Posted tagged ‘Bruce Ware’

Different Purposes for the Atonement?, by John Kennedy

May 25, 2012

There are some who, Calvinists in their vows and Arminians in their tendencies, teach the doctrine of a double reference of the atonement; representing the atonement as offered in one sense for the elect, and in another sense for all. These maintain that there was a special atonement securing a certainty of salvation to some, and universal atonement securing a possibility of salvation to all.

Those who advocate the double reference of the atonement, profess to believe that Christ died in a sense for the elect, in which He died for none besides—that He died because He was their surety—that their sins alone were imputed to Him—that it is His relation to the elect which accounts for His death—that for them alone redemption was purchased—and that to none besides shall redemption be applied.

How can they then consistently hold that Christ died for all? It may be said that the call of the gospel must involve the salvability of those to whom it is addressed. This is traced to the death of Christ as an atonement of infinite value; and on that ground and to that effect it may be insisted that Christ died for all.

But how can this consist with this other doctrine, which they profess to believe—that no one is salvable without atonement. No atonement can make my salvation possible if it did not satisfy divine justice for my sins. How can the possibility of my salvation be before the mind of God, unless He sees my sins atoned for in the death of Christ? How could they be atoned for unless they were imputed to Him? And how could they be imputed to Him unless He was my surety?

If it be objected, that unless the salvation of all who are called is possible there is no hope for them, it is enough to reply, that just as surely as salvation is not possible without atonement, neither is it so without faith; and that instead of tracing the possibility of a universal salvation to a universal reference of the atonement, the wise and the right thing would be, to insist on the ability of Christ to save all who come to Him; on the certainty of salvation through faith; and on the impossibility of salvation without it.

But there is no atonement that is not satisfaction to divine justice. There was no satisfaction of justice that did not avail to the purchase of redemption. To say that the atonement, being of infinite value, is sufficient for all, is beside the mark, for the question is as to the divine intention.

Christ has power over all flesh but this was given to Him in order that He would give eternal life to as many as the Father gave Him. This power Christ has in reward of His death, but He has it for the salvation of His chosen. He died to procure all good for them.

The doctrine of the double reference is an oil and water mixture. It is opposed to Scripture. Those who hold it are in a transition state, and occupy no fixed dogmatic ground. Sometimes they seem staunch Calvinists, and at other times utter Arminians. They try to move on the boundary line between the two systems, and would fain keep a foot on either side. But the fence is too high to admit of this. They therefore display their agility in leaps from side to side.

To insist on a reference of the death of Christ to any who were not loved by God, whose sins were not imputed to, and atoned for by Christ, and who shall not be saved, is utterly opposed to Scripture. The way to conceal the manifest unscripturalness of this position is, to raise the dust of a double reference around it, by saying that it is not in the same sense Christ died for the elect, as for others. The special reference is not denied; it is so plainly taught in Scripture.

But where in Scripture is the other universal sense taught? A reference to 1 John 2:2 has been given as an answer to this question. But if there is a passage more conclusive than any other against the doctrine of a double reference it is that very one. It teaches that in the self-same sense in which Christ is the propitiation for the sins of those whose cause He pleads as Advocate, He is so “for the sins of the whole world”—of all to whom His atonement refers.

In all those passages which seem to some to teach the doctrine of a universal reference of the death of Christ, the death is seen connected either with love, or suretyship, or redemption.

Some remain professing Calvinists, that they might keep hold of their creed, and become de facto Arminians that they might get hold of their hearers. And there are preachers not a few, who seem to think that, though their speculations must be conformed to the system of Calvinism, they must be Arminians when they deal with the consciences of sinners. The consequence is, that so far as a practical presentation of doctrine is concerned, they are Arminians if they are anything. To tell men that Christ died for all, and that this is the basis on which the call to all is founded, is to quit hold of all that is distinctive to the true gospel in order to command the sympathies of unrenewed hearts.

By such a form of doctrine many teach more than they intend. Its phrases suggest to many minds the idea of universal grace, and encourage them in a Christless hope. Any protest against universal grace which are mingled with a double reference and to different purposes for the cross can be easily separated. The two elements are so incongruous that they will not combine; and in the hands of unconverted men it is not difficult to tell which shall be removed.

