Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 15 - Chapter 10

Hi All! Welcome again to a series of articles I've entitled "The Debater's Potter" where I react to, and interact with Dr. James R. White's book The Potter's Freedom(TPF) which he intends as a defense of his view of the Reformation and "the" rebuttal of Dr. Norman Geisler's book Chosen But Free(CBF). I would classify myself as a Non-Calvinist-Non-Arminian Believer in Christ, and I choose the title for this series because Dr. White's theology and argumentation seems more suited to debate than understanding God.

These articles are exceedingly long, and so I won't be able to go over points previously covered. So, please start from the Introduction to the series where you'll also find an index of links to each of the articles in the series. Thanks!

This time we're going to be looking at Dr. White's defence of Limited Atonement or Particular Redemption, or as White who is ever the debater calls it, "The Perfect Work of Calvary." I mean what Christian in their right mind is going to be willing to argue against "The Perfect Work of Calvary"? Well, I refuse to allow emotional arm twisting keep me from knowing the truth. So, let's get to it!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I can be heard to say something like: "Limited Atonement is the easiest of the TULIP doctrines to be defeated because the Scriptures say exactly the opposite." Simply reading the Text shows us that Limited Atonement is a false doctrine.

Before I begin to quote Dr. White though; please watch this old TV commercial for Smarties (which are similar to M+M's for my American friends). I'm going to be referring to the "Red Smarties" a few times and I hope you'll get the idea after watching the ad.

In the ad, the person really wants the red smarties. They love them so much that they eat them last in order to savour them the most.  This is admittedly a weak analogy but it is close enough to help you get the idea. If the guy in the commercial was challenged about where he got the red smarties all in a pile he could rightly say I bought them! I love them! These are the ones I wanted all along! He could say all of that and never once would the person challenging him think that he had ONLY bought the red ones instead of the whole box of Smarties.

In Chapter 10 of TPF Dr. White quotes several verses that show that Christ died for the saved people. As we will see, he claims that this means that Christ died specifically and only for the people He would save; His Elect. As we will also see, none of the verses he references says that Christ died ONLY for the Elect.

That's a real problem for Dr. White's argument because he must find some way to explain away verses and passages like Lev 16:1-34Isa 53:6, Matt 13:44Mark 16:15-16Jn 1:29, Jn 3:14-17, Jn 4:42, Jn 6:33, Rom 5:12-19, 2Cor 5:14-152Cor 5:18-19, Gal 3:22, 2Pet 2:1-31Jn 2:2, and 1Jn 4:14. Each of these verses, grammatically and in context, either explicitly state that Christ's death was for all people, or demonstrates that fact. There is absolutely no conflict when a particular verse says that Christ died for a particular people group, so long as it does not say that Christ died "only" for that particular people group. Why? Because every people group is part of the whole. So if Christ died for all, any one or group which is part of all are also people that He has died for. It is not a particularly hard concept to understand, but Dr. White seems to miss it. All is not lost though! This has given me a particularly good reason to use the word particular in various ways while talking about Dr. White's doctrine of Particular Redemption. *smile*

One of the passages I cited above has become particularly (*smile again*) important to me in recent years because it speaks of the unfathomable value of Christ, and uses that value to demonstrate the depravity of all mankind. It doesn't get a lot of press in the whole "scope of the atonement" debate, but perhaps it should.

2Cor 5:14-15
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
If One died for all, then all died. We all die in Adam because of the Curse. 1Cor 15:22, Gen 2:15-17, Gen 3:14-22. This death in Adam for all men, and therefore the truth of the Curse and Adam's sin are all confirmed as being true by the fact that Christ died for all: that if One died for all, then all died. 

If Christ did not die for all then we have no evidence that all died in Adam or that the Curse actually affected all of Adam's kingdom. We'd have to examine each person to see if they in fact had sin. We couldn't know for sure. The wages of sin are death, and Christ the Righteous could not die for someone unless they were under the penalty of death because He Himself was NOT under penalty of death for He alone is righteous and not a sinner. Therefore we know that if Christ died for all, then all died in Adam.

OH OK... one more passage, just for the fun of it. You know how we Christians love to quote Rom 3:23 right? To show that EVERYONE (that's the non-Calvinistic meaning of the word all) has sinned and is therefore in danger of judgment? Give the full passage a read. If EVERYONE sinned, then everyone can be what?

Rom 3:21-26
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all[ who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Now I want to be sure that the context is properly caught here. This is Paul putting Jews and Gentiles on the same footing. Showing we are all sinners before Holy God. Yet his context is sure, everyone is a sinner. The righteousness of God is God is revealed to all, and is ON all who believe. All have sinned, and the individual who believes will be justified.

A note about my familiarity with this topic.

I've been familiarized with discussions about the Calvinistic view of the word "All" and with various discussions about some verses which Christ died for "many" instead of "all." Amusingly Calvinists like Dr. White seem to make a big deal about it when the word "all" is not used, yet ignore it when it is used.

