Thursday, January 17, 2013

Particular Atonement From Kingdom through Covenants (3/3)

Christ's Work as a Mediator of the New Covenant Entails a Particular Redemption
Here the authors begin with the idea that Christ's work must be understood in light of the covenants, particularly the New Covenant.

What is the scope, extent, and design of the new covenant? Is it a general covenant made with everybody, making salvation possible for everyone, if they will take it? Or, is it a limited covenant made only with certain men and assuring their eternal salvation?
-Before I go further I must point out that the authors believe it is "a limited covenant made only with certain men" and they have set this against the other option, which they reject. That means they reject the notion that salvation is available for everyone, even if they wanted to take it.

... Christ's atoning work cannot be extended to all people without also extending the new covenant benefits and privileges to them, which minimally includes regeneration, forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Spirit, and so on. General atonement views must either redefine the nature of the new covenant or argue that Christ dies as the covenantal head of another covenant, whatever that is, which is unsustainable. 

 Or, more succinctly:

P1, Christ unfailingly provides justification, regeneration, adoption
as part of His atonement.
P2, All men do not receive these gifts.

Conclusion, Therefore not all men have been atoned for.

-I attack premise one: why are blessings inexorably linked to the finished work of Christ from the cross such that no gift can come apart from the cross? Does the cross procure election for us? If not then this argument collapses.
But the case that it does is equally problematic. In that case all the blessings come from the cross and unless we have all of them we are able to acquire none of them. So "The authors lack wisdom" "Wisdom was procured for the saved from the cross" "Therefore these authors have no salvation procured for them" would be equally valid. Further, common grace is either procured from the cross for the non-elect or it doesn't exist, but if common grace, then why not other kinds of grace?

... [those who say] "in terms of the Atonement provision Christ died not merely for the elect but for all sinners in all times and places" [do so] without ever wrestling with the new covenant context of that death. Who are the subjects of that new covenant? Under the old covenant, it's subjects were primary the nation of Israel as a "mixed" entity, but what about the new? Does Christ as the new covenant head, represented all people without exception (a "mixed" group) and thus make salvation possible for them, or does he represent a particular people who are effectively brought to salvation and receive all the benefits of that covenant including the application work of the Spirit? Once again, Scripture affirms the latter...

Only believers are in the New Covenant, and Jesus mediates only for the New Covenant members.
All those in the new Covenant know God, are justified, and have His Spirit.
The Spirit is sent only to those members in the covenant community.
Jesus therefore did not die for members outside the covenant community.

-As defined here the New Covenant is restricted to current or previous believers, because those who are in Covenant are the justified, it does not extend to those who will be justified. Jesus therefore didn't die for future believers, which means only those who believed at the time of the cross will be saved. I know they mean well, but I honestly can't think of a worse argument.

Why is this important to emphasize? Given that Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant and it is a completely effective covenant in terms of both provision and application, it is difficult to deny, unless we want to affirm universalism, that Christs's priestly work is particular and effective. In other words, all those in the new covenant, for whom Jesus acted as the covenant mediator, are, in time, regenerated, , justified, and brought to glory. Not one of them will be lost, since our Lord Jesus, as the greater priest and mediator of a greater covenant, does not fail. for those for whom Jesus died as their covenant head, His work is effectively applied by the Spirit - the same Spirit who cannot be divorced from the new covenant, since He is one of the central blessings Jesus has secured by his atoning death.

P1, The covenant mediation is effective - all who have been atoned for will be saved.
P2, Universalism is untrue - there are people who will be lost
Conclusion, Some people don't have an atonement available for them.

-I don't think this argument needs to be refuted, because I don't think it can stand at any point on its own. Only if salvation is no more and no less than atonement does this work, and the moment you collapse salvation to atonement you have people saved regardless of faith. But the whole point is that the New Covenant community is faithful, which means this argument doesn't have the power to go anywhere.


David said...

If you notice too, they are trading on the ambiguity of the word "mediates." Christ has the office of mediator, which includes his sacrificial death. But specific mediation is for believers only. When Hebrews speaks of Christ's intercession, it speaks to his specific mediation (as intercessor) for those who have come to the throne.


Phil said...

The argument they make I find simple and profoundly effective:

Jesus intercedes for the elect to ensure they are finally and fully saved upon their death,
Therefore God hates the non-elect and has failed to provide a means whereby they may be saved.

How can you argue with that?