempt them to sin, a desire to please
God not man, other, greater priorities, etc. The list of possible explanations
is almost endless. Be careful not to see the lack of response as evidence of
vindication. Ask yourself why you feel that their lack of response is of such
importance to you that feel the need to comment. (obviously this is a rhetorical
question)

No Protestant who believes in penal substitution can affirm unlimited
atonement without formal contradiction.



I'm always wary of a charge of contradiction. The problem is that, when it
comes to grand biblical themes, there is always an element of mystery beyond
our comprehension and our finite capabilities mean that we can't be sure that
we've thought everything through from every angle, kind of like Donald
Rumsfeld, we don't know what we don't know. (There's even a scripture that speaks
of this problem: Pr. 18:17). On top of that I believe that scripture teaches
that our motives are never entirely pure, even when we do something from a
genuine motive to please the Lord, self-pleasing motives can be mixed in with
them and the problem is that the "heart is deceitful beyond measure"
so we're rarely even aware that this is so. Consequently, instead of trusting
only Christ for all things, we can easily lapse into seeking meaning,
happiness, acceptance, justification and a host of other things elsewhere. So,
for example, without realising it, we can seek to defend a particular doctrine
because we find a sense of identity, belonging or comfort in it - even though
we may think we are in the right and that our desire is only to please
God. This is when contradiction can readily jump to mind as a way to avoid
dealing with a challenge to our way of thinking. This is why some people get
angry when their doctrines are attacked, they may claim it is a 'holy anger'
because they are zealously guarding the right interpretation of God's Word
whereas in reality the anger is simply exposing that they have a 'functional
Lord' other than Christ. (Check out:
PS 27 One Thing for a
little more on this). I’m not directing this at you – just explaining why I’m
wary of claims of contradiction. A contradiction is not just something that appears
contradictory to our finite minds, unaware, as they are, of some of the
presuppositions that we bring into a debate. For it to be a contradiction it
must affirm and deny the same thing, at the same time in the same
respect.


If one believes in penal substitution, then the question, "did Christ
die for the reprobate?" is equivalent to the question "was Christ
imputed with and punished for the sins of the reprobate?"



It is necessary to import some unstated presuppositions to draw this
conclusion. I believe the position of some Calvinists has been that, whilst
Christ's death was in some sense for the reprobate, it was certainly not
in the same effectual sense as it was for the elect. Others I believe have
argued a stronger distinction between the scope of Christ's death and that of
regeneration, a sort of 'redemption purchased' and a 'redemption applied' such
that the scope of the former is seen as being wider than that of the latter.
Thus your argument would only be accepted by those who hold to certain
presuppositions about the nature of the atonement.


Put in those terms, the answer to the question has to be no. If Christ was
punished for these sins, how could they ever be punished again? To say that
someone will have to pay the penalty for sins whose penalty Christ already
paid, would be an insult to the Cross of Christ. It would, indeed, deny the
sufficiency of Christ's atonement. This is why particular redemption is a
necessary logical consequence of penal substitution.


Again, some would disagree and say that is a necessary consequence of
conceiving the atonement as more of a commercial rather than penal substition.
See for example Dabney on this:


In proof of the general correctness of this theory of the extent of the
Atonement, we should attach but partial force to some of the arguments advanced
by Symington and others, or even by Turretin—e. g., That Christ says, He died
"for His sheep," for "His Church," for "His
friends," is not of itself conclusive. The proof of a proposition does not
disprove its converse. All the force which we could properly attach to this
class of passages is the probability arising from the frequent and emphatic
repetition of this affirmative statement as to a definite object. Nor would we
attach any force to the argument, that if Christ made penal satisfaction for
the sins of all, justice would forbid any to be punished. To urge this argument
surrenders virtually the very ground on which the first Socinian objection was
refuted, and is incompatible with the facts that God chastises justified
believers, and holds elect unbelievers subject to wrath till they believe.
Christ’s satisfaction is not a pecuniary equivalent, but only such a one as
enables the Father, consistently with His attributes, to pardon, if in His
mercy He sees fit. The whole avails of the satisfaction to a given man is
suspended on His belief. There would be no injustice to the man, if he
remaining an unbeliever, his guilt were punished twice over, first in his
Savior, and then in Him. See Hodge on Atonement, page 369.


(taken from Dabneys lectures here
under Strict Calvinistic - Inconclusive Proofs)

So we see that the
pressupositions upon which you base your arguments are not accepted by all
Calvinists.

Turretinfan said...

Martin,

There may be other reasons, and I certainly leave the possibilities open. I've stated my own thoughts - my opinions.

As for Dabney, he spoke quite carefully. From what I have been able to determine, Dabney was a fully confessional Calvinist, despite what he perceived to be the weaknesses in the arguments he discusses in your quotations above.

I've discussed some perhaps more germane section of Dabney here.

-Turretinfan

Ben Douglass said...

I apologize for implying anything about the motives of any of the persons participating (or not participating) in this discussion.

Mark Farnon (Tartanarmy) said...

Are you taking the position that Christ's death actually expiated the guilt of the sins of the reprobate?

Ben Douglass said...
Christ's death actually expiated the guilt of whatever of their sins God forgives. Christ's death did not expiate the guilt of the sins that they are damned for.

But then Ben also responds to,

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?

Ben Douglass said...
By these words, I assume you mean "was Christ imputed with the guilt of the sins of the reprobate?" The answer is no. Christ was not imputed with the guilt of anyone, elect or reprobate.
--------------

So, what is Ben saying when he says Christ does actually expiate the “guilt” for whatever sins God forgives, but then says Christ does not actually expiate the guilt of anyone, elect or reprobate.

Anyway, I know this thread is old news but I just found it!, and as someone who has had numerous discussions on these matters and with people from this thread I just had to make a comment.

But, it is at least fresh to see that a Roman Catholic did at least try and answer your questions, and even though he rightly sees the contradiction in what some perceive as the Protestant view, and of course he is correct, but I just wanted to point out the contradiction in his own view!

Mark aka Tartanarmy