Monday, April 21, 2008

Further Response regarding the Sufficiency of Christ's Death

GodIsMyJudge (Dan) has provided a further response (link) to my previous two posts (first) (second).

Dan believes I have been inconsistent. Dan insists that if a reprobate person turned from their sins and repented, Christ's blood would not save them under a consistent Calvinist model. Dan's reason for this is that Christ did not offer himself for them, and therefore they have no redemption under a consistent Calvinist position. I agree that if Christ did not offer himself for them, Christ's blood will not save them. Dan, however, seems to have conflated what will be with could be. We are speaking hypothetically, and so we need to consider the hypothetical world, not the actual world.

Dan's charge is incorrect.

First, let's be clear: regardless of whether one is Calvinist or Arminian, a reprobate person is (by definition) someone who is not saved. Thus, when we speak of a hypothetical situation in which a reprobate person is saved, we are denying that the person is (in our hypothetical world) reprobate. Furthermore, there are only two categories of people: elect and reprobate. So, if our hypothetical man is not reprobate, he is elect. We know that Christ (in consistent Calvinism) died on the cross for each and every elect person. Moreover, we know that the Trinity operates consistently with itself. Thus, the Holy Spirit regenerates the elect, and without regeneration the "reprobate" man in our hypothetical would never repent and believe. Thus, to be consistent, if we are to say that the "reprobate" man repents and believes and is saved by Christ's blood (which is the only way men are saved) we are also saying that the man was one of the elect. In short, if the reprobate man were to repent and believe it would also (for consistency) also be the case that the Holy Spirit regenerated him, and that Christ died for him. But Christ's death itself in no way has to be changed to accomodate that man. It's not as though Christ would have needed to suffer longer, have more blood mixed with water gush from his side, or have an extra prick in his crown of thorns. No. Christ's death itself (considered in itself) is sufficient for all men - and for more men than there are.

The point of the remark is something that Dan seems to have missed at least twice now. The point is that Christ's death has infinite intrinsic sufficiency. If one imagines the transaction between the Father as judge, and Christ as substitute to be a barter, Christ's blood is so valuable that in exchange for it, God would have permitted all mankind without exception to be considered as righteous.

Dan seems to be focused on the temporal aspects of Christ dying in 33 A.D., whereas this reprobate man lives now. Dan states, "Today, for someone to say that Christ can save everyone, it has to be based on what Christ actually did on the cross, not what He could have done on the cross." What Christ actually did on the cross was die. That action would not have been different if he had died only for (i.e. in the place of) Paul the Apostle, or for each and every human being. Anyone who is saved is saved by that death, and that death is a price that has intrinsic sufficiency to save anyone Christ wants to save by it. It is an offering that the Father accepts.

Perhaps Dan has misunderstood our argument. We are not saying that salvation is still open. We are not saying that there is a non-zero probability of a reprobate person being saved. The probability of the reprobate person being saved is zero (it's actually zero in Molinism and classical Arminianism as well, though that's for another day). Nevertheless, the sacrifice of Christ considered in itself, and as to its intrisic value, could save more men than there are atoms in the universe.

I'll take Dan to task for one other minor thing: the affirmation of the sufficiency of Christ's death is not a compromise to Arminianism. It is not designed to make anything more or less palatable to anyone. It is instead simply the nature of the matter. Christ death is itself sufficient for all. Because, however, Christ only offers this sacrifice for (and intercedes for) the elect, it is only they to whom the sacrifice is efficient. The Trinity works together so that all the elect believe, and receive the promise of eternal life, a promise that would be given to the reprobate were the reprobate to believe (since God cannot lie).

-TurretinFan

8 comments:

GeneMBridges said...

I'd point out also that in Calvinism the infinite sufficiency of the atonement is a reflection of the perfection of the Victim, not a statement about any benefits to everybody equally.

And in the Bible, nobody is ever told to repent and believe because Jesus died for them. It's Arminians that frame the Gospel that way - not the Bible.

Dan's argument isn't convincing because it amounts to using the sufficiency of the atonement as a warrant to believe. But for the reprobate it's not a warrant to believe, it's a warrant to inculpate them - this is true under any model of the atonement.

And as to the "infinite sufficiency" of the atonement itself, there are many kinds of infinities. Which one does anybody have in mind? Our understanding of "infinity" today isn't what it was in the days of Dort anyway. So, we're really entering the realm of philosophical theology at that point. I agree with John L. Dagg, arguments for the standard view and the pecuniary view are both addressing matters Scripture does not clearly address. What Scripture does say is that Christ died for His people and that God is commanding everybody to repent. He will save anybody that does so. That's all we need to know, and it's enough to frame a Gospel call - period, for, when a man asks, "How can I know if Christ died for me?" We can say, "Repent and place your faith in Him and Him alone" and you can know this.

