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Dabney on objections to limited redemption (continued)

September 24, 2007

It has been awhile since we got back to Mr Dabney. Some of the posts I think were lost. Thus I am going back to the last Dabney post I can find and so I will resume from that point:  Dabney and Certain Objections to Effectual Redemption, (cont.,).  I did not save my posts after this so I am unable to reproduce my wording or ideas. In the last installment from Dabney, I addressed his analysis of such verses as 1 Jn 2:2, and John 3:16. 

Firstly, Dabney moves into refuting objections. Some of this I have to say at the outset that I do no agree with some of his comments. Dabney is operating, remember, on the assumption of an unlimited expiation (what we commonly call atonement) but with a limited redemption. In this he follows Shedd, and some other earlier New England theologians, and quite possibly, Jonathan Edwards himself.

Secondly, in this phase of Dabney’s treatment of the atonement, he says he will reverse the order. This is where he can be confusing if one does not pay attention to his own outline.

Firstly, he rebuts the use of two verses used to prove unlimited redemption. This phase takes up the question of specific verses uses as objections to limited redemption (p., 524ff).  His second argument will be to return to Bellamy’s point regarding the knowledge of one’s election (p., 526). Dabney here in response to Ballamy, will invoke the standard post-Calvin doctrine of faith as a reflex act. For the third phase, after covering these objections he states his own positive understanding of the nature of the expiation. Here he will endeavour to walk between the two extremes (p., 527).  The extremes are Arminianism, on the one hand, and Strict Calvininism on the other.

Our main goal has been to get this section.


Having made these candid admissions, I now return to test the opposing points above recited. I take them in reversed order. The language of Peter, and that of Hebrews 10:24, may receive an entirely adequate solution, without teaching that Christ actually “bought,” or “sanctified” any apostate, by saying that the Apostles speak there “ad hominem .” The crime of the heretic is justly enhanced by the fact, that the Christ, whose truth he is now outraging, is claimed by him as gracious Redeemer. It is always fair to hold a man to the results of his own assertions. This heretic says Christ has laid him under this vast debt of gratitude, so much the worse then, that he should injure his asserted benefactor. But there is another view. The addressing of hypothetical warnings of apostasy or destruction to believers is wholly compatible with the efficacy of Christ’s work, and the immutability of God’s counsel for them. For that counsel is executed in them, by moral and rational means, among which the force of truth holds the prime place. And among these truths, the fact that if they are not watchful and obedient, professed believers may fall, is most reasonably calculated to produce watchfulness. But naturally speaking, they may fall, for the impossibility of destroying the elect is only moral, proceeding from the secret purpose of God. This important view will be further illustrated and defended when we argue the perseverance of the saints, where it will be found to have a similar application.

Lectures, p., 525-526.

Dabney offers two responses. Firstly, he says it is adequate to believe that Peter, for example, is speaking by way of an ad hominem, that is, to the man, to hold him accountable by his own assertions. The second line, says Dabney, is to take these biblical comments as warning passages, such that professed believers can fall away. This view seems to be in the same camp as the judgement of charity position. Both of these options have a solid history in Reformed and Augustinian thought.

Now, for sure with regard to 2 Peter 2:1, this is a much better line of approach than Owen’s, which relies on inventing semantic domains by converting agorazo in “create” or “establish.” And because I am not committed to dividing up the expiation into unlimited expiation versus limited redemption, I have no need to reject the earlier and classic interpretation of 2 Peter 2:1 that was also held by all the great classic Augustinians and early Reformed. I direct the reader’s attention to our 2 Peter 2:1 archive.

As for Heb 10:24, again, I would direct the reader to this archive Hebrews 10:26, 29, which I think presents the classic position and addresses’s Dabney’s concern here.

Because Dabney was probably not aware of the classic Calvinian position (see for example, Paraeus, Kimedoncius, and Vermigli  he seems to have adopted  these  lines of interpretation with regard to these two verses.

Take care,

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