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

September 5, 2012

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.

What Schrock and many others want to do is to use such stylized language in an attempt to norm all the non-stylized uses of “all” and “world.” His appeal to the concept of “all without distinction” is meaningless. When “all” is used in this way, all “all” means is all without any ethnic distinction. The use of this language is not meant to denote “some men of all kinds.” Merely appealing to the notion of “all men without distinction” does not preclude the idea of all men without limitation. “All men” often means everyone without any ethnic distinction.

Consider Schrock’s quote of Moses Stuart’s commentary on Hebrews 2:9. He rightly points out that Stuart does not adhere to limited atonement, but then wrongly concludes from Stuart’s point that in some cases the phrase “for all” or “for all men” means all without distinction; Jews as well as Gentiles. As I noted in Whosoever, it is not uncommon to find some Calvinists who affirm Christ died for all men to interpret the focus of some of these texts to indicate a focus on all without ethnic distinction. The error is concluding that therefore none of these texts means also “all without exception” or that there are no texts where “all” or “world” means “all without exception.” Schrock has already conceded that Stuart affirms unlimited atonement. Notice the conclusion Schrock draws from Stuart’s point: “Significantly, Stuart not only interprets the words of Hebrews 2:9 as a distributive (all without distinction), he principalizes his interpretation saying ‘the considerate interpreter, who understands the nature of the idiom, will never think of seeking, in expressions of this kind, proof of the final salvation of every individual of the human race’” (110). Schrock has made a significant error here in misreading what Stuart said. Notice carefully what Stuart concluded and what he did not conclude. He concluded that one cannot interpret this universal language as proof for universalism. He did not conclude that such language supports limited atonement. There is a world of difference between “universalism” and “universal atonement.” Stuart rejects the former even as he accepts the latter.

Schrock’s second argument concerning the use of universal language in Scripture is actually along the same lines as his previous argument. He attempts to show that “world” in the minds of the first century apostles was more an ethnic designation meaning not just Jews alone, but also Gentiles. As we have already said, this does not vitiate the significance of the universal language. If the focus of “world” means “without distinction as to Jew and Gentile,” then fine. In the culture of the apostles, all people in the world fell into one of those two classes. Again, this is no defeater for the interpretation of “all” and “world” in some contexts to mean “all unsaved people.” Schrock mentions John 3:16 again (112) stating that it is God’s intention to save Jew and Gentile alike. Does this mean God’s “love” in that verse only extends to the elect among Jews and Gentiles? It would appear that is Schrock’s interpretation.

There are many other universal passages in the New Testament that bear directly on the extent of the atonement. Schrock mentions some of these but declines to consider them due to “space considerations.” Fair enough. I had to limit myself to a consideration of only a few passages in my chapter on the extent of the atonement in Whosoever. But Schrock’s final statement in this section appears unwarranted, given the evidence: “. . . based on the work of others, it is believed that similar conclusions would be found in these New Testament texts” (113).

Schrock’s third part of his final section deals with the question of the universal offer of the gospel. He acknowledges that in the New Testament the offer of the gospel was made indiscriminately to all people without exception (114). He also acknowledges how this is a problem for those who hold to limited atonement. He neglects to inform his readers that a significant group of Calvinists reject the concept of the universal offer of the gospel. They are called “hyper-Calvinists.” See, for example, David Englesma’s book Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel: an Examination of the Well-Meant Gospel Offer. Notice in this section Schrock provides no definition of what the gospel offer is or entails. Notice also there is no affirmation that God desires the salvation of all men in His revealed will according to Reformed orthodoxy. This absence is telling.

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Tim Rogers

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for your balanced approach and your pointing to error without relegating the argument to attacks on the writer. The issue of Limited Atonement is one that many Calvinists have to explain in order for it to be palatable.

Steve Martin

The Bible says in many places and in many ways that Christ died for the whole world, for all people, etc. and that is what a loving God would do.

The Calvinists would have us approach people and say, ‘Christ might have died for you.’

Otherwise they would have us be liars.

    Robert

    Again seeing what Steve Martin has said again, I cannot resist reposting the following joke. Althuogh it is funny, it really makes the point well:

    “How can u spot a Calvinist at a football game?

    He’s the one holding the sign that reads John 3:16 may not apply to you.”

    Robert

    PS- Dr. Allen or anyone else who writes something critiquing calvinism’s limited atonement view. You may want to use this joke as it is both funny and succinctly and clearly shows the problem with limited atonement. Speaking as a preacher now, sometimes the best way to make a point memorable is through humor, and this one does the job very well! :-)

      Sam

      …while we are all reposting jokes:

      How do you find a Traditionalist in a Bible study? He’s the one who knows no other Bible verse except John 3:16.

      Isn’t it fun to make jokes, Robert?

        Robert

        Hello Sam,

        A good joke is good precisely because it contains some truth to it.

        My joke is both true and funny, it really does contain the truth about what calvinists believe.

        Your joke on the other hand is not true. It is also not really that funny.

        Traditionalists know quite a bit of scripture as amply shown here by the example of Dr. Allen whose knowledge of scripture is absolutely destroying the false calvinistic doctrine of limited atonement. I have observed here that “Traditionalists” here know quite a few scriptures, so your joke is not based on any truth at all.

