Author: tartanarmy (12:30 am)
A response to David Ponter and Tony Byrne's Dualism theology, presented after 3 years of debate and failing to move on. (March 2007)
This response is primarily in relation to Mr Ponter's appearance as guest on Gene Cooks Unchainedradio show July 13, 2004, which sparked a debate between myself and some others over at the forums at Unchainedradio, even to this very hour.
The radio discussion is available for purchase at Unchainedradio.com (only .98 cents) if you follow the link below.
It is Given in the hope that they will come back to where they once stood, regarding the extent of the atonement, but is mainly given for the Saints and the glory of God's accomplished salvation.
David Ponter wants to restore the balance, and yet he does not seem to grasp that the balance has been maintained in reformed Calvinism all along. There is no balance to restore.
Calvinism is "the" balance between Hyper Calvinism and Arminianism.
What David and certainly Tony are closer to, as far as I can tell, is the influence of Amyraldianism, which the reformed Churches outright rejected at the Synod of Dort in 1618/19.
It is not my aim to discuss here the various opinions that are out there among reformed believers, for even I have come to see that some men hold to differing views upon the atonement, but such views are in degrees of closeness to one another, where as, the views of David Ponter are somewhat outside the scope of orthodoxy, well at least if we consider orthodoxy to be that which is not only historically traced to the reformed creeds, but more importantly, the view from scripture itself.
Sola Scriptura is the aim.
One of the problems that "must" be faced, and at one time even just a couple of years ago, I would have said "might" be faced, is the charge of being labeled all kinds of derogatory names, if one attempts to speak clearly upon this subject.
Such terms as "Hyper-Calvinist" are just so easily bandied about in the modern evangelical climate of our times.
I think this is to be expected in one way. It is an over reaction, to the common and therefore popular theology of the masses. It is a strange sound to the modern evangelical, when he hears a more robust and classical defense of the atonement, and the particularity to which it addresses.
Taken together with this kind of mood upon the landscape of modern evangelicalism, it also must be stated that certain ideas concerning the legitimate doctrine of "common grace" have evolved from the older classical teaching, to the newer movement from the Dutch Calvinists, which was fought against when it first made it's ways to Northern America and elsewhere in Europe.
Having said that, I must also defend the man behind that movement, a certain Mr Abraham Kuyper.
Even though he inspired the shift in common grace doctrine, he feared other men would run with it and end up saying too much.
I believe men like Mr Ponter and Mr Byrne were the very men Kuyper warned about.
In their attempts to bring back a certain so called "balanced" universality to the atonement, they forsake sound exegesis of the relevant texts and ignore the Analogy of Faith, which plainly puts forward what they themselves have termed the "high Calvinist or strict particularistic" view of the atonement.
For them, this borders on Hyperism, or in my own case, out and out Hyper Calvinism, which of course, I reject.
In my recent studies upon this subject, and I must thank both of these men for pushing me in those studies, it seems clear to me now, that there are variations of opinion regarding the extent of the atonement within the reformed community, with some men even attempting to prove that Calvin himself held to a more universal atonement.
I would argue this move to be more of a modern shift within Calvinism and not particularly reflective of a much earlier and historically robust reformed Calvinism, but I digress.
I am not convinced about Calvin, and think that a close reading of not only his Institutes but commentaries, shed much light on his particular views.
I highly recommend reading Paul Helm and his work on John Calvin (CALVIN AND THE CALVINISTS.) Banner of Truth...
I am not going to argue for Calvin here. I have attempted that elsewhere and far too sporadically, but Helm does a great work in this area in my humble opinion. His work was a much needed correction to a previous work about Calvin, by the author Dr R T Kendall, called Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649.
One of the fundamental points of contention as I see it, is the whole matter of propitiation, and what that means. Mr Ponter has a less than biblical understanding of this important subject.
