Unconditional election & universal atonement

Unconditional election & universal atonement August 18, 2010

Contrary to what one respondant claims, classical Calvinism does believe that God’s election of persons to salvation is absolutely unconditional.  To say it is not absolutely unconditional because it is based on God’s “good pleasure” does nothing to ease the problem.  What causes God’s “good pleasure” to be found in electing one person and not another to salvation?  I have read literally scores of classical Calvinist authors on this very subject (from Calvin to Piper) and found no hint of any answer to why God chooses one person and rejects another.  The answer is always an appeal to mystery or something like “God has his good reasons” (without any suggestion what they might be) or “according to his good pleasure” which doesn’t even begin to answer the question.  Jonathan Edwards was consistent in admitting it is an arbitrary choice on God’s part.  I just wish more contemporary Calvinists would admit that.

I find there to be a great difference between intentionally foreordaining some to hell (which, as Sproul rightly points out is the necessary corollary to foreordination to heaven) and creating persons knowing they will freely choose hell over heaven.  The key difference is intentionality toward the person.  In classical Calvinism God actually wants the person foreordained to hell to go there “for his glory” (even if, as some Calvinsts claim, he does so reluctantly).  And he renders it certain. 

It does no good to say God loves and blesses the reprobate (as Piper and other contemporary Calvinists say).  All that is as much as saying he gives them a little bit of heaven to go to hell in.  It have been better not to create them in the first place.

Finally, the objection to God’s creation of persons foreknown to reprobate themselves (by resisting God’s grace) is fallacious.  God knows they will reprobate themselves because they will reprobate themselves.  His foreknowledge of their free choices does not give God a chance to not create them (unless one believes in middle knowledge which I do not).

Some here have argued that Arminian belief in universal atonement necessarily leads to universalism (i.e., belief that all will be saved).  Again, simply false.  Even Calvin (to say nothing of many later Calvinists) believe the atonement itself does not save.  It “secures salvation” for the elect, they say.  The elect person for whom Christ died is only saved when he or she meets certain conditions which God provides through regenerating grace (viz., the gifts of repentance and faith).

The argument that hell, combined with universal atonement, would be unjust (because the same person would be punished twice for the same sins) is also fallacious.  Think of an analogy.  When Jimmy Carter was elected president, he gave blanket amnesty to Vietnam War protesters who had fled the U.S. to Canada and other countries.  They were then free to come back to the U.S. without fear of prosecution.  But many did not come back. 

The universal atonement of Christ secures the potential salvation of everyone.  (And, in classical Arminian thought sets aside the guilt of original sin for everyone.)  All a person has to do to receive it is repent and trust in Christ alone (which God enables).  But God will not impose his pardon on people.  So, yes, a populated hell is tragic because it is so unnecessary (and yet necessary consequently).  The atoning death of Christ made it unnecessary.  People’s rejection of God’s mercy makes it necessary.

Tomorrow–back to postconservative evangelical theology.

"​Your comments make me wonder whether Bonhoeffer ever described himself as a pacifist, and if ..."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in Hitler’s ..."
"In my view as a pastor and great admirer of Bonhoeffer, what's more important than ..."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in Hitler’s ..."
"There is a reaction I have to those "trolley car problems" where you have to ..."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in Hitler’s ..."
"The "spoke in the wheel" phrase is directly from Bonhoeffer, see "The Church and the ..."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in Hitler’s ..."

Browse Our Archives



TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • W B McCarty

    Dr. Olson: “[C]lassical Calvinism does believe that God’s election of persons to salvation is absolutely unconditional. To say it is not absolutely unconditional because it is based on God’s “good pleasure” does nothing to ease the problem. What causes God’s “good pleasure” to be found in electing one person and not another to salvation? I have read literally scores of classical Calvinist authors on this very subject (from Calvin to Piper) and found no hint of any answer to why God chooses one person and rejects another.”

