Andrew Fuller: Begging the Question About “Covenantal Union” and The Nature of Atonement Imputation

Nathan Finn–“Chun agrees with scholars who emphasize greater continuity than discontinuity between Edwards’s understanding of the atonement and the moral government view of the New Divinity theologians. Fuller embraced governmental language and was actually much closer to Edwards, who also allowed for a governmental aspect . Both men combined a universal sufficiency with a particular efficacy, the limitation being in God’s covenantal design rather than in the nature of propitiation itself.”

Romans 3:25–”Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith…”
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”.

Though Andrew Fuller affirmed a particular atonement in a certain sense– in that the atonement will procure faith for only the elect–he is not willing to say that Christ was only the propitiation for the elect alone. Instead of telling that plain truth, that Christ either already died for a sinner or already did not, Andrew Fuller wanted to say that Christ died for all sinners in some sense. This universal sense advocated by Andrew Fuller has to do with the nature of propitiation. He denies that Christ in the past propitiated the Trinity for the sins of any specific person. Rather, Andrew Fuller teaches that Christ died to make an offer of propitiation to every sinner.

According to Andrew Fuller, what’s important is the “covenantal design and intent” of what Christ did, that there could be propitiation now if the Holy Spirit were to cause a sinner to accept the offer of propitiation and thus join themselves to Christ through faith .

Fuller asserted an universal conditional sufficiency in Christ’s death for all sinners. It is an old and subtle doctrine, but Andrew Fuller was a very subtle man, much like John Wesley, using words like “imputation” in ways meant to mislead those who had a different meaning for the words.

What does Andrew Fuller accomplish by shifting from what Christ DID back then over there to who Christ Is and what He “Can” do here and now if the Spirit helps a sinner to take up the “offer”?

Andrew Fuller changes the meaning of the propitiatory death of Christ. With the Arminians, he makes the propitiation to be dependent on the sinner having faith. The subtle “hybrid” part though is that (with the Calvinists) Andrew Fuller also makes the having faith be dependent on what God obtained by means of Christ’s death.

Andrew Fuller ends up putting the emphasis on grace as opposed to justice. God is sovereign now to give faith to elect sinners because of Christ’s death. The idea that God has already been JUSTLY propitiated for a sinner (or not) is no longer in the picture. Andrew Fuller’s notion of “sovereign grace” is opposing the gospel of God being justified in justifying the ungodly. He is opposing justice in the name of grace.

Two comments. First, even though Fullerites want to say that the only way to be consistent in teaching a definite propitiation (what Christ WAS as laying down his life) is to teach an eternal justification, where the elect only subjectively find out that they were always justified, I do not (and Abraham Booth did not) teach that any unbeliever is justified.

All the justified elect are people who believe the gospel. Belief in the gospel is an immediate consequence (not a condition) of God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect (not of God’s imputation of the elect’s sins to Christ).

“Through faith” in Romans 3:25 does not mean “conditioned on faith”. Faith for the elect is what justice demands AFTER righteousness is imputed to them. I do not say it “their right” but it is Christ’s right because of what Christ WAS AND DID. Once sins were imputed to Christ, then Christ died by the law because of these sins, and now Christ is free and justified before the law.

So I can and do say to any unbeliever, unless you believe the gospel, you are not yet justified. But I also say to those unbelievers: your believing is not something you can or will do unless Christ died for you, and you will never know if Christ did until you believe the gospel.

Second comment. Look at what Andrew Fuller is saying with his distinction between what Christ is as opposed to what Christ was. Fuller is teaching that God is governmentally sovereign and therefore God can do whatever God wants to do now with what Christ did then.

If so, why did Christ die? To make it possible? So that propitiation “might” happen? To ask such questions leads to another question. If God is so sovereignly superior to justice in His government, why did Christ need to die at all? If the meaning and effectiveness of the propitiation was only to be assigned later, is that meaning a matter of justice or only arbitrary?

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

Galatians 4:5-6 –”to redeem those who were under the law, so that we would receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Edwards and Andrew Fuller use the concept of “covenantal union” to say that the atonement which really matters is the application of Christ’s death. They deny that the “union” is legal. They insist that the legal is “based on the union”. The logic leads to the “atonement” not being what Christ did to satisfy the law, but instead the application of “the covenantal intent”.

