If “Owenites” Are Right, There is No Need for Faith?

Romans 5:11 “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.”

Fullerites teach that the “atonement” which really matters is the application of Christ’s death. Therefore, no double jeopardy, they say, unless somebody for whom Christ died has been “united to Christ.” In other words, they teach that Christ died for some who will perish.

There are also many who sincerely believe that God only intended Christ to die for the elect, and that all of these elect will be saved, but who still did not understand the nature of the atonement.

It’s one thing to say that Christ’s death will be effective, and another to say WHY Christ’s death must be effective. Christ’s death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice.

The difference between the Fullerites and those they dismiss as “Owenites” is not for the need of the Spirit’s work or faith in the gospel. Even though at the end of the day, we have different gospels (objects of faith), we do not disagree about justification being through faith. We who are called “Owenites” do not teach eternal justification, or justification apart from faith, even though our accusers claim that this makes us inconsistent.

We do NOT teach that the elect are free from condemnation before being “baptized into Christ”. Although John Owen taught that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, John Owen did not teach that all the elect were justified as soon as Christ bore those sins. Owen taught with Romans 6 that the elect must come into legal union with Christ’s death. Until the elect are placed into that death, they remain under the wrath of God.

But those who accuse us of thinking there is no need for faith claim that it is not logical for us to teach such a need for faith. If the substitution has already been made, then all for whom it was made should logically already be justified. If the righteousness has already been obtained, then all for whom it was earned should logically already be justified by it. This is the claim made by those who follow in the wake of Andrew Fuller and the Torrance brothers.

Notice two details. One, it’s clear that Owen did not teach justification apart from faith. It’s also clear that Owen did not teach that faith was a mere recognition that we were already justified. (See Carl Trueman’s various books and essays on John Owen).

But two, what is it that those who make the accusations are teaching about the atonement? Some like the Torrances think that saying that Christ died only for the elect leads to this error. Some like Andrew Fuller agree that Christ only died to gain faith for the elect, but they make this purchase of faith to be what it is limited about the intention of the atonement.

Fullerites do not want to teach that Christ’s substitution under God’s wrath was limited only to the sins of the elect. They can rightly say they teach “limited atonement” but they do not think that the propitiation is limited.

The Fullerites teach that the atonement is unlimited in its ability to condemn everybody. (Andrew Fuller himself regarded the transfer of the sins of the elect to Christ as figurative and as not legally possible.) The Fullerites teach that the atonement is unlimited in its proclamation of God’s offer to love everybody. But despite that general love, and general propitiation, they add that Christ’s death did not purchase faith and “union with Christ” for everybody.

Of course there are all kinds of sophisticated (sneaky and subtle) ways to say such a thing. Listen to this one: “Owenites must argue that substitution for the elect logically requires that God regenerate elect sinners.” But that objection ignores Owen’s careful distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement.

One, it ignores that the application of the atonement is a legal placement of the elect by God the Father into Christ’s atonement. The objection jumps ahead to “regeneration” and the work of the Spirit. But Romans 6 never tells us that “regeneration” places the elect into Christ’s death. Romans 6 never tells us that it’s the work of the Spirit that puts the elect into Christ’s death.

Two, the objection fails to define the difference between “substitution” and obtaining (the Torrances would never say “earn”– too legal, too contractual) the blessing of “regeneration”.

Of course “substitution” and “regeneration” are not the same thing. Substitution has to do with “all died” (II Cor 5:15) when this means that Christ alone died for the elect, without the elect being there, so that His death legally counts for them to take God’s wrath away from them. But those who leave “substitution” undefined cannot define the difference between it and the application of “substitution”.

Our accusers claim that we who teach substitution only for the elect should agree that the elect can go free before they are converted and believe the gospel. They want to put us in that box, so they can then deny that the death of Christ is the effective difference between saved and lost. Thus they accuse: if no efficacy to set free before faith and without faith, then no legal efficacy by itself.

But notice where our accusers locate the efficacy: not in propitiation, not in Christ’s bearing the sins of the elect, but only in the efficacy of “regeneration” and “union with Christ”.

And we would could answer back: what do you need the death for, if the real thing is the new birth and the indwelling? And it’s a good question, but I am sure that they think the incarnation (if not the death) is a necessary prelude to “union with Christ” and “sacramental fellowship” with the humanity of Christ.

But this is their argument: you can’t say that there’s double jeopardy until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that a person was dying for the same sins twice. But otherwise, it is claimed, you can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to them, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the sins of sinners.

How can they say that Christ’s death for sinners is not enough payment for the sins of these sinners? Listen carefully, think seriously, to their answer: “Baptism into Christ’s death is what makes Christ’s death the death of the sinner”.

This is their answer to Romans 6. Unless we want to say that Christ’s death is legally effective without faith, then they tell us that something after Christ’s death is what makes Christ’s death legally effective.

I hope you think that through. Unless we want to go the way of those who teach eternal justification (or justification of all the elect at the time of the death and resurrection of Christ), we must agree that many of the elect (all those born after Christ’s death) for whom Christ died are nevertheless born in their sins, under the sentence of death. Of course we would stipulate that God’s justice demands that they will not die in that unjustified state. But how can we explain that temporary legal condemnation when we are also teaching a substitution by Christ for their sins?

It depends on what you mean by “union with Christ”. The Torrances (also the Fullerites) think of the baptism as either a water sacrament or as the “binding by the Spirit of the elect to Christ by means of faith”. In other words, they think of being placed into Christ as identical to “Christ in us”.

But the Holy Spirit’s indwelling is not taught in Romans 6. It is God the Father’s legal imputing of the death to the elect which is in view. NO, the word “imputing” is not there. But neither is the word “Spirit” or the words “regeneration” or “indwelling”. As I Cor 1:30 teaches: because of God you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Previously I wrote: it’s one thing to say Christ’s death is effective, and another to say WHY Christ’s death must be effective.
The death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice. It’s possible to teach that Christ died for everybody or that Christ died only for the elect, and still not teach the justice of God revealed in the gospel.

