In the third chapter of Roger Olson’s book, Against Calvinism, he describes what he dubs “mere” or “garden variety Calvinism” (38). His guides are primarily Loraine Boettner, R. C. Sproul, John Piper and Paul Helm, whom he finds consistent with the teaching of Calvin himself in regard to the meticulous sovereignty of God – “nothing at all can happen that is not foreordained and rendered certain by God” (39). God is also “absolutely controlling regarding who will and who will not be saved,” a belief that was described particularly clearly at the Synod of Dort (1618/19), and which was identified by the acrostic TULIP in the 19th century, to help people remember the so-called “five points of Calvinism” (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints).
The Synod of Dort was summoned in response to a protest against common Calvinist ideas by a group who came to be called the “Remonstrants.” Their Remonstrance was rejected by the Synod of Dort and the “five points” are commonly thought to identify the key beliefs denied by the Remonstrants. But all extant versions of the Remonstrance affirmed total depravity, and some left perseverance open, while others deemed it wrong.
Roger finds the doctrine of total depravity consistent with Calvin’s own teaching and notes that it is this utter incapability of sinners even to desire God which leads Calvinists to “argue that no one can be saved without unconditional election and irresistible grace” (43).
In regard to unconditional election, Roger describes the difference of opinion among Calvinists as to whether God’s predestination is double (some to salvation, some to condemnation) or single (some to salvation, while leaving the rest in their deserved damnation). Even a double predestinationist like R. C. Sproul, however, explains that election and reprobation are not equally ultimate; whereas “God positively puts faith in the hearts of the elect,” he does not “create unbelief in the hearts of the reprobate” (45). But Roger doubts that this difference is significant since both are unconditional, and the distinction “does not seem to lessen the awfulness of reprobation” (45). The critical feature of the Calvinistic doctrine of election is that God’s choice is not conditioned on anything in the creature; it is purely of mercy and grace. Critics charge that Calvinists overlook the dark side of this doctrine, “that God could save everyone . . . but does not” (46). To the explanation of God’s rationale which is offered by Boettner and some other Calvinists (that God is glorified in the manifestation of his justice), Roger asks whether the cross of Jesus would not have sufficed to manifest God’s justice and hatred toward sin.
Roger observes that limited atonement is the one point “contested by many self-identified Calvinists” but that “many high Calvinists argue it cannot be dropped without doing violence to the whole Calvinist scheme of salvation” (47). He also posits that “all Calvinists accept the ‘penal substitution theory’ of the atonement.” Although many non-Calvinists also affirm this doctrine, Calvinists typically argue that if this doctrine is affirmed together with universal atonement it leads to universalism. Five point Calvinists affirm that the death of Jesus was sufficient for the salvation of all people but that it was intended by God only for the elect, and it is therefore only efficient for them. It actually accomplishes their salvation. Boettner and Piper would posit that Christ died “for all,” in the sense that the cross benefits everyone in some way, but Roger plans to explain the shortcomings of this view in chapter 6.
Concerning the doctrine of irresistible grace, Roger explains that Calvinists do not thereby mean that God coerces sinners. “The Holy Spirit does not overwhelm and force the person to repent and believe; rather, the Holy Spirit transforms the person’s heart so that he or she wants to repent and believe” (50). Boettner, for instance states that “the elect are so influenced by divine power that their coming is an act of voluntary choice” (51). Though Calvin doesn’t use this term, he “clearly did teach the concept” (51). Calvinists distinguish between the “outward call,” given in the preaching of the gospel, and the “inward call,” by which the Holy Spirit regenerates a person, so that regeneration precedes conversion, though the saved person is usually not aware of its operation.
The affirmation of perseverance of the saints is less controversial because it is also believed by many non-Calvinists. Roger does not find the doctrine objectionable “because it does not touch on the central issue of disagreement: the character of God” (53). For Calvinists, however, the reason true believers persevere to the end is that God preserves them so that their faithfulness is entirely God’s work. Roger opines that most Baptists, especially in the South, hold to this fifth point, “under the phrase ‘eternal security,” by contrast with “Free Will Baptists” who oppose this tenet of Calvinism as well as the others.
Disagreements within Calvinism
Following the exposition of the five points of Calvinist soteriology, Roger identifies points of disagreement among Calvinists themselves. First, as previously noted, there are “four point” Calvinists who affirm the universal atonement confessed by Arminians. He cites A. H. Strong, Millard Erickson, and James Daane. Second, he describes differences concerning the logical order of the decrees, whether God decreed the election and reprobation of persons in light of the fall (infralapsarianism) or prior to, and not in light of, it (supralapsarianism). The Synod of Dort agreed to allow both views. The third area of disagreement is “whether God only ‘permits’ sin and evil or actually in some sense brings it about” (57). Sproul, Paul Helm, and Boettner are cited for their insistence that, though God specifically permits evil actions to take place, God is not the “author of sin” because only “the circumstances are ordained, but the evil is permitted” (Helm’s terminology). As representatives of a theology which affirms God’s authorship of sin, Roger cites Vincent Cheung (a blogger), John Frame and John Piper. Roger agrees with Calvinists whom he understands to be saying that “the typical Calvinist view of sovereignty requires confession of God as author of sin and evil” (60).
The fourth area of in-house disagreement has to do with the debate over “hyper-Calvinism,” in which Herman Hoeksema (whose position was identified by others as “hyper” when he was expelled from the CRC) argued that gospel proclamation is not a well-meant offer of salvation to everyone because God desires only the salvation of the elect. Roger himself agrees with Daane that Hoeksema’s position was a logical concomitant of the belief in unconditional election.
Roger’s objections to TULIP
It is Roger’s conviction that “the Calvinism that affirms most or all of TULIP directly contradicts that God is love” (61). He is opposed “to any and every belief system that includes the ‘U,” the ‘L,’ and the ‘I’ in TULIP,” and he agrees with five point Calvinists that it would be inconsistent to leave the “L” out. He also believes that double predestination is a necessary correlate of unconditional election, so that the objectionability of a decree of reprobation is inescapable within Calvinism. “Only a moral monster would refuse to save persons when salvation is absolutely unconditional and solely an act of God that does not depend on free will” (62).
The Arminian (and other) alternatives
What Roger hopes to do in this book is to offer people a viable alternative to the robust theology that is appealing to so many people whose churches “have simply abdicated their responsibility to teach basic Christian beliefs” (65). He offers a theology that affirms the total depravity of sinners, who could never be saved without God’s prevening grace which is given to everyone, enabling them to respond, but not irresistibly drawing them. He offers a doctrine of election that is corporate rather than individual, of predestination conditioned upon the faith that God foreknows, of a “good and loving God who truly desires the salvation of all people” (67). He is troubled by the charges by Calvinists who equate Arminianism with the heresy of semi-Pelagianism. In addition to the Arminianism that Roger commends, he recommends that people examine revisionist Calvinism, Lutheranism and Anabaptist theology. Any of these would be preferable to the moral reprehensibility of Calvinism.
