On the Way to the CRC

Tim Challies linked to Chris Gordon’s piece on the demise of confessionalism in the Christian Reformed Church. Challies seemed to find Gordon’s piece a worthwhile caution: “This strong article warns certain Reformed denominations against going down paths that will necessarily lead to destruction.”

But when you look at the six features of CRC declension, don’t at least three of them apply to the New Calvinists?

1. The Abandonment of the Authority of Scripture–This was the first domino to tip knocking everything else over. No longer was Scripture the final say regarding doctrine and life, but major doctrines were called into question due to cultural pressure.

2. The Abandonment of Reformed Principle of Worship–Historic Reformed convictions and principles laid out in the confessions were abandoned based on seeker sensitive assumptions.

3. The Abandonment of the Sabbath and the Second Worship Service–Even the word Sabbath was abandoned in embarrassment. The evening service was jettisoned by claiming better opportunities for Bible studies and home gatherings to reach the lost and love their neighbor.

4. The Abandonment of Gospel-Centered Expository Preaching–Expository gospel-centered sermons through books of the Bible were replaced with topical messages often addressing the current social justice discussion of the culture.

5. The Abandonment of God Assigned Roles in the Church (Women’s Ordination)–The classic distinctions between creation roles and functional hierarchy were abandoned in support of full equality of function in ecclesiastical offices.

6. The Abandonment of Moral Standards for Her Members–Those committing gross sins were no longer called to repentance, but instead welcomed into the life of the church upon the assumption that “justice” demands it. Nicholas Wolterstorff, a professor at Calvin College of over thirty years claimed that biblical justice requires that people of homosexual orientation be granted “the great good of civil and ecclesial marriage.”

New Calvinists of the kind at Gospel Coalition have given up number 2, 3, and parts of number 4. If the cultural servings of Gospel Coalition on-line are any indication, efforts to understand media and politics are more important than explaining the catechism or biblical commentary.

So why don’t New Calvinists see affinities between themselves and progressive Protestants?

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209 thoughts on “On the Way to the CRC

  1. It seems all but two.
    They would probably abandon the authority of Scripture before they would gender roles.

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  2. Considering that there are problems with the 6 features in the first place, perhaps the current demise of the confessional church is both a warning about the state of a church’s members and a source of useful feedback for the confessional churches.

    What I mean by saying that there are problems with the 6 features is the following. First, one cannot hold to the necessarily high regard of the Scriptures when one puts their own set of confessions on too high a pedestal. The confessions eventually start to replace the Scriptures as the highest authority to appeal to. Next, when the New Testament Scriptures explicitly teach one thing about the Sabbath for today and our confessions teach another, there are problems.

    Third, there is nothing wrong with including social justice in what the Church’s teaches and sermons. After all, social justice doesn’t cater to the needs of the oppressed only, it challenges those who are responsible at all level for corporate sin. And challenging sin is what we, as Christians, should be doing. It is when social justice concerns replace what should be preached about personal sins that we have problems. That results in the demise of the confessional church serving as a warning.

    But the converse of social justice concerns blinding us from what the Scripture teaches on individual sins has been the status quo for many confessional churches over the years and so part of the demise of the confessional church provides useful feedback. That is because people, whose consciences are being guided by common grace when it comes to social justice, lose trust in the confessional churches that don’t give social justice its due. That is useful feedback that allows the confessional churches to adjust without changing the Gospel they preach.

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  3. I agree about #3 – the Lord’s Day is significantly undervalued (in the PCA at least), and has been for a long time. This is the negative influence of the broad eeeeevangelical church. I strongly disagree with #4, at least in the PCA.

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  4. Stop the presses, I am going to agree (at least partially) with Curt Day.

    “One cannot hold to the necessarily high regard of the Scriptures when one puts their own set of confessions on too high a pedestal. The confessions eventually start to replace the Scriptures as the highest authority to appeal to.”

    This is simply flat out true! I have a high view of the confessions and generally agree with 95 % of the historic Reformed confessions, finding them biblical. However there are simply aspects which cannot be soundly exegeeted from holy writ which nonetheless are dogmatical held on to by the harder line confessional establishment. This coupled with an underlining excessive authoritarian spirit among confessionalisms ruling class makes things very difficult and just unhealthy.

    That said also some good points from Gordon’s piece.

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  5. Still, as one who was converted at the hands of the broad evangies, gave it up for the Reformed faith but finally left the CRC a few years ago for old lifey reasons, I’d still stick up for her as still having way more Reformation than any of the broad eeeevangelicalism that arguably influences NAPARC churches.

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  6. Zrim, Do you really think that someone can get converted by a “broad evangelical” gospel. One on the first things McCulley told me when I started communicating with him one on one was to flush my old conversion down the toilet. I was offended at first but then came to see that he was right and I was wrong about the Gospel. I know that is a tough thing for you Reformed confessional types to admit. I guess I should ask before accusing; how do you define broad evangelical? Maybe I am just being a dick by inquiring.

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  7. @JY did the blind man who was healed have been able to articulate the finer details of what you take to be the true gospel? How about the thief on the cross? I remain unconvinced. While a deeper and more precise articulation of the gospel can be helpful, I don’t see that this deeper understanding is necessary.

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  8. There is content to the Gospel, sbd. It’s not that complicated but it has to be communicated. What does have to be communicated is that righteousness if found outside oneself and that is for the elect alone. A universal or hypothetical universal Gospel does not cut it. If you think your change in behavior or faith is what justifies you then you need more instruction in what the Gospel is. Not that deep but it does need to be communicated, understood and articulated by the recipient.

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  9. We don’t really know what the blind man or their on the cross knew. It really is not relevant to the context of the passage. There are other places in the Scriptures where the content of the Gospel is communicated.

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  10. I’m miffed that you confessional Reformed types would even question that or believe that someone can get converted by false statements and propositions about the Gospel. It tells me that you are judging if someone knows the Gospel or not by their behavior and not by the content of the Gospel. What does judge them by their fruit mean?

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  11. Romans 10: 8-21

    8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” 20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” 21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

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  12. “One cannot hold to the necessarily high regard of the Scriptures when one puts their own set of confessions on too high a pedestal. The confessions eventually start to replace the Scriptures as the highest authority to appeal to.”

    This is simply flat out true! I have a high view of the confessions and generally agree with 95 % of the historic Reformed confessions, finding them biblical. However there are simply aspects which cannot be soundly exegeeted from holy writ which nonetheless are dogmatical held on to by the harder line confessional establishment. This coupled with an underlining excessive authoritarian spirit among confessionalisms ruling class makes things very difficult and just unhealthy.

    I keep hearing this accusation – hyperconfessionalists make the Scriptures subordinate to the confessions. I’ve never witnessed it myself though. I have a hard time seeing how one would do so when the confessions explicitly note that they are subordinate to scripture.

    I have seen people get frustrated when someone rejects their interpretation of a proof text because it doesn’t square with the broader testimony of scripture as summarized by the confessions. Unitarians wanted to be liberated from confessions and dogma so that they could recover the heart of who Jesus really was. Ditto Arminians, Campbellites, modernists, and now gender egalitarians. I can’t think of any group that has thrown off the mantle of confessionalism that has remained orthodox. I’m sure there are some, but they don’t come to mind.

    Perhaps a better question should be what best practices surrounding the confessions should be. I get frustrated to see various seminary profs challenged on what they teach and see them argue that they really are orthodox only to lose their case and see their heterodox flag fly. More common is to see folks just ignore the inconvenient elements of the confession and hope no one notices (e.g., images of Jesus – especially nativities, sabbath observance, sinfulness of refraining from baptizing one’s child, etc…). It seems to me that we would be much better off to have an open debate among our elders and decide whether these ignored elements need to be revised or not. We’ve done it before, we can do it again.

    All that being said, I believe that the confessions serve as a fence that we should live within. It is not sufficient to not understand why the confession teaches what it teaches or how to derive the teaching from scripture. Rather the burden of proof is on the one who dissents from many generations of those ordained to lead the church, and this person needs to convince one’s fellow elders of the need to change. I’m not an officer, but I would be very interested in hearing what these elements of the confessions are that cannot be soundly exegeted from the scriptures.

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  13. “I’m miffed that you confessional Reformed types would even question that or believe that someone can get converted by false statements and propositions about the Gospel. It tells me that you are judging if someone knows the Gospel or not by their behavior and not by the content of the Gospel. What does judge them by their fruit mean?”

    Well I can’t answer for others here, but I generally try to refrain from judging whether another is truly saved or not (by their purported fruit or tightness of their theological articulation). The WCF notes that all churches are mixtures of truth and error, I have not doubt that I have all kinds of misconceptions about all things. The blind man didn’t know if the guy who healed was a prophet or not. He just knew he was blind and now could see. Paul noted that some where converted by teachers preaching for their own gain – I doubt they had all their other theological ducks in a row.

    While I agree that Jesus died for the elect and that all of the elect will be saved. But I don’t see that getting that logical problem correct is essential to saving faith. Believing that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected (1 Cor 15:1) and that Jesus is Lord is saving faith. One can be wrong about an awful lot. Of course, one of those things we can be wrong about is whether we believe what we say we believe – we are masters at self delusion.

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  14. John, I’m with Horton when he says we’re saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone–not by our doctrine. But I take exception to Trueman that (for some of us al least) just because the evangies may have done the initial work we somehow owe them more than the confessionalists who actually did the hard work of nurturing (think baby-daddy versus adopted dad):

    https://confessionalouthouse.wordpress.com/2008/03/17/biting-the-hand-that-starves/

    Maybe propositionalism is getting in the way of faith for you?

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  15. I’m not following the connection, Zrim. Your sleight of hand took my mind off the intent of the point of my comment. Why the aversion of talk about election? Why the hypothetical universal atonement? In addition now, why the aversion towards propositional revelation? I really don’t think we are saved by doctrine, Zrim. There is a person connected to that doctrine that you cannot drive a wedge through. And maybe there is not much of a distinction between Truman and Horton- they both are slick enough to realize that their book sales and invitations to conferences would probably decrease if they alienated the evangelicals by their doctrine; try again if you like.

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  16. sbd, you are making this much more difficult than it really is. Are you testifying to the truth of the Gospel by telling people, either directly or by sleight of hand, that Jesus died for everybody but it is your faith that makes the difference? is that the Jesus that the Scriptures describe? Jesus says he lays down his life for His sheep. You can’t read the Gospel of John and then conclude that Jesus died for everybody. As I asked Zrim, why the aversion for talk about election?

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  17. John Y: Are you testifying to the truth of the Gospel by telling people, either directly or by sleight of hand, that Jesus died for everybody but it is your faith that makes the difference? is that the Jesus that the Scriptures describe? Jesus says he lays down his life for His sheep. You can’t read the Gospel of John and then conclude that Jesus died for everybody. As I asked Zrim, why the aversion for talk about election?

    Hold up. I doubt that SDB tells everyone that Jesus died for everybody but their faith makes the difference. It’s a basic Presbyterian thing that Jesus died for the particular sins of His people. The WCF is very emphatic on this point:

    II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions;[4] yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.[5]

    III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels[6] are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.[7]

    IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.[8]

    V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory,[9] out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto;[10] and all to the praise of His glorious grace

    Likewise, I haven’t found Zrim to be shy about talking of election.

    What I think they are both reacting to, and what I also react to, is this:

    John Y: One on the first things McCulley told me when I started communicating with him one on one was to flush my old conversion down the toilet. I was offended at first but then came to see that he was right and I was wrong about the Gospel.

    I don’t know all of your communication, so I don’t whether this is good or bad advice for you in particular. It may be the case that you were previously resting in your works or the quality of your “surrender to Jesus” or in some other way relying on yourself and not Christ.

    But *if* you were relying on Christ, yet imperfectly, God still saves.

    Let me say that again in other words: All those who rely on Christ are saved, because the object of their faith is perfect; they are not saved because of the purity of their faith.

    The problem I have with McMark’s advice as a general rule (again, not knowing your particulars) is that it back-handedly requires perfection from the believer in order to be saved. But this time, the perfection is not in the life lived or the grace received, but in the propositions believed.

    One easy way to see why this is false — other than the perfectionism implied — is that the gospel was very imperfectly understood by *everyone* in the first centuries of the church, and imperfectly understood by *everyone* prior to the Reformation, and imperfectly understood by *everyone* post-Reformation.

    We lack the words and the mental apparatus to correctly describe what Christ did for us.

    Man is not saved by propositions.

    So there’s no reluctance to speak of election. There’s a reluctance to accept a definition of “saving faith” that is so refined that no-one can be saved.

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  18. @JY I do not shy away from the doctrine of election or limited atonement. I believe they are true. But neither do I believe that all those who profess faith in Christ are actually lost simply because they are wrong about these doctrines. Again, I think the WCF is helpful here. All churches are tainted by error. If that is true how much more her members. We are not saved because of the quality of anything about us including our theological acumen or purity of belief. To think otherwise is just another manifestation of works based righteousness (legalism).

    tl;dr an evangelical wrong about election can lead one to Christ.

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  19. Curt, what’s up with Johnny? Is that an intentional condescension? Hey, I’m just a recovering addict and an easy target here at oldlife. I don’t mind though- I feel much more confident these days in defending my convictions. I have been following the arguments that have been going on here for ten years now. Nobody has moved much in regards to their doctrinal convictions.

    What about John 6? I’m guessing that you are referring to my convictions about election and definitive atonement for the elect alone. You can’t just look at John 6 without looking at what the whole of the New Testament teaches regarding these doctrines. My point was that if you do include election and definitive atonement than you are not teaching the biblical Gospel. I understand the pressures that would make one leery of talking too much about these doctrines- like how one understands the freedom or bondage of the will, human responsibility/divine sovereignty and the problem of the doctrine of eternal conscious torment in hell for the non-elect (btw, I do not hold to the doctrine of eternal conscious torment in hell for non-elect fallen man because of my beliefs about election and definitive atonement- I believe in conditional immortality; I do hold to eternal conscious torment for Satan and his fallen angels. That’s another long and involved argument too but I do think you can make the argument from what is revealed in the Scriptures)

    That’s not really answering your question but it would take too much time to answer properly and I want to watch the basketball games tonight and I still have some things I got to get done before the games. Maybe some other time- there are probably others more capable than me in answering your questions. I’m assuming you probably have some set convictions about this already. Maybe you are just seeking to correct me. That’s OK, I’m open to correction if you can convince me.

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  20. John,
    No, it comes from you putting no space between your first and last name. Be careful about jumping to conclusions.

    First, you were the one who directed our attention to the Gospel of John. Second, my response has to do with the following line of yours:


    Are you testifying to the truth of the Gospel by telling people, either directly or by sleight of hand, that Jesus died for everybody but it is your faith that makes the difference? is that the Jesus that the Scriptures describe?

    What makes the difference is God’s election revealed when we come to true faith in Christ. We must never ask people to judge if they are elect, we tell them to believe in Christ. But whether they come to Christ depends on whether they are chosen. After all John 6:44 says:


    No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

    But if you want to go elsewhere in the Scriptures, see Ephesians 1:5-6; 2:4-9:


    He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved…

    But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    More scriptures are available on request.

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  21. Now that I am here I will try to address the main concerns of Jeff and sbd. From what I have observed from my time spent here and reading critiques by others, the doctrine of election is made to take on a different meaning and understanding when taken in context with the teaching of hypothetical universal atonement, how faith and faith’s object are taught, how perseverance is taught and then how all of this is taught in relation to how the confessional Reformed understand the Sacraments and the various covenants in the Scriptures. These related doctrines and how they are intertwined with each other have been discussed here a lot over the last ten years. It seems that those who adhere to confessions of faith do not really sign off what the confessions do teach about election.

    The reluctance to accept the definition of faith by those who have been influenced by Gordon Clark’s, “What is Saving Faith?” often reveals that they have never read the book because they keep repeating the same main objection; that man cannot be saved by propositions. I have not said that they can, I doubt if McMark would say that and Clark did not say that in his book either. What I said is that you cannot separate the person and propositions about the person. There are one and the same. I don’t think you can teach saving faith without the object of that faith being the righteousness imputed. That is a proposition taught by the Scriptures about Christ. Along with that, that is often lacking in the teaching of saving faith, is the repentance that comes along with that object of faith; that is, repentance from all forms of self-righteousness that are often masked in the enabling work of the Spirit but are really manifestations of works of the flesh. If repentance from those dead works, and the false Gospels that go along with it, then there is no saving faith. That was the main point that McMark was telling me when he told me I had to flush my old conversion down the toilet. I was believing more in my religious experience and the assumed power and feeling from that experience than I was in the righteous and just work of Christ for His elect sheep alone. That helped me tremendously and it got rid of my prevailing guilt and condemnation that I could never get rid of. I knew, innately and by experience, that I was falling way short in my obedience to the imperatives in the Scriptures.

    I think that answers the main concerns. Now to get some things I need to get done before the games start at 6:00PM. Go Michigan and Villanova.

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  22. John, not sure I’m following you at all. This was sparked by me saying I was converted at the hands of the evangies. What’s the controversy exactly? There are Christians in the Roman church, too. Is that anathema to say? But hypocrites within and wandering sheep without, and wheat and tares, etc. You don’t think God can use the (even seriously) misguided or something?

    “Do you really think that someone can get converted by a “broad evangelical” gospel?”

    Are you telling me I wasn’t converted lo those many years ago? Sounds like it. Careful upturning those inward stones, might pinch a finger.

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  23. A couple quick quotes that I think are relevant to what I said in my comment:

    The duty to obey King Jesus is not determined by ability or lack of ability. The gospel teaches us that elect sinners who do NOT do their duties will nevertheless be “saved” from God’s wrath because of legal identity with Christ’s death for elect sinners.

    God is both just and the justifier of elect sinners. Elect sinners believe the gospel in which the sins of gospel believers are not imputed to those sinners.

    Pietists exempt non-Christians from the commands of the Sermon on the Mount on the basis of their inability. That exemption is not necessary in order to make the vital distinction between law and gospel. Christ’s law is not changed by human inability to keep it. And Christ’s law is not the gospel. Whatever ability we may claim, none of us is obeying the Sermon on the Mount. But this is no excuse.

    if we say the kingdom is only on the inside, in our hearts and in our new ability, we ignore the external commands of the King who was standing among the disciples and who is coming back to earth.

    And this:

    Robert Haldane—In this Romans 8:4 passage the word flesh cannot be taken for immorality, any more than in the fourth chapter of the Romans. It must be understood in the sense of working for life, or self-justification, in opposition to the way of salvation according to the Gospel. In the same manner, the terms flesh and Spirit are employed, in Philippians 3:3, ‘For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.’ Here the word flesh, opposed to Spirit, just as in the passage before us, cannot signify immoral conduct, in which it would be absurd to suppose that the Apostle placed confidence.

    In Philippians, Paul furnishes a practical commentary on these words, by referring to his own conduct, as having formerly walked according to the flesh, resting in external privileges, and observances, and his obedience to the law; but afterwards as renouncing them all, and relying solely on ‘the righteousness which is of God by faith.’

    All men, without exception, have the work of the law written in their hearts, and if ignorant of the only Savior of sinners, they attempt to satisfy their conscience by means of some religious observances or moral works, — the idolater, by his sacrifices; the Roman Catholic, by his masses and penances; the Socinian, by his vaunted philanthropy; all, in some way or other, by their works, moral or ceremonial, seek to obtain their acquittal from sin before God, and a favorable sentence at His tribunal. All of them are going about to establish their own righteousness, being ignorant of the righteousness of God.

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  24. Zrim, I know I was not converted when I had a powerful religious experience by the teaching of my Arminian brother when I was 18 years old. I thought I had been converted but I really did not believe in the true biblical Gospel. I believed in that religious experience and false Gospel from the ages of 18 to about age 52. I had never understood the justice that Christ fulfilled for his elect sheep and I had never repented of relying on any kind of righteousness but Christ’s alone. I have heard numerous similar convictions from those whom I have become acquainted with on various blog sites on the internet. So, take that any way you like. My point was directed at me more than you. So, I feel no pinch in my finger by that overturned stone.

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  25. Zrim asks, what’s the controversy? Can someone be converted by a false Gospel, that is the controversy. Can someone be converted when the justice that Christ fulfilled for His elect sheep is not explained to the person or understood by the person.

    To quote McMark: “the false gospel fails to report that Christ was punished specifically for the elect, and when it does that, it will be heard every time as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being punished.

    Thus, even though it has punishment, this false gospel is not about punishment that replaces punishment for all whom Christ intended to save. It has punishment without any intention of Christ to save anybody in particular at all.

    Piper’s punishment- in- general gospel (with faith purchased extra for the elect) is no gospel in a second and important way. It makes the important atonement to be something other than the punishment of Christ. It makes the real reconciliation to be the Spirit Christ purchased giving people faith to believe, even if they happen to believe a message that says Christ died for every sinner.”

    And this:

    “If we jump ahead to the things Christ has bought for believers, even including their believing, without telling it straight about the punishment of Christ specifically for the elect, then we will continue to believe and teach a gospel which has no election in it and no punishment to release the elect from guilt.

    If we jump ahead in that way, we jump over why God’s love for the elect is never described apart from the death of Christ.

    If the death of Christ is not that which saves any specific sinner, then the death of Christ does not save sinners. If the atonement is Christ purchasing faith to give elect sinners a portion in a general punishment, then the punishment of Christ was not for salvation.

    This false gospel talks about justification by the imputed righteousness, but without ever talking about God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. It won’t say whose sins were imputed to Christ.

    It refuses to say anybody’s sins were imputed to Christ, because it refuses to say it was the sins of the elect alone which were imputed to Christ. Such a false gospel nullifies the love of God for the elect.”

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  26. Curt,

    John Y says: Are you testifying to the truth of the Gospel by telling people, either directly or by sleight of hand, that Jesus died for everybody but it is your faith that makes the difference? is that the Jesus that the Scriptures describe?

    Curt says: What makes the difference is God’s election revealed when we come to true faith in Christ. We must never ask people to judge if they are elect, we tell them to believe in Christ. But whether they come to Christ depends on whether they are chosen. After all John 6:44 says:

    John Y: I don’t think you can know your elect or chosen until you believe the true biblical Gospel. So, I agree that you must never tell people to judge if they are elect. You ask if they believe the Gospel and then ask them to explain the main content of the Gospel. And I would quote again the quotes I posted in the comment to Zrim above:

    “the false gospel fails to report that Christ was punished specifically for the elect, and when it does that, it will be heard every time as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being punished.

    Thus, even though it has punishment, this false gospel is not about punishment that replaces punishment for all whom Christ intended to save. It has punishment without any intention of Christ to save anybody in particular at all.

    Piper’s punishment- in- general gospel (with faith purchased extra for the elect) is no gospel in a second and important way. It makes the important atonement to be something other than the punishment of Christ. It makes the real reconciliation to be the Spirit Christ purchased giving people faith to believe, even if they happen to believe a message that says Christ died for every sinner.”

    And this:

    If we jump ahead to the things Christ has bought for believers, even including their believing, without telling it straight about the punishment of Christ specifically for the elect, then we will continue to believe and teach a gospel which has no election in it and no punishment to release the elect from guilt.

    If we jump ahead in that way, we jump over why God’s love for the elect is never described apart from the death of Christ.

    If the death of Christ is not that which saves any specific sinner, then the death of Christ does not save sinners. If the atonement is Christ purchasing faith to give elect sinners a portion in a general punishment, then the punishment of Christ was not for salvation.

    This false gospel talks about justification by the imputed righteousness, but without ever talking about God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. It won’t say whose sins were imputed to Christ.

    It refuses to say anybody’s sins were imputed to Christ, because it refuses to say it was the sins of the elect alone which were imputed to Christ. Such a false gospel nullifies the love of God for the elect.

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  27. JY
    So if you have any misconceptions about the gospel, you are not justified. Are the elect now infallible in their understanding of this doctrine?

    Are you really saying that if one is wrong about election or the limited atonement, one believes a false gospel and is lost?

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  28. Are you offended by that, sbd? You sound like a Catholic. I know I was offended when I first read and understood that. What makes me scratch my head is that why in my 42 years of reading Christian literature and attending various churches during that time that no one explained that to me until McMark did about 8-10 years ago. Can you say that what was said in those paragraphs is an invalid inference drawn from the doctrine of election? That is the offense of the cross. Can you really believe the biblical Gospel without believing that? Can someone get converted by telling lies about the Gospel? You don’t need a high IQ to believe what was said in those paragraphs. Do you think the illumination of the Spirit can cause someone to believe that about the Gospel?

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  29. John Y,
    Your last two comments to me are confusing. For you say in the former comment:


    My point was that if you do include election and definitive atonement than you are not teaching the biblical Gospel.

    And then in the latter comment, you write:


    the false gospel fails to report that Christ was punished specifically for the elect

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  30. Curt, good catch! That was a typo error. I meant to say: My point was that if you do not include election and definitive atonement than you are not teaching the biblical Gospel.

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  31. “Are you offended by that, sbd?”
    No
    “You sound like a Catholic.”
    So those seven years at ND weren’t wasted?

    “I know I was offended when I first read and understood that.”
    I have a pretty high threshold for taking offense I suppose.

    “What makes me scratch my head is that why in my 42 years of reading Christian literature and attending various churches during that time that no one explained that to me until McMark did about 8-10 years ago.”
    Probably because it is incorrect and obviously so.

    “Can you say that what was said in those paragraphs is an invalid inference drawn from the doctrine of election?”
    Yes.

    “That is the offense of the cross. Can you really believe the biblical Gospel without believing that?”
    Probably should be careful about what “that” refers to. I agree with the Westminster standards that all churches are a mixture of truth and error. None of the elect have an infallible understanding of the gospel.

    “Can someone get converted by telling lies about the Gospel?”
    I think you mean to ask whether one can be converted by hearing lies about the gospel? The answer is yes. But your claim above is even stronger- can one be converted who has any misconceptions about the gospel. The answer here is yes as well of course. To claim otherwise is to establish a cognitive works based righteousness.

    “You don’t need a high IQ to believe what was said in those paragraphs.”
    Indeed.

    “Do you think the illumination of the Spirit can cause someone to believe that about the Gospel?”
    With God all things are possible. But scripture teaches us how the spirit actually works. The flesh is constantly warring, and we never perfectly win the battle on this side of glory – including the battle to properly understand the gospel in all its fullness.

    Have a happy Easter. He is risen!

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  32. sbd,

    Is being unflappable and smug part of the warring of the flesh against the spirit? Please further explain your objections:

    1) John Y: “What makes me scratch my head is that why in my 42 years of reading Christian literature and attending various churches during that time that no one explained that to me until McMark did about 8-10 years ago.”

    mystery man sdb who spent 7 years at Notre Dame: Probably because it is incorrect and obviously so.

    2) John Y: “Can you say that what was said in those paragraphs is an invalid inference drawn from the doctrine of election?”

    mystery man sdb: Yes.

    3) John Y: “That is the offense of the cross. Can you really believe the biblical Gospel without believing that?” My addition for clarification- the offense of the cross is that the death of Christ was intended for the elect alone. The extent and nature of the atonement, i.e., that it is definitive and effectual for the elect alone.

    mystery man sdb: Probably should be careful about what “that” refers to. I agree with the Westminster standards that all churches are a mixture of truth and error. None of the elect have an infallible understanding of the gospel.

    John Y: “Can someone get converted by telling lies about the Gospel?”
    mystery man sdb who spent 7 years at Nortre Dame: I think you mean to ask whether one can be converted by hearing lies about the gospel?
    John Y: Yes, that is a much better way to say what I wanted to say. (sarcasm alert) I am just revealing what a humble guy I am by being so teachable and accepting your correction about my intent in that incorrect sentence.

    mystery man sdb: The answer is yes. But your claim above is even stronger- can one be converted who has any misconceptions about the gospel. The answer here is yes as well of course. To claim otherwise is to establish a cognitive works based righteousness.

    John Y: No, I was not claiming that someone cannot have any misconceptions about the Gospel. I was claiming that the Gospel was for the elect alone and that you have to communicate that as part of the Gospel message. Explain now why what I just said is establishing a cognitive works based righteousness?

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  33. A better way to say what I wanted to get across in those last two sentences to the man who spent 7 years at Nortre Dame: No, I was not claiming that someone cannot have any misconceptions about the Gospel. I was claiming that the Gospel was for the elect alone and that you have to communicate that as part of the Gospel message. If you do not communicate that than the Gospel message will get misunderstood. Can a misunderstood Gospel message convert someone?

    Those confessional Reformed who reject one of the critiques of the confessional Reformed are usually objecting to the implications of what Donald McLeod says in one of his books:

    p 214, Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified, IVP, 2014— Romans 8:3 says that it is not Jesus but God the Father who condemns sin in the flesh. While it was indeed in the flesh of his Son that God condemned sin but it was not only in his Son as incarnate, but in his Son as a sin-offering.. God condemned sin by passing judgement on his Son. Theosis (participation in the divine nature, II Peter 1:4) is NOT the reason for God being reconciled to us. We are justified as ungodly (Romans 4:5), not as partakers of a nature which has been united with the divine.

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  34. JY: Do you think one can be converted by a “broad evangelical” gospel?

    I assumed that you asked this rhetorically, and meant to convey that you do not believe that one can be converted by a “broad evangelical” gospel. So I asked…

    sdb: So if you have misconceptions about the gospel, you are not justified? That the elect are infallible in their understanding of the gospel? Are you really saying that if one is wrong about election or the limited atonement, that one is lost?

    To which you responded:
    JY: Does that offend you?

