Alienism and Particular Atonement

Our current Alienist problem in the Western Calvinist Churches is a reflection of the decline of genuine Reformed soteriology. Biblical and Historical Calvinism has always advocated for limited damnation (particular redemption), where Christ is put forth as a sacrifice for only His people.

In the Reformed (Biblical) understanding God’s chief passion is Himself. In the Reformed (Biblical) understanding God does all He does for His own interest. He pursues His own interests and in the context of particular redemption this means He willfully limits His affections to His people.

Reformed folk understood that this had implications. As God’s love was particular so Reformed folk refused the idea of “the Brotherhood of all men.” If God restricts His love so that it is particular so man’s love can be particular as well. In other words, God’s love for His own is a communicable attribute.

If God does not restrict His love so that He loves all men indiscriminately then men must be pluralists and love all men indiscriminately. This is the destruction of family, clan, and nations and the embrace of universal love.

The connection here is that as Calvinists become weak on Limited Damnation they become strong on the Liberal Doctrines of the “Fatherhood of God over all men,” and “the Brotherhood of all men.”

Ask the Pastor — What of John Donne’s Divine Ravishing?

Dear Pastor,

I wonder what you think of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 14, “Batter My Heart.” ? It ends with a rape of the soul. But he links it to chastity. The paradox is present.

Jayson Grieser
Donne’s couplet in question,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
I think one has to understand the points of perspective in order to dissolve the paradox. We, as humans, will always be ravished either by God or by the devil. As such, it is never a matter of being “ravished” or “not being ravished,” it is always only a matter of “ravished by whom.”

I think what Donne is getting at is akin to Luther’s prose in his, “On the Bondage of the Will,”

“Man is like a horse. Does God leap into the saddle? The horse is obedient and accommodates itself to every movement of the rider and goes whither he wills it. Does God throw down the reins? Then Satan leaps upon the back of the animal, which bends, goes and submits to the spurs and caprices of its new rider.”
So, man is always a ravished being, just as man is always a rode being. If we are ravished by the devil it is a ravishing unto corruption. If we are ravished by God it is a ravishing unto chasteness and purity. Man, having no free will, will thus only be a ravished being. Either we will be ravished unto purity by God or we will be ravished unto impurity by the Dragon.
Donne uses the “ravished” language but in my estimation he is using the language from Lucifer’s perspective when he uses that language. If he were to speak from God’s perspective he would have written instead something like,
Except you possess me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you keep me.
But that doesn’t make for as good poetry. I hope that helps.
Thank you for stopping by Jayson and thanks for a thoughtful question.


The Centrality of the Cross

The words “flesh” and “blood” used here in John 6 of course point to the cross, where Jesus’ flesh will be broken and his blood will be spilled, Jesus associates the separation of his flesh and blood in his violent death on the cross as the moment when He will totally give his whole self for the life of the world.

Texts like this remind us that the center of the Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ is our Great High Priest who as our King is a warrior Priest. Our whole existence and being means nothing apart from the death of Christ for sinners such as us.

Apart from the death of Christ the only way to deal with sin is to deny it and the only way to deal with guilt is to pawn it off on every poor unsuspecting soul we come across.

Apart from the death of Christ, right and wrong are, at best, merely agreed upon subjective conventions. However with the death of Christ God’s law is vindicated and so God’s definition of right and wrong are honored and are anchored as the Universal standard of right and wrong for all men.

Apart from the death of Christ good and bad are determined by those who have the most and biggest guns. With the death of Christ good and bad have meaning that transcend men’s ability to have their way by force. With the death of Christ justice, as found in and defined by God’s good, is one day guaranteed, even if that day is the last day.

The death of Christ is the anchor of the universe and were it to ever go into eclipse — a certain impossibility — men would become the psychotic animals too many of them already are due to their defiance against God and His Christ. It is only the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ that provides for the flowering of a human flourishing that is resolved on finding joy and meaning in bringing glory to God.

The death and resurrection of Christ is and always shall remain the truth that vindicates God and insures the manishness of man.

How would you refute Dr. Landon Jackson? Or would you?

Recently a third party known to all involved wrote to our mutual friend what we find below. How would you respond?

The well meant or free offer of the Gospel has long been a debated point among Reformed Churches and to date those who champion the “free offer of the Gospel” have, for the most part, won out in the contemporary Reformed Church.  The well meant or free offer of the Gospel teaches that God offers the Gospel to be accepted by those He has ordained, from eternity past, to be passed by in terms of salvation. Those Reformed who have opposed the well meant or free offer of the  Gospel have done so on the basis of its contradictory nature. They have noted the inconsistency in saying that God offers the reprobate to saved all the while having determined that they are vessels created for wrath.

The opposition to the well meant or free offer of the Gospel is not the same as opposition to the General call that finds all men everywhere being commanded to repent. One can deny the well meant offer of the Gospel and still be a passionate evangelist.

The dangers of the well meant offer of the Gospel is not only found in its contradictory nature but also in what it potentially works on those who hold to it. Those who hold to the well meant (free) offer of the Gospel run the danger of being so earnest about seeing souls saved that they will define down law so impoverishing gospel in order to make it easier for people to enter into the Kingdom. If God really intends for those He has determined to pass by to have a bonafide opportunity to accept the Gospel, so the reasoning goes, then we must do everything in our power to remove every obstacle. What eventually begins to happen is that the obstacles of the legitimate demands of the Law are removed so that people can more easily accept the offer of what is now a non Gospel, “Gospel.” God has a well meant offer of the Gospel for everyone, elect and reprobate alike, therefore we must make sure that nothing gets in the way of that well meant offer — even the truth.

