Limited Atonement Denied - William Lane Craig

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Ask Mr. Religion, Jul 11, 2016.

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  1. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    In the rejection of "incredible" limited atonement, Dr. Craig complains the Reformed smuggle inference into interpretation of "the world" verses (e.g., 1 John 2:2) as opposed to the verses "prima facie" teaching. In the same breath he then smuggles his own notions of free will into his argument against limited atonement. Compounding this is his tip of the hat to the "astonishing power" of Molinism that could be used to support limited atonement, if a person were so inclined:
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2016
  2. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I will just revert to my first response to these kinds of statements:

    All theological systems outside of Universalism limit the atonement in some fashion. Deny it is as men might, this is a true statement.

    Since I am reading through W.G.T. Shedd's Dogmatic Theology, I am interested to see how he works through the atonement, as I know that he makes a distinction between unlimited atonement and limited redemption.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2016
  3. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Also, I will say that his appeal to "prima facie" is not saying what he thinks it is saying. What most people think of as "prima facie" when they read the "world" passages is actually simply "prima facie" according Western eyes (i.e., all men without exception), not biblical ones. Craig's argument implodes upon itself.
  4. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I look at Craig in the same way I look at Aquinas. Excellent philosopher, lousy theologian.
  5. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Shedd simply applies the classic sufficient/efficient formula to the terms. Compare to C. Hodge ST and there is no significant difference.
  6. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I wouldn't be so generous to Craig to put him on Aquinas' level. At least Aquinas had the humility (as did the Church for centuries) to recognize that creaturely knowledge is, well, creaturely (analogical). Craig thinks our knowledge is univocal (of the same kind) as God's.

    Craig reasons from what he knows philosophically is the "good" because, after all, if he has determined something is philosophically true (because he reasoned well) then he thinks the same way as God does. Thus, in Craig's mind, if his notions of "love" or "justice" or "goodness" require free will to be philosophically sound then that point is established.

    He then reasons backward from what he *knows* philosophically about reality and into the Scriptures themselves. Molinism is theologically "fruitful" because it is a way to reaon how we can still affirm things the Scriptures say while still affirming the basic philosophical commitments:

    - God would be mean if creatures were enslaved to sin that bore any relation to an eternal decree
    - God must preserve human freedom and autonomy
    - God is an "all loving" Being Who desperately wants to save as many souls as possible and so He he has constructed a means by which He can foresee the unfolding of all possible scenarios in which the maximum number of free agents are saved

    I actually think it's kind of silly for Craig to quibble over limited atonement. The fact of the matter is that, in his view, God has already "run the numbers" and knows the limitation of the effect of the atonement because He has foreseen Who would respond to the Gospel and "effect the atonement". He couldn't control that outcome - free will was a paramater He is "dealt with" - but He still chooses to create a world with creatures that Craig has reasoned includes people that are "unsavable" under any scenario because God can do nothing about their free will decisions.

    Oh, and none of that is in any verse of Scripture but oh how "fruitful" it is!
  7. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    That's what I figured. However, Shedd seems to have an affinity for supreme clarity and distinction in language, which is why I am looking forward to his discussion when I finally get to it. Many times the Reformed position is misunderstood simply because people do not understand the language or ascribe different meaning to the language than what it is trying to communicate.
  8. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I feel that this is a deadly problem with Molinism. If God could not possibly find a world in the near infinite number of possible worlds in which all people would be saved, then he knowledge and power is either limited, or Molinism simply falls into the same supposed "trap" as Calvinism, and that is that, for some reason or another unknown to us, God has decided to create people whom he will never save.
  9. Toasty

    Toasty Puritan Board Sophomore

    God has the power to save all, but He chooses not to save all. He doesn't intend to save all. Just because God has not elected everyone does not mean that He is lacking in power to save some people. He has the power to save everyone, but does not intend to save anyone.
  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    If I understand him correctly, Shedd was sort of a 4.5 point Calvinist. The late Norman F. Douty, who wrote a book against limited atonement in the 1970's, said that his position was basically identical to Shedd's. His disagreement was over terminology. My recollection is that Douty didn't think that Shedd's distinction between atonement and redemption was tenable from a linguistic standpoint. But maybe Douty read him wrong. (Regardless, some sort of Amryaldism or something between that and TULIP as it is commonly understood today seems to have been very common among evangelicals from various denominations from about the mid 19th Century to maybe the early 20th Century.)

