Featured Bruce Ware's Four-Point Calvinism

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by ChrisJuloya, May 15, 2019.

  1. ChrisJuloya

    ChrisJuloya Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi everyone,

    A friend has been very interested in Bruce Ware and his teachings and one of which is his 4-point Calvinism, or Ware calls it "Un/limited Atonement or Multiple Intentions" view (his other view is the Hybrid view theory on the Original Sin, but that is for a different day).

    Here is what he has presented regarding the extent of the atonement (a bit long though).
    Un/limited Atonement or Multiple Intentions View (Four Point Calvinist Position)
    1. Statement of the Position
    God’s intentions in the death of Christ are complex not simple, multiple not single:
    • 1) Christ died for the purpose of securing the sure and certain salvation of his own, his elect.
    • 2) Christ died for the purpose of paying the penalty for the sin of all people making it possible for all who believe to be saved.
    • 3) Christ died for the purpose of securing the bone fide offer of salvation to all people everywhere.
    • 4) Christ died for the purpose of providing an additional basis for condemnation for those who hear and reject the gospel that has been genuinely offered to them.
    • 5) Christ died for the purpose of reconciling all things to the Father.
    2. Key Texts (sets of texts match the five purposes outlined in the statement of the position)
    • a. John 6:37-40; 10:11, 15; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Cor. 5:15; Eph. 5:25; Titus 2:14 – i.e., the same passages as used above, in A. 2. a. through g. The difference here is that these texts are not seen as describing the only sense in which Christ died for sin (i.e., for the sin of the elect). Christ did die for the sin of the elect in a very specific and intentional manner, in order to secure their sure and certain salvation, which salvation would be theirs through, but not apart from, saving faith.
    • b. 1 Tim. 4:10; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:2; 4:14; 1 Tim 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:14-15, 19 – i.e., the same passages and explanations as argued above, in B. 2. a. through e.
    • c. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-47; John 6:35, 40; Rom. 10:13 – texts which stress the necessity of the proclamation of the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection on behalf of the world.
    • d. John 3:18; 12:48 – texts which indicate that rejecting Christ is a further basis for judgment. They can only rightly be held accountable for rejecting what was offered them if a real offer had been made to them.
    • e. Romans 8:20-23; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Eph. 1:9-10; Phil. 3:21; Col.1:19-20 – texts which indicate a far broader cosmic extent of the atoning work of Christ.
    3. Key Theological Arguments
    • a. Best of both sides argument.
      • 1) The four point Calvinist view rejects some of the Arminian argumentation for unlimited atonement. For example, four point Calvinism will deny that the universal love of God or God’s universal desire that all be saved demands unlimited atonement. Rather, as with five point Calvinism, this view will argue that there is a sense in which God does love all and want all saved, but Scripture also clearly affirms God’s special love only for the elect (e.g., Isa. 43:3-4; Eph. 3-5; Rom 9:10-13) manifest in his elective purpose to choose, call and save only some (e.g., Eph. 1:3-5; Rom 8:29-30), to the glory of his name (Eph 1:6, 12, 14; Rom 9:22-24).
      • 2) However, the four point Calvinist view also holds that God’s elective purpose does not entail limited atonement, for such a limitation a) conflicts with the most natural and likely understandings of some of Scripture’s teaching, b) conflicts with the scope of divine purposes Scripture indicates are accomplished by the atonement (see below), and c) is not needed to establish the certainty of God’s saving of his elect (i.e., what limited atonement advocates care most about).
    • b. Multiple intentions argument.
      • Much of the debate over the issue of the extent of the atonement is owing to the fact that a single intention (rather than multiple intentions) was sought by both sides. As soon as one admits multiple intentions for the atonement, one then can account for the variety of biblical teaching. Any single intention view will have difficulty reconciling its position with one or more strain of biblical teaching. These five arguments express reasons for seeing several purposes in Christ’s atoning work and are reflective also of the five main categories of scriptural texts above.
    • 1) Limited scope purpose. Christ died for the purpose of securing the sure and certain salvation of his own, his sheep, his church, his elect, which salvation they would surely receive as they are efficaciously called and irresistibly drawn to place their faith in him and his accomplished atonement on their behalf (e.g., John 10:11, 15; Eph. 5:25). Scripture clearly presents Christ as dying for his own, and this must be accounted for. Surely Christ knew that while his death would be in some sense for all, in a particular and intentional sense he died to save those given him by the Father. He knew his death would be efficacious in the elect.
    • 2) Limitless scope purpose. Christ died for the purpose of paying the penalty for the sin of all people making it possible for all who believe to be saved (e.g., 1 Tim 4:10; 1 John 2:2; 2 Cor. 5:14-15). Belief in Christ is necessary, however, to receive the benefits of Christ’s death and be saved, and only the elect are called efficaciously and so believe in Christ and so are saved. Scripture just as surely speaks of a breadth of Christ’s atoning work that extends to the whole world. The real issue here is what reading of these texts best accounts for what they say. The limited atonement position appears here to strain the natural and intended meaning of texts.
    • 3) Bone fide offer purpose. Christ died for the purpose of securing the bone fide offer of salvation to all people everywhere. Since we are commanded to preach the gospel to all people (e.g., Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8), the unlimited atoning sacrifice of Christ renders this offer of salvation fully and uncompromisingly genuine (e.g., John 6:35, 40; Rom 10:13).
    • 4) Just condemnation purpose. Christ died for the purpose of providing an additional basis for condemnation for those who hear and reject the gospel that has been genuinely offered to them. Christ’s death for the sins of those who reject him and are condemned (e.g., 2 Pet 2:1) insures that their judgment for rejecting Christ (which is only part of the full basis for their judgment) is just, because they reject a real gift that is really, freely and graciously offered to them (John 3:18b).
    • 5) Cosmic triumph purpose. Christ died for the purpose of reconciling all things to the Father. Were Christ to die for the sin of the elect only (or for any partial amount of the totality of sin), this would leave sin that stands outside of his atoning work and hence outside of his victorious triumph over sin. Since sin is not only a penalty that must be paid (which payment is only efficacious by faith) but also a power that rebels against God’s rightful authority and reign, sin’s penalty must be paid (for the elect to be saved) but its power must be defeated that all might be conquered and laid at the feet of the Father (Romans 8:20-23; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Col. 1:19-20). Colossians 1:20 is especially important because it shows two things clearly: 1) the universal scope of the reconciliation wrought by Christ (“all things,” “things in earth and things in heaven”), and 2) that this reconciliation is accomplished by the atoning death of Christ (“through the blood of his cross”). That this does not entail universalism is clear because in the very context Paul warns that these believers will one day be holy and blameless only if they continue in the faith (1:23). So, the reconciliation of Col. 1:20 is one in which the rebellion is over, yet God’s conquered foes do not share in his glory. In this sense, all those in hell stand reconciled to God, i.e., they are no longer rebels and their sinful disregard for God has been crushed and is ended.
    • c. Part-to-whole argument.
      • Yes, some passages say Christ died for his own, his sheep, his church, but no passage says he died only for the elect. His death can be for all people while only those who believe are actually saved by his death. His death for his own, then, is part of the larger whole in which he died also for the world.
    • d. Necessity of saving faith argument.
      • If, as limited atonement proponents say, Christ died actually and certainly to save people (i.e., the elect) and not merely make their salvation possible, then it follows that nothing else is needed for the elect to be saved. They are saved because of the full, perfect and finished work of Christ which actually and certainly saved the elect. But is it not true that the elect are born into this world under the condemnation of God, dead in their sin, and facing the impending wrath of God (e.g., Eph. 2:1-3)? Is not saving faith required for the elect to be saved? If so, how can it be said of the death of Christ in itself that by his death alone he saved those for whom he died? As long as one believes that all people (including the elect) are born into this world with the sin of Adam so that until anyone savingly believes in Christ he or she remains unsaved and under God’s wrath, then we cannot speak correctly of Christ’s death as actually and certainly saving the elect. No, even here, the payment made by his death on behalf of the elect renders their salvation possible while that salvation becomes actual only upon their exercising saving faith. If Christ’s death, then, is a payment for sin that makes possible the salvation of people, which salvation actually occurs only when they savingly believe, then there is no problem saying Christ’s death paid the penalty of the sin of all the people in the whole world, because until any believes, he or she is not saved.