As a five point Calvinist myself, I think that Roger has generally represented the theology accurately in this chapter. Most of his work here has been expositional, so extensive interaction with his objections will await his arguments in the following chapters. At this point, however, I will make a few observations for which opportunity may not arise later.
I concur with Roger that the belief in “eternal security” is a thoroughly inadequate justification for considering oneself a “Calvinist.” In fact, the doctrine of eternal security does not even qualify as “one point” Calvinism because the “once saved, always saved” doctrine affirmed by eternal securists is a far cry from the robust Calvinist insistence that one must persevere to the end in order to be saved, even though that is paired with a confidence that God will keep his children faithful. Genuine Calvinism provides no easy assurance.
I also agree that “four point” Calvinism is incoherent. In the three middle points of TULIP, we find the economy of the Trinity in salvation summed up – the Father elects, the Son redeems, and the Holy Spirit efficaciously applies the Son’s work. To assert that the Father has chosen particular people from before he created the world and that the Holy Spirit effects salvation in the hearts and lives of these people, but then to suggest that the Son died with the intention of saving everyone (not just those whom the Father gave to him [Jn 17:9]) seriously disrupts the unity of purpose within the Trinity.
Roger observes (53) that Lutherans, though they “generally agree with monergism” reject the doctrine of perseverance. It is worth noting something which Roger does not mention. This follows from the fact that Lutherans, like Thomists, followed Augustine’s understanding of the object of election. Calvinists believe that God’s unconditional election is to justifying faith, hence God keeps in faith all those whom he justifies. Augustine, by contrast, believed that election is to persevering faith. This means that many who are justified by faith are not elect and therefore they do not persevere. It is easy to see why Augustine took this route and why Aquinas and Luther followed him. All of them believed water baptism to be regenerative and justifying . But, rightly, none of them could affirm a theology in which all of the baptized were certain to be finally saved. By contrast, in Calvin’s doctrine of baptism, it is not justifying. So Calvin could affirm that election is to justifying faith without asserting the final salvation of all whom the church baptizes, but Augustine, Thomas and Luther found their way out of the dilemma by making persevering faith rather than justifying faith the object of sovereign election.
I don’t think that Roger grasps adequately what is going on in Calvinistic discussions of divine permission. He describes diversity among Calvinists regarding “whether God only ‘permits’ sin and evil or actually in some sense brings it about” (57-60). I doubt that such a disagreement exists because I think that there is widespread agreement with what Paul Helm most concisely states (p. 58). “God ordains all those circumstances which are necessary for the performance by a person of a particular morally evil action,” but “God does not himself perform that action, nor could he.” Nevertheless, God “permits the action to take place. He does not prevent it to stop it. So in circumstances ordained by God someone does an evil action; the circumstances are ordained, but the evil is permitted.” This is a subject that Roger will take up at greater length later in the book, so I’ll leave there my own contention that Roger misunderstands what Calvinists are saying. He mistakes the Calvinist protest against “mere permission,” which is simply a way of emphasizing that God is not passive in regard to the evils he permits, he does this intentionally, though his intention is realized by his deliberately not preventing what he could stop if he willed. I think that the citation of John Frame as differing from Helm (59) is misleading. I have not read the interview with Justin Taylor that Roger cites, but in Frame’s discussion of divine permission with regard to evil (The Doctrine of God, 177-82), I hear him making exactly the point that Helm and other Calvinists have made, in their distinguishing the efficacy of divine permission from the “mere permission” that Arminians affirm.
The critical difference is that, in the Calvinist framework, God’s permission is specific. By contrast, Arminians only affirm a general permission. In choosing to give moral creatures libertarian freedom and not to control the outcome of their actions (except in the rare instances when the redemptive program required this), God permitted everything that occurs, in general. I find it misleading, therefore, when I hear Arminians speak about God’s permission with regard to specific events in their lives, as though God chose specifically to allow those events to occur rather to prevent them.
Roger agrees with Boettner that there is no significant difference between double and single predestination (44). Respectfully, I disagree with them both, though I feel the force of their contention. I recognize that the result is the same: God is completely in control, some are saved and some are condemned. But I affirm single predestination because I think that it gets to that end differently and that the difference matters. In the case of double predestination, all humans are in a neutral position, from that neutral ground some are sent to eternal life with God and others to eternity in hell. That is not the picture I see in Scripture. There, I find humans not in a neutral position but in the position of willfully rebellious sinners. All of them deserve God’s condemnation, and no one could fault God if they were left to their just and self-chosen end. (After all, no provision is made for the reconciliation of fallen angels, so far as we are told.)
In amazing grace, however, God does not give all sinners what they deserve, but he chooses many (I have reasons to hope most of the human race) as objects of his undeserved love. These two acts are not simply unequal, as Sproul carefully insists (45). They are acts of a completely different nature, and the election of God’s grace is so totally undeserved and so surprising that we gasp in amazement. This is not to say that I am unaware of the “scandal of election” (to use Berkouwer’s phrase), but I see no active choice on God’s part to allow justice to take its course in the judgment of willful sinners. I see no “decree of reprobation” in Scripture. Roger mentions that Sproul cites the reference in Romans 9 with regard to Jacob and Esau. But that is not about eternal election, it is about historical election and, as John Frame has nicely pointed out, there is no indication in Scripture that either Esau or Ishmael were not eternally elect (The Doctrine of God, 333).
Roger misconstrues the Calvinist affirmation that God does everything for his own glory, both creation and redemption. Roger asks: “Does God need the world to glory himself? Or is creation rather the result of the overflowing trinitarian love of God” (57). This is a false dichotomy. God does not need the world. He would have been God had he never chosen to create or to redeem fallen creatures. But in his wisdom he has chosen to glorify himself in this particular way. The point is that nothing he does is for the glory of anyone else, which would be an act of inconceivable idolatry. Yet, given the centrality of love in the divine being, it does not surprise us that God should have chosen to expand the expression of his love beyond himself, creating humans in his image and adopting many of them as his own children, heirs together with the eternal Son. So creation is consistent with God’s loving nature, but it is not necessitated by
it God’s nature.
