Monday, November 14, 2011

Refuting Against Calvinism (Part 7)

Part 7 of review of Olson's book Against Calvinism:

Chapter 6 — Particular Redemption

Olson's first major argument is astonishing, saying that the atonement does not save anyone since one has to fulfil certain conditions like faith in order to be saved (p. 138). Olson here does not seem to understand the difference between God ordaining the ends, and God ordaining the means to be certain to achieve the ordained ends. For in Calvinism, salvation is organic and flows from one stage to the other as Man regenerated by the Spirit freely believes in Christ by the gift of faith given to him. That Olson does not understand secondary causation and the certainty of ordained means for the reaching of ordained ends is very plain here, but just because Olson does not understand them does not make them illogical. Given Olson's premise of libertarian free will, it is understandable that he will find it difficult to understand the wisdom of God in double agency. So once again, Olson's rationalism rears its ugly head.

The next error concerns the difference between the sufficiency and efficiency of the atonement. Christ's death is sufficient to save everyone, yet it is only made efficient for the elect. Olson here counter-accuses Calvinists of wasting some of Christ's blood since Christ's blood was more than enough to save yet was not applied to save all (p. 141). The issue is that Olson misunderstands the whole expression of "sufficient for all, efficient for some" as a quantitative expression, as if Christ's blood was divided into as many buckets as there are people who have lived on this world. In such a quantitative scheme, only some buckets of Christ's blood were utilized while the rest were not and thus wasted. However, this expression was never meant to be interpreted in a quantitative sense but qualitatively. The worth of Christ's atonement was sufficient to save all, but it was given only for the purchase of the salvation of the elect. No blood is wasted here since it is a qualitative not a quantitative scheme.

A major focus of Olson's attack on Calvinism concerns the doctrine of the Well-meant offer which is undermined by Calvinism, and therefore Calvinists cannot logically tell people that "Jesus died for you" (p. 142). The problem for Olson is neither does the Scripture ever show any evangelistic presentation where the apostles and evangelists told anyone that Christ died for them. As a consistent Calvinist, I contend that the Well-Meant Offer is unbiblical in nature since it imputes irrationality and unfulfilled emotions to God [4]. Rather, I hold to the Universal free offer of the Gospel, whereby we as Christians in evangelism proclaim the Gospel message as that "Christ died for sinners" and sinners who obey the command to repent and believe in Jesus Christ are saved. Olson can legitimately criticize the inconsistent Neo-Amyraldians for their embrace of the Well-Meant Offer, but it is untrue that denial of the Well-Meant Offer equates to denial of God's offer of salvation in any other sense. Olson continues in this thread with the question of why God would offer salvation to those who he intends to exclude (p. 151). That is a legitimate question to ask the inconsistent Calvinists, but certainly it is not something which troubles us, for God does not offer the reprobate qua reprobate salvation. In fact, you will never see God offering salvation to the reprobates qua reprobates. For example, we do not see God offering salvation to Esau or Ishmael in the Bible. God did not offer Agag the king of the Amalekites salvation but judgment! God's offer of salvation is stated as being given to the world. Surely an Arminian with his view of corporate election should understand when God deals with Man as a collective group here! God offers sinners, undifferentiated sinners, salvation. There is no tension between God's dealings with Man in the collective as opposed to as individuals, for they are two separate categories altogether. Here, I truly find it ironic that where Calvinism treats of election as individual, Olson and Arminians treat election as corporate, while conversely where Calvinism treats of the Gospel offer as corporate, Olson and the Arminians want to make it individual.

Olson's next argument deals with Owen's argument against universal atonement on the issue of the payment for sin. Since God cannot punish the same sins twice, Christ's atonement means that the sinner cannot still be punished for his own sins (p. 142). Olson dismisses this argument by saying that "the claim that objective atonement necessarily includes or entails subjective, personal salvation is faulty" (p. 149). First of all, Olson's sentence means that the atonement in the Arminian system only makes Man savable, not saved, contradicting the promise of God in Mt. 1:21. It is thus a surprising admission on Olson's part that in the Arminian system, Christ's atonement itself does not save sinners but merely makes them savable. This undermines Olson's professed belief in substitutionary atonement, since if Jesus did not actually save anyone in the atonement, then He did not die as anyone's substitute, but at most a potential substitute contingent upon the person exercising faith in Christ. While certainly Olson denies vehemently that boasting is allowed in the Arminian system (p. 158), the issue here is not whether Arminians will actually boast but whether they have grounds to boast, an issue which we shall look at in the analysis of the next chapter.

Olson further attempts to blunt John Owen's double payment dilemma by using a flawed analogy, of which they are many within the book. The analogy Olson used is that a person offering to pay a $1000 fine on behalf of his friend, and then his friend later insists on paying the fine himself. The problem with Olson's analogy is that it does not even work. If the fine was already paid to and accepted by the court, the court cannot take the friend's payment as a matter of judicial procedure. The fine has been paid, and that's legally settled. The friend can pay the fine himself if the person has not yet paid the fine, but once the fine is paid, it is paid. If the friend insist on paying the fine, he can go to find his friend the person who paid on his behalf and insists that he accepts the $1000. So likewise, the atonement has already paid for the punishment due to our sins, and that as a settled reality is totally objective not subjective. Just like the court does not care whether you feel the fine is paid as long as it is paid, so too the subjective element is totally irrelevant to the actual application of the atonement to men. The subjective element comes in only in light of the prior objective payment of the atonement, not as a completion of the objective element as if our subjective state actualize the potentiality of the atonement itself!


[4] See an article, in interaction with the Neo-Amyraldian Tony Byrne, on the topic here (

No comments: