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Carl Trueman's Admission that John Owen's Double-Payment Dilemma Rests on 'Seeming' Commercialist Assumptions

June 26, 2008

Explanatory comments:

At the out-set, my proper intention here is document what looks to be Trueman’s acknowledgment that Owen’s double-payment argument does rest on a crude commercial theory of the atonement. With that in mind, the following explanatory comments from me are secondary and should not distract the reader from my principal intention. They are offered here for the purposes of clarification.

1) The following are two sections from Carl Trueman’s, The Claims of Truth, John Owen’s Trinitarian Theology, (Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1998), 139-140. For our purposes here, I will cite the immediate paragraph, then the shorter footnote, and then an extended footnote comment relevant to this paragraph. I will include these as inline texts, and not as proper footnotes. All actual footnotes are mine, as is the underlining for emphasis.

2) Trueman’s remarks here are directed to claims made by A.C. Clifford and Hans Boersma. A few opening comments needed. 1) I am not sure either Clifford or Boersma claimed that Owen subordinated, wholesale, his theology to Aristotle’s logic and methodology. 2) I am far from convinced by Trueman’s assertions here that Owen did not hold to a linear and monist teleology. I think the issue has a lot to do with Owen’s linear causality effecting a single teleology with regard to soteriological ends, proper. What is interesting is that Trueman thinks that because Owen could affirm auxiliary “ends” such as common grace1 he has dealt with Clifford’s objections. Rather, the issue is that within the divine soteriological activity itself, are there multiple ends or a single end? Set in this frame, the answer is for Owen that the work of Christ has a monist teleology (in my opinion).

3) Regarding Aristotelian methodology. I am not sure that Clifford claimed that Owen derived his theological categories from Aristotle, but that he mediated his Christological and Trinitarian categories through a specific methodology, which could be so labeled “Aristotelian.” Perhaps Clifford can correct me on this at some point.2

4) Humbly and sincerely I say that it is either the case or it is not, that Owen’s double-payment “dilemma” works on a fallacious commercialist assumption. It either does or it does not. If it does, then as it stands in his Display of Arminianism, and Death of Death,3 it is fallacious. It seems to me that Trueman is skirting this.

Carl Truman:

In light of arguments concerning the impact of ‘one-end teleology’ on Owen’s soteriology,114 it is important to grasp that Owen does not here base his argument regarding the relationship between predestination and atonement on Aristotelian logic. Instead, his argument is built upon the notion of the covenant of redemption, which defines Christ’s role as Mediator for the elect whom God has given him. This is not a concept which Owen obtains from some textbook on Aristotelian logic but a doctrine he derives from biblical exegesis. It does not mean, of course, that his exegesis is correct–one might indeed wish to fault Owen’s interpretation and application of the Isaiah passage–but, if he is in error at this point, he is guilty of bad biblical interpretation, not of a thoroughgoing subordination of theology to Aristotle. As we should expect, given our findings concerning Owen’s understanding of the principles of theology, it is the Trinitarian and Christological structures in his thought which provide the foundation for the atonement’s particularity, not some Aristotelian methodology. The atonement is limited because the covenant of redemption, the causal ground of all the acts of Christ’s mediation, is itself limited in terms of efficacy to the elect thanks to the nature of the transaction between Father and Son.115

*   *   *   *   *   *

Footnote 114: For a full discussion of this, see below, Appendix One: The Role of Aristotelian.

