Friday, August 03, 2007

Alabama Baptist Stories on Calvinism

As I mentioned in my previous post, Bob Terry, editor of the Alabama Baptist, has published 6 articles by Dr. James Leo Garrett on Calvinim. The articles are now available online. I am linking to them so that they may be more widely accessible to those outside of Alabama.

My quick prereading of them suggests that they are indeed marked by Dr. Garrett's scholarly precision when it comes to research, affirmations and conclusions. He typically nuances his statements very carefully so as not to misrepresent a person or position. I greatly appreciate that, even though I had to read a couple of sentences more than once to make sure that he was not actually saying what the drift of his argument seems to suggest. For example, note carefully what these two sentences say:
A third meaning, no longer in common use, takes Calvinism to be the professed teaching of certain 18th-century English Congregationalists and Particular Baptists, a group believing that only the "elect" could be saved. These teachings we now properly label "Hyper-Calvinism."
Is Dr. Garrett suggesting that the 18th century Particular Baptists were guilty of Hyper-Calvinism? One could easily get that impression. Though, what he actually--and very carefully--said is that some take Calvinism to be the "professed" teaching of "certain" Particular Baptists. That is certainly true, though it is equally true that not all Particular Baptists--all of whom believed that only the elect will be saved--were guilty of Hyper-Calvinism.

Dr. Garrett is writing at the invitation of the Alabama Baptist. He has obviously been made aware of certain scenarios where Calvinism has been cited as an issue in church problems and disruptions in the state. Some of his descriptions of such problems seem to be pointed to specific cases, though, unless I missed it, he does not refer to any such case by name or location.

I intend to interact with some of his points next week, as I have time. For now let me simply make a few general observations. First, I reiterate my encouragement to see a state Baptist newspaper taking up an important theological issue in such a significant way. Six articles by a respected and capable theologian on an important doctrinal issue is to be applauded.

Second, Dr. Garrett's historical treatment of men and movements is trustworthy. He is not a Calvinist. In fact, if I am accurately remembering conversations from years ago, he has serious problems with certain aspects of Calvinism. Yet, he is a Christian scholar who seeks to represent any subject he treats accurately and fairly. I anticipate nothing less from these articles.

Third, I already recognize one significant disagreement I have with the methodology informing Dr. Garrett's reasoning when he examines the fruit of the revival of Calvinism in the SBC. There seem to be certain unwarranted assumptions about the nature of the churches he envisions being detrimentally effected by Calvinistic ministries. I will try to address this in my interaction with his writings next week.

Until then, here are the articles.

A question facing Baptist churches

Calvinism: What does it mean?

Does Dortian Calvinism have weight of Scripture in its favor?

Have Baptists always been Dortian Calvinists in their confessions of faith?

How prominent Baptists stack up

What are the alternatives to Dortian Calvinism?


Malcolm Yarnell said...

Dr. Garrett's articles on Calvinism are the most thorough and balanced to date, having been written from a biblical and evangelistic perspective in a truly Baptist context. I thank the Lord that he is a treasure to which Southwestern Seminary may rightly lay claim.

Danan Leab said...

I find it harder to chime in with praise for the "balance" of these articles. Consider the conclusion of "Does Dortian Calvinism have weight of Scripture in its favor?"

This would certainly seem to be a key article, since it seemingly will search Scripture to see if the doctrines of grace can be gleaned from them.

Now we read:

"In summary, we may conclude several things. First, that significant biblical support can be gathered for general atonement and for repentance and faith as being human duties. Also that irresistible grace rests on a differentiation of external call and internal call that obscures the resistance to the external call. It is also clear that unconditional election of individuals may obscure the collective meaning of an elect people and setting an exact number for the elect can be misused."

Is this really considered "balanced"?

Stephen Newell said...

I found these articles to be generally helpful in bringing out definitions, but unfortunately they seem as a whole to further cloud and confuse the issues. More clarity is needed, especially for those who may be studying these issues for the first time.

GUNNY said...

I'll try to scope them out, but this concerns me:

These teachings we now properly label "Hyper-Calvinism."

True, that is what they are labeled, but improperly so. That seems a pretty significant mistake in presentation.

He should have said, "Today, folks call this 'Hyper-Calvinism,' but it's not. It's just sweet, clean Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism is tomfoolery." (no offense intended toward our "Tom")

Will said...

Are we reading the some articles?

"A third meaning, no longer in common use, takes Calvinism to be the professed teaching of certain 18th-century English Congregationalists and Particular Baptists, a group believing that only the "elect" could be saved. These teachings we now properly label "Hyper-Calvinism." Five distinctive teachings of Hyper-Calvinism can be identified:

- God's decree from eternity to elect some human beings for salvation and reprobate (or eternally damn) others as being logically the first of God's decrees (a teaching known as supralapsarianism);

- an eternal covenant among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the redemption of elect humans through the Son (covenant of redemption);

- the eternal justification of the elect without the requisite faith on the part of the elect in history (eternal justification);

- the discouragement of the preacher's "offering of grace" indiscriminately to his hearers (no offers of grace) and

- Christians as not obligated to obey the moral law of the Old Testament (antinomianism).

This is Balanced? This is the accepted definition of hyper-Calvinism? i believe by one or more these your are now a hyper.

Forgive me, but I think this only clouds and discourages intelligent discussion.
Cedar Hill tx

GeneMBridges said...

I appreciate Dr. Garrett, but in all honesty, there are some problems in this series.

Dr. Garrett says these are distinctives of hyper-Calvinism.

God's decree from eternity to elect some human beings for salvation and reprobate (or eternally damn) others as being logically the first of God's decrees (a teaching known as supralapsarianism);

This is actually irrelevant to hyper-Calvinism. Supras and infras believe in the doctrines of grace for the same reasons. On occasion, critics of Calvinism will accuse supralapsarians of being hyper-Calvinists. Historically, this is untrue. John Bunyan was a supralapsarian. The infra/supra debate is irrelevant to the error of hyper-Calvinism. Infralapsarians believe in reprobation, double predestination, special redemption and spiritual inability right along with the supralapsarians, so the logic of the hypers is the same under either the infra or supra view.

All hypers are supra, but not all supras are hypers. Therefore, supralapsarianism is NOT a hyperCalvinist distinctive any more than paedobaptism is a Roman Catholic distinctive.

- an eternal covenant among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the redemption of elect humans through the Son (covenant of redemption);

This is true of nearly all the covenantal theologies of that period within the Reformed tradition. Ergo, it is also irrelevant to hyper-Calvinism. It is not a hyper-Calvinist distinctive.

- the eternal justification of the elect without the requisite faith on the part of the elect in history (eternal justification);

- the discouragement of the preacher's "offering of grace" indiscriminately to his hearers (no offers of grace) and

- Christians as not obligated to obey the moral law of the Old Testament (antinomianism).

I'll take these in reverse order:

3. This is not unique to hyper-Calvinism today but it is part of that of the past; it can be leveled at classical dispenstionalism today. It can also be leveled at some sorts of Lutheranism in those centuries with its sharp law/grace division. It is true that many hypers used the lack of a "warrant to believe" to license antinominanism. Dr. Garrett is leaving all of this out.

2. This equivocates over the meaning of "offer of grace" and "offer of salvation." Hypers varied over this terminology in that century. One has to sort this out.

In addition, Scripture calls the "offer" variously a command, a gift, and several other terms. While his historical details are correct, they are improperly nuanced. In fact, I see a tendency here to emphasize one label (offer) over and against others. We should not neglect the total witness of the text.

1. This is true of hyper-Calvinism, of this time, so really, he's not given us any distinctives except for one, possibly a couple more. What he's given us are some descriptions but not many distinctives.

