Tag Archives: John Balguy (1686-1748)

Untangling “Predestination” — Part 5

Those who have been following this blog site will already be aware of the fuller context concerning God’s premial justice and, in turn, the premial Atonement, into which this treatment of “predestination” is getting unceremoniously dropped. When I started this analysis back in 2008, I had not yet read the brief but trenchantly argued treatise from 1741, An Essay on Redemption: Being the Second Part of Divine Rectitude (104 pages), by John Balguy, who first coined the term “premial” (please see my “About” page at the top of this site, along with the first couple of blogs, where I quote at length the passage containing the only two instances of the new word). I first read the book in late January of 2011, so never used ‘premial’ in this exploration of predestination. Nevertheless, the contents were fully in accord with Balguy’s use of the word, so his label nicely covered the contents regardless.

Therefore, it will not be inappropriate to poise my results more precisely within the context of the premial Atonement perspective which I have already elaborated in this blog site. Readers will know that the apostolic take on the Atonement that I simply label “premial” is free of those several “penal” elements now so commonly assumed by conservative evangelical Protestants and gathered under the rubric “penal substitution” or “penal satisfaction.” This latter position was most fully developed within Calvinism, and is in fact its most characteristic doctrine, although other Protestant traditions share significant elements as well. However the so-called “Five Points of Calvinism” have amplified them at greatest length. And among these, “the doctrine of predestination” was simply embedded within “Unconditional Election.”

I have tried to show on this blog site that Penal Substitution logic is stretched entirely on an economic framework of logic that is qualified penally. This is decidedly not the framework of the New Testament explanation of the Atonement, nor, for that matter, of Justification or Reconciliation either, which do, however, likewise draw upon legal language, and thus are jeopardized no less by penal pretensions and impositions.

The fact that every one of the Five Points bears the marks of abuse by stretching on this punitive ‘rack’ will raise the presumptive expectation that what Calvinists do with “predestination” will bear the same marks of torture. Sure enough. “Predestination” is said to be necessary because a “sovereign” God’s plan to pay/satisfy for the debt of sins incurred by a limited number of chosen/elect—for to pay for the sins of all mankind would be uneconomical, hence unfitting for a prudent Sovereign—can only seem plausible on the premise that sins/debts must be paid for by someone, in any case, without fail, in other words: by a Penal Substitute. Such “prudential” logic may be worthy of a for-profit, self-aggrandizing, client-deceiving insurance behemoth; it is unworthy of a God who is Our Rock, who indemnified the whole population without exception, for the sake of His own grand reputation and Brand Name!

We have shown throughout this site that this particular construal of economic metaphors and concepts is not to be found in the Bible. Sin (even as “debt”) is never said to be “paid [for]at all. Indeed, it is exclusively the saints or believers that are said to be bought and paid for. However, their faith itself is their own willful contribution to salvation, turning as it does on their natural (and not “fallen” as such!) human response to the necessary but not sufficient testimony of Holy Writ, which requires getting “blended together with faith in those who hear” (Hebrews 4:2) in order to achieve its intended beneficial outcome. To be sure, this evidence does powerfully evoke or induce faith, but does not “guarantee” faith. This process happily accords with God’s graciousness (Romans 4:16), which, in fact, enhances and fosters human sovereignty, authority, judgment/decision-making, and choice, even if it should happen to result in a rebuff of His gentle advances. God is all about “inviting” folks to the Party of the Kingdom.

Nevertheless, as we know, comparatively few are chosen—only those who exert their own self-authorized faculty of faith—which even as Calvin so validly declared, is simply the outstretched hand (not the laboring hand, mind you!), ready to receive the Gift God is handing out.  That Gift is most emphatically not faith; that Gift is the Holy Spirit itself, which could not consequently show up early (“preveniently”) in order to create the very faith by which itself is thereupon received. The logical incoherence of such a contention should be perfectly clear. My refutation does not exclude, however (as was the burden of my above paper), that a Book inspired by the Holy Spirit may precede faith and perform the honors, without any incoherence or contradiction. (That, in particular, was the burden of my preceding “Appendix.”)

The premial justice of God is directed upon the blameless Defendant to exonerate and then repay him due restitution for his painful labors of love on behalf of the whole blamed (!) world of sinful humanity. However, no quid pro quo equivalence of “pain for pay” characterized the transaction. It was purely gratuitous, which is not to say “wasted,” but simply rationally appropriate to the intended outcome, without overreach or shortfall. It hit its mark precisely: “Now if anyone is loving God, this one gets known by Him” (1 Corinthians 8:3).

This premial rationale relieves theology of any burden to “limit” the divine outlay of beneficence or graciousness to one that accords with alleged economic rationality, much less to economic penury! After all, what the Lord Jesus Christ procured was a prize, booty, spoils, winnings, judicial damages, just deserts, not an “equivalent payment” or “commercial exchange” of any sort, as I have been at great pains to establish in this blog site from the very beginning.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of His infinite riches in Jesus

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.                   —Annie J. Flint

This was in full satisfaction, if you will, of “the righteousness/justice of God,” as Paul was at even greater pains to establish in his epistle to the Roman believers, but which the Protestant Reformation, at yet more (and needless) pains accidently—let’s be charitable here—sabotaged in favor of a convoluted pretzel of a doctrine: Paul meant rewarding (premial) justice dispensed directly to Christ (who deserved it), thence graciously distributed for free to us (who did not deserve it) by our faith and baptism (i.e., by inclusion in Christ); Luther, et al, meant punitive (penal) justice distributed to us (who deserved it) indirectly through Christ (who did not deserve it) by his substitution. The difference between these alternatives for Christian behavior and mental stability is immense.

