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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reformed Professor Matthew Barrett and the shallowness of the Protestant grasp of Scripture

I'm not writing this brief article to make fun of anyone, but simply as an example of the sad situation Protestantism finds itself in when it comes to interpreting Scripture. I really want to emphasize this because for a long time and even still to this day Protestants are under a serious delusion that Catholics are too dumb to really know the plain teaching of Scripture. In this post I want to give a brief look at what a Reformed Seminary Professor posted on his blog.

Matthew Barrett has a PhD in systematic theology, is editor of a major Reformed magazine (Credo), and is a professor at a Reformed college. Just yesterday he posted on the Credo Magazine blog a post titled "It is finished: A reflection on John 19:30." Just by the title, you'd think that Dr Barrett is going to exegete this verse, and in fact I was drawn to read this post precisely because I know this verse is important for the Calvinist view of the Atonement. But when you read the brief "reflection," there's no actual exegesis of the text at all. He merely quotes the text in passing a few times, which is simply how most Protestants approach this verse. 

These two concluding paragraphs form the heart of his post, so that's all I'll quote and comment upon:
When we come to the cross and we see the enormous amount of suffering Jesus underwent, we tend to focus solely on his physical suffering: the crown of thorns, the nails, and the crucifix. But as important as all of this is, we cannot miss the main thing: the most excruciating thing about the suffering servant’s cross is that he bore the very wrath of God that was ours. The Lord laid upon Christ our iniquities and Christ took the due penalty for those iniquities. We see this and we hear it when Christ cries out, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34). And then come three beautiful words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

What is finished? Christ, as he says in the garden of Gethsamani, has drunk the cup of God’s wrath in full (Matt. 26:39), and by doing so, as Hebrews 1:3 reminds us, Christ “made purification for sins.” As our high priest Christ “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:11-12; cf. 9:13, 25-26). Indeed, this is good news.
Again, this man has a PhD in systematic theology, so he should know how to exegete Scripture and know how things fit together. And yet these handful of sentences show the most embarrassing level of interpretive skill and grasp of theology. But really, this is par for the course for the highest levels of orthodox Reformed Protestant scholarship.

Dr Barrett starts off by making the standard Protestant claim that Christ's physical sufferings at the hands of men, as dreadful as they were, were in fact nothing compared to the spiritual suffering of enduring the Father's Divine Wrath. Such statements are so obviously outrageous that I'd expect others to be speaking up against it. Dr Barrett both trivializes the physical sufferings of Our Lord and introduces a completely foreign concept of God's Wrath being poured out on Christ. Sadly, as I noted earlier, this is in fact the best Protestantism has to offer. It's not that they do this on purpose, but they have serious 'blinders' on that prevent them from thinking clearly. Such is the reality of sin, and such is the position one is put in when they're outside the Catholic Church. Trivializing the physical sufferings of Christ is equivalent to denying the Crucifixion, and God help me if I or any Catholic trivializes the heart of our salvation like that.

I'm not going to beat a dead horse on the "My God, why have you forsaken me?" comments, because I've covered that many times before. I just want people, Protestant and Catholic, to just stop and look at how shallow Reformed theology is and the liberties and desperation it takes with the Sacred Text. It's truly an abuse of God's Word if there ever was one. And to follow this up, Dr Barrett brings up the main text in question, "It is finished," as if he had actually exegeted and proved his thesis. He is oblivious to the fact "It is finished" has it's own context in John, and he's oblivious to the fact John (and Luke) never mention the "forsaken me" quote, despite Dr Barrett's insistence that this "forsaken me" text is the heart of the true understanding of the Cross. He has the audacity to ask "What is finished?" without even looking at the context. And he concludes by quoting all these texts from Hebrews, not realizing the absolute silence in Hebrews about any reference to God's Wrath (or Active Obedience). What's going on folks? And to think this is the enlightened 'wisdom' of men who don't want you to be Catholic? Give me a break.