        Sam you asked:

        “Isn’t it fun to make jokes, Robert?”

        Actually it **is** fun. I joke around a lot with people all the time. And there are some very good and healthy reasons to be frequently telling jokes.

        Robert

          Sam

          Your joke is not true, Robert. It is a misrepresentation of Calvinism. But misrepresentation is what we have come to expect.

            Robert

            I shared a joke which is funny precisely because it is true. Sam in response writes:

            “Your joke is not true, Robert. It is a misrepresentation of Calvinism. But misrepresentation is what we have come to expect.”

            Now I want to make sure that this is completely out in the open for all to see.

            Contrary to theological determinists who have to hide their true beliefs in order to win converts and persuade others to accept their false ideas. I don’t have to hide anything as the bible is clear and calvinism is clear as well.

            I will repeat the joke and then explain it so that Sam and everyone else will “get it” with no misunderstanding:

            “How can u spot a Calvinist at a football game?

            He’s the one holding the sign that reads John 3:16 may not apply to you.”

            Most of us, I am guessing Sam included, have seen football games (whether college or professional) in which there are sometimes people in the stands who hold up signs quoting John 3:16. Those who hold up these signs genuinely believe that God really does love the world, everyone, and this is best seen in the Father’s so loving the world that he gave Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of the whole world. This sign has been seen at so many games that most people have immediate recognition of this phenomenon the minute you make reference to it.

            The first line of the joke draws people’s attention to this phenomena. The joke is a play on the reality of these signs versus what a calvinist would do if they had such a sign at a football game. The reality is that people who have these signs want everyone there (as well as all those millions of people watching on Television) to know that God loves everyone as John 3:16 makes absolutely clear.

            Now that is the reality: that people frequently have these signs at football games and that the sign conveys the belief that God loves everyone as shown by Jesus dying for everyone on the cross.

            But the joke gets its funnyness, its sharp edge by the fact that calvinists deny the plain and intended meaning of John 3:16.

            They don’t accept that it means that God loves everyone and gave Jesus for everyone.

            Their theology if they are consistent with it, FORCES THEM TO REJECT the plain and true meaning of John 3:16.
            According to their theology, God does not want everyone to be saved, he does not love everyone, and instead he loves only the preselected elect. The others, those who will go to hell, are not loved by God, He does not want them to be saved. So the love of God expressed in John 3:16 does not apply to what calvinists call “reprobates.”

            Actually if calvinists were honest (some are) and not playing verbal semantic games masking this reality, they would openly admit that God hates most of the human race.

            Because what God does in reprobation (preplanning for a nonbeliever to be a nonbeliever, making sure they cannot be saved, ensuring their eternal damnation, predestinating their every sin and act of rebellion and nonbelief, then judging them at the final judgment for doing what God himself predestined for them to do) IS THE MOST HATEFUL THING THAT COULD BE DONE TO A PERSON. There are some awful things that happen to people during their lifetimes. But what God would be doing to nonbelievers whom he has reprobated would be much worse than anything that happens to anyone in this life. And God doing this to people would involve an eternal hatred (he hated them in eternity, he hates them in this life and then he hates them at the final judgement and hates them eternally).

            Now if God reprobates people in this way, which a consistent calvinist will maintain, then such a calvinist could never hold up the John 3:16 sign at a football game believing that God truly loves all people. And that is where the joke comes in: it conveys THIS TRUTH about calvinism that John 3:16 if calvinism is true may not apply to a person. Because in calvinism God does not desire the salvation of the world, does not love the world, but in fact only loves some of the world. Hence John 3:16 if calvinism is true only applies to part of the world, so it may not apply to you.

            This joke is no misrepresentaton of Calvinism as Sam claims, but gets its kick from the fact that it make a joke about what calvinists really believe.

            Sam if you don’t like the joke, it is only because you believe (or want to believe) lies about John 3:16 and God’s plan of salvation that calvinists want to believe (i.e. that God really does not love the whole world, that God really hates most of the human race/those who he preplans for damnation from eternity).

            I am not misrepresenting calvinism at all, I am putting this critter out in the open so we can see how ugly and repulsive this beast really is.

            Robert

            Sam

            Precisely. You still don’t get it, Robert.

      Steve Martin

      Nice oner, Robert!

      Very funny…and I had not heard it before.

Ron Hale

Life can be strange – while many in the Reformed tradition have moved away from “limited atonement” over the years …certain Southern Baptists have been moving toward it.

    Lydia

    Funny you should say that, Ron. I have noticed the same thing. But one thing I do not understand is how can people pick and choose from the TULIP. Doesn’t one need them all to support each other? So, what is the point of the I without the T (as defined by Calvin)? How can you have the L without the I? And why would you need the I without the U? I guess I can see it but not without a lot of mental gymnastics to jump through.

      Robert

      Hello Lydia,

      “Funny you should say that, Ron. I have noticed the same thing. But one thing I do not understand is how can people pick and choose from the TULIP. Doesn’t one need them all to support each other? So, what is the point of the I without the T (as defined by Calvin)? How can you have the L without the I? And why would you need the I without the U? I guess I can see it but not without a lot of mental gymnastics to jump through.”