What is missing here in his analysis is the collapsing of the decrees. (And this is precisely while talking about supralapsarianism is irrelevant, as is the covenant of redemption).

The Covenant of grace not the covenant of redemption is the issue here.

Hypers collapsed all the decrees into one, which led them to posit their doctrine of eternal justification. They collapsed ontology and teleology, a major category error.

Eternal justification says basically that since God is timeless, there is not a time in which we are not "justified" and that consequently, conversion is discovering that we are already justified. It attempts to deduce justification as conversion from the ontological order, but that's a big problem.

For starters, God does have a concept of cause and effect in that logic is an attribute of God's mind. He does understand that in order for x to occur as a concrete instance of what is in his mind, y must come to pass. It's an ends-means relation. We understand cause and effect and the antecedence of x to y; ergo God does too, or else we have no ground for the logical process. God also grounds the passage of time in His creation. His own Word recognizes that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. The very terms "in the beginning" and "before the foundaton of the world," are about a cause-effect relation and a temporal relation. God does exist outside of time, but that also means He orders and grounds time.

Likewise, you're conflating ontology and teleology. The timeless of God does not mean there is no teleological order to His attributes or the working of His mind. Ontologically, God is unaffected by relational sequence as to His person, but He is conscious of sequential duration, because sequential duration is a part of the ordering of his decree. We know this because we have a sense of past, present, and future that, because it exists and will exist, is grounded by His mind. For God, all of these are internally intuited and not arrived at chronologically through a process, but the concept or idea of durational sequence or succession is a distinct epistemological, not ontological category. God knows all our thoughts and actions in the past, present, and future,and at the same time knows His own thoughts and actions in relation to each other and to our own and in what order. Thus, He can inspire Paul to say, "He chose before He created." He knows that He created the sea and dry land before He created birds and fish and animals and man. Likewise, He (and we) can differentiate the sequential difference between the time we were under God's wrath and the time we were justified.

I might add that this is also an argument that non-Calvinists sometimes trot out themselves, as in the case of Dr. Norman Geisler, which, if you ask me tell us something about the internal logic of hyper-Calvinism and the functional Arminian theology.

This is a problem.

Further, when applied to the covenant of grace, they used this to question what it meant to say that grace in the covenant (and thus the covenant of grace itself) is unconditional. They failed to draw a distinction between unconditionality with respect to merit, and unconditionality with respect to instrumentality. Turretin answered this soundly. We affirm the former, but not the latter with respect to justification and thus the covenant. Dr. Garrett did not draw this distinction either.

I also can't help but notice that he speaks of "Dortian" Calvinism. Here we have, as I pointed out to Dr. Yarnell on SBC Outpost many months ago I might add, another assertion of history without interaction with recent historical writing on this subject. If one would like to draw a distinction between the Calvinism of Dort and that which went before, that's a historical judgment that has been challenged over the past several decades by men like Klauber, Clark, Trueman, Muller, Campi, and many others. Instead, what we continue to get from the halls of SWBTS is a repetition of the older historical scholarship without any interaction with the work coming from places like Westminster Seminary in CA. It would help them to interact with their material. In fact, I'd like to see them debate some these points of history in a point/counterpoint fashion. That would be true "balance."

Those not committed to Dortian Calvinism do not have to prove that repentance and faith are in no sense the gift of God. They only have to prove that repentance and faith are also duties or obligations resting on human beings.

Er, no, they must do more than this, for those following the Synod of Dort (who were mostly Infralapsarians I might add, since Dr. Garrett finds supra/infra relevant), all agree that these are duties resting on human beings.

A. They must present an exegetical argument for libertarian freedom.

B. They must show the logical relationship between (a) regeneration and (b) conversion is not a to b but b to a.

C. And notice here what is not mentioned. In hyperism you have to find a "warrant to believe," usually in your election, as if you can peer into the decree. What those who hold to general atonement are actually doing here is indexing the warrant to believe to the atonement. The internal logic is the same.

In "Dortian Calvinism" we index the duty to repent and believe not to the atonement or the decree but to the command itself or in some theologians to the Office of Prophet in the Mediatorship of Christ - and in that particular instance the relation is indirect, not direct.

So, for the majority of us, we say sin generates its own warrant to repent, and the gospel is it's own warrant to convert. Ergo, repentance is a duty, and, when they hear the gospel, all who hear it have a duty to believe.

D. Another thing that's being unstated is the synergistic view that a little bit of cooperation, under a doctrine of prevenient grace of course, is okay. This is a category error; it confuses quantity with quality. In Scripture grace is not quantitative, it is qualitative.

The First London Confession (1644) of Particular Baptists, a seminal document in Baptist history, afforded a more favorable response to the teachings of Dort. As to predestination, it affirmed that "God has in Christ foreordained some men to eternal life through Jesus Christ leaving the rest in their sin to their just condemnation." The nonelect were "left" or "passed over" (the doctrine of preterition), not foreordained by divine decree to damnation (the doctrine of reprobation)

This is quite an assertion. Notice no mention is made of the source documents and nothing is stated about the relation of the source for this article and the Synod of Dort.

A. This overlooks the nature of Reformed confessions of that period. The source here is the True Confession of 1596. Can it be said of those who held to it that they did not believe in reprobation?

Here's the text of that confession:

3 That Godo bath decreed in himself from everlasting touching all things, and the very least circumstances of every thing, effectually to vvork and dispose them according to the counsell of his ovvn vvill, to the prayse and glorie of his great name. And touching his cheefest Creatures that God hath inp Christq before the foundation of the world,r according to the good pleasure of his vvill,s ordeyned som men and Angells, to eternall lyfe to beet accomplished through Iesus Christ, to the vprayse of the glorie of his grace. And on thother hand hath likevvise w before of old accoraingx to his just purposey ordeined other both Angels and men, toe ternall condemna-[xii]tion, to beez accomplished through their own corruption to the& prayse of his iustice.

All that can be said is that the FLC is drawing from this source, but where's the supporting argument that this source is out of step with Dort? I'll get to Dort in a moment.

B.I believe its the First Helvetic contains a similar view, but here the concern was not to burden the people with a confession that delved too much into election and reprobation, and there are theologians who had their hands in that confession who construed the decree in double, not single terms. The concern here is not to deny reprobation but to simplify the confession for the people. That is true of this confession, the True Confession, and the First London.

B. Dr. Garrett is using McGlothin but not Belcher and Mattia. Where is the supporting argument for the former, but not the latter.

C. Featley did not criticize the Baptists for denying reprobation, yet Featley criticized them for many other things. If they differed with others over reprobation, then where is the proof from the critics? Featley made six specific criticisms of the Confession: 1. That the Baptists in article 31 seem to imply that the right to earthly possessions is founded in grace, not nature; 2. That article 38 speaks against the support of ministers by the state; 3., 4., and 5. All deal with believer’s baptism; 6. That the Baptists allowed non-ordained men to preach. These are all of Featley’s criticisms of the Confession. (Renihan).

The Second London Confession (1677, 1689) of Particular Baptists was a Baptist adaptation of the text of the Presbyterian-shaped Westminster Confession (1646). It attempted to demonstrate Particular Baptist agreements with Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Therefore one would expect to find maximum adherence to the tenets of Dort.

This is McGlothlin again, but where is there any interaction with Belcher,, or James Renihan's two or three articles on this confession?

But let's take this as true. Why didn't Dr. Garrett use a similar argument for the First London Confession? It was their purpose to prove that they did not hold wild new ideas, but rather shared the same basic theological perspectives of the best churches and ministers around them (Renihan). This was true of both confessions.

