Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"The Death of Death in the Death of Christ"

I picked up the Death of Death a few weeks back and began to comb through the introduction (written by Packer). I have have been greatly encouraged by his lucid argument for God's supremacy in salvation. Here's a selection from the introduction:
"And when we come to preach the gospel, our false preconceptions make us say just the opposite of what we intend. We want (rightly) to proclaim Christ as Saviour; yet we end up saying that Christ, having made salvation possible, has left us to become our own saviours. It comes about in this way. We want to magnify the saving grace of God and the saving power of Christ. So we declare that God's redeeming love extends to every man, and that Christ has died to save every man, and we proclaim that the glory of divine mercy is to be measured by these facts. And then, in order to avoid universalism, we have to depreciate all that we were previously extolling, and to explain that, after all, nothing that God and Christ have done can save us unless we add something to it; the decisive factor which actually saves us is our own believing. What we say comes to this -- that Christ saves us with our help; and what that means, when one thinks it out, is this -- that we save ourselves with Christ's help. This is a hollow anticlimax. But if we start by affirming that God has a saving love for all, and Christ died a saving death for all, and yet balk at becoming universalists, there is nothing else we can say. . . We have not exalted grace and the Cross; we have cheapened them. We have limited the atonement far more drastically than Calvinism does, for whereas Calvinism asserts that Christ's death, as such, saves all whom it was meant to save, we have denied that Christ's death, as such, is sufficient to save any of them. . . Christ's death ensured the calling and keeping -- the present and final salvation -- of all whose sins He bore. That is what Calvary meant, and means. The Cross saved; the Cross saves. This is the heart of true Evangelical faith; . . . (pp. 14-15)."
Matt, don't mean to hijack the blog with Packer and Owen but thought this was some good food for thought! Enjoying the hunt. . . Ben Eilers

4 comments:

Matthew LaPine said...

"And when we come to preach the gospel, our false preconceptions make us say just the opposite of what we intend. We want (rightly) to proclaim Christ as Saviour; yet we end up saying that Christ, having made salvation possible, has left us to become our own saviours. It comes about in this way. We want to magnify the saving grace of God and the saving power of Christ. So we declare that God's redeeming love extends to every man, and that Christ has died to save every man, and we proclaim that the glory of divine mercy is to be measured by these facts. And then, in order to avoid universalism, we have to depreciate all that we were previously extolling, and to explain that, after all, nothing that God and Christ have done can save us unless we add something to it; the decisive factor which actually saves us is our own believing. What we say comes to this -- that Christ saves us with our help; and what that means, when one thinks it out, is this -- that we save ourselves with Christ's help. This is a hollow anticlimax. But if we start by affirming that God has a saving love for all, and Christ died a saving death for all, and yet balk at becoming universalists, there is nothing else we can say. . . We have not exalted grace and the Cross; we have cheapened them. We have limited the atonement far more drastically than Calvinism does, for whereas Calvinism asserts that Christ's death, as such, saves all whom it was meant to save, we have denied that Christ's death, as such, is sufficient to save any of them. . . Christ's death ensured the calling and keeping -- the present and final salvation -- of all whose sins He bore. That is what Calvary meant, and means. The Cross saved; the Cross saves. This is the heart of true Evangelical faith; . . . (pp. 14-15)."

Matthew LaPine said...

This is where the limited atonement view loses me. So the jailer comes to Paul and asks, "what must I do to be saved?" I'm with you if you want to point out that Paul didn't say "say a prayer" or "repent." But if what Packer is saying is true, the proper response seems to be "well, I don't know that anything is required of you." Don't get me wrong, I'm very sympathetic to the reformed position, but I don't understand at all why they start talking about salvation as if faith is not required. Are people converted before they believe? And if so, are we talking about days before? Years before? Why can't the sovereignty of God work hand in hand with man's response? The trick here in their minds is chronology I think. It's difficult for them to realize that just because God's blood did accomplish something for someone not yet born doesn't mean that what the Bible says about faith is not at some point in time going to need to be true of them. If God exists atemporally as most reformed suggest why are the order of the decrees so important? People talk about logical order, but logical order is chronological order however we cut it. I can't conceive of a thought progress without a time progress, yet all of God's thought processes can be thought of as contemporaneous. Why then, is the order of the decrees so vastly important. I love everything the Reformed have to say about salvation except this because exegetically it does not jive with Scripture. If I'm off here, let me know the holes in my thought.

Matthew LaPine said...

Mark Vance a little while back encouraged me to read the Canons of Dort. Interestingly, it sounds a lot like four point Calvinism. I just don't see the exegetical necessity, the systematic necessity, or the practical advantages of espousing the fifth point. Perhaps you can fill me in on where you stand on the issue?

Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ’s Death

This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.


Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ’s Death

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.


I can't disagree with these.

SBC said...

My apologies for the tardiness of my reply. I agree with your assessment of the cannons of dort. In my mind, the difference rests not between some random numerical "class" for whom Christ died but whether the atonement actually has saving power. One major reason, at least in my mind, we minister in such a "Romish" type fundamental/evangelical church is due in large part to our view of an inept cross. Does Christ actually save or does he merely open the door. Thus, defining the atonement not as limited but as definite would perhaps be a better understanding of my view. It is no wonder we are so open in our churches to the questioning of double imputation (Piper's book on this subject is a great intro). We view the atonement as needing our help -- faith -- and thus "our faith" makes up the righteousness we are credited with (and not Christ's righteousness).

With regard to your other comment, Packer continues, after the section quoted in the post, by describing the preaching of the biblical gospel. Thought about posting this next, but I'll put it here because it is germane. He says:

"Preaching the gospel, . . ., is not a matter of telling the congregation that God has set His love on each of them and Christ has died to save each of them, for these assertions, biblically understood, would imply that they will all infallibly be saved, and this cannot be known to be true. The knowledge of being the object of God's eternal love and Christ's redeeming death belongs to the individuals assurance which in the nature of the case cannot precede faith's saving exercise; it is to be inferred from the fact one has believed, not proposed as a reason why one should believe. According to scripture, preaching the gospel is entirely a matter of proclaiming to men, as truth from God which all are bound to believe and act on, the following four facts:

1. That all men are sinners, and cannot do anything to save themselves;
2. That Jesus Christ, God's Son, is a perfect Saviour for sinners, even the worst;
3. That the Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to be sinners and put faith in Christ as Saviour shall be received into favor, and none cast out. . .
4. That God has made repentance and faith a duty, requiring of every man who hears the gospel "a serious full recumbency and rolling of the soul upon Christ in the promise of the gospel, as an all-sufficient Saviour, able to deliver and save to the utmost them that come to God by him; ready, able and willing, through the preciousness of his blood and sufficiency of his ransom, to save every should that shall freely give up themselves unto him for that end (p. 15-16)."