Provisional Atonement Part 1: Dealing With John Owen’s Arminian Dilemma

I lifted this from Jeff Paton’s website. He gives an answer based on his commitment to the “sacrificial” view of the atonement, which allows him to bypass the force of Owen’s argument.

As I have stated before, I am not (at this time) dogmatic about views of atonement. I do, however, favor the penal satisfaction view which seems to be the view that Owen is describing as incompatible with Arminian soteriology. I reject any view that does not incorporate some form of substitution. Since I more or less hold to the view that Owen thinks incompatible with Arminianism, I thought it might be fun to take on his little “dilemma” (Owen’s argument is in blue).

“To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalists -”

Of course Arminians are not Universalists in a strict sense. I hope that Owen wasn’t trying to paint Arminians in a negative light with this comment. Jeff Paton seems to think he was.

“God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for,

1. either all the sins of all men,

2. or all the sins of some men,

3. or some sins of all men.”

I like #1 which Owen thinks incompatible with Arminianism.

“If the LAST, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God entered into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: “If the LORD should mark iniquities, who should stand?” [Ps. cxxx.2] We might all go to cast all that we have “to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.” [Isa. ii. 20, 21]

I agree. #3 is no good.

“If the SECOND, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world.”

I disagree. #2 is incompatible with numerous Scriptures which must be made to undergo tortured exegesis to comport with this position. #2, therefore, is no good. Sorry John Owen.

If the FIRST, why then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.””

That is a very good answer. Count me among those who would say that.

“But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not?”

If by “unbelief” Owen means to reject Christ, then yes, unbelief is a sin.

“If not, why should they be punished for it?”

If it is sin, like all sins, then they should be punished for it. I personally think that sinners being condemned for unbelief creates serious problems for Owen’s Calvinism, but we will get to that in Part 3. For now I will agree and walk headlong into the “dilemma”.

“If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not?”

This seems overly simplified, but I will concede that Christ suffered even for unbelief.

“If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins.”

And now Owen sticks it to me, so to speak. What am I to do? If I say that Christ died for unbelief and believe that he died for all, then I must adopt universalism (real universalism, i.e. all will be saved). If I deny universalism, then I am stuck with a limited atonement. So, Owen points out below…

“Let them choose which part they will.”

I think I will choose a third option. An option that I believe best comports with the Biblical data. I will affirm that atonement is provisional “in Christ”. In other words, Christ’s death made provision for all sin, yet only those who come to be in union with Christ partake of that provision. I believe this view is supported by numerous Scriptures. Below are a few of them (emphasis mine):

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us [believers] with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Eph. 1:3

All spiritual blessings are found in Christ. I think this must include (if not be founded on) the benefits of the atonement. We find further evidence of this in Ephesians 1:7:

In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…”

I think this passage confirms that the benefits of the atonement are provisional “in Christ”.

Look at Colossians 1:13 and 14:

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Again we see that the benefits of the atonement are provisional in the “beloved Son”.

So how does one come to be in union with Christ and therefore benefit from the redemption and forgiveness provided in Him?

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation- having believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Eph. 1:13

We come to be in union with Christ through faith.

As soon as we accept the Biblical teaching that forgiveness is provisional in Christ, Owen’s “dilemma” amounts to nothing. Unbelief is atoned for, but only “in Christ”. When we are placed in union with Christ by the Holy Spirit, through faith, our former “unbelief” is atoned for just as our other sins are atoned for. If we continue in unbelief, we cannot benefit from the forgiveness that is in Christ alone, and will therefore suffer condemnation. In other words, the moment we believe, our prior unbelief is forgiven, and not before. Since the atonement is provisional in Christ we can both affirm that He died for all and that only believers will benefit from this atonement. 1 Tim. 4:10 states this truth very well:

“For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men [provisional], especially of believers [conditional application].”

I think that this passage plainly teaches that the atonement is provided for all, while only believers will actually experience forgiveness on the condition of faith (which unites us with Christ and the benefits of His atonement).

Calvinists struggle to get around the implications of this passage. Some will suggest that the “all” has reference to the elect. That would reduce the verse to tautology as follows:

“…who is the Savior of all [elect men], especially of believers [the elect].”

Some reason that the “all” means simply “all people groups” or “all kinds of people”. There is no contextual warrant for this interpretation and it amounts to little more than the interpretation we just dealt with above:

“…who is the Savior of the elect [among all kinds of people], especially of believers [the elect].”

Still others note that “God” has reference to the Father as Savior, rather than Christ, as if this changes things. Does not the Father save through Christ?

Perhaps a last attempt should be added. Some Calvinists posit that “Savior” should be understood in a sense in which all of mankind, including the reprobates, enjoy certain divine blessings. Again, there is no contextual reason for assigning some other meaning to “Savior” other than the way Paul always uses the term in connection with God. This is truly a desperate attempt to avoid the Arminian implications of this text.

So, I think that we can safely conclude that Owen’s dilemma poses no difficulty at all for Arminians who hold to both a universal and penal satisfaction view of the atonement. All one has to do is realize that the atonement is provisional and applied only on the basis (condition) of faith union with Christ.

Owen, however, has some dilemmas of his own to account for in his #2 choice above. We will deal with those in Part 2.

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95 Responses

  1. Don’t you sometimes wish you could talk one on one with some of the old-time Calvinists like Owen? Like, you could go out to lunch and realy wrestle over these issues.

    However, from I’ve read about most Calvinists in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, after lunch, and after they have condemned you as a heretic, they would most likely burn you at the stake.

    Oh well, so much for my dialogue with Owen.

    Excellent job and very Biblical (as usual). Thank you for this insight.

    Billy

  2. Great post Ben. Two quick points. Governmental atonement might be helpful for this specific argument. But Owen adapted this argument for just about everything, not just penal satisfaction. IE sanctification, redemption, reconciliation…. So at the end of the day, even GT adherents have to uphold the “provision for all/application for some” distinction you present.

    God be with you,
    Dan

  3. Ben,

    Before you move on I was hoping that you could help me understand this better. You say that you advocate for view number one in which Christ died for the sins of all men. You then list Scripture verses Ephesians 1:3, 7, 13 along with Colossians 1:13, 14. Now would it be wrong to say that all of those verses could be used for limited atonement side since all of them talk of a certain group, rather than all men? That being said it seems none of those verses address the dying for ALL part of your thesis.

    Now you also pointed out 1 Timothy 4:10 and doing a quick search of the term Savior there from Strong’s Concordance we see that it is defined here more in line with God, rather than Christ and more in the mode of preserver, rather than eternal salvation. So if we take that Savior here is a reference to God rather than Christ, which the context would lead us to believe, it would be fair to say then that God plays a different role then Christ and Strong’s defining it as “preserver” would be more applicable; seeing “preserver” means that God gives life, breath and all things to all. So we can see that God is a “preserver” of all, especially His people. One other point would be that the verse and chapter are not really referencing eternal salvation; this would then give more credence to the “preserver” view that we find in Strong’s Expanded Exhausted Concordance of the Bible.

    Anyways, I am sure that someone could say it more eloquently or plainly but that does not fit my style:)

  4. Paul,

    Thanks for your insight.

    You wrote:

    You then list Scripture verses Ephesians 1:3, 7, 13 along with Colossians 1:13, 14. Now would it be wrong to say that all of those verses could be used for limited atonement side since all of them talk of a certain group, rather than all men?

    It really wasn’t my purpose to prove the universal scope of the atonement. What I was trying to do was demonstrate that when we view the atonement as provisional it makes it possible to hold to both a penal satisfaction view of the atonement and an atonement that was made for all.

    Personally, I think the universal scope of the atonement is more obvious in Scripture than the deity of Christ (and I think the deity of Christ is very obvious). The burden of proof rests with those who wish to deny an atonement made for all, since the Scriptures plainly say that he did die for all.

    No one could come to a limited atonement view from just reading the Scriptures IMO. The only way one could come to that conclusion is by presupposing a theological system that demands it. That seems backwards and dangerous to me, and I think any theological system that leads to doctrines which are plainly contradicted by Scripture should be abandoned. That’s why I am not a Calvinist :) But like I said, that was not the purpose of this post.

    Now you also pointed out 1 Timothy 4:10 and doing a quick search of the term Savior there from Strong’s Concordance we see that it is defined here more in line with God, rather than Christ and more in the mode of preserver, rather than eternal salvation.

    I wonder why there are no translations available that say “preserver”? Again, I think that the Father is a Savior in the same sense as the Son. The Father saves mankind through the Son, just as He created the universe through the Son and reveals Himself through the Son. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. There is nothing in the context to suggest Paul means only “preserver”, which is probably why no one translates it that way.

    If you could point me to a single reference by Paul in which He speaks of God as the Savior of man in a sense other than what we would normally conclude, then I think it would help your case some (but still not “make” it). It is a stretch to suggest that this is the only time Paul does that, especially since the only reason someone might say that (as far as I can tell) would be due to an objection of the idea that salvation and atonement are provided for all.

    While we can almost say that any intepretation is “possible”, I think we can safely conclude that the interpretation you are offering is just about as “improbable” as one could get.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. Dan,

    You are far more familiar with Owen than I am, and I can see how any substitution view could be in view. I do think that Owen was especially targeting penal satisfaction as he used the “paid for sin” lingo, which most, if not all, governmental view proponents would quickly object to.

    BTW, I think you are doing a great job with Owen’s “arguments” at your blog!

    God Bless,
    Ben

  6. Dan,

    Sorry, I should have said, “punishment lingo” above.

  7. Ben,

    I have no idea why no translation says preserver, perhaps it is possible for people to see that the word Savior here is different in Greek then when used in other places which would then lead them to see what else it could mean. Now I wonder why Strong’s would have it defined that way if there were no warrant for it? Again, it seems clear that the verse is not referencing Christ, nor eternal salvation. It seems to be saying that while it seems hard to live a godly life we should put our hope and trust in him to preserve us, just as he preserves all things. After all we know that God preserves both man and beast.

    Also, if we take it that Christ is Savior of all men, especially of believers it seems that the condition that you want is not met in the text. You want it to say that Christ is the possible Savior of all men, only though if they believe. That seems like reading into the text. It says that He isthe Savior of all men, especially of believers. At best what can be said is that he saves all men, but he especially saves believers. It seems that is kind of silly to say. For your view to hold on this particular verse you would have to add and subtract words in order to derive your conclusion. It seems much better to render the verse that God is the preserver of all men, especially of believers, who we know doubt would agree are more precious to him.

    Anyways, good luck with your blog and your posts.

  8. Hello Ben,

    I believe that you make a key distinction when you write and add editorial comments to 1 Tim. 4:10:

    “Since the atonement is provisional in Christ we can both affirm that He died for all and that only believers will benefit from this atonement. 1 Tim. 4:10 states this truth very well:

    “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men [provisional], especially of believers [conditional application].””

    The two errors to be avoided are Universalism (i.e., that Jesus died for all so all people’s sins are covered and all will eventually be saved) and Calvinism’ “limited atonement” view (i.e., that God only wants to save some [the elect] so Jesus died only for believers, not for the world). The provision versus application distinction helps to see where the errors are. The error with Universalism is that they are correct that Jesus died for the world (the provision is for the world), but they are incorrect that the atonement will be applied (the application of the atonement) to all. The error with the Calvinists is that they are correct that Jesus’ death only covers the sins of believers (because the atonement is only applied to believers), but they are incorrect that the atonement is not offered and provided for all (they err on the provision of the atonement).

    The “universalistic” passages on the atonement speak to the provision element of the atonement: while the more narrow “particularistic” passages on the atonement speak to the atonement being applied only to believers.

    Dan is doing an excellent job of showing the logical problems with Owen’s arguments. What Owen does, which calvinists are forced to do, is to attempt to set up arguments against “unlimited atonement”.

    What really sinks the calvinist ship in my opinion, is two very conspicuous facts when you look at scripture on the atonement issue.

    First, the “universalistic” passages are very clear and show that Jesus died for the world with respect to the provision of the atonement (more than just those who would eventually come to faith in Christ), not just for those who eventually become believers.

    Second, in regard to the burden of proof, the calvinists have **no** scriptures teaching that Jesus died only for believers. Put another way, for the calvinistic view to be true they would have to show verses that demonstrate exclusion of some people (e.g. a verse that said, say “Jesus did not die for . . .) or restriction of the atonement to only some people (e.g., a verse that said “Jesus died **only** for . . .). That word “only” or words synonymous to it, is completely absent when it comes to the atonement verses. The calvinists are left with verses that speak of who Jesus did die for (including the church, his sheep, his people). But in none of these verses is the language of exclusion or restriction present with respect to the provision of the atonement. If the word “only” were present they would have a case, but that is the missing word in their arguments. So having no bible verses showing exclusion or restriction, they then have to engage in Owen-like arguments. But showing that Jesus died for his own, for his sheep, for the church, is insufficient to show that the provision of the atonement is only for believers. The application is indeed only for believers, but the provision is for the world.

    Ben and the others here, have you folks read Kevin Bauder’s brief (only a couple of pages long) but extremely well written article on the atonement? It is one of the best rational and concise presentations on this subject that I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, I would love to share it with you all, with Ben’s permission.

    Robert

  9. Dear Ben,

    No doubt Owen is a strong advocate of penal satisfaction. So much so that he doesn’t really explain the pecuniary aspect of the atonement, if he held to Christ being a pecuniary at all.

    I think Owen’s argument is just based on the way he understood the atonement. It’s not specifically targeting GT. Owen uses the same structure for any aspect of the atonement that deals with salvation (not just the aspects dealing with substitution). Christ death either redeems or not, it either sanctifies or not… Owen doesn’t see a provisional aspect of the atonement. It’s like an on/off switch.

    The logical outcomes of Owen’s position are:

    1) there can be no justification by faith. Those who Christ died for were justified at 33 AD, not when they come to faith
    2) Christ is unable to save those for whom He did not die (not just that He will not save them, He cannot save them)
    3) Those for whom Christ died were born forgiven.

    Calvinists love to ask: Did Christ’s death make men savable or did it actually save?

    I think the perfect counter question is: Based on what Christ actually did on the cross, can He save everyone?

    God be with you,
    Dan

  10. Paul,

    Strong’s lists “savior” (as in the sense of one who saves spiritually) as well as “preserver” (which also could have reference to spiritual preservation depending on context). The list of passages given which use the word (soter), are overwhelmingly describing spiritual salvation.

    I checked a few lexicons and found support for the interpretation I offered with the exception of Vine’s Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Vine’s lumps 1 Tim. 4:10 in with Luke 1:47; and 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3 and says of all these verses, “(in sense of Preserver, since He gives to all life and breath and all things”), but ignores the contextual implications of “especially of believers” for 1 Tim. 4:10, and the sort of “life” being described in 1 Tim. 4:8.

    The smaller “Kittle” volume says this:

    “…in 1 Tim. 4:10 it is a title [for God]. The general thesis, in opposition to those who contend for a restricted salvation, is that God is the Savior of all, not merely as the Benefactor, but as the Savior whom Christians know and trust. In 1 Tim. 4:10 the meaning might be the broader one of Benefactor (in view of v. 8), but the addition “especially of those who believe” (cf. also 2:3-4) supports the more distinctive sense.”
    [(TDNT, pg. 1139)]

    Robertson seems to also agree when he concludes:

    {Specially of them that believe} (malista pistwn). Making a distinction in the kinds of salvation meant. “While God is potentially Savior of all, He is actually Savior of the pistoi” (White). So Jesus is termed “Savior of the World” (#Joh 4:42). Cf. #Ga 6:10.
    [Robertson’s NT Word Studies (1 Tim. 4:10)]

    So while Robertson and Kittle draw there conclusions based on context, Vine’s seems to largely ignore the context and assume the “Preserver” interpretation.

    While Gordon Fee would probably consider himself Arminian in his theology, it would be hard to find a better authority on Paul then him. He argues that the “saying” that is in view (in verse 9 which leads into verse 10) is the second part of verse 8 which, according to him, should be understood as “the promise of life found in godliness”. He further says concerning the “life” of verse 8:

    “Indeed, it [godliness] has value for all things (better, “in every way”), because it holds promise for life, both the present life and the life to come. (the idea of godliness as holding promise of life is reiterated in Titus 1:2) Here is a clear reference to Paul’s understanding of Christian existence as basically eschatological. Life, which means “eternal life” (see 1:16), has already begun. The life of the future is therefore both a present reality and a hope of life to come.”

    He later concludes his treatment of verse 10:

    For this, the present and future life that godliness promises, we “contest” and strive, because (or “in that”) we have put our hope in the living God, who alone can give life now and to come. Our hope rests in him, because he is the Savior of all men, that is, he would save (give life to) all people, but salvation is in fact effective especially for those who believe. This latter addition makes it clear that the universal scope of salvation argued for so strongly in 2:4-6 is not at the same time an expression of universalism.” [NIBC 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus,104-106]

    I think Fee’s observation with regards to the connection to verse 8 and the “life” being referred to in that verse is the key. If the “life” of verse 8 is the spiritual life that results from godliness, then the idea that “Savior” means only preserver of life in general, in verse 10, is very hard to sustain. God is the potential source of spiritual life for all, while the provision of life is actually experienced only by those who apprehend it through faith and, by extension, godliness.

    So, while in view of the entry in Vine’s my earlier comment, “I think we can safely conclude that the interpretation you are offering is just about as “improbable” as one could get” would appear overstated, I think it is still safe to conclude that the interpretation I offered best fits the context and purpose of Paul’s statement in 1 Tim. 4:10.

    Thanks for forcing me to look closer into this.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. Robert,

    I think your comments are excellent and I agree completely. There are many passages which say exactly what Arminians believe (which is why Arminians believe it), but there is not a single unambiguis passage that could be used to support a limited view of atonement.

    I don’t suppose you have a link to that three page essay?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  12. Dan,You said,

    The logical outcomes of Owen’s position are:
    1) there can be no justification by faith. Those who Christ died for were justified at 33 AD, not when they come to faith
    2) Christ is unable to save those for whom He did not die (not just that He will not save them, He cannot save them)
    3) Those for whom Christ died were born forgiven.

    I think you are spot on. These were exactly some of the “dilemmas” I was going to bring up in Part 2. I don’t see how these conclusions can be avoided unless the Calvinist admits a provisional aspect to the atonement. The moment one does that, the door is wide open for the Arminian view.

  13. Should be “moment” and “unambiguous” above. I need to proof read better.

  14. Ben,

    Thank you for your reply and for your research into this. It gives me encouragement to think that my view has been proposed before by far greater men than me. I will have to humbly reject your view of this particular verse and I hope to give some more thought on why. What I see happening in verse 8 is Paul telling them that godliness has value in all things and believers are blessed beyond measure in that they are blessed not only in this life, but the life to come. Notice how he transitions in verse 9 to elaborate further on what he just said by writing what he did in verse 10. He starts off verse 10 by saying that it is for this that they labor and strive, because you could take what he said in verse 8 to think that believers should live a charmed life, but he corrects any hint of that here by reminding them that while it appears that believers are sometimes the most hated and suffer the most in this life that they should not look to the outward appearance to judge such things. This would tie in beautifully with the beginning of verse 8 where he tells them that bodily discipline is only of little profit. He tells them why they should view it this way when he reminds them that they have put their hope in the living God.

    I do not think that eternal salvation or atonement is referenced here at all. In fact I ask anyone to judge what does more injury to the text; saying it they way you seem to be

    he would save all people, but only if they believe or saying it this way

    who is the preserver of all men, especially of believers

    It seems clear to me that the latter does the least injury to the text and fits the context better. Again, for your interpretation to hold one must add and/or subtract words and bring all kinds of presuppositions into the text. As for the universal scope of salvation argued for so strongly in 2:4-6, I do not see it, but that is not what we are discussing so I will not go into it. I thank you for letting us flesh this out a bit and while we will probably still differ on this I thank you for your work and time.

  15. Great post!

    I was wondering, maybe you could take a quick break from the Calvinist/Arminian debate once in a while and tackle some other issues. One thing I’d be interested in is the issue of alcohol consumption and different views concerning what Scripture has to say about it.

    Thanks!

  16. My Strong’s Concordance says that Saviour can mean a savior, deliverer, preserver and that in 1 Tim. 4:10 it is used of God in the sense of “preserver”, since He gives “to all life and breath and all things”.

    It seems that we have Strong and Vine that see it as Paul has described it here. Now I have never seen it presented that way, but that does not mean that it is wrong. No matter what, thank both of you for this thought provoking discussion.

  17. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for your information on the 1 Timothy 4:10 verse. You concluded with:

    “So, while in view of the entry in Vine’s my earlier comment, “I think we can safely conclude that the interpretation you are offering is just about as “improbable” as one could get” would appear overstated, I think it is still safe to conclude that the interpretation I offered best fits the context and purpose of Paul’s statement in 1 Tim. 4:10.”

    One of the big reasons for me that calvinism ought to be rejected is how, as with the 1 Tim. 4:10 verse, they have to do eisegetical gymnastics to get around rather clear and plain scripture verses. This is most clearly seen when they deal with words including “Savior” and “World.” They strenuously try to make “Savior” mean not Savior, but “preserver” or some other mistaken notion. And “World” according to them, does not refer to the whole world of men, but to the “elect” or to all “kinds of people in the world”, “all men without distinction,” etc. They can be quite ingenious in these eisegetical attempts. Their whole “interpretive” efforts are aimed at preserving and defending a system of exhaustive determinism. So the system determines the meaning of scripture rather than proper exegesis. Though the scripture plainly and clearly teaches that God loves the world and provides Jesus as a Savior for the whole world. And though most Christians for most of church history have had no difficulty seeing this, nevertheless, those who desire to hold to determinism, will reject the plain and clear meanings of scripture, in favor of their attempts to argue alternative interpretations where “Savior” no longer means Savior and “World” no longer refers to the whole world.

    Robert

    PS – here for everyone’s enjoyment and profit is Kevin Bauder’s paper. One of the best, most rational, and well stated discussions of the atonement that I have ever seen. Every theological presentation should be like this! :-)

    The Logic of Limited Atonement

    One regularly hears the argument that Limited Atonement stands or falls with the other four points of Calvinism. Both Calvinists and anti-Calvinists attempt to use this argument to demonstrate the inconsistency of holding Unconditional Election while denying Limited Atonement. The argument purports to be strictly logical. The Calvinist argues that Christ would not die for someone whom He did not intend to save. The anti-Calvinist finds it incredible that Christ would fail to elect someone for whom His blood was shed. Both sides allege that holding only four points of Calvinism is logically impossible.

    This argument rests upon both a logical and a theological confusion. The theological confusion lies in the failure distinguish the provision of salvation from the application of salvation. The distinction between provision and application is crucial to biblical soteriology, even if Limited Atonement is true. Salvation is not automatically applied to anyone for whom Christ provided it. The New Testament is clear on this point. Prior to their conversion, even the elect are dead in trespasses and sins. Until they believe they remain children of wrath. Therefore, everyone for whom salvation has been provided must still believe on Christ before it will be applied. Sola fide remains the maxim of justification.

    Everyone except the universalists recognizes that the atonement is limited in its application. The question is whether God intended to limit the atonement in its provision. One cannot answer this by appealing to evidence for limited application. Even if one recognizes (as Calvinists do) that part of God’s intention through the death of Christ was to secure the application of salvation to the elect, such belief still does not reveal for whom God intended to provide salvation.
    This exposes the logical confusion in the argument for Limited Atonement. That argument is that the affirmation of Unconditional Election is strictly incompatible with the rejection of Limited Atonement. Such a contradiction, however, is entirely illusory. This will become evident if the argument is reduced to clear, molecular statements. Limited Atonement includes both an affirmation and a denial. It affirms that God intended both to provide salvation for the elect and to apply it to them. It denies that God intended to provide salvation for the non-elect. This denial is what really defines Limited Atonement. Therefore, the Limited Atonement theory can be summarized in the following molecular statement.

    Proposition One:
    Some persons are not persons for whom Christ intended to secure the provision of salvation.

    Those who reject Limited Atonement do not object to what it affirms, namely, that Christ died to provide salvation for the elect. The question is about the status of the non-elect: did Christ intend to provide salvation for them, or did He not? At this point, those who reject Limited Atonement answer with an affirmative. Christ did indeed intend to provide salvation for all people. This theory of a General Atonement can be expressed in the following molecular statement.

    Proposition Two:
    All persons are persons for whom Christ intended to secure the provision of salvation.

    Proposition One and Proposition Two directly contradict each other. Exactly one statement must be true and one must be false. To affirm both at the same time is a logical impossibility. One cannot hold to Limited Atonement and General Atonement simultaneously. You may ask, But what about Unconditional Election?

