Monthly Archives: November 2007

I think Lane and I agree, “No man perishes for want of an atonement.”

I’m not home yet, but regarding my earlier post, I remembered that Hodge’s Systematic theology is available online.

With apologies to David, I’m not seeing the quotation the way he does:

The final test of any theory is its agreeing or disagreeing with the facts to be explained. The difficulty with all the Anti-Augustinian views as to the design of Christ’s death, is that while they are consistent with more or less of the Scriptural facts connected with the subject, they are utterly irreconcilable with others not less clearly revealed and equally important. They are consistent, for example, with the fact that the work of Christ lays the foundation for the offer of the gospel to all men, with the fact that men are justly condemned for the rejection of that offer; and with the fact that the Scriptures frequently assert that the work of Christ had reference to all men. All these facts can be accounted for on the assumption, that the great design of Christ’s death was to make the salvation of all men possible, and that it had equal reference to every member of our race. But there are other facts which this theory leaves out of view, and with which it cannot be reconciled.

As I see it, the statement in bold is a theory that Hodge claims does not account for all the facts revealed in Scripture. He agrees with the facts that the theory accounts for (“the fact that the work of Christ lays the foundation for the offer of the gospel to all men, with the fact that men are justly condemned for the rejection of that offer; and with the fact that the Scriptures frequently assert that the work of Christ had reference to all men”), but he thinks there are other facts.
In my opinion, David’s point is better substantiated from later in Hodge’s Systematic Theology

Admitting the satisfaction of Christ to be in itself of infinite value, how can it avail for the non-elect if it was not designed for them? It does not avail for the fallen angels, because it was not intended for them; how then can it avail for the non-elect, if not designed for them? How can a ransom, whatever its intrinsic value, benefit those for whom it was not paid? In this form the objection is far more specious. It is, however, fallacious. It overlooks the peculiar nature of the case. It ignores the fact that all mankind were placed under the same constitution or covenant. What was demanded for the salvation of one was demanded for the salvation of all. Every man is required to satisfy the demands of the law. No man is required to do either more or less. If those demands are satisfied by a representative or substitute, his work is equally available for all. The secret purpose of God in providing such a substitute for man, has nothing to do with the nature of his work, or with its appropriateness. The righteousness of Christ being of infinite value or merit, and being in its nature precisely what all men need, may be offered to all men. It is thus offered to the elect and to the non-elect; and it is offered to both classes conditionally. That condition is a cordial acceptance of it as the only ground of justification. If any of the elect (being adults) fail thus to accept of it, they perish. If any of the non-elect should believe, they would be saved. What more does any Anti-Augustinian scheme provide? The advocates of such schemes say, that the design of the work of Christ was to render the salvation of all men possible. All they can mean by this is, that if any man (elect or non-elect) believes, he shall, on the ground of what Christ has done, be certainly saved. But Augustinians say the same thing. Their doctrine provides for this universal offer of salvation, as well as any other scheme. It teaches that God in effecting the salvation of his own people, did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men, and therefore to all the offer may be, and in fact is made in the gospel. If a ship containing the wife and children of a man standing on the shore is wrecked, he may seize a boat and hasten to their rescue. His motive is love to his family; his purpose is to save them. But the boat which he has provided may be large enough to receive the whole of the ship’s company. Would there be any inconsistency in his offering them the opportunity to escape? Or, would this offer prove that he had no special love to his own family and no special design to secure their safety. And if any or all of those to whom the offer was made, should refuse to accept it, some from one reason, some from another; some because they did not duly appreciate their danger; some because they thought they could save themselves; and some from enmity to the man from whom the offer came, their guilt and folly would be just as great as though the man had no special regard to his own family, and no special purpose to effect their deliverance. Or, if a man’s family were with others held in captivity, and from love to them and with the purpose of their redemption, a ransom should be offered sufficient for the delivery of the whole body of captives, it is plain that the offer of deliverance might be extended to all on the ground of that ransom, although specially intended only for a part of their number. Or, a man may make a feast for his own friends, and the provision be so abundant that he may throw open his doors to all who are willing to come. This is precisely what God, according to the Augustinian doctrine, has actually done. Out of special love to his people, and with the design of securing their salvation, He has sent his Son to do what justifies the offer of salvation to all who choose to accept of it. Christ, therefore, did not die equally for all men. He laid down his life for his sheep; He gave Himself for his Church. But in perfect consistency with all this, He did all that was necessary, so far as a satisfaction to justice is concerned, all that is required for 557the salvation of all men. So that all Augustinians can join with the Synod of Dort in saying, “No man perishes for want of an atonement.”

I can’t find that exact quotation in the translation of the Canons of Dordt, but I did find this:

However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient, but because they themselves are at fault (art. 6, canon 2).

I have to say that I have been taught exactly the opposite in the name of “limited atonement” one of the five points based on the canons.