      Lydia you have to realize that the acronym TULIP is of more recent origin than the heart of the calvinist theology.

      The heart of calvinist theology, the sin quo non, the part that every calvinist whether 4 or 5 point or whatever holds to is “U”/unconditional election.

      Everything flows from that stream.

      Total depravity explains why the non-elect/reprobates will never become and cannot become believers. Irresistable grace explains why the elect have to become believers and why it is impossible that they not become believers. Perseverance of the saints explains why those who are chosen for salvation will never be lost.

      Limited atonement merely becomes a belief once the other beliefs are in place. Once you believe that God only desires to save the preselected elect and that irresistable grace ensures that they are saved. It logically makes sense that Jesus would only intend to die for the preselected elect. I mean why should he die for those who are chosen for damnation? Why should he die for those whom God does not love? Why should he die for those who cannot under any circumstances in this particular world history ever become believers.

      Once you have these ideas in place and you add the mistakes of people like John Owen who argue that the atonement is like a commercial transaction (God better spend only as much money as he needs to, to save the preselected elect and no one else). Then limited atonement becomes logically necessary if you want to hold to a consistent system.

      The reason that some determinists are so-called 4 pointers is that they actually take what the bible says regarding the atonement as more important than the logic of the system. And one can easily be a 4 pointer if they continue to hold to T, U, I, and P (all doctrinal beliefs held by theological determinists **before** the TULIP acronym was invented).

      Put simply, the belief in unconditional election predated the acronym TULIP in history.

      Hope that helps answer your question.

      Robert

        holdon

        “U”/unconditional election.

        Everything flows from that stream.”

        I think you’re right. The Jews were God’s chosen people. But it made them over confident and even arrogant, such as to reject Jesus during His life and becoming co-responsible for His death.
        John’s gospel is entirely about that tension between those who claimed to be God’s people and the One God had sent for their salvation. It’s telling that these “determinists” base so much on John, blinded as they are to his message.
        Paul also deconstructs the reasoning in Rom 9 and onward, where he says that if you base your claims on lineage from Abraham, then you would need to include Ishmael also; if you claim that he was only a slave’s son, then take the case of Isaac: you need to include Esau. So, on that basis (God’s Sovereignty) they would not necessarily be “safe”. God could brake off the natural branches, just as had happened to Ishmael and Esau and could graft in wild ones (the Gentiles which they so arrogantly despised).

        Sadly, we see a similar spirit through the ages in Christendom. An arrogance of “the select” especially when and where the movement grew.

        Hear the prayer of the (s)elect:

        “God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men”.

        That’s why they talk about “the insipid love of God” for the rest of men. And so they talk about “God passes them over” when they don’t want to say: “the reprobate are predestined to damnation”.

        Paul’s warning is severe:

        Be not high-minded, but fear:
        if God indeed has not spared the natural branches; lest it might be he spare not thee either.

          Sam

          holdon,

          I”m shocked that you would accuse Calvinists of saying this:

          “God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men”.

          Because that is exactly what Calvinists accuse Traditionalists of doing. After all, you accepted Christ when others in your same situation rejected him–making you different than other men. It seems to me that Calvinists have bigger reason to accuse you of doing this, more reason than you have of accusing them of doing it. This is a perfect example of “The pot calling the kettle black.”

            Steve Martin

            Sam,

            You have a point there.

            Making a ‘decision for Jesus’, or ‘accepting Jesus’ can certainly lead to pride.

            Jesus is the One who makes a decision for us. The words, ‘accept Jesus’ are not even in the New Testament.

            But that doesn’t make ‘limited atonement’ true.

            holdon

            “The words, ‘accept Jesus’ are not even in the New Testament.”

            Well then you don’t know the New Testament. Sorry.

            “but as many as received him, to them gave he the right to be children of God, to those that believe on his name”

            “he that receives me receives him who has sent me.”

            Apparently the context of the Luke 18 is lost on the both of you. Because it’s about “the elect”. Let me quote the passage to you:

            And shall not God at all avenge his elect, who cry to him day and night, and he bears long as to them?I say unto you that he will avenge them speedily. But when the Son of man comes, shall he indeed find faith on the earth? And he spoke also to some, who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and made nothing of all the rest of men, this parable: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer.
            The Pharisee, standing, prayed thus to himself: God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men,,

            Steve Martin

            Holden,

            You received life when you were born. What did you have to do with it?

            Sam

            Steve +1

            holdon

            “You received life when you were born. What did you have to do with it?”

            Sorry, I was alive before I was born.

            You seem to have a (common) misunderstanding of being born again. Look it up and see that “begetting” ALWAYS takes 2. The seed needs to be conceived (received).

            We are begotten by the seed of the living Word of God. Who did the hearing, the receiving? We did: “this is the word which in the glad tidings is preached to you.” 1 Pet 1:25

            Robert

            Sam wrote:

            “I”m shocked that you would accuse Calvinists of saying this:
            “God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men”.”

            Why so shocked Sam?

            Some Calvinists have quite a reputation for being extremely arrogant and condescending individuals. And I have read their comments and heard them say things that do convey the attitude that they believe:

            “God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men.”

