Series on Limited Atonement

As I am still recovering from the new one I am not going to be posting new material for a little while so the conclusion to the posting series on the second commandment will be delayed for a little bit. So for your reading pleasure I will be posting articles on a defense of Limited Atonement (particular redemption I have also heard it called) which has always been the hardest pill to swallow of all of the 5 points of TULIP. First is a two-part article by Greg Bahnsen.

Limited Atonement” Part 1
By Dr. Greg Bahnsen

A very unhealthy notion that plagues the fundamentalist church is the idea that Christ laid down his life for each and every individual; that he went to the cross to save all men without exception. Such a view is not consistent with Biblical Christianity. Sometimes a person will acknowledge the total depravity of man, unconditional election of God the Father, prevenient grace of the Spirit and yet deny the particular redemption of Christ; such a position is known as “fourpoint Calvinism” and is as inconsistent as it is unorthodox.

If it be said that before creation the Father singled out in election those whom He destined to save and that the Spirit’s activity of bringing men to repentance and faith is operative (to that extent) only in the lives of God’s elect and yet that Christ offered up His life for the purpose of saving every single individual, then the unity of the Trinity has been forsaken. For in such a case Christ clearly sets out to accomplish what God the Father and Spirit do not intend to do; Christ here would be out of harmony with the will and purpose of the other two persons of the Trinity. Hence anyone who expounds “four-point Calvinism” has inadvertently destroyed the doctrine of the Trinity (by dissolving its unity) and is logically committed to a polytheistic position.

It should also be noted that the doctrine of particular redemption is necessary to the orthodox view of Christ’s substitutionary atonement; the only alternatives to it are universal salvation or salvation by works (both are unbiblical). If Christ atoned for the sins of all men then all men will be saved, for a righteous God cannot condemn a man twice; if the man’s sins have been atoned, he cannot be sent to Hell on the basis of them. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that Christ through his sacrifice made a full and actual (no potential) redemption; “who gave himself to us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a peculiar (chosen) people” (Titus 2:14); “he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21; “he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking … his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12).

It is clear that Christ presented an actual and not potential redemption on the cross; the gospel is good news, not good advice, it tells us what has been accomplished, not what might come about. Upon the cross Christ cried out “It is finished”; nothing was left to be done, for full atonement had been made. Hence, if Christ (as it is suggested) died for every man, all men shall be saved without exception; yet scripture clearly does not teach universal salvation. And if (contrary to scripture) it is responded that Christ’s redemption is only potential, to be made actual when the sinner believes, then salvation is said to depend finally on something the sinner does. And that is tantamount to salvation by works (as well as being based on an erroneous view of Christ’s atonement.

Isaiah prophesied that Christ would “see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied”; yet if Christ went to the cross with the intention of saving every individual, he certainly has been defeated and cannot be satisfied. But our Lord is not defeated; all power has been given to him in heaven and earth. His sufferings do accomplish what he intends, for the salvation he provides is not abstract and universal, it is particular and personal. Christ died for his people, the elect (Matthew 1:21). “All that the Father gives me will come to me … for I came down from heaven to … do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:37, 38); “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (not the goats) … I know my own … and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 14-18); “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish (John 10:24-29); “glorify the son … since thou hast given him power over all flesh, so that he might give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. I (have) accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:1-4); “feed the church of the Lord which he obtained for himself with his own blood” (Acts 20:28); Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (Ephesians 5:25-27); “who gave himself … to purify for himself a chosen people of his own” (Titus 2:14).

Those holding to the indefinite atonement of Christ will often appeal to scriptural passages which speak of salvation in terms of “the world,” or “all men,” “all nations, etc.” However, in most instances these words were used by the N.T. writers to emphatically correct the mistaken Jewish notion that full salvation was not for the Gentiles. These expressions are intended to show that Christ died for all men without distinction (not all men without exception). If the referent of “world” in 2 Cor. 5:19 (“God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself”) were taken to be every single individual, then that verse teaches that Christ’s work was to the effect of reconciling every man to God (i.e. universal salvation) — which is clearly unscriptural. The general evangelistic call goes out to all men in our preaching, while it is only the elect who are moved by the Holy sp8irit to respond with repentance and faith to that redemption accomplished for them by Christ.

If redemption were indefinite and potential, then none would be saved. For man, who is dead in sin and unable to receive the things of the Spirit of God (cf. Eph. 2:1; I Cor. 2:14), would never be able to appropriate that potential redemption for himself. No man is able to come to Christ except that Father draw him (John 6:44). The sinner drinks iniquity like water and does not seek God (Job 15:16; Rom. 3:11), so he can no more choose to come to Christ and gain for himself the benefits of the atonement than a leopard can change his spots (Jer. 13:23). Praise be to God who did not make only partial atonement for the sins of his people, who did not allow the salvation of His elect to be thwarted by leaving it up to them to respond, who fully saved us by having His Son actually obtain salvation for His sheep!

Particular redemption is the only triune, monotheistic, substitutionary, personal, effectual, and biblical (hence, orthodox) doctrine of Christ’s atonement; all else (including fundamentalism’s redemption for every individual) are doctrines pleasing to men but unsatisfactory in their Theology, anthropology, and soteriology. Sola Scriptura!