Footnote 115: A possible objection at this point could be that Owen does indeed seem to rely upon rational arguments in defence of his doctrine of limited atonement, as, for example, when he declares that God cannot have died for the sins of those who will end up in hell because then he would be punishing the same sin twice, which would be unfair: see Works 10, p. 173. We must, however, beware of overemphasizing the importance of this point to Owen’s case. Particularity has already been introduced into the argument via the covenant of redemption, which defines the nature of the office of Mediator, and it is within this context that such arguments are to be understood. It is… true that his point here seems to rely on a crudely commercial theory of the atonement, but we must beware of misunderstanding this in crudely quantitative terms (see Ch. 5 below) and be aware that the argument is only a subsidiary point in support of a position which is independently established on other theological grounds. Indeed, it is only in the context of Christ’s appointment as Mediator that his sufferings can be said to have any value at all, because it is only thanks to the covenant of redemption that Christ’s work can either happen in the first place, or stand in any positive connection to sinful humanity. Discussions of the intrinsic value of Christ’s sufferings which fail to set these within the Trinitarian context of mediation are alien to Owen’s theology: see Ch. 5. For an example of how failure to set Owen’s teaching in its Trinitarian context can lead to misunderstanding, see Clifford, who makes great play of the significance of commercialism in Owen’s theory of atonement, but does not set this within the Trinitarian context: Atonement und Justification, pp. 126 ff. As we shall see, far more significant in the limitation of the atonement is Owen’s emphasis on the unity of Christ’s oblation and intercession in the office of Mediator. Compared to this, the Grotian distinction3 between solutio tantidem (which Owen opposes) and solutio eiusdem (which Owen accepts) is, pace Clifford, of much less significance. In Book Three of the treatise, primacy of place in establishing the limitation of atonement is given to arguments based upon the covenants, and arguments for satisfaction are only dealt with once this basic point has been established: Works 10, pp. 236-8. At most, one can argue that notions of satisfaction and the commercial theory of the atonement play an important subsidiary role within the overall argument of the treatise. This is quite clear from Owen’s statement in Book Two that Christ’s death is the result of the covenant of grace (itself the result of the covenant of redemption, in which, as we have seen, particularity plays a central role). not its foundation, thereby explicitly making the nature of the atonement dependent upon the Trinitarian/covenantal structure of redemption: Works 10, pp. 207-8; cf. Works 11. p. 303.

Source: Carl Trueman, The Claims of Truth, John Owen’s Trinitarian Theology, (Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1998), 139-140.

_____________________

1See his Appendix 1, 238-239. Trueman concedes that there is a hierarchy of goals for Owen, but that they can include ancillary ends. However, this is rather beside the point to the claims by Clifford and Boersma in my estimation.
2I think one is on surer ground in pointing out that Owen was not exactly working from an Athanasian and Anselmian Christology in his Death of Death.
3See Owen’s Works, 10:88; 10:173; 10:249; and 10:273.
3One should not get the impression that this idea was limited to Grotians or Arminians. Contra Owen’s position, see Thomas Manton’s affirmation that Christ suffered the tantundem of the punishment due to us; See his Works, 2:272.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Donald H permalink
    June 27, 2008 6:35 pm

    I this is excellent information. Wonderful indeed.

  2. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    June 27, 2008 7:18 pm

    Thanks. Come back and visit. If you are interested in moderate calvinism, be sure to check out: Classic and Moderate Forms of “Calvinism” Documented Thus Far

    David

  3. Donald H permalink
    June 28, 2008 5:32 am

    Yeah, I’m sorry, David I’m a.k.a the Soul Theologian. I consider myself a moderate calvinist. I although I think was mostly wearied by the hi-jacking of the “high calvinist”, I’m back to my senses.

    And your blog is definitely a catalyst for me.

    My prayer is that is the next move of God. You have done a great work.

  4. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    June 28, 2008 1:01 pm

    Hey Donald,

    Just about as I was finishing my earlier reply I wondered if this was you. I couldn’t recall your name. I was encouraged by a comment you made on your blog where you mentioned our being thrown under the bus and how wrong that was. That was very encouraging. I appreciate the kind remarks.

    I created this blog so that folk who take the moderate and classic position don’t have to walk around in shame, belittled and disenfranchised, as many highs and hypers would try to have it. We can work, walk, teach, preach in complete confidence of the historical, logical and exegetical validity of our position. The classic position has a rich tradition in which some of the most powerful and influential Calvinists have been adherents to.

    Can I ask 2 questions, tho, can I ask what you mean by being mostly wearied by the hi-jacking of the highs? And I was not sure what you meant on your blog about coming back to your senses.

    If you want to talk privately, email me with the addy: calvin and calvinism [at] yahoo [dot] com

    From me to you: You have to preach it.

    Thanks
    David

  5. Donald a.k.a. The Soul Theologian permalink
    June 28, 2008 1:28 pm

    I will definitely email you David and explain.

