A Commercial View of the Atonement?

Do you understand the nature of the atonement? It’s one thing to say that the atonement is always effective, and another to say why the death of Christ for the elect must be effective. The death saves not only because of God’s sovereign will but also because of God’s justice. Even if the death is not for everybody but it’s a “death in general” for the elect to be applied particularly by the Spirit, then the justice of God is not being taught.

Now this can be caricutured. As in, if I had committed one more or less sin, and if there had been one or less elect person, then Christ would have suffered more or less. That cannot be, since it is the death which saves. (In saying that, I hope I am not being dismissive of the sufferings or of the active obedience. The same caricature could be applied to “active obedience”. if there were one more elect, then Christ would have had to do x amount of duties to the law that this one more elect was supposed to do. No, there is only one death, one obedience, one resurrection etc…)

And yet we must be careful in dismissing a “commercial view” of the atonement, not only because Christ can and does do things by measure (healing some but not others) but because the Bible does talk about being bought by blood and belonging. We need to talk about sins being imputed.

The best discussion in print on this is by Tom Nettles in By His Grace and For His glory. Check out his chapter on Christ Died for our Sins, According to the Scriptures. Nettles refutes the Dordt formula (sufficient/ efficient) while at the same time being honest about the history of most Calvinists liking it.

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. In the former case his one undivided obedience affords a ground of justification to any number of believers; in the latter, 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”.

More from Nettles’ refutation of Andrew Fuller and “sufficient for all”.
Error one: it’s tantamount to identifying the doctrine of effectual calling with atonement. What one really means by definite atonement is that the difference is not in the atonement but in the Spirit’s work of calling.

“A second error is subtle in nature and involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although Jesus’ death is spoken of as passive obedience–and though the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the sufficiency of the death of Christ arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s passive obedience to what he actively accomplished by his infinite divine nature.”

Nettles quotes John Dagg and Abraham Booth against the “sufficient” general view of the atonement. Here’s some from Booth’s Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character, book3:60
“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 sin to him, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…

And from Dagg (Manual of Theology, p330): “Some have maintained that, if the atonement of Christ is not general, no sinner can be under obligation to believe in Christ, until he is assured that he is one of the elect. This implies that no sinner is bound to believe what God says, unless he knows that God designs to save him…

Explore posts in the same categories: atonement

Tags: , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

14 Comments on “A Commercial View of the Atonement?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Andrew Fuller (Reply to Philanthropos, Complete Works,II, p499) comments: “There would be no propriety in saying of Christ that He is set forth to be an expiatory sacrifice THROUGH FAITH IN HIS BLOOD, because He was a sacrifice for sin prior to the consideration of our believing in Him. The text does not express what Christ WAS as laying down His life , but what He IS in consequence of it.”

    Andrew Fuller makes a distinction between “covenantal intent” and “the nature of the atonement itself”. While Abraham Booth is today often accused of saying that Christ “became literally a sinner”, that is a distraction from the important debate about the nature of God’s imputation of the elect’s sins to Christ.

    Abraham Booth did not use the careless language of Tobias Crisp (or of Luther) about Christ becoming a sinner. Booth rejected any idea of Christ having a fallen human nature. But Booth did teach that “imputation” has two aspects. First, and always, God counts and declares the truth about a person. But second, and sometimes, God puts into effect a legal solidarity between persons. Thus God counted the sins of the elect to Christ, and then counts the death of Christ to the elect.

    Using the word “literal” here is not helpful, because it begs the question of what is “actual”. The righteousness of Christ is His death and that death is real, so why would it be a fiction for God to count that death as the death of the elect? Thus the two senses of “imputation”. First, a legal “transfer” (although I prefer sharing, since it’s still Christ’s death). Second, on the basis of that REAL TRUTH, God then declares the justified elect sinner to be righteous, to be justified.

    But of course many like Fuller (and Edwards) dismiss this account, and say it doesn’t matter because in the end it’s all based on “union” anyway. But this only begs the question by moving their assumptions about the legal not being “real” enough into the “union question”. Their assumption is always that “union” is not legal. The not yet argued presupposition is that “union” is something (they can’t exactly say what) which is “more than legal”. This is why we need to examine Fuller’s controversy with Abraham Booth, and take sides with Abraham Booth.

