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Calvin and Calvinism » Limited Satisfaction and the Non-Salvability of the Non-Elect

Archive for the ‘Limited Satisfaction and the Non-Salvability of the Non-Elect’ Category


1. The commission of Christ to his minsters is to preach the Gospel to every creature. The Gospel is glad tidings, THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION. It will be admitted, that the preaching of this Gospel brings salvation within the reach of everyone that hears it; so far at least within his reach that it is his own fault if he is not saved by it. It will be admitted that sin cannot be forgiven without a ransom. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission. Now let us take an individual case. Suppose: we go to an ignorant and sinful man, and after speaking to him of the work of Jesus Christ, and expounding to him the great doctrines of our faith, His incarnation, His death, His resurrection; we say to him:

This is good news for you. God has said, whosoever believes this shall be saved; if you believe, therefore, you shall be saved.

Do we not here tell him a fact? and suppose we were able to traverse the world and speak the same thing to every individual, we should to each one speak of a fact. In addressing each one we should have asserted a true thing when we said. “If you believe you shall be saved, if not you will be condemned for your unbelief.” But if there were say for whom. Christ did not die–for whom the ransom was not paid, what have we been asserting? We have been telling all that they might be saved. Shall they then be saved by a ransom, by a redemption price? On the supposition stated, for some there was no price laid down; no redemption was wrought. Might they then be saved without a ransom? That were to make void the whole Gospel. The deniers then of the doctrine of general redemption are driven to this dilemma: They make the preaching of the Gospel to assert that as a fact which is not so, which is to make God a liar; or they make void the Gospel by preaching to sinners the possibility of a salvation without a redemption.

It will not be any reply to this to say, that the redemption of Christ, though, not for all, is sufficient for all, and that therefore we are authorized to preach it to all. This would prove too much–for surely then the Gospel must be preached to the fallen spirits themselves. Who can doubt the sufficiency of the blood of God?1 Who can doubt that there was that satisfaction in the sacrifice of Christ which would have rendered it just in God, had he so pleased it, to extend mercy to every fallen creature? Besides, the intrinsic value of a ransom price is altogether distinct from the end for which that ransom price is given. If there are any for whom Christ was no ransom, then, however, great the intrinsic value of his death, or however great the intrinsic worth of his merits, to those individuals it is as though it had never been; and if we say that they may be saved, we do in fact say that there is salvation without redemption; and if we say that they may not be saved, we deny the promise of God, WHICH PROMISE MUST BE TRUE ANTECEDENTLY TO THE FA1TH OR UNBELIEF OF MEN–true because it is the promise of God, and antecedently true because otherwise it could not be the object of faith.

William Dodsworth, General Redemption and Limited Salvation (London: James Nisbet, 1831), 23-27. [Some minor reformatting; italics; footnote value modernized and footnote original; emphasis original; and underlining mine.]

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The most learned Belgic Professors, in their judgment exhibited at the Synod of Dort, confess the same thing (Act. Synod. Dordt. p. 88). “We confess, say they, that the merit and value of the death of Christ is not only sufficient to expiate all, evert the greatest sins of men, but also those of the whole posterity of Adam, although there should be many more to be saved, provided they embraced it with a true faith.” But it would not be sufficient to save all, even if all should believe, unless it be true that by the ordination of God this death is an appointed remedy applicable to all. If it be denied that Christ died for some persons. it will immediately follow, that such could not be saved by the death of Christ, even if they should believe. What is usually answered to this argument by some, viz. “That God has not commanded his ministers to announce that Christ died for every individual, whether they believe or not, but only for believing and penitent sinners, and therefore it cannot be demonstrated from the universality of the call, that the death of Christ is. according to the ordination of God, an universal remedy applicable to all” seems to me to be said very inconsiderately. For faith is not previously required in mankind, as a condition, which makes Christ to have died for them, but which makes the death of Christ, which is applicable to all from the Divine loving-kindness to man, actually applied and beneficial to individuals. The death of Christ was a sacrifice established in the Divine mind, and ordained for men from the beginning of the world; nor could it profit any one if he should believe, unless it had been offered for him before he believed. When therefore we announce to any one, that the death of Christ would profit him if he believed, we presume that it was destined for him, as applicable before he believed.

John Davenant, Dissertation on the Death of Christ, 358-359.


If Christ did no way die for all men, which way shall the truth of these general promises be made out? “Whosoever will, may take the water of life.” What, though Christ never bought it for him? “Whosoever believes, shall be saved.” What, though there were no lutron, no price paid for him? Surely the gospel knows no water of life but what Christ purchased, nor no way of salvation but by a lutron, or price paid. But you will say, that albeit Christ died not for all men, yet are those general promises very true, and that because their truth is founded upon the sufficiency of Christ’s death, which hath worth enough in it to redeem millions of worlds. I answer, there is a double sufficiency; sufficientia nuda, consisting in the intrinsical value of the thing, and sufficientia ordinata, consisting in the intentional paying and receiving that thing as a price of redemption; the first is that radical sufficiency, whereby the thing may possibly become a price. Let a thing be of never so vast a value in itself, it is no price at all, unless it be paid for that end, and being paid, it is a price for no more than those only for whom it was paid; because the intrinsical worth how great soever, doth not constitute it a price. Hence it is clear, that if Christ’s death, though of immense value, had been paid for none, it had been no price at all; and if it were paid but for some, it was no price for the rest for whom it was not paid. These things premised, if Christ no way died for all men, how can can those promises stand true? All men, if they believe, shall be saved; saved, but how? Shall they be saved by a lutron or price of redemption? there was none at all paid for them; the immense value of Christ’s death doth not make it a price as to them for whom he died not; or shall they be saved without a lutron or price? God’s unsatisfied justice cannot suffer it, his minatory law cannot bear it, neither doth the gospel know any such way of salvation; take it either way, the truth of those promises cannot be vindicated, unless we say, that Christ died for all men. But you will yet reply, that albeit Christ died not for all, yet is the promise true; because Christ’s death is not only sufficient for all in itself, but it was willed by God to be so. I answer, God willed it to be so, but how? Did he will that it should be paid for all men, and so be a sufficient price for them? then Christ died for all men; or did he will that it should not be paid for all men, but only be sufficient for them in its intrinsical value? Then still it is no price at all as to them, and consequently either they may be saved without a price, which is contrary to the current of the gospel, or else they cannot be saved at all, which is contrary to the truth of the promise. If it be yet further demanded, To what purpose is it to argue which way reprobates shall be saved, seeing none of them ever did or will believe? Let the apostle answer, “What if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect? God forbid; yea, let God be true, but every man a liar.” (Rom. iii. 3, 4). And again, “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful, and cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. ii. 13.) No reprobate ever did or will believe, yet the promise must be true, and true antecedently to the faith or unbelief of men; true, because it is the promise of God, and antecendently true, because else it could not be the object of faith. Wherefore, I conclude, that Christ died for all men so far, as to found the truth of the general promises, which extend to all men.”

Edward Polhill, “The Divine Will Considered in its Eternal Decrees,” in The Works of Edward Polhill (Morgan, PA.: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), 164. [Note: Polhill’s point is that it is incongruent to suppose that God wills and offers salvation to all men without willing the means whereby all men may be saved.]

Credit to Tony for the find.

Limited Atonement and the Falsification of the Sincere Offer of the Gospel1

Table of Contents

I. The original argument
II. The counter-arguments
III. Assumptions
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
XI. Conclusion

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.

directly contradicts,

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 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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