By this point in our look at the first chapter of Benjamin B. Warfield’s The Plan of Salvation we’ve seen the biblical pattern of salvation narrowed to a Theistic, Supernatural, Evangelical course. Warfield now sub-divides that group by identifying where a reliance of a naturalistic or man-centered approach can still be found (no matter how slight). He begins by examining two groups who while ostensibly Supernatural and Evangelical, still give room to some form of naturalism or sacerdotalism. First up are the Lutheran Evangelicals, adherents of a “conservative Reformation”. While this group has separated itself from Rome, there can still be found an underlying sacerdotalism, whether it be found in the form of baptismal regeneration or consubstantiation. The other group involved are those pesky Dutch Remonstrants and their semi-pelagianism: the evangelical Arminians. Sacerdotalism isn’t the problem, but a naturalistic man-centered basis for salvation can still be found. The true Reformed and biblical plan for salvation should be uncolored by any influence of of either of these things.
Warfield suggests that the principle classification would should be looking for among evangelicals is not so much the influence of sacerdotalism or naturalism but rather how God exerts his saving power on men:
“The point of division here is whether God is conceived to have planned actually himself to save men by his almighty and certainly efficacious grace, or only so to pour out his grace upon men as to enable them to be saved, without actually securing, however in any particular cases that they shall be saved.”
So the Arminian will say that God has universally made salvation possible to every man. This salvation is from God alone, but there is still a responsibility in man to get all Captain Picard and say “Make it so.” The problem with this universalist line of thinking is evident. If as the supernaturalist says, God alone saves the souls of men, and not man, and God alone works his saving grace directly on the soul, a evangelicals hold, then it follows that a God who universally does this to all men should see all men saved. Unitarians would say here, Amen. Arminians would say, “uh… well, not exactly” and point out man’s responsibility. But by doing so appeal to naturalism in a professed supernatural system.
“The precise issue which divides the universalists and the particularists is, accordingly, just whether the saving grace of God, in which alone is salvation, actually saves. Does its presence mean salvation, or may it be present, and yet salvation fail?”
The consistent view in the Theistic supernatural evangelical course is that of the particularist, held by the apostles, Augustine, and the Reformed church at large. God deals with men on an individual basis and saves them by his grace through an immediate regeneration. God’s salvation is applied by God and is immediate and sure – not merely allowing for the possibility of salvation. The particularist alone is able to proclaim Soli Deo gloria and remain consistent within his course of thought.
Monday: A break from Warfield in favor of Mr. T’s continuing commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
Tuesday: Back w\ the end of chapter 1 – A three-way battle royal between Supralapsarians, Infralapsarians, and Amyraldians!