One of the better discussions in print on this topic is by Tom Nettles in By His Grace and For His glory and his chapter on “Christ Died for our Sins, According to the Scriptures”. Nettles quotes Andrew Fuller: “We could say that a certain number of Christ’s acts of obedience becomes ours as that certain number of sins becomes his. …His one undivided obedience affords a ground of justification to any number of believers; His one atonement is sufficient for the pardon of any number of sins or sinners.”

Nettles explains that Fuller “misconceives the biblical relation of imputation. Justification should not be considered as analogous to atonement but rather to the imputation of Adam’s sin”.

Andrew Fuller is identifying the application of the atonement with effectual calling , and then on top of that he is identifying the application of the atonement with the atonement. What he really means by definite atonement is that the difference is not in the legal substitution but that Christ obtained only for the elect the Spirit’s work of calling.

Listen carefully to Abraham Booth’s Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character, book 3:60

“While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which he did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom he did not represent. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sins to him, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…

Romans 5:11 “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.”

This receiving is not the sinner believing. It is not an “exercise of faith” . The elect receive the atonement by God’s imputation. The elect do not impute their sins to Christ. Nor do the elect impute Christ’s righteousness to themselves. God is the imputer.

The legal receiving of the atonement is not the same as the righteousness. The legal imputation is not always at the same time as when Christ accomplished the atonement. God declaring the elect to be righteous in Christ is not the same thing as Christ’s righteousness. There is a difference between imputation and righteousness. There is a difference between justification because of the atonement and the atonement.

John Owen is not doing the Torrance double-talk about a difference between redemption and atonement. Rather, Owen explains the biblical difference between the atonement and justification. The difference is not that the elect do something to get justified. The difference is that, in justification, God credits the atonement to the elect. That atonement was already made for the elect before God legally placed the elect into the death.

Even before they are justified, the elect are entitled by Christ’s work to justification. But the elect are not justified until God imputes the righteousness to them.

Well, all this sounds logical enough, but what does it practically mean? Is not the safest answer to those who accuse us of denying the need for faith to deny the need for faith? Is it not safest to teach eternal justification and to say that conversion does not matter?

I have continually challenged the notion that the best way to counter salvation conditioned on the sinner is to teach eternal justification, so that conversion becomes only knowing that you were converted. (In other words, the idea is that since I was always elect, I was always “saved”, I was never not converted.)

The safest and best place to be is not the most extreme away from what the Arminians say. The safest and best place to be is what the Bible says.

I have no big problem with saying that the elect were “in some sense” always saved, but only if this “sense” is that they are elect. In other words, from God’s perspective, the elect are never in danger of perishing. But before we heard the gospel, we didn’t know know we were elect, and we were not justified. It wasn’t only an epistemological problem we had; we were under the wrath of God.

The gospel does not tell anyone: you are elect. The gospel tells everyone: God loves the elect and Christ’s death will save the elect.

Where the Arminian wants to tell every unconverted person that God loves them, those who teach eternal justification (or presumptive regeneration, which of course is not taught by all who teach eternal justification) want to tell SOME of the unconverted that God loves them.

I Thessalonians 1:4 “For we know, brothers, loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

We can and should insist on the necessity of conversion without falsely confusing the atonement with the application of the atonement. It would be an injustice if the death of Christ were sufficient for those for whom it will not be applied.

Arminians, along with Andrew Fuller and the Torrances, rejoice in the idea that they “have been died for”, but they reject any kind of “logical completeness” which would point out that their false gospel teach that even those who perish have been died for.

Some Calvinists make the imputation of Christ’s death and resurrection a second blessing, subsequent to “union with Christ”. Other “Calvinists” ( NT Wright, Don Garlington) teach that the Spirit’s continuing work of uniting some to Christ makes any talk of “imputation” redundant.

To this end, the accusers often use the same Calvin quotation from 3:11:10 “As long as Christ is outside us…” The priority of the Spirit in applying the atonement functions as an unexamined given. Nobody, except Bruce McCormack in What’s at Stake in Justification (p104-116) (also Mike Horton and John Fesko), seems to have examined the possibility that Christ is outside us as long as we are outside Christ forensically.

Legal imputation is that aspect of union with Christ which results in Christ’s gift of the Spirit, because Christ’s death has justly purchased both that legal application and the resulting work of the Spirit in the elect.

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24 Comments on “If “Owenites” Are Right, There is No Need for Faith?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Volf,p 151, “Both our transformation and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness depend on union with Christ…Because we are one, Christ’s qualities are our qualities…It has become clear that forgiveness is part of something much larger. What does God do with sinners and their sin? God doesn’t just forgive sin; he transforms sinners into Christ-like figures and clothes them with Christ’s righteousness. And even these benefits are the effects of something much more basic-the presence and activity of Christ in human beings. “

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Substitution is the death and resurrection of Christ for certain specific sinners, so that these elect sinners do not die for themselves.These elect sinners do not die for their sins. These elect sinners do not die.But doesn’t the New Testament use the word “with” and not only the word “for”?Yes

    Christ died but didn’t everybody die with Christ?Didn’t the whole world die with Christ? Didn’t Christ died for all, so that all died?II Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for all, that those who live would no longer live for themselves but who for themselves for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

    We can think about a “for” which is not substitution.I can score a goal for my team, without any idea that I am the only one playing the game. I score the goal for the sake of others on my team, and not only for myself, but that does not mean they do nothing and I do everything.In II Corinthians 5:14-15, it is not the “for” which get us to the idea of substitution.

    What gets us to substitution is “therefore all died”.It is a mistake to reference the death of the all to some conversion experience that believers have.The death of all is not their repentance. Nor does “those who live” refer to faith or to conversion.The idea is not that Christ died one kind of death and as a result believers die another kind of death.The idea is not that Christ rose again from death and as a result believers now experience regeneration and the possibility of pleasing God.

