Atonement, strict particularism and WCF 3.1

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timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I know that conversations on atonement can evoke strong opinions, so I’m hoping that my question can remain focused. I would like to ask/discuss how a strict particularist view of the atonement is reconciled with contingency and second causes (WCF 3.1).

Fesko writes in his Theology of the Westminster Standards:

[F]ew early modern Reformed theologians saw themselves as the disciples of Calvin or as Calvinists. The term Calvinist was originally created as a term of derision in an effort by the opponents of the Reformed churches to isolate and brand them as sectarian. Hence , if read through the alien grid of the TULIP, early modern views are distorted, and fine nuances that were once carefully argued are lost with the ham-fisted separation between five-point and four-point Calvinism, as if Calvin were the standard and taught a strict doctrine of limited atonement, and all other views fall under the category of universal atonement. Consequently, it is necessary, first, to briefly set out the various views on the extent of the satisfaction of Christ and then, second, to determine to what extent the Standards accommodate these views, if at all.

He continues to set up the views that were represented in the formulation of the Westminster Standards:

[T]hree of the four views were represented at the assembly (e.g., hypothetical universalism, sufficient-efficient, and strict particularism).

He also explains:

These points in the Confession do not specifically advocate hypothetical universalism. In fact, the Standards lean in the direction of strict particularism, given the absence of the sufficiency-efficiency distinction. But neither are they written in such a manner as to preclude or proscribe hypothetical universalism.

Having set up the foundation that the Standards allow for views other than strict particularism, I would like to understand the following question. (For the sake of full disclosure, I do not advocate strict particularism, but am trying to understand it.)

Question

How does strict particularism reconcile contingency (hypothetical necessity, WCF 3.1) without acknowledging that Christ in some way died for every person sufficiently? In strict particularism, even the hypothetical belief of the non-elect would not save them since there is no sacrifice available for them, correct? I can’t figure out how the standards from a particularist perspective reconcile this without Edwards’s later denial of contingency in favor of philosophical necessity.

Thanks in advance for your help. Again, I’m hoping that this discussion can stay focused. I’m asking the question sincerely and do not intend to defend my understanding of Christ’s satisfaction in this post. I simply want to understand the answer to this question from a particularist view.

(Thank you, Rev. Winzer, for the book recommendation! It's been very thought provoking.)
 
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timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I should add that Fesko distinguishes hypothetical universalism from Amyraldianism:

In summary, Amyraldianism is somewhat different from the hypothetical universalism of Ussher, Davenant, Calamy, and Twisse. All Amyraldians were hypothetical universalists, but not all hypothetical universalists were Amyraldians.

I don't think that the Standards would support Amyraldianism... I was not aware of the distinction between Amyraldianism and hypothetical universalism until Rev. Winzer recently pointed it out.
 

Afterthought

Puritan Board Senior
timfost said:
In strict particularism, even the hypothetical belief of the non-elect would not save them since there is no sacrifice available for them, correct?
I'll leave the answering of this question to others, but it seems to me that "contingency" is being misapplied.

In that part of the WCF, contingency and necessity are modes or manners of production of second causes. It does not deal with the intent or effects of second causes (one can speak of "contingent effects," but the "contingent" refers to the manner of production of the effect, not the effect itself.). Christ's atonement as an event was produced by a complex of contingent, necessary (the physical, biological, and chemical reactions involved), and free causes (Christ voluntarily sacrificed himself; wicked men freely chose to betray Christ).

A contingent second cause could have happened another way. If one applies contingency to intent, then the intent could have been different...in every logically possible way. No logical possibility can be excluded. If one wishes to use contingency to argue for a "in some sense" hypothetical element in Christ's atonement, one might as well use contingency to argue that in some sense, Christ died for no one, in some sense Christ did not die at all, in some sense belief is not required for the application of the atonement, and in some sense there was no intent to save anyone by the atonement. The problem here, of course, is that the intent relates to God's decree, which necessarily makes second causes occur, although the events do not occur in a necessary mode or manner of production.

One must not confuse the world of logical possibility with the actual world; and one must remember that the actual world is actualized by a decree that necessitates things to occur.
 

Toasty

Puritan Board Sophomore
Christ died for the elect alone. Christ had the power to die for everyone, but He only chose to die for the elect. He did not intend to die for everyone.

God did not have to make a plan of salvation. He could have chosen to save no one. In order for sin to be atoned for, Christ had to die.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
How does strict particularism reconcile contingency (hypothetical necessity, WCF 3.1) without acknowledging that Christ in some way died for every person sufficiently? In strict particularism, even the hypothetical belief of the non-elect would not save them since there is no sacrifice available for them, correct? I can’t figure out how the standards from a particularist perspective reconcile this without Edwards’s later denial of contingency in favor of philosophical necessity.

An intricate question, but beneficial to ponder. Raymond has helpfully started to peel the layers.

We have to distinguish contingency from God's view and man's. The Confession rules out the former but includes the latter. An argument has been made (which I consider persuasive), that philosophical necessity effectively does away with human choice because of its denial of internal contingency. We can leave that for another discussion.

If one posits contingency in God it can lead in a number of different directions -- middle knowledge and open theism are two which might be more popularly known. I trust open theism would be regarded as out of bounds on this discussion board. Middle knowledge has not been so decisively rejected in the reformed tradition, but I would recommend A. A. Hodge's Outlines of Theology as a summary reason for rejecting it. Turretin's Institutes also opposes it. A precise analysis reveals that the idea itself is a trick.