In fact, he is more conditioned it seems, to use the term "expiation" which is understandable given his views. For him, propitiation becomes a "means" of salvation, rather than an actual "finished" work of Divine "appeasement" that secures salvation by making peace with God.
As long as he holds out "any" condition to salvation and links that with the atoning work of Christ, he has departed from reformed thought regarding the finished work of the cross.
That is it in a nutshell. That is my beef with his views.
This cannot be underestimated, for it is the fatal flaw in his system of biblical thought.
Ponter confuses and perhaps even obfuscates the payment idea inherent within the atonement.
He is seeing some kind of "wooden" commercial transaction, when in fact, the metaphor of payment is relating to a debt we owe to God, and that debt,which includes both the obligation of perfect obedience and the penalty for all failure to perfectly obey, and
that debt is paid by the Son, to the father, in the Covenant of redemption.
The payment of this debt, which requires both the perfect lifelong obedience and wrath-removing sacrifice of Jesus Christ ,is of such value to the Father, that this payment actually appeases and satisfies the wrath of God against sins committed against a Holy and offended God.
As the Substitute of God's people from every Nation, tribe and tongue, the Sinless Savior satisfies God's justice, by providing perfect obedience as the second Adam, undoing what the first Adam had wrought for humanity by plunging ever person into sin.
We need to comprehend that not only do "we" need a sacrifice for our sins, but God "also" needs a sacrifice for sins. This may sound kind of strange to our modern evangelical ears, but it is such an important point, it must be said.
God, being Holy, and sinful man being an offense to His majesty and perfect righteousness, requires that a way must be provided to satisfy both His offended majesty and justice, in such a way that there is still punishment and judgement for sins, and yet a means for reconciliation between God and man.
Propitiation deals explicitly with satisfying offended majesty and Holy Justice, in that both are dealt with in the acceptance of the sacrifice being offered. This is an exchange between the Father and the Son in scripture.
The Old Testament picture foreshadows the explicit fact that offended majesty is propitiated by the sacrifice of the innocent Lamb, and thereby a sweet smelling aroma goes up to God. This means that God is at peace. Offended Deity has been appeased and justice has been served by the innocent taking the place of the guilty.
During that first "Passover" we see a glimpse of how God who is offended, treats the necessity of this sacrifice. He states the following to us, "When I see the blood!" (Exo 12:13).
The importance of this statement cannot be underestimated.
It is not when "we" see the blood, or make a confession, or meet a condition or make much of the blood itself. The most important aspect of the atonement, is when God Himself "sees" that blood.
The reason for the importance of this, is because it is God Himself, who is providing the sacrifice.
That is why I mentioned earlier how God "also" needs a sacrifice.
The story of the Passover illustrates this point even further, by telling us that the blood, must be applied to the "outside" of the door posts, while all are safe on the inside.
The blood is on the outside, for there God metaphorically "sees" the blood and comes in great wrath to consume the sacrifice made for those inside, and judge all the firstborn of Egypt outside.
Incidentally, this whole historical event harmonizes so well with New Testament atonement, in that all men born in their firstborn, Adam, being of the earth (Egypt) are born under the judgement of God, until the second Adam from Heaven (Christ) appeases the wrath for all those who are in Him. See also Rom 5.
Jesus Christ is the sacrifice. His blood has been shed, and appeased that wrath for some and not Egypt, or those in the likeness of the first Adam.
In the fulfillment of all of those types and shadows and sacrifices, Christ has come and offered Himself once for all, for a certain number of persons, and in so doing He has provided a propitiation for them.
God has been propitiated.
He has accepted the sacrifice, which has been provided for the sins of His chosen people.
Borrowing again Old Testament terminology, when God smells that sweet smelling aroma, He is well pleased, and the wrath of God has been undone for all those who are represented by the spotless Lamb offered upon the alter.
Of course, we all agree that Jesus Christ is that Lamb, and surely we can agree that He is the surety for His people. He is the great High Priest, the Ransom, Scapegoat, City of refuge, Passover, Ark and the Mediator for all of the elect throughout all time.
