Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Real Turretin on: The Covenant at Sinai

The Reformed Reader provides some helpful comments from the real Turretin on the covenant given at Sinai, which was actually a new administration of the one and only covenant of grace (link).

The Real Turretin on: Saving Grace

Standing Solus Christus has provided another transcription from the writings of the real Turretin, this time on saving grace: a grace that operates monergistically to save man, including man's free will. (link)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Misleading Information from "Calvin and Calvinism"

I was disappointed to see more misleading information appear over at "Calvin and Calvinism," this time on Hodge.

Hodge was a firm believer in 5 point Calvinism. This web page (link - not recommended in any way, shape, or form) tries to present a slightly different view. The problem seems to be that the person posting the article is unable to grasp the relevant theological terminology, and is unwilling to accept correction of his ignorance from actual Calvinists.

For example, the page states:
With Hodge, there are essentially three questions to be asked with reference to the nature and extent of the death of Christ:
I) Q. For whom did Christ engage as surety in order to effectually save?A. The elect
II) Q. For whom did Christ die?A. For all men generally, but for the elect especially.
III) Q. For whose sins did Christ suffer and bear punishment?A. Christ suffered and bore the punishment for the sins due to every man, that is all men, even the sins of the whole world.

This is - at best - misleading. I should note that the post author goes on in a comment to claim, "To me it would be true if I tried only to represent C Hodge as affirming unlimited sin-bearing. But I have not. I have included samples from the other side of the coin too." (Interestingly, the post author claims to have done the same thing in his recent post of selections from Calvin.)

Nevertheless, what Hodge has to say about the matter has already been previously identified by this blog, and it is opposed to the post-author's quasi-Amyraldian position (link to Hodge on Atonement).

Let's look, though, at the questions:

1. For whom did Christ engage as surety in order to effectually save?

Here the author gives the correct answer: the elect.

2. For whom did Christ die?

Here the author gives the wrong answer, or - at least - a misleading answer. Hodge does sometimes speak about Christ's death in a universal sense - but he does so as as to the nature and sufficiency of Christ's death: enough for or sufficient for all mankind.

3. For whose sins did Christ suffer and bear punishment?

Again, the author gives the wrong answer, or - at least - a misleading answer. Hodge does sometimes speak about Christ's death in relation to sins generally: but he does so as to propriety. Christ's suffering and death was an appropriate punishment for all the sins of mankind. Christ's death was suitable universally.

These are really not an excusable mistakes, because the author, one David Ponter, has been previously placed on notice regarding Hodge's plain teachings regarding the extent of Christ's work. Hodge is unambiguous in affirming the normal Calvinistic position, that Christ died for the elect alone. There are certainly incidental benefits (if we may call them such) to the non-elect, but Christ did not atone for their sins. Had he done so, they would be saved.

There are certainly isolated quotations from Hodge that might sound to the contrary, and someone who has an "unlimited atonement" ax to grind can find those isolated quotations. The problem is, at the end of the day, that's not what Hodge held, and that's not - even more importantly - what Scripture teaches.

Hopefully, soon (which may mean several or many months), I will provide something from Turretin that will address these and other errors. As Ponter knows, Turretin was opposed to the Limited/Unlimited view (see here) and (compare here).

May the Savior of all men and especially the elect be praised,


Calvinistic Prayer and Combined Bets

I enjoy reading philosophical articles, and this one (link) about combining bets happened to crosspolinate with some thoughts I had been having regarding prayer. There are certainly differences, but there are some interesting similarities.

You see, before something occurs, we - like David when his son was dying - may pray passionately for a particular outcome to occur. Nevertheless, after the event, we accept God's Providence as being for the best, despite the fact that it may that our prayers were answered (as David's was) in the negative.

One nice thing about Calvinist prayers is that we qualify our prayers (either explicitly, or - oftentimes - implicitly) as being "if it by Thy will." In other words, we do not pray for a particular outcome in the abstract. Furthermore, trusting in God, we are cognizant that the outcome God selects is the best outcome.

In a sense, therefore, we combine our bets. In the combining bets example, a person is given favorable odds of an event happening and favorable odds that it doesn't from another guy. In such a situation, the "rational" choice is to take both bets (leaving other factors out of the equation), because you are sure to lose one, and sure to win the other one, yielding you a net gain. Professional gamblers look for these sorts of situations, and leap on them, which is why one does not normally see bookmakers with dramatically different odds from one another.