If one allows for counterfactual desires in God he will probably lean towards middle knowledge because that posits counterfactual knowledge in God, and for desire to be genuine it must be based on knowledge of some kind.

To return to strict particularism, Fesko's concession applies only to the make-up of the Assembly. The Assembly also included Erastians and Independents, but this does not mean the Assembly's productions must be read in the light of their peculiarities. One has to look at the documents themselves, and understand them in the historico-theological context in which they were written. Looking at the Confession itself, and its function as a standard in the church, together with the use of the Larger Catechism as an help in teaching, the "system" has no place for an hypothetical atonement. Any attempt to introduce something hypothetical into the system would effectively rip up the tent-pegs, so to speak, and leave it susceptible to the wind. The starting-point is an actual reality -- what God has accomplished in Christ. Soteriology is structured by redemption accomplished and applied. The only universality which is permitted in the Confession is in the free offer of the gospel. There the accomplishment of Christ comes within the reach of each and every hearer of the gospel, and is so near to each one that he only has to rest upon it to be saved. Even here, though, there is no hypothetical salvation. It is actual salvation, full and free, that is offered in Christ. Nothing less than this could warrant faith, minister full persuasion, or instill confidence.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
A contingent second cause could have happened another way. If one applies contingency to intent, then the intent could have been different...in every logically possible way. No logical possibility can be excluded. If one wishes to use contingency to argue for a "in some sense" hypothetical element in Christ's atonement, one might as well use contingency to argue that in some sense, Christ died for no one, in some sense Christ did not die at all, in some sense belief is not required for the application of the atonement, and in some sense there was no intent to save anyone by the atonement. The problem here, of course, is that the intent relates to God's decree, which necessarily makes second causes occur, although the events do not occur in a necessary mode or manner of production.

Thanks for engaging. I'm not asking based on all possible contingents, but contingents based upon the actual sacrifice of Christ in relation to faith and unbelief. That should narrow it down a bit.

One must not confuse the world of logical possibility with the actual world; and one must remember that the actual world is actualized by a decree that necessitates things to occur.

Yes, and yet there is freedom of the will. In some ways we have to understand God's sovereignty and man's free agency as parallel absolutes, although in a way that is incomprehensible to us since it is God's decree that establishes contingency under second causes as well as the actual event which occurs contingently. We need to be careful that our minds don't get in the way too much. :)

Fesko put it well:

As complex as these things might be, Reformed theologians have long maintained the seemingly contradictory teachings of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.

_________________

Christ died for the elect alone. Christ had the power to die for everyone, but He only chose to die for the elect. He did not intend to die for everyone.

God did not have to make a plan of salvation. He could have chosen to save no one. In order for sin to be atoned for, Christ had to die.

This is what I was trying to avoid in this post. History does not provide us with such a cut and dry doctrine of the Atonement in reformed theology. I understand that you and many other orthodox reformed believers think this way. You may want to study the formulation of Heidelberg 37 (Ursinus deals with this in his commentary under Q&A 40) and Dort Second head of doctrine in terms of scholastic distinctions before you oversimplify the doctrines that came out of the reformation on this issue.

_________________

Matthew,

Thanks for your help in understanding this. I really appreciate you interacting with the question. I have some follow-up questions, but don't have the time to write them out now. More later...
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
We have to distinguish contingency from God's view and man's. The Confession rules out the former but includes the latter. An argument has been made (which I consider persuasive), that philosophical necessity effectively does away with human choice because of its denial of internal contingency. We can leave that for another discussion.

Yes, I agree. Philosophical necessity seems to only be an attempt to reconcile what is beyond the finite ability to comprehend, namely how to reconcile God's sovereignty and human responsibility.

If one posits contingency in God it can lead in a number of different directions -- middle knowledge and open theism are two which might be more popularly known. I trust open theism would be regarded as out of bounds on this discussion board. Middle knowledge has not been so decisively rejected in the reformed tradition, but I would recommend A. A. Hodge's Outlines of Theology as a summary reason for rejecting it. Turretin's Institutes also opposes it. A precise analysis reveals that the idea itself is a trick.

Middle knowledge seems to suggest autonomy in the natural order of creation, rather than seeing God as the One who upholds the creation. At least this is my initial impression of middle knowledge without having spent much time studying it.

Fesko makes an interesting observation:

In a sense, the divines acknowledge that the category of middle knowledge exists, though they simply place this attribute under God’s necessary knowledge. Evidence of this appears in a scriptural proof text from Matthew 11:21, 23. In this text Christ tells Bethsaida and Chorazin that if the mighty works Jesus had performed before these two cities had been done in Tyre and Sidon, these Gentile cities would have repented in sackcloth and ashes. The point is that Christ did not perform miraculous works in Tyre and Sidon but nevertheless knew what would have happened if he had. So, yes, “although God knows whatsoever may, or can come to passe upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed any thing because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to passe upon such conditions”(3.2).

If one allows for counterfactual desires in God he will probably lean towards middle knowledge because that posits counterfactual knowledge in God, and for desire to be genuine it must be based on knowledge of some kind.