  6. Martin permalink
    July 5, 2008 2:36 pm

    Trueman clearly overstates Clifford’s case by speaking of a “thoroughgoing subordination of theology to Aristotle”. Clifford’s main point is simply this: Owen’s method has *influenced* his theology. Trueman doesn’t really answer this. Not only does he seem to have missed Clifford’s footnote 15 on p107 in which he states “In Owen’s case, this is not to question his valid admission of constituent ‘sub-ends’ within the ‘end’ of the atonement, but to reject his thesis of a single end” but is apparently unable to conceive of a trinitarian context including multiple ends.

    Clifford did make some brief comments in response to Trueman in the appendix of his biography of Philip Doddridge, “The Good Doctor” (pp.251-253). If memory serves me correctly I think you have this work but if not I can scan it and post it?

    Martin

  7. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    July 5, 2008 3:39 pm

    Thanks Martin, I didn’t know about the footnote. I will scope it out. I figured Trueman was over-stating things, as well as understating other important points.

    David.

  8. Andrew permalink
    February 11, 2010 12:15 pm

    Do these comments come from Trueman’s earlier work on Owen?

    Have you read his more recent one? Particularly the chapter on covenant theology?

  9. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    February 11, 2010 12:44 pm

    Hey there Andrew,

    The title of the work was embedded in my opening comments. I’ve added the title and bibliographic details to the end of the quoted material to make it easier. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    To your questions, yes this is the earlier work, if I remember correctly. His other work on Owen was published after this.

    And yes, I read it.

    It was a while back though, did you want to draw my attention to something in particular?

    Thanks for stopping by,
    David

  10. Andrew permalink
    February 11, 2010 1:51 pm

    Hi David,

    Eek, now I see it.

    I haven’t read the earlier work. I’ve been reading the newer work ‘John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man’ this week.

    I was wondering whether you think the analysis from one work to the next is substantially the same? Although if you haven’t read it in a while then you may not be able to answer this.

    There is a chapter in the book called ‘Divine Covenants and Catholic Christology’ where Trueman charts Owen’s views on covenants, particularly Owen’s use of the Covenant of Redemption.

    He concludes the chapter:

    ‘It is clear from the arguments presented in this chapter that Owen’s understanding of God’s dealings with humanity finds it supreme articulation through the notion of covenant. A careful examination of Owen’s method , typical of Reformed Orthodoxy in general, indicates that this is no naive intrusion of commercial categories into the interpretation of Scripture, but a conceptual vocabulary developed in careful relation both to exegesis, linguistics, conceptual reflection, and Trinitarianism.’

    As much I understand it, being relatively new to this subject, the chapter in the newer book seems more nuanced than the extract above from ‘Claims of Truth’, I think there is almost ten years between them.

    As an aside, I’m really enjoying working through your blog. Thanks for your reply,

    Andrew

  11. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    February 11, 2010 2:59 pm

    Hey there Andrew,

    You say:

    I haven’t read the earlier work. I’ve been reading the newer work ‘John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man’ this week.

    David: I don’t have access to it anymore. I recall agreeing with a friend that a lot of it was, or appeared to be, the same. I may be over-generalizing.

    Andrew: I was wondering whether you think the analysis from one work to the next is substantially the same? Although if you haven’t read it in a while then you may not be able to answer this.

    David: I would need to borrow the book again before I offered up any strong claims.

    Andew cites Truman:

    ‘It is clear from the arguments presented in this chapter that Owen’s understanding of God’s dealings with humanity finds it supreme articulation through the notion of covenant. A careful examination of Owen’s method , typical of Reformed Orthodoxy in general, indicates that this is no naive intrusion of commercial categories into the interpretation of Scripture, but a conceptual vocabulary developed in careful relation both to exegesis, linguistics, conceptual reflection, and Trinitarianism.’

    David: Yeah. I think Trueman is understating the case here. I would offer up these considerations:

    1) Part of the problem, for us, is that Owen was over-reacting to Socinianism. The Socinians, as I understand it, said that the “redemption” of Christ was purely a metaphor. The idea of satisfaction as the grounds of the redemption is rejected.