    This is NOT a question about the duty of the non-elect to have faith in the gospel, and the related question of “two kinds of ability” (as argued by Edwards and Fuller). That is another distraction from the greater question about the nature of the atonement. While I don’t see much in the Bible about the “duty” of unbelievers to believe the gospel, I don’t deny that all sinners are commanded to believe the gospel. And (unlike Edwards) I don’t need to connect that command to some philosophical account of “ability”.

    This is not even a question about the optimism of the post-millennial fantasies of Edwards and Andrew Fuller. It’s a question about the justice of God, and about the justice of God in Christ dying for the sins of the elect imputed to Christ by God. If the sins of the elect are not “really” justly imputed to Christ, then the death of Christ itself is not that which “really” makes God both just and the justifier of the ungodly. Instead we would have to look away from the cross itself, and look to what God is now doing in terms of some kind of “covenantal intent”.


    David Allen, Whosoever Will, 2010, p 83—Redemption understood as literal payment makes the atonement secure its own application.”

    Andrew Fuller–”if the specificity of the atonement be placed in the atonement itself, and not in the sovereign will of God, it must have proceeded on the principle of PECUNIARY satisfactions. In commercial payments, the payment is equal to the amount of the debt, and being so, it is not of sufficient value for more than those who are actually liberated by it.
    letter to Ryland #3, 2:708

    For Andrew Fuller, Christ’s death is specific only because of God’s sovereignty not because of God’s justice, and not because of the nature of the atonement.. Fuller makes a distinction between the nature of the atonement and its design and application.

    But unless we believe in eternal justification, don’t we all make a distinction between the atonement and its legal application? Yes, there is a time gap, but the question remains about the imputation of specific sins to Christ and the nature of the justice of Christ’s death at the cross.

    btw, Dabney is no better than Andrew Fuller on this point. Dabney claims: “Satisfaction was Christ’s indivisible act, and infinite vicarious merit, the whole in its unity, without numerical division, subtraction or exhaustion. ,,The expiation is single and complete, and in itself considered, has no more relation to one man’s sins than another….Only as it is applied in effectual calling, does the expiation become personal and receive a limitation.” Systematic , p528



    The men you quote understand and indicate the misuse of the teaching of the sufficiency of the death of Christ.
    The “problem” to which those who misuse the sufficiency/efficiency description of the death of Christ appeal is in fact solved by the biblical proclamation that every one who believes from the heart on the crucified Christ will be forgiven and saved. This proclamation is not grounded in Christ’s having died sufficiently for all humans. But it is grounded in Christ’s having died sufficiently and efficiently for all the elect, no matter how enormous their iniquity. And that sufficient and efficient death effects the faith by which all sinners for whom Christ died have applied to them the righteousness of the cross.

    David J. Engelsma

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Even though I think the nature of the joining is important, the joining will not matter if we miss out on what Christ’s death does.To see it more clearly, I want to contrast what I am saying with an alternative teaching, by liberal Miroslav Volf.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.”

    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.(Of course I remember that the original is not English, but I am not a Greek student and cannot comment on the “instead” nuance of the original word.)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.”

  5. markmcculley Says:

    D A Carson—Gathercole’s introduction begins by asking the question raised by the old spiritual: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” If we answer “yes,” we presuppose that we somehow participated in his death, or that in his death Jesus somehow represents us: “We have died with Christ” (Rom 6:8). If we answer “no,” then we were not there: Christ died alone. “He was there, taking our place in our stead” (p.13). In much biblical scholarship, the former answer is widely assumed: on the cross, Christ represents us, but it is a mistake to think that substitution occurs when Jesus dies. While not denying that the Bible can present Christ’s death on the cross as an act of representation, in this slender volume Gathercole sets out to rehabilitate substitution.