    Unconditional Election is the teaching that God, in eternity past, chose certain persons to be saved for reasons not grounded in any foreseen merit or action on their part. According to Unconditional Election, God always planned to apply salvation to the elect, whom He chose for reasons sufficient to Himself. The strongest form of Unconditional Election states that one purpose of Christ’s work was actually to secure the application of salvation to the elect. This teaching could be expressed in logical form in the following molecular statement.

    Proposition Three:
    Some persons are persons for whom Christ intended to secure the application of salvation.

    Proposition Three is not incompatible with either Proposition One or Proposition Two for the simple reason that its predicate contains a different term. In the first two propositions, the predicate is about those for whom Christ intended to provide salvation. In the third proposition, the predicate is about those to whom Christ intended to apply salvation. In other words, Unconditional Election is logically compatible with either Limited Atonement or General Atonement. The vaunted argument from logical consistency turns out to be a mirage.

    In fact, it is not an argument based upon logic at all. It is an argument based upon plausibility. The statement that Christ would not die for someone whom He did not intend to save is really not a statement about Christ. It is a statement about what the speaker would do if he were in Christ’s place. The same is true of the statement that Christ would not fail to elect someone for whom He shed His blood. Such arguments sound reasonable and they seem persuasive. Upon examination, however, their persuasiveness is found to be psychological rather than logical. They are speculations about how God would handle Himself if He were altogether such an One as us.

    Limited Atonement may or may not be true. If it is true, however, its truth cannot be established by the “Appeal to Logical Consistency.” The truth of Limited Atonement (if it be true) must be founded upon the statements of Scripture. The strongest case for Limited Atonement would be made if its proponents could offer specific biblical texts that named particular individuals or groups for whom Christ did not die to provide salvation. Barring such evidence, the best that can be said for Limited Atonement is that it remains in doubt.

  18. Robert,

    Thank you fro providing that information, even though I had the honor of reading it before on another forum I thank God that he has seen fit to have me read it again.

    I would like to address your statement that ”… as with the 1 Tim. 4:10 verse, they have to do eisegetical gymnastics…” now I will not assume that you are referring to me in this instance seeing as I have not “strenuously” tried to make the word say something that it is not. In fact all I have done is seen that the verse does not reference Jesus, but God and that Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance states that the term saviour in this particular verse means “preserver”. It appears that Ben and Anonymous have stated that it is also interpreted that way in Vine’s, but I do not have access to that source so I will take their word for it. If you knew me then you would know that my body, for that matter even my mind, is not conducive for gymnastics of any sort. That being said I have no shame in stating that the verse does not reference atonement or eternal salvation, it seems that you disagree with me on that. Now Ben has stated previously that there are many verses that show the universality of the atonement and that may very well be true, but it would appear that this verse cannot be used by either side to claim one thing or another.

    Being of simple mind I tend to view it rather simply, in that when I look at the verse and reads like this in my Bible:
    … who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
    Now I can take that simple verse to read this way:
    … who is the possible Savior of all men, but salvation is effective only for believers.
    Or I could take the verse and read it this way:
    … who is the Preserver of all men, especially of believers.

    My simple mind tends to gravitate to the latter, but I could just be deluding myself. I will pray that the Spirit will guide me and that I not stumble over simple things, but that I submit myself to Him and throw myself at the mercy of the cross. Thank you again for pasting Kevin Bauder’s paper.

  19. Paul,

    You are quite right that we will probably just have to agree to disagree on this, but I want to address some of the things you said.

    What I see happening in verse 8 is Paul telling them that godliness has value in all things and believers are blessed beyond measure in that they are blessed not only in this life, but the life to come.

    I understand that this is what you see, but that is not what Paul is addressing in the context. He is speaking of the benefits of training oneself in godliness. While physical training may benefit our flesh and temporal existence, training in godliness benefits our spiritual life and gives us the hope of salvation. The “life” of verse 8 as relates to godliness is spiritual life, as Fee demonstrated, and this is very important for understanding verse 10.

    Notice how he transitions in verse 9 to elaborate further on what he just said by writing what he did in verse 10. He starts off verse 10 by saying that it is for this that they labor and strive, because you could take what he said in verse 8 to think that believers should live a charmed life, but he corrects any hint of that here by reminding them that while it appears that believers are sometimes the most hated and suffer the most in this life that they should not look to the outward appearance to judge such things.

    I have no idea where you are getting the idea that Paul is addressing believers who might falsely assume that they should live a charmed life, and that they should not be surprised that they are suffering and hated and should not look at outward appearances, etc. Again, Paul is speaking of the necessity and benefits of disciplining oneself in the practice of godliness. Such training is a safeguard against false teachers and false doctrine. Chapter 4 is about persevering in faith through diligence in godliness, and continuance in right doctrine, for the purpose of attaining salvation. Paul is nowhere, as far as I can tell, addressing the suffering of believers and makes no mention of them being hated by the world. Maybe I missed something, but it seems that you are reading these ideas into the text to bolster your interpretation of verse 10.

    This would tie in beautifully with the beginning of verse 8 where he tells them that bodily discipline is only of little profit.

    It might if we could find such concepts in the text. He is, rather, contrasting the temporal benefits of physical training with the eternal benefits of spiritual training in godliness and right doctrine. Such training in godliness results in salvation for those who persevere in it. Salvation is in focus throughout the chapter, which is why I find your following statements to be particularly strange:

    I do not think that eternal salvation or atonement is referenced here at all.

    I agree that there is no mention of the atonement in this passage. However, Paul is speaking of God as “Savior”, and God saves through Christ and His atonement. Salvation is certainly in view throughout the chapter.

    In fact I ask anyone to judge what does more injury to the text; saying I they way you seem to be

    he would save all people, but only if they believe or saying it this way

    who is the preserver of all men, especially of believers

    Of course I do not think that my interpretation does “injury” to the text. I am trying to understand the text based on the context, which you seem to have missed or at least misunderstood. Since God is the Savior of all men, we can know that He is on our side and that our efforts are not in vain. God’s desire to save all encourages us and reminds us that we can always trust that His intentions are to lead us to salvation. If we take a limited view of salvation [that God only desires to save “some” and has only made provision for “some”] we can never be sure of God’s favor, for we cannot be certain that we are among those “elect” few whom alone God has purposed to save, until we endure in the faith to the end. It is God’s desire to grant eternal life to all, but only those who believe will receive the life that God has secured in Christ. God’s saving intentions for all gives special encouragement and confidence to those who have trusted in Him.

    Your interpretation forces us to see “preserver” in two different senses. “All men” are preserved with temporal existence, while “believers” are preserved with eternal life (if we want to connect this with the “life” described in verse 8 as we seem to agree is the “trustworthy saying”). My interpretation has us seeing “Savior” in two different senses. God is Savior of “all men” in terms of provision [i.e. the source of salvation for all], while only believers benefit from this provision of salvation. It is no different than saying Christ is “the Savior of the world”, as Robertson points out above.

    Both of us must understand “Savior” in two different senses, whether we want the word to be rendered “Preserver” or “Savior”, so I fail to see how my interpretation does more “injury” to the text than yours, especially considering the context of the chapter.

    There is more that could be said on this, but I am out of time for today.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. Paul,

    You wrote:

    ”I would like to address your statement that ”… as with the 1 Tim. 4:10 verse, they have to do eisegetical gymnastics…” now I will not assume that you are referring to me in this instance seeing as I have not “strenuously” tried to make the word say something that it is not.” In fact all I have done is seen that the verse does not reference Jesus, but God and that Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance states that the term saviour in this particular verse means “preserver”.”

    The phrase “eisegetical gymnastics” means when someone, usually because they have an “axe to grind” (some mistaken system or group’s theology, etc. etc.) rather than taking the text in its plain and simple meaning, intentionally **reads in** (eisegete means to “read into”, as opposed to exegesis which means to “read from” or “read out from”) some meaning that fits their preferred view (the view which they came to the text with and want the text to say), rather than taking the text’s intended meaning.

    Non-christian cults often do this (and unfortunately sometimes Christians engage in this process as well) so they are able to “escape” the meaning of a text and hold onto their false views. Another indication of “eisegetical gymnastics” occurring is that the person’s proposed “interpretation” either does not fit the text very well or nearby texts that are discussing the same thing.

    In 1 Tim. 4:10 Paul writes: “who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” In the same letter, just a couple chapters earlier, Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 2:3: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I would suggest that “Savior” in both of these verses has the same meaning (i.e., it speaks of God as being the one who saves, delivers, rescues people). In 1 Tim. 2:4 the phrase is explained a bit more with the phrase “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So in 2:4 it clearly is connected with what we normally call salvation. “Savior” in 2:3-4 does not mean “preserver.” It seems better to take it to have the same meaning in both 2:4 and 4:10. “Preserver” does not fit 2:3-4 (it would then state in 2:3-4 – “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our preserver, who desires all men to be preserved [taking sodzo as preserved rather than saved]] and to come to the knowledge of the truth”).

    “Preserver” also does not fit 4:10: if you are going to claim that God is the “preserver of all men, **especially** of believers” that does not make sense. Believers face trials and temptations just as other people do. The promise of working all things together for good (Rom. 8:28) applies only to believers, not unbelievers. If God preserves all men in what way does he preserve believers “especially”? Perhaps in the United States believers have it easy, but in other places (e.g., Muslim countries) believers are less “preserved” and more attacked then the general population. So your suggested meaning for 4:10 of “preserver” does not fit that verse. And it makes no sense of 2:3-4 either.

    Incidentally, the Greek noun “Soter” or “Savior” was often used of Caesars who were believed to be both divine and the ones who would save their people. Paul is using a common Greek term often applied to Caesars and taking the term and applying it to the God of the bible. What got the early Christians in trouble in the Roman Empire was not that they were religious and worshipped God: but that instead of saying that “Caesar is Lord, Caesar is Savior,” they claimed that “Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Savior.”

    An important principle in interpreting the bible is to compare scripture with scripture, especially when similar words or concepts are being discussed. Paul’s statement in 4:10 is not stated in a vacuum, but occurs just two chapters and in the same book as what Paul says in 2:3-4. If we compare 2:3-4 and 4:10 as we should, it makes better sense to take “Savior” as having the same meaning in both texts, not “preserver”, but the one who saves, delivers, or rescues.
    Sometimes when preaching in an evangelistic setting when I come across the word “Savior” I will talk about that the word is a noun referring to a person who saves: and ask “saves from what?” Then I will talk about being **saved** from the penalty of sin and the wrath of God against sin. Taking “Savior” to mean “preserver” makes no sense in this context as well.

    ”Being of simple mind I tend to view it rather simply,”

    Paul why don’t you take the meaning of “Savior” in 2:3-4 (where it clearly refers to rescue/deliverance/saving from the penalty of sin and God’s wrath), and allow it to simply mean the same thing just two chapters over in 4:10?

    Robert

  21. Ben & Robert,

    It seems that my poor writing skills/communication skills have muddied the waters a bit, so I will try to simplify what I believe to be the main point that I would like to make. If, Lord willing, I am able to articulate my points about the overall context I will post it for your review.

    What we have are these possibilities, if there are more please feel free to add.

    …who is the [“Deliverer”/”Preserver”] of all men, [‘especially’/’chiefly’/’most of all’/’above all’] of those that believe.

    It is my contention that if one were to use the word “Deliverer” here it would have to be taken universally since there is nothing in the verse or context that puts a condition/restriction on it.

    The best that you could say, and the only thing that the context would let you say, is that He is the Savior of all, especially/chiefly/most of all of those that believe; notice that the text says that he IS this for all men. The verse and the context will not let us limit or put a condition on it and we can not change the word is to be may/could/possible/any other thing that would make it easier for us to read into the text what we want it to say. I have not seen either Ben or Robert address this issue in anything that they have written. Now unless one or both of you subscribe to universalism then the best rendering of the text would be to use what Strong and Vine have used for translating it as “Preserver”.

    As for both of us understanding it in two different senses, I feel that your view brings along a great deal of baggage. While I agree even my view has two different senses I feel that it requires less “eisegetical gymnastics” than your proposed interpretation:)

  22. Paul,

    Ben’s view doesn’t really require any gymnastics, as that sort of idiom is used sometimes scripture. For instance, God is called the God of all flesh,

    Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27)

    Yet He is in a stronger sense to those who obey Him,

    Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people…. (Jeremiah 7:23)

    So Christ can be the ‘Savior of all men’ in that He died for all men, but especially to those who believe because His death profits them eternal life.

  23. I will answer Robert’s question to me when he asked why I do not see it as Deliverer here in this verse. I hope that the Lord will let me state it simply and honestly as I see it and that my feebleness in mind will not show as much as it normally does.

    The reason I can not see it as Deliverer here is because I believe that this is the Word of God and that it can not contradict itself, but also that it will be plain and simple without requiring any reading into the text to understand its meaning. If the term Preserver cannot be used here to define saviour because that is not how it is usually defined in the NT, then where can we use preserver when the text says saviour? I have shown that if deliverer is used here that it would have to mean universalism and that would contradict other parts of Scripture. So how can we best render that verse without reading into it or adding a meaning to it that is not there, in my opinion it is to render it as Preserver. Now it appears that the compilers of Strong’s and Vine’s concordances and dictionaries define it in those terms as well for this particular verse. These men that put that together are far smarter and godlier than I am so I will take their informed, well educated word that the best rendering here is Preserver.

    J.C.,

    Again, you have not shown how that is possible in this text/context. Also, notice that you added in a great deal of extra meaning and added words that are not present in the text. Now I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that if the Apostle wanted us to understand it as you would then it would have been simple to say/write it that way. Notice though that the Scripture tell us that God is preserver of all men and beasts, and that believers are the apple of God’s eye.

    I will stick with preserver here, not because of some devotion to some theological ideology, but rather because it is what is the most plain and agreeable with the text.

  24. Hey Paul,

    It seems that we could really go on and on with this so I will try to make these my last comments concerning this passage. You are welcome to continue discussing it with Robert or anyone else.

    You wrote:

    It seems that my poor writing skills/communication skills have muddied the waters a bit, so I will try to simplify what I believe to be the main point that I would like to make. If, Lord willing, I am able to articulate my points about the overall context I will post it for your review.

    I feel like I have also done a poor job of explaining myself. I think that I did not do well to say that “Savior” is used in two different senses in my interpretation. That was a misleading way of putting it. God is the same Savior to men whether they believe or not. He is not a different sort of Savior to believers, but believers alone experience the salvation of the God. Your interpretation, however, does cause us to see God as a “Preserver” in two different ways. He is a “Preserver” of all men in one way (temporal existence), and “Preserver” of believers in another way (eternal life). This is, again, based on the connection with the “trustworthy saying” of verse 8, which speaks of the spiritual life that results from training in godliness.

    What we have are these possibilities, if there are more please feel free to add.

    …who is the [“Deliverer”/”Preserver”] of all men, [‘especially’/’chiefly’/’most of all’/’above all’] of those that believe.

    Can you see that above we are forced to understand “Preserver” in a very different way in both instances? If he preserves men with temporal life in the first clause, then we should understand the second clause as, “He especially preserves believers with temporal life”. While verse 10 says nothing about “life” we are forced to understand this preservation in the context of the trustworthy saying of verse 8 as discussed above. The problem is that the trustworthy saying of verse 8 has only to do with the spiritual [eternal] life which results from training in godliness. So the “Preserver” interpretation in light of verse 8, would force us to see this preservation as spiritual life in both clauses, which would make the distinction, “especially of believers” nonsensical.

    It is my contention that if one were to use the word “Deliverer” here it would have to be taken universally since there is nothing in the verse or context that puts a condition/restriction on it.

    The best that you could say, and the only thing that the context would let you say, is that He is the Savior of all, especially/chiefly/most of all of those that believe; notice that the text says that he IS this for all men. The verse and the context will not let us limit or put a condition on it and we can not change the word is to be may/could/possible/any other thing that would make it easier for us to read into the text what we want it to say. I have not seen either Ben or Robert address this issue in anything that they have written. Now unless one or both of you subscribe to universalism then the best rendering of the text would be to use what Strong and Vine have used for translating it as “Preserver”.

    Your hang up seems to be with the fact that the text says “is Savior”, rather than “is potential Savior” or something to that effect. I understand the objection but I don’t think it holds much weight. It is no different than when John the Baptist says that Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, or when, as Robertson points out, Jesus is called the Savior of the world (Jn. 4:42; cf. Gal. 6:10), or nearer to the context, when Paul says it is a trustworthy saying that “Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am worst” (1 Tim. 1:15). Paul has confidence that Christ came to save him, because he knows that Christ came to save sinners. Since Paul is a “sinner”, there can be no doubt that Christ came into the world to save him. We would be wrong, however, to conclude from this that all sinners will be saved, even though there is nothing in the text that explicitly says otherwise. This is the same reason, I believe, that Paul first mentions in verse 10 that God is the “Savior of all men” as I mentioned before. All men can be encouraged that God wants them to be saved (e.g. 1 Tim. 2:3-6), which gives supreme confidence to those who are believers, that their hope is not in vain.

    Joseph Sutcliffe expresses this well:

    “Therefore, for the hope of obtaining the promise of the present life, and also of that which is to come, we both labour and suffer reproach. We likewise continue in those labours, and support those conflicts, because we trust in the living God, who is, swthr, the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe. The term Conserver of all men, does not fully express the apostle’s meaning; “for unless a man believe that God willeth all men to be saved,” says Theophylact, “how should he sustain all those conflicts for their salvation? Timothy is excited here to endure sufferings, and not relax in duty, nor seek help in afflictions from any other source, but hope in him who ever lives, and who is the only Saviour.” [Commentary on 1 Timothy]

    I know that you have said that you do not see a universal aspect in 1 Tim. 2:3-6, but I find it very relevant to the passage in question in many ways. We again see the title “Savior” being applied to God (vs.3). We also see that God desires all men to be saved (vs. 4). We see that God saves through the mediation of Christ who died for “all” (vs. 6 [i.e. made provision for all to be saved]). The context has to do with the ministry of prayer for all people. The context of 4:10 has to do with the ministry of training in godliness and sound doctrine. The purpose of speaking of God desiring all to be saved and calling Him the “Savior of all men” is the same. In 2:3-6 the idea is that no one should be excluded from our prayers, since God has not excluded anyone from the provision of His salvation through Christ. In 4:10, no one should think it vain to train oneself and others in godliness, since God is the Savior of all men, especially of believers (those who are trusting in His promises and striving and laboring for Him, knowing their efforts are in line with God’s desires as Savior of all men).

    These passages compliment each other and help us to understand that God has made provision for all while only believers will benefit from that provision. The attempts to limit the universal scope of 1 Tim. 2:3-6 are, in my opinion, some of the plainest examples of “eisegetical gymnastics” that one could find.

    As for both of us understanding it in two different senses, I feel that your view brings along a great deal of baggage. While I agree even my view has two different senses I feel that it requires less “eisegetical gymnastics” than your proposed interpretation:)

    We will have to agree to disagree I guess.

    I want to finish by addressing the suggested rendering of Vine’s and Strong’s that you feel bolsters your interpretation. While I respect Vine’s and Strong’s, the fact remains that context must control the interpretation. It should also be mentioned that Robertson, and the TDNT especially, carry much more scholarly weight than Vine’s or Strong’s. I especially think their view is more acceptable due to their attention to immediate context (and we could add Fee, a first class scholar of the Pauline corpus, to the list). Vine’s and Strong’s both base their preferred rendering on “for he gives life and breath to all things”. This phrase has nothing to do, however, with the context of 1 Tim. 4:10. This phrase is found in 1 Tim. 6:13 and has no connection with soter (savior/preserver). This is a red flag for me and strongly suggests that the suggested rendering of Vine’s and Strong’s should be rejected in favor of the view I have proposed which is supported by the TDNT (as well as Fee and Robertson) based on the immediate context of the passage.

    You will likely still disagree, but I hope that this will help you understand why I reject your interpretation. I have enjoyed the interaction and thoughtful comments. I hope you will feel free to share your views here in the future.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  25. Again, you have not shown how that is possible in this text/context.

    For starters, there was no ‘again,’ that was my first post on this thread. Secondly, I was demonstrating the use of such idiom in general, if by way of proof you’re expecting a big neon sign attached to the passages in question saying “look, I’m the same kind of idiom,” you’re out of luck.

  26. [...] April 22, 2008 by kangaroodort I noticed on my blog-stats that a visitor had checked out my post Provisional Atonement Part 1: Dealing With John Owen’s Arminian Dilemma.  Upon looking at the post I noticed that much of it was unreadable.  Something apparently [...]

  27. [...] Dan Phillips posted on Karate Exegesis, using 1 John 2:2 as an example, trying to use the old John Owen Trilemma argument to make his point.  He was then body slammed through the mat (in his meta) by what appears to be [...]

  28. [...] atonement which are found only “in Him” (Eph. 1:3, 7; Col. 1:13, 14, 20-23; 1 Cor. 1:30; see Part 1 for more on this), we can even fully affirm those texts that Calvinists hold up in defense of [...]

  29. The thrust of the problem with Owen’s arguement is that an unbeliever does not go to hell for their unbelief. They are punished for all of their sins. When a person comes to faith, they are forgiven for all of their sins. Unbelief affords no special punishment, but provision of the atonement comes only by way of Jesus Christ.

  30. jcfreak,

    I am going to have to disagree with you on this point since I think many passages of Scripture locate condemnation on the basis of unbelief (as pointed out in Part 3). It is true that our sins send us to hell, but so does our unbelief.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  31. Hello all. good post and good points.

    John 16,7-15 is Jesus describing the work of the Holy Spirit in the world and in the Believer. Jesus explicitly states that the Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and Judgement, with sin “because they do not believe in me” (v. 9) In verse 13, the role of the Spirit changes to that of Guide to all truth for those who DO believe. In essence, Jesus’ death “consolidates” all sins into one specific sin: unbelief.

    My apologies if the following appears somewhat abstract, but Owen, and I fear Roo, have committed a category error: unbelief is not a sin like all other sins, but is THE meta-sin: the sin from which all other sins spring. Take every sin done by man, with the exception of Unbelief, and you can trace the reason for them committing that sin back to them disbelieving something God said, even extending to things that have nothing to do with salvation: Abram’s faith was reckoned to him for rightenousness, not because he believed in jesus Christ or believed to be saved, but because he believed what God said concerning him having a son.

    So NO. Jesus Christ did NOT die for the sin of unbelief, because unbelief is the only sin left AFTER he died for all the others that the Holy spirit convicts people about. Consistently, throughout the scriptures both old and new, God is shown as forgiving all sorts of sins when people confessed them to Him and forsook them as best they could, but He NEVER forgave active unbelief persistently held in the face of providence. Those same scriptures equally show a God eagerly looking to and fo throughout the earth for someone wiling to BELIEVE IN HIM and what He could do for them.

    To me, to confuse the sin of unbelief with all other sins is on the same level of confusion as asserting that faith is a work.

  32. Gerald,

    I understand where you are coming from and I think you would do well to read Part 3 in this series where I get more into the unique issue of unbelief. However, I do not think I fully agree with you here. I do believe that unbelief is fundamental as you mention and that faith/unbelief is the watershed issue in the NT. The problem I see is that all prior sin is forgiven at the point of putting faith in Christ. If unbelief is a sin, then prior unbelief is also atoned for at that point (and not before). At the point of faith, Christ forgives all of our past sins (2 Peter 1:9), which must include our past unbelief, which you admit yourself is indeed sin. This forgiveness, based on Christ’s atoning work, is applied only through faith. It is only as long as one believes and remains in Christ that one receives forgiveness.

    So please understand that I am not saying that one is forgiven of unbelief or that one’s unbelief is atoned for while one is still an unbeliever. That would run contrary to the nature of the atonement that I have labored to define in this post, an atonement that is provisional in Christ and applied on the condition of faith union with Christ. If Christ’s death did not make provision for the forgiveness of unbelief, then even coming to faith in Christ cannot solve the problem of our prior sin of unbelief. Hope that makes sense.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  33. then prior unbelief is also atoned for at that point (and not before). At the point of faith, Christ forgives all of our past sins (2 Peter 1:9), which must include our past unbelief,

    If Christ’s death did not make provision for the forgiveness of unbelief, then even coming to faith in Christ cannot solve the problem of our prior sin of unbelief. Hope that makes sense.

    Sorry, it does not, because you yourself is are not being consistent with your own usage of the word “prior” when it comes to unbelief. I never saw the adjective in Owen”s argument, and it is patently obvious that the Universalists deny that ANY distinction exists between “present” and “prior” belief.

    IF we are to make distinctions of this sort post-argumentum, then I totally agree that unbelief is a sin that has past and present components, and that Jesus’ death atones for the sins that are past, including past unbelief. I will even go further and say that it will atone for current sins. The problem, of course, is that such atonement is based on belief in Jesus as the one whose death atones for such sins. Therein lies the distinction of MY argument.

    Please allow me to treat this a bit mathematically. Take the statement “I believe that only the death of Jesus Christ atones for the sin of X”, and generate a set of all X, where X is a sin, such that the statement is true. I assert that {{SIN}-{X}} (the set of all sins for which the statement is false) has only ONE member: that of X being “not believing that the death of jesus christ atones for my sins”. This X is NOT the same as “noy previously believing that the death of Jesus Christ atones for my sins.” Universalists believe that the set of ~{X} is null, asserting that even current unbelief is forgiven.

    Do not think that we are wrestling with a variant of Zeno’s paradox, which was only a paradox because of a false notion of time that can be resolved by adding a temporal distinction (“past” versus “current”). Rather, this is a very firm evocation of Epimenides’s paradox, where one value of the set of all sins actually contradicts the selection premise, and was obtained via Godelization of that premise.

    Now, I do NOT believe that we are contradicting or disagreeing with each other, for you appear to be agreeing with me that “current” unbelief is a special case, and if you suspected that but couldn’t make the distinction plain, then you are free to simplify my argument and use it, for I certainly don’t have a patent or copyright on Godel’s incompleteness theorem. One of the problems is that, while there exists a word pair (believe/believed) that captures the distinction of currently believing versus having previously believed but ceased to believe, there is not a word pair that captures the same distinction in the negative (unbelief/unbelieved). You’re going to need to make some very sharp distinctions to ensure your part 3 is not misconstrued.

    Obviously, I am looking forward to it.

  34. urk. I meant to say “…and it is patently obvious that the Universalists deny that ANY distinction exists between “present” and “prior” unbelief.”

  35. urk. I meant to say ‘..between “present” and “prior” unbelief.’

  36. Gerald,

    To be honest, I am having a hard time following your argument. It seems to me that you are complicating a very simple point that I was making in my post, a point which undermines Owen’s appeal to Arminianism leading to universalism. I think my point works just fine to refute Owen’s argument. I respect your right to disagree and take a different approach. One thing we agree on is that Owen’s argument fails. Maybe we should just leave it at that.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  37. Sorry! I tend to have that effect on people! 8P

    I would say that the argument is multiply flawed and we concentrated on different flaws. Our interactive discussion certainly helped me sharpen my argument. I can certainly see how I can tweak it to make Steve Hays look like a buffoon, so that’s gotta be a plus, right?

  38. I’m having trouble seeing how the response provided in this article is an adequate answer to Owen. Owen says Jesus, in his suffering and death in my room and stead, either underwent exactly my punishment for and exactly propitiated God’s wrath against each and every one of the personal, individual sins of absolutely all people without exception, or he did so only for his elect.

    If he did so for all without exception, then the exact punishment for exactly their sins was rendered and was accomplished, not just provided in a contingent, hypothetical way. Their specific sins were fully, totally, and completely atoned for, their specific guilt was expiated, and God’s wrath against them personally and individually was propitiated. That being the case, justice was really and totally satisfied for them. Therefore, according to Owen, Jesus has fully and sufficiently answered for their personal and individual sins in their place, so they cannot justly be required to answer for those exact same sins.

    So then, a man’s unbelief could not prevent him from salvation since his own unbelief was one of those sins that Jesus already answered for. Therefore, everyone would have to be saved if Jesus substituted in that fashion for absolutely all people without exception. Since the Bible says Jesus did substitute in that fashion, it must follow that he did so for all the sins of some men. That is Owen’s argument as I understand it.

    But how, then, is it an answer to Owen to say, “If we continue in unbelief, we cannot benefit from the forgiveness that is in Christ alone, and will therefore suffer condemnation”? Jesus already answered for that unbelief. It doesn’t answer the objection. Owen would read this and just repeat himself until the implication became clear.

    What has happened in this post is that strict, one-for-one, penal substitution was modified to penal representation. Jesus didn’t take my place specifically, personally, and individually, answering for the exact sins that I myself will ever commit, such that I was really crucified with Christ when he was crucified; rather, Jesus represented all sinners universally on his cross, enduring an archetypal penal suffering and death, and accomplishing an abstract, non-specific, provisional atonement and redemption. This archetypal, penal representation hovers in abstract contingency, and it is substituted for and counted as the specific punishment of the individual sinner only on the condition of repentance and faith.

    This penal representation is actually more in line with the Governmental Theory, and is not, properly speaking, penal substitution. Penal substitutionary atonement is strict, one-to-one, legal satisfaction. The answer of this post is little more than a modification of an aspect of the Governmental position approximating penal substitution, but not yet arriving to it.

  39. Wesley,

    Not sure if you are defending Owen or not, but if you are then would you say that the elect are born saved? I don’t see how you avoid that conclusion if even their unbelief was atoned for at the cross.

    Also, the position I am defending is certainly penal satisfaction and it is certainly substitutionary. Christ paid the penalty of sin for us (death) in our place, but He did so provisionally and not unconditionally. That is the main difference here. As for one-to-one, there is no Biblical reason to accept such an equation, but for the one who comes to be in union with Christ and the atonement (satisfaction) found in Him alone, every one of his sins is then expiated by the provision of atonement found in Christ. As I put it in Part 3,

    “Since Christ (and the satisfaction that resides in Him through His death) is available for all we can truly say that Christ’s death was specifically for the sins of the church (His body) and yet fully affirm that anyone can benefit from that death and atonement by becoming a part of Christ’s body through faith (which God makes possible for all who hear the gospel, as demonstrated above), at which point the death of Christ, and God’s satisfaction with that death, is imputed to the believer so that God’s wrath towards that individual is fully averted.”

    So it is one-to-one. It is Christ’s death in place of ours (which is the penalty for all sin, Rom. 6:23), but we come to benefit from that death only through union with Christ (Eph. 1:7-13). When we are joined to Christ through faith, His death becomes our death and His life becomes our life (Rom. 6:3-5).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  40. Ben,

    When does Jesus substitute for me personally as an individual? When he goes to the cross and dies, or when I repent and believe the gospel?

    If Jesus actually substitutes for me personally when he goes to the cross and dies, then penal satisfaction was accomplished then and there. Redemption was purchased along with the guaranteed grace of the effectual application of that redemption in due time to the elect. So for a time, all those elect for whom Jesus interceded on the cross are, when they are brought forth into the world, enemies of God, born condemned in sin, and objects of divine wrath.

    How is this possible? It’s kind of like Paul says with respect to the nation of Israel in Romans 11:28, “As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” So it is possible to be both elect and an enemy of God at the same time. I know this text isn’t an exact parallel to my point, but it is the closest illustration I can find in Scripture. I think there is an obvious fact here: One may be elect and under wrath at the same time.

    Redemption has been accomplished by the Son, but until it has been effectually applied by the Spirit, we are still in our sins and condemned already. I admit the mysterious, confounding nature of this, but I for one am not opposed to mystery in revealed religion. God is too big to fit neatly into any system.

    If Jesus actually substitutes for me not when he goes to the cross, but when I repent and believe the gospel, then penal satisfaction is not accomplished on the cross. So what Jesus did on the cross when he was actually on it was not substitutionary, at least not yet for us today. It was representative, archetypal, abstract, hypothetical, provisional as you call it. It was representative, penal satisfaction, but only becomes actually substitutionary when we repent and believe. Jesus accomplished a representative redemption and made an archetypal atonement, which is substituted for us not then and there, but later on when we repent and believe. It is counted as substitutionary at the point of conversion; it was not actually substitutionary when Jesus was on the cross.

    That is why I said it approximates penal substitutionary atonement, but does not quite arrive at it. Penal substitutionary atonement means Jesus actually substituted for someone personally as an individual when he went to the cross then and there. What you have presented is penal representative atonement as I have been attempting to define and clarify it. Your view is a modification of an aspect of the Governmental Theory. The Governmental Theory is representative but not penal, i.e. it says Jesus suffered in our behalf; he was not punished in our place. Your view is both, i.e. it says Jesus suffered in our behalf, and his suffering will be counted as punishment in our place if we repent and believe. Thus, your view is a modification.

    Your view has Jesus providing an abstract atonement that may be counted as a substitution for a person when he is converted. By making the actual substitution contingent upon future faith, you render the atonement as something other than substitutionary until such time as the condition is met. What Jesus accomplished when he actually went to the cross was not, at that time, substitutionary (except, of course, for those who were already his).

    Calling it a hypothetical substitution, or a provisional substitution, or a contingent substitution, is merely what I have been calling a representation. Hypothetical, provisional, contingent substitution is not actual substitution, and that is the main difference I have been trying to articulate between penal substitution (Owen’s view) and penal representation (your view).

    So, now that I think about it, your answer to Owen is actually to deny one of his premises, but I don’t think that is the answer you thought you were giving or were intending to give. If you accept Owen’s premises, then his conclusion must follow because it is a deductive argument he makes.

  41. Wesley,

    You wrote:

    When does Jesus substitute for me personally as an individual? When he goes to the cross and dies, or when I repent and believe the gospel?

    On the cross, provisionally. The provision is applied personally and conditonally at the point when one comes to be in union with Christ through faith.

    If Jesus actually substitutes for me personally when he goes to the cross and dies, then penal satisfaction was accomplished then and there.

    And according to Owen, even unbelief was atoned for then and there so the elect would be born saved and not under God’s wrath, contrary to Eph. 2:3 and numerous other passages. In fact, they would be born forgiven and justified apart from faith. That doesn’t sound like sola fide to me.

    Redemption was purchased along with the guaranteed grace of the effectual application of that redemption in due time to the elect. So for a time, all those elect for whom Jesus interceded on the cross are, when they are brought forth into the world, enemies of God, born condemned in sin, and objects of divine wrath.

    Sorry, this just doesn’t make sense. If satisfaction for all of the sins of the elect was made at the cross, then the elect would be born forgiven and even their unbelief would be atoned for. This is why some Calvinists have come to hold to eternal justification, contrary to the Scriptures. If satisfaction is not truly accomplished (applied) until the point of faith, then that satisfaction must have been provisional. If that is the case, then Owen’s argument fails and there is no basis for denying the Arminian view of provisional atonement.

    How is this possible? It’s kind of like Paul says with respect to the nation of Israel in Romans 11:28, “As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” So it is possible to be both elect and an enemy of God at the same time. I know this text isn’t an exact parallel to my point, but it is the closest illustration I can find in Scripture.

    It’s not parallel at all.

    I think there is an obvious fact here: One may be elect and under wrath at the same time.

    The passage doesn’t teach that. Eph. 1:4 says that we are elect “in Him [Christ].” One cannot be elect without being in Christ. So if what you are saying is true, then one can be “in Christ” and still under wrath. But the Bible plainly contradicts such an idea:

    There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1 emphasis mine)

    Redemption has been accomplished by the Son, but until it has been effectually applied by the Spirit, we are still in our sins and condemned already.

    So you hold to a penal-satisfaction view that is provisional. Welcome to the club.

    I admit the mysterious, confounding nature of this, but I for one am not opposed to mystery in revealed religion. God is too big to fit neatly into any system.

    If you hold that all of the elects’ sins were atoned for non-provisionally at the cross, including unbelief, and maintain that the elect are also born condemned and unsaved, then you hold to a plain contradiction and not a mystery.

    If Jesus actually substitutes for me not when he goes to the cross, but when I repent and believe the gospel, then penal satisfaction is not accomplished on the cross.

    So you deny that penal-satisfaction was accomplished at the cross, according to your own view.

    It is counted as substitutionary at the point of conversion; it was not actually substitutionary when Jesus was on the cross.

    Jesus died as a provisional substitute for the sins of the whole world when He satisfied God’s wrath in Himself at the cross. One comes to share in that satisfaction only upon coming to be in union with Christ, and one comes to be in union with Him through faith. It is really not that complicated. Neither Scripture nor logic demands that a substitutional satisfaction can only be non-provisional, and even Calvinists must admit that the atonement was provisional in nature or else they would be forced to contend that the elect are born saved and not under God’s wrath, contrary to the Scriptures.

    That is why I said it approximates penal substitutionary atonement, but does not quite arrive at it. Penal substitutionary atonement means Jesus actually substituted for someone personally as an individual when he went to the cross then and there.

    Again, if it happened then and there in a non-provisional sense, then the elect would be born saved since Jesus already substituted for them at the cross.

    What you have presented is penal representative atonement as I have been attempting to define and clarify it.

    What I have presented is provisional penal-substitution in Christ.

    Your view is both, i.e. it says Jesus suffered in our behalf, and his suffering will be counted as punishment in our place if we repent and believe. Thus, your view is a modification.

    Not at all. Jesus received the full punishment for all sin at the cross, but it was accomplished provisionally and not unconditionally. Christ provided Himself as a substitute for God’s wrath on sin by paying the penalty for sin on the cross (death), and that provision is available for all through faith union with Him. Provisional penal-substitution is not a spin on the governmental view. Rather, unconditional/automatic, non-provisional penal-substitution is the Calvinists’ peculiar spin on penal-substitution. Penal-substitution does not need to be non-provisional in order to be penal-substitution.

    As I said before, the view I am advocating is both penal and substitutionary. Therefore, it is penal-substitution. The only difference is that it is provisional (as the Scriptures testify). Owen’s argument can only work against a non-provisional view. Since the Arminian holds to a provisional view, his arguments fail. But Owen’s arguments work against his own view with the unfortunate implication that the elect would be born saved, even as unbelievers.

    Your view has Jesus providing an abstract atonement that may be counted as a substitution for a person when he is converted.

    There is nothing abstract about it. Atonement was made by Him and is found only “in Him.” It is very real, but applied only to those who come to be in union with Him through faith.

    By making the actual substitution contingent upon future faith, you render the atonement as something other than substitutionary until such time as the condition is met.

    Substitution was made by Christ, but we only come to enjoy the benefits of that substitution though faith union with Christ. Even in your view this must be the case, or else the elect would be born saved, even in their unbelief.

    What Jesus accomplished when he actually went to the cross was not, at that time, substitutionary (except, of course, for those who were already his).

    It was, but it was a provisional substitution.

    Calling it a hypothetical substitution, or a provisional substitution, or a contingent substitution, is merely what I have been calling a representation.

    It is more than a representation.

    Hypothetical, provisional, contingent substitution is not actual substitution, and that is the main difference I have been trying to articulate between penal substitution (Owen’s view) and penal representation (your view).

    My view is neither hypothetical nor merely representative, and if Owen’s view is as you say then the logical implication of eternal justification for the elect is unavoidable.

    So, now that I think about it, your answer to Owen is actually to deny one of his premises, but I don’t think that is the answer you thought you were giving or were intending to give. If you accept Owen’s premises, then his conclusion must follow because it is a deductive argument he makes.

    And based on his deduction the elect would be born saved and justified. Is that what you believe? Anyway, if you are having a hard time understanding how penal-substitution can be provisional in nature, you could just accept it as another “mystery” since you admit that you do not have a problem with “mystery in revealed religion.”

    God Bless,
    Ben

  42. Ben,

    The way you formulate your view is not mysterious; it’s just very confusing. I think you and I are talking past each other somewhat, and so we aren’t able to make any progress. I would refer you to H. Ray Dunning in his Wesleyan systematic theology Grace, Faith, & Holiness. He explicitly rejects a penal satisfaction theory (pp. 362-367) in favor of a representative theory, and then he outlines basically your view. He says,

    “The atoning work of Christ becomes efficacious for us only to the extent that we appropriate it by faith. It is not to be understood as a transaction between Jesus and God to which man is a spectator. He must become an active participant. This is not to suggest that he contributes something to his own salvation in such a way as to compromise the truth that salvation is the result of grace alone. This response is described by Paul and the writer of Hebrews in terms of identification with Christ: We are buried with Him in baptism, we are crucified with Him, and we are risen with Him.

    “In His representative capacity, Christ becomes the Head of a new race of redeemed humanity, a ‘new Adam.’ To become identified with Him is to become incorporated in this new, corporate man. It involves being ‘in Christ.’ It is in this way that the Atonement becomes effective in individual life” (Grace, Faith, & Holiness, pp. 384-385).

    That is pretty much what you have been articulating, except you add the idea of penal satisfaction. That is why I have been saying your view is a modification of another theory of atonement. It is penal, and it is eventually substitutionary; so in that sense it is a penal substitutionary theory. But the atonement itself was not actually substitutionary when it was made. That much is clear. It is reckoned as a substitution later, not then and there.

    So what happened then and there was a representative suffering and death, and that representative atonement (or provisional substitution; same thing) is reckoned or counted as a substitute suffering and death for us and in our place later on when we repent and believe. Only then does it become an actual substitution and an actual atonement.

    I never denied that atonement was provided and must subsequently be applied. I also never asserted it. I haven’t necessarily been voicing my own view. I have been trying to articulate/flesh out and understand Owen’s view and yours in relation to it, pointing out the differences I think I see. Sorry for the confusion on my end. I appreciate your interaction.

  43. Wesley,

    For some reason your comments were counted as spam by wordpress so I didn’t see them right away.

    I like what Dunning says but there is no reason to reject penal-satisfaction in such a view.

    It is penal, and it is eventually substitutionary; so in that sense it is a penal substitutionary theory. But the atonement itself was not actually substitutionary when it was made. That much is clear. It is reckoned as a substitution later, not then and there.

    But this is where I disagree. It is substitutionary. It is a provisional substitution. The fact that it is provisional does not make it any less substitutionary. Christ did not die for His own sins. He died for the sins of the world. He did so in a provisionary sense, but He still died as a substitute. Any substitutionary theory is going to contain representative qualities. That is basically what a substitute is. He represents the persons He is substituting for. He is not those persons; otherwise He would not be a substitute. Therefore, what I am arguing for is substitutionary from the start. Christ died as a provisional substitute for the sins of all people.

    So what happened then and there was a representative suffering and death, and that representative atonement (or provisional substitution; same thing) is reckoned or counted as a substitute suffering and death for us and in our place later on when we repent and believe. Only then does it become an actual substitution and an actual atonement.

    Rather, only then is the provisionary substitution of Christ’s death personally applied to the one who comes to be in union with Him.

    I haven’t necessarily been voicing my own view.

    What is your view then? Would you at least agree with me that in Owen’s view the elect would be born saved, apart from faith?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  44. Ben,

    Your comments are becoming more clear to me as I think through them and reread them. Thanks for your interaction.

    You said, “Any substitutionary theory is going to contain representative qualities.” Perhaps for your view we should switch this statement around so that it reads, Any representative theory is going to contain substitutionary qualities. I think we can agree now, as far terminology goes, that a representative substitution is another name for provisional atonement.

    I guess I’m having trouble seeing how Jesus could merely pay the penalty for my sin in a provisional but not effectual way. If Jesus paid my penalty, then the provision is a sufficient condition for salvation; hence, the provision would be effectual.

    If when Jesus went to the cross, he underwent the exact and complete penalty and punishment for each and every one of my personal, individual, and specific sins that I myself will commit in my own life, including unbelief, and thereby really and truly expiated all my sin and guilt, propitiated all God’s judicial and damning wrath, anger, and hostility towards me, satisfied God’s justice, and everything else, then how could I ever run the risk of undergoing that very same penalty when Jesus already did it for me and in my place? I think that is Owen’s question.

    To say Jesus provided a suffering and death on his cross in my behalf that is both necessary and sufficient to pay the full and complete penalty and punishment that my sin deserves, is to say Jesus didn’t undergo my personal penalty and punishment. He underwent a representative suffering and death, one that had vicarious qualities to be sure, that will be counted as payment for my personal penalty and punishment if I will only have it by faith. Owen wants to argue that Scripture drives us to see Jesus doing what the previous paragraph describes rather than merely what this paragraph describes. Do you see this? I hope I’m being clear.

    Owen’s view doesn’t necessarily lead to the elect being born saved apart from faith. I know you disagree. On a side note, everyone who holds that all who die in infancy are saved believe that infants are born saved apart from faith, though not apart from Christ. Are they born (or conceived) condemned and under God’s wrath, or are they born/conceived elect and saved? Interesting question. And if it isn’t a problem for those who hold such a view, then it ought not trouble Owen any more than they.

    For Owen, the elect would be born chosen of God, specially beloved of God with respect to the covenant of redemption, yet outside of the covenant of grace, and thus in a state of sin, where their sins incur God’s displeasure and anger, and their unregenerate corruption is an abomination before the holy eyes of inflexible justice and righteousness. God hates sin, and his soul abhors the sinful man. These are the realities of the state of sin and God’s relation to those in this miserable state. But that fact does not negate or militate against the reality of the covenant of redemption made between the members of the Trinity, and especially between the Father and the Son. It could be just like Israel: as regards the gospel, the unconverted elect are enemies of God; as regards election, the unconverted elect are beloved.

    It is only when the unconverted elect repent and believe the gospel that they pass from spiritual death to eternal life, from the state of sin into the state of grace, and from the covenant of creation in union with its federal head Adam to the covenant of grace in union with its federal head Jesus.

    Owen’s view guarantees the absolute, inviolable certainty that all those for whom Jesus interceded on his cross will be saved. The purchase of redemption and the guarantee of the salvation of the elect was made on the cross, and through the grace of effectual calling by the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel, the elect shall, in due time, come to enjoy the benefits of that atonement in their own personal experience. That is my fundamental understanding of Owen’s position. You asked for my personal view. I am a bit unsettled at the moment as to where exactly I’m going to come down on this issue, but I find myself in much agreement and with much sympathy with limited atonement.

  45. If when Jesus went to the cross, he underwent the exact and complete penalty and punishment for each and every one of my personal, individual, and specific sins that I myself will commit in my own life, including unbelief, and thereby really and truly expiated all my sin and guilt, propitiated all God’s judicial and damning wrath, anger, and hostility towards me, satisfied God’s justice, and everything else, then how could I ever run the risk of undergoing that very same penalty when Jesus already did it for me and in my place? I think that is Owen’s question.

    Then the answer to Owen’s question is that the atonement was provisional and not automatic/unconditional, just as I said in my post. Satisfaction for sin’s penalty was made in Christ through His death (which is the due penalty for sin) and any who come to be in union with Him partake of that satisfaction so that the satisfaction for God’s wrath on sin is credited to them through identification with Christ. Did Jesus die for my personal sins at the cross in that he specifically died for such and such a lie, or such and such a thought, etc.? No, I don’t think so. He paid the penalty for sin in general. All sin is rebellion towards God and the penalty for rebellion is death. Christ suffered death for the sins of mankind and thus paid the penalty for all rebellion towards God, but He did so provisionally. This was the payment that God required and it was the payment that Christ was pleased to offer.

    So if you want to say that my view is not the same as the Calvinist view, then of course I am happy to admit it. But my view does have Christ paying the penalty for sin and suffering the wrath of God for sins that He did not commit. It is therefore substitutional and penal, but it does not contain the additional Calvinist spin that makes it unconditional and automatic, nor does it contain the element of immediate and automatic expiation of one’s personal sins (sins that have not even been committed yet) at the cross. I see that the Bible describes the atonement as penal and substitutionary in a provisional sense, so I see no reason to adopt the Calvinist spin based on its commitment to limited atonement and the other petals of TULIP.

    Owen’s view doesn’t necessarily lead to the elect being born saved apart from faith. I know you disagree. On a side note, everyone who holds that all who die in infancy are saved believe that infants are born saved apart from faith, though not apart from Christ. Are they born (or conceived) condemned and under God’s wrath, or are they born/conceived elect and saved? Interesting question. And if it isn’t a problem for those who hold such a view, then it ought not trouble Owen any more than they.

    Owen’s view absolutely does demand that the elect would be born saved since their every personal sin, including unbelief, was atoned for at the cross unconditionally and automatically, as you stated clearly above when you said,

    If when Jesus went to the cross, he underwent the exact and complete penalty and punishment for each and every one of my personal, individual, and specific sins that I myself will commit in my own life, including unbelief, and thereby really and truly expiated all my sin and guilt, propitiated all God’s judicial and damning wrath, anger, and hostility towards me, satisfied God’s justice, and everything else, then how could I ever run the risk of undergoing that very same penalty when Jesus already did it for me and in my place?

    There is no way around it except to adopt a provisional view of the atonement. The issue of children dying in a state of grace is easily answered in Biblically satisfying ways, and holds no real corollary to the problems created by Owen’s view of atonement.

    For Owen, the elect would be born chosen of God, specially beloved of God with respect to the covenant of redemption, yet outside of the covenant of grace, and thus in a state of sin, where their sins incur God’s displeasure and anger, and their unregenerate corruption is an abomination before the holy eyes of inflexible justice and righteousness.

    But this makes no sense if their every sin, including unbelief, was already atoned for at the cross. Any “anger” or “displeasure” on God’s part was already dealt with at the cross when He poured out His wrath on Christ who was dying as a personal substitute for every single one of the “elects’” sins. Therefore, the “elect” would be born forgiven, their sins already paid for and atoned for at the cross. There is no way around this for Owen or those who hold to limited non-provisional penal-substitution atonement as Owen expresses it.

