Tag Archives: Martin Luther (1483-1546)

INTRODUCTION TO REFORMATION DAY BLOG SERIES

[What follows is my inbox introduction to the preceding 15-part series, which I have been sending out as a PDF attachment, along with a one-third length abbreviated version, to friends, pastors, ministry workers, and theologians around the world since November 11th.  It explains my rationale for the project along with the circumstantial background.]

Dear Reader,

In honor of the 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day, October 31st, 1517, I have attached complete and abbreviated versions of a “premial” (the flip side of penal) or “resurrectionary” re-centering of the Atonement, Justification, Reconciliation, Peacemaking, etc.  I started posting these “theses” on October 31st, 2017, taking a fortnight to wrap up.  So I’m getting a late start distributing them electronically in a more traditional and perhaps more readable PDF format.  This is only the first of a series of milestone “anniversaries” that will commemorate Luther’s early and rapid development into the full-on Protestant Reformer.  My findings after a decades-long critical re-inspection of our Protestant foundations may not meet wide acceptance.  But the undertaking seems worthwhile and certainly long past due.  I’ll be happy to receive correction and adjust accordingly when shown the error of my ways.  But I do think I smell a New Reformation brewing.  Yet who would have guessed the extent of repairs now necessary on the very foundations of the Protestant Reformation?  Infrastructure can be such a pain to keep up, much less improve, as our nation is learning.  But if the foundations are actually destroyed….  Shucks.  And I was led to believe we had all this stuff nailed down…

I’m starting to tell folks that I’ve been suffering a chronic mental breakthrough since the early 1980’s when my attention was drawn to the doctrine of the Atonement with increasing focus.  My blog site (see below), which launched on March 11, 2012, simply unreels my backlog of Atonement notes chronologically, interspersed with occasional current projects.  However, I stopped posting in early July.  I’ll explain.

One day while biking to the Cornerstone University Library, I thought to drop by the adjacent Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  I learned that an Assistant Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology had been newly hired and would start teaching in the fall.  Kenneth J. Reid is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, well known for its 4-year Th.M. degree requiring classes covering every book of the Bible in the original languages.  He then pursued a second Th.M. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY)—reputed to be the most Calvinistic seminary of the denomination—before completing a Ph.D. there in 2015.

The new GRTS catalog lists Ken’s research interests: “Atonement Theology, Trinity, Pneumatology, Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology, Racial Reconciliation, Justice Theology”–overlapping many of my own theological interests.    An African-American, Ken will play a valuable role in nurturing young and working adults, including quite diverse learners and leaders within church and society.

Since the Atonement was his first interest, I suspected he wrote his dissertation on that topic.  Sure enough:  Penal Substitutionary Atonement as the Basis for New Covenant and New Creation  http://hdl.handle.net/10392/4964

I printed off the 370-page volume and commenced plowing through it, hoping to finish by the time he arrived in town and was settled in at home and office.  I’ve been yearning for a qualified, friendly interlocutor who might give steady push-back on my rethinking of the Atonement.

Some five weeks later I wrapped up my reading and marginal notes on the worthy tome, which, as expected, faithfully defended the traditional orthodox Protestant doctrine of penal substitution.  Such stalwarts as R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Tom Schreiner, Mark Seifrid (now at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, as of 2015), Bruce Ware, and Jarvis Williams, among others, anchored that position among the vast SBTS faculty of like-minded scholars during Ken’s years there.  Ware had been a Systematic Theology professor of mine at Bethel Seminary (St. Paul) in the early 1980’s, and I have high respect for his integrity and intelligence.  He was a fresh Fuller Seminary graduate at that time and now is at the other end of his teaching career.

However, I was surprised to learn that Ware chaired Ken’s dissertation committee; the other members were Stephen J. Wellum and Shawn D. Wright.  Ten years ago, I sent Bruce a copy of my “77 Questions on the Atonement” (May 2007; still at the top of my blog site after several revisions) for comment.  He begged off at the time, explaining that his focus was more on the doctrine of the Trinity, but that I might consider passing it by his colleague, Tom Schreiner, whose focus is the Atonement.  However, I was mainly looking for those who might cast a friendly eye on an attempt to reframe the Atonement in terms of the neglected premial (non-penal) side of God’s justice, and Tom was certainly not one of those, so I demurred.

How did Ken snag Bruce for his committee?  Simple.  Ken was pursuing his dissertation in the Systematic Theology Department, whereas Schreiner was in the New Testament Department.  Not that the results would have turned out any different, however.

 Ken’s labors triggered my consolidate-and-summarize response.  As I filled the margins with seven colors of ballpoint glosses to remark, refute, revise, or repair what I was reading, I contemplated what sort of format would be appropriate and effective by way of response, without being offensive.  Moreover, Ken was indebted to Ware for a brief formulation of “a rationale for the necessity of Christ’s suffering being penal.”  I knew I needed to tackle my old mentor on this point if I hoped to persuade Ken.

I hit on the idea of asking conjectural questions about what actually might be happening historically, spiritually, and “theologically” at Christ’s Cross and Resurrection in particular, along with other key events of the Gospels/Acts narratives.  I settled on dubbing them resuppositions, in other words, replacement presuppositions.  Which is to say, I’m systematically unraveling penal presuppositions about atonement, justification, and reconciliation, while simultaneously re-knitting stitch-by-stitch the premial suppositions that better accord with my findings after decades of reexamining Scripture and the history of theology.  This process of reparatively reconstructing our all-too-hallowed traditions nearer to the apostolic original has been tricky.  As you know, retro-engineering has often been misused, and the current undertaking runs similar risks.

That novel format swelled in a couple of months from a dozen or two questions to a hundred or two!  Clearly, I had touched a nerve…my own!   In reflecting on what was happening, I saw that, for all my output of articles, papers, occasional pieces, “tracts,” etc., I had never simply sat down and listed my definitive findings from 35 years of theological and historical research, restudy of Scripture, and hard, prayerful rethinking.  Consequently, this increasingly urgent agenda (which I had expected would emerge in a book by this date) actually commandeered the initial plan to pose only a few probing questions about the relation of the Cross to the Resurrection and vice versa and etc.  Sorry for the explosion!