Personally, I would simply not go here. Since scripture does posit counterfactual desires in God, I have resolved not to wrap my mind around it but run what I understand to be two absolute truths about God's self revelation in parallel. I understand that you think I do not take into account anthropomorphic language as I should. I would rather acknowledge our difference on this and move on.

To return to strict particularism, Fesko's concession applies only to the make-up of the Assembly. The Assembly also included Erastians and Independents, but this does not mean the Assembly's productions must be read in the light of their peculiarities. One has to look at the documents themselves, and understand them in the historico-theological context in which they were written. Looking at the Confession itself, and its function as a standard in the church, together with the use of the Larger Catechism as an help in teaching, the "system" has no place for an hypothetical atonement. Any attempt to introduce something hypothetical into the system would effectively rip up the tent-pegs, so to speak, and leave it susceptible to the wind. The starting-point is an actual reality -- what God has accomplished in Christ. Soteriology is structured by redemption accomplished and applied. The only universality which is permitted in the Confession is in the free offer of the gospel. There the accomplishment of Christ comes within the reach of each and every hearer of the gospel, and is so near to each one that he only has to rest upon it to be saved. Even here, though, there is no hypothetical salvation. It is actual salvation, full and free, that is offered in Christ. Nothing less than this could warrant faith, minister full persuasion, or instill confidence.

Some observations:

1. The nature of allowing for multiple points of view in a document will necessarily translate to positive language that accommodates the most restrictive constituents, while omitting language advocated by those less restrictive. It seems like faulty reasoning to presume that the confession rules out those who favor the universal aspects of the Atonement because their distinctions were omitted. We can't create positive restrictions concerning those who argue for some universality in the Atonement because of what was omitted, since that would go beyond the Standards.

Fesko quotes the Westminster divine Calamy:

I am farre from universall Redemption in the Arminian sence, but that that [sic] I hould is in the sence of our devines in the sinod of Dort; that Christ did pay a price for all, absolute intention for the elect, conditional intention for the reprobate, in case they doe believe; that all men should be salvibles, non obstante lapsu Adami [saveable, in spite of the fall of Adam]; that Jesus Christ did not only dy sufficiently for all, but God did intend in giving of Christ & Christ in giving himselfe did intend to put all men in a state of salvation in case they doe believe.

Fesko expounds on Twisse (another divine):

Twisse intertwined his hypothetical universalism with his understanding of the decree, in that God ordained some things necessarily, others contingently, and others freely.

Additionally:

Hence, a qualified universalism, that is, that Christ’s satisfaction in some sense extended to all, was part of the confessional air that the Westminster divines breathed, found both in the Thirty-Nine Articles and in the Canons of Dort with its use of the sufficient-efficient distinction.

...it is likely that the divines completely avoided the sufficiency-efficiency language to mitigate debates over the subject.

I included these quotes to demonstrate that the confession does not exclude such positions. In many ways, the Westminster creates a more inclusive atmosphere because of its exclusion of the sufficiency/efficiency distinction. A strict reading of Dort might actually exclude strict particularism, though that may be a hard pill for many to swallow.

2. In relation to my initial question, how can a strict particularist assert counterfactual truth without philosophical necessity? A particular proof text for 3.2, as Fesko points out, is Matt. 11:21, 23. Is the statement, though counterfactual, true? If so, how can a strict particularist reconcile this statement as truth apart from sufficiency, unless he believes that faith itself merits eternal life? (One could also go to John 3:18, 2 Thes. 2:10.) If God is truth, would He say something counterfactual if it were not also true or can truth only be understood in relation to the decree? The only way I can understand internal consistency from the perspective of the strict particularist is if the strict particularist 1) denies contingency, 2) is Neonomian or 3) wraps it up in mystery. Hopefully that helps to clarify my question...

Thanks in advance!
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Yes, I agree. Philosophical necessity seems to only be an attempt to reconcile what is beyond the finite ability to comprehend, namely how to reconcile God's sovereignty and human responsibility.

Philosophical necessity begins with something that needs to be reconciled (because of Lockean empiricism) whereas WCF 3.1 explicitly teaches that there is no contradiction between divine sovereignty and human freedom. Liberty and contingency of second causes is "established" by the absolute divine decree. If effects were not absolutely decreed to flow from causes working according to their own nature there could be no freedom or contingency in the second causes.

The freedom of the will is not absolute. Only the decree is absolute. This means there is no contradiction needing to be resolved.

In a sense, the divines acknowledge that the category of middle knowledge exists, though they simply place this attribute under God’s necessary knowledge.

That would finally amount to a denial of middle knowledge in any sense. The obscurity is no doubt owing to the fact that the adherents of middle knowledge have succeeded in tricking others into playing their language game.

Personally, I would simply not go here. Since scripture does posit counterfactual desires in God, I have resolved not to wrap my mind around it but run what I understand to be two absolute truths about God's self revelation in parallel.

To avoid knowledge of these desires one would have to say that these counterfactual desires are "unknown" to God. If they are said to be "known" to God one is bound up to the concept of middle knowledge. Though one chooses to ignore it, it will still be present in everything the person says about counterfactual desires.

The nature of allowing for multiple points of view in a document will necessarily translate to positive language that accommodates the most restrictive constituents, while omitting language advocated by those less restrictive. It seems like faulty reasoning to presume that the confession rules out those who favor the universal aspects of the Atonement because their distinctions were omitted.