    It could be just like Israel: as regards the gospel, the unconverted elect are enemies of God; as regards election, the unconverted elect are beloved.

    Again, I contend that you are not understanding those passages in Romans correctly. But again, even in your view this is impossible, since you believe that the wrath of God was removed from the elect at the cross. If that is the case, we cannot have unconverted elect who are enemies of God while at the same time the wrath of God towards them has already been removed. We cannot say that the wrath of God on the elect was removed at the cross and that they are still under God’s wrath until they believe.

    It is only when the unconverted elect repent and believe the gospel that they pass from spiritual death to eternal life, from the state of sin into the state of grace, and from the covenant of creation in union with its federal head Adam to the covenant of grace in union with its federal head Jesus.

    First, there is no such thing as the unconverted elect as I pointed out to you in an earlier response. Second, if what you say here is true, then Owen’s view of atonement is rendered impossible. You have not even begun to explain how Owen’s view can avoid the problem of the elect being born forgiven and justified, their sins having already been atoned for at the cross and God’s wrath towards them having already been averted at the cross. Again, this plainly contradicts Scripture (Eph. 2:1-3).

    Owen’s view guarantees the absolute, inviolable certainty that all those for whom Jesus interceded on his cross will be saved.

    It also guarantees that all of their sins were already forgiven, even before birth, based on Christ already expiating all of their sins at the cross (sins they haven’t even committed yet, all already paid for before they are even committed).

    The purchase of redemption and the guarantee of the salvation of the elect was made on the cross, and through the grace of effectual calling by the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel, the elect shall, in due time, come to enjoy the benefits of that atonement in their own personal experience.

    Then their sins were not paid for unconditionally at the cross, and on the logic of such a view Jesus could not have really died non-provisionally as a personal substitute for each elect person, and their individual sins at the cross, as Owen contends. Rather, they are paid for at the point of effectual calling, and only then does Christ become their personal substitute. That is not how Owen understood the atonement.

    That is my fundamental understanding of Owen’s position.

    If that is Owen’s view then it is hopelessly contradictory. You cannot say that the wrath of God towards the elect was unconditionally removed at the cross and at the same time maintain that the elect remain under God’s wrath until the point of effectual calling.

    You asked for my personal view. I am a bit unsettled at the moment as to where exactly I’m going to come down on this issue, but I find myself in much agreement and with much sympathy with limited atonement.

    Based on such contradictory arguments as those made by Owen, and not based on the numerous passages of Scripture which describe the extent of the atonement as universal in scope? I would suggest basing your views on the extent of the atonement on what the Bible actually says about the extent of the atonement, rather than on the flawed philosophical arguments of Calvinists. I think that is a much wiser approach.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  46. Ben,

    I believe this has been your clearest and most compelling post so far. Again, I do appreciate all the time you have invested in this discussion with me. I have enjoyed it, and I feel I have been learning from you along the way and, I trust, being edified as well. So thank you for that.

    I must say up front, that I have never based my view solely or supremely on Owen. I have been influenced by his argument to be sure, but I have not invested in him superiority over the Scriptures or even other teachers in my life.

    About my citation of Israel in Romans 11: I did not intend to give my interpretation of the text in these posts. I have merely attempted to use the text as a possible illustration, drawing from it a principle, if you will, that might aid us in seeing how the unconverted elect relate to God.

    You said there are no unconverted elect. I disagree with this. People are chosen by God before the foundation of the world, elect in eternity past, long before they are converted or even exist. You must be speaking from a view of corporate election. But if corporate election means everyone is reprobate before they are converted, such that none who are unconverted are elect, then it seems you are going against the teaching of Scripture.

    You made this statement, “Did Jesus die for my personal sins at the cross in that he specifically died for such and such a lie, or such and such a thought, etc.? No, I don’t think so. He paid the penalty for sin in general. All sin is rebellion towards God and the penalty for rebellion is death. Christ suffered death for the sins of mankind and thus paid the penalty for all rebellion towards God, but He did so provisionally. This was the payment that God required and it was the payment that Christ was pleased to offer.”

    I thought this was your clearest exposition of the Arminian position, and I think it highlights the essential difference between Owen and Arminians. Jesus did not die for anyone’s specific sins, but for sin in general. Jesus died for everyone in general but no one in particular, as Spurgeon summarized it.

    Jesus “paid the penalty for sin in general” is what I meant by calling your view of atonement a representative, abstract, archetypal atonement. Jesus, representing us, paid the penalty of our sin, not specifically for this or that sin of this or that sinner, but in an abstract/general way for all mankind. Jesus paid an archetypal penalty that will be counted or reckoned as sufficient payment for my specific penalty of my specific sins when I repent and believe the gospel. The cross expiates my sin and guilt and propitiates God’s judicial, condemning wrath against me only when I am united to Jesus by faith. Is this not an accurate representation of your view?

    You also said this: “Then their sins were not paid for unconditionally at the cross, and on the logic of such a view Jesus could not have really died non-provisionally as a personal substitute for each elect person, and their individual sins at the cross, as Owen contends. Rather, they are paid for at the point of effectual calling, and only then does Christ become their personal substitute. That is not how Owen understood the atonement.”

    After considering it, I think what you said here is probably right. Such being the case, I would confess a difference with Owen at this point. Jesus provided redemption at the cross, and guaranteed by his death that it would be effectually applied to the elect.

    You said, “But this makes no sense if their every sin, including unbelief, was already atoned for at the cross. Any ‘anger’ or ‘displeasure’ on God’s part was already dealt with at the cross when He poured out His wrath on Christ who was dying as a personal substitute for every single one of the ‘elects’’ sins.”

    I would ask this follow up question: After one is united savingly to Jesus, then his every sin, including unbelief, is atoned for at the cross. So then, would it not be true that any anger or displeasure on God’s part against that convert was already dealt with at the cross when he poured out his wrath on Christ? And if that is the case, how then could there ever be any anger or displeasure on God’s part against a Christian for sins he commits after he is converted? All that anger and displeasure has already been propitiated effectually since he is already in Christ, right?

  47. Wesley,

    I’ve quoted your last paragraph above which I would like to address. I am sure Ben could do a much better job than I, but blogs are blogs, and so I will voice my understanding :)

    “After one is united savingly to Jesus, then his every sin, including unbelief, is atoned for at the cross. So then, would it not be true that any anger or displeasure on God’s part against that convert was already dealt with at the cross when he poured out his wrath on Christ? And if that is the case, how then could there ever be any anger or displeasure on God’s part against a Christian for sins he commits after he is converted? All that anger and displeasure has already been propitiated effectually since he is already in Christ, right?”

    I think both the Calvinist and the non-Calvinist can agree that the only way to avoid the wrath of God is through obedience to the gospel.

    2nd Thessalonians 1:7-8 “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven…in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

    Our union with Christ is what keeps us from being subject to eternal punishment. Any spiritual blessing that we have is found in our relationship with God through faith in His Son.

    Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places IN CHRIST”

    So to answer your question, the only way for God to be angry with me again would be if I was no longer in Christ. Since Christ’s sacrifice is only effective to those who believe and exhibit faith, then if my life lacks those things His death is no longer applicable to my sin.

    Hebrews 10:26-27 “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES.”

    Hope this helps!

    -steven

  48. Steven,

    Thanks! Your interaction is most welcome. I appreciated your comments.

    It seems to me that you are saying God is not angry or displeased with the sins I commit as a Christian, unless those sins are such that they sever me from Christ and the saving, atoning benefits of his death. But that can’t be right. Surely God is angry with every sin, no matter who commits it (believer or unbeliever).

    Now of course God’s judicial, condemning wrath is never, ever revealed against the true saint (Rom. 8:1; cf. Rom. 5:1; John 3:18, 36). But our moments and seasons of lukewarmness, idle slackness, disobedience, etc. are displeasing to God and incur his anger. Even though it is not condemning wrath, it is real anger and real displeasure nonetheless.

  49. Wesley,

    I agree with your comments above. What did I convey that would imply I didn’t think God doesn’t care about specific sins? I feel that the biblical idea of saving faith is one that is active and obedient. If we start being willfully disobedient to God, then we no longer have saving faith and are no longer in Christ.

    I don’t think anyone can say for certain at what point a Christian’s continual sins eliminate the former relationship with Christ, but the scriptures teach that it can happen nonetheless. That’s why humility, repentance, and prayer are such cornerstones of Christianity. We all need to “Take heed lest we fall.”

  50. Wesley,

    I meant to address your last comments to me, but then got sidetracked and basically forgot about it. I hope to get to it sometime next week. Hopefully, you will check back in at some point.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  51. Wesley,

    You wrote:

    I must say up front, that I have never based my view solely or supremely on Owen. I have been influenced by his argument to be sure, but I have not invested in him superiority over the Scriptures or even other teachers in my life.

    That is good to hear.

    About my citation of Israel in Romans 11: I did not intend to give my interpretation of the text in these posts. I have merely attempted to use the text as a possible illustration, drawing from it a principle, if you will, that might aid us in seeing how the unconverted elect relate to God.

    You said there are no unconverted elect. I disagree with this. People are chosen by God before the foundation of the world, elect in eternity past, long before they are converted or even exist. You must be speaking from a view of corporate election. But if corporate election means everyone is reprobate before they are converted, such that none who are unconverted are elect, then it seems you are going against the teaching of Scripture.

    I do hold to corporate election and I do not use “reprobate” in the same sense as a Calvinist would, so I do not see how your last sentence here follows from my view at all. One is elect only as one is in Christ. Once one comes to be in Christ, that person shares in His history, His election. In that sense Paul can say that we are elect “in Him” from the foundation of the world since Christ was elect from the foundation of the world. When we come to be in union with Him through faith we share in His identity as the Elect One by being incorporated into His body.

    If we understand it the way that you seem to suggest, then the elect were “in Christ” from before the foundation of the world and were therefore never under God’s condemnation since “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” which again leads us to the inevitable conclusion of eternal justification, etc. Again, it is interesting to me that you seem to grasp for a few Scriptures that might support your view here, while essentially discounting the numerous Scriptures which depict the extent of the atonement as universal in scope. I would suggest that this is a backwards and dangerous hermeneutic.

    You made this statement, “Did Jesus die for my personal sins at the cross in that he specifically died for such and such a lie, or such and such a thought, etc.? No, I don’t think so. He paid the penalty for sin in general. All sin is rebellion towards God and the penalty for rebellion is death. Christ suffered death for the sins of mankind and thus paid the penalty for all rebellion towards God, but He did so provisionally. This was the payment that God required and it was the payment that Christ was pleased to offer.”

    I thought this was your clearest exposition of the Arminian position, and I think it highlights the essential difference between Owen and Arminians. Jesus did not die for anyone’s specific sins, but for sin in general. Jesus died for everyone in general but no one in particular, as Spurgeon summarized it.

    But this is only a half truth as it does become a satisfaction for individual sins at the point of personal application of the benefits of the atonement. That is why I say that the atonement was provisional in nature.

    Jesus “paid the penalty for sin in general” is what I meant by calling your view of atonement a representative, abstract, archetypal atonement.

    You can call it what you like, but I think “provisional” says it best as it also looks forward to personal and individual application based on faith union with Christ our substitute.

    Jesus, representing us, paid the penalty of our sin, not specifically for this or that sin of this or that sinner, but in an abstract/general way for all mankind. Jesus paid an archetypal penalty that will be counted or reckoned as sufficient payment for my specific penalty of my specific sins when I repent and believe the gospel. The cross expiates my sin and guilt and propitiates God’s judicial, condemning wrath against me only when I am united to Jesus by faith. Is this not an accurate representation of your view?

    Again, rather than “abstarct/general” way, I would say in a “provisional sense.” Indeed, it is only as we walk with Him by faith that His blood “cleanses us from all sin”, as the Scriptures testify (1 John 1:7).

    You also said this: “Then their sins were not paid for unconditionally at the cross, and on the logic of such a view Jesus could not have really died non-provisionally as a personal substitute for each elect person, and their individual sins at the cross, as Owen contends. Rather, they are paid for at the point of effectual calling, and only then does Christ become their personal substitute. That is not how Owen understood the atonement.”

    After considering it, I think what you said here is probably right. Such being the case, I would confess a difference with Owen at this point. Jesus provided redemption at the cross, and guaranteed by his death that it would be effectually applied to the elect.

    Fair enough. I would suggest that you read Part 2 since I address this as the basic difference between the two views anyway, considering they both have a provisional element.

    You said, “But this makes no sense if their every sin, including unbelief, was already atoned for at the cross. Any ‘anger’ or ‘displeasure’ on God’s part was already dealt with at the cross when He poured out His wrath on Christ who was dying as a personal substitute for every single one of the ‘elects’’ sins.”

    I would ask this follow up question: After one is united savingly to Jesus, then his every sin, including unbelief, is atoned for at the cross. So then, would it not be true that any anger or displeasure on God’s part against that convert was already dealt with at the cross when he poured out his wrath on Christ? And if that is the case, how then could there ever be any anger or displeasure on God’s part against a Christian for sins he commits after he is converted? All that anger and displeasure has already been propitiated effectually since he is already in Christ, right?

    Basically, yes as far as eternal penalty. As we walk by faith the blood of Christ continually cleanses us of all sin (1 John 1:7). That does not mean that God is never disappointed with us, nor does it mean that we need never confess our sins or ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9, cf. Matt. 6:12). Rather, the walk of faith includes occasional confession of sin for the sake of maintaining that relationship with Christ through which we are continually cleansed and made righteous in God’s sight.

    The wrath of God on unbelievers cannot attain for believers who are united to Christ through faith and continually cleansed by His blood. This doesn’t mean that God is always perfectly happy with believers or that God does not need to continually work to conform us to the image of His Son. It only means that He counts us as His children and disciplines us as His children (Heb. 12:1-14), rather than condemning us as unbelievers who despise His family and refuse to trust in Christ in order to become the children of God (John 1:11-13).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  52. [...] 5-point Calvinists (and those of similar belief) view Christ’s atonement as a definite and unconditional act, that is to say, those who Christ died for will definitely receive its benefit, with no exceptions. Arminians (and most other Christians) view His atonement as provisioned upon faith, so that all the people it’s made for will receive its benefit only if they believe. [...]

  53. Just to set the record straight, nowhere in my article do I give a “commitment” to the Governmental View of the Atonement. It is not Governmental vs. Penal Substitution, but Bible vs. Penal Substitution.

    The arguments against the Penal Theory are not strictly Governmental, but to their credit, Governmentalists were in the lead in challenging the Penal theory with most of these same arguments. The glaring weaknesses of the Penal Theory are the same whether one accepts the Governmental Theory or not. Penal Substitutionary Atonement is demonstratively un-Scriptural.

    My view would be more accurately described as adhering to a Sacrificial Theory. The Scriptures consistently assert that Atonement is only acquired through sacrifice. Before the Cross, God pictured His plan to be only through sacrifice, and then Jesus went to the Cross. Through the “wisdom” of man, we have somehow come to discard the whole image of Sacrifice in favor of a strict Legal Model, and formed our whole plan of salvation around that which is never explicitly stated in Scripture.

  54. Jeff,

    I could swear I have read other articles at your site where you strongly argue for the governmental view. Did you ever hold that view? Anyway, I amended the post.

    As for the sacrificial view, I find it hard to understand and not very well defined even by those who hold it (like Lavender, for example). There is no doubt that the priestly sacrificial aspect of the atonement is very important, but that in now way rules out penal-satisfaction. I believe that there is definitely a penal-satisfaction element to the atonement (and it is an important element at that), but I also recognize other aspects of the atonement as well. However, I find these comments to be unfortunate,

    It is not Governmental vs. Penal Substitution, but Bible vs. Penal Substitution…Penal Substitutionary Atonement is demonstratively un-Scriptural.

    This seems very dismissive to me. I personally studied all the varying views and gave them careful consideration. Like I said, I see elements of many theories in the Biblical data, but I cannot deny a strong penal-satisfaction/substitution teaching in many passages. I have read your articles against penal-satisfaction, and quite frankly, found them very unconvincing in exegesis of key passages. Truth be told, it was the way that you tried to deal with those passages that turned me off to your arguments on atonement. Your arguments seemed to me to be as straining as when Calvinists argue against unlimited atonement or the possibility of apostasy.

    I think it is sad when one positions himslef in debate as “your view versus the Bible (i.e. my view).” Of course, we all want our view to be Biblical and hopefully strive for that in formulating our theology; but I could just as easily say that your rejection of penal-satisfaction is simply a denial of what the Bible says and that the penal-satisfaction view is demonstrably scriptural (as I firmly believe it to be).

    I noticed on your site that you like Richard Taylor’s work, “The Right Conception of Sin”, which argued strongly against the penal-satisfaction model. If I remember right you called it a “monumental work” (and he held to the governmental view). I assume you also realize that as Taylor began to study atonement further and look carefully at all of what the Scriptures say about it, he began to realize that he could no longer deny an element of penal-satisfaction in the atonement. He admitted that his commitment to governmental theory was largely influenced by the theologians he was reading and not on a careful consideration of Scripture. He came to embrace the penal-satisfaction theory and wrote a book chronicling his move away from the governmental theory to the “scriptural view”, which includes a very strong emphasis on penal-satisfaction (“God’s Integrity and the Cross”). Have you read that book? Would you criticize him with the same strong rhetoric you have criticized me with? Just wondering.

    Anyway, though we may disagree on this point, it is great to agree on so many other things.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  55. [...] 5-point Calvinists (and those of similar belief) view Christ’s atonement as a definite and unconditional act, that is to say, those who Christ died for will definitely receive its benefit, with no exceptions. Arminians (and most other Christians) view His atonement as provisioned upon faith, so that all the people it’s made for will receive its benefit only if they believe. [...]

  56. Ben,

    I guess that I should stop back more often! I was not attempting to start an argument, but to be clear about my position on the atonement. There is an assumption in the Christian world that the Arminian view of the atonement is strictly Governmental, which is clearly wrong. While there is no consensus view of the atonement among Arminians, one can rightly argue that there are positions that are more consistent with the logical outcome of Arminianism than others.

    You asked if I was at one time a firm believer in the Governmental Theory; I would say that for a few years I was, but that was for a short time, and was prior to the time that I started writing any of my articles. As you have alluded to, any material expressing the atonement as primarily a Sacrificial matter, besides the Bible, are limited. The valid objections to the Penal Substitutionary View are well expressed by the writers that defend the Governmental Theory, and are well suited for any theory that is not the Penal Theory.

    Where I have given the Governmental Theory the most expression, is the same article in which I argue for a Sacrificial View, and end the article with an open question as to whether God uses several views depending upon the audience. Does God use a Sacrificial Model for the Jews, a Judicial Model for the Greeks and Romans, and an Anthropomorphic View for the uneducated and unrefined? My quotations from Governmentalists is to be fair with their argument, and not to make them say that they favor my Sacrificial View. I will say, that if I am forced to take a Judicial View of the atonement, the only viable statement that I see as being possibly Biblical, would be the Governmental Theory. I do not however, see the so-called “judicial” statements as necessarily being opposed or being somehow “anti” Sacrificial.

    For the record, I adhered to a Sacrificial View long before I ever read Lavender’s book. I agree with his primary emphasis, but not all of his points. I do not see Substitution as being contrary to Sacrifice. I do however agree that Penal Substitution is absolutely contrary to Biblical Sacrifice.

    My point in stating that the issue is not (and should not be) Governmental vs. Penal, but Penal vs. Scripture, was not in any way intended to be dismissive of you, but to bring the issue in line with the truth. Shouldn’t this be the concern of every believer? Just because a Calvinist can prove that their Penal Substitution works with every aspect of their Calvinism, is no Biblical proof of Calvinism, but only proof of good circular reasoning. It would mean nothing more for me to “prove” Arminianism the same way. When it comes to truth, it is not really any substantial proof to show how a theory of the atonement works flawlessly with our theological persuasion. While theological consistency is important, truth is not established by sophistry, but by what the Scriptures say!

    I believe that it is a fact that the Penal Theory is built upon what the Scriptures never say, and then tries to wrench the Scriptures to fit it. No one to this day has ever refuted my challenge by producing a single passage of Scripture which states a single unambiguous statement that asserts a vital principle of Penal Substitution! Just because you disagree with me and “say” that Penal Substitution is “demonstratively” Scriptural is a far cry from actually proving it!

    Punishment on the Cross, wrath poured out upon Jesus Christ, mystical transfer of guilt or righteousness from one person to another, Jesus becoming literally guilty of our sins, and payment for sins are ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS to the Penal Theory.

    For this Theory to be Biblical, the Bible must actually state these things! If I ask for clear statements of Scripture to affirm these things before I will believe them, is this not a fair demand to ask of anyone? If one element is proven false or found to be unsubstantiated from Scripture, the entire theory fails. If it is not proven from Scripture, then it is nothing more than one more useless human philosophy that has corrupted Biblical Christianity!

    No doubt, this is a mighty large challenge with a lot of room to work. Six specific things which people claim are from the Bible! I think that in my challenge I have given people open and generous latitude in which to hang me out to dry on the issue; Biblically speaking. I know that the Bible is a big book, so I keep the prospect open that I may have missed something! I also know that I am in the minority here; but why is it to this date that no one can show me where these things are unambiguously stated? Do people believe things that are “just not there?” Or have I missed a passage somewhere? Are people so philosophically committed to a view that simple blind familiarity with this doctrine becomes superior to the Bible? You see, it is not whether our view of the atonement is “Arminian compliant” or not, but whether it is Scriptural or not. If an appeal to Scripture offends you, then I pray that God uses the offense to prove the truth!

    As for Taylor’s book, “God’s Integrity and the Cross,” I have not read it, but I have seen a brief version of his recantation in “What Every Christian Ought to Know: Basic Answers to Questions of the Faith.” You ask whether I would be critical of him because of his new-found position; absolutely! With age, some see cumulative wisdom and reflection, and other’s see deterioration and senility, and some people grow with age to have such a distaste for former conflicts that they just “want to get along” with everybody and find a middle milk-toast position. I do not know the internal workings of Mr. Taylor’s mind, but one thing is clear, “A Right Conception of Sin” was his magnum opus, and what writings that followed that work have paled in comparison for sharpness, clarity and acuity. While I would like to see his reasoning from a “Biblical perspective,” I will not rush out to buy his book right away, for seriously, have not even the most basic of Calvinists already exceeded his “Biblical proof” and failed?

    I know that most people only have a Penal understanding of the atonement; that is all that they have ever been taught. I do not disparage people’s love for truth that disagree with me, but question their presuppositions on the matter.

    Biblically speaking, I just do not find any Scriptural support for a Penal Atonement. One must presuppose Penal Substitution and read such into a passage in order to get Penal Substitution out of it.

    Theologically speaking, I just do not see how an Atonement Theory developed to support the Five Points of Calvinism is so ardently argued for people who’s Arminianism would deny the inevitable Fatalistic conclusions of a Penal Theory.

    Historically speaking, I have trouble with this being a late invention of Calvinism, seeking Scriptural justification. Is it on par with later orthodox developments such as the Trinity? Unlikely, since those Scriptures which inform us of the Trinity are clear and decisive. What makes this Calvinistic Orthodoxy any more credible than the Calvinistic Orthodoxy of Dort?

    I do not find it an offense when somebody holds a view dogmatically and by doing so are by default saying that they believe I am wrong. But if I am dogmatic in a different direction from theirs, it is somehow an offense. I would hope that we would get beyond seeing disagreement as a personal affront, but a challenge. Hey, I have been challenged many times! I was once an atheist, and came to believe. I was once an Eternal Securist and through Scripture was led to depart from that false doctrine. I was early as a Christian taught to believe in Baptismal Regeneration, yet was brought to the Scriptural truth of that error. I have changed on several other things, and have been dogmatic about those things… yet God has graciously changed me. Is He done with me yet? I certainly do not leave off the potential!

    I hold to one dogma that I have come to believe is unshakable: There is no virtue in believing a lie! Nothing good can come from it!

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  57. Jeff,

    I welcome your feedback and I respect your opinion. I simply disagree. You wrote:

    The valid objections to the Penal Substitutionary View are well expressed by the writers that defend the Governmental Theory, and are well suited for any theory that is not the Penal Theory.

    But, of course, I disagree that such objections are “valid”. That’s the point, and this series of posts address that very issue.

    My point in stating that the issue is not (and should not be) Governmental vs. Penal, but Penal vs. Scripture, was not in any way intended to be dismissive of you, but to bring the issue in line with the truth. Shouldn’t this be the concern of every believer? Just because a Calvinist can prove that their Penal Substitution works with every aspect of their Calvinism, is no Biblical proof of Calvinism, but only proof of good circular reasoning. It would mean nothing more for me to “prove” Arminianism the same way. When it comes to truth, it is not really any substantial proof to show how a theory of the atonement works flawlessly with our theological persuasion. While theological consistency is important, truth is not established by sophistry, but by what the Scriptures say!

