Egalitarianism & The Atonement

Evangelicals, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics alike all hold to a universal atonement wherein God does not discriminate in His intent concerning the Atonement. The thinking of such denominations is that the death of Christ is the same, potentially, for everybody. We might call this doctrine soteriological egalitarianism.

Of course, in our own culture egalitarianism is the idea both that there should be equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. As such, our cultural egalitarianism is really not about equality but about sameness. In the end everyone must be the same. Discrimination is seen as inherently evil and everybody must be treated the same.

In Evangelical, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic doctrines of hypothetical universalism we find a similar type of egalitarianism. We are told by these folks that Christ died for everybody and therefore everybody has the same equality of opportunity. For these folks it is sin to say that God discriminates in terms of opportunity though it is perfectly acceptable to say that it is man who discriminates in terms of God’s offer. Some men discriminate to accept the equal opportunity and some men don’t. Man can discriminate against God but God is not allowed to discriminate in terms of man. God must provide an atonement that is egalitarian in opportunity or He is not fair.

One wonders if the egalitarianism we see in our culture didn’t first begin with this kind of nonsensical egalitarianism in the Church as the Church turned away from the doctrine of Limited Damnation. If Theology remains the queen of the Sciences one must wonder if soteriological egalitarianism became the gateway through which egalitarianism in economics, politics, gender relations, and sociology came to the fore.

Obviously, in the Atonement God does discriminate. For reasons, known only to Him, God discriminated between the elect and the reprobate. Jacob God loved, but Esau God hated. God did not and does not treat all people the same.

And neither should we. Not all people are equally qualified for different tasks and there is nothing evil in discriminating against people who do not have giftedness or talents in certain areas.

There is nothing unbiblical in insisting that egalitarianism is wrong while discrimination for biblical reasons is right. God discriminated in the intent of the atonement and that discrimination was righteous. When we discriminate based on righteous reasons we are being God like in our actions.

So, insisting that Christ’s death applies equally to everyone may very well be the root of all other egalitarianisms that we are now plagued with. The atonement of Christ is not egalitarian. Everyone is not equal in Christ death. God discriminated for reasons known only to Himself, to have Christ die only for the Elect.

Can it be that Hypothetical Universalism is the mother load from where all other egalitarianism stems? Can it be that it is not a form of theological Marxism to make everyone equal and the same in the intent of the Atonement?

Ideas have consequences and I’m wondering if the teaching of evangelicals in terms of their soteriological egalitarianism wherein God is not allowed to discriminate is the mother spring from which our current egalitarianism water flows. Theology gets into everything. If we are going to be egalitarian in our doctrine of the atonement you can look for that egalitarianism to show in our social order.

Ideas have consequences.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling.

I am postmillennial in my eschatology.
Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity
Reformed in my Soteriology
Presuppositional in my apologetics
Kinist in my family theology
Agrarian in my regional community social order belief
Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief
Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic
Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern
Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview
One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics
Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place

Some of my favorite authors,

Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc.

My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture .

Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

15 thoughts on “Egalitarianism & The Atonement”

  1. The Contrapuntal Distinction Between Luther and Calvin (And Calvin’s Symbiotic Twins, Rome and the Arminians)

    The primary distinction between Calvin’s religion and Luther’s can be seen very simply.

    Luther would say, “Where there is forgiveness, there is salvation and life.”

    Calvin would say, “Where there is salvation and life, there is forgiveness.”

    OR

    Luther would say, “Being in Christ is the result of believing the justification that already exists.”

    Calvin would say, “Justification is the result or the effect of being in Christ.

    Calvinism merely moves the infusion of grace of the Roman Catholic sacramental model (ex opere operato) to an immediate non-sacramental moment of conversion (as well as post conversion experience) that works on the hearts of some but not others. It is, nonetheless, an infusion of grace or power into the person, who then chooses or believes..

    The Roman church presumes grace to be infused through the sacraments. Arminians assume an innate ‘grace’ or operating mechanism within a person which allows him to choose, even before hearing the word and without sacraments. This is just another way to describe infused grace or the ability to choose. Calvin makes the ‘infused grace’ come immediately, without the Word or sacraments by a secret operation of the Spirit.

    A key component of all three of these theological systems (Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Arminian) is that an infused power or ability somewhere, somehow is given, or exists within, so that a person may then choose or believe and remain in the faith. The consequence is that Christianity becomes a religion of moral improvement. The problem of sin becomes primarily the need for humans to overcome it, to become more moral. Forgiveness is, at best, tangential to the main work of getting better.