But, is He an actual ransom?
Is He a scapegoat that allows me to go free?
Is He my Passover (Second Adam), that saves me from the death of the firstborn (Adam?) or is He that for everyone without exception?
If all of these be true types and shadows about Jesus, then is it possible for us today to speak objectively of Him actually dying on the cross for me, just like Paul had stated? (Gal 2:20)
Is it possible for everyone to say this and for it to be a true statement just like it was true for Paul?
Was it true for Judas, or Pharaoh or Ghandi or Hitler?
These are the implications.
Ponter rejects the idea that anything was actually and really paid for at the cross. For him there is not a purchasing of certain sinners taking place "at the cross".
Did you get that?
The WCF confession states, Chapter VIII Of Christ the Mediator
V. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for those whom the Father has given unto Him.
VI. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent's head; and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world; being yesterday and today the same, and forever.
VIII. To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by His Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by His word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.
 ROM 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. HEB 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 10:14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. EPH 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
ROM 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
 DAN 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. COL 1:19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. EPH 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. JOH 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. HEB 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
 GAL 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
GEN 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. REV 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. HEB 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
 JOH 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 10:15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
 1JO 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
ROM 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
 JOH 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. EPH 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself. JOH 17:6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
 JOH 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. HEB 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 2CO 4:13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.
ROM 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15:18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, 19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. JOH 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
 PSA 110:1 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. 1CO 15:25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. MAL 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. 3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. COL 2:15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
He would concede to a "decretal" plan being in effect, but not an actual "taking away" of particular persons sins 2000 years ago upon a cross.
Such logic of course negates any kind of meaningful decree does it not?
In effect, he believes that there has been a universal atonement for everyone without exception, but the whole work of the atonement is conditional, and only secured by faith alone.
No reformed believer denies the necessity of faith alone. It is the very catch cry of the Protestant reformation! No, what we do though, is put it where scripture puts it.
If we want to affirm "Sola Fide" (Justification by Faith Alone), we must fundamentally affirm "Sola Gratia" (Salvation by Grace Alone)
Salvation is by Grace alone.
That statement alone should put such nonsense as "insincere free offers" to rest once and for all.
Who are we to even suppose an insincerity in God when dealing with matters of grace in salvation.
Salvation is by grace alone. Justification is by faith alone.
WCF Chapter XI Of Justification
IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit does, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
 GAL 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 1PE 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, ROM 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
 GAL 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law. 1TI 2:6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. ROM 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
 COL 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled 22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.
GAL 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. TIT 3:4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The conditions, and just for Mr Ponter, that means any and "all" conditions, to salvation, are all met in "Solo Christo!" (By Christ's Work Alone are We Saved)
Faith is not a condition, and it only seems to be modern evangelicals who have latched onto this idea, thereby confusing Justification from Imputation [Chapter XI-1 Of Justification WCF] and giving a lopsided view of salvation.
Faith being a gift of grace, is the means or instrumentality that justifies the sinner.
This gift is given to all the elect of God by grace in order to meet the condition of being justified.
XI-1Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
 ROM 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. ROM 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
 ROM 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 2CO 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
ROM 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference. 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
TIT 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. EPH 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
JER 23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness. 1CO 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
ROM 5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
 ACT 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. GAL 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. PHI 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
ACT 13:38 Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. EPH 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
Incidentally, is it insincere for God to command all men to repent and believe, knowing that He must provide the necessary grace for this to happen?
I do not think so, and yet this is the logic of Mr Ponter and Mr Byrne when the implications of their position are weighed. Their theological commitment to certain presuppositions (universal atonement, universal offers and modern common grace theology) hinders them from getting past their system.
Mr Ponter has "faith" not merely as an instrument or as a means, but as the condition, which makes the atonement effectual.
