Friday, September 17, 2004

Atonement & Justification - Type & Shadow


I recently had a conversation with a Lutheran friend regarding the Calvinist doctrine of Limited Atonement. Many of you know that I am quite partial toward our Lutheran brethren, seeing that their founder was an excellent exegete and had a most concise view of the Law/Gospel distinction. I find that there is much in the Lutheran (LCMS) tradition that interests me. There is, however, a few disagreements between we who hold to a Calvinistic position and those Lutherans we admire. One of the most striking of which is, of course, the debate over the extent of and intention of the atonement.


I know Lutherans hold to what they term "Objective Justification", what exactly that means I'm perhaps still somewhat unclear on. However, in my discussion with my Lutheran friend I noticed that there are striking similarities between his view of atonement and that of the Arminian or semi-Pelagian. (I put 'his' in italics because he may not be representative of all Lutherans.) Let me explain.

The Lutheran (please correct me if I am wrong!) view is that Christ's payment was for each and every person who ever lived, thus they are "objectively justified":

"The pattern is clear and consistent throughout: the Gospel or absolution offers not a conditional, future prospect, but a perfected, past and present reality. God already is gracious, merciful, propitious, reconciled in Christ, and freely offers this ready forgiveness or grace in the Gospel. To believe this Gospel or absolution is to believe oneself forgiven, justified, accepted. Forgiveness exists “objectively” already before faith. Faith does not create forgiveness but only receives, accepts, appropriates it." - Kurt Marquart (http://marquart4president.org/oj.shtml)

Thus the Lutheran believes that in order for there to be a 'free offer' of the Gospel, Christ's death must have paid for the sins of all those who might be potentially saved. Recently, in a webcast of the Lutheran program Issues Etc. ( http://kfuo.org/IE_Main.htm ), which by the way is a fantastic Gospel declaring program, they showcased a former "Calvinist", Dr. Leonard Payton, turned Lutheran. Of course, as often is the case when people who claim to be Calvinists convert to another view, what the person believed was not quite Calvinism but in many cases a strawman version thereof. [The program can be heard at: http://worldwide.kfuo.org/kfuo/issues_etc4/Sep_9c.wma, or http://www.kfuo.org/mp3/Issues4/Sep_9c.mp3 ]. Often during that broadcast I found myself decrying the injustice of the claims. The foremost of difficulties I had with this broadcast, however, is the idea that Calvinism "demands an answer for how/why God elects", regardless of the validity of that claim, the fact of the matter is that it is Scripture that tells us why and how God elects. It was surprising to hear during that broadcast, none of the traditional verses usually brought to the discussion was shown to be different than how Calvinism views it. Dr. Payton instead indicated instead that "the Bible doesn't provide said answer." Likewise, in my discussion with my Lutheran friend, there seems to be this ongoing view that one can easily explain away any difficult passages relating to election, atonement and justification since "God's ways are not our ways."

Yet most striking of all is the response I received when discussing the justice of universal atonement. Usually, when a Calvinist debates an Arminian (or their kin) on the subject of atonement, the conversation goes something like this:

Calvinist: "You believe that the sins of each and every person who ever lived are paid for?"

Arminian: "Yes."

Calvinist: "So on what basis does God condemn anyone?"

Arminian: "Unbelief..."

Calvinist: "Is unbelief a sin?"

Arminian: "Yes."

Calvinist: "Did Jesus pay for that sin?"

Arminian: "Yes..."

Calvinist: "So Jesus paid for everyone's sins, including the sin of unbelief, and yet God still punishes people for whose sins Jesus paid?"

Arminian: "Well... they have to accept the free gift..."

This pattern also occurs in discussions with folks of various denominations, including some NCT types (that is, seeing the Law as not condemning anyone but unbelief being the only sin) and it seems that most of us Calvinists have had this discussion with someone at some point. The most astounding thing, however, is that this conversation, while representative of those I've had with Arminians, was nearly word-for-word what I had with my Lutheran friend. The problems with this view are numerous, let me explain a few.

Firstly, and most obviously, is the problem of sin. Romans 1:18 (as well as elsewhere) states that men face the wrath of God not simply for unbelief but for "ungodliness" and "unrighteousness".

Secondly, if these sins are paid for, on what basis does God have a right to be wrathful? Does God impute to Christ sins He ultimately will punish men for? In legal terms this is "double jeopardy", a penalty demanded twice. Yet, as Arthur Custance noted: "No man can be held accountable for a debt that has already been paid for on his behalf to the satisfaction of the offended party." This is a basic legal premise, yet, it seems, one that God does not abide by. To this my Lutheran pal responded "[God] can punish sin as many times as He likes." But what does Scripture say:

Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

How can this be? If one is "in Christ Jesus" they're under no condemnation. Their sins are paid for. So far our Lutheran buddies are nodding noting that this is part of "subjective justification". Yet the questions previously posed creep back, if Christ paid for the sins of someone, how can they be condemned thereof. "Of course", says our Lutheran friend, "because they don't believe..." But again, Scripture to comes to mind:

Romans 8:34
...who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

The "us" mentioned here is of course no other than those "in Christ Jesus" who are not condemned in v. 1. The reason they are not condemned, is because of Christ's shed blood and because He is making intercession for them. My Lutheran pal insists that Christ makes intercession for those who He knows will never believe in Him.

