Sunday, April 20, 2008

Response to Counter-Analogies on the Atonement

In response to my earlier post regarding One of my Theological Opponents on the Atonement, Dan (GodIsMyJudge) has provided some objections:

Dan wrote:

"I found your analgesic tablet example inapplicable to Arminius’ point. Your using the tablet comes after someone having provided the tablet by putting it on your shelf. But in your view, the decree of election comes before Christ’s death. So while the tablet (after it’s been put on your shelf) is still able to alleviate your headache, Christ’s death (after Christ died) is unable to save the reprobate."

a) It may be important to differentiate between historical order and decretal order. Certainly, with analgesics and with Christ's death vis-a-vis post-Apostolic believers, the order of history is that provision is made and then the provision is applied. Obviously, there is no difference between the Arminian and Calvinist as to the historical order for the post-apostolic NT era.

b) The decree of election doesn't change the intrinsic power of Christ's sacrifice. Christ's sacrifice is still of infinite merit - even though it has been provided to save a finite, definite number of people.

c) The counter-analogy is unfair, because it compares a situation without any election (analgesic on shelf) to a situation with election. To fix that, we would need to add election to the analgesic part of the analogy.

Suppose that a pharmacist has a huge supply of analgesics behind the counter. Suppose also that 5 men come to him with headaches. Finally, suppose that he elects to give 4 of them the analgesic, but withholds the analgesic from the fifth person. Has the pharmacist's election affected the analgesic's properties in any way? Of course not. The analgesic still has the same intrinsic ability to cure headaches.

To make the analogy closer, though, we may need to stretch our minds a bit. Suppose instead of the pharmacist, we have a miracle worker, and instead of a headache we have blind men. Now, suppose that the miracle worker becomes aware of blind men in his city. Suppose he takes pity on three of the blind men who happen to beg on his street. Therefore, the miracle worker creates a staff that will heal the blindness of anyone who it touches. The miracle worker than takes the staff and touches those three blind men and no one else. Has the miracle worker's election (even prior to the provision of the staff) affected the staff's intrinsic properties such that it could not heal the other blind men in the city, if the miracle worker wanted to use the staff that way? Of course not. The staff still has the same intrinsic ability to cure blindness.

Even so, God has shown favor on some of mankind. He has provided for them His Son's blood - blood of infinite intrinsic efficacy. Yes, the blood WILL not do the reprobate any eternal good, but it WOULD do the reprobate good if the reprobate turned from his sin and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, it WOULD do the reprobate good if Christ had offered it for the reprobate, in short it WOULD work for the purpose of expiating the sins of the reprobate if it were applied to that use.

Dan continued: "A Calvinist saying Christ is able to save the reprobate (or that Christ’s death was sufficient for them) is kinda like me saying I am able to speak French, because I could have taken French in college (even though I didn’t)."

This is also not a fair analogy, because we conventionally take "able to speak French" to mean something other than intrinsic ability to learn French. To make the analogy fair, we need to change the situation into one in which one elects not to exercise an intrinsic ability one already has.

Thus, for example, suppose that the King of your local jurisdiction declares that "He who speaks French shall die," (and "pardon my French" is not a defense). Well, if - in that case - you had carefully studied French until you were thoroughly familiar with the language, you might say that you were able to speak French, and that the law (and your fear of death) do not affect your intrinsic ability to speak French.

But, in any event, the comparison to linguistic skills is somewhat foreign to Scripture. Instead, the better comparison is to that of a penal price. Christ's death is a price that would have been accepted by the Father not only for the elect, but for all those for whom it was offered if it had been offered for more than for the elect.


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