Universal Redemption Leads to Loss of Assurance

I would like to begin this post with the following assertion: Dr. Bruce A. Ware is no punk. (How’s that for the lesser judging the greater?) I want to make my position on this clear right up front because many within the blogosphere tend to focus on areas of disagreement so much that they simply dismiss anyone who does not share every facet of their beliefs. But far from being someone whom we should dismiss, Dr. Ware has been at the forefront of the battle against the heresy of Open Theism, not only showing the failings of this hyper-Arminian teaching, but also positively contributing to the discussion with soul-stirring writings exalting our Sovereign, Omniscient God. For this reason, it was thrilling news when Dr. Ware was elected as vice-president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), which means (through some arcane rules governing the leadership of ETS) that he will automatically serve as president in 2009. Due to his writings and to Dr. Ware’s passionate monergism, I developed such a respect for this teacher that he is truly one of the influences that helped me decide to move to Louisville, KY to attend the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).

As much as I have learned from Dr. Ware from his writings and lectures I have heard on-line (I haven’t yet had the opportunity to take any of his classes), there is one major disagreement I have with his theology. Namely, Dr. Ware has self-identified as a “four-point Calvinist,” and he is probably the ablest defender of this theological position today. Dr. Ware has influenced many students and faculty at SBTS with his views in this regard. Last November during the ETS conference, Dr. Ware was gracious enough to allow himself to be scrutinized by Pastors Mark Dever and John Piper concerning his belief in universal redemption. [A recording of this encounter can be heard HERE.]

Dr. Ware began by reading 2 Peter 2:1 and commented, “Well, I take this passage to indicate a pretty straightforward reading of what it says. And that is that Christ bought them, that is, He shed His blood for the non-elect as He did for the elect” [emphasis added].

In the conversation that followed, Pastor John Piper rightly pointed out that though Ware wishes to label his view the “mulitple intentions” view of the atonement, language such as that in the quote above actually reduces the scope of Christ’s work on the Cross to one single intention that is the same for the non-elect as the elect.

Piper also addressed a couple of objections that I had previously thought of when reading of Ware’s position on the atonement (though, being John Piper, he obviously addressed these topics much better than I could have). The topic I wish to pursue in this post is as follows, namely, that no matter how carefully a person wishes to distinguish “four-point Calvinism” from Arminianism, any doctrine of universal redemption necessarily tends toward a loss of assurance of salvation. 

Concerning the Christian assurance of salvation, Piper said to Ware:

“I wonder if your attempt… won’t have the practical effect of undermining the sweetness of the assurance of the elect in that it will make Christ’s death for me feel the same as His death for those in Hell and therefore there was nothing securing about it. Whereas when I think of the blood, I think of that which not only made it possible for me to escape Hell, but secured my escape; whereas you can’t say that, because [in your view] He died for the non-elect in the same way He died for the elect in every signifcant way.”

The point Piper made in the statement quoted above was biblically significant as doctrines concerning election and predestination are given in Scripture specifically with the view of bolstering Christian assurance in the midst of trials, which shall inevitably come. Take, for example, that great comforting passage on election and predestination we find in Romans 8:28-39:

28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? 33 Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. 34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. 35 Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. 37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! (HCSB)

Now, I’ve highlighted the word “us” throughout the above passage to show how the Apostle identified with the Christians in Rome and how he personalized what he was writing, so that his brothers and sisters could feel the weight of the encouragement he offered. The basis for this encouragement was God’s work of predestination (vv. 29-30) and election (vv. 28, 33), which cannot be thwarted. But notice how God’s saving work is carried out through His Son. It is written, “He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?” (v. 32) The same “us” for whom Christ was offered up is the “us” who will be granted “everything”- all the richness of salvation. The same “us” for whom Christ was offered up is the “us” for whom He intercedes (v. 34). The same “us” for whom Christ was offered up is the “us” who will certainly never be separated from the love of Christ. If a theologian tries to make this “us” apply to each and every person ever to live, then universalism is the inevitable result. If a theologian tries to argue that the “us” for whom Christ was offered up is not necessarily connected to the other occurances of “us” in this passage, then the basis for Christian assurance is indeed overthrown.

It is my prayer that Dr. Ware will heed the admonition of pastor/theologians such as Piper and Dever, that he will reject novelty in favor of soundness, and that he will come to a better appreciation of the Cross of our Lord.