    His introduction is devoted to some careful definitions. “I am defining substitutionary atonement . . . as Christ’s death in our place, instead of us. The ‘instead of us’ clarifies the point that ‘in our place’ does not, in substitution at least, mean ‘in our place with us.’ (Jesus was, for example, baptized in our place with us – that is, the baptism was not a substitution.) In a substitutionary theory of the death of Jesus, he did something, underwent something, so that we did not and would never have to do so” (p.15). Again: “Substitution entails the concept of replacement, X taking the place of Y and thereby ousting Y: the place that Y previously occupied is now filled by X. In representation, X in one sense occupies the position of Y, as in substitution. There are differences, however. In representation, X does not thereby oust Y but embodies Y” (p.20). Gathercole provides extensive quotations from Martin Luther, Robert Letham, and Karl Barth “to illustrate this definition” (p.15). Along the way he sketches the relationship between substitution and satisfaction, substitution and penalty, substitution and propitiation, and substitution and representation, partly in order to stipulate that in this “essay” his restricted aim is to defend substitution, not representation, satisfaction, propitiation or anything else – not, as becomes evident, because Gathercole has not thought about these things or is unwilling to defend them, but to keep this work sharply focused.[1]

    Gathercole concludes his introduction by briefly listing and responding to common criticism raised against substitution: it is a legal fiction and an immoral doctrine, surrounded by philosophical, logical, and exegetical difficulties. For example, against the charge that substitution is a form of “cosmic child abuse” (in recent work, think Peter Carnley and Steve Chalke), in which God vents his wrath on his Son, Gathercole responds in several ways. The two most important are these: (1) the charge neglects “the obvious fact that the death of Christ is not that of a third party but is the ‘self-substitution of God’ [to quote John Stott’s expression]. Outside of a context of high Christology or of the doctrine of the Trinity, substitution might of course be open to such charges as those leveled above. But as far as I can see, most theologians seriously advocating substitution also hold to a high Christology” (pp.24-25). (2) In any case, Jesus “offers himself as a sacrifice in line with his own will. . . . (Gal. 1:4; 2:20).”

    The last of these several categories of objections, exegetical challenges to substitution, occupies the first of three numbered chapters after the introduction (pp.29-54). The four exegetical errors on which he focuses are these:

    (1) Representation in the sense of “place-taking,” as in the Tübingen school nicely represented by Hartmut Gese and Otfried Hofius, and, in English, by Richard H. Bell. The focus is on the day of atonement ritual described in Leviticus 16. “The problem [as Gese sees it] is not so much individual transgressions but that the Israelite needs to be rescued from death” (p.31). When the hand is placed on the animal, this does not represent a transfer of sins but an identification with the animal. When the animal dies, “the people symbolically enter into the judgment of death” (p.32). When the blood of the animal is taken into the Most Holy Place, the animal is symbolically bringing the people of Israel into the presence of God with him. In other words, there is no substitution but a form of representation. Gathercole objects, in the first place, to Gese’s interpretation of Leviticus 16. Everything depends on the significance of the hand being placed on the sacrificial animal, but Leviticus 16 says nothing about that: the hand is placed instead on the other animal, the scapegoat – and here it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the scapegoat (the live goat) is a substitute.
    (2) Representation in the sense of “interchange” with Christ, the view of Morna Hooker. She holds that substitution is not only un-Pauline, but that Paul speaks against it. In her view, Jesus does not swap places with his people but “goes to the place where they are and takes them from there to salvation” (p.39). She relies heavily on her distinctive reading of 2 Cor 5:21 and 8:9, and rests on her understanding of union with Christ. Christ enters into the human condition of sin and death, but human beings must also unite with him, and we pass out of death and into resurrection with him. Gathercole acknowledges the importance of the union with Christ theme, but denies that Paul ever criticizes substitution, and insists that a right understanding of what the death of Christ achieves readily embraces substitution. Moreover, the union theme tends to focus on Adamic sin as a whole, but does not really address individual sins.

    (3) Apocalyptic deliverance, not least as articulated by J. Louis Martyn and M. C. de Boer. They hold that human beings do not so much need forgiveness of sins as deliverance from slavery to sin; they appeal to (inter alia) Gal 1:4. Gathercole insists that even if this view is defended from Galatians, it really does not work in Romans, where a major component of sin is personal guilt (e.g., Rom 1-3). Sin may sometimes be presented as a major external cosmic force that Christ overcomes, but even more commonly sin is presented in terms of individual sins and transgressions.

