Monday, March 28, 2011

Cross an Object Lesson? (UPDATED)

As reported here, Michael Horton wrote: "Third, Christ’s work on the cross was not an object lesson." Horton is wrong. Horton would have been right if Horton had said, "The cross was not just an object lesson," but that's not what he wrote.

It is an object lesson here:

1 John 3:16-17
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

Notice that Christ's willingness to sacrifice himself in love for us is given as a moral example here for us to be willing to lay down our own lives for the brethren. It is plainly stated and virtually undeniable.

And Christ's work (though not the cross itself) is an object lesson here:

2 Corinthians 8:3-15
For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also. Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: as it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

The lesson here is similar the previous lesson.

It's perfectly fine for people to say that Christ's earthly ministry (and particularly the cross) are not merely an object lesson. But it is contrary to Scripture to deny that the cross is an object lesson. Horton ought to affirm the truths that he does affirm about the cross (that it was a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice) without denying the other truths as well.

UPDATE:

Some more examples of the cross an object lesson or moral example:

Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

- TurretinFan

24 comments:

Andrew said...

TF,
Maybe you should give Michael Horton the benefit of the doubt here. Seems he is making a very specific point about a particular aspect of Rob Bell's false teaching. I believe you are being somewhat hyper-critical of Michael Horton.

P.S. I rather enjoy your material in general and find it to be useful and informative. Just FYI.

Turretinfan said...

Horton is wrong, whether I give him the benefit of the doubt or not. I'm quite willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that it was an honest mistake, and he's welcome to say so - either here or elsewhere.

Dan said...

TF,
You quote Horton as saying that Christ's work on the cross was not an object lesson, not as saying that the cross was not an object lesson. And though you refer to Christ's work in connection with 2 Cor. 8, it isn't clear that His work on the cross in particular is in view.

Does Christ's providing an object lesson in laying down His life for others on the cross imply that His work on the cross was, in part, that of providing an object lesson? It's not clear to me that it does. If it doesn't, Horton's remark seems to be consistent with the 1st John passage.

Christ's laying down His life on the cross was an event or series of events that spanned more than just His time on the cross (or a part thereof, such as His giving up His spirit). It includes, for example, His offering Himself to be put on the cross (if not earlier events too). If this is so, then Christ provided an object lesson over an interval of time that included, as a proper part, His time on the cross. But Horton refers to Christ's work on the cross, which I take to be the work Christ did while on the cross. It's not clear to me that this work in particular constituted laying down His life (and, a fortiori providing an object lesson for others in so doing) per se. (Suppose one had a video clip of someone on a cross, without having any context about how they got there. It seems we don't have any object lesson yet. The lesson, it seems, consists in something broader, including Christ's voluntarily offering Himself up to be crucified.) At most, it seems that His work on the cross was part of His laying down His life; and it isn't clear Horton's statement contradicts this, since it isn't clear that he denies that Christ's work on the cross, in part, constituted part of an object lesson.

Further, even if Christ did some work on the cross such that that work itself constituted the providing of an object lesson, it may be be that Horton's claim does not deny this. One might suppose that he has a certain "work" in view, namely, the redemptive facet of the cross the nature of which Christians actually argue over, and he is saying that this work is not that of providing an object lesson. That is, the claim may be about theories of atonement; the redemptive work done on the cross was not that of providing an object lesson (unqualifiedly, not merely not just that of providing a lesson).

Strong Tower said...

I think you should have said he was 'absolutely wrong.' But since you didn't, we can surmise that you mean he is wrong but there is some sense in which he is right.

Andrew said...

Must we go about correcting every slip of the tongue, pen, or keyboard that people make? Surely Michael Horton is a solid teacher and theologian. Maybe, given the generally orthodox views of Mr. Horton, you shouldn't nitpick at individual sentences that may or may not, taken within Horton's overall theology, intend to convey what you think they do?
You said:
"I'm quite willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that it was an honest mistake, and he's welcome to say so - either here or elsewhere."

Why didn't you just ask him?

natamllc said...

Horton:

"... Third, Christ’s work on the cross was not an object lesson. What kind of a father would offer up his own son in the place of his enemies simply as a way of teaching something about something else? Scripture clearly teaches that the Father gave his Son in our place, that Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross." ...

Huh?

I wonder where that comes from?

