Monday, December 27, 2010

The sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice

I have elsewhere argued for limited atonement (cf. Reymond; Long et. al.), which has to do with the scope of the design and application of the benefits of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, hereafter referred to as “Christ’s sacrifice.” This post does not pertain to what Christ actually accomplished but rather to what Christ could have accomplished. In other words, it is a brief explanation of what the Calvinist means - or, at least, what I mean - when he speaks of the “sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice,” as well as a comment or two on a possible objection which could be made within the context of a Calvinistic soteriology.

Perhaps some people believe that the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice implies God designed the effects of Christ’s sacrifice to be universal in scope. However, this is not what the Calvinist means when he asserts the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice; Christ didn't intend to save reprobates by His sacrifice, nor can it be said that the fact that living reprobates have yet to be judged implies grace procured through Christ’s sacrifice. What the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice alludes to is the fact that, given His divine dignity and perfect obedience, Christ’s sacrifice was such that He could have acted as penal substitute for any number of sinners, had the Father so desired:

//Limited Atonement: the doctrine that the intention of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was to secure propitiation for the elect alone. While it is counter-factually true that “if the Father desired to save all men without exception, Christ’s sacrifice was such that all men without exception could have been saved,” it is in fact the case that the Father does not desire to save all men without exception; hence, the atonement is hypothetically sufficient for all, but actually efficient only for the elect.//

Update: I have erased the final three paragraphs to this post because I am no longer persuaded it was accurate to say that there are no sins for which Christ could not make amends.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

If Christ could have died for the unpardonable sin and made satisfaction for it, then how is the unpardonable sin different than any other sin? The Bible teaches that those who commit the unpardonable sin are beyond salvation, but if all Jesus meant by that was that they are beyond salvation because they were not decreed to be saved, then the preventer is not the sin but the decree yet Jesus suggests a unique inability to save some due to the unpardonable sin. As I see it your discourse avoids rather than deals with that distinction.

Ryan said...

It's pretty simple: the "unpardonable sin" is "unpardonable" because God decreed that Christ should not die for - i.e. intend to save - any one who committed it. It's not "unpardonable" because Christ couldn't die for people who committed it. The post has to do with what Christ could have accomplished, not what God decreed that Christ would accomplish. That was fundamental to understanding the post, and you missed it.

Anonymous said...

How do you know that the unpardonable sin doesn't preclude salvation by some sort of necessity as opposed to it being a matter of willful decree that God never pardon such a sin? Don't beg the questio. Prove your assertion.

Anonymous said...

the "unpardonable sin" is "unpardonable" because God decreed that Christ should not die for - i.e. intend to save - any one who committed it.

And why should God single out one sin in the decree more than any other? You say it’s a matter of God’s will yet you don’t know that and you certainly don’t argue the point. Maybe there’s a divine necessity about not saving one who commits the unpardonable sin and that it’s not a matter of God’s volition at all. Maybe God is bound by something other than his intention in this regard. Maybe there is something in the very nature of God that prohibits him from saving one who commits such a sin and maybe he decreed that some commit a particular type of sin that would be contrary to his nature to save.

It's not "unpardonable" because Christ couldn't die for people who committed it.

Yes, your thesis is clear. It’s your defense that is lacking –even absent. We know that Christ didn’t die for it yet that doesn’t mean that Christ could have died for it.

The post has to do with what Christ could have accomplished, not what God decreed that Christ would accomplish.

See above

That was fundamental to understanding the post, and you missed it.

Ah yes, someone else has now missed what you grasp yet are incapable of arguing. What’s more, you seem to solve questions that the church has not understood. Praise God for Ryan.

Ryan said...

"Ah yes, someone else has now missed what you grasp yet are incapable of arguing."

Else? To whom besides yourself do you mean to refer?

Blaspheming a person of the Trinity does not ipso facto prevent Christ from atoning for one's sin, since Jesus said those who blasphemed against Him could yet be saved. It would be special pleading to assert that by His nature God would be prevented from "saving one who commits such a sin."

As for why God decreed that persons who commit such a sin would never change their disposition, I don't know. What I do know is that the punishment for any sin is eternal damnation, and that Christ was able to bear that punishment because of who He is: the God-Man. The means by which our sins receive atonement is through expiation in the form of penal substitution: Christ bears the penalty on behalf of those who believe in Him. Given that the penalty for the unpardonable sin is eternal damnation - just like every other sin, many of which Christ has expiated - Christ could have born the penalty for it as well.

Finally, this post was not meant to be a full-length treatise on the atonement. If it did not meet your satisfaction, I can't help that, but if that is the case, perhaps you should spend your time doing things you believe will edify you.

Anonymous said...

"As for why God decreed that persons who commit such a sin would never change their disposition, I don't know."