    Luther’s view is strikingly different. His approach to the Christian religion is permeated with forgiveness. The two men, Calvin and Luther understood the kingdom of heaven in distinct ways. For Calvin it is mostly a kingdom of moral improvement. For Luther it is a kingdom chock full of forgiveness of sin. For Luther grace is not some power whereby improvement is attainable. Rather, grace is the utter, absolute, objective forgiveness of sin. This forgiveness already IS, so that it will be believed.. One does not need to believe it in order to make it true.

    This distinction becomes apparent in the approach of sinners toward their sin. What is the essential problem of sin? Is it the need to overcome it? Or to have it forgiven? The difference in these two questions is stark and goes to the heart of where the problem lies.

    Thus, for Luther the sacraments become the assurance that God has forgiven him, and us. This is why he could say with confidence that the sacrament IS the gospel.

  2. Of course you don’t agree with me.

    The problem with limiting the atonement is that it puts the stake in the heart of having assurance that forgiveness of sins extends to you or to me. It drives to introspection (the dreaded incurvatus in se) and away from scripture alone. Relying on one’s inner qualities (faith, good works, improved morality) renders faith in Christ, on the bare word of the gospel alone, impossible.

    1. Let me guess. You’re a Lutheran Bruce.

      Here’s hoping to I can be used to aid your awakening.

      Limited Atonement no more puts a stake in the issue of assurance then drawing an absolute antithesis between law and gospel puts meaning in the Scriptures.

      Why would the Calvinists morbidly introspect? (And lets keep in mind that Lutherans, with their pietism, had plenty of navel gazing introspection in their history.) Calvinists teach that assurance comes from looking outside ourselves to Christ alone.

      Westminster confession,

      This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope;[5] but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation…

      Here we see the WCF explicitly teaching Christians to look outside of themselves to Christ as found in the Scriptures in order to gain assurance.

      As a Biblical Christian and a Minister I constantly tell the people I serve to look outside themselves to Christ in Word and Sacrament for assurance, though I don’t exclude the necessity of telling them to make the calling and election sure.

      Please come back when you you’re not making wild guesses about what Biblical Christians believe.

      1. Yep. Lutheran here.

        I quite agree with you that we should look outside ourselves to Christ. I will look to the Christ who died for me according to scripture, and you can look to the Christ who might have died for you. In the end we’ll both be saved because that Christ did die for us. “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

        I subscribe to the Book of Concord. I think that makes me a biblical Christian.

        I guess the reason I commented here is that you classify Lutherans as universalists and with Catholics, and my little screed points out adequately that when it comes to infusion of grace, we stand apart and quite alone, it would seem.

      2. 1.) Christ did die for me. I know this because I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart. Your reasoning in no way follows Bruce. Can we say “Strawman?”

        2.) See the Iron Ink article on “the world.” See also John 10.

        3.) Book of Concord. I have one also. I use it as a doorstop.

        4.) Lutherans, Arminians and RC all believe Hypothetical Universalism — Christ dies for all men. After that is conceded the rest is mere quibbling.

        The Lutheran says he knows Christ dies for him because the Scripture tells him. But the Scripture also tell the Christ hater that Christ died for him and so the Christ hater can have the same assurance as the Lutheran.

  3. The primary distinction between Calvin’s religion and Luther’s can be seen very simply.

    Then you won’t have to try too much harder to sort it out.

    Luther would say, “Being in Christ is the result of believing the justification that already exists.”

    And Luther would be wrong. Justification is forensic and a work that is entirely extra nos. It was accomplished at the cross by Christ alone in the shedding of his blood. One is not justified by anything they do, including believing.

    Calvin would say, “Justification is the result or the effect of being in Christ.

    No he wouldn’t. Justification which is Solus Christos is a work that antecedent to all of the subsequent redemptive benefits of the work of Christ. Justification is a sufficient and necessary pre-condition to the Union Christi but it is temporally prior to that union.

    Calvinism merely moves the infusion of grace of the Roman Catholic sacramental model (ex opere operato) to an immediate non-sacramental moment of conversion (as well as post conversion experience) that works on the hearts of some but not others. It is, nonetheless, an infusion of grace or power into the person, who then chooses or believes.

    There is no “infusion of grace” in Reformed theology whatever you think that means. There is, if one believes the Word, the work of regeneration that occurs prior to conversion if one is speaking of conversion in a strictly cognitive sense. The new birth is prior to one’s assent to the truth of the Gospel.

    Calvin makes the ‘infused grace’ come immediately, without the Word or sacraments by a secret operation of the Spirit.