What is new to me this time however is Dr. Whites's presentation of Limited Atonement from the book of Hebrews. Over all these years somehow I have never heard someone present Limited Atonement in this way. At least not that I remember anyway. It was fun to be challenged with something new to me. I wonder how that will turn out?? *smile*

Chapter 10 - The Perfect Work of Calvary

Dr. White begins his 10th chapter with a number of things I largely agree with.
"Modern evangelicals are mushy on the cross. While books about eschatology, Bible prophecy, or end-times theories fly off the shelves, and your average Sunday church-goer can discuss such things as rapture theories, identity of the AntiChrist, etc., pitifully few could even begin to make a biblically-based presentation of the meaning of such terms as "atonement," "propitiation," "redemption" or the like."
This is a serious problem in the Church today for sure. With bible reading at a minimum, topical sermons to help with life's logistical problems at a maximum, 'worship' music almost exclusively about entertainment, children's programs, sports and the likes of video games keeping children away from the discipleship by parents the Church seems to have shunned good doctrine, preferring to be spoon fed whatever the preacher says must be true.

Sadly, the majority of Calvinists I have interacted with over the years can tell me what John Piper, Wayne Grudem, James White, and John MacArthur have to say about doctrines but few attempt to build a case from the Scriptures alone.
"The preaching of our day on the work of Christ on Calvary is far more often based upon emotion than it is the clear and compelling teaching of the Bible."
Again, I must agree with Dr. White.
"It has become traditional in evangelical Protestantism to preach the cross as follows: God so loved the world that He gave His Son to die upon the cross for every single individual in all the world. By exercising faith in Christ, you can receive the benefits of Christ's death on the cross. If you do not believe, Christ's death, even though offered in your place, will do you no good. You will still suffer for your sins. Christ truly wants to save you, if you will but believe. 
Is this the message preached by the Apostles? Is this the preaching of the cross of Christ? Calvinists say "no" and they do so because of the biblical doctrine of atonement." 
Dr. White is going to bring up an objection about two payments being made for the same sin much later in this chapter. I intend on rebutting it fully. Other than the obvious weight he put on that issue in his characterization of the presentation I really find little wrong with it. I would of course never offer the solution to the problem until the person understood the problem they have because of sin. I could support each point easily from the Scriptures. Yet the Calvinists say "no" this is not the message the Apostles preached. Of course Paul explains what message they did preach in 1Cor 15:1-11. It is remarkably similar... Christ's payment on our behalf is preached and if we receive (believe) that message we will be saved. Of course Paul doesn't include all the emotional emphasis one presumes Dr. White includes to ensure his audience will be suitably suspect of the presentation and therefore open to a differing view.

Dr. White says that the cross didn't just "make salvation of sinners a mere possibility" but:
"Christ's death saves every single person that it was intended to save." 
One wonders who or what Dr. White is arguing against again. This is an emotionally loaded statement. To argue against White's position is to argue against "the perfect work of Calvary", that Christ was unable to save many of those He intended to save... Really? Nonetheless, this emotional blackmail is bunk. The Lord bought the whole field in order to purchase the pearl which was hidden in it. Matt 13:44 The Red Smarties were bought and savoured. The Lord's crucifixion has indeed saved everyone it was "intended" to save. There is no need to invoke "Limited Atonement" to solve the invented problem of Christ's cross-work having been a failure.

Dr. White then offers the following warning:
"Beware! This topic is fraught with emotional pitfalls. We have so often heard certain things taught in a particular fashion that they have become part of the very fabric of our religious experience and belief. So when our personal traditions are challenged, we often respond with emotion rather than biblically based thought and consideration. Love of truth demands that we remember this: sentimentality is no replacement for doctrinal purity."
I probably have no need to remind my readers of how often, and how strongly, Dr. White has taken offense with regard to CBF not interacting with or submitting to the traditional tenants of Calvinism as taught by Calvinists for the last 400 years or so.

Limited Atonement 
"It is the favorite target of Arminian preachers. 'Calvinists are so far off that they preach that Christ's death is Limited! They don't even believe Christ died for sinners, but just for them!' I have honestly seen this kind of rhetoric on the Internet and in self-published books from fundamentalists."
Yes Limited Atonement is one of the favorite targets of Arminian preachers, and of most anyone else who doesn't agree with Calvinism. Why? Because the Scriptures are plain that Christ did in fact die for the whole of Creation, not just the Elect.