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.

Although the gospel teaches that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, the gospel does not teach that all the elect were justified as soon as Christ bore those sins. Romans 6 explains how 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 folks like Andrew Fuller use “union” talk to change the meaning of the atonement and accuse the rest with thinking there is no need for faith. If the substitution for sins has already been made, they say, 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.

There is no justification apart from faith. Faith in the gospel is NOT a mere recognition that we were already justified. But those who follow Andrew Fuller tend to deny any distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement.

At the end of the day, these folks locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of regeneration and faith to “covenantally unite” people with that propitiation. Though they may formally agree to some “legal aspect” to “union”, for all practical purposes they ignore or deny the reality that God already imputed the sins of only the elect to Christ.

In this way, the followers of Andrew Fuller make way for the idea of some “universal sufficiency” in Christ’s propitiation. And when it turns out that this ‘sufficiency” is not enough to save the non-elect, they answer: “well, 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.”

The followers of Andrew Fuller teach universal sufficiency and an offer (to everybody I guess who is not already dead) . They claim that we can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to Andrew Fuller, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the specific sins of sinners. God did not really impute specific sins, according to Fuller, Edwards and the New England Theology.

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19 Comments on “Andrew Fuller: Begging the Question About “Covenantal Union” and The Nature of Atonement Imputation”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Zach Hoag, a contemporary who denies the strict substitutionary nature of the atonement: “the pitfall of a strict Penal Substitution emphasis makes the anger of the Father toward an originally-sinning creation primary and overly dichotomizes the work of the one God on the cross. We need to avoid the resultant individualism that evangelicals have often perpetuated which sees only a judicial transaction that pardons me as a guilty sinner before an angry judge. .

    The salvation Jesus accomplishes is about incorporating us into a new resurrection community created and empowered by the Spirit of resurrection to join God in his right-making in the world, until the final day. This is a radical vision that results in the formation of church communities that embody Jesus’s life in the world, patterned after his teaching and, indeed, his example, welcoming all into the experience of salvation in the Messiah.

    Thus, it is a uniquely missional vision, too – moving us outward into the salvation that God is already at work to create by the reign of Jesus and the work of the Spirit. The blood of Jesus is a powerful, creative force, NOT a morbid, unseemly judgment. In this great act of atonement, the Messiah, God’s Son and second self, takes on the full weight of humanity’s destructive independence in a single crescendo-like moment, stopping the deterioration of creation dead in its tracks by fully identifying with us and taking on all our injustice. The cross is thus,the sublime mingling of justice and grace.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    p 167, Marcus Johnson, One With Christ, Crossway—”I am referring to the application of redemption in space and time. Some of the benefits of our union with Christ occur above and beyond time (our election in Christ, for instance).

    Johnson writes on the same page: “in salvation God has included us in Jesus Christ, and with this in mind, we are free to discuss his benefits in any order we want…”

    mark: This is a bit slippery. I don’t think the real concern is the order in which we discuss the benefits (even though Gaffin does worry about that when he reads Calvin’s Institutes looking for support for his central thesis). The concern is not about our discussion, but about the logical order, and nobody is more concerned about this than the “unionists”.

    They may say— if you get the person of Christ in there, use any order you want. But they don’t mean it. They are attempting a deception. Because if you don’t agree with them about “union” priority, then they will accuse you of putting the person “in the background”. ( see Gaffin in Always Reforming, ed McGowan, p 280).

    But no way are they saying “use any order you like”! They forbid us putting anything before “union”. But what this comes to is them forbidding us putting God’s legal imputation in front of “union”. They contradict “any order you like” when they themselves put ‘faith” (and the Holy Spirit) before “union”.

    But besides God’s imputation to the elect of Christ’s death, there is Christ bearing the sins of the elect. The death of Christ is not timeless, but comes after imputation to the OT elect and before imputation to the NT elect. But before either Christ’s death or any imputations, first there was election before the ages.

    What’s interesting to me is that Marcus Johnson won’t even allow election to be a cause or condition or source of the “union”. He writes of election as the “benefit” of “union”. But this is more confusion, added to earlier agreement that election is one aspect of “union”, and then his announcement that his book is not about that sense of “union”, but instead about “the application of union”. Johnson proceeds to call the application of union “the union”.

    Even though Marcus Johnson will allow faith and the Holy Spirit to come before “union”, he does not directly call faith a cause or a condition or a source of the “union”. Perhaps he would agree that faith and the work of the Spirit are also “benefits” from the “union”. But even if he does, he still insists that faith must come before “union”.

    But he also insists that God’s imputation is a benefit and a result of “union”, and therefore must come after “union”, Johnson will not say that faith come after “union”, but insists instead that faith comes before “union”.

    I suppose Johnson would have to agree that election comes before “union”, since election comes before time, and Johnson’s topic is the “application of union” which is an event in time. But nevertheless he calls even election a ‘benefit” of “union”.

    I find all this very curious, especially in light of Gaffin’s accusations that those of us without an “union priority” put the person of Jesus into the background. I think that’s Gaffin’s way of saying that those of us who disagree with him about the order of application are inherently people who don’t think enough about redemptive history, about the “biblical theology” which focuses on what God has done in Christ apart from us. In other words, Gaffin thinks “union priority” is “redemptive-historical priority”.

    But where is God’s election in redemptive history? i think Gaffin (with Johnson and other unionists) has managed to put election “into the background”. Election is not denied, but if election becomes a benefit of the “union”, then “union” has been defined as some kind of Holy Spirit “application” which must precede God’s imputation. This means that not only God’s election but also God’s imputation have been “put into the background”.


    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 , p 528


    from Blocher, p 564, From Heaven he Came

    Some of the Reformed have denied the universal love of God. though they quote verses such as Malachi 1:3 (Esau I have haged) and Psalm 5:5, their denial is so opposed to the drift of Scripture that I rule it out of court.

    So Blocher teaches universal love but not ‘egalitarian love which smacks of humanism”

    So he disagrees with Barth and the Torrances when they claim that “any attribute necessary to God is necessarily exercised by God equally on all of whom it is logically possible to exercise it.”

    Blocher praises the “beautiful essay” by Andrew Swanson, “The Love of God for the Non-Elect”, Reformation Today, May 1976

    p 565 “I choose to speak of God’s will of desire (which generates precepts) and God’s will of decree.”

    “The permissive character of the sovereign decision over the vessels of wrath makes it possible to coexist with the salvific desire and universal love. Yet it is no rational decision solution. I cannot understand why the Lord of Lords so decides about men and women he loves.”



    Andrew Fuller–who uses or doesn’t use the death of Christ does not change the nature

    as in, who eats or doesn’t eat the banana does not change the nature of the banana

    I agree, at least when it comes to Andrew Fuller’s false view of the nature of the death of Christ

    since in Andrew Fuller’s view the death is not a judicial payment for the specific sins of specific beneficiaries

    Fuller’s idea that the beneficiaries will be “named later”, according to God’s intent on what to do with Christ’s death

    shows that Andrew Fuller denies the nature of Christ’s death as a propitiation

    we are not the imputers, we don’t “use” the death of Christ


    Jonathan Gibson, “The Glorious, Indivisible, Trinitarian Work of Christ”, From Heaven He Came, p 355—Interestingly, this verse has been neglected in Constantine Campbell’s otherwise comprehensive treatment of union with Christ (PAUL AND UNION WITH CHRIST, Zondervan, 2013)

    14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

    p 352—“Some conclude that the efficacy of Christ’s work occurs only at the point of faith, and not before. This ignores the fact that union with Christ precedes any reception of Christ’s work by faith. It is union with Christ that leads to the efficacy of Christ’s work to those who belong to Him.”


    : not believing does not make us condemned, but only gives evidence of our condemnation

    mark: i agree, but since we unbelief is a result and evidence of condemnation, and since the elect are born without belief in the gospel, this shows that the eternally elect are not eternally justified

    I Cor 6:11 I Cor 6:11 And such WERE some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    II Cor 5: 16 From NOW ON, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we ONCE regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus NO LONGER 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

    ROMANS 5: 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have NOW received reconciliation.