It is impossible to account satisfactorily for the death of Christ, except by ascribing it to His bearing imputed sin, with a view to His making atonement for it. It is impossible to account for His being “made sin,” but by His substitution for a guilty people. But if men believe that Christ died for many whose sin He did not bear, whose surety He was not, and whose redemption he did not purchase, they are adrift on a current which will carry them down to Socinianism.

The Both/And/Not Arminian Gospel

March 24, 2012

Here’s my question for Piper, Keller, Carson, Ware, Driscoll, and
other young restless Reformed. Was Christ Punished Before Sins Were
Imputed to Him?

1. if Christ is made sin before our sins are imputed to Him, then with what sin is Christ made sin?

2. if Christ is already made sin before our sins are imputed to him,
then what’s the point of God then later imputing to Christ the sins of the elect?

John Piper (Taste and See) disagrees with Arminians for not teaching
that Christ died to purchase faith for the elect. But John Piper does
not disagree with Arminians about propitiation and substitution and
punishment. “If you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins.”

Piper’s gospel does not teach that Christ was already punished because of the imputed sins of the elect alone. It still only has a punishment in general, to be assigned later to those who believe.

Even though Piper does insist that Christ also died for the elect to
give them something extra that He will not be giving the non-elect, he fails to publicly tell lost unbelievers that Christ was
punished specifically for the imputed sins of the elect.

When Piper leaves that out (does he ever get to that truth even after with post-conversion folks in conferences they paid to get into?), his gospel will be heard as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being
punished (with the second death).

This both/and/not Arminian message makes the important taking away of
sins to be something other than the punishment of Christ. It makes the real reconciliation to be the Spirit Christ purchased giving people a new nature and then faith to believe, even if they happen to believe a message that says Christ died for every sinner.

The alternatives are to either claim that some of the people who have
never heard the gospel are sovereignly saved anyway, or to claim as
gospel the idea of punishment before any sins are imputed.

If we jump ahead to the things Christ has bought for believers, even
including their believing, without telling it straight about the
punishment of Christ specifically for the specific sins of the elect,
then we can easily tolerate a “gospel” which has no election or
imputation in its news.

If the death of Christ is not a result of God’s imputation of specific sins, then it is not the death of Christ which saves sinners. If the atonement is Christ purchasing faith to give elect sinners a portion in a general punishment, then the punishment of Christ is not ultimately what takes sins away.

Wittmer’s Response to Rob Bell–What Did Christ Really Do for Those Who Won’t be Saved?

November 14, 2011

Christ Alone, Edenridge Press, 2011 (preface by Michael Horton)

Among the Arminian “evangelical” answers to Rob Bell’s popular book Love Wins, Michael Wittmer’s Christ Alone was one of the better written and more focused reflections. Dr Wittmer has written several other books in recent years, not least Heaven is a Place on Earth. Wittmer probably would not describe himself as an Arminian, and might even think of himself as some kind of Calvinist. But his theology shows the false hope of any “gospel” which claims that Christ died for all sinners but then makes the salvation of sinners depend on something else besides Christ’s death.

Since I have already agreed that Wittmer would not think of himself as an Arminian, I want to keep that label on hold and have you hear Wittmer for yourself. On p 138, he summarizes: “We stand in God’s courtroom, guilty for Adam’s sin and for our own, awaiting God’s just sentence of condemnation. But before the sentence can be read, the Son of the Judge steps forward and announces that he wishes to be damned to hell in our place. Contrary to Bell, this Son is not rescuing us from his evil Father, for it was the Father who sent the Son to save us. Neither is this a bipolar God who loves unrepentant sinners while they are alive and then switches gears at their death…God is just, so he will punish those who die under his wrath. But he lovingly sent his Son to bear His wrath in their place.”

What should we say to this summary? Should we label Wittmer an Arminian for saying that the Son bore God’s wrath for those who will end up dying under God’s wrath? Should we ask why Michael Horton is endorsing this false Christ and this false gospel? Should we comfort ourselves at the fact that Wittmer is not a Barthian or an universalist, and that he teaches conversion, and a transition from wrath to God’s favor?