    I thought that you might be asking rhetorically and meant to convey, that you do believe that those who have misconceptions about the gospel are not justified, the elect are infallible about the gospel, and that if one is wrong about election and the atonement that one is lost. But then you might also simply be asking if I was offended, so I answered, “no”.

    Now you tell me that isn’t what you meant at all. Why you couldn’t just say so the first time is unclear. So one can be wrong about election and the limited atonement and be justified. That’s progress. Now you claim that the gospel is for the elect alone and that you have to communicate that as part of the gospel message. While I don’t think there is any dispute about the doctrines of election or the limited atonement or that these doctrines are part of the gospel, we disagree (I think) about whether one must believe these doctrines correctly in order to be justified. I believe that one can be converted (justified) and lead others to Christ so that they are converted and justified all while being wrong about the doctrines of election and the limited atonement. You also assert that one must communicate that as part of the Gospel message. I disagree – not every example of a gospel declaration in scripture is accompanied by communication of the doctrine of election and limited atonement. Maybe I’m mistaken though. Maybe you can show me where in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians he makes the doctrine of the limited atonement clear. When he describes the gospel in chapter 15, it seems much more basic than what you seem to think *must* be communicated every time.

    You ask whether a misunderstood gospel can convert someone. Are you asking rhetorically or really asking? Is your claim that one cannot be converted if you have misunderstood the gospel? Is so, then this is a cognitive works based righteousness. You have to intellectually get things exactly right or you aren’t converted. If you don’t have to get the gospel exactly right to be converted, then there are those who have misconceptions about some aspect of the gospel who have been converted. In which case the answer to your question is obviously that a misunderstood gospel can convert someone. Following the WCF, I would go further and say that all any of us have is a misunderstood gospel. To say otherwise is to replace a Wesleyan moral perfectionism with cognitive perfectionism.

    As far as my purported smugness – I apologize for offending you. I don’t understand how what I wrote came across as smug – the seven years at ND was a reference to Chris Farley’s line in “Tommy Boy” not a boast.

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  35. Zrim asks, what’s the controversy? Can someone be converted by a false Gospel, that is the controversy.

    John, your implication seems to be no, in which case you seem Donatist on the question (i.e. heterodox). But isn’t God free to act despite human errors? False gospels and false ministers should surely be corrected, but your implications sure seem to place God in a box and limited to act effectually only insofar as sinners act perfectly. What a small and anthropocentric view of God.

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  36. sdb, I was just be a smart-ass back at you. No, I was not offended. However, I did misinterpret the whole ND comment. I don’t know how anyone would know what you were talking about if they had not remembered that line from Tommy-boy. I have seen that movie a couple of times and my memory was not jogged that it came from that movie when you made the comment.

    This whole conversation about making election as part of the Gospel message has been carried on at oldlfe on numerous occasions. Pointing to the Scriptures and asking for evidence of election being mentioned in the presentations of the Gospel is not a valid route to go. We don’t know what these people knew or what was taught to them before or after the passage in Scripture. From the New Covenant as a whole we do know that it was a part of the Gospel message. This link will save us both a lot of time if you want to continue to pursue this topic:

    https://oldlife.org/2016/03/30/the-less-worthy-bits-of-puritanism/#comments

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  37. There are typo’s in both of my comments to sdb and Zrim. I think you can probably figure out where the typo’s are. This site needs an edit attachment to its comment box.

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  38. JY, I don’t see what MM and GW’s conversation about whether or not sharing one’s faith with another requires being explicit about election and the limited atonement has to do with this. I think you were saying that:

    1. One cannot be led to Christ by someone who does not believe in the doctrines of election and limited atonement because…
    2. One cannot be justified without believing in the limited atonement and doctrine of election.

    I’m just trying to clarify what you believe.

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  39. What is the Gospel is the point I am trying to make. From the reading of the whole New Covenant what are the important elements that need to be included in the Gospel message and teaching. I don’t think you can teach this in one Sunday morning sermon. And I don’t think you can look at the Gospel messages preached in the book of Acts where people were added to the growing church, and determine from those sermons the whole content of the Gospel. You don’t know what they were taught before and after the message and you don’t really know if there were false conversions involved. Many who once walked with the disciples did not continue with them. And one of those main causes, as described in the Gospel of John, is the teaching on election and limited atonement. It may take quite a bit of time to make the content of the Gospel clear and understood. That is why I am not a believer in revivals. Someone may have a religious and emotional response to the Gospel but not thereafter be properly taught what the Gospel is. If you are not taught that election and limited atonement are part of the Gospel than you are not really believing the biblical Gospel. How can one be truly converted and not be taught an essential element of the Gospel?

    I find it extremely bizarre that the confessional Reformed object to this and then start trying to claim that I am proclaiming a dry, cognitive and propositional Gospel that does include the something more in the definition of faith. That truly blows my mind. And especially you guys who make such a big deal of dutiful church attendance where your supposed to be nurtured in the faith and where one can more personally discern if a person really knows the content of the Gospel. Is that clear enough about what I believe?

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  40. And that back and forth between MM and GW makes one scratch their head even harder. Something very odd is really going on there. MM tries to pinpoint that oddness but GW obfuscates, dodges, complicates and distorts the whole discussion.

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  41. So what’s my point? Christ did not die for “us” if you think “us” means everybody.. John 10 makes this clear and simple. It does not say, “If you put your trust in and believe.” John 10:26, “But you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice.” It’s NOT if you put your trust in me, then you will become my sheep.

    Yes, many “Calvinists” reason, we also believe in election. We know that John 10:29 tells how “My Father has given them to me”. We just don’t think we should talk about that when we are talking about Christ’s loving and dying. When we talk about Christ’s love, we stay with the “if you trust in Him”, and don’t get into the business of them not being able to trust if they are not elect. Christ knew who was not elect,

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  42. Leithart assures us of a catholic space with room with all kinds of diversity, even though views other than his own are “Donatist”

    When Calvinists claim that they were converted by the means of the false gospel, many of them appeal to an unbiblical ecclesiology—if we think that the God who is holy and true does not use the false gospel of “Jesus died for everybody”, then we are accused of being Donatists (and perfectionists”) who don’t agree that the water baptism of the Roman Catholics creates “the visible church” in which there is salvation without the gospel. And then we are told that ordinarily there is no salvation outside “the visible church”. And when I read this, I begin to understand why so many care so much more about being “Reformed” than about the truth of the gospel. For them the sovereignty of God means that God effectually calls sinners to Himself by using the lie of salvation conditioned on the sinner.

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  43. @ John,

    No time for a full response. In short:

    (1) Yes, evangelists should teach election and limited atonement.

    (2) No, it is not not necessary to believe limited atonement to be saved. But failing to believe it hinders one in the faith because it opens a back door to Arminianism.

    (3) The complaint about propositionalism is not a complaint about election. It is a complaint about a theological method that results in confusion and anger instead of clear thought and charity.

    (4) Less Leithart, more confessions if you want to understand the Reformed faith.

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  44. JohnY: the Gospel, in its most basic form, is that Jesus Christ defeated sin and death through His life, death and resurrection, and we receive the gracious gift of salvation and eternal life with God through repentance and faith in Christ alone. If someone possesses genuine saving faith, they are one of the elect. Their theology can be terrible and they can have all sorts of wrong ideas, but they are still saved. It’s their faith in Christ, not the correctness of their theology, that saves. Sure, we should strive to teach correct theology, but hearing a flawed version of the Gospel does not condemn a person to eventual apostasy later in life.

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  45. Pastor Chris Gordon makes solid points. That said the continued inextricable tie between the 4th commandment and a ‘must have Evening Service’ ethos is long on reformed tradition and far short on solid exegesis. In his interview on Presbycast starting around min 51 in context of second service he indeed refers to it as ….”The main marker of the identity of church….” lamenting its lacking he goes on to suggest not having a second service signals the direction of declension of a church…. ” I believe that strongly” -Chris Gordon

    Again legit point by Curt Day….
    “One cannot hold to the necessarily high regard of the Scriptures when one puts their own set of confessions on too high a pedestal. The confessions eventually start to replace the Scriptures as the highest authority to appeal to. Next, when the New Testament Scriptures explicitly teach one thing about the Sabbath for today and our confessions teach another, there are problems.”

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  46. John, why are you leaving out total depravity, irresistible grace and preservation of the saints in what’s so necessary in presenting the gospel? You seem to be highly selective for some obscure reason. As to your bewilderment as to how the local Reformed aren’t more sensitive to your propositional hang-ups, it could be that you’ve been misled by MM? It could also be that the confessional Reformed aren’t actually what the caricatures suggest, the doctrinaire frozen chosen? Maybe it’s YOU who hasn’t quite understood the confessional Reformed?

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  47. Jeff, VV, Zrim,

    The responses to comments never cease to amaze me. I realize this is just a blog site that people tune in to during their spare time during the day; so, the comments should not be taken that seriously nor should you expect much more than minimal focus on the concerns presented. In other words, you should not set your expectations too high in regards to being understood without more than a few back and forth encounters. Even while knowing that a lot of these discussions have been going on for 5 to 10 years now.

    To set the record straight, I certainly do not agree with everything Gordon Clark has written nor the same with John Robbins. However, they did bring up some valid concerns with doctrinal issues that were going on in the OPC and some of the more blblically conservative Presbyterian denominations. I don’t think they were involved much in the CRC wing of the Church. Most of the concerns were dealing with the doctrine of justification and the definition of faith, i.e,, very important Gospel issues. From what I can tell these concerns have been more hidden and buried than confronted head on. It likes the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone would rather ignore than deal with.

    I think you do a disservice to the elect sheep (or people in a local church congregation) when you dumb down the Gospel and tolerate the Arminian Gospel. If you don’t talk about election and limited atonement than the Arminian Gospel will flourish. It doesn’t just open a door; tolerance to the arminian gospel will take over a congregation. I think it does severe damage in churches to condition salvation on the sinner. I also don’t think it is more loving and compassionate to water down the Gospel. It reveals a lack of concern for people. Remember, I am talking about concentrated teaching about the Gospel in the local congregation for extended periods of time with much back and forth dialog and no fear of asking questions. There should really be no excuse for hearing a flawed version of the Gospel and buying into it. Plus, congregations should become aware of flawed versions of the Gospel. I don’t buy into a lackadaisical attitude about flawed versions of the Gospel anymore. You don’t have to do this in a way where you are constantly on the hunt for heresy with a few flawed remarks. You just make it the main priority of the congregation to teach the biblical Gospel and expect your hearers to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Then you deal with difficult issues as they present themselves.

    I don’t think I am ignorant about other doctrines in the Reformed faith. I also don’t look upon the people at oldlife with the caricature of the frozen chosen. Maybe most of the folks who grew up hearing that about themselves is one of the main reasons they don’t like to talk much about election and effectual atonement. From some of the comments that come back at me I think that is what you think about me. Along that line of thinking, please explain to me why you think propositional revelation leads to theological confusion and anger. Perhaps that is an ongoing caricature of how you picture those who have learned some things from Gordon Clark and John Robbins. Propositionalism may not be the same thing as believing in propositional revelation. Personally, i think theological confusion is bred more readily where the words of Scripture are perceived as being merely analogical. In regards to the Leithart quotes, they were in response to Zrim’s accusation of Donatism. They had nothing to do with trying to understand the confessional Reformed faith. Besides, Leithart of involved with the Federal Vision folks- not a good source for a better understanding of the confessional Reformed.

    One last concern I want to address from the comments directed towards me. I might not be alive today if it was not for the continual dialog I’ve had with McMark about the Gospel over the last 8 to 10 years. He has patiently answered all of my questions, sent me encouraging stuff to read and listened to me moan and bitch about how my family has dealt with me. My addiction has been brought under control due to the Gospel according to McMark. If you think that he has misled me then my response is nothing but laughter with the absurdity of that notion. He has been nothing but a help towards me over these difficult years I have faced battling this problem of mine. I very much doubt I would have been handled in the same way in a confessional Reformed church. Of course, I could be wrong about that.

    My family has dealt with me by continual threats and taking my means of livelihood away from me. What always bothered me was that it was to their financial advantage to deal with me the way they did. Perhaps I have an ax to grind with those I think adhere to false Gospels My John Piper reading Calminian brother has been nothing but a pain in my ass who left me high and dry out on the street at the age of 55 when my body was starting to break down. He claims he was being biblical in the way he dealt with me. Well,thank God that God sent someone else in my life who dealt with me in a different kind of biblical way. Someone who really understood the biblical Gospel and not a false one.

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  48. @ John Y:

    First, I am grateful and glad that you’ve been blessed by conversation with Mark, and in a direction that genuinely improves your understanding of the gospel. I don’t anyone here begrudges that.

    Second, I think all of the local edginess in this thread centers around this sentence:

    I think you do a disservice to the elect sheep (or people in a local church congregation) when you dumb down the Gospel and tolerate the Arminian Gospel.

    Somehow, somewhere you’ve gotten it in your head that I “tolerate” an Arminian gospel.

    I think I’ve been pretty clear in the opposite direction. In fact, I would ask you to go back and find anything I’ve said that indicates acceptance of an Arminian gospel.

    If you cannot find such, then I would like to ask you to admit as much and put this to rest. I don’t think we disagree on election, and I see no need for violent agreement, yes?

    With regard to propositionalism: It’s a huge topic, and I would like to save it for a later time when we are in accord on election and other more basic doctrines. Is that ok?

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  49. Jeff,
    1) Zrim did specifically mention that perhaps that I was being misled by MM. That’s why I wrote what I did.
    2) I guess I am confused on the reasons why you think someone can be justified by an arminian Gospel on the one hand and then not tolerate it on the other hand.
    3) Regarding election- Yeah, I think the Reformed confessions are clear on election. I agree with what they say about election. I think problems arise when those who say they adhere to the confessions teach things counter to what an understanding of election would cause them to teach.
    4) I would like to hear your thoughts about propositionalism one day

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  50. I think you do a disservice to the elect sheep (or people in a local church congregation) when you dumb down the Gospel and tolerate the Arminian Gospel. If you don’t talk about election and limited atonement than the Arminian Gospel will flourish.

    John, Arminianism consists of five heads of doctrine. Again I ask, why are these two the ones on which you fixate? If your concern is Arminianism then why don’t you worry about all of it? You complain about Calmianism but your concern seems just as selective.

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  51. Zrim, why delve back into the debate between Roger Olson and Mike Horton? They expounded on their TULIP differences and then told each other how much they respected each others Christian virtues. The doctrinal differences did not really end up mattering that much. No one accused the other of teaching a false Gospel- as far as I can remember. The tolerance seems to be over a certain tolerable morality between the groups. There is not the same tolerance of those accused of being antinomian; just venomous vitriol.

    I complain about Calminianism because my brother dealt with me like I was a huge immoral antinomian while he tried to convince himself and all those around our situation that he had a moral glow around him like John Piper. I knew that to be total bullshit. So, he ended up putting a ridiculous amount of demands upon my life in regard to what I had to do before he would accept me back into the good graces of the family business. In other words, he was setting the conditions for my forgiveness. Even after numerous attempts at reconciliation and completing some of the demands he made on me.

    I’m not sure why you want me to concern myself with the other three. What’s your point in trying to take me off my fixation?

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  52. John, the point is simple: if your problem is with Arminianism then all five heads of doctrine should be in your cross-hairs, otherwise it seems there is really something else happening. And in your last remark you seem finally reveal it–you’re mixing personal issues with doctrinal ones. Somehow you identify a couple of very particular doctrines with an intense and complicated personal relationship. Sorry for your misfortunes.

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  53. JY: I guess I am confused on the reasons why you think someone can be justified by an arminian Gospel on the one hand and then not tolerate it on the other hand.

    By “not tolerating”, I mean:

    * I would vote against ordination of any officer who does not hold to limited (or “particular”) atonement.

    * If someone were to teach, either at my church or my school, any kind of unlimited atonement, I would try to ensure that the teaching stop and be corrected. (In a suitable manner… I wouldn’t stand up and shout and such)

    So you ask a separate question: Can someone believing a false gospel be saved?

    We actually have an example of someone who was: Peter.

    The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He declared His apostles “clean.” So we know that Peter had saving faith prior to that time.

    On the other hand, we know from Acts that prior to the Cornelius event, Peter had a serious defect in his understanding of the gospel: he believed that the gospel was closed to Gentiles. This defect was serious enough that it was anathematized at the Acts 15 council.

    So Peter believed “a false gospel” (better: a defective gospel) and yet was saved anyway.

    With me so far?

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  54. It’s not a bad thing to thank human instruments who have been of help JY, but to you point, if you have understood truth, all thanks go to God and His grace and mercy.

    Isaiah 42:6 “I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, 7 To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.

    Acts 16:14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

    1 Thessalonians 1: 5a for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction

    1 Corinthians 2:4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

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  55. Jeff – I have to quibble a bit with your understanding of Peter’s sin, though I agree with your broader point. Peter clearly believed the Gospel was for all people – Jew and Gentile – as implied in Acts 2-3. Also, Paul and Barnabas had already been ministering to Gentiles, and Peter emphatically approved of their ministry. Peter’s sin was hypocrisy, because he ate with the Gentiles on the one hand, yet later withdrew and ate exclusively with the Judaizers to appease them. Peter believed the correct Gospel, but was hypocritical in the way he lived out that Gospel, and thus undermined it significantly.

    But your broader point is right on: one can have a flawed understanding of the Gospel and still be saved. There are multiple examples in Acts, including Apollos, who had to be corrected by Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18. I assume all professing Christians have genuine saving faith (unless I have reason to believe otherwise), even those who belong to deeply flawed churches with major theological problems. It is Christ and His righteousness that saves, not a pristine understanding of the Gospel.

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  56. Jeff,

    Not a good analogy. The Arminian Gospel says Jesus died for everybody but it is something that the sinner does to make this death effectual. The biblical Gospel says Jesus died only for His elect sheep and God gives the righteousness and faith to the elect so it is effectual.

    We are not sure what Peter’s hangup was with the Gentiles. He often witnessed Jesus healing Gentiles and conversing with Gentiles. I think that conclusion can be drawn from reading the Gospels. It seems that Peter was intimidated by the Jews he was dealing with on a regular basis after Jesus death and resurrection. Maybe Peter

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  57. I accidentally hit the post button.

    Maybe Peter was having doubts about who Jesus died for. We also know that Peter heard the teaching from the Gospel of John. Maybe Peter had not made the connection that Jesus died for only his elect sheep and it did not matter whether these elect sheep were Jews or Gentiles. Or, maybe Peter did know this and was being told by some intimidating Jews that Jesus died only for the descendants of Abraham. My point being, I don’t think you can draw the conclusions you are drawing from that example from Peter’s life. It is comparing apples and oranges. There must be some kind of slick logical fallacy term that I am not remembering right now.

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  58. JY,

    The Arminian Gospel says Jesus died for everybody but it is something that the sinner does to make this death effectual.

    The consistent Arminian believes this and maybe even advocates it, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard an Arminian preacher say this or preach the cross in such a way that the sinner’s faith makes the death of Christ cover their sins.

    It would also depend on what you mean by effectual. In one sense, the death of Christ isn’t effectual for my forgiveness in time until I believe. Christ may have died for my sins 2,000 years ago, but I don’t benefit from that death in time until I believe. The difference here between me and the Arminian is that I believe Christ’s death and God’s unconditional election guarantee my faith, so that I’m as good as saved before I actually receive salvation in time.

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  59. @ VV (and JY):

    Yes, your other examples are also good.

    I have to quibble with your quibble.

    Minor: It’s not an analogy, but an example.

    Major: You are correct that Peter had some inkling in Acts 2 that the gospel was for all. But he was inconsistent in his beliefs. The vision scene inActs 10 is clearly correcting a false belief in Peter’s mind, and not merely one of membership, but of justification — of cleanliness. Acts 2 does not prove that Peter had a completely correct understanding, but only that he had *some* understanding of the gospel for all the nations.

    @ JY: Yes, if someone is a throughly consistent Arminian, one will rely on one’s own works. Such an individual is not saved. But it turns out that 99+% of Arminians are not consistent in their doctrine. One of the major failings of propositionalism is that ot rests on a computer-like understanding of human cognition: We have a consistent set of beliefs, and our system is either true or false. The mind just doesn’t work that way (and I speak as one who trains students to think propositionally!)

    Bottom line: people are inconsistent. Many many people simultaneously believe that Jesus died for their sins, that grace is received through faith and not works, and that belief is a matter of choice. The inconsistencies are either not noticed, or shrugged off as mystery. That’s the way humans are.

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  60. VV says this: But your broader point is right on: one can have a flawed understanding of the Gospel and still be saved.

    John Y: My point is more specific than that. One cannot retain the concept that Jesus died for everybody and still be saved. That has to be flushed down the toilet. Jesus died only for His elect sheep. You cannot properly understand that Jesus righteousness is the only thing that saves and retain the concept that Jesus died for everyone and it is something the sinner does that makes this death effectual. That something then becomes the righteousness and that is not the biblical Gospel. You won’t repent of a false self-righteousness and false Gospels until you understand that Jesus righteousness is the only thing that saves. Our flesh constantly wants to give us some credit for our justification before God. This is not a pristine understanding of the Gospel it is an essential of believing the biblical Gospel.

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  61. John Y: “My point is more specific than that. One cannot retain the concept that Jesus died for everybody and still be saved.”

    I’m sympathetic to your concerns, JohnY, but I can’t agree with you here. What you are failing to see is that you are imposing a sort of “work” in mandating a correct view of the Gospel. In effect you are saying that it’s Christ’s righteousness PLUS a correct understanding of the Gospel that saves. Most of us on this thread agree that it is Christ’s righteousness that saves, but a person does not have to understand the Gospel perfectly to receive Christ’s righteousness. Flawed, imperfect saving faith is still saving faith. If a person’s faith rests in Christ alone they are saved, in spite of any flawed theology and misunderstanding of the Gospel accompanies that faith.

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  62. @ VV, John Y:

    In case it wasn’t clear, I chose Peter on purpose. Acts 11 makes clear that he had previously held the view that Gentiles were unclean. Out of all possible defects in belief, that one is specifically anathematized in Galatians.

    Argument from greater to lesser: If Peter can be saved, how much more the inconsistent Arminian?

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  63. Question: what new doctrine did you learn from the Scripture that convinced you that you had never heard the “true gospel” before?

    I could say that all the Bible is new to me. I could say seeing that the Galatian heretics were five pointers. I could say Hebrews 9:14 on “dead works”, or I Peter 1:22-25 on conversion and regeneration. But in the interests of time, let me give you several verses from Romans:

    First, Romans 1:17, I saw that the gospel reveals more than “sovereign grace”: it reveals a “righteousness”. Before when I said that freewiller Mennonites I had joined were saved by sovereign grace, I was teaching grace but not righteousness. I was saying that sovereign grace would save people even if those people continued all their life not to believe the gospel. I made the gospel a license for rebellion against the gospel.

    Grace would save them even if they didn’t submit to the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. (It is quite common now for Mennonites to reject “penal atonement” in any form: even the plain clothes conservative Mennonties do it.)

    Next: Romans 3:18: no fear before either eyes. I was busy teaching “no performance, no fear”. I know now that God will not deny Himself in saving sinners. I learned that God is so perfect that His demand for a perfect righteousness cannot be satisfied except by what happened outside of us at the cross, and that God will not save those who won’t submit to that truth. The only ones who submit to that truth are those whom God causes to submit to it.

    >Next: Romans 6:17-20. How can I talk about that in short space? The context is Romans 5: we are not first condemned for our sinful conduct but by imputation of Adam’s sin. Even so, in Romans 6, we are not saved by OUR BETTER LIVING. We are not saved BY BELIEVING. We are saved by imputed DEATH: the elect for whom Christ died also died with Him, and we must reckon on this as the only condition of salvation and not on our faith.Next: Romans 7:5-6. I learned that you cannot use works to get assurance because works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. In John 3:17-20, the Pharisees like Nicodemus got assurance from their works. But the light of the gospel exposes our “good works” as sins.

    >Next: Romans 8:13. “Put to death the deeds” includes putting to death assurance by works and blessing by works. Before I had read this text only in terms of morality. Certainly we are to be moral. But morality can be done in the flesh: in the context of Romans, preaching the gospel to yourself every day is essential in “mortification”. So I can no longer use Romans 8:13 to create doubt and legal fear in Christians. Nor James and I John.

    “>To doubt that you are saved because of what you did or didn’t do is to take the focus off of what Christ did. While we need to be warned of a “dead faith”, it is not “double talk” for me to deny that assurance is from the cross and not from our “mortification”. Living by the gospel is confidence in the gospel. So I can agree that Christians have sinful doubts and degrees of assurance, but I no longer think that we get assurance ALSO by works.

    “>Goodness! Next text will be my last for now: Romans 10:1-3. I saw that Arminians and Calvinists who would not submit to the righteousness of God (but only to grace and no performance), ALSO inherently were trying to “establish their own righteousness”. They were “neonomians”.

    “> While I spent all my time talking about “new covenant”, I failed to see the main thing: God demanded one performance–the only solution to my lack of performance was the death of Christ. Our faith does not satisfy God. Death in hell does not satisfy God. But the death of Christ satisfies God. Those imputed with that death will be saved. Those who don’t know or submit to that gospel won’t be saved.

    We must learn to have our perspective agree with God’s perspective. It is not true from that faith is the difference between saved and lost. Faith in the false gospel leaves people lost. Faith in the true gospel is a result of the righteousness, the death of the cross for the elect.

    We can’t know that we are elect before we believe the gospel (no matter how much “repentance” we produce) But we can know, and must know that the difference between saved and lost is not faith, but the righteousness revealed in the gospel. We can and must know that Christ established a righteousness for the elect (without knowing we are elect!) by God’s imputing their sins to Christ and that God imputes the death of Christ to the elect (without knowing yet if we are elect )

    >Arminians say that we need to know that we were involved in the imputation. So they then say that everybody was imputed with the death, but that the death does nothing unless the sinner does something.

    “>People are lost because of sins even if they never hear of Christ. But those who hear of Christ but deny that Christ’s death is what saves also deny Christ and are condemned for that sin also. This includes the Galatian heretics who believed in the resurrection and in particular redemption.

    “>The context of John 3:17-20 is Nicodemus. Before I was converted, I was like Nicodemus; he was sincere and moral but only regeneration can cause a man to bring his “good deeds” into the light and call them dung.

    > Question: You re-write your conversion history every time you change your doctrines?

    no. I do not “reinterpret” my old conversion. I repudiate that old conversion as more wicked than the immorality of the non-religious. I changed Gods. Before I was an idolater who insisted on my own standard of who was saved and lost. I was not submitted to God . I took sides with myself against God.

    “> I am not “re-narrating” my conversion. I am denying that I was converted when I trusted the Arminian gospel.

    “>We dare not be contemptuous of “doctrine” and “theology”. Knowing God is learning to honor His glory in His every attribute; universal atonement dishonors every attribute of God. We are saved as long as we believe the gospel. If we do not continue to believe the gospel, we were never saved.

    “>Question: must a person wait until he is absolutely sure of salvation before he starts to obey the clear precepts of God’s word?

    We cannot do our duty without assurance, cannot acceptably work without assurance. Those who say duty can be done without assurance must ignore what Heb 9:14 and Romans 7:5-6 say about “fruit unto death”.

    ;”>I do not have “absolute” assurance. Assurance has degrees, and depends on Bible study and attention to the gospel. But the difference between assurance by works and assurance by the gospel is not a matter of degree, but a matter of kind. Those two kinds of assurance are in competition. Assurance by works tries to say that the ground of the gospel is not works but that the ground of assurance IS…works.

    “>I John 3 explains that Cain murdered Abel because Cain’s doing his duty was not accepted. He could not do his duty because he was not justified. Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.

    “>Thus we must oppose the “modesty and humility” that lacks assurance and says “I don’t doubt God but doubt me”. When you say that, then you must still think “me” has something to do with saving you. Glory only in the cross.

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  64. “We must learn to have our perspective agree with God’s perspective. It is not true from that faith is the difference between saved and lost. Faith in the false gospel leaves people lost. Faith in the true gospel is a result of the righteousness, the death of the cross for the elect.”

    The problem with statements like this is that it requires infallibility on the part of the believer to be saved. Because if you have *any* misconceptions about the gospel, then you believe a false gospel.

    “I do not have “absolute” assurance. Assurance has degrees, and depends on Bible study and attention to the gospel.”
    But you aren’t saved until you believe the true gospel – any misconceptions about the gospel mean that you believe a false gospel and thus are not justified.

    “But the difference between assurance by works and assurance by the gospel is not a matter of degree, but a matter of kind. Those two kinds of assurance are in competition. Assurance by works tries to say that the ground of the gospel is not works but that the ground of assurance IS…works.””
    Fair enough, but you have simply switched the work that you are resting in. Instead of resting in a sort of Wesleyan moral perfectionism, what you are describing here is assurance that results from a sort of theological perfectionism. Believe the *true* gospel (the gospel with no misconceptions) or not be justified. This is just another form of legalism.

    It isn’t that right belief isn’t important (any more than moral action isn’t important), but it is not our theological acumen that saves us. I suspect that the sort of inference about what Arminians *really* believe when they say X would come as a surprise to most Arminians. We can contain multitudes as they say.

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  65. johnyeazel says: Ali, I actually did make that point, What’s your implication that you are not saying?
    johnyeazel says My addiction has been brought under control due to the Gospel according to McMark.

    The point – it’s the gospel is according to Jesus.

    Johnyeasel says Well,thank God that God sent someone else in my life who dealt with me in a different kind of biblical way. Someone who really understood the biblical Gospel and not a false one.