Finally, there is the Biblical scope of atonement... that is whom the Bible declares is God's intent in the matter of atonement. It is here that our discussion gets more interesting.

The Lutherans (LCMS types) who believe in election, deny that man has a libertarian free will and clearly have so much going for them in respect to their view of law and grace, believe in universal atonement.

Yet when it comes to how this Universal Atonement is applied, the Lutherans respond:

“...when a man believes that his sins are forgiven because of Christ and that God is reconciled and favorably disposed to him because of Christ, this personal faith [fides specialis] obtains the forgiveness of sins and justifies us” - (Apology,
IV, 45)


As Karl Barth wrote: "God enables us to appropriate this salvation."

It seems therefore, that the Lutherans, upon encountering the term kosmos in Scripture have come to view it as having the same meaning as the Arminian and Universalist... world means 'each and every person who ever lived.' Regardless of the context of the passage, whether identifying Gentiles as well as Jews, or expressing a subset of the world, the view is that world, kosmos, must mean "each and every person who ever lived." Now, this might not be 100% of all verses, and I'm willing to accept that, but how do they respond to alternative position's exegetical evidence? "We cannot know."

But Biblical atonement has never applied to each and every person who ever lived, even though the plan of salvation, what the Reformed call the Covenant of Grace, included from the beginning "men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." Abraham was not a Jew... Rahab was not a Jew (and so on). Yet when it came to the blood of the paschal lamb, it was intended to save only the people of whose doors it was applied. The sacrifices of the Day of atonement were not universal in scope, applying to the Egyptians as well as the Jews, they were made for the people of Israel alone.

This of course is, as my Lutheran friend pointed out, merely type and shadow and since the Gospel was only partially revealed, the scope of Christ's atonement cannot be rightly understood from them. This is quite true, and yet it is evident that there is much unity in these types and shadows and the reality of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Most specifically, its intent was not for Egyptians and Greeks, but for Israel.

Before you all send Micah to the dispy-funny-farm, let me explain. Hopefully, however, most of you know where I'm headed.

Galatians 3:7
Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

By faith in Christ we become Israel and the Jerusalem that is above becomes our mother...

Galatians 4:26
But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.

It is those who are of faith then who are true Israel, as opposed to merely being blood-related to Abraham as Esau and Ishmael. (For a very interesting view about the salvation of Esau, listen to the aforementioned Issues Etc. episode...). Still with me?

Romans 4: 16
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

Now the promise of the New Covenant was not universal in scope. It was not broadcast to the Egyptians, Greeks or even the Edomites. Instead it is written: "I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH". The scope of the New Covenant is therefore limited to a specific people. The content of the Covenant then includes as well as other things: "FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE." Because of our relationship to Abraham through Christ (the Seed...), we are view as part of Israel and thus recipients of the New Covenant in the blood of Christ. It is this blood which was shed, not for all men, regardless of their faith in Him, but for His people as prophesied in the Old Testament by the types and shadows and the direct words of God Himself...

Deuteronomy 32:43
" Rejoice, O nations, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And will render vengeance on His adversaries, And will atone for His land and His people."

It was God's intent and promise to provide atonement for His people, a people of His choosing. This theme is carried forward into the New Testament.

Acts 20: 28
"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."

The Lutheran says that Christ's blood purchased each and every person who ever lived, but Scripture states that His blood purchased the church of God. This is not the only place this idea is expressed:

Titus 2:14
who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Thus Christ's blood did not make redemption merely possible as the Arminian believes, nor did it make men redeemable, as the Lutherans seem to believe, instead it actually accomplished what God intended.

Revelation 5: 9
And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."

Far from the idea of universal atonement, here is a clear declaration that the intent of Christ was to purchase a specific people from every tribe, tongue, people and nation. This is exclusive language, not the all-inclusive view of the Lutheran or Arminian.

Of course our friends are not without their own Scriptural backing, 1 John 2:2 for example often gets mentioned, ye A.W. Pink did an excellent explanation on this verse which I will not quote in entirety, but will post a relevant portion of:

"Now believers only may take comfort from this, for they alone have an "Advocate", for them alone is Christ the propitiation, as is proven by linking the Propitiation ("and") with "the Advocate"...

...if other passages in the New Testament which speak of "propitiation," be compared with 1 John 2:2, it will be found that it is strictly limited in its scope. For example, in Rom 3:25 we read that God set forth Christ "a propitiation through faith in His blood". If Christ is a propitiation "through faith", then He is not a "propitiation" to those who have no faith!

...who are meant when John says, "He is the propitiation for our sins"? We answer, Jewish believers..." - A.W. Pink, Sovereignty of God

Obviously these statements will not completely satisfy, but I hope a Lutheran might take a careful read of Pink's evidence and respond, but I digress. It seems, then, for the Arminian these apparently conflicting verses simply prove confusing and usually result in an emotional outburst, but our Lutheran friend has already heard it before: "It is a conundrum..." he responds. "Our ways are not His ways... we cannot know...." This then becomes the reigning method of Biblical interpretation for the Lutheran whenever such a difficulty is reached, rather than reviewing the texts and examining them exegetically, they reply, simply, "we cannot know...". This sort of hermeneutic can be heard in the Issues Etc. broadcast; 'it simply is unknowable and thus we shouldn't ponder it.'