Something else strikes me about how he starts this part of his book though. He starts it with two logical fallacies. The Straw-Man Argument Fallacy and the Ad Hominem Fallacy. First he presents a weak and false argument against Limited Atonement that is not even made by anyone I've ever heard of, let along Dr. Geisler in CBF; that the Elect aren't sinners is something that Calvinists don't teach and so the Straw Man is easily knocked over. Then he talks about these arguments being found on "The Internet" and in "Self-Published books" and made by "Fundamentalists" in order to undermine the credibility of anyone who would argue against Limited Atonement. He might as well have just called anyone who argues against the false doctrine of Limited Atonement a "Conspiracy Theorist."
"Yet almost never do we read a full, honest, biblically-based discussion of the real issues. Most of the time both sides will toss out passages that speak of either Christ dying for "all men" (resulting in the inevitable discussion of the meaning of "all" in various contexts), or of Christ dying for a specific people (resulting in a discussion of whether that group is fixed by God's decree or determined by the free act of faith)."
Well... I'm struggling to figure out if this actually qualifies as a False Dilema Fallacy or not. It probably doesn't fit exactly, but his argument here has the same issue. He's left out the concept I introduced with the Red Smarties video above. Instead of finding some way to make "all" not mean "all" which isn't based in grammar or revealed context, why not let "all" mean "all" and realize that any specific group would be part of "all." It doesn't seem like a challenging concept to me. I talk about Red Smarties, the Lord spoke of a pearl hidden in a field. He wanted the pearl so He bought the whole field to get it. I wanted the Red Smarties so I bought the whole box.

See Dr. White offers two possible ways to understand it, and in his explanation of each he attempts to impeach any view differing from his own. He does this by limiting those views to things he thinks he can easily overcome. Which is again a Straw-Man... First he implies that the word "all" can mean something other than "all" based on "context." I would say that the word "all" always means "all" unless there is a grammatical modifier on it, with the exception of hyperbole. Please correct me if I am wrong but how can the word "all" ever mean anything other than "all" without a grammatical modifier? Even when it is used in hyperbole the word still means all, and that's what makes it hyperbole! "Everyone loves Red Smarties!!" The word still "means" everyone, and that's what makes the statement hyperbole, or obvious exaggeration to make a point. Does the Scripture use Hyperbole? Then all means all unless there is a grammatical modifier on it.

Here watch this funny Ruffles potato chips commercial from the 90's.

See I don't need to discuss or argue about what "all" means, it means "all." Neither do I need to wonder about if a sub-group of all is "fixed by God's decree or determined by the free act of faith." I need only read the Scriptures as they are written. Further, Geisler doesn't say that the Elect are determined by a free act of faith. Geisler states that the Elect are determined by God.

White introduces the idea that the "intention" of the Atonement should give us our fundamental understanding of the scope of the Atonement. He continues:
"When a Calvinist uses the term, [Limited Atonement] it means 'Christ's intention in His death was the perfect and substitutionary atonement of all of His elect.' The scope of His work is in perfect harmony with His intention, which is the salvation of His elect people who are entrusted to Him."
This lays the foundation for an argument which would be hard to argue against if one unwittingly agreed to this premise. I cannot agree with the premise however because the Lord told us that He bought the field so that He could get the pearl hidden in it. It was His intention to get the pearl, but in order to do so He bought the whole field. Matt 13:44
"It makes no sense for Christ to offer atonement for those the Father does not entrust to Him for salvation."
What Dr. White means is that it makes no sense to a person who has decided to use Calvinism as their whole understanding of God. I understand that God is a just God, and that His very nature demands that JUSTICE be satisfied. He must be propitiated for ALL sin. He can only be propitiated by a proper offering. Just like you can't pay a fine to an Earthly Judge in Monopoly Money the Judge of the Universe will only accept a perfect offering. That's why Christ had to die "in accordance with the Scriptures for our sins." He alone is the perfect spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World. The sinner who dies in his sin does not pay for his sin. His death cannot propitiate God because he is a spotted offering. God takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner.

If God is a God of Justice and must therefore be propitiated for all sin justly then it makes perfect sense that Christ made atonement for all, just like the Scriptures say He did.

Next Dr. White makes an amazing admission:
"Obviously, a person who does not believe the Father entrusts a particular people (the elect) to the Son has no reason to believe in particular redemption."
I wholeheartedly agree with this statement! The Scripture does not teach Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption) so short of forcing a foreign view of Election onto the Scripture there is no reason anyone would believe in the doctrine.
"But since it is His intention to save all those given to Him by the Father (John 6:37-39), He bears their iniquities in His body on the tree in their place."
I went through John 6 in detail way back in Part 11 of this series and discussed the Lord's teaching in this chapter further in Part 12. This brings us to why Dr. White is talking about what the Lord's "intention" instead of what the Text says. In criticizing the view that says "Christ's death was sufficient for all but only efficient to the Elect" Dr. White says:
"...whether it was Christ's intention to make full and complete atonement for every single individual (making salvation theoretically possible but not actual) or whether it was His intention to make full atonement for all those given to Him by the Father (the elect)." 
White seems to believe he gets great traction about the whole "theoretically possible" bit. He uses it often in place of what Dr. Geisler actually argues which was demonstrated in Part 7 A Brief View of Chosen But Free. Again we find a Straw-Man and a False Dilema. How about that God had to be propitiated for all sin, and that sin must be confessed to be forgiven? Is this a possible third option? Does not Leviticus 16, THE chapter in the Bible on the Atonement, tell us exactly that? Yes it does.