    It’s a big claim that you say your family adheres to a false gospel. Jesus will be asking you about that continuing judgment of them.

    Johnyeazel says: There should really be no excuse for hearing a flawed version of the Gospel and buying into it. Plus, congregations should become aware of flawed versions of the Gospel. I don’t buy into a lackadaisical attitude about flawed versions of the Gospel anymore. You don’t have to do this in a way where you are constantly on the hunt for heresy with a few flawed remarks. You just make it the main priority of the congregation to teach the biblical Gospel and expect your hearers to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

    amen. btw, what do you think ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ means and how do you think that happens”?

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  66. johnyeazel We can’t know that we are elect before we believe the gospel (no matter how much “repentance” we produce)

    God grants repentance.

    John yeazel says But we can know, and must know that the difference between saved and lost is not faith, but the righteousness revealed in the gospel.

    John 1: 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

    James 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God.

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  67. mystery man sdb says: The problem with statements like this is that it requires infallibility on the part of the believer to be saved. Because if you have *any* misconceptions about the gospel, then you believe a false gospel.

    John Y, aka, JohnnY: What’s up with thinking that clarity about the content of the Gospel is an impossibility. The “misconception” of the arminian Gospel (that Jesus died for everybody) is a false Gospel. Is it not possible, by the illumination of the Spirit, to get the content of the biblical Gospel that is the power of God for salvation right? Does that require infallibility on the part of the recipient? Is it because the creature man cannot possibly think thoughts like the Creator God? Is there no clear knowledge between the Archtype knowledge of God the ectypal knowledge of man? I probably spelled the Archtype and ectypal wrong- I think you can get my point though. Is that the real issue behind your question?

    The Apostle Paul seemed to think that clarity about the Gospel was essential and that distortions or a different Gospel accursed or condemned that person: Gal. 1:6-10

    6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

    Where’s the beef, sdb?

    sdb critiquing a seemingly contradictory statement about the Gospel:

    John Y’s comment box: “I do not have “absolute” assurance. Assurance has degrees, and depends on Bible study and attention to the gospel.”

    sdb’s critique: But you aren’t saved until you believe the true gospel – any misconceptions about the gospel mean that you believe a false gospel and thus are not justified.

    John Y: Paul makes clear in that Galatian passage that there are distortions of the Gospel that may make you lose your assurance. Misconceptions can be distortions; misconceptions cannot be false Gospels. If someone is constantly refining their knowledge of the Gospel and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, why would you tolerate a blatant false Gospel and think someone can be justified by a false Gospel?

    John Y’s comment box: “But the difference between assurance by works and assurance by the gospel is not a matter of degree, but a matter of kind. Those two kinds of assurance are in competition. Assurance by works tries to say that the ground of the gospel is not works but that the ground of assurance IS…works.””

    mystery man sdb’s critique of comment: “Fair enough, but you have simply switched the work that you are resting in. Instead of resting in a sort of Wesleyan moral perfectionism, what you are describing here is assurance that results from a sort of theological perfectionism. Believe the *true* gospel (the gospel with no misconceptions) or not be justified. This is just another form of legalism.”

    John Y: I’m not getting what you are trying to communicate here at all. My guess is that you don’t seem to think that the object of saving faith can be merely right propositions about Jesus and the righteousness he justly obtained for His elect sheep by his sacrificial atoning death. And that it is this righteousness, and this righteousness alone, that is the power of the Gospel that saves. I’m not denying that the Holy Spirit has to get someone to submit to this main content of the Gospel. You seem to want to make saving faith something more than that and if you only think that saving faith is belief and assent to biblical truth about the Gospel than you are a “theological perfectionist” legalist. I’m also guessing that you probably think that I may have not repented of my besetting sin thoroughly enough and therefore are pressing me to acknowledge that. In other words, if my behavior in regards to my besetting sin has not changed thoroughly enough than I am not really justified.

    If you can’t base your assurance on your transformed morality (moral perfectionism) and you can’t base your assurance on believing the content of the Gospel (theological perfectionism), what do you base your assurance on? Like I said in the first sentence, what are you trying to communicate?

    mystery man sdb says: It isn’t that right belief isn’t important (any more than moral action isn’t important), but it is not our theological acumen that saves us. I suspect that the sort of inference about what Arminians *really* believe when they say X would come as a surprise to most Arminians. We can contain multitudes as they say.

    John Y: You are going to have to unpack those three sentences a bit more clearly for me. I don’t think theological acumen saves. First of all, I think justifies is a better word than saves. It is Jesus righteous and just death for His elect sheep that justifies. And God does the justifying of His elect sheep while they are still ungodly. The Arminian teaches that the death of Jesus made justification possible for everyone and that the sinner has to do something to make this universal death of Christ his own. Now we are getting to where I think the real disagreement behind the disagreement lies. I think you believe that Arminians can be justified by a false Gospel because of your understanding of the free offer of the Gospel. That gets into much more complex theological territory and that is one of the reasons why you have to make the content of the Gospel clear. The saving content of the Gospel is not complicated, the defense of the Gospel does get quite complex. And Peter even admits that some of what Paul writes is difficult to understand: 2 Pet. 3:14-18

    14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

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  68. Ali,

    John Y: Ali, I actually did make that point, What’s your implication that you are not saying?
    John Y: My addiction has been brought under control due to the Gospel according to McMark.

    Ali: The point – it’s the gospel is according to Jesus.

    John Y: Yeah, that was a sloppy way of communicating. It was my dialog with McMark about the Gospel of Jesus that helped to bring my addiction under control. Thanks for pointing that out.

    John Y: Well,thank God that God sent someone else in my life who dealt with me in a different kind of biblical way. Someone who really understood the biblical Gospel and not a false one.

    Ali: It’s a big claim that you say your family adheres to a false gospel. Jesus will be asking you about that continuing judgment of them.

    John Y: My thoughts continue to be baffling regarding how this has all panned out and the providential purpose behind it all. It is still all a mystery to me. I’ve tried to reconcile with those whom I’ve sinned against and have made progress with some of my kids. I get nowhere with my brother or my oldest son who now manages and owns the family business. So, it does not take much imagination to figure out that much pain and suffering has taken place in this whole scenario. Perhaps I am being too harsh in my judgment about false Gospels. It seems to me though, that when I seek reconciliation and they still reject it that their Gospel beliefs do not include forgiveness and restoration. I have lost a lot in this whole ordeal and that seems to be of little concern to them. And I have been penalized and punished severely for my conduct.

    Ali: what do you think ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ means and how do you think that happens”?

    John Y: I think that means growing in the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the Gospel. The grace of the Gospel is what overcomes our sin and motivates love towards others and obedience towards the demands of God on our lives. And I still think we fall far short in our love and obedience; however, that’s the driver to further pursuit in regards to the grace and knowledge of Christ.

    John Y: We can’t know that we are elect before we believe the gospel (no matter how much “repentance” we produce)

    Ali: God grants repentance.

    John Y: I agree that God grants repentance. I think God gives the gift of faith too. I think God grants these gifts because of the imputed righteousness.

    John Y: But we can know, and must know that the difference between saved and lost is not faith, but the righteousness revealed in the gospel.

    Ali: John 1: 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

    James 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God.

    John Y: Again, I’m claiming that the righteousness imputed is the cause of faith and repentance.

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  69. “Now we are getting to where I think the real disagreement behind the disagreement lies. I think you believe that Arminians can be justified by a false Gospel because of your understanding of the free offer of the Gospel.”

    I believe that only those who are chose by God before the foundations of the world can believe the Gospel. I do not believe that all those who believe the gospel will do so free of error. Many will mistakenly think incorrect things about the gospel.

    Q. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
    A. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

    Q. What is true faith?
    A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation. These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.

    Q. What then must a Christian believe?
    A. All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.

    Q. What are these articles?
    A. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

    When we make beliefs about the gospel rather than belief in the content of the gospel the measure of what makes a true Christian, we are falling into an analogous trap that the Galatians fell into. The doctrines of election, total depravity, irresistible grace, limited atonement, etc…are all true and extremely important to understand and believe. But they are not the gospel. You can be wrong about these things and be justified because one has repented of one’s sins and has faith in Christ’s work in dying for one’s sins and rising again. To be sure, there is a big difference between misreading Paul on election and declaring that Paul is wrong about election.

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  70. @ John Y:

    It’s hard to debate on two fronts at once — Ali on the one hand, and JRC/SDB/Robert on the other.

    I want to summarize four points of agreement and one point of disagreement.

    (1) We agree that Christ’s death was for His people alone.

    (2) We agree that God’s election logically precedes faith; there is no election contingent upon faith.

    (3) We agree that there is no “free offer” in the sense of a non-elect person’s possibility of coming to faith.

    (4) We agree that a consistent Arminianism makes faith a work in the same way that Erasmus’ “freedom of the will” made faith a work.

    We disagree that the Arminian gospel is so defective that an Arminian cannot be saved.

    I suggest a reason: Arminians (like Calvinists!) are inconsistent.

    I think exploring that reason might be fruitful.

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  71. SDB: Believe the *true* gospel (the gospel with no misconceptions) or not be justified. This is just another form of legalism.”

    John Y: I’m not getting what you are trying to communicate here at all. My guess is that you don’t seem to think that the object of saving faith can be merely right propositions about Jesus and the righteousness he justly obtained for His elect sheep by his sacrificial atoning death.

    SDB has put his finger on the second weakness of propositionalism. Recall the first weakness: Humans don’t actually have a logically consistent set of beliefs.

    Here’s the second weakness. Propositions by definition fall into two baskets: Perfectly true, or else false. There are no shades of gray, no sliding scales. The proposition “there are no even primes” isn’t mostly true or almost true — it’s false (2 is prime).

    That means that propositions can only accommodate epistemological perfection. If the gospel you believe is wrong in the slightest detail (for example, if you are mistaken in your understanding of Christ’s incarnation, or perhaps mistaken about the relation of imputation to faith), logic requires that this is technically a “false gospel”, with the same truth value as the Mormon gospel or the Pelagian. Clearly, there’s a problem here … we cannot say that perfection in belief is a necessary condition for salvation. But with the only two options offered by logic, perfectly true or false, we have no alternative.

    What is needed is some category for gospels that are defective, some sliding scale from “completely true” to “close enough” to “no gospel at all.” Propositionalism can’t help there.

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  72. Jeff, et al.

    Jeff said this:

    I suggest a reason: Arminians (like Calvinists!) are inconsistent.

    This is really the heart of the issue. People are inconsistent. I believe we should strive for consistency, but we don’t ever get there fully in this life.

    I was raised in the Lutheran church and spent time as a charismatic and in a Wesleyan church before becoming Reformed through my study of Scripture.

    That is to say, from my earliest days I can remember believing that I am a sinner who deserves God’s judgment, that Christ was God incarnate and died and was raised for sinners, and that if I believed in Him I would be forgiven and receive eternal life. I believed this for years while either not really thinking much about election or by holding to a view of election based on God’s foreknowledge of my faith. At no time did I think that such a view of election meant I was worthy of salvation, that my faith was a work, or that I somehow could earn or merit salvation. I now believe that my former view of election was inconsistent with those other beliefs, and I’m glad to now understand that. But I simply can’t say I wasn’t redeemed until I believed in the Reformed and biblical doctrine of election.

    Most Christians have a thoroughly inadequate view of the Trinity and the hypostatic union. Technically, most of them would be modalists, tritheists, or Nestorians. But also, most laypeople don’t think much about the topic and most of them have received poor instruction on it. If we make a buttoned-down, no error at all view of those topics the definition of salvation, then I submit that no one is saved or at least that you can’t be saved unless you have studied those topics for at least twenty years. I have two seminary degrees and have written major papers on the Trinity, and I’m still learning and I still don’t have it all precisely figured out like I should.

    Does that mean I’m not saved? If it does, then the majority of people in our Reformed churches aren’t saved because, not to pat myself on the back, I guarantee that I know these topics better than most laypeople.

    It’s one thing to affirm heresy. It’s another to hold beliefs that are incompatible with orthodoxy and not to know it.

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  73. My initial response to the comments of sdb, Jeff and Robert:

    It seems plain to me that the assumptions you are bringing to the comments are as follows and they reveal the weaknesses of the Van Tillian way of thinking:

    1) Propositionalism rejects the archetypal/ectypal distinction in regards to knowledge between the creature and the Creator. The creature cannot know the same way God knows so there has to be inconsistency in the way creatures think.

    2) Because of 1 the creature can only know God and God’s Words analogically. In other words, there cannot be univocal knowledge between the creature and Creator. Therefore, we can never expect clear and logical consistency in the way creatures understand the Scriptures. On the flipside, there cannot be logical consistency in the Scriptures because of the way God accommodates His knowledge to His created creatures. From the creatures perspective there is paradox and contradiction in the Word of God. The creature is inherently inconsistent because of this accommodation of language from God to man.

    Because of these two assumptions Scott Clark gets away with making statements like the following:

    “Our faith is full of mystery of paradoxes to wit, the holy Trinity, the two natures and one person of Christ, divine sovereignty and human responsibility (who has flattened out that one but the anti-predestinarians?), the free offer, the true presence of Christ in the Supper, and means of grace (the Spirit operates through the foolishness of Gospel preaching) and that’s the short list.’

    Here is how one adherent of propositionalism responded to Scott Clark’s statement- this is that proverbial elephant in the room that was never resolved and created great rifts, turmoil, suffering, misunderstanding and a whole bunch of other bad things. It reminds me of my own family situation between my brother and my oldest son; nothing good has come from it as far as I can see right now:

    “And, yes, we can know some of what God knows and in the way He knows it simply because He has revealed His mind to us in Scripture. Consequently, the propositions and words of Scripture convey literal meaning and provide a univocal point of contact between the Creator and His image bearing creatures. As Gordon Clark pointed out a long time ago, an analogy of the truth is not the truth and an analogy can only have meaning if there is a univocal point of contact (something, as you know, Van Til strongly denied).

    So, do me a favor, save that Vantilian canard that we cannot know anything as God knows it unless we can know it “exhaustively” and are ourselves omniscient for your susceptible and impressionable students and followers. Gordon Clark was right in his defense of the biblical doctrine of incomprehensibility and Van Til was wrong. You forget that it was Clark and his side that were the victors in their fight against Van Til and his associates. You also seem to forget that Van Til and his associates were the ones disciplined after their unprovoked and unconscionable attack on Clark and are the ones who sinfully continued the fight against Clark’s supporters after the issue was supposedly settled by the courts.

    Since you like links, I recommend you read Can the OPC be Saved . IMO your idea of the Reformed tradition has been the result of blindly following the widening and ever apostatizing ersatz-Reformed main tributary that resulted from the Clark/Van Til watershed some 70 years ago. Coming from a Unitarian background as you do, I can understand your error. You naturally went with the majority who have jettisoned their historic philosophic and Reformed moorings. Arguably, that might not have happened had Clark stayed in the OPC to continue his fight against VT and the Westminster cabal, something Dr. Robbins reported Clark regretted later in life.

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  74. Do we judge justified/non-justified on the basis of the Gospel or on the basis of morality? If we judge by the Gospel then it appears that the parts of the confession that sdb brings up regarding saved/unsaved are woefully lacking in making an adequate judgment on whether someone is justified or not. Appealing to “we all think inconsistently” seems like an easy cop out to me. Unless, of course, you want to judge justified/un-justified by morality. In that case, we are all pretty much screwed. Especially since God’s standard of judgment is perfect obedience to the Law of God.

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  75. JY,

    The idea that we can’t have univocal knowledge of God isn’t exclusively Van Tillian. It is the historic Christian position. The only person I know of who says otherwise is Gordon Clark and the handful of people who follow him.

    But in any case, the fact that human beings are inconsistent doesn’t really have anything to do with analogical knowledge. It is more to do with our sin and with the fact that we don’t know everything. We learn and grow over time. We have true knowledge, but there are always gaps in our knowledge, and not all of those gaps can be filled in with logical deduction.

    For my part we can speak of an overlap of some kind between our knowledge and God’s, so maybe Van Til went a little to far (and I think he later admitted that the whole argument was bad because people were kind of talking past each other), but we can’t know things as God knows them because we are creatures and He is Creator. You don’t have to know everything to know something truly, but you do have to know everything to know something in exactly the way God knows it.

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  76. @ John Y:

    I’m not van Tillian. Neither (1) nor (2) nor the “vantillian canard” are in the background here.

    The assertion that “people are inconsistent in their thoughts” is based on decades of experience trying to teach people how to be consistent in their thoughts. It turns out, that’s really hard … for anyone!

    It’s not a cop-out. It’s basic human nature.

    Final thought. In addition to not being van Tillian, I’m also not your (biological) family. In particular: I’m not trying to shame, harm, or mislead you. I don’t hold to any kind of Calminianism. And I don’t want to put you or anyone else under the law.

    I say that because, quite naturally, you filter our conversation through your past experiences. So do I. Your family has come up several times, and I want to make sure that we’re clear about the differences.

    I have a very narrow aim: to persuade you that while limited atonement is true, that salvation does not depend on believing in limited atonement. I think it would help you to grow in your faith to recognize that God’s effectual calling is not limited to those who have a taste and ability for precise theology.

    If I’ve understood, your aim is to persuade me that rejection of Arminianism is necessary for salvation because Arminianism smuggles in works through the back door. Is that a fair summary?

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  77. My initial response again, why do you keep saying that “effectual calling is not limited to those who have a taste and ability for precise theology?” If is it not those words than it is something similar to that. My basic point has always been that election and effectual atonement has to be included in teaching of what the Gospel is. If it is not included the Gospel will be misinterpreted by the recipient. A Gospel that says Jesus died for everybody is a false Gospel. That is where the confusion about the free offer of the Gospel comes into play in your assumptions. How does that get translated into infallibility and doctrinal precision about the Gospel? Some assumption is causing you to hear that. Perhaps I have not made that clear.

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  78. Robert, I also question whether analogical knowledge of God is the true historical Christian position. You’re telling me that Gordon Clark is the only one in the history of Christianity who has argued that some univocal knowledge between Creator and creature is necessary for their to be some point of contact between God and man? I highly doubt that no other theologian in the history of the church has argued for that epistemological position.

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  79. If Jesus did not die for everybody than there are definite logical inferences that will expose false Gospels and build a coherent theology about the Gospel on that premise. You can’t get around that unless you want to take refuge in or hide behind irrationality.

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  80. I’m a friend of John Yeazel and Mark Mcculley. Mark’s writings exposed the false gospel that is so prevalent nowadays and opened my eyes to the true gospel of the Bible.

    I will not equate the gospel with the “five points”, because there are various interpretations of it. Some popular Reformed versions of “limited atonement” are not essentially different from Lutheran or Arminian unlimited atonement. The following is an example from the Reformed theologian Charles Hodge: https://calvinandcalvinism.wordpress.com/2008/03/09/charles-hodge-on-the-death-of-christ/

    Quote by Hodge: “…that it [Christ’s death] opens the way for the offer of salvation to all men, and shows the justice of the condemnation of unbelief. NO MAN PERISHES FOR THE WANT OF AN ATONEMENT, is the doctrine of the Synod of Dort; it is also our doctrine. ”

    This summarizes the essence of the popular false gospel – salvation is not by atonement unconditionally made for the sinner, but by the sinner’s accepting the atonement “offered” to him.

    All who believe in the true gospel must confess the OPPOSITE of what Hodge confesses: the difference between those who have been justified / will one day be justified and those who will never be justified but will receive eternal punishment, is that there was atonement for us but NO atonement for them.

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  81. @ John,

    I’m puzzled also. If your only points are that limited atonement should be taught, and that failing to do so leads to confusion, then we’ve already agreed above.

    I thought it was the case that you want to go further and say that those who do not believe in limited atonement cannot be saved? If so, then the comments about theological precision apply. If not, then I think we actually agree.

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  82. @ Tanqui:

    Dort interestingly also says that Christ’s death was of infinite value.

    Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ’s Death
    This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.
    Article 4: Reasons for This Infinite Value
    This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is—as was necessary to be our Savior—not only a true and perfectly holy human, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God’s wrath and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.
    Article 5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All
    Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.
    Article 6: Unbelief, a Human Responsibility
    However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient, but because they themselves are at fault.
    Article 7: Faith God’s Gift
    But all who genuinely believe and are delivered and saved by Christ’s death from their sins and from destruction receive this favor solely from God’s grace—which God owes to no one—given to them in Christ from eternity.
    Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ’s Death
    For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all the elect, in order that God might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that Christ should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death). It was also God’s will that Christ should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.

    So Dort distinguishes between value (infinite) and intent (all of and only God’s people). It’s been a while since I read Hodge, but I thought he made the same distinction.

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  83. Jeff,

    The following quote helps to clarify the deceptive phrase “sufficient for all”.

    Abraham Booth, Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character, book 3:60– “While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which Christ did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom Christ did not represent. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sins to Christ, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…”

    The death that Christ actually suffered, ~2000 years ago, has NO reference at all to the sins of the non-elect sinners, because God did NOT impute their sins to Christ.

    How can something that has NO reference at all to your sins be “abundantly sufficient” to expiate your sins?

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  84. E. Burns, how about a “pretty-please second service”?

    Why do you feel so guilty about not going to a second service? I think I spot some existential conflict?

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  85. @JY I went round and round with Greg a while back for saying that while van TIl may have been a swell guy, every original philosophical idea he had was wrong. Just to be clear, are you claiming that one who believes that anyone could in principle become one of the elect has believed a false gospel and is not justified. While I would find such a belief incoherent, I don’t see that it entails that one has not trusted Christ as savior. Note the material in the canons of Dort that Jeff pasted above: All those who believe in Christ crucified will have eternal life. The gospel as defined in the section of the HC that I provided doesn’t contain anything about believing in election and the limited atonement. One *should* believe those things because they are true. But not believing those things is not necessarily a rejection of the gospel.

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  86. @TW If you are OD’ing on heroin, the narcan I have may be “abundantly sufficient” to save your life. But it won’t save your life unless I elect to use it on you. Jesus’s death was “abundantly sufficient” to save any and everyone’s (eternal) life, but it is only effective for those to whom God has elected to apply it. The analogy isn’t perfect, but it is sufficient to illustrate how something can be abundantly sufficient to save you and not save you. But I don’t think anyone here really disagrees with the limited atonement as defined by the Canons of Dort. The question is whether one can be justified and still disagree. Robert, Jeff, and I say that you can. John seems to be saying that you can’t.

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  87. @ Tianqi:

    I suspect that Dort has in mind this hypothetical: If the Father had hypothetically elected more persons than He actually did, would Christ have needed to (somehow) provide additional expiation? Answer: No.

    So when you ask “how can something … with no reference at all”, you are asking a question about intent. When Jesus died, for whose sins did He actually die? The elect only.

    When we ask about sufficiency, we are asking “What if?” And the answer is, “as much as necessary.” If God had elected an infinite number of persons, the one act of expiation would have been enough. It is the sufficiency of merit that is in view.

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  88. sdb,

    I’ve stated this numerous times but you remain oblivious to my intent. The main issue is not whether one has trusted in Jesus. The arminian and many Calvinists believe that the trust in Jesus is caused by the spiritual union. This spiritual union unites the person to Christ. The atoning work of Christ is not the vital union. If you don’t teach election and limited atonement faith is what unites to Christ not the Father placing the elect sheep into the death of Christ. That imputation into the death of Christ is the vital union that is the cause of the Spirit granting regeneration and faith. This is a significant difference.

    there is much confusion, when you say “saving faith is not perfect”

    1. there is a big difference between faith and the object of faith; while it sounds like you are only saying the faith is imperfect, you are also saying that the content/ object/propositions of faith are imperfectly revealed/understood but by saying the proposition “you can have saving faith and still believe that Jesus died for everybody” you exempt from the imperfect proposition list. You proceed as if that “inconsistent” proposition was obvious, and totally consistent, perfect and not open to question because everybody knows this

    2. you say that “faith is the condition”—you still don’t see that regeneration and faith are results of Christ’s death imputed; you say that faith is the condition for getting Christ’s death imputed to you. Being Reformed you say that God gives regeneration and gives the faith which is the condition. But this is wrong, you would say inconsistent, but it is false. You are saying that God helps the elect to keep the condition, but the condition is faith in some Gospel, not a totally false Gospel but also never a totally true Gospel. God gives you that.

    3. that is what you are saying, but I can’t help but think that (in your inconsistency) you are saying that God saves by regeneration without any gospel, certainly without any truth about justification (God helps you turn from your sins and turn to Jesus as Lord)’

    so the “imperfect knowledge” is being confused both with a. false knowledge, the opposite, the antithesis of the truth and b.. no knowledge

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  89. sdb says:
    April 5, 2018 at 10:05 pm
    @TW If you are OD’ing on heroin, the narcan I have may be “abundantly sufficient” to save your life. But it won’t save your life unless I elect to use it on you. Jesus’s death was “abundantly sufficient” to save any and everyone’s (eternal) life, but it is only effective for those to whom God has elected to apply it.

    John Y: Settle down, sdb. Tianqi is anything but an ex-Heroin addict. Why on earth would you choose that as an analogy? Plus you are still missing the point about the cause of the union with Christ. Why don’t you tell us who you are too?

    Would it make a difference if I told you my addiction was a result of overuse of pain medication? Does that make it easier to digest and more forgivable?

    Now are you going to come back and tell me the example came from the movie, “Tommy-Boy?”

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  90. JY,

    Not sure why Tianqi’s personal history is relevant here. Heroin addition and the ethics of withholding narcan has been much in the use of late. Didn’t realize your addiction involved opioids. For what it’s worth, I do not think that addiction is necessarily a moral failure, that drug use and addiction should be handled through the criminal justice system, or that recovering addicts have any need to seek my forgiveness. If it is opioids you beat, you have my admiration, I’ve known two people to lose the battle – one was a mother of five who got hooked after being prescribed for a back injury suffered in a car wreck. Her liver shut down. Very sad.

    Anyway, the question was how something could be “abundantly sufficient” and “not effective”. I think the analogy works pretty well, but I’m sure there are others.

    I’ve stated this numerous times but you remain oblivious to my intent.

    That’s right. I do not understand your intent. That’s why I keep asking the same question , and don’t understand why you don’t just answer it directly (or at least explain why it is a bad question). Can one not believe in the doctrine of election or the limited atonement and be justified?

    The main issue is not whether one has trusted in Jesus. The arminian and many Calvinists believe that the trust in Jesus is caused by the spiritual union. This spiritual union unites the person to Christ. The atoning work of Christ is not the vital union. If you don’t teach election and limited atonement faith is what unites to Christ not the Father placing the elect sheep into the death of Christ. That imputation into the death of Christ is the vital union that is the cause of the Spirit granting regeneration and faith. This is a significant difference.

    I doubt that you can find one Calvinist (much less Armenian) who would have any idea what you mean by spiritual union being what unites us to Christ. I agree that not teaching election and the limited atonement can cause all sorts of problems.

    there is much confusion, when you say “saving faith is not perfect”

    Sorry about that. All I mean is that one’s understanding of how all this stuff works can be mistaken and still be justified.

    1. there is a big difference between faith and the object of faith; while it sounds like you are only saying the faith is imperfect, you are also saying that the content/ object/propositions of faith are imperfectly revealed/understood but by saying the proposition “you can have saving faith and still believe that Jesus died for everybody” you exempt from the imperfect proposition list. You proceed as if that “inconsistent” proposition was obvious, and totally consistent, perfect and not open to question because everybody knows this

    I agree that the object of our faith is Christ and the work he accomplished. If you believe in the Christ of scripture and trust him alone for salvation, then you are justified. You can be wrong about the order of the Ordo Salutis, how that works, the scope of it for other people, etc… and still be justified.

    2. you say that “faith is the condition”

    I said that? I don’t think I did and don’t see that in what I wrote above. If I overlooked it and did write that “faith is the condition”, then I I was incorrect. The only condition is God’s sovereign choice. Everything else is a consequence of that. But the means by which one is justified is by faith alone.

    —you still don’t see that regeneration and faith are results of Christ’s death imputed; you say that faith is the condition for getting Christ’s death imputed to you.

    I’m not sure what I said that would give you that impression. I believe that faith is a gift given by God that comes because of Christ’s work. It is not the basis of having Christ’s righteousness imputed to me.

    Being Reformed you say that God gives regeneration and gives the faith which is the condition. But this is wrong, you would say inconsistent, but it is false. You are saying that God helps the elect to keep the condition, but the condition is faith in some Gospel, not a totally false Gospel but also never a totally true Gospel. God gives you that.

    The gospel is not the logical order by which one goes from being non-justified to being justified. The gospel is that Christ died for my sins according to the Scriptures. What should one do about that? Repent and believe in Christ – that he died for our sins and was raised from the dead. There is a lot of true stuff one should believe about how that works, the logical order, etc… those beliefs aren’t the gospel though.

    3. that is what you are saying, but I can’t help but think that (in your inconsistency) you are saying that God saves by regeneration without any gospel, certainly without any truth about justification (God helps you turn from your sins and turn to Jesus as Lord)’

    The gospel is that Jesus died for the sins of the elect. If one repents of one’s sins and believes that Christ died for our sins and was raised again, one will be saved. You can’t be saved without that. You can be saved without getting election right.

    so the “imperfect knowledge” is being confused both with a. false knowledge, the opposite, the antithesis of the truth and b.. no knowledge

    The problem with your reasoning here is that you turn infallibilty into the fruit of the spirit. Don’t get union just right? Not justified. Mix up the order of faith and imputation? Your lost. Read John 3:16 to mean that Jesus died for everyone? Reprobate. You can’t be wrong about any of this stuff and be saved. Am I reading you right? If so, I don’t think there is much left to be said. If I’m misreading you, I’m happy to be corrected.