Yet it is my contention that the Bible is more than clear on these matters... election, atonement, justification... When we view the scope of atonement in the types and shadows of the Old Testament, we can see an accurate picture of Christ's intent in the New, and also verify it by His own words.

More to come?

30 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:26 AM

    Will NO one comment??? oh. I just did. ok, carry on...

    dh

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  2. Anonymous12:25 AM

    Thanks for writing your thoughts on this issue Micah. I have been thinking about the differences off and on for some time, stemming from a conversation with a seminary friend regarding particular atonement. He is not a Lutheran, but may be closer to the 4-point Calvinism point of view. He considers himself a reformed fellow, but not reformed in the 5-pointer sense. His understanding is that Christ died for everyone, and the Spirit applies to whomever is chosen. My opposing view is that the Father chosed his people, and Christ died according to that plan, and the Spirit applies according to that plan. I am not sure how he can reconcile the inconherence in the salvation plan in his understanding. He understands that we just have to hold the biblical truths in tension, where the bible mentions Christ died for everyone, and at the same time it also mentions there are an elected group of people. To my understanding, this is an unnecessary tension, since it is not ambiguous that the bible mentions Christ did died for a specific group of people, and not all, eg. John 6.

    Following this point, there has been a strong view that the doctrine of particular atonement is a result of the strong practice of reformed scholasticism in the late 16th century. In this view there is a difference between what the first generation reformers understood and what the later generation reformers believed regarding the issue of particular atonement. Thus they argue that Calvin did not advocate or encourage the view of particular atonement, and it is only a later doctrinal development. An interesting article was published in the recent book, The Glory of Atonement, addressed this issue and defended that definite atonement was mentioned and discussed about before the late 16th century by the peers of Luther and also by a number of patristic fathers (Definite Atonement in Historical Perspective - Raymond Blacketer). In regards to the reformed scholasticism issue, there are significant findings that argues the negative views of reformed scholasticism are broadbrushed, filled with misconceptions and historical inaccuracies. The findings and arguments are presented in the book titled Reformation and Scholasticism. The summary of the book is that reformed scholastcism is not a "betrayal but a continuation of the Reformation heritage." This book published the findings of 13 prominent church historians through Europe and America.

    Just my thoughts. Keep up the writing. :-)

    Robin

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  3. Robin,

    Thanks for visiting my humble blog...

    Calvin wrote:

    ""And not for ours only." - He added this
    for the sake of amplifying, in order that
    the faithful might be assured that the
    expiation made by Christ, extends to all
    who by faith embrace the gospel.

    Here a question may be raised, how have
    the sins of the whole world been expiated?
    I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who
    under this pretense extend salvation to
    all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan
    himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves
    no refutation. They who seek to avoid
    this absurdity, have said that Christ
    suffered sufficiently for the whole
    world, but efficiently only for the
    elect. This solution has commonly
    prevailed in the schools. Though then
    I allow that what has been said is true,
    yet I deny that it is suitable to this
    passage; for the design of John was no other
    than to make this benefit common to the
    whole Church. Then under the word all or
    whole, he does not include the reprobate,
    but designates those who should believe
    as well as those who were then scattered
    through various parts of the world. For
    then is really made evident, as it is
    meet, the grace of Christ, when it is
    declared to be the only true salvation
    of the world." - John Calvin, Commentary
    - 1 John 2:1-2

    It seems evident from this passage, at least, that Calvin believed in what is now referred to as "Limited Atonement", even though he didn't believe it proper to argue 1 John 2:2 in this manner. He does, however, state that others: "said that Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect... I allow that what has been said is true". The writing: "he does not include the reprobate", claiming that John wasn't intending to address a universal atonement in this passage but the universality of atonement in relation to races.

    In regards to John 3:16, Calvin writes: "Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith... because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has atoned for our sins" Now this is clearly addressing the nature of man and his ability to believe in Christ, but when taken with his view on 1 John 2:2, it seems that Calvin did indeed believe and teach of an atonement limited in intent.

    Elsewhere he writes: "“And as he [Heshusius] adheres so doggedly to the words, I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh which was not crucified for them? And how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins? I agree with him, that Christ is present as a strict judge when his supper is profaned. But it is one thing to be eaten and another to be a judge . . . . Christ, considered as the living bread and the victim immolated on the cross, cannot enter any human body which is devoid of his Spirit”( Tracts and Treatise , Vol. II, p. 527).

    There's an excellent article at http://www.apuritansmind.com/Arminianism/NicoleRogerCalvinsLimitedAtonement.htm on this.

    Micah

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  4. Micah:

    I'm new to your blog. You should visit mine: www.maniladrive.blogspot.com

    My next project is to dive into Limited Atonement. One of the definitive works in defense of it is John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

    You mentioned Nicole. There's a great collection of articles brought together in a volume called The Glory of the Atonement, dedicated to his honor. It's got excellent theological, historical, biblical and practical essays on the Atonement proper, and lots of great historical data.

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  5. ...the fact of the matter is that it is Scripture that tells us why and how God elects.How is that? I hope that you will respond something like "due to the secret counsel of his sovereign will, which we may not inquire about".