            If you want another comparison these same arrogant Calvinists come across as being virtually identical in their attitudes about themselves and others as the Pharisees that Jesus dealt with in the first century were. The Pharisees rejected the truth that Jesus was presenting and looked down on the common people. Some calvinists reject the truth that is presented in scripture (e.g. that Jesus died for the whole world, that God desires the salvation of all people, etc. etc.) and also look down on non-calvinists the way the Pharisees looked down on the common people.

            The names have changed but the attitudes remain the same. Personally I like the common people a lot better than I do the Pharisees.

            “Because that is exactly what Calvinists accuse Traditionalists of doing. After all, you accepted Christ when others in your same situation rejected him–making you different than other men. It seems to me that Calvinists have bigger reason to accuse you of doing this, more reason than you have of accusing them of doing it. This is a perfect example of “The pot calling the kettle black.””

            Sam how many people have you been blessed in being involved in their coming to the Lord?

            And if you have ever done so, how many of them boasted or are boasting that they are better than others for having begged God to save them?

            You calvinist types make this claim repeatedly (i.e. that if a person freely chooses to trust the Lord then they will start boasting that they are somehow better or smarter or more spiritual or whatever): and yet in the many conversions I have been involved with:

            NO ONE HAS EVER BOASTED IN THIS WAY THAT YOU CLAIM.

            Why is that???

            Is it perhaps because the bible is actually true regarding the nature of faith (i.e. the bible says that faith EXCLUDES BOASTING!!!! And yet you calvinist types ****constantly contradict**** the bible and claim that if a person is saved by freely choosing to trust then they will boast, see ROMANS 3:27-28).

            Better yet Sam, why don’t you explain how Romans 3:27-28 fits your claim here??

            Robert

            Sam

            I’m shocked Robert, precisely because it is the Traditionalist, not the Calvinist, who can say:

            “I thank you Jesus that I am not like other men. You gave the same grace and same opportunity to know you to all men, but so many of them rejected you Jesus, but not me. I accepted you. I thank you that I am not like those people who were raised in the same situation as me and yet rejected you. I thank you that I was willing to listen when you called. I thank you that I did not spurn the conviction of the Holy Spirit when He moved upon me, just as He moved upon other men who rejected Jesus. I am so thankful that I am not like my fellow man who refused to believe.

            This could sum up Traditionalism quite well if we are being honest. But it cannot sum up Calvinism in the slightest.

            holdon

            “precisely because it is the Traditionalist, not the Calvinist, who can say: “I thank you Jesus”.

            Right. It appears that the Calvinist can just say “I thank you God that you had an insipid love for the rest of men, except me the elect.”

            When He comes will He still find faith on earth? Why is that even a question if God gives faith? Why if salvation is a one-sided business?

            Sam

            Holdon.

            That is very clever of you how you took only a portion of my quote, taking it out of context, and thus changing the meaning, so you could use it against me. Well done! Traditionalists are getting very good at taking quotes out of context and using them other than there intended meaning.

            Lydia

            “God, I thank thee that I am not as the rest of men”.

            Well, a lot of you guys have “ruling elders” and obviously it means they are not like the rest of the men in the Body of Christ. Not servants but “rulers”. Of course, I realize the state church interpretation of Hebrews 13 fits the Calvin mode well. I mean what translator would dare not call the leaders, “rulers” in a state church environment?

            So Calvinists say the with their lofty titles they give themselves.

          Steve Martin

          Oops…sorry about the misspell of holdon.

          Steve Martin

          holdon,

          The 2 most commonly used words in the New Testament that describe how faith happens, are ‘called’, and ‘chosen’.

          The words ‘accept Jesus’, or ‘make a decision for Jesus’ are not even in the Bible.

        Lydia

        Robert, My pea brain is trying to wrap around why someone could believe in the TUIP and but not the L. Wouldn’t the L naturally flow from the rest?

        If you believe TUIP, it means that some who were unable were irresistably given grace and were ‘unconditionally elected”. Since not all are saved, doesn’t that translate to “limited” atonement?. So how can there be 4 pters who do not accept the L?

          Sam

          Lydia,
          I think some Calvinists believe that Christ died for all men, but with a different purpose in mind. But really to answer your question, it simply comes down to believing the Scriptures. I wonder how any Traditionalist can believe in “free will” rather than an “enslaved will”, as the Scripture actually teaches.

            Lydia

            Sam,

            I have a lot of patience with your comment because I know you did not “choose” to write it since you have no free will.

            (wink)

            Robert

            Sam asks:

            “I wonder how any Traditionalist can believe in “free will” rather than an “enslaved will”, as the Scripture actually teaches.”

            Sam you present here what in logic is called the fallacy of false dilemma (i.e. you present two alternatives as if they are mutually exclusive and as if they are the only two possibilities, when in fact there are other and even better possibilities, for example one can hold to both free will and enslaved will depending on the situation).

            Here you claim it is either believe in “free will” or believe in “enslaved will”. The further insinuation is that calvinists and others who believe ONLY in an “enslaved will” get it right, while “Traditionalists” who supposedly reject the “enslaved will” and instead believe ONLY in “free will.”

