4/25/2010

Calvinism and Whosoever Will

I am starting a series of posts on the subject of Calvinism. My intent is to use the book Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism by David L. Allen and Steve Lemke as a foil. I will present future posts in the form of a dialogue between a Calvinist informed by various books and a non-Calvinist informed by the contents of the book in question.


This post is a brief summary of my position on the topic. I am not out to prove anything here so much as to present a summary of my beliefs. The arguments for and against my position will come as I move into the series.

I believe that human beings are born in a state of bondage to sin. We simply do not want to do good things from pure motives. We do not do good things because we do not want to.

We do not choose to place our faith in Christ because that would involve an admission that we are inadequate on our own to earn salvation and a submission to Christ’s authority as the Lord of our lives. We would have to repent and believe. We do not choose Christ on our own because we do not want to.

God chooses to change the hearts of some people to give them the desire to repent of their sins and believe the gospel. He made this choice for reasons unknown to us. He did not choose to change the hearts of people because of their faith or because of any other virtue He foresaw in them. His choice was made before the foundation of the world.

God does not choose to change the hearts of all men. He leaves some to themselves and the way they have chosen to live. That is not unjust. He was never obligated to change anyone’s heart. That He did so is a testimony to His love and grace.

Christ lived and died to pay the penalty for the sins of some people and to provide for them a righteousness that can be credited to their account. Christ’s death will not pay the penalty for everyone’s sins, else there would be no one in hell.

Sins cannot be paid for twice, once by Christ and again by a person’s suffering in hell. That would be unjust.

God changes a person’s heart to enable them to repent and believe through a process that involves convincing them intellectually, appealing to their emotions, and giving them new desires. We can expect that God would be able to do these things if He wants to because He can do whatever needs to be done to convince (omnipotence) and knows everything He needs to know to convince (omniscience). When God chooses to change someone’s heart, He is always successful.

When God changes a person’s heart, that change is forever. Those who have truly repented and placed their faith in Christ will never go back on their pledge.

This post is a start. This is an introduction to the series I intend.

I have other posts on election and Calvinism here.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

"God does not choose to change the hearts of all men. He leaves some to themselves and the way they have chosen to live."

What would you think of God if He did not choose you or your children?

J. K. Jones said...

He would be just in so doing.

What would I say to him? That's not fair?

It is fair. He doesn't owe me or mine salvation.

Steve Martin said...

The Bible clearly tells us that Christ died for the sins of the whole world. That means everyone.

This is where Calvinism is just simply wrong.

But many reject that love and forgiveness.

When God saves us He gets ALL the credit. When we reject Him, we ought get ALL the blame (God should get none).

Are you one of the elect? How can you know? Start looking inward.

That's Calvinism. It's wrong.

A proprer understandinf of the external Word would clear this up for Calvinists and give them some assurance of their salvation that Christ died for all men, including themselves.

J. K. Jones said...

If Christ died for all men's sins, then why do some men go to hell?

Is it fair to punish Christ for a person's sins and then turn around and punish that person again for the same sins?

J. K. Jones said...

"When God saves us He gets ALL the credit. When we reject Him, we ought get ALL the blame (God should get none)."

That's absolutely right, and that is absolutely true according to Calvinism.

"Are you one of the elect? How can you know? Start looking inward."

I just read a comment from Luther in my devotional this morning that said if a person does not pray, he can know he is not a Christian. That's looking within in a sense.

I would personally look to Christ and His promises in the gospel for my assurance.

J. K. Jones said...

"When God saves us He gets ALL the credit. When we reject Him, we ought get ALL the blame (God should get none)."

That's absolutely right, and that is absolutely true according to Calvinism.

"Are you one of the elect? How can you know? Start looking inward."

I just read a comment from Luther in my devotional this morning that said if a person does not pray, he can know he is not a Christian. That's looking within in a sense.

I would personally look to Christ and His promises in the gospel for my assurance.

Steve Martin said...

I don't think we are talking about the same Calvinism.

The Calvinists I know say that God only died for the elect (contrary to what Holy Scripture says).

Christ died for the whole world and that includes those who reject Him. A loving God desires that all men come to Himself.

THE QUESTION IS...why do some come to faith and others do not?

We don't have the answer to that one.

Not praying, not worshipping, amy be a sign of lostness. There are many who pray, and who worship who are also lost.

There is no doubt that Calvinists internalize the Word and their faith more than do Lutherans, who believe Christ to be actually present and doing His will in the Sacraments.