It is the proverbial tail that wags the dog, but scripture has it's own way of putting these matters into a proper God honoring perspective.
It is not my intention to split hairs here with Mr Ponter, for the point I am here making is one of emphasis, not one of mere substance.
To speak of faith as a condition in the sense Mr Ponter means it, is to bring to naught the whole work of the cross, or at best, to present some kind of "hypothetical" atonement in time, which is made effectual in time by the condition of faith in time.
This is not what the Bible teaches Mr Ponter.
As you have publicly stated that John Owens work the "Death of Death in the death of Christ" is only good for lining the bird cage with, then I suggest you read John Murray's "Redemption Accomplished and Applied".
Scripture teaches an "accomplished" salvation upon the cross with "no" condition from sinful man being added to that work, and then teaches an application of that work applied in time by God the Holy Spirit to every one for whom Christ died for upon that cross. (See WCF points 39-43 above.)
The whole work of redemption is a Tri-unity of effort involving all three persons of the Godhead.
It is a work decreed from eternity by the Father, completed at Calvary by the Son and then applied at the sinners conversion by The Holy Spirit.
Or as the Old Testament reminds us, Gen 22:8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.
Please note four things stated and often overlooked right here in the text.
1/ God will provide.
2/ He provides Himself.
3/ Himself as a Lamb.
4/ Provides himself.
God is the provider. He provides for Himself. God is Himself the sacrifice (Christ), and Jesus is the Lamb.
What is the motive or reasoning behind Mr Ponter's views?
The main one is to maintain what has come to be called a "well meant offer" of the gospel to every single person, that is, in order to have an actual remedy, that can be held out to everyone, then we cannot genuinely call all to repentance, unless all sin has been provided for effectually but conditionally at the same time.
Now, for me that is a contradiction and a blatant rejection of any kind of meaningful decree by God from all eternity as chapter 3 of the WCF and London Baptist confession clearly teach with numerous scriptures provided.
For his views to obtain, we would need not only a sufficiency for all, but an efficiency for all at the same time. This is just contradiction, not even mystery or genuine paradox at heart.
The problems here are numerous, and kind of reminds me what Hyper-Calvinists and others do with the will of God.
Hypers take the idea of human responsibility and negate it so much, in light of the fact that God provides the condition for some to repent, therefore excusing any man of actually having a command to meet the condition, which is how God works with all that He saves.
Arminians go the opposite way, and overemphasize the work of man, negating the work of God in regeneration, and Mr Ponter and others do not seem to grasp that a genuine offer of salvation for all to repent and believe, which is in itself a command, does not imply an insincerity in God, if all men cannot meet the need to repent and believe.
That is the reason as far as I can tell, for this universal atonement view Mr Ponter and others hold to.
They think that if all sin has been appeased, then we can genuinely offer a real atonement to all without exception. This is the same thinking of the Arminain at this point also.
This view misses the mark, and tries to restore a balance that is not required.
But the damage such a view does to the finished work of Christ are numerous and completely unnecessary.
I will say it again.
A genuine offer of salvation to all who repent and believe, does not imply an insincerity in God, if all men cannot meet the need to repent and believe.
I shall go further.
Such an offer of salvation to all to repent and believe does not imply that God must provide a universally efficient atonement that covers all the sin of mankind conditionally.
We really need to get away from the word "offer" in my opinion, and present the purpose of the cross as scripture explains it. The Gospel is a command more than an offer or an invitation. (Act 17:30)
This leads me into the area of evangelism momentarily, for the charge is often made against strict particularists like me, that believing what I believe shall make void evangelism.
Even Mr Ponter, who is no Arminian, had a slight disdain for any confidence we might actually have as fellow believers in an accomplished salvation at the cross.
For Mr Ponter, the secret will or decretive will of God "as a confident foundation" reason for us to preach to all, is not very satisfying.