Roger complains that Calvinist critics of Arminianism often leave out the voluntary nature of divine self-limitation and the role of prevenient grace in conversion. He writes: “if anyone comes to Christ with repentance and faith it is only because they are enabled by God’s “prevenient grace” (66-67). Here I think Roger misses the point that I made in my last post (Part 3). Conversion can not, as Roger claims, be only because of prevenient grace, in the Arminian construct. If such were the case, everyone would be saved because everyone has that prevening gracious enablement. But that grace, though necessary, is not sufficient. Something more is needed for repentance and faith to occur, and that something more is not provided, according to Arminian theology, by God. If it were, God would be making the differential choice that is anathema to Arminian theology.
Points to Ponder
I do not know why God decided not to save everyone. I see no injustice in his decision, but I can’t easily see how it is that God would not have been equally well (or better?) glorified if he had saved the whole human race. Roger quotes Boettner’s proposal that “the condemnation of the non-elect is designed primarily” as “an eternal manifestation of the justice of God.” But then Roger asks a good question: “Was not the cross of Jesus Christ a sufficient manifestation of God’s justice and hatred toward sin?” (46).
I can conceive of no greater manifestation of both God’s justice and his mercy than the outpouring of his wrath upon the eternal Son made sin for us, as the means by which he could be just and yet justify the great host of sinners whom he so graciously saves. But I hear, in Boettner’s statement, an echo of Paul’s ruminations on a related question in Romans :19-24. Apparently, Paul had often been asked the question about the culpability of those whose unbelief is because they were not chosen to salvation. He anticipates it from his readers: “You will say to me then, ‘Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” (9:19).
I hear Paul saying that he doesn’t know for sure, the “why?” of God’s decision not to save the entire human race. He cites God’s prerogative to do as he wills with his creatures. But then Paul ventures a “what if?”, and the line he takes is similar to the one Boettner takes in regard to reprobation. The “riches of [God’s] glory for the objects of mercy” are more clearly seen against the background of the manifestation of his justice regarding “objects of wrath.”
I can still see a helpful line of approach in Paul’s own speculation, but I am left with a great mystery. No one will be more pleased than I should I discover that I had misunderstood Scripture and that God has, after all, determined to save the entire race. This is a hope available only to monergists, but it necessarily entails post-mortem salvation, a hell that is purgatorial, and I don’t see this in Scripture.
Perhaps the “sufficiency” of Christ’s death to manifest the just wrath of sin against God is not the point here. Might it be that the reverse direction is the better way for us to proceed? Seeing willful sinners receiving what we too deserved, we understand better the magnitude of what Jesus bore in our stead, and our eternal praise of the Lamb slain for our sins is more fully informed.
26 replies on “Against Calvinism 4 – the TULIP system”
Thank you for this series and your irenic tone.
A couple of questions or topics I’d like to hear your reflections on:
First, it seems that Arminians really do not have a robust view of regeneration. The Reformed view really seems to address the radical nature of sin (making us alive and able to see when we were dead and blind) in a way prevenient grace does not. Also, the Reformed view seems to me to show how God does not do violence to the human will; how can someone who was blind not help but see once he is granted sight? How can someone once estranged from God not turn to him in trust and love once she sees his glory?
Second, you note that Arminians believe God “In choosing to give moral creatures libertarian freedom and not to control the outcome of their actions (except in the rare instances when the redemptive program required this)….” seems to undermine the Arminian claim that human freedom ought not to be violated but is the highest good if humans can truly love. Why is it “right” for God to have prevented someone murdering Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem but “wrong” fpr him to have had Hitler killed as a corporal during World War 1? Also, is nt the salvation of an individual as much a part of God’s redemptive program as the incarnation?
Again, than you for your thoughtful responses to Dr Olson’s book.
Bill, I agree that there is a significant difference between the effect of the enablement done by the Holy Spirit in regeneration in its narrow sense in Calvinism, and the enablement done in the prevening grace of Arminian understanding. Both set bound sinners free to repent and believe but, whereas regenerative grace is always effective universal prevening grace is not. I also concur that the regeneration Calvinists posit prior to conversion ought not to be viewed as coercive. Having had their eyes opened to their real condition and total need of God’s redemption, and having been set free from the bondage of sin, the liberated gladly repent and trust in God. What is offensive about this for the Arminian, of course, is that God does not do this for everyone. But you do indicate, I think, why “irresistible” is a less helpful descriptive than “efficacious,” for the grace wrought by the Spirit in the narrow sense of regeneration.
As to your second question, however, I think that you may be missing the key Arminian point regarding the circumstances in which God is willing to restrain the libertarian freedom of creatures to achieve his purpose. He does this only for acts essential to the redemptive historical program. This is where the incarnation differs from the restraint of Hitler or of an evil doer who is harming one of God’s children. Arminians often approach the case of Joseph in light of this distinction, suggesting that what Joseph said to his brothers is not a paradigm for all of us in every instance of injustice done to us. The injustices we experience are not, therefore, viewed as intended by God because they are not part of the universally significant redemptive historical program.
I am familiar with Reformed systematic theologies (Berkhof, Hodge, Horton, etc.) Is there a recent Arminian systematics you would recommend? Is the closest modern work Olson’s “Arminian Theology”? I gather this volume is not meant to be a systematic presentation as much as a correction of misunderstandings. Or are the best the older works of Miley and Wiley?
I think that Olson’s book on Arminian theology is a good one. Three other works have been particularly useful to me: Charles Carter’s 2 volumes of A Contemporary Wesleyan Theology, J. Kenneth Grider’s A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology, and H. Ray Dunning’s Grace, Faith and Holiness.
If I may, you say:
I also agree that “four point” Calvinism is incoherent. In the three middle points of TULIP, we find the economy of the Trinity in salvation summed up – the Father elects, the Son redeems, and the Holy Spirit efficaciously applies the Son’s work. To assert that the Father has chosen particular people from before he created the world and that the Holy Spirit effects salvation in the hearts and lives of these people, but then to suggest that the Son died with the intention of saving everyone (not just those whom the Father gave to him [Jn 17:9]) seriously disrupts the unity of purpose within the Trinity.
David: That seems to be a common objection to moderate-classic Calvinism, but it flows from a misunderstanding. If you lock your thinking into 5 points or 4 points then such misreading may result. The error lies in thinking that TULIP mirrors the 5 points of Dort. The L in Tulip focuses on a negation: “Christ did not die for such and such,” or “he only died for such and such.” In Dort, however, the focus is only on efficacy: Christ especually died for such and such. Dort makes no pronouncement against any other sense in which it may be said that Christ died for all. Indeed, quite a few of the delegates held to a classic Augustinian and medieval position that Christ died for all men as to the satisfaction, sustaining a universal sufficiency, but for the elect as to efficacy and intent to actually save. When folk are locked into 5 or 4 point thinking, this classic-moderate view of Calvinism looks contradictory, as it appears that 4 point Calvinism denies that Christ died for any one especially and effectually. Classic-moderate Calvinism held that the extent of the satisfaction is universal, but the intent to apply is limited to the elect.
