2008May5, Monday

A Response to the Question…

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:05 by Trey Austin

It has taken me a while to post this, primarily because i have decided not to pursue further interaction with TurretinFan. His anonymity is very problematic. He can say or so anything he desires, and there is no way for anyone wronged to see recourse and correct his behavior other than trying to contact him through his blog. My personaly view is that this kind of hiding behind false names does not lend itself to open debate and discussion. Children of light not not seek the darkness as a place to hide while they discuss the things of God. It also does not seem to me that TurretinFan is at all interested in learning anything at all, but only with “proclaiming” his view, cursorily “refuting” the other person’s (with whom he disagrees), and claiming that he has summarily answered it and done battle for the Kingdom of God. Well, that’s not what i call doing work for the Kingdom of God. Bludgeoning people with your views is not what any Christian is called to do—and it would be ridiculous to call that “standing for the truth.”

So, here are the questions that TurretinFan asked, along with my answers to them. I think they are pretty clear as to what my views are, and i believe that i am simply following in the line of the best and broadest vein of Reformed thought—and it is far from what anyone might term “Amyraldism.”

Try to explain in what sense you think it is appropriate to say that Christ died “for” each and every person.

– Do you mean that Christ’s death had an intrinsic worth that was sufficient (if it were to be applied) for the atonement of the elect and reprobate together? If so, you’ll find us in agreement.

Yes, i do mean that. However, even this is a point that needs to be explained. It’s one thing to say, with Owen, that there *WOULD* be a sufficiency *IF* God had chosen to elect more people, but it’s quite another to say (not so precisely, but still very clearly), with Spurgeon, God save your elect and elect some more! Of course, we know that the number of the elect does not change; that, of course, wasn’t Spurgeon’s point. One of the points, though, of what he said was that Christ’s death was really and actually sufficient here and now not only for the elect but also for many more and anyone else. This can’t be true if, as some people explain, God put on the crucified Christ the particular sins of particular people and no others. This is what has been come to be known by many Calvinists as “limited atonement,” but here again, reading older theologians will show us that that kind of limited imputation (Note: you can hold to limited atonement without holding to limited imputation; and that’s the heart of this debate) not only is not warranted from Scripture, it destroys any kind of view of real sufficiency in the here-and-now—for, how could Christ’s work be really and truly sufficient for any person who is not elect, if their sins were never “paid for” in any sense, even provisionally? There couldn’t be. So, at least part of this debate is one in which we can establish the logical ground for saying that we hold to a real sufficiency in Christ’s atoning work for all men.

Now, someone might object, “But we don’t know who the elect are, so we certainly can make an offer of Christ to someone who may turn out not to be elect, and we can just know that it would be sufficient if he were elect.” But this doesn’t help the situation. In fact, it is a dodge, because the whole issue of the free and well-meant offer of the Gospel is not that *WE* are well-meaning in the offer of Christ that we present to sinners; the point is, as the title of Dr. Dabney’s essay so cogently demonstrates, God’s indescriminate Proposals of Mercy: As Relating to His Power, Wisdom, and Sincerity. In other words, when we speak of the well-meant offer, we are speaking of it being well-meant on *GOD’S* part, not ours. Take Jonah, for instance. I don’t get the impression that our racist father in Israel was well-meaning in his preaching and offer of mercy to the Ninevites, do you? But that didn’t change the fact that *GOD* was well-meaning—and even the Ninevites could tell the difference, since they repented in sackcloth and ashes and sought the face of Jehovah.

The point is that God is the one ultimately who offers anything through the preaching of the Word. That is one of the great affirmations that the Reformed writers and theologians of the past emphasized, namely that when God’s men preach the Word, they are receiving not some word of man, but the very words of God through the agency of a man. This is key to understanding the nature of the offer that is made, that it is not man who is making an offer (though that may or may not be true; Jonah was different in this respect than, say, Whitfield or Wesley were), but rather it is God himself. And thus, as the one who is offering Christ sincerely, he must have a real substance by which to say, “If you come, you will be saved.” If there were nothing in Christ for the non-elect, nothing of his work applicable to them, then when God offers salvation to the non-elect through his ministers, he would be lying. Perish the thought.

– Do you mean that Christ’s death was to no eternal benefit to the reprobate, but only (from an eternal standpoint) increased their guilt by making them in essence doubly guilty. If so, you’ll find us in agreement.

Yes, i would say this is true as well (though i might word it a bit differently). But here again, there is a logical implication to saying that that sinners are doubly guilty for rejecting Christ: had there been nothing in Christ or what he did for them or that was applicable to them, then they rejected nothing. I think we both agree that God has decreed to apply Christ’s redemptive work to the elect alone and to no others; that is not in disbute at all. The question is whether, in any way, Christ’s work is “for” even those whom God has chosen not to save by applying Christ’s work through faith. You see, in order to be truly guilty of rejecting Christ, there must be something that is rejected in some manner, something he could have had (even just logically), had he not rejected.

Take dogs, for instance. Dogs aren’t answerable for failing to come to Christ, and they accrue no guilt for rejecting him. That’s ridiculous example, you might say. I know; it is—not only because dogs aren’t rational beings, but also becasue they’re not willful sinners. But the point still remains that Christ died in *NO* sense for dogs. The question is whether non-elect men have as much access to Christ’s redemptive work as dogs do. If the strict particularists are correct (i.e., like those whom Dabney opposed, who said that, had God elected more, Christ would have had to suffer more for those in particular; their scheme being a “so much for so many” kind of commercialism), they are in no different relation to Christ than dogs are, since Christ did absolutely nothing “for” them in any sense, and so his work has not relation or applicability to them. And if that’s true, then they would be no more guilty than dogs of trampling under foot the blood of Christ, because it never had anything to do with them any more than it did dogs. INow, they certainly are more guilty than dogs, simply because of the guilt of Adam, which dogs don’t share in—but the non-elect would be no more guilty, let alone “doubly guilty,” for rejecting Christ if Christ intended nothing for them in any sense to begin with.

– Do you mean that Christ’s death had some temporal, incidental benefit to the reprobate, as the benefits of Christ’s death for the elect’s sake overflow to the rest of mankind? If so, you’ll find us in agreement.

Yes, i’ll go there with you, as well. But i do not find this to be, as some might want to make it, the primary way in which Christ is “savior of all men,” namely, that he preserves their temporal lives. Clearly Paul makes a distinction between Christ being savior of all men and being savior for all who believe, but even while he makes that distinction, there is obviously some overlap in the core of his meaning, which is to say that it is a difference in degree of salvation (i.e., available as savior as opposed to being an effectual savior), not a difference in kind of salvation (i.e., temporal “salvation” vs. eternal salvation). In other words, Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:10, “[Christ] is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe”; he does not say, “Christ is the Savior of all people, but he is the Savior of those who believe in a completely different way.” In fact, many of the earlier Reformers do not take the typically Puritan stance that “Savior” in this regard simply means “temporal preserver of natural life,” or even that “all men” or “all people” really means (if we read between the lines) “some of all types” (which itself would destroy the whole point of the hierarchical distinction between being a savior of all, but especially those who believe); but they in fact favor of interpreting it as an affirmation that Christ is the only Savior available to men through whom they might be saved (i.e., akin to the affirmation in Acts 4:12; he is the Savior of all people precisely in the sense that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” So if someone is to be saved, it will only be through Christ, or else no one else, and he will remain lost, which is a point i’m sure we agree upon).

So, that’s the end of that. On to more important things.

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