-Crux sola est nostra theologia

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19 Comments on “Universal Redemption Leads to Loss of Assurance”

  1. David Ponter Says:

    Andrew,

    Your argument does not work. For neither Ware, nor any Lombardian Augustinian, or Moderate Calvinist, is committed to saying that the “us” of Roms 8, in the selected passage is “each and every person ever to live.”

    Why do you think someone should be committed that? Why should Ware think that the “us” must refer to everyone who has lived, lives and will live? It would be a patently absurd thing to do anyway. The “us” clearly refers to believers, and so the predications Paul makes are referencing believers. The passage therefore in no way militates against Ware’s Multiple Intentions view.

    Please think about what I am saying how it shows your argument does not work. If I you want me to elaborate, just ask.

    Take care,
    David

  2. Paul Schafer Says:

    Interesting post and article from Dr. Bruce Ware.


  3. In the quote from Ware I offered, he clearly stated his belief that “[Christ] shed His blood for the non-elect as He did for the elect.” Ware himself calls this a 4-point view and thus contrasts it to positions held by Calvinists holding to the traditional (Dortian) understanding, such as Piper, who would say that the atonement is sufficient for all but only efficient for the elect. If you listen to the audio, Ware wants to say that Christ is even efficient for all people indiscriminately, actually reconciling both elect and non-elect indivduals to himself, and he avoids universalism only by redefining “reconciliation.” By this view, it seems necessary to say that the “us” for whom Christ was offered up includes both elect and non-elect persons, and thus my argument stands.

  4. David Ponter Says:

    In the quote from Ware I offered, he clearly stated his belief that “[Christ] shed His blood for the non-elect as He did for the elect.” Ware himself calls this a 4-point view and thus contrasts it to positions held by Calvinists holding to the traditional (Dortian) understanding, such as Piper, who would say that the atonement is sufficient for all but only efficient for the elect. If you listen to the audio, Ware wants to say that Christ is even efficient for all people indiscriminately, actually reconciling both elect and non-elect indivduals to himself, and he avoids universalism only by redefining “reconciliation.” By this view, it seems necessary to say that the “us” for whom Christ was offered up includes both elect and non-elect persons, and thus my argument stands.

    G’day Andrew,

    I understand the background theology of Ware, probably more than most folk do. So lets set out some of these assumptions you mention. All these points can be discussed and documented later. Just now I want to identify these assumptions you table and then see how they bear on the argument you adduced.

    1) Ware believes in an objective reconciliation between God and the whole human race. In this, Ware essentially agrees with Calvin, Bullinger and others who taught the same thing, that reconcilation was twofold. The first is on the Godward side, that through Christ’s death, God’s necessary hostility towards the world has been placated, that God, and the claims of the law against all mankind have been objectively satisfied. The second aspect is the subjective individual and personal reconcilation between man and God.

    2) It is true that Ware has called himself a 4 point Calvinist. It is also true that Piper said its not the case that he is a 4 point Calvinist. I believe Ware has used that label out of misunderstanding.

    3) The Dortian view of sufficiency for all is not the same as the Owenic view.

    4) Its not the case that Ware has invented some of these “definitions” they were present in Classical Augustinian theology for centuries. A critical source for Ware has been Thomas’: The extent of the atonement : a dilemma for reformed theology from Calvin to the consensus (1536-1675) / G.M. Thomas.

    So now we come to the argument. You assert this: “By this view, it seems necessary to say that the “us” for whom Christ was offered up includes both elect and non-elect persons, and thus my argument stands.”

    Why Andrew? Why must he affirm that every instance in Scripture where the death of Christ is referenced with respect to “us” must be insist that “us” includes everyone who has lived, lives or will live? It seems to me that you are just “stacking the deck” here. You seem to want to cite Roms 8:32 to prove that Ware must read the “us” as all mankind, and in so doing be committed to affirming a reductio, a contradiction. You are repeating Zanchius’ fallacy here that the “us” here logically entails or is identical to “for all whom Christ died (in any sense).”

    But why?

    My earlier point was that this imposition was not necessary.

    This may be a bit long, again, but sorry. What I will do is insert the word “believers” in brackets.

    28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those *who* *love* God, to those who are *called* according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us [believers], who is against us [believers]? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all [believers], how will He not also with Him freely give us [believers] all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us [believers]. 35 Who shall separate us [believers] from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; *We* were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us [believers]. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us [believers] from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Okay. We have to think about this carefully. In philosophical polemics one side will propose an argument. The other side A, then the other side, B, proposes a counter-factual. The onus is then on A, to prove that B’s counter-factual cannot hold good (I would think).