I'm not telling you not to be a Calvinist. But I am trying to get across to you the differences.

Thanks, J.K..

Anonymous said...

Steve Martin,

Thanks for helping to clarify.

I would agree that we do not know why some people do not repent and believe, but I would go back one step beyond what you seem to. Some do not choose to repent because their hearts are not changed by God.

Why doesn’t God change them, we do not know. We do know God is not unjust to pass them over.

Wondering why my iPhone will not let me post on my Goggle Account,

JK

David said...

Hey JK and others,

C. Hodge, RL Dabney, Shedd and others rejected the double-payment/jeopardy dilemma, made popular by Owen, by rejecting its pecuniary assumptions upon which the dilemma relies.

You can go here:
http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=1687 [cut and paste]

Or click on my name...

Scroll down the sub-header on "double-payment."

Also at the top of the page, the index contains links to classic-moderate Calvinists on the death of Christ.

Hope that helps.

David

J. K. Jones said...

Dvid,

Thanks for the comment.

I'll read the link when I get the chance.

Would you mind to state what the objection is? It would help me to read a summary from you.

JK

J. K. Jones said...

Dvid,

Thanks for the comment.

I'll read the link when I get the chance.

Would you mind to state what the objection is? It would help me to read a summary from you.

JK

J. K. Jones said...

David,

After reading a few of the entires, it is evident that this layman is going to need the summary requested above.

It seems a mere sumantic difference.

JK

Flynn said...

Hey JK,

Sure summary coming up.

There are about 5 critical problems/assumptions in the double payment dilemma set out by Owen. The double jeopardy argument is different but often confused with the former.

1) The dilemma as posited by Owen trades on the assumption of viewing the efficacy of a penal satisfaction, as if it as the same sort of efficacy in a pecuniary or commercial satisfaction.

For example, John owes Harry $50. Bill steps in and pays Harry the money. It is unjust for Harry, having been paid, to insist that John also make a payment.

Penal satisfactions do not work in this manner. See C Hodge as on this on my index page. Carl Truman acknowledges this crude commercial assumption inherent in the double payment dilemma as set out by Owen.

2) The argument also suffers from counter-factual evidence.

If the double payment dilemma works, it cannot be that any living unbelieving elect are ever subject to the wrath of God in this life. For if they are, then 1) God is exacting satisfaction from the sinner, after a perfect satisfaction has already been obtained from Christ; 2) God is not actually satisfied. For some reason(s) he is still unsatisfied,such that he still feels the need to afflict the sinning unbelieving elect. Dabney refutes this.

Double jeopardy only speaks to the same person being punished twice. Shedd refutes this.

3) The dilemma does not properly appreciate the nature of imputation of guilt. In biblical imputation, the guilt of sin is imputed to the vicarious victim--and this is the key--all the while, while the sinner, himself, remains a sinner. There is no "transference" of guilt. Christ is charged "as though" he were a sinner, as though he were subject to the curse and guilt of the law. Fuller is good on this.

For this reason, can God justly hold the unbelieving elect under punishment until such a time as they believe.

4) Biblically, satisfaction in the made in the OT by a two-fold, even three-fold process. The yearly sacrifice for the nation exemplifies this. The animals blood was shed outside of the temple. He was killed and his blood poured into a bowl. The blood of the animal was then taken into the temple and poured over the altar, etc. And then lastly, personal faith and/or sacrifices was demanded of the individuals of the nation, at the time or during the year. The priestly prayer came after the blood was applied to the altar (unless my memory is wrong).

Owen's dilemma acts if atonement was made at the first point, the mere shedding of blood.

5) Where double-payment does apply is when 1) there has been penal satisfaction and 2) the sinner has complied to the conditions of the Gospel. God declares that the one who believers escapes the wrath of God, and can in no way fail to be saved to the uttermost. Edwards begins to offer comments on this aspect: with Shedd.

Comments from C Hodge, Dabney, Shedd, Fuller, and Edwards, are all hosted at the C&C site.

Some of these concepts and categories can be tricky because of the way we've been trained to think about the satisfaction of Christ. But once they are understood, its actually a more robust system and better exegetically.

Check out the Chambers work, its very good.

Hope that helps,
David

J. K. Jones said...

David,

Thanks.

Some questions, if you have the time:

1) and 3) How does penal substitutionary attonement work, then?

2) Does God in fact visit His wrath on the unbelieving elect? They are subject to it, but do they experience it?

