Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Did God risk the cross?

Following on from my post 'Does God risk public transport?', below, and a second comment worth treating.

It was the following: ("For the sake of argument" - ta Troy!)
God took a risk at the cross in that every one for whom Christ died has the option of rejecting the gift.

Now risk requires that the outcome of a situation be in question. Risk requires a lack of knowledge. Of course, God knows all, so it cannot really be called a risk. Our Lord knew the cost of everyone's sin and paid it "once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous..."
While I appreciate the conclusion, I question the premise, because I believe Scripture teaches both that each person who hears the gospel is responsable for accepting or rejecting it, AND that those for whom Christ died will not reject it. In other words, God didn't leave the effective extent of Christ's death in question. I'll make 4 points to back this up (sorry, no alliteration!)

1) God appoints who rejects and who believes in Christ. Take as one example Acts 13.48 (since I was reading Acts this afternoon!) - "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." If God had paid the right price but then left the effect up to each individual's self-determination, then this verse would read, "...and as many who believed were appointed to eternal life." But no - some were already appointed to eternal life so they believed, they were already 'of God's fold' so they had been brought also and had heard his voice (Jn 10.14-16), they had already been God's 'people in that city' (Acts 18.10), etc. God's plan to manifest his wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places cannot be frustrated by someone for whom Christ died rejecting him; someone for whom Christ died, taking the wrath of the Father in their place, has this applied to them by the plan of Triune God by the Spirit and so believes in Christ. (For example, together with John 10, see John 6.60-65.) This honours God who chooses so that no-one may boast!

2) God will bring those from every language, tribe and tongue. But how can he promise that this will happen if each one for whom Christ died can in fact 'reject the gift'? Do we imagine then that he has some special and vague way of wangling it with certain people just so that one person from each tribe is persuaded, while letting others 'for whom Christ died' reject Christ? No, either he is in control and will bring those for whom Christ died, or he is not and his purpose for the world could fail! Yet that is completely against the counsel of Scripture (for just one eg, Ps 22.27-28).

3) If God took a risk of sorts in the cross in that 'every one for whom Christ died has the option of rejecting the gift', then we are left with a God who is not just. Christ died to satisfy divine justice and to reconcile us to God (Rom 3.19-26, Eph 2.16). As the substitute of those for whom he died, Christ bore God's wrath for, and wiped away the sin of, those for whom he died. Now if some of those may reject Christ after all, then we have a situation in which God's wrath is coming on those for whom God's wrath has already been poured out on Christ - spent on Christ! Will God punish twice this disobedience?? Then he is not just. But you say, 'God's wrath falls on them for their rejection of his Son, not for the sins already punished.' No, but Scripture speaks of punishment in hell for sins committed (Eph 5.3-6, Col 3.5-8) - it has no notion of them having been all-but-one wiped out.

4) Jesus said the reason why some reject him - it is because they are not part of the flock for which he died. It is not that they were ones for whom Christ died yet were able to reject him. Jesus said (Jn 10.14-15,26-27), "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. ...you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give to them eternal life..." He died for his flock, they hear his voice, they follow him. Those who don't believe reject him because they aren't in his sheep; he didn't lay down his life for them.

Of course, this does not reduce the responsability the Scripture gives us to repent and believe, but it means that God did not take a risk at the cross, he's not taking a risk with world mission, and he's not taking a risk with our santification.
For those whom he foreknew [eg Gen 18.19 - é] he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those who he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
No, God did not take a risk in the cross. He trinitarianly and perfectly effectively planned it, executed it and applies it. A lui la gloire !


Dave K said...

I agree with all your points other than point 3).

I just wonder whether you are assuming that the sin of the elect is a quantifiable sum for which Christ's suffering could amount to an over/under-spend. Of course God will not "punish twice this disobedience", but can we infer double predestination from that?

Am I being unfair? What do you think?

Andy said...

Amen, Rosemary, Amen!

Dave - you're not unfair, I don't think but the perspective is what matters. Rosemary has written about the expenditure of Wrath rather than the account of Sin.

In (3) Rosemary's talking more of Limited Atonement than Double Predestination. I'm happier talking about the sufficiency of the Cross for all sin in the life of the elect (which emphasises the greatness of God's provision and action in Christ) rather than looking at the technical precision of the mathematics of the atonement (that is not meant to be dismissive).

I understand the need for precision but am not sure I can see warrant in Scripture for going the whole hog on L.A. but neither do I think it is completely wide of the mark.

But I am with Rosemary on the lack of risk in the cross and atonement - there is no risk in it (no "It it finished - probably") even IF there is a reality of choice for all since Christ's resurrection.

étrangère said...

I'm not quite sure I understand you Dave, but I'd agree with Andy's assessment of what I'm saying (I think!) I don't really think that the sin of the elect is mathematically quantifiable - surely it is more qualifiable as infinitely offensive/rebellious/transgressive because it falls short of reflecting *perfectly* God's glory as his image bearers. Even to my mathematical mind, falling short of an infinite glory is infinitely sinful. Therefore I wouldn't say that God quantifiably doesn't punish twice this sin, but according to his justice - as Andy said, the expenditure of wrath. That make sense?

Dave K said...

It does make sense, thanks.

I once again foolishly jumped in head first without carefully reading what you had said. Sorry.

troy said...

Please pardon my tardiness in answering your assertions. Life has been quite busy on this end.

I generally avoid this subject exactly because it tends to incite argument among bodies which otherwise tend to agree. My comments are not meant to be indicative of my personal views on this topic. Rather, I hope to stimulate thought on the topic.

1) I personally prefer Romans 8.30 and 9.18 to make this point.

2) To answer your question "how can he promise...?" God can make such a promise without violating free will by virtue of having all knowledge, and knowing that at least one from each tribe/tongue will accept the gift of salvation.

3) The sin of man seems to be quantifiable and God is not unjust in doling out double for sin. See Isaiah 40.1,2.

4) John 10 is an excellent passage for this topic. The two phrases that keep this from being sealed are "I lay down my life for the sheep" and "you do not believe because..." The former passage could be "...for my sheep" (the posessive form being used frequently in the passage) and the latter "you cannot believe" if our Lord intended to settle the matter.