The result is a bit-by-bit deconstruction of the gospel of the Protestant Reformation by way of introducing the premial formulation of the Gospel that steadily emerged as more evident and authentic from long-term concordant engagement with the biblical vocabulary and phraseology.  I have expounded that alternative at length in more normal prose throughout my blog.  The papers at the top of the site encompass several genres and formats, but never anything quite this “driving.”  This may feel like a “jackhammer” or “tommy-gun” treatment.  There’s little cushion, and normal sentence structure gets stretched to the max.  I do apologize.

But consider the advantages of a rapid assault.  Any single statement may evoke the normal thoughtful comeback, “But how about…?” or “But what do you do with such-and-such a Scripture?”  Fair enough.  I’ve asked most of those questions myself.  After perusing the broad history of the subject and many individual theologians, I saw patterns of misunderstanding emerge.  The traditional orthodox evangelical Protestant arguments predictably fell into ditches.  They were compelled to swerve around the truth under the influence of intoxicating presuppositions.  Those assumptions (whether explicitly acknowledged or deliberately hidden or unconsciously suppressed) slowly became more manifest.  Finally, it simply became a matter of how to address these many interlocking assumptions in some comprehensive yet compact manner.  One-by-one?  Aggregately?  Class action?  Question/Answer?   Theses?

I had used the “What if?” sequence once before, in the one-pager for April Fools’ Day and Easter (see “What If” at the top of my blog site).  It allowed successively mounting quick strokes that challenged penal atonement theory in a reader-friendly way.  And even if my current elaboration cannot claim to be so friendly, at least it deals with most of the usual but-what-abouts.

In “A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities,” I have let the resuppositions proliferate wildly (240-something by last count).  I might have (probably should have) rearranged them into subtitled sections, and perhaps even numbered them for easy reference.  I may yet do that; blogs are wonderful that way!  But for now, without further ado, I request your own comments and criticisms.  I hope that slicing the subject into these small (sometimes sharp-edged) chunks makes critiquing easier.  This way you can take issue with discrete resuppositions without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with others.  These unhewn stones could use some knocking around a bit to knock off the rough edges so they can be refitted into a harmonious mosaic.  This is a work in progress, and progress takes time.

These resuppositions or “dialectical queries” will raise many an inconvenient doubt.  I realize that.  But hopefully you’re gonna laugh before this is all over.  One friend observed that whatever humor I interjected helped keep him going through the overly compact and annoyingly obscure litany (and here I thought I was clarifying!).  Another friend said it was like drinking concentrated lemon juice straight up!  He mollified that by adding, “But suppose I’m suffering from scurvy….”  I do hope others find the treatment a healing dose for whatever ills the theory of penal substitution has ushered into history!  I hope after investigating for yourself, you too get “caught in a Truth.”

It seems to me we need to jettison false doctrines as soon as possible in order to loosen up cargo space in our brains for more truth.  The price of learning new truth is the sacrifice of the comfortable falsehoods to which we all are prey, from whatever traditions we may hail.  If my logic does not always seem iron-clad, that’s no worse than I suspected.  But I wager it beats the competition by several lengths.  Judge for yourself.

A vast debacle of Atonement doctrine is underway, and as in politics, sides are being drawn, attitudes are getting calloused, and unseemly animosity is rising.  This cannot be the divine way.  Surely God is saddened by our prickly dismissiveness toward one another.  I have gleaned an immense lore from minority voices down through the centuries who seldom get cited in new publications on the topic.  Our selective neglect may reveal an unscholarly narrowing of interest and a perilous hardening of heart even more than a scarcity of time.  Self-criticism may be grievous toil, but it bears worthy fruit.  We don’t bear that yoke in vain.

While formulating this array of resuppositions, I realized they would be perfect to start posting on October 31st, the 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day.  For years I kept this date in mind for publishing a more detailed challenge to our creaky Protestant assumptions.  I hoped it would appear as a book on the Atonement.  Yet I sensed more groundwork was needed.  Here is much of that groundwork, in primal form.  And now to start refining the raw material into a normal piece of scholarship.   Your “heated” comments would greatly assist the refining process.  As fraught as the topic may be, I hope you find this approach mostly friendly, reasonable, and agreeably Biblical.

I have also attached a 10-page “summary” of the 30-page version.  It was my failed attempt to get it all down to a two-pager I could print off as a single-sheet handout for priming discussions.  But I got too late a start on condensing it by my target date.  Perhaps this stripped-down version will serve as a handy teaser for busy folks who can’t dive into the complete document.  In any case, I’m not seeking agreement, only a fair hearing and honest objections.  There’s no human labor under the sun that can’t be improved.  No one’s perfect…and I’m a perfect example!

May your thoughtful attention be well rewarded.  I quite understand how busy you must be with personal research and academic duties.  So no worries if this does not overlap your particular expertise or interests.  But feel free to forward this missive and attachments if you know of someone else who might find them worthwhile.  This is a one-time mailing, so there will be no follow-up from my end.  Any communication from you, however, is most welcome, and I will try to respond in a timely fashion.

Respectfully yours in Christ

Ronald Roper

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 15

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (“concluded”)

INCONCLUSIONS

What if the greatest impediment to achieving the noblest goals of the Protestant Reformation is the “orthodox” doctrine of the Atonement itself:  Penal Satisfaction/Substitution—having evoked immense opposition, spawned wearisome irresolvable theological difficulties that waste the precious time of God’s people, provoked divisive debates that have decimated the ranks, created ethical dilemmas, fostered scandalous behaviors and monstrous practices, brought on needless reproaches from unbelievers, aroused alienating misunderstandings that promote sectarianism, destroyed faith in the Bible, unsettled young believers, fostered arrogance, compromised intellectual integrity, etc.—but otherwise, no harm done?

What if penal substitution is like putting the emphásis on the wrong sylláble, only, uh…worse?

What if hymn writers have all too often been as guilty of obscuring the New Testament message as so many preachers and theologians have (see my compilation:  “‘Penal Satisfaction / Substitution’ in English Hymns,” above)?

What if 500 years is a disgracefully long time for God to be misrepresented by His loved ones, who have defamed his reputation by laboring vigorously to defend the indefensible instead of thinking through opponents’ conscientious objections with fairness—thinking outside the box?

However, what if even the defamation of God’s character and justice that penal substitution has spread far, deep, and wide has been kindly indemnified by God’s authentically apostolic premial Atonement—yet will its mighty men admit confusion, repent of misrepresentations, jettison their toxic substitute, switch loyalties, and humbly avail themselves of the genuine article?