Once you have the right glasses on, you have a hard time taking Protestantism seriously. To get the right glasses on, you just have to realize that Protestants don't really follow the Bible at all, but rather they follow a completely unbiblical "tradition of men"  called Sola Fide, and they accept this as a starting premise and from there proceed to make Scripture fit. The Reformation wasn't about Sola Scriptura, it was about Sola Fide, specifically the agenda of presuming its truth and forcing the Scripture's to agree (resulting in numerous other "traditions of men" they are forced to embrace). 

I guess what's really hard about reading this kind of stuff is that I really hoped for better, and I truly believe Protestants owe us Catholics better. But it's almost as if God's Word has a built in safety feature, where the moment someone starts to tamper with it, absurdities surface. That's precisely what happens with Protestant scholarship, and Reformed theology in particular. If the Reformed blogosphere isn't going to call out such embarrassing statements which the Reformed PhD's routinely make, then how can we really take them seriously?

23 comments:

Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

Nice rant. Feel better?

First, I think you're overlooking the fact that the article is a "reflection," not an academic exegesis. In fact, the word "reflection" is in the very title of the article, so you might want ease up on the rhetoric and adjust your expectations accordingly.

As an aside, you mentioned that a Ph.D in systematic theology = a good exegete. That's laughable. I've studied under many Ph.D's in systematic theology (mostly Roman Catholics), who couldn't exegete their way out of paper bag.

Now for the substance of your criticism, of which there was precious little:

1. You seized upon "it is finished," and argued as if it were self-evident that it cannot mean what the author thinks that it means. Simply saying you've "dealt with this before," doesn't allow you to sweep the claim under the carpet. Given that you don't agree with the author's take on those words, one would think you'd give us a plausible alternative.

2. You read in the idea that the author is downplaying the physical suffering of Christ as if an emphasis on wrath-bearing = a denial of physical pain. How does that follow?

3. You bemoan his understanding of the cry of dereliction. But what positive account to do you give? As far as I can tell, your position amounts to a denial of the plain sense of those words. It's as if you're saying, "whatever Christ meant by the words "you have forsaken me," they surely cannot mean that the Father in any way shape or form abandoned the Son." But such an interpretation renders the words meaningless.

4. Lastly your harangue against the so-called "Reformed" understanding of the atonement is, to my ears anyway, positive proof of the active suppression of the Gospel that Paul speaks of in Romans 1. You seem to have this idea that Jesus's death on the cross has merely made it *possible* for anyone to be saved. But you deny that the cross in and of itself has *actually* saved anyone. What you have, then, is half an atonement. God has done his part. It's up to us to do ours. And you call us the "heretics?" Astounding.



Anonymous said...

Nick,
Here's the problem you have as a RC. You can't say his exegesis is wrong since Rome has never officially-infallibly interpreted the Scripture so as to tell you what the correct interpretation is. All you can give us is your private opinion and not an official-infallible interpretation of your church.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous -

Isn't your problem you have no church and you are your own church?

guy fawkes said...

Nick,
You are a man after my own heart! I have been saying forever what you say, if it can't be made to fit with JBFA, it is a nonessential passage of scripture for Protestants.
A perfect example would be any of the passages saying God wants all men save, or Christ died for all, or God is not willing any should be lost. Those passages are subsumed to systematic theology that teaches a limited atonement.
Speaking of Jn 19, it is so clear that Mary is made Mother of all who are Christ's. Our friends insist on a shallow reading that says Jesus is doing no more than making provisions for a widowed mom whom he had forgotten about until the 11th hour when he happens to notice her presence. Any deeper significance threatens JBFA so this passage ( although uttered from the throne of the cross ) is dismissed as having any salvific meaning.

Nick said...

Anonymous, you said: "Here's the problem you have as a RC. You can't say his exegesis is wrong since Rome has never officially-infallibly interpreted the Scripture..."

I've heard this from many Protestants over the years, but it's a response that simply shows you don't understand the Catholic position. Your response basically sets up a straw man so that you can avoid having to address the specific claims on the table. Your response is a textbook case of the ad hominem fallacy (i.e. attacking the person rather than the merits of the argument) and is simply going to win over more converts from Protestantism to Catholicism in the long run.