    To refute your claim, all someone like Ware has to say is that every reference to “us” here is a reference to believers. And in that, all following predications in this text range regarding the “us” are limited to, indexed to, reference the “us” and so are ‘limited’ to the us. Thus, Paul would be saying, if Christ was given to “us,” who have been predestined, how much more will he give “us,” the predestined ones, all things? Secondly, all Ware has to say is that one cannot convert the “us” to the class “elect” qua elect, for then it would result in absurdity. Some living unbelieving elect are still under the charge of the law, or who are yet to be “called.”

    And so, all this fits perfectly with the classic sufficient for all, efficient for the elect. In this way, Paul’s comment speaks exactly to the “efficiency” side of the formula. But here is the critical point: Thus Paul in no way is negating any other sense or instance where Christ could have been “given” to others (cf John 6:32-33). You cant import a universal negation into Paul’s simple positives here. Even Thomas Boston, said that Christ, as a deed of gift was given to the world.

    So lets read it as an Arminius may have read it. Does your argument even refute him? Now here I will do something a little different, as signified by upper case:

    28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those *who* *love* God, to those who are *called* according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us [believers], who is against us [believers]? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all [ALL MANKIND], how will He not also with Him freely give us [believers] all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us [believers]. 35 Who shall separate us [believers] from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; *We* were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us [believers]. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us [believers] from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Now, even Arminius could take the “us all” (emon panton), how much more will he give “us” believers all things…?

    What Arminius could is base this assumption on Paul’s earlier version of this same argument in Roms 5:

    6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the *ungodly.* 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet *sinners,* Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having *now* been *justified* by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we *were* enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

    Arminius could read the indefinite term “the ungodly” as all men, as a sort of major premise. Then the minor would be: “Having now been justified,” which then leads him into the “much more” argument. The minor premise would finction as a conditionality. If Christ died for us all, all sinners, if he did that much while were we enemies, how much more, especially now that we are friends, no longer enemies, shall he not give us all things?

    This reading is perfectly consistent. There is nothing illogical about it. If you disagree, you must first disagree on exegetical grounds. So back to Roms 8:32, Arminius could warrantedly argue that within the logic of Paul there is an enthymeme, which its expected the reader is supposed to fill in. Now, what you may not know, is that this is exactly how Calvin reads Roms 8:32. He links the “us all” as all humanity.

    So, on either reading, the multiple intentions view is not committed to holding that the “us” regards all mankind (and so must speak to the sufficiency side of the formula). That being true, he is not bound to think the reductio holds good. He is not bound to believe that if Christ was given to all, in any sense, all must be reconciled (in the same sense).

    You have to think about this. It’s a common fallacy dating back to Zanchius, which is hastily converts the “us” into “for all whom Christ died, in any sense.” Only on these terms can the logic you allude to, and which Zanchius expresses work. But it’s a fallacy. The term “us” even “us all” is NOT the same as the term: “for all whom Christ died” even “for all whom Christ died in any sense.” (Cf on the logic Zanchius’ arguent: http://controversialcalvinism.blogspot.com/ )

    I think therefore the counter-factual “readings” I have posited a sound defeaters here. You can only refute them exegetically, should you wish to try and refute these counter-factual readings. But thats gonna be awefully hard to do.

    I hope that helps, if it doesnt, let me know and I will try and explain it better.

    Take care
    David


  5. Paul’s point in saying in v. 32- that if Christ is offered up for us [as you said, believers], He will freely give us [believers] all things- is to give us assurance based on the fact that Christ died for us.

    The “us” here- the believers- can indeed here be understood as the “elect” as Paul himself uses the terms interchangeably within this very passage. (See v. 33)

    If Jesus died for the non-elect in the same way- if He, as Ware said, “shed His blood for the non-elect as He did for the elect”- then the Apostle’s encouragement is meaningless, for the phrase Christ’s offering for us would not necessarily yield the “all things.”

  6. david Ponter Says:

    G’day Andrew,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Okay…

    I think it comes then to the simple fact that you are straw-manning Ware’s position then. You are taking one statement as if that exhausts all his categories. I am not saying that to be malicious or that you are doing it maliciously. The wording there, “as he did for the elect” does not entail that he died for the non-elect in every exact same sense(s) he did for the elect. Remember, Ware holds to a *multiple* *intentions* view. Thus, I think you are pressing his words, in a conversation, to ends which Ware clearly did not intend.

