Thursday, June 25, 2009

Calvin and Limited Atonement - Impetration Argument

Calvin never heard of the acronym "TULIP" and never argued with an Arminian. The Arminian controversy and the "five points of Calvinism" that were presented by the Reformed folks against the Arminians came after Calvin's death. After (and perhaps because of) the Arminian controversy, there arose a smaller controversy between the Calvinists and the Amyraldians. The Amyraldians, classically speaking, assert that Christ died for each and every person on the hypothesis of faith, thereby denying limited atonement. A few folks both then and now have sought to obtain Calvin's mantle for their Amyraldianism, and the Calvinists have responded with a variety of proofs of Calvin's Calvinism.

One of the proofs of Calvin's Calvinism is the fact that the death of Christ is tied to the impetration of the death of Christ, and Calvin recognizes that the impetration of the death of Christ was only for the elect. Therefore, the proof concludes, Calvin also implicitly recognized that the death of Christ was only for the elect.

In order to understand the argument, one must understand the sacrificial system. After all, the atonement is principally a sacrifice to satisfy divine Justice and reconcile us to God. In the sacrificial system, the priest kills an animal and presents it to God. The priest presents it to God on behalf of an individual or group. We call the animal the victim and the person on whose behalf the sacrifice is offered the beneficiary. The killing of the animal is the death of the victim, its presentation to God is the impetration of the death of the victim.

In Christ's sacrifice, Christ is both the priest and victim. We, the elect, are the beneficiaries. Now, Christ is a sufficient sacrifice to be offered for as large a group of beneficiaries as Christ wishes from one person to more people than there are atoms in the universe. But when we say that Christ is "offered for us" we are saying that Christ impetrated his death on our behalf, rendering God propitious toward us. In that sense, Christ is the propitiation for our sins.

At least one of the neo-Amyraldians has acknowledged that if Calvin links (as inseparable) the death of Christ and the impetration of Christ's death, then this proof suffices to show that Calvin held limited atonement. However, this man (Steve Costley of "Controversial Calvinism") has argued that Calvin does not so link Christ's death and impetration (link to his argument).

Mr. Costley makes his argument from a passage of Calvin that is not actually germane to the issue of the relation of Christ's death and its impetration. When we examine the places where Calvin considers the issue, we do see that he links them in an inseparable way.

There are at least a few places where this can be seen in Calvin. One way that it can be seen is in Calvin's discussion of assurance:
This so great an assurance; which dares to triumph over the devil, death, sin, and the gates of hell, ought to lodge deep in the hearts of all the godly; for our faith is nothing, except we feel assured that Christ is ours, and that the Father is in him propitious to us.
- Calvin, Commentary on Romans 8:34 (link)

As you can see from this example, Calvin places assurance in the linking of us being united with Christ and the Father being "in him propitious to us." The Amyraldian and Arminian views essentially allege that God is already propitious toward all mankind. If Calvin held such a view, then knowledge of God's propitiation would not be a ground of assurance of salvation, since God is also propitious (according to the Amyraldians and Arminians) to everyone, even those in hell.

Calvin goes on to make this link even stronger in his subsequent comments in the same section:
Who intercedes, etc. It was necessary expressly to add this, lest the Divine majesty of Christ should terrify us. Though, then, from his elevated throne he holds all things in subjection under his feet, yet Paul represents him as a Mediator; whose presence it would be strange for us to dread, since he not only kindly invites us to himself, but also appears an intercessor for us before the Father. But we must not measure this intercession by our carnal judgment; for we must not suppose that he humbly supplicates the Father with bended knees and expanded hands; but as he appears continually, as one who died and rose again, and as his death and resurrection stand in the place of eternal intercession, and have the efficacy of a powerful prayer for reconciling and rendering the Father propitious to us, he is justly said to intercede for us.
- Calvin, Commentary on Romans 8:34 (link)

Notice how in this discussion Calvin explains that Christ's death and resurrection "stand in the place of eternal intercession." It is hard to imagine Calvin using stronger linking short of saying that the death and impetration are inseparable. Calvin actually equates here the death of Christ and the intercession of Christ, and Calvin is clear (elsewhere, as well as here) that the intercession is specific to the elect. Calvin is essentially saying that Christ intercedes for us by dying for us.