What if the premial atonement turns out to contain no imponderable mystery, no existential dilemma, no dialectical tension, no economic duplicity, no financial cooking of books, no legal double-talk, no moral compromise, no ethical conundrum, no “cosmic child abuse”?

What if the premial explanation, unlike the penal, is not a theory at all but simply a rediscovery of the New Testament doctrine of salvation?

What if, after all, the Bible’s own explanatory system does make more rational sense than all our cherished theological systems put together (all the King’s horses—you can lead ‘em to water but can’t make ‘em think—and all the King’s men couldn’t do it)?

What if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the paramount theodicy of Biblical Christianity?

What if neglecting to integrate Christ’s resurrection into the atonement disintegrates the Gospel?

What if, as Martin Luther protested, “I am neither so rash as to wish that my sole opinion should be preferred to that of all other men, nor so senseless as to be willing that the Word of God should be made to give place to fables, devised by human reason”?

What if God doesn’t expect us to hold our nose and swallow fables—fur, fins, feathers and all?

What if the wax nose of penal substitution is finally suffering meltdown from over-tweaking—shall we finally pull down our sagging substitute or keep on keeping up appearances?

What if it’s time to jettison the dead weight of penal substitution terms and get back to the Bible?

What if, after reading through these challenges to penal substitution assumptions and implications, you agree we’ve been colossally snookered for roughly 500 years…and the future looks even rougher if we don’t switch courses soon—then who’re you gonna believe?

What if this is the season for judgment to begin from the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17-18; 1 Cor. 5:12-6:7, 11:29-34; Heb. 10:30)?

What if it’s time for a resolute new Protest and a fresh resounding Reform?  What now?

What if you choose to accept this inconvenient truth, this impossible mission?  What then?

Indeed, what if this changes EVERYTHING?

Then again, I may be wrong.

~~ The End ~~

or, just maybe…

A NEW BEGINNING!

And yet the earth does move.  “Neither my thoughts nor the thoughts of all the doctors and priests that live now or ever have lived can the least alter facts.  You have no right, I have no right, to determine what is.  All our determinations must fall before the truth when that is discovered to us.”  — Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

“The truth must dazzle gradually, or every man be blind.”  — Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

“Love The Light Forever”  — Marie Roper

August 24-25, 27-31, September 1-2, 5-30, October 1-21, 24, 26-27, 29-31, November 4-5, 7, 9-10, 12, 14-15, 17, 19-20,23-25,27,28-29, Dec. 2, 2017

 

 

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 5

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if a chief function of Luke’s record in the Acts of the Apostles “whom [Jesus] chooses through Holy Spirit, to whom he presents himself alive also, after his suffering, with many tokens, during forty days, getting visualized to them and telling them that which concerns the kingdom of God” (1:3), building as it does on Luke’s Gospel (24:43), is to serve as a repository of public testimony (1:22) to the apostolic “teaching…and announcing, in Jesus, the resurrection from the dead” at the end of the age (4:1-2), which Jesus’ own resurrection confirms, for our assurance and consolation:  “And with great power the apostles rendered testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord.  Besides, great grace was on them all…” (4:33)?

What if the Holy Spirit was commissioned to corroborate with additional power of signs and miracles Christ’s own testimony about everlasting life (John 5:36-44, 8:12-18, 10:25, 15:26-27, 18:37) as well as the apostles’ testimony about his life from the dead (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:8, 2:30-33, 3:12-15, 4:33, 5:30-32, 10:38-48, 14:3, 15:7-9; 1 Cor. 1:6; 2 Tim. 1:6-14)?

What if the centrality of such resurrection testimony is emphatically confirmed elsewhere in the New Testament:  John 5:39, 15:27, 21:24; 1 Cor. 1:6, 2:1-2, 15:15; 2 Thess. 1:10; 1 Tim. 2:5-7; 2 Tim. 1:8-10; Heb. 11:1-12:2; 1 Pet. 5:1; 1 John 1:1-2, 4:14, 5:5-13; Rev. 1:2,5,9, 2:13, 8:14, 6:9, 12:11,17, 17:6, 19:10, 20:4, 22:16-17?

Oh, and did I forget, what if the four Gospels stand as towering interdependent testimonies to the incontrovertible resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from an officially certified execution?

However, what if there is no mention of the cross or crucifixion (stauroo/stauros, xulon, prospegnumi) at all in the apostle Paul’s weightiest epistle, to the Romans, his landmark elaboration of the Gospel?

What if, by stark contrast, words and expressions referring or alluding to resurrection proliferate (egeiro, anistemi/anastasis, haima, zoopoieo, zesetai/zoe (ek nekron/aionion), dikaiosune (tou theou), dikaioma, anakainoo/kainotes, sozo/soteria, apolutrosis, huiothesia,  doxa/doxazo, elpis/elpizo, epaggellomai/epaggelia):  Rom. 1:4,16-17, 2:7,10, 3:24-25, 4:17,24-25, 5:9-10,15-18,21, 6:4-5,8-11,13,22-23, 7:4,6, 8:2,4,6,10-11,13,15,17-19,21,23-27,29-30,34, 9:23, 10:1,7,9-10,13,15, 11:11,14,26, 12:1-2; 13:11, 14:7-9 15:4,13) and constitute his pervasive centerpiece?

What if the unique expression, “word (logos) of the cross,” although launched in 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul strategically delayed elaborating until chapter 15 (“the Resurrection chapter”) so that in the meantime he could correct his spiritual offspring about crucial ethical matters without prejudice, since they had become ensnared by semi-gnostic, anti-somatic, hence anti-resurrection doctrines that Apollos learned from Philo in Alexandria and introduced in the church at Corinth?

What if Paul never wrote, “If Christ has not gotten crucified, vain is your faith—you are still in your sins!” but instead said, “If Christ has not gotten raised, vain is your faith—you are still in your sins!” (1 Cor. 15:17)?

What if the “word (logos) of the cross” can be spelled:  R E S U R R E C T I O N ?

What if the cross alone is never said to be the “power of God”—only “the word of the cross” is?

