Limited Atonement and the Falsification of the Sincere Offer of the Gospel1
Table of Contents
I. The original argument
II. The counter-arguments
IV. The Issue and the Problem
V. What it means to make an offer
VI. The falsity of the conditional
VII. The “conditional” considered as a proposal of means
VIII. What is Harry to believe?
IX. The Objections
X. The truth of the conditional proves unlimited satisfaction
I. The Original Argument2
a) Let forgivable mean something like “able to have forgiveness conferred,” which I think is basic and sound.
b) Without a legal basis, no sin can be forgiven.
The Following syllogism can be constructed:
1) Only those sins imputed to Christ are forgivable.
2) Only the sins of the elect are imputed to Christ.
3) Therefore only the sins of the elect are forgivable.
1) has to follow unless one wants to deny substitutionary atonement and claim that God can forgive sins for which Christ did not bear and suffer.
2) has to follow for the limited expiation/imputation of sin proponent.3 And so 3) is undeniable.
However, God offers forgiveness of sins to all mankind, or at least, to all whom the Gospel comes.4
c) To offer forgiveness of sins, necessarily implies or presupposes that sins of the offeree are forgivable.
d) For a sincere offer to be sincere,5 one must be able to confer and have available what one offers.
The following basic syllogism can be constructed:
4) All sincere divine offers of forgiveness of sins, entails that sins of the offerees are forgivable.
5) God sincerely offers forgiveness of sins to all.6
6) Therefore the sins of all are forgivable.
4) has to be true because, one must have the ability to confer what one sincerely offers. God cannot make a pretense of sincerely offering what one does not have the ability to confer.
5) has to be true for any free-offer Calvinist.
6) therefore has to follow as High and Moderate Calvinists rightly maintain.
1) Therefore only the sins of the elect are forgivable.
6) Therefore the sins of all are forgivable,
in the same sense and meaning.
II. The Counter-Arguments
I have proposed an argument that God cannot sincerely offer to forgive the non-died-for (NDF) because he is not able to confer forgiveness upon them, therefore, limited expiation and imputation of sin falsifies the sincere and free offer of forgiveness to all men.7 My argument is that given the proper and true definition of ‘offer,’8 God cannot sincerely, well-meaningly, genuinely, and legitimately offer to forgive a person for whom there is no basis of forgiveness available for that person. Thus, if God should offer forgiveness to someone for whom no forgiveness has been obtained or made possible by the death of Christ, such a divine offer would be insincere, disingenuous, illegitimate and ill-meant.9
The first serious response to our argument is that if the particularism of limited expiation and sin-bearing falsifies the free and sincere offer of the Gospel to all men, then so does the particularism of election and preterition. And so the argument unfolds: If the classic-moderate Calvinist can affirm that the particularism entailed in an election (and preterition) does not falsify the free and sincere offer of the gospel to all men, then, likewise, he should not object that the particularism entailed in a limited satisfaction for sin falsifies the free and sincere offer of the gospel to all men. Our response to this is that the particularism in both election and limited satisfaction for sin do not bear a univocal relationship to the gospel offer. I argue that the particularism in election and preterition entails a divine willingness to save some and not to save others, and this particularism is located in the secret will. On the other hand, the particularism of limited satisfaction entails an inability to impart salvation, an inability to impart the very thing offered with regard to the NDF.10 The problem should be clear when one realizes that the legitimacy and genuineness the divine offer is directly indexed to the availability of the thing offered.11 God cannot sincerely and genuinely offer what he knows he is not able to impart or which is not available for him to impart. Under the terms of limited satisfaction, forgiveness of sins with respect to the NDF is impossible, and so for God to make a pretense of sincerely offering forgiveness of sins to the NDF is insincere and a mockery.
This then leads to the second counter to our original argument. This second reply has two steps. The second objection first challenges the standard definition of the word "offer" by asserting that a simple statement of fact expressed in conditional form properly and rightly constitutes a legitimate and sincere offer.12 Thus, the argument goes, even on the supposition that a specific hearer is NDF, the conditional statement, "if you believe, you will be saved" made to that hearer, itself, constitutes a legitimate offer of salvation.13
Then the argument further attempts to validate the sincerity of that statement to that specific hearer on the basis of the following counter-factual supposition that, ‘An offer that is made to a given NDF person is sincere in that had that person believed, he would have obtained the offered salvation, because it would have turned out that he was died-for14 all along.’
The background assumptions in this line of rebuttal is that an offer is only insincere in that were a person to embrace the thing offered only to find that the thing being offered does not exist or is not available to be imparted: then, and only then, would the offer be insincere. To further shore up this line of thought, with regard to the offer and the NDF, possible worlds logic is tacitly invoked, such that, upon embracing the thing offered, it would turn out that the offeree was died-for all along.15
The following is a response primarily to these counter-arguments.
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