Was the death of Christ a failure?
Dr. Vines has apparently had at least some exposure to Calvinistic exegesis of the proof-texts used for Unlimited atonement mentioned in my previous post and he has chosen to disregard these explanations in favor of his own tradition, as demonstrated in the following quote:
“There’s no way you can monkey with the text and play exegetical games and get around the fact that the Bible teaches when Jesus died on the Cross, He died for the sins of the whole world.”
Having rejected the doctrine of Limited atonement, the only reasonable soteriological positions open to Dr. Vines are either universalism, on the one hand, or the belief that Christ’s death was in some sense a failure, on the other. As a true Christian- though one I believe to be in grave error in regards to the doctrine under consideration- Dr. Vines is not a universalist and he does not wish to blatantly dishonor the death of our Lord, as demonstrated in the following quote:
“Well, if he died for the sins of the whole world and not everybody’s saved, doesn’t that make the death of Christ a failure? Not at all.”
Attempting to resolve this dilemma, Dr. Vines gave the illustration of a man who paid for a huge group to eat at a restaurant, yet out of pride or ingratitude some within the group paid for their own meal in addition to the payment made by the host. He then presses the conclusion that though payment was really made for the whole group, the rejection of that payment did not indicate failure on the part of the host. Though this illustration may seem persuasive at first, when one really begins to think about it, it quickly breaks down. If the guests insisted that the owner of the restaurant accept their own payment for their meals and the owner did so, then in fairness he should return the money the host paid for those meals to the host himself. Two payments cannot be made for the same meal- if neither of the payments are returned then one, in effect, becomes a donation to the restaurant over and above the price required for the meal. If the host wishes to pay for the meal of the entire group and some within the group insist on paying for their own meal and, furthermore, the owner of the restaurant is fair, returning the price to the host, then the host would, indeed, fail to see his desire to pay for everyone’s meal fulfilled.
In Dr. Vines’ illustration examined above, we also see evidence that he has a sub-biblical understanding of the power of God in salvation. In short, Dr. Vines does not seem to recognize the infinite gulf between the power of God and human power. This was seen in another part of his speech in which Dr. Vines likened the foreknowledge of God to human memory. The assertion was made that just as our knowledge of past events does not effect how these events occured, God’s knowledge of future events does not necessarily effect the outcome of these events. This assertion is in complete disregard for the biblical view of God’s action in every aspect of history indicated by verses such as Proverbs 16:33, The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord, and Ephesians 1:11, In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (emphasis added). Likewise, in his illustration of the host paying for the meal of the large group, Dr. Vines does not seem to appreciate the biblical teaching that those for whom Christ has made atonement will desire to accept His payment- not due to their own decision based upon greater moral sensitivity or superior intelligence- but because God will change their heart (Ezekiel 36:26), they will be made new creatures (II Corinthians 5:17), having been born again (John 3:3), not by the will of man, but by God (John 1:13). For Dr. Vines’ illustration to be more biblical, the host would not only have to pay for the group he has chosen, but he would have to create a new heart within the members of that group so that they would desire to please him.