    Lutherans want to make sure that we Calvinists aren't trying to peek at God in his underpants. You're absolutely right when you say that the Bible tells us why and how God elects: the Scriptures say "that's a secret left to God, now go preach the gospel"

    Thoughts? Hopefully I'm reading you right

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  6. I would have to agree with the ex-Calvinist that if we start with God's glory rather than reading the Bible as a book about Christ, we are always in peril of conscience. We have to be Christo-centric in all of our theologizing.

    He's wrong if he paints all Calvinists with this same wide brush. But he points out a flaw that we need to reform out of our circles: the scriptures are about Christ, and that's the only lens through which we can know anything of God, his mercy, his glory, or otherwise.

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  7. Andy wrote: "You're absolutely right when you say that the Bible tells us why and how God elects: the Scriptures say "that's a secret left to God, now go preach the gospel""

    Bingo. This is absolutely the truth. While it is true, as my Lutheran/esque friends often note, that we theologizers get hung up in viewing eternal things with a temporal mind, I don't believe that the Bible is so silent on such matters as to leave them in a mushy "i dunno" kinda place.

    Welcome to my little blog btw. :)

    I hope to post more soon, life has gotten hectic lately.

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  8. I generally agree with your "I dunno" frustrations. They accuse Calvinists of trying to search the unsearchable where we aren't permitted to go, and I agree that the Bible does have limits, and to hypothesize beyond those limits is very, very dangerous and impermissible. But yes, we're required to, as our confessions say, teach all things explicitly laid down in scriptures, and all things taught implicitly by good and necessary consequence.

    The Issues, Etc guy was so concerned on a pastoral level about these issues. The pastoral care aspect - comforting the troubled in conscience - is a concern for me, as I'm thinking of going to seminary in 2 yrs or so. But I think that he exaggerates the extent to which Calvinists say "just believe" and the extent to which Lutherans don't. Lutherans most certainly say "you must believe". There's no use in saying "well, did Jesus die for the world? are you part of the world? then he died for you" if the person is having doubts as to such basic questions as the Doctrine of God, etc. Pastorally, I think we need to emphasize that God has no reason but strict, unsearchable mercy for loving sinners at all - and that the Gospel is compromised if the Law is compromised or softened at this point. That was pretty wandering; sorry. I look forward to reading more on your blog soon.

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  9. Oops...I realized that Robin had long before beat me to the mention of the volume dedicated to Nicole, The Glory of the Atonement. I really should read other comments before posting my own.

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  10. Andy wrote: "Pastorally, I think we need to emphasize that God has no reason but strict, unsearchable mercy for loving sinners at all - and that the Gospel is compromised if the Law is compromised or softened at this point. That was pretty wandering; sorry. I look forward to reading more on your blog soon."

    Right, God's grace and love is the reason anyone is saved at all.

    I do love what the Lutherans say about the Law/Gospel though, what the Law demands the Gospel provides. One has to wonder therefore what the -Gospel- demands that one could fall away from it being provided for them. I'll work on this thought more later.

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  11. I fret at the same realization and inconsistency. The gospel demands that you keep going back for more gospel, I suppose, in their view. Or maybe the Law demands that.

    I think it's really a matter of them not wanting to go with Perseverence of the saints, and the other 4 pts. They have to do some serious cartwheels and qualifications in order to maintain their stance in this regard.

    They'd say the same of us, though.

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  12. Only question: How do you know Jesus died for you?

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  13. The question "how do you know Jesus died for you", presupposes one asks the question. SCRIPTURE (remember that ol' sola Scriptura principle) tells us that His sheep "hear His voice". One can answer this question therefore in a few ways... the very fact that one is concerned with this question perhaps shows that they are 'hearing' the voice of the Shepherd, be it because the Law has convicted them, or the Gospel has comforted them. Thus, since Scripture states "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners", the one who can cry out, with paul "among whom I am foremost of all" and seek Him can take comfort that Christ did indeed die for them.

    The question is, however, intended as a rethorical device to express that the 'Calvinist cannot know "Christ died for me" since they do not believe in Universal Atonement.'

    But the Lutheran's answer is only a partial one, and in the end doesn't supply the assurance they need either. Since they admit that not everyone is saved, and since they acknowledge election, the question, slightly altered, could easily be posed to them:

    How do you know that you have truly accessed Christ's atonement by faith?

    Since atonement is nothing without the individual accessing it by faith, and since faith is a gift of God, how sure can they be that they've truly received that gift?

    How can they avoid having that which they accuse us of: "faith in faith"?

    Now, they might point to their baptism, saying "we have faith in Christ and what He did in baptism" but since both (in their view) faith is a gift of God and baptism is a gift of God... there's no help here. In the end they're just having "faith in baptism".

    Since there are evidence in Scripture of baptized individuals bound for apostasy (and here they claim we deny that apostasy is real!) what makes them any more sure than we?

    The claim that Baptists have "faith in faith" is really a red-herring, since it could just as easily be said that Lutherans have "faith in baptism".

    Finally, they'll just have to shrug their shoulders and -hope- just the same. They cannot know that they aren't, like Judas, a son of perdition or like Pharoah or Annaias, raised up for a purpose unto destruction.

    But the Bible tells us...

    Romans 10:9
    that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

    How do we know "Christ died for me", it is not because Christ died for all, but because Christ bought His church with His own blood.

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  14. wow! I was surprised to see the number of comments on this post. :-) Keep up the good discussion. Micah, thought your last comment regarding how do we know Christ died for us, was useful.