    Owen, over-reacts by positing that redemption is a “literal payment” to the Father. On top of this, Redemption literally purchases things from the Father. This comes out in his work against Biddle, especially. Turretin does something similar. This is also sustained by Owen’s commitment to Christ suffering the very idem of the law, contra Manton, Baxter et al.

    Now, here is the problem, as I see it. Owen and Turretin, while formally rejecting a commercial satisfaction, end up by infusing pecuniary categories into the doctrine of penal satisfaction.

    2) The overall argument from Death of Death, notwithstanding Trueman’s point, works only on the assumption pecuniary categories. This takes the forms of A) the transactionalism within the Covenant of Redemption; B) the Son purchasing faith etc; and C) the double-payment dilemma.

    So while they verbally reject a true pecuniary satisfaction, they infuse the efficacy of the satisfaction with qualities that can only be obtained from a proper pecuniary satisfaction.

    That’s my reading. I know one could say Owen’s overall argument may be sustained even of those dynamics are removed. However, I think such an remaining argument would be very anemic. Owen’s primary concern, as I read him, is to sustain a deductive case for limited atonement, not an inductive case.

    A good work on this is: Chambers, N.A. “A Critical Examination of John Owen’s Argument for Limited Atonement in the Death of Death of Christ.” Th.M. thesis, Reformed Theological Seminary, 1998. I hate to say it, but it is a must read.

    Trueman is seeking to follow Owen’s top-down chain of logic. And that’s okay as far as it goes. If we disagree with someone, we must seek to understand our opponent on his own terms. And for this Trueman has done us a service. However, in the final analysis, I believe one can find elements of commercialist transactionalism, in the very heart of Owen’s construction of the transactions between Father and Son.

    More generally, and this may impact my reading of Owen’s covenantal transactionalism, I would argue that Owen was doing much the same thing McCrie calls Mercantile transanctionalism in the Covenant of Redemption the theology of Dickson and the Sum of Saving Knowledge: Contractualism in the Covenant of Redemption Now, if one is not bothered by the apparent transactionalism in these constructs in general, one will probably not see the transactionalism in Owen on the Covenant of Redemption as a problem in the first place. Make sense? If I am right, it would be perfectly natural for Trueman to not see pecuniary or commercial categories in Owen’s construction of the Covenant of Redemption.

    And so, in short, I see within the very heart of a lot of 17thC constructions of the Covenant of Redemption, an inherent pecuniary type transactionalism. However, even if we put that aside, one of the critical links in the chain of logic, however, undeniably relies on pecuniary assumptions. And that’s what I wish to target. The double-payment argument has become a critical lynch-pin for later arguments for limited expiation/sin-bearing.

    Andrew: As much I understand it, being relatively new to this subject, the chapter in the newer book seems more nuanced than the extract above from ‘Claims of Truth’, I think there is almost ten years between them.

    David: That may be so. I think, though, the basic point still holds good.

    Andrew: As an aside, I’m really enjoying working through your blog. Thanks for your reply,

    David: Thanks. Feel free to ask questions, or send an email. If there is something you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask. We want our readers to obtain greater clarity, and hope that in dialogue we, too, learn more.

    take care,
    David

  12. Andrew permalink
    February 11, 2010 4:45 pm

    Hi David,

    Thanks for taking the time to write such a lengthy reply, more than I bargained for.

    Yeah I think the basic point stands. My understanding of Owen in JO:RCRM is that the sophistication of the argument develops over time so that two things may be said:

    1. The use of commercial categories is not from lack of reflection per the quote from Trueman I mentioned above.

    2. If we admit that Owen’s view progressed from A Display of Arminianism and even from the Death of Death, two comparatively early works – Trueman seems to put a lot of stock in the exegetical work in Owen’s Hebrews Commentary – then the use of commercialism as a pejorative charge against a life time of reflection, it seems to me, misses the target; not because commercial categories are not there but because they are, at least for Owen and others, sustainable from exegesis of the text. The issue is not making commercialism stick but showing that Owen got it wrong.

    I am not saying this of you but I am making the point that I don’t think we should avoid commercial language if it is useful; Double payment and Double jeopardy notwithstanding.

    But as I said before a lot of this is new to me so in a way I’m just thinking out loud.