Perhaps we need to ponder more deeply the fact that a reward can be distributed at the good pleasure if its legitimate recipient, irrespective of particular “merits” possessed by any subsequent recipients chosen. A penalty/punishment, however, cannot be thus “freely” distributed; that would be immoral and illegal. Yet penal substitution doctrine is based squarely on this latter indefensible premise, and usually even glories in it!

The premial position, we can see, comports with a faith that is exocentric (focused on an outside object) and authentically voluntary, not an “act/work” at all, but simply proper reliance on credible evidence and testimony (so not coerced), and which ultimately comports with an election that is conditional on such faith and, by reflex, with a destiny that is potentially alienable. However, the divine ambience suffusing this perspective is as different from the effluvium of penal substitution as a loaf of bread is from a stone, or a fish is from a serpent, or an egg is from a scorpion, or a REWARD is from a PUNISHMENT.  That is, as opposite as might well be imagined.

The premial framework allows the weaving of a startlingly contrasting systematic pattern of salvation across the board. This, naturally, affects all the familiar “points” of Calvinism: all alike collapse in the absence of the mortar of penal economic necessity. The premial universe is one in which an inheritance in the Kingdom of God is free…but must be claimed with steady expectation as a right of believing children of God answering to God’s promises in His own Words, contracted by Covenant—the Bible.

The premial world is one in which sin is not passed along generationally (needing to be washed away in baptism, even from infants), nor so pervasive or perverse as to make faith impossible without the prosthetic of adventitious “regeneration” to trigger it.

The premial universe is one in which Atonement is universal and plenty powerful for its appointed objective of nurturing lovers of God, but without arm-twisting others. Élégance!

In a premial cosmos, graciousness, appealing and fetching as it may be, does not act so unseemly as to make its drawing influence irresistible as a magic spell. No spellbinding here, only the spell of unforced love. “Prevenient grace” is an encumbering artifice that ought to be perceived as an insult to the grace of Christ’s resurrection, the plain bold Report of which turned that ancient civilization upside down within decades!

A premial reality is one in which believers press on toward God’s impending Kingdom impelled by the covenantal promises and warnings of God’s living Explanation, producing rich fruits of Christ’s personality to encourage others in faith and, reflexively, secure one’s own confidence and delight in the faith once for all drop-shipped to the saints of planet earth.

In a premial creation, the dark oppressive clouds of graphically visualized punishment, wrath, and condemnation poured out on a perfectly innocent, though willing (as if he “needed” to be!) victim so as to satisfy the demanding justice of God (thereby impugning justice wholesale as exclusively penally retributive), is lifted and dispelled, permitting the cheering rays of divine benignity to burst forth and bless earth’s shores.

In a premial civilization, the repugnant spectacle of Christians playing in the dung heap of sordid pleasures, toying with the profane, venal options our culture places on the bottom shelf of easy accessibility with the click of a wayward mouse—all these pleasures of Egypt would lose their glamor under their deceptive marketing as “harmless diversions for the unconditionally elect” and be discerned for the mortal perils they are.

In a premial galaxy, the affecting sight of many a seasoned churchgoer manifesting pathological anxiety concerning their destiny as a child of God, presenting the watching world with an oddly ambiguous, if not highly unsettling testimony to the comforting certitudes of the Gospel as advertised, should be as rare as jellyfish fossils.

In short, the premial justice of God manifested supremely in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from among the mouldering dead to proliferating immortality, agrees to perfection with the heralding of an endless sparkling destiny as children of God, privileged to inherit a whole New Creation, starting with Christ’s resurrected body and proceeding to incorporate all others who believe and get immersed in him by his Holy Spirit. The fundamental heart of the New Testament Proclamation is not, therefore, “penal substitution” but “premial inclusion,” in an inconceivably marvelous destiny as “priests and kings” on the New Earth a comin’! Having announced such a future with abundant corroboration, God leaves the choice up to us whether we wish to join the Party or keep our unsafe distance and sadly perish.

June 2, 6, 8-9, 2017

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An OPEN LETTER to Jesse Morrell and FRIENDLY CRITIQUE of The Vicarious Atonement of Christ (2012), part 3

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~

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I Have Good News and Bad News

June 29, 2013

Today is my daughter Karis’s BIG 21st BIRTHDAY!  So I decided to celebrate, in part, by publishing here the up-to-the-minute result of the incipient ideas she planted almost two months ago when we went out for breakfast.  She asked me on the drive there, “Dad, when we get to the restaurant, can you please explain to me in just a few paragraphs your view of the Atonement?”  She was just finishing her junior year at Calvin College, so I thought I’d start with Calvin.  I gave it the old college try, and here’s what I came up with, in the guise of a “news” report.  Okay, it turned out to be more than a few paragraphs!  But I did try to take her other strong editorial suggestions, for which I am extremely grateful.  Verily, there’s nothing human that can’t be improved.  I await your comments for improvements.

BY RON ROPER

RELIGION WRITER

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Perhaps the most widespread account propagated in recent centuries concerning the meaning of the climactic events surrounding the last days of Jesus of Nazareth has lately been exposed as a corruption of earliest doctrine.  We have been fed a line.  A fresh and candid look at the original documents reveals a radically different rationale behind the story.