    You say “If Jesus died for the non-elect in the *same* way” when I don’t think Ware has said that or even holds to that. Did he actually use those words, Andrew? And, what does that mean: “in the same way?” With the same intention? No. Does he mean that there is a sense where the death of Christ was made, could be made, for all in some way? Well yes, it is Sufficient “for all”, and so in that sense he died for all in the same way, otherwise it could never be sufficient for all. But does this exhaust Ware’s position, no.

    Can you see this? As soon as Ware says he died for some in some sense, with one intention, and for others with another intention, he is immune to your charge, for the reasons I have expressed. Like C Hodge for example:
    They are consistent, for example, with the fact that the work of Christ lays the foundation for the offer of the gospel to all men, with the fact that men are justly condemned for the rejection of that offer; and with the fact that the Scriptures frequently assert that the work of Christ had reference to all men. All these facts can be accounted for on the assumption, that the great design of Christ’s death was to make the salvation of all men possible, and that it had equal reference to every member of our race. Systematic Theology, vol, 2, p., 553. That equal reference is at least one possible “same way” aspect.

    He can posit a “sameness” along side an intended differentiation. But your argument, I would think, hinges on an assumption which precludes Ware from also positing some intended differentiation. But that would be an unfair imposition.

    Like this: Both propositions can be true.
    1) Christ intended to shed his blood for the non-elect as he did for the elect.
    2)Christ intended to shed his blood with an especial intention for the elect in a way unlike the manner in which he shed his blood for the elect.

    Upon saying that, all the predicates in Roms 8 are only applicable to the second proposition, and in no way deny the first. Here is why I say that:

    To the first paragraph of yours, I would say no, not exactly. The assurance in Roms 8 and 5 is not simply predicated on the proposition that Christ died for us, but on the intervening conditional minor, ‘now that we have believed.’ I think this premise is not expressed in the Rom 8:32 (it’s the enthymeme) “much more,” but it is strongly implied. Properly speaking, in Roms 5, the “much more” argument is critically hinged and dependent upon the clause ‘now that we have believed.’ (my paraphrase). I would say that this premise is simply not expressed in the parallel Roms 8:32 “much more” argument. But that last is something I wont press here and now.

    As to the “elect,” issue: I am not sure you understand my point. It is not the elect qua elect simply considered. For the living unbelieving elect are still subject to the charge of the law which condemns, but the elect qua believing. It is the elect as they are believers and justified. This elect qua believers has both a present aspect and an eschatological aspect. But it is elect as they are united to Christ, not the elect simply considered. The term elect is sometimes used to denote believers, not the elect as a class, qua elect. (see 1 Pet 1:1). For in Roms 8:1, recall, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Would you want to posit an eternal justification and adoption like Gill?

    I hope this is helpful in some way and not bugging you all.
    Anyway, thanks for the conversation.
    David


  7. David,

    re: Did he actually use those words, Andrew?

    Yes, he did, as I copied them down from the audio.

    re: And, what does that mean: “in the same way?”

    Right, I understand that he would want to qualify his statements under his ‘multiple intentions’ view, but the problem is that the “sameness” Ware asserts is in regards to the exact area of soteriology where there should be a disjuncture. IOW, Ware says that Jesus died for both elect and non-elect to not merely provide possible reconciliation to God, but actual reconciliation to God. If you listen o the audio to which I linked, then you will hear Ware say that those suffering in Hell are reconciled to God, claiming that this is what is meant by the idea of Christus victor- then Piper questions him, basically, on how he can call it ‘reconciliation’ when the wrath of God is still burning against them.

    Also, I’m somewhat confused at why you say you hold to limited atonement. Is limited atonement strictly a theoretical abstraction to you? In what way does this doctrine affect the Christian life? I feel compelled to ask these questions because when I posted an article on how this doctrine should effect our evangelism you objected and now that I’ve posted an article on how this doctrine should effect our assurance, you’ve objected. Can you imagine us at SBF posting any article on how limited atonement actually impacts the Christian life to which you wouldn’t object?

  8. David Ponter Says:

    G’day Andrew:

    David: Thanks for replying. I think I understand what Ware is saying, but I’ll grant that perhaps I dont, perhaps you dont, perhaps he is not expressing himself the best way. I dont think he means Christ died for the reprobate in the exact same sense(s) in which he died for the elect. I do think you are pressing his words too far. As for reconcilation, I tried to set out some of his assumptions regarding reconciliation as a two-fold aspect. He may be wrong, I may be wrong, but I am not sure you have factored in this two-fold aspect of reconciliation.

