Looking for insight on - What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul

Discussion in 'Calvinism/Arminianism Debate' started by JonC δοῦλος, Mar 10, 2014.

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  1. JonC

    JonC
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    OK….after much hesitation and acknowledging that this is going to go astray….but hoping not…. But what I am hoping for are insights on the relationship between faith and justification as presented by Sproul (not an argument about limited atonement).

    I have been reading “What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics” by R.C. Sproul (which, contrary to what the title may suggest, is actually an argument against “Arminians, Dispensationalists, and other semi-Pelagians” more than it is a presentation of Reformed doctrine). If there are any Sproul readers out there, I’d appreciate your insight on some of his comments.

    Here is a portion of the text where I am trying to follow Sproul’s argument:

    “If the atonement is not efficacious apart from faith, then faith must be necessary for the satisfaction of divine justice. Here faith becomes a work with a vengeance because its presence or absence in a sinner determines the efficacy of Christ’s work of satisfaction for this person.”

    “If faith is necessary to the atonement, then Christ’s work was indeed a mere potentiality. In itself it saves no one. It merely makes salvation possible. Theoretically we must ask the obvious question. What would have happened to the work of Christ if nobody believed in it? That had to be a theoretical possibility. In this case Christ would have died in vain. He would have been a potential Savior of all but an actual Savior of none. “

    Some of the problem is that “faith” is not a “work.” Even within non-Calvinistic doctrine it is a work of God as opposed to a work of man. But particularly in the Bible faith is presented as a non-work. I don’t know where he comes up with justification by faith equates to justification by works.

    Second, and more of a note I suppose, his argument (which is actually Spurgeon’s argument applied to atonement and divine justice rather than faith as a grace) fails. He notes that some (“Arminians, Dispensationalists, and other semi-Pelagians”) think that we are justified by faith which equates to making salvation unsure as it is dependent on man. I am not sure how he makes this connection. But here is his example:

    “Today I enjoy the benefit of an atonement made for me centuries ago. Did that atonement satisfy the demands of God’s justice on all of my sins? If it did, then it satisfied the penalty for the sin of my previous unbelief. Was that sin paid for before I believed?”​

    His answer - “It covers my former unbelief but not the present unbelief of unbelievers.” Why? Because faith has absolutely nothing to do with justification - we are considered “just” because of Christ’s payment of our sins centuries ago. He was therefore justified when Christ paid his debt - faith doesn’t enter the picture.

    If this is the Reformed view, how does it reconcile with the justification by faith passages?

    (Here's the book: http://www.ligonier.org/store/what-is-reformed-theology-paperback/)
     
    #1 JonC, Mar 10, 2014
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  2. Jerome

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    Look what the 1689 London Baptist Assembly declared when they took up that question:

     
  3. SolaSaint

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    Doesn't it all come down to who we rely upon for salvation? If it is monergistic then God alone justifies us by faith, if not then we cooperate with God. Anything we attribute to salvation, even faith is considered a work and I'm sure you would agree, we cannot do anything to regenerate our hearts.
     
  4. JamesL

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    Sproul's issue is that he's not a theologian, he's a philosopher.

    He, like many before him, puts more stock in what he reasons to be than what the scriptures tell us. Then he approaches scripture with doctrine in hand.

    This is nothing new, as even the esteemed Augustine was also a philosopher and not a theologian
     
  5. Rippon

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    That is quite untrue. Augustine was the first great theologian of the post Apostolic Church. To deny that is absurd.Of course he was also a master of philosophy. Calvin can't rightly be considered a philosopher as such --however,he drew on Augustine's biblical wealth of knowledge.

    Charles Hodge and Jonathan Edwards were honorable theologians,but also delved into philosophy too much for my taste. Gordon H.Clark was a noted Christian philosopher --but at the same time considered to be an erudite theologian.
     
  6. Earth Wind and Fire

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    So what makes one a real theologian?
     
  7. JonC

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    I am not sure that one can be a theologian without also being a philosopher (at least to some extent). But when philosophical concerns about God or His work take precedence over God’s revealed truth and become the cornerstone upon which doctrine is built…well, then perhaps it is philosophy over theology.

    When I first read what Sproul had written regarding justification apart from faith, this was my first concern. I am not sure that we can break down every aspect of salvation into micro-doctrines, encase those doctrines in concrete boxes and build a foundation on those boxes. Scripture places more emphasis on faith, IMHO, than Sproul’s comments allowed – but I fully admit that I may have mistaken the intention of his comments (hence this thread).

    I agree, SolaSaint, that we contribute nothing to our salvation. When I say that I do not see faith as a work, I am referring to faith being of God and not ourselves – but I do see your point that our effort (even if it is “cooperation” with God) cannot regenerate our hearts. I like your comment - It does come down to who re rely upon for salvation.
     