The original written reports about the unusual origins and public career of  Jesus — birth, teaching, miracles, trial, execution, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven — during the era of ancient Israel’s imperial Roman occupation, contain their own interpretation of this extraordinary course of events.  These four ‘Gospels’ of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John build upon the prophetic foundation laid by the ancient Hebrew Scriptures.  ‘The Gospel’ was understood as the ‘good news’ that God had finally fulfilled His ancient covenanted promise of a Savior to Israel, and thence to all other nations as well.  Accordingly, these unique historic events and their implications ought now to be proclaimed to the whole world.  Luke further elaborated the original interpretation in The Acts of the Apostles — his recounting of key incidents and apostolic speeches over the next three decades or so.  The remaining documents developed the apostolic interpretation through occasional letters (‘epistles’), a theological treatise (‘Hebrews’), and a prophetic vision (‘The Revelation’).  All these writings expounded the “new covenant” that Jesus the Messiah founded, so were eventually collected into what became called the “New Testament.”

First, the bad news

What many of us have traditionally been catechized and taught about the meaning of the final climactic events of Jesus’ life on earth, ought to be held suspect as misinformation, and in that sense, ‘bad’ news.  More specifically, the explanation we have been led to believe about the theological meaning of Christ’s cross and resurrection appears to be a severe declension from apostolic doctrine.  Let’s consider the matter more closely.

We’ve been told that when Jesus was sentenced to death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate in 30 A.D., he simultaneously came under God’s condemnation.  He suffered God’s wrath in order to both demonstrate God’s holiness and hatred of sin before human eyes and also pay God our debt for sins.  Out of love, Christ identified with sinners by actually being ‘made sin’, substituting himself at the cross in the place of sinners who, by their sinful conduct, properly deserved God’s wrath.  In this way, he satisfied God’s law and justice, thereby propitiating or appeasing God’s wrath.

By suffering vicariously and dying in the place of sinners, even experiencing the eternal torments of hell, Jesus paid the eternal penalty they deserved.  This satisfied God’s justice so that He could then be righteous in showing grace to forgive sinners of their transgressions.  Also, He imputes Christ’s own personal righteousness to them so as to count them legally righteous in God’s eyes, even though they are actually still sinful.  Being hereby justified, they are given the right to eternal life.  Thus Jesus paid God the ransom price of his shed blood to redeem sinners from the latter’s righteous indignation against wrongdoing.

However, it is insisted, Christ could not have paid for all sins, or all sinners would necessarily be saved.  And since we know that all are not saved, Christ could only have suffered, and thereby atoned, for a limited number of sinners — the elect, who had been, by an eternal, sovereign, gracious divine decree, particularly predestined for salvation.  All others have been reprobated, or passed by, and must suffer the divine wrath of eternal conscious torment on account of their own sins.  So although the redemption is sufficient for all mankind, it is efficient or effective only for the elect.

Furthermore, because human beings are dead in sins, or totally depraved, it is impossible for them even to believe the Gospel unless they additionally receive the gift of faith.  No human act can be a condition of salvation, not even the act of faith.  God bestows faith as a gift exclusively on those whom He previously selected from eternity, by His sovereign grace, for salvation.  This gracious choice is unconditional and cannot be revoked or altered by human beings.  Therefore, whenever God’s efficacious call to faith comes to them, they cannot resist, for God’s grace is invincible.  They are at that moment regenerated by the Holy Spirit, which only then enables them to believe.  All others sinners will necessarily resist the Gospel, to their own eternal damnation, yet for the glory of God.  If Christ had suffered for their sins, too, God could not exact eternal punishment from them or He would be subjecting them to double jeopardy, exacting the same payment from them that He had already received from Christ, which would be unjust.

In a nutshell, there’s the disinformation, the bad news that has been passed off as good news for nearly half a millennium.  Yet unless we clearly grasp the inner logic of the apostolic original, the above corrupt departure will retain its credibility to many minds.  So instead of analyzing it piecemeal first, I offer the following retelling of the basic New Testament position in order to provide some holistic leverage against it.  Thereafter, I will highlight the differences more particularly, in several ways.

Now for the good news

When Jesus was condemned to the cross in A.D. 30, he was experiencing the bruising of his heel of Gen. 3:15 — the fury and wrath of “the Great Dragon . . . the ancient serpent called ‘Adversary’ and ‘Satan’” of Rev. 12:9-17.  Israel’s Messiah, unlike any human being before him, was under the grace of God nonstop — a status he came to earth to confer on others.  In fact, especially when he was under severest opposition from his murderous foes, reeling from the cup of diabolical affliction, God was decidedly on his side and would, by an ideally timely maneuver, lift him up, victorious over all enemies, with extraordinary rewards.

However, a perfectly just and holy person — one qualified to receive sovereignty and authority — poses a distinct threat to political establishments of earth.  Self-interest and self-survival drive these regimes.  Their liquidation of potential opposition becomes simply a cost of doing business — the business of graft, bribery, misappropriation, even trafficking in human lives — while devoted to the worship of mammon.

Predictably, then, after Jesus finished his celestial assignment of testifying on earth to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from Heaven about immortal life, so help him God, the establishment summarily convicted him for plotting to overthrow both sacred and civil establishments.  They could hardly have been more correct, in spite of themselves!  And God did help him, not only with miraculous powers and narrow escapes, but also by entitling him to become the ultimate escape artist.

