One of my recent articles drew criticism of a rather general sort from "anonymous." The criticism warrants a separate blog entry because it encapsulates the criticisms I've received over the last year-and-a-half, and I'd like to make a more prominent response to these criticisms. So here we go, paragraph by paragraph. Anonymous starts with this:
It seems to me that the Calvinists you refer to have understood Calvin correctly, contrary to your friend David. I have read a number of similar arguments that attempt to paint Calvin in Amyraldian terms, including some of those by Moses Amyraut.
Most recently I have criticized Nicole and Cunningham. What about their reasoning makes you agree with them? If you believe Calvin emphatically repudiated universal love or grace, I would like to see it cited so we can look at it. It is interesting and no doubt true that you have read many authorities; but that doesn't help the rest of us. We ought to discuss the authorities, not just protest our erudition.
I guess I've never really understood what the claim that Christ died for all men universally distributive gets you -- even if, for the sake of argument, this is in fact Calvin's view?
Well, I'll tell you what it gets me: first, I don't have to wiggle the plain words of the Bible. I don't have to pretend that John 3:16 refers to the world of the elect. Second, I can feel free to tell unbelievers that there is a savior for them, because Christ died to save them. Third, it realigns (though I did not seek this realignment) my view of God's nature. Whether one sees this as a benefit or not, it is a consequence. The first two consequences I feel as an immense relief. Others who have adopted a more moderate view of Calvinism have reported sharing this same sense of relief. (I encourage those of you who have felt this relief to post a comment sharing this with other readers. Also let us know if you see other positive benefits from adopting a more moderate Calvinistic view.)
If you're an Amyraldian of some sort, and not an out and out Arminian, you would still maintain that God grants the elect the ability and the necessary grace to believe, yes?
I am neither Amyraldian nor Arminian. (As far as I can tell, Amyraut's view of the order of the decrees is as messed up as the others.) It is interesting that you would bring up Amyraut. Why bring him up? I have cited Calvin as my primary authority on universalism. Ignore Amyraut; explain Calvin if you can.
As to your challenge, I agree. God does grant the elect the ability and grace to believe.
In which case Christ's death is useless for some and effectual for others and you're right back affirming Christ's death, at least as far as its efficacy, is only an actual benefit for the "many" and not "all."
Useless? That has always struck me as an odd argument. How dare we (good presuppositionalists that we seem to be) stand as arbiters of the usefulness (of all things) of Christ's work? (Presuppositionalism-cum-pragmatism!) If God deems it good and proper (for whatever reason) to expiate the sins of all, then we dare not say that to believe God is to believe in futility.
But, in fact, Calvin has commented many times on the sin of unbelief rendering Christ's work useless. (Note that Calvin criticizes the unbeliever, not Christ's work!) Calvin said:
We must now see in what way we become possessed of the blessings which God has bestowed on his only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us.
As far as the efficacy of Christ's death to eternal salvation, yes, I agree it is true; Christ's work is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect. That this is the only actual benefit, I am inclined to deny. But questions of benefit are quite irrelevant to the exegetical questions, which are far more pressing.
The only thing a universal atonement would seem to accomplish is to place Christ's life and cross work at odds with the will of the Father and that can never be. (Assuming you would agree that the Father has chosen those who will receive the ability and grace to believe).
Christ's work for all men is completely in keeping with the work of the Holy Trinity, as I have previously explained.
To put it another way, if Christ's death propitiated the wrath of the God on account of sin for all, then why aren't all saved? If you say salvation is given on the condition of faith, well we know that God alone can give the grace to believe and that He extends that grace to the elect alone.
Why aren't all saved? To quote Calvin, "faith is not common to all." And, as you say, God does not grant that all men should repent. If you see that as a problem for my position, I would like to know how.
Therefore, it would follow that Christ's death didn't actually propitiate the wrath of God for any sin in necessarily, but rather faith makes Christ's cross work complete. In which case faith saves and you're back, at least in practical terms, with the Arminian.
No, I'm afraid that does not follow. God's wrath could be propitiated while men reject his beneficence. As far as your argument that my view makes faith into a work, you should know that Calvinists see faith as an instrumental cause, not the meritorious cause of our justification. If that makes me a practical Arminian, then at least I have plenty of good company. But it doesn't.
It seems to me the universalism of Amyraldianism is incoherent and self-refuting. Again, I fail to see any benefit or advantage in this view of the atonement and the decree?
Whatever the universalism of Amyraut may be, I'm writing about the universalism of Calvin. Maybe you see Calvin as incoherent and self-refuting. That would be interesting.