What if the New Testament never attributes power to the cross, but only to the resurrectionary “explanation of the Cross” (1 Cor. 1:18), to the testimony, explanation, declaration, proclamation, or heralding of the risen “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23-24, 2:1-5), of the risen Christ (Acts 8:4-19, 10:36-47; Rom. 15:18-20), of the risen Jesus (Mark 16:6,14-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 4:1-14, 6:8-14; Rom. 1:2-4,16), of the risen Lord (Acts 19:10-13; 2 Cor. 4:3-15; 1 Tim. 1:8; Heb. 2:3-4), of the risen Son (1 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Pet. 2:16-18), of the living God (Heb. 6:5, cf. 4:12), of the Kingdom of God and the name of the risen Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12-13; 1 Cor. 4:20), to faith in the living God (Heb. 11:11-12; 1 Pet. 1:5), or simply to God’s raising the Lord and us to life (1 Cor. 6:14, 15:42-43; 2 Cor. 13:3-4; Phil. 3:10; Heb. 7:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:3)?

What if the cross is virtually never depicted by Christians in the earliest attested Christian art (whether catacombs, baptisteries, early house churches, etc.) before the era of Constantine?

What if the New Testament contains virtually no “theology of the cross”; instead, its focus is riveted on Christ’s resurrection from the dead?

What if in the New Testament the cross is an Event, certainly; an Ethic, without a doubt; but never an Emblem, and definitely not a Theology?

What if the cross only became an Emblem, under Constantine, when it stopped being an Ethic, and thereafter was ripe for mutating into a Theology?

What if the death of the Cross is encompassed in the Resurrection, but not the other way around?

What if  “the apostolic preaching of the cross” is a full-grown oxymoron ready for sacrificing?

What if in the absence of a sound theology of the Resurrection, Martin Luther’s doctrine of the Atonement fractured into a paradoxical, cheerless, comfortless theologia crucis on the one hand, and on the other hand deteriorated into reviling every “theology of glory,” by which he meant every fumbling attempt to rise above his approved “three uses of the Law” to grasp a lifestyle of walking in the Spirit—the gifts and the fruits alike, drawing from the cornucopia of Christ’s resurrection power?

What if the cross is not self-explanatory (as the theologia crucis seems to presume) but demands an explanation or reason (logos) that accounts for its necessity—the most “necessary evil” of all?

What if the cross was necessary in order to certify Christ’s real death, and so reinforce the authenticity of his extraordinary resurrection from the dead?

What if the cross was the fulcrum that leveraged the resurrection, because you can’t get behind proclaiming a plausible resurrection without a successful crucifixion?

~~ To be continued ~~

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Calling All Saints! Calling All Saints! — Part 3

A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities (cont’d.)

What if God’s justice was only “satisfied” by the resurrection, not by the cross, per se, at all, and therefore Christ’s resurrection is actually a paramount judicial act of God?

What if Paul never used such phrases as “Christ’s righteousness” or “the righteousness of Jesus/Christ,” etc., for the simple reason that he intends by “the righteousness of God” to denote the Father’s restorative justice toward the Son (and through him dispensed to others of faith) in distinction from the Son’s obedience of faithfulness (Rom. 1:5, 16:26) toward the Father?

What if Paul’s famous reiteration of “the just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:2-4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38), which so resonated with Martin Luther, refers in the first place to the Lord Jesus himself—the Just One (Acts 3:14, 7:52, 22:14; 1 John 2:1,29, 3:7; Matt. 27:19,24; Luke 23:47; 1 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 15:3), who, due to his own faithfulness to God (Rom. 3:22,25,26; Gal. 2:16,16,20, 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 3:9; Rev. 1:5, 3:14, 19:11), was raised to superabundant life (John 5:21-29, 10:10; 1 Cor. 15:45)?

What if Paul’s strategically repeated phrase, “the faith[fulness] of Christ” (pistis christou—subjective genitive case) refers to Jesus’ own covenantal response to God’s will and promises (Rom. 3:22,26; Gal. 2:16,16,20, 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phil. 3:9), to which we should add  “through (dia) [the] faithfulness” where it plausibly refers to Christ’s own (Gal. 2:16, 3:14,26; Rom. 3:22,30,31; Phil. 3:9; Eph. 2:8, 3:12,17; Col. 2:12; 2 Tim. 3:15), plus instances where the “faithfulness within (en) Christ” himself seems to be in view (Gal. 3:26; 1 Tim. 3:13; 2 Tim. 3:15; Rom. 3:25, where it may be figured in his blood—as it were, the vital active ingredient), sometimes coupled with love (Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:13), but does not include our faith in Christ (objective genitive case), which is usually denoted by a different preposition (eis, literally ‘into’) and occurs abundantly throughout the New Testament for a complementary purpose?

What if even the Latin Vulgate has retained each of the eight “faith of Christ” renderings intact, and the Aramaic Peshitta retains all but the two in Gal. 2:16?

What if, in fact, Paul is framing “God’s justice” and “Christ’s faithfulness” as covenantal correlates in order to highlight and epitomize their respective, discrete mutual obligations in the full process of our salvation?

What if, in view of the fact that a truly Just Man had finally shown up in Israel, Yahweh could finally break with long grim tradition and, instead of the routine curses, unleash wholesale the blessings He had vowed to give any perfect Covenant-keeper (Lev. 26; Deut. 28)?

What if Jesus, by his Covenant faithfulness, won all the promised blessings of the Old Covenant (so inaccessible to any mortal sinner) so that he could prudently give them away for free to repentant Covenant-breakers on the gracious condition of mere faith alone, by having negotiated via covenant renewal a New Covenant no longer liable to default by human failure?

Furthermore, what if Paul’s expressions, “the faithfulness of God”—Rom. 3:3-5, where “our injustice” of crucifying the Lord is actually said to be “commending God’s justness” of raising him from the dead!—and “the faithfulness of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12) are connected to and exhibited by Christ’s resurrection?

What if this curiously profound truth of the Cross commending the Resurrection only really makes sense on the assumption of premial justice and elegantly accounts for those two puzzling passages (inexplicable on a penal assumption) where Paul denounces judgment against slanderers who alleged he taught “We should be doing evil that good may be coming” (Rom. 3:8), similarly echoed in, “We may be persisting in sin that grace should be increasing” (Rom. 5:20-6:1), and whose germ of truth Paul himself reprised so memorably in Romans 8:28, “God is working all together for the good of those who are loving God…,” itself a reflection of Joseph’s declaration to his brothers, “You devised evil against me, yet God, He devised it for good in order to accomplish, as at this day, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:19), as we would expect of the living God?