    I was thinking about this last night and I think its now best if folk actually ask Ware for clarification. I do think you are importing ideas into his system, defining his phrases in accordance with your paradigmatic categories; and not his.

    Now to something else:

    Andrew: Also, I’m somewhat confused at why you say you hold to limited atonement. Is limited atonement strictly a theoretical abstraction to you? In what way does this doctrine affect the Christian life? I feel compelled to ask these questions because when I posted an article on how this doctrine should effect our evangelism you objected and now that I’ve posted an article on how this doctrine should effect our assurance, you’ve objected. Can you imagine us at SBF posting any article on how limited atonement actually impacts the Christian life to which you wouldn’t object?

    David: Did you catch Gibson’s posts on the the RB list about Limited Atonement being or not being the gospel? I explained my position there. I didnt get the impression that Gibson agrees with Ware or myself on the atonement, but on the import of importing negations into simple positives, we were in agreement.

    So if by limited atonement you mean a negation in the very nature of the Atonement, no. I am in agreement Dabney, C Hodge, Edwards, and Shedd that there is no negation in the very nature of the expiation. If by limitation you mean a limited intention, or special intention to apply the expiation to the elect, and these only, then yes. And in this way, this is in accord with Dort, which does not speak of the expiation by way of negation, but of specific design.

    Now you say this:

    Andrew: Can you imagine us at SBF posting any article on how limited atonement actually impacts the Christian life to which you wouldn’t object?

    Three subject areas? Andrew, I have asked you a few times now if you do not wish me to comment here I am perfectly fine with that. I wont mind at all. I think I am seeing a hint that I am bugging you. I honestly did only comment with the view of having a conversation.

    Hey, if I cracked a joke and said, perhaps you shouldnt post such bad arguments then I would not feel the need to comment, that would not go down well with you would it? 😉

    But I will take the hint. I’ll read but not comment. Perhaps we could have a blog war? 🙂 The friendliest of blog wars mind you. 😉

    Take care,
    David

  9. David Ponter Says:

    Andrew: Can you imagine us at SBF posting any article on how limited atonement actually impacts the Christian life to which you wouldn’t object?

    David: Hey I just realised, would not that be a good example of a loaded question fallacy?

    🙂

    David


  10. David:

    It wasn’t supposed to be a loaded question- what I’m trying to get at is how do you think Limited atonement actually impacts the Christian life.

    Also, I’m not after any kind of blog war, and if I do get bugged, that’s my own problem as I don’t see any fault in the way you’re communicating (even your probably-only-half-joking statement about my arguments being bad was only, at worst, a statement of your own opinion, which- even if that’s all there is to it- you’re completely entitled to).

    In regards to reconciliation having a two-fold aspect, I just don’t buy it in the way Ware describes. A reconciliation is a cessation of hostility and Hell is entirely a hostile place. If two-fold reconciliation means that two people could say that they are reconciled to God- one person in heaven, at peace in Christ, free from God’s wrath and experiencing only joy, and another in Hell experiencing only wrath and outside of all joy, then reconciliation ceases to have any meaning.

  11. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    “For God did not send His Son into the world to condmn the world…And this is the condemnation, thet light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light…For the Fahter judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son…the very works that I do bear witness of Me, that the Fahter has sent Me…I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him…Now is the judgment of this world…And I , if I am lifted up from the earth will draw all peoples to Myself…And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who jejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him, the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day…And I know that His command is everlasting life…He will give you antother Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, who the world cannot receive…You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

    Yours is an interesting conversation. It appears though that you have so myoptically centered on the words of Scripture that you miss its revelation. Reconciliation does not need to mean only that the price was paid to purchase freedom for the elect, but means also that it was the price paid to establish the testimony against those who rebelled against Christ. In this all things are reconciled to Him. So Christ’s death reconciles the ledger of the just demands of God on behalf of the elect, and provides testimony to His righteousness and establishes that the accounts against the wicked are just, by which the non-elect are condemned. So, Christ did not have to die for all men equally, but he did. On the one account His blood is the purchase price demanded by the Father so that Christ’s righteousness might be imputed to His children. On the other, it is the seal of the righteous justice of God against the un-Godly and their perfectly reconciled condemnation.

