Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Answering Objections to The Atonement 2

II.   It has also been argued that the doctrine of the atonement is inconsistent with divine immutability. The atonement is supposed to effect a change in the mind of God: that He is reconciled, on account of the atonement, to those with whom He was formerly displeased, and compelled to love what He formerly hated.

The problems with this objection are:

A. Much of what we said above regarding the first objection could equally be applied to this one, because at heart it resolves into the same objection. But it should also be noted that whenever orthodox theologians have used language which seems to imply a change in God, this is nothing more than what is done by the inspired authors themselves. Scripture frequently uses that we call anthropopathism.

B. This may seem like we are shifting the difficulty from our shoulders to that of the authors of Scripture. But look at it this way: Are we to suppose, on the authority of Scripture, no less, that the atonement does effect a change on the immutable God? This would be blasphemy. What we affirm is that the texts of Scripture which do use anthropopathism only seem to imply a change in God. We do not say that they really imply such a thing.

Well, what then do they imply? To speak of a change in the nature, or attributes, or will of God is blasphemous and absurd. But it is neither blasphemous nor absurd to speak of a change in the mode of the divine administration. Anger, wrath and displeasure are not the same passions in God that they in man when we use those words. They are terms which denote the binding opposition of God’s rectitude to those who have violated the righteous law of the Lord who loves righteousness. They describe the relation into which iniquity brings transgressors to the Lawgiver and Judge of the universe. It is the language of government not the language of passion. Hence what the atonement effects is, not a change in God the Lawgiver, but a change in the administration of His government: a change in the relation that subsists between His creatures and Him. 

C. This objection is an explicit denial of the doctrine of Election. It works on the supposition that God’s love for His elect is no different than for the non-elect, or that God has the same love for those He has reprobated as He has for the elect. God has set His chesed love upon the elect from before the foundations of the world, and therefore He was not compelled by the atonement to love elect sinners for whom He had previously had no chesed.

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