    Most readers should recognize my citation of Berkhof as a reasonably definitive statement of the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional electon. To eliminate any remaining doubts in the face of a new challenge, I quote from the Canons of the Synod of Dort, perhaps the most definitive source of the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election:

    Article 6: “That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree. . . .”

    Article 9: “This election was not founded upon foreseen faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of disposition in man, as the pre-requisite, cause or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc., therefore election is the fountain of every saving good; from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself . . . .”

    The Canons affirm that election is determined by God’s eternal decree and is not founded upon–that is, is unconditional with respect to–man. Rather than election being the result of good in man, election is the cause of every saving good man. As in Berkhof, election is unconditional with respect to man but conditional with respect to God. Therefore, it is not absolutely unconditional.

    That the basis of God’s decree is unknown is no relevant objection. The specific reasons for many of God’s actions are not disclosed by Scripture and are therefore unknown to us. For instance, why did God choose Jacob over Esau? Or, even within the Arminian viewpoint, why does one person believe and another refuse to believe? Scripture does not tell us. It suffices to state that the Scriptural revelation of God’s goodness, justice, and holiness informs us that his decree is itself good, just, and holy.

    Dr. Olson: “Jonathan Edwards was consistent in admitting it [that is, election] is an arbitrary choice on God’s part. I just wish more contemporary Calvinists would admit that.”

    I cheerfully admit: God’s choice in election is arbitrary. The more pertinent issue is, what does “aribtrary” mean? Some may have a wrong idea of the meaning. According to the online edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the primary meaning of the word “arbitrary” is given as follows:

    “1 : depending on individual discretion (as of a judge) and not fixed by law “

    The primary meaning seems to fit the Calvinistic view of election nicely and it is in that sense that I affirm God’s election as arbitrary.

    Dr. Olson: “Finally, the objection to God’s creation of persons foreknown to reprobate themselves (by resisting God’s grace) is fallacious. God knows they will reprobate themselves because they will reprobate themselves. His foreknowledge of their free choices does not give God a chance to not create them (unless one believes in middle knowledge which I do not).”

    The objection is by no means fallacious. Unless one denies middle knowledge, the objection carries considerable force. Moreover, consider what the rejection of middle knowledge entails: Denial that God can know what a person will do under specified circumstances.

    This denial is a quite strong qualification of God’s omniscience, which I would hope would give Arminian readers of this blog considerable pause. Is the Arminian doctrine of unconditional election really more precious than the affirmation that God is truly all-knowing? Can a consistent Arminian doctrine of salvation do full justice to the entire range of perfections Scripture attributes to God? These are questions the Arminian reader should ponder carefully.

    • @”The more pertinent issue is, what does “[arbitrary]” mean?”

      I think most people are implying the more negative definition of the term: “capricious; unreasonable; unsupported.”

      Election that is completely unconditional where man is concerned is necessarily capricious with respect to who is chosen and who isn’t.

    • Andy Morgan

      I find it interesting that many calvinists, when defending their position, do not quote scripture but canons and articles from calvinistic documents and writers. I trained at a strongly Calvinistic Seminary and what distressed me the most is that many (not all) were more concerned to defend the system of calvinism than engage with the scriptures. The Synod of Dort was written and affirmed by fallen and depraved humans. It’s not to be taken as infallible (i.e. may be wrong).

    • W B McCarty

      J.C. Thibodaux: “I think most people are implying the more negative definition of the term: “capricious; unreasonable; unsupported.”

      Yes, and that’s the issue. I see no evidence that Edwards understood the term in that secondary way over against the primary way. I certainly do not.

      “Election that is completely unconditional where man is concerned is necessarily capricious with respect to who is chosen and who isn’t.”

      This doesn’t follow unless you choose to look solely within man for a reason to support God’s act of election. That doing so leads to a contradiction, as you yourself point out, suggests by _reductio ad absurdum_ that your choice to look within man for a reason is the wrong one. It doesn’t seem to me at all reasonable to charge Calvinism with a contradiction that you superimpose upon it by using assumptions alien to Calvinism.

