I want to thank you for reprinting Stefan Zweig’s The Right to Heresy: Castellio Against Calvin. Some years ago I came across a copy of Sebastian Castellio’s trailblazing treatment of toleration (long before John Milton and John Locke came on the scene to make the cause famous), Advice to a Desolate France. It is breathtaking, the more so when you take into consideration the century he inhabited. The intensity of his Christian faith and understanding of the law of Christ, particularly as it relates to a whole nation, puts his contemporaries to utter shame. I look forward with anticipation to reading Zweig’s book. It’s worth observing, however, that the penal cast of Augustine’s legacy was by the 16th century simply bearing some of its most poignant fruits, not only in theology, but in the culture at large, with devastation in its wake. The probing question surfaces in my mind: can any doctrine of the Atonement that is rooted exclusively in penal justice be expected to bear better fruits than this when it’s plowed into a culture?
Thanks also for referring to David Bercot (from whom I have learned early church doctrine since 1999. Your references to Charles Kingsley, long-time associate of Frederick Denison Maurice, one of my special heroes of the Faith, was a delight. So also your reference to Greg Boyd, whom I esteem as a deeply thoughtful and earnestly faithful writer and minister. Michael Pearl, along with his wife Debi are a vast treasury of pure gold wisdom on child rearing, but his biblical scholarship has much to be desired. By depending exclusively on the KJV and not analyzing the original languages, he is often specious in reasoning. My hat is off to you for not falling into the quagmire of his imputationism. As evangelists, you two may be cut from identical cloth, but do beware superficial analysis of God’s Word under the pressure of open-air preaching.
In view of your evident interest in theology of the 18th and 19th centuries that stood up to domineering Calvinistic orthodoxy, I have two names to bring to your attention. You may already be somewhat familiar with them, but I would urge your further attention. John Taylor of Norwich (1694-1761) penned what is regarded as perhaps the greatest treatise against “original sin.” His The Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin, Proposed to Free and Candid Examination (4th edition, 1767) is available over Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO), which you can access at university libraries. ECCO is an absolute goldmine of often extremely rare books (even only single copies) that barely escaped the flames of persecution, and have existed only with highly limited access for centuries. The other comparable online resource is Early English Books Online (EEBO). I have reproduced entire books from these locations, sometimes being able to expand the page size before printing to make reading easier. Sometimes the only way to do this is one page at a time. I think the investment is worth it. Beats the price of flying!
You will be interested to know that Taylor is “governmental” in at least some respects, maybe most. But there are some surprises. I printed off his sizable tome, The Scripture Doctrine of Atonement Examined: first in relation to Jewish sacrifices; and then to the sacrifice of our blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (1st American edition, 1809). (This one is available online from the Early American Imprints, Shaw-Shoemaker Digital Edition, SHAW 18728. This service is an American analog to ECCO and EEBO. As a publisher, you are probably quite familiar with these incomparable resources.) I tracked this work of Taylor’s down because some author had alleged a similarity between Taylor’s position and that of John Balguy, whole 1741 book on the Atonement I have found uniquely helpful because he is the man who coined the term “premial” in that volume, and with persuasive effect to describe the rewarding side of God’s justice, applying it to Romans 5 with powerful results. I tell more about Balguy and reproduce relevant sections of his book in the “About” page and first couple of blogs at www.PremialAtonement.wordpress.com.
The other name I want to highlight for you is Barton W. Stone. He was the leading figure of the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801. Educated at a Calvinist school of Presbyterian vintage in Virginia, he was never comfortable with the Westminster Confession. When it came time for his ordination, he demurred at points, but managed to be approved anyway. But before long, he developed numerous objections and eventually formed a separate presbytery for some years. He was a hard-working pioneer evangelist and church planter in several states on the western frontier of the new nation, where there was plenty of room for everyone. Eventually he began editing a Christian periodical and was able to give voice to his developing positions. He was extremely conscientious in his positions, careful in his biblical research, kindly in his expression, and greatly beloved pastorally. Eventually, because of his passion for Christian unity, he nurtured relationships with Thomas and Alexander Campbell and their associates. The rest is history. Out of the eventual unification of their two movements came the “Stone-Campbell Movement,” which we more commonly known as the Christian Church/Church of Christ/Churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ movement. This remarkable three-fold denomination, which eventually pervaded the whole nation, especially west of the Appalachians, overtook if not surpassed the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. It was, in point of fact, our very first American denomination (although they hated that word because of their central concern for the unity of all who named the name of Christ).