What if the cargo to be conveyed in salvation is Christ’s own personal just-award of damages from God, transferred through him as Sponsor (Heb. 7:22) and Mediator (Heb. 8:6-13, 9:15, 12:24) of this fresh, new, better, everlasting Covenant (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; Rom. 11:27; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Gal. 4:21-5:1; Heb. 13:20), to us as the stipulated beneficiaries, instead of our deserved punishment transferred to him (as postulated by not-quite-ancient-enough Protestant tradition)?

What if the uniquely Protestant expression, “the imputation of Christ’s righteousness” (in overreaction to the medieval Roman Catholic doctrine that the interior operation of the Holy Spirit makes us righteous pending justification at the Final Judgment), has served to obscure Paul’s teaching that the Gift of Holy Spirit constitutes the subjective contents of God’s justness (via Christ’s just-award redistribution) within believers/saints (2 Cor. 3; Gal. 2:20-3:29; Rom. 5:5-21, 8:11-30, 14:17; 2 Cor. 9:8-15; 2 Pet. 3:13; John 16:7-11)?

What if such “imputation” theology all comes down to artful accounting—“cooking the books”?

What if one person’s sin, guilt, and punishment cannot legally or morally be transferred, accounted, or imputed to another person (Deut. 24:16; Jer. 31:29-30; Ez. 18:1-32, 14:14-20), yet one person’s reward, by contrast, can be further distributed at its recipient’s discretion?

What if true justice often requires redistributing wealth to restore peace (or hadn’t you noticed)?

What if the alternatives reduce down to:  either Christ’s sufferings were undeserved by him but borne as a substitute in the place of sinners who did deserve them, and then diverticularly rationalized to benefit sinners somehow, OR Christ’s sufferings were undeserved by him and hence deserved compensating justice from God to repay him with an extraordinary award of damages, which could be transferred to whosoever will receive them by faith?

What if the “merits” of Christ were not transferred by imputation, but justly super-compensated with the Holy Spirit of life, which is then given away graciously for free to whoever believes?

What if the Protestant doctrine perpetuates a vestige of medieval Roman Catholic penitential speculation about the separability, commodifiability, accumulation (“treasury”), and transferability of supererogatory “merits” of the innocent suffering of a “Saint” to another person, and accordingly, the transfer of Christ’s personal righteousness to a believing sinner?

What if exactly that kind of “commercialization” led to the invention of indulgences, the abuses of Tetzel, the rationalizations of Eck, and the explosive protest of Martin Luther that kicked off the Protestant Reformation with his “Ninety-Five Theses” on indulgences, in the first place?

~~ To be continued ~~

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CALLING ALL SAINTS! CALLING ALL SAINTS!

October 31, 2017

Midnight, Wittenberg, Germany

6:00 p.m. (EST) Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

As I write, it is the afternoon of the 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day—the day Martin Luther is alleged to have posted his 95 Theses concerning indulgences, which kicked off the Protestant Reformation. Although Luther does not mention personally posting his theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, in anticipation of All Saints Day, November 1st, this was the usual place to post such announcements in that academic town. In any case, we do know he started to send them out to academic, ecclesiastic, and civil authorities around that time. And although the literal formal debate it announced did not actually take place, these words made a profound impact on Germany and far beyond. These theses were assuredly to be celebrated by all saints, with retrospective gratitude for all the martyrs (“saints”) who had suffered for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

However, Martin Luther was not yet the great Reformer at this time. These academic debate points were targeted at abuses of indulgences—a reputed means of pardon for sins and reduction of penal time in Purgatory. The 21st century mind will boggle at the tedious attention to “penance,” “penalties,” “guilt” (“Huh?”), “remission,” “absolution,” “purgatory,” “merit,” “indulgences,” “punishment,” “letters of pardon,” “paying money to buy pardons,” “grace” (not your Great Aunt), etc. It may look bewildering and overwrought (95 of ‘em!), and all in Latin, for starters! But almost immediately some took in hand to translate them into German. But why the hornet’s nest it kicked open?

It all had to do with getting sins dealt with in order to get right with God and not have to suffer eternal torment. Makes sense when you think about it. But in order to build a palacial new church edifice in Rome? Forgiveness had to be commercialized. Ah, capitalism, right? In a sense, yes. The venal profit motive had entered the calculations of the hierarchy, for sure. And it corrupted doctrine big time. But did the Protestant Reformation get the formula right by way of response?

Well now, that’s what the following conjectural “theses” are all about. They attempt to unravel bit by bit the “unreformed” assumptions or presuppositions underlying what became the dominant, “orthodox” doctrine of the Atonement.  I have decided to dub them “resuppositions.”  You are invited to judge for yourself whether this attempt at mid-course correction is simply bluff and bluster, or whether it really meets the issue and brings a solution to the still-heating controversy over salvation in its various aspects. But it would be a great pity to let another half millennium slip by without at least suggesting a few mid-course corrections, right?

Right up front I confess it seems to me Satan has an iron grip on Atonement theology. I believe we are suffering a “systematizing of the deception” (Ephesians 4:14) and have locked it into various Protestant confessions of faith to ensure it does not suffer…reformation! We need to put the armor of God back on and “stand up to the stratagems of the Adversary” and wrestle against them like our life depended on it, for it may (Ephesians 6:10-17).

That said, Luther undoubtedly made a crucial discovery quite early on in his career as a professor at the new University of Wittenberg: “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:17 and elsewhere was a “saving” righteousness. Absolutely correct. And that discovery rendered him joyous and light hearted, in an exultant mood to dance and sing!

But then something sad happened. That righteousness was pulled every which way from Sunday to harmonize with traditional theological, philosophical and legal assumptions. The upshot is that it got interpreted as penal, then administered by way of substitution rather than direct application to sinners who deserved it (which, of course, would have been fatal rather than “saving”). It was never grasped as premial (rewarding) and aimed directly at the Lord Jesus Christ, who deserved that, and who would then redistribute his divine reward graciously to any sinner who simply believed this Good News. In other words, Luther (and Melanchthon and Calvin, right down to present day Protestant theologians of every stripe) incorrectly interpreted “the righteousness of God” as punitive wrath exerted toward Christ as a substitute for getting poured out on the ones who actually deserved it; thereafter “the righteousness of Christ” was alleged to get transferred via imputation to sinners to make them righteous before God. And all that as a replacement for the simple New Testament approach of “the righteousness (justice!) of God” exerted to reward directly via resurrection and exaltation The One Who Deserved it. Get it?