Next, we must think through the implications of the Free offer of the Gospel. If we posit that there is, on God’s part a universal desire to save all in some sense based upon an intrinsic reluctance in God to bring wrath to bear on humans, then that same reluctance exists to have brought the wrath to bear on Christ the human. This would give us then a universal reluctance, on the Father’s part to save any. If the free offer of the gospel is predicated on this universal reluctance to punish then we likewise must posit a universal retraction of the gospel.

Dr. Landon Jackson

The Heidelberg Catechism & The Duration Of Christ’s Suffering

Recently a ministerial colleague expressed his disagreement with the Heidelberg catechism at a particular point at Lord’s Day 15. Lord’s Day 15, Q, 37 states,

Q. 37. What dost thou understand by the words, “He suffered”?

A. That he, all the time that he lived on earth, but especially at the end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind: (a)

that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice, (b)

he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, (c)

and obtain for us the favour of God, righteousness and eternal life. (d)

The point of disagreement of my colleague was that he did not believe that Christ, during the time he lived on earth, sustained the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind. My minister friend quite agreed that Christ sustained God’s wrath while on the cross but he did not agree that Christ sustained God’s wrath while living.

The text that the catechism cites for this is Isaiah 53:4

Surely, he hath born our infirmities, and carried [f]our sorrows, yet we did judge him as [g]plagued and smitten of God, and humbled.

Obviously Urisunus and Olevanius interpreted this Isaiah passage to mean that he (Christ) bore our infirmities and carried our sorrow while living as well as dying. (They present other texts [I Peter 2:24, 3:18, I Timothy 2:6] to support Christ sustaining the wrath of the Father on the cross.) However the Isaiah text doesn’t explicitly say that and so I can understand why my friend might interpret the Isaiah passage as a prophecy of Christ’s burden bearing on the Cross.

However, I am of the persuasion that Isaiah is rightly interpreted as pointing to the wrath bearing of Christ during his sojourn on earth.

We must keep in mind the Christ was a public person. All orthodox Reformed people agree that in and of Himself the Lord Christ was perfect and without sin so that in and of Himself the Father could only be pleased with Him. We must keep in mind though our Reformed Federal Theology, and its attendant legal-judicial categories. Christ was a public person who was standing in as a representative for Adam and his descendants. As a public person, and the Representative of God’s elect, the Father’s disposition towards the public person and representative was the same as his disposition towards those who the Representative public person was representing. Christ represented the elect of Adam’s fallen race and as God’s wrath was upon Adam’s fallen race, the Father’s wrath was upon the Son during his whole time on earth, just as the Catechism teaches. The Lord Christ suffered during His whole time on earth and bore God’s wrath even when not on the cross because He was, before God, judicially speaking, the sinners for which He was a public person. This is basic Federal Theology.

Another issue that should be dealt with here is the phrase, (that Christ) “sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind.”

First off we should note that this can not be teaching either a Hypothetical Universalism nor a blanket Universalism. We know this because of what the Catechism explicitly says elsewhere earlier in the document where we find Limited atonement as implicit in the Heidelberg text. Keep in view that the pronouns are always pointing to a particular people.

Q.) 20. Are all men then saved by Christ as they perished in Adam?

A.) No, only those who by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.1

1 John 1:12,13. I Corinthians 15:22. Psalm 2:12. Romans 11:20. Hebrews 4:2,3. Hebrews 10:39
And in 29 and 30 and 31:

Q.) 29. Why is the Son of God called JESUS, that is, Savior?1

A.) Because He saves us from our sins,1 and because salvation is not to be sought or found in any other.2

1Matthew 1:21. Hebrews 7:25 / 2 Acts 4:12. * Luke 2:10,11.

Q.) 30. Do those also believe in the only Savior Jesus, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?

No, although they make their boast of Him, yet in deeds they deny the only Savior Jesus,1 for either Jesus is not a complete Savior, or they who by true faith receive this Savior, must have in Him all that is necessary to their salvation.2

1 I Corinthians 1:13. I Corinthians 1:30,31. Galatians 5:4
2 Isaiah 9:7. Colossians 1:20. Colossians 2:10. John 1:16. * Matthew 23.28.

Q.) 31. Why is He called Christ, that is Anointed?

A.) Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit 1 to be our chief Prophet and Teacher,2 who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption;3 and our only High Priest,4 who by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us, and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father;5 and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.6

1 Hebrews 1:9 / 2 Deuteronomy 18:15. Acts 3:22. /3 John 1:18. John 15:15 / 4 Psalm 110:4 Hebrews 7:21 /
5 Romans 5:9,10 / 6 Psalm 2:6. Luke 1:33. Matthew 28:18. * Isaiah 61:1,2. * I Peter 2:24. * Revelation 19:16.

The Catechism should be read in such a way so that what precedes earlier in the Catechism informs what comes later in the Catechism. Given the presence of all this implicit limited atonement type language earlier in the Catechism it would not make sense that suddenly in question 37 Ursinus and Olevanius suddenly start speaking as if they are Arminians on the doctrine of the atonement.

Secondly, on this score, one can reference Ursinus’ commentary on question & answer 37 and read,

“Obj. 4. If Christ made satisfaction for all, then all ought to be saved. But all are not saved. Therefore, he did not make a perfect satisfaction.

Ans. Christ satisfied for all, as it respects the sufficiency of the satisfaction which he made, but not as it respects the application thereof . . .”

The Commentary of Dr. Zacharius Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism,– p. 215

Here it is clear that the Heidelberg is not holding to a Arminian Hypothetical Universalism where in Christ’s death makes salvation only possible for each and every individual. Ursinus is articulating the idea that Christ’s death was sufficient for mankind but efficient for only the elect since only the elect would have the benefits of Christ applied to them.