He has stated that to simply say that God knows who the elect are, and as we are commanded to preach indiscriminately to all, and therefore we cannot know who the elect are, does not sit well with Mr Ponter.
He wants the secret will of God to be so much more than what it is.
At that point, one wonders if we might just make it "not" a secret, then all will be well.
This undermines the whole idea of predestination and it is not my aim to discuss the implications of that here. What Mr Ponter wants, is not just a sufficient atonement for all, but an effectual atonement for all, which is conditioned by faith in order to provide what is called a "well meant sincere offer of the gospel" to all without exception.
It is easy to grasp what is driving the thought here.
Is it not true, that if we repent, then we shall be saved?
Scripture teaches this does it not?
Is it not also true that the condition of faith and repentance are gifts of grace and therefore purchased through the work of Christ upon the cross?
Ponter and Byrne deny this and yet scripture and the reformed confessions explicitly affirm this over and over.
It seems obvious to me, that the view Mr Ponter and others wish to maintain, logically leads to some astounding consequences.
What we need to do is at face value, consider that in Christ dying for some and not others, God is being insincere, for he offers Christ to everyone, but Christ only dies or atones or propitiates for some and not all.
To them this is a contradiction that cannot be harmonized with their particular understanding of well meant offers etc.
Where the contradiction is, I cannot see.
The argument is built upon a faulty premise, namely, elevating precept, which is concerned with what man ought to do, and is in fact commanded to do (Acts 17:30), but precept has to do with Law, not gospel, which deals with what has been accomplished in Christ for the elect.
It is not good news for nothing!
This system of theirs decides that mere "preceptive" command is not good enough. Now please bear in mind that Precept has to do with Law, and has to do with what man "ought" to do.
Their argument is quite simple.
If God commands all men to repent, then surely God wants or desires all men to be saved, for God sincerely wants what He commands. If He commands all to repent, then He must want all men to repent. This is the argument.
It seems to be a rather good and sound argument right?
For example. God says, "Do not lie". That is a commandment right?
Surely God wants everyone to obey His commandments, right?
Therefore God wants all people not to lie.
This is the argument.
The problem is, what they have done is only a very shallow surface argument. It is an argument that does not take into full consideration not only God's "preceptive" will, but it utterly ignores God's "decretive" will. It brings God down to a rather time constrained linear and man centered way of viewing God.
It would make a mockery of God if unchecked.
The unbeliever would come and say things like, "if God doesn't want anyone to lie, then How come He puts a Lying Spirit into someone?" (1Ki 22:22)
If we base God's desires merely upon His precepts, we open up the way for all men to reject and fight against God's intentions and purposes in all things.
What a price to pay!
My main argument against Mr Ponter has been one thing and one thing alone.
In the atonement of Jesus Christ, what was the Divine intention?
What was the plan and purpose behind sending His Son into the world?
No matter how often I mention Divine intention, Mr Ponter shrugs it off completely. Mr Byrne calls this argument a disease called "Decretalism", and usually artistically stamps this condition upon the forehead of a Cyclops. A person who suffers from a one eyed condition of only "seeing" God's decretive will.
Is this fair? Is this a balanced response to asking the question of Divine intention?
One would think that Divine intention deserves better treatment than that.
Maybe, just maybe, these guys have never ever really examined what the reformed view of the atonement is really all about?
Certain passages bounce right off of them like a rubber ball hitting a brick wall.
Such passages as Jesus High Priestly prayer in John 17-9.
Joh 17:9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
Is it even remotely within the realms of consistency, to assume that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, God incarnate, should not at the very least pray for everyone in the world, since God His Father desires the salvation and has provided an atonement for everyone in the World?
In praying for some and not others, The Lord goes on in verse 20, to say, "Joh 17:20 And I do not pray for these alone, but for those also who shall believe on Me through their word,
Anyway, so many passages could be raised at this point, but I shall come to a close here.
David Ponter needs a "sincere" effectual atonement that takes away all sin, and therefore excludes no one, and then the "means" of securing salvation becomes the condition of faith.