Sin generates its own warrant to repent - apart from any sacrifice whatsoever. A sacrifice for sin is a provision of God's grace, but it is not the basis of our need to repent. God's command is the basis for that, for, from the beginning, man has manifestly demonstrated he understands the need to repent of sin - period. We did it before the first sacrifices foreshadowing Christ were ever made, for our parents hid themselves from God. They knew what they had done,and they knew they were guilty. Adam wanted to try to undo what he had done by eating from the Tree of Life,demonstrating that he knew then he must do something to undo what he had done. The reason God provides a sacrifice isn't to get to repent or provide a basis for it, but to demonstrate that nothing we can do ourselves can atone for our sins, a means so that, for those who do, they will have their sins covered. God makes the sacrifice, not us - that's the point. Yet it is on our very conscience to repent. The Gospel call merely makes it plain and explicit.

Frankly, I've never understood why Arminians appeal to "hypotheticals" for their version of the atonement. If God knows who will and won't believe, why send Christ to die for everybody? It makes it seem as if God doesn't know who will and who won't, so General Atonement is "just in case" atonement.

But the necessity of such an atonement is rendered moot if we simply acknowledge that the command to convert impels the Gospel, not the scope of the atonement.

natamllc said...

Gene,

good response.

However, I would ask you to do some sharpening on this portion of your words, as it seems to me to be somewhat weak:::>

genembridges: What Scripture does say is that Christ died for His people and that God is commanding everybody to repent. He will save anybody that does so. That's all we need to know, and it's enough to frame a Gospel call - period, for, when a man asks, "How can I know if Christ died for me?" We can say, "Repent and place your faith in Him and Him alone" and you can know this.

Overall, this, your whole text above, is about as strong a word, necessary in refuting Dan's words.

And for the purpose of clarity I will quote some Words and the meaning and make it mine with my own words then:::>

1Co 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
1Co 15:2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain.
1Co 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
1Co 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
1Co 15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Like one brother said, [these are the facts of our Salvation, being saved by them, both before and after the fact, for the believers!]

What does this mean then?

Paul makes clear the presupposition of Fatherhood!

Christ died for "our" sins, "brothers" and "sisters". We are all from one Father.

He was buried and parenthetically, all those guys have gone on before us guys now, into this "brotherhood"!

He rose again. Now, by the power of God alone, God Our Heavenly Father, alone, conjoins us "now" to Christ and to our "brethren", having perfectly fitted us together as one body, those gone on before Him, during His days too, mind you, and those after those days and then some even in our days and then comes the end of our days too when we pass also.

Luk 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!"
Luk 10:18 And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
Luk 10:19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.
Luk 10:20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Luk 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
Luk 10:22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."


You might say those 33 and one half years of His body life are the longest ones in all of this present creation, from the time of Adam, til' the last man out!

So, for you or me or anyone to say this...:::>

Rom 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Rom 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.
Rom 10:6 But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down)
Rom 10:7 or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
Rom 10:8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
Rom 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Rom 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Rom 10:11 For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame."
Rom 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
Rom 10:13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."



<:::...God would have already, by His Gracious Will, put His Faith in us to repent and believe the Gospel! It is what God limits Himself to do for us assuring us that when we too pass to His Glory, those of us before and after, will be the only ones He intends to be with Him and us forever in His Glory!

Of this you can be certain with a "more" sure word of Prophecy!

2Pe 1:17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,"
2Pe 1:18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
2Pe 1:19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,
2Pe 1:20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.
2Pe 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Ok Gene?

Turretinfan said...

Gene,

It is important to note that the gospel is not: "Jesus died for you," or even "Jesus loves you." If it were, in order for the gospel call to be universal, the atonement would have to be universal. But if the atonement were universal, then all would be saved.

-TurretinFan

GeneMBridges said...

Amen to my two brethren.

I've been having a similar discussion at Beggar's All with a Roman Catholic who insists that we should frame the call that way.

We simply say, "Repent! Place your faith in Christ alone!" That's it.

I have frequently asked General Redemptionists and others to find me a single text of Scripture that says that we are appeal on the basis of "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you," or "Jesus died for you." To date, nobody has been able to demonstrate the offer.

We can simply say that God has made a single once for all time atonement for sin in Christ, and that the way to know if our sins are covered is to turn to Him and Him only. He will not turn such an one away, not ever.