      Andy Morgan: “I find it interesting that many calvinists, when defending their position, do not quote. . . .”

      When what’s at issue is what a word means, the appropriate source is a dictionary. When what’s at issue is what Calvinism teaches, the appropriate source is a creed, canon, article, or book–not Scripture.

      I certainly agree that the canons of Dort are fallible, as do other Calvinists. Dort’s position on the salvation of infants, in particular, may be considered somewhat ambiguous and therefore troubling to some. Why? Because they’re not convinced the position lines up with Scripture. Calvin, like the other Reformers saw Scripture as the “norming norm.” Tradition (that is, creeds) were merely a “normed norm.”

      • @This doesn’t follow unless you choose to look solely within man for a reason to support God’s act of election.

        But it does: if God can do exactly with person X as He did with person Y and both were identical with respect to conditionality, then the choice of which of them to save is necessarily arbitrary.

        • W B McCarty

          Your original statement used the word “capricious,” to which I object. Your more recent statement used the word “arbitrary.” I can agree with your more recent statement, depending on the intended meaning of “arbitrary.” God’s decisions are not whimsical or random. But they are made at his sole discretion and he is not required to give account of them to his creatures (e.g., Job).

          Also, I can’t agree with your hypothetical premise that there exists two sinners, X and Y, who are identical with respect to conditionality. If conditionality were one dimensional, that would reasonably follow. But, I suppose conditionality to consist of many dimensions. It is entirely unclear to me what sort of superimposed metric might yield identical single-dimensional values of conditionality.

          • WBM,

            I meant arbitrary in the sense of capricous, as the context of my statement plainly dictates.

            @Also, I can’t agree with your hypothetical premise that there exists two sinners, X and Y, who are identical with respect to conditionality.

            You already do. Since you believe in unconditional election, then neither one can meet any criteria of conditionality for election, therefore both are at zero value by whatever criteria there may be. So identical levels of conditionality (i.e. none) among all people is in fact what you believe, hence my point about the necessary capriciousness of a choice between them.

          • W B McCarty

            J.C., I apologize for my late reply. My blog reader sometimes fails to identify new comments and so I just noticed yours today.

            Please bear in mind that Calvinistic unconditional election is not _absolutely_ unconditional. Instead, it’s unconditional only with respect to the condition of deserving mercy. My reading of Dort (in particular, Articles 7 and 9 of the First Head of Doctrine–Divine Election and Reprobation) is that God might employ any rationale that pleases him with only that exception. Hence, it’s not necessarily the case that every sinner is considered to have an equal value of conditionality. They are merely considered to have done nothing deserving of mercy. In particular, the Dortian formula rules out election on the basis of forseen faith or other good works.

          • @Instead, it’s unconditional only with respect to the condition of deserving mercy.

            No one’s arguing that anyone deserves God’s mercy, conditional election only implies conditions, not merits or innate worthiness (which conditions don’t necessarily entail).

            @In particular, the Dortian formula rules out election on the basis of forseen faith or other good works.

            I would agree with the works part, but to equate faith with “other good works” goes against scripture’s clear distinction between the faith and works (e.g. Eph 2:8-9). Faith is then the condition of salvation, for thereby we obtain mercy, but this doesn’t make us deserving of mercy, since it doesn’t follow that what is obtained is necessarily deserved, and since “mercy” that is deserved isn’t truly mercy.

  • “It does no good to say God loves and blesses the reprobate (as Piper and other contemporary Calvinists say). All that is as much as saying he gives them a little bit of heaven to go to hell in. It have been better not to create them in the first place.”

    Competely agree. It is akin to fattening the cow for the slaughter.

  • Loving your stuff! Thanks for your great insight.