            Lutherans like Steve “get it” when it comes to this issue because they believe that when it comes to some things we in fact have free will while with regard to other things we have an “enslaved will.” Put even more simply, both are true, depending upon what choices you are talking about. Let’s start with the easy one. When it comes to everyday life, all of us constantly and repeadedly experience situations where we have and make choices. This may involve what we will choose to have for breakfast, what we will watch on TV, etc. etc. Unless you are a determinist who believes in exhaustive determinism of all events, and so are in denial of your own everyday experience, you know first hand that sometimes you have and make your own choices and those choices are completely up to you. Now most Christians throughout church history (whether they are Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or whatever) have believed in free will in this sense and in these situations.

            But some have taken an extreme position and claimed that this free will does not exist EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

            Some of these extremists have made the following argument, which is really very flawed. They argue that if a person has one choice that is not available to them, therefore that person never experiences free will as ordinarily understood. That would be like arguing that if Usain Bolt broke his legs in a car accident and so AT THAT TIME could not run, that he no longer had free will! It is really a stupid argument as most people immediately recognize that while Bolt under these circumstances cannot choose to run, has total inability regarding choosing to run. Nevertheless, in other areas of his life Bolt would have free will (he still could choose what he will have for breakfast, what he will watch on TV while he recuperates, etc. etc.). Most people understand that just because one specific choice is not available to you, you still have lots of other choices available to you. Parents know this quite well, in that just because one possible choice is taken away, does not mean the child no longer has any choices (just because you cannot have this candy, means you no longer have any choices regarding what you are about to eat).

            Now some of us who would be characterized as “Traditionalists” know that the bible teaches that a human person cannot come to Christ and have a faith response on their own without the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit first enabling them to have a faith response to the gospel (e.g. Ronnie Rodgers talks about this a lot in his new book). Put simply the bible teaches that ON THEIR OWN (apart from the work of the Spirit) the human person cannot choose to trust in Christ for salvation.
            In the bible both Jesus and Paul use the analogy of slavery (something very familiar to people in the first century) to convey this spiritual condition of men apart from the work of the Spirit. It is as if they are “slaves to sin” as if there is this slave master named “Sin” who demands that his slaves sin. On their own, again apart from the powerful work of the Spirit, the nonbeliever usually obeys their slave master named sin. You can see it in their lifestyle which is characterized by sin.

            This does not mean that the nonbeliever can never do any good things (one must be in serious denial of reality and must redefine actions in order to claim that truly good things done by nonbelievers really are not good, e.g. tell the nonbelieving fireman who just rescued your family members from a burning house that their actions were not “good”).

            Slaves in the first century did not always obey their masters in fact as a friend of mine who has done a lot of scholarly work in the area of first century slaves and manumission will tell you: it was common for slaves to run away from their masters (we even have an entire New Testament book, Philemon, devoted to this very subject). Some determinists wrongly **assume** that when Jesus and Paul used the analogy of slavery to sin, this meant that the sinner always obeys their slave master sin. That does not fit the reality of first century slavery at all.

            Furthermore, when Paul brings up this analogy in Romans 6 he speaks to believers and says they have a choice of which “slave master” they will obey, whether it is the slave master named sin or the slave master named righteousness (and it should be noted that while believers are characterized as “slaves ro righteousness” we still sin). So we have clear use of this slave to sin analogy in the New Testament and it conveys quite nicely the condition of the nonbeliever apart from the work of the Spirit. Once the Spirit works everything changes for the person. Where once they were completely blind to spiritual things, the Spirit reveals things to them including the meaning of scripture. Where once they were ignorant about Jesus and what he did, the Spirit reveals the identity and importance of Jesus.

            Can a “Traditionalist” or Lutheran or anyone for that matter believe both that we have free will in some situations and yet people can also be “slaves to sin” and be suffering from an “enslaved will” when it comes to Spiritual things? Of course, as long as we consider what situation we are talking about.

            In some situations people have free will, in the situation of a nonbeliever who has ****not experienced**** the work of the Spirit in their life, they cannot choose to have faith in response to the gospel. And yet if the Spirit works in them, then they are enabled to have a faith response to the gospel.

            So contrary to Sam’s false dilemma, I, and others believe in ******both****** free will and an “enslaved will”. These are not mutually exclusive realities. It depends upon the situation that you are talking about.

            Robert

            Sam

            Robert,

            I think I wholeheartedly agree with Steve (in fact I think Steve and I approach this subject the same way). I believe we are free to do whatever we are capable of doing in accordance with our own nature. God is the same way: He is completely free and yet He is not free to go against His nature. He is not free to sin or to be unholy for instance because He is holy. And we too are free to do anything in accordance with our nature. The problem is our nature is completely corrupted by sin. Thus we are not free to do what we are incapable of doing. When we are completely left in our freedom, we sin and sin and sin again. Therefore, God must change us in order for us to do spiritual things such as believe the Gospel.

            When it comes to this topic of freewill\enslaved will, I think I come at this just like Martin Luther (I think he got it right). And therefore, I would assume Steve and I would approach this subject very similarly.

          Steve Martin

          I think it is a matter of ‘reason’, and of not wanting to give up that supposed little bit of freedom that many think they have to choose God…since they are convinced that they are free in every other area of life.

          As you rightly say, Sam, our wills are not free, but bound to sin, when it comes to choosing God.

          “We are born NOT of the will of man…but of God.”