First, Their distinctions were omitted after debate. That means the Assembly consciously refused to include the distinctions for which this party contended. The strict particularist proposition which was recommended to the Assembly was retained notwithstanding the hypothetical universalist objections. See Warfield's "Westminster Assembly and its Work," pp. 138-144. Secondly, the Confession and Larger Catechism contain explicit and exclusive statements which can only be understood in terms of strict particularism. WCF 8:3-5; LC 59. Thirdly, as noted, the "system" of soteriology is so firmly tied down that it allows no room for hypothetical universalism without undoing the system. Redemption is accomplished and applied for the elect. The introduction of any universal element at this point contradicts the Confession's positive teaching that the work of redemption is co-extensive in accomplishment and application.

Fesko quotes the Westminster divine Calamy:

As a point of clarification, Fesko only quotes a minuted report of what he said. There is nothing in Calamy's writings which supports the position reported in the Minutes. The work on the two covenants which has been attributed to him only speaks in terms of strict particularism. As the Minutes are only recording the substance of what was said it is impossible to draw "motivation" from the statements.

Twisse intertwined his hypothetical universalism with his understanding of the decree, in that God ordained some things necessarily, others contingently, and others freely.

This is a misunderstanding. Twisse was meeting the Remonstrants on their own terms of conditional salvation. He was not arguing for a hypothetical universalism but was showing there is no such thing. He does this in multiple volumes. The English volumes are available at EEBO TCP for anyone who desires to learn Twisse's view first hand. See especially The Riches of God's love, where the strict particularist position is taught and defended with a great deal of precision.

I included these quotes to demonstrate that the confession does not exclude such positions.

They only demonstrate that "quotations" brought into evidence need to be considered together with their contextual "factors." When ripped from context they can be made to prove anything.

In relation to my initial question, how can a strict particularist assert counterfactual truth without philosophical necessity?

As noted, WCF 3.1 teaches that human freedom is not absolute, but is dependent upon divine sovereignty. This means there is no contradiction requiring resolution. It is impossible to assert human freedom apart from divine sovereignty. The attempt to introduce contradiction will lead to aberrations.
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
Some of this seems bound up in the old debate among the schoolmen of the necessity of the consequent and the necessity of the consequence. When we speak of the decrees, we may say something to the effect of "If God wills that John repents, then John repents". By virtue of the immutability of God's decrees there is a necessity to that relationship. Arminians and Semi-pelagians argued against the Reformed and Augustinians that if God decrees human actions, this statement is equivalent to "If God wills that John repents, then John repents necessarily". And since, we would have God decree everything that comes to pass and all actions of men, all actions of men are necessary and philosophical determinism is established. This relationship was called necessity of the consequent because the consequent thing, the repentance in this case, is rendered necessary by its relationship to the will of God.

The Reformed universally (with the possible exception of Edwards) rejected this argument at its core. In this relationship, all that is necessary is the consequence, the relationship itself, rather than the consequent, the thing that is related to. In an "if A, then B" statement, it is the then that is necessary in this type of situation, not "B". Both A and B can be contingent even though the relationship between them may be necessary. This is one way in which they held divine sovereignty and human freedom together. God contingently (or freely) determines all contingent actions and neither is necessary even though the consequence is. This is part of what WCF 3.1 is getting at, that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass but without abolishing contingency in the things ordained contra Pelagian contentions. On the contrary, Reformed scholastics argued that middle knowledge actually established necessity because it posited a divine knowledge antecedant to God's will and thus actually ends up imbuing the created order with a necessity of its own to which even God was subjected. Particularism then, in this matter, actually upholds contingency since it subordinates the will of man to God's free decree rather than allowing it antecedence.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
On the contrary, Reformed scholastics argued that middle knowledge actually established necessity because it posited a divine knowledge antecedant to God's will and thus actually ends up imbuing the created order with a necessity of its own to which even God was subjected.

Well noted. The contingency shows itself to be a facade because the choice is internally necessitated and God is said to know it as such. Whereas from the reformed point of view only a contingency externally willed by God maintains the internal contingency of the choice. To get to this point, though, one has to deny the Arminian charge of contradiction and be prepared to subordinate human willing to the decree of God. Or, in express biblical terms, one has to recognise human dependence upon God as the One in whom man lives and moves and has his being.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Philosophical necessity begins with something that needs to be reconciled (because of Lockean empiricism) whereas WCF 3.1 explicitly teaches that there is no contradiction between divine sovereignty and human freedom. Liberty and contingency of second causes is "established" by the absolute divine decree. If effects were not absolutely decreed to flow from causes working according to their own nature there could be no freedom or contingency in the second causes.

Certainly no contradiction. But contingency has little meaning apart from hypothetical necessity in relation to second causes and human freedom. If there is hypothetical necessity, there must also be hypothetical truth. Such hypothetical truth is supported in scripture and the Standards (3.2).

The freedom of the will is not absolute. Only the decree is absolute. This means there is no contradiction needing to be resolved.

If the decree is the only thing that we should consider in the context of this discussion, why would the divines feel it necessary to add 3.2, since it speaks to that which is counterfactual and hypothetical?

The nature of allowing for multiple points of view in a document will necessarily translate to positive language that accommodates the most restrictive constituents, while omitting language advocated by those less restrictive. It seems like faulty reasoning to presume that the confession rules out those who favor the universal aspects of the Atonement because their distinctions were omitted.