    Rather, the idea is that the death Christ died, to propitiate God’s wrath because of imputed sins, is the death which is credited and counted to the elect.The elect do not die this kind of death. Their substitute died it for them.Christ alone, by Himself, without them, died this death.And it is that death, not some other kind of death, which the text teaches “all died.”

    To teach substitutionary atonement from II Corinthians 5:14, 15, it is not enough to explain that the “all” is those who died and those who live.It is not enough, in other words, only to teach that Christ died only for the elect.It is impossible of course to teach substitution if we don’t talk about election, and if we don’t see that all for whom Christ died will live.But it’s not sufficient to only see the extent of the atonement.

    We must see the nature of the atonement.The common false gospel thinks it can teach the nature of the atonement without talking about extent, and so it makes its false Christ one of the team to do something about sin and holiness.But a gospel which only talks about the extent of the atonement ( only for those who live) has not yet explained substitution if it has not taught that what Christ did is done by Christ alone, by Himself, without the help or consent of the team or the elect.Christ either died for a person, and that already, or Christ did not die for a person, and that already.

    If Christ died for a person, that person becomes also dead legally, which means that the person becomes immune from the wrath of God. It is not that person’s repentance or anything else to follow in that person’s life which makes them free from God’s wrath.It’s Christ death alone which saves anybody from wrath.If Christ died for a person, one day that elect person will be joined to that death, and will become free from sin and death and wrath.It will not be their faith which frees them from wrath.

    It will not be the Holy Spirit joining them to the death which will free them from wrath. Romans 6 does not say that the Holy Spirit joins the elect to the death of Christ.Romans 6 does teach a transition from wrath to favor in the life of an elect sinner.Romans 6:20-22, “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to holiness and eternal life.”

  3. markmcculley Says:

    In his book, Free of Charge (Zondervan, 2005, p147), Volf writes: “Since Christ is our substitute, after reading ‘one has died for all,’ we’d expect him to continue, ‘therefore none of them needs to die.’ Had he written that, he would have expressed the idea that theologians call EXCLUSIVE SUBSTITUTION. According to this view, Christ’s death makes ours unnecessary. As a third party, he is our substitute, and his death is his alone and no one else’s. But that’s not how the Apostle thought. Christ’s death doesn’t replace our death. It enacts it, he suggested. That’s what theologians call INCLUSIVE SUBSTITUTION.”

    The problem here cannot be fixed by simply noticing that Christ died only for the elect. Many universalists say that God will save everybody because Christ was the substitute for everybody. What we need to think about is the nature of the substitution.

    Since the death of Christ comes to count as the death of the elect, once the elect have been joined to that death, this tells us that another death is not necessary.

    Nobody else but Christ can or will die as punishment for another person’s sins. And if Christ’s death gets counted as the death of the elect, the death of the elect is a death like Christ’s death (because it IS Christ’s death).

    It is not some other death. It is one death, counted as the death of all the elect.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    The cross-work (the righteousness) of Christ not only entitles the elect to justification (even before they are justified) but also entitles the elect to conversion.

    Even before they believe the gospel, the elect are entitled (because of Christ’s work) to the converting work of the Holy Spirit. Christ bought both the forgiveness of sins and the legal application of the legal satisfaction God needs to forgive and continue to be just and holy.

    What does the application of Christ’s work mean? First, it means that
    God imputes that work (not only the reward, but the righteousness) to the elect. Before the cross, God imputed the work to some of the elect. After the cross, God continues to impute the work to some of the elect.

    So there is a difference between the work and the imputation of the work. For example, Romans 6 describes being placed into the death of Christ. There is a difference between the federal union of all the elect in Christ before the beginning of the world and the legal union of the elect with Christ when they are justified.

    Second, the application (purchased by Christ for the elect, and thus legally now their inheritance) includes the conversion which immediately follows the imputation.

    Galatians 3:13-14: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by
    becoming a curse for us, so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come…, so that we would receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

    And here’s a second text which teaches us that regeneration and
    conversion immediately follow the imputation. Romans 8:10–”but if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”

    Because the work (righteousness) is imputed, the next result will be life, not only legal life but the life also the Holy Spirit gives by means of the gospel, so that the elect understand and believe, and are converted. Because the elect are now in Christ (not only by election but by imputation), Christ is in the elect. Christ indwells the elect by the Holy Spirit.

    As II Peter 1:1 starts, “To those who have obtained a faith of equal
    standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus

    We need to be careful about explaining John Owen’s trilemma because Christ did not die to forgive any elect person of the final sin of unbelief of the gospel. Christ died to give every elect person faith in the gospel and conversion.

    Of course Christians do disbelieve even in their faith, and Christ died for all the sins of all Christians including all those after they are
    converted. But no elect person dies unconverted, because Christ died to give them the new birth and the conversion which follows.

    The John Owen trilemma (as often used) does not take into account the time between Christ’s work and the legal imputation of that work.

    Christ died to obtain not only the redemption but also the application of the redemption. Christ did not need to die for final disbelief by the elect because Christ died instead that the elect will not finally disbelieve.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Tom Nettles explains that Andrew Fuller “misconceives the biblical relation of imputation. Justification should not be considered as analogous to atonement but rather to the imputation of Adam’s sin”. Some think that only justification at the cross” is the answer to Andrew Fuller. But I disagree. “Justification at the cross” agrees with Fuller that the atonement is the justification, the difference being that the Fullerites reduce the atonement to justification, and thus make the atonement now and here. The “at the cross” folks reduce justification to the atonement, and make justification to be there and then.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Carl Trueman, p 95–”Owen argues that it is crucial to understand that God’s desire to save is prior to the establishment of the covenant of redemption, and thus to any consideration of Christ’s satisfaction. Thus Owen precludes any notion that Christ’s death in any way changes the Father’s mind or buys his favor. Owen calls attention to the fact that Christ’s death, considered in abstraction from its covenantal context, has no meaning as a payment. The force of this is to focus attention on the will of God as the determining factor in the economy of salvation.”