    Blessings,

    Andrew

  13. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    February 11, 2010 7:43 pm

    Hey Andrew,

    Andrew:
    1. The use of commercial categories is not from lack of reflection per the quote from Trueman I mentioned above.

    David: Maybe we are talking about different things. I think the point holds good that Owen infused pecuniary assumptions into his doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction. In some of this he was doing what a lot of others were doing. However, Owen took it further than most.

    I agree that Owen’s thought did mature and evolve. However, up to 1655 he was still arguing that the redemption of Christ was a literal payment (I reference Vindiciae Evangelicae for this). I have not seen Owen retract or repudiate his commitment to the double payment argument.

    I agree with Trueman that Owen did not simply base his doctrine of limited expiation upon the double payment dilemma alone. Owen’s theology had other deeper roots and assumptions. I think these deeper commitments were expressed via certain assumptions regarding the nature of the satisfaction. I think his commitment to the idea of Christ making a literal payment to the Father was one such underlying assumption (see below).

    Andrew: 2. If we admit that Owen’s view progressed from A Display of Arminianism and even from the Death of Death, two comparatively early works – Trueman seems to put a lot of stock in the exegetical work in Owen’s Hebrews Commentary – then the use of commercialism as a pejorative charge against a life time of reflection, it seems to me, misses the target; not because commercial categories are not there but because they are, at least for Owen and others, sustainable from exegesis of the text. The issue is not making commercialism stick but showing that Owen got it wrong.

    David: If I am reading you right, you say here that to accuse Owen of using commercialist categories as a negative charge is incorrect, not because he did not use them, but because he believed the use was exegetically derivable.

    I will grant that Owen thought his pecuniary concepts of redemption were derived from Scripture. My concern is that he was wrong in that thinking. And then, my point is, his case for limited expiation so based on these assumptions is therefore equally flawed. And so, any case for limited expiation grounded in these assumptions is also flawed. Make sense?

    I grant that it was common in Owen’s day to invoke commercial categories with regard to the death of Christ. However, I would say that he pressed these categories to another level.

    What is really interesting in the history of this doctrine, it was really the New England and American theologians to who spotted the over-use of pecuniary categories when describing the satisfaction. When we, today, speak of holding to true penal satisfaction, we are unwise if we unconsciously smuggle in pecuniary categories while insisting that we hold to a true penal satisfaction. So for example, many modern works on limited atonement often ground their case in the double payment dilemma which in turn is the main support for Owen’s famous trilemma argument. This is why I have tried to highlight Owen’s use of pecuniary categories.

    Now to back up a little. The standard way of expressing that which Christ obtained for us was by way of purchase language. Calvin has this, and so just about everybody from the 15th to 17th centuries. However, for the most part, the older way of expressing it was that Christ purchases salvation for all conditionally. And this not grounded in a sort of eternal contractual arrangement. The purchase language was kept in balance. I would argue that in Owen, its taken out of balance.

    Andrew: I am not saying this of you but I am making the point that I don’t think we should avoid commercial language if it is useful; Double payment and Double jeopardy notwithstanding.

    David: The problem is, good modern scholarship since the 18th has recognized that the point of biblical commercial language is not that a payment was made to someone, but that of deliverance effected. Owen held the assumption that a payment was made to someone. This grounds a lot of his transactionalist theology. Its also the grounds of a lot other folks contractual or transactionalist theology as well.

    What we have observed happening today is that many reproduce Owen’s two trilemmas, but lack awareness to the very assumptions which in Owen’s day made them plausible. So for example, to someone like Charles Hodge, the trilemmas would never have been seen as plausible because 1) the expiation is a properly penal matter, and 2) biblical redemption language never meant to indicate a literal payment to another party. Make sense?

    When folk uncritically republish the trilemma and double payment arguments today, its as if they are effectively winding back the clock to a time when folk did conflate pecuniary and penal categories (see Packer on this). However, in the evolution of our theological consciousness, the best Reformed minds have laid out a track which purges our theology of the very conflation folk want to inadvertantly take us back to. I’ve worded that awkwardly, so I hope it makes sense.

    Andrew: But as I said before a lot of this is new to me so in a way I’m just thinking out loud.

