Sunday, June 30, 2013

Moderate, High, and Hyper-Calvinism

I consider myself a classic moderate Calvinist. The term 'moderate' itself with respect to Calvinism goes back to the 1600s. These Calvinists held to an unlimited expiation in the sacrifice of Christ.

This is not 4-point Calvinism, nor is it necessarily Amyraldism. Though highs very often throw these accusations at us moderates, and even the insult 'Arminian,' when frustrated. Classic moderate Calvinism believes in a kind of limited atonement, proper limited atonement - an unlimited expiation/limited intent variety. This view was represented by many delegates at the Synod at Dort, and the Canons of Dort were written broad enough to allow moderate Calvinists to sign. Some of the Westminster Assembly Divines, like Calamy, held to this view also.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Zacharias Ursinus, Did Christ Die for All?


In answering this question we must make a distinction, so as to harmonize those passages of Scriptures which seem to teach contradictory doctrines. In some places Christ is said to have died for all, and for the whole world. "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” “That he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” “We thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them, and rose again.” “Who gave himself a ransom for all,” &c. (1 John 2:2. Heb. 2:9. 2 Cor. 5:15. 1 Tim. 2:6.) The Scriptures, on the contrary, affirm in many places, that Christ died, prayed, offered himself, &c., only for many, for the elect, for his own people, for the Church, for his sheep, &c. "I pray for them; I pray not for the world ; but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine,” that is. the elect alone. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” “I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” “He shall save his people from their sins.” “ This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” “Christ was once offered, to bear the sins of many.” “ By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.” “Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it.” (John 17:9. Matt. 20:28; 15:24; 1:21. Heb. 9:28. Is. 53:11. Eph. 5:25.)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Mechanism of Imputation by Dominic Bnonn

The mechanism of imputation
In considering how imputation works, certain conclusions present themselves to my mind which contradict particular atonement.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Shades of Owenism in an objection before his time

From Ursinus' commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, specifically Q: 37...
"Obj. 4 If Christ made satisfaction for all, then all ought to be saved. But all are not saved. Therefore, he did not make a perfect satisfaction.
"Ans. Christ satisfied for all, as it respects the sufficiency of the satisfaction which he made, but not as it respects the application thereof; for he fulfilled the law in a two-fold respect. First, by his own righteousness; and secondly, by making satisfaction for our sins, each of which is most perfect. But the satisfaction is made ours by an application, which is also twofold; the former of which is made by God, when he justifies us on account of the merit of his Son, and brings it to pass that we cease from sin; the latter is accomplished by us through faith. For we apply unto ourselves, the merit of Christ, when by a true faith, we are fully persuaded that God for the sake of the satisfaction of his Son, remits unto us our sins. Without this application, the satisfaction of Christ is of no benefit to us."
(Zacharias Ursinus translated by Rev. G. W. Williard, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, 3rd American edition, Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company, 1851, p. 215)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Owen's Trilemma and Double Payment argument

High-Calvinists are quick to use a form of Owen's double payment argument when discussing their view of limited atonement. Their view is the strict limited atonement view - i.e. that the atonement is limited in terms of the sins expiated and in the intent save certain ones.
Owen's Trilemma:    
God imposed His wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either
all the sins of all men, or
all the sins of some men, or
some sins of all men.
If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; ...
If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world.
If the first, why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins?
You will say, "Because of their unbelief; they will not believe."
But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins!
 Let them choose which part they will.
(John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Book 1, end of Ch. 3)
There are a number of problems with this argument:
  • It makes saving faith moot. According to the argument against the answer to the first option people are saved from punishment apart from belief. This works for other options as well. It cannot be selectively applied to one option and not the other. So, those under option 2 are saved apart from belief as well according to this argument. But, this contradicts scripture, and Owen's own teaching elsewhere, which teaches that the benefits of the atonement must be applied by faith.

  • The unbelieving elect could never be considered as being children of wrath like the rest. If these cannot be punished for whom sins have been expiated then these could never be exposed to God's wrath. Yet scripture plainly teaches that the elect are children of wrath just like the reprobate prior to regeneration and faith (Eph. 2:3).

  • The argument assumes a quantitative view of the sins expiated. This is an unspoken assumption in the double payment argument of Owen's. For the sins for which Christ atoned are the exact individual sins of those under consideration... even their unbelief. This is also the assumption of high-Calvinists and leads to significant problems, like the ones mentioned above.
There is a better way to understand this. The sin expiated by Christ's sacrifice was qualitative - i.e. all types and manner of sin. As such scripture speaks of this as being applicable to all mankind objectively (Jn. 1:29; Jn. 3:14-18; 2 Cor. 5:18-21). It does not become quantitative until the atonement is applied subjectively upon faith.
This is how men like Calvin (see his commentary on Jn. 1:29) and the Reformers (see the Heidelberg Catechism Q: 37); C. Hodge; RL Dabney; and WGT Shedd understood the atonement.
The atonement is unlimited in its expiation and receives its limitation from its intent to save the elect.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

RL Dabney's Challenge

He demands that we shall say Christ was only the elects’ substitute, and bore the guilt only of the elects sins. [11] We reply, show us the place where either the Bible or the Confession of Faith says so. [12] the truth is, that under the question of the extent of the atonement, two inquiries come in, one as to its nature, the other as to God’s design in it.

The Atonement and Unity

Often unity in the trinity is argued by high-Calvinists in an attempt to demonstrate that their view of strict limited atonement is correct. But consider this:
In terms of sufficiency
God wills all to be saved by his will of disposition & will of precept (2 Pe. 3:9)
Christ's sacrifice is for the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29)
There is a general call of the gospel (Matt. 22:14)
In terms of efficiency
God wills that the elect be saved by his will of decree (Acts 13:48)
Christ intended to save His people by his sacrifice (Matt. 1:21)
The Holy Spirit calls the elect inwardly (2 Cor. 4:6)
Both are taught in scripture. Among each there is agreement, harmony, unity, and theological consistency. Nor does the one argue against the other.
The Arminian looks at sufficiency and ignores efficiency. 

The high-Calvinist's strict limited atonement view introduces theological inconsistency in the sufficiency side. It introduces inconsistency between the atonement and the genuine offer and God's revealed will that all be saved.