Besides, the power of love, Christ’s strategy for cosmic subversion, needed some ultimate proof so that people could really believe it.  Accordingly, the plot to dispatch Jesus ran afoul of the incomparably more potent, life-making truth that he dared to submit to the test of falsification — a life-and-death toss for the daring challenger.  He surrendered to his enemies and allowed them to inflict torment and even shed his blood.  However, in consideration of his flawless loyalty to God, he ipso facto invoked his Father to do him justice and save him out of his fatal fait accompli, ex post facto and pronto!  This would prove him correct. Thus his trainees would have fresh courage to strike out yet further along his Way of worldwide conquest.

Jesus’ lifelong faithful obedience to God’s desire rendered him wrath-proof, and ultimately invincible even in death.  This is how his innocent blood, unjustly shed, would become the active ingredient for giving protective cover to believing sinners, after God’s resurrecting power justly and peaceably avenged the cross.  Alive again, he would qualify to rule as the promised Messiah of Israel, and much, much more.

It worked, too!  Jesus, having suffered death, even the official, public, disgraceful, excruciating, and certain death on a cross, although absolutely innocent of any sin whatsoever, shot back to life on the third day, just as he had predicted many times, without the dubious aid of any human contrivance or needless fanfare.  Why?  Simply because it was right!  This climactic sin of his cross — the ancient sin-offerings prophetically depicted this sin-to-end-all-sins — was immediately redressed by the justice of God in the judicial decree to raise him immortal from his abject death to the pinnacle of glory!  Being thus justified by his faithfulness so as to win superabundant life, he was authorized by God to relay it as a sheer gift to whoever would simply believe he was who he claimed to be — the Messiah, Son of God.

The short-term payoff:  sinners who believe may receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit seeks to convey the very justness of God’s Kingdom to earth, cleansing believing hearts from all sin and making them holy and fit for divine service in this world, in preparation for the next.  Long-term, they benefit by inheriting an allotment within that peaceful Kingdom:  a personal abode, for which the Holy Spirit is the down payment in kind.

The power to believe this Good News resides in the very news report itself, which is designedly the power of God for human salvation.  The story of God’s exalting Jesus through wrongful crucifixion to rightful resurrection, and beyond, vibrates with divine magnetic energy to induce the spark of faith in the human breast.  It is accompanied by corroborating eyewitness testimony and crowned with the added inner witness of God’s Holy Spirit, plus confirming signs and miracles.  Yet this Benefits Package can still be spurned by any human being in virtue of God’s primal gift of inherent self-determination.  This capacity reflects God’s own image and likeness of mastery, control, and authority over one’s environment, including oneself.  This gift is irrevocable and unregretted on God’s part, effaceable only by death.

What’s the difference?

A.  The logic of “penal satisfaction”

  1. The Atonement must be limited, otherwise Christ’s satisfaction would entail excessive penal suffering of God’s wrath.  Therefore Christ died only for a select number of sinners, not for all.
  2. Election to salvation must be unconditional, otherwise some of Christ’s penal suffering would have no redemptive effect or payoff, so would be pointless.  But if unconditional, then God must predestine those chosen without consideration of any choice they themselves might make to believe or not, which might jeopardize its certainty.
  3. Human depravity from sin must be so total that human beings cannot even believe the Gospel, otherwise God would not get all the credit for giving faith purely as a gift without any human decision, disposition, etc.  Christ’s sufferings must have purchased even that gift of faith.  If people, to the contrary, have the inherent power to believe or not believe — to receive salvation or not receive it — then  they are capable of resisting the power of God.  This would be an intolerable affront to God’s sovereign will.
  4. God must therefore be sovereign, that is, none can resist his decisions.  He foreknows all things because he predestines all things.  Hence God’s grace is likewise irresistible or invincible so that all whom God elects actually end up saved, otherwise God’s economy would collapse, bankrupt.  God’s grace is sovereign.
  5. The pre-chosen saints must persevere in the gift of faith and the enjoyment of God’s grace, otherwise God’s economy of salvation is fatally destabilized, and He reveals incompetence.  If any whom He predestined to salvation were able to fall away, that would indict God’s wisdom as fruitless and His power as feckless.  God would lose face.  It would ill befit His glory, making Him look like a fool in the eyes of the universe.
  6. All non-chosen people remain under God’s wrath, which is consummated when they pay the eternal debt of their own sins by eternal conscious punishment in hell.  It follows that Christ could not have suffered the pains of hell on their behalf, otherwise that suffering would have overshot its goal and hence be foolishly uneconomical and unproductive, which is unthinkable.  To the contrary, God maintains a strict balance of payments so that his economy of salvation is preserved.

In this “penal satisfaction” model, the Savior must necessarily play the role of a “substitute” who suffers God’s wrath in the place of sinners; he cannot be experiencing God’s justice on his own behalf because justice is exclusively penal, and he did not deserve that on his own account, being sinless.  This is why penal satisfaction is often equated with “penal substitution.”

However, if in those climactic salvation events of Christ’s career God was in reality enacting or ‘satisfying’ a rewarding or restorative justice, instead of a penal justice, then substitution, in the proper sense of the word, was not present or necessary in the event.  In fact, the idea only confuses the issue and misleads our thinking about Christ’s mediation.  We might better speak of “premial inclusion” (via baptism) instead of “penal substitution.”

B.  The logic of “premial inclusion”

Premial justice exposes the preceding novel system of salvation as guilty of fiction in the first degree.

