Author Archive

Sometimes the Bible’s use of “all” and “world”
does not literally mean all people in the world.

A Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2H

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.


Schrock next addresses the issue of universal language in Scripture. This is a difficult hill to climb for Schrock and all proponents of particular redemption due to the fact that there are so many New Testament passages which on a straightforward reading affirm unlimited atonement. He fosters two arguments to help explain how the universal language of the New Testament supports definite atonement: the linguistic argument and the historical context of the apostles. Schrock begins by noting what all affirm: sometimes the Bible’s use of “all” and “world” does not literally mean all people in the world. He rightly reminds us that context is the key. He praises John Owen for his “attention to the text” in determining the author’s meaning. This is curious because Schrock seems oblivious to the many Calvinists, not to mention others, who have critiqued Owen for his failure in this very area. For example, as Neil Chambers demonstrated, in circular fashion Owen reads his conclusion back into the reasons for his conclusion (“A Critical Examination, 122). His procedure constantly begs the question. Furthermore, Schrock appears to miss the point that sometimes this universal language is stylized and hyperbolic in nature. His appeal to Matthew 3:5 is a case in point. The idea of limitation here is not “some of all kinds” of people, but rather that large groups are intended.

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“For egalitarians there is no place in the mind or heart of God for distinctive loves.”

A Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2G

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.

 

3. The Universal Impact of Definite Atonement.

Schrock’s final section addresses three vital subjects in the discussion: 1) the universal love of God, 2) the universal language of Scripture, and 3) the universal offer of the gospel (105-18).

Unfortunately, problems abound in this section as well. Schrock states that I equate God’s love with his universal will to save all people. I do indeed. In fact, so does Reformed orthodoxy. Though I disagree with the notion of God’s two wills (decretal and revealed), this concept is well known in Reformed orthodoxy. In God’s so called “revealed will,” God’s love is indeed a universal saving love (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9, et. al.). Schrock makes another error when he states, “for egalitarians there is no place in the mind or heart of God for distinctive loves.” Since he has already lumped all who reject limited atonement into the egalitarian basket, Schrock’s statement is untrue and misrepresents the beliefs of many of his fellow moderate Calvinists since they do indeed distinguish degrees in God’s love. His statement is even untrue for many non-Calvinists who do the same.

What Schrock writes on pages 108-09 is especially troubling to my spirit. Christians are not saved “because of some insipid universal love; it is because in His grace, God set His love on you before the foundation of the world.” (108). It is the first part of this statement that is so troubling to me. “Insipid universal love”? My heart sinks just reading it. Place that comment alongside John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Schrock then continues, Christ “does not throw the pearls of His sacrificial love at those from whom He does not expect, yes even engender, a return of love” (109). Pause and reflect on that statement. With echoes from Jesus’ statement “Do not cast your pearls before swine” Schrock applies the analogy to the non-elect. From these non-elect, Jesus neither “expects” a love response nor, in good Calvinist fashion, does He “engender” such a response within them. Schrock notes that Christ pursues His bride so that she “can experience the fullness of His love” (Ibid.). He then states: “This is far different from saying that God loves all, unconditionally, without exception” (Ibid.). Sadly, it certainly is. To top it all off, Schrock makes a direct statement to anyone who is an unbeliever: “Maybe today, you are reading this but don’t know Christ: let all the kindnesses that God has given you – your gifts, joys, family, children, your very own life – and the promise of everlasting love lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4); trust in His Son and then you can experience the personal love of which Paul speaks” (Ibid.).

For all the hue and cry made over the use and misuse of altar calls by some Calvinists, may I be permitted to reciprocate here and express my deepest concern about this statement in the sharpest of language. Such a message to the unsaved is bereft of the love of God and is virtually bankrupt. Look at it. Is it only the “kindness” of God that is designed to lead us to repentance? Is it only the “promise” of some vague everlasting love offered to the unsaved? This is not only bad theology, it is bad Reformed theology. It borders on, if it is not outright, hyper-Calvinism.

