Saturday, February 16, 2013
It becomes increasingly difficult to discuss Biblical doctrine when people are constantly trying to paint others into a corner with the sort of “trap question” that the scribes and Pharisees so often used with Jesus.
A good example of such a question was submitted this morning on another thread by Pastor Peter Prange.
Would you say that Christ's vicarious satisfaction is *sufficient* for all the world but not *efficient* apart from faith?
Just trying to get further clarification.
One of the marks of a “trap question” is the very “cordial” tone of the question. It appears innocent. “Just trying to get further clarification.” “Help me understand this better.” It sounds like the author of the question is trying to engage in honest discussion. Who could have a problem with that?
This cordial tone is intended to disarm the person being questioned. The respondent wants to assume that the one asking the question is being charitable and honest, and so he wishes to respond with charity as well, putting the best construction on the question. It also allows the questioner to feign innocence (and shock) in the end if he is caught in his Pharisaical behavior: “What? I was just asking an innocent question. You didn’t put the best construction on it. That’s your fault. I will pray for you.” How pious!
But there are certain words and phrases that are loaded with meaning in theological discussion. And just as in a chess match when a player attempts to out-maneuver his opponent by hiding his strategy, so a theological “player” will couch his language in innocence while introducing these loaded words, hoping that his opponent isn’t paying attention. Sometimes he may notice the trap and avoid it. Other times, he may not see it coming, and then, “Checkmate.”
I invite out readers to research the source of Pastor Prange’s language. It isn’t the Book of Concord. It isn’t the language of Lutheran orthodoxy or of Scripture. It is straight out of the textbook of Calvinism.
I’ll quote here an example, but if one googles “atonement sufficient efficient,” one comes up with about half a million results.
Dr. Nettles does a wonderful job of summarizing the “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” position(s) in his book By His Grace and For His Glory (note pages 302-05). He believes this view represents “a majority view among Calvinists” though as I demonstrated in previous posts, is not the position he himself prefers. From this point on I will refer to the Sufficient for All, Efficient for the Elect view as the SFA position.
The SFA position basically affirms both the sufficiency in the nature of the atonement to save all men and the limitation of the atonement to the elect in its divine intent. It is unlimited in extent but limited in its intent. According to the Synod of Dort, “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.” W. G. T Shedd (a Presbyterian theologian form the nineteenth century) wrote, “Christ’s death is sufficient in value to satisfy eternal justice for the sins of all mankind…Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins for all and every man in the world.”
This view would say Jesus Christ bore the sins of the entire world (Isaiah 53:1-6) on his shoulders when he died on the old rugged cross. As the sinless God-man He offered up a perfect sacrifice of infinite value. The extent of the atonement is universal but the intent of the atonement (to save only the elect) is clearly limited. Steele and Thomas explain it this way, the atonement was limited in its original design; not in its worth, value, or scope.
Pastor Prange is a learned, intelligent man. The words he chose in his question were not random, nor were they innocent. If he wanted to ask me if I held to the Calvinist doctrine of “Limited Atonement,” he could have simply asked. If he had been intending to have an honest discussion, he would have been open about the source of his language.
Instead, he used the insidious “trap question.” Unfortunately, this is rather typical in discussions I’ve had concerning UOJ. Perhaps I have been guilty of it on the other end at times, and if so, I apologize. The “trap question” is normally an uncharitable form of dialogue. I say normally, not always, because at times Jesus Himself responded to trap questions with trap questions of His own, (“I will answer your question if you answer mine. John’s baptism—where did it come from?”). Obviously in these cases, our Lord was perfectly justified in turning the trap back on the heads of those who were wickedly persecuting Him.
As for this “trap question” about “sufficient but not efficient” atonement, I will simply answer as I always have, that I reject the Calvinist limited atonement, as well as the Calvinist absolute double decree of election both to salvation and to damnation, together with all the theological baggage that goes along with these Calvinist heresies. And in my discussions, I will not be baited into departing from the language of Scripture and the Book of Concord, and I urge our readers both to watch out for these trap questions, and not to employ them as a general rule.
But this incessant attempt of UOJers to pin the charge of Calvinism on those who hold to the Lutheran doctrine of Justification By Faith Alone is nothing new. Samuel Huber, with his version of universal justification, did the same thing to the orthodox theologians at Wittenberg, because to him, either one has to teach universal election and universal justification, or one must be a Calvinist teaching a limited atonement. Hunnius, of course, demonstrates Huber's folly.
From the Preface to A. Hunnius’ Theses Opposed to Huberianism:
In this book, he not only miserably and ineptly hijacks and most violently twists the apostolic text with his dreams and deliria, but he also, in unbridled fashion, seeks, beyond all rhyme and reason, to rub the scab of Calvinism off of me, most wantonly inventing that which he knows full well to be made up by him in his own study. What does one expect from such propensity for fabrication, by which, perhaps, he tries to outdo his own father by whom he writes and speaks?
…I have also recommended these Theses so that it may be clearly seen how barefaced Huber is, how prodigiously vain, how contrary to his conscience is his testimony to impugn us as heretics guilty of a Calvinistic crime, that this man who has been handed over to a reprobate mind has no fear whatsoever, neither before God nor before the Church.
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