          That is Holy Scripture. And Jesus says the same thing in many places.

          Once you start with bondage…you can get to freedom. But if you start with freedom, you’ll only end up in bondage.

          Thanks.

            Robert

            Hello Steve,

            For the most part I agree with your comments, except that you seem to be leaving out, neglecting, minimizing the **preconversion work of the Holy Spirit**.

            It is true that apart from the work of the Spirit, ***on their own***, the nonbeliever is incapable of choosing to trust the Lord for salvation. But that is just it, APART FROM THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT. Once the Spirit works the most hardened sinner can become open to spiritual things and begin to understand them.

            You wrote:

            “I think it is a matter of ‘reason’, and of not wanting to give up that supposed little bit of freedom that many think they have to choose God…since they are convinced that they are free in every other area of life.”

            People are free in every other area of life as you acknowledge here. Initially they are not free to choose Christ, until the Spirit works in them. The Spirit enables but does not necessitate a faith response in the gospel. Once the Spirit works in you and enables you, then you have a new freedom to choose to trust God.

            “As you rightly say, Sam, our wills are not free, but bound to sin, when it comes to choosing God.”

            And that is true of the person who has ******not yet experienced******* the work of the Spirit.

            ““We are born NOT of the will of man…but of God.”

            That is Holy Scripture. And Jesus says the same thing in many places.”

            Regeneration which is what you are referring to, is an act of God that only God can do, but faith, choosing to trust in the Lord is not regeneration. While regeneration is something that God alone does. Faith is something we choose to do in response to the Spirit working in us and revealing things to us.

            The sinner must choose to trust in the Lord as the condition for justification is faith (that is the whole book of Romans as well as Galatians).

            “Once you start with bondage…you can get to freedom. But if you start with freedom, you’ll only end up in bondage.”

            That is a cute slogan, but it appears you may be taking an extreme view of the analogy of “slavery to sin” that Jesus and Paul speak of. The nonbeliever’s life is characterized by sin and so it makes sense to use the analogy that they act as if they are slaves of this slave master named “sin”. But we don’t start with “freedom”, we start with God’s plan of salvation and the power of the gospel. So our starting point is confidence in the power of God to save sinners once they have heard the gospel and the Spirit has enabled them to understand it and respond to it (this is what Paul refers to when he says faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God). We speak of freedom only when counteracting determinists/calvinists who deny that people ever have free will. Free will only becomes an issue when it is being rejected and ridiculed by theological determinists.

            Robert

Godismyjudge

Dr. Allen let Schrock off the hook on the Moses Stuart quote. I thought Schrock’s editing of Stuart bordered on abusive. To use Stuart to deny the language of Hebrews 2:9 amounts “all without distinction” contradicts Stuart’s direct statement. Here’s the Stuart quote with the part Schrock edited out:

“Hyper pantos means, all men without distinction, i. e. both Jew and Gentile. The same view is often given of the death of Christ. See John iii. 14—17; iv. 42; xii. 32. 1 John ii. 2; iv. 14. 1 Tim. ii. 3, 4. Tit. ii. 11. 2 Pet. iii. 7. Compare Rom. iii. 29, 30; x. 11—13. In all these and the like cases, the words all, and all men, evidently mean, Jew and Gentile. They are opposed to the Jewish idea, that the Messiah was connected appropriately and exclusively with the Jews, and that the blessings of the kingdom were appropriately, if not exclusively, theirs. The sacred writers mean to declare, by such expressions, that Christ died really and truly as well, and as much, for the Gentiles as for the Jews; [that there is no difference at all in regard to the privileges of any one who may belong to his kingdom; and that *all men, without exception*, have equal and free access to it. ] But the considerate interpreter, who understands the nature of this idiom, will never think of seeking, in expressions of this kind, proof of the final salvation of every individual of the human race.” (WHW page 109, with the part Schrock omitted in brackets) Link to Stewart’s Commentary see page 304:

http://books.google.com/books?id=aYO2GDh6YxUC

God be with you,
Dan

Brad

Seems kind of hard for me to argue both “universal atonement” and substitutionary atonement at the same time, unless you are referring to a symbolic and not actual substitution?

David L. Allen

Brad,

Thanks for commenting. I don’t know if you have had a chance to read my chapter “The Atonement: Limited or Universal” in Whosoever Will or not. It explains how the atonement can be both substitutionary and universal at the same time. It will give you the names of lots of Calvinists who have affirmed such since the early days of the Reformation, as well as some exegetical and theological evidence. I am indeed arguing that Christ actually substituted for the sins of all people. Probably the reason you are having trouble with this is at least twofold: 1) you have confused the extent of the atonement with its application; and 2) you are laboring under the notion of a commercial view of the atonement such that if Christ satisfies for someone’s sins, then the atonement must of necessity be applied to them. I have tried to explain these and related issues and answer objections in my chapter. I hope it will be helpful to you as you continue to think through this. Blessings!

Sam

After hearing holdon’s various comments about accepting Christ, I thought I would post this:

“I frequently hear persons exhorted to give their hearts to Christ, which is a very proper exhortation. But that is not the Gospel. Salvation comes from something that Christ gives you, not something that you give to Christ. The giving of your heart to Christ follows after the receiving from Christ of eternal life by faith.”
–C. H. Spurgeon

    holdon

    Sam,

    If instead you could interact with the verses I quoted, that would be much better.