Now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, I dare anyone to stuff it back into hiding. You’ve seen those “Magic Eye” children’s books? Once you know how to let your eyes refocus just right, it all snaps into place and you’re in a 3-D world instantly, and you never forget how to get there from here. Who of us has ever simply “forgotten” how to ride a bicycle? Impossible. Be preprayered!

So this stuff is “dangerous.” If you’re anything like me, you will be “caught in a truth” you can’t shake. For some 35 years, I’ve been suffering a chronic mental breakthrough. There’s no drug for this. You have to ride it out. See you at the end of the ride…in the Kingdom of God!

Note: The following series of questions is far too long to post all at once. It may take a couple of weeks to post them day by day in their entirety. If you have comments, feel free to post them. I’ll try to keep up with replies. May God pour out His Spirit on us all in a fresh, radical way and thus equip us for communicating whatever clarifications turn out to be truly valid. This will take sifting. If I’m right, this changes everything. Thanks for your contributions to the dialogue.

A COMEDY OF ERRORS, A TRAGEDY OF MISTAKEN IDENTITIES:  THE MASQUERADE OF PENAL SUBSTITUTION ASSUMPTIONS UNMASKED

or

DISSOLVING THE CHAINS OF PENAL SATISFACTION BY AN ALTERNATIVE CONCATENATION OF DIALECTICAL QUERIES—

A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

or

oh alright—just some mind-altering brain-teasers for thinking outside the box for Heaven’s sake

Ronald Roper

Now I may be wrong, but…

What if sacrificial blood is directly associated with virtually every soteriological category in the New Testament?:

Forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:22)

Rescue from wrath (1 Thess. 1:10, cf. Rom. 5:9)

Life everlasting (John 6:53-58; 1 John 5:5-13,20)

Freedom from the law of slavery to sin and the fear of death (Rom. 8:2,21-23, cf. John 6:53-58,

5:21-26; 1 John 5:6-12,20; Heb. 2:10-3:6; Gal. 4:22-5:1; 1 Cor. 7:22-23, 6:20; Rev. 5:9, cf. 1 Pet. 1:18-19)

Procuring the church of God (Acts 20:28)

Atoning/protective shelter around sins (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:14-18; 1 John 1:7-2:2)

Justification (Rom. 5:9)

Salvation (Rom. 5:9)

Blessing (1 Cor. 10:16)

Deliverance/liberation (Eph. 1:7; [Col. 1:14;] Rom. 3:24-25; Heb. 9:15)

Nearness to God (Eph. 2:13)

Peacemaking with God and between Jew and Gentile (Col. 1:20; Eph. 2:13-14)

Reconciling the universe to Christ—earth and heaven, Jew and Gentile (Col. 1:20-22, cf. Eph. 2:16; Rom. 5:8-11)

Uniting Jew and Gentile into one new humanity, one body in Christ (Eph. 2:11-4:5; Col. 3:15)

Ministry in the Holy Places (Heb. 9:7-8,11-12,25-26, 10:19, 13:11)

Redemption everlasting (Heb. 9:12)

Hallowing/sanctifying us (Heb. 9:13, 10:29, 13:12)

Cleansing everything from sin (Heb. 9:13-14,19-23, 10:2; 1 John 1:7)

Obtaining the promised everlasting inheritance (Heb. 9:13-18, cf. Tit. 3:5-7; 1 Pet. 1:1-4)

Dedicating covenants (Heb. 9:15-18, 10:19-20)

Rejecting sin (Heb. 9:25-26)

Eliminating sin (Heb. 10:4, cf. 10:11)

Perfecting to finality those who have gotten sanctified (Heb. 10:12-22)

Making Passover to protect from the exterminator of the firstborn (Heb. 11:28)

Crying out for divine avenging for being murdered (Heb. 12:24, 11:4; Rev. 6:10, 19:2)

Leading up from the dead the Great Shepherd himself, the Lord Jesus (Heb. 13:20)

Ransoming from vain behavior (1 Pet. 1:19)

Conquering Satan (Rev. 12:9-11), the Wicked One (1 John 2:13-14) the world (1 John 5:4-8),

and deceiving spirits of Counter-Messiah not confessing Messiah Jesus (1 John 4:1-6)

Loosing from sins (Rev. 1:5)

Buying for God (Rev. 5:9)

Whitening robes for a right to the Tree of Life and holy city, New Jerusalem (Rev. 7:14, 22:14)

Accordingly, what if sacrificial blood is the authentic root metaphor for atonement—in fact, for salvation as a whole—in the Bible?

Hence, what if we need to develop a theological Hematology?

Yet what if sacrificial blood represents “[living] soul” (Lev. 17:11,14) or, by metonymy, simply “life,” particularly life-from-the-dead, vivification, or resurrection, including its power for atoning, sanctifying consecrating, cleansing, forgiving, healing, etc., yet never death, as such?

Thus, what if the resurrectionary power of divine life touches whatever the blood “sprinkles”?

Then what if the diversity of salvation associated with sacrificial blood (virtually every category) should be understood as rooted in and ramifying from the power of Christ’s resurrected life?

What if the sacrificial blood from the slain Lion of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12; Rev. 5:5; Heb. 7:11-19) signifies life from the dead, as does the honey that Samson drew from the carcass of the lion he slew (Judg. 14), and as honey revitalized the exhausted Jonathan, (1 Sam. 14:23-30)?:

“Out of the eater came something to eat,

And out of the strong came something sweet.” (v.14)

“What is sweeter than honey?

And what is stronger than a lion?” (v.18)

What if even Aslan (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, chap. 14) never suffered a moment of penal wrath from “the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea”—does this mean the beloved noble feline couldn’t possibly have saved Edmund and Narnia after all?  (Unimaginable.)

What if sacrificial blood is the Old Covenant ritual symbol of life-out-of-death, foreshadowing the Resurrection of Christ?

What if under the Old Covenant administration there could be no remission of sins without shed blood (Heb. 9:18-22) for the simple reason that such blood was the temporary ritual token of Christ’s life-from-the-dead, i.e., his resurrected living soul…now a life-making Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), toward which the whole Levitical economy looked for fulfillment as the true power source for removing sins wholesale under the unconditional New Covenant yet to come?