Your response further confirms my growing suspicions that most Protestants don't really care about the Bible, and thus is sprouting a thesis I'm developing that the Reformation was never about Sola Scriptura at all but rather the Tradition of Men called Sola Fide.


Michael Taylor said...


Guy Fawkes said: A perfect example [of making a passage fit in with sola fide] would be any of the passages saying God wants all men save, or Christ died for all, or God is not willing any should be lost. Those passages are subsumed to systematic theology that teaches a limited atonement.

Reply: This sort of accusation cuts both ways depending upon the issue. You should read your own theology when it comes to, say, the doctrine of Mary, or the primacy of the papacy--talk about shoehorning scripture into a pre-existing paradigm!

That said, I would take issue with your claim on exegetical (not theological) grounds. I think a good exegetical case can be made for each of the passages you seem to have in mind (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Cor. 5:13; 2 Peter 3:9, respectively) as not only "fitting in with" the L in TULIP, but actually positively teaching a doctrine of definite atonement. This is not the place to do a detailed exegesis of those texts, but I'd be happy to show you my take on them and why I believe they imply the L in TULIP and how I came to this conclusion when I was studying theology as a Roman Catholic!

In other words, your argument is really an example of the ad-hominem. Your basic assumption here is that the only possible reason anyone would ever believe those texts support limited atonement is because of a prior theological commitment to Reformed theology. But these texts were actually interpreted in ways congenial to Reformed theology long before "limited atonement" was a theological controversy.

Thomas Aquinas, for example, explicitly stated that "all men" in 1 Tim. 2:4 refers to "every class of individuals, not to every individual of each class; in which case they mean that God wills some men of every class and condition to be saved, males and females, Jews and Gentiles, great and small, but not all of every condition" (ST I. Q.19.6. ad.1).

But something tells me you wouldn't explain Thomas' take on this verse as being determined by a pre-existing theological commitment to definite atonement!

Guy Fawkes said: Speaking of Jn 19, it is so clear that Mary is made Mother of all who are Christ's...

Clear to whom? Perhaps you could show me from the text where the explicit claim is made that Mary has been made "mother of all." This sounds suspiciously like a later tradition being read back into the text, not out of it. If you differ, then kindly show me your exegesis.


Nick said...

Michael,

Yes, it was partly a rant. I do feel somewhat better but am really having a shift in my apologetics world-view in the direction that bad theology/exegesis needs to stop and needs to be called out on the carpet.

I completely agree with you that many PhD's in theology, both Catholic and Protestant, are astonishingly incompetent when it comes to exegesis. It's sad and needs to be curbed. I don't think the issue was that the article was a "reflection," because there was no actual reflecting on John 19:30 took place. He simply quoted three words and repeated a typical Justification-Atonement formula that you'd find anywhere else.

As to your four points, here are my thoughts about them:

(1) Barrett asks us "What is finished?" and doesn't even look to the context. He simply says what was finished was that Jesus absorbed God's wrath. But what does the very verse say? "When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, 'It is finished'." The sour wine wasn't God's wrath, but a literal sponge of sour wine given to Him by his enemies. To just rip "It is finished" our of context and slap on whatever you want to it is outrageous. The link I provided gives a very plausible alternative, namely that Jesus was fulfilling Psalm 69.

(2) Barrett said:
" we tend to focus solely on his physical suffering: the crown of thorns, the nails, and the crucifix. But as important as all of this is, we cannot miss the main thing: the most excruciating thing …"

In other words, all the details the Gospel writers give about the physical sufferings, but Barrett says "the main thing" and "the most excruciating thing" was enduring God's Wrath. This kind of talk drives a wedge between the Crucifixion itself and some other more important suffering. It says the physical Crucifixion itself wasn't bearing God's wrath, but rather something else was. It's a complete marginalizing of the Crucifixion itself (i.e. nails, cross).