    Will post more in the future when things are more settled. :D

    Robin

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  15. This is good stuff. I have come across the same things in my discussion with a Lutheran minister. "It is not knowable". That is what I get so many times. Too bad Scripture actually tells us! :)

    Tim

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  16. Scripture tells us God's intent, but not inner reasoning, if there is such a thing. While decrying the seemingly "arbitrary" nature of the Calvinist view of atonement, the Lutheran cannot escape the same claim when one considers that they would still believe faith to be a gift.

    Since faith is a gift, and God gives it to whom He chooses, how is this any less arbitrary?

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  17. "How do we know "Christ died for me", it is not because Christ died for all, but because Christ bought His church with His own blood."

    This begs the question: How do you know you are part of the Church which Christ bought?

    Tim

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  18. Scripture tells us. How about digging up some relevant ones and posting it here? :)

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  19. In most of these discussions, I think there is a lot of definition lacking. The only Reformed writer I've ever found who actually answers the important questions is Charles Hodge.

    "Sufficient for all, efficient only for the elect" doesn't really answer the question. Sufficient may answer the "how much" question, but it fails to answer whether the Atonement is even hypothetically applicable to the non-elect.

    With that question unanswered, the individual must know that he has faith before he can know he has been atoned for. Yet what is he to have faith in? The atonement as an act which may or may not apply to him?

    Most Calvinists never face this question because they either come in through Arminian preaching like the 4 Spiritual Law, and when they become Reformed assume their conversions were genuine, or they are raised Reformed and treated like children of the covenant after baptism. But if someone were to be faced with consistent Reformed teaching, I wonder how most of them would ever come to faith in the first place. The logical order is a circle no one can enter.

    Hodge at least states outright that the Atonement was not performed in such a way that it could not apply to anyone, should they believe. Owen gives a far different answer to this, and so has to offer a convoluted ordo salutis.

    Now let me take on the dialog:

    Calvinist: "You believe that the sins of each and every person who ever lived are paid for?"

    John 3: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever beleives in him should not perish but have eternal life."

    Calvinist: "So on what basis does God condemn anyone?"

    John 3: "he who does not believe is condemed already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

    Calvinist: "Is unbelief a sin?"

    John 16:9: "concerning sin, beause they do not believe in me."

    Calvinist: "Did Jesus pay for that sin?"

    Rick: This is a framing problem. When we say Jesus paid, he paid by dying. We were ransomed "not with perishable things, such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18-19). This is different from a monetary payment. You don't quantify the drops of blood. Payment is made when the victim is dead. It would be the same payment to ransom one person as a hundred billion. Likewise with their sins.

    So I think I could say that he died for the purpose of saving a reprobate, should he believe, but not with the purpose of saving him in final unbelief.

    Calvinist: "So Jesus paid for everyone's sins, including the sin of unbelief, and yet God still punishes people for whose sins Jesus paid?"

    Rick: This is a poorly framed question, so yes and no are both bad answers. What does it mean to pay for one sin rather than another? Does Jesus get out a medicine dropper and say, "This drop of blood for that sin, but none for that?" No. I will go ahead an discuss intention in the Atonement. As a Lutheran I can say that God had a general benevolent will toward the whole world in the Atonement, as John 3 states. Jesus came into the world to save the world. Yet some are even at that point condemned already because of unbelief. Jesus did not come for the purpose of saving those who would never believe in him.

    This is quite different from saying Jesus did not come for the purpose of saving each person in the world. Because you can consider the person either as a person in general, or more narrowly as a believer or an unbeliever. Jesus came to save all persons in general, and more specifically, those who would believe, and not those who did not.

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  20. As a Lutheran I can say that God had a general benevolent will toward the whole world in the Atonement, as John 3 states.

    John 3 does not state anything about the extent or intent of atonement. Reading kosmos to mean "each and every person who ever lived" totally misses the intent of the passage and the rest of Scripture. I provided plenty of references from Scripture wherein God's intent in atonement is actually discussed, how about dealing with those before pulling the standard canard of "John 3:16!!!"?

    Jesus came into the world to save the world.

    Jesus came to redeem the kosmos, not "save the world", you seem to confuse Jesus with Superman. The Bible declares that Christ came to redeem God's chosen, God's church and people from every tribe, nation and tongue. Christ's mission is to do will of the Father, and that seems to be a major blind-spot for Lutheran theology, you dichotomize Father and Son and seem to indicate differing wills between them. What ever God desires, He gets.

    Jesus came to save all persons in general, and more specifically, those who would believe, and not those who did not.

    Yes, but "those would believe" are defined in Scripture as those "chosen from the foundation of the world". And His blood was shed "for many" and "for His church".

    You must deal with God's intention in Scripture.

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  21. Reading kosmos to mean "each and every person who ever lived" totally misses the intent of the passage and the rest of Scripture.


    Where did I say kosmos meant "each and every person who ever lived"?

    Again, I think the problem here is how the question gets framed—by both sides. You are asking a Lutheran to answer a question that he did not formulate. If you misframe the question, all possible answers will be wrong.

    Secondly, if these sins are paid for, on what basis does God have a right to be wrathful? Does God impute to Christ sins He ultimately will punish men for? In legal terms this is "double jeopardy", a penalty demanded twice.