What if the parallelism in Romans 5:8-10, rightly divided, expresses how the sinless blood of Christ bridged death and life—the transistor in the judicial circuit that amplified (by the power of God’s overcompensating justice) the output of the life criminally taken, thereupon super-abundantly returned to Christ—“Whom God raises, loosing the pangs of death, forasmuch as it was not possible for him to get held by it” (Acts 2:24)—sufficient to justify life for all mankind?

What if the Levitical blood sacrifices were prophetic ritual rehearsals of Israel’s prime atrocity, culminating all its depravity in a single outrageous staging of human sacrifice as a once-and-for-all showdown that would unveil how God ventured to solve the agelong sin problem peaceably?

What if the reason God commanded some sacrificial blood to be splashed around the base of the altar is that, as a place of ritual wrongful death, the altar itself needed to be ritually atoned for, and only the blood (not the death itself) could do the job?

What if the cross “really works” to condemn sin, conquer Satan, and abolish death, not because it was right in any sense (not even substitutionally), but precisely because it was dead wrong?

What if Christ, in his sacrifice on the cross, was not bearing punishment for sins others committed, but bearing sins committed against him, which themselves cried out for punishment?

What if the ancient ritual murders depicted by animal sacrifices only ceased with the Ultimate Murder in c. 30 A.D., when the shedding of Christ’s blood—not merely “innocent” but perfectly sinless—would have defiled the whole land in extremis if God Himself had not intervened?

In other words, what if Jesus was bearing crime, not punishment:  Israel’s unjust lethal assault by the hand of priestly representatives (at Satan’s bidding), which itself called upon God’s justice to avenge his innocent blood at their hands (Matt. 23:20-36, 27:4,24-25; Luke 11:50-51, 18:1-8, 21:20-23, 23:27-31; Acts 5:28, 18:6, 20:26; Rom. 12:19; 1 Thess. 2:14-16; 2 Thess. 1:4-10; Heb. 10:26-31; Rev. 6:10, 16:6, 17:6, 19:2), consequently his sacrifice was not in the least penal on God’s part—in His eyes, intention, or reckoning?

What if, after all, God did not shed His beloved Son’s blood, nor did Jesus “shed his own blood,” as we sometimes say (but Scripture never does)—rather, others (no exception) shed his blood (Matt. 21:45-46, 22:15, 26:4; Mark 12:12-13, 14:1; Luke 11:53-54, 20:19-20; John 5:15-18, 7:1,19-25, 8:12-59, 11:53, 18:31; 1 Thess. 2:15), even as he himself prophesied they would (Matt. 16:21, 17:23; Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34; Luke 9:22, 18:31-32), as they did to the prophets before him (Matt. 14:5, 21:33-44, 22:6, 23:33-39; Mark 6:19, 12:1-11; Luke 11:45-52, 13:31-34, 20:9-18; 1 Thess. 2:15), as he warned his disciples that they would do to them (Matt. 10:28, 24:9; Luke 12:4-12; John 12:10-11, 16:2), and as subsequently happened (Acts 12:1-4, 21:27-32, 23:12-15, 20-21, 26-27)?:

  1. “…this One, given up in the specific counsel and foreknowledge of God [although not culpable of what was to follow], you, gibbeting by the hand of the lawless, assassinate” (Acts 2:23).

  2. “…this Jesus whom you crucify!” (Acts 2:36).

  3. “…Jesus, whom you, indeed, surrender and disown before the face of Pilate, when he decides to release him. Now you disown the holy and just One and request a man, a murderer, to be surrendered to you as a favor. Yet the Inaugurator of life you kill…” (Acts 3:13-15).

  4. “Jesus Christ, the Nazarene, whom you crucify…this is the Stone that is being scorned by you builders…” (Acts 4:10, 11).

  5. “…Jesus, on whom you lay hands, hanging him on a pole.” (Acts 5:30).

  6. “…the Just One, of whom now you became the traitors and murderers…” (Acts 7:52).

  7. “…whom they [the Jews] assassinate also, hanging him on a pole” (Acts 10:39).

  8. “…those dwelling in Jerusalem and their chiefs, being ignorant of him and of the voices of the prophets which are read on every Sabbath, fulfill them [according to the Spirit of God’s foreknowledge, not with His complicity] in judging him. And, finding not one cause of death, they request Pilate to have him despatched. Now as they accomplish all that which is written concerning him [by foreknowledge, not “predestination”], taking him down from the pole…” (Acts 13:27-29).

~~ To be continued ~~

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God makes vessels for honor and for dishonor, but it’s up to you which you become!

God does, indeed, make out of “the same kneading” “one vessel, indeed, for HONOR, yet one for DISHONOR” (Romans 9:21), but the end product depends decisively upon the volition and behavior of the vessel He is molding! That is why Paul says elsewhere, “Howbeit, the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knew those who are His’, and ‘Let everyone who is naming the name of the Lord withdraw from injustice. Now in a great house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but wooden and earthenware also, and some indeed for HONOR, yet some for DISHONOR. If, then, anyone should ever be purging himself from these, he will be a vessel for HONOR, having gotten wholesome and useful to the Owner, having gotten ready for every good act” (2 Timothy 2:19-21). [8/17/09]

Sin is undefinable except in relation to beings that possess sovereignty, authority, and control, and who can and must govern and be governed in terms of law and directives that can be obeyed and disobeyed. It is precisely because human beings were made in God’s own image and created after His likeness that they possess the divine-like capacity for sovereignty, authority (including “self-authorization”—αυτεξουσιοτης) and control. Sin is transgression of God’s directives for life, the penalty for which is death. This all means that to compromise the face, nature, or potency of human “self-authorization” (αυτεξουσιοτης) or so-called “free-will” is also to compromise the actuality and seriousness of sin as well as human responsibility and accountability for it. Moreover, as a host of critics of Calvinism have validly seen, without a strong “doctrine” of “free-will,” the causality of responsibility for sinning devolves upon the “sovereignty” of God. This is totally unacceptable, which implies that in order for God to escape culpability for sin, He must have truly made space for the genuine sovereignty and authority, and lordship of other beings—all of them His creatures. (And, by easy inference, they must then also have to suffer a just penalty for the evils they wrongfully inflict, unless they repent.) Thus human “free-will” is a mirror image of divine “sovereignty.” [8/17/09]