By the way, at the level of logical argumentation to say that we are frame the call as "Jesus died for you" is a level confusion. It confuses the nature of the atonement and the way a person knows if his sins are atoned for. That confuses, for all intents and purposes ontology (the nature of a thing) with epistemology (the way a person knows truth). The way to know if Jesus died for you (the nature of the atonement for any person) is to repent and believe the Gospel. It's really simple.

I agree with Dr. Frame that logic is a reflection of God's mind, indeed one of His attributes. The Gospel call issued from the Reformed pulpit is quite logically framed. The Arminian call is not.

Martin said...

Actually, whilst it may not be readily apparent, every man relies on a warrant to believe - although since, no man fully grasps all the implications and nuances of the gospel when they first believe, the details of the warrant may vary from person to person. But every person who puts their faith in Christ, must have reason to believe that God would show them mercy else they wouldn't do it would they? So, it seems to me that the matter of a warrant to believe *is* important. If someone who is considering the gospel happens to have heard of election and predestination then thay may well have questions about how can they put their faith in Christ if they can't be sure that He died for them? To say, in effect, 'believe, then you'll find out' seems to me to be unsatisfactory because it would not be answering that person's question.

Turretinfan said...

Martin:

It is sufficient warrant that man is commanded both to repent and believe. In other words, a command from God is sufficient ground, even if we have no reason to suppose that God will justify those who do believe.

Furthermore, it is also a sufficient response to someone who protests, "What if I am not one of the elect?" to say

"While it is true that God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, nevertheless seize hold by faith of the promise that those who come to him he will not cast out. Do not come to God demanding your share of Christ's blood, but begging God that you might be adopted as one of His sons, and share in the benefits procured by Christ."

-TurretinFan

GeneMBridges said...

To say, in effect, 'believe, then you'll find out' seems to me to be unsatisfactory because it would not be answering that person's question.

This confuses assurance with the warrant to believe. The question, as TF has plainly stated so well," is "What constitutes the warrant to believe?"

Put another way, "What impels the Gospel call?"

The scope or sufficiency of the atonement does not impel the Gospel - Amyraldians and Arminians frame it that way.

The ability of man does not frame the call - Arminians frame it that way.

Questions about their personal election and predestination do not impel the Gospel - hyperCalvinists frame it that way.

And notice the subjectivity of the way it is framed. If a man says, "If I am not able, I will not convert," he is substituting his autonomy as an excuse for his unbelief. If he asks how he can know he is elect, he is saying he will believe, if God will subjectively reveal it to him that he is elect. That's an excuse not believe. If he says, "I will only believe if I know a priori that Christ died for me," he's trying to excuse his unbelief by asking for a subjective warrant. And all of these would ultimately amount to a violation of Sola Scriptura at some point, because God is being called upon to engage in continuing revelation, especially for the man who asks to know if he is elect before he believes. If he really wanted to convert, he would just do so. So the impertinence of that question inculpates him.

The command itself impels the call - the Bible frames it that way, period. And this - and only this - is truly objective. It's like being presented with a "Tablet of Stone." God says, "Repent and believe,sinner, and you will be saved." That's a command - not just an "offer," a command. He says "Trust me; trust my command, trust my promise to save you." God says this, and we have an objective warrant. That, Martin, is the warrant to believe that the Bible gives.

And it's perfectly logical. If we ask, "How can I know...?" We're asking the epistemological question. I can know, because God has said so in His Word, not because I have a subjective sense of assurance before I convert that tells me that Christ died for me or I am one of the elect or that I have the ability to do this (eg. Libertarian Freedom). I can know if I do what God says I should do,because that's the means that God has licensed.

natamllc said...

Gene, many do ask the question.

Here's how the question is asked:

Act 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"


And then here too:

Act 14:1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed.
Act 14:2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.
Act 14:3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
Act 14:4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles.
Act 14:5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them,
Act 14:6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country,
Act 14:7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.

AND THERE THEY CONTINUED TO PREACH THE GOSPEL

The circle, see? Unbroken!!!

PREACH THE GOSPEL, BE INSTANT IN SEASON AND OUT!!!

PREACH THE GOSPEL.

Is there a debate here about this?

Well, it didn't start with me! :)

Here is where it started with me though:::>

Mat 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."


What then is the Will of Him?

His will is to do the Will of Him who sent HIM to save His people.

There are no others included in this.

I am more convinced after these many years that only the deceived are the only ones being troubled by this. Demons are not deceived by this, they shutter! Certainly the reprobate are not deceived. Why? They do not believe. God has placed nothing in them that could be deceived.

None of us "brothers" are, or, ....are you? I am not. You?

Heb 4:9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,
Heb 4:10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
Heb 4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Heb 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Heb 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
Heb 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Heb 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I have to say it. TF keeps this blogsphere a really safe place to rest my doctrines! :)

aaaaah!!