    David: No worries.

    One last thing, I appreciate your interaction. Its often very easy to beat up on someone who opposes us. It’s good to have thoughtful queries and challenges.

    David

  14. Andrew permalink
    February 12, 2010 11:46 am

    Hello David,
     
    You say:

    I will grant that Owen thought his pecuniary concepts of redemption were derived from Scripture. My concern is that he was wrong in that thinking. And then, my point is, his case for limited expiation so based on these assumptions is therefore equally flawed. And so, any case for limited expiation grounded in these assumptions is also flawed. Make sense?

    I agree if Owen’s use of pecuniary concepts is flawed then any version of limited expiation derived from these assumptions is flawed by default. To a certain degree, however, this is mitigated by method. So I would add the qualifier that if Owen was concerned simply with a deductive argument, as you said earlier, then the flaws certainly follow from the premise to the conclusion.

    That Owen was aiming for such an argument I am not convinced. Indeed the conclusion from Trueman I quoted from above suggests that Owen’s position on the atonement did not begin simply by grasping commercial concepts and running, his whole position is based on serious reflection on the text over many years. If this is true then the question of the validity of Owen’s argument with respect to pecuniary premises and limited expiation is less important than it would first seem. I would suggest that before we consider the coherence of the argument both the premises and conclusions must be examined for Scriptural support.

    Undoubtedly Owen’s argument is more often than not presented in an almost syllogistic fashion; that is how it was presented to me and, I am sorry to say, that is how I have presented it to others. In particular DP & DJ and the trilemma give this impression as if this is the root of Owen’s argument. But if Owen’s own method in reaching his position is not primarily deductive but relies on a range of resources, including but not limited to necessary inference, then the status of DP, DJ, and the trilemma (as corollaries of payment language) may become conclusions rather than premises. So you might say in some places Owen is working forward whilst in others he is working back. Yet when the argument is stated DP, DJ, the trilemma become premises.

    Anyhow, that’s all I really have to say for now. I will go and ponder some more. I’m going to read Chambers’ thesis. Thanks again for taking the time to deal with my questions, your replies have given me a lot to think about.

    Andrew

  15. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    February 15, 2010 9:33 am

    Hey there Andrew,

    Firstly, I would like to thank you for the interaction. One of the things I try to keep in mind is that in reacting to some position, not to overstate my reaction. However, I realise that often it takes others to help me measure my reactions to the things with which I disagree.

    Andrew says:
    I agree if Owen’s use of pecuniary concepts is flawed then any version of limited expiation derived from these assumptions is flawed by default. To a certain degree, however, this is mitigated by method. So I would add the qualifier that if Owen was concerned simply with a deductive argument, as you said earlier, then the flaws certainly follow from the premise to the conclusion.

    That Owen was aiming for such an argument I am not convinced. Indeed the conclusion from Trueman I quoted from above suggests that Owen’s position on the atonement did not begin simply by grasping commercial concepts and running, his whole position is based on serious reflection on the text over many years. If this is true then the question of the validity of Owen’s argument with respect to pecuniary premises and limited expiation is less important than it would first seem. I would suggest that before we consider the coherence of the argument both the premises and conclusions must be examined for Scriptural support.

    David:
    I decided to wait over the weekend before replying, as I wanted to think about it some more. My thoughts ramble a little. I have tried to tighten them up as best I can.

    I guess the bottom line is that I really do see Owen differently. I see no reason why it is not the case that Owen was fundamentally committed to infusing pecuniary assumptions into the penal satisfaction. I don’t see that the idea of Owen’s reflection changes anything. Years later, Owen was still committed to the expiation entailing a literal payment to someone. In his ongoing disputes with Baxter, he never retracted his commitment to Christ suffering the very idem of the law, rather than the Tuntundem of the law. I see no evidence that Owen operated by the terms of a model of satisfaction which was the inverse of something like a popular Governmentalist theories of the atonement. It’s like this, in the middle is a true penal model, to the left are the (evolved) Governmental models. However, to the right, is the Pecuniary model of Owen (and of course on the extreme right are those who said Christ suffered so much for so many). The Reformed community moves back and forth in their expressions between centre and right. At times they speak in terms of penal satisfaction, but default back to the pecuniary model. You can see this in folk like Dick in his Lectures, the idea of imputation and justice “determine” his understanding of the nature of the atonement.