  • Dr. Olson said:

    What causes God’s “good pleasure” to be found in electing one person and not another to salvation? I have read literally scores of classical Calvinist authors on this very subject (from Calvin to Piper) and found no hint of any answer to why God chooses one person and rejects another. The answer is always an appeal to mystery or something like “God has his good reasons” (without any suggestion what they might be) or “according to his good pleasure” which doesn’t even begin to answer the question.

    If God hasn’t chosen to share His reasons with us, there is no way we can know them. Do we have to explain the inner depths of God’s motivation in bringing about salvation for some and allowing damnation for others? I think this is asking too much. If the Bible is silent on this point, we should also be silent. An appeal to mystery might indicate a modest Biblicism rather than dodging the question (or course, mystery CAN be used a dodge, there’s not doubt about that!).

    We have good Biblical explanations for certain parts of the equation – and I think Calvinists and Arminians even agree on some of them.

    Why are some sinners condemned to hell?
    Because they rebelled against God and are justly judged. All agreed?

    Why are some saved?
    Because God exercised His great saving mercy in their behalf. All agreed?

    What is the primary difference in each individual case?
    This is where Calvinists and Arminians divide . . .

    Unconditional election may be a mystery of undeserved mercy, but that doesn’t make it indefensible or unbiblical.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  • Hey there Roger,

    You say:

    I find there to be a great difference between intentionally foreordaining some to hell (which, as Sproul rightly points out is the necessary corollary to foreordination to heaven) and creating persons knowing they will freely choose hell over heaven. The key difference is intentionality toward the person. In classical Calvinism God actually wants the person foreordained to hell to go there “for his glory” (even if, as some Calvinsts claim, he does so reluctantly). And he renders it certain.

    Hate to say this, but I only see a caricature here again.

    If we keep in mind hypercalvinism which often posits an equal-ultimate decree of election and reprobation (in both of its aspects), evangelical Calvinism divides reprobation into 2 aspects, preterition and predamnation.

    The first, as you know, is the unconditional passing over of some. There should be no problem at this point, if 1) the evangelical Arminian is committed to salvation by grace, in that it must precludes ideas that God “ought” to save this or that man; 2) and inasmuch as fixed comprehensive foreknowledge entails an analogous complexity to that which is alleged against Calvinist conceptions of the same.

    Here the Reformed say God acts as King.

    Predamnation refers to God’s determination to condemn the ones passed over in hell, on account of their sins.

    Here the Reformed say God acts as Judge.

    Further, if we use the word “ordination” in the place of determination, it has the same meaning.

    When the word “ordained” is used with respect to sin and hell, it never regards an efficient, but permissive decree, and the objects are sinners. So to use the example, ordination to heaven is by an efficient decree, ordination to condemnation in hell is by permissive decree. In other words, the “causality” is not univocal, but equivocal. In other words, “ordained” in this sense refers to determination, legislation, judicial appointment, etc.

    And in actuality, the classic Arminian and the classical Calvinist are very close here. The first, holding that God does have a fixed comprehensive knowledge of the future, by will antecedent, has determined to punish the finally impenitent in hell. The structure of the explanation parallels the same, with regard to the determination to condemn on account of sin. Both hold that the determination to punish on account of sin, and in no way causes sin, efficiently or productively, but regards a judicial determination.

    There should be no dispute between Calvinists and Arminians over the foreordination to hell, as neither camp accepts that this is efficiently causative.

    Now of course, some forms of hypercalvnist commitments to equal-ultimacy are to be truly condemn by all evangelical Calvinists and Arminians. Dort, for example, with its famous eodem modo clause in its conclusion, categorically reject the idea that some are arbitrarily condemned to hell, etc.

    I think the real issues are elsewhere, say the questions of God’s sovereignty, man’s sinful nature, free will, and prevenient grace, etc (in my opinion).

    David

    Ps, may I suggest you change the “home” link to your main blog page and not to the welcome page. As it is, I see no easy way to scroll back through your entries (unless I have missed something.)