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  91. sdb,

    Knee-jerk reaction in regards to the heroin analogy. Twenty years of battling family members has done a number on me both mentally and physically. I’m still working on processing it all- some days are worse than others.

    Does one have to believe in the doctrine of election and effectual or limited atonement in order to be justified?

    John Y: It turns out that this is not a simple question to answer. You have to build a consistent and believable case that does not defy the rules of logic. Plus, I have heard that Pastor’s of Reformed churches have lost their jobs by saying yes to that question. It seems to be that serious of an issue. So, anyone should be understandably reluctant to answer that question unless they are totally assured of the case they have built.

    I know many people who are assured of a yes answer but I am trying to work it out for myself with the help of others. In other words, I am seeking to say with mostly my own words; I think you gain a better understanding if you approach it that way.

    sdb says: “I doubt that you can find one Calvinist (much less Armenian) who would have any idea what you mean by spiritual union being what unites us to Christ.”

    John Y: What I meant by that is what Calvin meant when he said that it is by the Spirit the elect sheep are united to Christ; hence, spiritual union. There is also a union by decree and a legal or forensic union. Surely you have heard those terms bandied about at oldlife- yes or no? What I am trying to communicate, and it seems that it is easier said than done, is that when you make union to Christ by the Spirit the “vital” or most important union, then forensic union by legal declaration (or being placed into the death of Christ by God the Father, i.e., the imputation of righteousness) becomes dependent on the union by the Spirit. In other words, the spiritual union has priority over the legal or forensic union. Also, it logically follows that election applied is by spiritual union and it does not matter if you say the atonement is limited or universal (or hypothetically universal). When the forensic union is the priority then God the Father placing the elect sheep into the death of Christ is the vital union and it logically follows that election is applied by the atonement. If you don’t see that then the object of your faith will be what God has done inside of you instead of looking outside to the cross. That is a subtle but different object of faith.

    Is that a different Gospel? You say no and if I don’t say no along with you than I am turning infallibility into a fruit of the Spirit. I have no clue what you mean by that- please explain and reference it to election, limited atonement and a false Gospel. I suppose that is like you having no idea about spiritual union being what unites us to Christ. I hope I made it clear that the Spirit regenerates and creates faith in the Gospel That is what unites to Christ. I’m not denying that takes place. I’m just saying that the imputation is the cause of that taking place, not vice versa.

    John Y says: there is much confusion, when you say “saving faith is not perfect”

    sbd response: Sorry about that. All I mean is that one’s understanding of how all this stuff works can be mistaken and still be justified.

    John Y: The main concern- are you trusting the atoning work of Christ outside of you who died only for the elect or the work of the Spirit inside of you that makes the difference in determining who ends up perishing because Jesus died for everybody? To put it another way, what am I trusting in? The just work of Christ for His elect sheep on the cross that imputes all the elects sins to Christ or the Spirit’s work of enabling me to continue to believe in that atoning work of Christ for everyone? That is a difference and I think that is a different Gospel.

    sdb says: “I agree that the object of our faith is Christ and the work he accomplished. If you believe in the Christ of scripture and trust him alone for salvation, then you are justified. You can be wrong about the order of the Ordo Salutis, how that works, the scope of it for other people, etc… and still be justified.”

    John Y: All I’m saying is that if don’t say Jesus died for the elect alone you are believing that it is your Spirit generated faith that is saving you (since Jesus died for everybody) instead of the atonement only for the elect (that is the cause of regeneration and faith). Again, that is a different object of faith.

    sdb says: The gospel is that Jesus died for the sins of the elect. If one repents of one’s sins and believes that Christ died for our sins and was raised again, one will be saved. You can’t be saved without that. You can be saved without getting election right.

    John Y: That is a blatant contradiction. You say, “the gospel is that Jesus died for the sins of the elect.” Then you say,, “you can be saved without getting election right.”

    Whether it be because of ignorance of election or rejection of election, most professing Christians do NOT believe that all for whom Jesus died will be justified. Even most people who do not profess to be Christians are sure that Jesus died for them. In every place in the United States, even most of the non-professing Christians think that Jesus died for more sinners than will be saved. They think they know that God loves everybody, but they also think that some of those people will be lost. As a result, most people do NOT believe in the “finished” work of Christ for the elect alone. They only believe in a “to be determined” work of Christ. That to be determined depends on continuing faith and continuing works of faith and not on the finished work of Christ for the elect alone. If your are believing in continuing faith and continuing works of faith than you are believing a false Gospel. You are not believing in the finished work of Christ for the elect alone. You are believing in continuing works of faith in the Jesus that died for everybody. Faith alone is not the condition of justification, and to see that, we need a message which tells us about God’s election.

    Romans 1:16, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Evangelicals understand this as teaching that salvation is conditioned on faith alone. Evangelicals don’t understand the gospel.

    Election is God’s idea. This idea goes along with the idea of not works. Romans 9:11: “In order that God’s election might continue, not because of works.”

    Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

    Doesn’t the apostle Paul understand that you can say “not by works “ without talking about election? Why doesn’t he just say: “by faith and not by works”? Why does he bring in this idea of an elect remnant? Paul writes about election in order to explain what he means by faith. Paul does not regard faith as a substitute for works.

    God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to a person justified by the gospel. The “it” which is imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Christ Jesus for the elect alone. The righteousness of God obtained by Christ for the elect alone is imputed unto the elect alone. That is the Gospel.

    Election is not only about having ears to hear and believe the gospel. Before election deals with application (union), election tells us that all for whom Christ died will be saved by that death, and not by some other factor, for example, having ears to hear. This is why lost people need to hear about election, because they need to understand the reason for and the nature of Christ’s death. And this cannot be taught without talking about election. People can say “substitution” but if Christ died for everybody, then it’s not substitution. But if we teach that the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ, then we can teach that the law demanded Christ’s death for those sins and that the law demands that those elect sinners be saved from God’s wrath.

    According to Romans 9:11, we cannot say grace alone without saying “for the elect alone”. “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of His call.”

    sdb says: The problem with your reasoning here is that you turn infallibilty into the fruit of the spirit. Don’t get union just right? Not justified. Mix up the order of faith and imputation? Your lost. Read John 3:16 to mean that Jesus died for everyone? Reprobate. You can’t be wrong about any of this stuff and be saved. Am I reading you right? If so, I don’t think there is much left to be said. If I’m misreading you, I’m happy to be corrected.

    John Y; Again, not sure about how my reasoning is turning infallibility into the fruit of the Spirit.

    No I’m saying that if you don’t talk about election you are going to end up teaching a false Gospel and I don’t think someone can be justified by a false Gospel for the reasons I hope I made clear. You end up making the object of faith something other than the Jesus who died only for the elect.

    ,If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and desires to save everybody but that faith is some kind of condition of this salvation, then this faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone as the saving factor. Since Christ supposedly died for all sinners, but not all sinners are saved, then “faith alone” becomes what really saves. But “faith alone” is not the condition of justification, and to see that, we need a message which tells us about God’s election.

    But the problem is not “how much” or “how little” is being taught by Arminians. The problem is that Arminians are teaching the opposite of the truth. Does the holy God of truth save sinners for His glory by using the opposite of the truth? We need antithesis. Which of the five points believed by Arminians is part of the gospel? If none of them is the gospel, why would we think that those who are teaching those five points are teaching the gospel? This leaves me to ask three more questions. 1. What is the gospel? 2. is the fact alone that Christ died the gospel? 3. Does God save some people without any gospel, even with a false gospel?

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  92. SDB: Does one have to believe in the doctrine of election and effectual or limited atonement in order to be justified?

    John Y: It turns out that this is not a simple question to answer …

    I know many people who are assured of a yes answer but I am trying to work it out for myself with the help of others. In other words, I am seeking to say with mostly my own words; I think you gain a better understanding if you approach it that way.

    Two thumbs up!!

    JY: Does one have to believe in the doctrine of election and effectual or limited atonement in order to be justified?

    John Y: Plus, I have heard that Pastor’s of Reformed churches have lost their jobs by saying yes to that question. It seems to be that serious of an issue. So, anyone should be understandably reluctant to answer that question unless they are totally assured of the case they have built.

    I know many people who are assured of a yes answer but I am trying to work it out for myself with the help of others. In other words, I am seeking to say with mostly my own words; I think you gain a better understanding if you approach it that way.

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  93. Bah. Cell-phone failure.

    JY: All I’m saying is that if don’t say Jesus died for the elect alone you are believing that it is your Spirit generated faith that is saving you (since Jesus died for everybody) instead of the atonement only for the elect (that is the cause of regeneration and faith). Again, that is a different object of faith.

    Hm. This is a weak point in your argument. You jump from B: “if you don’t believe that Jesus died for the elect alone” to F: “then you believe it is your Spirit-generated faith that saves you.”

    There are some missing terms that take you from B to F, and those terms are not clear.

    Furthermore, we have to be careful about equivocating. Does faith save? Does imputation save? Does Christ save? Peter says “baptism saves”; but he clearly doesn’t mean that in the same way as “Christ saves.”

    I know a number of people who would say that “Christ died for all” and “Christ saves me.” Those people seem to falsify your syllogism.

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  94. “I know many people who are assured of a yes answer but I am trying to work it out for myself with the help of others.“
    That’s fair. I wasn’t trying to trap you, I just wanted to make sure I understood your claim.

    Regarding union, I understood what you meant, but I don’t think your typical church member in a reformed church would, much less a fundagelical “calminian”.

    Regarding the blanant contradition, I agree that logically, it is. But I also believe that there are some who are justified who may not properly apply logic and thus believe contradictory things.

    “If you don’t say Jesus died for the elect alone you are believing that it is your Spirit generated faith that is saving you (since Jesus died for everybody) instead of the atonement only for the elect (that is the cause of regeneration and faith). Again, that is a different object of faith.”

    Your reasoning here is not sound. If you are drowning, and I throw you a life preserver, you grab it, and you are saved do you say that it was your grabbing the life preserver that saved you, the life preserver that saved you, or the person who elected to throw you a life preserver? One might really, truly believe that it was the person who elected to throw them the life preserver. I would disagree that this analogy properly describes what scripture teaches about salvation, but I don’t think it necessarily takes one’s eyes off of the object of faith.

    “This leaves me to ask three more questions. 1. What is the gospel? 2. is the fact alone that Christ died the gospel? 3. Does God save some people without any gospel, even with a false gospel?”
    Good questions. I think they do get to the heart of the issue. What is the “good news”? When Peter says repent and believe in response to the people’s question about what should they do, what is it that they needed to believe?

    When Peter and Paul describe the good news (e.g., 1 Cor 15), the focus is on the death and resurrection of Christ. He is the object of our faith. When we describe the “good news”, I think the opening to the Heidelburg Catechism captures it well:

    “What is my only comfort in life and in death? That I am not by own, but belong body and soul to my faithful savior Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for my sin with his precious blood and freed me from the tyrany of the devil. He watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head apart from the will of my Father in heaven. Indeed all things must work towards my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ by his Holy spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready to live for him. “

    That’s pretty good news! So what must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort? “Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.”

    As we move through the catechism, we are eventually asked what true faith entails… “What is true faith? True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation. These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.”

    So faith is belief in what scripture teaches and in the good news… But what is it that we should believe… there is a lot of stuff in scripture. What are the essentials elements that those who are justified assent to? “What then must a Christian believe? All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith. What are these articles?
    I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

    I believe that the doctrines of election and the limited atonment (as defined in the canons of Dort) are true summaries of what scripture teaches on these topics. I do not think that they are the gospel or the object of our faith. I could stand corrected, but I would want to see some exegetical evidence for equating a description of how the benefits of the gospel are applied to the subset of humanity who are the elect and the good news. I don’t see the gospel described as such in the NT. Of course, not every doctrine taught in the NT – even really important teachings – is the gospel.

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  95. sdb,

    I do not dispute that your view of “limited atonement” is within the scope of the Canons of Dort. In fact, I have reason to think that your view is THE VIEW expressed in the Canons of Dort.

    I disagree with your view. I do not subscribe to Dort. (If you want historical precedents of views similar to mine, check out John Owen’s double jeopardy argument. )

    Jesus’ death, completed at the cross, is not something that God can now choose to apply to cover anyone’s sins (or not).

    The imputation of sins happened prior to Jesus’ death, according to God’s purpose of election. The imputation of sins was the cause of the death of Jesus, the wrath of God upon him on the cross.

    Jesus only died for those sins imputed to him by God. He only suffered God’s wrath due to these sins. By his death, he completely atoned for those sins and satisfied God’s wrath due to those sins.

    This is what I mean by “NO reference to the sins of the non-elect”.

    To make this matter clearer: Christ’s death has no more power to expiate the sins of the non-elect than it has power to expiate the sins of fallen angels.

    Incarnation alone doesn’t make Christ’s death applicable to all human beings, because incarnation is only one of the conditions for Christ’s death. If Christ did not become man, then he could not have died a bodily death. But dying a bodily death alone is not atonement. He must die for sins. This is why I emphasis on the imputation of sins to Christ.

    (If we trace back further, the imputation of sins is itself grounded in something more basic, namely the federal relation between Christ and the elect. )

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  96. Jeff,

    You said:”If the Father had hypothetically elected more persons than He actually did, would Christ have needed to (somehow) provide additional expiation? Answer: No.”

    My answer is YES. Christ would have stood in the place of more sinners, borne more sins upon himself, been under more wrath, and made more expiation.

    However, he would not have to SUFFER more. The life He gave up is sufficient (and THEREFORE efficient!) to atone for ANY number of sins IMPUTED TO him. On the other hand, the life He gave up is NOT an atonement for any sin NOT imputed to him.

    (I think this is what Abraham Booth is saying in the quote I provided. )

    Jeff: “So when you ask “how can something … with no reference at all”, you are asking a question about intent. When Jesus died, for whose sins did He actually die? The elect only.”

    If so, how can the gospel be an “offer” to the non-elect, whose sins were never laid and will never be laid on Christ?

    I’ve heard some presentations of “gospel” that gives the impression that God’s decision to impute your sins to Christ is conditioned upon your believing.

    Here is an example:

    Another example.

    John MacArthur: “If we believe Him, His dying counts in our stead, paying for our sins in full.”

    Comments (mostly by me, but also others): This sounds like saying that Christ died for some sinners because God foreknew they would believe. If you believe now, then that made Christ die for you 2000 years ago. In this case, you may have “definite atonement” in that the extent of the atonement is only for the elect and it is also taught that election is what causes some sinners to believe. But you do not have the gospel of the elect’s sins imputed by God to Christ, and you do not have God’s electing love having decided for whom Christ would make propitiation.

    It’s like teaching that faith is the reason for the atonement, even if at other times (when you are not doing evangelism?) you explain that election is the reason for your faith. In any case MacArthur is not teaching that faith is given because of the atonement, even when sometimes he agrees that faith is given because of election. In that case, faith becomes way more important than Christ’s death. Your faith becomes a request for Christ to please die for you. Adding in the idea that God now sovereignly determines who makes this request does not change the false gospel which knows nothing of God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ.

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  97. Tianqi: However, he would not have to SUFFER more. The life He gave up is sufficient (and THEREFORE efficient!) to atone for ANY number of sins IMPUTED TO him. On the other hand, the life He gave up is NOT an atonement for any sin NOT imputed to him.

    I don’t see any difference between what you said and what I said.

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  98. “Jesus’ death, completed at the cross”
    I agree that this was a once in time historic event. Further the sins of the elect (and only the elect) were atoned for at that time.

    “ is not something that God can now choose to apply to cover anyone’s sins (or not).”
    This is an odd statement. The atonement that Jesus accomplished also has to be applied in history. When that happens in the life of the elect is something God chose (presumably before the foundations of the world…) If you mean God doesn’t change his mind, then I agree. If you mean that the atonement and all its benefits were applied to you 2000 yrs ago, I disagree.

    “The imputation of sins happened prior to Jesus’ death, according to God’s purpose of election. The imputation of sins was the cause of the death of Jesus, the wrath of God upon him on the cross.”
    OK I guess. Is there some exegetical basis for this insistence?

    “Jesus only died for those sins imputed to him by God. He only suffered God’s wrath due to these sins. By his death, he completely atoned for those sins and satisfied God’s wrath due to those sins.”
    I agree.

    “ I disagree with your view. I do not subscribe to Dort. (If you want historical precedents of views similar to mine, check out John Owen’s double jeopardy argument. )“
    I didn’t realize that there was much distance between Owens and Dort. Where do I find his double jeopardy argument?

    “ To make this matter clearer: Christ’s death has no more power to expiate the sins of the non-elect than it has power to expiate the sins of fallen angels.“
    I agree.

    I guess I’m being dense, but I’m not seeing how any of this is inconsistent with Dort. I think the bone of contention is whether not believing this implies one is not justified.

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  99. “ John MacArthur: “If we believe Him, His dying counts in our stead, paying for our sins in full.”

    Comments (mostly by me, but also others): This sounds like saying that Christ died for some sinners because God foreknew they would believe. If you believe now, then that made Christ die for you 2000 years ago. In this case, you may have “definite atonement” in that the extent of the atonement is only for the elect and it is also taught that election is what causes some sinners to believe. But you do not have the gospel of the elect’s sins imputed by God to Christ, and you do not have God’s electing love having decided for whom Christ would make propitiation.“

    I can’t believe I am about to defend JM! But I think you are misreading him here. If you believe now, then the atonement that was accomplished for you then will now be applied. Shen Peter preached at Pentecost, the hearers asked what to do. His answer was repent and believe. The status of those who did changed ontologically, not just epistemically. They did not just realize that Jesus died for them.

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  100. Here is the double jeopardy argument- it does get to the main points of where the argument lies:

    If “Owenites” Are Right, There is No Need for Faith?
    Romans 5:11 “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.”

    Fullerites teach that the “atonement” which really matters is the application of Christ’s death. Therefore, no double jeopardy, they say, unless somebody for whom Christ died has been “united to Christ.” In other words, they teach that Christ died for some who will perish.

    There are also many who sincerely believe that God only intended Christ to die for the elect, and that all of these elect will be saved, but who still did not understand the nature of the atonement.

    It’s one thing to say that Christ’s death will be effective, and another to say WHY Christ’s death must be effective. Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice.

    The difference between the Fullerites and those they dismiss as “Owenites” is not for the need of the Spirit’s work or faith in the gospel. Even though at the end of the day, we have different gospels (objects of faith), we do not disagree about justification being through faith. We who are called “Owenites” do not teach eternal justification, or justification apart from faith, even though our accusers claim that this makes us inconsistent.

    We do NOT teach that the elect are free from condemnation before being “baptized into Christ”. Although John Owen taught that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, John Owen did not teach that all the elect were justified as soon as Christ bore those sins. Owen taught with Romans 6 that the elect must come into legal union with Christ’s death. Until the elect are placed into that death, they remain under the wrath of God.

    But those who accuse us of thinking there is no need for faith claim that it is not logical for us to teach such a need for faith. If the substitution has already been made, then all for whom it was made should logically already be justified. If the righteousness has already been obtained, then all for whom it was earned should logically already be justified by it. This is the claim made by those who follow in the wake of Andrew Fuller and the Torrance brothers.

    Notice two details. One, it’s clear that Owen did not teach justification apart from faith. It’s also clear that Owen did not teach that faith was a mere recognition that we were already justified. (See Carl Trueman’s various books and essays on John Owen).

    But two, what is it that those who make the accusations are teaching about the atonement? Some like the Torrances think that saying that Christ died only for the elect leads to this error. Some like Andrew Fuller agree that Christ only died to gain faith for the elect, but they make this purchase of faith to be what it is limited about the intention of the atonement.

    Fullerites do not want to teach that Christ’s substitution under God’s wrath was limited only to the sins of the elect. They can rightly say they teach “limited atonement” but they do not think that the propitiation is limited.

    The Fullerites teach that the atonement is unlimited in its ability to condemn everybody. (Andrew Fuller himself regarded the transfer of the sins of the elect to Christ as figurative and as not legally possible.) The Fullerites teach that the atonement is unlimited in its proclamation of God’s offer to love everybody. But despite that general love, and general propitiation, they add that Christ’s death did not purchase faith and “union with Christ” for everybody.

    Of course there are all kinds of sophisticated (sneaky and subtle) ways to say such a thing. Listen to this one: “Owenites must argue that substitution for the elect logically requires that God regenerate elect sinners.” But that objection ignores Owen’s careful distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement.

    One, it ignores that the application of the atonement is a legal placement of the elect by God the Father into Christ’s atonement. The objection jumps ahead to “regeneration” and the work of the Spirit. But Romans 6 never tells us that “regeneration” places the elect into Christ’s death. Romans 6 never tells us that it’s the work of the Spirit that puts the elect into Christ’s death.

    Two, the objection fails to define the difference between “substitution” and obtaining (the Torrances would never say “earn”– too legal, too contractual) the blessing of “regeneration”.

    Of course “substitution” and “regeneration” are not the same thing. Substitution has to do with “all died” (II Cor 5:15) when this means that Christ alone died for the elect, without the elect being there, so that His death legally counts for them to take God’s wrath away from them. But those who leave “substitution” undefined cannot define the difference between it and the application of “substitution”.

    Our accusers claim that we who teach substitution only for the elect should agree that the elect can go free before they are converted and believe the gospel. They want to put us in that box, so they can then deny that the death of Christ is the effective difference between saved and lost. Thus they accuse: if no efficacy to set free before faith and without faith, then no legal efficacy by itself.

    But notice where our accusers locate the efficacy: not in propitiation, not in Christ’s bearing the sins of the elect, but only in the efficacy of “regeneration” and “union with Christ”.

    And we would could answer back: what do you need the death for, if the real thing is the new birth and the indwelling? And it’s a good question, but I am sure that they think the incarnation (if not the death) is a necessary prelude to “union with Christ” and “sacramental fellowship” with the humanity of Christ.

    But this is their argument: you can’t say that there’s double jeopardy until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that a person was dying for the same sins twice. But otherwise, it is claimed, you can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to them, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the sins of sinners.

    How can they say that Christ’s death for sinners is not enough payment for the sins of these sinners? Listen carefully, think seriously, to their answer: “Baptism into Christ’s death is what makes Christ’s death the death of the sinner”.

    This is their answer to Romans 6. Unless we want to say that Christ’s death is legally effective without faith, then they tell us that something after Christ’s death is what makes Christ’s death legally effective.

    I hope you think that through. Unless we want to go the way of those who teach eternal justification (or justification of all the elect at the time of the death and resurrection of Christ), we must agree that many of the elect (all those born after Christ’s death) for whom Christ died are nevertheless born in their sins, under the sentence of death. Of course we would stipulate that God’s justice demands that they will not die in that unjustified state. But how can we explain that temporary legal condemnation when we are also teaching a substitution by Christ for their sins?

    It depends on what you mean by “union with Christ”. The Torrances (also the Fullerites) think of the baptism as either a water sacrament or as the “binding by the Spirit of the elect to Christ by means of faith”. In other words, they think of being placed into Christ as identical to “Christ in us”.

    But the Holy Spirit’s indwelling is not taught in Romans 6. It is God the Father’s legal imputing of the death to the elect which is in view. NO, the word “imputing” is not there. But neither is the word “Spirit” or the words “regeneration” or “indwelling”. As I Cor 1:30 teaches: because of God you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

    Previously I wrote: it’s one thing to say Christ’s death is effective, and another to say WHY Christ’s death must be effective.
    The death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice. It’s possible to teach that Christ died for everybody or that Christ died only for the elect, and still not teach the justice of God revealed in the gospel.

    One of the better discussions in print on this topic is by Tom Nettles in By His Grace and For His glory and his chapter on “Christ Died for our Sins, According to the Scriptures”. Nettles quotes Andrew Fuller: “We could say that a certain number of Christ’s acts of obedience becomes ours as that certain number of sins becomes his. …His one undivided obedience affords a ground of justification to any number of believers; His one atonement is sufficient for the pardon of any number of sins or sinners.”

    Nettles explains that Fuller “misconceives the biblical relation of imputation. Justification should not be considered as analogous to atonement but rather to the imputation of Adam’s sin”.

    Andrew Fuller is identifying the application of the atonement with effectual calling , and then on top of that he is identifying the application of the atonement with the atonement. What he really means by definite atonement is that the difference is not in the legal substitution but that Christ obtained only for the elect the Spirit’s work of calling.

    Listen carefully to Abraham Booth’s Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character, book 3:60

    “While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which he did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom he did not represent. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sins to him, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…

    Romans 5:11 “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.”

    This receiving is not the sinner believing. It is not an “exercise of faith” . The elect receive the atonement by God’s imputation. The elect do not impute their sins to Christ. Nor do the elect impute Christ’s righteousness to themselves. God is the imputer.

    The legal receiving of the atonement is not the same as the righteousness. The legal imputation is not always at the same time as when Christ accomplished the atonement. God declaring the elect to be righteous in Christ is not the same thing as Christ’s righteousness. There is a difference between imputation and righteousness. There is a difference between justification because of the atonement and the atonement.

    John Owen is not doing the Torrance double-talk about a difference between redemption and atonement. Rather, Owen explains the biblical difference between the atonement and justification. The difference is not that the elect do something to get justified. The difference is that, in justification, God credits the atonement to the elect. That atonement was already made for the elect before God legally placed the elect into the death.

    Even before they are justified, the elect are entitled by Christ’s work to justification. But the elect are not justified until God imputes the righteousness to them.

    Well, all this sounds logical enough, but what does it practically mean? Is not the safest answer to those who accuse us of denying the need for faith to deny the need for faith? Is it not safest to teach eternal justification and to say that conversion does not matter?

    I have continually challenged the notion that the best way to counter salvation conditioned on the sinner is to teach eternal justification, so that conversion becomes only knowing that you were converted. (In other words, the idea is that since I was always elect, I was always “saved”, I was never not converted.)

    The safest and best place to be is not the most extreme away from what the Arminians say. The safest and best place to be is what the Bible says.

    I have no big problem with saying that the elect were “in some sense” always saved, but only if this “sense” is that they are elect. In other words, from God’s perspective, the elect are never in danger of perishing. But before we heard the gospel, we didn’t know know we were elect, and we were not justified. It wasn’t only an epistemological problem we had; we were under the wrath of God.

    The gospel does not tell anyone: you are elect. The gospel tells everyone: God loves the elect and Christ’s death will save the elect.

    Where the Arminian wants to tell every unconverted person that God loves them, those who teach eternal justification (or presumptive regeneration, which of course is not taught by all who teach eternal justification) want to tell SOME of the unconverted that God loves them.

    I Thessalonians 1:4 “For we know, brothers, loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

    We can and should insist on the necessity of conversion without falsely confusing the atonement with the application of the atonement. It would be an injustice if the death of Christ were sufficient for those for whom it will not be applied.

    Arminians, along with Andrew Fuller and the Torrances, rejoice in the idea that they “have been died for”, but they reject any kind of “logical completeness” which would point out that their false gospel teach that even those who perish have been died for.

    Some Calvinists make the imputation of Christ’s death and resurrection a second blessing, subsequent to “union with Christ”. Other “Calvinists” ( NT Wright, Don Garlington) teach that the Spirit’s continuing work of uniting some to Christ makes any talk of “imputation” redundant.

    To this end, the accusers often use the same Calvin quotation from 3:11:10 “As long as Christ is outside us…” The priority of the Spirit in applying the atonement functions as an unexamined given. Nobody, except Bruce McCormack in What’s at Stake in Justification (p104-116) (also Mike Horton and John Fesko), seems to have examined the possibility that Christ is outside us as long as we are outside Christ forensically.

    Legal imputation is that aspect of union with Christ which results in Christ’s gift of the Spirit, because Christ’s death has justly purchased both that legal application and the resulting work of the Spirit in the elect.

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  101. I know we have gone over this argument before at oldlife. Maybe sdb was not involved at oldlife then. Anyways, does it make clear why limited or effectual atonement and election have to be included in the Gospel message? Can justification occur without these doctrines presented in the Gospel and without the hearer of the Gospel understanding and assenting to what is said?

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  102. @ John Y:

    Yes, but yes. Yes, LA is an important component of gospel presentation. Yes, people can be saved without believing it.

    Let’s do a thought experiment using your ordo salutis.

    Bob is elect from the foundation of the world. At time t0, the gospel is preached; at time t1, imputation occurs; at time t2, faith occurs.

    But there’s a problem: the gospel preached to Bob doesn’t contain a word of election or limited atonement.

    So either (a) Bob figures those things out for himself, or (b) saving faith does not *require* believing those things.

    Are there any such Bobs? Absolutely. The thief on the cross was one. More do, throughout the Middle Ages, limited atonement was rejected as heresy (!!), and its few defenders (eg Gottschalk) had a works-based gospel anyway.

    The doctrine of limited atonement, as much as I have been able to discover, was not taught in its current form until the Reformation.

    So if those Bobs cannot be saved for lack of proper preaching, or for lack of theological acumen to work out the doctrine without proper preaching, then pretty much no-one was saved from 100 AD until the mid 1500s.

    Is that a bullet we want to take?

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  103. JY: All I’m saying is that if don’t say Jesus died for the elect alone you are believing that it is your Spirit generated faith that is saving you (since Jesus died for everybody) instead of the atonement only for the elect (that is the cause of regeneration and faith). Again, that is a different object of faith.