    At any rate, many have thought that Shedd's view differed from Owen and those in that mold.
  11. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    It would seem that Alan Gomes, who edited the most recent version of Shedd's Dogmatic Theology would disagree. Gomes nowhere seems to concede that Shedd's understanding of the atonement was any less than anyone else in the Reformed tradition. In fact, he says, "Shedd, in line with the Reformed tradition, holds to the doctrine of so-called limited atonement. Yet, Shedd does a better job than many of his tradition in providing a fuller account of the atonement's universal aspects" (p. 32; emphasis mine). He continues, "Shedd's distinction between universal atonement and particular or limited redemption runs parallel to the oft-repeated and well-established between the universal sufficiency of Christ's death compared to its particular efficiency for only the elect. However, the way in which Shedd develops the view...may be helpful in dispelling some of the misconceptions surrounding the Reformed view" (pp. 32-33).

    It seems that the error in understanding may be on the part of Douty, not Shedd. I am always hesitant when theologians who fundamentally disagree with a tradition say they agree with one well established within that tradition. It tells me that such a person has misunderstood the particular way in which the case is presented. That seems to be the case with Douty, at least according to Gomes, who has obviously studied Shedd intimately. Surely if Shedd presented a deficient or counter-Reformed understanding of the atonement, Gomes would have made note of it. Rather, he only seeks to remark on the advancement Shedd offers to the discussion.
  12. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    That may be so. I haven't read both closely in tandem. (I've been really cheap lately and am hoping to get Shedd at a bargain price, which seems to be increasingly unlikely.)

    But I do know that, right or wrong, if you start trying to get into the nuances that Shedd did with universal and particular aspects of the atonement, that some of the strict Owenic brethren will look at you very suspiciously. I'm thinking more of some Baptists here. Of course, High (or Ultra High) Calvinists who love Pink and Gill won't like it, but some others don't either. But TULIP tends to be more of an emphasis in those circles whereas typically it is probably just assumed more in the Presbyterian circles that I've been in through the years. But even there, there is often an unwillingness to go beyond "The rain falls on the just and the unjust."

    Regardless, I haven't seen the kind of emphasis on universal aspects of the atonement in 20th and 21st Century writers on the subject. Perhaps I've missed something. But "advancement" is what men like David Ponter are on about--that Shedd and others represented an advancement that has basically been neglected if not abandoned since then. Again, I don't know whether or not Gomes and them would agree on just what the advancement was and just what Shedd taught. I suppose the question is whether or not there was an advancement in articulation of the same doctrine or if Shedd represented a doctrinal advancement or development that differs somewhat, even slightly, from some other writers.
  13. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I am not sure. I will be sure to post something when I read the section in his Dogmatic Theology. I am going to assume, knowing his dogmatic (pun intended) adherence to the Westminster Standards and to Reformed theology at large, that he differs, at most, very little to that of other Reformed writers. Shedd was steeped in history. He was quick to note departures from theologians from whom he drew. Surely if he is arguing for an altered understanding of the nature of the atonement, he will let his reader know. In my short skimming of the section, it does not appear that he has done so. Perhaps he is only presenting the doctrine differently rather than altering the substance. But, again, I will know for sure when I get to that section.
  14. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    Of course, I did not mean to hijack this thread with Shedd. I will refrain from posting any more about him.
  15. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    Apart from his opinion on the atonement, Craig denies divine simplicity, inseperable operations in the Trinity, and dyotheletic Christology to name a few. He is about as unorthodox as they come.
  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Rich, Thankyou for this excellent critique.
  17. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I was aware of Craig's Molinism, but I was unaware of his view of knowledge. Wow, that really is lousy. My apologies to Thomas Aquinas.
  18. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Just finished the article.

    Craig does a half decent job dealing with the double jeopardy "dilemma." Shedd actually is a much better read on dealing with this problem, though, because He doesn't depend on "corporate" election and "middle knowledge" as does Craig.

    The classic sufficient/efficient formula (contra strict particularism) gives a satisfactory counter to the double jeopardy dilemma, promotes a universal aspect of the atonement and does not require the nonsense endorsed by Craig in the last paragraph.
  19. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Double jeopardy isn't a dilemma; it is a part of the consolation of faith. We lay hold on it when we confess that God is just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus; and if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. There could be no justification by faith alone without a judicial meritorious cause which has decisively satisfied the precepts and penalties of the law.
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