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Monday, July 06, 2009

A Common Error Among Calvinists - Rationalism At Its Worst


It is indeed true that Jesus died only for the elect and that all for which he died will be saved. Notwithstanding, it is not a matter of logical necessity that the Holy Spirit unites the elect to Christ.

As a five point Calvinist, I would argue that we can know from revelation that Universalism is false and that all who were chosen in Christ were purchased by Christ; and that the Holy Spirit will unite them and them only to Christ. And although it is true that the Triune God works in harmony, it is not a matter of logic that those for whom Christ died will be saved; yet it is true they will be saved.

First off, there is no universal principle that vicarious suffering and payment necessitates payment received. For instance, if I were to suffer and pay for something on behalf of someone I love yet require that the person willfully pick up the purchased possession, a refusal of one to do so would not obstruct justice. It is incumbent upon one to show why it is necessary that God apply redemption given that the reception of a purchase is not universally necessary for injustice not to obtain. (Again, it’s not a question of whether God determined to apply redemption to all the elect but rather whether not doing so would violate logic or justice.) 

It is indeed true that:
“If Jesus' death atoned for everyone's sins, then everyone would go to heaven.” P*
Notwithstanding, the Calvinistic meaning of atonement is the issue of debate and penal substitution does not imply the consequent. In other words, P* is not deducible by solely considering the judicial, vicarious sufferings of Christ as penal substitute. It’s a bit more complex than that, obviously.

Narrowly considered, the nature of the cross does not in and of itself necessitate that redemption must be applied. (Rather, redemption must be applied due to God’s determination, which was not constrained by logic or justice but rather purpose.) As well, although P* is true (according to Scripture), it is not placed within a very interesting polemic because the common argument does not involve an internal critique of the Arminian position and it begs too many crucial salvific questions regarding: divine intent within the Godhead as it pertains to redemption accomplished and applied; the extent of the fall as it pertains to man's will; and the metaphysics of the will with respect to pure contingency and necessity.

The polemic attributed to Owen (I do not say it is Owen's) does not attack Arminianism because it begs crucial questions. For instance, if irresistible grace was not necessary for faith to be implanted, then P* could be false. If God did not desire to work in harmony with respect to election, redemption and application, then that premise could be false. If God does not by grace cause people to persevere in their sanctification (which too was purchased at the cross), then that premise could be false.

In the final analyses: (1) God’s revelation pertaining to the fullness of grace and the unity of the Godhead as it pertains to the divine redemptive intention is what informs us of the truth or falsity of P*. It's not enough simply to assert P*. (2) Given the truth of P* (in light of all revelation), the often alleged logical necessity of the consequent in P* needs to be demonstrated as a part-and-parcel with the concept of penal substitution.

Now let me really put the cookies on the table. If penal substitution alone requires that another be set free, then why the need for existential union with the substitute in order for sinners to be forgiven? Why aren't the elect free from condemnation apart from being baptized into Christ - i.e. while outside Christ, if substitution alone requires justification? Accordingly, Owenites must at least argue that substitution logically requires that God regenerate sinners, a tall order to prove indeed from the doctrine of substitution.
I can't die for a serial killer and justice be served. In the like manner, substitution alone is not enough for redemption otherwise I would have been set free while unconverted, a clear violation of Ephesians 2. Regarding the serial killer example I would somehow have to be united to the killer (or rather he to me) in perfect union if we are to glean anything from Scripture in this regard. No doubt, the Trinity's harmonious intention as revealed in Scripture results in the gracious particular application of redemption. Moreover, for the intention of the substitution not to become effectual is of course impossible because limited atonement is biblical but that's the issue of debate and, therefore, may not be assumed in the definition of substitutionary atonement! We must deal with Arminians with intellectual honestly. What must be grasped is that the substitutionary death of Christ and particular redemption are not the same thing! The latter has to do with intention or design of the substitionary death and how it relates to redemption-applied i.e. with a view toward efficacy and application, which being the issue of debate may not be infused into the definition of substitution.

Lastly, that the Holy Spirit converts all that Jesus died for speaks to the harmonious plan of redemption as revealed in Scripture but says nothing about some supposed double jeopardy that would have occurred had Christ died for men who remained unconverted men. Double jeopardy occurs when the same man pays twice for the same sin and it would occur if one in existential union with Christ went to hell. One cannot pay for his sins once the sacrifice for his sins is his made his own or appropriated, which occurs upon union and not at the time of propitiation! Accordingly, baptism into Christ's work is what makes Christ's sacrifice the sinner's sacrifice. Consequently, it's only upon existential union with Christ that there is no condemnation. And it is only upon union that double jeopardy could come into view.

Ron

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