    Calvin, like anyone who understands the depravity of the human soul, understood–as Paul understood–that the natural man is incapable of receiving anything of the Spirit. Ergo regeneration, the new birth, life, is and must be antecedent to an understanding of the Word. And there is nothing secret about it. It is the Lutheran who, like the papist, insists on some mysterious regenerative power in the waters of baptism. The Lutheran, in spite of all his attempts to cut himself away from Rome, is Roman to the core.

    A key component of all three of these theological systems (Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Arminian) is that an infused power or ability somewhere, somehow is given, or exists within, so that a person may then choose or believe and remain in the faith.

    That is simply stupid. Anyone even vaguely familiar with Reformed theology knows that a central tenet is simply that regeneration is antecedent to any cognitive involvement on the part of the sinner.

    The consequence is that Christianity becomes a religion of moral improvement. The problem of sin becomes primarily the need for humans to overcome it, to become more moral. Forgiveness is, at best, tangential to the main work of getting better.

    LOL. But life in Christ is one of moral improvement. It cannot NOT be since one who is “in Christ” has been born of his Spirit. A tree is known by its fruit. If you love Me you will keep My commandments. Make your calling and election sure. Obviously then, for you and your form of Lutheranism (since you’re confused about Reformed theology one wonders if you know anything about Concord either) there is nothing but forgiveness. You’ve implied that overcoming sin is not only not a focus of the faith but not even possible. The new birth; the Unio Christi; the new creation that is the Christian; progressive sanctification; increasing holiness of life; the command to walk in a manner worthy of your calling is all meaningless to the Lutheran who remains an unchanged scum bag who just happens to be forgiven for being one. A fact that is made perfectly clear in the foolishness that follows.

    “Luther’s view is strikingly different. His approach to the Christian religion is permeated with forgiveness. For Luther it is a kingdom chock full of forgiveness of sin. For Luther grace is not some power whereby improvement is attainable.”

    Exactly. For the Lutheran there is forgiveness from the punitive effects of sin, but there is no deliverance from it. The Lutheran is above all an antinomian who is content to live a life totally alien to the life of Christ in us. You are the reason why 2 kingdom theology has infected the church. It is you and your kind that that eschew the Christian responsibility to tear down strongholds and to subdue the world for Christ. No indeed, there is no power over sin in one’s life, there is only forgiveness–as long as one is receiving the sacraments I suppose. Apathetic, useless, satisfied with white washed depravity, a wimp Christianity. Treason is a better word.

    What is the essential problem of sin? Is it the need to overcome it? Or to have it forgiven?

    False dichotomy you treasonous moron. It is both. First the one and then the other. Rom 5:10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, [justification-forgiveness] much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” And that would be his life in us. Forgiveness came at Calvary. Deliverance at Pentecost. But you know nothing of it. There is no victory over sin for you. There is no sanctifying work subsequent to your “baptism”. There is only the rote “Word and Sacrament” which does nothing but affirm that one is a powerless scum bag–albeit a forgiven one. What a useless Christianity.

  4. Mark,

    I would happily respond to you point by point, but jetbrane does not necessarily publish comments that cut to the bone.

    Just know that your remarks, as his remarks prove exactly what I wrote. Example: read you comments on the word ‘forensic’ and then look it up in a dictionary.

    1. You can be sure that when I come across a comment that “cuts to the bone” I will post it.

      Silly comments that are irrelevant however may be skipped over without notice.

  5. Justification is God’s wholly objective, wholly forensic judgement concerning the sinner’s standing before the law, by which forensic judgement God declares that the sinner is righteous in his sight because of the imputation of his sin to Christ, on which ground he is pardoned, and the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience to him, on which ground he is constituted righteous before God.

    In other words justification is an objective work of a legal nature whereby one, in the place of another, satisfied the penal stipulation attached to the transgression of the law. Col 2: 13-14

    Q.E.D.

  6. And where does God forensically declare this justification to you?

    Which has what to do with the extent of the atonement Bruce? I know you’re a Lutheran but try staying on topic.

  7. Oh Bruce you can’t change the subject just because you haven’t an answer for the real one. The topic is, and I quote, “soteriological egalitarianism” brought about by the ridiculously idiotic idea of hypothetical universalism. It’s OK Brucie, you’re not alone. There are lots of Melanchthonians in the same boat.

  8. “Man can discriminate against God but God is not allowed to discriminate in terms of man.”

    I found this particularly interesting. It speaks of how our mind understands what God can and cannot do. I think it is an honest assessment of how, and here is where I guess a little, you or someone you know used to think. When framed against a stark relief of an unforgiving backdrop, such as the paragraph it’s contained in, one cannot help but be enlightened as to its failure as a system of thought. Perhaps I’m not saying enough to be understood, but I just wanted to comment. Thank you.

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