    Of course I agree with all of this. I basically said the same things above; however, my objection was not to any of this but to your statement that “Substitutionary Atonement is demonstratively un-Scriptural”. That seemed dismissive and unhelpful for discussion as I pointed out in my first response and your comments here seem to sidestep rather than address my point. More on that below.

    I believe that it is a fact that the Penal Theory is built upon what the Scriptures never say, and then tries to wrench the Scriptures to fit it.

    That may be the case, but you cannot just assume that those who hold to it did not come to such conclusions based on a simple and honest reading of Scripture and by drawing valid implications from Scripture, even if the doctrine isn’t spelled out in a way that seems suitable to you. Many doctrines are taken from Scripture in such a way. The Bible is not a theological textbook with clear definitions on every theological point. That is true of many doctrines that Christians hold to, including the Trinity. Likewise, Calvinists often charge that “free will” is no where found in the Bible. Of course the words “free will” are found in the Bible, but the libertarian view of free will that we hold to is not plainly spelled out in a definitional sense. Rather, it is implied by numerous Scriptures and seems to plainly be presupposed throughout. Penal-satisfaction is no different. So I disagree with what you see as a “fact”.

    No one to this day has ever refuted my challenge by producing a single passage of Scripture which states a single unambiguous statement that asserts a vital principle of Penal Substitution!

    I am not familiar with your challenge or any attempts to meet that challenge. However, I have read some things from you trying to deal with passages like Isaiah 53, for example, and explanations seemed to me to be grasping and desperate. As I mentioned before, it reminded me of how Calvinists try to explain away passages about universal atonement or apostasy. But again, one does not need to necessarily produce an “unambiguous” statement that asserts a vital principle if such principles are implied in numerous passages as I believe they are.

    Punishment on the Cross, wrath poured out upon Jesus Christ, mystical transfer of guilt or righteousness from one person to another, Jesus becoming literally guilty of our sins, and payment for sins are ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS to the Penal Theory.
    For this Theory to be Biblical, the Bible must actually state these things!

    …Or clearly imply them, as I believe the Bible does in many places and in many ways. Even so, I think that Isaiah 53:5-9 alone is a pretty clear passage that demonstrates all of the basic elements of penal-satisfaction in the atonement. I think that anyone reading that passage would quite naturally come to the exact conclusions that are represented in the penal-satisfaction view. The language is so clear that there really is no reason to see any other possible interpretation in those passages unless one has a philosophical objection to the theory and for that reason refuses to see it there no matter how clear it is. Again, the attempts to explain away the implications of such passages seems to me to be the same sort of interpretive gymnastics that Calvinists employ with universal passages, etc.

    You see, it is not whether our view of the atonement is “Arminian compliant” or not, but whether it is Scriptural or not. If an appeal to Scripture offends you, then I pray that God uses the offense to prove the truth!

    The only reason that Arminians would likely care at all about this view being “Arminian compliant” or not is because they first so plainly see elements of the theory in Scripture. Otherwise, why bother? And I don’t think that Arminians would even need to try to show that it was Arminian compliant if it weren’t from some rather lame arguments coming from Calvinists that supposedly show penal-satisfaction to be inconsistent with universal atonement. Just because some Arminians like Grotius apparently found those arguments persuasive doesn’t mean they are valid. All such arguments are wholly undone when we rightly understand that Christ’s atonement is provisional and conditional as this post and others like it point out. So the objections that you find convincing I find lacking and so I do not need to show that the doctrine is “Arminian compliant”, only that the arguments which say that the view is incompatible with Arminianism are false, like so many other Calvinists claims.

    As for Taylor’s book, “God’s Integrity and the Cross,” I have not read it, but I have seen a brief version of his recantation in “What Every Christian Ought to Know: Basic Answers to Questions of the Faith.” You ask whether I would be critical of him because of his new-found position; absolutely! With age, some see cumulative wisdom and reflection, and other’s see deterioration and senility, and some people grow with age to have such a distaste for former conflicts that they just “want to get along” with everybody and find a middle milk-toast position.

    Why make comments like these? Are you implying that Taylor may just be senile now and that is why he has adopted an atonement theory you don’t agree with? I assume not, but I can’t understand what the purpose of such comments would be otherwise. None of these comments seem fair or helpful at all.

    I do not know the internal workings of Mr. Taylor’s mind, but one thing is clear, “A Right Conception of Sin” was his magnum opus, and what writings that followed that work have paled in comparison for sharpness, clarity and acuity.

    Again, if you do not know the interworking of his mind, why make such speculations and mention things like senility? And how can you rightly say that all of his works since a “A Right Conception of Sin” pale in comparison for sharpness, clarity and acuity if you admit that you have not even read his follow-up book which refutes much of what he wrote in the book you call his “magnum opus”? What a difficult and rare thing it is for a writer and teacher to change positions on something that he once championed and be transparent and honest enough to admit that he was wrong. Surely he deserves to be heard and taken at his word for why he changed his mind. Yet, you refuse to do that and instead speculate in things like senility or deterioration in mental faculties or a growing distaste for controversy. Really? Don’t you think changing one’s position on a subject like that is controversial? What about all of those who supported his former views and held him up as a champion for the governmental view and against the penal-satisfaction view? Don’t you think he knew he would take some serious heat and criticism from them in writing his second book? If it was distaste for controversy he was concerned about, then he sure did a strange thing in repudiating a view that many believers hold to, even if it is rejected by many as well.

    While I would like to see his reasoning from a “Biblical perspective,” I will not rush out to buy his book right away,

    So you seem here to admit that his reasoning is from a Biblical perspective and yet you have no problem making comments about possible senility or a distaste for controversy in later years. I would caution you not to speak for Taylor before allowing him to speak for himself. In my initial comments to you I made it clear how Taylor claimed to have reached his new conclusions when I wrote,

    I assume you also realize that as Taylor began to study atonement further and look carefully at all of what the Scriptures say about it, he began to realize that he could no longer deny an element of penal-satisfaction in the atonement. He admitted that his commitment to governmental theory was largely influenced by the theologians he was reading and not on a careful consideration of Scripture.

    In his introduction he writes, “..the more I studied the Scripture the more restless I became about my too-easily-adopted assumptions. Very gradually I found that Miley had missed the mark.” Throughout he points out the weaknesses of other theories to account for Scriptures which teach penalty in the cross. As he says, “The cross of Jesus Christ has PENALTY written all over it- penalty paid by One for the many.”

    I agree.

    … for seriously, have not even the most basic of Calvinists already exceeded his “Biblical proof” and failed?

    Not in my opinion since I see penal-satisfaction as Biblical and rather find the attempts of governmentalists (or those who hold see solely a “priestly sacrificial” view of atonement that somehow omits and penal-satisfaction or substitution) to sides step passages like Isaiah 53 to be extremely weak and unconvincing.

    Biblically speaking, I just do not find any Scriptural support for a Penal Atonement. One must presuppose Penal Substitution and read such into a passage in order to get Penal Substitution out of it.

    Well, you’re entitled to your wrong opinions :-) To the contrary, I see strong support for the view and cannot make sense of many passages of Scripture outside of a penal-satisfaction element in the atonement. And I have never really seen an anti-penal-satisfaction advocate “demonstrate” from “Scripture” that there is no penal satisfaction in the atonement. Rather, I have seen philosophical objections brought to bear on the Scriptures in order to try to deny that they can possibly mean what they seem to mean.

    Theologically speaking, I just do not see how an Atonement Theory developed to support the Five Points of Calvinism is so ardently argued for people who’s Arminianism would deny the inevitable Fatalistic conclusions of a Penal Theory.

    First, I am unaware of any “Fatalistic” conclusions of the theory. Second, perhaps the reason they want to defend it is because they want to be honest with passages of Scripture that seem to so plainly imply the doctrine, much like how 4-point Calvinists give up consistency for the sake of being honest with the obvious universal language in Scripture (the only difference being that the Arminian doesn’t need to give up consistency). Third, I disagree that the view was developed to support the Five Points of Calvinism. That is a claim I would love to see you prove.

    Historically speaking, I have trouble with this being a late invention of Calvinism, seeking Scriptural justification.

    Well, it isn’t. You can find elements of the doctrine in many writers that predate Calvin and Calvinism. And of course, one could say the same about the governmental theory, that it was developed to counter the penal-satisfaction view. And if we really want to be picky we need to admit that the dominant theme of the atonement in early Christian writings was ransom theory. I don’t have a problem with that. There are elements of ransom in the atonement. There are elements of governmental in the atonement. And there are elements of penal-satisfaction in the atonement.

    Hey, I have been challenged many times! I was once an atheist, and came to believe. I was once an Eternal Securist and through Scripture was led to depart from that false doctrine. I was early as a Christian taught to believe in Baptismal Regeneration, yet was brought to the Scriptural truth of that error. I have changed on several other things, and have been dogmatic about those things… yet God has graciously changed me. Is He done with me yet? I certainly do not leave off the potential!

    And perhaps, like Taylor, you will someday come to find that you were wrong about penal-satisfaction as well. And if you do, I assume it will be because you went to the Scriptures and I hope people will accept your reason for accepting something you once rejected without unhelpful and unfair speculations about senility or deterioration or a growing distaste for controversy, or what have you.

    And I am fine with you disagreeing strongly, but if you are going to unequivocally state that penal-satisfaction is “demonstrably unscriptural”, you need to back that up. You need to demonstrate it. It doesn’t seem to me that saying no one has yet convinced you it is in the Bible is quite the same as demonstrating that it is unscriptural. And it doesn’t seem to me that it is fair to say that you reject the view for Scriptural reasons, and rightly so, while seemingly suggesting that those who hold to it cannot possibly hold to it for Scriptural reasons, but only for philosophical reasons, or even as a result of senility. I know that is not why I hold to it, and I trust Richard Taylor when he says that is not why he holds to it as well.

    In the end it doesn’t matter to me that you find the view unacceptable or unbiblical, and I am happy that we agree on so many other things. If you came to your conclusions based on a careful reading of Scripture, then I can hardly blame you. I can only say that I disagree and try to persuade you that you are mistaken (much like you suggested we should do above). But offering Scriptural proof for penal-satisfaction was not the purpose of this particular post.

    I hold to one dogma that I have come to believe is unshakable: There is no virtue in believing a lie! Nothing good can come from it!

    Amen, good advice for both of us.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  58. If the atonement is not applied to my account before God until I believe, then it does not pay for my sins until I believe. Thus Arminians have an atonement that does not really pay for sins, but only promises to pay for them upon the exercise of faith. Thus the Arminian atonement does not actually pay for anyone’s sins when that atonement is made. Neither does it actually pay for sins at any time when no one is believing. Therefore Arminians have no right to say to unbelievers, “Christ paid for your sins,” because in their own theology, He really didn’t. He only provided for a potential payment, contingent upon the cooperation of the unbeliever. So why do Arminians tell unbelievers, “Christ died for your sins,” when their sins are not paid for yet?

  59. If Christ died for us by dying for our sins, that means that He died in our place. If He really and truly died in our place even before we believed, why are our sins not considered paid for *until* we believe?

  60. Hello Ron,

    Thanks for stopping by. Have you read Part 2 and 3 of this series? I think they will answer some of your concerns:

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/provisional-atonement-part-2-provision-is-consistent-with-foreknowledge/

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/provisional-atonement-part-3-the-integrity-and-justice-of-god-in-the-gospel-offer/

    If the atonement is not applied to my account before God until I believe, then it does not pay for my sins until I believe. Thus Arminians have an atonement that does not really pay for sins, but only promises to pay for them upon the exercise of faith.

    This second sentence seems contradictory to me. First you say the atonement doesn’t make payment for sins, and then admit that when one believes, the provision of payment is applied to the believer. If that is the case, then the atonement certainly does pay for sins.

    The Arminian position is that our sins are paid for provisionally “in Christ”, as the post points out. When we are joined to Christ our sins are atoned for in Him. There can be no atonement of sins outside of union with Christ, or apart from faith in His blood (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 3:25; 6:3-11). Through faith union with Christ His death becomes our death and the justification and forgiveness provided in Christ’s death is credited to our account.

    Thus the Arminian atonement does not actually pay for anyone’s sins when that atonement is made.

    It pays for sins provisionally.

    Neither does it actually pay for sins at any time when no one is believing.

    The provision of payment is there even if there is no one believing, though no one would benefit from that provision until they put faith in it, according to the Scriptures (Rom. 3:25; 6:3-11). But it is also not the case that no one is believing, so it is wrong to say that Christ’s atonement doesn’t actually pay for anyone’s sins. It has, does and will.

    Therefore Arminians have no right to say to unbelievers, “Christ paid for your sins,” because in their own theology, He really didn’t. He only provided for a potential payment, contingent upon the cooperation of the unbeliever.

    We can indeed say that Christ paid for their sins in that He made a provisional payment that is applied through faith. People tend to understand that rather easily. There is no need to view such payment as unconditional or automatically applied. If that were the case, our sins would be paid for prior to believing. Is that what you believe? Do you believe that your sins have been actually paid for in a non-provisional manner prior to you putting faith in Christ? In that case you would be atoned for and forgiven of all sin as an unbeliever. So much for sola fide! Indeed, your sins would be forgiven prior to you even being born. Is that what you believe? Again, I recommend you read the other two parts of this series for more clarification.

    So why do Arminians tell unbelievers, “Christ died for your sins,” when their sins are not paid for yet?

    Because they are paid for, provisionally. Consider Col. 1:20-23 where Paul speaks to the Colossians as being reconciled to God through the blood of the cross (vs. 20). Yet, they were formally “alienated” (i.e. not reconciled) from God (vs. 21), and their present union/reconciliation is yet contingent on continuance in faith (vs. 23).

    Consider 2 Cor. 5:19 where “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” So the “world” was being reconciled to God in Christ. Yet, it remains for us to “be reconciled to God.” (verse 20). So the reconciliation that took place at the cross was real and for the whole world, and yet it was provisional in that it remains for us to be reconciled to God through union with Christ, by which we gain access to that provision as His death then becomes our death and that provision of atonement and reconciliation is applied to us (2 Cor. 5:14-21; Col. 1:20-23; 2:9-14; 3:3; Rom. 3:25; 5:1, 2; 6:3-11; 8:1 Eph. 1:3, 7, 13).

    So in the same way that Paul can say the world was reconciled even though it remains for us to “be reconciled” (through faith), we can tell people that Christ died for them and paid for their sins, though it remains for them to put faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25) in order to receive this provision.

    You may find the following post helpful as well:

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/1-corinthians-15-and-the-claims-of-calvinism/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  61. It seems that a simple illustration can show the problem with Ron’s thinking here. If someone buys a gift for you, it still remains for you to accept it. But the gift is still paid for and it was paid for for you. Or if I pay for my friend to be able to go and have dinner at a restaurant, say I prepaid the restaurant for my friend to come in and have dinner on me, I paid for the dinner; it was bought, but it still remains for my friend to go in and receive the dinner. One could multiply examples that can actually happen in real life when something is purchased for someone else but it still remains for the person to take possession of what was purchased and they can actually choose not to take possession of it.

  62. Arminian,

    Great examples. Thanks for chiming in. It really isn’t so complicated. As I mentioned, most people know intuitively what is meant when someone tells them that Christ died for them or paid for their sins and that one must put trust in Christ in order to receive that provision of reconciliation and forgiveness. It isn’t something that typically even needs to be explained, probably because we have so many examples of the same sort of things from our daily life experiences, as you well pointed out.

  63. There is no official “Arminian Atonement.” Arminians are not a monolith of group-think like the Calvinists are united on the issue.

    Ron, as far I see in Scripture, there never has been, or can be, substantiated that Jesus paid for a single sin. That is a fact! If such a central idea as payment were Biblical Atonement, then scripture would proudly state that sins were “paid for.”

    You can read the pre-conceived idea into a passage, but you will never find any such statement in the New or Old Testament. That being so, I see zero reason to question the logic and consistency of an “Arminian Atonement” based upon human conjecture and baseless theory to decide any Biblical or Theological matter.

    You are correct that those Arminians that are attached to the Calvinist invention of Penal Substitution fail to logically connect the inevitable outcome, nor do they grasp the original intent of why the theory was developed. If Calvinism never existed, the necessity of creating a systematic Penal Substitution would never have been found.

  64. Having a dinner pre-paid is a flawed example. Penal Substitution is dealing with sin, not dinner. Payment happens in time. It is real and absolute, or it is not really a payment. Sins “paid for” occurred in time, upon the Cross. The one’s who’ sins are paid for are paid them; it is therefore not a provision. Your “simple illustration” does not make sense to me; I see apples and oranges.

    To whom, or what is this payment made to… Biblically, book and verse?

    If someone fails to be saved, the Calvinist says that they were not paid for, and an Arminian says that they failed to accept the payment on their behalf. Where in Scripture does it say that God unpays a payment that has already occurred? If the Scriptures do not specifically say this,how would it be just, or justice to make someone pay for sins twice? If someone paid for everybody’s penalty, how is it just for a Judge to punish someone for something that is already paid for?

    All I have ever heard or seen is wild speculation and not solid Biblical justification for these questions. That is why I stick to what is substantiated from Scripture, mainly, that the Atonement is about love, grace and mercy; not wrath, punishment and payment.

  65. Jeff,

    Maybe you didn’t notice it, but I responded to some of your previous comments long ago. Much of what you say here has already been answered there. I would appreciate it if you interacted with my response rather than just repeat the same assertions. You can scroll up or click the link here:

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/provisional-atonement-part-1-dealing-with-john-owens-arminian-dilemma/#comment-6970

    On your claims that the penal satisfaction view is an invention to bolster Calvinism, it is demonstrably false. Aspects of penal-satisfaction/substitution can be found in many church writings prior to Calvin. Here are a few links that demonstrate this:

    http://www.traditionalbaptistchronicles.com/2011/05/chruch-fathers-on-penal-substitution.html

    http://back2center.blogspot.com/2013/03/penal-substitution-and-early-fathers.html

    But of course, the main issue is Scripture. I think that second link does a good job of showing how many Scriptures support, and in my opinion, demand an element of penal-satisfaction in the atonement. He starts out with Scriptural arguments and then proceeds to quote early Christian writers pre-Calvin.

    Your comments about the illustration of a prepaid dinner seem strange. It plainly illustrates that something can be paid for and provisional at the same time. You deny that can be the case, but the illustration proves otherwise. God is certainly able to make a provisional payment for sins through His Son, just as He can provisionally reconcile the world to Himself and yet it remains for us to “be reconciled” to God through that provision.

    You write,

    To whom, or what is this payment made to… Biblically, book and verse?

    “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) . We owe death for our sins. Christ pays that debt on our behalf by dying for us. It’s not that complicated.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  66. JP said: “Having a dinner pre-paid is a flawed example. Penal Substitution is dealing with sin, not dinner. Payment happens in time. It is real and absolute, or it is not really a payment. Sins “paid for” occurred in time, upon the Cross. The one’s who’ sins are paid for are paid them; it is therefore not a provision. Your “simple illustration” does not make sense to me; I see apples and oranges.”

    Your objection to my prepaid dinner analogy does not make sense IMO. It can’t be reasonably denied that the prepaid dinner is provisional. It is paid for, but only partaken of if the person goes and gets it. And then it is also undeniable that the prepayment of the dinner takes place in time. So pointing out that the atonement happened in time doesn’t support your position at all. The atonement was made in time, just like the dinner is in the analogy. Moreover, simply saying sins are different than dinner is invalid as an argument. That would negate almost any analogy. The analogy shows that something can be paid for and yet provisional. Why would it matter for that principle whether it is sin or something else? You would have to show what it is about the analogy that makes it disanalogous in a relevant way. But that seems impossible given the details.

  67. JP said: “That is why I stick to what is substantiated from Scripture, mainly, that the Atonement is about love, grace and mercy; not wrath, punishment and payment.”

    It is strange to me how you just seem to ignore the biblical references to wrath, punishment, and vengeance.

  68. I take on these claims anew since relevant questions were made and responded to. The prior conversation ceased to answers questions but by dogma and not by Scripture. In the interest of a more current dialog, I will respond to these allegations.

    You stated, On your claims that the penal satisfaction view is an invention to bolster Calvinism, it is demonstrably false. Aspects of penal-satisfaction/substitution can be found in many church writings prior to Calvin. Here are a few links that demonstrate this:

    First – Tabernacle and day of atonement.

    Sacrifice is not payment. It is never called payment. The subject is never referred to as under the wrath of God or the subject of punishment. No Penal Substitution is to be found in any sacrifice according to Scripture.

    Second – Isaiah 53
    Clearly people read Penal Substitution into it. To say this is penal substitution is to say that it is valid to support Eternal Security with the words, “Surely, ye shall not die.” Genesis 3:4.

    “…we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.” “We” is not God. It is those that looked upon Christ and misunderstood what it means. “We,” or the on looking public’s opinion is no better that the devils opinion in Genesis. Nowhere in the passage does it state that this is God’s view.
    As your article boldly states…”In all honesty, I fail to see how anything but willful blindness can lead an honest reader of the text to miss the point.”

    I don’t see how anyone in honesty can attribute sinner’s reaction and judgment to be God’s Judgment. It is willful blindness to change “we” into “God.” Those that wish to “miss the point” do so because they love their opinion more than God’s! Keep in mind, I am only mirroring the referred to author’s conclusions back at him if the Scriptures are true!

    There are other passages that we can look at to see what was God’s plan. In another place I wrote:

    “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” refers back to Psalm 22, which is a prophecy of the gruesome death that the Messiah was to suffer. The Psalm illuminates our first option by stating “why are thou so far from helping me?” The question resides in which way was God “far from helping Him,” and “forsaking” him. The text of Psalm 22 reveals this a little more clearly. The abandonment that was experienced was not a separation in the Trinity because of the Father’s displeasure, but abandonment to suffering. In Psalm 22:1, it was the feeling of the righteous man that God is “far from helping him.” To say that this is depicting an actual separation from God is out of harmony with subsequent verses that express the righteous man’s confidence in God’s presence and help. (verses 4, 9, 19.)”

    In this Psalm which is doubtlessly a prophecy concerning the crucifixion, we are told the exact opposite of what Charles Stanley is teaching us. Concerning the cry of perceived abandonment that we read in Psalm 22:1, we must balance this in the light of what follows in its context in 22:24, “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.” Psalm 22:24

    Third – Colossians 2:13-14 – The certificate of debt

    Humor the logic of taking a word and making the whole of atonement fit it!

    Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24 both refer to healing, not debt; are we to develop a narrow theory of the atonement based only upon medical truisms to the expense of all other aspects of the atonement that are mentioned?

    Isaiah 1:4-6, shows his description of Israel as a sinful nation, a “people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that are corrupters; they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they are gone away backward. Why would you be stricken anymore? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” It is clear that the writer thought of sin as something that was a sickness of Israel (and mankind), and sickness does not need forgiveness, it needs healing. So do we take one isolated metaphorical verse about debt and turn the atonement on its ear to please it? Why shouldn’t we take healing as the one and only meaning of atonement since it has multiple references to back it?

    My point is, the Bible throughout states that it is through sacrifice, not debt paying, and not through healing. The idea of metaphorical healing and debt, the demerit of sin, must be atoned for. There is no conflict with Biblical atonement by sacrifice.

    Fourth – Church Fathers

    First, let me say that there is a vast difference between establishing a doctrine from Scripture and finding it in Early Church writings. Secondly, there is a vast difference between the words of those who were disciples of an apostle, and even the second generation; twice removed. Here we have testimonial proof from people who were hundreds of years removed. All that were quoted were Roman Catholics. If one is trying to establish an unbroken thread to the apostles, there must be much stronger proof than the evidence he gives!

    This is where the article draws its greatest strength, for it certainly fails to make the argument scripturally. Eusebius, affiliated Roman Catholic, excommunicated for Arianism, propagandist for his “most beloved by God” Emperor, Constantine, and best known as a historian…. Not a necessarily the stock of a sound theologian or accurate historian; and even questionably a Christian. Is this the earliest and strongest proof of early Penal Substitution?

    …And the Lamb of God not only did this, but was chastised on our behalf, and suffered a penalty He did not owe, but which we owed because of the multitude of our sins; and so He became the cause of the forgiveness of our sins, because He received death for us, and transferred to Himself the scourging, the insults, and the dishonour, which were due to us, and drew down upon Himself the appointed curse, being made a curse for us.”