(3) I've given a positive and very plausible reading of the "forsaken me" text many times. Too many times to count. The problem is, that's the only scrap of God's Wrath evidence that Protestants can find in the Gospel accounts, so they cling to it with all desperation. The best slam-dunk refutation of the Protestant reading of those words is the fact that King David originally spoke those words and yet King David was not suffering God's Wrath when he spoke them. So if King David wasn't referring to suffering God's Wrath, then that proves there is at least one plausible reading for why neither was Christ enduring God's Wrath. And it really goes back to the Protestant marginalizing of the Crucifixion itself, because if anyone of us were being tortured and strung up on a Cross, we'd surely be inclined to speak those very words: "God, why aren't you helping me?" The physical pains of the Crucifixion were horrific enough to warrant those words.

(4) If Christ's death on the Cross was all there was to salvation, then there would be no reason for faith. No need for a response on our end. If the work was done, then it's simply a matter of proclaiming Christ's work is done. But what do we see in the Bible? We see the Gospel preached and the crowd asking "What should we do?" which is followed by a command "Repent and Believe." Contrary to those in the Reformed Camp that teach Eternal Justification, the Bible plainly says you're not forgiven until you believe. So you're caught in the bind here, not me. If Christ already saved you, then faith isn't a necessary condition for you to receive forgiveness. That's something you need to think about.

Michael Taylor said...

1) "When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, 'It is finished'." The sour wine wasn't God's wrath, but a literal sponge of sour wine given to Him by his enemies.

Nick, even if you're right that "it is finished" refers to the wine and Jesus is saying nothing more than, "okay, I'm done, how about wiping my face off for me now" (which I doubt, given the theological richness of John's Gospel), you're still overlooking the fact that God's wrath is frequently compared to a cup of wine one drinks (e.g., Jeremiah 25:15-16, among other "cup' texts.) Besides, you're forgetting that Johannine double-entendre which all scholars recognize as a commonplace in John's Gospel. So even if you're correct that "it is finished" is the equivalent to "I'm done drinking," you have in no way, shape, or form excluded the possibility of a far more theologically pregnant meaning to those words.

(2) In other words, all the details the Gospel writers give about the physical sufferings, but Barrett says "the main thing" and "the most excruciating thing" was enduring God's Wrath. This kind of talk drives a wedge between the Crucifixion itself and some other more important suffering. It says the physical Crucifixion itself wasn't bearing God's wrath, but rather something else was. It's a complete marginalizing of the Crucifixion itself (i.e. nails, cross).

Yeah, I'm not following you Nick. By that logic, Rome's theology does the same thing. If you invest the physical act of crucifixion with any sort of theological significance at all, then, by your logic, you would seem to be downplaying the physicality of the crucifixion itself. Besides, I just don't see how saying X + W is equivalent to X or W. But that seems to be the way you're framing it. X (the crucifixion) + W (bearing wrath) is, on your argument, Either X or W. But even the words you cited say it's both. Why can't it be both, Nick?

(3) >>I've given a positive and very plausible reading of the "forsaken me" text many times. Too many times to count.<<

And you seem to think that this somehow entitles you not to have to repeat yourself…moving right along.

>>The problem is, that's the only scrap of God's Wrath evidence that Protestants can find in the Gospel accounts, so they cling to it with all desperation.<<

Ad-hominem

>>The best slam-dunk refutation of the Protestant reading of those words is the fact that King David originally spoke those words and yet King David was not suffering God's Wrath when he spoke them.<<

Red herring. No one is assuming at the outset that David's sufferings were identical to Christ's, so your point is irrelevant. The key question to ask is this: Is there a sense in which God abandoned/forsook David? If so, in what way? Likewise, since Jesus quotes those very words ("For what [purpose] have you abandoned me"), we must ask in what sense Christ is using those words. That these words may point back to Gethsemane and the "cup" Jesus drank make eminent sense given the wider context of Matthew and Mark. See my latest blog article for more details on this.

continued...

Michael Taylor said...