    Jeff C: Hm. This is a weak point in your argument. You jump from B: “if you don’t believe that Jesus died for the elect alone” to F: “then you believe it is your Spirit-generated faith that saves you.”

    There are some missing terms that take you from B to F, and those terms are not clear.

    Furthermore, we have to be careful about equivocating. Does faith save? Does imputation save? Does Christ save? Peter says “baptism saves”; but he clearly doesn’t mean that in the same way as “Christ saves.”

    I know a number of people who would say that “Christ died for all” and “Christ saves me.” Those people seem to falsify your syllogism.

    John Y: I think that double jeopardy argument does fill in those missing terms. Let me see if I can fill them in:

    1) One of those missing terms is the nature of the Atonement or why Christ’s death is effective: I would answer- Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice. If you don’t say Jesus died only for the elect then you can’t explain why Christ’s fulfilling God’s just demands in His Law for the elect alone is just. If Jesus justly died for everybody than everybody would be justified. And we all know this is not what the Bible teaches, i.e., that everyone will be justified.

    2) The difference between the Fullerites and those they dismiss as “Owenites” is not for the need of the Spirit’s work or faith in the gospel. Even though at the end of the day, we have different gospels (objects of faith), we do not disagree about justification being through faith. We who are called “Owenites” do not teach eternal justification, or justification apart from faith, even though our accusers claim that this makes us inconsistent.

    My conclusion “then you believe it is your Spirit-generated faith that saves you,” cannot be reached from my one premise, “Jesus died for the elect alone. I need more premises that would lead me to the conclusion that if you don’t teach that Jesus died for the elect alone then you can’t be justified.

    1) Jesus died for everybody
    2) Jesus died to satisfy God’s demand for justice by fulfilling the Law as a substitution for sinners
    3) Every sinner will be justified

    1) Jesus died only for the elect
    2) Jesus died to satisfy God’s demand for justice by fulfilling the Law as a substitute for the elect alone
    3) Only the elect will be justified

    1) Faith in Christ’s work on the cross is what justifies.
    2) Only the elect are given faith in the work of Christ
    3) Only the elect will be justifed

    1) Faith in Christ’s work on the cross is given by the Spirit
    2) The Spirit only gives faith to the elect
    3) Only the elect will be justifed

    Notice two details. One, it’s clear that Owen did not teach justification apart from faith. It’s also clear that Owen did not teach that faith was a mere recognition that we were already justified. (See Carl Trueman’s various books and essays on John Owen).

    But two, what is it that those who make the accusations are teaching about the atonement? Some like the Torrances think that saying that Christ died only for the elect leads to this error. Some like Andrew Fuller agree that Christ only died to gain faith for the elect, but they make this purchase of faith to be what it is limited about the intention of the atonement.

    Fullerites do not want to teach that Christ’s substitution under God’s wrath was limited only to the sins of the elect. They can rightly say they teach “limited atonement” but they do not think that the propitiation is limited.

    1) Christ propitiated God’s wrath for everybody on the cross
    2) The Spirit unites to Christ and is limited to the elect alone
    3) The atonement is not what justifies- the Spirit uniting the elect to Christ is what justifies (trusting in Jesus and being sorry for your sins) and it has nothing to do with the atonement or satisfying God’s justice

    The Fullerites teach that the atonement is unlimited in its ability to condemn everybody. (Andrew Fuller himself regarded the transfer of the sins of the elect to Christ as figurative and as not legally possible.) The Fullerites teach that the atonement is unlimited in its proclamation of God’s offer to love everybody. But despite that general love, and general propitiation, they add that Christ’s death did not purchase faith and “union with Christ” for everybody.

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  104. And, as religious people who use the Scripture are always wont to do, they have their “Scriptural” arguments and examples supposedly supporting their position.

    One of the most frequently referred examples is that of the Thief on the Cross:

    “See”, they say, “Look at the Thief on the Cross. How much ‘doctrine’ did he believe? What seminary did he attend? How many points of the ‘five points of Calvinism’ did he confess? He had simple faith in Christ, and Christ told him he would be with Him in Paradise. Its that simple. He believed a Person, not a doctrine.”

    In view of this, it is helpful to reflect on what we may know from the testimony of Scripture of the Thief on the cross.

    1. His conversion was instantaneous and supernatural, and it involved a fundamental change of mind as expressed in his judgment concerning the Person of Christ. In a matter of moments, he went from someone who reviled Jesus Christ to someone who regarded Jesus Christ as righteous and as undeserving of the punishment he received. Compare Mark 15:32 with Luke 23:40,41.

    2. He demonstrated belief in the biblical doctrine of the total depravity of man by his confession that the punishment he received was his “due reward” (Luke 23:41)

    3. He demonstrated belief in unconditional election and the atonement by his confession, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42). When he said “remember me”, he was not asking Christ to “think” about him, or to “recall” him, but rather, He was asking Christ to show His love and regard toward him in a manner both undeserved and distinguishing, a manner resulting in his salvation.

    This indicated as clearly as anything could be indicated that he did not assume or believe that Christ “remembered” (i.e., “loved”) everybody, and that he believed that if he were to go to Heaven, it would not be on account of the fact that he “accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior”, but on account of the fact that the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ “remembered” him.

    And this also indicated he knew where his salvation was to be found- in Christ and Christ alone.

    Perhaps the Thief was illiterate. Perhaps he could not spell any theological words. Perhaps he would not recognize any of the things I just briefly described if they were expressed to him in fine sounding propositional statements.

    But this Scriptural example demonstrates that in a few moments the Thief on the Cross confessed the clear doctrinal truth that “Evangelical Arminians” do not acknowledge or confess throughout their lives, and the clear doctrinal truth that the whole religious establishment of “Tolerant Calvinists” damns with faint praise.

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  105. “Owenites must argue that substitution for the elect logically requires that God regenerate elect sinners.” But that objection ignores Owen’s careful distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement.

    One, it ignores that the application of the atonement is a legal placement of the elect by God the Father into Christ’s atonement. The objection jumps ahead to “regeneration” and the work of the Spirit. But Romans 6 never tells us that “regeneration” places the elect into Christ’s death. Romans 6 never tells us that it’s the work of the Spirit that puts the elect into Christ’s death.

    Two, the objection fails to define the difference between “substitution” and obtaining (the Torrances would never say “earn”– too legal, too contractual) the blessing of “regeneration”.

    Of course “substitution” and “regeneration” are not the same thing. Substitution has to do with “all died” (II Cor 5:15) when this means that Christ alone died for the elect, without the elect being there, so that His death legally counts for them to take God’s wrath away from them. But those who leave “substitution” undefined cannot define the difference between it and the application of “substitution”.

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  106. Our accusers claim that we who teach substitution only for the elect should agree that the elect can go free before they are converted and believe the gospel. They want to put us in that box, so they can then deny that the death of Christ is the effective difference between saved and lost. Thus they accuse: if no efficacy to set free before faith and without faith, then no legal efficacy by itself.

    But notice where our accusers locate the efficacy: not in propitiation, not in Christ’s bearing the sins of the elect, but only in the efficacy of “regeneration” and “union with Christ”.

    And we could answer back: what do you need the death for, if the real thing is the new birth and the indwelling? And it’s a good question, but I am sure that they think the incarnation (if not the death) is a necessary prelude to “union with Christ” and “sacramental fellowship” with the humanity of Christ.

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  107. Jeff, the problem with the Bob example is that election is clearly taught in the New Covenant and the effectual (or limited) atonement can be easily and logically inferred from election. Maybe a lot of the writings that clearly taught limited atonement were burnt and lost during the Middle Ages. Anyways, God is able to communicate the Gospel that was revealed to Paul, and which Paul defended without compromise, to all of His elect sheep.

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  108. @ John Y, Tianqi, et al.:

    I think I’ve said most of what I can say, so I’ll leave a few final thoughts and a summary, then check back to see if you have any last words. Thanks for the discussion, and I want to reiterate that it is all to the good that you’ve improved your understanding of the gospel through studying election and limited atonement.

    (1) A note about the discussion itself. It has been odd to me that y’all (John, Tianqi, McMark) switch back and forth between addressing views that I’ve stated and views that other third parties hold — Fuller, van Til, Hodge, “free offer”, Gaffin, etc. Frequently, those views have nothing to do with what I’m saying. In so doing, the waters get very muddy. Are you thinking that Fuller and Owen are the only two possibilities? Are you imputing Fuller’s views to me? I find myself non-plussed, wondering if I’m looking at a straw man or utter confusion or something else.

    Not sure what to do about that, but I felt that it needed to be said. I hope that as we better understand each other, perhaps we can focus more directly on the views expressed by each other rather than trying to “locate” each other in some school or another. For example, it would be horribly unfair of me to impute to you all of Clark’s utterances.

    (2) Much of our discussion hinges on the categories we are using. For you and Tianqi, there is the “true” gospel and various “false” gospels. For me, there is a “pure” gospel and various “defective” gospels, some of which are so defective as to be no gospel at all.

    (3) I don’t think the following arguments have received clear, convincing answers yet.

    * The NT gives examples of people whose gospel was false — as in, not completely true — yet were saved. Peter is a major example; Apollos is a good minor example. Hence, it is possible to believe a gospel that is not completely true in every respect, yet be saved.

    * People are inconsistent, not consistent in their views. Hence, while a logical implication of unlimited atonement is certainly justification by works (specifically, the work of faith), it does not follow that all who believe in unlimited atonement also believe that they are justified by the merit of their faith.

    * The gospel taught from 100AD to the Reformation was defective in several ways. I’ve already pointed out that limited atonement was rejected. But it was much more than that — everyone that I know of during that period believed that “justification” consisted of being made righteous ontologically, and certainly not by imputation alone. Most believed in ex opere operato sacramentalism.

    So if we posit that a gospel false in any way cannot save, then the entire medieval church, the Lutheran church — and you would have it, Calvin and most Reformed folk — were not saved. God’s church consists of something like the few thousand people who believe in limited atonement, imputation preceding faith, etc, skipping generations from Paul straight to John Owen.

    That’s *possible* — but it’s much more likely that people are saved by believing and trusting in Christ, and not by believing in a logically consistent, perfectly true set of propositions about Christ.

    (4) In the background to the above is a distinction between the object of our faith — Christ — and the content of our faith — propositions about Christ. I’ve noticed that you and Tianqi tend to use the terms interchangeably, but they are not actually interchangeable. Propositions are not objects in either 0-order or 1st-order logic.

    (5) When you find yourself appealing to unknown, unlikely possibilities (“maybe Paul’s gospel presentations in Acts don’t include words that he said about election and atonement” or “maybe theologians in the middle ages taught limited atonement, but their works were burned” or “maybe the thief-on-the-cross’s words ‘Remember me’ actually indicate belief in limited atonement and unconditional election”), it might be time to consider the alternative: Maybe they didn’t. What then?

    Summary:

    * We agree that Christ’s death in ~30AD accomplished atonement for all and only the elect.
    * We seem to agree that if hypothetically God had elected more individuals, Christ’s death at that time would be sufficient for the additional number, no matter how many.

    I believe the easiest slogan to express the above is that “Christ’s death is sufficient for all, but efficient for the elect.”

    * We agree that a sound gospel presentation should include statements of election and limited atonement
    * I hold that believing in election and limited atonement is not necessary to be saved (but should be absolutely necessary for ordination). You (John) are unsure, but lean strongly towards its necessity.

    Fair?

    Thanks again.

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  109. A couple quick remarks, Jeff. I found that it is not easy trying to make a formally correct and logically consistent syllogism that would be clear in proving that someone cannot be justified if you don’t include election and limited atonement in the presentation of the Gospel. However, I am not well versed in the art of making formally correct and logically consistent syllogism’s. I think you have probably had much more practice at it than i have. Any suggestions in improving my skills in that regard? I know the one I tried to build has many loose ends in it. Do you think it is a worthwhile effort to do so? In other words, does it hold much value?

    Second, if you agree that election and atonement have to be rightly understood for ordination and need to be presented in a Gospel presentation, how do deal with people like Lawson who are making lots of money at conferences presenting a Gospel that does not even deal with the issue of election and limited atonement? I may be mistaken in thinking that Lawson is an ordained minister in a Reformed church.

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  110. Jeff,

    Sorry about bringing all the other theologians into the mix of this discussion and not focusing on the points you make. That is more a result of laziness in my thinking rather than a subtle way of associating you with those various theologians. Actually, i think you are one of the few at oldlife who are seeking to understand what I am saying and trying to be fair in interpreting what I am saying. So, I hope that clears up some some of your concerns.

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  111. John,

    I enjoy our conversations also. By all means, work some more on developing your argument. I frequently try to prove things that turn out to be wrong; the process of discovering *why* they are wrong leads to better understanding of what is actually correct.

    This seems like a good guide to learning how to reason and construct arguments. Long, but free.

    http://www.csus.edu/indiv/d/dowdenb/4/logical-reasoning.pdf

    I don’t know Lawson. Is that Stephen Lawson?

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  112. sdb, here is a list of why trust as more than assent is so confusing- you just can’t wrap your head around it and it always leaves you in the dark in regards to if you have really made that Spirit induced leap from mere assent to trust; or, you keep wondering if you have really repented enough or surrendered enough:

    1. Jesus died for all your sins

    2. but you need to do more than assent to this, you need to trust this

    3. trusting this means not only that Jesus died for everybody, but you trusting that he died for you

    4. but if he died for everybody, and this means that he died for you, then you have only assented to it and not trusted

    5. it’s one thing to say the chair can hold you up, and another thing to sit in the chair

    6. so the chair holds everybody, but if you don’t sit in it, the chair holding you won’t be enough

    7. even the demons assent to the fact that the chair holds everybody, but the chair was not for demons but only for all humans

    8. so if you only assent to the fact that Jesus died for you, then Jesus died for all you but that won’t save you unless you trust it

    9. so you can’t trust in your assent, but you can trust in your trust

    10 the death of Jesus\ for you plus your trust in that (not only assent) will save you

    11. so remember, you don’t need to trust in order to know that Jesus died for you, but the death of Jesus for everybody will not save you unless you trust that Jesus died for you

    12 because obviously you could not trust that Jesus died for you unless we told you already that Jesus died for everybody

    13. so you don’t need to wait until you trust to know already that Jesus died for you

    14. but the death of Jesus still won’t save you unless you trust it and make it save you

    15 we should not talk about election, and even saying this is talking about election

    16. we should not talk about election, because it might people question if Jesus died for them and the gospel tells everybody that Jesus died for them, and there’s no need to wait to assent to that

    17 but assent to the death of Jesus for everybody is something different from saying that you needed Jesus to die for you and that you trust that Jesus did die for you

    18. of course Jesus did die for everybody but only those who know that they needed that will be saved

    19 the death of Jesus for sinners who don’t know their need and don’t trust is not enough to save them

    20 the death of Jesus for a sinner has nothing to do with the different sin of not needing that and not trusting that

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  113. Jeff,

    Yeah, Stephan Lawson. The guy in the video that Tianqi linked above. He never once mentions election or tries to explain the nature and extent of the atonement in his Gospel presentation. He does not try because they are insignificant and irrelevant, in his view, for someone to understand in order to get justified.

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  114. TW: “The imputation of sins happened prior to Jesus’ death, according to God’s purpose of election. The imputation of sins was the cause of the death of Jesus, the wrath of God upon him on the cross.”

    sdb: “OK I guess. Is there some exegetical basis for this insistence?”

    Some texts to look at, that focus on God’s imputation of elect’s sins to Jesus as the cause of the death of Jesus.

    Romans 4:25, 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13, 4:3; 1 Peter 2:24

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  115. Jeff,

    You said: “We seem to agree that if hypothetically God had elected more individuals, Christ’s death at that time would be sufficient for the additional number, no matter how many.

    I believe the easiest slogan to express the above is that ‘Christ’s death is sufficient for all, but efficient for the elect.’ ”

    I disagree this is the “easiest slogan” to express the above. In fact, I think this sentence is highly misleading.

    In the first half of this sentence, “Christ’s death” does not refer to the event that actually happened 2000 years ago, but rather refer to a possibility that God might have actualized.

    It would be like saying “God’s love/grace is sufficient for all but efficient for elect”, on the ground that God could have chosen to love more sinners / be gracious towards more sinners – wouldn’t it be highly misleading?

    It’s far simpler and more honest to say “Christ’s death is sufficient for all those He died for”, “God’s love/grace is sufficient for all those He loves / is gracious towards”.

    If your concern is that people might falsely think that “those He died for” has some special quality that makes them “savable” by Christ’s death, then the true antidote to this idea is simply the doctrine of unconditional election as the reason Christ died for those He died for.

    Instead of “Christ’s death is sufficient for all, but efficient for the elect”, I will say:

    “Christ’s death is sufficient for all that Father gave him, and efficient for all whom He died for.”

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  116. Jeff,

    You said:”The gospel taught from 100AD to the Reformation was defective in several ways. I’ve already pointed out that limited atonement was rejected. But it was much more than that — everyone that I know of during that period believed that “justification” consisted of being made righteous ontologically, and certainly not by imputation alone. Most believed in ex opere operato sacramentalism.

    So if we posit that a gospel false in any way cannot save, then the entire medieval church, the Lutheran church — and you would have it, Calvin and most Reformed folk — were not saved. God’s church consists of something like the few thousand people who believe in limited atonement, imputation preceding faith, etc, skipping generations from Paul straight to John Owen.

    That’s *possible* — but it’s much more likely that people are saved by believing and trusting in Christ, and not by believing in a logically consistent, perfectly true set of propositions about Christ.”

    My response:

    1) History is more than the record available to us. Why assume nobody in the interim believed in the biblical gospel?

    2) If I’m reading correctly, you are saying a person can believe in unlimited atonement, “justification” by being made righteous ontologically, ex opere operato sacramentalism, and still “believing and trusting in Christ”?

    3) The worldly dominance of false religion – even those in the name of Christ – has been predicted by Christ. It is also assured that the elect will not be deceived by it.

    Matthew 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will rise up. And they will give great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

    4) None of us (me, John, Mark) is arguing for perfect knowledge. Rather, we are arguing that SOME knowledge is necessary. Some dismiss this as “cognitive works-righteousness”. This is the denial of the work of Holy Spirit, who convicts the elect concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.

    This is not something only well-read theologians can wrap their heads around. This is something every true Christian not only understand but are convinced of since their new birth.

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  117. @JY
    Thanks for all you wrote. I have no idea who Fuller is or why he matters (was he tied to Fuller seminary?). I’m still left wondering how much distance there really is between John Owens and Dort. My own understanding is that:
    1. God chose who he would save prior to creation.
    2. Christ paid the penalty for those who God chose to save. Only their sins were imputed to Christ and Christ’s righteousness is only imputed to them.
    3. The number of the elect was not limited by any quality of Christ, his crucifiction, or keeping of the law. Why God chose to save those whom he saved is inscrutable, but it was not because of any limitations he faced.
    4. The mechanism by which God saved people nor the means by which we were saved are the gospel. Strictly speaking, justification by faith alone, limited atonment, perseverance of the saints, importance of the sacraments, etc… are not part of the gospel. The Gospel is that the promise has been fulfilled, God became man, lived among us, was crucified, died, and was buried, and that he rose again. If we repent and believe that (the gospel) we will be saved.
    5. I am very skeptical of the introspective tendencies of the puritans (and their evangelical descendants) how obsess over one “truly believes”. The distinction between intellectual assent and trust is problematic in my mind. I think what James is getting at is that knowledge without repentance is meaningless.

    I’ve mostly ignored all the debates over union, ordo, sanctification, etc… around here. They make my eyes glaze over. Frankly, most of these discussions strike me as mostly speculation only tenuously required by scripture. There is a reason these things weren’t nailed down in the confessions. I would need very, very strong evidence to be convinced that these needed revision. So far, I haven’t seen anything approaching that.

    My main concern in this thread though is not the truth of election or the limited atonement, but the claim that these inferences are essential beliefs that all those who are truly justified will be believe. I see no evidence for that in scripture.

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  118. @TW – I read the interview by Mark Jones. It sounds like some of those who embraced the version so hypothetical universal atonement were at odds with the reformers and that Dort didn’t address that possibility directly (they were countering the remonstrants – not trying to address every theological possibility). I can understand that you may conclude that Dort doesn’t go far enough, but I don’t see where Dort is incorect in your view.

    As far as the passages you provided, none of those imply that the imputation of sins were the proximate cause of Christ’s death rather than something he bore in his death. I suppose it is possible and it makes sense. I don’t see why this is so important or really even relevant at all to the question of the limited atonement. Regardless of when the sins were imputed to Christ, you have the problem of God demanding payment twice from the nonelect if everyone’s sins were imputed to Christ.

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  119. “None of us (me, John, Mark) is arguing for perfect knowledge. Rather, we are arguing that SOME knowledge is necessary. Some dismiss this as “cognitive works-righteousness”. This is the denial of the work of Holy Spirit, who convicts the elect concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. This is not something only well-read theologians can wrap their heads around. This is something every true Christian not only understand but are convinced of since their new birth.”

    OK, so you can be wrong about some aspect of the gospel which would imply that you believe a false gospel. If you are just a little teensy bit wrong about something, then what you believe isn’t true. If you disagree that belief in a false gospel can save, then either you have to allow that one can have a perfect understanding of the gospel (a cognitive works-righteous as I call it – I made it up in this thread, I don’t know if there are others who would be crazy enough to posit such a thing) OR you have to make room for verisimiltude. If you go with the latter (as the Westminster divines did), then you have to make room for degrees of accuracy and ask what the essential elements of the gospel are. I see no evidence in scripture that election and the limited atonement are quite so foundational. They barely show up in the sermons we have, and when Paul address the errors in congregations, these don’t come up despite their evident unpopularity as expressed in John 6.

    In short, I think Dort was right, and so far I don’t see any reason for those definitions to be expanded. Further, Christians who are mistaken about some of these more arcane issues are not necessarily lost.

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  120. @ Tianqi:

    Thanks for the article. I learned several things from it, not least that Lombard believed in some kind of election. I’ll do more research and get back to you.

    We exchanged:

    JRC: “We seem to agree that if hypothetically God had elected more individuals, Christ’s death at that time would be sufficient for the additional number, no matter how many.

    I believe the easiest slogan to express the above is that ‘Christ’s death is sufficient for all, but efficient for the elect.’ ”

    TW: I disagree this is the “easiest slogan” to express the above. In fact, I think this sentence is highly misleading.

    In the first half of this sentence, “Christ’s death” does not refer to the event that actually happened 2000 years ago, but rather refer to a possibility that God might have actualized …

    Instead of “Christ’s death is sufficient for all, but efficient for the elect”, I will say:

    “Christ’s death is sufficient for all that Father gave him, and efficient for all whom He died for.” (emph add)

    Actually, you’ve misunderstood.

    Recall that two things are brought to the table in the atonement: The merit of Christ’s suffering, and the sins of the elect. Sins are imputed to Christ; merit propitiates those sins.

    The word “sufficient” refers to the value of Christ’s merit. That value is infinite; hence, sufficient for all. This is NOT a “possibility that God might have actualized”, but the real and actual value of the suffering 2000 years ago.

    The word “efficient” refers to the sins of the elect that are propitiated. It is those sins that are brought to the table and propitiated, and no others.

    So by saying “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect”, we are making clear the difference between the merit (of infinite value) and the sins (of the elect only).

    Your emendation, “Christ’s death is sufficient for all that Father gave him, and efficient for all whom He died for”, while technically true, is itself ambiguous. Is Christ’s merit of infinite value, or finite, being only just sufficient for the sins of the elect? It leaves open the possibility that Christ’s merit is of limited or finite value. That door needs to be closed because it is not merely Christ the man who suffers, but Christ the god-man; his suffering cannot be of finite value.

    So while I appreciate that you wish to close the door to hypothetical universalism, your emendation causes a different problem that, if interpreted strictly, undermines the divinity of Christ.

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  121. sdb – “I am very skeptical of the introspective tendencies of the puritans (and their evangelical descendants) how obsess over one “truly believes”. The distinction between intellectual assent and trust is problematic in my mind. I think what James is getting at is that knowledge without repentance is meaningless.”

    I agree with you here. I also wonder what someone actually has to “know” to have saving faith. Isn’t sufficient knowledge simply that I am a sinner, and my only hope of salvation is repentance and faith in Christ alone? Is any additional knowledge really *required* for saving faith?

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  122. Yo, I agree with both of you about that. Have I not said that before? What I think you have to make clear is the object of faith- the righteousness of Christ won at the cross and the inability of the created creature to obtain that inherently. It is outside of us and the imputation of that righteousness from the hearing of the Gospel is the cause of regeneration and faith in that alien righteousness. And it is given only to the elect. If that is not made part of the Gospel than decisional (free will) regeneration in an unclear Christ jumps through a different door than the one Christ opens for his sheep.

    “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” — 1 Corinthians 4:15.

    “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures” — James 1:18.

    “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever” — 1 Peter 1:23.

    “He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” — 2 Thessalonians 2:14.

    “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed, from the heart, the model of doctrine into which ye were delivered” — Romans 6:17.

    ““The gospel of Christ — is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believes” — Romans 1:16.

    “The word, or doctrine of the cross, is to us who are saved the power of God” — 1 Corinthians 1:18.

    Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings

    p238 “According to fatalism, the word of truth having no influence, is of no use in regeneration, the salutary and important change being produced entirely without it..It is too hastily assumed that the mind is prepared to receive the light of spiritual knowledge before the truth have any influence on it.”

    p247 “Now the question is: Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the gospel? I think not. It is written: by the law is the knowledge of sin.

    p249 “For an ‘awakened sinner’ to be persuaded that regeneration is effected without the instrumentality of divine truth, is to give an injurious direction to his prayers and expectations.

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  123. Andrew Fuller was an advocate of the New England theology that drew its theology from the writings of Jonathan Edwards. Abraham Booth was a Reformed Baptist who was a critic of that New England theology. I believe Daniel Fuller was the guy who started Fuller theological seminary. And I believe he was a descendant of Andrew Fuller. Daniel Fuller was a mentor to John Piper. Somebody correct me if I am wrong about what I have said here.

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  124. Does it Honor Christ to Put the Atonement Before the Election?

    Ephesians 1:9-11–” making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…”

    “All things were created for Christ”. (Colossians 1:16) Christ “is before all things” (Colossians 1:17).

    Lutherans (and others who say that Christ died for every sinner) think that they honor Christ by saying that the decree for Christ to die is before the decree to elect some sinners. They claim in this way to put Christ before election.

    Lutherans want to equate election with preaching, and so they teach that the atonement was not restricted to the elect. They think of election as something that causes some to believe, but they will not teach an atonement only for the specific sins of the elect.

    But election in Christ is first! The death of Christ is not the cause of God’s election in love. God’s election in love is the cause of the death of Christ.

    Jesus, the incarnate, the eternal Son of God in the flesh, is the foundation of election by being Himself the object of election. “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things.” Jesus is not simply the one who makes election work. Jesus Himself is first.

    Jesus Himself is chosen first, before all the other elect. All the other elect were chosen in Jesus Christ, and not apart from Jesus Christ. Those God loves are “chosen in Him”. Ephesians 1:4

    God only has one purpose in history, and that is to bring glory to Jesus Christ. God does not have a second cultural purpose (“kingdom” ?) which doesn’t have anything to do with Christ.

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  125. a lutheran replies— the root cause of the calvinist error. For lutherans the atonement precedes election. So it is impossible to have a limited atonement because the Incarnation, Christ in human form, is eternal. He’s the Creator of the world. So Christ’s death on the cross, the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, the mercy of God shown in his Son precedes election. So it is impossible for the atonement to be limited to a certain number of people, because creation had not taken place. Karl Barth teaches the same in different words, that Christ was the head of the human race from eternity.

    The error of Calvin is that he puts a decree of election before Christ. Calvin’s error is due to two heresies, nestorianism and docetism. Calvin denies that the human nature of Christ, the Incarnation, existed since eternity. Lutherans affirm that Christ existed in his human and divine nature since eternity. So there can not be a hidden decree of election before Christ and his work on the cross. The atoning work of Christ precedes election. So Christ could not have died for a specific number of men.

    If the atonement were limited, we would be denying that the Incarnation, the Word becoming Flesh, Christ is eternal. This is also called the heresy of docetism– “the doctrine according to which the phenomenon of Christ, his historical and bodily existence, and thus above all the human form of Jesus, was altogether mere semblance without any true reality”. Calvin denies that the Incarnation precedes election, and makes Christ a servant of a hidden decree of election that precedes Christ. Christ according to Calvin comes to execute the decree of election. Lutherans and Barth put Christ and the atonement first.

    God is free to save anybody or nobody after Christ died on the cross. God elects freely after he’s shown his mercy in Jesus Christ. For Calvin the decree of election precedes the death and resurrection of Christ, and Christ dies on the cross for the purpose of saving a certain number of people (the elect). So Christ executes a decree. Not so say the lutherans . God in Christ (not by a decree that precedes Christ) saves whomever he wills.

    The lutherans see the calvinist heresies but they don’t want to talk about it because they want to focus on Christ and the Gospel, they have no time to focus on an inscrutable decree of election that Christ came to execute, they see this heresy as so obvious that they don’t think it’s worth their time to refute it theologically.

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  126. Matthew Harmon on John 6
    From Heaven, p 271—According to John 6:37-44, the Father does not plan to send the Son to save everyone, and then only elect some, knowing that apart from election one would believe. Such a contention suggests that redemption circumscribes election. But John 6 indicates that the Father gives a specific group of people to the Son for whom he THEN comes to die in order to give them eternal life. Particularism attends the planning and the making of the atonement, not only its application.

