I was re-reading Charles Spurgeon’s famous sermon “A defense of Calvinism” and found that he makes the same old argument against unlimited atonement that we so often hear--the “double payment” argument--that, as Spurgeon says:
To think that my Savior died for men who were, or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain! [...] that God, having first punished the substitute, afterwards punished the sinners, seems to conflict with all my ideas of divine justice; that Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity [...]
In his review of Chapter 18 of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, Dr David Allen takes on the double payment argument and convincingly shows that this view fails to understand the true nature of atonement and imputation; it wrongly sees the atonement as a commercial transaction wherein “so much is owed and so much is paid”.
Dr Allen writes, in part:
Like Owen, Williams appears to be operating from a sort of quantitative transference view of imputation: specific guilt for specific sins of the elect alone is laid on Christ. But this is problematic.While our sins are imputed to Christ, before our conversion we remain under the wrath of God as Paul states in Eph. 2:1-3. As Dabney says, God holds the unbelieving elect subject to wrath until they believe. Williams mentions this problem (486) but fails to address this objection by Dabney and others that the living unbelieving elect are under the wrath of God.Williams also fails to address how God can justly postpone the grant of faith to the people for whom Christ died, if Christ literally “purchased” faith for them. Hodge says,“The moment the debt is paid the debtor is free, and that completely. No delay can be admitted, and no conditions can be attached to his deliverance.”Owen & Williams’ Faulty View of Imputation.Would Owen consider the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers as the transference of so many acts of law-keeping? It would seem not. Are believers credited with specific acts of righteousness on Christ’s part? No, we are credited with a quality of righteousness, or treated as though we had obeyed God’s law categorically by virtue of our union with Christ. All of Christ’s acts of obedience fall under the somewhat abstract class or moral category of “righteousness.”Just as believers are not imputed with something like so many particular acts of righteousness but rather with righteousness categorically, so also Christ was not imputed with all the particular sinful acts of some people, like so many “sin-bits,” but rather with sin in a comprehensive way. He was treated as though he were sinful, or categorically guilty of the sin of the whole human race.Owen, and it would seem Williams as well, has a faulty notion of imputation. The truth is, Christ died one death that all sinners deserve under the law. In paying the penalty of what one sinner deserves, he paid the penalty of what every sinner deserves. He suffered the curse of the law as defined by the law. Owen’s double payment and trilemma arguments undermine the true meaning of imputation and operate on the assumption of the transference of specific sins.Owen’s trilemma necessarily operates on the assumption that there was a quantitative imputation of sins to Christ. The biblical idea of imputation does not work that way, and Reformed people do not even think of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers in that quantitative way.Charles Hodge, in contrast, has retained the proper understanding of imputation:What was suitable for one was suitable for all. The righteousness of Christ, the merit of his obedience and death, is needed for justification by each individual of our race, and therefore is needed by all. It is no more appropriate to one man than to another. Christ fulfilled the conditions of the covenant under which all men were placed. He rendered the obedience required of all, and suffered the penalty which all had incurred; and therefore his work is equally suited to all.Williams is at odds with Hodge.