One of the most unusual features of the Stone-Campbell movement is that it nurtured side-by-side the three major positions on the Atonement, with dominance shifting from time to time among them. This not always too friendly repartee among the three factions, however was overridden by their concern to retain the unity of Christian faith and practice. They had no creeds, as such. (I believe they coined the phrase, “No creed but the Bible.” They certainly got mileage out of it!) Barton Stone held a rather unique position that I have found exceptionally helpful. But he was said (probably out of handy convenience) to hold to an “exemplarist” or “moral influence” position, which is scarcely accurate. Alexander Campbell held rather stridently to the penal substitution position. Other leaders espoused the governmental position. As you might imagine, especially because each position was publicized through several different periodicals, and there would be written and public exchanges and debates on the subject among the respective champions, the ferment among the churches and many educational institutions of this vigorously American Christian movement was immense. By now, from what I gather, the dominant “evangelical” orthodoxy prevails in the conservative wings nearly unchallenged. But this unusual movement contributed considerably to the development of the New England Theology, if I’m not mistaken.
But my own opinion is that Barton Stone’s rather unclassifiable position is worthy of much more careful consideration. He despised speculation, especially later in his life, when with his characteristic humility he expressed regrets at having written on the subject if it may have led others into a speculative direction. But the fact remains that this country preacher/evangelist/church planter across some four or five states, laboring often as a farmer, attained deeper insights into Scripture from his strategic position behind a horse and plow than most theologians ever attain behind lecterns and with access to ample libraries. There’s a lesson here. I have created links along the side of my blog site that include as many of Stone’s books and journal articles as I could find online. Do explore his thought, Jesse. His personal, often anguished struggles with Calvinism led him into rare light on many doctrines, driven always by a mighty pastoral and evangelistic concern.
Now to switch gears, I’m curious how my critiques of Calvinism (included in the package I mailed you in August) may have struck you. These would expose some of the common ground you and I share. They would also doubtless reveal where I am stepping on the toes of Governmental theory, though incidentally, since that position was not purposely in my purview. Nevertheless, I am quite aware that the bull whose horns I am taking hold of is the shared property of both Calvin and Grotius. However sacred this cow may be, I was rather disinclined to let it gore me, so I have used what may seem like rough treatment to tender minds. You be the judge. However, you should know that my overriding agenda in all my writings is to expound the premial aspect of God’s justice in our salvation. My point is always to provide edifying (even comic) relief from the penal overcast of the dominant narrative. You’re gonna laugh out loud when you read some of this stuff. The titles of those pieces explicitly dealing with the Calvinistic version of atonement are:
“Anselm, Calvin, and Arminius: Reconciliation by Resurrection?” (51p)
“Notes concerning Leanne Van Dyk’s The Desire of Divine Love: John McLeod
Campbell’s Doctrine of the Atonement” (7p)
“I Have Good News and Bad News” (18p)
I would now like to traverse rapidly some of the other common ground adjacent to the Atonement, which we seem to share. Drawing from everything I’ve read of yours so far, I substantially agree with you on the following:
Human nature, including conscience, is constitutionally intact after the introduction of sin.
Sin is not a defect or disability of nature.
“Original sin” is an erroneous formulation.
“Free will,” as you usually call it. I prefer the term “self-authorization,” from the early Christian Greek term αυτεξουσιοτης, derived from the roots for “self” and “authority.” This word was unhappily translated into Latin as libero arbitrio (“free judgment/decision”) and variations, which has led to much confusion, since the Bible itself never associates the Greek word for “free” (ελευθερον) with the word family of “judge/decide” (κρινω), much less with the word families of “will” (θελω) or “intend” (βουλομαι). Therefore concordant analysis of these Greek terms in Scripture would never lead a Bible student to come up with an expression like “free will.” At least the early Christian word for this concept can be inferred from the first chapters of Genesis, where Adam was told to exert lordship over the earth and sovereignty over its creatures. The Vulgate, in a similar vein, uses equivalent Latin roots for subjugating and dominating. These are the linguistic domain of authority. So it was natural to understand one’s own “self” as included under that divine mandate of control. I think this angle is a bit more defensible, under fire, than the more usual usage of “free will,” but the theological payoff is quite similar. I wouldn’t fight over words. In any case, the early church, before Augustine< was quite consistent, as you know. David Bercot has supplied plenty of evidence in his Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs and other books.
The Gospel Story itself is the drawing power of God for salvation. Its explanation and testimony provide the evidence and persuasive power to generate solid faith in the true God and His only-born Son. So if we choose to stay in that Word, and it stays in us, we produce fruit for lasting life.
“Predestination” is an erroneous teaching. The Greek term, προοριζω, means “destine,” not “predestine.” And it is conditional. If we remain in Christ by faith, our destiny of sonship is assured. And, of course, God knows—foreknows—His kids, those who stay faithful to the end. He supplies everything necessary to hang in there.
Jesus did not become a “sinner” on the cross. He became a “sin-offering” (II Cor. 5:21); the same word is used countless times in the Old Testament, especially Leviticus, with this meaning. The very fact that the Holy Spirit chose to use the identical word, “sin” (in both the Hebrew and LXX) for both sin and sin-offering should not be lost on us! I have written at length on this curiosity (which is repeated with the so-called words for “guilt” and “guilt-offering” in the Hebrew text), which reinforces the observation that it actually took a “Sin,” namely, the crucifixion of God’s Son as a “Sin[-offering]” to do what was required to “make us righteous.”