White then discusses more about the intention of Christ's work on the Cross, and notes that "...Rome would 'limit' the atonement in its effect but not in its scope." One wonders if this is another attempt to link Geisler to Roman Catholicism. He then talks about how the term "Substitutionary Atonement" doesn't "belong" to Arminians, whatever that's supposed to mean.

He starts to build his case against Geisler with:
"If Christ became a curse in our behalf (Gal 3:13) and if He sacrificially bore in His body on the tree our sins (1Pet 2:24), there is only one possible result: the perfect salvation of all those for whom Christ died." 
His conclusion which he also sees as the "only one possible result" does not follow from the stated premises which are most obviously true, this is a Non Sequitur fallacy. What he is not stating in his argument are the other premises which he explores in other places in TPF. For example, that when a person dies in their sin that they pay for their sins which is not true because they are not a spotless lamb. They suffer rejection from God, but they do not pay for their sins.

Next up Dr. White adds to the idea that it is Christ's "intention" which determines the scope of His work with the idea that the scope of His work on the cross is also limited by the scope of His roll as Mediator and Intercessor. After laying that foundation he moves on to:

Two Tremendous Passages 
"Two passages of Scripture speak with uncommon clarity and strength to the beauty of the truth of Particular Redemption: Romans 8:31-34 and the extended argument of the writer to the Hebrews in chapters 7 through 10."
Two things hit me when I read that sentence the first time. First was shock that White was introducing an argument for Limited Atonement that I was unfamiliar with. Perhaps I've been living under a rock but I hadn't heard it argued from Hebrews 7 through 10 before. Second was "Am I really going to have to comment on that much Scripture?" I wasn't treasuring the idea.  Thankfully I managed to get through  it without much pain and suffering.

He quotes Romans 8:31-34 and adds comment:
"It is important to see that the passage limis the audience to believers, those seen in the preceding verses as the predestined and called saints of God. Notice how the pronouns in the text prohibit us from wandering from the true meaning of the text:" 
Then he quotes Romans 8:31-34 again, this time with "us all" "elect" and "us" all italicized for emphasis. He says
"These are family promises, given to those whom God chose on the basis of His own mercy and grace from all eternity." 
One might ask "So what?" Well the so what is, according to the foundation laid by Dr. White Christ only died for those He intercedes for. Notice that the Text doesn't say this, it is Dr. White's assertion that says this. He is a masterful debater without doubt. He continues:
"With this in mind then, we look at verse 32. The Father did not spare, or hold back, His very own Son, but delivered Him over for us all."
Red Smarties. It does not say for us only, but for us all and "us all" is surely a subgroup of "all" whom I showed at the beginning of this article is whom Christ died for. White brings out the meaning of "in place of" in the passage then adds:
"...God obviously does not give "all things" to those who spend eternity in Hell. If a person were to say, "Oh yes, God does," Then it follows that this is an empty passage, on that says God offers all things, but very few actually obtain them." 
The argument being built is subtle and likely very effective when it is not closely examined. He's connected Christ's intercession to the scope of His death. By having the reader be fed the concept ahead of time it becomes a premise for the reading of the argument. It is only stated, never argued for or even extracted from the Scriptures, so it remains in the reader's mind as something which is not up for debate. Of course Paul isn't saying that God gives all things to those who will spend eternity in Hell. Of course these are promises to those who have believed in Christ. That doesn't mean that Christ died only for "the Elect" however.

Further Geisler, nor anyone else I know, makes the argument that if Christ died for everyone that the Father offers all things to everyone... Outside of TPF I have never heard of such an argument before. I wonder if the people who heap praise on TPF, and Dr. White for writing it, have ever even read Geisler's work or are they getting their view of it from TPF?

White seals his argument with an extended passage which I will quote from:
"Verse 33 connects particular redemption with the rest of the work of salvation, especially justification. Paul asks, 'Who will bring a charge against God's elect?'... This is why there can be no condemnation of those who are in Christ Jesus, for the number of those in Him is identical with the number of the elect." 
Verse 33 does not connect particular redemption or Limited Atonement with anything. Read it. It asks who will bring a charge against the Elect? And says it is God who justifies. There is no particular redemption here. What's Paul's point? Who can bring a charge against the Elect? It is God who justifies and Christ died for us. You can't bring a charge against the Elect because Christ died for us AND He intercedes for us. It says nothing about particular redemption. It is most obvious that Christ died for all, and that anyone of all may believe in Christ and thereby be baptized into Him, and thus have Him as intercessor.

Intercession and Atonement
"This brings us to a vital truth: Jesus Christ intercedes for the elect of God." 
Geisler would, and I do also, agree. So what does that have to do with Limited Atonement? Well he's going to build a case. With the foundation that intention, intercession and mediation limit the "scope" of the Atonement he adds the gold standard for his understanding:
"From the first paragraph of the letter (to the Hebrews) the writer demonstrates the superiority of Christ over the old shadows of the Jewish system." 
How he defines "superiority" will be an issue. Under the Jewish system, which tells us who Christ would be and what He would do, one animal propitiated God for all the sins of the people, and then individuals were forgiven their personal sin when they confessed them on the second animal. God COULD forgive because He has been propitiated, that is He had been appeased, and DID forgive because the people confessed. Lev 16:1-34 Justice for all was served first, forgiveness was offered second. Those who confessed their sins had them forgiven, those who did not confess did not have their sins forgiven. The first animal still died for all. These two animals show us two aspects of Christ's cross work.