    Andrew Fuller (and many infralsparians) do say that condemnation is a result of unbelief

    But in what sense is a person who has never heard the gospel in unbelief of the gospel? in the sense that the person who never heard is still nevertheless self-righteous?

    Andrew Fuller: Faith is necessary to justification, not as being the ground or basis of justification, nor is justification a reward because of faith as a virtue, but without faith we cannot be united to a living Redeemer….If union with Christ were ‘acquired’ by faith, then such an union would be inconsistent with free justification, but if the necessity of faith merely rises from the nature of things–that is, fitness to unite…and if faith itself is a gift of God, no such consequence follows, because the union-though we be active in it–is in reality created by God.” Gospel Worthy, p 184

  8. markmcculley Says:

    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.”

  9. markmcculley Says:

    Wesley’s main objection to Theron and Aspasio was that it taught justification by imputed righteousness, a doctrine Wesley considered an obvious recipe for antinomianism. It’s reasonable to think that even before the book was published in 1755, and certainly before Witherspoon’s essay came out in 1756, both Hervey and Witherspoon were aware of Wesley’s disdain for imputation and his fears of antinomianism. And Wesley wasn’t alone. Jonathan Edward’s pupil, Joseph Bellamy would lambast Hervey in the years head. Theron and Aspasio was loved by some and hated by others

  10. markmcculley Says:

    One book worth buying from Crossway is Precious Blood: The Atoning Work of Christ, especially the chapter by Carl
    Trueman on “Post-Reformation Developments in the Doctrine of the Atonement.”, p196

    “Socinius says if Trueman’s sin have been punished on the cross, it is not mercy for God to forgive Trueman but justice. But Grotius says, if the punishment on the cross is merey an equivalent of Trueman’s sins, then it is still possible to build mercy into the equation…If Trueman’s sins are not imputed to Christ, then it’s possible that Christ’s righteousness is not imputed to Trueman. That fits well with an Arminian view of justification, but I can assure you that Trueman has a problem with it.”

    I don’t propose to address the theology of Edwards and the New England theology or Andrew Fuller which claimed him as its father. But to answer why gospel coalition folks associate with Driscoll who denies definite atonement. John Piper teaches particular atonement, but in claiming to believe everything Arminians believe about the atonement (and more-died to purchased extra for the elect), John Piper leaves room for a governmental view. It’s one thing to say that Jesus was punished for sins. It’s quite another to say that God imputed the sins (not simply punishment) of the elect to Christ. It’s very difficult to find that in Piper. After all, he’s an evangelical. Piper believes everything Billy Graham and Rick Warren believe. And More. No antithesis.

  11. markmcculley Says:

    first thing they want you to agree to is that it’s not the gospel ware—-a first-order discussion of a second-order doctrine. The contributors to this volume agree that the question of the extent of the atonement falls short of being placed in the top tier of doctrines central and non-negotiable to the Christian faith, yet they also rightly see the importance of this doctrine for faith and practice. Hence, the discussion here is spirited yet charitable, firm yet gracious
    Happily the dire predictions of what lies at the bottom of the slippery slopes situated on either side of this debate are rarely realized
    The debate on the extent of the atonement of Jesus Christ has long been expressed as a debate between correspondence (exegesis) and coherence (theology). On the one hand, many texts suggest a general atonement, announcing, apparently, that Christ has borne in common the sins of the whole human population (Isa 53:6; John 1:29; 3:16; 12:32; 2 Cor 5:14–15, 19; 1 Tim 2:4–6; 4:10; Titus 2:11; Heb 2:9; 10:29; 2 Pet 2:1; 3:9; 1 John 2:2; 4:14; etc.). Too often those who hold to particular redemption dismiss such texts or respond with exegesis that smacks of special pleading.4 On the other hand, those promoting universal theories of atonement sometimes dismiss the theological tensions that their positions raise: the nature of substitution, the problem of double jeopardy, and the specter of universalism. All too often justification for this dismissal comes in the form of the trump card of biblical correspondence: the Bible says Christ died for all people, so whether or not this makes sense, it must be true—absolutely clear statements are not threatened by the theologian’s inability to coherently harmonize them with the systematic whole. Rather, such theological antinomies stand as monuments to the mysterious character of the Creator, whose thoughts and ways far exceed those of his creatures. This does not mean that those adhering to a definite atonement have no supporting texts or that those adhering to a general atonement have no theological concerns.
    • On the particularist pole we could have added at least two views: (1) the so-called “commercial view,” a minority variation of particularism that denies the atonement’s infinite value and excludes common grace from the atonement,9 and (2) the “eternal application” model that sees the accomplishment and application of atonement as simultaneous—either in eternity past or on the cross.10
    9 Thomas J. Nettles argues for this less common particularist understanding (though without using the commercial label) over and against Andrew Fuller’s more widely held historical expression of particularism (By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life, rev. and exp. 20th anniversary ed. [Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006], 335–59). 10 Once a rare view even among hyper-Calvinists (see, e.g., John Brine, A Defence of the Doctrine of Eternal Justification from Some Exceptions Made to It by Mr. Bragge, and Others [London: A. Ward and H. Whitridge, 1732]), this view has few if any modern proponents
    mark— i am in on #1, but not #2, but most people assume 2 if you have 1
    at least four distinct views associated with a general atonement position: (1) that Christ’s death secures the expiation of all sins and with it prevenient grace so that all may either accept or reject that expiation;11 (2) that Christ’s death simply provides for the expiation of all sins except unbelief, which is a separate category;12 (3) that Christ’s death merely satisfies God’s wrath without properly substituting for each sinner;13 and (4) that Christ’s death expiates for all, universalism
    11 This view is common among professing Arminians who reject the governmental view of atonement. Grant Osborne ably defends this view in this book. 12 Robert P. Lightner, The Death Christ Died: A Biblical Case for Unlimited Atonement (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998), 101; David L. Allen, “The Atonement: Limited or Universal,” in Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, ed. David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke (Nashville: B&H, 2010), 88. 13 Anselm’s satisfaction view, which still dominates in Roman Catholic circles, arguably fits this description.
    g., P. L. Rouwendal, “Calvin’s Forgotten Classical Position on the Extent of the Atonement: About Sufficiency, Efficiency, and Anachronism,” WTJ 70, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 317–35. 17 E.g., Bruce A. Ware, “The Extent of the Atonement: Select Support for and Benefits of a ‘Multiple Intentions’ Understanding,” outline presented at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (November 18, 2010). See also a thesis prepared by Gary Shultz under Ware’s tutelage: “A Biblical and Theological Defense of a Multi-Intentioned View of the Atonement” (PhD diss., Southern Baptist Theological
    For these a definite atonement is no less essential a piece of the Reformed system than, say, justification by faith or any of the other four “points” of Calvinism
    Brian Armstrong’s dissertation, “The Calvinism of Moïse Amyraut: The Warfare of Protestant Scholasticism and French Humanism” (ThD diss., Princeton University, 1967), available in a more popular format as Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy: Protestant Scholasticism and Humanism in Seventeenth-Century France (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969). This view gained considerable popularity in 1979 with the publication of R. T. Kendall’s dissertation, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979). Among other works sympathetic to this thesis, two stand out as key sequels to these earlier treatments: Alan C. Clifford, Atonement and Justification: English Evangelical Theology 1640–1790—An Evaluation (London: Oxford University Press, 1990); and G. Michael Thomas’s The Extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus (Carlisle, England: Paternoster, 2002). Most recently, Kevin D. Kennedy has furthered this theory by condensing salient portions of an earlier Peter Lang publication as “Was Calvin a Calvinist? John Calvin on the Extent of the Atonement,” in Allen and Lemke, Whosoever Will, 191–212
    Many today who hold to a general atonement also teach a substitutionary view of atonement (a marked advance on the governmental and moral influence views that were formerly more common in Arminian circles). Particularists, however, see this claim as inconsistent: while advocates of general atonement may hold to an atonement that involves penal satisfaction, it is not accurate to call this a penal substitution, except in some potential sense.
    Nowhere does Scripture say Christ merely made provision to expiate sin, propitiate wrath, or reconcile people to God. Rather, he actually took away sins (John 1:29), bore God’s wrath (1 John 2:2; 4:10), redeemed us (Gal 3:13–14), and reconciled us to God (Rom 5:10– 11; 2 Cor 5:18–19). For this reason, then, the title of Murray’s little book is not Redemption: Provided and Applied, but Redemption: Accomplished and Applied
    For advocates of universal atonement, God did accomplish all that he intended. But God did not intend to effectually redeem anyone; he simply intended to provide redemption for everyone. And in this, they claim, God was perfectly successful. 3 The precise relationship of faith to atonement is a matter of debate among advocates of universal atonement. All agree, however, that faith delimits the application of the universal atonement.
    Details about the source of this faith vary between advocates of general atonement. Some suggest that all people possess the native capacity to believe (Pelagianism), others that faith is made available as a manifestation of prevenient grace (Picirilli and most Arminians), and still others see faith as connected with an efficacious call (Lightner and many “four-point” Calvinists). In any case it is the sinner’s failure to believe that limits the application of atonement.
    Christ died to make simultaneously both a “universal atonement” and a “limited redemption.”44 Historically, this centrist view finds its greatest early Protestant endorsement in the school of Saumur and its greatest early champions in John Cameron and especially Moïses Amyraut.45 Amyraldism, which is properly a minority variation of Calvinism, early on adopted Peter Lombard’s understanding that Christ’s death was “offered . . . for all with regard to the sufficiency of the price, but only for the elect with regard to its efficacy, because he brought about salvation only for the predestined.”46 The connotative elasticity of the phrase “sufficient for all but efficient for the elect” proved useful as a vehicle of mediation at Dordt, where in 1618–19 a mixed body of both “high” Calvinists and Amyraldians crafted a united response to the threat of the Arminian Remonstrance—the famed Canons of Dordt, from which the wellknown “five points” derive.…/9781433669712_sampCh.pdf