  8. Yeshua1

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    IF that was really what he holds to, drSprould seems more PB/Hyper than "main calvinistic!"

    My understanding is that while the death of Christ IS sufficient and all that is needed to secure salvation for the sinner He died to atone for, still is the truth that God had decided to apply that Grace towards us thru receipt of it by faith unto jesus for salvation...

    So faith NOT a work, just the bridge between us and grace of God!
     
  9. kyredneck

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    Oh no! What could be worse than that?!? Lol...
     
  10. Yeshua1

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    NOT meant to put anyone down, just stating what that would seem to be!
     
  11. Yeshua1

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    faith is the gift of god towards those of us chosen to be saved in Chrsit, so NOT something we supply, as he supplies, we just use that to receive his grace then!
     
  12. kyredneck

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    Ok, and you're right, I've said it before here, his soteriology appears to be vey close to Primitive Baptist. (oh my, those dreadful hyper-Cals, God have mercy on us all)
     
    #12 kyredneck, Mar 11, 2014
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  13. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire
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    Please! Let us not be so caviar (LOL)

    We need to be more serial
     
  14. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire
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    Dude....you are calling us HYPERS! You could have stated it without the "hyper" badge.

    Point is, you really do not have a clue what any Old School Baptist belief system is.
     
  15. JonC

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    I don't know enough about Sproul. I typically apply "hyper" to those who take an unbiblical application to doctrines (e.g., the anti-mission movement). Everything else seems like different shades :cool:. I supplied a couple of quotes but, of course, not the entire work. This was, obviously, in the limited atonement portion of the book.

    While I disagree that limited atonement denies an opportunity through Christ's work for the non-elect (an opportunity they will not take), I don't know holding a view that Christ's death ignored the non-elect makes one "hyper" in their Calvinism. Someone here, I can't remember who (it's been awhile) viewed the Atonement to be inclusive of faith, justification, sanctification, etc...and if this is the point Sproul is making then I would agree. I just am not sure about his point in the book. Perhaps it is merely the wording he chooses (removing faith from the equation), or perhaps he is looking at Christ's death in such a manner (drilling down to just what Christ's death meant apart from faith, redemption, the resurrection, etc) that meaning is lost in terms of actual redemption. I thought some here may be familiar enough with his work to offer an explanation of his view.
     
    #15 JonC, Mar 11, 2014
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  16. kyredneck

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  17. Van

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    Faith and Justification

    Hi JonC, let me offer an alternate view:

    In the Calvinist mindset, atonement refers to Christ paying for the specific past, present and future sins of specific foreseen individuals. Using that definition will put anyone in a quandary if they merely look at scripture.

    So lets back up and go slowly.

    The finished work of Christ on the cross made salvation available for all mankind, i.e. He became the propitiation or means of salvation for the whole world. However did anyone receive that reconciliation when Christ died? Nope according to scripture. So we must walk even further from Calvinism if we are to look at this biblically.

    As ambassadors of Christ we are to beseech the world, be reconciled to God. So we receive the benefits of the reconciliation provided by the finished work of the cross, when God, in His mercy accepts our faith and puts us in Christ, where we undergo the circumcision of Christ and arise in Christ a new creation. The circumcision of Christ removes our body of flesh. This phrase is understood a slew of different ways, but body is something that casts a shadow, so the shadow cast over us by the sin burden, i.e. that which makes us unjustified and having a sin debt we cannot pay, is removed in Christ. This removal justifies us, it is just as if we had not sinned. Also once in Christ we cannot pile up more burden because in Christ it is just as if we had not sinned. The washing machine is eternally on, and makes us white as snow.

    So we are justified by faith in that when God credits our faith as righteousness, He places us in Christ, the sanctification by the Spirit.

    This view is consistent with all scripture.
     
  18. Reformed

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    The axiom "words mean things" applies here. R.C. Sproul is not saying that faith is a salvific work on the part of the one exercising it. What he is saying is that faith, which is essential in the efficacious application of the atonement, is in itself a work. It is a work of the Spirit, not a work of man. "Work" can be interpreted as a thing someone does. In this case faith is not a meritorious work on the part of the one exercising it.
     
  19. Yeshua1

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    So it is required in order to get saved by grace of god, but since he supplies it, its still considered to be His work on our behalf?
     
  20. Yeshua1

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    Don't you hold tht in death of jesus for our sins, that he purchased and bought back to God his own RIGHT at that time, and thus all he died for are eternally secured, so will get saved regardless if heard about jesus, placed faith in him, etc, and that thsoe do that now will have relationship with God and those benefits right here, but ALl he died for get saved regardless?
     
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