    Williams, p 511—How does John Owen avoid the accusation of Richard Baxter, that satisfaction would have to be applied immediately upon being made? For John Owen, the gift of faith is itself a certain result of the work of Christ, produced by it ipso facto, BUT NOT “in am immediation of time but causality.” John Owen argues for the compatiblity of identical satisfaction and delayed application on the basis of covenant (that stipulates how the satisfaction will be applied).

    Owen, volume 10, p 450—Of the Death of Christ, the Price He Paid, and the Purcahse He Made

    Charles Hodge rejects the term “ipso facto” in relation to satisfaction, but it is clear that he equates it with temporal immediacy, ST 2:472


    Jacobus Andreae, Acta Colloquij Montisbellogartensis, 1613, 447

    “Those assigned to eternal destruction are not damned because because they sinned. They are damned for this reason, because they refused to embrace Jesus Christ with true faith, who died no less for their sins than for the sins of Peter, Paul and all the saints.

    Beza—p448–“To me what you say is plainly new and previously unheard–that men are not damned because they have sinned….

    Garry J Williams, p 513—The notion that the lost will be punished for the sin of unbelief and not for sin in general allows Lutherans to hold that Jesus died for every general sin of every individual, and yet not all must be saved, because unbelievers may still be justly condemned for their unbelief since Christ did not die for it. This reply limits the sins for which Christ died..

    The Lutherans have created a difficulty with biblical texts referring to the sins for which Christ died. Every affirmation that sins have been borne by Christ must now be understood to contain a tacit restriction—except the sin of unbelief….If a sinner believes and becomes a Christian at age forty, and the Lutherans teach that Christ did not die for the sin of unbelief, this means that Christ did not die for this man’s sin of unbelief committed over forty years.

    Psalm 130: 3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?

    II Corinthians 5: 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.

    mark: Most people have not heard the true gospel. Most people do not believe the true gospel because most people have not heard the true gospel.


    unless the atonement can be left out of the gospel, then neither can election be left out of the gospel

    Lewis Sperry Chafer. ST, 3, p187—-”The highway of divine election is quite apart from the highway of redemption.”

    Herman Bavinck, Sin and Salvation, volume 3, Reformed Dogmatics, 2006, p 469—-”The center of gravity has been shifted from Christ and located in the Christian. Faith (not the atonement) has become the reconciliation with God.”

    Jonathan Gibson, From heaven, p 358—-Election and the Atonement do not operate on separate theological tracks. What God has joined together, let no theologian separate. Affirming union with Christ before the moment of redemption accomplished counters any disjunction between the effect of Christ’s death and the effect of His resurrection. (Those who put union later) sound as if Christ’s death might lead to the death of some sinners, but not also to their resurrection. This is not only analogy. if one, then the other. if death with, then resurrection with.

    Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like his.

    mark: Being united with Christ before the moment of redemption means that the atonement is both substitutionary and representative. The death is not only representative, not only “on behalf of”, as if there could be other deaths along side the one death. But also the death is not only substitutionary, as if Christ were some arbitrary individual who died for no one in particular because he had no covenantal relationship with those for whom He died, as only some “available substitute”. Christ was already united by election to those for whom He died.

  10. markmcculley Says:

    https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/a-separation-between-provision-and-application John MacArthur: “When God forgives, He cannot merely overlook sin. Full payment (atonement) must be made for our sin. Christ’s death made full atonement for those who trust Him. If we believe Him, His dying counts in our stead, paying for our sins in full.”
    This sounds like it’s saying that Christ died for some sinners because he foreknew they would believe . if you believe now , then that made Christ die for you 2000 years ago. In this case, you may have “definite atonement” in that the extent of the atonement is only for the elect and it is also taught that election is what causes some sinners to believe. But you do not have the gospel of the elect’s sins imputed by God to Christ, and you do not have God’s electing love having decided for whom Christ would make propitiation.
    Instead you have your faith making God decide to forgive you, It’s like teaching that faith is the reason for the atonement, even if at other times (when you are not doing evangelism?) you explain that election is the reason for your faith.
    in any case MacArthur is not teaching that faith is given because of the atonement, even when sometimes he agrees that faith is given because of election.
    In that case, faith becomes way more important than atonement. Your faith becomes a request for Christ to please die for you. . Adding in the idea that God now sovereignly determines who makes this request does not change the false gospel which knows nothing of God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. tianqi wu

  11. markmcculley Says:

    In order to praise the Holy Spirit’s necessary work in us, we need to explain how it is NOT the same as Christ’s finished atoning work, and also explain that the Holy Spirit”s necessary work in us is a result of Christ’s finished work of death…

  12. John Owen—“No blessing can be given us for Christ’s sake, unless, in order of nature, Christ be first reckoned unto us… God’s reckoning Christ, in our present sense, is the imputing of Christ unto ungodly, unbelieving sinners for whom he died, so far as to account him theirs, and to bestow faith and grace upon them for his sake. This, then, I say, at the accomplishment of the appointed time, the Lord reckons, and accounts, and makes out his Son Christ, to such and such sinners, and for his sake gives them faith 10:626

  13. David Bishop: “Some people, eager to protect salvation by grace alone, insist justification is not by faith, because they conclude that this would mean our faith is what justifies us. This is not what justified by faith means though. These people are confusing imputation with justification. Imputation is not the same thing as justification. Imputation is God making us righteous. Justification is God declaring us righteous. First comes imputation, then regeneration, then faith followed by justification. Faith is the means God has chosen to justify us. It is just like saying the preaching of the gospel (the content of faith) is the means God has chosen to call His elect. This does not mean the preaching of the gospel forces God’s hand and calls His elect. No, it simply means God has chosen to use the preaching of the gospel (the object of faith) as a vehicle to call those whom He will.”

    or ‘Owenism, a caricature of Calvinism’
    By Alan C. Clifford
    Charenton Reformed Publishing
    64 pages. ISBN 0 9526716 7 0

    Alan Clifford is a man with a mission, to champion the theologian Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) as the ‘authentic expression’ of the theology of John Calvin against the many who say that Calvin’s theological descent passes through the likes of John Owen and the Westminster Confession of Faith. Not so, says Dr. Clifford, that is ‘Owenism’, not ‘Calvinism’.