    What do you think of his position/argument?

    *I have attached the file of his presentation of the other views (Limited Atonement or Calvinist view & Unlimited Atonement or Arminian view) for your reference*

    Attached Files:

  2. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Sounds pretty similar to the prevenient grace view, just with a fancier name.
  3. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

  4. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    It seems that nowadays theological prominence is dependent on theological novelty, if not practically then at least semantically.
  5. ChrisJuloya

    ChrisJuloya Puritan Board Freshman

    What are your thoughts on 3.d.?

  6. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    I find it silly to rebrand all these "intentions" as "four-point Calvinism." Historically, Amyraldianism fits this description ("four-point"). However, I affirm multiple intentions in Christ's death, but affirm the five points of Dort. The Second head articles reference some of the "multiple intentions" or purposes in Christ's death. Charles Hodge, Robert Dabney and others affirm nearly every point named above.

    We would do well to revisit the five points of Dort and make sure that our terminology isn't ignorant of historic Reformed theology, even if some of us disagree on some of the particulars.
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  7. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Many of the Reformed believe that Christ's death is in some sense for every member of the human race (suggested in Heidelberg 37 and affirmed by Ursinus), yet is only efficacious for the elect when received by faith. This is not necessarily four-point Calvinism. Rather, it is simply the "classic sufficient/efficient" view of the atonement.

    Sometimes the "problem" you reference above is discussed as the "double jeopardy dilemma." If historical distinctions are made between payment, intention and application, there is no real problem (Ursinus discusses at length in his commentary).

    I would also suggest reading Charles Hodge's portion on the atonement from his ST found here.

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