4) In a system where Christ suffers God's wrath, does this objection break down? It is wrath that is endured.

5) The fact they this form of the argument works must prove that there is a form of fatherly displeasure / anger that Christians can expect to endure.

David said...

Hey there JK,

You say:

1) and 3) How does penal substitutionary atonement work, then?

David: Well let me explain by way of two metaphors. One will be a little longer.

Regarding non-pecuniary satisfactions, they can work like this.

John is an addictive drinker. John, while visiting Harry drunk, damages Harry's car.

Harry and Bill get together. They want to help John. Bill and Harry agree that Bill will repair the car at his body-shop. However, they want to help John. They say to John, "Harry will accept the satisfaction to the damages Harry has incurred, if John acknowledges his addiction and goes to Rehab, then all debt will be waived." Non-pecuniary satisfactions can work just like this. Bill may even fix the car, and even if John refuses to go to rehab, Harry can demand, legally, a satisfaction from John.

And so second story.

10 men are in chains, waiting to be flogged for their crimes against a man. Each man is due to be flogged 10 times. The man's son, with his father, agree that if the son stands in and is flogged in their place. They then decide given this 'subtitution', they would then offer the benefit of the son's standing-in to the 10 men in chains. All they 10 men have to do is acknowledge their crime and repent of it.

Now, the normal intuition is to imagine that the son should be flogged 100 times, 10 for each of the 10 men. However, given the value of the 10 (Anselm) we know that the son need only be flogged 10 times. The 10 is equivalent to any one man's punishment.

All the while, the son never literally becomes a criminal. He is treated as though he was. All the while the, the men in chains remain in chains, suffering the affliction of being incarcerated.

If we which the persons in the story to the Father and his Son, we can also insert the back-story, that according to a secret and perfectly just arrangement and agreement, the Father and the Son have also determined to effectively convince and effect that 4 of the 10 men in chains acknowledge their guilt and repent.

If the remaining 6 refuse to repent, then they themselves, in their own person will each receive their due punishment.

At no point has any injustice been enacted. No man can claim that they are being unjustly punished in their own person, if they have rejected the work of the substitution.

This is how men from Edwards down to Dabney understood the the nature of imputation and satisfaction. With Owen and those who follow his model, the problem is that its as if the son only receives the punishment due to the 4 men. The punishment is again only 10 floggings. But somehow this is not sufficient for all 10, only the 4. For this model, the assertion is that there is a limitation in the nature of the substitution itself. Another problem for Owen is this, if its correct that the son only stands in and receives the punishment due to the 4, then nothing can be "offered" to the remaining 6.

David said...

You ask:

2) Does God in fact visit His wrath on the unbelieving elect? They are subject to it, but do they experience it?

David: Yes.

Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

etc etc.

One could not assert that unjustified persons elect persons are never subject to the affliction of punishment, but yet somehow still legally liable to wrath, and yet at the same time, a "payment" (after the manner Owen describes) has been made for them.


You ask:
4) In a system where Christ suffers God's wrath, does this objection break down? It is wrath that is endured.

David: If I understand the question: Penal wrath is laid upon Christ. Sinners, all sinners, alive as unjustified persons participate in penal wrath. The "kind" remains the same, even tho the quantity may differ.

You ask:

5) The fact they this form of the argument works must prove that there is a form of fatherly displeasure / anger that Christians can expect to endure.

David: Christians experience a form of discipline" which is not the discipline which obtains penal satisfaction. The only way to avoid this is to say, against Paul, that unbelieving elect persons are never under the wrath of God, "even as the rest." That last clause from Paul indicates sameness and identity of state and situation. When a person believes, he is taken out of the sphere of condemnation, and placed in the sphere of reconciliation.

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

I know the second metaphor can look goofy, but I believe it illustrates the issues well enough.

Hope that helps,
David

J. K. Jones said...

David,

Did Christ die for the non-elect in the same way he died for the elect?

JK

J. K. Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Hey JK,

If you take the classic Lombardian formula, Christ died for all as to the sufficiency of the satisfaction, but for the elect as to the efficiency of the satisfaction (to whom it is effectually applied.

With this formula, moderate Calvinists have asserted that when we speak of the nature of the satisfaction, irrespective of election etc, then the satisfaction has equal relationship to all men. You will see this in the thought of C Hodge, Shedd and Dabney.

For example, Shedd says the question is not the extent of the satisfaction, but the intent, which is the limiting aspect.