First, Their distinctions were omitted after debate. That means the Assembly consciously refused to include the distinctions for which this party contended. The strict particularist proposition which was recommended to the Assembly was retained notwithstanding the hypothetical universalist objections. See Warfield's "Westminster Assembly and its Work," pp. 138-144. Secondly, the Confession and Larger Catechism contain explicit and exclusive statements which can only be understood in terms of strict particularism. WCF 8:3-5; LC 59. Thirdly, as noted, the "system" of soteriology is so firmly tied down that it allows no room for hypothetical universalism without undoing the system. Redemption is accomplished and applied for the elect. The introduction of any universal element at this point contradicts the Confession's positive teaching that the work of redemption is co-extensive in accomplishment and application.

It's your word against Fesko. He spends a significant section demonstrating how hypothetical universalism and sufficient/efficient points of view can actually agree with the Standards. I'd be happy to quote if you our anyone else would find it helpful.

Fesko quotes the Westminster divine Calamy:

As a point of clarification, Fesko only quotes a minuted report of what he said. There is nothing in Calamy's writings which supports the position reported in the Minutes. The work on the two covenants which has been attributed to him only speaks in terms of strict particularism. As the Minutes are only recording the substance of what was said it is impossible to draw "motivation" from the statements.

Are you saying the minutes got it wrong and that Fesko, the academic dean and professor of systematic and historical theology at Westminster CA, also got it wrong? Seriously?

Twisse intertwined his hypothetical universalism with his understanding of the decree, in that God ordained some things necessarily, others contingently, and others freely.

This is a misunderstanding. Twisse was meeting the Remonstrants on their own terms of conditional salvation. He was not arguing for a hypothetical universalism but was showing there is no such thing. He does this in multiple volumes. The English volumes are available at EEBO TCP for anyone who desires to learn Twisse's view first hand. See especially The Riches of God's love, where the strict particularist position is taught and defended with a great deal of precision.

This is what was quoted in Fesko's book:

We say that pardon of sinne and salvation of soules are benefites purchased by the deathe of Christ, to be enjoyed by men, but how? Not absolutely, but conditionally, to witt, in case they believe, and only in case they believe…. So that we willingly professe, that Christ had both a full intention of his owne, and commandment of his Father to make a propitiation for the sinnes of the whole world, so farre as thereby to procure both pardon of sinne and salvation of soule to all that doe believe…. Now as touching these benefites, we willingly professe, that Christ dyed not for all, that is, he dyed not to obtaine the grace of faith and repentance for all, but only for God’s elect; In as much as these graces are bestowed by God, not conditionally, least so grace should be given according to mens workes, but absolutely, And if Christ dyed to obtyene these for all absolutely, it would follow here hence that all should believe & repent and consequently all shoulde be.

In case this is not clear enough, consider Twisse's own words from the same book quoted above (The Doctrine of the Synod of Dort and Arles, Reduced to the Practise), p. 143-144:

Now for the cleering of the truth of this, when we say Christ dyed for us, the meaning is, that Christ dyed for our benefite. Now these benefites which Christ procured unto us by his death, it may be they are of different conditions, wherof some are ordeyned to be conferred only conditionally, and some absolutely. And therfore it is fit we should consider them apart. As for example it is without question (I suppose) that Christ dyed, to procure pardon of sinne, and salvation of soule, but how? absolutely, whether men believe or no? Nothing lesse, but only conditionally, to witt, that for Christs sake their sinnes shall be pardoned and their soules saved, provided they doe believe in him. Now I willingly confesse that Christ dyed for all in respect of procuring these benefits, to witt conditionally, upon the condition of their faith, in such sort that if all and every one should believe in Christ, all and every one should obteyne the pardon of their sinnes, and salvation of their soules for Christs sake.

I included these quotes to demonstrate that the confession does not exclude such positions.

They only demonstrate that "quotations" brought into evidence need to be considered together with their contextual "factors." When ripped from context they can be made to prove anything.

I'm having trouble understanding why you recommended the book when you think the historian is butchering history.

As much as we may dislike our own history, rhetoric can't change it. Please consider.
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If the decree is the only thing that we should consider in the context of this discussion, why would the divines feel it necessary to add 3.2, since it speaks to that which is counterfactual and hypothetical?

The decree is the subject under discussion. It is the title of the chapter. They added 3.2 to invalidate the idea that things could be known as future apart from being determined as future by God.

It's your word against Fesko.

No, it's reasoning from the facts against Fesko's conjectures. It's also Warfield's reasoning, which you are free to examine for yourself. A number of articles draw the same conclusion, which I can point you to if you are interested in pursuing the facts.

Are you saying the minutes got it wrong and that Fesko, the academic dean and professor of systematic and historical theology at Westminster CA, also got it wrong? Seriously?

I said nothing about the Minutes getting it wrong. I clarified the nature and limits of the Minutes and what can be drawn from them. You should seriously read what is written, that is, if you are serious about having a discussion.

This is what was quoted in Fesko's book:

We say that pardon of sinne and salvation of soules are benefites purchased by the deathe of Christ, to be enjoyed by men, but how? Not absolutely, but conditionally, to witt, in case they believe, and only in case they believe….

Again, it was part of a polemical argument which met the opponents on their own ground. This will be seen if the context is allowed to speak for itself:

Now for the cleering of the truth of this, when we say Christ dyed for us, the meaning is, that Christ dyed for our benefite.