First of all, God brought salvation to earth by doing justice directly to one man, Jesus.  Thereupon, God channeled Christ’s own just deserts to believing sinners through him.  The justice due him was extraordinary in God’s reckoning because of his faithful obedience under the most severe trials of faith.  His sinless perfection alone qualified him to win the prize of the Kingdom from God.

Moreover, God’s graciousness to Jesus was super-compensatory and thus capable of extending to every individual in the whole world, without exception.  There is no limit to the Atonement in extent, application, or operation.  Whoever wants protective cover from their sins can have it simply by faith in Christ and baptism for remission of sins.  Thereupon, they obtain the gift of the Holy Spirit.

God makes this superabundant graciousness available to whoever trusts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, without favoritism, exception, or exclusion, yet it is not irresistible or invincible.  Grace can be resisted by any creature fortunate enough to have been made in the image of God.  In fact, God’s graciousness can be resisted as easily as His Holy Spirit can . . . but not without similar harmful consequences.

Human depravity is by no means total, nor is any living human being declared in Scripture to be “dead in sin” except by a guilty mistranslation.  The capacity to believe is an inherent human faculty that remains intact and only awaits sufficient testimony or other proof for its persuasion.

God designed the Gospel with inherent power of persuasion.  For good measure, He threw in credible human testimonies plus miraculous corroboration by the Holy Spirit to induce sturdy faith.

God chooses to save all who choose to concur with the solid but non-coercive proof that the Holy Spirit has collected between the covers of the Bible.  Yet if we subsequently unchoose God, He remains free to unchoose us, as well, yet without discomfiture or disgrace to Himself, although not without sorrow.  In the final analysis, God leaves our own choice up to us.  Thus He honors His own likeness reflected in our good created structure.

God predestines no one to salvation or to damnation.  Much rather, He destines everyone who believes His story about the cross and resurrection of Jesus to become His own beloved children.  He further bequeaths them, as His daughters and sons, an inheritance in His impending Kingdom.  That delightful future is their destiny if they stay faithful, otherwise that destiny is aborted and, sadly, they get redestined to termination in the Lake of Fire.  Whoever persists in faith to the end of their present life will be saved for agelong life.

Protestant insecurities about salvation were triggered and aggravated by its punitive image of God.  Get rid of that and the relationship normalizes.  Then we can return to authentic, rugged early Christian teaching (which, however, does not resemble the usual mediating variations of “eternal security” — by comparison, sadly threadbare eternal security blankets).

The phrase ‘sovereignty of God’ never occurs in Scripture.  This idea is a Trojan horse that has smuggled a horde of deterministic evils into Christian theology and practice.  The Lord Jesus Christ was given sovereignty, authority, and more, as tangible fruits of his successful obedience.  It is this true Sovereign who declares, “Let him who is thirsting come.  Let him who wills take the water of life freelyRev. 22:17.

The back story about the differences

As you can see, the good news and the bad news are worlds apart in vocabulary, concept, and ambience.  It may be helpful to provide some account of the historic background to the emergence of the latter.

The approach to salvation that I have dubbed ‘bad news’ will be broadly recognizable as Calvinism.  Its famous principal points all turn on a single bipolar axis — that of woodenly commercial economic metaphors in combination with exclusively penal ideas of justice.  This pivotal doctrine is commonly known as “penal satisfaction” or “penal substitution” and was assembled in its classic form by the genius of John Calvin (1509-64).  He was an ardent devotee of Aurelius Augustine (354-430), and all too often emulated him at his worst, when he was echoing the gnostic theology of his Manichaean pre-conversion training — impulses that surfaced like shingles under the stress of his famous controversy with Pelagius (c. 354-418).

Calvin’s soteriology (doctrine of salvation) is daunting, not to be underestimated in its persuasive impact, despite its irresolvable contradictions and repugnant effects.  That said, I would argue that, generally speaking, all those elements by which Calvinism distinguishes itself from other streams of Christian soteriology are flatly false and harmful.

The main distinctives, usually summarized as “the Five Points of Calvinism,” were distilled at the Synod of Dordt in 1618-19 as the official response to the five criticisms articulated by the Remonstrants, whose most able champion had been James Arminius (1560-1609).  The heart of these distinctives is the notion that Jesus paid for or “satisfied” (in its secondary, economic sense) the debt of human sins by suffering the wrath of God that they deserved.  Every one of the Five Points flows directly and rigidly from this single compound error.  However, both of its elements — that Jesus paid the debt of sins, and that he suffered the condemnation and wrath of God — are foreign to the Bible and were foisted onto it unnaturally.  Nevertheless, their compound penal-economic logic is so seemingly rigorous that it has overshadowed and suppressed the actual New Testament system for explaining salvation.  Mounting human traditions had over the centuries already obscured its central thesis.  The Lord explicitly warned of such dangers from accumulating traditions.

The New Testament assumes the Old Testament position that God’s justice is two-fold, both penal (punishing) and ‘premial’ (rewarding; adapted from Latin by Anglican pastor and theologian John Balguy in An Essay on Redemption, London, 1741), each executed toward appropriate objects in God’s pedagogical wisdom and timing.  Accordingly, His justice both punishes evil (penal) and rewards good (premial), as circumstances may require.  God’s punitive wrath is revealed in destructive judgments, after long patience, with those who stay resistant to doing what is right.  His restorative graciousness is manifested toward those who stay upright, and more so in the face of extreme provocation.

