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Dabney on Luke 19:41 and Matthew 23:37, and his chastising the “extremists” Calvinists

April 23, 2008

The yet more explicit passage in Luke 19:41, 42, has given our extremists1 still more trouble. We are there told that Christ wept over the very men whose doom of reprobation he then pronounced. Again, the question is raised by them, If Christ felt this tender compassion for them, why did he not exert his omnipotence for their effectual calling? And their best answer seems to be, that here it was not the divine nature in Jesus that wept, but the humanity only. Now, it will readily be conceded that the divine nature was incapable of the pain of sympathetic passion and of the agitation of grief; but we are loath to believe that this precious incident is no manifestation of the passionless, unchangeable, yet infinitely benevolent pity of the divine nature. For, first, it would impress the common Christian mind with a most painful feeling to be thus seemingly taught that holy humanity is more generous and tender than God. The humble and simple reader of the gospels had been taught by them that there was no excellence in the humanity which was not the effect and effluence of the corresponding ineffable perfection in the divinity. Second, when we hear our Lord speaking of gathering Jerusalem’s children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and then announcing the final doom of the rejected, we seem to hear the divine nature in him, at least as much as the human. And third, such interpretations, implying some degree of dissent between the two natures, are perilous, in that they obscure that vital truth, Christ the manifestation to us of the divine nature. “He is the image of the invisible God;” “He is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;” “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father, and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (Col. i. 15; Heb. i. 3; John xiv. 9.) It is our happiness to believe that when we see Jesus weeping over lost Jerusalem, we “have seen the Father,” we have received an insight into the divine benevolence and pity. And therefore this wondrous incident been so clear to the hearts of God’s people in all ages. The church has justly condemned Monothelism more than a thousand years ago. Yet, while we are none of us Monothelites, we cannot admit any defect of concert and symphony between the will of the perfect humanity and that of the divinity. It is, indeed, in this harmony of will that the hypostatic union most essentially effectuates itself, “yet without conversion, composition or confusion.” For it is in the will of a rational essence that its unity consummates itself, as the combination and resultant of its prevalent states of intelligence and of activity. The divine and human will was, so to speak, the very meeting-place at which the personal unity of the two complete natures was effected in the God-man.

Some better blessed paradox, then, of this wondrous and blessed paradox of, omnipotent love lamenting those whom yet it did not save. Shall we resort to the Pelagian solution, and so exalt the prerogatives of a fancied “free-will” as to strip God of his omnipotence over sinful free agents? That resort is absolutely shut; for knowing assuredly that man is originally depraved and in bondage to sin, we see that the adoption of that theory undermines the hope of every sinner in the world for redemption, and spreads a pall of uncertainty and fear over heaven itself. The plain and obvious meaning of the history gives us the best solution; that God does have compassion for the reprobate, but not express volition2 to save them, because his infinite wisdom regulates his whole will and guides and harmonizes (not suppresses) all its active principles.

R.L. Dabney, “God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy,” in Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 1982), 1:308-9.


 

1The nearest candidate for this remark seems to be his reference to the “supralapsarian perversion” (302). He refers to the “tortuous exgesis” of this wing (311). However, earlier he does refer to the unsatisfactory “school of Turretin” (283).
2By volition, Dabney means positive intention as such.

 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2008 11:07 am

    It is sad that by our theologies we attempt to account for the compassion of Jesus in a way that makes “Jesus” seem more compassionate than “God”! Undoubtedly some of Calvinism’s bad press has come precisely because of the exaggerations and convolutions Dabney rightly attacks. Thanks for posting this.

  2. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    April 24, 2008 11:34 am

    Hey there,

    I agree. All these doctrines are inter-related. The definitions of faith and assurance, inter-woven themselves, are related to the expiation. The expiation is related to the will of God. The Will of God is related to the decree of God. The decree is related to the plan of salvation, upon which the incarnation depends.

    What began to happen when critical doctrines were “revised” was that there was a ripple effect. The expiation was seen as an expression of the covenant of redemption, and “its” limitations then delimited the expiation incarnation and the expiation. This change then further forced modifications to the traditional doctrines of faith and assurance. Which in turn led to changes in the nature of the gospel offer and so then arose the questions of warrants to believe and ‘interest’ in Christ.

    From another angle, folk like Beza, so griped by an ordered decretalism, could not have a Christ, as the God-man, apparently willing something contrary to the ordered decretalism, something had to give.

    The old medieval maxim kicked in: when faced with a contradiction, make a distinction. Christ’s willing was then distinguished as an expression of his human nature only, as a minister of the circumcision (Beza). That then resolved the “tension.” The problem is, the process was not driven exegetically, but by upper-story systematic theological considerations. The paradigm drove the exegesis.

    And so all these doctrines are all inter-woven. Change one somewhere, and there will be a ripple effect, subtle and profound.

    Thanks for posting.

    I hope you are doing well.

    David

  3. Martin Thorley permalink
    April 27, 2008 4:20 pm

    It would appear that some words are missing from the last paragraph. The first sentence should begin:
    “Some better solution must be found, then, of this wondrous and blessed paradox”.

    The typo king is king once more :)

  4. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    April 27, 2008 4:26 pm

    Naa, that was not my typing, but the scanning. It looks like it left off the line. My bad is in the proofing. :)

    Thanks,
    David

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