    Amyraut held that Christ intended his death for all without exception (were they to believe), hence the phrase ‘hypothetical universalism’ sometimes used to describe the position. Nevertheless, God the Father eternally decreed the salvation of the elect, and the Spirit effectively applies Christ’s victory to them. Clifford claims that Amyraut alone does justice to the universal scope of the gospel to be found in Calvin’s thought.

    If this pamphlet is intended to advance the debate, then its format does not help. Provoked by a recent critique of Amyraldianism given in a lecture by Ian Hamilton, Clifford retorts by quoting extensively from his own earlier writings on this very subject (Calvinus, 1996) and Atonement and Justification (1990). He quotes Ian Hamilton much less extensively and intersperses bits from hosts of other writers as witnesses either for the defence or the prosecution. The bibliographical data are poor. My guess is that if you haven’t been convinced by what Dr. Clifford has already published, then Amyraut Affirmed won’t do it either.

    On the evidence provided here it seems clear enough what Amyraut did: he turned Calvin’s stress on the need for indiscriminate preaching to all who will hear into a theory of the atonement of Christ. The offering of Christ to all became Christ’s offering of himself on the cross for all.

    I counted between 40 and 50 quotations from Calvin in the pamphlet. Presumably this is the best evidence there is of Calvin’s ‘universalistic’ side. In the bulk of them, Calvin insists that either God or Christ or the preacher ‘calls’ (10, 28, 29, 46) or ‘offers’ (18, 30, 33, 34, 38, 46, 60) or is ‘commissioned’ (17-18, 35) ) or ‘exhorts’ (28-9) or ‘invites’ (45) or ‘stretches out his hand’ (60) or ‘labours’ (43, 60).

    Dr. Clifford does not seriously engage the most fundamental theological criticism of Amyraldianism, that it places the intention of the Son in atoning at odds with that of the Father in electing and of the Spirit in calling. To say that according to Amyraldianism there is in each of the persons of the Trinity a ‘dualism’ (51) simply relocates the problem: a contradiction at the heart of the godhead.

    Paul Helm

    © Evangelicals Now – November 2004

  15. 1. Jesus died for all your sins

    2. but you need to do more than assent to this, you need to trust this

    3. trusting this means not only that Jesus died for everybody, but you trusting that he died for you

    4. but if he died for everybody, and this means that he died for you, then you have only assented to it and not trusted

    5. it’s one thing to say the chair can hold you up, and another thing to sit in the chair

    6. so the chair holds everybody, but if you don’t sit in it, the chair holding you won’t be enough

    7. even the demons assent to the fact that the chair holds everybody, but the chair was not for demons but only for all humans

    8. so if you only assent to the fact that Jesus died for you, then Jesus died for all you but that won’t save you unless you trust it

    9. so you can’t trust in your assent, but you can trust in your trust

    10 the death of Jesus\ for you plus your trust in that (not only assent) will save you

    11. so remember, you don’t need to trust in order to know that Jesus died for you, but the death of Jesus for everybody will not save you unless you trust that Jesus died for you

    12 because obviously you could not trust that Jesus died for you unless we told you already that Jesus died for everybody

    13. so you don’t need to wait until you trust to know already that Jesus died for you

    14. but the death of Jesus still won’t save you unless you trust it and make it save you

    15 we should not talk about election, and even saying this is talking about election

    16. we should not talk about election, because it might people question if Jesus died for them and the gospel tells everybody that Jesus died for them, and there’s no need to wait to assent to that

    17 but assent to the death of Jesus for everybody is something different from saying that you needed Jesus to die for you and that you trust that Jesus did die for you

    18. of course Jesus did die for everybody but only those who know that they needed that will be saved

    19 the death of Jesus for sinners who don’t know their need and don’t trust is not enough to save them

    20 the death of Jesus for a sinner has nothing to do with the different sin of not needing that and not trusting that




  16. http://theodorezachariades.net/models-of-grace-part-one/

    What was missing from the Zane Hodges anti-Lordship society was a defense of Calvinism. In Absolutely Free, Hodges had a chapter which, removed repentance from the gospel, reserving it as a condition for intimate fellowship with God, but not as a condition for eternal life. And he way that faith was explained left it sounding as if mere intellectual assent was enough.

    They said that those who repented may or may not exercise faith, and until they did there was no eternal life. This became a bit of a problem for me. Another matter that was raised by Hodges was Romans 10:9-10. Hodges stated that the condition believe and confess was to be seen as speaking to two different concepts. Faith alone was needed to embrace justification, whereas Confession was necessary only to avoid the wrath of God in the here and now, that is, the temporary wrath of God. This is something strange when one considers that Romans is a powerhouse of Gospel proclamation. I wrote a paper defending the traditional view of Romans 10:9-10 and presented it at a regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.

    The Hodges model of grace operates with sola fide as a filter.Any passage of scripture or any conception of salvation that is not worded in a sola fide manner, must by definition be non-gospel. So for example, Jesus says “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is brushed off as something for the Jews related to an earthly kingdom. They were defining faith in a minimalist sense .