    (4) All three of these views tend to downplay the place of individual sins in Paul’s thought. Gathercole provides an admirable summary of the biblical evidence that refutes the common assumption that “sins” play only a little part in Paul’s thought. He then shows how this evidence shapes our reading of several atonement passages.

    The final two chapters provide detailed exegeses of just two verses: chap 2, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3), and chap 3, treating Romans 5:6-8. As for the former, Gathercole notes that Paul is writing about the matters he views as “of first importance”: Christ died for our sins. He focuses on the phrase “according to the Scriptures”: which Scriptures? Drawing attention to several passages, Gathercole treats Isaiah 53 at length – how it is used in Paul generally, and in particular in 1 Corinthians 15:3. He provides a shrewd and convincing exegesis (pp.61-70). Gathercole also draws attention to several passages where the OT asserts that so-and-so dies for his sins (e.g., Num 27:3; Deut 24:16; Josh 20:22; 1Kg 16:18-19): this use of the preposition hyper (in the Greek translation of these OT passages) does not itself signal substitution, for in these texts the person dies in consequence of his sins. “It is when this is set in the framework of one person doing this for the sins of others (and not for one’s own) that the substitutionary sense is achieved” (p.74). “It is not that huper [sic] in itself has a substitutionary sense; this would in any sense be meaningless, as Christ is not dying in the place of the actual sins but in place of the people who are saved. The substitutionary meaning arises out of the unusual language of one person dying for the sins of others” http://www.reformation21.org/articles/defending-substitution.php

  6. markmcculley Says:

    We must remember that Nettles is a tolerant Southern Baptists who affirms Arminianism as the gospel. http://theblog.founders.org/shaping-an-icon-billy-graham/

  7. markmcculley Says:

    A modern dictionary defines “gift” as something delivered to a recipient “gratuitously, for nothing.” Yet, according to John Barclay’s new book Paul and the Gift, It is Paul—not intuition or common sense or objective, timeless instinct—who is almost single-handedly responsible for making it seem obvious to most of us in the modern West that God’s grace excludes human working.
    For many 1st-century readers, God upheld his fidelity to Israel by distributing his grace to those who are worthy of it. For them this did not make God’s grace any less gracious. To define grace otherwise—to say that God gives it in disregard for the worth of its beneficiaries—they thought would be to open the door to moral chaos and anarchy, to snip the thread that links human pursuit of virtue with the deep structures of creation and providence.
    It was not “Lutheran theology” but Paul who undermined human religion’s quest to climb its way into divine favor. Opposing the “Judaizers” of his day, Paul in the 1st century anticipated Martin Luther’s struggles against a petty and fastidious medieval Catholicism in the 16th.
    Barclay grants that Luther mistakenly thought that Paul’s target in his Galatians epistle was self-reliant boasting (if that were the burning issue, “it is hard to see why Paul would discount both circumcision and uncircumcision”).
    Over against the “new perspective,” Barclay understands Paul to be unleashing a “bizarre,” even “dangerous” definition of grace . For Paul, grace is incongruous—it is a gift that does not “fit” or “match” the worth of those to whom God gives it. In defiance of human achievement, God gives grace to a supposedly successful but actually bankrupt person like Paul (the acme of Paul’s human “achievement” had actually set him against God’s church).
    In defiance of human failure, God gives grace to the utterly unworthy idol worshipers of Gentile cities around the Mediterranean. Because grace erupts, cause-less, in the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection, it can therefore be given to anyone ….No preparation is necessary, and no conditions must be met before the gift of Christ may be received. http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2016/janfeb/grace-redefined.html?paging=off

  8. markmcculley Says:


    John Barclay—Gifts, like trade or pay, involve reciprocity— in all these spheres, there is a common structure of quid pro quo. What distinguishes the sphere of gift is not that it is “unilateral,” but that it expresses a social bond, a mutual recognition of the value of the person. The gift invites a personal, enduring, and reciprocal relationship—an ethos very often signaled by the use of the term charis (grace).