Jesus did become flesh/sarx and blood, human, fully a "soul/psyche" and a "body/soma".

What was the object lesson for True Believers, then, when God indeed did ask Abraham to offer up Isaac?

From the moment of the fall of Adam, everyone is born into this world an enemy of God, even in their piety and goodness towards God and mankind.

Here is the Apostle in some places developing that fact:

Rom 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

...

Rom 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.
Rom 7:5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
Rom 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

...

Rom 11:28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.



Another verse that comes to my mind is from 1 John 4:11.

1Jn 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

One needs to come to understand that this "love" and this "propitiation" are objectives for those conjoined to Christ.


I would point to both in another place in Scripture, here:

Joh 17:25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
Joh 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."


Do you see it?

Jesus while finishing up His prayer does not look at "our" love. He knows our best "love" is still filthy and unwanted even when it comes from our hearts. There has to be a death. The Cross doctrine is the best example of why there has to be a death.

What is the lesson then?

That we, as Jesus, learn through the same Holy Spirit to die to self so that God's Love for Christ will be in us.

Heb 9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,
Heb 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.



Anyway, I agree, Horton is wrong to write that and hopefully he will come to see that and make amends?

Andrew said...

All that being said I do not wish to get involved in a protracted fight over this with you, TF. I said what I thought and I will say no more.

Turretinfan said...

Andrew:

I certainly don't want to fight either.

You said: "Must we go about correcting every slip of the tongue, pen, or keyboard that people make?"

No, there's no requirement for that. However, this particular issue is something I've seen before from folks who are influenced by Escondido.

"Surely Michael Horton is a solid teacher and theologian."

That's not the issue.

"Maybe, given the generally orthodox views of Mr. Horton, you shouldn't nitpick at individual sentences that may or may not, taken within Horton's overall theology, intend to convey what you think they do?"

If it's just an inadvertent mistake on Horton's part, he's free to correct it. If it's what he really believes, he's free to defend it. I don't see that his role as an influential writer should give him immunity to criticism.

You wrote: "Why didn't you just ask him?"

I don't normally ask people whether they meant what they wrote. Do you?

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

"You quote Horton as saying that Christ's work on the cross was not an object lesson, not as saying that the cross was not an object lesson. And though you refer to Christ's work in connection with 2 Cor. 8, it isn't clear that His work on the cross in particular is in view."

ok

"Does Christ's providing an object lesson in laying down His life for others on the cross imply that His work on the cross was, in part, that of providing an object lesson?"

Does it?

"It's not clear to me that it does."

ok

"If it doesn't, Horton's remark seems to be consistent with the 1st John passage."

Not really. Horton wrote "Third, Christ’s work on the cross was not an object lesson." Horton did not write: "Third, Christ’s work on the cross was not [to provide] an object lesson." But, even if he had said that, it would be dubious. Is 1st John taking the cross in some other way than the cross was intended? I would hope no one would say that.

"Christ's laying down His life on the cross was an event or series of events that spanned more than just His time on the cross (or a part thereof, such as His giving up His spirit). It includes, for example, His offering Himself to be put on the cross (if not earlier events too)."

ok

"If this is so, then Christ provided an object lesson over an interval of time that included, as a proper part, His time on the cross."

ok

"But Horton refers to Christ's work on the cross, which I take to be the work Christ did while on the cross."

ok

"It's not clear to me that this work in particular constituted laying down His life (and, a fortiori providing an object lesson for others in so doing) per se."

That doesn't seem tenable, my friend.

"(Suppose one had a video clip of someone on a cross, without having any context about how they got there. It seems we don't have any object lesson yet. The lesson, it seems, consists in something broader, including Christ's voluntarily offering Himself up to be crucified.)"

I don't think there's any reason to take the cross in isolation or to think that Horton intended the cross to be taken in isolation, either for the purposes of grounding his objection, or as being the thing to which he was objecting.

"At most, it seems that His work on the cross was part of His laying down His life; and it isn't clear Horton's statement contradicts this, since it isn't clear that he denies that Christ's work on the cross, in part, constituted part of an object lesson."

Horton's statement was "Third, Christ’s work on the cross was not an object lesson." That was what I was objecting to - not to a denial of something else.

"Further, even if Christ did some work on the cross such that that work itself constituted the providing of an object lesson, it may be be that Horton's claim does not deny this."

Oh?