So, with regard to the standard set by Dr. White, one could ask about superiority. If the animal died for all, and Christ only died for some, how is Christ superior to the animal in that aspect?

Dr. White quotes Hebrews 7:23-25 and states:
"...we note that the Scriptures say He is able to save a particular people (those who draw near to God through Him) because He always lives to engage in that unique and wonderful work Paul mentioned in Romans 8:34, the work of intercession."
One must ask: why does Paul say that God saves those "particular people" (as White puts it) who draw near to Him through Christ, instead of those whom God has regenerated so that they may be able to draw close? I thought the unsaved were "totally unable" to draw close to God. Further, it is the scope of the salvation that is being discussed here, not the ability to save in the first place. He is able to save to the uttermost because He lives forever. There will be no changing of the guard. It will always be Him who is the intercessor. No new regime will come in and change the law. Heb 7:12 Dr. White is attempting to link the scope of intercession with the scope of the atonement but that is not at all the point of the passage. Proof-Texting is always bad.

White completes his next thought about how Christ's work on the Cross was "prefect" because it "perfectly saves" everyone who He died for stating:
"This is the ground upon which we can understand His statement from the cross, "It is finished," rather than it is now theoretically possible." 
Is that what the Lord meant when He said "It is finished!" Did He mean that those whom He died for are now perfectly saved? He said the Greek word Teleo. It's a term used legally to indicate that the sentence for a crime or crimes has been fully satisfied. At the time when a convicted criminal completed a prison sentence they would receive a document with teleo on it. It was legal proof that they had fulfilled their debt. The Lord was saying that the payment was finished, there was nothing more to be paid at the moment of His death. It was "Paid in full." He is speaking of the finished payment, not the finished work of Salvation. The work of each of our salvation was not completed there was it? We are baptized into Christ when we believe. It is then that we are born again, that we become new creations. Then we experience practical sanctification. Eventually we will be glorified and receive our new bodies  and be made into the image of Christ. Then our salvation will be complete. It was paid for in full at the Cross, it was perfectly established at the Cross, it is unchangeable because of the Cross, but it was not completed at the Cross.

"...this leads us to another key truth: Christ intercedes for all for whom He dies" 
This is the premise that Dr. White has been drilling into his reader's heads for a large portion of this chapter. Clever as it sounds, it is not what the passage says. Go ahead and read Hebrews 7:23-25.

" too Christ does not intercede for anyone for whom He does not make atonement" 
This sounds true, but it is a deduction from his view and not stated in Scripture. In the end it is statement without a point. Christ died for all. He only makes intercession for Believers. Obviously He does not make intercession for anyone He didn't make atonement for, because there is no such person. The statement is completely unhelpful, but I believe this is another debate tactic. It distances the reader from his premise and puts up a wall of true sounding things which the reader may feel would be compromised if White's premises are not agreed and adhered to.

He continues the argument:
"Christ intercedes for all for whom He dies since intercession is simply the presentation of the finished work of Calvary before the Father. the scope of the atonement, then, is the scope of the intercession."
It does not follow that He intercedes for all for whom He dies because that intercession is the presentation of the finished work.  If you pay for a family travel package deal that woud be the same price for your whole family and one of your two children refuses to go and so does not go, it doesn't mean you only paid for one of your children. It simply means that only one of them received the benefit of that payment while the other refused.  The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

The conclusion that Christ can only intercede for those whom He has died because that intercession is the presentation of the finished work DOES follow. Yet it doesn't make Dr. White's desired point.
"And since His act of intercession is given as the explanation for Christ's ability to save forever, it follows inexorably that Christ's death saves all those for whom it is made." 
We already covered this above, but what the Letter to the Hebrews says is that because Christ lives forever He an intercede forever so He saves forever. It is not that He intercedes that means He can save forever, it is that He lives forever that means He can save forever. It seems the Calvinist must continually make a confusing ball out of the Scriptures and roll it all about in order to justify his theology.

Ignoring Geisler's argument in Chosen But Free Dr. White tries to seal his argument with:
"And if the Arminian says, 'Just because Christ intercedes for someone does not mean they will be saved,' we respond with the context of the passage: the writer is demonstrating the superiority of Christ to the old priests... if Christ can likewise intercede to no effect, how is this an argument for Christ's superiority? Therefore the passage cannot be made consistent with the Arminian view." 
I'm not sure who would say that Christ intercedes for people who are not saved. I'm not aware of anyone. This is just another debate tactic to make his detractors look ridiculous by inventing ridiculous arguments as though the detractors make them. Geisler doesn't make this argument, and I've never heard it from an Arminian either.