    The series of passages I quote makes is evident that Christ came for judgement. One the one hand not to condemn the world but to provide eternal life, on the other, to condemn the world because it rejected the only begotten Son of God. On one side of the Cross is life and the other is death, and there the scale is perfectly balanced with Christ as the fulcrum.


  12. The Cross of Christ may have established condemnation as well as reconciliation, but condemnation certainly is not the same thing as reconciliation.

  13. David Ponter Says:

    G’day Andrew,

    I took a few days off cos it is not my intent to bug you folk. I think the “mission statement” of this blog is probably not conducive to challenges from a dissenter, and hence it may be that I am coming across as a bother.

    If it is the case that you welcome conversation from me, please let me know. If not, that’s fine.

    I’ll just respond to this.

    Andrew:
    It wasn’t supposed to be a loaded question- what I’m trying to get at is how do you think Limited atonement actually impacts the Christian life.

    David: Okay, thanks for telling me. For my part it looked like some frustration was coming through. I shot off the loaded question comment as a friendly way of trying to explore and diffuse any frustration that may be there.

    Andrew: Also, I’m not after any kind of blog war, and if I do get bugged, that’s my own problem as I don’t see any fault in the way you’re communicating (even your probably-only-half-joking statement about my arguments being bad was only, at worst, a statement of your own opinion, which- even if that’s all there is to it- you’re completely entitled to).

    David: Great. The blog war was just humour. One of the best inter-blog discussions I have seen was the mini one between White and Svendsen, on the atonement. Actually, it’s the only inter-blog discussion that I have seen that remained friendly and respectful. So for me it’s a good model.

    Andrew:
    In regards to reconciliation having a two-fold aspect, I just don’t buy it in the way Ware describes. A reconciliation is a cessation of hostility and Hell is entirely a hostile place. If two-fold reconciliation means that two people could say that they are reconciled to God- one person in heaven, at peace in Christ, free from God’s wrath and experiencing only joy, and another in Hell experiencing only wrath and outside of all joy, then reconciliation ceases to have any meaning.

    David: I am not sure I can comment on the last of what you say. The idea is not so much that men are reconciled to God, but that God is now reconciled and reconciling to the world. Originally in first generation Reformation thought, this two-fold form, both in Luther and others, was this like this. The law necessarily condemns the sinner. God cannot display his grace, even his placability because of this necessary condemnation. For, sure, he could delay punishment, but any delay as an expression of grace (eg rom 2:4) so that a man may be given time to repent (rev 2:21; which expresses an older biblical motif) is not possible. The objective satisfaction of Christ removes this necessary condemnation. Its now no longer absolutely necessary that the law condemn any given sinner. God can now express placability, grace, and the free offer of life in the Gospel. Now, I have expressed this is modern terms, specifically as derived from Shedd, with Calvin and others. The key text often used is 2 Cor 5:20, along with the Col 1 passage Ware cited, as I recall. I believe this is what Shedd means when he says that by the satisfaction of Christ, all sin–and he means all sin–has been expiated and the claims of the law against all mankind, cancelled. The language that first described this aspect of universal reconciliation, later morphed into the language of legal obstacles. This is critical. The language of legal obstacles itself has morphed and evolved. Peeling back these terminological layers has been very interesting.

    Personal reconciliation is when, not only is that necessary condemnation is removed, but personal and individual condemnation is removed.

    But all that aside. In terms of the argument you tabled for discussion, you tabled the comment, ‘he shed his blood for the reprobate as he did for the elect’ (my para). Piper converted that to “in the same way”. That itself was probably illegitimate, as the sense is not directly implied by the original statement. To further sustain your argument, you tabled the Roms 8 passage range. Now, if we limit the terms of the discussion to those parameters, I think my counter still stands. The multiple intentions idea adequately responds to your coutner.

    It did appear to me that adding the matter regarding reconciliation in hell did not address the argument and couter-arguments as originally tabled. Make sense? It is not to say it’s wrong to add extra arguments. That’s fine. Yet, I don’t think Roms 8 can be used in that way to refute Ware’s claim as originally cited by you. Make sense? In no way is assurance undermined, for the subjects of the assurative predications and promises in Roms are the believers, those predestined, who have now been called, justified, and who believe, for whom all things work for good, who love God.

