Archive for the ‘Double Jeopardy/Double Payment Fallacy’ Category


James Fraser of Brea (1639-1698) on the Double Payment Fallacy

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


Object. VII. From the injustice that seems to be in this universal death of Christ for all, such are unjustly dealt with for whom life and salvation is merited and purchased, who are denied that which is merited for them. But life and salvation tho’ merited by Christ. is yet denied to many who are never saved, therefore is the Lord unjust who thus dealt with them: Again, he that takes double satisfaction for one and the self same debt he is unjust; but if Christ satisfied for the reprobate then there is double Satisfaction, one made by Christ on the cross, another by reprobates in hell, therefore, &c.

Answ. Neither from Christ’s merit, nor from the damnation of reprobates can injustice be imputed to God.

For (1.) He that denies a favor procured to a person, bought and merited by a friend does not injustice, if by the consent and advice of the friend it be procured to be conferred only on such and such means and conditions which these for whom it is procured thro’ their own fault slight, were it procured to be absolutely conferred, there were Injustice in denying it, or suspending it upon any conditions. Now, he that bought such a favor may in any way he please without any breach of justice: therefore seeing reprobates believe not, which was the very terms on which the purchaser condescended and willed that the favor purchased be conferred on them, it is not unjust in God to deny them what was merited for them, because it was not merited to be given them absolutely whether they believed or not, but only upon their believing.

As to the second, the injustice redounding on the account of double satisfaction, here is no ground at all to charge the most righteous God with injustice; for grant the double satisfaction to be given (and yet reprobates never come to satisfy for the least of their sins in hell) yet I fay that in some cases, double satisfaction is not injustice, and especially in these four cases which hold here,

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Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) on the Double Payment Fallacy

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


3rdly. It is farther objected, that, if Christ expiated the sins of mankind, God is obliged by justice to bestow on them salvation.

This objection is derived from misapprehensions concerning the nature of the atonement. The Scriptures in speaking on this subject very frequently, as well as very naturally, speak in figurative language. Particularly, they exhibit us as bought with a price; as purchased; as redeemed; that is, literally understood, as bought from a state of bondage and condemnation by the blood of Christ; as ransomed by the lutron, or price of redemption. This language, derived from that fact in human affairs, which, among the customary actions of men, approaches nearest in resemblance to the atonement of Christ, seems unwarily to have been considered as describing literally this atonement. But this mode of considering it is plainly erroneous. We are not, in the literal sense, bought or purchased at all. Nor has Christ, in the literal sense, paid any price to purchase mankind from slavery and death.

The error into which the objector has fallen, has, I acknowledge, been countenanced by many Christians who have held the doctrine of the atonement. These have supposed the satisfaction for sin made by the Redeemer, essentially to resemble the satisfaction made for a debtor by paying the debt which he owed. In this case it is evident, that if the creditor accept the payment from a third person, he is bound in justice to release the debtor. As the two cases have been supposed to be similar, it has been concluded, that since Christ has made such a satisfaction for sinners, God is in justice also bound to release them.