    Now Spurgeon seems to be saying that eternal life was acquired through faith. Please tell me: according to you who is doing the believing?

      Sam

      holdon, you are right about what Spurgeon is saying here. Actually, I think it is a very balanced statement by Spurgeon, which both Calvinists and Traditionalist can agree with.

      In answer to your question: We are doing the believing. No doubt about that. But God has to give us the ability to come to Christ by faith, just as Jesus taught in John 6:44.

Steve Martin

holdon,

It’s pretty tough to have an intelligent discussion with someone who says, “I was alive before I was born”.

    holdon

    Wow! I can hardly believe that someone who claims to be a Christian, does believe that life only starts at birth.

    Are you saying this because it shatters your theology?

      Steve Martin

      Why did Jesus say that you must be born, again?

      We were born, and life started on this earth. And then “we are born, not by the flesh, nor by blood, or by the will of man, but of God.”

      Have you torn up your birth certificate and told them that you don’t need one, because you were already alive?

        holdon

        “Why did Jesus say that you must be born, again?”

        Because we need a new life; a life from a different origin.

        But the question is how new life comes about. As most people know: it’s at conception. Not birth. The Greek word for “born” expresses that very well. It is like the old word “beget” which is more than just the moment of birth. Throughout Scripture fathers are begetting children. And that phraseology is actually used more than mothers giving birth.

        This should be clear to you: the Greek word “born” is the same as “begotten” and that points to conception in the first place and of course birth also in the second place as an automatic consequence.
        See Mt. 1:20 “for that which is begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit.”, which is clearly about Jesus BEFORE He was born.

        We are born again by Seed (the Word of God), as the apostle says. We received that Seed when we heard the Gospel. That’s when we were born again: at teh reception of the Seed. Conception ALWAYS takes two. Therefore the one-sided position is wrong.

          Sam

          holdon says: “Conception always takes two.”

          So what are you trying to say about Mary getting pregnant and the conception of Jesus??

            holdon

            Sam,

            You can read, or can’t you?

            behold, thou shalt conceive in the womb and bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus.
            But Mary said to the angel, How shall this be, since I know not a man?
            The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and power of the Highest overshadow thee, wherefore the holy thing also which shall be born shall be called Son of God.
            And Mary said, Behold the bondmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to thy word.

            Did you that response of Mary?

            Be it to me according to thy word

            She willingly accepted. No one-sidedness even in that most unique case.

      Sam

      holdon, I think you are bringing a “life at conception” thing into the conversation. While, I love that slogan for the purpose of ending the sin of abortion, Steve has a point that a new life enters the world at birth.

    Robert

    Steve you say it is hard to have an intelligent conversation with someone who believes that a human person is alive before he or she is born. That seems like an arrogant and condescending comment to make. Espeically in light of the fact that Holdon is correct about this and you are dead wrong.

    You said earlier to Holdon:

    “You received life when you were born.”

    Holdon correctly responded that:

    “Sorry, I was alive before I was born.”

    Holdon is correct, the human person is very much alive before the moment of their birth when they enter the world external to their mother’s womb. And they were in fact fully alive before they were born. Steve we even have clear scriptural proof this is true as John the Baptist lept in his mother’s womb.

    When John did so, he had not yet been born: was he alive when he lept in this way?

    Steve you were also wrong when you claimed the bible never speaks of accepting Christ. True it does not use that precise language, but Holdon quoted one of the verses I would have quoted: about how believers receive Christ. To speak of accepting Christ is synonymous with speaking of receiving Christ. There really is nothing wrong with saying it that way.

    Steve I think you need to read Holdon more carefully, he has been correct in his assertions. You can have an intelligent conversation with someone who believes that we were alive before our time of birth, because that is in fact true. To deny this is to deny reality. When Jesus spoke of being born from above he was conveying the truth that regeneration is an action of God that is not something we can accomplish at all. Just as we could not accomplish our physical birth by our own efforts, likewise we cannot accomplish regeneration by our own efforts either.

    But your claim Steve that a human person is not alive before they are born is absolutely false.

    Robert

      Sam

      Robert wrote: “Just as we could not accomplish our physical birth by our own efforts, likewise we cannot accomplish regeneration by our own efforts either.”

      Finally something I can say “amen” to. AMEN. Thanks Robert.

        Don Johnson

        Sam,

        That’s right, God does the regenerating. We receive Christ and then God regenerates us. We can’t regenerate ourselves.

          Sam

          Don,

          That is one way of looking at it….or did it take being born again by the Spirit to enable us to receive Christ? John 1:13 would seem to teach the latter.

            Don Johnson

            Sam,

            So John really meant to have vs. 13 before vs. 12?

            Sam

            Don,

            It was not by our will that we were born again. John 1:13.

            Make that work with the man-centered Traditionalist distortion of John 1:12. I don’t think you can.

            Don Johnson

            Sam,

            I asked you on a previous thread, but I don’t think I got your answer. So I’ll ask again.

            Is it your belief that a man is first born of God, then that man receives Christ, and then that man becomes a child of God?