  12. markmcculley Says:

    Ten Ways to Teach a False Gospel by Arrogantly Rejecting any Dogma about God having Already Imputed the Sins of Only the Elect to Christ

    1. Naselli often denigrates any idea that general atonement or two wills atonement are heresies. He continually begs the question by insisting that those “evangelical options” are not heresies. He does not hesitate to use the “hyper” word to designate those who disagree.

    2. Naselli insists that we not only agree that those who hold the tow heresies are our brothers but that we describe the heresies in a way approved by the heretics. For example, even though the heretics deny that God has already imputed the specific sins of the elect to Christ so that Christ has already made penal satisfaction for these sins, Naselli insists that we agree with the heretics that they still teach “penal substitution”.

    3. Naselli is dogmatic that universalism is heresy but that a general atonement which does not effectively atone is not heresy. Instead of actually pointing to any real person who now denies the need for evangelism, he assumes that the folks who deny any responsibility to believe the two wills false gospel are also people who deny any responsibility to believe the true gospel (or obey God’s law.) Referencing Ian Murray and Peter Toon and Curt Daniel does not define “hyper”, but only shows it to be a relativist term which depends more on where “evangelicals are now” than it does in clarifying the nature of God’s external command to believe the true gospel.

    4. Naselli denigrates any notion of what they call a ‘commercial or mathematical” view of the atonement as if such descriptions fail to talk about God’s purpose or Christ’s priesthood, even though Naselli has just agreed that words like “infinite” and sufficient” and “efficient” can be used ambiguously (flexibly) —by those with the two heresies and by those who claim to believe in effective atonement. But read Tom Nettles for more on the importance of commercial language.

    5. Naselli teaches that the atonement is “unlimited in its sufficiency, its value, and offer” even though he calls universalism a heresy. But how can the death of Christ be enough if God never imputed the sins of the non-elect to Christ? And how can the death of Christ be enough for every sinner if in the end it is not enough to save every sinner from God’s wrath? How can the death of Christ be enough if it’s not enough to purchase and provide faith in the gospel for every sinner for whom Christ died?

    6. Naselli asserts that Packer overstated the importance of the extent of the atonement . Packer wrote in his introduction to Owen’s Death of Death that “universal atonement is destructive to the gospel.” But Nasseli disagrees with Packer about the implications of universal atonement not logically be consistent with a substitutionary atonement. But Naselli assures us, “this doctrine is not necessarily at the heart of the gospel.” He follows the liberal policy of Grudem’s Systematic Theology and claims that “other doctrines are much more significant.”