Historically, and most tragically, the doctrine of the Atonement fell prey to attempts to explain its operation as dependent on God’s penal justice.  Such an idea was reinforced by linking it with economic metaphors concerning discharge of debts, satisfaction of obligations, fulfillment of conditions, payment of reparations, and so forth.  These comported well with prevalent theories of criminal law (Calvin was trained in law).

At an earlier milestone, Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) had explained the Atonement in terms of the feudal metaphors of his own day concerning repaying infractions of honor.  He thereupon elaborated his famous theory of “vicarious satisfaction,” whereby Christ, being sinless, repaid God by his undeserved death for the debt that sinners owed instead.  His excess sufferings were said to be supererogatory (exceeding his own needs) and vicarious (for the sake of sinners, who did need them).  Thus Christ satisfied the human debt vicariously, in place of sinners.  This Anselmian economy of salvation was itself far removed from that of the New Testament, but it was not yet “penal satisfaction/substitution.”  Worse was to come.

When these economic concepts of medieval civil law were transposed into the context of criminal law contemporary with Calvin, their character was altered in the direction of much greater severity.  Anselm had articulated such a penal option clearly enough, yet he as clearly repudiated it.  Calvin, however, by deliberately transferring the debtor from a civil to a criminal court, rendered him liable to the death penalty under divine wrath as the only sufficient satisfaction for sin.  So the work of Christ was interpreted as paying that death penalty in order to repay God for human sins.  And since Christ did not deserve to pay that penalty on his own sinless behalf, his suffering was said to be substitutionary (subject to the punishment that others deserve, in exchange for their release from the penalty).

In accordance with such a system, however, this payment needed to be economized in a rational manner so as to eliminate waste, which would reflect badly on the wisdom of God.  Did Christ pay only for the sins of those who would eventually be saved, or did he pay on behalf of every sinner, regardless of their eventual destiny?  So long as penal justice and commercial economics alone provide the leading analogies, they perforce catapult Calvinism into this dilemma and its consequences, from which there is no real escape.

The post-Reformation morphs of Calvinism by Calvin’s epigones, Theodore Beza (1519-1605), Johannes Piscator (1546-1625), William Perkins (1558-1602), William Ames (1576-1633), John Owen (1616-83), Francis Turretin (1623-87), et al, were even more consistently wrong than he was, especially concerning the limits of the Atonement and whether or not the wrath of God could actually be said to have fallen on His beloved Son.  Here, Calvin, at least, mightily equivocated and was not completely overwhelmed by the undertow of his own penal satisfaction theory.  Not so his zealous “followers” of later generations, right down to the present.  Toward serious objectors to his contradictory reasoning, Calvin would simply have launched his customary withering vituperations and public censure.  Toward those who dared more insistently, he would have commenced proceedings to prosecute and banish, if not execute.  Subsequent generations of Calvinists likewise used civil authority to make their creedal opinions official, disestablish opposition, and persecute dissidents.  The turmoil has never fully abated, either within the ranks or outside, so influential has been this penal payment paradigm.

Penal satisfaction atonement logic creates dilemmas that can never be surmounted or harmonized with Scripture.  Every option fails.  Most were played out within a century after Calvin’s death by such worthy scholars as Arminius, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Moses Amyraldus (1596-1664), Richard Baxter (1615-91), and eventually John Wesley (1703-91).  But that’s another story.  Only to say that none of them, nor any of their followers, ever overcame the internal dilemmas of the fundamental theory of atonement that, ironically, they all, in principle, agreed on.

By a further irony, only Faustus Socinus (1539-1604) — the key scholar they one and all anathematized — had it right that penal satisfaction was misconceived from the start and should be jettisoned.  However, even he, whose powerful arguments literally kept theological students busy for centuries performing vain exercises in refutation (collected in massive volumes by their professors), although never successfully vanquished, yet did not achieve the needed breakthrough to the high ground of premial justice.  Thus his atonement theory was scarcely more valid than theirs, although it could legitimately boast often worthier ethical fruits in significant spheres of life, with its more endearing image of God (unitarian though it was) and more imitable image of Christ (merely humanitarian though it seems to have been).

During the intervening centuries, numerous theologians and Protestant leaders exerted further strenuous efforts somehow to ameliorate the severity of Calvinism.  Consequently, many people now label themselves, for example, “two-point” or “three-point” Calvinists.  This is because they still adhere to penal satisfaction, the continuous font of all five points (plus a few others).  It is impossible, in principle, to cast off the incubus of any of these points for long without dismantling penal satisfaction first, otherwise the same old points, or at least their ghosts, will forever return to haunt.  Thus dissenters may claim disagreements with Calvin or later Calvinism, after a fashion, holding out against the “points” they dispute.  Yet for their part, Calvinists often respond by claiming to be “more consistent.”  And they actually are, but more consistently wrong.  The partial objectors are less consistently wrong.

So pick your poison or, in a more salutary vein, prepare to reevaluate penal satisfaction/substitution root and branch, including the sum of its prickly points.  This vagrant TULIP will not wither by simply plucking its petals; its bulb must be eradicated . . . or abandoned like tares to grow up amid the grain, awaiting the angels of judgment to sort out.

All these classic and mediating positions alike remain enmeshed in mutual conflict and needless animosities.  The time is long overdue to get reconciled by returning to the native, integral rationale of God’s positive, rewarding justice — ‘the rest of the Story’ proclaimed by Christ’s apostles so variously yet unitarily.  Only restorative justice can bring lasting peace to the perennial ‘atonement wars’ that still smolder.  Only premial justice can put the ‘good’ back in the Good News.