Ryan: men don't change their dispositions. God changes man's disposition. I asked Reformed Apologist his opinion and I think he does a better job than I can. Go see his Blog in the comment section... The point is you have not yet proved from Scripture your point and you have not dealt with my points...

Ryan said...

"...men don't change their dispositions. God changes man's disposition."

Where did I say otherwise?

Anonymous said...

You said it right here: "As for why God decreed that persons who commit such a sin would never change their disposition, I don't know."

You said that MEN would never change THEIR disposition. Men don't change their disposition.

Ryan said...

"You said that MEN would never change THEIR disposition."

Yea, I did. There's nothing wrong with that statement.

Anonymous said...

When you said that men don't change their dispostion you gave as the reason God's decree. You said: "As for why God decreed that persons who commit such a sin would never change their disposition, I don't know." The necessary inference anyone would draw is that men don't change there own disposition because God decrees they don't. That is simply false my friend. Men never change their own disposition irregardless of the decree. MEN DON'T EVER CHANGE THEIR OWN DISPOSITION. GOD IS THE ONLY ONE WHO CHANGES A DISPOSITION.

Ryan said...

"The necessary inference anyone would draw is that men don't change there own disposition because God decrees they don't."

Right.

"That is simply false my friend. Men never change their own disposition irregardless of the decree."

Exactly how can you abstract man's actions from God's decree?

Anonymous said...

I give up...Nobody is abstracting man's action from the decree. Man doesn't change his disposition. His disposition is changed by God.

Joshua Butcher said...

Ryan,

I think you should go back an reconsider the conversation here. Anonymous is right--you've avoided rather than explained the original issue. To link the unpardonable sin to God's decree not to save the reprobate does not distinguish the unpardonable sin from any other sin that God refuses to remit by inclusion into Christ. In other words, you haven't explain why the unpardonable sin is different from any other sin, but rather shown that it is identical to other sins that are not remitted.

If you refer to the context of the unpardonable sin in Scripture, I believe you will find that it is referring to a specific type of rejection--rejection of Christ can be due to misunderstanding, but blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is itself rebelliousness for the sake of being rebellious. In other words, it is a particular disposition in man that God condemns (also which He has decreed). It is not God's decree that is the proximate, or immediate cause for condemnation (the unpardonable sin is not unpardonable solely by God's decree), but rather results from the disposition in the sinner (which God ordains and accomplishes by secondary means).

Anonymous is also correct--men do not, of their own volition, change their disposition. A man makes plans, but the Lord determines where his steps will go. Far from denying men's actions, it rather establishes God as the precursor to their actions by His determination.

Ryan said...

"...blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is itself rebelliousness for the sake of being rebellious. In other words, it is a particular disposition in man that God condemns..."

Interesting point. I'll think about that.

"Anonymous is also correct--men do not, of their own volition, change their disposition."

And, again, I never said they did. Anonymous inferred from my statements that:

"...men don't change there own disposition because God decrees they don't."

There's nothing wrong with that statement. I think it would be called a "negative inference fallacy" to move from that to "men change their dispositions if God decrees them to," rather along the lines of RCs who claim Mark 16:16 means those who are not baptized believers cannot be saved.

Joshua Butcher said...

Ryan,

I understand that you may have a finer point of logic on the statement itself, but ask yourself if God could decree that men change their own dispositions, given the definition of disposition. It would constitute a metaphysical impossibility for men to have determination of their own dispositions, for it would make them self-determined. In short, you ought to know that God doesn't decree that men should changes their own disposition because it would deny His Sovereignty over them, thereby denying Himself.

Ryan said...

"...it would deny His Sovereignty over them, thereby denying Himself."

I didn't follow that, but either way, you are still looking for an argument where there is none.

Joshua Butcher said...

I'm just trying to help you out. Sometimes what we intend leads us into something we would never have intended.

Peace,
~Joshua

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Please ignore the last post and use this one:

"As for why God decreed that persons who commit such a sin would never change their disposition, I don't know."

Ryan,

Your statement implies that God could have decreed that men change their own disposition. After all, if you believed that God could not have made such a decree (that men change their own disposition) then the answer to your own question would not have been “I don’t know”. Rather, your answer would have been “it’s impossible!” That you "don’t know" why God did not decree that men would ever change their own disposition presupposes that it would have been possible for God to have decreed that men change their own disposition and that you merely didn't know why he did not decree what you thought was possible. Moreover, when it was pointed out to you that men cannot change their own disposition regardless of the decree you did not concede the point but rather you asked how one can abstract man’s actions from God’s decree – which again is only intelligible if you thought God could have decreed that men change their own disposition. Akin to this, your question regarding abstracting man's actions from the decree implies that man's disposition should be viewed as an action of his own, which it is not.

Ron

Ryan said...

I really can't help what you infer from my statements/questions or how you think I should have worded them. Regardless, this is getting a little pedantic.