    John Barclay— Luther did not “rediscover” grace (which was near the center of practically every form of medieval theology), nor did he simply reinvigorate the Augustinian tradition. As an isolated slogan, sola gratia tells us far too little about its precise Lutheran configuration. What is distinctive in Luther is not only the relentlessly Christological reference of grace, but also its permanent state of incongruity. On these grounds, believers live perpetually from a reality outside of themselves, a status of divine favor enjoyed only in and from Christ. Their agency does not need to be re-attributed to the agency of grace, because their works are non-instrumental, and are performed in faith, that is, from the security of a salvation already granted. On the same grounds, gift-giving is stripped of the instrumental reciprocity that had been basic to its rationale. In this sense, Luther did not just reform the church. He offered a new theological definition of gift

    (i) superabundance: the supreme scale, lavishness, or permanence of the gift;
    (ii) singularity: the attitude of the giver as marked solely and purely by benevolence;
    (iii) priority: the timing of the gift before the recipient’s initiative;
    (iv) incongruity: the distribution of the gift without regard to the worth of the recipient;
    (v)efficacy: the impact of the gift on the nature or agency of the recipient;
    (vi)non-circularity: the escape of the gift from an ongoing cycle of reciprocity.

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Nettles–While in unbelief, no sinner can have assurance that Christ has died for him. When Fuller argued, “It appears equally evident, that there is no necessity, in the nature of the thing, for the party to have any interest in Christ’s death, in order to make trusting in him his duty,”iii he emphasized that a sinner’s duty to believe the gospel does not depend on an actual provision having been made for him. The argument hypothesizes that for the non-elect the death of Christ includes nothing from which they could find forgiveness should they came to him for such; for them he was neither substitute, sacrifice, nor propitiation. Given such a case, even if a supplicating sinner could view the content of forgiveness procured by the death of Christ and upon such a view found that no investment for the forgiveness of his sins was made, still the only proper and dutiful posture for him is the supplication of mercy, for receiving mercy is the only path to a restoration of dutiful submission to the governing prerogative of God.

    This particular part of his argument he abandoned upon being challenged by Dan Taylor. The supposition of no-interest, deemed in later writings as the “commercial” view, behind this argument was hypothetical for Fuller. His main contention was thatknowledge of peculiar inclusion in the saving intent of God did not logically precede one’s duty to believe the gospel and approach God as a suppliant for mercy. Without defending the view, for the sake of argument, Fuller assumed a quid pro quo pattern while still asserting the sinner’s duty to believe. His defense of duty allowed for this way of envisioning the particularity of Christ’s redemptive work. It is not at all certain that Fuller actually believed, at the time of the publication of the Gospel Worthy, what he later called the “commercial” view of the atonement, but it is clear that he did not reject it as inconsistent with the free offer of the gospel.

    The second edition of GWAA written in 1801, no longer defended that particular hypothetical consideration. Fuller stated that the commercial view “might for all I know, be inconsistent with indefinite invitations.”iv In the first edition, he earnestly contended that neither knowing one’s inclusion nor having inclusion in Christ’s death altered the pre-existing duty to believe, or trust, in the Christ of the gospel. This language indicates two distinct options in the understanding of God’s purpose in limiting the efficacious results of Christ’s death.

    Very quickly after the appearance of Gospel Worthy, Fuller limited his defense to only one of these implied options as a clear expression of his personal theology. This came as a response to the challenge from Dan Taylor, a General Baptist, in a book entitled Reply to Philanthropos, published in 1787. Fuller, in an 1803 letter to John Ryland Jr., recounted the impact that Taylor’s argument had on him. “I freely own that my views of particular redemption were altered by my engaging in that controversy.”v He sought to answer Taylor “without considering the sufficiency of the atonement in itself considered” as a sufficient ground for universal gospel invitations, but could not justify it. He found Taylor’s reasoning and Scripture itself blocking his way for that specific defense, and therefore adopted a view that omitted any justification of the “no interest” or “commercial” view as a ground for general exhortations to apply to Christ for forgiveness of sins.