The other problem comes from the fact that 5 point thinking argues that the classic position posits conflict within the Trinity. This would be a strange thing for any Banner of Truth or John Murray Type calvinist to claim, as its “in kind” the very objection the Hoeksemians urged against the free offer and God’s revealed desire that all men be saved. The standard hyper objection is how could the Father desire the salvation of all, when the Son only died to make salvation possible for the elect alone, etc. The evangelical Calvinist response is to rightly posit the twofold aspect of God’s will. By secret will and intention, The whole Trinity determines to save the elect alone. By revealed will intention, the whole Trinity, however, also desires the salvation of all men, and that a way of salvation be made possible for all. Of course, under the terms of 5 point TULIP thinking that last idea is problematic. And so in the same way, the classic-moderate Calvinist says that God by secret intention designed the effectual and unconditional salvation of the elect, and also the whole Trinity by revealed will intention, also designed that the satisfaction of Christ truly be of such a nature that it is a universally sufficient satisfaction for all, thereby properly grounding the offer.
Or stated another way, Curt Daniel sums up the answer to your objection:
“Then there is the argument from the Trinity. It is argued that if Christ died for all men equally, then there would be conflict within the Trinity. The Father chose only some and the Spirit regenerates only some, so how could the Son die for all men in general? Actually, this argument needs refinement. There are general and particular aspects about the work of each member of the Trinity. The Father loves all men as creatures, but gives special love only to the elect. The Spirit calls all men, but efficaciously calls only the elect. Similarly, the Son died for all men, but died in a special manner for the elect. We must keep the balance with each of these. If, on the one hand, we believe only in a strictly Limited Atonement, then we can easily back into a strictly particular work of the Father and the Spirit. The result is Hyper-Calvinism, rejecting both Common Grace and the universal Free Offer of the Gospel. On the other hand, if the atonement is strictly universal, then there would be disparity. The tendency would be towards Arminianism–the result would be to reject election and the special calling of the Spirit.” Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism (Good Books, 2003), 371.
I would be more than willing to talk further about all this if you wish.
Anyway, thanks for your time,
David, you have an interesting way of stating the situation. I didn’t always follow your reasoning but I don’t see any essential disagreement between your perspective and mine. Thanks.
There are three areas that caught my attention in your post:
1. The issue of double predestination is interesting and it is good to hear a synergist not completely misrepresent it. I lean towards an understanding that states that God freely chooses in some eternity past those who would be elect from nothing in the object of his grace that would sustain merit. And those who are not elect do not meet their fate due to God crossing their names off a list, but they become objects of wrath simply because of their depraved nature and God sovereignly deciding not to elect them.
2. This issue of prevenient grace is puzzling. I would like to hear or read of one theologian who can provide a Biblical argument for this doctrine not just a philosophical and emotional one.
3. Are any other monergists at least slightly offended when objections to Calvinism include accusing us of believing in an un-loving God? The Arminian seems to hold to a notion of God’s Omni-benevolence (not my term) that is inconsistent with Scripture. If I am allowed to have a level of love for my children that I do not hold for another Father’s children it either means that my selective degree of love is either sinful or I am capable of some kind of ability that God is not. Why does is seem impossible for God to love those he predestined with a love that effectively saved them through the work of Christ and to love those who are not predestined in another fashion consistent with being made in His image?
4. Which is more consistent with “calvinism,” to believe that Christ’s work on the cross was sufficient for all but effective only for the elect or that God sent Christ to die on the cross to secure the elect’s salvation, propitiate for their sins and bring them righteousness before God the Father only? And He did so because Christ’s work was to be completely efficacious and an act of divine love.
Thanks in advance for any comments you may have.
Tony, on your second point, I think the biblical reasoning would go like this, from an Arminian perspective. Scripture clearly teaches that sinners are spiritually unable to do anything good; it also teach that salvation is by grace. Since it would be unfair of God to be more gracious to one than to another, his gracious work is clearly universal and undiscriminating. I suspect that it is the final statement that would give you trouble in reference to Scripture as you hear it.
Sorry…I exceeded my own limit on the number of comments I made. LOL.
It is interesting that we, as that which is created feels so much liberty to discriminate what the Creator can or cannot do which makes him either fair or cruel. We do think much of ourselves!
Let us try this question: “for whose sins was Christ punished?”
The standard TULIP answer is: “for the sins of the elect alone.”
The classic-moderate Calvinist answer is: “for the sins of all men, all mankind.”
Once we have that question on the table, we can being to identify the proper entailments. In terms of the TULIP position, the very nature of the satisfaction is limited, as well as its intent. So extent and intent are coterminous.
In classic-moderate Calvinism, the extent is unlimited and universal, but the intent (to effectually apply) is limited.
Dort only affirms this proposition against the Arminians: there is an effectual intent to apply the satisfaction which is limited to the elect. This proposition is affirmed by all classic-moderate Calvinists of all wings,whether Davenantian, or Amyraldian, Baxterian, or the Calamy variety; all forms of what literature calls hypothetical universalism. The same statement, tho understood as having different consequences and connections, is also understood by TULIP proponents.
Further, a limited satisfaction for the sins of the elect only, cannot ground a universal sufficiency. It can only ground a hypothetical sufficiency. As Owen, Witsius, Turretin and co, note, on the terms of limited satisfaction, it can only be said that the satisfaction is of such an infinite internal or intrinsic value, that had God elected more, it *would* *have* *been* sufficient for them too. When the classic proponents of limited satisfaction (Owen, et al) define the sufficiency of the death of Christ, they can only do so by using ‘conditional contrary-to-fact subjunctives.’ “If Paul had been paying attention, he would have seen the speeding car…” The meaning is, he didnt see the speeding car. With me so far?
The classic-moderate Calvinist says that the satisfaction is actually sufficient for all exactly because Christ was punished for all human sin, the sins of all. He sustained a perfect satisfaction for the sins of all mankind. Thus extent is universal. However, contrary to Arminianism, intent is limited. Dort itself does not speak to the extent question, it is neutral. It only speaks to the intent question. The modern TULIP, however, speaks to extent as well as intent: as did Owen and others of that school within the broader Reformed movements.
The standard TULIP answer to the question above is to reply: If it were the case that Christ was punished for the sins of all men, then all men must be saved, because God cannot demand a second punishment for sin from the person for whom Christ has already suffered. This argument dates back to Perkins (at least), but was made popular by Owen; the double payment argument which under-girds his famous trilemma: ‘Christ either suffered for all the sins of some men, all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men…’ etc. The double payment argument, however, has been refuted by men like Polhil down to C Hodge and Dabney and Shedd.