Calvin says the same thing in his Institutes:
Yet we do not dream that he intercedes for us in suppliant prostration at the Father's feet; but we apprehend, with the apostle, that he appears in the presence of God for us in such a manner, that the virtue of his death avails as a perpetual intercession for us; yet so as that, being entered into the heavenly sanctuary, he continually, till the consummation of all things, presents to God the prayers of his people, who remain, as it were, at a distance in the court.
- Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XX, Section XX (John Allen, translator)

This becomes even more clear when the remainder of that section, and particularly the quotations from Augustine are considered:
Now, the cavil of the sophists is quite frivolous, that Christ is the Mediator of redemption, but believers of intercession; as if Christ, after performing a temporary mediation, had left to his servants that which is eternal and shall never die. They who detract so diminutive a portion of honour from him, treat him, doubtless, very favourably. But the Scripture, with the simplicity of which a pious man, forsaking these impostors, ought to be contented, speaks very differently; for when John says, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ," does he only mean that he has been heretofore an Advocate for us, or does he not rather ascribe to him a perpetual intercession? What is intended by the assertion of Paul, that he "is even at the right hand of God, and also maketh intercession for us?" And when he elsewhere calls him the "one Mediator between God and man," does he not refer to prayers, which he has mentioned just before? For having first asserted that intercessions should be made for all men, he immediately adds, in confirmation of that idea, that all have one God and one Mediator. Consistent with which is the explanation of Augustine, when he thus expresses himself: "Christian men in their prayers mutually recommend each other to the Divine regard. That person, for whom no one intercedes, while he intercedes for all, is the true and only Mediator. The apostle Paul, though a principal member under the Head, yet because he was a member of the body of Christ, and knew the great and true High Priest of the Church had entered, not typically, into the recesses within the veil, the holy of holies, but truly and really into the interior recesses of heaven, into a sanctuary not emblematical, but eternal, — Paul, I say, recommends himself to the prayers of believers. Neither does he make himself a mediator between God and the people, but exhorts all the members of the body of Christ mutually to pray for one another; since the members have a mutual solicitude for each other; and if one member suffers, the rest sympathize with it. And so should the mutual prayers of all the members, who are still engaged in the labours of the present state, ascend on each other's behalf to the Head, who is gone before them into heaven, and who is the propitiation for our sins. For if Paul were a mediator, the other apostles would likewise sustain the same character; and so there would be many mediators; and Paul's argument could not be supported, when he says, 'For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; in whom we also are one, if we keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.'" Again, in another place: "But if you seek a priest, he is above the heavens, where he now intercedes for you, who died for you on earth."
- Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XX, Section XX (John Allen, translator)

Again, we see the close linking (both in Augustine and Calvin) of Christ's death and intercession. Hopefully, these quotations suffice to illustrate the point, although perhaps others could be adduced if someone were inclined to be argumentative or to doubt the clarity of Calvin's comments above.

Now, while this may settle the question of historical theology as to what Calvin (and Augustine) believed about the scope and extent of the atonement, it is more important to note that Calvin is rightly dividing the word of truth here. It is more important that this doctrine of the limited atonement is Scriptural, than that it was held by Calvin or Augustine. We don't accept the doctrine because those men taught it: we hold that doctrine because Scriptures teach it. I hope that no one will make the mistake of reading this and concluding that we hold to the doctrine of limited atonement simply because Calvin (or Augustine) taught it. No, they are aids to our understanding, but Scripture alone is our rule of faith.

-TurretinFan

UPDATE: Some readers may want to compare Beveridge's translation of Calvin's Institutes at the relevant section:
Moreover, the Sophists are guilty of the merest trifling when they allege that Christ is the Mediator of redemption, but that believers are mediators of intercession; as if Christ had only performed a temporary mediation, and left an eternal and imperishable mediation to his servants. Such, forsooth, is the treatment which he receives from those who pretend only to take from him a minute portion of honour. Very different is the language of Scripture, with whose simplicity every pious man will be satisfied, without paying any regard to those importers. For when John says, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous," (1 John 2:1), does he mean merely that we once had an advocate; does he not rather ascribe to him a perpetual intercession? What does Paul mean when he declares that he "is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us"? (Rom. 8:32). But when in another passage he declares that he is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), is he not referring to the supplications which he had mentioned a little before? Having previously said that prayers were to be offered up for all men, he immediately adds, in confirmation of that statement, that there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man. Nor does Augustine give a different interpretation when he says, "Christian men mutually recommend each other in their prayers. But he for whom none intercedes, while he himself intercedes for all, is the only true Mediator. Though the Apostle Paul was under the head a principal member, yet because he was a member of the body of Christ, and knew that the most true and High Priest of the Church had entered not by figure into the inner veil to the holy of holies, but by firm and express truth into the inner sanctuary of heaven to holiness, holiness not imaginary, but eternal, he also commends himself to the prayers of the faithful. He does not make himself a mediator between God and the people, but asks that all the members of the body of Christ should pray mutually for each other, since the members are mutually sympathetic: if one member suffers, the others suffer with it. And thus the mutual prayers of all the members still laboring on the earth ascend to the Head, who has gone before into heaven, and in whom there is propitiation for our sins. For if Paul were a mediator, so would also the other apostles, and thus there would be many mediators, and Paul's statement could not stand, ëThere is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;' in whom we also are one if we keep the unity of the faith in the bond of peace," (August. Contra Parmenian, Lib. 2 cap. 8). Likewise in another passage Augustine says, "If thou requirest a priest, he is above the heavens, where he intercedes for those who on earth died for thee," (August. in Ps. 94) imagine not that he throws himself before his Father's knees, and suppliantly intercedes for us; but we understand with the Apostle, that he appears in the presence of God, and that the power of his death has the effect of a perpetual intercession for us; that having entered into the upper sanctuary, he alone continues to the end of the world to present the prayers of his people, who are standing far off in the outer court.
- Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XX, Section XX (Henry Beveridge, translator)