  17. Theodore Zachariades—Grace is always restricted. Saving grace is a blessing that terminates on the elect alone! The biblical command that we preach the gospel to every creature is interpreted in the reformed model as an announcement of grace to ALL….Grace is presented as an offer or as a barter of sorts, God will give you salvation for your faith

    Zachariades–Though it is true that faith is the occasion of salvation it is not a condition as such. Election that precedes the exercise of faith is typically understood as unconditional. So faith is not a condition for salvation but an instrument that alone justifies. But biblical salvation is more than justification. But sola fide is not to be a bald statement that the only act of the sinner is trust that is never accompanied by anything else. This is the impression that the Zane Hoges model often leads to, even as it was trying to “save” the gospel from the intrusion of works!

    in Acts 18:27, in a non-polemical section, Luke says that Apollo “helped those who had believed through grace.” It is in this order: grace first, belief second. This is contrary to the idea that one believes in order to receive grace. In this biblical account grace operates in order for faith to be realized.


  18. http://www.4himnet.com/bnyberg/The_Sin_of_Unbelief_Revisited.pdf

    I can think of no other explaination for what Dave Hunt and Robert Lightner teach than that they are very very dumb.

    Lightner—-We cannot emphasize too strongly the fact of Scripture that Christ‘s death completely satisfied the righteous demands of God and was a complete substitution. What the limited
    redemptionist fails to do is take into consideration is the passages
    which show the necessity of individual appropriation of that finished work by faith… This is complicated even more for the limited redemptionist insisting, as John Owen does, that the sin of unbelief has no particular significance.

    mark: But if Lightner could read, he would know that John Owen teaches that faith in the gospel is necessary to be saved. But Lightner falsely accuses Owen of saying faith is not needed.

    Lightner_-John Owen postulates the absurd idea that unbelief on the part of the unsaved is not a sin for which he should be
    punished since Christ died for it.

    mark: No, Owen does not say anything like that. Owen say that the sin of unbelief of the gospel is forgiven to those who are SAVED. .Owen does not teach that any of the sins of the unsaved were died for or forgien. Owen does not say that those saved can die in unbelief and still be saved. Owen does not teach that God forgives some of the sin of dying in unbelief. Owen is writing about the sin of not believing before sinners started believing.

    Lightner__Believing that Christ‘s death paid for the sin of the rejection of His person and work means that for whomever He died there is salvation either they believe or not. In the strict Calvinistic scheme of things it is not a sin to disbelieve,

    mark: Where Lightner teaches that unbelief is the only sin for which anybody is condemned, what Owen and the rest of us teach is that that sinners are condemned also for other sins besides unbelief. We are all born condemned. We are all born unbelieving.

  19. John 8:21 Then Jesus said to them again, ―I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin…

    John 8:24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

    John 9:41 Jesus said to them, ―If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, We see.‘ Therefore your sin remains.

    Missionaries are often asked, ―what about those tribal people who have never had a chance to hear the gospel?‖ The assumption is that they should get a free pass, since they never had a chance to hear the gospel.

    Zane Hodges–

    Question: Did Christ die for the sin of unbelief?
    Answer: Of course. He died for all the sins of all mankind (1 John 2:2).
    Question: Then why does God send people to hell for not believing?
    Answer: He doesn‘t. The Bible nowhere says that.
    Question: Then what does He send them to hell for?
    Answer: For not having their names in the Book of Life (Rev. 20:15).
    Question: But isn‘t that because they didn‘t believe?
    Answer: Yes. But it‘s still not the reason they are condemned to hell.
    Question: Isn‘t that double-talk?
    Answer: Not at all. A cause and a reason are not the same thing. Unbelief is the cause for the unsaved not having eternal life. Not having eternal life is the reason they are condemned to hell.
    At the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15), there is no reference at all to sin as such, but instead refers first to works (Rev 20:13), and next to life (Rev 20:15). Sin, as such, has no
    place as a determining factor at this judgment. Why is that? It is because the Judge (Jesus Christ) is also the Lamb of God who has
    taken away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

    Zane HodgesThe Judge will not bring up an issue that He
    Himself has dealt with on the cross. This Judge will condemn no human being whatsoever for any sin whatsoever. He has taken all that away


    Lewis Sperry Chafer –The rejection of Christ is the decisive sin. …the Christ rejecter take his sin off from the Lamb of God and lay sin back upon himself to his eternal condemnation. It would be a contradiction of the New Testament doctrine to contend
    that the sin of the cosmos is so removed by the death of Christ that the individual unregenerate person could not come into judgment.

    Chafer—The three consummations—redemption, reconciliation, and propitiation—are not things which God will do if one believes; they
    are already finished and constitute the very thing which the sinner must believe. The sin of the world is taken away in the sense that by Christ‘s threefold accomplishment in His death every hindrance is removed which restrained God from the saving of even the chief of sinners. HOWEVER, it has pleased God to require personal acceptance of this Saviorhood of Christ, at which time, and on this sole condition, He will apply all of His saving grace

    Systematic Theology, Vol 3 (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), p.190-193.

  20. markmcculley Says:

    John Owen—“No blessing can be given us for Christ’s sake, unless, in order of nature, Christ be first reckoned unto us… God’s reckoning Christ, in our present sense, is the imputing of Christ unto ungodly, unbelieving sinners for whom he died, so far as to account him theirs, and to bestow faith and grace upon them for his sake. This, then, I say, at the accomplishment of the appointed time, the Lord reckons, and accounts, and makes out his Son Christ, to such and such sinners, and for his sake gives them faith.”. 10:26

    Garry J Williams, p 511—How does John Owen avoid the accusation of Richard Baxter, that satisfaction would have to be applied immediately upon being made? For John Owen, the gift of faith is itself a certain result of the work of Christ, produced by it ipso facto, BUT NOT “in immediation of time but causality.” John Owen argues for the compatiblity of identical satisfaction and delayed application on the basis of covenant (that stipulates how the satisfaction will be applied).