    The covenant of Redemption, itself, for Owen, does not display the imputational mechanism involved in his view of the satisfaction, which is the problem. And to be clear, I am not saying, nor do I think was Clifford, that Owen’s case for limited expiation rested solely on the double payment dilemma. I am saying in the post, that the argument, considered in itself, rests upon pecuniary assumptions. And here in comments, I am saying further that just as the double payment dilemma rests upon commercialist assumptions, so does his overall theology of imputation, ransom, satisfaction, etc.

    Anyway, have a read of Chambers’ work and let me know what you think. Also, if you are interested, you might want to read Thomas, O. The Atonement Controversy: In Welsh Theological Literature and Debate, 1707-1841. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 2002.

    You say: Undoubtedly Owen’s argument is more often than not presented in an almost syllogistic fashion; that is how it was presented to me and, I am sorry to say, that is how I have presented it to others. In particular DP & DJ and the trilemma give this impression as if this is the root of Owen’s argument.

    David: Just to be clear, when I refer to the deductivist approach, I don’t just mean syllogistic reasoning. I mean the approach from an axiomatic basis, which provides a deductivist chain of reasoning. Owen can’t rest on something being “probably true” but he has to rest his claims on something (alegedly) being absolutely true, by an infallible chain of reasoning.

    Andrew continues: But if Owen’s own method in reaching his position is not primarily deductive but relies on a range of resources, including but not limited to necessary inference, then the status of DP, DJ, and the trilemma (as corollaries of payment language) may become conclusions rather than premises. So you might say in some places Owen is working forward whilst in others he is working back. Yet when the argument is stated DP, DJ, the trilemma become premises.

    David: Okay… I am not sure how to explain how I see it. As I read Owen, pecuniary assumptions are the platform by which he construct his intra-Trinitarian relationships, and it forms the platform by which he explicates his assumptions regarding “imputation” “justice” “sin-bearing” “payment” “ransom” etc etc. Its just the “way” he thought about “what” he thought about. When you come to folk like C Hodge, you see a world of difference. Andrew Fuller, for his part, saw the same thing in his evolution out of Gillite theology.

    I guess if I could sum up, pecuniary assumptions are the mechanisms by which he explicates his Trinitarian contractual model, on the one side, and the redemption of sinners on the other side. What I am saying is that the pecuniary aspects go way beyond his use of the double-payment dilemma to impact his very assumptions about the nature itself, of imputation, of expiation, of satisfaction, of contract, etc, even to the way he constructs the intra-Trinitarian relationships. That Trueman may not be able to see this is something I can perfectly understand. The infusion of pecuniary assumptions has blind-sided that wing of the Reformed community committed to the limited imputation of sin to Christ. In other words, it’s the very nature of “satisfaction” of “imputation” and of “sin-bearing” which is the problem for Owen. All of his assumptions at these points is what leads him, inexorably, to limited expiation. The double-payment dilemma is just one aspect which flows from these deeper concomitants. That’s the truly radical thesis in all this.

    Lastly, I want to go back to focus on one specific point in your paragraph above. You say:

    Indeed the conclusion from Trueman I quoted from above suggests that Owen’s position on the atonement did not begin simply by grasping commercial concepts and running, his whole position is based on serious reflection on the text over many years.

    David: I ask myself: “How could I evaluate and test that statement?” I mean, is there a later discourse on the satisfaction which reflects this maturity, and, in a meaningful way, does so without reliance upon pecuniary assumptions? Secondly, if you were able to point me to something, I would honest say: “Whew, I am so glad that he found his way out of that mess.” However, I would add that, that notwithstanding, it is still his Death of Death which continues to shape the present conversation, as it has for centuries for one wing of the Reformed community.

    Andrew: Anyhow, that’s all I really have to say for now. I will go and ponder some more. I’m going to read Chambers’ thesis. Thanks again for taking the time to deal with my questions, your replies have given me a lot to think about.

    David: Sure, let me know what you come up with. I hope I have helped a little.

    Thanks,
    David

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