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Double-Payment and Double-Jeopardy: Three Documented Responses

December 4, 2008

Recently I saw one blog reference the double-payment dilemma. You can see its very brief remark here.

I would like to table a clarification regarding the theological point of the double-payment double-jeopardy dilemma.

But first, I would like to keep this as friendly as possible. If anyone wants to reply or challenge me, please stay with the topic, don’t make it personal.

John Owen was not the first to argue that if God punished a man’s sins in Christ, God could not punish that man for his own sin, in his own person again. Now, the thing to keep in mind, though, is that as far as I can see, Owen tabled a double-payment argument, and never properly a double-jeopardy argument. The two are distinct, assuming different premises.

I think one of the earliest responses to the double-payment “dilemma” is from Ursinus, who sought to refute Socinian universalism. The Socinians were using the double-payment dilemma to prove universalism. Ursinus countered that by arguing that Christ died for all as to the expiation and satisfaction, but that the application is limited to those who meet the condition, namely faith.

The second documented response was by John Davenant. However, now the conclusion is flipped. His opponents were using it to “prove” limited expiation. Edward Polhill, a friend of Owen, also responds to the the double-payment dilemma as used by Owen. Other Puritans also tabled their own responses and rebuttals.

As far as we can document, the double-jeopardy dilemma is a more recent argument.

In terms of the process of the argument it all works like this: double-payment, double-jeopardy are arguments invoked to prove limited expiation by way of proving the impossibility of unlimited expiation. Hence it is impossible that Christ was punished for the sins of all men, else all men would be saved, and no man could be sent to hell, to suffer in his own person for his own sins. Most people understand the mechanics of the logic, so I will not labour that in further explanation.

To these double-payment and double-jeopardy arguments, we table what can be called ‘defeaters.’ These defeaters are not Amyraldian arguments. I can say that with certainty because these defeaters are straight out of the writings of Charles Hodge, RL Dabney, and WGT Shedd. Unless one wants to label these three men as Amyraldians, one has to admit that the ‘defeaters’ are not somehow intrinsically Amyraldian. And one should say, asserting that these defeaters are ‘Amyraldian’ is itself not a satisfactary defeater. :-)

The three lines of approach from C Hodge, Dabney and Shedd can be found here:

Charles Hodge

RL Dabney

WGT Shedd

Now to date, we have not seen any serious response to these defeaters. We have never seen a ‘defeater’ to these defeaters. The most we have seen is the categorical denial that the living unbelieving elect were ever subject to or objects of the judicial wrath of God (contra Dabney). If anyone wishes to take up this point, I am willing to interact upon that point and show how it is biblically unsustainable.

Moving on, another serious implication will result, must result.

There are only two options that I can see.

1) Either C Hodge, Dabney and Shedd were wrong


2) We have misinterpreted their defeaters.

Regarding 2), this is quite possible. All we ask for are good credible reasons as to why we may have so misread all three.

Regarding 1), there are two alternatives. Either they were just inconsistent with themselves, which I do not find credible, or else they actually subscribed to a distinctive version of penal satisfaction, which version is not actually the same as set out by others, such as John Owen.

If it is claimed that C Hodge, Dabney and Shedd were just internally inconsistent, still then credible responses must be supplied showing why their defeaters are invalid.

Lastly, for further reading on the problematics of a pecuniary satisfaction, see JI Packer and Carl Trueman. For reading on the use of biblical pecuniary metaphors, see C Hodge and Andrew Fuller, for two examples.

To close this out,

We think that these three defeaters properly and correctly refute the 2 dilemmas often tabled by advocates of limited expiation. We ask that they be taken seriously, and not just dismissively waved away.



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