Thursday, June 11, 2009

Staupitz on Limited Atonement

Johann von Staupitz (lived about A.D. 1460 - December 28, 1524) was Vicar-General of the Augustinian Order in Germany. He was also the dean of the theology faculty at the University of Wittenberg. Eventually, he joined the Benedictines and became Abbot of St. Peter's in Salzburg. He was the one who famously heard Luther's six-hour confession.

He was a spiritual mentor to Luther, but never joined Luther's movement. He was accused of Lutheranism, but abjured this (though he refused to revoke any Lutheranism on the grounds that he had never held it). The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) insists that "Staupitz was no Lutheran but thoroughly Catholic in matters of faith."

What is particularly interesting to note for those interested in the issue of Calvinism is that Staupitz held to Limited Atonement. David Curtis Steinmetz reports:
The death of Christ is sufficient as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all men. The mere fact that baptized infants may be saved without any merits of their own is in itself evidence adequate to establish the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ. This sufficiency, however, is not unlimited. The limitations are twofold.
On the one hand, the atonement is limited in its effect to the remission of the sins of the elect. Christ did not lay down his life for all men, Staupitz noted, but only for many (non pro omnibus sed pro multis). Staupitz did not believe that the atonement was inherently inadequate to expiate the sins of the whole world, but rather that it was not intended to do so. It is not a question of inadequacy, but of intention. The atonement is delimited and defined by divine election.
(D.C. Steinmetz, Misericordia Dei: The theology of Johannes von Staupitz in its late medieval setting, (Brill: 1968) pp. 144-45)

He also limited the atonement in another way, but it is this primary way that is of interest to the Reformed reader who might be mislead by folks who suggest that Calvin innovated limited atonement. It was not something Calvin invented, and it was not something that Luther invented. It is something that Scripture teaches, and it is something that many folks who have professed faith in Christ have taught throughout history.

Furthermore, it is the other limitation on the atonement, to make remove for Penance, that the first generation Reformers had to so vociferously dispute from Scripture, occasionally leading to unguarded quotations that our Amyraldian friends enjoy mining and presenting outside the historical context in which they were made.

Is Staupitz representative of the views of theologically-inclined churchmen (don't think that such a statement is redundant especially in the late medieval period) just before Luther? Hard to say. I have not seen enough data to come to a firm conclusion. Nevertheless, his comments do suggest that there is a reason that the first generation of Reformers did not face opposition on the doctrine of limited atonement: it was already part of the theological milieu, not to mention (of course) that is the clear teaching of Scripture.

-TurretinFan

1 comment:

natamllc said...

TF, that is a great way to end this bit:::> "....Nevertheless, his comments do suggest that there is a reason that the first generation of Reformers did not face opposition on the doctrine of limited atonement: it was already part of the theological milieu, not to mention (of course) that is the clear teaching of Scripture."


Here though I would comment:

"....and presenting outside the historical context in which they were made...."

One of the virtues received when once the Elect passes from death to Life is TRUTH.

It seems the battle lines are drawn by God and Truth can be battered and beaten to a pulp, but it cannot be eliminated from the world's psychic. Why? Because it really boils down to "context".

For instance, was it True what Satan did? Yes. Is it Truth? No it is not.

I am beginning then to just proclaim the Gospel willy nilly, proclaim it to all mankind, not because I believe it is for all mankind, but rather, because this is the Truth of the Faith Once delivered to the Saints in the world to move us from death to His Life while in this world.

Jesus did not die for "all". I know that will ruffle some feathers. Why that seems to be a hot button issue is relevant to the Faith.

Without Faith it is impossible to "please" God.

That seems like a legal mandate and so the fight rages that there must be something good about me that warrants God giving me His Faith that then leads me to bring Him pleasure.

It isn't that simple but to bring Him pleasure does seem a bit depraved on His part seeing the Faith once delivered to the Saints depletes any desire for self pleasure in this world!

It has to be then that this that we are elected to "out of this world" is necessary to divide the sheep from the goats, the people of God, Elected before the foundation of the world from those a part of this world only. Earth dwellers will go down with the ship, you might say?

Again, I could ramble on, but I would say again, it is the context in this world in which we are now living where His Faith works and brings Glory to God. So therefore, we are not to "divine" who is or who is not the Elect in the context. Let the Word preached, do that. I am reminded then of what was said to Samuel here, leaving off with a sureness and contentment to obey Him and proclaim His Faith to all mankind, not that all mankind are called, but the Called are in and among all mankind and it is from there, here, among men, Faith works in context:::>



1Sa 3:19 And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.