    This is framing the problem wrong. If you insist on this kind of precision, your own system will fall apart as well. Why? Because you're suggesting that the imputation of sins must occur at the moment of Atonement. Yet for that to happen, many sins imputed have not been committed yet. In ordinary justice, you cannot justly punish someone for sins that have not been committed. So even in your system you have to have some wiggle room between potentiality and actuality.

    Yet this can be framed another way. The sins are paid for, should the person believe. The sins are not paid for in order that the person would be forgiven if they never believed.

    The question about on what right could God be wrathful is odd. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the debt has been cancelled, and then put back onto the servant. It would appear that the death of Christ could be imputed to the person, and then later unimputed.

    The trouble is that you're imagining that Christ has to die differently to forgive one number of persons rather than another. If he dies the same either way, these are not problems without solutions.

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  22. Again, I think the problem here is how the question gets framed—by both sides. You are asking a Lutheran to answer a question that he did not formulate. If you misframe the question, all possible answers will be wrong.

    You were the one who brought up John 3 as identifying the intention of God:

    "As a Lutheran I can say that God had a general benevolent will toward the whole world in the Atonement, as John 3 states. "

    You continue:
    This is framing the problem wrong. If you insist on this kind of precision, your own system will fall apart as well. Why? Because you're suggesting that the imputation of sins must occur at the moment of Atonement.

    Lutherans like to say of Christ's words "this is My body" that "he really meant it", and in the same way I say when Christ said "it is finished" it really was finished. Christ actually satisfied the wrath of God on the cross for those whom God intended to save. Christ did not make men saveable, He saved those for whom His blood was spilt in accordance with the intention of the Trinity established throughout the Old and New Testaments whereby God planned to redeem a people for Himself.

    The payment wasn't potential, it wasn't partial and it wasn't possible, it was accomplished. Not only did Christ actually pay for sins but he truly was a substitute for those whom He would redeem. Finally, Christ does in fact intercede on behalf of everyone for whom He died (Rom. 8:34, Heb 7:25) ensuring them to the end.

    Yet this can be framed another way. The sins are paid for, should the person believe. The sins are not paid for in order that the person would be forgiven if they never believed.

    The Bible however tells us that the sins WERE paid for, period, no ifs ands or buts.

    The trouble is that you're imagining that Christ has to die differently to forgive one number of persons rather than another. If he dies the same either way, these are not problems without solutions

    I needn't imagine anything, Scripture declares God's intention and Christ fulfills God's intention. God gets everything He desires without fail because Christ has accomplished it.

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  23. In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the debt has been cancelled, and then put back onto the servant. It would appear that the death of Christ could be imputed to the person, and then later unimputed.

    "It would appear" is the primary point, the fact of the matter is that the individual in question's debt was in fact not paid and was due. Aside from the fact that we're talking about a parable, which cannot provide us with a clear explination of every aspect of the kingdom of heaven. There is no discussion of substitutionary atonement in the parable, nor does it describe God's intent, rather, Christ is speaking to Jews who believe themselves to be part of the kingdom already by virture of being part of the covenant of Abraham, yet treat their neighbors without love and do not forgive. In the church we would see people who believe themselves to be part of the church because of baptism, or profession and yet are truly "bad trees".

    Truly, Lutherans of all people should be the first to see the problem with the Lutheran understanding of atonment because it places those who are no longer under the Law by virtue of Christ's payment of the law's requirements back under a law even while the requirements were fulfilled. Like going to jail even after paying the parking ticket. That's not the God of Scripture.

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  24. Lutherans believe that unbelief can co-exist with faith just as other sins do.

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  25. Lutherans believe that unbelief can co-exist with faith just as other sins do.

    So... all unbelievers are truly forgiven?

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  26. In response to Josh S. you wrote: "How do you know that you have truly accessed Christ's atonement by faith? Since atonement is nothing without the individual accessing it by faith, and since faith is a gift of God, how sure can [Lutherans] be that they've truly received that gift?"

    Your question suggests that atonement is an edifice built on the foundation of faith. On the contrary, faith is a fruitful tree planted in the objective reality of Christ's atonement.

    How do I know I have faith? When something is universally and objectively true -- like the fact that the sun rises in the east, for example -- asking a person if he is sure that he believes, or asking him how he knows he believes, starts to sound a little bizarre. At first glance your question strikes me the same way.

    I think faith itself is something of an enigma or a paradox. It is big and mighty. It can move mountains. But it is also small and inconsequential -- like a mustard seed. It can easily go unnoticed. I know it is an old, overworked analogy, but you exercise your faith in light switches everyday. Without this faith you would never be able to turn on a light, but this faith is so small and seemingly insignificant that you normally don't realize it is even there. The stronger a faith is, the less you notice it. When a faith is very strong it resides more in your gut than in your head. Such faith is born in an objective reality and cannot be shaken by misinformation or personal uncertainty.

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  27. At first glance your question strikes me the same way.

    Except that this is the foundation of the Lutheran understanding of atonement. Christ has "objectively justified" everyone who ever lived, but it only becomes "subjective" when the person accesses it by faith.

    The question isn't "how you know that you have true faith", though I think that is an excellent question since the Bible answers that OBJECTIVELY in 1 John 2 (though Lutherans refuse to accept that "by this we know" means "by this we know"), rather and I think more importantly, why did you believe while others do not.