Warfield is not the gold standard

Charles Hodge:

All these facts can be accounted for on the assumption, that the great design of Christ’s death was to make the salvation of all men possible, and that it had equal reference to every member of our race.Systematic Theology, 2: 553.

[Lane brought up a possible problem with this quotation. I'm not at home so I can't double-check the source. I'm more confident of other quotations in the blog entry linked below...]

[See above for my appraisal]

From here. David shares lots of challenging thoughts and I think any Calvinist will find the post worth reading. A couple of paragraphs from him:

If you want to agree with Warfield, then please be consistent, as consistent as Owen was, and own that is it stands, then, the expiation is not actually sufficient for any given reprobate man, and, further, that there is nothing you can offer him.

Any offer you can have to any man–given that you do not know who the elect and non-elect are, has to be a bare agnostic hypothesis, that were this given man to believe, it would turn out that there was an expiation for him too. But be honest, stating a conditional proposition is not an offer. One can state conditional propositions easily, but that’s not the same as offering a benefit.

If I remember right, because I agreed with Murray on the Free Offer of the Gospel, I dared to disagree with John Murray on the same issue for the same reason (and back when I went to seminary–back in the mid- to late 90s–disagreeing with Murray was hard to do; he hadn’t been declared an embarrassing constantly inebriated relative in the Reformed family yet. More like the godfather.). I’ll post about this when I have some time.

AntiFV and Hypercalvinism again

In my series on The “free” (i.e. genuine) offer of the Gospel, I pointed out in this post Berkhof’s reply to a hypercalvinist that Berkhof believes that the justified, can, in this life, also be in some sense under God’s wrath.  I wrote,

it is well worth asking how we are to interpret the destructive forces of nature, but such a question cannot reduce the plain meaning of Jesus’ words to absurdity, unless God can be guilty of absurdity, which is blasphemous to contemplate. Perhaps we need to ask if we have not created more trouble than necessary by absolutizing the distinction between God’s “Fatherly displeasure” and His “wrath,” between “discipline” and “chastisement” on the one hand, and “punishment” on the other. As Louis Berkhof asks rhetorically: “Are the elect in this life the objects of God’s love only, and never in any sense the objects of His wrath? Is Moses thinking of the reprobate when he says: ‘For we are consumed in thine anger, and in thy wrath we are troubled’? Psa 90.7.”[Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1941), p. 445.] It is a profound truth and great comfort that all things, including sufferings, work ultimately to our good as Christians. The question is whether that fact necessitates that all things are alike and in the same way to be considered “good” simply because of the future result in glory.

In context, Berkhof can only be talking about the elect after they are converted.  So, in reply to Hoeksema, Berkhof thought it was possible to look at the Bible and see that these justified people were also, in some sense, under God’s wrath.  Perhaps we should always use scare-quotes for “wrath,” in this case, like the actor I saw who re-enacted the Gospel of Luke (which was actually a pastiche that included John) and made quotation marks with his fingers while he played Jesus saying that his flesh was true “bread.”

But there are no scare quotes in Psalm 90.7.  And if it is possible for God to be angry and wrathful with the justified in some way, it seems equally plausible to say that unregenerate professing believers are, until they manifest their hard hearts in rebellion, in some sense relatively right with God compared to those who refuse to respond to the Gospel.

Accuse me to my face, first

Here is a place to download the BCO.

31-8. Great caution ought to be exercised in receiving accusations from any person who is known to indulge a malignant spirit towards the accused; who is not of good character; who is himself under censure or process; who is deeply interested in any respect in the conviction of the accused; or who is known to be litigious, rash or highly imprudent.

31-9. Every voluntary prosecutor shall be previously warned, that if he fail to show probable cause of the charges, he may himself be censured as a slanderer of the brethren.

So where did Steve Wilkins ever get to meet and reply to his voluntary prosecutors who without fear or favor, courageously accused him of heresy?

Never happened.  But that didn’t keep them from writing their emails to those they were plainly told would be sympathetic at SJC.

Why we need a word like “irregular”

So here it is again. No one in Louisiana Presbytery has ever brought charges, and the way was open for them to do so. Steve has repeatedly implored anyone to bring charges if they believed that he was in violation of the PCA’s standards. No one has done so. This is not because the entire presbytery is in Steve’s back pocket — seven members of the presbytery filed a complaint with the SJC regarding him. But the advantage of a complaint like this is that it requires someone else to do the heavy lifting. Those members of the Louisiana Presbytery who thought Steve was out of compliance with the Westminster Confession should have filed charges, and then made their case. Instead, they waited until the dogpile was safely mounded before they jumped on it.

So it appears likely that a number of the members of Louisiana believe that charges against Steve would be fine, so long as somebody else does it. This is not how things are supposed to operate. This is why words like irregular were invented.