I might add that Dr. Garrett seems a bit confused over reprobation and preterition. "Preterition" is simply another name for reprobation as to the execution of its means. The elect are actively called. The reprobate are passed over. Dort does not differ in this at all for Dort was Infralapsarian. Thus,
reprobation and election are both unconditional decrees, but men are considered as sinners, since the decree of the fall take place before the decree of election/reprobation. Election as calling is unconditional. Election as justification is conditioned on faith. Reprobation as condemnation is conditional, for men are passed over as sinners. Reprobation as preterition is unconditional, that is not conditioned on their unbelief.

He says he used Palmer's book. Well, Palmer's book contains an excursus with all of this information.

Notice that the First Confession of 1644 speaks of men "passed by" and what does Dort say in Article 15:

Holy Scripture illustrates and recommends to us this eternal and undeserved grace of our election, especially when it further declares that not all men are elect but that some have not been elected, or have been passed by in the eternal election of God. Out of His most free, most just, blameless, and unchangeable good pleasure, God has decreed to leave them in the common misery into which they have by their own fault plunged themselves, and not to give them saving faith and the grace of conversion. These, having been left in their own ways and under His just judgment, God has decreed finally to condemn and punish eternally, not only on account of their unbelief but also on account of all their other sins, in order to display His justice. This is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought is blasphemous!), but rather declares Him to be its awesome, blameless, and just judge and avenger.

In other words men are "passed by," left in their sins - exactly the description of the FBC.

Also that irresistible grace rests on a differentiation of external call and internal call that obscures the resistance to the external call.

This can only be had from a platform of libertarian freedom. Where is the argument?

Time and space does not allow me to go into the several confusions of sense and reference with respect to "all, world," etc.

"Dortian Calvinism," and all of these arguments are simply what Dr. Patterson said or alluded to in Greensboro. There really isn't anything new here. It's just the same script in extended form.

What would be truly helpful would be a point-counterpoint series with respect to these issues in one or more Baptist papers or a website in which Dr. Garrett and Dr. Yarnell interact with others on the other side of the fence. Since confessions have been discussed, particularly the FBC, I'd certainly like them to interact with Dr. Renihan at Westminster CA too, since currently, his work in the most recent.

Tom said...


I hear what you are saying. That is why I noted the subtlety with which Dr. Garrett writes. Note the use of the words, "may" and "can" in the section you quoted. He "hedges his bets" with such language while tipping his hand about the direction of his thinking. I am not willing to agree with Dr. Yarnell just yet in his assessment. Although, if he is thinking about articles that have appeared in state Baptist papers over the last several years, it is a pretty safe statement.

Tom said...


I am trying to be as generous as I can be with Dr. Garrett's assessments. Again, due to being in a family conference this week, I have only read them quickly. Gene has pointed out some difficulties with the articles. I will add my own thoughts next week.

juks said...

Sorry Tom. Unfortunately since leaving 'arminianism' and having faced the brunt of the controversy first-hand I am skeptical about any assessment of the doctrines of grace or church history by those with an arminian agenda - just can't trust them I'm afraid. I am at a Baptist church in Johannesburg SA who is a mixed bag and have just attended a 'missions breakfast'. If the church doesn't get back to a proper understanding of what the gospel is, what regeneration is, and teach the teachers and missionaries these things we will never see proper revivals again and we will be left scratching our heads as to why the 'numbers' look good but the evidence of any real impact on society is non-existant (I speak from Africa). Our God is a mighty God the Lord of hosts not a flaky, powerless God dying to save people but apparently powerless to do so unless the gospel is watered down in the name of 'contextualization'. I heard of 'love' many times this morning but I never heard the words 'sin and judgement' once! Go to Paul's revolutionary sermon to hard-core pagans in Acts 17 and let's re-look at the salient points of that message and how he ends it. Same with Peter in Acts 2 to Jews. How does he end. Save yourselves. I don't see the word love mentioned once. The promiscuity of love in the west has been transferred into our preaching and evangelism. The spirit of this age has affected the gospel - that's why its 95% arminian and we are seeing the consequences all around us. I speak as an ex-arminian for 15 years. I recommend "the Forgotten Spurgeon" by Iain Murray for a review of how this flakiness contributed to the weakness of the BU in Britain in the 19th century. Pay close attention to the shift in numbers from calvinistic membership to arminian membership and how it paralleled the downgrade. I trust Murray and people like James White, Tom Ascol and Tom Nettles and the many other in the 'biblical-calvinist' camp. Don't know if I can handle or trust the revisionist history of men such as this or the Caners or the Dave Hunts of this world. Still looks to me like he is confused between the bible (calvinism) and hyper-calvinism.

Scotty Karber said...

I too find it difficult to see this as balanced. His "church split" scenarios (so often used lately) suggest a simplistic cause only related to "Dortian Calvinism." Does no critic of Calvinists realize that Baptist Churches have been splitting for generations over stuff so trivial that it beggars the imagination and that there might be other factors at work than a strong doctrinal conviction on the part of the church memembers? Is it impossible to imagine that the preaching of "Dortian Calvinism" in such large churches might well cause unconverted church members to react in a negative way? Even Paige Patterson agreed with Tom Ellif's statement that probably 50% of SBC Sunday morning attending church members are not born of God. Does no critic of Calvinists see any possible correlation between these which they are willing to admit might be some of the problem of churches having conflict when all of Scripture begins to be preached? When the SBC has special programs to deal with the huge number of "forced terminations" of pastors for every imaginable reason that have nothing to do with doctrinal issues is it beyond the realm of consideration that churches might have such non-related problems for which the preaching of the pastor becomes only a focus? Until someone actually begins to suggest that such realities exist apart from Calvinists while they are bashing them I have a hard time taking them seriously.

Jim Shaver said...

I still hear the mantra "Calvinism kills evangelism" coming through loud and clear from the Alabama Baptist.

Let's refresh Bob Terry's memory.

Only 10% of Southern Baptists are Calvinists per the Lifeway Poll.

Therefore only 10% of the decline in Baptisms and Evangelism in the SBC can be blamed on us.

Somebody else has got to take the credit for the other 90%.

And we're the problem?

Wyman Richardson said...

Let me chime in here and share something that does concern me a bit. I've read each of the articles now, having finished the last just this morning. BUT, it's going to take me another time or two to really be able to put together an informed opinion. My mind is, frankly, elsewhere at the moment, and it's hard to shift gears.

I'll say that there were, in my first reading, a few things that raised some questions in my mind. Other aspects I personally thought were balanced and showed an attempt on Garrett's part to represent both sides.

However, let me just say that I do think we can rule out from the get go that Leo Garrett has "an arminian agenda" and cannot be "trusted." I am no apologist for Leo Garrett, though I will gladly declare myself a former student and one who has a deep appreciation for him and for his work.

Now, those are personal sentiments. I fully agree that despite our own personal appreciations we need to judge a person's work on its content. So these articles should be rigorously evaluated and critiqued as all other writings should be. Neither Leo Garrett nor any of us are exemnpt from critique, especially when we publicly propose our views.

But I do think that personal experience can at least rule out certain ideas from the get-go. And in the case of Leo Garrett I do believe that the quality of his scholarship, his sense of personal integrity, the genuine concern he has shown for the church not only in his Systematic but also in his work on church discipline and regenerate church membership, should raise him above the allegation of having an agenda.

Perhaps in the final analysis you might feel that Garrett has made some missteps in these articles. Likely I will too. You may think he has completely missed the boat in every aspect of these pieces. Again, I need to re-read them myself before commenting. I can say I don't think I'll end up agreeing with every aspect.

But Leo Garrett is an irenic scholar. He may be mistaken in certain of his contentions, but he is trustworthy and he by all means deserves to be differentiated from the average anti-Calvinist hack who hasn't done his homework.