This, however, is an unfounded and unscriptural view of the subject. There is no substantial resemblance between the payment of a debt for an insolvent debtor, and the satisfaction rendered to distributive justice for a criminal. The debtor owes money, and this is all he owes. If then all the money which he owes is paid and accepted, justice is completely satisfied, and the creditor can demand nothing more. To demand more, either from the debtor or from any other person, would be plainly unjust. When therefore the debt is paid by a third person, the debtor is discharged by justice merely. But when a criminal has failed of doing his duty, as a subject to lawful government, and violated laws which he was bound to obey, he has committed a fault for which he has merited punishment. In this case, justice, not in the commutative but the distributive sense, the only sense in which it can be concerned with this subject, demands, not the future obedience, nor an equivalent for the omitted obedience, but merely the punishment of the offender. The only reparation for the wrong which he has done required by strict justice, is this punishment; a reparation necessarily and always required. There are cases however in which an atonement, such as was described in the first of these discourses, may be accepted; an atonement, by which the honor and efficacy of the government may be preserved, and yet the offender pardoned. In such a case, however, the personal character of the offender is unaltered. Before the atonement was made, he was a criminal: after the atonement is made, he is not less a criminal. As a criminal, he before merited punishment: as a criminal, he no less merits it now. The turpitude of his character remains the same; and while it remains he cannot fail to deserve exactly the same punishment. After the atonement is made, it cannot be truly said therefore, any more than before, that he does not deserve punishment. But if the atonement be accepted, it may be truly said, that, consistently with the honor of the government and the public good, he may be pardoned. This act of grace is all that he can hope for ; and this he cannot claim on account of anything in himself, or anything to which he is entitled, but only may hope from the mere grace or free gift of the ruler. Before the atonement was made, the ruler, however benevolently inclined, could not pardon him consistently with his own character, the honor of his government, or the public good. After it is made, he can pardon him in consistency with them all; and if the offender discover a penitent and becoming disposition, undoubtedly will if he be a benevolent ruler. From these observations it is manifest that the atonement of Christ in no sense makes it necessary that God should accept the sinner, on the ground of justice; but only renders his forgiveness not inconsistent with the divine character. Before the atonement, he could not have been forgiven; after the atonement, this impossibility ceases. The sinner can now be forgiven, notwithstanding the turpitude of his character and the greatness of his offences. But forgiveness is an act of grace only; and to the same grace must the penitent be indebted for all the future blessings connected with forgiveness.

Timothy Dwight, Theology Explained and Defended (London: Reprinted for William Baynes and Son, 1823), 2:407-408. (Some spelling modernized and underlining mine.)

Further comments here.


Under the influence of Aristotle’s teleology and the commercial theory of the atonement, Owen proposes a ‘dilemma to our universalists’ in a powerful piece of reasoning. After stating that there was a qualitative and quantitative ‘sameness’ in the sufferings of Christ and the eternal punishment threatening those for whom he died, Owen affirms, ‘God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some of the sins of all men’. This is Owen’s famous ‘triple choice’ position, which, in his view, conclusively settles the controversy in favour of a limited atonement. The last choice is quickly ruled out: if the atonement fails to deal with all sins, then the sinner has something to answer for. The first choice invites Owen’s question, ‘Why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins?’ He therefore concludes that the second choice alone fits the case; the atonement is exclusively related to ‘all the sins of some men.’

Owen anticipates the universalist objection that men are only lost through an unbelieving rejection of the atonement. He asks:

But this unbelief, is it a sin or not: If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all the sins.

For all its apparent cogency, this compelling argument raises some important problems. It is clear that unbelievers are guilty of rejecting nothing if Christ was not given for them; unbelief surely involves the rejection of a definite provision of grace. It also makes nonsense of the means of grace, depriving general exhortations to believe of all significance.

A further objection arises from an unexpected quarter. In Owen’s view the sufferings of Christ not only deal with the guilt of the believer’s pre-conversion unbelief, they are causally related to the removal of unbelief. But Owen’s pastoral experience taught him that even true believers–or those who have grounds to regard themselves as elect–continue to be plagued with unbelief. Should this be the case if Christ had died to purchase faith for them, or are they perhaps deceived? Owen certainly denies that lapses of unbelief in the elect are not sinful if Christ has paid the penalty for them. Neither would he question the fact that doubting believers fail to participate fully in the subjective blessings Christ’s death has purchased for them. In other words, his argument applies as much to supposed believers as it does to unbelievers, with interesting consequences. For if partial unbelief in a Christian hinders him from enjoying the fullness of those blessings Christ has died to purchase for him, this is no different in principle from saying that total unbelief in a non-Christian hinders him from ‘partaking of the fruit’ Christ’s death makes available for him too.

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Unbelief as a sin atoned for.

At the conclusion of the triple choice argument Owen, to rule out the possibility that there could be any sense in which Christ could be said to have died for all men, asks the general redemptionists why, if Christ did die for all men all are not saved?