Paul's explanation of Christ's superiority is not with the quality and effectiveness of Christ's intercession but the eternal nature of that intercession, and the fact that the intercession is done with a perfect sacrifice.

Moving on to Hebrews 8:10-13 Dr. White offers:
"The New Covenant differs from the Old primarily in the perfection fo the work of the Mediator. In the New Covenant God works internally: He writes His law upon their hearts, He enters into a personal relationship with all of them so that they all know Him, and He is merciful to their iniquities and remembers their sins no more (Hebrews 8:10-13)."
What Dr. White doesn't highlight is that this is about God's New Covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. This has nothing to do personal reception of Eternal Life. In the monumental 31st chapter of the Book of Jeremiah we find God's New Covenant with Israel. This is about the restoration of the remnant of Israel at the end, not about individual personal salvation today. Read the whole chapter to get context, but the New Covenant is found in Jer 31:31-40.

The only point that White was trying to make from Hebrews 8 however is that Christ ministers a "better covenant" than the Old Priests ministered. Then he moves on to Hebrews 9:11-14 saying:
"Christ enters the holy place 'once for all.' This is a temporal statement (once for all time) not a statement of scope (once for all individuals)."
The Greek word Ephapax occurs 5 times in the New Testament. It is an adverb used in Rom 6:10, 1Cor 15:6, Heb 7:27, Heb 9:12, and Heb 10:10. As can be seen Dr. White is right about the meaning of this word. It is not a once for all people sacrifice being stated here, but an action made just ONCE. It does not need to be repeated to keep people saved, and it does not be repeated to save more people. It is therefore done once for all.

"But we need to realize that the person promoting the universal view of atonement encounters a real problem here. Such a person is promoting a theoretical redemption. What, exactly, had Christ 'obtained' in their view? Are we to understand these words to mean that Christ had obtained "the savability" of mankind? Is this what "eternal redemption" means? Not at all."
What Christ had done is to propitiate God for all sin. He didn't obtain a "theoretical redemption." Redemption is first mentioned in Gen 48:16. The Hebrew word Ga'al was used by Israel (Jacob) in his fatherly blessing of His sons Joseph and Ephraim. Redemption is obtained when a price is paid. We get an overview of how redemption is to work in Lev 25:23-34. I have a short discussion on the roll of the Kinsman-Redeemer removing His sandals in an article from 2009 entitled The Kinsman-Redeemer and Sandals. It talks about redemption in the book of Ruth which may be informative to the reader who wonders about these things.

No one says that Christ obtained the "saveability" of everyone with His death. He propitiated God for the sin of the World. He made it JUST for God to forgive the sin of everyone who puts their faith in Christ. Romans 3:21-26 The debt owed was paid in full, yet forgiveness still needed to be granted. Just like on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, and just like the pattern in the New Testament. Christ had to die, and we guilty sinners must believe our own sins were paid for.

Dr. White then moves on to Hebrews 10:10-14 stating:
"Christ is done, 'for by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.' The one-time offering of Christ perfects forever those who are sanctified. No additions are necessary on the part of man."
It is by that sacrifice that He perfects those who are being sanctified. We are also sanctified by that sacrifice. These are stated in the Text. What is not stated in the Text, what is not required by the Text is that He only died for those who are being sanctified. There is no Limited Atonement stated, required or even implied here.

Further, who says there are "additions necessary on the part of man"? Seriously who says this? Geisler doesn't. I don't. Paul explains plainly in Romans 4 that faith is not a work, it is not an addition. It is merely assurance. Read Well Done Abram? for more on this subject. Further still, the New Testament conditions salvation on faith some 150 times. The Holly Spirit doesn't seem to think that someone having assurance in Christ's finished work as "adding to it."

As Dr. White discusses Hebrews 10:26-29 he ALMOST gets the writer's intent but he starts out with the all-to-common Lordship Salvation Reformed Calvinist view that people can't really know they are saved until they have finished the race.
"Not knowing who in the gathered people are truly of the elect requires the elder in the congregation to issue warnings and plead with all to hear well the truth of God."
Why would you plead with someone who suffers from Total Inability to hear what you're pleading with him to hear? The concept is absurd. You don't plead with blind people to stop at stop signs.

He gets back on track, almost, fairly quickly though:

"It is a warning to anyone who would have a 'knowledge of the truth' and yet, despite this, go back to the old ways, the old sacrifices. There are no more sacrifices, now that the final and perfect sacrifice has been offered. To go back is to treat the blood of Christ as a common thing." 
The Letter to the Hebrews is a stern warning to Hebrew believers in Christ not to go back to Judaism. That is the purpose of the letter. He almost gets there but not quite. Despite his attempt to force Limited Atonement on this passage by saying the warnings are given because the Elder can't be sure who is really saved (because in White's view truly saved people can't fall back) it is not found in the Text here at all.

