Episode 6: Whistles, Sleepy Cats and Frothy-Mouthed Calvinists

4 thoughts on “Episode 6: Whistles, Sleepy Cats and Frothy-Mouthed Calvinists”

  1. Hi guys!

    Just to follow up on my comment on the previous episode as invited to. As I briefly stated the last time, the sufficient-efficient distinction needs proper definition to be meaningful and non-contradictory. Christ’s atonement cannot be for the elect only but also not for the elect only in the same way. The extent of the atonement cannot be both limited and universal in the same way. I find that the best way to come at this is the classic distinction between God’s decretive and preceptive wills. In terms of the intent of the atonement, it is for the elect alone, because we are talking about God’s eternal decree. Who God intends to be saved will invariably and inevitably be saved – thus, efficiency.

    But in the outworking of God’s decree in time, God’s dealings with man are such that history, which includes contingency and second causes, is meaningful. God’s revelation and disposition to all sinners is that they repent and be saved. There is no differentiation between elect and reprobate here because God’s decree is not in view, only God’s precept or revealed will. The big question is first whether the Gospel is offered to all, and second, what is offered in the Gospel? Is it a mere command to repent? Is it a hypothetical possibility of salvation? Or actually Christ’s atoning blood? If it is the last, upon what basis do we offer it if it is not in fact sufficient for all? There would then be a true hindrance ad extra between some sinners (reprobate) and salvation, i.e., Christ’s blood cannot atone for my sins. The efficiency-sufficiency distinction thus preserves the historically/covenantally meaningful act of offering the Gospel to all without distinction, without having to descend into hypothetical universalism


    1. Thanks for the comments.

      Are you familiar with the view of John Davenant (and those like him)? While he would fall into the hypothetical universalism camp, he would be distinct from Amyraldianism. I think Davenant’s views are better. Given your desire to uphold the traditional formula (as would I), I think you would find him palatable.

      I’m concerned chiefly with two things: (1) grounding the universal offer in a real provision (sufficient for all), and (2) not sweeping certain biblical passages under the proverbial rug.

      Fesko breaks down the sufficient/efficient formula into 4 camps. He says,

      “1. Universal satisfaction for every person, believer and unbeliever alike (the Remonstrants)

      2. Those who affirm the universal sufficiency of Christ’s satisfaction and argue that it is applied in some sense to all but only effectively for the elect

      3. Those who admit the universal sufficiency of Christ’s satisfaction but deny its application to all (the scholastics, e.g., Lombard, Aquinas, as well as Calvin, and others)

      4. Those who hold that Christ died solely for the elect (William Ames, 1560-1609, and Franciscus Gomarus, 1563-1641).”

      I think there are cases of blurring in history between points 2 and 3, and I think a fair number of people who would articulate 4 confusedly go on to talk like position 3 when it comes to the universal offer.



      1. Sorry, for some reason I logged in with a different account in the last comment.

        I haven’t done any work on Davenant, and Fesko’s list is helpful. I think there are significant variations within 2 and 3 too, especially as to how or whether there is an accrual of the benefits of redemption to all in common grace. Then there’s those who do “in some sense” partake of the Holy Spirit and are members of the visible church but “fall from grace,” those who deny the Lord who bought them (2 Pet. 2:1).

        I agree that there is a tendency to explain away Scriptural data that doesn’t fit into our dogmatic moulds, but we all have to systematise the data somehow. At least now I find keeping the distinction between God’s decrees and covenantal dealings most helpful, so that there is no contradiction. In God’s eternal counsel, Christ’s atonement is only for the elect, but in time, it is offered to all and applied to all who will come (and remain in it). And I know that doesn’t clarify things anymore, but that’s where I am.


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