That way, no one could blame God for not doing something about their sins, and unrepentant sinners can never say that an atonement was not provided for them if they had only believed?
For me, it is amazing just how anthropocentric this thinking really is.
It almost sounds like an apology from God for not making everyone savable, so that Hell becomes the reason for rejecting what Christ has done, rather than Hell being the place for the just punishment of their own sins, with unbelief being one of many sins.
This is the same mindset of errors that both the Arminian, who clings to conditional universal atonement and prevenient grace, and it's "ultimate" sin of unbelief, and the same error of the Hyper Calvinist who ignores the preceptive will of God to preach to all without exception by trying to understand the scope of God's secret or decretive will as to who the elect are.
Where in the Bible is it explicitly taught that God is sincerely offering salvation to every single person every single time the gospel is preached?
Even the mighty Evangelist Paul the Apostle, who wanted to preach the Gospel in certain cities , was hindered by God Himself! God has His people, and shall direct His people in where they shall go!
Mr Ponters presuppositions say too much and cannot possibly find scriptural support for them.
Too many passages teach the exact opposite!
The clear teaching of the Bible is that God will show mercy to whomever He will show mercy.
That biblical fact which is clear and concise, cannot ever be reconciled with the idea that Christ is offered to every person every time the gospel message is preached.
Scripture says otherwise, and yes, the otherwise is found in the "decretive" will of God, which is God's exclusive domain and prerogative.
Does that then mean that God's decree is of no practical value to us as His ambassadors?
Does that then mean that we cannot plead with men to be reconciled with God?
Does it mean that we are being insincere in preaching Christ saves sinners to a large or even a small gathering of people?
For He will be merciful to whom He desires to show mercy! Rom 9:18
Insincerity does not even begin to come into the equation, unless one has certain presuppositions that they bring with them into the Bible and theology over all.
I have briefly mentioned some of those presuppositions above, and not one of them can be exegeted from scripture using balanced reformed hermeneutical principals. I am sure Mr Ponter shall change his views over time for his current understanding has been a work in progress since he abandonned his previous so called High Calvinism a few years ago, for he is immersing himself in the writings of those who made much of this issue, and not only that, but he is attempting to use more familiar reformed theologians to suit his ends. It is sad to see, it truly is.
One of the principals or doctrines in scripture that discriminates between persons, is called the General "outward" call of the gospel, and then from the "same" call, there is an internal and special call of the Holy Spirit of God to the elect.
This reformed teaching destroys the idea that all men are called at all times whenever the gospel is preached.
Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few chosen.But, finally, lets get to the conclusion of the matter. I will do so by asking a few questions to consider.
2Co 2:16 to the one a savor from death unto death; to the other a savor from life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
I will provide my own answers to these questions, for further study.
These questions get at the heart of certain specifics relating to the atonement and might be useful in opening up discussion with others, or to be used for private reflection.
If anyone would like a list of scriptures to back up anything I have said in this short article, then please feel free to contact me here at my blog, and I will be happy to oblige you.
May God bless this wee piece I have written for His glory, and the defense of an accomplished salvation.
The questions below are not meant to be reflective in any way as to what Mr Ponter believes. I have added them essentially because others, just like him, have wrong concepts about propitiation and the language of being purchased etc.
Q. Is there a debt that sinners owe to God?
Some people think God owes the Devil payment for our souls, or that we owe a debt to the Devil or are ransomed from the devil etc but these ideas are not found in scripture.
Sinners owe a debt to God the Father.
Q. What is this debt?
Our perfect obedience to His law and a perfect righteousness before His presence.
That is what we owe God, and none of us can pay it. We are all debtors under the Law of God.
Q. Is debt the correct term?
1) that which is owed
1a) that which is justly or legally due, a debt
2) metaphorically offence, sin
It is a helpful analogy, but scripture does use other language to express the same idea, such as "bondage", "wages", "right" and many more besides.