    • Aaron

      This explanation seems like splitting hairs. Don’t calvinists like R.C. Sproul believe God controls every molecule? That his will is always done period. According to Calvinists the reason people are sinners and stay that way is because God wants them to be period, doesn’t seem to make much difference if its permissive or ordained to me?

  • Roger says:

    “The argument that hell, combined with universal atonement, would be unjust (because the same person would be punished twice for the same sins) is also fallacious. Think of an analogy. When Jimmy Carter was elected president, he gave blanket amnesty to Vietnam War protesters who had fled the U.S. to Canada and other countries. They were then free to come back to the U.S. without fear of prosecution. But many did not come back. ”

    I have to say as a classic moderate Calvinist, and one who has documented Reformed objections to the double payment dilemma, this response baffles me. I cant imagine any standard limited limited atonement advocate being persuaded by this. I dont even find it all that explicable myself, and I am a classic moderate Calvinist on the extent of the expiation and sin-bearing of Christ.

    David

    • Aaron

      Keep thinking about it – it may come to you 🙂

  • Neil

    “I find there to be a great difference between intentionally foreordaining some to hell … and creating persons knowing they will freely choose hell over heaven. The key difference is intentionality toward the person. ” -Dr. Olson

    If God’s knowledge is inviolate, I don’t see how we can escape the conclusion that: The moment God creates a person he knows will freely choose Hell, God is intentionally foreordaining that person to Hell. The person did not ask to be created – God has acted outside/beyond the volition of the person (who does not have the benefit of foreknowledge). The choice being made in “real time” does not change the reality of God’s knowing the choice when he created the person. In both scenarios, the person was destined for Hell the moment he was created.

    On this it seems to me that classical Calvinism or Open Theism is more consistent.

    • Robert

      Thanks Neil for providing for us a theological determinist argument that God predetermines and desires all evil and sins to occur exactly as they occur.

      By your erroneous logic, God becomes THE AUTHOR OF ALL SIN AND EVIL without any exceptions.

      Neil wrote:

      “If God’s knowledge is inviolate, I don’t see how we can escape the conclusion that: The moment God creates a person he knows will freely choose Hell, God is intentionally foreordaining that person to Hell. The person did not ask to be created – God has acted outside/beyond the volition of the person (who does not have the benefit of foreknowledge). The choice being made in “real time” does not change the reality of God’s knowing the choice when he created the person. In both scenarios, the person was destined for Hell the moment he was created.”

      Ok, let’s make sure we all see this logic and its premises.

      First Neil reminds us that God has infallible foreknowledge (i.e. if God foreknows it, then the event will happen with certainty in the future). No problem so far.

      Next Neil adds a pinch of his own determinism (i.e. If God knows a person will freely choose Hell, THEN God is intentionally FOREORDAINING that person to Hell) to this recipe for disaster. So if God foreknows something, according to the theological determinist, that is EQUIVALENT to God INTENTIONALLY FOREORDAINING that event. Put more simply, in Calvinistic determinism whatever God foreordains he wants to occur, he desires for it to occur, he ensures that it occur, and according to them he foreordains all events. So in calvinism what he foreknows he intends. Now let’s put aside for the moment the fact that non-determinist Christians (who accept foreknowledge) do not accept this premise (we do not believe that whatever God foreknows He intends, we believe that He foreknows all events, some which he desires to occur some which He does not desire to occur).

      Let’s apply Neil’s logic to another case and see what happens:

      ““If God’s knowledge is inviolate, I don’t see how we can escape the conclusion that: The moment God creates a person he knows will freely choose to [this is just one example but in fact any and all evils could be put here] molest children, God is intentionally foreordaining that person to molest children. The person did not ask to be created – God has acted outside/beyond the volition of the person (who does not have the benefit of foreknowledge). The choice being made in “real time” does not change the reality of God’s knowing the choice when he created the person. In both scenarios, the person was destined to molest children the moment he was created.”