    His Reply to Philanthropos, therefore, described his understanding of the Calvinist view of atonement, now focused only on one option that he defended in the first edition ofGospel Worthy. To Taylor he noted that “Calvinists in general have considered the particularity of redemption as consisting not in the degree of Christ’s sufferings, (as though he must have suffered more if more had been finally saved,) or in anyinsufficiency that attended them, but in the sovereign purpose and design of the Father and the Son, whereby they were constituted or appointed the price of redemption, the objects of that redemption ascertained, and the ends to be answered by the whole transaction determined.” In themselves considered, the sufferings of Christ are of “infinite value, sufficient to have saved all the world, and a thousand worlds, if it had pleased God to have so constituted them the price of their redemption, and to have made them effectual to that end.” On this basis “there is in the death of Christ a sufficient ground for indefinite calls and universal invitations.”vi

    That being established, Fuller, nevertheless, discussed a multiplicity of scripture passages and images under seven headings that demonstrated that “there was a certain, absolute, and consequently limited design in the death of Christ, securing the salvation of all those, and only those who are finally saved.”vii He interpreted such passages as 1 John 2:2 and 1 Timothy 2:6 (“propitiation for the whole world”, “Ransom for all” and other passages that included such universal language) to be indefinite terms (that is, not indicative of an absolute inclusion of every individual person in the world) designed to show that Christ ransomed Gentiles no less than Jews as well as all classes of men politically and socially. In detail, however, he maintained that the language “expressed what is true only of those who are finally saved,” that is, specifically efficient for those that God predestined for salvation.viii

    In his next response to Taylor, The Reality and Efficacy of Divine Grace,ix Fuller revisited this particular point. In letter IX, Fuller explained his view that Christ’s death, while sufficient by nature for the forgiveness of the sins of all persons in the world, was, at the same, specifically designated as an effectual remedy for the elect only. Such discrimination is entirely the prerogative of God and he cannot be accused of a lack of love in doing what he does out of pure grace, as long as his treatment of others is not inconsistent with holy justice. Fuller claimed that his discussion was designed only to demonstrate “the consistency of a limitation of design in the death of Christ with the indefinite call of the gospel.”x Should the whole world consent to return to God by submission to the gospel conditions, none need fear that any insufficiency in Christ’s death would render it unjust to receive him. “All the limitation I maintain in the death of Christ,” Fuller reminded Taylor, “arises from pure sovereignty; it is a limitation ofdesign,”xi while any person bidden to come, will find, if he comes, a full and abundant provision for his reception.

    The design, however, in the covenantal determination of those for whom Christ would actually die with the intent to save was limited to a certain people. “All I suppose,“ Fuller continued to maintain, “is that provision was not made effectually to persuade every one to embrace it; and that, without such effectual persuasion, no one ever did, or will, embrace God’s way of salvation.”xii Letter XII of the same work gives further insight on Fuller’s method of argument. He wrote, “Now admitting that I am mistaken in my supposition . . . nothing follows from it but that I have misunderstood certain passages of Scripture, by considering them as conveying an indefinite, but not a universal idea.” That merely establishes what was already admitted “that a way is opened, by the death of Christ, for the salvation of sinners, without distinction; and that any man may be saved, if he is willing to come to Christ.” Other parts of Taylor’s argument Fuller flatly denied and again insisted, “All I contend for is that Christ, in his death, absolutely designed the salvation of all those who are finally saved; and that, besides the objects of such absolute design, such is the universal depravity of human nature, not one soul will ever believe and be saved.”xiii He then reaffirmed his original interpretation of the passages in question with their particular application to those that God determined to save and for whom he made “an effectual provision of grace.”xiv


  10. markmcculley Says:

    Charles Hodge “The question therefore, does not, in the first place, concern the nature of Christ’s work.”

    Louis Berkhof affirms that there is a real sense in which the atonement can be objectively considered in itself apart from the redemptive purpose for which God provided it. “The question with which we are concerned at this point is not whether the satisfaction rendered by Christ was in itself sufficient for the salvation of all men, since this is admitted by all.”

    A.A. Hodge, “there was no need for him to obey or to suffer an iota more nor a moment longer in order to secure, if God so willed, the salvation of every man, woman, and child that ever lived.

    So it’s not death but “suffering” which is the satisfaction?

    Canons of Dort –This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.4
    Unpacking this statement,

    Charles Hodge points out that it would be a gross misrepresentation of the Reformed doctrine to say that Christ only suffered “so much for so many” so that he would have needed to suffer more than he did, if there were more sinners included in the purpose of salvation.