I am not asking for a pass for Dr. Garrett, but we would do well to respect one who has served the church well throughout a long and distinguished career

Greg Welty said...


Read Wyman Richardson and be blessed :-)

Jason said...

I have no doubt that Dr. Garrett is a very irenic and careful scholar...that would fit with all I hav ever heard about him from his former students.

But to be honest, that really is not the issue.

I have read (and am currently re-reading) these articles and will judge them by the merits of the content, not based on a bias for or against the author (to the best of my ability).

Just because he is a trusted and treasured scholar does not excuse him if he were to make erors in his work.

Of course I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt (within reason)...but I am going to examine the content to decide is he is truly being "thorough and balanced".

Now, as for dealing with the content, I want to read them again to be sure but in my initial reading I see several areas I feel are not very accurate or precise. see several places where he makes leaps in logic and generalizations.

I can see how anyone on the non-calvinist side of the argument would say it is thorough and balanced, but I do not think that I, on the calvinist side, can say the same thing.

I do think this was probably the best of the non-calvinist, because I truly believe he TRIED to be balanced...but in the end, it may be impossible to write articles like these and not show one's bias.


Jason said...

I forgot to note...these articles are very interesting and well-written. I enjoyed reading them and they are definitely the best of what I have read from those who disagree with calvinism.

Greg Welty said...


"I have read (and am currently re-reading) these articles and will judge them by the merits of the content, not based on a bias for or against the author (to the best of my ability)."

And as far as I can tell, that was Wyman Richardson's point.

"but in the end, it may be impossible to write articles like these and not show one's bias."

But if that's the case, then wouldn't it be impossible to *comment* on articles like these and not show one's bias?


IN HIS NAME said...


Introductory Essay to John Owen's _Death of Death in the Death of Christ_ by: J. I. Packer article url:
Death of Death in the Death of Christ is a polemical work, designed to show, among other things, that the doctrine of universal redemption is unscriptural and destructive of the gospel. There are many, therefore, to whom it is not likely to be of interest. Those who see no need for doctrinal exactness and have no time for theological debates which show up divisions between so-called Evangelicals may well regret its reappearance.

Read the rest here:

In His Name
Wayne Smith

YnottonY said...

Here's just a few historical notes on a couple of Garrett remarks. On Calvin and limited atonement, Garrett says:

"Calvin did not address this issue in his "Institutes," but evidence from his commentaries suggests the likelihood of his favoring general atonement..."

Garrett is correct in saying that the evidence from Calvin's commentaries and other writings suggests ("suggests" is an understatement in my view--Calvin is quite explicit) that he held that Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind, but he (Garrett) errs in saying that Calvin does not also make the point in his Institutes. Calvin said:

"And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us." Calvin, Institutes, III, 3, 1.

Again, Calvin says:

"Christ interceded as his advocate, took upon himself and suffered the punishment that, from God's righteous judgment, threatened all sinners; that he purged with his blood those evils which had rendered sinners hateful to God; that by this expiation he made satisfaction and sacrifice to God the Father." Calvin, Institutes, II, 16, 2.

So, not only is Calvin clear in his sermons and commentaries (see HERE, HERE, and HERE) that Christ suffered for the sins of all humanity and that some of the redeemed perish, he also has the same concepts in his Institutes.

Dr. Garrett, in discussing how some Calvinists take "all" to be "all kinds" (and by "all kinds," they really means "some of all kinds", i.e. the elect) on disputed passages concerning Christ's death and God's universal saving will, Garrett says this about Augustine:

"Augustine of Hippo interpreted the "all" and "all men" to mean all classes and types of human beings, and thus he could retain limited atonement."

Dr. Garrett is mistaken about Augustine's views. Augustine clearly holds to a form of universal redemption, and even says that Judas was redeemed. Rather than pasting the quotes here, you may read what Augustine said here:

Augustine Quotes on Christ's Death

Prosper of Aquitaine (390–465 AD) is also very clear on what Augustinians have said in his Defense of St. Augustine. See the following:

From Prosper's Defense of Augustine

Perhaps more problematic are Dr. Garrett's historical errors on the essence of hyper-Calvinistic theology, but I won't go into that here.

YnottonY said...

I just noticed a need to make one more clarification.

Dr. Garrett said:

"Augustine of Hippo interpreted the "all" and "all men" to mean all classes and types of human beings, and thus he could retain limited atonement."

Then I said:

"Dr. Garrett is mistaken about Augustine's views."

What I meant to say was that Dr. Garret is mistaken about Augustine's atonement views, as the context of my remarks above show. I do, however, grant that Augustine took "all" and "world" in some passages to connote the believing elect instead of all humanity that will ever exist, or even all unbelieving, sinful humanity (elect and non-elect alike) the on earth at any given time. Calvin follows the Augustinian line of thought on his comments on 1 John 2:2. Nevertheless, neither of these men held that Christ only suffered for the sins of the elect (limited imputation of sin to Christ), as the strict (or high) Calvinist view maintains.

YnottonY said...

Dr. Garret said:

"Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), who strongly advocated repentance and faith as duties, supported only two of Dortian Calvinism's five points limited atonement and irresistible grace."

Frankly, I don't think he has read the primary sources carefully. Fuller was a staunch Calvinist on every point, but he was heading lower in his atonement views, in my opinion (he was beginning to argue for a real sufficiency perspective in his refutations of equivalentism). To reckon him a two pointer is just irresponsible historical theology.

Dr. Garrett also said about Spurgeon's atonement views that he:

"...may have followed Calvin in teaching that Christ died for all but prayed only for the elect."

Spurgeon most definitely and clearly did NOT follow Calvin's view. He is more akin to Owen, but differs in his interpretations of various passages, preferring to take a revealed will sense (as on 1 Tim. 2:4). Nevertheless, Spurgeon was a staunch particularist who even employs Owen's Double Payment argument in his sermon on Particular Redemption, which presupposes a limited imputation of sin to Christ on the cross.

Too many people (on both sides of this issue) are only reading secondary sources and then forming their views about the history of Calvinistic theology, and Garrett seems to have done just that, unfortunately.

Jason said...

"but in the end, it may be impossible to write articles like these and not show one's bias."

Greg Welty said: "But if that's the case, then wouldn't it be impossible to *comment* on articles like these and not show one's bias?"

Absolutely true!

That's why I said I want to comment without bias (to the best of my ability) is next to impossible to be completely objective.

I also did not disagree with anything Wyman Richardson said in his post. I'm sorry to have given that impression.

I simply was commenting because there is a tendency in SBC life to say that some people are above criticism or that critiquing a person's argument is equal to forgetting all that a person has done in their life. I simply was saying that I was atttempting to read the articles and judge them based on their content, not based on the author. I'm sorry if that was poorly communicated.

Les Puryear said...


Are you saying that you agree with Dr. Garrett's statement that the belief that only the elect will be saved is "hyper-Calvinism"?


Tom said...


No, I am not saying that. Hyper-Calvinism advocates many true things. It's the false things that it advocates that become the fly in the ointment. I don't think Dr. Garrett's designating that point a "tenet of Hyper-Calvinism" is helpful, because it is not a distinctive tenet of that system. It's sort of like saying that a tenet of Open Theism is a belief in free will. That is true, but of no real help in describing its distinctives.

Cap Pooser said...

The Calminian view seems pretty good except that it guts the gospel. The only way a depraved sinner can become a persevering saint is by the unconditional electing grace of the Father, the particular redeeming grace of the Son and the irresistible regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit. Other than that, it seems sufficient to fill our churches with lost folks.

Les Puryear said...


Thanks for the clarification. I didn't think that was your position.