Historically, in terms of those first and second generation Reformers which we can access in extant translations, in all of them, with one or two possible exception, affirmed an unlimited satisfaction for all human sin. Names such as Musculus, Luther, Bullinger, Zwingli, Gualther, Cranmer, Ridley, even Calvin. I know this will touch some buttons for you, but it is actually not that hard to document: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7147
If I may ask, are you familiar with the work of Richard Muller?
Anyway, I hope that helps,
Thank you for the care with which you have continued our conversation about the atonement, its sufficiency, effectiveness and intent. I sense that there are helpful things I can learn from your knowledge of the Reformed tradition on this point. I desire to get a clear grasp of what you describe as the “classic-moderate” understanding of the atonement, so that I can ascertain where I presently affirm that position and where I am in disagreement. In all of this, of course, I am ready to refine my own understanding of Scripture as new light comes to me.
So, I want to continue this conversation. Regrettably, I have a number of other things pressing on my time (like a set of student papers needing to be graded), and I want to do your comment justice. I’ll be grateful, therefore, if you subscribe for notification of comments on this thread and stay tuned for the time when I am able to get back to this conversation. (Others with an interest in it can do likewise.)
I’ll just mention now that I have not read Mueller on this point (though I’ve valued his work whenever I have read it) and the four-point Calvinists in my mind were contemporaries like Millard Erickson and Bruce Demarest. I don’t recall either of them affirming limited intent. What I heard was an affirmation of provisional rather than effectual atonement, which still looks incoherent to me. It is possible, therefore, that they do not represent the “classic-moderate” position of which you speak. I may even be closer to it than they are. These are things I am eager to pursue and discover when time allows.
I shall return.
You say: I’ll just mention now that I have not read Mueller on this point (though I’ve valued his work whenever I have read it) and the four-point Calvinists in my mind were contemporaries like Millard Erickson and Bruce Demarest. I don’t recall either of them affirming limited intent. What I heard was an affirmation of provisional rather than effectual atonement, which still looks incoherent to me. It is possible, therefore, that they do not represent the “classic-moderate” position of which you speak. I may even be closer to it than they are. These are things I am eager to pursue and discover when time allows.”
David: Bare with me for a moment–this will be an excursus somewhat–and I will set out what I think has been happening. I should say, I find it terribly hard, next to impossible, to *not* write more comprehensive explanations; which I know runs against our Tweet culture.
It has been way over a decade or more since I read Erickson, so I cant really speak for him. My reading of Demarest puts him in the classic-moderate camp of unlimited extent and limited intent. I think its in his book “The Cross and Salvation,” but that was a long time ago. If I may introduce another name, this may help to clarify. I was introduced to Chafer by a poster on theological forum and my limited reading of even Chafer puts him in the classic camp as well.
Here is what I think is the problem in the way a lot of TULIP approach this discussion: and here I speak only to those who grid their categories along the axis of 5 versus 4 points (or 5 points of Arminianism as the only alternative). The problem is when one thinks along a modern 5 point grid or TULIP grid, wherein it is asserted the key idea is “Christ only died for some,” any apparent negation of the so-called “third” point appears to be straight-forward. And so, if we ask the question, if we deny the so-called third point, where or what does that entail or what are we left with? According to the limited conceptual categories which modern TULIP polemics often posit, that leaves us only with *this* other competing proposition: “Christ died for no one especially or effectually.” In other words, “Christ died for all men equally” (Arminianism).
Now we are getting somewhere. For this reason the Trinitarian counter-argument comes into play. If Christ died for no one especially, such that he died for all equally, how does that comport with the Father’s election of some to life, and the Spirit’s effectual calling: hence intra-Trinitarian conflict, etc etc etc.
Now back to Chafer. Nearly all of the modern TULIP polemics in print and online Ive read posit this flattening out of the conceptual categories with regard to Chafer and co. Hence the label “4 point Calvinist” as defined; unlimited extent, no special intent. Now this Chaferian fellow I met online pointed out and cited extracts from Chafer’s writings where he indeed did affirm a special intent of the satisfaction to the elect: this is certainly how it read to me. I was quite surprised. Now I am not a scholar on Chafter, so I dont know if he had some nuance where redefines election in some way, but what I read was standard moderate-Calvinist material, election, as properly defined, along with a universal scope of the satisfaction of the atonement, with a limited and special intent. My reading confirms this was the basic position of Darby as well. I *think* when they speak more to provision it is because of emphasis, they which to emphasize what has been lost in your minds.
Now having said all that, I fully grant that Chafer and others may have said other things. As I do not think or work from the dispensational perspective, most of the time Chafer and co are not even on my horizon; and this is not said with any disparaging connotation. Dallas Seminary theology is just not my theological interest.
So having said all that, my real point, from my reading, its probably not the case that any of the credible exponents of unlimited satisfaction and unconditional election really do teach a simplistic version that “Christ died for all equally, for no one especially.” Unfortunately, however, on the net and in some popular print works (RC Sproul etc) anything that appears to deny the “third” point of TULIP is construed as a complete denial of any special intent. For many, they find it impossible to conceptualise unlimited extent with special intent, and this is mostly due to things like the faulty double-payment dilemma.
Even with all that aside, from within the Reformed tradition, I believe I am certainly on solid ground, and this is where Richard Muller comes in. For a long time now certain scholars have inseparably connected Amyraldianism with Hypothetical Universalism (HU). And it has been commonly asserted that Amyraut taught a post-redemptionist order of the decrees as Warfield incorrectly alleged, such that we see in this so-called Amyraldian ordering another line of thought that leads into the same simplistic 4-point dilemma.
Here is where I am getting to on this: All forms of HU as Amyraldianism, and Amyraldianism equals post-redemptionist decree, etc etc, ergo, all HU theologies are 4-pointers. It is really a superficial reading of the sources. We can leave aside the question of whether or not Amyraut actually did teach a particular sort of lapsarian ordering of the decrees as Warfield alleged. As Muller says, we need to focus on seeing a variety of forms of HU. Muller concedes that Musculus, Bullinger, even Ursinus and many others, all taught forms of what he calls non-Amyaldian HU. This frees us from the superficial connection, whereby we can now see forms of HU which either did not even engage the lapsarian question *at all,* and/or which can be disconnected from Amyraut and the true Amyraldians of Saumur. We can now read Bullinger, for example, without trying to fit him into the modern TULIP grid, or, conversely, rejecting him as “Amyraldian.” We can stop mediating our categories of HU through the popular but incorrect prism of “Amyraldianism,” which is really cool. And we can stop mediating first and second generation Reformation theology through the TULIP grid, seeking to make them fit it; which is what so many have been trying to do. This olds good for medieval studies too: Augustine, Aquinas and Lombard, to name three.