            Sam

            I believe the first work is God’s. Period. We are born again first by the Spirit. However, if receiving Christ and becoming a child of God happens basically simultaneously with regeneration, I accept that. All I am arguing for is that it is God’s first work in us that brings us to faith. And if you define our being saved by grace, according to how it is defined in Ephesians 2:1-5, then you will have to admit that when God gives someone saving grace, they are brought from death to life.

            But I understand you Traditionalists reject this biblical teaching.

            holdon

            “All I am arguing for is that it is God’s first work in us that brings us to faith. And if you define our being saved by grace, according to how it is defined in Ephesians 2:1-5, then you will have to admit that when God gives someone saving grace, they are brought from death to life.”

            But I think most Traditionalists agree with this. The saving grace is obtained through faith (Eph 2:8). And therefore they are brought from death to life.

            All men have the faculty to believe. But you need to believe something (or someone). To believe takes an object. That object is provide for by God. That always comes first. You can’t believe something that hasn’t been provided. God gave Jesus; that is grace. We do the believing part. Both together constitute the Christian faith and salvation.

            Sam

            Holdon,

            Do I understand you correctly that you believe:

            Spiritually dead people have the capacity to do the most spiritual thing: believe?

            Sam

            Holdon:

            Your comment is even worse than I first thought. You wrote “saving grace is obtained through faith”. Therefore, I need to re-ask you a question:

            Do you believe spiritually dead people put their faith in Christ *before* God gives them saving grace?

            If this is what you believe, yours seems a more extreme view than that held be Roman Catholics.

            holdon

            “Do I understand you correctly that you believe:

            Spiritually dead people have the capacity to do the most spiritual thing: believe?”

            Yes. All people believe.

            Can spiritually dead people hear? You would say: “no they can’t”. Yet Paul in the same to the Ephesians says “you dead, wake up” (ch. 4). So, you cannot logically infer that Paul meant in the 2nd chapter that spiritually dead are unable to believe. That is not in the text; it is explicitly contradicted in the epistle; and contradicted elsewhere in Scripture: “what must I do to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved”. It is not: “wait till you get life or faith”.

            Sam

            Holdon: Let me know if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you are saying “people don’t need God’s grace to come to Christ.” Is that what you believe?

            If so, even Roman Catholicism doesn’t go that far.

            holdon

            “Let me know if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you are saying “people don’t need God’s grace to come to Christ.” Is that what you believe?

            Well you’re wrong, sorry. And honestly I am at a loss where you would get that from.

            Here is what I wrote earlier. Read and learn:

            All men have the faculty to believe. But you need to believe something (or someone). To believe takes an object. That object is provided for by God. That always comes first. You can’t believe something that hasn’t been provided. God gave Jesus; that is grace. We do the believing part. Both together constitute the Christian faith and salvation.

            Sam

            Sorry for my misunderstanding, Holdon.

            I’m guessing, then, that you believe in different levels of grace? Saving grace which we receive *after* we believe must be different than the grace we need before we believe?? Is that what you believe? Sorry for all the questions.

            holdon

            “I’m guessing, then, that you believe in different levels of grace? Saving grace which we receive *after* we believe must be different than the grace we need before we believe?? Is that what you believe? Sorry for all the questions.”

            I think most christians (at least including the Calvinists) think that there are different kinds of grace. God letting the sun rise over both good and bad is certainly a grace. Same as the grace of not immediately exercising judgment but being longsuffering. These two are available to all without having to do anything. Saving grace is different: you have to accept it. But if God is universally distributing the first 2 kinds, He is certainly prepared to do the same for saving grace. But He is not forcing it on anybody. The Jews thrust it from them in Act 13 and the Pharisees and lawyers voided the Counsel of God for them (Luke 7:30); His own received Him not, says John. Well you get my point: grace is resistible.

Robert

Hello Don,

You wrote:

“So John really meant to have vs. 13 before vs. 12?”

You know that is exactly what I was wondering myself. You took the words right out of my mouth!

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a determinist try to proof text from v. 13 while completely leaving out v. 12.

V. 12 even states the order for us:

“But as many as received Him (that is have a faith response which comes first) to them He gave the right to become children of God (which comes second), even to those who believe in His name.”

So according to verse 12 a person believes first, which then gives them the right to become children of God, they then become children of God. They don’t become children of God and then receive him/have faith. They have faith first and then become children of God.

When they become children of God they are regenerated, which is an action of God independent of their choosing to have faith.

V. 13 makes the point that regeneration is a work of God “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

If only more people would actually read bible verses in context, then they would not be ripping out v. 13 while ignoring v. 12 as so many determinists do.

Robert

    Sam

    Robert,
    See my comment to Don:

    It was not by our will that we were born again. John 1:13.

    Make that work with the man-centered Traditionalist distortion of John 1:12. I don’t think you can.

      Don Johnson

      Sam,

      In the event you missed this from above. I’ll restate.

      Is it your belief a man is first born of God, then that man receives Christ, and then that man becomes a child of God?

    Ron Hale

    Robert,

    Yes, verse 12 does help us connect the dots! Good response.

      Sam

      Don and Ron, since this is getting all spread out, you will have to see my response above. Thanks.

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