My response to Wittmer is very much the same as his to Bell. This is “not enough gospel”. (p146) If the cross does not add anything to the non-elect but more wrath, then for the non-elect the death of Christ is no gospel at all.

I wish Wittmer could hear his questions to Bell come back to himself. On p 147, Wittmer concludes: “if there is no looming threat of wrath and hell, then there is little for God to do except be generally kind to everyone.” I agree with this logic. Not even the elect are born safe, except in the decree of God. The wrath of God abides even on the elect until they are justified by means of Christ’s death. Even the elect need to hear and believe the gospel. But I want to think about that phrase “for God to do”.

What does God need to do? What has God done for those who are saved that God has not done for those who will not be saved? Since Wittmer is an “evangelical” and does not think of himself as an Arminian, he does not speak of what Christ has done for the elect and what Christ has not done for the non-elect. (Even though the Confessions to which Michael Horton subscribes speak of that difference, in his preaching that difference is given no attention.)

Evangelicals want to stick to what they can agree on. Sin and wrath are real. God really had to do something about this if anybody would “possibly” be saved. Whatever it was that Christ did was done for all sinners. This is why I am asking evangelicals like Wittmer to listen to themselves when they talk back to Rob Bell.

Listen: p146–“If the cross doesn’t add anything that we couldn’t already learn from Jesus’ life and ministry, and if Jesus’ words and deeds don’t tell us anything we couldn’t already learn from nature, then forcing Jesus to go to the cross seems to be a genuine case of divine child abus…The God of Love Wins (title of book by Rob Bell) doesn’t win because the stakes are so low that there is little for him to win.”

So what’s the difference between the God of Wittmer and the God of Rob Bell? First, since wrath is real, there is something to win and something to lose. Second, the God of Wittmer, who dies for all sinners, even those on whom God’s wrath will ultimately abide, does win some. And plus, on top of that, even the ones the God of Wittmer loses, God attempted to win, because Christ died for them.

Or as evangelical Lewis Sperry Chafer explained the message: Christ died for all their acts of sin, so they won’t die for any acts of sins, but many of them will die for their “attitude of sin”, since they thought they were too good to need what Christ did for them. Since they think they don’t need what Christ did for them, then Christ’s death won’t do anything for them.

Both Wittmer and Bell have pointed to the possibility of “divine child abuse”. Bell is Socinian enough to put grace in competition with justice, and to deny that there is any real forgiveness if Christ had to die for God to forgive. Wittmer is not a Socinian, and thus suggests that Bell’s Christ had no reason to die.

But what was the point of Christ dying for the non-elect? Wittmer is very clear that he thinks that Christ did die for everybody. Wittmer is very very clear that he thinks that not everybody will be saved. Even though Wittmer is not at all clear about elect and non-elect, he does not tell us the point of Christ dying for those who will not be saved.

What did Christ “really do”? If Christ died the same for those who will be saved as Christ died for those who won’t be saved, what in the end did Christ “really do” even for those who will be saved? Certainly Christ’s death was not decisive for salvation, but in what way does Wittmer think Christ really did anything for all sinners, as one step (needed along with others) to a rescue from His wrath?

If God was going to change the hearts of some sinners, and cause them to be born again, and that was going to save them, why was it necessary for God the Father to give the Son to die? If the Son dies to take away wrath for everybody, but the wrath is not taken away, what did the Son’s death “really do”?

Like most evangelicals, Wittmer has a “strings attached” gospel, a “however” gospel. Instead of telling the truth to everybody that God doesn’t love everybody, he thinks the responsibility of everybody depends on God having loved everybody and Christ having died for everybody.

I do not disagree with him about the need to preach the gospel to everybody. I do not disagree with him about the terrible condition of all sinners who do not hear and believe the gospel. I disagree with him about what the gospel is. Here’s his explanation (p138): “However, if we fallen creatures don’t accept God’s love, either because we think we are too good to go to hell or because we think God is too good to send us there, then we will learn too late, that our false assurance of safety is the very thing which has made us unsafe.”