I conclude with queries:  Is “penal substitution” inerrant, or is the Bible?  Then what about “The Five Points of Calvinism”?

(May 6, 9, 12, 16-17, 19, 21, 24, 27-30, June 1-6, 10-13, 15-17, 25, 29, July 7, 10-11, 14, 21-22, 2013)

© 2013, Ronald L. Roper

With initial inspiration, invaluable advice, and some copyediting by Karis.

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The Rationale for a Premial Redemption

For my second blog post, I share the stage with John Balguy (1686-1748), who appears to have coined the word “premial,” although it never caught on.  He derived it from the Latin verb premiare, “to stipulate for a reward.”  I have Timothy Gorringe to thank for citing Balguy in his superbly engrossing, though dauntingly documented, God’s Just Vengeance:  Crime, Violence, and the Rhetoric of Salvation (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 170-72.  It makes a vital contribution to our understanding of the societal effects of the penal substitution doctrine of atonement.  (See my link to Gorringe in the long list at the right.)

Briefly, Balguy was born in Sheffield and educated at Cambridge.  He regretted wasting nearly two years reading romances before coming across Livy’s history, which prompted his pleasure in serious studies.  After graduation he taught a while before entering the Anglican ministry in 1711.  He was a talented writer (no thanks to romances?), which he directed at first to sermons and soon to controversial defenses of religious freedom amid ecclesiastical disputes.  He wrote a number of esteemed defenses of contemporaries, then more philosophical works about moral virtue and the role of Christian Scripture.  In 1730 he published his substantial Divine Rectitude; or, a brief Inquiry concerning the moral Perfections of the Deity, particularly in respect of Creation and Providence, in which he argued the superiority of “rectitude” to “benevolence” in explaining God’s governance of the universe.  Then he indulged in polemical writing against deists, as was common during that era.  Finally, in 1741 he published An Essay on Redemption:  Being the Second Part of Divine Rectitude, of barely a hundred pages (and after that a single volume of sermons, among which “Of Revenge” has insights bearing on atonement).  A second edition appeared posthumously in 1785 with a valuable preface by his son, Thomas, that tackled certain objections arising during the intervening four decades.

Balguy’s philosophical treatise on rectitude well prepared him for introducing his elegantly balanced articulation of double-faceted justice–premial as well as penal.  His view of atonement, or “redemption,” proved appealing enough to recur in somewhat altered form in the able work of Dr. John Taylor of Norwich, later in the century.  But enough of history; now down to riveting theology!

In the following excerpt, I’ll quote the context of Balguy’s only two uses of “premial” (which I put in boldface).  This exercise, of course, is intended to highlight the value of reviving the term for contemporary discourse.  I’ll venture some adjustments toward current American capitalization, spelling, punctuation, paragraphing, verse citation, etc.  With apologies for its length, I commend this remarkable passage for its advance toward clarifying the nature of God’s restorative justice or premial “rectitude” on behalf of our redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ.  As should be clear, although a bare start, this approach has resounding implications for our re-understanding of both atonement and justification.

“I shall…return to the pursuit and discussion of the main point….  I mean the manner and method of our being redeemed from the guilt, or to speak more properly, the penalties of sin….  As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners; so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous [Rom. 5:19].  Made sinners, and made righteous, in more senses than one:  but in whatever sense the words be understood, the correspondence holds, and the contrast is visible.

“The former of these dispensations has been already explained and vindicated, and the latter remains to be now set in a clear light, which perhaps is all that is needful to be done in its defense and justification.  Vicarious punishment appears an utter impossibility.  And if vicarious suffering does not imply or amount to the same thing, it is to me altogether unintelligible.  That by a supposed commutation of persons Christ should become our substitute for proxy and, as such, endured evils inflicted on account of our sins, seems to me at least running into needless obscurity and wrapping up a plain doctrine in clouds and darkness.  If Adam was our substitute, our representative in sinning, then might it be allowed that Christ was the same in suffering.  Or if we could be punished for Adam’s transgression, then Christ might be supposed, by the same rule, to be punished for ours.  But whoever disowns the former of these doctrines will unavoidably be obliged to give up the latter.

“The great question then remaining to be considered is how redemption was practicable according to the principles and concessions here laid down.  It has already been granted, and even maintained, that neither sin, nor demerit, nor punishment can possibly be transferred, because they are personal.  And are not righteousness and merit and reward equally personal, and therefore equally nontransferable?  I both own the premises and allow the conclusion and yet cannot find any just cause to be in pain about either.  I readily acknowledge that, strictly speaking, it is altogether impossible that men should be either made sinners or righteous by the act and deed of other persons, and no less repugnant to truth that they should be either punished or rewarded for good or evil actions in which they themselves had no hand.  The great purposes of redemption may, I hope, be fully answered without any recourse to such suppositions.  Let it but be allowed that the first Adam deserved the sentence and punishment inflicted on him, and that the last Adam, the Lamb that was slain [Rev. 5:12], merited a high reward and was truly worthy to receive honor, and power, and glory, and blessing, as we find them ascribed to him in Scripture, and I apprehend these data will be sufficient for the vindication of either doctrine.