Although it does seem to be Dr. Garrett's view, unfortunately. I would have expected Dr. Garrett to have a better understanding of the differences between Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism than that.


Les Puryear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YnottonY said...

In describing the hybrid of "Calminianism," Dr Garrett says:

"In such Calminianism, unconditional election and perseverance are usually retained from Calvinism and combined with general atonement and resistance to grace as understood by Arminianism. Repentance and faith are normally treated as both divine gifts and human duties. Many see the Calminian answer as a proper balancing of divine sovereignty and agency with human accountability and response."

1) I hope that Dr. Garrett is not and does not recommend this "Calminianism." Baptists he is teaching should know that there are some Calvnists, including Calvin himself (along with Musculus, Bullinger, Ursinus, Pareus, Zwingli etc.), who maintain that Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind. Even one of the Three Forms of Unity, The Heidelberg Catechism on Question #37 says this:

"Q. What does it mean that He suffered?

A. That all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race, in order that by His passion, as the only atoning sacrifice, He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life."

There is a stream of Calvinistic thought that grants a universal aspect to Christ's legal satisfaction, but they do retain a particular aspect in doing so. Anyone who affirms an unconditional election must grant that Christ ESPECIALLY suffered for his elect. He had a special intent in their case when he suffered for the guilt of all of humanity. An unqualified "general atonement" with an affirmation of unconditional election makes no sense at all. Christ must have acted in accord with both the secret and revealed will of God, which means that he must have suffered effectually for the elect alone.

2) Also, Calvinists affirm that grace can be resisted, but they make distinctions in God's grace. God's common grace (in distinction to special/effectual grace) is resisted and sinned against every minute of every day by sinners (Rom. 2:4). It's just the case that when the Holy Spirit effectually wills to apply the benefit of Christ's work at a particular time to some elect individual, it will not and cannot be resisted. Why? Because their hearts are so changed and overcome by the love of God poured out in them (Rom. 5:5) that their greatest desire is to trust Christ. When the Holy Spirit gives them a perception of the reality of their guilt before God and of the beauty of the grace available in Christ Jesus, they run to him and faithfully embrace him in desperation for a righteousness outside of themselves. That's standard Calvinistic doctrine that a teacher in a seminary should surely be acquainted with, and describing (if not advocating) for his students.

3) Dr. Garrett should also know that it is only hyper-Calvinists who deny that faith is man's duty. That faith is man's act and responsibility is obvious in scripture, just as it is obvious that unbelief is man's act/attitude for which he is accountable. One need not adopt an irrational hybrid theology to maintain that faith is God's gift and also man's duty or act. Consider what the Westminster Confession says in Chap. IX.:

“When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.”

John Flavel, in his sermon called The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption, said:

"Coming to Christ notes the voluntariness of the soul in its motion to Christ. It is true, there is no coming without the Father's drawing; but that drawing has nothing of coaction in it; it does not destroy, but powerfully, and with an overcoming sweetness, persuade the will. It is not forced or driven, but it comes; being made "willing in the day of God's power," Psal. 110: 3. Ask a poor distressed sinner in that season, Are you willing to come to Christ? O rather than live! life is not so necessary as Christ is! O! with all my heart, ten thousand worlds for Jesus Christ, if he could be purchased, were nothing answerable to his value in mine eyes! The soul's motion to Christ is free and voluntary, it is coming."

Similarly, Spurgeon said:

“Although faith is the act of man, yet it is the work of God. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness;” but that heart must, first of all, have been renewed by divine grace before it ever can be capable of the act of saving faith. Faith, we say, is man’s act, for we are commanded to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” and we shall be saved. At the same time, faith is God’s gift, and wherever we find it, we may know that it did not come there from the force of nature, but from a work of divine grace.”

Again, Spurgeon said:

"Faith is God's gift, but it is also the act of renewed manhood." MTP, vol. 9, pp. vi-ii.

Both Flavel and Spurgeon are articulating classical or orthodox Calvinism on the point, and not a strange blend of Calvinism and Arminianism.

lordodamanor said...

ynottony said,

"1) I hope that Dr. Garrett is not and does not recommend his "Calminianism." Baptists he is teaching should know that there are some Calvnists, including Calvin himself (along with Musculus, Bullinger, Ursinus, Pareus, Zwingli etc.), who maintain that Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind."

No Calvin did not!

“And again, has not our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed men’s souls: true it is that the effect of
his death comes not to the whole world: Nevertheless for as much as it is not in us too discern
between the righteous and the sinners that go to destruction, but that Jesus Christ has suffered
his death and passion as well for them as for us: therefore it behooves us to labour to bring
every man to salvation that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ made be available to them.” Calvin, Sermons on Job, p. 454

Note here: Calvin says that the effect of Christ's death does not come to the whole world. Period. The contrast is being made between the knowledge we might have of a confessed believer and our ignorance of just who is elect. We are to assume that the sinner is one of the righteous,
therefore we are to pray for them just as we are to proclaim to them the gospel. There is no warrant to extend "redeemed men's souls," universally.

"And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated
from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least
benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us." Calvin, Institutes, III, 3, 1.

Note here: The key words you assume are universal are "human race." I would simply ask is
salvation of the human race? The extent of human race in this quote need not be universal. Of course salvation was of humanity, God did not die for apes. But there is no need to universalize Calvin's meaning just as Calvin limited the extent of the atonement to exclude Jessu himself in discussing Romans 5.

"Christ interceded as his advocate, took upon himself and suffered the punishment that, from
God's righteous judgment, threatened all sinners; that he purged with his blood those evils which had rendered sinners hateful to God; that by this expiation he made satisfaction and sacrifice to
God the Father." Calvin, Institutes, II, 16, 2.

I would recommend that you read the etirety of Chapter 16. In this passage alone you demonstrate that you, as a practice, take Calvin's work out of context. You take up this quote in the middle and it is an explample that is being made by Calvin. The man spoken of here is admonished to be thankful for the expiation of his sins that averted the "judgement, threatened all sinners." Far from being a proof text of universalism, this passage out of the Institutes is the opposite. It speaks of the dread fear of punishment that is necessary for right appreaciation of the expiation of sin, something that the world does not, nor indeed can know. This man being spoken is a believer. Beside, the world does not fear God. This is the province of the elect alone.

"3. Now if we demanded here, whether it be not lawful to be conversant with the wicked and
froward to win them: I answer, yes, verily, until a man find them to be past remedy. For to give over a man at the first dash when he has done amiss, or when he is as it were in the highway to
destruction: is a furthering of the destruction of the wretched soul that was redeemed by the
bloodshed of our Lord Jesus Christ." Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, Sermon 119, 20:16-20, p., 731.

Again, to the context. This is speaking of someone who is in the throws of sin. Be he elect or not, Calvin is assuming he might, but he does not know. We are not to judge the condition nor the
predestination of any man. We are not then to give them over so quickly. But, we are to bear with
great patience and long suffering. To not do so is to further their condition, actually sinning
against them, someone for whom Christ may died. It is not to be taken that they were propitiated
by Christ's sacrifice and then somehow could be lost.

"However, St. Paul speaks here expressly of the saints and the faithful, but this does not imply
that we should not pray generally for all men. For wretched unbelievers and the ignorant have a great need to be pleaded for with God; behold them on the way to perdition. If we saw a beast at
the point of perishing, we would have pity on it. And what shall we do when we see souls in peril, which are so precious before God, as he has shown in that he has ransomed them with the blood of his own Son? If we see then a poor soul going thus to perdition, ought we not to be moved with compassion and kindness, and should we not desire God to apply the remedy." Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, Sermon 47, 6:18-19, pp., 684-5.