Q. Did Christ pay a debt?
Yes. In the same way that the offenses of the people (Israel) were transferred to the sacrifice, and then the High Priest puts his hand upon the sacrifice, thereby identifying with the sinful people, the effect being the transfer of the debt to the pure and spotless sacrifice, being the payment or offering for sins.
Q. To whom did Christ pay the debt?
A debt is paid to the one who is owed the debt.
In the atonement, a perfect remedy, a perfect righteousness is owed to God, in order to make payment for the offense of breaking His perfect law and offending His Holiness.
The sacrifice or payment is made upon the alter and is offered to God, who is owed our debts, which are paid for all the elect of God in full, by the Savior who came to Justify many and bear their iniquities. Isa 53:11, Mat 1:21
Q. For whom did Christ pay the debt?
The debt is "the death penalty demanded for sins committed" against God, and Christ comes to take that debt upon Himself, for all those that the Father gave Him from all eternity and not for every single person who ever lived.
Jesus becomes the sin bearing "substitute", the true High Priest representing His people, who pays the debt of our sins through the sacrifice of Himself at Calvary.
Sins not covered by the blood of the atonement, shall be paid for eternally in Hell by all those who are outside of Jesus Christ at their death or upon His second coming for the final judgement.
And in conclusion, a few practical implications of what I have been saying and in a nut shell, why this issue is important.
If we tell everyone we meet, that Christ loves them and died for them, what we are really doing is speaking presumptuously, for nowhere in scripture can this method of preaching be found. I challenge Mr Ponter and Mr Byrne to cite passages that teach this method of evangelism.
Rather, we are presented with preaching a message of commanding all men everywhere to repent and believe, for the Kingdom of God is at hand! Mat 3:2, Mat 4:17, Mat 10:7, Mar 1:15 Jam 5:8
We are taken to places where Jesus preaches Himself as the long awaited and promised Messiah Joh 4:25-26, who has come to fulfill a mission, sent by the Father Himself Joh 17:4. With a view to His own death and resurrection Joh 2:19, which His father has been orchestrating from all eternity Act 2:23, for the purpose of saving many alive, just like Joseph of old in Egypt. Mat 1:21 Gen 50:20
He exposes sin and hypocrisy in all men and declares to large crowds that all that the Father gives to Him shall come to Him Joh 6:37, 44, 65, and all that come to Him shall never perish. At the same time He plainly declares the reasons why others will not come to Him and says these things openly to the offense of multitudes. Joh 5:40, Joh 6:26, Joh 12:40, Rom 11:7-8, 10
Most abandon Him and even the Disciples are left wondering whether they should forsake Him Joh 6:67.
The very same message recorded for us in John 3:16-18, (paraphrased by me, with reference to the analogy of faith) is repeated over and over again in scripture. The passage is a declaration of the intention in the atonement, not really a proclamation of the gospel message as is so often stated. The gospel is clearly taught in John 3:14(a), then the implications of the gospel declared in John 3:16.
That message is plain to all, but hated by all, and certainly misunderstood by many, unless the Holy Spirit comes and conquers the man, and changes him from a hater of Jesus to a lover of Jesus Christ. Joh 6:29
Eze 11:19For God, in so loving this world of not just the Jews but Gentiles also, has sent His one and only Son, so that all the believing ones, shall not perish, but live everlastingly.
The world being already judged was not the primary reason He came into the world, but rather to save His people from their sins, from out of the world, from every Nation, tongue and tribe under heaven, for all that believe are not judged, whereas them that do not believe are judged already, because they have not believed on the name of the Son of God.
See John 3:19, Joh 5:22, Rev 7:9.
(a) The gospel is concerned with what is accomplished upon the cross, or as John tells us at verse 14, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up;"
This complies with the spirit of Paul, when he says,
"For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified 1Co 2:2.