Anyway, I will stop there. Chafer and co may be tricky, granted, but in terms of the Reformed side of things, the issues and evidence is much more solid and certain.
Oh yes, I have set it to notify me when new comments are added.
Thanks for your time and patience,
Thank you again David. As I was reading your comments, I began to wonder if Amyraut’s hypothetical universalism was what you might be identifying as “classic-moderate” Calvinism. You soon put that idea to rest. It was intriguing though because, in Who Can Be Saved? I found it necessary to provide an appendix laying out why my own proposal of “universal sufficient grace” is not Amyraldianism. I did this because a Westminster prof, after giving a quick read to a paper I had written on my concept sometime before the book came out, rather speedily dismissed my view as Amyraldian. It is not, and I tried to show how not.
Anyway, I shall add your recent comment to my agenda for pondering when I have more time, after which I’ll come back to the subject myself, in this thread.
Ah I see. I shall track down a copy of your book. That’s prof’s reaction is pretty much standard. One of mine accused me of being a Barthian after reading one of my papers. 🙂 After his reaction, I picked the profs who wouldnt like what I had to say and wrote what they wanted to hear. 🙂 For other profs, I was able to do my own research without worry of any flak.
The common denominator for all HU variants goes back to the question: “For whose sins did Christ suffer? Answer: for the sins of all men.” Over and above that, there is a lot of diversity and complexity within the HU schools as well as the limited satisfaction wings.
My website is down right now as my hoster is migrating everything to a better server, so I cant refer you to any of my Muller links.
Something to stimulate thinking: one of the issues Ive been researching is the presence of pecuniary or commercialist categories in limited satisfaction theology. A really good work on this is: A critical examination of John Owen’s argument for limited atonement in “The Death of death in the death of Christ” / by Neil Andrew Chambers. It is a Th.M thesis from RTS Jackson. You can get it as a pdf from tren.com.
It is this pecuniary element that undergirds Owen’s double-payment dilemma.
Anyway… I will stop there.
When the C&C site comes back up I will send along the relevant links.
My C&C site is back up.
The Muller links of interest.
And on the question of the revised suffiency formula, see:
Most of the material is easy to find either by scrolling through my main index (click on my name) or going to the name index tab at the site .
If you go to the “For whom did Christ die?” file from the main index, you can see all the first and second generation Reformers and their affirmations of an unlimited satisfaction and redemption.
Thanks for your time,
Thanks David. I’m eager to get a look at all this but it will need to happen when more flex time comes my way.
I may well need to spend time on your site with the resources you have amassed there – a very significant collection. In the meantime, perhaps I can cut to the chase by getting some help from you.
I read through your selections from Zwingli in which he clearly asserts that Christ died for the sins of all and actually paid the price for those sins. He leaves me seriously puzzled, if he also asserts limited divine intent, as you have stated.
From your early remarks in your first comment on my post, I take it that you disagree with the proposal that Christ’s death was sufficient for all only in a hypothetical manner, i.e., that no further sacrifice would have been necessary if all were to be saved. That is precisely the conviction I hold now.
Since you have given this a great deal of thought, can you sum up for me how the argument goes that puts (1) actual sufficiency of Christ’s death as a sacrifice made in a penal substitutionary manner for all people together with (2) God’s intent in Christ’s death only to save the elect?
Currently, that does look quite incoherent to me. I’d like to read your selections more completely but I’m wondering whether they will get me any further than my reading of the Zwingli selections did. Will they explain to me how it is that Christ effectively bore the sin of all, while intending only to save the elect, and while saving only those who believe, even though God gives faith only to the elect? If they do so, can you, as I asked above, kindly outline that argument for me.
Additionally, can you sum up why it is that the concern about double penalty is invalid? I’ve come across that proposal but haven’t attended closely to it and would be happy to know its substance, since the double penalty argument makes sense to me right now.
I read your two links to Muller’s work and found them interesting. His contention that there is a line of HU running within the Reformed tradition which has been ignored by those who have tried to flatten it to one understanding is intriguing and I’d like to give it more attention. It would be fair to say, however, that, since I’m Baptist and not working within a Reformed confessional context, my historical theological interest is very subordinate to my exegetical and systematic interest. Not that I disregard or do not value the work done by theologians before me, but my primary interest is to glean from them help in my own theological construction of Scripture’s teaching on this issue.
Thanks for whatever you have time to do on this, to give me a shortcut to the bottom line.
You say: From your early remarks in your first comment on my post, I take it that you disagree with the proposal that Christ’s death was sufficient for all only in a hypothetical manner, i.e., that no further sacrifice would have been necessary if all were to be saved. That is precisely the conviction I hold now.
David: Sure… if the sufficiency of the satisfaction is only hypothetical with regard to all men, then there can be no “offer” of a sufficient satisfaction (as remedy) to all men. I know some of this may seem like standard arguments against limited satisfaction you may have heard from Arminians, but some of those arguments have merit. For example, how can a man offer a remedy to a man for whom that remedy was not made? The Arminian is correct to ask this sort of question. However, the standard TULIP response glosses over the problem. To offer something is to give or present to someone to accept or reject. Many many examples could be made, and I cant think of one where one can sincerely and seriously make an offer of something (to give them) which the offerer does not have in his possession nor has available to him to confer. Underlying this problem is the sufficiency issue. Of course this is not a problem for Hypercalvinists.
You say: Since you have given this a great deal of thought, can you sum up for me how the argument goes that puts (1) actual sufficiency of Christ’s death as a sacrifice made in a penal substitutionary manner for all people together with (2) God’s intent in Christ’s death only to save the elect?
David: Sure. bare with me, as I will try to tackle the problem from different angles, some of which will not immediately be apparent.
Let’s put it like this. Against ‘John’ stands the whole weight of the curse of the law. This has to be true, given what James 2:10, and other verses, along with our Anselmian tradition. The whole weight of the curse of the law which condemns John, also condemns Peter. It cant be a case that if we add Peter, that “more” ‘whole weight of the curse of the law’ now condemns John *and* Peter. Or conversely, that if Christ suffered not only for John, but also for Peter, he would suffer more of the whole weight of the curse of the law.
Or like this. Let’s characterised the curse of the law against a given man as X. If we have 10 men all condemned by the law, all are condemned to suffer X, respectively. Christ, as substitute, suffers X by way of vicarious suffering. In suffering X, what he has accomplished is sufficient for all 10 (and so on indefinitely: all things being equal). Christ would not have to suffer 10 times X, or 4 times X, as you know. In making a penal satisfaction as “payment” to X, he has *paid* the X for all 10.