No, Mr Wittmer, we were born unsafe, we started out lost, and the false Christ you preach has made nobody safe. The false Christ you preach is an idol, somebody you say really did “something” but that “something” depends on our attitude to make it work.

This is a yes and no complicated “bait and switch” gospel. You are not safe. But Jesus really needed to die for you all to make you all safe. And God loves you, and Jesus really died for you. But. Still you are not safe yet.

No wonder Rob Bell accuses the false god of evangelicalism with being one who changes from love to wrath when his love in unrequited. Yes, there is an objective legal transition from wrath to favor when God’s elect are justified and adopted in history, but God’s love for the elect had no beginning and God never loved the non-elect. But Wittmer promises everybody a deal, an offer: if we change our attitude and agree that God is right to have wrath toward us, and agree that we need Christ to die for us, then……what?

Either Christ already died for us or not. Wittmer is assuring us all that Christ already died for us all. And he wants to tell us that this death “really did something”. If we come knowing that we are sinners and needing to be saved, if we come with the right attitude, “then we will find that we have a merciful and holy God, an advocate who justly emptied all the wrath our sins deserved, but who in mercy poured it out upon himself.” (p138)

But what about if we don’t come with such a right attitude? What about if we come like Rob Bell comes? Well, Christ already died and His death already really did something. But we can’t say what that was. Even though God emptied all the wrath on the Son, still there seems to be some more wrath left for many for whom Christ died.

Now we could get philosophical about if this is the same wrath which was for our sins which was already emptied on Christ, or if it’s new wrath not about our acts of sins but our wrong attitude in what we do with what Christ did for us, but in any case, it’s still wrath and what did Christ’s death really do about it?

Surely Christ’s death was not to condemn anybody because, as Wittmer has explained, we all already started out condemned. Perhaps Wittmer would tell us that Christ did something extra for those who will be saved, that it had “multiple purposes”, and that it purchased the new birth for some. But in any case, we are left with the question of those who will not be saved. Wittmer is still an “evangelical” and so he is sure that Christ died and really did something for these folks. But what?

Romans 8:32–“He that spared not His own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.”

Did Christ’s Death Accomplish Something For Everybody?

May 19, 2011

Mark Driscoll and Bruce Ware and John Piper are fond of saying that they believe everything that “Jesus-loving Arminians” believe, and more! So they teach that the death of Jesus accomplished something for everybody, and then even more for the elect.

I have a simple question. What did Christ’s death really accomplish for those who perish? Did it make it so God could condemn them? No, they were already condemned. Did Christ’s death purchase the non-elect for Christ’s possession so Christ could be their Lord? No, Christ was and is already the Judge and Lord.

I have a simple answer to what is called the “both/and approach”. Christ’s death accomplished NOTHING for the non-elect. God never intended for Christ’s death to do anything for the non-elect.

But the Arminans who think they are Calvinists also still have a question. If no payment has been made for the sins of the non-elect, then how can God have genuinely desired the salvation of all the non-elect?

Here too I have a simple answer. God does not and has not ever desired the salvation of the non-elect. God has commanded us not to sin, and yet God has ordained that we shall sin. You can call this “two wills” if you want to, but it does not in any way show that God has desired the salvation of the non-elect.

Some of these same folks (Jonathan Edwards) who affirm what they call substitutionary atonement seem to think that a door has been opened for the elect that then allows God to do some other (more real) stuff for the elect.They seem to believe that any “imputation” by God is based on what God knows He will do (or has done) in the elect.

They say the “new creation” can’t be legal status. They call imputation “judicial role-play”.

I do not.

Hebrews 10:10 “We have been set apart through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.”
Hebrews 10:14 “By a single offering He has perfected for all TIME those who are being sanctified.”

God justifies and sanctifies the elect on the basis of Christ’s bloody death for the elect. This is parallel to the direct imputation of Adam’s sin. Romans 5:18 tell us that “ one trespass led to condemnation”. This does not mean “opened the door for the possibility of condemnation” .