    7. Naselli denies that “only non-Calvinists can tell a non-Christian that God loves them”. Naselli knows that some Reformed folks don’t think we should say “Jesus died for you” to all sinners, but he insists that such a “statement is true and right”. At this point Naselli quotes his pompous mentor DA Carson being condescending to other Reformed teachers who are “young”. Apparently it has never occurred to Carson that anybody who disagrees with him about the two heresies might be as mature and thoughtful and as well read as he is. They always think it’s the other fellows who are being “schismatic”

    8. It’s like Bill Clinton saying “it depends in what you think is means”. It depends on what you think sex means. Thus Naselli—A Calvinist can tell a non-Christian that “Jesus died for you” because non-Christians generally understand the “for” to mean that the benefits of the death of Jesus are “available IF THEY REPENT AND BELIEVE.’ But why should anybody actually believe the gospel want non-Christians to believe the false gospel that God loves them and that their salvation depends on the sinner? It seems that “the Calvinist” in question does not believe that the sins of the elect have already been imputed by God to Christ. A person who teaches that sinners impute their own sins to Christ is neither a Calvinist nor a Christian.

    9. Naselli gives us the impression that he now has a “complete understanding” of what it means to be flexible and to be “evangelical” and what is and is not “heresy”. He ends with the truth that not any of us understand anything perfectly, but does not apply this lesson to himself when he pontificates on what Calvinists can say or what “the more significant doctrines are” He seems to forget that he also has a finite mind when he separates himself from those who call the two heresies heresy. What looks like “tolerance” on closer look is one more “limited understanding” of the gospel, especially when it discounts the factor of God having already imputed the sins of the elect to Christ.

    10. those who accuse the other of being strident don’t seem to notice that they are using an ad hominem argument. They think that only the others use such arguments. For 45 years of my life, I was very proud of the good Reformed doctrine I learned in books and in how I had advanced in understanding over other Christians. But there came a day when God taught me to fear Him, and when I discovered that I had not yet been born again, and that the evidence of this was that I did not yet even know or believe the gospel.

    Perspectives On the Extent of the Atonement, ed by Nselli and Snoeberger, B and H Academic, 2015

  13. 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

  14. markmcculley Says:

    Mark Jones on “when calling someone a heretic”—–” I would argue that Pelagianism is a heresy, but Arminianism is not. Pelagianism overthrows several fundamental articles. I would argue that Arminianism is a serious error, but it is not a heresy… should be very careful, indeed – when you hurl around the word “moralist”… on matters that do not rise to the level of soul-damning doctrine. ….We do not need to shrink back from lively, vigorous theological debate. Amyraldianism and closed communion and episcopacy are all errors, in my view. But, these errors are not heresies. A wall exists between my brothers who hold to any one of these views, but the wall is not so high that we cannot “shake hands” as brothers.”

    mark mcculley– in the meanwhile, it can never hurt to use the word “antinomian” when talking to your congregation, because in this day and age those in the covenant need to be reminded that sinners who actually practice sin are “antinomian” and it’s very well possible that many in your congregation will not do the works necessary to stay in covenant and attain final justification.

    I am reminded of the Ian Murray defense of Wesley—it’s not his fault that he was Arminian because it was the fault of the “truly reformed” Antinomians…

  15. markmcculley Says:

    John Cameron– hypothetical universalism— that God wills the salvation of all men, on condition of faith, and that Christ’s death was for all men, on condition of faith.

    Advocates speak of a universal decree in which God was supposed to have given Christ as a Mediator for the whole human race; and of a special decree, in which God, foreseeing that no one would believe in his unaided strength, was supposed to have elected some to receive the gift of faith. This theory said that God gave His Son to die for all men, alike and equally; and at the same time . . . declared that when He gave His son to die, He already fully intended that His death should not avail for all men alike and equally.

    Smeaton — Amyraldianism was a revolt from the position maintained at the Synod of Dort, under the guise of an explanation. It laboured under the defect of supposing a double and a conflicting decree; that is, a general decree, in which He was said to will the salvation of all, and a special decree, in which He was said to will the salvation of the elect. To Christ also it ascribed a twofold and discordant aim, viz. to satisfy for all men, and to satisfy merely for the elect. As a reconciling system, and an incoherent one, it aimed to harmonize the passages of Scripture, which at one time seem to extend Christ’s merits to the world, and at another to limit them to the church; not to mention that God is supposed to be disappointed in His purpose.