    The first highlighted word, “Chastised” has two meanings, one of which does not mean punishment. To say that Jesus “suffered a penalty He did not owe” does nothing for the cause of Penal Substitution. Jesus “suffered” a penalty, He was not guilty, and did not pay any penalty. This can be seen other ways than Penal. Now, whether Eusebius means Calvinian imputation by the term, “transferred to Himself,” or whether he meant “taken upon Himself the scourging and insults, and dishonor which was due us,” is in debate. If he meant “impute” in the Penal form, then I just ask, where is such a theological fiction in Scripture?

    Being made a curse for us, is the same as saying, “Cursed is every man that hangeth on a tree.” Yet Christian martyrs hung on trees. Did our sins get transferred to them too?

    There are two meanings in Scripture for the word. One is punishment, and the other is discipline. Discipline is not punishment. Punishment does not have the objective of correcting or teaching, but retribution. We cannot just pick and choose which meaning that we want to append to it.
    For example, many have erroneously read the idea of punishment into Isaiah 53:5. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him…” Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies points out that there are two words in Hebrew that are translated as “chastisement.” One as punishment, chastening; and the other as, to discipline, to correct, to chasten..,”1 The passage in Isaiah being the latter definition, which excludes punishment. While the word can be used two ways, depending on the meaning of the original word used, it is wrong to suggest that we have license to interchange meaning because we cannot differentiate the meaning from its singular English usage. In the New Testament, the word is limited to discipline and training. The word “chastise” has its root on the Greek paideuo, and paideia, which have their root in child.2 God is not a sadist that enjoys punishing children without purpose. A child is disciplined with a view to training and correction. The notion that God is a bullying Father, that beats His children to instill fear, is beyond any plausible consideration. “So, chastening is discipline and instruction of the sort that is lovingly provided by the benevolent parent. Chastening has as its objective the welfare of the person being disciplined… the biblical concept of chastening/discipline thus is no harbor for child abusers.”3 But chastisement is a positive thing! “Should a father fail to discipline his son properly, it would indicate that he considered him of little consequence, perhaps no better than an illegitimate son towards whom he felt no sense of true affection, and for whom he had no sense of responsibility.”4

    1 Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, William Wilson, Mac Donald Publishing Co., McLean, VA. No Date. Page74.

    2 Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine, M.A., Mac Donald Publishing Co., McLean, VA. No Date. Page 185.

    3 Beacon Dictionary of Theology, Chasten, Donald M. Joy, Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO. 1983. Page 100.

    4 The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Charles W. Carter, editor, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA. 1986. Vol. 6, Page 161.

  69. Ambrose of Milan (339-397), Flight from the World, ch. 7, sect. 44

    “And so then, Jesus took flesh that He might destroy the curse of sinful flesh, and He became for us a curse that a blessing might overwhelm a curse, uprightness might overwhelm sin, forgiveness might overwhelm the sentence, and life might overwhelm death. He also took up death that the sentence might be fulfilled and satisfaction might be given for the judgment, the curse placed on sinful flesh even to death. Therefore, nothing was done contrary to God’s sentence when the terms of that sentence were fulfilled, for the curse was unto death but grace is after death.”

    “Here again, note the key words “sentence”, “satisfaction…judgment”. and “curse…unto death”. In what way is this language conceptually different from PSA?”

    I ask, how is this conceptually different from Sacrifice, Anselmic Atonement, the Governmental Theory, or a host of other options?
    John Chrysostom (c. 350-407), Homilies on Second Corinthians, Homily XI, sect. 6

    If one that was himself a king, beholding a robber and malefactor under punishment, gave his well-beloved son, his only-begotten and true, to be slain; and transferred the death and the guilt as well, from him to his son (who was himself of no such character), that he might both save the condemned man and clear him from his evil reputation; and then if, having subsequently promoted him to great dignity, he had yet, after thus saving him and advancing him to that glory unspeakable, been outraged by the person that had received such treatment: would not that man, if he had any sense, have chosen ten thousand deaths rather than appear guilty of so great ingratitude?

    Here again, a king, in this case Christ himself, “transferred the death and the guilt” that belonged to a “malefactor under punishment”. So there is a legal aspect of guilt and punishment, and a substitution where that guilt and punishment are transferred. This is PSA. What part of PSA is missing?
    What PSA is missing is, this is not Scripture! The source is questionable! Eusebius “whitewashed” many things and played the role of propagandist for the Empire! In light of the assertion that is made in favor of PSA:

    1. Where in Scripture do we see this mystical transfer of guilt and character from one person to another? I assert that this is fiction and not Scripture.

    2. If such is true, then Jesus actually and truly became guilty upon the Cross. If this is so, then God’s wrath was upon Him. So, how does one justify dividing the Trinity over this? The Holy Spirit and The Father are complicit in ousting the Son and punishing Him. A divided Trinity is no Trinity. If Jesus can exist outside of the Trinity, either God is not One, or Jesus was never God. No other conclusions exist.

    3. You responded: To whom, or what is this payment made to… Biblically, book and verse?
    “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) . We owe death for our sins. Christ pays that debt on our behalf by dying for us. It’s not that complicated.

    So, if it is not all that complicated, and the whole world’s sins were satisfactorily punished on the cross by a mystical transfer of guilt, then how can the irrefutable logic that it was a “done deal” at that moment for the whole world? Either the transfer was real and absolute, or there was no mystical transfer at all, but a sacrifice sufficient to make provision for anyone who would cast their faith upon that Object of sacrifice.

    Either everyone is saved at the Cross via imputation and payment, or they are saved in time via grace through faith.

    Deuteronomy 21:22, 23 from the law that Moses gave to the Israelites,
    “(22) If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,
    (23) his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do
    not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, for he who is hanged is
    accursed of God.”

    Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Against Faustus. bk. 14, sect. 6

    If we read, ‘Cursed of God is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ the addition of the words ‘of God’ creates no difficulty.
    In reference to Christ, Galatians 3:13 says,“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ʻCursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

    Yet our Penal friend argues that adding “God” to the words of Scripture is “no difficulty?” Why not add “Cursed by the Roman Catholic Church?” There would be “no difficulty” in that, would there?

    Interpolating Deuteronomy 21:22-23 into this to justify a theory is wrong.

    “(22) If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, (23) his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, for he who is hanged is accursed of God.”

    In reference to criminal in Deuteronomy, they are accursed by God. Note that Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit in reference to Christ, emphatically avoids any such application to Christ. Yes, it is a difficulty!

    Also, note that it was the Gnostic Manichean Augustine that told us many doctrines that are not in Scripture;

    1. Absolute predestination
    2. Impossibility of falling away or apostasy. (Eternal Security)
    3. Man has no free will.
    4. One cannot know if they are saved.
    5. God commands impossibilities.
    6. The supreme authority of the Roman church.
    7. Purgatory.
    8. Prayers for the dead.
    9. The damnation of unbaptized infants and adults.
    10. Sex is sinful because depravity is inherited.

    On your claims that the penal satisfaction view is an invention to bolster Calvinism, it is demonstrably false. Aspects of penal-satisfaction/substitution can be found in many church writings prior to Calvin. Here are a few links that demonstrate this:

    Your referred to site did nothing to bolster the idea that Penal Substitution is in Scripture, or in orthodox and credible Christian history prior to Calvin. Augustine, if I recall, may have made such allusions to punish and payment. Note that even Calvin avoided such terminology; the Penal Theory was not introduced until after Calvin’s Institutes were written, and the death of Calvin had occurred. That is a historical fact.
    Many of the statements made prior to Calvin were made by those who held to an Anselmic View of the atonement. I fully concede that many used such terms as penalty, debt, and punishment. But the Amselmic View is not Penal Substitution! It is distinctly different. The article you referred to stated:

    If he took on the curse that belonged to us and took on the punishment, again what part of PSA is missing?
    He is missing the most important fact! If Penal Substitution is necessary, then Jesus failed! Yes, that right! The wages of sin is death… an eternal separation from God in an eternal Hell. That is what the Bible teaches. In order to pay for even one person’s sin, Jesus must be eternally damned and tortured in Hell. God cannot change the wages of sin!

  70. JP said: “That is why I stick to what is substantiated from Scripture, mainly, that the Atonement is about love, grace and mercy; not wrath, punishment and payment.”

    It is strange to me how you just seem to ignore the biblical references to wrath, punishment, and vengeance.

    —-

    The wrath of God is in the Scriptures, and the atonement is stated to quell this wrath. God punishes the unrepentant. He has vowed vengeance upon those that refuse His grace and mercy. I don’t ignore these subjects, but use them in proper context.

    But Penal Substitution does not believe the Bible; It makes Jesus the subject of God’s wrath, causing a rift in the Trinity. The Bible never says that God’s wrath was upon Christ or that the Trinity was destroyed on the Cross.

    So, you seem to be convinced that God must “have His pound of flesh.” Retributive justice is what people argue, but never find in Scripture.

    Why do I believe in love, grace and mercy? Because we all say that we believe that God is love, God is gracious, and God is merciful.

    As for love being the center of the atonement I would state that the whole of God, The Trinity, was “in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. The Penal Theory have the God the Spirit, and God the Father thundering down wrath on God the Son. “God” was not in reconciling the world, only Jesus was according to the Penal Theory.

    Grace is giving someone something that they do not deserve. The Scriptures state that were are saved by grace; yet you argue that we are saved by punishment or retributive justice. No one is saved by grace in Penal Substitution… those that are saved, are saved because they DESERVE IT! It has been paid for! A Judge can demand payment, or He can withhold judgment by giving grace; He cannot do both. God must accept the repentant sinner, not because He is gracious, but because that is what He MUST do since retributive justice has been satisfied. If someone is saved by Penal Substitution, God saves them out of obligation, not out of any graciousness on His part, but because every sin was punished and judged on the Cross!

    Mercy is withholding what someone deserves. Penal Substitution does not believe in mercy. God does not show mercy, but must have His pound of flesh or He cannot forgive!

  71. To whom, or what is this payment made to… Biblically, book and verse?
    “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) . We owe death for our sins. Christ pays that debt on our behalf by dying for us. It’s not that complicated.

    In theory… you are correct that it is not complicated;
    In Scripture? Apparently it is beyond complicated since no one can find what was paid exactly, or to whom it is paid, or for that matter, that any payment of any kind was even ever made.

    If “death” pays for sins, then how can anyone who dies be further punished?

  72. Jeff,

    Thanks for the fuller response. The last few days have been very busy for me. I hope to get to your comments and questions soon. I appreciate your patience.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  73. Jeff,

    You wrote,

    I take on these claims anew since relevant questions were made and responded to. The prior conversation ceased to answers questions but by dogma and not by Scripture.

    I don’t see how that is an accurate claim. It seems to me that your responses to date have been almost entirely philosophical and not Scriptural. Please look back at my previous response to you. I challenged you on several counts, responding directly to your claims. You could have easily responded to those specific questions and comments, and you were certainly free to use Scripture to bolster your response as well.

    In the interest of a more current dialog, I will respond to these allegations.
    You stated, On your claims that the penal satisfaction view is an invention to bolster Calvinism, it is demonstrably false. Aspects of penal-satisfaction/substitution can be found in many church writings prior to Calvin. Here are a few links that demonstrate this:

    First – Tabernacle and day of atonement.
    Sacrifice is not payment. It is never called payment. The subject is never referred to as under the wrath of God or the subject of punishment. No Penal Substitution is to be found in any sacrifice according to Scripture.

    You are missing the point. There is a symbolic transfer of sin from the person (or people) to the sacrifice (in the sin offering and in the Day of Atonement sacrifice). In laying their hands on the animal and personally slaughtering it, they identify themselves with the animal and the animal dies in their place. This is even more pronounced in the ritual of the scapegoat where it is literally said that the sins of the people are put upon the goat. Of course, ultimately, this pointed to Christ, who would bear our sins and take our punishment for us. (Lev. 4:4, 15, 24, 29;16:21; Isa. 53). In Leviticus 5 we are told again and again that one must confess and offer a sacrifice for his sin. Only then can the person be “forgiven.” (Lev. 5:5-13). The same is true of the guilt offering.

    Second – Isaiah 53

    Clearly people read Penal Substitution into it. To say this is penal substitution is to say that it is valid to support Eternal Security with the words, “Surely, ye shall not die.” Genesis 3:4.

    “…we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.” “We” is not God. It is those that looked upon Christ and misunderstood what it means. “We,” or the on looking public’s opinion is no better that the devils opinion in Genesis. Nowhere in the passage does it state that this is God’s view.

    I have read this argument from you before, and it ignores the context and the rest of the passage. That is why I said that your attempt to avoid the implications of this passage reminded me of the way Calvinists twist and turn to avoid the implications of the passages which teach apostasy and universal atonement.

    The misunderstanding of the “we” here has to do with the idea that the suffering servant was being rightly punished for his own sins, that he deserved the punishment he got. Verse 5 makes that undeniably clear:

    “But He was pierced through for our transgressions [not “his transgressions” as was wrongly assumed by “we” in verse 4].

    So they aren’t wrong about Jesus being afflicted, stricken and smitten of God. They were wrong to think that this was because of what Jesus had done. Rather, he was smitten, afflicted, and stricken because of what we had done.

    But it gets worse for your claims:

    “He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well being fell upon Him…But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him…That He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

    And there is more:

    “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief…My servant will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”

    So your dismissal of this passage simply doesn’t work. This passage alone fully establishes penal satisfaction. Your attempt to side step it didn’t work, so I see no need to proceed further until you address this passage in its entirety and grapple with the actual language which makes it clear that Christ was crushed, smitten, stricken, afflicted and chastised (punished), bearing the iniquities of us all that we might be justified by His blood (cf. Rom. 3:25).

    I don’t see how anyone in honesty can attribute sinner’s reaction and judgment to be God’s Judgment. It is willful blindness to change “we” into “God.” Those that wish to “miss the point” do so because they love their opinion more than God’s! Keep in mind, I am only mirroring the referred to author’s conclusions back at him if the Scriptures are true!

    See above and note that this criticism actually seems far more fitting for your interpretation than mine.

    Fourth – Church Fathers
    First, let me say that there is a vast difference between establishing a doctrine from Scripture and finding it in Early Church writings. Secondly, there is a vast difference between the words of those who were disciples of an apostle, and even the second generation; twice removed.

    But none of this is relevant since your point was that penal-satisfaction was invented to support Calvinism. Here is what you wrote,

    “If Calvinism never existed, the necessity of creating a systematic Penal Substitution would never have been found.”

    So finding aspects of it in any writings prior to Calvinism “existing” proves you wrong on that point. We find it. You can argue that they were wrong, but that is not the point. So your point is undone by these quotes, even if you think what they are saying is unscriptural.

    To whom, or what is this payment made to… Biblically, book and verse?

    It is not a monetary transaction. It is the payment of a penalty, and that penalty is death (eternal death). Christ paid the penalty for us. The penalty of death for sin was given by God. Christ suffered and died in our place, bearing that punishment (penalty) as Isa. 53 plainly says (despite your attempt to make it say something else).

    “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) . We owe death for our sins. Christ pays that debt on our behalf by dying for us. It’s not that complicated.

    In theory… you are correct that it is not complicated;
    In Scripture? Apparently it is beyond complicated since no one can find what was paid exactly, or to whom it is paid, or for that matter, that any payment of any kind was even ever made.

    See above.

    If “death” pays for sins, then how can anyone who dies be further punished?

    Because the penalty of death is more than just physical. It is spiritual and eternal death and punishment. It was all of Christ’s suffering and death that was sufficient to satisfy the demands of God’s holiness (by His stripes we are healed). That suffering and death had infinite value and therefore covered our sins against an infinite God in accordance with God’s own sovereign demands.

    Also, when we speak of paying a penalty that is not financial, it does not necessarily include the idea of something satisfying what is required so that there can be no more to the penalty. It’s not like someone’s death makes up for their sin against God. They may get a penalty, but it doesn’t mean the penalty makes up for their sin. As Forlines points out, Christ did not endure the exact same penalty as us, but an equivalent penalty.

    But Penal Substitution does not believe the Bible; It makes Jesus the subject of God’s wrath, causing a rift in the Trinity. The Bible never says that God’s wrath was upon Christ or that the Trinity was destroyed on the Cross.

    Nobody says the Trinity was destroyed at the cross. This stuff highlights again that the crux of your argumentation is far more philosophical than Scriptural.

    So, you seem to be convinced that God must “have His pound of flesh.” Retributive justice is what people argue, but never find in Scripture.

    What the Bible says is that God’s holiness demands that He punish sin and Christ suffered our punishment in our place (Isa. 53). Why do you reject the plain language of Isa. 53? Because it doesn’t sit well with you philosophically?

    Why do I believe in love, grace and mercy? Because we all say that we believe that God is love, God is gracious, and God is merciful.

    Who are you answering here? I don’t think anyone asked you why you believe in love, grace and mercy.

    As for love being the center of the atonement I would state that the whole of God, The Trinity, was “in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. The Penal Theory have the God the Spirit, and God the Father thundering down wrath on God the Son. “God” was not in reconciling the world, only Jesus was according to the Penal Theory.

    Maybe some who hold to penal-satisfaction see it that way, but I don’t. I don’t think that anyone would deny that love is at the center of the atonement. In love, God offered up His Son on our behalf. In love, Christ suffered the penalty and punishment for sin that we deserved.

    Grace is giving someone something that they do not deserve. The Scriptures state that were are saved by grace; yet you argue that we are saved by punishment or retributive justice.

    That doesn’t follow at all. It was in grace and mercy that God allowed Christ to suffer in our place and take on the punishment that we deserved. That’s pretty strongly gracious and merciful. We deserved punishment and Christ did not. He took that punishment that we deserved on Himself (Isa. 53). What an amazing act of mercy, grace and love that is! Again, it seems that certain philosophical assumptions are making it hard for you to correctly see the perspective of penal-satsifaction.

    No one is saved by grace in Penal Substitution… those that are saved, are saved because they DESERVE IT!

    That’s just crazy talk. That doesn’t follow at all.

    It has been paid for!

    Provisionally. This argument of yours founders on the very passage you quote above, where the Scriptures say that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Here is what I wrote to Ron above,

    Because they are paid for, provisionally. Consider Col. 1:20-23 where Paul speaks to the Colossians as being reconciled to God through the blood of the cross (vs. 20). Yet, they were formally “alienated” (i.e. not reconciled) from God (vs. 21), and their present union/reconciliation is yet contingent on continuance in faith (vs. 23).

    Consider 2 Cor. 5:19 where “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” So the “world” was being reconciled to God in Christ. Yet, it remains for us to “be reconciled to God.” (verse 20). So the reconciliation that took place at the cross was real and for the whole world, and yet it was provisional in that it remains for us to be reconciled to God through union with Christ, by which we gain access to that provision as His death then becomes our death and that provision of atonement and reconciliation is applied to us (2 Cor. 5:14-21; Col. 1:20-23; 2:9-14; 3:3; Rom. 3:25; 5:1, 2; 6:3-11; 8:1 Eph. 1:3, 7, 13).

    So just as you say “it was paid for”, I can say “we are reconciled!”, since Scripture says God was “reconciling” the world to Himself in Christ. So if God was reconciling the “world” to Himself through Christ, why does it remain for us to “be ye reconciled”? Because that reconciliation, though it “happened in time”, was provisional in nature, and not automatic or unconditional. The same is true of the penalty being paid on our behalf.

    A Judge can demand payment, or He can withhold judgment by giving grace; He cannot do both

    Sure he can. God did. Christ took on our punishment so that God could show us grace and reconcile us to Him, and it was by God’s grace that Christ was offered in the first place. He could have left us all in our hopeless state with no provision of atonement. Again, your argument just doesn’t follow.

    God must accept the repentant sinner, not because He is gracious, but because that is what He MUST do since retributive justice has been satisfied.

    Again, this just doesn’t follow. God’s grace is antecedent and consequent to the death of Christ. Just as in Leviticus, an offering had to be made for a person’s sin before that person could be forgiven. Hebrews 9:22 makes it plain that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.

    If someone is saved by Penal Substitution, God saves them out of obligation, not out of any graciousness on His part, but because every sin was punished and judged on the Cross!

    Still doesn’t follow, no matter how often you repeat it. There is a sense in which God is obligated to forgive, but that is because He has obligated Himself. Satisfaction for sin is found “in Christ” and only “in Christ” can a sinner find forgiveness. Atonement is provisional “in Him.” It is not automatic or unconditionally applied.

    Mercy is withholding what someone deserves. Penal Substitution does not believe in mercy.

    Not so. We still deserve death, but because of our union with and identification with Christ through His death, we obtain mercy. Just because Christ died for us and suffered the penalty for sin on our behalf, doesn’t mean we “deserve it” or that there is no “mercy” involved, and no one will partake of that provision outside of Christ.

    God does not show mercy, but must have His pound of flesh or He cannot forgive!

    Doesn’t God demand repentance and faith for forgiveness? So if God demands faith and repentance, does that mean forgiveness is not an act of mercy, since we “must” repent and believe to receive it? God can show mercy and grace on any condition He sees fit. Even in Governmental theory, the “demands” of justice must be met, right? Does that mean that it is no longer a matter of grace or mercy on God’s part? It’s no different with penal-satisfaction.

    Let me remind you that I have no problem with a governmental aspect to the atonement, a moral influence aspect, a Christus Victor (ransom) aspect, or a sacrificial aspect. The atonement encapsulates all of these views. But to deny any penal-satsifaction aspect to the atonement seems to be plainly at odds with Scripture. Arminius recognized this. Wesley recognized this, and so did Richard S. Taylor when, by his own admission, he began to allow Scripture to dictate his view of atonement, rather than the influence of governmental advocates like Miley. He writes,

    “It is my purpose, not to minimize the relation of the cross to God’s love, but to establish the relation of the cross to God’s integrity. The cross of Jesus Christ has PENALTY written all over it- penalty paid by One for the many. Those who have rejected the so-called penal satisfaction of the atonement, and have rather opted for the Governmental Theory as being a sufficient explanation, have missed the depths.

    My thesis further is that the Bible teaches a penal-satisfaction which is provisional and conditional. If this can be shown, the major objections to the penal-satisfaction atonement fall to the ground.” (God’s Integrity at the Cross, pg. xiii)

    He is exactly right. This admission is significant as Taylor was once a champion of the governmental theory and was familiar with the “objections” to the penal-satisfaction theory, since he made them himself in a book that you call “monumental.” I recommend again that you read his book before drawing such wild conclusions that his change of stance is likely due to “senility” or “fear of controversy.”

    Now, you can keep going on with your philosophical objections to penal-satisfaction, but you can’t rightly say that those who hold to it can’t find it in Scripture. Isaiah 53 alone teaches it plainly, and your extremely strained and untenable interpretation of that passage proves how problematic it is for your contention. So if you want to comment further, let’s just stick with Isa. 53 since we both agree that this doctrine either stands or falls with Scripture and not philosophy.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  74. Let me add few things. I changed one part of my comments since Christus Victor and ransom are really the same theory. Also, with regards to Governmental Theory, things can get confusing as it is not always explained the same way. Often, it is explained with the aspects of penalty or punishment, but in a more symbolic way so that the cross was a demonstration of the fact that sin will be punished in order to uphold God’s moral order, but not that it must be punished as an affront to God’s holiness in order to remove sin and make salvation possible, nor did Christ truly suffer punishment for our sins. He did not take our punishment on Himself and satisfy God’s wrath against us.

  75. Also, while I highly recommend Taylor’s book, “God’s Integrity and the Cross”, he errs in suggesting that Arminius held to a governmental view that Grotius more fully developed. Arminius may have held to certain aspects of what would later be known as Governmental, but he also strongly held to penal-satisfaction. Reading Taylor, one gets the impression that Arminius did not hold to penal-satisfaction, but that is simply not the case. Still a worthwhile read:

  76. From the answers that I have seen already, may I ask for some clarification?

    Wherein does the Arminian view labeled the “Penal Theory” differ from what the Calvinists label the “Penal Theory”? Or is it identical?

    I want to be sure that I am addressing the same thing that I understand it to be.

    Was there punishment of Christ while He was upon the Cross?

    Did God pour out His wrath upon Christ while He was upon the Cross?

    Was there a real transfer of our guilt, actually making Christ guilty of our sins while He suffered upon the Cross?

    And in taking upon the actual guilt of these sins, was there a form of payment for these sins?

    These statements are what I know and see as part of the Penal Theory. There may be more to it, but these elements appear to be consistent and essential to the theory that I have read about and heard preached. I want to be sure that there is not more than one version of the Penal Theory being talked about here.

    Thanks,

    Jeff

  77. Jeff,

    You wrote,

    Wherein does the Arminian view labeled the “Penal Theory” differ from what the Calvinists label the “Penal Theory”? Or is it identical?

    I would say it is identical in many key points, but the biggest and most important difference is that the Arminian view has a provisional element to it. This post specifically addressed that issue.