    Owen, volume 10, p 450—Of the Death of Christ, the Price He Paid, and the Purchase He Made

  21. markmcculley Says:


    The Errors

    1. Faith is works, outward works

    But, these scriptures prove otherwise:

    “But to him that worketh not, but believeth” (Rom. 4:5)
    “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace” (vs. 16)

    2. Faith is outward, not inward

    “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:10)

    “he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16: 16)

    “but he that believeth not is condemned already…” (John 3: 18)

    “…he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”(John 3:36)

    “…he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.” (I John 5:10)

  22. markmcculley Says:

    Owen thoroughly denies that Jesus died for the sins of the world, and by “world” it is as we usually mean and the Bible means[hang on a minute before you dump me your exegesis] — all people of the world. It is a speculation that leaves no room for speculation either.

    Let me give you a taste of Owen’s logic:
    It is best demonstrated in line with the question: why are some people not in heaven? We would answer this by saying : because of their unbelief. He responds by saying: Well, if Jesus died for the sins of the world, and people who dis-believe are in hell, that means there are sins that Jesus did not die for, since clearly – the sin of unbelief is that sin. He then retorts: since people who dis-believe wind up in perdition, Jesus did not suffer for the sin of unbelief of these people, because had he did, they would be in heaven. See further here.

    Can you see the tightness of this syllogism? Can you see his consistency with his foundational theology – Sovereignty of God?

    Firstly, this transfers a doctrine of atonement in the reverse. In other words, he looks at the end point and reason backwards. The fact that people are not in heaven, means Jesus did not die for these people, since they never came to faith (I guess this is how to paraphrase Owen’s logic). If we have no Biblical passages like 1 John 2:1-2, or Mk 16:16 then Owen’s logic is impenetrable. Atonement and faith are lumped together in this reasoning whereas in the Bible these are two categories or concepts though related are not the same thing. Owen collapses these concepts and makes conclusions and to be honest, if you are Owenian, you can not help but slip down to the side effect of his logic —believe that God purposely damns people i.e. He is the author of damnation and salvation of people.

    You know when I was toying with Calvinism, I am often get spin-out how Calvinists promote that Calvin was a Calvinist. I have not read a lot of Calvin but I read his exegesis on these atonement passages and I walk away convinced that he did not believe in Limited Atonement. You will find it hard to convince me that Calvin was a TULIP-ian. Yes, Calvin was quite confusing at times – he is not as deep as Luther, but there are more passages that I think Calvin can not have possibly meant limited atonement but rather asserts general atonement instead. I have met TULIPians in the Internet who even call Calvin a heretic for not being a thorough going TULIPian.

    The thing is that Calvinists today are Owenian, they are not really Calvinian in regards to Limited Atonement. Why do I say that? Because there are Calvinists writers who dis-believe in Owenian Limited Atonement, but they do not get an air play. Politics in the realm of theology does happen. Guess what, when a Calvinist starts bucking at this LA deal, you know what they will be called? They will be called Arminians, if not suspected of being one… boy are they in trouble. Horrors! That is like being treated like you have STD [of course in Lutheran circles we have leper labels too – I will let you guess what that label is, let me know if you get stuck].

    Thankfully, my suspicion that Calvin was not a Calvinist (in the sense not TULIPian, 5-Point Calvinist) found support and relief one day. I found this blog called Calvin and Calvinism blog which is dedicated to giving you quotes related to Reformed idea of the Atonement; and if you are Owenian, you deserve to hear the truth so for truth’s sake go there.

    There are still quite a lot of aspects in Calvin that I think are over shots but that is another blog post meant for another day.

    The moral of the story is that – not all self identifying Calvinist are Owenian, . https://extranos.blogspot.com/2007/11/they-really-are-owenian.html

    Have you ever heard a Calvinist argue “Everyone believes in Limited Atonement of some sort…” Well, they are right, in terms of what it finally accomplishes. (Unless we’re truly Universalists who believe all end up in heaven.) I think it is safe to say that some Calvinists have a more limited Atonement than others.

    Charles Hodge, for instance, makes the same distinction between the Atonement and a pecuniary payment as found in David’s linked article. Hodge says that the Atonement was not made in such a way that it could not by applied to anyone, should they believe. He goes so far as to say that if a reprobate were to come to faith, there would be nothing in the nature of how the Atonement was made that would prevent it from being applied to him or her. Owen could not say that.

    There is still a point of controversy between Dordt and the Lutherans. It has to do with how we speak of the matter. Dordt Calvinists will want to say that Christ died in order to save the elect only. Lutherans will not want to say that. Election is a true doctrine, but should not be spoken of under this head of doctrine. It has a place elsewhere

  23. markmcculley Says:

    Charles Hodge

    I) Q. For whom did Christ engage as surety in order to effectually save?
    A. The elect alone.

    II) Q. For whom did Christ die?
    A. For all men generally, but for the elect especially.

    III) Q. For whose sins did Christ suffer and bear punishment?
    A. Christ suffered and bore the punishment for the sins due to every man, that is all men, even the sins of the whole world.

    This is not only an Andrew Fuller problem. Charles Hodge denied what he called “commercial atonement”. Charles Hodge argued that anybody who taught “commercial atonement” was going to have to either teach eternal justification or “justification for all the elect at the cross at once”.

    Charles Hodge taught that Jesus died for the sins of every sinner, including sinners who won’t be saved.

    Charles Hodge taught that Jesus died for the sins of every sinner, including sinners who won’t be saved.

    Charles Hodge writing about the idea of “double jeopardy”-
    Hodge–“Some argue that the work of Christ is a satisfaction to divine justice. From this it follows that justice cannot condemn those for whose sins it has been satisfied. It cannot demand that satisfaction twice, first from the substitute and then from the sinner himself. This would be manifestly unjust, far worse than demanding no punishment at all. From this it is inferred that the satisfaction of Christ, if the ground on which a sinner MAY BE FORGIVEN n, is the ground on which a sinner MUST BE FORGIVEN

    Charles Hodge This objection rises from confusing a pecuniary and a judicial satisfaction. There is no grace in accepting a pecuniary satisfaction. It cannot be refused. It ipso facto liberates. The moment the debt is paid the debtor is free; and that without any condition.