      Thanks Neil for so starkly showing us all, once again, the problems with calvinistic deterministic logic, especially in regards to evil and sin. Your logic makes it the case that God desires and foreordains all sin and evil. He wants it all to happen, he ensures that it all happens.

      Robert

  • I need to make a correction: will of consequence, not will of antecedence.

    David

  • Constantine

    To ask the question, “What causes God’s “good pleasure” to be found in electing one person and not another…” raises some questions, about one’s understanding of the nature of God. One of the attributes of God – at least from a Reformed perspective – is His aseity, which means that His existence is not caused by anything outside of Himself. God causes God’s good pleasure because nothing about Him is caused outside of Himself. To posit anything else as a cause of God’s good pleasure is to reject His aseity.

    One of the writers here has complained that Calvinists do not use Scripture in support of their arguments – a charge for which we should be chagrined.

    For example, when Dr. Olson states, “The universal atonement of Christ secures the potential salvation of everyone” he runs afoul of Jesus Himself who said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” (John 6:36) Jesus plain statement is that those the Father gives to Him will come – not potentially but actually. Now Dr. Olson might explain that this is not a problem for Arminians because God’s unconditional election relates to God’s people whereas His conditional election applies to individuals. (Arminian Theology: Myths & Realities, p. 181) But Jesus goes on to say that that He “will not lose any of all that the Father gives him.” The Greek transliteration is “the ONE coming to me not I might throw outside.” Jesus is speaking about the definite, unconditional predestination of individuals and not potential salvation for either groups or individuals.

    This is echoed by His disciples:

    The Apostle Paul – personally taught by Christ – said that God put His spirit in us “guaranteeing what is to come”. (1 Corinthians 1:22)

    The Apostle Peter said, “we have been given and inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” (1 Peter 1:4)

    But the far greater problem – it seems to me – for the “classical Arminian” case is Jesus Himself. If Arminianism makes any claim to orthodoxy, it must affirm the conclusions of Chalcedon. (That is, that Christ is “consubstantial with us as regards his humanity” and that his two natures undergo “no confusion”.) Taking the classical Arminian distinctive, then – that man is free to resist God’s saving grace – then Jesus must necessarily have had that prerogative, as well.

    The implications of this combination undo Arminianism. If Arminianism is orthodox, then Christ shares our ability to reject God’s saving grace, which means that Arminianism believes in a God who can reject Himself! Or, sticking with the strict Chalcedonian form, the human Christ can reject the divine Christ. The only apparent way around this impasse would be to state a difference between Christ’s humanity and ours – which is unorthodox.

    And the Arminian position further undoes the Scripture. For if Christ was able to resist God’s saving grace, then by the time of the writing of Matthew 5 it was still possible for Christ to reject God. Therefore, He could not have affirmed every pen stroke of the OT prophecies made by God the Father. (How could God possibly know “the end” from “the beginning” if “the end” were still in question? I take Dr. Olson at his writing that middle knowledge is not an acceptable alternative.) In other words, both the testimony of God the Father in the OT, and God the Son in the NT is reduced to nonsense, it seems to me. Prophecy becomes an “I-hope-so” instead of the exercise of God’s will throughout all eternity.

    Arminianism then either undoes Christianity or Christianity undoes Arminianism.

    Peace.

    • W B McCarty

      Constantine: “The only apparent way around this impasse would be to state a difference between Christ’s humanity and ours – which is unorthodox.”

      Writing as a Calvinist, I point out that, in the orthodox view, Christ’s humanity differs from ours in that he was born without the corrupting influence of original sin. Thus, though he had the ability to sin (which follows from the fact that he could be tempted), he lacked any predisposition toward sin. As far as I can tell, there is no necessary reason for an Arminian to hold a defective view of Christ’s nature. The fact that many self-styled Arminians do hold a defective Christology seems to me moot since it can be explained in terms of theological ignorance rather than a defect in the Arminian theological system.