“By submitting to take our nature upon him, even under the greatest discouragements and disadvantages, in the lowest form and the most unwelcome condition; by humbling himself still lower and patiently enduring the greatest hardships, indignities, and distresses; by indefatigably seeking and promoting from first to last the glory of God and the benefit of mankind; but more especially by becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Phil. 2:8], our Redeemer was unquestionably most meritorious, in the sense above explained.  To perfect innocence he joined the most extensive benevolence and the most exalted virtue, and thereby became entitled to the highest honor and most distinguished reward.  So far, here is a perfect agreement with truth and rectitude, without all question and beyond all objection.  That the reward conferred on him no way interfered with right and truth but, on the contrary, was most proper and suitable in all respects, most worthy of the Giver and most acceptable to the Receiver, will be my business to show after we have inquired wherein it consisted.

“Besides the exaltation of Christ and the accessions of power and dignity expressly mentioned in Scriptures, there is clearly implied, and sometimes expressed in conjunction therewith, a reward of a different nature.  I mean that very remission of sins, or release of sinners, which is the subject of our present inquiry:  their deliverance from the bonds of sin and death, and the restoration of immortality.  This we are apt to miscall our reward, and to look upon it as such;  but I must beg leave to assert and maintain that, strictly speaking, it is not our reward but our Redeemer’swhom God hath exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins [Acts 5:31].  He merited by his obedience and suffering this glorious and sublime reward, and obtained it accordingly, and that with the utmost truth and propriety….

“That our redemption is really the effect of Christ’s sufferings or, in other words, that Christ’s sufferings are the real and meritorious cause of our redemption, I acknowledge and maintain.  And it must be allowed that this is the very substance of the doctrine and all that can be reputed essential to it….  The present question is whether the accomplishment of our redemption is to be considered as penal or premial, whether as resulting from a vicarious punishment, or a personal reward….

“….When it is said that on him was laid the iniquity of us all [Isaiah 53:6], what occasion is there to understand anything further than that he suffered as really for our iniquities as if they had been his own or, in other words, that to indemnify us he endured those evils which we only had deserved?  Where we read that he was made sin, or a curse, for us [2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13], nothing more seems intended than that he, though entirely sinless, underwent an accursed death for our sakes and suffered as deeply on our account as if he had been a sinner, even the greatest of sinners.

“But why does every thing relating to our Savior’s sufferings run so much in a sacrificial strain, and in so exact a conformity with the legal expiations?  May we not infer from thence that his sufferings were strictly penal, and that he was actually substituted in our stead?….I have already acknowledged that Christ offered a real and proper sacrifice.  I own and contend that he gave himself an offering to God [Eph. 5:2] in order to accomplish our redemption.  He was the propitiation for the sins of the whole world [1 John 2:2], that is, by his meritorious death and sufferings he procured for all penitents the remission of their sins and their reconciliation with God.  But I cannot see the necessity of supposing that in all respects, and in every circumstance, the Christian sacrifice must answer the Jewish, however it might be signified and prefigured thereby.  In one point they are and must be essentially different.  For how is it possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should afford a just representation of the meritorious and all-sufficient sacrifice of our Redeemer?  Hence we find the apostle distinguishing so strongly between them and expressing himself so fully in diminution of the one and exaltation of the other.

“Neither can I think it reasonable or safe to lay so great a stress on typical correspondences as is frequently done on this occasion.  A much greater stress ought, I think, to be laid not only on the reason of the thing, but on the original type and the doctrine which we have been considering, since, according to a foregoing observation, the two dispensations stand in direct opposition, and the one is represented in Scripture as the reverse of the other.  Thus, the first Adam disobeyed and transgressed, the second Adam was all innocence and obedience; the first highly demerited, the second highly merited; the first was punished, the second rewarded.  And as the effects of the former’s punishment fell upon his descendants, and occasioned the corruption of their nature as well as their mortality and misery, so the effects of the latter’s reward redounded to his subjects, producing the renovation and sanctification of their nature, immortality, and salvation.  I might have added that the former was fixed in a joyful, prosperous, and glorious situation, and yet incurred sin and guilt; the latter was placed in a scene of adversity, ignominy, and sorrow, and yet was perfectly blameless and even most meritorious.  And indeed there is scarcely any particular relating to our purpose wherein the same correspondence is not observable.  To say it holds quite through every circumstance is neither agreeable to plain fact nor to the apostle’s observation.  But it holds in so many, and the opposition is so general, as I believe affords us the best help and the clearest light for the explication of either doctrine.  And if this be true, here is an ample confirmation of the account before given.  For to suppose both the first and second Adam punished breaks in upon the rule in one of the main points and destroys the opposition.

“Before I quit this remark, I beg leave to add, in support of some foregoing observations, that as Adam’s transgression, demerit, and punishment, being all personal, could not be transmitted, so Christ’s obedience, merit, and reward, being alike personal, could not be communicated.  Nevertheless as we sustained great damage through the demerit of the former, so we might and did receive inestimable benefit through the merits of the latter.  However we might be affected by the punishment inflicted on Adam, it was really not our punishment but his; however we may be advantaged by the reward conferred upon Christ, it was truly his reward and not ours.  The benefits of redemption being supposed the same, whether it was accomplished in a premial or a penal way, it may seem perhaps, to some, a frivolous controversy that is raised about them; but if the one is repugnant to reason and rectitude, and the other perfectly consistent therewith, I presume nothing more need be said to show the importance of the inquiry.”  (Pp. 64-75.  Accessed through Early English Books Online [EEBO].)

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