Nick: (4) If Christ's death on the Cross was all there was to salvation, then there would be no reason for faith. No need for a response on our end. If the work was done, then it's simply a matter of proclaiming Christ's work is done.

Faith and repentance are the evidence of regeneration, not the means to the end. No one could or would believe in repent if God had not already brought him/her to spiritual life. As Jesus said, a tree is known by its fruit. It is not the fruit (faith and repentance) that saves us, but rather it is the fruit that tells us what kind of tree we are (elect trees or trees fit for the fire). You're confusing the order of being and knowing.

Nick>>But what do we see in the Bible? We see the Gospel preached and the crowd asking "What should we do?" which is followed by a command "Repent and Believe."<<

Yes! The preaching and commands to repent (the Word) are the means by which faith and repentance are granted to God's elect. From start to finish, salvation is first and foremost God's sovereign choice.

Nick>>Contrary to those in the Reformed Camp that teach Eternal Justification,<<

This is a debated point among hyper-Calvinists. Most Calvinists would reject the doctrine of eternal justification. But your words suggest that all Reformed hold this view. Hopefully you'll be more precise with your language in the future lest you mislead your readership.

Nick>>the Bible plainly says you're not forgiven until you believe.<<

Yes and no. Forgiveness can be understood as both redemption accomplished and redemption applied. Your words line up with the "redemption applied" column. Thus, when you believe, you experience forgiveness. But we can also understand these words from the "redemption accomplished" side of the column. In this case, an objective forgiveness is obtained for God's elect ("Father, forgive them…."), which does not take effect in time until the Holy Spirit applies the effects of the Atonement to God's elect.

Nick>>So you're caught in the bind here, not me. If Christ already saved you, then faith isn't a necessary condition for you to receive forgiveness. That's something you need to think about<<

I have thought it through--and you're right. My faith is not what saves me in these sense that you seem to be understanding those terms. My faith, rather, is a gift from God. It is what God gives to me so that I can be saved. The prior condition, then, is fulfilled by God, not me. He is the one who saves me, in part by giving me the faith to receive his Son as Lord and savior.

Your view seems to be this: faith is a freewill decision on the part of man to obey the Gospel and unless you exercise that faith, it cannot save you.

My view is that faith is given by God to his elect in order to preserve them to final glory and therefore it is always exercised by those to whom it is given because it accomplished the purpose for which it is given.

The principle difference, then, is that in your scheme of things, free will can resist grace and therefore fail to believe, whereas in my view God's free will trumps ours and so his grace is always victorious to those whom he gives it. The "catch," of course, is that he doesn't give this grace to everyone.

Anonymous said...

Michael Taylor,

//you have in no way, shape, or form excluded the possibility of a far more theologically pregnant meaning to those words//

I note with some irony that you dismissed Guy Fawkes' take on John 19. I think we need to consider the term "clear" with some more nuance (ironic, I know) because what is clear to one person might not be clear to another. The idea that the text is pregnant with meaning and that the understanding of the quadriga allows for there to be a sense of the text beyond the merely literal sense...that would allow for the, "Mary is our spiritual mother" of this passage interpretation, whether you ultimately agree with it or not.

As for your particular take on the "wrath," I just don't see that as having the same degree of credibility. As Nick notes, when the words were spoken by David, there was no sense of being spiritually forsaken. Only being temporally forsaken. This point is not irrelevant...it means that, despite the Protestant contention that Jesus' words "clearly" refer to an experience of being spiritually forsaken, one can easily explain what Jesus is saying without that, such that one would need additional reasons to hold to the Protestant reading. David was forsaken in that God allowed him to experience temporal sufferings. Same in the case of Christ. Where's the wrath?

For various Christological reasons, I don't believe that you can find any evidence to support God's wrath being brought down upon Christ. But I've generally found that Protestant arguments for Penal Substitution and just WHAT Christ experienced have been very lacking in content. Time and time again I am told Christ suffered wrath, but it never gets further defined. In only a few circumstances have I seen that done, and it is usually the case that the individuals doing so aren't the most systematic and logically consistent of thinkers.