    Was there punishment of Christ while He was upon the Cross?

    Hard to deny that given the explicit language of Isa. 53.

    Did God pour out His wrath upon Christ while He was upon the Cross?

    Well, God was “pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief”.

    Was there a real transfer of our guilt, actually making Christ guilty of our sins while He suffered upon the Cross?

    “But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him…My servant will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”

    At the least we need to say He bore the punishment for the guilt of our sins.

    And in taking upon the actual guilt of these sins, was there a form of payment for these sins?

    A provisional form of payment, though it is not some sort of monetary payment, but the paying of a penalty = the enduring of punishment.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  78. @Jeff eternalsecurity.us is your website?

    I must say I enjoy reading the current discussion.
    The one thing my head can’t get around with yet with Penal Satisfaction/Substitution is its clear that the punishment for Sins is Death/Hell forever, then why did He only got punished with it only 3 days if we’ll follow with that logic stricktly?

  79. Rex,

    Because Jesus is God (who is infinite) as well as man, sinless, and perfect. His life is so valuable, that the sacrifice of it is worth more than the entire universe and much more than accounts for an eternity of Hell for as many people as could be conceived, yea, even an infinite number of people.

  80. Yes Rex, it is my website. I believe that you are seeing the inevitable difficulty that nearly all non-Penal Atonement believers find as the most problematic part of a theory that was designed to support Calvinism.

    Ben, sorry for not addressing your prior postings yet and taking this out of order. I will have time in the middle of this week to tend to that.

    It was posted…
    Jesus is God (who is infinite) as well as man, sinless, and perfect. His life is so valuable, that the sacrifice of it is worth more than the entire universe and much more than accounts for an eternity of Hell for as many people as could be conceived, yea, even an infinite number of people.

    This is philosophical gap filling to explain or rescue an unfounded theory. Either retributive justice is true, or it is a fiction. No passage in Scripture states any such thing; it is not theology but convenient speculation to explain away a difficulty.

    It is common to seek to explain how certain things work in such great detail, but this is the philosophy of man seeking to justify a theory. The Philosophical mind tends to believe that it must answer all aspects of an argument or there is something wrong. We all like answers and desire to understand.

    Another ethical gap filler I see is imputation. The Greek term never means transfer of character. It is quite contrary to moral laws and Scripture in my opinion. But if each gap-filler supports the whole, then logically I see the Calvinistic version of Penal Substitution to make perfect sense. I reject it because it is not Biblical, not that I don’t like the conclusion it draws us to.

    Unfortunately I don’t have time to go into any more detail at this moment and have to go.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  81. Jeff said concerning Jesus’ life being so valuable as to be able to cover the eternal punishment of all mankind: “This is philosophical gap filling to explain or rescue an unfounded theory. Either retributive justice is true, or it is a fiction. No passage in Scripture states any such thing; it is not theology but convenient speculation to explain away a difficulty.”

    ***** This is amazing to me. First, do you doubt that Jesus Christ’s life is valuable enough to cover the sins and punishment of humanity? Second, Scripture clearly indicates that Jesus suffered the punishment of our sin, as Ben has pointed out. It was then asked how this could be given that Jesus did not suffer eternal Hell. If my answer was a philosophical gap filler answer, then the question was a philosophical gap filler question. I.e., Scripture tells us Jesus suffered the punishment for our sin. We should bow to the word of God and accept that. Asking how that can be is speculative if Scripture does not explain the details. I don’t think that the question is illegitimate. But when a question that does not get asked in Scripture is asked, then one should not complain when an answer is given that is not directly provided in Scripture, since the question was not raised for the answer to be given. However, the answer itself is still biblical. It is clearly biblical that God the Son is infinitely valuable, sinless, and perfect. It is clearly biblical that God is greater and more valuable than the entire universes, indeed, that he is infinitely valuable.

    Jeff said: “It is common to seek to explain how certain things work in such great detail, but this is the philosophy of man seeking to justify a theory. The Philosophical mind tends to believe that it must answer all aspects of an argument or there is something wrong. We all like answers and desire to understand.”

    *****You ignore the question that was asked. You also ignore the biblical foundations of the answer that was given. Do you hold that the question that was asked was itself biblical? If so, show us where that question is asked in the Bible. Otherwise, it makes little sense for you to suggest an answer is merely philosophical or illegitimate because it is not articulated with the exact same wording in the Bible when the question itself does not come from the Bible. Yet, as I mentioned above, the premises ofthe answer are clearly biblical. Or do you deny that God the Son is infinitely valuable, sinless, and perfect? Do you deny that God is greater and more valuable than the entire universes, indeed, that he is infinitely valuable?

    But in any case, for one’s position on the atonement, we really need to pay attention to what Scripture says. And there, it should be little doubt that it is said that Jesus suffered the punishment for our sin in our place. If you want to cut off any questions about the details because they are not elaborated upon in Scripture, I can respect that, though I don’t agree. But that then seems to give up your foundation to criticize the answers to such questions. If the question is illegitimate, then you cut off the need for an answer. If that’s how you want to approach it, then let’s focus on what Scripture says, and that is e.g., “But He was pierced through for our transgressions . . . “He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well being fell upon Him…But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him…That He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due” etc.

  82. Ben,

    Thanks for attempting to answer the question on a Biblical basis.

    -
    Wherein does the Arminian view labeled the “Penal Theory” differ from what the Calvinists label the “Penal Theory”? Or is it identical?

    I would say it is identical in many key points, but the biggest and most important difference is that the Arminian view has a provisional element to it. This post specifically addressed that issue.

    **** Considering the answers that you affirmed below, “provision” mixed with “payment” is perhaps the most problematic for an Arminian to justify. If a sin was paid for, it was paid for on the Cross. It therefore is a finished deal in that moment. In this, I believe that the Calvinistic Theory of Penal Substitution rightly demands the inevitable justification of those whose sins are paid for. If anything was paid on the cross we are then faced with either limited atonement, or Universalism.

    A payment that is already complete 2,000 years ago is not conditional. If a literal transfer of sins has taken place, and a literal punishment of specific people’s sins on the Cross was real, then God’s wrath is complete in that specific moment, and the one atoned for must be treated from that point on as if they had no guilt. Predestination is the inevitable result of Penal Substitution, agreeing with the Calvinistic Theory.

    -
    Was there punishment of Christ while He was upon the Cross?

    Hard to deny that given the explicit language of Isa. 53.

    **** I say that it is hard to someone to deny that Isaiah 53 never states that Jesus was punished. The “we” is clearly not contextually speaking for God. Also, I pointed out that two words are used in Hebrew that are translated as “chastise,” one of which means to punish, the other to correct or discipline. According to the Hebrew the specific term used in Isiah 53 does not speak of punishment. I would ask, how does the use of the peoples judgment stated in this passage become more correct than the words used by God and the inspired writer?

    -
    Did God pour out His wrath upon Christ while He was upon the Cross?

    Well, God was “pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief”.

    **** There is nothing within this statement that says directly or indirectly that Jesus was under the wrath of God. God can allow His Son to be crushed and put to grief in order to accomplish the salvation of many. Nothing happens unless God wills or allows it to happen. Stepping aside and allowing suffering does not make it the wrath of God any more than God allowing the heathens to crucify believers in the Early Church was evidence of God’s wrath upon those believers.

    -
    Was there a real transfer of our guilt, actually making Christ guilty of our sins while He suffered upon the Cross?

    “But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him…My servant will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.”

    At the least we need to say He bore the punishment for the guilt of our sins.

    **** Bearing the weight of these sins is not the same as the guilt of these sins being transferred.

    Watson states: (Greek terms omitted) “It is thus that Christ is said to bear our sins: ” Who his ownself bare our sins in his own body on the tree; ” (1 Peter ii. 24;) where the Apostle evidently quotes from Isaiah liii: ” He shall bear their iniquities.” ” He bore the sin of many.” The same expression is used by St. Paul, (Heb. ix. 28,) ” So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” Now to bear sin is, in the language of Scripture, to bear the punishment of sin, (5) and the use of the compound verb by both Apostles, is worthy of notice. St. Peter ” might have said simply, He bore ; but wishing at the same time to signify his being lifted up on the cross, he said, He bore up, meaning, he bore by going up to the cross.” (6) St. Paul, too, uses the same verb with reference to the Levitical sacrifices, which were carried to an elevated altar; and to the sacrifice of Christ. Socinus and his followers cannot deny that to bear sin, in Scripture, generally signifies to bear the punishment of sin; but, availing themselves of the very force of the compound verb avu^spco, just pointed out, they interpret the passage in St. Peter to signify the bearing up, that is, the bearing or carrying away of our sins, which, according to them, may be effected in many other ways than by a vicarious sacrifice. To this..,

    the New Testament it never occurs in such a meaning.” It is also decisive as to the sense in which St. Peter uses the phrase, ” to bear sin,” that he quotes from Isaiah liii. 11:” For he shall bear their iniquities,” where the Hebrew word, by the confession of all, is never used for taking away, but for bearing a burden, and is employed to express the punishment of sin, as in Lamentations v. 7, ” Our fathers have sinned, and are not, and we have borne their iniquities.” Similar to this expression of bearing sins, and equally impracticable to the criticism of the Socinians, is the declaration of Isaiah in the same chapter: ” He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; ” to which the Prophet, in order to show in what sense he was wounded and bruised for our transgressions, adds, ” The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” Now, chastisement is the punishment of a fault; but the suffering person, of whom the Prophet speaks, is declared to be wholly free from transgression, to be perfectly and emphatically innocent. This prophecy is applied to Christ by the Apostles, whose constant doctrine is the entire immaculateness of their Master and Lord. If chastisement, therefore, was laid upon Christ, it could not be on account of faults of his own ; his sufferings were the chastisement of our faults, the price of our peace, and his “stripes,” another punitive expression, were borne by him for our ” healing.” The only course which Socinus and his followers have taken, to endeavor to escape the force of this passage, is to render the word, not chastisement, but ” affliction;” in answer to which Grotius and subsequent critics have abundantly proved, that it is used not to signify ” affliction ” of any kind, but that which has the nature of punishment. These passages, therefore, prove a substitution, a suffering in our stead. The chastisement of offences was laid upon him, in order to our peace; and the offences were ours, since they would not be his ” who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.”

    The sense of “punishment,” loosely termed, I would agree with. There is a vast difference between a criminal being punished for his sins, and the innocent bearing a “punishment due” for sins he is not guilty of.

    Also, No sin was ever transferred to a bull or a goat… they did not take away sins. Hebrews 10:4 states, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”

    One has to explain how character is transferable. It makes for good theological fiction and pleases the philosophical hole in the theory, but does not find sanction in any Scripture that states such a transfer has ever happened.

    -
    And in taking upon the actual guilt of these sins, was there a form of payment for these sins?

    A provisional form of payment, though it is not some sort of monetary payment, but the paying of a penalty = the enduring of punishment.

    **** Enduring a punishment due to another does not involve guilt transfer (Penal Theory). No sacrifice is ever stated to be punished. Suffering, a distinctly different term from punishment, is what the Scriptures always use. As stated above, I do not see how from an Arminian view that one can say that Jesus was punished and paid for our sins only on the occasion that we believe. I believe in a provisional atonement via Sacrifice, not as a means to pay for sins, but as a means in which God can forgive.

    I would say that “Enduring a punishment” is not a payment of any penalty, but a provision made that men may be forgiven by a gracious God. Once we add payment, it becomes commercial in most people’s minds.

    -
    No one is saved by grace in Penal Substitution… those that are saved, are saved because they DESERVE IT!

    That’s just crazy talk. That doesn’t follow at all.

    **** Not as crazy as saying that sin was literally mystically transferred to Jesus so that He was guilty of those sins, and that the other Two parts of the Godhead punished Him with retributive justice!

    It does follow! If I speed and get thrown in Jail, and my father pays the fine dictated by law, I am free to go. If a judge accepts the penalty due to my crime, then there is nothing left to punish!

    The other option is to pardon the guilty. The judge can take mercy upon me and pardon me, and legally free me. Yet, he cannot do both; he either has mercy and pardons, or he does not have mercy and demands payment. If Jesus “paid” for a sin, the Judge must accept that the law has been satisfied. If the Judge has been paid, he must release the one whose fine has been paid for. This is not grace; it is the obligation of the judge. If it is “paid,” there is nothing to forgive.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  83. Ben,

    “Jeff said concerning Jesus’ life being so valuable as to be able to cover the eternal punishment of all mankind: “This is philosophical gap filling to explain or rescue an unfounded theory. Either retributive justice is true, or it is a fiction. No passage in Scripture states any such thing; it is not theology but convenient speculation to explain away a difficulty.”

    “This is amazing to me. First, do you doubt that Jesus Christ’s life is valuable enough to cover the sins and punishment of humanity?”

    “do you deny that God the Son is infinitely valuable, sinless, and perfect? Do you deny that God is greater and more valuable than the entire universes, indeed, that he is infinitely valuable? ”

    **** I will not take this as a mere shock-value or an ad hominem statement, but take it as an observation that some people perceive a denial of the Penal Theory as questioning the value of Jesus, or to put it more plainly… God Himself!

    Unfortunately, this stems from the assumption that the philosophy of Penal Substitution is Biblical. It assumes that in order to rescue a theory, and to avoid the inevitable demand that Christ, in order to truly pay retributive justice must spend an eternity in Hell, must go against Scripture and invent a need for God to base atonement upon the “infinite value” of the Sacrifice.

    The question is not whether I see infinite “value” in God; that is not what is being discussed here. For the sake of putting that to rest, I have always believed in the infinite value of God.

    You claim that it is the “infinite value” of the sacrifice that makes atonement possible without requiring the full wages of sin to be paid by Christ. Scripture states that it is the “character” of the sacrifice that is God’s requirement.

    “Then he shall bring to the priest his guilt offering to the Lord; a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord; and he shall be forgiven for any one of the things which he may have done to incur guilt.” Lev. 6:6-7

    “If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied;” Isiah 53:10-11

    “Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-offering, which is for the people, and bring its blood within the veil…” Lev. 6:15

    “…and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God…” Heb. 9:13-14

    The Bible says that the sacrifice must be unblemished, and that it is not stated to be by retribution, but by the “anguish of His soul” that God would be satisfied. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb. 10:4). God does not desire burnt offerings, but the singular offering made by Christ is what the sacrificial system foreshadowed (Heb. 10:8-18).

    The “value” of a goat that you buy in the meat-market is not based upon its perfection, but upon its weight. What I am getting at is that the requirement of being “unblemished” or “without defect” is a symbol of moral value. Jesus did not atone for sins because He was free of any scars, but because He was free of any moral blemish. As “man,” He did not die because He had sinned, but because only a sinless man, a second Adam could die as a Sacrifice for all mankind. “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification to life to all men.” Rom. 5:18
    -
    Second, Scripture clearly indicates that Jesus suffered the punishment of our sin, as Ben has pointed out. It was then asked how this could be given that Jesus did not suffer eternal Hell. If my answer was a philosophical gap filler answer, then the question was a philosophical gap filler question. I.e., Scripture tells us Jesus suffered the punishment for our sin. We should bow to the word of God and accept that. Asking how that can be is speculative if Scripture does not explain the details. I don’t think that the question is illegitimate. But when a question that does not get asked in Scripture is asked, then one should not complain when an answer is given that is not directly provided in Scripture, since the question was not raised for the answer to be given. However, the answer itself is still biblical. It is clearly biblical that God the Son is infinitely valuable, sinless, and perfect. It is clearly biblical that God is greater and more valuable than the entire universes, indeed, that he is infinitely valuable.

    **** Just because you fill a philosophical void and surround it with irrelevant Scriptures, does not make the answer “Biblical.” If your argument were true that it made an argument “Biblical,” then I would question why we are not all Calvinists? Certainly, they are replete with “Biblical” voids that they have filled to make their system work. But if we can fill in the blanks and dogmatically claim to “be Biblical,” then I should yield my knees and bow to the Geneva Pope. If such speculation is not given equal weight as Scripture, no matter how logical it may seem, then it would be inevitable that I would arrive at being an Arminian.

    The bottom line is, if the Bible states it, it is Biblical. Any doctrine, in order for it to be “Biblical,” it must be found in the Scriptures; anything less than that is speculation. It ceases to be worthy of dogma.

    Once we remove the fog of “sanctified speculation” from what is actually said in Scripture, we then cease to be led by the nose to conclusions that are not necessarily there. The more we can separate ourselves from the necessity of gluing speculation and Scripture together, the more we free ourselves to accept what is validated by Scripture, and to be less dogmatic about that which we do not know. The problem with speculation is that it can make us drive the direction of our thinking to justify those speculative ideas that we choose to own as “Biblical.”

    I noticed this in a debate with an Eternal Securist friend of mine, that if I pressed him for Biblical answers, he ran out of ammunition in short order. He then deflected to theological (philosophical) suppositions as his proof. We discussed his Biblical evidence and found it wanting. He then asked, “When were your sins paid for?” Instead of taking the bait as I did in my earlier years, I noted that we had moved from one unsubstantiated doctrine too another. What he desired was for me to say “Upon the Cross…” and his reply would have been, “Were your sins not paid for at that time? Therefore all of your past sins were future sins 2000 years ago, and all of your future sins were paid for to, therefore, you are Eternally Secure!”

    I asked him to show me where that Bible said sins were “paid for.” He could not. Then he moved to imputation. Then I asked him to show me imputation in the Scriptures. You see, he say inevitable conclusions from those doctrine in which he had no Scriptural proof to back them; he made his “theology” to be equal to Scripture.
    I did not stop there, for I realized that I did the same thing that he was doing. I was making certain beliefs as “sure” as Scripture, yet I had never really tested my beliefs to evaluate whether I was reading them into Scripture, thereby changing the meaning of passages to my will. One thing holds true, if we state something to be true, we own the inevitable result of that belief. What we state must be followed to its end; to go half way and try to make it fit Scripture later, we become inconsistent in our thinking.

    James White, now a Calvinist, was a Baptist Bible Answer Man on the radio. His conversion to 5 point Calvinism was not because of the Bible, but because of his assumptions on the atonement. One day, he lost an online argument with a Calvinist who asked him about whose sins were paid for on the Cross. His answer of “everybody” was immediately countered with, “You admit that sins were paid for on the Cross 2000 years ago, and if everyone’s sins were paid for, you must be a Universalist.” What happened is that White evaluated the inevitable conclusions of payment, left the show and became a Calvinist.

    I have witnessed the “conversion” of several people to Calvinism based upon their belief in the Penal Theory. I do believe that if it is admitted, then Calvinism is the inevitable result. I however, do not reject Penal Substitution because it leads to Calvinism; I reject it because I do not see it in the Bible. I believe that it does away with grace, mercy, and forgiveness, which are in the Bible. It makes part of God loving us, and part of God hating us. Following these things leads me to look at God in a way in which makes Him look like a petty ogre, a monster that the Bible does not describe.

    Blessings,
    Jeff

  84. Jeff said: “I will not take this as a mere shock-value or an ad hominem statement, but take it as an observation that some people perceive a denial of the Penal Theory as questioning the value of Jesus, or to put it more plainly… God Himself!”

    ***** It is too bad that you would take that line of argument when my mere *question* was not in response to you questioning PSA, but to you implicitly objecting to my affirmation of Jesus’ life being valuable enough to cover the punishment due all people for their sin. I am glad to see though that you do affirm God/Christ to be infinitely valuable. But then let’s acknowledge that my premises were biblical. A speculative question was asked, and I took biblical principles and applied them to the question. Your response really ignored a lot of what I said. If object to the answer I gave to a question that does not come from the Bible because the Bible does not give that answer to a question that is never asked, it makes little sense for you to criticize the answer when the premises of the answer are biblical or to assert that it is a merely philosophical answer, etc. I think the question is legitimate as is the answer. But your reasoning does not allow for the question (it is not in or from the Bible), and so does not afford you a basis on which to object to the answer *as an answer to the question*. As I said, no matter how one approaches the question that Rex asked, we should pay attention to what Scripture says. And fort that, there should be little doubt that it is said that Jesus suffered the punishment for our sin in our place. If you want to cut off any questions about the details because they are not elaborated upon in Scripture, I can respect that, though I don’t agree. But that then seems to give up your foundation to criticize the answers to such questions. If the question is illegitimate, then you cut off the need for an answer. If that’s how you want to approach it, then let’s focus on what Scripture says, and that is e.g., “But He was pierced through for our transgressions . . . “He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well being fell upon Him…But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him…That He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due” etc.

    JP said: “You claim that it is the “infinite value” of the sacrifice that makes atonement possible without requiring the full wages of sin to be paid by Christ. Scripture states that it is the “character” of the sacrifice that is God’s requirement. . . . What I am getting at is that the requirement of being “unblemished” or “without defect” is a symbol of moral value. Jesus did not atone for sins because He was free of any scars, but because He was free of any moral blemish. As “man,” He did not die because He had sinned, but because only a sinless man, a second Adam could die as a Sacrifice for all mankind.”

    ***** The problem with your argument here is that it addresses a different question than the one that was asked. I agree with much of what you say here. Christ’s moral perfection was indeed necessary for him to be able to be the sacrifice for our sins. But Scripture reveals that Jesus took the punishment for our sins. And the question was asked of how he could suffer a different penalty than due us and that serve to pay our penalty. Scripture does not directly address that question. As I said, at the very least, we should bow to Scripture and accept that Jesus’ death took care of the punishment of our sin. We don’t actually have to know how or why. But there are scriptural principles, like Christ’s infinite value, that can provide an answer.

    JP said: “Just because you fill a philosophical void and surround it with irrelevant Scriptures, does not make the answer “Biblical.””

    ***** You’re just begging the question here, but surprisingly even after you have admitted that my premise of Christ’s infinite value is biblical. I took a biblical principle and applied it to a question that is not asked or addressed in the Bible. It really is strange that you would object to that. And how do I surround it with irrelevant scriptures? I provide Scripture that shows that Jesus suffered the punishment from God that was due us. That establishes PSA. I then answered a different question about a detail of how PSA can be using another biblical principle that you agree to. No irrelevant Scripture is being introduced.

    JP said: “If your argument were true that it made an argument “Biblical,” then I would question why we are not all Calvinists?”

    ***** This is total question begging and tangential along with the comments that followed it about PSA leading to Calvinism and/or vice versa. We are not Calvinists because their doctrine is not biblical. We should accept PSA because it is biblical. And PSA simply does not naturally lead to Calvinism as the majority of Arminians holding to PSA, including Arminius himself and Wesley to some degree shows. In any case, you would have to show how it is. But Ben has shown the opposite. And I have shown the opposite. This whole section of the discussion seems to be off topic. Speculative questions get biblically informed speculative answers. That seems fine to me. It certainly ought not to be held against a position if someone asks a speculative question about it not addressed in the Bible and gets a biblically informed speculative answer. But the issue is, what does Scripture say about the atonement. And as Ben and I have pointed out, it clearly presents Jesus as suffering the punishment of our sin due us.

    Amazingly, the extended quote from Watson you provided agrees completely with me and Ben and completely undermines your position. And you follow it up with saying, “The sense of “punishment,” loosely termed, I would agree with. There is a vast difference between a criminal being punished for his sins, and the innocent bearing a “punishment due” for sins he is not guilty of.” The you should just stop your whole line of argumentation and admit the position ben and I have taken. If you agree that Jesus bore our punishment, then you are agreeing with us and Watson. And we would wholeheartedly agree with you that “There is a vast difference between a criminal being punished for his sins, and the innocent bearing a “punishment due” for sins he is not guilty of.” That is our position. Jesus Christ was completely innocent and voluntarily bore the punishment due for our sins, which he was not guilty of. I don’t know of any PSA advocate who would say that Jesus became guilty of our sins and suffered as a man actually guilty of sin, though there may well be some exceptions out there. But that is not the standard PSA position. To say that Jesus bore our guilt means that he took on the the responsibility for our guilt; he took on the punishment for our guilt. Calvinist theologian Wayne Grudem in his advocacy of PSA in his systematic theology (p. 574) actually defines guilt as “liability to punishment” and denies that taking our guilt gave Christ a sinful nature or that God thought Christ had sinned. Calvinist John MacArthur also says in advocating PSA that bearing the guilt of sin means suffering the punishment (https://www.gty.org/resources/Print/Sermons/60-30). Spurgeon, another Calvinist advocate of PSA states: “The fact is, brethren, that in no sense whatever—take that as I say it—in no sense whatever can Jesus Christ ever be conceived of as having been guilty. He knew no sin.” Not only was he not guilty of any sin which he committed himself, but he was not guilty of our sins. No guilt can possibly attach to a man who has not been guilty. He must have had complicity in the deed itself, or else no guilt can possibly be laid on him. Jesus Christ stands in the midst of all the divine thunders, and suffers all the punishment, but not a drop of sin ever stained him. In no sense is he ever a guilty man, but always is he an accepted and a holy one.” (http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0310.htm) He goes on to argue in such a way that implies he thought Christ bearing our guilt means that he was treated as if he were guilty of our sin, that is, he was punished for our sin.

