Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Infinite God + Infinite Punishment = Infinite Atonement

Tonight I read an excellent dissertation summing up the Calvinist viewpoint on the atonement of Christ by Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs. I was encouraged by one particular section of the presentation wherein Phil addressed one of the most persistent and nagging issues I have with certain adherents of so-called high Calvinism or hyper-Calvinism, who (probably not coincidentally) also seem to be the most vocal of the 5-pointers.

There are some among the high & hyper-Calvinists who - inexplicably - espouse the belief that Christ's penal substitution and atonement on the cross was limited in the sense that it's only sufficient to expiate the sins of the elect and that the atonement is therefore finite - being restricted in its efficacy to the particular sins of particular persons. I've always found this doctrine to be deeply offensive in that it manages to both malign the character of God Almighty and serves to denigrate and deny His claim to absolute sovereignty.

I join Phil Johnson in charging that this is an absurd, wholly unbiblical, and utterly indefensible position for any logical, thinking Christian to hold. This charge is easily proven by pointing toward two simple and irrefutable facts:

Jesus Christ is God Almighty
The person of Christ, the God-man who died upon that terrible cross on Golgotha was the Ancient of Days, the Almighty God who was, and is, and is to come. Therefore, to quote Phil Johnson, "In other words, the person who died on the cross was infinite in His glory and His goodness and therefore it was an infinite sacrifice. That’s the first reason."

Sin incurs God's infinite wrath and punishment
Again to quote Phil Johnson on the other major thrust of this objection to a finite atonement; "Second, the price of each person’s sin is infinite wrath. And if the price of atonement is infinite than the atonement itself in order to be accepted had to be of infinite value. In other words, if you had to suffer the price of your own sins you would spend eternity in hell and still you would not exhaust the infinite displeasure of God against sin. There’s an infinite punishment for sin. And that infinite wrath is the very thing Christ bore on the cross. So if Christ’s death was not sufficient to atone for all than it wasn’t sufficient to atone for even one. Because atonement for sin even for one person demands an infinite price."

Now I don't agree with Phil Johnson, nor the Pyromaniacs on all matters, but in this case he's hit the nail on the head and I applaud him for demonstrating the intestinal fortitude to stand boldly against his own Calvinist brethren and point unflinchingly toward the omnipotent Christ of scripture as opposed to the impotent Christ of the high & hyper Calvinist's fevered high noon fantasies.

Friend, Christ didn't suffer just so much, or in some arbitrary amount equivalent to pay for the amount of the sins of the elect, Christ suffered completely and sufficiently to pay for the infinite cost of sin, period. He couldn't have suffered more or less than He did on that old rugged cross for he suffered fully and therefore paid our sin debt in full. "It is finished!" He said! He fulfilled His earthly mission perfectly, and in doing so He completely fulfilled the will of our Heavenly Father with absolute precision.

Let us never demean or diminish the infinite and horrible suffering of our Lord and Savior by relegating His terrible vicarious sacrifice to something less than it was. Rather let us bow down in humble reverence and holy thankfulness to Him who bore our sins, and set us free from the yoke of bondage which aforetime held us fast to our wicked ways.

(1 Corinthians 15:55)
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

(Phillipians 4:4)
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.