    Charles Hodge– What was sufficient for one was sufficient for all. All that Christ did and suffered would have been necessary had only one human soul been the object of redemption; and nothing different and nothing more would have been required, had every child of Adam been saved through his blood.

    R.L. Dabney –We must absolutely get rid of the mistake that expiation is an aggregate of gifts to be divided and distributed out, one piece to each receiver, like pieces of money out of a bag to a multitude of paupers. Were the crowd of paupers greater, the bottom of the bag would be reached before every pauper got his alms, and more money would have to be provided. I repeat, this notion is utterly false as applied to Christ’s expiation, because it is a divine act. It is indivisible, inexhaustible, sufficient in itself to cover the guilt of all the sins that will ever be committed on earth.6
    Furthermore, when we speak about the value of Christ’s satisfaction in quantitative terms we make it sound as if redemption is pecuniary (commercial) in nature rather than penal (judicial). But this is wrong for at least three reasons:


    Mason–First, the Bible teaches that the true nature of sin is crime and not debt. This is why the sentence for sin is capital punishment rather than indentured servitude. So when the Bible describes our salvation as having been “bought” or “purchased” it is speaking metaphorically. According to Peter, we were “not redeemed with silver or gold… but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

    Mason–Second, if the satisfaction of Christ was pecuniary, our liberation ceases to be a matter of grace, and redemption loses the element of personal forgiveness. Why? Because in pecuniary violations the claim is always upon the price and not the person, the debt and not the debtor. For this reason every creditor is bound to accept the payment of a debt – regardless of who provides it. On the other hand, criminal cases are inherently personal (Ezk. 18:4) so that the judge is neither required to allow, nor bound to accept, a substitutionary satisfaction (Ezk. 18:20). If He chooses to do so however (Isa. 53:4-6; 1 Pet. 3:18) it is a matter of sovereign grace (Isa. 53:10; Rom. 8:32) and personal forgiveness obtains.

    Charles Hodge —Another important difference between pecuniary and penal satisfaction is that the one “ipso facto” liberates. The moment the debt is paid the debtor is free, and that completely. No delay can be admitted, and no conditions can be attached to his deliverance. But in the case of a criminal, as he has no claim to have a substitute take his place, if one be provided, the terms on which the benefits of that substitution shall accrue [to him], are matters of agreement, or covenant between the substitute and the magistrate who represents justice.

    The point here is that if the death of Christ was a pecuniary transaction, then sinners were saved at the cross and all of God’s elect are born regenerate, and in a justified state. But this is false. Ephesians 2:3 clearly teaches that at birth God’s elect are “by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

    the merits of Jesus Christ do not avail to the benefit of his people immediately. To the contrary, the rights and benefits acquired by his death all accrue to Jesus Christ himself (Acts 2:33). These benefits only accrue to the designed beneficiaries at such times (Lk. 24:49; 1 Pet. 1:3-5) and on such conditions (Eph. 1:13) as have been determined by the will of the Judge (John 3:16).

    Berkhof —It is not true that, when Christ rendered full satisfaction to the Father for all His people, their guilt naturally terminated. A penal debt is not like a pecuniary debt in this respect. Even after the payment of a ransom, the removal of guilt may depend on certain conditions, and does not follow as a matter of course. The elect are not personally justified in the Scriptural sense until they accept Christ by faith and thus appropriate His merits.

    John Owen –Such a constitution may be righteous in pecuniary solutions. … But in penal suffering for crimes and sins, there can be no righteous constitution that shall make the event and efficacy of it to depend on acondition absolutely uncertain, and which may not come to pass or be fulfilled


  11. markmcculley Says:

    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

    John Owen–Such a constitution may be righteous in pecuniary solutions. … But in penal suffering for crimes and sins, there can be no righteous constitution that shall make the event and efficacy of it to depend on acondition absolutely uncertain, and which may not come to pass or be fulfilled


  12. markmcculley Says:



    In so-called high Calvinism, represented by the Synod of Dort, there had long been a severe instrumentalization of Christ, which both Barth and Torrance spent much energy resisting. Where salvation is eternally determined for particular individuals without any prior reference to Christ, it is altogether evident that what Christ contributes is a remedy external to the actual condition of man, rather than a remedy worked out in the depths of our humanity as such. Which in turn leaves much of life untouched by the gospel. This high-Calvinist nature-grace dualism was implicated, for example, in the apartheid system, as James Torrance tirelessly argued; it allowed political arrangements to be determined by arbitrary concepts of nature or providence that escaped evangelical scrutiny.