Images of the Godhead and the Second Commandment, Part 6

(I had a much better and longer post but I somehow deleted it so this is the cliff notes version as I do not have time to rewrite the 1500 words I had finished)

We have moved from the 16th to 17th to the 19th centuries and have watched how the unanimous voices of Reformed orthodoxy in the past have spoken against the construction (or injection-molding, chipb) of images of the entire Godhead. In this part we will look at the modern effects on how we view not just the Decalogue but the Mosaic Law in general. How is it that now one cannot go 10 feet without seeing the Scandinavian-“Jesus” plastered on everything from T-shirts to Billboards? Well Greg Bahnsen in his work on Post-Millennialism entitled Victory in Jesus (published post-mortem) has a very good short section on the three things plaguing not just the rampant violation of the second commandment but other problems encroaching on orthodox Reformed Christianity in the West. While his focus is presenting a case for Post-Millennialism and why it has fallen out of favor he is correct in identifying the three major issues confronting orthodoxy in general. Two of these three movements would not even consider the Second commandments words on imagery binding today but it is their influence in the minds of those who may that bring them into this discussion.

Bahnsen begins by identifying firstly Liberalism. By Liberalism Bahnsen means to direct his words to the movement that began under the influence of men like Hermann Samuel Reimarus and Heinrich Paulus who were the forerunners of and greatly influenced 19th century Historical Jesus research. Also understood in this section is the work by Immanuel Kant whose philosophy continues to undergird nearly all persons in the West. Included in this is the work of higher critics like Julius Wellhausen and David Strauss. However for Americans the greatest influence was brought forth by Friedrich Schleiermacher whose thoughts and ideas are still taught in every mainline seminary. The effect these men had on the subject of this essay is in the way we now approach the Scriptures in the West. Out of all of their criticisms of the Biblical text the most divisive has been the hatchet job done on the Pentateuch especially on the Mosaic Law. If the law was not received by Moses in toto (as Scripture testifies it did, Ex. 20-23) then what bearing does it have on us today? How can a collection of separate instructions hold any weight for today’s Christian? These are serious questions that cannot be answered by simply dismissing these ungodly men and their followers away by wrote. They must be challenged and confronted in a manner that does not cause their descendants to shun orthodoxy.

The Second influence recognized by Bahnsen is the work of Evolutionary Progressivism. One may look at the title and wonder “How does that differ from Liberalism?” Well to answer the question a person needs to understand that their is a difference between what most people refer to in contemporary times as Liberalism and what academically should be referred to as Liberalism. This second part is what we would identify with the modern usage of the word. This movement led by men such as Charles Darwin and Walter Rauschenbusch delivered a focus that moved Christianity away from its foundation in the Older Testament to a purely New Testament focus, a recurrence of Marcionism. Also another thing that distinguishes it from Liberalism as defined above is its belief that man is is generally good and has evolved past the Mosaic prohibitions to a new era of life that looks not upon the strictures but upon the liberty brought by Christ. Hence the term “Evolutionary”. In other words Christianity no longer needs to worry about offending God by their actions as long as they do so with a kind heart and a loving mind. Therefore in regards to the Second Commandment the Evolutionary Progressivist has moved on from the old covenant completely and any attempt to use it in discussion is Pharisaical.

Thirdly in Bahnsen’s hypothesis is the effect of Dispensationalism on the mind of today’s Evangelical. Mostly brought to the forefront of Christianity in America by the work of Cyrus Scofield and his reference Bible and the writings of John Nelson Darby. The greatest effect Dispensationalism has had for this discussion is its emphasis on the distinctions between the New Testament Church and ancient Israel of the Old Testament. Scofield believed that between creation and the final judgment there were seven distinct eras of God’s dealing with man and that these eras were a framework around which the message of the Bible could be explained. Therefore the words of the second commandment can be properly explained as belonging to a prior dispensation and no longer applicable in there literal sense to today’s Christian.

Cumulatively these three positions have effected the way in which most in the Reformed camp come to the Decalogue and the Case Law of Moses imparticular. With a Hermeneutic of Suspicion the Second commandment (and its spiritual brother, the 4th commandment as we saw here in J.C. Ryle’s thought) is cast in a light of a “Canon within a Canon” as it passed over, with rest of the first table, in our times for all the reasons the three positions of Liberalism, Evolutionary Progressivism, and Dispensationalism have provided.

In the final part of this 7 part series on the Second Commandment I will present a Biblical and Systematic argument showing why it is not only unlawful according to the Older Testament but also in the New Covenant to picture the Godhead in physical form.

A New Term

Well the time has come for the 3rd Term of the 2007-2008 School Year. If things go as planned then this should the beginning of the three last terms of Seminary for me. I should graduate the end of Term II next year (Feb. ’09).

So here are the four classes and one Independent Study I am doing this term. Two at RPTS and the rest at PTS.

RPTS Classes

ST 41- Westminster Confession (audit)

ST 13- Doctrine of Revelation

PTS Classes

CS 02 – Church and Society – Local

OT 28 – Biblical Archeology

PS 03 – Homiletics

Now concerning the Independent Study it is not one for credit. One of the drawbacks of attending a mainline seminary that bills itself as having an ecumenical diversity is the lack of an Apologetics course being available in any capacity. So to rectify that I am going to read some Apologetical books. You can see on the side of my blog that I have already began that task. If you would like to see my progress just check out that pic.