That is, the death of Christ benefits those for whom it was made. His argument is that Arminians divide the benefits and say Christ died to procure forgiveness but not to procure faith; yet faith is a necessary condition for enjoying the benefit; so in effect the Arminians are saying Christ died for none. As he states, "Arminians spare not to professe, that these benefits Christ merited for none at all." It is evident that his whole point is to show that Arminians teach that Christ died for none, that is, so as to procure benefits for them. He was not teaching hypothetical universalism.

As noted, the original sources are freely available online for anyone interested in pursuing the facts.

I'm having trouble understanding why you recommended the book when you think the historian is butchering history.

I recommended the book, along with other books and articles, to point out that Amyraldism and hypothetical universalism were not seen as the same thing by historians. I did not recommend the book as the be-all to end-all of historical theology.

As much as we may dislike our own history, rhetoric can't change it. Please consider.

Facts are facts. Please consider them.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Thank you, Raymond, Chris and Rev. Winzer for your insights. They have been helpful.

Blessings
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
First, Their distinctions were omitted after debate. That means the Assembly consciously refused to include the distinctions for which this party contended. The strict particularist proposition which was recommended to the Assembly was retained notwithstanding the hypothetical universalist objections. See Warfield's "Westminster Assembly and its Work," pp. 138-144. Secondly, the Confession and Larger Catechism contain explicit and exclusive statements which can only be understood in terms of strict particularism. WCF 8:3-5; LC 59. Thirdly, as noted, the "system" of soteriology is so firmly tied down that it allows no room for hypothetical universalism without undoing the system. Redemption is accomplished and applied for the elect. The introduction of any universal element at this point contradicts the Confession's positive teaching that the work of redemption is co-extensive in accomplishment and application.

I'd like to quote Berkhof and make further observations:
5. THE COMPROMISE OF THE SCHOOL OF SAUMUR. The School of Saumur represents an attempt to tone down the rigorous Calvinism of the Synod of Dort, and to avoid at the same time the error of Arminianism. This is seen especially in the work of Amyraldus, who boldly taught a hypothetical universalism, which was really a species of universal atonement. God willed by an antecedent decree that all men should be saved on condition of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. He therefore sent Christ into the world to die for all men. But seeing that, left to themselves, none would repent and believe, He by a subsequent decree elected some as the objects of the saving operation of His grace. These and these only are actually saved.
The outcome proved this to be an untenable position. Of the followers of this school some emphasized the first decree and the universal offer of salvation based on it, with the result that they landed in the Arminian camp; and others stressed the second decree and the necessity of effectual grace, and thus returned to the Calvinistic position. The views of the School of Saumur were practically shared by Davenant, Calamy, and especially Richard Baxter, in England. Its peculiar opinions gave occasion for the construction of the Formula Consensus Helvetica by Turretin and Heidegger, in which these views are combatted.


Berkhof, L. (1949). The history of Christian doctrines (p. 195). Grand Rapids, MI: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Tim,

You seem intensely interested in one part of the equation focusing very narrowly on language that "allows" for a view of hypothetical universalism. One cannot merely look at a confined portion of the Standards and say: "See! The Hypothetical Universalist was successful in leaving that portion of the Confessions vague..." when other parts of the system don't support a Hypothetical Universalism. In other words, if it is the case that Hypothetical Universalism is one of many possible views that the Standards teach then there is a *system* that flows from that in other portions of the Standards. You can't simply appeal to historical background and read between the lines to establish the idea. You have to look at the system as a whole.

Incidentally, the fact that Fesko is "...the academic dean and professor of systematic and historical theology at Westminster CA..." does not make an appeal to authority any less a logical fallacy on a Reformed board than in real life. If you haven't read Twisse's work in context and are simply relying upon a secondary source then, no matter how reputable, you can't merely say: "I don't trust your opinion of the primary source, I trust Fesko's scholarship" to establish a point.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
You seem intensely interested in one part of the equation focusing very narrowly on language that "allows" for a view of hypothetical universalism. One cannot merely look at a confined portion of the Standards and say: "See! The Hypothetical Universalist was successful in leaving that portion of the Confessions vague..." when other parts of the system don't support a Hypothetical Universalism. In other words, if it is the case that Hypothetical Universalism is one of many possible views that the Standards teach then there is a *system* that flows from that in other portions of the Standards. You can't simply appeal to historical background and read between the lines to establish the idea. You have to look at the system as a whole.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on the matter. Rev. Winzer helped me to understand various types of hypothetical universalism. The school of Saumur represents Cameron and Amyraut, not the earlier Davenant and the like. I recently thought they were all the same, but they are quite different, as Winzer helpfully pointed out. This prompted me to read Davenant's Dissertation on the Death of Christ at the end of his Colossians commentary (almost finished the book). I'm mostly in agreement with him. He was one of the English delegates to Dort, and you will see much of his terminology and distinctions under the second head of doctrine.

I don't think I'm reading between the lines. We should keep in mind that if one uses the classic sufficient-efficient formula or English hypothetical universalism, they are also very particular as well in regards to absolute intention. Certainly, though, the Canons of Dort are much more accommodating to my views than the Westminster because of the sufficient-efficient formula. (As an aside, I initially came to my conclusions after reading Calvin, Ursinus, the Heidelberg and especially Dort. These documents were instrumental in turning me from severe hyper-Calvinism, which, of course, takes a very particularist view of the Atonement.)