The Divine Substitute 
"This God-honoring, Christ-exalting understanding of a finished, perfect work runs throughout the Bible, and if it were not for the traditions that so easily cling to our thinking, we would see it everywhere."
One might consider that the tradition of Calvinism which Dr. White holds so dearly may well be informing his view of the "entire Bible." He quotes a number of verses:

Mat 1:21 Notice it doesn't say that Christ died for these people only.

Heb 2:17, Dr. White says that this is about the "many sons" those He "sanctifies", "My brethren" "The children God gave me" those subject to slavery all their lives" "The descendant of Abraham" "His brethren" He takes this from Heb 2:10-17 and states:
"In light of this we understand the statement Hebrews 2:9 'so that by the grace of God He might taste death fir everyone.'" 
This is clever, really, but read the whole chapter. Hebrews 2:1-18. The subject is EVERYTHING. All Creation. Hebrews 2:14 is not commented on by Dr. White. Were only the Elect under the power of Satan? If His sacrifice destroyed Satan what does this do with regard to the non-Elect? Were only the Elect subject to death? Here we see the exact same pattern that the Lord spoke of in Mat 13:44. He bought, or redeemed, the field in order to get the pearl. The Lord tasted death for everyone, so that He could bring many sons to glory.

Luke 19:10 Do you seek people you have already been found? White quotes this without immediate comment but the question came to mind when I read it. I'm sure his intent is to say that Christ died to "save" not to make it "theoretically possible" but as we have seen it doesn't help his case at all.

1Tim 1:15 He came to save sinners. It does not say He came into the world to save "the Elect."Again no immediate comment by White, but he seemingly has the same intent as with regard to Luke 19:10.

Matt 20:28 He gave His life ransom for many is the statement White is interested in. However, the point of this verse is not to limit the scope of the atonement. It is about His service. He does not "serve" those who do not believe. His intent is to save those who will believe, and to serve us. Not to be served. The point is the lowliness of the Lord's position. He, God, came to serve many. If this were about the "scope" of the atonement Dr. White might well have a good argument to bring up, but that's not what the passage is about. He did give His life ransom for many when He gave His life ransom for all. Red Smarties.

Isa 53:11 He shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Oh this is OH SO CLOSE to Limited Atonement. It's a good effort by Dr. White really. The best he has put forward so far. I remind you of Red Smarties. If He bore the iniquities of ALL then He also bore the iniquities of the many He will justify. Not convinced? Isa 53:6 says He bore all the iniquities of all those who the passage says have gone astray. Have only the Elect gone astray? As close as what he quoted is to Limited Atonement, it is absolutely false to say that it is. Proof-Texting is always wrong, but this goes beyond that. The refutation of the misuse of the verse is found 5 verses away and in the exact same passage explaining the exact same issue!

John 10:11-15 Much like Matt 20:28 this passage is not talking about the scope of the Atonement but the faithfulness of the Shepherd. The contrast is while the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep the hireling saves himself instead of the sheep. Even if one forces the concept of a scope into the passage I need only remind you of Red Smarties, and the Lord's purchasing the field to get the pearl. If the passage said that the Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep ONLY then White would be correct, but it does not say this.

Finally White offers comment on these verses.
"When we keep in mind the biblical teaching of the power and completeness of Christ's atonement we can see in these passages the particularity that is so vehemently denied by the Arminian."
He gets this exactly right. When you let the passages be defined by Calvinism you will see Calvinism in them. However, if you don't insert your preconceived ideas into them and let them speak for themselves it is simply not there. Of course to question Calvinism is not to question actually Calvinism  all but to actually question the very "power" and "completeness" of Christ's atonement... Thus the debate is won in the mind of the one who rightly fears God, but who is not brave enough to find out who He truly is.

A serious question for my readers:

Have I once said "I know it says this but it can't mean that because we know?" The charge White levels against Geisler and anyone who would disagree with him ought actually be levelled on him. I have said that Christ gave His life for many, exactly as it says. It is I who have not ADDED the words "only the" before the word many. I don't have to add preconceived ideas to make the passages fit my theology. The Lord bought the field in order to get the pearl. One might buy a box of Smarties in order to get the red ones.

Now we're about to see how Dr. White is not consistent with his interpretation of the Scriptures:
"And how can we not see the particularity of the following words:" 
Then he quotes Galatians 2:20. If Dr. White were being consistent he would find himself in a terrible mess. Above he uses the phrase that Christ gave His life for many to mean that He did not give His life for all, but ONLY many. Yet, in Galatians 2:20 Paul says that Christ gave His life for "Me" or "Paul." Why isn't the Atonement limited to only Paul then?

He explains:
"...the Christian can say, 'I have been crucified with Christ.' This is personal atonement, personal substitution."
Actually if we read the Text it says that Paul can say that, not "us" or the "elect". Of course Paul was teaching this about all Christians. This is most obvious. But if saying that Christ died for many limites who He died for to just "the many" then Paul saying "He died for me" limits who He died for to Paul. Well, only if White were being consistent with his interpretation that is. The problem for White is that it becomes obviously absurd to do so, even to the most ardent Calvinist. So instead of explaining it Dr. White abandons the language of Calvinism simply returns to how the rest of us use language for this passage.