  16. markmcculley Says:

    Boston and the other Marrow Men defended the well-meant offer and that Christ is “dead for all” Their interpretation of John 3:16 was as follows—“by the giving of Christ, we understand not only his eternal destination by the Father to be the Redeemer of an elect world, and his giving him unto the death for them, in the fulness of time, but more especially a giving of him in the word to all, to be received and believed in. . . . And in this respect, we think, Christ is a common Savour, and his salvation is a common salvation.

    Boston — The deed of gift or grant is to every man. This necessarily supposeth Christ crucified to be the ordinance of God for salvation, to which lost mankind is allowed access. . . . Therefore he says not,Tell every man Christ died for him; but, Tell every man Christ is dead for him; that is, for him to come to, and believe on; a Saviour is provided for him; there is a crucified Christ for him.

    In a sermon entitled Christ the Savior of the World,Boston –Our Lord Jesus Christ is the official Savior, not of the elect only, but of the world of mankind indefinitely. . . . Any of them all may come to him as Savior, without money or price, and be saved by Him as their own Savior appointed to that office by the Father. . . . If it were not so that Christ is the Savior of the world, He could not warrantably be offered with His salvation to the world indefinitely, but to the elect only. If He were not commissioned to the office of Savior of all men, it would be no more appropriate to call all men to trust Him as Savior any more than He could be offered lawfully to fallen angels. . . . No one could be held guilty for not turning to Christ for salvation, unless there is a sense in which God has appointed Him to be Savior of that guilty one. . . God’s love for humanity has appeared in two eminent instances: First, in securing, by an irresistible decree, the salvation of some of them, and second, in providing a Savior for the whole of the kind. . . . He sent His Son from Heaven with full instructions and ample powers to save you, if you will believe. And is not this love? . . . Know with certainty that if any of you shall perish-and if you go on in your sins ye shall perish-you shall not perish for want of a Savior. . . . You would not trust Him as Savior, even though He had His Father’s commission to be Savior of the world-and your Savior.

  17. markmcculley Says:

    harles 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.

  18. markmcculley Says:

    where does the Bible speak of impartation or incorporation?

    Since faith is not the righteousness of Christ, then we should not speak of “justifying faith” because what God uses to justify sinners is Christ’s death. Faith in Christ’s death is not Christ’s righteousness. Christ’s death is Christ’s righteousness, and Christ’s death is the object of faith.

    Calvin–Although we may distinguish them, Christ contains both of them inseparably in himself. Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker in his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces (1 Cor. 1:13). …We are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness (Institutes, 3.16.1).

    Colson–Calvin did not hesitate to attribute both legal and relational, or forensic and ontological, realities to our union with Christ. Jesus both imputes and imparts grace when he incorporates us into himself through the Spirit. These benefits belong to us because we are members of the Beloved, Jesus Christ.

    mark- Colson is saying that regeneration is relational and ontological. Colson is assuming that “union” is relational and ontological. Colson is begging the question by not defining incorporation? Why is “incorporation” not forensic but “relational and ontological”? What is the difference between “impartation” (in us) and “incorporation” if you assume that becoming members of Christ (in Christ) is not forensic? If we do begin to “possess the Benefactor” before God’s imputation of righteousness, why do we even need God’s imputation of righteousness? If we are already members of Christ and have Christ in us before God justifies us, how could justification be of the ungodly and why would we need justification?

    Colson–While God’s justification of the ungodly certainly compels our obedience (2 Cor. 5. 14-15), this paradigm obscures the relationship between our sanctification and the living Jesus. By prioritizing justification in the cause-and-effect chain , it makes sanctification a secondary link contingent upon justification.

    Colson–Three things happen: (1) grace becomes synonymous with justification, not all the benefits we receive in union with the resurrected Christ, (2) grace becomes a motivational resource that encourages sanctification, not the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit that enables sanctification, and (3) sanctification loses its radically Christo-centric orientation, becoming a step in a formula distantly related to Christ. This unnecessarily shackles God’s grace to forensic categories.

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