    As to reconciliation, sure I understand you don’t buy into that. Nothing Ware says stands on that. It can be completely discarded as an idea and still his multiple intentions theology can still stand. And he can still adopt his reading of 2 Pet 2:1.
    That’s about it.

    Thanks and take care,
    David


  14. re: “The idea is not so much that men are reconciled to God, but that God is now reconciled and reconciling to the world.”

    Just as it takes two people to make an argument, it takes two parties to make reconciliation. If my wife and I have I fight and she leaves me (being alienated from and hostile toward me ala Col. 1:21), then you asked me, ‘Have you reconciled with your wife?’ And I said, ‘Yes,’ but what I meant was, ‘I feel good towards her but she still hates me and is living with another man in Vegas,’ then you would know I wasn’t using the term “reconciled” correctly.

    re: “It can be completely discarded as an idea and still [Ware’s] multiple intentions theology can still stand.”

    True, but there will be an important difference. In that he would insist a difference in intention (that of reconciliation regarding the elect with perpetual alienation for the non-elect) in an area that he now insists on sameness.

    re: “In no way is assurance undermined, for the subjects of the assurative predications and promises in Roms are the believers, those predestined, who have now been called, justified, and who believe, for whom all things work for good, who love God.”

    The assurative predications and promises are given specifically to us for whom Christ has died (v.32). That is presented as the very basis of our assurance- that Christ died for us. Christ’s death would have no power of assurance for us if He died for those in Hell in substantially the same way.

  15. David Ponter Says:

    Hey Andrew,

    You say:

    Just as it takes two people to make an argument, it takes two parties to make reconciliation. If my wife and I have I fight and she leaves me (being alienated from and hostile toward me ala Col. 1:21), then you asked me, ‘Have you reconciled with your wife?’ And I said, ‘Yes,’ but what I meant was, ‘I feel good towards her but she still hates me and is living with another man in Vegas,’ then you would know I wasn’t using the term “reconciled” correctly.

    David: But why? Why cant someone say that with regard to such and such, I have reconciled myself to them. That is, as far as I am concerned, all the hostility on my side has been removed. We might call that forgiveness. Why would it not be wrong of me to ask or say that your ‘sentiments’ there seem to derive from your autonomous determination of what should be right, or what cannot be right?

    Andrew says: True, but there will be an important difference. In that he would insist a difference in intention (that of reconciliation regarding the elect with perpetual alienation for the non-elect) in an area that he now insists on sameness.

    David: Does he say that the nature of the reconciliation is exactly the same in all regards for both elect and non-elect? As an side, this is also why asking these directly of Ware would be helpful.

    Andrew concludes:
    The assurative predications and promises are given specifically to us for whom Christ has died (v.32). That is presented as the very basis of our assurance- that Christ died for us. Christ’s death would have no power of assurance for us if He died for those in Hell in substantially the same way.

    David: But cant you see what you are doing here? “substantially the same way.” Ware’s point is that there are multiple intentions.

    If I may ask: Have you read Shedd, C Hodge, and Dabney on any of this? It seems to me that what they said is essentially the same. Just as I posted, Dabney says the expiation is unlimited and made for every man. He says Christ suffered for the sins of the world. (Shedd uses that same language for that last, even stronger for the former. C Hodge, likewise, too that Christ suffered for the sins of the world. )

    Now Dabney can say all that and yet clearly speak of Christ obtaining many ends. He can secure the absolute salvation of the elect, and also the sufficient redemption of all men, the basis of the gospel offer to all men, and common grace etc.

    I cant help get the feeling that you are doing two things. Firstly, converting his terms and phrases into expressions I dont think he would agree with. Secondly, inserting your own sense of what is and is not theologically possible into the discussion. You assert that such and such cant be so, but why? But it strikes me that thats coming from paradigmatic considerations first and foremost.

    From another angle, Ware’s whole discussion hinged on 2 Pet 2:1, would it not be a good exercise to explore that? I mean, if the alternative exegetical claims proposed by some are not sustainable, and if the classic Calvinian interpretation of that verse is the most plausible, then wouldnt you have to revise your controlling paradigm?

    Thanks for the time.
    David


  16. For what it’s worth, I think you’ve both misunderstood Ware’s view of reconciliation as it applies to the non-elect. As someone who actually sat in his classes (as did Timmy, for that matter), let me briefly state his view as I understood it.