"One might suppose that he has a certain "work" in view, namely, the redemptive facet of the cross the nature of which Christians actually argue over, and he is saying that this work is not that of providing an object lesson."

That would make his comment absurd.

"That is, the claim may be about theories of atonement; the redemptive work done on the cross was not that of providing an object lesson (unqualifiedly, not merely not just that of providing a lesson)."

That's how the matter would be correctly expressed "not merely (or not just) providing a lesson." That wasn't how the matter was expressed.

-TurretinFan

Strong Tower said...

Once you pluck all the feathers, you're going to find out its still a duck.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

TF's point is well taken, as usual. Unfortunately, MH too often makes sweeping statements. If his statements were qualified or more precise, nobody would sit up and take notice at how insightful he is thought to be. His insights come with great shock value, but if the generalizations were refined to represent the truth more acutely, they’d lose the appeal that they seem to have among so many. For instance, if the cross was sometimes an object lesson, then he couldn’t make the criticism in quite the same way. Other examples are: If it isn’t true that attention to one’s self necessarily detracts from attention to Christ, then he shouldn’t suggest that self attention necessarily detracts from attention to Christ. If it’s not so that we should never give attention to the way in which we communicate the gospel, then he shouldn’t say that we shouldn’t give attention to making the gospel relevant. If it’s incorrect to say that we should never desire earthly blessings, then he loses his punch when he suggests that to desire earthly blessings is to seek of “theology of glory” (one of Mike’s favorite catch phrases, which his converts love to parrot). Is it true, as Mike suggests that preaching the gospel must never use biblical characters as moral or spiritual examples? The examples go on and on and on I’m afraid. No, TF has MH’s number in this regard and he did well to post on it because it’s apparent from the thread that people don’t discern MH as TF does.

http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2011/03/john-frame-on-michael-hortons.html

natamllc said...

I would cite the Apostle Paul some more and ask if those in here finding some difficulty with TurretinFan's criticism would criticize the Apostle for making a very pointed object lesson of the Cross, and ironically, the basis of this debate has to do with Robert Bell's position that Love Wins, a broad universal position no where to be found in Scripture and especially in these Words:

Php 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Php 3:15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
Php 3:16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Php 3:17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Php 3:18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
Php 3:19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
Php 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Php 3:21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

natamllc said...

Strong Tower,

once you pluck all the feathers of a duck in my house, you cook and eat!

If you come late to dinner, you might just get wings!

You do have to be wary of the shotgun lead balls when chewing, though! :)

Dan said...

TF,
There’s a difference between speaking about “the cross” in general and speaking about Christ’s work on the cross. Christ propitiated the Father’s wrath on the cross, being forsaken by Him in a way unprecedented in His antecedent earthly life; filled with sorrows though it was. Christ provided a model of godly behavior throughout His life, including and most significantly in His taking up His cross (literally) on behalf of His friends. Without commenting on Ronald’s claims in general, I agree with him that Horton tends to make sweeping and imprecise statements (though it isn’t clear to me how peculiar he is in this regard; especially with respect to imprecision). But whether or not Horton’s statement was perfectly perspicuous, I think your shift to “the cross” from what he actually said, “Christ’s work on the cross,” exaggerated the allegedly problematic character of what was said. You suggested, at best, or even implied, at worst, that Horton said that the cross was not an object lesson; which is false. You did this both with the thread title and with your initial response to the quote, with your wording of what Horton might have said instead.

So as to avoid the details of everything I said last time, maybe I can just put things as follows. If, on the one hand, we take Horton’s sentence according to what he strictly said, it isn’t clear to me that the sentence is false; since though “the cross” was indeed, in part, an object lesson, it is not clear that, strictly speaking, Christ’s work on the cross, that is, the work Christ did while on the cross, was an object lesson. Contrast the redemptive facet, the propitiation, with the object-lesson facet. The former is an intrinsic feature of the work on the cross itself; though Christ suffered prior to the cross, it was only at the cross that He was the object of God’s retributive wrath. On the other hand, Christ’s laying down His life for others is not something that happens on the cross per se; it is a temporally extended deed on Christ’s part of which His time on the cross is a part – to be sure, the climactic part. I would concede that what Christ did on the cross was part of the object lesson, which is consistent with denying that what Christ did on the cross was the object lesson per se.

