Both Eric Svendsen and I are very busy these days, and as I’m sure he will affirm, most of that busy-ness has nothing to do with Dave Armstrong. I have so many articles to write I can barely keep track of them all (in fact, I have this horrible feeling I’ve forgotten one), and an exciting book project to work on, and more traveling heading my direction, as well as debate preparation (we finally have a Roman Catholic opponent for the Great Debate X!—more info soon, and I am debating Bob Wilkin in April). So, I have approached our discussion very carefully, and very slowly, simply because there are only so many hours in the day.
Further, I really want this conversation to be beneficial in an encouraging, edifying way. The only folks really interested in this topic are very serious about the Word and God’s truth. I could really care less what others might say about the interchange. To be honest, the vast majority of the folks Eric and I take on regularly would no more wish to get down into the trenches of biblical exegesis than they would like to have a root canal. They avoid it like the plague, and I’m not just talking about Roman Catholics here, that’s for sure.
As I read Dr. Svendsen’s last installment, I note the following key issues:
1) I believe the role of the Son as the great High Priest of the people of God is pre-figured in the high priests of the old covenant; their ministry, Hebrews tells us, is fulfilled and completed in Him. His role as both offering and offerer is part of what makes Him a “better” mediator of a better covenant based upon better promises. The High Priest offers in the holy of holies the sacrifice He offered upon the altar, and I believe the offering and the resultant appearance in the Holy Place and ministry of intercession that takes place there are a singular work. To separate the offering from the intercession is to make intercession a separate work and thus render the sacrifice insufficient in and of itself without the “addition” of intercession. I believe passages such as Heb. 9:11-15, 24-26, present a unified work of the High Priest that indicates the extent of this singular and unified work is limited to the elect. Dr. Svendsen disagrees in these words:
Just how does affirming that Christ will not fail to offer his blood (his sacrificial death) in the holy of holies in intercession for his elect somehow necessitate that Christ’s atonement is limited to those for whom he intercedes? In my view, the former (those included in the atonement) is simply a larger category than the latter (those included in intercession).
Along these lines, Dr. Svendsen also asserts that to atone for the sins of some, He must atone for the sins of all. In his words:
In order to atone for the sins of some (intent), one must atone for the sins of all (extent). Christ did not take the form of the elect; he took the form of man. His death can’t help but atone for the sins of all those whose nature he shares-all those “in Adam.” And so, Christ’s death atones for the sins of everyone (extent); but he intercedes for and saves only those whom he has elected, called and justified.
I do not see any reason to accept this argumentation; unless I am mistaken, the argument is that Christ’s death atones for all in Adam because He took on a human nature. I do not see the New Testament writers making this argument: in fact, in Romans 5, the argument is that Christ’s work justified “the many,” not “the all,” despite the parallel to Adam. I do not see any reason to accept the argument that the Incarnation defines the extent of Christ’s atoning death anymore than it must define the extent of intercession (does Christ not intercede as the God-man?) or sanctification or adoption or anything else. Further, in this point, we must address the meaning of the terms avpolu,trwsij and i`lasmo,j .
Since this is an important issue, worthy of contemplation and study, I will be posting my response over three days, so as to avoid over-reaching the time available to most readers of this blog. Part II will be posted tomorrow.