Imputation or reckoning does not refer to any “transference” of either sin or righteousness, in any direction.
Atonement is absolutely unlimited. Nor is God “particular” or partial or preferential about whom he saves…except that they must exercise their faith in the solid evidence and testimony the Holy Spirit has compiled in the Bible. God has “elected” faith as His condition of choice. Ya gotta love ‘im for this!
Atonement is both objective and subjective. See my “77 Questions about the Atonement (Q & A),” where I massage the topic more thoroughly from the premial perspective. For that very reason, I slice matters somewhat differently than any penal theory does. Your response to that would be kindly received.
If a debt is paid it is not forgiven; if it is pardoned it is not paid. This is rock bottom. On this rock, penal satisfaction falters from the git go. Yet it will keep galumphing on until we recover the premial side of all true justice, both human and divine, and therewith put it out of its misery and what it causes others.
Only mankind needs to be conciliated to God, not God to mankind. Paul Peter Waldenström most forcefully and thoroughly defended this truth. In addition to my own study of Scripture itself, he has been my chief mentor in this regard.
God did not directly bruise or punish His Son but only in the sense of “surrendering” him to his foes, and “not sparing” him from their cruel afflictions. These were pre-understood parts of this suicide mission in God’s larger strategy to win the world back to Himself. Furthermore, the General’s superabounding favor surrounded this daring undertaking. There was no divine indignation against Christ whatever. (Okay, okay, maybe you can’t agree with my elaboration here, but let this be a preview, then. Respectful consideration is all I ask.)
Christ died for every person without exception. “The unlimited atonement of Christ does not mean that all will be saved but that all can be saved” (Natural Ability, p. 457)
Christ suffered “a” curse of the Law of Moses, not “our” curse (ibid. p. 459-60)—one which I would point out was not necessarily triggered by any sin. Similarly, as Albert Barnes well commented, Christ’s sufferings “were not the identical sufferings which the sinner would have endured.” (I would add that they were super-compensated to a greatly magnified degree by God’s restorative justice in Christ’s resurrection. But more of this later.)
“Jesus died for the whole world, but the world is still under God’s wrath.” “God will only turn from His wrath when sinners turn from their sins.” Classic. “Those who stay in their sins are those who stay under God’s wrath, despite the atonement that was made for them.” “Those whom Jesus died for are still under the wrath of God and are going to receive the penalty…unless they repent of their sins and believe the Gospel.” “Those whom Christ died for can still perish.” Forgiveness was made available to all at Calvary, but forgiveness only becomes actual at conversion. No man is saved from God’s wrath until they repent and believe…only those who are converted actually have their penalty remitted by God’s grace and mercy.” (ibid. pp. 472, 475, 476) Nicely said. ‘Nuff said.
Jesus drank the “cup” of Satan’s afflictions (like Job, only fatal this time around!), not of God’s wrath.
In David’s sin of numbering the people, he was not alone in sinning, but also his officers and the people sinned. David, their leader, led them into sin, but they “played follow the leader” without a murmur. David was taking all the blame, but, as with Moses, “the soul that sins, it shall die.” Thus God rejected David’s “claim to blame,” even as He rejected Moses’ offer to be a “substitutionary sacrifice” (!) and prosecuted penal justice anyway. Grotius, as you must know, did not hold your position. Now I’m curious, does the New England Theology hold his interpretation of this pivotal passage or yours?
Well, Jesse, that list should provide something of a baseline of agreement on corollary doctrines so that we can proceed to the matters I would like to target below. In addition, I would like to commend you for correcting, in passing, the faulty words of Keith Getty’s and Stuart Townend’s otherwise very lovely modern hymns: “The Father turned his face away…” (from “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”) (ibid., pp. 463-64) and “The wrath of God was satisfied…” (from “In Christ Alone”) (ibid., p. 472). When one reflects, however, on the legacy of English Puritan and Evangelical hymnody (as in my document, “Penal Substitution in English Hymns,” which I mailed you and tentatively posted on my blog site, pending some reformatting and color coding), it seems surprising there is not a great deal more wording of this sort. But, then, Getty and Townend are Englishmen. I can only observe in passing here that the last two generations of hymnals widely used by the Christian Reformed Church (the most recent being a joint effort with the Reformed Church in America), have virtually no hymns that reflect the theology (and nearly none reflecting the distinctive imagery) of penal satisfaction/substitution. I have analyzed them myself. I must say, I find this astonishing since they still contain the confessional standards from the 16th and 17th centuries, which do embody those teachings. I “confess” I don’t quite know what to make of this observation. I haven’t examined other commonly used hymnals on this score. I’m curious to know whether more surprises await me!
~to be continued~