Suppose, on the other hand, that we take Horton’s sentence according to probable authorial intent. Then, it might be thought to be less relevant to distinguish between object lessons and parts of object lessons, or less relevant to distinguish between “the cross” in general and the work Christ did on the cross. However, if we do this, then your criticism seems to lose much of its relevance/force; for if we are operating on the basis of probable authorial intent, rather than what was strictly said, there’s no good reason to think Horton meant to deny that “the cross” was, in part, an object lesson. In light of the sentence that comes after the one you quoted, it seems that Horton’s point is that any so-called object lesson exhibited in the crucifixion that was not undergirded by substitutionary atonement would in fact be no salutary object lesson at all.

Dan said...

Dan: One might suppose that he has a certain "work" in view, namely, the redemptive facet of the cross the nature of which Christians actually argue over, and he is saying that this work is not that of providing an object lesson."

TF: That would make his comment absurd.


No it wouldn’t. It would be an apposite comment in the context of critiquing someone who has a problem with substitutionary atonement like Bell.

Dan: That is, the claim may be about theories of atonement; the redemptive work done on the cross was not that of providing an object lesson (unqualifiedly, not merely not just that of providing a lesson).

TF: That's how the matter would be correctly expressed "not merely (or not just) providing a lesson." That wasn't how the matter was expressed.


In the context of a claim about the redemptive force of Christ's work on the cross, the unqualified claim would be correct. The redemptive aspect of the work does not consist, even in part, in an object lesson.

Strong Tower said...

Following Jesus
What's Wrong and Right About the Imitation of Christ
Michael S. Horton

Coram Deo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Coram Deo said...

FWIW I read Horton's statement in context to be a refuatation of Bell's naked assertion that Christ on the cross as a "blood sacrifice" was metaphoric in a way analogous the way animal sacrifice was metaphoric - the shedding of blood/cleansing of sin sacrificial metaphor.

To me what Horton was saying, in context, is "no it isn't [metaphoric, an object lesson in the sense of animal sacrifice], it's the REAL THING".

I realize how the actual words Horton used could to lead to TF's impression here, but in context I read them as saying Christ's cross-work was the real substance [thing signified] whereas animal sacrifice was the shadow [the sign] in contradistinction to Bell's claims.

Maybe I could be accused of an overly charitable reading, or of inserting authorial intent where there's no exegetical reason to do so, but that's my sense of the text in context.

In Christ,
CD

Turretinfan said...

Horton may well not believe that "Christ’s work on the cross was not an object lesson," but instead may believe that "Christ’s work on the cross was not merely an object lesson."

However, he said the former. I have perused his writings to the best of my ability, and I cannot find where he said the latter.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

P.S. Although arguably the thought behind the latter is expressed in the article to which Strong Tower provided three links.

donsands said...

Thanks for the challenge to Michael Horton. It's important we keep ona another sharp and rooted and grounded in the truth.

I learn from this sort of thing.

Christ is my propitiation. He is my substituts. He bore my sin, and He grants me a robe of righteousness by His taking His Father's cup, and drank it to the last drop.
Jesus also is The Friend of friends, and not only the King of kings, and subjects. He is my Master, and I His servant. He is also the Good Shepherd, and not a hirling.

Hos can one not be moved by such incredible love shown for rebels and sinners like us?

It's not important to know all the theological doctrine initially. But it is essential we see the Gospel as God loving sinners and dying for us. And taking His life back, so that we can be with Him, and live with Jesus for all eternity!

Thanks for the post.

Turretinfan said...

LOL, Strong Tower.

Lockheed said...

I have perused his writings to the best of my ability, and I cannot find where he said the latter.


"He calls us not simply to imitate Christ but to live out our union with him. But before he speaks an imperative, he announces the indicative of the gospel: Christ's saving work has accomplished far more than we imagined. The Spirit's work of uniting us to Christ makes us not mere imitators but living members of his body."
...
"Following Christ is the consequence, not the alternative to or even means of union with Christ. Even when Scripture calls us to follow Christ's example, the relationship between master and pupil is asymmetrical. For example, Jesus refers to his impending sacrifice for sinners as the model for his followers in Matthew 20:28." - Following Jesus
What's Wrong and Right About the Imitation of Christ
Michael Horton, Modern Reformation Magazine

Turretinfan said...

Lockheed,

That's precisely what I was referring to above.

-TurretinFan