Let's try again! The first line tells us what the context is. Like the previous quote, we do not
know who is who, wheat or tare. What does compassion demand, even for the persishing, except that
hope should be held out for their survival? Note the first line where Calvin delineates between
the two. It is his confession that he does not know who is who. So, "the blood of his Son," is to
be assumed as having redeemed them for it has redeemed some. But, Calvin is explicit elsewhere as
to the limitation of the blood and its application to the elect, especially in Chapter xii and xv
concerning the reconciliation of the elect and the mediatorial office of Christ.

"He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in
reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is
offered through God's benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him." John Calvin
on Romans 5:18

The word benignity means without effect. The gospel does go out to all, that is what propounded means, but not in reality is it "extended" to all. What does not extended mean except that it is limited. Again, the term "whole world," is limited to the context. Calvin quotes part of John 1.12, and in 1.13 we see that the atonement is limited to those born of God. In verse eleven we find him presented to his own, which may be extended to mean the entirety of his creation. But,
his atonement is limited by the following verses and more than that, by the rest of the Book of
John. Calvin uses terms like all, whole and world just like they are used in Scripture and when taken in balance with the rest of Calvin's writings have particular meaning in the whole context of his theology.

From the institutes:

"He who considers these things with due attention, will easily disregard vague speculations,
which attract giddy minds and lovers of novelty. One speculation of this class is, that Christ,
even though there had been no need of his interposition to redeem the human race, would still
have become man. I admit that in the first ordering of creation, while the state of nature was
entire, he was appointed head of angels and men; for which reason Paul designates him “the
first-born of every creature,” (Col. 1:15). But since the whole Scripture proclaims that he was
clothed with flesh in order to become a Redeemer, it is presumptuous to imagine any other cause or end. We know well why Christ was at first promised—viz. that he might renew a fallen world, and succour lost man. Hence under the Law he was typified by sacrifices, to inspire believers with the hope that God would be propitious to them after he was reconciled by the expiation of their sins. Since from the earliest age, even before the Law was promulgated, there was never any promise of a Mediator without blood, we justly infer that he was destined in the eternal counsel of God to purge the pollution of man, the shedding of blood being the symbol of expiation. Thus, too, the prophets, in discoursing of him, foretold that he would be the Mediator between God and man. It is sufficient to refer to the very remarkable prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 53:4, 5), in which he foretells that he was “smitten for our iniquities;” that “the chastisement of our peace was
upon him;” that as a priest “he was made an offering for sin;” “that by his stripes we are
healed;” that as all “like lost sheep have gone astray,” “it pleased the Lord to bruise him, and put him to grief,” that he might “bear our iniquities.” After hearing that Christ was divinely
appointed to bring relief to miserable sinners, whose overleaps these limits gives too much
indulgence to a foolish curiosity."

Notice here how Calvin uses universal terms and limited terms to mean the same thing. Now, he
cannot mean that the limited terms have the same weight as the universal terms. No, he uses them
in the same way that Paul in Scripture uses them. And Paul, like Calvin was no universalist.

Book II, xii, 4. Then when he actually appeared, he declared the cause of his advent to be, that
by appeasing God he might bring us from death unto life. To the same effect was the testimony of the Apostles concerning him (John 1:9; 10:14). Thus John, before teaching that the Word was made
flesh, narrates the fall of man. But above all, let us listen to our Saviour himself when discoursing of his office: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Again, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” “The Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” Again, “They that be whole need not a physician.” John 3:16; 5:25; Mt. 18:11; 9:12. I should never have done were I to quote all the passages. Indeed, the Apostles, with one consent, lead us back to this fountain; and assuredly, if he had not come to reconcile God, the honour of his priesthood would fall, seeing it was his office as priest to stand between God and men, and “offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins,” (Heb. 5:1); nor could he be our righteousness, as having been made a propitiation for us in order that God might not impute to us our sins (2 Cor. 5:19). In short, he would be stript of all the titles with which Scripture invests him. Nor could Paul’s doctrine stand “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh,” (Rom. 8:3). Nor what he states in another passage: “The grace of God that bringeth salvation has appeared to all men,” (Tit. 2:11). In fine, the only end which the Scripture uniformly assigns for the Son of God voluntarily assuming our nature, and even receiving it as a command from the Father, is, that he might propitiate the Father to us by becoming a victim. “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer;”—“and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name.”
“Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.”—“This
commandment have I received of my Father.” “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” “Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause
came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” Luke 24:46; John 10:17; 3:14; 12:27, 28. Here
he distinctly assigns as the reason for assuming our nature, that he might become a propitiatory victim to take away sin. For the same reason Zacharias declares (Luke 1:79), that he came “to perform the mercy promised to our fathers,” “to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.” Let us remember that all these things are affirmed of the Son of God, in whom, as Paul elsewhere declares, were “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” and save whom it was his determination “not to know any thing,” (Col. 2:3; 1 Cor. 2:2).

Book II, xv, 6. With regard to his Priesthood, we must briefly hold its end and use to be, that
as a Mediator, free from all taint, he may by his own holiness procure the favour of God for us.
But because a deserved curse obstructs the entrance, and God in his character of Judge is hostile
to us, expiation must necessarily intervene, that as a priest employed to appease the wrath of
God, he may reinstate us in his favour. Wherefore, in order that Christ might fulfil this office,
it behoved him to appear with a sacrifice. For even under the law of the priesthood it was
forbidden to enter the sanctuary without blood, to teach the worshipper that however the priest
might interpose to deprecate, God could not be propitiated without the expiation of sin. On this
subject the Apostle discourses at length in the Epistle to the Hebrews, from the seventh almost
to the end of the tenth chapter. The sum comes to this, that the honour of the priesthood was
competent to none but Christ, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he wiped away our guilt, and made satisfaction for sin. Of the great importance of this matter, we are reminded by that
solemn oath which God uttered, and of which he declared he would not repent, “Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek,” (Ps. 110:4). For, doubtless, his purpose was to ratify that point on which he knew that our salvation chiefly hinged. For, as has been said, there is no
access to God for us or for our prayers until the priest, purging away our defilements, sanctify
us, and obtain for us that favour of which the impurity of our lives and hearts deprives us. Thus
we see, that if the benefit and efficacy of Christ’s priesthood is to reach us, the commencement
must be with his death. Whence it follows, that he by whose aid we obtain favour, must be a
perpetual intercessor. From this again arises not only confidence in prayer, but also the tranquillity of pious minds, while they recline in safety on the paternal indulgence of God, and
feel assured, that whatever has been consecrated by the Mediator is pleasing to him. But since God under the Law ordered sacrifices of beasts to be offered to him, there was a different and
new arrangement in regard to Christ—viz. that he should be at once victim and priest, because no
other fit satisfaction for sin could be found, nor was any one worthy of the honour of offering
an only begotten son to God. Christ now bears the office of priest, not only that by the eternal law of reconciliation he may render the Father favourable and propitious to us, but also admit us into this most honourable alliance. For we though in ourselves polluted, in him being priests (Rev. 1:6), offer ourselves and our all to God, and freely enter the heavenly sanctuary, so that the sacrifices of prayer and praise which we present are grateful and of sweet odour before him. To this effect are the words of Christ, “For their sakes I sanctify myself,” (John 17:19); for being clothed with his holiness, inasmuch as he has devoted us to the Father with himself (otherwise we were an abomination before him), we please him as if we were pure and clean, nay, even sacred. Hence that unction of the sanctuary of which mention is made in Daniel (Dan. 9:24).
For we must attend to the contrast between this unction and the shadowy one which was then in
use; as if the angel had said, that when the shadows were dispersed, there would be a clear
priesthood in the person of Christ. The more detestable, therefore, is the fiction of those who, not content with the priesthood of Christ, have dared to take it upon themselves to sacrifice him, a thing daily attempted in the Papacy, where the mass is represented as an immolation of

I have included these two chapters in my response so that the readers may make comparison. The
fact is that Calvin limited the atonement. Both in his discription of the necessity of the
incarnation and the priestly mediation of Christ the obvious is that Christ's work of atonement
is particularly, selectively, discriminatingly effective and extensive to the elect alone.