You can see their comments here:For Whom Did Christ Die. Click on that, and then click on the names you are interested in.

If we speak of the intent to apply, then it cannot be said that Christ died equally for all.

Thus, Classic Calvinists speak of a two-fold intentionality on God's part. One intention is to sustain a satisfaction which in its nature is equal reference to all. The second intention, that Christ, in and through his death, sustain the effectual means to save the elect.

Eg: C Hodge:

If designed to make it consistent with the interests of God’s moral government for him to pardon the sins of men, then he may be said to have died equally for all men. But if his death was intended to save his people, then it had a reference to them which it had not to others. You can find more of the same at the Charles Hodge file.

This basic way of looking at Christ's death has been the historic model since Ambrose. He was embraced by the Reformers, and some of the best 19thC American Presbyterians and Congregationalists.

Does that help?

Thanks,
David

Flynn said...

Hey JK

I think my earlier post may have misfired somewhere.

resend:

Hey JK,

If you take the classic Lombardian formula, Christ died for all as to the sufficiency of the satisfaction, but for the elect as to the efficiency of the satisfaction (to whom it is effectually applied.

With this formula, moderate Calvinists have asserted that when we speak of the nature of the satisfaction, irrespective of election etc, then the satisfaction has equal relationship to all men. You will see this in the thought of C Hodge, Shedd and Dabney.

For example, Shedd says the question is not the extent of the
satisfaction, but the intent, which is the limiting aspect.

You can see their comments here:For Whom Did Christ
Die
. Click on that, and then click on the names you are interested in.

If we speak of the intent to apply, then it cannot be said that Christ died equally for all.

Thus, Classic Calvinists speak of a two-fold intentionality on God's part.

One intention is to sustain a satisfaction which in its nature is equal reference to all. The second intention, that Christ, in and through his death, sustain the effectual means to save the elect.

Eg: C Hodge:

"If designed to make it consistent with the interests of God’s moral
government for him to pardon the sins of men, then he may be said to have died equally for all men. But if his death was intended to save his people, then it had a reference to them which it had not to others."

You can find more of the same at the by visiting the page linked to above.

This basic way of looking at Christ's death has been the historic model since Ambrose. He was embraced by the Reformers, and some of the best 19thC American Presbyterians and Congregationalists.

Does that help?

Thanks,
David

J. K. Jones said...

David,

I found the illustration of the 10 men each owed the 10 strips very helpful. But the way I have always described it is that Christ's death could have paid for the sins of the non-elect if they would repent, but they won't repent.

I still think that if Christ's death pays for the sins of the non-elect in the same way as it pays for the sins of the elect, then everyone will be saved. But you are sayng the payment is different.

You have given me allot to think about.

Could I enlist your help over here: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8907#comment-43791

There are many atheists who have problems with the atonement in general, and I think you might find yourself particularly able to explain the issues. Let’s not lose sight of the evangelism thing in the heat of the discussion;-).

I will comment some more after I have had the chance to read some of your references.

JK

David said...

David,

I found the illustration of the 10 men each owed the 10 strips very helpful. But the way I have always described it is that Christ's death could have paid for the sins of the non-elect if they would repent, but they won't repent.

David: Sort of, but more so.

The heart of the limited atonement position, as defined and defended by Owen, Turretin and others, is the doctrine of limited sin-bearing.

Only the sins of the elect are imputed to Christ. The sins of the non-elect are not imputed.

This doctrine came to be challenged by some of the later puritans like Howe, but was soundly rejected by many of the New England Puritans and Presbyterian types. Edwards, and co.

In the classic view, all the sins of all men were imputed to Christ. This holds true in this way: the sin which condemned any one man, is the same guilt that condemns the next man, the next, and so on indefinitely.

Christ in his substitution pays the penal debt of the whole world (Dabney). It is not that Christ could have paid the sin-debt of the non-elect, but that he did. However, its in the application of that benefit, in the offer of the gospel, that any man can have the benefit of Christ's representation applied to him individually and personally.

If we go back to the metaphor. The stand-in, suffers the punishing due from the guilt due to all. His satisfaction is sufficient for all. It is a "payment" a "satisfaction" for all. However, that it be applied to any is conditional.

If we think of three parties.

At the top is the offended party, God.

In between stands the mediator.

At the bottom stands the offending party.

The satisfaction by the mediator, in terms of the God-ward direction is a perfect satisfaction, in behalf of all whose sin he bore. The Father receives it as a perfect satisfaction and payment for sin. In no way is it defective or inadequate or needs to be augmented (as per Romanism and self-works ideas).