In this case, what Christ sustained by way of his penal satisfaction is actually sufficient for all. However, under TULIP, here is where the irrational aspect is injected. TULIP, and the so-called 5 points as taught by such as John Owen, want to say, it is the case that only the X of, say, 4 of the 10 men were “imputed” to Christ. How does that work? It can only work by seeing imputation of sin in a quantitative manner: the imputation of so many “bits” of sin’s guilt. And herein lies the heart of the problem. Let us throw in some names to make it explicit. According to the limited satisfaction, somehow the X (or even so many x’s) of Harry, Peter, Sarah, and Mike, respectively, were imputed to Christ, but not the X (or the many x’s) of Joe, Molly, Susan, Kent, Luke and Max, respectively. How does that make sense? It can only make sense by reducing imputation of sin to a quantity of sins imputed.
By the second half of the 16thC, this dilemma had become more explicit as the doctrine of limited satisfaction, itself, became more solidified. John Howe and Jonathan Edwards are folk who appear to have moved away from this quantitative idea to the idea of Christ. For them and others it is more the case of suffering for the “sins of men.” Baxter is critical here too. This qualitative view of imputation–rejecting the quantitative view–was embraced by the Edwardseans, the New England theologians, many Old School Presbyterians (C Hodge), and many New School guys (Shedd, Dabney et al).
Once one understands the mechanism of imputation in the limited atonement argument the problem becomes apparent. Let’s suppose then, building on my “ten men” analogy, Christ suffers the X of only 4 of the men. How could it be supposed, then, that after suffering the X of 4 of the men, that Christ could offer pardon for the remaining 6? It would be impossible, as his vicarious satisfaction was a ‘once and completed’ act: and it is impossible to, after the fact, impute more sin. Make sense?
That may not be immediately apparent, so let me explain that. Between pardon-freedom, on the one hand, and the 10 men in jail, on the other hand, stands the necessary condemnation of the law. The law is a legal barrier which necessarily binds them to prison (until some satisfaction is made). If Christ sustains a penal satisfaction for the 4 men only, the legal bonds between the Father and those 4 have been removed, insofar, as that *necessary* legal condemnation has been removed: in that the 4 are now savable, now pardonable, etc. However, between the Father and the 6 men, that necessary legal condemnation remains in place: there is no possible way wherein they may be pardoned (apart from the work of Christ): they are not savable, they are not pardonable. And given that the death of Christ has already been accomplished, an no more sin imputed to him, such that he could suffer for them too, no pardon can be extended to them, and any offer of pardon to them would be but a mockery. The necessary legal barriers between God and the 6 remain inexorably intact. And of course, in the real situation, they can never sustain in their own person a suitable satisfaction for their sin, which could make them pardonable. Thus they stand forever unpardonable and condemned.
The classic-moderate Calvinist, with a primarily quantitative imputation of sin sees the nature of the satisfaction as unlimited, indeed, any attempt to impose a limitation here must be deemed irrational, unless one seriously wants to propose that so many sins of John were imputed, so many sins from Susan, imputed, but none of the sins of Harry. And, had Harry been elected, then more sins–namely Harry’s–would have been imputed to Christ. [The classic-moderate finds such an idea of more or less sin being imputed absurd] Now, this is not saying that had Harry been elected, Christ would have had to *suffer* more. However, the greater (or lesser) imputation of sin is the flip-side of that question, but which is mostly neglected by limited satisfaction proponents, even tho it is a valid entailment of their limited imputation model.
It takes some thinking about, but once grasped by the mind, it sorts itself out pretty well.
You say: Currently, that does look quite incoherent to me. I’d like to read your selections more completely but I’m wondering whether they will get me any further than my reading of the Zwingli selections did. Will they explain to me how it is that Christ effectively bore the sin of all, while intending only to save the elect, and while saving only those who believe, even though God gives faith only to the elect? If they do so, can you, as I asked above, kindly outline that argument for me.
David: the bulk of the material at the C&C site is “primary source,” without commentary. We have found that for Reformed, the biggest hurdle are the basic facts. Almost to a man, the Reformed folk we have met, debated, and dialogued with insist that limited atonement *was* taught by all the first and second generation Reformers, thus a lot of my C&C work is to sort that out, so that when folk–say in a conversation–can be honest about the fact, with correct information, then we can begin discussing implications and explanations, etc.
Also, further down in the main menu that explanation is given, but again by way of primary sources. Seeing the various sides of the sufficiency formula stated, for example, should be self-evidencing and self-explanatory. Or seeing the various rebuttals to the double-payment dilemma should be enough to begin the process or working through that issue. My goal is more to allow the witnesses to speak for themselves and for me to remain in the background as much as possible. And for lots of reasons and experiences, this seems best when dealing with hard-core Reformed minded folks committed to the modern TULIP.
You ask: Additionally, can you sum up why it is that the concern about double penalty is invalid? I’ve come across that proposal but haven’t attended closely to it and would be happy to know its substance, since the double penalty argument makes sense to me right now.
David: Sure. It works on two faulty assumptions:
1) it sees the properly penal satisfaction of Christ as having the same efficacy as a pecuniary or commercial satisfaction. This is fairly easy to document. John hows Peter $1000. Let us say, John is delinquent in his payment. He has an outstanding obligation to Peter. I come along and in behalf of John, pay the debt off entirely. The results are: a) the debt, itself, is discharged, b) John’s obligation is voided, and c) all pecuniary grounds for grievances Peter may have had toward John has been removed, all ipso facto; it is, as it were, as if John and Peter are “reconciled,” financially speaking.
What is more, it would be illegal and unjust, if after receiving my payment in behalf of John, Peter would try to demand a second satisfaction from John, etc etc. Peter could not act as if he was still the transgressed party.
2) Double payment assumes that the guilt of sin is somehow literally transferred to the substitute, in same way currency is literally exchanged. Whereas, biblicaly, it works this way: Christ is treated as though he was a sinner (as though he had committed all and every sin imaginable and actual), thus in this way is sin imputed (reckoned) to him. However, while Christ is treated *as though* he were a sinner, all the while, I remain an actual sinner: I remain under wrath and condemnation for as long as I remain an unbeliever.
The double payment argument, for it to work, must deny that in life, as an unbeliever, I am actually subject to divine punishment and curse because Christ has already made a full-“payment” for me.
So to answer your question way above. A qualitative view of imputation allows for an unlimited nature of the satisfaction and for a limited intent to apply it.