    Apparently, in the Lutheran scheme, everyone is objectively justified but only some become subjectively justified by faith. Why then did you believe while another does not?


    I think faith itself is something of an enigma or a paradox. It is big and mighty. It can move mountains. But it is also small and inconsequential -- like a mustard seed. It can easily go unnoticed. I know it is an old, overworked analogy, but you exercise your faith in light switches everyday.


    It always interests me when folks begin to quote cliches (and though sometimes biblically-inspired) they usually have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    The Scriptures tell us that faith is a gracious gift of God, given according to His plan and purpose in eternity.

    Without this faith you would never be able to turn on a light, but this faith is so small and seemingly insignificant that you normally don't realize it is even there.

    What? What in the world does this mean? People turn on lights all over the world without relying upon the supernatural gift of faith that comes as a result of God's grace. Surely, they're operating on a concept of faith, they believe the light bulb will illuminate, but that kind of faith is not the faith of Scripture. It is not a faith in the risen Son of God.

    The stronger a faith is, the less you notice it.

    I guess you could be saying that those who operate upon saving faith do so subconsciously because it has become 'natural' to them, however, this idea of 'stronger' and 'weaker' faith seems an awful lot like that expressed by word-of-faith groups. "You just gotta have faith!"

    Faith is founded on something, that something is Christ, the Son of God, and we know of Him by the Word of God.

    Such faith is born in an objective reality and cannot be shaken by misinformation or personal uncertainty.

    Again, the focus of THIS post was about the nature of atonement throughout Scripture and how it compares to the Lutheran, and similarly Arminian constructs.

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  28. Christ has "objectively justified" everyone who ever lived, but it only becomes "subjective" when the person accesses it by faith.

    Although it is natural to speak of "subjective," as a counterpoint to "objective," to my knowledge "subjective justification" is not really a category within Lutheran theology, and it shouldn't be. To speak of "subjective" justification makes about as much sense as speaking of "subjective" sunrises. Jesus is who He says He is, and He accomplished what He came to do. Paul tells us that in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). John the Baptist cried out, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29) And on the cross this work was entirely finished (Jn. 19:30). Whether a person believes it or not, it is an objective reality. To speak of making this a subjective reality is an empty category that has no real meaning.

    Why then did you believe while another does not?

    Why are some saved and others are not? Why is it that in some sense God is willing to save a number of souls less than the total number of souls? These are imponderable questions. Putting the same question into another form we might ask, "How could God allow Adam and Eve to fall into sin? How can a good God tolerate evil in the world?" Scriptural responses to these questions do not satisfy us, because in these questions we are trying to comprehend the heart and soul of a Being who is perfectly righteous and perfectly merciful. I believe the answer is found in the cross itself, and, in the final analysis, it is a paradox. If we don't find peace in that answer – if we hold onto the question and continue to pursue it ad infinitum – it will drive us to the same fate as Captain Ahab in Moby Dick.

    Lutherans refuse to accept that "by this we know" means "by this we know."

    It is not that we refuse to accept this. In fact, I sometimes find comfort in good works observed in others and myself. And yet at the same time we try to carefully avoid the temptation to make this obedience the object of our faith. (Perhaps we are sometimes too careful?)

    I would also add that good works are known objectively to none but God. God determines what is good and what is not. I don't. I might think I have a pretty good understanding of what is righteous and what is not, but ultimately what I really have is a subjective interpretation of God's law, which I apply to the circumstances of life – circumstances which are often extremely complex and difficult to comprehend. So finding objectivity and assurance of salvation in obedience is something like walking on water. Can it be done? Yes, in fact, God does it effortlessly. I do it only by grace, and with great uncertainty. Yes, there can and should be some comfort and support derived from the fact that I sometimes love God and my neighbor. But we cannot find comfort in this apart from Christ and the knowledge of what He accomplished objectively for all on the cross.

    [T]his idea of 'stronger' and 'weaker' faith seems an awful lot like that expressed by word-of-faith groups.

    I think you would have to admit that this was a cheap shot made in haste. That some faith is stronger than other faith is openly and frequently discussed in the Gospels. What differentiates word-of-faith "faith" from Christian "faith" is not the idea that some faith is stronger than other faith, but it is the notion that faith is a tool we use to access the mercies of God.

    Faith is founded on something, that something is Christ, the Son of God, and we know of Him by the Word of God.

    "That something" is not merely that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This is objectively true, and by God's grace we may believe this, but why? What difference does it make? Believing nothing more than the fact that Jesus is God's Son never saved anybody. (Mark 1:24) Believing that the Bible is God's Word, and it tells us about Jesus, never saved anybody. (John 5:39-40) Believing that God is good and that He has forgiven my sins for the sake of Christ brings salvation. It is by this truth, and this truth alone that the knowledge of Christ becomes the everlasting fountain of life, and joy, and peace. Knowing Him as the one who died to save some, but not all is meaningless. Knowing Him as the one who died to make salvation possible, but not certain is also vain. Knowing Him as the one who has reconciled the world to God is what it means to be a Christian.

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  29. Although it is natural to speak of "subjective," as a counterpoint to "objective," to my knowledge "subjective justification" is not really a category within Lutheran theology, and it shouldn't be.

    Glad to know you believe yourself an expert on Lutheran theology, unfortunately other Lutherans disagree. (It's hard to believe I'm having to argue about what Lutherans believe...)