Incidentally, the fact that Fesko is "...the academic dean and professor of systematic and historical theology at Westminster CA..." does not make an appeal to authority any less a logical fallacy on a Reformed board than in real life. If you haven't read Twisse's work in context and are simply relying upon a secondary source then, no matter how reputable, you can't merely say: "I don't trust your opinion of the primary source, I trust Fesko's scholarship" to establish a point.

Good point. Perhaps I should have clarified that the quote I used from Twisse with underlining (post 13) was not used by Fesko. I downloaded the book (https://books.google.com/books?id=b...ctrine of the Synod of Dort and Arles&f=false), found that quote myself and read the context. He is comparing his own view of how Christ died for all (though not equally for all) in contrast to an Arminian's understanding of the universality of Christ's death. I'm in complete agreement with him.

Interestingly, Twisse employs the hypothetical, saying that if all would believe then all would be saved since, according to Twisse, Christ died conditionally for the non-elect.

But please don't believe me. I added the URL. Please read it and tell me how I've misunderstood him. I don't want to bear false witness. Bottom of p. 143 through the top of 144, but by all means read around that area as I did before posting it. That would actually encourage me to know that you looked into it independently.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Also, as a hyper-Calvinist, I was constantly fighting against any kind of universal language concerning Christ's death. And for what? Scripture never says that He did not die for some, only that He did not elect all. Strict particularism takes passages that speak to absolute intention (e.g. John 17), categorize all the universal passages and insert that He didn't die for some, a proposition that cannot be found in scripture.

The universal texts are only problematic if we insert what is not there and qualify everything that is. I love Charles Hodge's treatment of the Atonement in his Systematic Theology. And Ursinus is wonderful.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
This is what Twisse's argument amounts to:

we say therefore, that Christ merited for us the pardon of sinne, & salvation of soule, to be conferred upon us onely conditionally, to witt, provided that we doe beleeve in him; and thus we may well say, that he dyed for all & every one; that is, he dyed to procure pardon of sinne, and salvation of soule for every one, in case every one should beleeve in him; which in effect is as much, as to say, that he dyed in this sense, for none but such as sometimes or other are found to beleeve in him.

Will any hypothetical universalist follow him in his conclusion? Of course not. Those who claim to be hypothetical universalists all say that their theory means Christ died in some sense for all men, whereas Twisse's argument amounts to saying that Christ died for none but those who will believe.

I reiterate, Twisse was using a polemical device, arguing according to the terms of the Arminian, in order to show the Arminian that he was confusing terms, and to bring the reader to the conclusion of strict particularism. To cut him off half way through his argument and insist that he be taken as setting forth hypothetical universalism indicates the reader is labouring under a prejudice.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Twisse's conclusion: "which in effect is as much, as to say, that he dyed in this sense, for none but such as sometimes or other are found to beleeve in him."

Do you agree with this conclusion, Tim? Yea, or nay?
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
So those who are interested can read from the URL I provided. See for yourself.

Thank you for the link. I was especially struck by p. 143:

But, first let me touch, by the way, one argument for the mayntenance of our doctrine in the generall. It is apparant Joh. 17. that Christ professeth he prayeth not for all, but only for those whom God had given him v.9. or shoulde hereafter believe, that is, be given unto him v.20. And it is as cleere that like as for them alone he prayed, so for them alone he sanctified himselfe vers. 19. Now what is it to sanctifie himselfe, but to offer up himselfe upon the crosse, by the unanimous consent of all the Fathers whom Maldorate had read, as himselfe professeth on that place of John.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I was especially struck by p. 143:

Expanded in equally decisive terms in Riches of God's Love, 1:193:

"To the contrary, that Christ died not for all, I prove thus: First, the reason why none can lay any thing to the charge of Gods elect, is because Christ died for them Rom. 8 [Margin: Rom. 8.33, 34]. If therefore Christ died for all, none can lay any thing to the charge of a Reprobate, more then to the charge of Gods Elect. Secondly, Christ prayed only for those who either did or should believe in him; and for whom he prayed for them only he sanctified himself. John 17 [Margin: John 17.9, 19]. And what is the meaning of the sanctifying of himself for them, but that he meant to offer up himself in Sacrifice upon the cross for them; as Maldonate confesseth, was the joint interpretation of all the Fathers, whom he had read. Thirdly, did he die only for all then living, or which should afterwards be brought forth into the world, or for all from the beginning of the world? If so, then he died for all those that already were damned. Fourthly, if he died for them, then Christ hath made satisfaction for their sins; and is it decent that any man should fry in hell, for those sins for which Christ hath satisfied? Lastly, if Christ hath died for all, then hath he merited salvation for all; and shall any fail of that salvation which Christ hath merited for them? Is it decent that God the Father, should deal with Christ his Son, not according to the exigence of his merits? If we had merited salvation for our selves would God in justice have denied it unto us? Why then should he deny any man salvation, in case Christ hath merited salvation for him?"
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Twisse's conclusion: "which in effect is as much, as to say, that he dyed in this sense, for none but such as sometimes or other are found to beleeve in him."

Do you agree with this conclusion, Tim? Yea, or nay?