You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.77

Clifford has made a number of criticisms of this argument in relation to its impact on the guilt of unbelief, its depriving “general exhortations to believe of all significance,” and the tension it establishes with Owen’s commitment to common grace which need not be repeated here.78 What needs to be seen is that Owen’s argument defeats itself by proving too much. If, in Owen’s terms, Christ died for all the sins of some people, the elect, then he must also have died for their unbelief, where ‘died for’ is understood to mean having paid the penalty for all their sins at Calvary. If this is the case, then why are the elect not saved at Calvary? If Owen replies that it is because the benefits of Christ is death are not yet applied to them, then I would ask what it means for those benefits not to be applied to them? Surely it means that they are unbelieving, and therefore cannot be spoken of as saved. But they cannot be punished for that unbelief, as its penalty has been paid and God, as Owen assures us, will not exact a second penalty for the one offense.79If then, even in their unbelief, there is no debt against them, no penalty to be paid, surely they can be described as saved, and saved at Calvary. That being the case, the gospel is reduced to a cipher, a form of informing the saved of their blessed condition.

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* It is needless to remark, that Edwards does not concede that the mere atonement itself gives any and every man a claim upon God for the benefits of the atonement,–as is sometimes argued by the advocates of universal salvation. God is under no obligation to make an atonement for the sin of the world; and, after he has made one, he is at perfect liberty to apply it to whom he pleases, or not to apply it at all. The atonement is his, and not man’s, and he may do what he will with his own. Hence, according to Edwards, two distinct acts of sovereignty on the part of God are necessary in order to a soul’s salvation. The providing of an atonement in the first place, is a sovereign act; and then the application, or giving over, of the atonement, when provided, to any particular elected sinner, is a second act of sovereignty. The sufferings and death of Christ constitute the atonement; and even if not a single soul should appropriate it by the act of faith, it would be the same expiatory oblation still, though unapplied. Hence, the second of these sovereign acts is as necessary as the first, in order to salvation. But when both of these acts of sovereignty have taken place,–when the atonement has been made, and has actually been given over to and accepted by an individual,–then, says Edwards, it is a matter of strict justice that the penal claims of the law be not exacted from the believer, because this would be to exact them twice; once from Christ, and once from one to whom, by the supposition, Christ’s satisfaction has actually been made over by a sovereign act of God. For God to do this, would be to pour contempt upon his own atonement. It would be a confession that his own provision is insufficient to satisfy the claims of law, and needs to be supplemented by an additional infliction upon the believer. It would be an acknowledgment that the atonement, when it comes to be actually tested in an individual instance, fails to satisfy the claims of justice, and therefore is an entire failure. The sum of money which was given to the poor debtor, with the expectation that it was large enough completely to liquidate his debt, is found to fall short, and leaves him still in the debtor’s prison, from which he cannot come out  “until he has paid the uttermost farthing.”

That this is a correct representation of the views of Edwards is evident from the following answer which he gives to the question: What does God’s sovereignty in the salvation of man imply?–”God’s sovereignty in the salvation of men implies that God can either bestow salvation on any of the children of men, or refuse it, without any prejudice to the glory of any of his attributes, except where he has been pleased to declare that he will or will not bestow it. It cannot be said absolutely, as the case now stands, that God can, without any prejudice to the honor of any of his attributes, bestow salvation on any of the children of men, or refuse it, because concerning some, God has been pleased to declare either that he will or that he will not bestow salvation on them; and thus to bind himself by his own promise. And concerning some he has been pleased to declare that he never will bestow salvation upon them; viz., those who have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. Hence, as the case now stands, he is obliged; he cannot bestow salvation in one case, or refuse it in the other, without prejudice to the honor of his truth. But God exercised his sovereignty in making these declarations. God was not obliged to promise that he would save all who believe in Christ; nor was he obliged to declare that he who committed the gin against the Holy Ghost should never be forgiven. But it pleased him so to declare.” Edwards’s Works, IV. 530. N. Y. Ed.

William G.T. Shedd,  “The Atonement, A Satisfaction for the Ethical Nature of Both God and Man,” in Discourses and Essays, (Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1862), 321 and 322. [Italics original and underlining mine.]  [This essay was originally published in Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 1859.]