    So I wonder if you misunderstand PSA or at least the PSA of many.

  85. Jeff,

    I haven’t had a chance to look over these new comments, but it does seem that you have assumed some of Arminian’s statements were mine. Not a big deal, it is just that you seem to direct a response to me and then interact with his comments instead of mine. I hope to be able to respond (if necessary) sometime next week at the latest.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  86. That is our position. Jesus Christ was completely innocent and voluntarily bore the punishment due for our sins, which he was not guilty of. I don’t know of any PSA advocate who would say that Jesus became guilty of our sins and suffered as a man actually guilty of sin, though there may well be some exceptions out there. But that is not the standard PSA position. To say that Jesus bore our guilt means that he took on the the responsibility for our guilt; he took on the punishment for our guilt.

    Likewise, Richard S. Taylor writes,

    “Yet we are not compelled to say that Jesus was being punished. He did not become guilty of our sins. That would be impossible because he did not do them. But Jesus bore in our stead the curse of God’s wrath as if the sins were his own. …He suffered not only with malefactors, but as a malefactor, yet without being one. All the wrath of a holy God against every sin from Adam’s to the last obedience in time Jesus drew into himself. But it was because of and on behalf of our sin, not his own.” (God’s Integrity and the Cross, pg. 66, emphasis his).

  87. I wonder if Owen ever took the time to realize his own dilemma. He states:

    “If the SECOND, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world.”

    Now, using his own format, here is his dilemma which either renders faith useless, and establishes eternal justification, a heresy that 99% of Calvinists would strongly reject (choice 1 and 2), or embraces Arminianism the only correct choice of the 3.

    1. either we are saved in eternity past

    2. or we are saved when Jesus died on the cross

    3. or saved when we believe

    Calvinists affirm the first (which must include unbelief and all sins prior to faith), although they deny the logical implication of eternal justification. They affirm this by introducing their novel doctrine of the eternal covenant made between the Father and Son in eternity past where the Father gives the “sheep” to the Son. I have yet to find any evidence of this in Scripture so I wonder who was there to witness this?

    Calvinists affirm the second (which must include unbelief and all sins prior to faith), with their constant rants on how Jesus “actually” saved the Elect on the cross and did not just make Salvation “possible”. Once again, they deny the logical implications of this because if Jesus actually saved the Elect 2000 years ago, they were saved without faith. Therefore, they must be born saved. I wonder why so many baptized their infants if they really believed this?

    Calvinists also affirm the third, although it clearly contradicts the first and second. It seems that they want to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to this. The third is clearly the Biblical answer and the one that Arminians hold to. That is why faith is so paramount in the New Testament. If you notice when many Calvinists talk about Salvation, they always mention grace and many times leave faith out. This is in accordance with them affirming the first and second options. Faith, as well as the preaching of the Gospel, are treated as mere formalities, things that we just have to “do” or “affirm” simply because the Bible says so. There really is no room for it in their theology if they are to be consistent. Now to me, that is a dilemma!

  88. Hi Ben,

    I enjoyed reading this. I have a question but have not read any comments, so hopefully this isn’t redundant. I’ve always wondered what the big deal was (for Calvinists) with unlimited atonement. They argue that the blood of Christ might be wasted on those who never believe or that sins might be punished for twice. My thinking has always been that if a Calvinist says Christ’s blood is wasted, then you’re in no better position as a Calvinist. This is because until an “elect” person believes, Christ’s blood is sitting around doing nothing. How long must he wait to apply it to the elect in that case, and for every elect person since he died on the tree? In my mind, there really is no difference. The Lord’s blood isn’t wasted in the Arminian doctrine of unlimited atonement (and I don’t believe it’s wasted in the Calvinist scheme either–I just think they’re wrong). Have you ever heard this line of thinking before?

  89. JPC,

    You make some very good points, ones that Calvinists simply cannot adequately answer in my opinion. Have you read Part 2 and Part 3 of this series? You will see some of those same points being made. Here is another post that addresses some of what you say here as well:

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/07/15/karate-expert-dan-phillips-gets-body-slammed-on-1-john-22/

    And here are the links to the other two posts in this series:

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/provisional-atonement-part-2-provision-is-consistent-with-foreknowledge/

    http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/provisional-atonement-part-3-the-integrity-and-justice-of-god-in-the-gospel-offer/

  90. Now Dimly,

    The argument of blood being wasted is bizarre. Most Calvinists will plainly admit that while Christ’s blood is “sufficient” to save all, it is “efficient” only for the elect. So if it is sufficient to save all and yet does not, then the claim that His blood would be wasted is just as applicable to their own scheme.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  91. Ben,

    That makes good sense for that argument. When you consider the idea of the sufficiency/efficiency of Christ’s blood, it actually makes better sense within Arminianism. This is because in C, it is only hypothetically “sufficient” since it cannot and never will apply to anyone but the elect. To say that it is sufficient for all is not really honest given the doctrine of unconditional election and the absolute impossibility of the atonement EVER being applied to the reprobate.

    One of my favorite passages is Romans 3:23-25 in the ESV:

    “23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
    24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
    25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

    It seems clear to me that what is to be received by faith is the propitiation. But even if someone says it is justification or the gift which is received by faith (v. 24), you have to admit that the “all” of v. 23 must equally apply to v. 24. Paul is not saying that all individuals have sinned in history, but only “all the elect” can be justified. You would have to change your first “all” to mean all the elect have sinned, but that doesn’t fit the context in any way.

  92. Now Dimly,

    You are exactly right. While the charge can be equally urged against the Calvinist about blood supposedly being wasted since they say the blood is sufficient for all, it is also true that, given all the claims of Calvinism, Calvinists can’t even truly say it is sufficient for all.

    This is especially difficult given the Calvinist charge that the elect were “actually saved” at the cross. Not only does this lead to the problem of the elect being born saved, apart from faith (and contrary to Scripture), it also makes it impossible to say the atonement was sufficient for all. If only the salvation and atonement of the elect was actually secured at the cross, then the cross is powerless to save the reprobate and the atonement, again, is in no way sufficient to save any but the elect.

    Your exegesis of Romans 3 is accurate and is big trouble for Calvinism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  93. Arminian,

    You stated:

    “you implicitly objecting to my affirmation of Jesus’ life being valuable enough to cover the punishment due all people for their sin. I am glad to see though that you do affirm God/Christ to be infinitely valuable. But then let’s acknowledge that my premises were biblical.”

    ****This I will not concede. The issue was whether the value of the Sacrifice being infinite or valuable enough was ever a requirement of a sacrifice.

    The Old Testament sets the stage for the one true atonement upon the Cross.

    First, we see that the requirement for sacrifice was that the offering must be without blemish.
    There were much more “valuable” animals available, but God chose lambs, bulls, and doves… lowly, common creatures. The “value” of the sacrifice was never an issue for an acceptable sacrifice. Can this ever be affirmed by the PSA advocate?

    Secondly, nowhere in all of Scripture is a sacrifice said to be punished, or the subject of God’s wrath. This is a point which has been evaded each time it has been asked. Can this observation be shown to be wrong? If not, can it openly be affirmed?

    Yes, the premise that God/Christ is infinitely valuable is conceded. That this has anything to do with atonement one cannot find such an invention in Scripture. Therefore, it is not the basis in which to concern ourselves in reference to the atonement.

    —–
    ” A speculative question was asked, and I took biblical principles and applied them to the question. Your response really ignored a lot of what I said. If object to the answer I gave to a question that does not come from the Bible because the Bible does not give that answer to a question that is never asked, it makes little sense for you to criticize the answer when the premises of the answer are biblical or to assert that it is a merely philosophical answer, etc. I think the question is legitimate as is the answer.”

    ****Theological speculation does start with Biblical principles. Unfortunately, most of the argument that I have seen is the act of building an argument from one unbiblical speculation to support another unfounded speculation. It is rash to take something unsaid or unsubstantiated, place our interpretation upon it, and build a theory of the atonement upon that interpretation; it is even worse to go further and claim that it is the doctrine of the Bible. I appreciate that you have admitted that your explanation is philosophical; most people are incapable of separating the wisdom of their own minds as not being equal to Scripture. Some heretics go so far as to make their pet theory a requirement for salvation. Thankfully, I do not see that going on here.

    —-
    “But Scripture reveals that Jesus took the punishment for our sins.
    And the question was asked of how he could suffer a different penalty than due us and that serve to pay our penalty. Scripture does not directly address that question. As I said, at the very least, we should bow to Scripture and accept that Jesus’ death took care of the punishment of our sin. We don’t actually have to know how or why. But there are scriptural principles, like Christ’s infinite value, that can provide an answer.”

    ****But invented answers are about as valuable as speculating that Judas was substituted on the Cross for an answer as saying it was the infinite value of Christ that enabled the All-Knowing, Unchangeable God of the Bible. My point is that it is not really an answer if there is no real foundation behind it. It is a hole-filler that somehow becomes sound doctrine by the shear popularity of the speculation, and vast repetition of the assumption over time, so much that the common people blindly accept that it is Scriptural without any real intellectual investigation. It reminds me of the Calvinist approach to the issue. They dump the elephant on the table by quoting voluminous pages of Scripture, none of which ever state what they supposed to prove, and then add all of the supporting assumptions they have as “proof” that the doctrine somehow magically becomes “Scripture.” Read any Calvinist Theology and you will see that this is the modus operandi of all who make philosophy equal or greater than Scripture itself. An example of this tactic is your statement:

    “even after you have admitted that my premise of Christ’s infinite value is biblical. I took a biblical principle and applied it to a question that is not asked or addressed in the Bible.”

    “ I provide Scripture that shows that Jesus suffered the punishment from God that was due us.”

    **** That you have not done, for the Bible never says that Jesus or any other sacrifice was ever “punished.” It is an assumption that atonement is about paying a “punishment due.” This is inserting a philosophical assumption into the argument to arrive at PSA. Is Atonement about God’s stated requirements, or God’s need to have His pound of flesh? A sacrifice dies “in place” of the sinner, yet everyone still dies. This is a spiritual matter, not a commercial transaction. I can accept that I cannot “fill in the holes” of what sacrifice does “for” God, but we can read what it does for us.

    When we attempt to fill in the gaps, and it sounds so good that we spout it as surely as we quote Scripture, we pigeon-hole ourselves into the necessity of answering every question about Atonement with philosophical cement that forces us to a philosophical, not a Biblical end.

    This is all that I have time to answer.

    Blessings,
    Jeff

  94. Arminian,

    Hopefully I have the time to answer the remainder of your questions.

    “PSA simply does not naturally lead to Calvinism as the majority of Arminians holding to PSA, including Arminius himself and Wesley to some degree shows.”

    **** By practical experience and historical observation, I believe that you are in denial. I have witnessed numerable people defect from Arminianism over their faith in a Atonement theory called PSA. I have read many articles and statements where people state that they found Arminianism illogical and unbiblical because of their belief in punishment and payment. James White is one of the more prominent examples. Yet, I have never witnessed a conversion from 5-point Calvinism to Arminianism based upon PSA.

    As for Wesley, there is no proof that he was Penal. All of his statements would clearly be acceptable within the fold of the Anselmic view of the atonement. Wesley, who wrote ‘A Blow at the Root’ and ‘Predestination Calmly Considered’ showed that he was a man who followed a doctrine to where it inevitably leads. People have made statements as to which view Wesley used. I concede that he was quite pragmatic at times, like in the days he would use the unbiblical term ‘the imputed righteousness of Christ’ since it was a term in such common and accepted use. Most people come to the conclusion that Wesley appealed to many forms of the atonement, using whatever was practical at the time. From all of my investigation of Wesley, I conclude (as some others do) that all of his statements are fully consistent with the Anselmic view of the atonement, the most popular view held within the Anglican Church to which he belonged. The satisfaction view is about restoring the honor of God, not the punishment of an individual’s sin. Expressions such as punishment and payment would be looked upon in a metaphorical way instead of a concrete was as Penal Substitution does.

    One example would be how people use the term “payment.” In concrete usage, a payment is made in time. Unless specifically stated, it cannot be un-paid. Therefore, in Calvinistic usage, one would rightly conclude that one who had their sins paid for on the Cross in time, are forever irrevocably predestined for salvation no matter what. Faith is no proof of salvation. In a loose way of stating a payment, one could say “paid” but just mean “cost.” “Paid” by definition, is definite, and leads to only the Calvinistic conclusion.
    Another term loosely bantered about is “punishment.” It is an impossibility to punish the innocent. In order for a man to be punished, he must be guilty. To inflict what is due for punishment upon an innocent man is an injustice. But if a man voluntarily suffers in another’s place to whom punishment is due, it is self-sacrifice and heroism. If it is inflicted by an arbitrary authority, it is injustice on one side, and martyrdom on the other. If I go to jail on the charge of murder, but I am innocent, then I am not punished, because I am not guilty. All I suffer is an injustice. Punishment is a legal term that presupposes guilt. It is an impossibility to punish the innocent.
    “If innocent Damon dies in place of Pythias, who is guilty of murder, Damon is not guilty because he has taken the place of Pythias in dying, and his death cannot be rightfully said to be punishment, but merely a voluntary suffering which is substituted for another man’s punishment. One must be guilty in order for them to be punished. The one who commits the sin is solely the sinner, the only one that is guilty, and the only one that can be punished..” A.M. Hills

    We both agree that a person can voluntarily “suffer” a “penalty due” to another as substitution. But Jesus did not “suffer” the penalty “due.” His penalty was not eternal separation from God as mine would have been, and therefore, insufficient.

    If the objective of atonement is suffering and sacrifice, and not the payment of any particular penalty, then we still have atonement, a Biblical atonement.

    The word we use for atonement can be understood three ways.

    1) Propitiation. To quell the anger of a god and sway his wrath. Throw a virgin into a volcano, and propitiate an angry god. This is what a Calvinist prefers.
    2) Expiation. To take away that which is a barrier between man and God. Symbolized in the scapegoat.
    3) Mercy Seat. This is the stated means in Scripture. It has to so with the only way to be reconciled to God. It is sacrifice specific. How it makes God “merciful” in spite of our sin is never stated; it is just stated as God’s specific demand. Does it propitiate God? To an extent I would say that it makes it so that God is not angry towards the sinner. Does it expiate? Does it take away or cover the stain of sin in a way in which we are no longer held liable to punishment? I believe it does this too. But what is not known is whether these “results” are the same as “Mercy Seat,” or just what outflows from the mercy received.

    The fact that Watson, a close student of Wesley appeals to the Governmental Theory in conjunction with some of the penal language of Anselmic atonement (which is not penal), may be considered as a possibility of how Wesley expressed the atonement.

    As for Arminius, I would have to admit that I see more penal language expressed in his works that I do in Wesley. Neither Arminius nor Wesley follow payment and punishment to their logical and penal ends. Therefore, they are likely not PSA, but Anselmic in their beliefs on the atonement.

    Most Arminians today are less PSA and more Anselmic in their view; they just confuse Anselm’s satisfaction and expression as being the same as PSA. One thing is clear; Calvinists mean something different than Arminians in their use of penal terms. Not so much in their expression of PSA, but in the result of what PSA demands.
    —-
    “Amazingly, the extended quote from Watson you provided agrees completely with me and Ben and completely undermines your position.”

    **** Yet you ignore that the extended quote of Watson was based and referenced to the Governmental Theory, and not PSA. They are not the same.
    —–

    “And you follow it up with saying, “The sense of “punishment,” loosely termed, I would agree with. There is a vast difference between a criminal being punished for his sins, and the innocent bearing a “punishment due” for sins he is not guilty of.” The you should just stop your whole line of argumentation and admit the position ben and I have taken. If you agree that Jesus bore our punishment, then you are agreeing with us and Watson.”

    *** But I am not conceding that I admit “punishment.” People use punishment in the way of expressing the “cost.” We say today that we “punish a child” when we mean “we discipline a child.” The Bible distinguished between chastisement as a punishment of a criminal, and the discipline and correction of a child. To this point I have not heard any rebuttal of the specific terms used in Isaiah 53 which evade at great specificity, criminal punishment of Christ.

    What I will concede is that in many ways we are not really all that far apart in what we mean. My point is that words mean things. Either they impact conclusions, or they are meaningless and idol words.
    What I do conclude by your admission that you agree with Watson is, there is little difference from a Governmental view and your position; a view in which true penal substitution did not take place.

    —-
    “I don’t know of any PSA advocate who would say that Jesus became guilty of our sins and suffered as a man actually guilty of sin, though there may well be some exceptions out there. But that is not the standard PSA position.”

    **** You are correct here that a cautious expression by PSA Calvinists seeks to avoid this horn of the dilemma. Some, however, are a bit more frank. Most are deceptive in that they make application of the idea, while denying it on the other side of their mouths.

    “You know that text in Isaiah 53:6, “He hath laid on him the iniquities of us all;” and you know that place in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Now I ask this question, Whose are the sins that believers commit? When Christ became their sin, are they not his? and if they are his, are they any longer theirs, that did commit them? 2 Corinthians 5:19, shews plainly, that the Lord reckons them no longer theirs, when he hath made them once to be Christ’s; “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;” as much as to say, I will never reckon them thine any more; I will never impute them to thee; all that I look for in respect of thy sins, I look for at the hands of Christ; “for he was made sin for us,” saith the text.”

    Christ Alone Exalted, Volume 1, page 206
    Tobias Crisp

    Christ’s righteousness is as much ours, as our sins became Christ’s. If I am truly judged righteous by the imputed righteousness of Christ, then equally, my guilt is a truly His. Does God work in moral fictions instead of moral realities?

    Basically, if Christ did not take on our guilt, our sins are not truly and adequately “punished” or “paid for.” If Christ was not guilty, then God is unjust and knowingly lies when He tortured Jesus, punishing an innocent man. Truly a moral injustice on one hand , and cosmic child abuse on the other.


    A few examples:
    “To say that Jesus bore our guilt means that he took on the responsibility for our guilt; he took on the punishment for our guilt. Calvinist theologian Wayne Grudem in his advocacy of PSA in his systematic theology (p. 574) actually defines guilt as “liability to punishment” and denies that taking our guilt gave Christ a sinful nature or that God thought Christ had sinned. Calvinist John MacArthur also says in advocating PSA that bearing the guilt of sin means suffering the punishment.” (https://www.gty.org/resources/Print/Sermons/60-30).

    **** You quote Spurgeon as an example. Spurgeon’s point of view was that Calvinism is the gospel. If Calvinism is the Gospel, everyone before Calvin did not have the Gospel, and therefore is unlikely to really be saved. This is historical suicide on one hand, and heretical on the other. Is there any need to invoke a heretic like this?

    Spurgeon is an example of a Calvinist talking out both sides of his mouth. If Calvinism is the gospel, then the conclusion of PSA to him is that it supports absolute payment and predestination of those who were paid for. A happy inconsistency.

    While he denies that Jesus became guilty, most Calvinists believe that God is not lying when He sees a Christian as righteous via imputation. Most believe that we sinned with Adam via imputation. Basically, they transfer guilt and righteousness when they want, and deny it when it becomes inconvenient. Either imputation is what they say for us, or it means what they say for Christ. Either way, held to how they apply it, they conclude that which they ardently deny.
    I agree that most people that believe in PSA also disavow that Jesus became guilty by imputation while He was upon the Cross. Perhaps we should also recognize that while most Calvinists disavow that they believe that babies that are not elect are doomed to an eternal Hell as Calvin believed. Few Calvinists have the bravery to affirm that God elects irrespective of any moral quality, and therefore, He would be guilty of being a Respector of persons, and it would be more consistent to be like Calvin and say that some babies are not elect. While one may deny such a repulsive idea, the logic of Calvinism election demands it.

    If PSA is consistent, then why don’t we all follow Spurgeon’s conclusion that payment is real and absolute, and not fictional?

    **** As for invoking John Mac Arthur, I agree that he directly states also that guilt was not transferred in a way in which makes Christ Guilty. It avoids one horn of the dilemma while being gored by the other; the immoral use of punishing the known innocent.

    “All the guilt of all the sins of all who would ever be saved was imputed to Jesus Christ—reckoned to His account as if He were guilty of all of it” (p.26). The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness

    “The wrath of God was satisfied as he punished Jesus as if he committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe.”
    “God was punishing His own Son as if He had committed every wicked deed done by every sinner who would ever believe” (MacArthur, The Murder of Jesus, 219).

    **** Unscriptural crazy talk! As one notable Calvinist says; “anyone who believes that is not a Christian.”

    Here we know a few things about MacArthur’s position.

    1. He denies that Christ was actually guilty upon the Cross; i.e., innocent.
    2. He claims that the Father punished the innocent Jesus on the Cross for “every wicked deed done by every sinner.” In this statement, it implies that through imputation, our sin and guilt was in a real way transferred to Christ so that He could be punished for them.
    3. “When God looks on a Christian He sees His Son and His Son’s righteousness.” The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Corinthians. P.53 So, God transfers a fictional righteousness to us so that God cannot see our sins.

    This aspect of PSA, a fictional righteousness, is why we are dealing with the issue of homosexual pastors in the Church today. No other theory of the atonement has an excuse for this with the exception of PSA.

    Now, Calvinists will take umbrage with my use of “fictional righteousness.” Like MacArthur, they deny any true imputation of guilt to Christ, while actually applying true righteousness to the believer. They want to deny guilt transfer on one end and assert the transfer of righteousness on the other. Otherwise, God is a dupe that is fooled and only sees Jesus when He looks at us, or He is evil, a liar that is willing to accept something that is just not true; He lies and calls the believer something that he is not.

    MacArthur claims that Wesley was a “messed-up Calvinist,” when as far as I can tell, so is he!


    “So I wonder if you misunderstand PSA or at least the PSA of many.”

    **** You are correct that most PSA advocated avoid the imputation of guilt to Christ. A minority do, especially the laity. What I do asses is that by what you say, your version of PSA shows very little difference from a Governmental view in which true penal substitution did not take place. The Arminian stance of Penal Substitution:

    1. Fails to account for the moral fiction of imputation which is not in Scripture.
    2. Fails to recognize that the Scriptures never say that Jesus was punished or was ever under the wrath of God. If actual guilt is denied by PSA advocates, why not punishment and wrath?
    3. It does not account for the absence of any idea of any sin being stated as “paid for” in Scripture.
    4. It is not truly Penal since God accepts a temporary penalty in place of an eternal penalty as satisfactory to Him. A substitute, a lesser penalty than that which is required of any sinner.
    5. It does not believe as the Calvinist that such a payment is real, and therefore absolute in time.

    Concerning the position of Calvinistic imputation, we must also look at the character of God. If God views the elect as truly righteous as Christ Himself via the imputed righteousness, the reverse must also follow, i.e., that the demerit of sin, the guilt of man must have truly been imputed in a way in which God believed that Christ was truly guilty. It appears to me to be selective doctrinal acceptance to say that people are truly righteous, and that Jesus was not guilty of our sins. It is to accept the positive while denying the antecedent.

    If God by imputation transferred sin in a way in which an innocent Son would be punished for it, Jesus was guilty. If He was not guilty, then it is true as is being debated recently, that the Father is guilty of cosmic child abuse! It also questions the honesty of God. It is an injustice to punish the innocent. These points the PSA theory fails to find justification.

    The Governmental View states it this way, that God did not punish Christ on the Cross, but accepted a substitute for punishment. The Sacrificial system would agree that once punishment (which in order to be punishment there must be guilt) is brought in, many problems exist:

    • The moral injustice of punishing the innocent
    • The All-knowing God punished the innocent and knew that there was no guilt
    • This is why the charge of Cosmic Child Abuse would be unavoidable
    • It divides and destroys the Trinity; God the Father hates us, and Jesus loves us. God punishing part of Himself?
    • Still there has been no viable response my statements as to how PSA negates grace, mercy, forgiveness, or why a payment in time is not a real payment.

    Some things to consider.

    Blessings,

    Jeff

  95. Here is a nice post on PSA and the typical objections to it:

    http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/the-beauty-of-penal-substitutionary-atonement/

    I only disagree with the idea of the Father being separated from the Son (depending on how that’s meant). I think there was a disruption in the relationship between the Father and Son, but not an actual separation. Jesus’ cry on the cross is a reference to the Messianic Psalm 22, as well as an expression of feeling abandoned. Jesus had never felt abandoned by the Father before. So I think it relates to the feeling of abandonment and the feeling of distance from God, not actual separation. It would be like us who often feel distant or abandoned by God while He is still very near and present.

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