Or Battles' translation:
This babbling of the Sophists is mere nonsense: that Christ is the Mediator of redemption, but believers are mediators of intercession. As if Christ had performed a mediation in time only to lay upon his servants the eternal and undying mediation! They who cut off so slight a portion of honor from him are, of course, treating him gently! Yet Scripture speaks far differently, disregarding these deceivers, and with a simplicity that ought to satisfy a godly man. For when John says, "If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Christ Jesus"[1 John 2:1], does he mean that Christ was an advocate for us once for all, or does he not rather ascribe to him a constant intercession? Why does Paul affirm that he "sits at the right hand of the Father and also intercedes for us" [Romans 8:34]? But when, in another passage, Paul calls him "the sole mediator between God and man" [1 Timothy 2:5], is he not referring to prayers, which were mentioned shortly before [1 Timothy 2:1-2]? For, after previously saying that intercession is to be made for all men, Paul, to prove this statement, soon adds that "there is one God, and... one mediator" [1 Timothy 2:5].
Augustine similarly explains it when he says: "Christian men mutually commend one another by their prayers. However, it is he for whom no one intercedes, while he intercedes for all, who is the one true Mediator." The apostle Paul, although an eminent member under the Head, yet because he was a member of Christ's body, and knew that the greatest and truest priest of the church had not figuratively entered the inner precincts of the veil to the Holy of Holies but through express and steadfast truth had entered the inner precincts of heaven to a holiness real and eternal, also commends himself to the prayers of believers [Romans 15:30; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3]. And he does not make himself mediator between the people and God, but he asks that all members of Christ's body mutually pray for one another, "since the members are concerned for one another, and if one member suffers, the rest suffer with it" [1 Corinthians 12:25-26, Cf. Vg.]. And thus the mutual prayers for one another of all members yet laboring on earth rise to the Head, who has gone before them into heaven, in whom "is propitiation for our sins" [1 John 2:2, Vg.]. For if Paul were mediator, so also would the rest of the apostles be; and if there were many mediators, Paul's own statement would not stand, in which he had said: "One God, one mediator between God and men, the man Christ" [I Tim. 2:5], "in whom we also are one" [Romans 12:5], "if we maintain unity of faith in the bond of peace" [Ephesians 4:3]. Likewise, in another passage Augustine says: "But if you seek a priest, he is above the heavens, where he is making intercession for you, who died for you on earth." [Cf.Hebrews 7:26 ff.]
But we do not imagine that he, kneeling before God, pleads as a suppliant for us; rather, with the apostle we understand he so appears before God's presence that the power of his death avails as an everlasting intercession in our behalf [cf. Romans 8:34], yet in such a way that, having entered the heavenly sanctuary, even to the consummation of the ages [cf. Hebrews 9:24 ff.], he alone bears to God the petitions of the people, who stay far off in the outer court.
- Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Chapter XX, Section XX (Ford Lewis Battles, translator)

8 comments:

natamllc said...

First things first; you wrote:

"....As you can see from this example, Calvin places assurance in the linking of us being united with Christ and the Father being "in him propitious to us." The Amyraldian and Arminian views essentially allege that God is already propitious toward all mankind. If Calvin held such a view, then knowledge of God's propitiation would not be a ground of assurance of salvation, since God is also propitious (according to the Amyraldians and Arminians) to everyone, even those in hell...."

In my view, from where I am sitting and engaged in this continually debated matter, that cited above is the crux of it. The nut being cracked, the meat eaten, it should settle it.

But, lo, these many years!!! No, it just seems not to be that simple or clear. As I have said before, here again I will say it, unless the light goes on in one's head the thinking is truly darkened and so it makes no sense to belabor the point. Although, we must contend for the Faith once delivered to the Saints whenever it is wise and proper!