That being said, Dr. White's point is that it is a personal substitution. When does Christ's work become "personal"? Just like on the Day of Atonement the atonement becomes personal when the guilty sinner trusts in it. When sin is confessed. How can I prove it is the same?

In Paul's extended teaching of how we should live now that we are Believers in Romans 6 we find that  we have been baptized INTO Christ's death burial and resurrection. Rom 6:3-7. This is the reason we should not continue in sin. Since we have died we are now free from sin. Previously we were not baptized into His death burial and resurrection, so we were subject to the rule of sin. In Galatians 3:1-4 Paul reminds the foolish Galatians that they received the Spirit by the hearing of faith, not the works of the flesh. This same Spirit baptized them into Christ when they believed. Gal 3:26-27, 1Cor 12:13, Eph 1:13-14.

It is a new thing that has happened to us when we believe. Therefore we were not "crucified with Christ" until we believed. This isn't Limited Atonement, it is Propitiation of God and then confession leading to forgiveness and reconciliation.

White asks us to consider:
"How much less glorious is the idea, 'Christ loved a generic group and died so as to give them the opportunity and died so as to give them the opportunity to possibly join the group and hence received certain benefits." 
Dr. White has demonstrated in several places his unwillingness to simply read John 3:16. Remember all the way back in Part 2 of this series we saw Dr. White quote Dr. Owen with praise for this "understanding" of John 3:16.
"So that the sense is "God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave his Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved."
Like I mentioned early on in this article: It is White's interpretation of "superiority" which will lead him astray. Dr. White may not think that the Apostle John's view is superior, or "more glorious" than the view of his Calvinism, but nonetheless it is the view of the Scriptures.

John 3:14-17
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Dr. White then moves from the manipulative to the absurd.
"But let us ask this question: can the justly condemned sinner who stands upon the parapets of hell in eternity to come, screaming in hatred toward the halls of heaven say "I was crucified with Christ! He loved me and gave Himself for me!" Surely not!" 
As we have shown from the Scriptures he who has not believed cannot say he was crucified with Christ. However, he could say that Christ loved him and gave himself for him. To which God may well reply "...and you rejected that."
"Can such a person say 'My sins have been punished twice! First they were perfectly atoned for on the cross of Christ, and now I am undergoing punishment for them again here in hell!' The very idea causes us to recoil in horror. You see, particular redemption means personal redemption. Christ died in my place, not generically, but individually. What a glorious Savior!" 
Dr. White began the discourse of this chapter with a lament about Evangelicals:
"pitifully few could even begin to make a biblically-based presentation of the meaning of such terms as "atonement," "propitiation," "redemption" or the like."
I agreed with him on this. As we have seen in this article however, Dr. White is one of the many, and not one of the few. Atonement is a two step process. Propitiation or the appeasement of God for all sin and then the bearing away or forgiving of individual's personal sins. Redemption is bought, and then experienced. Sin can only be atoned for by an acceptable sacrifice, The Spotless Lamb. The sinner's death does nothing to please God, apease Him or pay for the sinner's sin. The sinner's death is a payment made to the sinner. The wages of sin is death. It is not a payment to God. Romans 6:23 Sin is not paid for twice. So long as the Calvinist preacher controls which verses are looked at, what premises inform them, and how words are defined very carefully then he can provide persuasive arguments for Calvinism. These arguments are then sealed with mockery and clever scenarios which portray the supposed folly of any position opposing Calvinism, but actually ignore the rest of Scripture.

Dr. White begins his close to the chapter with:
"We have now seen many passages that teach the truth of particular redemption. Many of these passages are not even mentioned in CBF. Yet we read these words in that work:"
He then quotes Geisler saying that there are no verses which support limited atonement. Here is the last bit of Geisler's point:
"Extreme Calvinists have not offered any satisfactory interpretation of the texts that support unlimited atonement." 
To which White replies:
"We know the first assumption (that there are no verses which support Limited Atonement) is untrue, as the preceding discussion proves. But what about the rest? Do Reformed theologians have no satisfactory explanations for the texts that are cited in support of universal atonement? Let's find out."
I find myself in complete and unashamed agreement with Dr. Geisler here. There are no passages which support Limited Atonement. By controlling all the things above Dr. White may be able to convince people who already believe him that their Calvinism is true and solidly supported, but when we read the passages themselves we find they do not support Limited Atonement.

We've already seen how he tried to explain John 3:16. I can hardly wait to see what he does with the rest of the verses that talk about how Christ died for all.

Thank you all SO VERY MUCH for sticking with this long series. We are approaching the end; I am very glad to say! I intend on dropping the topic of Calvinism forever at the end of this series. It is also my hope to get to MUCH MUCH shorter articles about a variety of topics that are on my mind; such as the Rapture.

1 comment:

Kevl said...

These articles may be painfully long, but one thing cannot be said about them: I have not cherry picked things to argue against.

I have fully demonstrated Dr. White's argument and I believe I have fully rebutted it.