    Basically put, for Ware reconciliation for those in hell is bound up simply in the fact that Christ “draws all people to Himself,” “reconciles all things to Himself,” and that “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” In the outline he passed out in class, he stated that if Christ did not die for all, then there is sin which stands outside of his atoning work and as such is not triumphed over. The sins of the non-elect have not been triumphed over and are not under Christ’s authority, since He did not die for them. But that’s a flat contradiction of Christ’s proclamation that the Father gave Him “all authority.”

    So, for Ware, it seems reconciliation for the non-elect is not about salvation, as you (Andrew) have asserted. Instead, it is about bringing them under the authority of Christ as Lord, even in Hell.


  17. Stephen:

    But why would Christ have to atone for sin in order to triumph over it or have authority over it? He is, in His very nature, sovereign over all things. In order for justification to take place Christ must die for sin, so that God is demonstrated to be both just and justifier of those who have faith in Jesus (Rom. 3:26), but to those who are not justified- who do not come to faith in Him- God’s righteousness is rather demonstrated in His unreconciled wrath, which requires no atonement.

    David:

    The problem with the single-sided view of reconciliation that you propose is that the Bible teaches something different. In Colossians 1:21-22, for instance, it is specifically the people for who Christ died- those formerly alienated from and hostile to Him- who are, for their part, reconciled to Christ “by His physical body through His death.” The change effected on the Cross is not only a change in God’s attitude, but a change in the heart of those who will come to faith in Christ, which change is certain though not applied until the new birth.


  18. Andrew,

    As near as I can think through the outline and my notes from Ware’s class, I think that Ware would say (and I really hope I’m not being too presumptuous in venturing as to what Ware would actually say) that since Scripture tells us Christ was obedient to the Father (especially the passages in Hebrews, for example), His obedience unto death would be something like a necessary condition before that authority would be granted. Ware’s view seems to be focusing on the atonement (Christ’s “perfection in obedience”) as where that triumph and the authority that comes with it is achieved.

    Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to do here–I actually agree with your short answer to my comment–but I still think you’re misunderstanding what Ware is trying to do. You’re thinking in terms of salvation, and where the non-elect are concerned it does not seem Ware is thinking in those terms at all.

    “Reconciliation” seems, in his view, related to salvation where believers are concerned, and in bringing the non-elect under His authority (“at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow”). I don’t think we would disagree that man’s relationship to the atonement became the standard for eternity–when Christ died and rose again, all humanity instantly became subject to it either positively or negatively!

    In fact, in my mind Ware’s view of the reconciliation of the non-elect makes the flip side of unconditional election much more understandable and (I suppose) “palatable” to those who do not hold to that doctrine.

    I’d encourage you to take his class or sit in on that particular lecture and hear him explain it for yourself, he can do it much clearer than I ever could.


  19. Stephen,

    I greatly appreciate your comments on this thread and apologize if I’ve’n’t communicated clearly. I’ve actually spoken to some of Dr. Ware’s students in the past, and looked at notes from his classes posted online. You write, “I still think you’re misunderstanding what Ware is trying to do. You’re thinking in terms of salvation, and where the non-elect are concerned it does not seem Ware is thinking in those terms at all.”

    Honestly, though, this is the very point Ware makes that I am trying to dispute. Ware uses terms such as atonement and reconciliation without the appropriate salvific import. In other words, he is trying to use these terms related to a single event (the Cross) to apply to both those who are saved and those who are not saved, i.e., he would postulate “atoned for” and “reconcilied” people in Hell. Now, Dr. Ware will certainly want to say that those in Hell were “atoned for” and “reconciled” in a different sense where the non-elect are concerned, but my point has been that these terms are entirely inappropriate for the non-elect and if the Cross does indeed atone and reconcile the non-elect (in whatever sense), then this fact obscures the assurance for Christians that is the direct correlary of the atonement in Scripture. I am not necessarily asserting that Christ’s death offers NO benefit for the non-elect. Many who would affirm limited atonement both historically (such as those David mentioned in the meta of this post) and presently (such as Phil Johnson) would wish to assert that there is some sense of a temporal wrath-bearing achieved on the Cross by which sinners are given the opportunity to repent rather than being immediately consigned to damnation due to their sin. By his own words Ware goes beyond any 5-point position in his assertions regarding the atonement and reconciliation, which he claims are made universally (though with a difference in regard to the elect and non-elect).

    Hope that offers some clarification.
    I’ve also been given an article by Dr. Ware on this issue, to which I hope to respond in greater detail as soon as my schedule permits.

    Your brother in Christ,
    -Andrew


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