Would you be willing to identify precisely what Christ experienced, and if it falls into the category of "wrath" in terms of the wrath that is due for sinners?

Nick said...

Michael,

(1) I completely agree that "It is finished" has deeper significance than just saying "I'm done taking a drink." That's why I said Jesus was quoting Psalm 69, because it was a Messianic prophecy. But the "problem" you run into at that point is that Psalm 69 becomes a clear lens by which Psalm 22 is to be properly understood.

(2) I'm not saying X or W is what Barrett advocated. Barrett and Protestants clearly advocate both the Crucifixion and Wrath sufferings of Christ. For Protestants, it is both. The problem is that the "W" is where the focal point is, such that the "X" is pushed aside. Hence why I used the term "marginalized" and "drive a wedge between." Not that the physical was denied, but rather that the physical had become "trivialized" (another term I used). The Jews/Romans weren't punishing Christ, they were persecuting him. So the punishment for our sins came only in reference to God's Wrath, a distinct and separate suffering taking place ALONGSIDE the Crucifixion, which means the Crucifixion itself wasn't really what brought about our salvation, it was an accidental event taking place ALONG SIDE "the main thing".

(3) Christologically and exegetically, nothing about the words "abandoned me" suggest nor permits reading it as saying Jesus was suffering God's wrath. Since God is in control of all human events, God could have stopped the Crucifixion. But instead God allowed it, thus "abandoning" Jesus to the whims of the Jews/Romans. But since there's no clear text in the Gospels that say God poured out His Wrath on Jesus, the Protestant side must try to come up with something, and "abandoned me" is the best they could do, despite the fact Luke and John forgot to record "the main thing" in their Gospels.

David spoke those words of abandonment because he wanted to know why God was letting his fellow Jews persecute him. David was on the run for a long time being hunted down by his own brethren. Why didn't God stop them? Why did God abandon David when David needed divine intervention?

(4) You seem to be confusing issues on this last point. The issue isn't that nobody can believe unless God grants it, the point is that God grants belief because belief is a *condition* for being forgiven. You're not forgiven unless and until you believer. Period. Your only way out, which a minority of Reformed do believe, is to say you're already forgiven and that faith merely lets you recognize you've already been forgiven that whole time.

You said "It [faith] is what God gives to me so that I can be saved." That's fine, but you've just contradicted yourself because "can be saved" means you're not-yet-saved until you believe. So Jesus didn't save you already. Jesus only made salvation possible.

Michael Taylor said...

Anony: I note with some irony that you dismissed Guy Fawkes' take on John 19.

Not dismissed. I simply asked for the exegesis. I fully grant that John often intends a deeper theological meaning throughout his Gospel. The question is whether or not he intended us to understand that Jesus gave Mary to the entire church to be our spiritual mother. You say he did. I say prove it exegetically rather than on the basis of later Marian tradition.

Anony: As for your particular take on the "wrath," I just don't see that as having the same degree of credibility.

I guess you're right about "clarity" being in the eye of the beholder. I have written two articles that make the case for PSA in John's Gospel, neither of which directly address the "it is finished" line, but both of which show how the Passover was understood as a penal substitutionary atonement. So when you ask, "where's the wrath" in John, I'd say it's there, operating quietly in the background. Here are the two articles that answer your question:

http://fallibility.blogspot.com/2013/06/penal-substitutionary-atonement-and.html
http://fallibility.blogspot.com/2013/07/christ-ark-penal-substitution-in-john.html

Now for my question: Can you make a comparable case for Mary's spiritual motherhood based on scripture?

I ask because I am sympathetic to your concern that I may be employing a double standard here: Yes, John has a richer theological meaning for "It is finished" but not one for "behold your mother." But I don't think the allegations stick, because I can actually find that richer theological meaning in the text itself, whereas I suspect you can only import that meaning into the text from the standpoint of later Marian traditions.

Anony: As Nick notes, when the words were spoken by David, there was no sense of being spiritually forsaken. Only being temporally forsaken.

