Sean Gerety posted a comment to my recent paean to R. T. Kendall, in which he blasted my logic (among other things). I admit to admiring Kendall, but I plead innocent of defective logic, which (logic, that is) Gerety and his ilk aspire to honor. (A poor job of it, in my view.)
First I must call attention to Gerety's slander against David Ponter. Ponter is neither Amyraldian nor Arminian, and his theological views are certainly not closeted. The pursuit of logic is the pursuit of truth, and Gerety shows his defect on both points (logic and truth) by his careless or malicious chatter.
I shall make some response to some of Gerety's less odious comments. He writes:
While Calvin certainly said things that, at first blush, seem to support Kendall’s and your thesis, the fact is Calvin had much bigger fish to fry. Unambiguously expounding on the extent of Christ’s death certainly wasn't high on his list.
Yes, Calvin did indeed say things that support Kendall's thesis: quite a few things, in fact. The canard that the atonement wasn't on Calvin's agenda is nothing more than wishful thinking. Anyone who has read this blog at all, (or the mountain of material at Calvin and Calvinism, particularly the over 200 quotes from Calvin relevant to the subject of the atonement) will know that Gerety's statement is simply whistling in the dark.
It is true, of course, that Calvin did not devote a chapter of the Institutes to "the extent of the atonement," (though I would argue that chapters 12 through 17 of the second book of the Institutes would fill that function as well as any other "less ambiguous" treatment) but that does not mean that he was not aware of the theological question or express himself clearly on it. The reason Gerety sees Calvin's statements on the atonement as ambiguous is because he doesn't like the consequences of the unvarnished truth. What could be more unambiguous than Calvin's comment to Romans 5:18? Or how about this statement from the Institutes?
Luke goes still farther, showing that the salvation brought by Christ is common to the whole human race, inasmuch as Christ, the author of salvation, is descended from Adam, the common father of us all.
Calvin's Argument against Marcion
This last quote is particularly interesting because it approaches our problem from a different angle. Calvin's discussion in 2.13.2, and 3 is addressed to those (Marcionites or their contemporaneous admirers) who denied that Christ came in the flesh. Calvin proved that Christ came in the flesh by arguing that Christ came as the savior of the whole human race. If Calvin meant "the elect of the whole human race," his argument would no longer be cogent against the Marcionites. (It would, in fact, give them support!)
Let me elaborate. Marcion believed that Christ came as God, but not God in the flesh. Christ was God Manifest, not God Incarnate. Christ was not born, had no childhood, and was in no sense incarnate. (See the article on the Marcionites in the Catholic Encyclopedia.) Tertullian says mockingly of the doctrine of Marcion: "Suddenly a Son, suddenly Sent, suddently Christ!" (loc cit.) Calvin said, "In ancient times, the reality of his human nature was impugned by the Manichees and Marcionites, the latter figuring to themselves a phantom instead of the body of Christ...." (Institutes 2.13.1) For Marcion, Christ was God descended to humanity, not God who took on human flesh.
Calvin argues against the doctrine of the Marcionites: Christ was indeed manifest in the flesh. "Wherefore, our Lord himself not contented with the name of man, frequently calls himself the Son of man, wishing to express more clearly that he was a man by true human descent." (Institutes 2.13.1)
And Calvin advances his case for Christ's true humanity by saying that Christ brought salvation to the whole human race! If Calvin really believed that Christ came to bring salvation only to the elect, then his argument against Marcion would have been ineffective and disingenuous. Why ineffective? Because the Marcionites could argue that the elect are the spiritual children of God, and that Christ need not come in human flesh, since he did not come to save all descended from Adam. Why disingenuous? Because in advancing his argument, Calvin would have to hide his secret definition for "whole human race" and "us all." I trust that we accept that Calvin was more honest than to hide or misrepresent his true beliefs in order to gain a debating point.
Predestinarianism proves limited atonement?
Gerety goes on to bring his proof of Calvin's bona fides on "L" (the emphasis in the following quotes were supplied by Gerety):
That said, Calvin was by no means unclear:
Through Isaiah he still more openly shows how he directs the promises of salvation specifically to the elect: for he proclaims that they alone, not the whole human race without distinction, are to become his disciples (Isa. 8:16). Hence it is clear that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be reserved solely and individually for the sons of the church, is falsely debased when presented as effectually profitable to all. Inst. III.xxii.10
Whence it comes about that the whole world does not belong to its Creator except that grace rescues from God’s curse and wrath and eternal death a limited number who would otherwise perish. But the world itself is left to its own destruction, to which it has been destined. Meanwhile, although Christ interposes himself as mediator, he claims for himself, in common with the Father, the right to choose. ‘I am not speaking’, he says, ‘of all; I know whom I have chosen’ (John 13: 18). If anyone ask whence he has chosen them, he replies in another passage: ‘From the world’ (John 15:19), which he excludes from his prayers when he commends his disciples to the Father (John 17:9). This we must believe: when he declares that he knows whom he has chosen, he denotes in the human genus a particular species, distinguished not by the quality of its virtues but by heavenly decree. Inst. III.xxii.7.
Hence we read everywhere that Christ diffuses life into none but the members of his own body. And he that will not confess that it is a special gift and a special mercy to be engrafted into the body of Christ, has never read with spiritual attention Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Hereupon follows also a third important fact, that the virtue and benefits of Christ are extended unto, and belong to, none but the children of God. A Treatise on the Eternal Predestination of God
Some of my readers will have already spotted the problem in Gerety's proof texts: they are all irrelevant to the question. I deny none of those statements from Calvin. My readers might also note that the statements Gerety adduces as proof all relate to the application of the benefits of Christ's death. The application is not in dispute; the benefits (the saving benefits) of Christ's death are applied to the elect alone. But Christ's death was sufficient for all (intentionally so), offered for all, and is offered to all.
I have dealt with Gerety's error in the past. Gerety believes that proof of Calvin's predestinarianism also proves limited atonement. Such is simply not the case. In the first article of my series on Calvin's view of the atonement, I answer those who think they've carried their burden on "L" by proving "U". Again, Gerety simply wishes his problems away.