In terms of the man-ward direction, it has to be received by faith as the condition. Having a condition to enable personal application, in no way adds any merit or efficacy to the intrinsic nature of the satisfaction.

David said...

JK: I still think that if Christ's death pays for the sins of the non-elect in the same way as it pays for the sins of the elect, then everyone will be saved. But you are sayng the payment is different.

David: Sure, I understand that. Weve been taught to think in terms of efficacy which can only apply to commercial transactions. Thinking outside of that smacks of something defective about the satisfaction of Christ. I had to train myself to stop thinking of the atonement as if it worked like a payment, but as something penal. C Hodge really helped me here, time and time again. Dabney and Shedd next. Faith never adds merit to the satisfaction. But it is a precondition for personal appropriation.

Like this:

A friend works hard and at great cost obtains a ticket for a show for you. However, to get in, you must have the ticket. Your showing the ticket and claiming the seat, in no way demeans the greatness of the value from your friend, or what he has done for you. The ticket is called a causa sine qua non. It is the indispensable means by which you get in. No ticket, no entry. Your having the ticket, even asking for it at the proper time from your friend, in no way adds value or merit to what your friend has already accomplished. Its all grace. In faith, without money of your own, you plead the grace of the Father, asking him for his mercy that the benefit of the work performed and accomplished by his loving Son be extended to you. Like a beggar with empty hands outstretched. But outstretched they must be if one expects to receive....

What is more: That you may destroy the ticket speaks to you, your stubbornness, not to your friends love and work for you.

JK:
You have given me allot to think about.

When you can, I would advise 3 things,

1) take the time to read as much you can of the material hosted at my site (without passing judgment yet).
2) where you can compare the hosted material with the original (if you have access to the books etc) to assure yourself that the material posted is not out of context.
3) read material and arguments from the other side, even those who opposes us directly.


Take your time (dont let anyone force you to rush to a conclusion) weight up the data. If you have questions and concerns, you can email me any time.

JK:

Could I enlist your help over here: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8907#comment-43791

David: I doubt I can make much of an input. I am over-committed already.

JK:
There are many atheists who have problems with the atonement in general, and I think you might find yourself particularly able to explain the issues. Let’s not lose sight of the evangelism thing in the heat of the discussion;-).

David: If you have a specific question regarding their claims feel free to email me. My email is located on my about page. I work best in that way.

JK: I will comment some more after I have had the chance to read some of your references.

David: No worries.

Take care,
David

Flynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Flynn said...

Hey JK,
From Work, a few hours ago, I sent off two replies.

They may have been picked up in the spam filter or something. Anyway, rather than post dupes, I thought I would make a note here, in case you thought I havent replied.

Thanks,
David

J. K. Jones said...

Flynn / David,

Your comments are making it through fine. No need to send duplicates.

It will be a little while before I have a through response. I hae allot to read.

JK

J. K. Jones said...

David,

I have reviewed much of the material on the links you gave me, and I will continue to read more. I have been edified by much of the reading, and I thank you for the links.

I do not find that Christ died for the sins of the non-elect in the same way He died for the sins of the elect. Christ did not die for their sin of non-belief or they would be saved.

In this sense, Owen’s trilemma still works. Christ died for all of the sins of the elect and some of the sins of the non-elect.

JK

David said...

Hey there JK,

You say:I have reviewed much of the material on the links you gave me, and I will continue to read more. I have been edified by much of the reading, and I thank you for the links.

David: thanks for the kind words.

You say: I do not find that Christ died for the sins of the non-elect in the same way He died for the sins of the elect. Christ did not die for their sin of non-belief or they would be saved.

David: I suspect you mean he didnt die for the sins of the non-elect at all.

You say: In this sense, Owen’s trilemma still works. Christ died for all of the sins of the elect and some of the sins of the non-elect.

David: If I may ask, what exactly is the argument? I would agree that
Christ died for the sin(s) of unbelief. If there is a penal satisfaction for unbelief, how does that secure belief exactly?

If I may ask, did you check out Dabney, Shedd and C Hodge on the double payment issue?

If you want to continue to talk, feel free to email me at my e-addy on my "this site" page.

Thanks,
David

J. K. Jones said...

David,

I no longer find your email or profile at the link. Are you still out there?

I am finding that your analogies explain a few things that have always troubled me, and I would like to have further discussion.

JK

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