A critic has written a response to my previous article Impetration v. application. You can find the critique at this link, and I invite you to read the critique and feel free to engage me or the author of the critique on the subject.
I note first that the critic has labeled me a "neo-Amyraldian." The critic doesn't know my views of Amyraut; he just wants a handy disapprobatory label. I am Amyraldian only in that Amyraut thought himself a follower of Calvin; I say, "me too." I somehow doubt that is the meaning my critic intends.
Relevancy of Romans 5:18
My critic has said that Romans 5:18 is "not germane" to the impetration v. application question. One wonders what kind of passage my critic would consider "germane." (His comment is ironic given the irrelevant passages offered up by the critic himself!) It is true that the passage does not go on at length about the matter. But the distinction between impetration and application is important to Calvin's argument in explaining the verse. Calvin specifically speaks of Christ's sacrifice and the enjoyment of the benefits of it. He further distinguishes the groups involved; those ("the world") for whom Christ suffered on the one hand and those who "receive him" on the other. If there is a world for whom Christ suffered and to whom he is offered who yet do not receive him, there must be some degree of separation in Calvin's mind between impetration and application.
The statement that this passage is not germane to the question is puzzling.
The alleged "inseparable" link
My critic refers to Calvin's commentary on Romans 8:34, alleging proof of the inseparable link between impetration and application. Yet nothing germane to the question is found there.
In reviewing Calvin's comment to 8:34, it should be noted that Calvin is arguing for the assurance of the godly, not the mass of humanity. Here is Calvin on Romans 8:31:
31. What then, etc. The subject discussed having been sufficiently proved, he now breaks out into exclamations, by which he sets forth the magnanimity with which the faithful ought to be furnished when adversities urge them to despond. And he teaches us in these words that with the paternal favor of God is connected that invincible courage which overcomes all temptations.
Calvin, Comm. Romans 8:31.
Calvin speaks in the following verses of believers: "they who possess him," "the godly," the faithful," "children of God," etc. For believers, then, paternal favor gives assurance. The love of God is here expounded by Calvin (explaining Paul) as being such as to give "that confidence which banishes all anxieties and fears."
There is no mention here of unbelievers, reprobate, or the like. Calvin's argument is that believers can feel assurance because the love of God is amply shown to us in the death of Christ. But what does that tell us about God's love for the ungodly? It tells us nothing.
It is possible (indeed, it is common in Calvin) to assert the love of God for believers (or the elect) on the one hand, and yet maintain the goodness and love of God for unbelievers on the other. My readers have seen the proof of this too many times to require additional proof. Again, one need only look at the masthead to see sufficient proof. God out of his goodness offers salvation to all. For Calvin, the sending of Christ, the suffering of Christ, and the offer of salvation in Christ are for all and demonstrate God's love to all.
Christ's eternal intercession
My critic refers to this phrase in Calvin's commentary to Romans 8:34:
But we must not measure this intercession by our carnal judgment; for we must not suppose that he humbly supplicates the Father with bended knees and expanded hands; but as he appears continually, as one who died and rose again, and as his death and resurrection stand in the place of eternal intercession, and have the efficacy of a powerful prayer for reconciling and rendering the Father propitious to us, he is justly said to intercede for us.
Calvin, Comm. Romans 8:34
My critic cites the Institutes (3.20.20) to the same effect. It ought to be sufficient to point out that both the Commentary and the Institutes speak of the manner of Christ's intercession, not the objects of that intercession. Calvin is denying that Christ kneels, pleading with outstretched hands. As opposed to this imagined pleading posture, Calvin says Christ's death is a sufficient and eternal intercession for us. Calvin is expostulating on the "powerful prayer" of Christ's sacrifice to disabuse us of any notion of suppliant pleading. Calvin is not here saying that Christ's intercession must inevitably extend to all those for whom he died ... though that is the way my critic reads him.
We also must recognize that (for Calvin) Christ intercedes for believers, not for unbelievers. This being the case, we have not gained anything by showing that Christ intercedes for believers; we already know that from Calvin. What the critics have yet to explain is how Calvin can speak of a world for whom Christ suffered and yet do not receive him. We still are faced with the necessity of acknowledging some distinction between believers on the one hand and those, on the other hand, for whom Christ suffered though they do not receive him.
My critic says, "Calvin is clear (elsewhere, as well as here) that the intercession is specific to the elect. Calvin is essentially saying that Christ intercedes for us by dying for us." Well, Calvin certainly is clear, though my critic has managed to misread him anyway. Calvin does not here at all limit the intercession to the elect (though he may elsewhere). But more importantly, the manner of Christ's intercession does in no way prove that all for whom Christ died will certainly receive the benefits of Christ's death.
The argument from logic
My critic makes a logical argument, supposedly showing that we must read Calvin as teaching limited atonement. Here is the argument, quoting from my critic's blog:
The Amyraldian and Arminian views essentially allege that God is already propitious toward all mankind. If Calvin held such a view, then knowledge of God's propitiation would not be a ground of assurance of salvation, since God is also propitious (according to the Amyraldians and Arminians) to everyone, even those in hell.
If Calvin believed that Christ is "already propitious toward all mankind," then knowledge of God's favor could not be assurance, for God would have been propitious toward all those in hell ... so it is alleged.
One hardly knows what to say to such a statement. This kind of argument will, of course, be enough to persuade many high and hyper-Calvinists. But it is very bad. Is there nothing to distinguish those in hell from those not in hell apart from the death of Christ? The difference for Calvin is, of course, the application of the benefits of the atonement.
But whether my critic's argument works or not is completely irrelevant to reading Calvin. One can make an argument that such and such ought to follow from such and such principle. But that is not a safe guide for reading a writer of weighty philosophical theology. One must look at the words themselves. Especially in this case, where we have a strong backdrop of explicit statements to oppose the "argument." Against Calvin's many clear universalistic statements, we are offered a flawed argument, supposedly requiring that Calvin must be read in some way as to negate those myriad clear statements.
Now I believe I am reading Calvin properly ... (I am, as the reader of good sense will agree) ... but it would be very bad reading and very bad argumentation to say that Calvin ought to be read as teaching a universal atonement because otherwise he would be expounding a view that deprives believers of assurance. I really believe that the high/hyper view deprives believers of assurance, but I would never argue that Calvin should be read in such and such a way because of the consequence of that argument. Arguments about what Calvin meant must be rooted in the language found in Calvin.
What my critic has proposed is both bad logic and bad hermeneutics.