Thumbnail Sketch of the Governmental Theory of the Atonement

For a great many Evangelicals, the Cross of Christ is not an objective, vicarious substitution but a public declaration of divine justice designed to stimulate sinners to choose to follow God. This is called the Governmental theory of the Atonement. In this theory the Father punishes the Son on the Cross NOT as a substitute paying for the designated penalty of a designated elect. Rather the Father is using the Son’s death as a cosmic public demonstration to all sinners everywhere at all times that justice for sin and disobedience has been paid in the abstract. Not for any one concrete individual or any concrete group (Church) but only in the abstract.

Now, that God has made this public declaration of abstract justice “whosoever” is welcome to return to God if they will. Preaching thus becomes a explanation of why Christ was such a victim of the Father and how feeling sorry for Christ should be a motivator for their repentance. This is where the pitiful sentimental pietistic Preaching comes from that so often happens in our pulpits today. God is not commanding all men everywhere to repent. Instead, Jesus is “softly and tenderly calling, calling for you and for me.”

Note in all this man remains sovereign in his salvation. God has provided an abstract justice but it is up to man to decide whether or not he’ll feel sorry enough for poor poor Jesus hanging on the Cross, punished by the Father, to actually choose him to be the sinners savior.

Of course this model still suffers from implicit Universalism. If the Father really has punished sin in the abstract then even the sin of unbelief in what the Father has done has already been punished in Christ and so the unbeliever in Christ is already saved since justice for sin, unbelief and disobedience has been demonstrated.

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