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  127. I Corinthians 15: 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

    Luke 17: 20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” The King is the kingdom, even so come Lord Jesus.

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  128. Jeff,

    1, Dort does not explain the “infinite sufficiency” only as a result of the deity of Christ, but also as a result of God’s imposing wrath on Christ due to sins.

    Article 4: Reasons for This Infinite Value
    This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is—as was necessary to be our Savior—not only a true and perfectly holy human, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God’s wrath and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.

    2, If you want to safeguard the “infinite value” of Christ’s death, why not say it’s also sufficient for the sins of the fallen angels?

    If you think Christ’s human nature limits the value to humans, what’s wrong with me saying Christ’s representation for the elect limits the value to the elect?

    In fact, Christ’s representation for the elect is something MORE BASIC than his human nature. He took on human nature BECAUSE he represented the elect.

    If you want to “move beyond” the particularity, you must “move beyond” incarnation altogether, to the eternal Logos. I’m ready to affirm the Logos has the power to save any creature had God willed to save them through the Logos. But incarnation is not separable from election, and Christ’s death is not separable from either.

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  129. Jeff,

    You said: “Recall that two things are brought to the table in the atonement: The merit of Christ’s suffering, and the sins of the elect. Sins are imputed to Christ; merit propitiates those sins.

    The word “sufficient” refers to the value of Christ’s merit. That value is infinite; hence, sufficient for all. This is NOT a “possibility that God might have actualized”, but the real and actual value of the suffering 2000 years ago.

    The word “efficient” refers to the sins of the elect that are propitiated. It is those sins that are brought to the table and propitiated, and no others.

    So by saying “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect”, we are making clear the difference between the merit (of infinite value) and the sins (of the elect only).”

    You are proposing a notion of “Christ’s merit” independent of imputation of sin.

    I agree Christ had infinite dignity in his person. However, if we want to talk about the value of Christ’s death, we must talk about imputation of sin.

    There is no death apart from sin. That would be injustice. It’s impossible to talk about the value of Christ’s death apart from the imputation of specific sins of specific sinners.

    The righteousness is not the person apart from death. The righteousness is not a death that apart from sin. The righteousness is a death for imputed sins.

    For this reason I will say the value of Christ’s death would be DIFFERENT had God elected more sinners or different sinners, because the REASON of his death (God’s sentence on him) would be different: for more sins (sinners) or different sins (sinners).

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  130. TW,

    If you want to safeguard the “infinite value” of Christ’s death, why not say it’s also sufficient for the sins of the fallen angels?

    Because Christ didn’t assume an angelic nature.

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  131. @ Tianqi:

    Sorry, not following your point on article 4. You observe that Dort partly grounds the infinite merit of Christ in the fact that he suffered the wrath of God for our sins.

    You seem to infer therefore that the merit of Christ is limited by or in numerical correspondence to the demerit of the sins atoned for.

    But this does not follow. Dort’s point is that Christ’s merit is infinite because it is to God that satisfaction is made. Think Hebrews: the blood of goats and bulls does not suffice to take away sin.

    Dort is not saying “Christ’s merit is infinite because it is paid for sins; therefore it satisfies an infinite number of transgressions.” The focus is on the one to whom satisfaction is made, not on the quantity of sins.

    In short, I don’t share the assumption that there must be a numerical correspondence between the sins atoned for and the merit supplied.

    You say, There is no death apart from sin. That would be injustice. It’s impossible to talk about the value of Christ’s death apart from the imputation of specific sins of specific sinners.

    The first two sentences are true. The third is false, and does not follow from the other two, because it assumes that the value is in correspondence to the sins atoned for. There is no such correspondence. The correspondence is rather between the number of the elect and the sins atoned for, using merit that is overwhelmingly sufficient to the task.

    As to atoning for the sins of the angels: I try to avoid speculating outside the headings of Scripture altogether. If in eternity we discover that some number of fallen angels are redeemed, we’ll have an answer; if not, we’ll have an answer in the other direction.

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  132. Jeff,

    I disagree with your model of “merit supplied” to pay for sins.

    If I’m not mistaken: you are trying to conceptually separate Christ’s dying from the reason he died (imputed sins). You are saying that Christ’s dying, considered abstractly (apart from the imputation of specific sins), is the “merit” that is used to pay for whatever sins are imputed to him.

    How does this conceptually differs from the idea of a “general fund of suffering” that then gets assigned for sins? You are treating Christ’s death as a generic currency.

    But Christ’s death is a penal substitution. The “merit” is CREATED by Christ dying FOR SINS. Thus, the “merit” is indeed determined by the sins imputed to Christ. This “merit” did NOT yet exist prior to Christ’s completing his death for the sins imputed to him.

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  133. Tianqi: How does this conceptually differs from the idea of a “general fund of suffering” that then gets assigned for sins?

    Are you asking how this differs from the Catholic notion of a treasury of merit?

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  134. “What I think you have to make clear is the object of faith- the righteousness of Christ won at the cross and the inability of the created creature to obtain that inherently. It is outside of us and the imputation of that righteousness from the hearing of the Gospel is the cause of regeneration and faith in that alien righteousness. And it is given only to the elect. If that is not made part of the Gospel than decisional (free will) regeneration in an unclear Christ jumps through a different door than the one Christ opens for his sheep.”

    I’m not sure I buy your construction here. The “object” of faith is not an idea or an inference. The “object” is a particular person. I agree that our only hope is the righteousness of Christ won at the cross and that it is outside of us. I also believe that hearing and responding to the gospel in repentance and belief (faith) is because we have been regenerated by the Spirit and justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ. I agree that this only happens to the elect, and that none of the elect are lost. I see no evidence in scripture anywhere that doctrinal precision on these matters was expected from the believer – indeed, we have examples of believers who got this wrong and had to be corrected (e.g., Peter).

    I am still at a loss about where Dort stands in conflict with your understanding of election and the limited atonement, what the opinion of various baptist and lutheran theologians have to do with any of this, or how one arrives at the conclusion that a level of refinement that was never articulated in a clear way prior to the sixteenth century (and whose articulation seems to have some deficiency that isn’t quite clear) is necessary to be considered properly justified.

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  135. Jeff,

    As to atoning for the sins of the angels: I try to avoid speculating outside the headings of Scripture altogether. If in eternity we discover that some number of fallen angels are redeemed, we’ll have an answer; if not, we’ll have an answer in the other direction.

    Theologically speaking, how would redemption of fallen angels even be possible? Confessionally, Jesus had to take on a human nature in order to redeem human beings from sin. That should mean he would have to take on an angelic nature in order to save angels. But Christ never assumed an angelic nature.

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  136. @ Robert:

    Right, that argument makes sense. But if we get to heaven and find out that some angels will be redeemed, will our heads explode, or will we just shrug and figure that God didn’t tell us everything?

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  137. Robert,

    I agree with your argument. I just take it further – “carnal union” (partaking in the nature of a given race) is not enough for Christ’s death to be “suitable” atonement for someone, “federal union” by election is also needed to make Christ’s death a “suitable” atonement for them:

    (ESV) Hebrews 2:11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,

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  138. Jeff,

    I don’t know much about the Catholic notion of treasury of merits. Rather, I find your attempt to divide the “merit supplied” from the “sins imputed” giving validity to the idea of “free offer” – Christ died a general death, and sins are imputed later when someone believes (“give your sins to Christ”).

    Do you think “free offer” is a false gospel?

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  139. sdb, maybe these two assumptions about the Gospel will be helpful:

    1) The gospel does not tell anyone: you are elect. The gospel tells everyone: God loves the elect and Christ’s death will save the elect.

    2) The Arminians who say “we do it the right way, with faith and not works” do not understand the gospel. We don’t do it ANY way. God did it. God did it at the cross, for the elect.

    The Dort formula of sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect allows for a general or universal atonement and then a uniting to that universal death by faith. That way you can tell everyone that God loves them but it is the regenerated faith and repentance by the Holy Spirit that calls the elect to that universal death. It is therefore the faith and regeneration that has priority over the death of Christ.

    Proclaiming that God did it all at the cross for the elect alone by legal declaration and imputation is saying something different than the Dort formula. This puts the priority on the death for the elect alone. It is this legal declaration and imputation that causes the faith and repentance. This faith and repentance then justifies but the cause of this faith is the death imputed not the Spirit uniting to the death. The sinner does not impute his sins to Christ after the Spirit regenerates, or, the Spirit does not impute the sinners sins to Christ; God the Father imputes the sinners sin to Christ by legal declaration. That is what Romans 4-6 consistently spell out. Romans chapter 8 does too.

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  140. I should have said, It is therefore the regeneration and faith that has priority over the death of Christ in election.

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  141. The Dort formula of sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect allows for a general or universal atonement and then a uniting to that universal death by faith.

    Just to be clear, is the following the sections of Dordt that are causing the problem?

    II.3“…it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.”

    II.8“… it was the…will…of God the Father that the… saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all the elect, in order that God might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross…should effectively redeem…all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that Christ should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death)….”

    I don’t see how your inference follows from this. It is pretty clear that the atonement is only for the elect.

    That way you can tell everyone that God loves them but it is the regenerated faith and repentance by the Holy Spirit that calls the elect to that universal death. It is therefore the faith and regeneration that has priority over the death of Christ.

    Well John 3:16 tells that “God so loved the world”. But whatever the case, the infinite sufficiency of Christ is more about the value of Christ than what one can get away with. Earlier in the canons, God’s perfect freedom to determine who would be saved is a point of emphasis. If Christ’s sacrifice were not of infinite value, then the Father would be limited to elect those he could afford based on the finite value of Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus’s blood was justified to save but one sinner, but sufficient to save an infinite number.

    Proclaiming that God did it all at the cross for the elect alone by legal declaration and imputation is saying something different than the Dort formula.

    This isn’t what II.8 says. I’m not following your reasoning.

    This puts the priority on the death for the elect alone. It is this legal declaration and imputation that causes the faith and repentance.

    Right. Justification is received by faith not caused by faith. The TFU and Westminster standards are consistent here as far asI can tell.

    “This faith and repentance then justifies but the cause of this faith is the death imputed not the Spirit uniting to the death. The sinner does not impute his sins to Christ after the Spirit regenerates, or, the Spirit does not impute the sinners sins to Christ; God the Father imputes the sinners sin to Christ by legal declaration. That is what Romans 4-6 consistently spell out. Romans chapter 8 does too.”
    Agreed. Again I don’t see how this conflicts with the above selections from Dort. I guess I am being dense.

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  142. @TW
    “ But Christ’s death is a penal substitution. The “merit” is CREATED by Christ dying FOR SINS. Thus, the “merit” is indeed determined by the sins imputed to Christ. This “merit” did NOT yet exist prior to Christ’s completing his death for the sins imputed to him.“

    If you read the structure of the canons, one thing they are obviously concerned with is God’s freedom. He chose the elect of his own goodwill. There was nothing outside of himself that required more than one or fewer than infinity. Had the number of elect been twice what he has chosen, Christ would not have to have died twice. The value of the sacrifice did not limit the number of the elect. However, the sacrifice will only be applied to the sins of the elect.

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  143. sdb, Jeff, and other like-minded persons:

    Tolerant Reformed accuse us of “cognitive works-righteousness”, when it’s they who do not care about the truth of God.

    When we insist on election and limited atonement (and more than this!), we are insisting on the true God revealed in the gospel. We are not adding to the gospel, you are subtracting from the gospel.

    It’s not a matter of “getting (doctrinal) ducks in a row”. It’s whether you know Christ and him crucified. Tolerant Reformed think that you can know this apart from knowing election and limited atonement.

    I say: you can no more know Christ and him crucified apart from knowing election and limited atonement, than know Christ apart from knowing that he is the eternal Son who has become man.

    Paul says God’s justice is revealed in the gospel to everyone who believes, that He is just and justifying the one that God promised to Christ as his possession.

    How is this justice revealed in your “gospel” that does not include election and limited atonement?

    How can a “gospel” that says Christ died for everybody but many people will nevertheless perish due to unbelief reveal God’s justice? Anyone who responds to the call of this “gospel”, to believe in it in order to be justified, is an evil worker who is intent on finishing what they believe Christ could not finish. Anyone who preaches this “gospel” is a false prophet, a thief of the glory of the gospel. Anyone who tolerates those who partake in this falsehood is a hireling who demonstrates his lack of conviction by the truth.

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  144. Tianqi: Tolerant Reformed accuse us of “cognitive works-righteousness”, when it’s they who do not care about the truth of God.

    I had to go back through the thread to see where the phrase “cognitive works-righteousness” came from. It turned out that SDB said

    We are not saved because of the quality of anything about us including our theological acumen or purity of belief. To think otherwise is just another manifestation of works based righteousness (legalism). …
    …can one be converted who has any misconceptions about the gospel. The answer here is yes as well of course. To claim otherwise is to establish a cognitive works based righteousness.

    and I said

    That means that propositions can only accommodate epistemological perfection. If the gospel you believe is wrong in the slightest detail (for example, if you are mistaken in your understanding of Christ’s incarnation, or perhaps mistaken about the relation of imputation to faith), logic requires that this is technically a “false gospel”, with the same truth value as the Mormon gospel or the Pelagian. Clearly, there’s a problem here … we cannot say that perfection in belief is a necessary condition for salvation. But with the only two options offered by logic, perfectly true or false, we have no alternative.

    Both of you responded by saying

    John Y: No, I was not claiming that someone cannot have any misconceptions about the Gospel. I was claiming that the Gospel was for the elect alone and that you have to communicate that as part of the Gospel message.

    Tianqi: None of us (me, John, Mark) is arguing for perfect knowledge. Rather, we are arguing that SOME knowledge is necessary.

    Great. So there’s no accusation there. Rather, SDB and I were both raising concerns about a possibility: Do you believe that to be saved, one can have no misconceptions? IF so, THEN you are making intellectual perfection a condition for the gospel.

    But you say you don’t believe that, so we accept that at face value.

    Now, I do think there’s still more to discuss in this area. As indicated above, the category of “true” or “false” gospel doesn’t leave you with much room to allow for misunderstandings. But I think that’s a defect in expression, not an actual heresy.

    So no, you aren’t being accused of “cognitive works-righteousness.” You are being cautioned that IF your belief goes so far as to demand perfection in belief, THEN it would be a demand for cognitive works-righteousness.

    But Tianqi! Tolerant Reformed accuse us of “cognitive works-righteousness”, when it’s they who do not care about the truth of God.

    That is actually an accusation, and a false one. You felt stung by the supposed accusation of “cognitive works-righteousness” and decided you would slap back, and harder. Let’s not do that to each other, okay?

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  145. @TW
    I second what Jeff said. Here are a few additional thoughts in response to your comments.

    “When we insist on election and limited atonement (and more than this!), we are insisting on the true God revealed in the gospel. We are not adding to the gospel, you are subtracting from the gospel.”
    Let’s be clear hear. We also insist on the truth of these doctrines. The difference is that I believe one can be mistaken here, and still be justified. But make no mistake – I believe them to be wrong and in need of correction. Some who is convinced that scripture teaches these things and rejects them should not be counted as a believer.

    “It’s not a matter of “getting (doctrinal) ducks in a row”. It’s whether you know Christ and him crucified. Tolerant Reformed think that you can know this apart from knowing election and limited atonement.”
    I don’t know who would say anything about ducks, but yes I believe one can know Christ and get the limited atonement wrong.

    “I say: you can no more know Christ and him crucified apart from knowing election and limited atonement, than know Christ apart from knowing that he is the eternal Son who has become man.”
    Except that one can be justified and be mistaken about Christ’s eternal sonship.

    “Paul says God’s justice is revealed in the gospel to everyone who believes, that He is just and justifying the one that God promised to Christ as his possession. How is this justice revealed in your “gospel” that does not include election and limited atonement?”
    Are you referring to Romans 1:16-17? If so, your paraphrase is not accurately reflecting the text. “My” gospel is not a description of what God does behind the scenes to save sinners. Paul summarizes the gospel in 1 Cor 15. This is why the HC describes what is necessary to believe the way that it does.

    “How can a “gospel” that says Christ died for everybody but many people will nevertheless perish due to unbelief reveal God’s justice?”
    It’s a mystery. How can a gospel that is true in all that it declares accomplish anything? The work of the spirit of course.

    “Anyone who responds to the call of this “gospel”, to believe in it in order to be justified, is an evil worker who is intent on finishing what they believe Christ could not finish. Anyone who preaches this “gospel” is a false prophet, a thief of the glory of the gospel. Anyone who tolerates those who partake in this falsehood is a hireling who demonstrates his lack of conviction by the truth.”
    Pretty strong denunciations. I would like to exegetical evidence of this. Surely it exists if it is so central. John 6 tells us it was controversial then, so surely Paul addressed this in an epistle to s Church.

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  146. sdb,

    It is the propitiation of God’s just wrath from breaking God’s just Law that is the main concern: Did Jesus die a general death for everybody or did Jesus die only for the elect? Why does this matter? Why is saying that Jesus died for everybody a false Gospel? Or, why is saying that Jesus death is sufficient for all very misleading?

    John Y: Do you believe that Jesus propitiated the wrath of God for all the elect’s sins when he took on those sins upon himself at the cross? Do you believe that this is what caused the death of Christ and that this is the efficacy of the atonement that satisfied God’s Law for the elect?

    Do you believe that the legal imputation of this propitiatory, penal and substitutionary death gets applied to each individual elect person by legal declaration? Do you believe that God unites the elect to this propitiatory death by this legal declaration?

    Do you believe that because of this legal imputation and union with the death of Christ that the Spirit regenerates the elect and this causes repentance and the gift of faith in the atoning work of Christ? This is the righteousness prophesied about in the Old Covenant. This is the good news Gospel. This is the justification of the ungodly.

    Or, do you believe that Jesus died a general death for everybody (that does not propitiate God’s wrath because if it did then everyone would be justly justified) and that the Holy Spirit regenerated faith is what unites the elect to this general and universal death on the cross that really does not propitiate God’s wrath? What does propitiate God’s wrath then? Or, is this just not that important? This is really saying that what the Spirit does on the inside of a person is more important than what Christ got done outside of ourselves for the elect alone. In other words, you can’t teach the propitiatory effect of the atoning work of Christ unless you put it in the context of for the elect alone. If you say Jesus died a general or universal death you are teaching a false Gospel.

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  147. JY: Do you believe that Jesus propitiated the wrath of God for all the elect’s sins when he took on those sins upon himself at the cross? Do you believe that this is what caused the death of Christ and that this is the efficacy of the atonement that satisfied God’s Law for the elect?

    Do you believe that the legal imputation of this propitiatory, penal and substitutionary death gets applied to each individual elect person by legal declaration? Do you believe that God unites the elect to this propitiatory death by this legal declaration?

    Yes to all four.

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  148. “It is the propitiation of God’s just wrath from breaking God’s just Law that is the main concern: Did Jesus die a general death for everybody or did Jesus die only for the elect? Why does this matter? Why is saying that Jesus died for everybody a false Gospel? Or, why is saying that Jesus death is sufficient for all very misleading?”

    I’m confused. Let’s take these in order:

    1. Are you asking me or telling me that propitiation is the main concern? I think this is very important, but I didn’t think that was the topic of the discussion in this thread.
    2. Jesus died only for the elect.
    3. Because he revealed it in his Word.
    4. I disagree that saying Jesus died for everbody is a “(F)alse gospel”. It is an error, but not one that necessarily undermines the good news that God the son took on flesh and died for my sins.
    5. I think this is the question. In what way does it mislead?

    “Do you believe that Jesus propitiated the wrath of God for all the elect’s sins when he took on those sins upon himself at the cross? Do you believe that this is what caused the death of Christ and that this is the efficacy of the atonement that satisfied God’s Law for the elect? Do you believe that the legal imputation of this propitiatory, penal and substitutionary death gets applied to each individual elect person by legal declaration? Do you believe that God unites the elect to this propitiatory death by this legal declaration?”

    As the great man said, “yes to all four”.

    “Do you believe that because of this legal imputation and union with the death of Christ that the Spirit regenerates the elect and this causes repentance and the gift of faith in the atoning work of Christ?”
    No. I believe election is prior. God chose who would be saved, and the reason the elect were elected is inscrutable – for his own good pleasure I believe is how the CoD put it. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the means by which God has chosen to save sinners.

    “This is the righteousness prophesied about in the Old Covenant. This is the good news Gospel. This is the justification of the ungodly. Or, do you believe that Jesus died a general death for everybody (that does not propitiate God’s wrath because if it did then everyone would be justly justified) and that the Holy Spirit regenerated faith is what unites the elect to this general and universal death on the cross that really does not propitiate God’s wrath?”
    I’m not sure why you ask that again. I’ve attached myself to the CoD and cited the section that makes it quite clear that Christ only died for the elect.

    “What does propitiate God’s wrath then? Or, is this just not that important? This is really saying that what the Spirit does on the inside of a person is more important than what Christ got done outside of ourselves for the elect alone. In other words, you can’t teach the propitiatory effect of the atoning work of Christ unless you put it in the context of for the elect alone. If you say Jesus died a general or universal death you are teaching a false Gospel.”
    Well it could be that one believes that God’s wrath is propitiated by Christ’s sacrifice, but it becomes effective by applying that blood to the individual (analogously to the way the blood of sheep and goats was only effective for the Israelites who applied it to their doorpost). I think this view is mistaken, but I do not believe that it undermines true faith in Christ’s work. It misunderstands how that work is applied. There is a difference. Noting the distinction does not entail that the propitiation of God’s wrath is unimportant or that what the spirit does inside of a person is more important than what Christ did outside of them. That’s like saying smearing the blood on the doorpost was more important than the initial sacrifice. Such an assertion is incorrect.

    The gospel is not about how Christ’s finished work is applied, it is primarily that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and rose against. Lot’s of other things are important to believe, but this is the heart of the gospel. Election & limited atonement are true and important, but one be wrong about them and still repent and believe the gospel. Otherwise, we do not have a complete gospel presentation anywhere in scripture. Peter was spirit filled and lost based on your analysis. Yikes! When your position implies that position, it is time to reassess I think.

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  149. Jeff: “Now, I do think there’s still more to discuss in this area. As indicated above, the category of “true” or “false” gospel doesn’t leave you with much room to allow for misunderstandings. But I think that’s a defect in expression, not an actual heresy.”

    Well, according to you, what does it matter if I’m truly advocating for “cognitive works-righteousness”? Just one more heresy to tolerate?

    The category of “true vs false gospel” is not my invention, but the basis of Paul’s letters to Galatians. “If anyone preaches a gospel beside what you received, let him be accursed.”

    Jeff: “That is actually an accusation, and a false one. You felt stung by the supposed accusation of “cognitive works-righteousness” and decided you would slap back, and harder. Let’s not do that to each other, okay?”

    No, I’m not making this judgment as a “slap back” to sdb’s comment about “cognitive works-righteousness”. I’ve made this judgment a long time ago, and continue to make it, based upon my experience of reading the comments here. I followed this blog due to interest in “2 Kingdoms” when I strongly believed in universal atonement (considering joining a Lutheran church) and never got challenged in that belief (~ a year), until I noticed Mark Mcculley’s comments. I was deeply offended by his comments and checked out his blog. After a week of despair, I had to admit the truth of double predestination and limited atonement and say universal atonement is false gospel, and all who believe, teach, or tolerate it are still lost. This means: I was lost, the local church I went to was lost, those teachers that I followed (e.g. a Lutheran pastor from Canada, an independent preacher from Hong Kong) were lost, and those “spiritual heroes” that I admired (e.g. Martin Luther) were lost.

    I soon learned that the mainline Reformed, historically and contemporarily, has tolerated on this matter (in the sense of accepting Lutherans and Arminians as Christians) – even that the many of the Reformed themselves believe in some version of universal atonement, including John Calvin himself. Even Gordon Clark (and his follower John Robbins) tolerates (some) Arminians. This then explained why I never got challenged in my belief in universal atonement while reading a Reformed blog – it is generally considered a secondary issue by the Reformed.

    All of this took place about 4 years ago.

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  150. sdb,

    “Except that one can be justified and be mistaken about Christ’s eternal sonship.”

    There is much the Christian needs to learn about Christ’s eternal sonship. They might have mistakes related to it. However, they will not deny it, nor are they ignorant of it.

    The person of Christ is necessary for the revelation of God’s justice apart from Law. Without the eternal sonship Christ would not be free to bear the legal burden of the elect, nor bring them to adoption.

    Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, having come into being out of a woman, having come under Law,
    5 that He might redeem the ones under Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
    6 And because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba! Father!
    7 So that you no more are a slave, but a son, and if a son, also an heir of God through Christ.

    It’s also stated explicitly that eternal sonship is part of the faith of the elect.

    1 John 5:5 Who is the one overcoming the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

    The following is a defense of the doctrine of eternal sonship, against those who deny it and those who would compromise on it.

    https://www.the-highway.com/Sonship_Preface.html

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  151. sdb,

    First of all, I want to correct an error in one of my comments- I said this: “Do you believe that because of this legal imputation and union with the death of Christ that the Spirit regenerates the elect and this causes repentance and the gift of faith in the atoning work of Christ?”

    I meant to say this: “Do you believe that because of this legal imputation and union with the death of Christ that the Spirit regenerates the elect individual and this causes repentance and the gift of faith in the atoning work of Christ?” John Y: I failed to say elect individual to make it specific to each individual.

    sdb says this in response to this question: “No. I believe election is prior. God chose who would be saved, and the reason the elect were elected is inscrutable – for his own good pleasure I believe is how the CoD put it. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the means by which God has chosen to save sinners.

    John Y; You have totally misunderstood my point here. There are two distinct events that I don’t think you are seeing (possibly because I was not adequately communicating what I intended to say):
    1) All of the elects sins were imputed to Christ when he died on the cross.
    2) Elect individuals are legally imputed (by legal declaration) into that death by the hearing of the Gospel. That is the cause of the Spirit’s regenerating work (a new heart) and the gifts of repentance and faith.

    Union of the elect to Christ’s death by decree is before the creation of the world and before the fall of man.

    Secondly, John Y says this: “What does propitiate God’s wrath then? Or, is this just not that important? This is really saying that what the Spirit does on the inside of a person is more important than what Christ got done outside of ourselves for the elect alone. In other words, you can’t teach the propitiatory effect of the atoning work of Christ unless you put it in the context of for the elect alone. If you say Jesus died a general or universal death you are teaching a false Gospel.”

    sdb says in response to this: “Well it could be that one believes that God’s wrath is propitiated by Christ’s sacrifice, but it becomes effective by applying that blood to the individual (analogously to the way the blood of sheep and goats was only effective for the Israelites who applied it to their doorpost). I think this view is mistaken, but I do not believe that it undermines true faith in Christ’s work. It misunderstands how that work is applied. There is a difference. Noting the distinction does not entail that the propitiation of God’s wrath is unimportant or that what the spirit does inside of a person is more important than what Christ did outside of them. That’s like saying smearing the blood on the doorpost was more important than the initial sacrifice. Such an assertion is incorrect.

    John Y: There cannot be a general or universal propitiation of God’s wrath. So, you cannot say that “God’s wrath is propitiated by Christ’s sacrifice, but it becomes effective by applying that blood to the individual.” This makes the application by the Spirit the thing that propitiates. That is not the Gospel. The work of the Son on the cross outside the sinner is what propitiates. That is the Gospel. Faiths object is on that which propitiates. Faiths object is not faith in the Spirit’s application. That assertion is not incorrect. That assertion is what makes it a false Gospel.

    God’s wrath is directed at specific sins. God’s wrath can only be propitiated for specific sins of specific people. You cannot reject the commercial view of the atonement. What is the commercial view of the atonement? The suffering of Christ is a matter of actual measurable justice. The propitiatory wrath set forth by the Father must be commensurate with the degree of susceptibility to punishment for all those that the Father gave to the Son. For them in particular Jesus sanctified himself in his obedience to death ( John 17:19). He thus is the recipient of all that particular wrath that should be measured to them, and he does not suffer as a propitiation for others. They would point to such texts as “the church of God which he bought with his own blood,” “for you are bought with a price,” “give his life a ransom for many,” “redemption of the purchased possession,” “not redeemed with corruptible things . . . but with the precious blood of Christ,” as clear justification for considering the remission of sins in terms of a price to be paid. That metaphor of material payment, that is, the accumulation of commercial analogies, combined with biblical indicators of discernible degrees of punishment insinuate that moral justice may, indeed must, also be measured. The degree of punishment that would be just retribution for the sins of one person would not necessarily be just retribution for another.

    sdb says: “The gospel is not about how Christ’s finished work is applied, it is primarily that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and rose against.

    John Y: No, the Gospel is Christ died for the sins of the elect not our sins.

    sdb says: “Election & limited atonement are true and important, but one can be wrong about them and still repent and believe the gospel. Otherwise, we do not have a complete gospel presentation anywhere in scripture.”

    John Y: No, you can’t be wrong about election and limited atonement. I gave numerous examples of Gospel presentations that stated or implied election and limited atonement in the commercial atonement explanation. Here is another: Luke 10: 17-20

    17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

    The implications of election and limited atonement are all over the New Covenant Scriptures. Maybe you are just trying to fit the Dort formula into your interpretation of the Scriptures.

    sdb says: Peter was spirit filled and lost based on your analysis. Yikes! When your position implies that position, it is time to reassess I think.

    John Y: explain to me how you come to the conclusion that Peter was spirit filled and lost based on my analysis.