Perhaps there's a bit of imprecision of language here, but it sounds like you're juxtaposing "spiritual" to "temporal" as if the spiritual were something entirely outside of time. In view of the Incarnation, I don't think that's a wise move. In other words, Jesus could be temporally forsaken (like David) and spiritually forsaken (the withdrawal of the fellowship of the Father and the Spirit) so that the Son could experience the collective guilt of his people and thereby bear our sins on the cross. I think it is this that aspect of bearing sin that makes the crucifixion more than a physical/emotional torment, but also one that is infinitely psychological/spiritual. In other words, it was existentially damnation in our place without Jesus actually going to hell for all eternity. The distinction I would make is this: In hell, the damned suffer eternally, but not infinitely. On the cross Jesus suffered infinitely, not eternally.

Hopefully that touched on most of your points.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

I only have time to respond to this last point you made:

>>You said "It [faith] is what God gives to me so that I can be saved." That's fine, but you've just contradicted yourself because "can be saved" means you're not-yet-saved until you believe. So Jesus didn't save you already. Jesus only made salvation possible.<<

You're very much confused on the matter.

A salvation that is accomplished will inevitably and infallibly be applied in time. So, considered from the point of view of the unregenerate elect, salvation is a possibility (in the order of knowing). But considered from the Divine point of view, salvation is a certainty (in the order of being) even for those who have not yet believed (but surely will at some point in the future).

In other words, there indeed was a time when all the elect were lost--when the redemption that was accomplished for them had not yet been applied in time.

The crucial difference, of course, is that this redemption is always 100% successful because it is always applied successfully to the elect, whereas in your system, God largely fails to save those whom he would like to save, but can't because he is limited by their freewill.

Put even more simply, in your system, man's free will is all-powerful in salvation, whereas in my system, God's freewill is all-powerful, overcoming the hardened hearts of sinners by the majesty of sovereign grace.

In my view, God loses no one, in yours, he loses most everyone.

Anonymous said...

Nick,
It is not "Your response basically sets up a straw man so that you can avoid having to address the specific claims on the table. Your response is a textbook case of the ad hominem fallacy (i.e. attacking the person rather than the merits of the argument)..." Rather I am pointing out one problem you have. It is a fact that your church has not officially-infallibly interpreted the Scriptures. So any interpretation you have about Scripture is just your private opinion. That said, we can see who has the best interpretation via the facts and context of Scripture.

Michael Taylor said...

Nick,

The other "anonymous" is correct that you do have a problem. Pending an official interpretation of a text, you have no magisterial backing for your view. That means you are free to hold to interpretation X or reject it as an RC, since Rome hasn't weighed in one way or the other on the meaning of a particular text. So long as your interpretation does not contradict any defined matter of faith and morals, you're perfectly within your rights as an RC to hold it.

That's why Robert Sugensis, for example, can hold to a literal 6-day creation of the universe meaning his view is no different than that of any other young earth creationist.

But I'm sure you'd agree that most RCs, including at least one pope (John Paul II-now a canonized saint!) clearly was a theistic evolutionist.

So why is there such a wide range of views on Genesis 1 within Romanism? It is because Rome has not dogmatically defined a literal 6-day creation. Nor has it ruled out evolution as compatible with the creation of the human soul.

Now back to "It is finished." If Rome has not defined this text, then an RC is free to hold that it may apply to the Atonement or free to hold that it refers to the sponge full of wine or both.

But what you can't say is that your church is backing your take on John 19. That means you're speaking privately on the matter.

Anony is quite right to point that out and so accusing him of being guilty of the ad-hominmen comes across as yet another "rant" on your part and not a substantive reply.

Anonymous said...

Michael Taylor has an even bigger problem because he has no church other than himself. If Christ failed with the physical church he created on this earth lasting until today than how is he not a fake? The only way Ps get around this problem is to turn a blind eye to reality and create a new definition of the word church. Christ didn't create a bunch of true believers as his true church. Hogwash!!