Chapter 10 of Hebrews contains a warning about making blood of Christ's sacrifice a common thing.
Far from that, it was a precious purchase price that opened the way of reconcilliation for the people that the high priest spinkled clean, giving them a clear conscience before God. It has not been shed into a bucket with sop awaiting the application of it to man by his own hand. The privelege of baptising the sons of God in the blood of the lamb, belongs to the High Priest, Jesus Christ the righteous, alone.

Belief Matters said...

I am a former student of Dr. Garrett. He is a good man, but he is wrong. He has not correctly defined Calvinism or Hyper-Calvinism. For a man who goes the extra mile to be correct, how can he miss the obvious?

Mike said...

What does calvinism mean in both the knowing of it and the desiring of it?

You can have a mean calvinist or a nice one. I know that from experience. So then the question is 'why' are some calvinists mean and not others?

GeneMBridges said...

I hope that Dr. Garrett is not and does not recommend this "Calminianism." Baptists he is teaching should know that there are some Calvnists, including Calvin himself (along with Musculus, Bullinger, Ursinus, Pareus, Zwingli etc.), who maintain that Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind. Even one of the Three Forms of Unity, The Heidelberg Catechism on Question #37 says this:

God forbid Tony actually discuss the distinctions within Ursinus theology regarding sufficiency and efficiency. These were two SEPARATE epistemic questions in Scholastic theology, and as such they remained separate. Ursinus in his commentary on the catechism is discussing the sufficiency of the atonement, nothing more nothing less. This doesn't begin to approach a literal meaning of "Christ suffering for the sins of all mankind."

If there was a hint of universal atonement in Ursinus, I might add, it comes not from his roots in the Reformed tradition but from his being a student of Melanchthon, the great systematizer of the Lutherans.

In addition the purpose of the HC is not to provide a treatise on the minuate of a uniquely German Reformed tradition, or even provide a general consensus on a specifically Reformed strand in the Germanic provinces. Rather, it was an attempt to bring together the Zurich Reformed tradition and the German Lutherans following the Melancthonian tradition. It is not a document intended for theologians, but for the common people. It is designed to delineate a broad consensus among several groups. I would not, therefore, place such a high value on it in these discussions, as if it represents a "Reformed" opinion. Rather, it is rather more like Dr. Garrett's "Calminianism."

And catechisms were not the place for discussing matters like "sufficiency and efficiency," so it matters not what the HC question 37 says here (rather, it requires a commentary on it), and in the very quotes provided by Tony, Ursinus says that "The atonement is for the sins of the whole world, as it respects the dignity and sufficiency of the satisfaction which he made.... Who denies the sufficiency of the atonement when considered in that manner, except equivalentalists who hold a pecuniary atonement? High Calvinists are not universally equivalentalists, despite some who would try to characterize them in that manner.

Ergo, in saying Christ died "for the whole human race" is not as simple as it seems, for the question is open as to precisely what that means for the German Reformed, Zurich Reformed, and Melanchthonians, as well as any others who would later adopt it.

Of course, the head of the question in which that arises in Ursinus own theology isn't the worth of the atonement. Rather it is the question whether all men, as they perished in Adam, are saved by Christ?

In his first discussion, Ursinus is merely confirming the infinite worth of the atonement, not discussing the design of the atonement. That's a separate issue altogether.

I'm sitting here with his Commentary open, and that question is answered not from "What does it mean that he suffered?" but from Why was it necessary for Christ to humble himself even unto death?"

He says explicitly there, speaking of ways some answer these question that some draw a distinction between sufficiency and efficiency, and he will latter agree to it) such that "...Christ died for all, and that he did not die for all; but in different respects. He died for all, as touching the sufficiency of the ransom he paid; and not for all, but only for the elect, of those that believe, as touching the application and efficacy thereof.

The reason for the former lies in this, that the atonement of Christ is sufficient for expiating all the sins of all men, or of the whole world, if only men will make application thereof unto themselves by faith. For it cannot be said to be insufficiency, unless we give countenance to that horrible blasphemy (which God forbid!) that some blame of the destruction of the ungodly results from a defect in the merit of the mediator.

He then goes on to discuss the reasons for the latter regarding efficiency, none of which any of us would, I would think, dispute. Sufficiency simply refers to the infinite merits of the atonement; it is fit for anyone who will believe. It says nothing about an intent of Christ to literally suffer for the sins of every human being who ever lived. I would also point out that, unlike Kendall and some Amyraldians who have tried to place a disjunction between the death and intercession of Christ, Ursinus does not do this. He unites them.

He also offers two objections to his statements on the atonement that do not make sense if we understand him to be saying that Christ "suffered for the sins of all mankind."

1. The promises of the gospel are unversal, as appears from such declarations as invite all men to come to Christ that they may have life. Hence it does not merely extend to such as believe. Answer: The promise is indeed universal in respect to such as repent and believe; but to extend it to the reprobate would be blasphemy.

This cannot be considered an objection if the platform being objected is "Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind."

In addition, the second objection is:

Christ died for all. Therefore his death does not merely extend to such as believe.

The answer is: Christ did for all as it regards the merit and efficacy of the ransom which He paid; but only for those that believe as it respects the application and efficacy of his death; for seeiing that the death of Christ is applied to such alone, and is profitable to them, it is correctly said to belong properly to them alone, as has already been shown.

To say that he believed that "Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind" is to grossly oversimplify 16th century Ursinian thinking. It is to commit a classic case of semantic anachronism that is similar to a Romanist who reads "church" in Scripture to refer to the RCC or to "Chair of St. Peter" in Augustine to refer to Rome.

Rather, Tony is on record as at least implicitly drawing a warrant to believe from the atonement itself, for, according to Tony it is the sufficiency of Christ that underwrites the free offer of the gospel such that, "If the salvation of the non-elect is not possible in any sense, then we run into a denial of the well-meant gospel offer." The logical conclusion must therefore be that the atonement must provide some sort of warrant to believe that, if rejected, will condemn the unbeliever.

However, the question is how the sufficiency of the atonement is related to the offer, if indeed that is the case. On the one hand, it is fit on its own merits to save anyone who will repent, but it does not thereby follow that it must directly underwrite the free offer of the gospel in the way that if denied it would destroy the well meant offer. That's another question altogether.

In fact, it can be said that the atonement while sufficient as to its dignity and worth, is infinite and thus fit for any man who would convert, it is precisely at the point of its intent that it agrees with the equivalentalist/pecuniary view where it becomes a ransom, for at this point, where justice is satisfied, justice cannot again be enforced. Justice is not satisfied by the application by the Holy Spirit, but by the atonement, for it is the atonement that sets up an obligation in the Godhead in the Covenant of Redemption where, if those for whom Christ died do not receive the application of the benefits, the Father is unjust toward the Son. When a ransom is paid and accepted, the deliverance of the captive is a matter of justice. Indeed, Ursinus, speaks in terms of "satisfaction" but "satisfaction" means that those for whom satisfaction is made are certainly freed. If that satisfaction was such that Christ truly suffered "for all mankind," then all mankind would be set free.