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  152. sdb,

    ““My” gospel is not a description of what God does behind the scenes to save sinners. Paul summarizes the gospel in 1 Cor 15. This is why the HC describes what is necessary to believe the way that it does.”

    Who is the “us”?

    Heidelberg Catechism is written by a person (Ursinus) who believes in universal atonement. This explains why it assumes Christ died “for us” without first asking “do you believe”?

    We cannot assume Christ died for us. Faith does not begin by believing Christ died for me. Faith begins by believing Christ died for the elect. This is why election and limited atonement is so important.

    Knowing Christ died for me is assurance, which comes from the promise (which is also part of the gospel) that God justifies everyone believing in the gospel.

    We must know that Christ has accomplished the redemption of his people defined by God’s unconditional election, before we can know that we belong to that people / Christ died for us.

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  153. @ Tianqi:

    So help me understand your journey a little bit. You formerly believed in “universal atonement.” Was that of the Arminian variety, that Christ died for all without distinction, and that the atonement is applied to the individual by faith?

    Or did you believe that Christ died for all, but the Father only elected some to believe?

    Or was it of some other variety?

    Then, four years ago, you got in contact with Mark and became convinced of limited atonement, convinced of double predestination, and convinced that universal atonement is a false gospel, that all who teach it or even tolerate it are lost.

    At that time, and now, what did you make of the fact that Ursinus, in addition to teaching hypothetical universal atonement, also taught limited atonement (Christ died for all with regard to sufficiency, but for the elect alone with regard to efficiency — Comm Heid Cat Qn 40), as well double-predestination (Comm Heid Cat Qn 7), as well imputation preceding faith (“There is, therefore, a double application; one in respect to God, and another in respect to us. The former is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, when God accepts of that righteousness which Christ wrought out, that it might avail in our behalf, and accounts us as righteous in view of it, as much so as if we had never sinned, or had at least fully satisfied for our sins. The other side of this application which has respect to us, is the act itself of believing, in which we are fully persuaded that it is imputed and given unto us.” — Comm Heid Cat Qn 60)?

    Also, was Mark teaching you that “all who believe, teach, or tolerate it are still lost”, or was that your own conclusion?

    Finally, who in your view teaches “the true gospel”? You’ve already eliminated Luther, Calvin, Ursinus, Robbins, those holding to Dort or the Westiminster Confession. So who specifically (names!) is saved?

    Like

  154. Jeff,

    “You formerly believed in “universal atonement.” Was that of the Arminian variety, …”

    Initially it was the Arminian variety. Later on, when I became attracted to Lutheranism, I began to accept the idea that faith and perseverance are monergistic gifts of God. The “bottom line” for me was that God loved all, desired salvation of all, offered salvation to all, and Christ died for all.

    “At that time, and now, what did you make of the fact that Ursinus, in addition to teaching hypothetical universal atonement, also taught limited atonement…”

    “Hypothetical universal atonement” denies the atonement accomplished for someone MUST be applied to that person. This is a denial of what’s at the heart of the gospel: penal substitution. According to “hypothetical universal atonement”, Christ died for all, but many will still die for their own sin.

    Tacking on “limited atonement” (which means limited application in this setting) doesn’t change this basic false gospel, but rather solidifies its evil: it declares God determined to withhold the application of many for whom Christ died.

    “Also, was Mark teaching you that “all who believe, teach, or tolerate it are still lost”, or was that your own conclusion?”

    Mark taught this as well and I agree with him on this.

    “Finally, who in your view teaches “the true gospel”? You’ve already eliminated Luther, Calvin, Ursinus, Robbins, those holding to Dort or the Westiminster Confession. So who specifically (names!) is saved?”

    The Bible teaches the true gospel. Everybody is subject to that standard. What does it matter if I could not give you names? I have not tried to dig into all the historical writers there are. This question would be better asked at someone like Mark, who has read way more than I do.

    By the way, I didn’t eliminate everybody holding to Dort or Westminster. I specifically eliminated those who believe or tolerate (hypothetical) universal atonement. There are obviously different interpretations of these documents.

    Like

  155. From an article linked from your site:

    “Those attacking Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ fail to consult Scripture to see what faith is and does. But one theologian has: Gordon H. Clark. More than 30 years ago Clark examined hundreds of passages of Scripture about faith and published his findings in two seminal books, Faith and Saving Faith and The Johannine Logos. More than three decades later the pseudo-scholars and theologians who now pass as Christian thinkers remain ignorant of Clark’s work. Clark’s exegesis exposes the theology they have fabricated in their books and schools as Romantic fables.“

    Clark is the *one* theologian who finally got the gospel right. For 1900yrs so-called Christians labored under the delusion that they understood scripture. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Pascal, Beza, Knox, Edwards, Hodge, Warfield, Machen, Sproul, etc… all pseudo-scholars who don’t teach a false gospel. Or we can go with Westminster’s description of more or less pure. Frankly the alternative from the site you linked looks cultish (if not gnostic) and is an example of cognitive perfectionism. That stuff is just another form of legalism (cognitive rather than duty based).

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  156. sdb,

    You are misunderstanding on multiple levels.

    1, The website I gave does not endorse everything said in the articles it linked – it only considers these articles helpful.

    2, This quote comes from the “editor’s note” attached to the linked article, not the article itself.

    3, This quote by no means says Gordon Clark is the first person who got the gospel right. The quote is saying Gordon Clark got the definition of faith right – nor does it claim he is the FIRST person in the post-apostolic history who got that definition right, but rather he is ONE such person.

    4, We are only agreeing with his definition of faith: intellectual assent. We don’t actually agree with him on what the gospel is – what propositions must be believed to be a Christian. Clark actually believes “all true Arminians are saved”. (Ironically, Clark actually agrees with YOU GUYS that election and limited atonement are not necessary propositions to be believed!)

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  157. @ Tianqi:

    The reason I asked for names is that I believe you need to be uncomfortable about the fact that you currently believe that most of the church has gotten it so wrong that only a handful of people who agree with you are saved.

    God promised that His elect will come from every nation, tongue, and tribe (Rev 7.9). Historically, the doctrines of imputation, limited atonement, and double-predestination have not been taught to most nations, tongues, or tribes.

    This places you in a dilemma. Either

    (a) It is possible for people to be saved despite not being taught imputation, limited atonement, and double-predestination, OR
    (b) Rev 7.9 is wrong.

    Here is my challenge to you: Investigate church history. Discover how, when, where, why, and through whom the doctrines of imputation, limited atonement, and double-predestination came about.

    Read scholarly sources; don’t rely on tertiary sources like me or Mark.

    Then reconsider whether it makes sense to believe that the gospel lay unpreached from Paul until Clark.

    Like

  158. @TW

    1, The website I gave does not endorse everything said in the articles it linked – it only considers these articles helpful.

    Fair enough. I suppose we are left guessing at the point of all these links.

    2, This quote comes from the “editor’s note” attached to the linked article, not the article itself.

    Agreed. I didn’t think Clark claimed he was the one theologian who finally understood faith correctly.

    3, This quote by no means says Gordon Clark is the first person who got the gospel right. The quote is saying Gordon Clark got the definition of faith right – nor does it claim he is the FIRST person in the post-apostolic history who got that definition right, but rather he is ONE such person.

    Actually it says one theologian has gotten it right. The author might have meant that he is an example of one of the few who got it right, but that isn’t what he wrote.

    4, We are only agreeing with his definition of faith: intellectual assent. We don’t actually agree with him on what the gospel is – what propositions must be believed to be a Christian. Clark actually believes “all true Arminians are saved”. (Ironically, Clark actually agrees with YOU GUYS that election and limited atonement are not necessary propositions.

    Ok, so another reprobate heretic. It doesn’t give you pause that every single bible teacher we can name is teaching a false gospel?

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  159. Jeff,

    1) We don’t know everything that happened in the past; this will only be fully revealed in the day of judgment.

    2) We don’t know how much time is left until the day of judgment.

    So your dilemma is false.

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  160. sdb,

    “It doesn’t give you pause that every single bible teacher we can name is teaching a false gospel?”

    Not at all. Many names have been lost in history. Those teachers that are preserved are because they attracted enough number of followers. Given the totally depraved nature of men, it is not surprising at all that most of them are teaching false gospels.

    Like

  161. “It doesn’t give you pause that every single bible teacher we can name is teaching a false gospel?”

    >Not at all. Many names have been lost in history.

    Evidently every single justified Bible teacher, and every true church has been lost to history.

    >Those teachers that are preserved are because they attracted enough number of followers.
    That is obviously false. There are numerous heretics who are known simply based on critical responses to their work. Yet no one has even seen fit to criticize your view. Perhaps that is because no one ever taught it before.

    >Given the totally depraved nature of men, it is not surprising at all that most of them are teaching false gospels.

    Perhaps, though you have gone further than “most”. You said it doesn’t surprise you that you can’t name one single faithful theologian or pastor. Yet scripture teaches us that God will always preserve a remnant (e.g., Elijah and the 7000 who didn’t bow the knee). Yet this remnant that draws from every nation, language, and tribe is wholly anonymous.

    Your novel soteriology is in conflict with a biblical ecclesiology. Time to go back to the drawing board I think.

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  162. sdb,

    You are arguing like an atheist. What’s the evidence of the global flood? What’s the evidence of creation in 6 days? On the contrary, they say, we have so much evidence for evolution and long ages.

    Do I have to study geology and biology to believe Genesis? Do I have to study “church history” to believe God’s promise in Rev 7.9?

    Like

  163. @ Tianqi:

    I think I’ll conclude with these thoughts. They are strongly worded, because I believe you have fallen into a grievous error.

    Thanks for your time.

    (1) You lack Scriptural warrant for the view that “those who tolerate unlimited atonement or hypothetical universal atonement are lost.” You have made clear that in your dictionary, “tolerate” means to “consider to possibly be Christian.” In other words, you assert

    “Anyone is lost who either believes in unlimited or even hypothetical universal atonement, or who tolerates the same.”

    Where is this in the Bible? Galatians 1 does not prove your point, for in context, Paul is not speaking of views on predestination and atonement at all, but on faith contrasted with works. Romans argues against your point, for Paul states that anyone who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes that God raised Him from the dead, will be saved.

    It should bother you more than it seems to that you are willing to consign whole swaths of God’s church to Hell on the strength of a view that is not taught clearly and strongly in Scripture.

    I do not mean either limited atonement nor election, for both of those are clearly attested in Scripture. I mean specifically the view that “those who believe or tolerate unlimited or hypothetical universal atonement are lost.”

    You need proof; you haven’t supplied anything like proof. That should bother you.

    (2) You have no sound response to a very reasonable question: who actually teaches the true gospel?

    SDB: “It doesn’t give you pause that every single bible teacher we can name is teaching a false gospel?”

    Tianqi: Not at all. Many names have been lost in history. Those teachers that are preserved are because they attracted enough number of followers.

    This is not a defense; this is an appeal to ignorance. You are admitting that you have no support for your position, and that it doesn’t bother you.

    If you were to cure your ignorance by studying the history of God’s church, and learning how and why and through whom the understanding of the gospel developed, you would no longer be satisfied with such a vague appeal to “lost names.”

    (3) You unwittingly fall into contradiction. You cite Booth approvingly above:

    While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which Christ did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom Christ did not represent.

    Ursinus says exactly the same thing:

    Therefore, as he died for all, in respect to the sufficiency of his ransom; and for the faithful alone in respect to the efficacy of the same, so also he willed to die for all in general, as touching the sufficiency of his merit, that is, he willed to merit by his death, grace, righteousness, and life in the most abundant manner for all; because he would not that any thing should be wanting as far as he and his merits are concerned, so that all the wicked who perish may be without excuse. But he willed to die for the elect alone as touching the efficacy of his death, that is, he would not only sufficiently merit grace and life for them alone, but also effectually confers these upon them, grants faith, and the holy Spirit, and brings it to pass that they apply to themselves, by faith, the benefits of his death, and so obtain for themselves the efficacy of his merits.

    What does Booth contend? IF all mankind had been elect, Christ’s death WOULD HAVE been sufficient for them. But they weren’t; so Christ’s death merits nothing for them.

    What does Ursinus contend? IF the wicked had been elect, there would have been sufficient merit for them (hence, they have no excuse); BUT they were not, so that Christ sufficiently merited grace and life for the elect alone.

    There is literally no difference between the two, save in trifling matters of wording. Conceptually, they are identical.

    Yet — Ursinus believed in hypothetical universal atonement; so he must, in your view, be condemned, and anyone who does not do so is also lost.

    But Booth said the fateful words “we admit sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him.” That’s what hypothetical universal atonement is.

    Sadly, however, you actually approve of Booth. So by your own standard, you are lost. You’ve tolerated a false gospel (unwittingly).

    I expect that my words have provoked a strong defensive reaction in you. Once that has passed, please consider carefully that (1) your Scriptural argument as presented is thin, (2) your lack of church history leaves you vulnerable to making an appeal from ignorance, and (3) you have unwittingly condemned in one place the very view that you supported in another.

    I’ve been hard on your arguments, but I am not directing that at you personally. I hope that’s clear.

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  164. Jeff,

    “But Booth said the fateful words “we admit sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him.” That’s what hypothetical universal atonement is.”

    This is not what I mean by “hypothetical universal atonement”. I think you first introduced this phrase in our discussion. I assumed you meant “hypothetical universalism”, which according to the article by Mark Jones (http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/08/interview-on-the-atonement-and.php), was taught by Ursinus:

    QUOTE

    Mark: Okay, you speak of the Lombardian formula, which is commonly understood as the sufficiency-efficiency distinction. Those with a basic knowledge of Reformed theology sometimes say that Christ’s death is sufficient for all who have ever lived and will live, but efficient for the elect only. Does this use of the formula have any weaknesses?

    Michael: … On the other side, I think that Lombard means more than what some Reformed have meant when they speak about sufficiency. “Christ dying sufficiently for all” cannot exclude an intention on God’s part to give Christ for all human beings. In other words, it seems foolish to me to say Christ died sufficiently for all, and then claim that he was offered up for some [i.e., the elect] only. In my reading of the original intention of the formula, using much of Peter of Lombard’s original language, God the Father offered Jesus Christ as a priestly sacrifice on behalf of all men sufficiently, yet efficaciously for the elect alone. Note that in both of my clauses, “the offering” of Christ is in view–for all men (sufficiently); for the elect alone (efficaciously).

    One last thing. I think the formula is best appropriated as a hermeneutic to understand Scripture rightly. We all admit that there are some passages that seem to speak of Christ’s death in universal terms and some texts that seem to speak of it in particular terms. The formula allows us to treat the universal texts universally and the particular texts particularly. This is precisely the way Zachary Ursinus (the primary author of the Heidelberg Catechism) and David Pareus use the formula in Ursinus’ commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (cf. Q. 40.3 in the Williard ed.)

    Mark: How would this Lombardian formula relate to Hypothetical Universalism? And what, for our readers, is Hypothetical Universalism?

    Michael: Let’s start with the latter question. Hypothetical universalism often denotes a significant strand of Reformed theologians who argued that God willed Christ’s death to be a universal cause of salvation for all men on condition that if all repent and believe, their sins will be remitted. As Richard Muller has often noted, there are clear versions of hypothetical universalism found in Musculus, Ursinus, Zanchi, Bullinger, et al. The idea that hypothetical universalism is an awkward cousin of Reformed theology or that it is a doctrine that only came about in order to “soften” the harsher elements of Reformed theology is untenable. Scholarship is starting to recognize this.

    END QUOTE

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  165. The “sufficient-efficient” formula has been revised over time to mean something different. Check out the following link:

    http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7327

    In this catalogue, you will see Ursinus listed under “classic” (along with the original author of this phrase, Lombard) and Booth listed under “revised” (along with the popularizer of “double jeopardy argument”, Owen).

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  166. Jeff,

    Have you not read this response of mine?

    Jeff: “At that time, and now, what did you make of the fact that Ursinus, in addition to teaching hypothetical universal atonement, also taught limited atonement…”

    Tianqi: “’Hypothetical universal atonement’ denies the atonement accomplished for someone MUST be applied to that person. This is a denial of what’s at the heart of the gospel: penal substitution. According to “hypothetical universal atonement”, Christ died for all, but many will still die for their own sin.

    Tacking on “limited atonement” (which means limited application in this setting) doesn’t change this basic false gospel, but rather solidifies its evil: it declares God determined to withhold the application of many for whom Christ died.”

    Here I made it clear what I think is wrong with “hypothetical universal atonement”. If you have read this response, you should have no doubt as to what I mean by “hypothetical universal atonement”.

    Ursinus is not teaching the same thing that Booth is teaching. Ursinus is teaching that Christ died for all sinners but God only applies this death to some sinners. Booth did not teach this.

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  167. Jeff,

    “Where is this in the Bible? Galatians 1 does not prove your point, for in context, Paul is not speaking of views on predestination and atonement at all, but on faith contrasted with works. Romans argues against your point, for Paul states that anyone who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes that God raised Him from the dead, will be saved.”

    The specific error addressed was “faith vs works”, but the ultimate concern is God’s grace and Christ’s death, which is what the gospel is about.

    Galatians 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness is through Law, then Christ died without cause.

    Paul compared the Galatian error (sanctification by works) to “leaven”. It’s something subtle but corrupts the nature of the gospel of God’s grace and Christ’s death. Yet, Paul did not tolerate those who are deceived by this error.

    Galatians 5:2 Behold, I, Paul, say to you that if you are circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man being circumcised, that he is a debtor to do all the Law,

    Yet, you are calling for the tolerance of something (“unlimited atonement” / “hypothetical universalism”) that DIRECTLY PERVERTS the nature of God’s grace and Christ’s death.

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  168. You misread Ursinus. He clearly states But he willed to die for the elect alone as touching the efficacy of his death, that is, he would not only sufficiently merit grace and life for them alone …

    You state Ursinus is teaching that Christ died for all sinners but God only applies this death to some sinners.

    Your gloss “died for all sinners” obscures the key issue: Were the *sins of all* imputed to Christ? Ursinus says no. Without the imputation of sins to Christ, your objection vanishes away. It is not the case that for Ursinus, “Christ died for all” in the sense that salvation is available to all, but only in the sense that His merit is sufficient for all, if (hypothetically) they had been elect, and therefore believed.

    Ursinus championed the cause of justification by imputation through faith, the cause of predestination, the cause of election by God’s good pleasure alone. He should be your natural ally in the fight to maintain the graciousness of the gospel.

    Of all the Reformers, he is the one who most clearly takes your side (or at least John Y’s side) in placing imputation prior to faith:

    And yet our application of the righteousness of Christ is from God; for he first imputes it unto us, and then works faith in us, by which we apply unto ourselves that which is imputed; from which it appears that the application of God precedes that which we make, (which is of faith) and is the cause of it

    Yet you want to throw him under the bus — scratch that, you want to throw him in Hell! — because he doesn’t say “atonement” in the exact words that please you, even though he means the exact same thing by it.

    This is not the gospel, Tianqi. I am glad that you have learned limited atonement and predestination, but along with it, you have also learned a false teaching that makes salvation depend upon approving the exact phrases that are accepted in a tight little circle of like-minded people.

    Paul did not preach in that way. Jesus did not preach in that way. Nothing in Scripture supports your contention that all those are lost who do not believe in your teachings.

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  169. Jeff,

    “Were the *sins of all* imputed to Christ? Ursinus says no. ”

    You are wrong.

    QUOTE from Ursinus’ Commentary on Heidelberg Catechism

    FIFTEENTH LORD’S DAY.

    Question 37. What dost thou understand by the words, “he suffered?”
    Answer. That he, all the time he lived on earth, but especially at the, end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the SINS OF ALL MANKIND that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice, he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation; and obtain for us the favor of God, righteousness, and eternal life….

    I. What are we to understand by the Passion of Christ, or what did Christ suffer?

    By the term passion we are to understand the whole humiliation of Christ, or the obedience of his whole humiliation, all the miseries, infirmities, griefs, torments and ignominy to which was subject, for our sakes, from the moment of his birth even to the hour of his death, as well in soul as in body. The principal part of his sorrows and anguish were the torments of soul, in which he felt and endured the wrath of God against the SINS OF ALL MANKIND.

    …The keenest and most bitter anguish of soul, which is doubtless a sense of the wrath of God against the SINS OF THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE. It was this that caused him to exclaim, upon the cross, with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” as if he should say, Why dost thou not drive away from me such severe anguish and torments? Thus we see what, and how greatly Christ has suffered in our behalf.

    7) Obj. 4. If Christ made satisfaction for ALL, then ALL ought to be saved. But ALL are not saved. Therefore, he did not make a perfect satisfaction. Ans. Christ satisfied for ALL, as it respects the SUFFICIENCY of the satisfaction which he made, but NOT as it respects the APPLICATION thereof; for he fulfilled the law in a two-fold respect. First, by his own righteousness; and secondly, by making satisfaction for our sins, each of which is most perfect. But the satisfaction is made ours by an application, which is also two-fold; the former of which is made by God, when he justifies us on account of the merit of his Son, and brings it to pass that we cease from sin; the latter is accomplished by us through faith. For we apply unto ourselves, the merit of Christ, when by a true faith, we are fully persuaded that God for the sake of the satisfaction of his Son, remits unto us our sins. Without this application, the satisfaction of Christ is of no benefit to us.

    END QUOTE

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  170. Jeff,

    “Application” is NOT how the sins of the elect are imputed to the Christ. That’s a false gospel. (Different from saying Christ died for all sinners but God only applies Christ’s death to some sinners – but still a false gospel.)

    “Application” refers to the imputation of Christ’s death for the sins of the elect to the elect. Application presupposes a death for sins. Application doesn’t assign sins to a bare death.

    I don’t think Ursinus is teaching “application” takes elect’s sins to Christ, but teaching that “application” takes Christ’s satisfaction to the elect. He thinks Christ made satisfaction for the sins of all sinners.

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  171. Jeff,

    The following is the paragraph right before the paragraph you quoted of Ursinus’ commentary on Heidelberg Catechism.

    QUOTE

    They affirm, therefore, that Christ died for all, and that he did not die for all ; but in different respects. He died for all, as touching the sufficiency of the ransom which he paid ; and not for all ; but only for the elect, or those that believe, as touching the application and efficacy thereof. The reason of the former lies in this, that the atonement of Christ is sufficient for expiating all the sins of all men, or of the whole world, if only all men will make application thereof unto themselves by faith. For it cannot be said to be insufficient, unless we give countenance to that horrible blasphemy (which God forbid !) that some blame of the destruction of the ungodly results from a defect in the merit of the mediator. The reason of the latter is, because all the elect, or such as believe, and they alone, do apply unto themselves by faith the merit of Christ’s death, together with the efficacy thereof, by which they obtain righteousness, and life according as it is said, ” He that believeth on the Son of God, hath everlasting life.” (John 3 : 36.) The rest are excluded from this efficacy of Christ’s death by their own unbelief, as it is again said, ” He that believeth not shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3 : 36.) Those, therefore, whom the Scriptures excluded from the efficacy of Christ’s death, cannot be said to be included in the number of those for whom he died as it respects the efficacy of his death, but only as to its sufficiency ; because the death of Christ is also sufficient for their salvation, if they will but believe ; and the only reason of their exclusion arises from their unbelief.

    It is in the same way, that is, by making the same distinction that we reply to those who ask concerning the purpose of Christ, Did he will to die for all ? For just as he died, so also he willed to die. Therefore, as he died for all, in respect to the sufficiency of his ransom…

    END QUOTE

    This paragraph is very clear in teaching a unlimited atonement that is only limited in efficacy by the sinner’s faith.

    Ursinus did not repudiate this but go on to use this “same distinction” to explain the “purpose of Christ” in his death, which is the next paragraph you quoted.

    Also, notice this paragraph is intent on blaming the destruction of the non-elect on excluding themselves by their unbelief. This is a common mark of the false gospel of universal atonement / “free offer”: there was salvation available to you, but you didn’t take the opportunity.

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  172. One more quote from Ursinus’ commentary.

    QUOTE

    Obj. 2. All those ought to be received into favor for whose offences a sufficient satisfaction has been made. Christ has made a sufficient satisfaction for the offences of all men. Therefore all ought to be received into favor; and if this is not done, God is either unjust to men, or else there is something detracted from the merit of Christ.

    Ans. The major is true, unless SOME CONDITION is added to the satisfaction; as, that only those are saved through it, who apply it unto themselves by faith. But this condition is expressly added, where it is said, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” ( John 3: 16.)

    END QUOTE

    So Ursinus himself also clearly believes that the sinner’s faith is a condition that limits the efficacy of the “satisfaction”.

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  173. Tianqi, your own quote refutes you. I’ve spent too much time explaining, and you are not in a mood to listen. It should be really, really clear to anyone with an ounce of sense that a “gospel” that consigns all of the Reformers to Hell because of some supposed defect in their understanding of election is not a gospel.

    You’ve been bamboozled.

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  174. @ John Y (and Tianqi, if you will listen):

    I think it is important to talk here about the difference between doing careful theology over against doing tendentious theology, especially when evaluating a theologian.

    (1) Careful theology looks at an entire system and pays attention to the meaning of terms as the theologian himself uses them.

    This is important because theological vocabulary is used differently by different writers, so that two writers will sometimes use different words to mean the same concept, or the same words to mean two different concepts. Looking at the entire system supplies the context needed to understand the vocabulary used.

    A weakness of propositionalism is that it tends to assume that we are all using the same dictionary, so that our theological method should be applying logic to the shared meaning of words.

    That assumption fails when the meanings of words are not clear.

    In the case of Ursinus, his entire system needs to be understood before evaluating whether or not he believes that the sins of all were imputed to Christ, and before evaluating whether or not he believes that the value of the atonement is conditioned upon faith.

    To do that, you have to read the commentary on the HC. Sound-bites taken from a website will not do.

    As you can see, Tianqi has pulled in sound-bites that are convincing to him that Ursinus believes that the sins of all mankind were imputed to Christ on the cross, and that for Ursinus, faith is a “condition” that limits the efficacy of the atonement.

    The first condition is dead wrong, and the second condition is misleading.

    How could he be in error? The sound-bites look like smoking guns! He is in error because he has not demonstrated understanding of Ursinus’ vocabulary. What does Ursinus mean by saying that “the atonement of Christ is sufficient for expiating all the sins of all men, or of the whole world, if only all men will make application thereof unto themselves by faith.”

    Does that actually mean that God imputed the sins of the non-elect to Christ? Ursinus does not say those words; Tianqi assumes that he means them. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

    To understand what “sufficient for expiating the sins of the whole world” means, we must go back into previous discussions. In Qn 17, Ursinus first raises the issue of the value of Christ’s suffering

    There was a necessity that the punishment of the Mediator should be of infinite value, and equivalent to that which is eternal, that there might be a proportion between sin, and the punishment thereof. For there is not one sin amongst all the sins committed, from the beginning to the end of the world, so small that it does not deserve eternal death. Every sin is so exceedingly sinful, that it cannot be expiated by the eternal destruction of any creature. — CHC, Qn 17.

    That value is infinite, and it would have to be infinite for even one sin. Thus Ursinus argues that Christ must be God as well as man. Notice that it is of infinite value by virtue of its perfection. It is in this context that Ursinus speaks of sufficiency.

    It was necessary, therefore, that the Mediator should endure a sufficient punishment for us, and for this reason be armed with divine power; for the devils themselves are not able to sustain the burden of God’s wrath against sin—much
    less could man.
    — CHC, Qn 17

    Thus sufficiency: It refers to the infinite value of Christ’s satisfaction.

    Now, in Question 18, Ursinus explains what “efficacy” means.

    With us, as the offending party, He does these things:

    1. He presents
    himself to us as the messenger of the Father, revealing this,
    his will, that he should present himself as our Mediator, and that
    the Father accepts of his satisfaction.
    2. He makes this satisfaction, and grants and applies it unto us.
    3. He works faith in us, by giving us the Holy Spirit, that we may embrace, and not reject this benefit which is offered unto us; because there can be no reconciliation unless each party consents: “He works in us both to will, and to do.” (Phil. 2:13)

    4. He brings it to pass by the same Spirit that we leave off sinning and commence a new life.
    5. He preserves us in this state of reconciliation by faith and new obedience, and defends us against the devil, and all enemies, even against ourselves, lest we fall.
    6. Finally, He will raise us up from the dead, and glorify us, that is, he will perfect the salvation begun, and the gifts which we lost in Adam, as well as those which he has merited for us. All these things Christ does, obtains, and perfects, not only by his merits, but also by his efficacy.
    — CHC Qn 18

    Notice two things:

    * For Ursinus, the order is that application of satisfaction (#2) precedes faith (#3) or sanctification (#4). So Tianqi’s claim that “Ursinus makes faith a condition that limits the efficacy of the satisfaction” is exactly backwards. In fact, the satisfaction precedes the faith, so that the efficacy of that satisfaction limits the faith.

    * Second, that “efficacy” means “Those for whom satisfaction is actually made.”

    So if we now ask “for whom did Christ die?”, Ursinus gives a two-fold answer. The atonement was of infinite value — because it was the suffering of the God-man. It was thus sufficient for all. But the atonement was of particular efficacy — the satisfaction was made for the elect only.

    And that satisfaction precedes faith, and is not conditioned upon it (Ursinus makes this clear in Qn 18, but also in his discussion of imputation preceding faith).

    This raises three questions.

    (a) Why does Ursinus use the confusing language of “Christ died for all in one sense, but not for all in another sense”?

    He answers that question: Because Scripture does so.