I agree that Christ did not die for all efficaciously. If He died sufficiently for all only without also meriting faith for the elect, no one would be saved. In this way I am very particular. But I am conscience-bound not to add to scripture. Obviously you think that a negative statement regarding Christ's death can be proven through necessary inference (that in no way can it be said that He died for all). I don't see this as possible without bending scripture around our system.

Certainly I disagree with the Remonstrant formula which Twisse was contradicting.

Let's not make enemies of friends.

Blessings

PS. Ruben, thanks for reading it!
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Fourthly, if he died for them, then Christ hath made satisfaction for their sins; and is it decent that any man should fry in hell, for those sins for which Christ hath satisfied? Lastly, if Christ hath died for all, then hath he merited salvation for all; and shall any fail of that salvation which Christ hath merited for them? Is it decent that God the Father, should deal with Christ his Son, not according to the exigence of his merits? If we had merited salvation for our selves would God in justice have denied it unto us? Why then should he deny any man salvation, in case Christ hath merited salvation for him?"

Thanks for that, Matthew. Both the ideas Twisse rejects seem very indecent.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Let's not make enemies of friends.

Just trying to get the facts of history, and what Twisse taught. As you could not give a yes or no answer I take it that you do not agree with Twisse's conclusion, which might be indicative that you recognise his conclusion teaches strict particularism. Yes?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Certainly I disagree with the Remonstrant formula which Twisse was contradicting.
But Twisse's own words are also contradicting what you claim he believes, namely, that Christ died for all "...in a sense...."

The sense that Twisse concludes is that Christ died for all all who would believe upon Him. He doesn't qualify that conclusion in any sense.

Incidentally, I quoted Berkhof not necessarily as relevant to Hypothetical Universalists but to demonstrate the connection to a larger Systematic theology that any version is going to create.

Let's quit the "...here is stand on the Scriptures and you particularists don't..." garbage. Telling us, over and over, that you're conscience bound to believe what the Scriptures teach is axiomatic. In dispute is whether you can support your conclusion that the Reformed confessions leave wiggle room for a Hypothetical Universalist postion. If we agree that the Confessions are men's conscience-bound conviction of a summary exposition of Scripture then we need to "connect the dots".

You've raised Twisse as supporting your view. He does not conclude with a statement of Hypothetical Universalism but a very particular view of the Atonement.

Assuming for a moment that this was demonstrated, however, you have not shown how that would be relevant to the larger system of doctrine. In other words, how would carrying this view through the rest of the system of doctrine be able to harmonize with other clear statements of particularity in the scope of the atonement? You haven't addressed that issue.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
You've raised Twisse as supporting your view. He does not conclude with a statement of Hypothetical Universalism but a very particular view of the Atonement.

Twisse, same book, p. 165:

But seing pardon of sinne and salvation are benefits merited by Christ, not to be conferd absolutely but conditionally, to witt, upon condition of faith; we may be bold to say, that Christ in some sense dyed for all and every one, that is, he dyed to procure remission of sinnes, and salvation unto all and every one in case they believe; and as this is true, so way we well say, and the Councell of Dort might well say; that every one who heares the Gospell is bound to believe that Christ dyed for him in this sense, namely, to obtayne salvation for him in case he believe.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
Assuming for a moment that this was demonstrated, however, you have not shown how that would be relevant to the larger system of doctrine. In other words, how would carrying this view through the rest of the system of doctrine be able to harmonize with other clear statements of particularity in the scope of the atonement? You haven't addressed that issue.

I don't want to be argumentative. One reason this is important to me is not so that everyone thinks like me, but so that we don't alienate or "mis-label" someone who doesn't define Christ's satisfaction exactly like the strict particularists. I appeal to Heidelberg 37 and Dort 2nd Head, esp. articles 3, 5 and 6 to demonstrate that setting a universal aspect to Christ's satisfaction works quite well within the system.

I also fear that losing this distinction makes unbelief less grievous.

Ursinus:

The reason why all are not saved through Christ, is not because of any insufficiency of merit and grace in him-for the atonement of Christ is for the sins of the whole world, as it respects the dignity and sufficiency of the satisfaction which he made-but it arises from unbelief; because men reject the benefits of Christ offered in the gospel, and so perish by their own fault, and not because of any insufficiency in the merits of Christ.

And:

For it cannot be said to be insufficient, unless we give countenance to that horrible blasphemy (which God forbid!) that some blame of the destruction of the ungodly results from a defect in the merit of the mediator.

If I am alone in this and this destroys our system, please check out this webpage I found last night.

http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7147

Again, I'm hoping to bring together, not tear apart. I'm not interested in debating at this point.

Blessings!
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If I am alone in this and this destroys our system, please check out this webpage I found last night.

http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=7147

Tim, the compiler of this page gathers his snippets with the aim to find variations among reformed theologians without any regard for context. He has a tendency to present writers as directly contradicting themselves. If this is the road you desire to travel, I am sure you will find what you are looking for, but it is very poor scholarship.

Let's return to Twisse. You haven't yet acknowledged the obvious fact that he concludes with strict particularism. Why? The way you are reading him you have him overtly contradicting himself within a few pages. You stop him mid-argument and insist that his conditional statement must be his final position on the matter. Why do you choose to interpret him this way? The man was known for his deep erudition, especially on the doctrines of grace, but you make him out to be a novice. Why?

Honesty of interpretation requires the reader to weigh what the author was saying, and not lay hold of odd statements because they seem to suit the reader's agenda.
 
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