The external call is merely the means by which the application is made in concert with the Spirit.
The atonement's relation to the 'free offer' is thus not direct by way of sufficiency for any man, but indirect, by way of efficiency for the elect, for the external call goes out with the intent to call the elect to faith and to establish in history the kingdom purchased by Christ and given to Him as a reward by the Father.

To say that if the atonement is limited, even in an equivalentalist sense, is to deny the free offer of the gospel is real hyper-Calvinist logic if ever there was, for the hyper draws a warrant from election since he can't from the atonement. All Tony has done is use the same logic and draw a warrant from elsewhere. In fact, the equivalentalist, as well as many a Dortianist, will draw the warrant not from the sufficiency of the atonement but from the call itself considered by itself. That would not be true in Scholastic theology of the century in question.

GeneMBridges said...

You can have a mean calvinist or a nice one. I know that from experience. So then the question is 'why' are some calvinists mean and not others?

Would this not apply to the non-Calvinist as well?

Let take one with whom I have interacted in times past who will say things like "Helkuo is not in John 6:44 in the original?" When asked for a citation, they refuse to give it. Then, when I check my own critical apparatus and contact NT professors to ask, they all uniformly reply that this claim is 100 percent untrue. When I then confront those persons in a proper manner, then then reply with more hatred, invective, and vitriol than any Calvinist I've ever encountered. So, in that instance, they caught "red handed" and, rather than man up and admit they either misread something or were blantantly lying, they decided to be spiteful. It's a face saving gesture.

But then those same persons start talking about how "mean" some Calvinists are and then repeat this same record for, oh, say 3 or 4 years, when all the while they're the ones who blow up at the slightest statement along the lines of pointing out they are incorrect or using bad argumentation. When I've said to them, "You don't know what you're talking about" and then proceed to correct them and encourage them to keep asking questions and even give them a list of suggested places to look, rather than accept correction and say "thank you, that was generous, you're right I didn't understand what I had read," they immediately jump to the conclusion that I'm being "rude" or "talking down to them," etc., which, as the discussion moves forward, proves to be little more than an excuse not to interact with what they're told. In fact, they repeat themselves as if they were never answered.

Likewise, I don't mind saying, "You're not following your own argument" and then I demonstrate it to them. Instead of paying attention to the demonstration, they resort to the same old, "You're mean." No, I'm treating them like a grown man, no different than I would anybody else. I'm trying to get them to pay attention. It's a means to an end.

Clearly, then, this isn't an objection they believe is really valid, for if so, it would apply equally as well to them.

Don said...

Tom, I finally took the time to read Garrett's Alabama articles. I don't know how you can remain so gracious in light of this kind of propaganda. Every one of the articles is packed with misleading statements, half-truths, and spin that would make Bill Clinton envious. He clearly wants to muddy the waters and turn the man in the pew against Calvinism. He exhibits less vindictiveness than guys like Johnny Hunt, Nelson Price, and Jerry Vines, but his subtile semblance of impartiality does similar damage to the truth.

For example he says things like, "Of nine post-World War II writing Baptist theologians of the baby boom generation, four seem to be committed to the tenets of Dortian Calvinism. " He wants to convey the clear implication that Calvinism has lost the theological debate. However, if you read further, he places Don Carson in the non-Calvanistic category. Who can read Carson and see him as anything less than a committed Calvinist? He then claims that John Piper, "has been unspecific as to some of the Dortian doctrines." Apparently he hasn't read much of Piper. Come on - Piper is more Calvinistic than the Pope is Catholic.

I could site more grievous examples of spin regarding the doctrines of grace themselves and how he paints them, but I don't want to hijack your blog.

WesInTex said...

Don writes: “I don't know how you can remain so gracious in light of this kind of propaganda. Every one of the articles is packed with misleading statements, half-truths, and spin that would make Bill Clinton envious.”

I agree that these articles are not to the caliber one would expect from such as Dr. Garrett. I don’t know the man so I make no judgments of him – but I was very disappointed in all six articles. Hoping to find a balanced presentation of Calvinism I found only the same old smear tactics that we see so often in the SBC of today.

A few of the points Garrett makes that were particularly disappointing (and somewhat insulting) to me was the idea in his paper on “Alternatives” that if we just sing the right music there would be no need for Calvinistic theology. He also insinuates that if we maintain our “Dortian Calvinist” theology, we should at least keep a greater “confidence in John 3:16 than of any series of divine decrees,” as if the word of God would contradict any of His decrees.

Additionally, in his paper: “A Question facing Baptist Churches;” aside from his usual clich├ęs of how Calvinism kills evangelism and splits churches, Garrett goes so far as to insinuate that it would be better to baptize unregenerate people to keep the numbers high and to tolerate unsound doctrine so as to maintain the peace. Isn’t this essentially the same logic used by the liberals in the 1980’s and 90’s?

One high point in Garrett’s work however, came toward the end of his final paper. Here he writes: “The fruits of any theological system are not the only criterion for its evaluation, but those who teach and seek to influence the next generation of pastors and church leaders must be willing to take at least some responsibility for the results of their teachings in the ministries of their former students.” One of the fruits of the watered down gospel so prevalent in many of our churches today is that we will baptize into the church fellowship almost anything on two legs – so long as they love Jesus. Then again, there is the fruit of shallow, or in some cases absolutely non-existent doctrinal and theological standards in our churches. This is what causes divisions in the fellowship when the truth of the gospel is fully taught. The truth is that we are, as a convention, reaping the harvest of what our theology has sown over the years. And it is time that those who have been in charge begin to accept responsibility for that.


Mike said...

I would like to comment on a couple of things I have noticed in these comments. Someone said the following,

"In his first discussion, Ursinus is merely confirming the infinite worth of the atonement, not discussing the design of the atonement. That's a separate issue altogether."

No it is not a seperate issue. The design of the atonement directly affects it's worth. People need to learn to have a proper attitude towards the cross. Take calvinism for example. What value is it to you? How does increase the value of what Christ did on the cross? Yes it does increase the value. The fact that Jesus actualy came to the rescue rather than just sitting there waiting for you to make a choice that you would never make without His Holy Spirit. Certainly that design increases the worth by far. A seperate issue?

Also, hyper-calvinism is a term that has been used both by God's enemies and by His freinds. I suggest using something more specific as hyper-calvinist has become as vague to culture as the word Christian.

Mike said...

President Bush, who believes Muslims and Christians worship the same God, considers himself a christian. See my point?

Mike said...


5 point calvinists are labeled as hyper

People who believe in Absolute predestination are labeled as hyper

4 pointers are sometimes called hypers

Some people think all hypers are antinomian. Wrong

even all calvinists are called hyper by somebody.

Brothers beware, the term hyper-calvinist has been used by the enemy as a sword to divide between brother and brother. It is why anti-calvinists delight in using the term. It causes confusion. Be more specific like antinomian or legalist or five point regenerist. Not everyone has the same veiw of Romans 10. That does not mean all hypers are mean legalistic people.

Mike said...

For example I believe that Romans 10 clearly says that all believers have some calvinistic knowledge, namely that Christ alone is the completion of the law. I hope that does not single me out as mean and legalistic just for basing my beliefs on what Romans 10:4 says. I do not hold other extream veiws like, everyone who has the slightist hint of arminianism is unregenerate. I used to hold that until I found no Scriptural evidence for it. You see my point?
Hyper-calvinist is an over simplified stereotype used by God's enemies to pit brother against brother. I say abandon the term or find a Godly way to make it backfire on the enemy.

Mike said...

Ive been inconsistent with my own calvinism. For example I believe sin is geneticaly inhereted, yet I object when a gay says his homosexualy is inate. Why did I object? My objection was arminian in fact because to me something being inate was akin to sanctioning it. Wrong Right? Right. But I was contradicting my own calvinism!!!!

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