A Calvinists prayer is somewhat similar: we are guaranteed a win. The professional gambler may have a favorite dog in the race, but he realizes that by combining his bets, he's assured himself of a good outcome. Likewise, by properly submitting ourselves and our perceptions to God's sovereignty, we are assured of a good outcome.

You prayed that your dog would live, and yet God took him? You are still a winner, for God works all things together for the good of the elect. If you trust in Him, you are a winner, even when you are a loser. With immense faith evidencing enormous grace from God, you can even submit to God's will to the extent that Job did, such that when:

- your enormous riches are reduced to ruin;
- your body is smitten with a horribly irritating and painful disease;
- your children all die at once; and
- your wife turns against God,

You can incredibly recognize that it is for the best, and praise God saying, the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord!

As with the combined bet, we don't need to know what the outcome of our prayer will be, to pray in faith, nothing wavering, because we pray that God's will will be done, while expressing our ofttimes-passionate preference for a particular outcome.

Blessed indeed be His name, whether He gives riches or poverty,


Book Sale - Lane's Blog

Lane Chaplin is selling some of his book collection, as highlighted at his own blog here (link). It looks like a chance for someone looking to flesh out their paper library to sieze the day.


Discussion on Justification

I stumbled across this interesting sampler on Justification, including a citationless quotation allegedly from the real Francis Turretin (link). I couldn't deduce from the post whether it was a Vox Populi original amalgamation, or whether it was a repost of something Steve Camp made.


Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Semi-semi-Pelagianism

B. B. Warfield described the infiltration of Pelagian error in partial form this way:

But, as we have been told that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, so the Church soon found that religion itself can be retained only at the cost of perpetual struggle. Pelagianism died hard; or rather it did not die at all, but only retired more or less out of sight and bided its time; meanwhile vexing the Church with modified forms of itself, modified just enough to escape the letter of the Church's condemnation. Into the place of Pelagianism there stepped at once Semi-pelagianism; and when the controversy with Semi-pelagianism had been fought and won, into the place of Semi-pelagianism there stepped that semi-semi-pelagianism which the Council of Orange betrayed the Church into, the genius of an Aquinas systematized for her, and the Council of Trent finally fastened with rivets of iron upon that portion of the Church which obeyed it. The necessity of grace had been acknowledged as the result of the Pelagian controversy: its preveniency, as the result of the Semi-pelagian controversy: but its certain efficacy, its "irresistibility" men call it, was by the fatal compromise of Orange denied, and thus the conquering march of Augustinianism was checked and the pure confession of salvation by grace alone made forever impossible within that section of the Church whose proud boast is that it is semper eadem. It was no longer legally possible, indeed, within the limits of the Church to ascribe to man, with the Pelagian, the whole of salvation; nor even, with the Semi-pelagian, the initiation of salvation. But neither was it any longer legally possible to ascribe salvation so entirely to the grace of God that it could complete itself without the aid of the discredited human will—its aid only as empowered and moved by prevenient grace indeed, but not effectually moved, so that it could not hold back and defeat the operations of saving grace.

The Plan of Salvation, Autosoterism, pp. 41-42


In a previous post, I provided a broad and reasonable definition of Semi-pelagianism from someone who cannot be considered an historical slouch. Nevertheless, in fairness to those who would prefer to define things a bit differently, I provide this alternative explanation. Under this explanation, obviously, the error described in this earlier post as "semi-Pelagian" would be described by Warfield as semi-semi-Pelagian. However, as I mentioned in that post, the point was not the label.

To summarize, in the set of definitions by Warfield:

Pelagianism Denies:

1. The sufficiency of grace;
2. The necessity of initial grace; and
3. The general necessity of grace.

Semi-Pelagianism Denies:

1. The sufficiency of grace; and
2. The necessity of initial grace.

Semi-semi-Pelagianism Denies:

1. The sufficiency of grace.

In contrast,

We (the Reformed) view each of these positions as deficient. By affirming sola gratia, we affirm the general necessity of grace, the necessity of initial grace, and the sufficiency of grace.


P.S. For more on the broader definition of Synergism generally as a species of Semi-Pelagianism broadly defined, see here: (link).