Anonymous said...

If it all comes down to supernatural grace to be saved as the only form of grace for salvation then everyone is wasting their time trying to save others. One of the worst interpretations of the New Testament (the whole book folks) ever influenced by Satan himself to guide people away from truth. Determinism.

Nick said...

Michael,

The issue of salvation being 'accomplished' versus 'applied' is somewhat of a different topic, but I've posted about it before on other articles which touch upon the issue of being Eternally Justified (Eternally Forgiven).

I feel we are talking past each other on this point, because you seem to be speaking of a different issue than I am. You keep speaking of how God will infallibly bring about a person's salvation from start to finish. I'm not really denying that, but more importantly I'm speaking of a different issue.

Saying that the Atonement will infallibly bring about salvation is not the same as saying the Atonement in and of itself brought about salvation. For either forgiveness *actually* took place in virtue of Good Friday taking place, or else forgiveness was only *made possible* by Good Friday with the actual forgiveness being conditioned upon having faith. The issue isn't free will, it's the 'mechanics' of how Salvation takes place.

Nick said...

Anonymous,

You said: "It is a fact that your church has not officially-infallibly interpreted the Scriptures. So any interpretation you have about Scripture is just your private opinion. That said, we can see who has the best interpretation via the facts and context of Scripture."

I completely agree with this. Most of what I'm saying when it comes to exegesis is based on my private opinion regarding various texts of Scripture, and all I'm inviting you and others to do is see which of us has the more plausible interpretation.

Anything else is setting up a straw man and a sorry excuse to hide from interacting with my actual arguments.

As Michael has rightly said: "So long as your [Nick's] interpretation does not contradict any defined matter of faith and morals, you're perfectly within your rights as an RC to hold it."

John W. said...

Instead of just quoting 19:30, lets look at a few of the previous verses.
Jn 19:26 When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He *said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”
27 Then He *said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, “I am thirsty.”
29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.
30 Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Jesus knew that all things had already been accomplished prior to drinking the cup of sour wine with the same word Tetelestai being used in v. 28. So what information do we have that makes the second Testelestai the only instance that PSUB adherents cling to? What happens between the first and second instance is that Jesus drinks the sour wine to fulfill scripture and physically dies.
Since Jesus was experiencing spiritual damnation at least since sweating blood in the Garden which continued with His descent into Hell until His resurrection according to Calvin, what was actually finished other than His bodily death? If he was still being actively damned after death, what is the actual value of subjecting Himself to death, even death on a cross?
Seeing that He was still being actively damned after His death, what does "It has been accomplished" actually mean to the reformed in either instance?

Nick said...

John W,

Exactly.

I would only add that most (all?) Reformed say Jesus was damned *along side* His time on the cross, not after death.

John Calvin argued that even though the Creed says "He was Crucified, THEN died, THEN was buried. He descended into hell," that we don't have to read this 'descent into hell' as happening AFTER death/burial, but during the "crucified" part. Of course, this was pure desperation, and clear proof showing Calvin saw this place that Jesus went to as hell-of-the-damned. Read naturally and traditionally, Jesus descended after death/burial, which is why the descent has nothing to do with His Passion and was rather to visit the Old Testament Saints in Hades to free them.

guy fawkes said...

According to Scott Hahn, drinking the sour wine was connecting the Supper to the Cross. ( see the Fourth Cup ). Jesus' work was not finished before that point.
Again, Jn 19 reveals justification is familial and not just legal.
No compromise on this point.

Anonymous said...

"Dr Barrett starts off by making the standard Protestant claim that Christ's physical sufferings at the hands of men, as dreadful as they were, were in fact nothing compared to the spiritual suffering of enduring the Father's Divine Wrath. Such statements are so obviously outrageous that I'd expect others to be speaking up against it. Dr Barrett both trivializes the physical sufferings of Our Lord and introduces a completely foreign concept of God's Wrath being poured out on Christ."

As a Lutheran and Protestant, I say: You're so right, Nick! ... Amen.

Jason Loh