    Charles Hodge–Nothing of this is true in the case of judicial satisfaction. If a substitute be provided and accepted it is a matter of grace. Christ’s satisfaction d may accrue to the benefit of those for whom it is made at once or at a remote period; completely or gradually; on conditions or unconditionally; or it may never benefit them at all unless the condition on which its application is suspended be performed.

    Thus we see Charles Hodge defining the atonement as what the Holy Spirit does in a sinner, and then Charles Hodge calls what this enabled sinner does “meeting a condition”. Otherwise, Hodge argues that we Christ’s satisfaction would mean that all the elect are already born imputed with Christ’s death and justified.

    Charles Hodge– Those for whom the atonement was specially rendered are not justified from eternity; they are not born in a justified state; they are by nature, or birth, the children of wrath even as others. To be the children of wrath is to be justly exposed to divine wrath. They remain in this state of exposure until they believe, and should they die (unless in infancy) before they believe they would inevitably perish notwithstanding the satisfaction made for their sins.

    Charles Hodge– Such being the nature of the judicial satisfaction rendered by Christ to the law, under which all men are placed, Christ’s satisfaction may be sincerely offered to all men with the assurance that if they believe it shall accrue to their salvation.

    Charles Hodge– Lutherans and Reformed agree entirely in their views of the nature of the satisfaction of Christ. that is the foundation for the general offer of the gospel What the Reformed hold about election does not affect the nature of the atonement. That remains the same whether designed for the elect or for all mankind. Christ’s death does not derive its nature from the secret purpose of God as to the application of Christ’s death , Systematic Theology, 2:557

  24. markmcculley Says:


    Perhaps the most common objection to universal atonement is Owen’s double jeopardy or double payment argument, which says: if Jesus died for everyone without exception, then either (a) everyone is saved, or (b) those in hell pay for sins which were already paid for once on the cross. The former is obviously unbiblical—not everyone will be saved (Matthew 7:13–14)—and the latter is plainly unjust—and shall not the judge of all the earth do what is right (Genesis 18:25)?

    In this way, unlimited satisfaction seems to be skewered effectively on the horns of a dilemma. In the past, when I was an Owenist, I formulated the argument as a reductio ad absurdum like so:

    The satisfaction Jesus rendered on the cross was sufficient to save all people from sin.
    Unbelief is a sin.
    Therefore, the satisfaction was sufficient to save all people from unbelief.
    But unbelievers are not saved.
    Therefore, the satisfaction does not save all people from unbelief.
    Therefore, the satisfaction was not sufficient to save all people from sin.
    The problem with this argument is that it presupposes a pecuniary view of the atonement—that is, a view which treats penal substitution as if it were like a commercial transaction, as I discussed in part 1 of this series. Aside from the issues which I canvassed there, there are two obviously fatal defects with this presupposition:

    It begs the question against unlimited satisfaction, which presupposes a judicial view and rejects the pecuniary model. The double jeopardy argument therefore misrepresents—or at best misunderstands—the view it attempts to refute, and so does not actually interact with it at all.
    It proves too much, since the implication follows unavoidably that, were the argument to succeed, God’s elect would never have been under his wrath, having been justified by the cross—a view which most Owenists rightly reject.
    the argument examined
    Premise (1) is sound; certainly, the view I’m defending has it that the satisfaction was, and is, sufficient to save all people from sin. Premises (2)–(4) are also entirely indisputable under the unlimited view: unbelief is a sin, the atonement covers it, and yet unbelievers aren’t saved. And premise (5) is not in question either.

    The problem is (6). Notice the obvious non-sequitur. What does the fact that the atonement does not save all people have to do with whether it can not save all people? Plainly, there is a connection in the Owenist’s mind—but that connection doesn’t reflect anything in the unlimited view, which admits no such connection because it does not suppose that specific sins were imputed to Jesus at the cross. Rather, it recognizes that such a notion leads to real problems, both in terms of the mechanism of federal headship, and in the mechanism of justification.

    James Anderson, an Owenist, once explained to the Reformed Baptist Discussion List that:

    the double-jeopardy argument only assumes that for any person S, S’s sins will be atoned for if and only if (i) S’s sins are imputed to Christ and (ii) Christ suffers a punishment for those sins sufficient to fully satisfy the demands of divine justice.http://www.rblist.org/archive/msg30814.html. (requires a login).

    But of course, I reject (i): I deny that imputation occurs in this way at all. For one thing, acts are not imputed as the argument assumes; rather guilt. For another, such imputation takes place at the moment of justification—that’s what justification is: the imputation both of our guilt to Jesus and his righteousness to us. This occurs when we exercise faith; not on the cross.

    So I reject the conclusion of the double jeopardy argument as a non-sequitur. It merely presupposes the Owenist’s view of imputation, and tries to tacitly impose this on me. (Needless to say, if I accepted the Owenic view of imputation, I wouldn’t hold to unlimited satisfaction in the first place, because then it would entail either universal salvation or double payment for sins!) By contrast, if the argument is corrected to no longer beg the question, (6) might look something like this:

    Therefore, the nature of the satisfaction was not such that it actually saves all people from sin.
    Which, of course, says nothing necessarily about the limited scope of the satisfaction, and everything possibly about its limited application. And since it doesn’t entail a limited scope, it isn’t contradictory with the premises I’ve accepted. So the argument does not select for the Owenic view once it is reworked to be fair: it merely selects for a limited view of satisfaction—whether in scope or in application.

    Given what I’ve shown in this series, I think the limited application is far more reasonable. In other words, the atonement, in and of itself, does not justify anyone: it only provides the grounds of justification, so that it may then be applied by faith. But this leads into the final objection I’m going to consider: that an unlimited satisfaction doesn’t accomplish actual redemption for anyone.

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