As for that that you said later on in this article, it seems some have clearly missed the fact that these men came to give what they learned from Scripture and the Holy Ghost, not that they are adding to the Scripture and becoming aides to the work of the Holy Ghost. My bet is, both Augustine and Calvin, as they all throughout all of "written" History have had in mind this saying, or at least, if they did not have it as we, written down to read and ponder and become, they certainly had Their Holy Restrains so that they erred not away from the Way, the Truth and the Life, for which Christ came so that we all, those for Whom He died, might ourselves be set at liberty too:::>


Rev 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,
Rev 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

We equally see such prohibitions from the beginnings of recorded Bible times to there! Such prohibitions need be here seeing the gravity of the err is the plagues that shall come upon such errors.

This now is our time upon whom the ends of the ages has come so it seems only right to let Him have it "right" through our heart and mind as well!

In this world, you shall have troubles. Jesus encouraged them then when He said it and it seems to me, being the Resurrection and the Life even before He came and died, He is constantly encouraging us now to remember, "He overcame the world"! :)

Steve said...

Thanks, T-Fan, for the response to my article, Impetration v. application. I plan to respond to the argument made here on my blog. I note, with a certain amount of distaste, the use of the label "neo-Amyraldian." I am not Amyraldian in any sense, unless you carelessly intend to lump every Calvinist who denies your version of L into that category. In which case, the label serves only as a convenient slur.

Turretinfan said...

Steve,

Your distaste is noted. I also note that Amyraldians historically have generally been reluctant to be distinguished from Calvinists. That's really nothing new. I'm not providing it as a slur, but as way of distinguishing between the "classical" or "textbook" view and the "neo-" view promoted by Ponter and others of your group.

-TurretinFan

Steve said...

I've posted a response. It can be found here: Response to a critic of Impetration v. application.

natamllc said...

FYI,

here's my response at Steve's blog combox:

[....Not knowing much of you or your reasonings, logic, I side differently with you on this point:

you wrote: "....It is possible (indeed, it is common in Calvin) to assert the love of God for believers (or the elect) on the one hand, and yet maintain the goodness and love of God for unbelievers on the other. My readers have seen the proof of this too many times to require additional proof. Again, one need only look at the masthead to see sufficient proof. God out of his goodness offers salvation to all. For Calvin, the sending of Christ, the suffering of Christ, and the offer of salvation in Christ are for all and demonstrate God's love to all....".

I have not been studying Calvin or Amyraut much. I have been studying the Bible a lot though now over 35 years and can say unequivocally you missed it there in the citation I make of yours above.

I narrow the field within the cited text:

"....God out of his goodness offers salvation to all....".

He does not. The only ones offered salvation in the sea of humanity past, present or to come are those predestined and foreordained to Eternal Life. Not every soul living is predestined or foreordained to Eternal Life.

The proclamation of the Gospel is indeed to be proclaimed to "every" creature for a witness and then the end shall come.

Nowhere in Scripture does it teach what you have taught there above.

Well, that's my response....].

What is incredible to me is one would make such a simple forthright conclusion of something that does not exist in Scripture!

Hmmmmmm?

Foreordained to Eternal Life is far distant and different than "foreknowledge" of every soul of man born of a woman.

God "knows" all born of woman. He simply does not teach that He foreordains all souls born of woman to Eternal Life.

He predestines and foreordains those "appointed" to Eternal Life to Salvation through Christ.

The necessity is for proclamation of the Gospel to "all" not that "all" shall turn and come to God through Jesus Christ. If that were so, God would have to repent Himself for what He has permitted to be done from before the present heavens and earth til the last breath of man is taken! Then what? For those predestined and foreordained to Eternal Life, off to a new heavens and a new earth wherein dwells Righteousness ever after! To those not appointed to Eternal Life, they are off to Eternal damnation, horrible sufferings, gnashing of teeth and anguish of soul!

"Yes Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!"

Isa 46:3 "Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb;
Isa 46:4 even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.


Isa 46:8 "Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors,
Isa 46:9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,
Isa 46:10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'
Isa 46:11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.
Isa 46:12 "Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness:
Isa 46:13 I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory."

To be sure, our adversary is cunning and his wisdom is unmatched by humankind. Unless God intervenes for the Elect's Sake the whole of creation would be lost!

Psa 34:7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Psa 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Derek Ashton said...

TF, did you get the comment I left here yesterday morning?

Derek Ashton

Turretinfan said...

Yes. Thanks for sharing your opinions. Your comment would have been more helpful to me if you had provided some bases for your opinions, but c'est la vie.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Ashton,

Thanks again for your comments and for your encouragement to aim higher.

-TurretinFan