    "God has also forgiven MY sins!" This is SUBJECTIVE Justification! A man is therefore "justified by FAITH without the deeds of the Law," Romans 3:28."
    http://www.concordialutheranconf.com/cl_articles/CLO_pres_sept1996.cfm

    Article IV then deals with "subjective justification," that is, justification applied to the individual through faith... William M. Cwirla

    Again, I argue that these are categories in Lutheran theology, not within Scripture. Lutherans believe that Christ "objectively justified" the whole world, based on their understanding of the verses you noted, however, such a belief can only be held by taking those verses out of their context and ignoring the rest of Scripture wherein it is declared that Justification is by FAITH in Christ. Sure, Lutherans recognize this as being the 'subjective' aspect of justification, however, I argue that given the types, shadows and Biblical definition of justification in Scripture, no such distinctions can be made.

    When Scripture speaks of "the world" it is usually in contrast to the Jewish belief that they alone were the recipients of God's grace. In the 2 Cor 5:19 passage, keep in mind that v20 comes immediately thereafter wherein we're told that believers are "ambassadors" of Christ, again this language is not intended to suggest that Christ's death earned salvation for each and every person who ever lived but rather, all kinds of people (again, the end result MUST be universalism, for Christ's death paid for all sins... didn't it?)

    There are many places in Scripture where the term "world" is used in this manner.

    John 18:20
    Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret."

    Christ, while on Earth, did not speak to each and every person who ever lived, rather, by speaking to Jews, Greeks, and Samaritans etc, Christ spoke openly to "the world".

    John 15:18
    [ Disciples' Relation to the World ] " If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you."

    Here the "world" hates Christ and his disciples, however, we know that not each and every person in the world hates the disciples or Christ, but it is representative of a whole.

    Thus we must understand when Scripture expresses things globally such as, "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." (Rom 5:18) There is often a verse nearby that expresses the nature of justification more clearly: " 17For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." (Rom 5:17)

    It is therefore eisegesis to attempt to pull universal justification from the text when a limiting next sits so closely by. Finally, Rev 5:9 explains perfectly what atonement is about:

    Revelation 5:9
    And they sang a new song, saying, " Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."

    When the Scriptures speak of Christ dying for "the world", this is what it is talking about, Christ's grace extends to people of all tribe, tongue, people and nation, it is not limited to Jews.

    Why are some saved and others are not? Why is it that in some sense God is willing to save a number of souls less than the total number of souls? These are imponderable questions.

    Ah... yes... mystery. It's funny how every time a tough question is posed to some Lutherans they run for the mystery defense.

    My question isn't a general "why some and not others", it is specific...
    Why DID YOU believe and not someone else?

    Putting the same question into another form we might ask, "How could God allow Adam and Eve to fall into sin? How can a good God tolerate evil in the world?"

    No, these are completely different questions, both answered in Scripture, if one only bothers to accept what Scripture states about it...

    My question, again, is why YOU and not others. What I am getting at is that the concept of objective/subjective justification (just as the Arminian understanding of atonement) leads to a necessary view that one's salvation is based on their ability to reason, their intelligence, their righteousness etc. For if all are given "equal chances", as Chaz wanted to suggest in his sermon, the only difference therefore between men lies within them.

    Being who is perfectly righteous and perfectly merciful. I believe the answer is found in the cross itself, and, in the final analysis, it is a paradox.

    What is WITH this desire to claim "paradox" whenever a tough Biblical concept is presented to you guys? What if there is truly no paradox, but simply a fact that you're unwilling to accept? Namely, Christ's DEATH ACTUALLY SAVES, it doesn't make people SAVABLE. God planned everything that occurs from before the foundation of the world to GLORIFY HIMSELF. Nothing occurs that God did not plan. (Read Isa 46 sometime.)

    If we don't find peace in that answer – if we hold onto the question and continue to pursue it ad infinitum – it will drive us to the same fate as Captain Ahab in Moby Dick.

    I'm sorry, but the Bible actually answers these questions. Now, there are certainly mysteries in Scripture, things that mortal men simply cannot comprehend, but the mystery of Christ's death and atonement, as well as the plan and purpose of God throughout history are NO LONGER mysteries.

    Romans 16:25-26
    Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past,but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;

    I therefore suggest to you that the reason one person believes while another does not is no mystery at all. It has nothing to do with the individual, or the quality of anything within that individual, but is simply a matter of God's grace in choosing. This is the message of Romans 9, a message which Lutherans seem intent to ignore.

    It is not that we refuse to accept this. In fact, I sometimes find comfort in good works observed in others and myself.And yet at the same time we try to carefully avoid the temptation to make this obedience the object of our faith.

    Errr???? Did you read Chaz sermon?


    I would also add that good works are known objectively to none but God. God determines what is good and what is not. I don't.

    Wow, so Scripture doesn't tell us what is fruit of the Spirit? Maybe they used disapeering ink in your Bible when writing Galatians 5, or even the ten commandments?

    I think you would have to admit that this was a cheap shot made in haste.

    No, and looking over your response here in light of what other Lutherans have written elsewhere, I have to say, the more I read of you, the more gnostic a lot of what you say sounds.

    Might you actually interact with the Scriptures? Might you actually attempt to look that what has been written in God's word and deal with what is said therein?

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