For God to be “King” (N.B.: the word ‘sovereign’ is never predicated of the term ‘God’, in the Bible, at least not prior to the late 20th century!) over the universe means that because He created all things, He also governs them by law—statutes, ordinances, decrees, precepts, etc. Many of these are “natural” or invariable and irresistibly hold for whatever is subject to them. But with respect to human beings, He has established normative laws as well (see the careful analysis by Christian philosophers Herman Dooyeweerd, D. H. T. Vollenhoven, Hendrik G. Stoker, and their colleagues) which are not irresistible or inviolable. Such a state of affairs exists because God created human beings in His own image and likeness with sovereignty (αρχη) and overlordship (κατεκυρ-) (Genesis 1:26-28). Mankind also possesses self-authorization (αυτεξουσιοτης), commonly (but misleadingly) translated ‘free-will’ or some variant thereof in English translations of patristic literature. To violate God’s normative law, which only humans can do, is sin.

Accordingly, God prepared well ahead for every contingency of a created order teeming with others like Himself who were constitutionally capable of generating self-authorized (αυτεξουσιος/ως) acts that could and often weould violate His own always right desire for them. This anticipated state of affairs would necessarily include a great many harmful, painful, shocking, and lethal evils. But clearly God was alright with that, although He was not personally responsible for the sins of such ‘sovereign’ and ‘self-authorizing’ creatures, He evidently was ‘responsible’ for the existence of such a universe. And, sure enough, He “took responsibilityfor it at the Cross, yet by that horrible exhibition of what sinners thought of uprightness and wholesomeness, God was enabled to demonstrate His overcompensating redemption and premial justice, thus providing just the ‘theodicy’ that mankind needed so they could understand that the Creator ultimately loves us and is fully up to the task of turning the most terrifying, gruesome, and unjust evils into ULTRA-COMPENSATING GOODS OF OVERWHELMING SPLENDOR!

Thus God actually ADJUSTS HIS OWN ROYAL AUTHORITY, LORDSHIP, CONTROL, etc. TO ACCOMMODATE HUMAN BEINGS AND ALL THE TROUBLE THEY CAN CAUSE AND ALL THE MESSES THEY CAN MAKE. IT’S ALRIGHT! EVERYTHINGS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT…IN THE END. [8/17/09]

Arminius, unlike Calvin, was not such an uncritical apologist for Augustine, but submitted supremely to Scripture alone and let the chips fall where they may. Therefore, not at all surprisingly, Arminius took issue with Calvin on key points where Calvin had compromised Scripture in favor of Augustine, who was, accordingly, getting his come-uppance twelve centuries late. [8/17/09]

Arminius was the first great anti-Augustinian that God raised up to start to redress the theological errors and socio-political-cultural calamities that Augustine had ushered in during the millennium before his fateful revival, first under Luther, in part (who later turned away, in part) but especially under the more uncritical, more penal, more consistent, more tyrannical, less repentant regime of Calvin. [8/17/09]

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From “Prevenient” to “Irresistible”: Two Falls from Grace

The proper role and priority of the Gospel about God’s graciousness to Christ Jesus was displaced in both Roman Catholic theology (Council of Trent—the decree on justification, 1547) and Protestant (even as far as John Wesley), by a teaching about “prevenient grace coming unmerited in order to move and stir the will to believe, yet is resistible. But this well-meant innovation leads to confusion and to the overreaction of Calvinism into a dogma of “irresistible grace,” which then loses its very character as graciousness altogether. We already have a word for coercive graciousnessmanipulation.” [8/13/09]

If John Calvin was so radically wrong at so fundamental a point as to argue for a penal satisfaction, it seems hardly credible that he can be correct in those many other doctrines that are dependent on the view of God dictated by a penal atonement.  [8/13/09]

So lemme make sure I have this right.  The elect don’t have the power to resist the grace of God, but the reprobate do have the power to resist the grace of God.  Do I have that right?  Okay.  Then that means the reprobate have more power than the elect do.  Am I missing something?  Moreover, they have more power without the power of the Holy Spirit than the elect have even with the power of the Holy Spirit.  My head is spinning.  [8/13/09; 8/24/09; 5/05/17]

If God honestly does not “intend that any should perish, but all to make room for repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), then why doesn’t He use some of that “irresistible grace” on them, pray tell? Here is something seriously amiss in Calvinism. The bottom line is, on the grounds of penal satisfaction, there simply is not enough grace to spare! Now Arminians don’t seem to get this. But Calvinists are generally smarter here. They see that if penal substitution is correct, salvation must be limited! Yet, sadly, Calvinists are not smart enough to notice that their atonement premise is drastically wrong. And Arminius died prematurely under harassment by his bitter, vicious enemies, or he might have come to the solution himself. Indeed, Hugo Grotius, his young contemporary supporter, caught the drift of his thought and actually attempted the first basic alteration of the doctrine of the Atonement proper since Calvin originally spelled out penal satisfaction. However, Grotius was not successful in his bid because he had no adequate alternative to an atoning necessity of a penal sort. His “governmental” or “rectoral” theory more appealed to prevailing cultural metaphors. [8/13/09]

Within the system of Calvinism, the full role of the Holy Spirit has become sidelined, marginalized as more of an “add-on” than as a fully integral component of New Covenant salvation. This may not have happened (regardless of traditional Roman Catholic suppression of the Holy Spirit by cessationism, a hold-over of Augustinianism) but for the development of forensic justification, (and particularly the doctrines of forensic imputation), incipiently by Luther and Melanchthon, more full blown by Johannes Piscator and William Ames. For these doctrines cut an alternative furrow for part of salvation to affect believers apart from the Holy Spirit. [8/14/09]

For sure, the world of unbelievers and “reprobates” can and will respond positively to this mighty Gospel. The question remains, “will Calvinists”? I need not remind my Reformed sisters and brothers that the “elect” Jews of Jesus’ day largely reprobated this Gospel as “too inclusive.” A word to the wise is sufficient. [8/14/09]

Yes, I dare to entreat my Reformed sisters and brothers to change their minds regarding the Atonement and let its truth effervesce through every other received doctrine at its own pace. I have taken many years to come around, and I’m not finished yet. But I am a fellow traveler in this restoration. Can the full Reformation be far behind? [8/14/09]

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