  • JPC

    Constantine: “Arminianism then either undoes Christianity or Christianity undoes Arminianism.”

    WOW! Do you really mean this? If so, let me ask you this: Can someone be an Arminian and still be saved? Are Calvinists the only true Christians? Most Calvinists that I have heard acknowledge that Arminians (not Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians) are brothers in Christ, are you denying this?

    Constantine: “But the far greater problem – it seems to me – for the “classical Arminian” case is Jesus Himself. Taking the classical Arminian distinctive, then – that man is free to resist God’s saving grace – then Jesus must necessarily have had that prerogative, as well.”

    I was not aware that Jesus needed God’s saving grace, was Jesus a sinner? You cannot compare Jesus to man as he was born of a virgin and was without a sin nature unlike us. Also, the fact that he was God in the flesh might make him a little different than us, don’t you think? The only person that you can remotely compare Jesus to is Adam and it is no wonder that the Scripture calls Jesus “The last Adam”. However unlike Adam who sinned, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” The Bible clearly teaches that “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Hmmm…. Jesus was tempted just like Adam but did not sin. The Scripture does not say whether Jesus was actually able to sin, only that he was tempted, resisted the temptation and was obedient unto death so that is as far as I am willing to go as well. I know that Adam was able and did sin, was God the author of his sin, or did he sin on his own? I know that Solomon was King of Israel and one of God’s chosen people and he was able and did sin and fell away. Was he ever really saved?

  • ABCDARIAN

    On August 22d, Constantine wrote, “If Arminianism makes any claim to orthodoxy, it must affirm the conclusions of Chalcedon. (That is, that Christ is “consubstantial with us as regards his humanity” and that his two natures undergo “no confusion”.) Taking the classical Arminian distinctive, then – that man is free to resist God’s saving grace – then Jesus must necessarily have had that prerogative, as well.”

    However, that statement ignores R.E. Olson’s discussion of that very issue on August 18th. Olson wrote, “And to say that orthodoxy denies Jesus’ human free will (even to resist God) is to ignore the entire monothelite/dyothelite controversy and its outcome at the Third Council of Constantinople in 678 (the sixth ecumenical council). There and at later councils the unified church condemned belief in one will and affirmed as orthodox belief in two wills of Christ. The major interpreters of dyothelitism such as Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus taught that although it was theoretically possible for Christ’s human will to resist God’s will it could not actually happen in practice because of the deification (theosis) of the humanity of Christ.”

    regards,
    abc

  • ABCDARIAN

    Hmm, don’t know how I got the dates wrong, but Olson wrote the quote in my above post on the 22d, not the 18th, and also apparently at a later time than the post by Constantine. Sorry, for my error.

  • dental hygienist

    What a great resource!

  • Governmental Theory of the Atonement.

    Hey Roger,

    Ive just read your section on governmental theory of the atonement in Myth 10, in Myths and Realities.

    You are spot on here.

    1) Its a false dilemma set up by many high Calvinists that either its the case that the expiation only makes all men savable, or that that it only effectually saves some [as opposed to all].

    2) The basis of governmentalism was that Christ did not suffer the exact punishment due to any given sinner, (idem), but that he suffered an equivalent punishment (tantundem).

    3) Early American Presbyterian governmentalists argued therefore that Christ suffered for God’s public justice, the justice common to all men. Christ could not, did not suffer the exact punishment due to any given sinner, against Owen’s claim that Christ suffered exactly what was due to any given sinner.

    4) Early exponents of this system asserted that Christ suffered a just equivalent penal condemnation and curse due to sinners. Later governmentalists argued that Christ suffered only rectoral justice. The later evolution aside, the early exponents held that Christ’s satisfaction was properly vicarious and substitutionary.

    5) Conversely, early limited expiation proponents had fused pecuniary and penal categories in their presentation of limited expiation. For example, Packer notes how civil and penal categories were blended by many early Puritans.