You say: I read your two links to Muller’s work and found them interesting. His contention that there is a line of HU running within the Reformed tradition which has been ignored by those who have tried to flatten it to one understanding is intriguing and I’d like to give it more attention. It would be fair to say, however, that, since I’m Baptist and not working within a Reformed confessional context, my historical theological interest is very subordinate to my exegetical and systematic interest. Not that I disregard or do not value the work done by theologians before me, but my primary interest is to glean from them help in my own theological construction of Scripture’s teaching on this issue.
David: Sure I understand that. However, if you ever want to hang out with some Founders folk of the SBC, or “Reformed Baptists” then the history will be important. Ive found Founders SBC folk and Reformed Baptists have reacted badly to the actual facts. Many Founders and RBs have made the same emotional investment in TULIP as being the single expression of what can be identified as Reformed soteriology, etc.
You say: Thanks for whatever you have time to do on this, to give me a shortcut to the bottom line.
David: Not a lot of short-cuts in all this, sorry. For material challenging the double-payment fallacy, go here: http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7323
Thanks for your time and patience. Any questions, feel free to ask. At any time you can email me direct.
Thanks very much David. You have been very helpful.
I have always spoken of the universal sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work, limiting only its intent. On that point, I see no need to change my view, but I have grasped some other things much more clearly – e.g. distinction between pecuniary and judicial, which removes the grounds of a double-penalty concern; nature of the universal satisfaction made by Christ. You had previously mentioned C. Hodge’s valuable contribution on the earlier point and I just read that, finding it excellent. Though I have had no difficulty defending a fee offer of gospel, I see the case more clearly in light of your explanations too.
All in all, this conversation has been very profitable for me and I am delighted to have gotten your site bookmarked. It is a valuable selection of citations, well classified on the various issues.
Your clarification is much appreciated. You have been generous with your time.
Yes, once the issue of a limited quantitative imputation of sin is put aside, the classic model makes sense. A qualitative imputation of sin allows for “sin” as a generic quality to be reckoned to Christ, and yet it allows for it to be your sin, my sin, the personal sin of all of us, as the universal comprehends all the particulars. Most modern TULIP proponents of limited satisfaction focus only on personal and finite quantifiable sin as being imputed to Christ.
What exactly was it about Zwingli that caused you concern? I know for me and for a lot of folk, a big mind-bender is the idea of sin being expiated, in a past tense sense. We have found that most modern TULIP advocates struggle with the idea of an objective satisfaction accomplished in the past, which fulfills the demands of the law entirely (objectively speaking), but which may not lead to the complete salvation of the person for whom the satisfaction is made. Part of problem there is the failure to separate redemption accomplished, and redemption applied, which, itself, parallels the objective and subjective aspects of the satisfaction and redemption accomplished and applied. These ideas are barely distinguished in modern popular TULIP theology.
Because of double payment dilemma is so engrained in their minds, the implicit pecuniary causalities are almost unshakable. It is very hard for folk to think of the work of Christ as having any contingent aspect to it. And added to that is the idea that the satisfaction, itself, somehow “purchases” faith, or secures faith, for *all* for whom it was made. That is not an idea found in Scripture.
To close out, my problem with the Olson-Horton discussion, as with most Arminian-5-Point discussion on “limited atonement,” is that the critical issues underling the assumptions of the TULIP version of substitutionary atonement are never brought to the table. Once those TULIP assumptions–of imputation as transference and satisfaction as having inherent, though often tacit, pecuniary causalities–the case for a limited satisfaction really unravels.
When the biblical doctrine of satisfaction is properly grasped, as with C Hodge and his comments regarding the Lutherans, there really is a lot of common ground between Evangelical Arminianism and Evangelical Calvinism on the nature and meaning of Christ’s satisfaction, with implications to understanding our vital union with Christ, as opposed to a primarily, bare and abstracted decretal union. The wall that divides is not so high and thick as once imagined.
I would still strongly recommend the Chamber’s book on Owen’s Death of Death. Chamber’s critique of Owen’s structures of thought, exegesis, assumptions and arguments is blistering, and in my opinion, unanswerable. If you email me I can get you a pdf copy.
Thanks for the kind words. For sure, getting all cranky with what I call a “Mission from God” complex gets nowhere. Ive tried to avoid all that as it only flows from an insecurity deep down.
Feel free to ask any questions or contact me.
Thanks so much for this presentation on Olson’s work. As always, I so appreciate the clarity that you bring to the discussion. However, one question for further clarity: you say “So creation is consistent with God’s loving nature, but it is not necessitated by it.” The two terms “it” in the latter clause are tripping me up a wee bit. Do you mean to say that “[creation] it is not necessitated by it [God’s loving nature]?” I would expect so, but want to be “clear” on your meaning.
Whoops, sorry Paul. You are right – one “it” would have avoided the ambiguity. Your rendering is what I intended to say: “[creation] is not necessitated by [God’s loving nature]?,” although creation is consistent with God’s nature.
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Oh, the folly of the cult named calvinism. It is so man-made, so anti-biblical, and still the calvinists simply don’t see it; such is the demonic indoctrination in the cult. What a cancer this abomination has been throughout the ages . . . and responsible for thousands upon thousands fleeing from God, pushed away from the biblical God, the biblical Jesus. Only one being (Satan) benefits from this diabolical nonsense called calvinism.
I would like to share my comment that the apparent conflicting doctrinal positions among Calvinists are deductions from not-so-consistent-soteriology! I would like to suggest that we should review our perceptions regarding the efficacy of the redemptive work of Christ. When Christ says, “It is finished (tetelesthai), He means that redemption was then effected for His church’s salvation, that is, that His elect, the Church was once-and-for-all forgiven of sins, called for salvation, justifed, sanctified, and glorified (Rom.8:29-30, all the verbs arer in the past tense). This should be understood that the “ordo salutis” which is preternal in the Divine Noumenon (eternally singular in God’s mind/purpose, not noumena – in Isa. 46:10, that is, Divine Decree should not be pluralized as if God thinks the way we, theologians think!). Isaiah did not wrote, ” Declaring the end FROM (not AND) the beginning . . . .” Instead, “declaring the end FROM the beginning. The singular decree has points of its fulfilment which all schools of Scholastic Calvinists would assert the Divine decreeS pluralizing that SINGULAR Decree. This why the late Abraham Kuyper’s view of Justification of the elect in eternity was condemned by a synod! Inview of this, Soteriology and Ecclesiology should be understood in their threefoldness, namely, SALVATION is the DIVINE NOUMENON, MESSIAHNIC PHENOMENA, and Elects’ PERSONAL Experience/Phenomena and His CHURCH should be understood as KURIAKE (Acts 20:28; Mk.10:45; I Pet.2:5; 9), EKKLESIA (Acts 15:16, 17), and KOINONIA (Heb.10:25; I Jn.1:6, 7)