It reduces the gospel message to bare statements about facts and conditional statements, in which God’s own compassion and willingness that the unsaved be converted is entirely absent from the appeal. Can Schrock not even find it within himself to say to the unsaved “Jesus loves you!” or desires them all to be saved? The love of Christ for the unsaved has been shorn of its passion, and in its place comes an insipid, even embarrassing appeal to the unsaved. God may love you; you will only know for sure if you believe. I’ll bet Schrock was not converted under the preaching and teaching of such a limp expression of God’s love for him. This portion of Schrock’s chapter is disappointing beyond words, and illustrates why the discussion of this issue in the Southern Baptist Convention is so vital at this time. I hope this is not the direction we are headed. This is one of the reasons why I concluded my chapter in Whosoever with the statement: “Should the Southern Baptist Convention move toward ‘five-point’ Calvinism, such a move would be away from and not toward the gospel” (107). Limited atonement brings with it other errors into the church, both theological and practical. I believe Schrock’s brand of Calvinism is seriously problematic on the question of the love of God and the extent of the atonement.

 

A Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – 2F

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.


By appealing to Hebrews 2:12-15 apart from its context in Hebrews 2:5-9, Schrock fails to mention the significance of the quotation of Psalm 8:4-6 in Hebrews 2:6-8, followed by verse 9 which speaks of Jesus “tasting death for everyone,” the grammar of which indicates that Christ’s death was substitutionary in nature and universal in extent. Schrock’s notion that Jesus’ taking on human nature shared by all is merely coincidental to the fact that the elect are human is the argument John Owen and many Reformed theologians have made in an attempt to support limited atonement. Attempting to interpret the quotation which speaks of all humanity immediately followed by Christ’s death as being “for everyone” using the more limited terms found in Hebrews 2:12-16 is backwards. The former governs the latter, not the other way around. Interestingly, unlike John Owen who used Hebrews 2:14 to counter universalism by arguing limited atonement, John Calvin made no such use of Hebrews 2:14 to counter the same objection. For Calvin, what separates the elect from the non-elect is saving union with Christ, not limited atonement. Schrock refers to Hebrews 9 several times in this section of his chapter in an effort to connect the priestly activity of Christ with limited atonement. It is also interesting to see what Calvin himself says about Hebrews 9: 28: “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.”

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A Selective Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2E

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.


This post and the subsequent four which will follow are a continuation of Dr. Allen’s review and critique of David Schrock’s chapter on the extent of the atonement entitled “Jesus Saves, No Asterisk Needed” in Whomever He Wills (hereafter WHW).

Part 2A | Part 2B | Part 2C | Part 2D

Dr. Allen considers Schrock’s section addressing the typological symbolism of Christ’s high priestly activity as evidence for definite atonement (90-99). As a reminder for clarification, with respect to definitions, the phrases “limited atonement,” “particular redemption,” and “definite atonement” as used in Schrock’s chapter and by Dr. Allen in this review should be defined to mean “Christ died only for the sins of the elect.” The “limited” in “limited atonement” refers to the limited sin-bearing nature of Christ’s death; he only satisfied for the sins of the elect.

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A Selective Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2D

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.


(Ed.’s note: What follows below is Part 2D. This follows Part 2C that appeared on Aug. 15.)

 

6) The Efficacious Nature of the Atonement.

On pages 85-90, Schrock moves from the discussion of the particular nature of Christ’s atonement to the efficacious nature of it. Here there is less to disagree with, but some troublesome spots occur. Schrock writes, “Historically, those who have defended penal substitution have usually embraced definite atonement” (88). In light of the large variety of Calvinists throughout Reformed history who have affirmed a form of unlimited atonement, coupled with the large number of non-Calvinists like John Wesley who affirmed unlimited atonement along with penal substitution, this statement needs qualification. In the footnote, he mistakenly cites Shedd who was actually moderate on the question of the extent of the atonement. (I am here assuming Schrock is citing Shedd as a proponent of Limited Atonement.)

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