    6) This blending of pecuniary and penal categories became the basis for early limited expiation proponents to attribute to the death of Christ, a type of causality which is peculiar to pecuniary transactions alone. The death of Christ ipso facto saves those for whom Christ died (Owen) and that it literally purchases things from God.

    7) Later Puritans finally came to purge the expiation of these pecuniary causalities. Specifically Jonathan Edwards.

    8) Later Presbyterians such as C Hodge, Shedd, Dabney were able to integrate the insights from the early governmentalists/later puritans, allowing for both universal expiation with limited designed and effectual application.

    9) For this reason, so many of these later Presbyterian rightly rejected Owen’s double payment argument, rightly noting that it only works on pecuniary assumptions.

    10) Thus, we have have more than one form of effectual redemption within Reformed history.

    To conclude, the problem is, we Calvinists as a group don’t even know our own history in a way that is substantively accurate.

    David

    • Thanks for sharing your insight David.

    • W B McCarty

      Dr. Olson: “I have read literally scores of classical Calvinist authors on this very subject (from Calvin to Piper) and found no hint of any answer to why God chooses one person and rejects another.”

      It seems to me that Calvin answered this question quite directly:

      “[H]ow exceedingly presumptuous it is only to inquire into the causes of the Divine will, which is in fact, and is justly entitled to be, the cause of everything that exists. For if it has any cause, then there must be something antecedent on which it depends; which it is impious to suppose. For the will of God is the highest rule of justice, so that what he wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because he wills it. When it is inquired, therefore, why the Lord did so, the answer must be, Because he would. But if you go further and ask why he so determined, you are in search of something greater and higher than the will of God, which can never be found” John Calvin. _Institutes of the Christian Religion_ (III xxiii 2).

      • That, right there, is why I’ve grown to appreciate Calvin so much.

        Reminds me of Romans 9 – “who are you, O man?”

      • John abcdarian

        This Calvinistic response is identical to the Moslem one, and effectively turns the Christian God into Allah.

        Furthermore, it does not address the question of why God damns far more people than he saves, given that via irrestible grace he could save everyone. If damnation to hell is to show God’s glory by showing his justice, it certainly seems odd and inconsistent with Biblical revelation and the redemptive narrative that God needs to damn far more people than he needs to save. That is, it not only takes more than one person / entity to demonstrate his justice, but it in fact takes more people to demonstrate his justice than it takes people to demonstrate the glory of his love.

        The Calvinist story does not work at the level of meta-narrative, at the level of the redemptive arc that ends in Jesus, whereas the Arminian story does. The Calvinist story only works at the proof-texting level of individual verses divorced from God’s larger revelation and redemptive historical narrative. Arminians should not let themselves get dragged into only addressing the hermeneutics of various proof-texts, because they have great strength at the level of revelation as a unified whole that focus on Jesus.

        regards,
        John I.

      • W B McCarty

        John I: “This Calvinistic response is identical to the Moslem one, and effectively turns the Christian God into Allah.”

        Many Christians, presumably some Arminians, affirm that God is above law in the sense that he is not subject to a higher standard of good outside himself. The alternative is a subtle (or not so subtle) form of idolatry.

        It is true that Muslims hold Allah to be above law. But the character and attributes of Allah have almost no point of comparison to those of the Christian God. For instance, Allah is not considered to possess by nature the attribute of truth. Allah can tell his people how to be saved and then, on judgment day, reverse himself. In contrast, the Word of God abides forever.

        In any case, to seek causes of the Divine will beyond those given in Scripture is futile. We cannot rise by process of reason or mystical insight to heights beyond those revealed to us in Scripture.

        John I.: “This Calvinisitc response . . . does not address the question of why God damns far more people than he saves, given that via irrestible grace he could save everyone.”

        I don’t know of a Calvinistic creed that affirms God damns more people than he saves. And, I know of many Calvinists who affirm the opposite. How did you arrive at this claim?