    In answering this question we must make a distinction, so as to harmonize those passages of Scriptures which seem to teach contradictory doctrines. In some places Christ is said to have died for all, and for the whole world. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” “That he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” “We thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them, and rose again.” “Who gave himself a ransom for all,” etc. (John 2:2; Heb. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:15; 1 Tim. 2:6) The Scriptures, on the contrary, affirm in many places, that Christ died, prayed, offered himself; etc., only for many, for the elect, for his own people, for the Church, for his sheep, etc. “I pray for them; I pray not for the world; but for them which you have given me, for they are your,” that is, the elect alone. “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” “I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” “He shall save his people from their sins.” “This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” “Christ was once offered, to bear the sins of many.” “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.” “Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it.” (John 17:9; Matt. 20:28; 15:24; 1:21; Heb. 9:28; Ish. 53:11; Eph. 5:25) What shall we say in view of these seemingly opposite passages of Scripture? Does the word of God contradict itself? By no means. But this will be the case, unless these declarations, which in some places seem to teach that Christ died for all, and in others that he died for a part only, can be reconciled by a proper and satisfactory distinction, which distinction, or reconciliation, is two-fold. — CHC Qn 40.

    (b) What about Tianqi’s “smoking gun”? He seems to have a number of places where Christ died for ALL MANKIND, the SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD, etc. Doesn’t that prove that Ursinus held to unlimited atonement?

    Not at all; for Ursinus explains in each place in a careful way that the ALL statements, just as they are found in Scripture, refer to sufficiency only: An infinitely valuable atonement could have, hypothetically, atoned for the sins of the world. But he is also careful to affirm particularity: That satisfaction proper was made only for the sins of the elect.

    (c) What about Tianqi’s other “smoking gun”? He seems to show that Ursinus places faith as the condition for the satisfaction.

    Ursinus uses language that can be interpreted in that way out of context, certainly. So does Jesus: “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

    See? Jesus teaches that being born again is a condition for entering the kingdom! He taught a false gospel!

    Ridiculous.

    To seek proper context, you must seek out places where Ursinus carefully discusses the relationship of satisfaction and imputation to faith. In many places, Ursinus places the two together. A frequent phrase is “imputed and application made by faith.”

    But in a couple of places, he speaks about the exact relationship.

    Qn 18 above is one of those places: satisfaction precedes faith. Qn 60 is another.

    And yet our application of the righteousness of Christ is from God; for he first imputes it unto us, and then works faith in us, by which we apply unto ourselves that which is imputed; from which it appears that the application of God precedes that which we make, (which is of faith) and is the cause of it, although it is not without ours, as Christ says, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” (John 15:16)

    So it is clear that when Ursinus teaches clearly about order, he places imputation prior to faith. This makes it logically impossible for “faith to limit the efficacy”, as Tianqi has falsely stated.

    Careful theology considers the whole system. Tendentious theology seeks out sound-bites.

    (2) Careful theology is cautious; tendentious theology makes overstated claims.

    Which one is more likely? On the question, “Are all those who ‘tolerate’ hypothetical universal atonement lost?”

    (a) The Reformers were all lost

    OR

    (b) Tianqi is mistaken

    Luther was asked that question, and he stood on the clear and abundant teaching of Scripture, evidenced in the teaching of the church throughout the Middle Ages. When asked who taught justification by faith, he produced Augustine and Chyrsostom and others.

    Tianqi was asked that question, and he stood on Galatians 1 taken out of context, and the appeal to an invisible historical record of people who “could have” existed that taught the true gospel.

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  175. Jeff,

    Thank you for that clarifying comment- that was very helpful and it clearly shows that Ursinus did not believe that all of mankind’s sin was imputed to Christ nor that faith is the condition that applies the work of Christ too the elect. I’m not clear on whether Ursinus believes in the two separate and distinct imputations of 1) the elects sin to Christ and 2) the work of Christ on the cross to the elect. And I am not sure if he believes that the work of Christ on the cross is applied to each individual elect person by legal declaration or legal union. I’m also unclear when he thinks these two separate imputations occur. Besides that I think it is clear that he was saying something different than how Arminians would say it. In fact, I think that was a very clever defense against the Arminian theological system in regards to how the atoning work of Christ gets applied.

    I’m not sure of the historical setting of the Heidelberg catechism and why is was deemed necessary to write it and to whom it was written in rebuttal. I know it was written in Germany but I don’t know the whole back round of it.

    A few more reactions to your comments:

    1) Jeff says: “A weakness of propositionalism is that it tends to assume that we are all using the same dictionary, so that our theological method should be applying logic to the shared meaning of words.”

    John Y: It seems to me that would not be that hard of an obstacle to overcome. You just make sure that you and the opposing party are defining your words and terms with the same meaning. I’m not sure why you think that is inherent to propositionalism. I’m also not even sure if I believe everything about propositionalism and I think if is often misunderstood and caricatured by those who don’t really understand it and want to label before asking adequate questions.

    2) Jeff quotes: “There was a necessity that the punishment of the Mediator should be of infinite value, and equivalent to that which is eternal, that there might be a proportion between sin, and the punishment thereof.”

    John Y: I’m not sure I understand all the implications of that sentence or why it is necessary to include when trying to understand the atonement. I think it is because it was necessary for God (the divinity of Christ) to do the atoning for it to be effectual before the throne of God. I’m not sure how that differs from a commercial view of the atonement. It is hard to wrap your mind around all the implications of those statements.

    3) Jeff again quotes Ursinus:

    With us, as the offending party, He does these things:

    1. He presents himself to us as the messenger of the Father, revealing this, his will, that he should present himself as our Mediator, and that the Father accepts of his satisfaction.

    2. He makes this satisfaction, and grants and applies it unto us.

    3. He works faith in us, by giving us the Holy Spirit, that we may embrace, and not reject this benefit which is offered unto us; because there can be no reconciliation unless each party consents: “He works in us both to will, and to do.” (Phil. 2:13)

    4. He brings it to pass by the same Spirit that we leave off sinning and commence a new life.

    5. He preserves us in this state of reconciliation by faith and new obedience, and defends us against the devil, and all enemies, even against ourselves, lest we fall.

    6. Finally, He will raise us up from the dead, and glorify us, that is, he will perfect the salvation begun, and the gifts which we lost in Adam, as well as those which he has merited for us. All these things Christ does, obtains, and perfects, not only by his merits, but also by his efficacy.

    John Y: There is a lot to dissect and analyze in those 6 statements. I’m not sure I understand why he said the way he did or if I would agree with what he said if it was unpacked further. They do not give any indication though that faith is the condition that must be met for the atoning work of Christ to be applied to an individual. In fact, they seem to imply (2 and 3) that the satisfaction applied by the Father is the cause of faith.

    4) Jeff says: So if we now ask “for whom did Christ die?”, Ursinus gives a two-fold answer. The atonement was of infinite value — because it was the suffering of the God-man. It was thus sufficient for all. But the atonement was of particular efficacy — the satisfaction was made for the elect only.

    John Y: I agree with what is stated here from the definitions you gave concerning Ursinus system.

    5) Jeff quotes Ursinus: What shall we say in view of these seemingly opposite passages of Scripture? Does the word of God contradict itself? By no means. But this will be the case, unless these declarations, which in some places seem to teach that Christ died for all, and in others that he died for a part only, can be reconciled by a proper and satisfactory distinction, which distinction, or reconciliation, is two-fold.

    — CHC Qn 40.

    John Y: Like I said above, Ursinus gives a clever defense against the universal atonement of the Arminian. I would be curious now to know how the Arminians responded to Ursinus defense and rejection of the idea that all of mankind’s sin was imputed to Christ when he died. Arminians go off into different tangents in their understanding of the atoning work of Christ and the meaning and significance of it.

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  176. Timeline (pieced together from various sources, mostly Wiki):

    1536 Calvin (French/Swiss) publishes the Institutes of the Christian Religion
    1545 – 1563 Council of Trent. The article on justification is completed in 1547, the same year that Calvin’s Institutes are published.
    1563 Heidelberg Catechism (Dutch) published. It aims primarily to clarify Biblical doctrine over against Catholic doctrine and Anabaptist doctrine.
    1583 Ursinus dies.
    ~1603 Jacob Arminius (Dutch) teaches that predestination makes God the author of evil; works out a theological system in which God predestines to save those who freely believe.
    1609 Arminius is tried, acquitted, and dies. His students begin to have trouble getting ordained, as the ordination questions start getting picky on election.
    1610 Arminius’ students publish a 5-point Remonstrance.
    1618-1619 Synod of Dort responds to the Remonstrance with the Canons, which essentially define the 5 points of Calvinism.
    1634 Amyrault (French) publishes opinion that God predestines upon condition of foreseen faith. He is joined in this view when, in
    1675 Baxter (Puritan) publishes Catholic Theology, in which he argues for unlimited atonement. He also argues that faith itself is imputed for righteousness, and that perseverance is a necessary condition for final salvation. He is strongly opposed by John Owen, who considers (correctly!) Baxter to be neo-nomian. Also in 1675, the Helvetic Consensus is drawn up in opposition to Amyrauldianism.
    1679-1683 Turretin’s Institutes published, pushing back against Amyrault, as well as trying to bring unity to the question of covenants.

    This was possibly more than you wanted, but it shows a couple of things.

    (1) Ursinus’ writing was not anti-Arminian in its day, BUT by the time of Dort, Ursinus turned out to be an excellent refutation. Reason: Arminius was re-hashing Catholic free-will arguments.
    (2) The phrase “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” is subject to abuse. It was used to sneak in the concept of imputing the sins of all to Christ, so that the only quality lacking in the damned was their lack of faith. This was in contrast to Ursinus, who held that Christ actually purchased redemption specifically for the elect, but gave satisfaction of sufficient merit that could have sufficed for the sins of the world.

    So it makes sense that by Owen’s day, he finds himself needing to create a tighter doctrinal line.

    Where we run into problems is trying to hold Ursinus in 1563 to Owen’s tighter line in 1675.

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  177. @JY
    “ I would be curious now to know how the Arminians responded to Ursinus defense and rejection of the idea that all of mankind’s sin was imputed to Christ when he died. “

    Jakob Arminius was a pupil of Beza who rejected several elements of the Belgic confession (based on the French version put together by Calvin et al.) He presented his objections at the Synod of Dort. The Canons and revised Belgic are the response to Arminius and the other Remonstrants. Along with the Heidelberg Catechism, these documents defined the reformed faith for the continental reformed. The British versions are similar (and as far as my theologically untrained mind can determine) are consistent. There are different emphases based on challenges posed by Anglicans and Baptists rather than Lutherans.

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  178. Jeff,

    Fact 1: Ursinus says that Christ suffered God’s wrath against the sins of the whole world / all mankind.

    Fact 2: He does not explain that such phrases “whole world” / “all mankind” (whether in the Bible or in his writings) means “the elect” (e.g. all kinds of men without distinction, all predestined to life), but rather agrees it means “all sinners”, in contrast to “the elect”.

    Given these two facts, it’s clear that Ursinus believed Christ suffered God’s wrath against the sins of ALL sinners, the non-elect included.

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  179. Jeff,

    In his commentary, Ursinus brings up the following objection

    “Obj. 3. It is proper and just that he who has received a ransom sufficient for the sins of all, should admit all into his favor. God has received in his Son a ransom sufficient for the sins of the whole world. Therefore he is bound to receive all into his favor. ”

    In his reply (see below for full quote), Ursinus agrees that God has received a ransom “sufficient” for the sins of all, but says it’s the APPLICATION that determines who should be received into God’s favor.

    Jeff, if we take your reading that Ursinus means “sufficient” only in a hypothetical sense, rather in the sense that all sins were imputed to Christ, then Ursinus would be teaching a different but equally serious heresy: he would be teaching that God’s APPLICATION of Christ’s death (the “ransom”) determines the imputation of sins!

    Full quote:

    “Obj. 3. It is proper and just that he who has received a ransom sufficient for the sins of all, should admit all into his favor. God has received in his Son a ransom sufficient for the sins of the whole world. Therefore he is bound to receive all into his favor.

    Ans. It is just that he should admit all into his favor, who has received a ransom sufficient for all, and which is to be applied to all. But there is no application of this to all, because it is said, “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” But a ransom, say our opponents, that is sufficient for all, ought to be applied to all; because it belongs to infinite mercy to do good to all. But we deny that infinite mercy consists in the number, that are saved. It consists rather in the manner in which they are saved. God, moreover, will not bestow this blessing upon all, because he is most wise and just. He can, and will exercise his mercy and justice at the same time. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He that believes not is condemned already,” &c. (John 3 : 1(5, 18.)

    It is still further objected: He who receives a ransom that is sufficient for all, and yet does not save all, is unjust ; because he receives more than he bestows. But God is not unjust. Therefore he receives all into his favor.

    Ans. He, who thus acts, is unjust unless he himself gave the ransom. But God gave it. Therefore he receives of his own, and not of that which belongs to us. Again: it is not the sufficiency, but the application of this ransom which binds God to receive all into his favor. But he has not obligated himself to apply this ransom to all.”

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  180. Jeff,

    The biggest indicator of any theologian who claims the Bible as his final authority is the theologian’s explanation of Bible passages, especially IN THE CONTEXT of addressing specific questions. (If a theologian doesn’t even claim the Bible is his final authority, there is no need to even listen to him. )

    Ursinus interpreted the universalistic phrases to mean all sinners without exception, in the context of the question of extent.

    “In answering this question we must make a distinction, so as to harmonize those passages of Scriptures which seem to teach contradictory doctrines. In some places Christ is said to have died for all, and for the whole world. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” “That he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” “We thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them, and rose again.” “Who gave himself a ransom for all,” etc. (John 2:2; Heb. 2:9; 2 Cor. 5:15; 1 Tim. 2:6) ”

    Ursinus could have answered, in all these places it refers to the elect only.

    Instead, Ursinus answered that in all these places it indeed means all sinners, but only with respect to “sufficiency”.

    Jeff responds: Ursinus means “sufficiency” only in the sense of “infinite value”, NOT in the sense that all sins were imputed .

    Please take a look at the Bible verses Ursinus quoted.

    John 2:2: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

    Heb. 2:9: “That he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.”

    2 Cor. 5:15: “We thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him that died for them, and rose again.”

    1 Tim. 2:6: “Who gave himself a ransom for all”

    Ursinus says, THESE TEXTS means Christ’s died for all sinners – with respect to “sufficiency”.

    Jeff says, Ursinus means “sufficiency” only in the sense of “infinite value”, NOT in the sense that all sins were imputed.

    Let’s unpack these statements and see if it makes sense.

    1) Ursinus says, Christ is the PROPITIATION for the sins of all sinners – in the sense of “infinite value”, NOT in the sense that all sins were imputed.

    – Unless you read “is the propitiation” to mean “can propitiate” rather than “has propitiated”, this is nonsense.

    But if you read this to mean “can propitiate” rather than “has propitiated”, then
    EITHER

    you are teaching that God’s application of Christ’s death determines the imputation of sins (a false gospel), OR

    you are GROSSLY misreading the text to mean “Christ” before he represented certain sinners, bore their sins, died, raised again, and intercedes in heaven, i.e. you are reading the text to mean “Christ” as a hypothetical plan rather than the one who was appointed for and has accomplished redemption in history.

    2) Ursinus says, Christ TASTED DEATH for all sinners – in the sense of “infinite value”, NOT in the sense that all sins were imputed.

    – Nonsense. The text is clearly about the CONNECTION (representation, substitution) between Christ and sinners, and not about some “infinite value” that doesn’t depend on imputation of sins.

    3) Ursinus says, Christ DIED FOR all sinners, so ALL SINNERS were DEAD – in the sense of “infinite value”, NOT in the sense that all sins were imputed.

    – Nonsense. This is the most obvious one, because it plainly says there is a certain EFFECT on the sinners resulting from the death “FOR” them.

    4) Ursinus says, Christ GAVE HIMSELF a RANSOM for all sinners – in the sense of “infinite value”, NOT in the sense that all sins were imputed.

    – Nonsense, unless you think something is a “ransom” for a sinner, even though it didn’t pay for his sins?? (Also see my comment on April 17, 2018 at 3:38 am. )

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  181. John,

    Let me finish the last paragraph Jeff quoted from Ursinus. It says:

    “All these things Christ does, obtains, and perfects, not only by his merits, but also by his efficacy. He is,therefore,said to be a Mediator, both in merit and efficacy ; because he does not only by his sacrifice merit for us, but he also, by virtue of his Spirit, effectually confers upon his benefits, which consists in righteousness, and eternal life, according to what is said : ” I lay down my life for the sheep.” ” I give unto them eternal life.” ” As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given unto the Son to have life in himself.” ” As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” (John 10 : 15, 28 ; 5 : 21, 46.)”

    This clarifies what Ursinus means by “efficacy”. It means the APPLICATION (which he thinks is by Spirit, by the way) – “effectually confers upon his benefits”.

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  182. Jeff,

    You accuse me of “tendentious theology”, when you clearly have an agenda, which is to prove the Reformers are not heretics, to preserve your narrative of “church history”.

    I have no such agenda: if Ursinus turns out to not teach hypothetical universalism, it does not change my position on the gospel, it will at most make me re-evaluate Ursinus. I’m not trying to maintain any narrative about “church history”, but only judge according to the gospel.

    That said, let me pull this quote again, on “faith limiting efficacy”.

    QUOTE

    Obj. 2.

    All those ought to be received into favor for whose offences a sufficient satisfaction has been made.

    Christ has made a sufficient satisfaction for the offences of all men.

    Therefore all ought to be received into favor; and if this is not done, God is either unjust to men, or else there is something detracted from the merit of Christ.

    Ans. The major is true, unless SOME CONDITION is added to the satisfaction; as, that only those are saved through it, who apply it unto themselves by faith. But this condition is expressly added, where it is said, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” ( John 3: 16.)

    Ursinus says the “major” is true, UNLESS a condition is added.

    What’s the “major”? It’s the following principle:

    “All those ought to be received into favor for whose offences a sufficient satisfaction has been made. ”

    Ursinus DENIES this principle, and he appeals to the scripture in order to argue that God imposed a condition of “apply by faith”.

    Of course, you (Jeff) will complain: “sufficient” means “infinite value” not “offences vicariously punished”. As I replied in my last comment, this contorted explanation of “sufficient” makes nonsense of what Ursinus says.

    But moreover, this is not what Ursinus says in response to the question. He does not reject the principle by pointing out not all offences were vicariously punished, but rather appeals to some condition which he thinks the scripture teaches.

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  183. Tianqi and Jeff,

    This is getting strange. I guess you have to go the sources yourself and see what the real Ursinus teaches. You can’t trust no one these days. In other words, will the real Ursinus, please stand up!!

    1) Does Ursinus teach that all the sins of mankind were imputed to Christ?
    2) Does Ursinus teach that Spirit wrought faith is the condition that unites the elect to the propitiation of Christ on the cross? Or, is the legal declaration by God the Father the event that unites to Christ’s propitiation? There are vast differing implications that result when trying to logically think through all this. That is why I was reluctant to delve deeply into what Ursinus was up to when he said this:

    With us, as the offending party, He does these things:

    1. He presents himself to us as the messenger of the Father, revealing this, his will, that he should present himself as our Mediator, and that the Father accepts of his satisfaction.

    2. He makes this satisfaction, and grants and applies it unto us.

    3. He works faith in us, by giving us the Holy Spirit, that we may embrace, and not reject this benefit which is offered unto us; because there can be no reconciliation unless each party consents: “He works in us both to will, and to do.” (Phil. 2:13)

    4. He brings it to pass by the same Spirit that we leave off sinning and commence a new life.

    5. He preserves us in this state of reconciliation by faith and new obedience, and defends us against the devil, and all enemies, even against ourselves, lest we fall.

    6. Finally, He will raise us up from the dead, and glorify us, that is, he will perfect the salvation begun, and the gifts which we lost in Adam, as well as those which he has merited for us. All these things Christ does, obtains, and perfects, not only by his merits, but also by his efficacy.

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  184. @ John Y:

    It’s a fair complaint. I will grant that Ursinus gives enough sound-bite ammunition to be misconstrued by his foes. And at this point, it is clear that Tianqi is a foe of Ursinus, for not only does he believe Ursinus to be wrong, but so wrong that Tianqi wishes him to be in Hell.

    Three facts cause me to stick by my guns.

    (1) The quote above from Qn 60, which is the place that Ursinus actually addresses the chicken-and-egg question, “Which precedes: imputation or faith?” He comes down squarely on the side of imputation causing faith, using those exact words.

    In other words, I am completely unmoved by Tianqi’s multiplication of quotes. In the absence of Ursinus actually directly saying that the sins of all are imputed to Christ, Tianqi looks to phrases that he considers to be equivalent to “the sins of all are imputed to Christ.”

    So where Ursinus says “Christ is the propitiation for all sinners”, quoting John 2:2, and explains it in terms of sufficiency (which we have already seen the definition of), Tianqi throws out Ursinus’ definition entirely and substitutes his own explanation of what Ursinus must mean by it — which just happens to be heretical. And he does this with all of the quotes.

    If we used Tianqi’s logic-chopping method, we would conclude that the writers of Scripture also taught heresy.

    Bottom line: Ursinus never actually says what Tianqi wants him to say, so his unguarded words get twisted around. In the places where Ursinus is clearest, he is clearly orthodox. That should control our understanding of the rest of his language.

    Do I think Ursinus’ language could be more clear? Yes. Do I think his unclear statements should take priority over his clear statements? Never.

    (2) One aspect of doing careful theology is to pay attention to what questions a writer is responding to. In Ursinus’ day, the question raised by Baxter and Amyrault had not yet appeared. In fact, the questions raised by Arminius had not yet appeared.

    Ursinus needs to respond to these issues raised by Catholic opponents: Is justification a matter of grace through faith, or is it a matter of works? Is justification a matter of righteousness imputed, or is it a matter of righteousness infused? Are God’s people elected gratuitously, or are they elected because of foreseen faith? (This is obviously related to Arminius, but Ursinus can’t know that).

    He answers all three of those questions very clearly. At the same time, he uses wording that is in many places ambiguous with respect to other questions: Does the sufficiency of Christ’s satisfaction arise from the sins of all being imputed to Him (so that He makes satisfaction for all), or does it arise from Christ being God, so that His satisfaction would have been sufficient, if applied to all sins, to cover those sins also?

    That question was not on the table in a meaningful way in 1563, as far as I know. Ursinus implies an answer, but does not guard his language carefully enough to stop the mouths of certain adversaries.

    Holding Ursinus to standards of later controversies is silly.

    (3) Later theologians — AA Hodge, Berkhof, Turretin — who are also champions of justification by grace through faith alone, and some of whom (Hodge, Berkhof) also teach imputation preceding faith — will clarify Ursinus’ language, but they never charge him with being defective in the gospel. In fact, no one in the Reformed church has *ever* raised the possibility that Ursinus was lost because of some error in teaching the gospel.

    It is remotely possible that the entire ordained leadership of the Presbyterian church got it wrong and Tianqi got it right. It is much, much, much more likely that he is tilting at windmills.

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  185. @ Tianqi:

    No agenda? Hm. You seem awfully invested in trying to sustain a charge of heresy against Ursinus here. Let’s consider possible reasons why.

    If he were living, I could understand concern for the state of his soul.

    If it were a matter of improving our understanding of the gospel, I could understand pointing out errors in his wording and moving on.

    But asserting that he is lost, which properly belongs to God alone to determine, and charging him with heresy, which properly belongs to the church to determine, is probably best explained in this way: You want to tear down the respected teachers of God’s church in order to create an opening to teach your own theological novelty.

    I don’t know that that is your motive, but it is the best explanation that fits the facts so far. You reject the teaching authority of the church; you scoff at amending your historical ignorance; you assert outrageous charges against teachers whose writings have stood the test of time; and you put forward doctrine that cannot be proven from Scripture.

    Until you start conversing in a reasonable manner, I will assume that you are being unreasonable on purpose. I think your agenda is to elevate your own teachings by tearing down the teachings of others.

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  186. Jeff,

    You don’t think “hypothetical universalism” indicates a person is lost, right? So in your eyes, why would I be accusing Ursinus of believing a false gospel?

    I would not be interested in responding further after that comment of yours accusing me of “tendentious theology”, if not for the fact that you are MISLEADING John.

    If it were not seeing John was inundated with you guys, I wouldn’t even commented here in the first place. For 4 years I’m aware of your tolerance, but I didn’t comment anything.

    You know John considers “hypothetical universalism” an issue, so you are trying to clear Ursinus of this issue (even though you don’t consider this a false gospel) so that you can “create an opening” to teach your own view to him.

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  187. Tianqi,

    I’m hardly “inundated” with the folks at oldlife. I’ve just been following the arguments between Jeff and McMark here since 2008- I’ve learned a lot by doing so. I see no reason why not to continue watching the debates to see where they lead to. I think I have a pretty good handle on where the differences lie. I will read that link on Ursinus’s commentary- thanks.

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  188. Some good quotes from a largely forgotten theologian against tolerance, in a letter to a correspondent of his:

    “But then it will be said, that some who dislike the explicit doctrine of Absolute Sovereignty, may yet, by implication, be concluded friends at bottom to that Sovereignty. Yet nothing can be more foreign to the Scripture than such reasoning. The Scripture indeed leads us to think of men having the form of godliness without the power, but it nowhere gives us the least ground to think, that the power can possibly take place where the very form is disliked. It leads us to think that men may someway hold the form of sound words without Faith and Love; but that Faith and Love can be where that form is disallowed, is quite foreign to every notion taught us by the Scripture.

    “If such reasoning by implication be allowed, then we may find true believers amongst those who dislike the declaration of Imputed Righteousness and Vicarious Substitution, among those who dislike the declaration of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, and so in course everything that is most sacred. Yea, thus we may find true believers amongst the worshipers of Mohammed. For if Mohammed signifies a prophet, intercessor or mediator, and if some mean as much by the word Mohammed as others by the word Christ, who would contend for a word, while there was no material difference of meaning? ”

    “Jesus Christ, praying for his people, said; “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” How then can any who disallow the declaration of that knowledge, either that of Divine Sovereignty, Justice, or Mercy be said to have any part in life eternal! If we have any ear to give to the Scripture, we must rank all such among those that “know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; and who {if they be not given Repentance to the acknowledgment of the Truth} shall be punished with everlasting destruction.”

    “And if we have any true benevolent concern for such, it will lead us boldly to declare to them their real danger, however harsh or ridiculous it may sound in their ears at present. Though all the clergy in the world should agree in a charitable opinion of any who disallow the declaration of that knowledge, I find myself fully authorized from the Scripture to declare such charity to be the very breath and spirit of the grand destroyer.”

    “What satisfaction can a man find in his conscience, in maintaining Saving Grace to be Sovereign Grace, if at the same time he thinks that a man may be a true believer, so as enjoy the Divine favor, who opposes that Grace? Or what delight can a man take in the character of the true God, who thinks that his neighbor may be truly pious and happy in worshiping another god? In my view, the more a man knows of the character of the true God, and is yet capable of holding it in such a profane manner, he is thereby only so much the more eminently fitted to be an agent of Satan in undermining it.

    “I fondly presumed that our friendship had commenced upon a sacred foundation, even Sovereign Grace; but if we must have the same friendship for those who oppose that Grace, or who join in the opposition to it; then it is evident, there can be nothing more sacred in our friendship than in the mutual courtesy that takes place amongst infidels. Have we then been all this while employed only like two philosophers striving as to who shall get freest of inconsistencies in their manner of talking! Any attempt to revive the Christian profession with you must be the idealist thing in the world, unless it be founded in the fear of God.

    “And how can we be said to hold the Truth in the fear of God, unless we are persuaded that destruction attends every departure from it both in ourselves and others? Unless we are so persuaded, our zeal about the Gospel will amount to no more than an idol emulation about orthodoxy. And it may be held for a sure maxim, that however zealous we may be to hold a sounder set of principles than our neighbors, we can never greatly condemn ourselves for any deviation from the Truth that we think consistent with the Christian character in others. “

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  189. It’s really simple.

    There are two common versions of “Calvinist” errors relating to the atonement and gospel.

    Post-redemptionism: gospel says Christ died for everybody, removed all legal barriers, and now there is just one condition, faith, that you must fulfill to benefit from it. [Behind the scenes: God only decreed the elect to fulfill this condition.]

    Example: Hypothetical Universalism.

    Pre-redemptionism: gospel says God offers Christ’s infinite merit to everybody, which is sufficient to atone for all sins if God imputes sins to Christ. If you accept it, then this merit would be applied to the case of your sins. [Behind the scenes: God only decreed the elect to accept this offer, and God decreed Christ’s death to only atone for the sins of the elect.]

    Example: forms of Free Offer supported by a theology that Christ died for the elect alone.

    Notice both CAREFULLY avoided the offense of the cross, which is that God had already imputed the sins of some sinners to Christ before Christ went to the cross, and this decision to impute sins DOES NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT any sinner’s response to the gospel (whether enabled or not), nor does the effect of this death DEPENDS ON any sinner’s response to the gospel (whether enabled or not), so that the non-elect perish BECAUSE there was never no atonement (or any offer of atonement) for them.

    Both also missed the RIGHTEOUSNESS in the gospel, which is Christ’s death for sins. Post-redemptionism denies this death IN ITSELF demands salvation, but adds one condition to it. Pre-redemptionism rather focuses on the “infinite merit” apart from imputation of sins.

    If you truly understood this, it would radically change your view of the “good news”. The good news is not an offer, in either the post-redemptionist sense or in the pre-redemptionist sense.

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