Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chapter Five: Christ's Infinite Merit

(Justification = we are saved by works! Christ's obedient-works.)

This is the fifth and last chapter of The Infinite Merit of Christ by Craig Biehl. It's been helpful in focusing my attention on those sections of Edwards I need to go to for tracing his thought on Original Sin and the center of his theology, as well as getting a good handle on the positive-obedience-side of the Justification debate. However as I've been reviewing the book using the word infinite has been getting increasingly complicated!


Andrew commented on chapter four, that having disobedience being "infinitely hateful" (Edwards) makes something equally as large as God. This is interesting because that's exactly the same argument I used in an earlier discussion about the edge of the universe to assert the universe could only be finite. However Radagast pointed out that for example temporal infinity isn't the same as epistemological infinity. Maybe infinity doesn't have to be an absolute single thing but simply a characteristic of something else. So while God is infinitely loving, his love doesn't become a rival god but shares the same characteristic. [picture = h/t Radagast]

Adam and Christ under the same law
"First, having freely bound himself to the terms of the covenant of redemption, Christ as mediator was subject to God's rule of righteousness, as was Adam." (Infinite Merit, Biehl, 158)
  • God's rule of righteousness reigned over both Adam and then Christ.
  • "Every command that Christ obeyed may be reduced to that great and everlasting law of God ... established between himself and mankind." (Edwards, 161)
Christ's obedience has both 'positive' and 'negative' aspects
"Second, Christ justifies unworthy sinners by the meritorious righteousness of His perfect obedience as their surety and representative. As both perfect and voluntary, Christ's obedience was meritorious, while sinners are justified by possessing the meritorious righteousness of Christ." (Biehl, 158)
  • Edwards says "Every act that Christ performed in obedience to the Father, after he once put himself into a state of subjection, was part of his righteouess imputed to us, and performed in obedience to the same law that Adam was made under." (172)
  • Edwards doesn't distinguish between what Christ did the last few hours of his ministry and the first 30 years. Instead Edwards asserts Christ both took the negative penalty for disobedience and positively obeyed God.
  • As Christians, if we are 'united to Christ,' we are able to partake in these two aspects of obedience (not that Edwards wants to separate them much) through justification.
However the death of Christ is still a special part of obedience
"Third, Christ's obedience unto death was not only propitiatory, but the 'most exalted part of Christ's positive righteousness.' As a voluntary and infinite condescension of one of infinite glory to infinite humiliation and suffering on behalf of the infinitely undeserving, Christ's obedience was an infinitely meritorious act of love to the Father and the elect." (Biehl, 158)
  • Edwards argues the size of Christ's action is infinite.
  • Christ's death is significant and special because it takes care of the cost of disobedience
  • Edwards while occasionally using the language of passive and active obedience, sees nothing passive in Christ actively laying down his life!
  • The blood of Christ is "infinitely precious" because of the dignity of the Son of God. (Edwards, 208) It's not just Jonah or Adam's blood, it belongs to God the Son.
It's all obedience
"Fourth, all of Christ's works as mediator were propitiatory in their suffering and humiliation, and meritorious in their obedience and righteousness."(Biehl, 158)
  • Here Biehl drives home again the point that while Edwards sometimes used the language of passive and active obedience, they are really aspects of the same obedience.
  • Edwards says the language of "purchase" isn't a problem because there is a broader understanding of satisfaction of God's rule or righteousness underpinning it.
How are we connected to Christ's obedience then?
"Fifth, the infinite merit of Christ's obedience, as the surety and representative of His bride, earned the exaltation promised by the Father in the covenant of redemption." (Biehl, 158)
  • "By virtue of the union between Christ and believers, it follows that believers must be partakers of all Christ's glorification." (Edwards, 229)
  • According to Edwards Christ did not die as a private person but as our representative, our "head." (Edwards, 229)
  • The day of judgement will be a day of "vindication" of God's glory. (Edwards, 236) In other-words a display of God's glory.
"Thy will be done."
"And last, Christ accomplished, to an infinite degree, the ultimate Trinitarian purpose of God to display and communicate His glory to His creatures." (Biehl, 158)

4 comments:

Andrew Bowles said...

Infinite merit, but limited atonement?

Luke said...

Have my cake and eat it!

Luke said...

"Limited" is an unfortunate word implying that atonement is somehow contingent on our participation. So I would shift the apparent contradiction to Romans 9 "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." For the members of the elect, atonement is universally applied and effectual, there is no provisionality. Now what does that mean for the infinite merit of Christ? It wouldn't be infinite in glory if it brought the disobedient into communion with the Trinity. Infinite glory cannot mean universalism because that would blend disobedience with obedience making obedience an empty expression. Therefore the merit of Christ, is infinite for the elect and never intended or applied to the reprobate. So the problem becomes why did God make it this way; to which I have no answer within triangle of God's goodness, evil evilness and God's sovereignty.

Andrew Bowles said...

I think this is the problem that I was alluding to in the previous post with the question about infinity. It's not so much whether or not the concept of infinity can be used to refer to other qualities apart from spatial extent, but whether sin/evil is allowed to have a foothold in the being of God. In the first instance I was reacting to the idea that sin gains infinity from being an affront to God, somehow mirroring his Being. Here it's that the infinite merit of Christ is actually circumscribed by God's (inexplicable) prior commitment to having an eternity in which sin still exists. But this is probably just about my fundamental issues with Calvinism, and I don't want to troll your blog about that. :)