    British and American Evangelicalism offers another illustration. Out of a hodgepodge of magisterial and radical Reformation resources—and, we may add, a frightful misreading of Anselm—it developed a penal substitution theory of the atonement that has its closest Catholic counterpart in Mel Gibson’s misbegotten The Passion of the Christ . The Torrances tackled this also, bringing Barth to bear in the conflict and converting more than a few to a far richer atonement theory.

    Catholicism itself, naturally, was a further front. Torrance did not confine himself to doing battle with the dreaded analogia entis (analogy of being). Rather, as already intimated, he tried to trace out the sequence of steps or missteps by which “the Augustinian-Aristotelian framework” perfected by Aquinas had been constructed. That he regarded this framework as fundamentally dualistic explains why he did not find in it what contemporary Catholic theologians found: namely, an answer and a remedy to the externalism that did indeed rear its head both in the theological manuals and in the sacramental life of the Church during the same period that spawned liberal Protestantism.

    But if externalism has been a problem in the West, why do I deny the existence of the Latin heresy? Am I merely objecting to the word “heresy,” which Torrance is using rather carelessly, almost as if theologians themselves could determine, in some freestanding fashion, what is heretical? Or do I mean simply that the “heresy” is not peculiarly Western? (It is hard to see how it could be, given that Apollinarian ways of thinking have proven quite durable in the East as well.) No. I mean that Barth and Torrance have, in part, misdiagnosed the problem and misconstrued the solution.

    While it is quite true that the temptation to abstract the work from the person of Jesus is perennial—every trace of anti-Semitism already bears witness to this, as does every form of theology that attempts to slough off the Jewish “husk” in order to salvage some evangelical “kernel,” to use Kant’s language—it is not the case that the West, or more specifically the Catholic tradition, has habitually done so. On the other hand, it is the case that Barth has falsely conflated person and work, and that this conflation is a bar, both for him and for Torrance, to any deep appreciation of the Catholic tradition.

    Even in Leo the Great’s Tome , of all places, Torrance finds fodder for the Latin heresy. He doesn’t like its emphasis on Mary’s purity and on the Son’s assumption (as Leo puts it) of “nature, not sin.” He objects to its presentation of Christ’s divine and human natures as possessions, as something out of which he acts on or for others, rather than as two movements in an event of reconciliation through which God and man are defined by and for each other. Torrance much prefers Barth’s actualist revision of Chalcedon, in which the two natures of Christ are interpreted in terms of a simultaneous dynamic of descending and ascending, a dual history of God abasing himself and man being exalted, united in and as one subject or person. “According to the translation which we have attempted,” says Barth, “this history itself, and in its dynamic, is the reality, the mysterium , the sacrament of the being of Jesus Christ . . . . The subject Jesus Christ is this history.”

    Barth’s imposition on the doctrine of the Incarnation of an actualist ontology—an ontology that already contains and is soteriology—is seen by Torrance as a breakthrough that enables us to shake off the Latin heresy. But it can also be seen as a kind of theological oversteer that puts Christology into the ditch on the Eutychian side of the road. By joining the human to the divine nature in this way, Barth assimilates the former to the latter in its character as pure act.

    But it does not belong to the creature that person and act, or being and act, should be one; that is, to be actus purus . It does not belong even to Jesus, whose humanity, on such a construct, is overcome by his divinity. Jesus’ acts are full and proper expressions of his person; there is no alienation in him between who he is and what he does. But Jesus is not a history. (Nor, for that matter, is God: That is the error of Rahnerians and neo-Barthians who have gone beyond Barth in this direction, or perhaps we should say behind Barth to Hegel, and begun collapsing the distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity.)

    No small irony appears just here, in this unintended Eutychianism that obscures the humanity of Christ! And it has its own inevitable consequences for ecclesiology, as we must now observe, for it tends also to obscure the Marian and Petrine dimensions of the Church. It tends, that is, to occasionalism.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: