They’re Creeping In! Pt. 3

by Evan May

We are continuing our series of responses to this article from BaptistFire. The first two posts can be read here and here. Hopefully today we’ll be able to cover more ground than a sentence (woohoo!). Again, I’ll provide the immediate context:

Crept in Unawares …
Calvinists want to take over your Southern Baptist church a BaptistFire special report (Updated: Sept. 26, 2005)

What Calvinists Believe

Calvinists do not believe that God loves everyone (contrary to John 3:16). They do not believe that God wants to save everyone (contrary to 1 Tim. 2:4). Most do not believe that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. (contrary to 1 John 2:2). Not only are these doctrines contrary to the Bible they are contrary to what the vast majority of Southern Baptists believe.

I noted in my first response that the entire purpose of this section of the article is to cast Calvinism in the negative light. Each one of these statements is made in the negative (“Calvinists do not believe…”). This anonymous contributor doesn’t want to tell us what Calvinists do believe. All he (or she) wants to tell us is what they supposedly don’t believe and then contrast that with a favorite prooftext. We’ve already looked at the first two assertions coupled with the Scripture citations of 1 Tim 2:4 and John 3:16. Today we’ll look at the next point:

Most do not believe that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. (contrary to 1 John 2:2).

If by this it is meant that consistent Reformed theologians deny that Christ’s atonement has universal extent, lacking efficacious intent, then this is correct. In other words, on the cross Christ actually saved people. He didn’t merely potentially save them; he actually saved them. But this anonymous author chooses to place the discussion in Scriptural terminology (for instance, using the term world. We don’t deny that Christ died for the “world,” but that the “world” is defined by the context) with the sole purpose of contrasting it with an oft-cited prooftext. But is particular redemption “contrary to 1 John 2:2”? Let’s take a look at this text:

1 John 2:1-2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

It never ceases to amaze me how synergists are so practiced in the art of taking any random non-soteriological text and making it relevant to the discussion. If it has the words “all,” “world,” or “whosoever” in it, it’s fair game, apparently. In any case, the synergist exegesis hinges on two assumptions: 1) the assumption that the only definition of “world” is “every single person without differentiation,” and, 2) the eisegesis of the word “potential” into the text. We’ll look at both assumptions separately:

1. The first assumption was already refuted in the my first article. The word “world” has varying meanings throughout John’s writings, as well as the rest of the New Testament. When John tells us “do not love the world” (1 John 2:15) does he mean “do not love every single person”? Or when he states that Jesus came “into the world” (John 1:9), or that the Father sent the Son “into the world” (John 3:17), did he mean that Christ was literally sent into “every single person”? Or when Jesus stated, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), did he mean “I am the light of every single person”? Or when Jesus states to his disciples, “You are of this world” (John 8:23) do you think he meant “You are of every single person”? Of course not. Rather, the word “world” has varying meanings in his writings. Therefore, we should not dogmatically assume its meaning. It must be determined from the context.

2. When it comes to the atonement, we must determine intent before we determine extent. But advocates of universal redemption are always quick to cite prooftexts that concern extent while altogether ignoring the intent of the atonement: that Christ died on the cross with the intent of actually saving people. He redeems them, satisfies God’s wrath, and intercedes on their behalf (see my response to Elmer Towns concerning the atonement for more information).

It takes eisegesis, therefore, in order to apply the atonement with universal extent, for its specific intent must be altogether ignored. So here the word “potential” must be eisegeted into this text, defying intent in order to avoid universalism but remain with universal extent. Christ can’t be the actual propitiation for the sins of every single person in the world (the assumed meaning of the word “world), for if he actually satisfied the wrath of God against their sin, God is unable to justly condemn them. Christ, therefore, can only be a potential propitiation. He can only potentially satisfy the wrath of God.
But is there a reading of this verse that does not require either an assumed meaning of the word “world” or eisegesis of the word “potential” into the text? Certainly there is! Can we not recognize John’s audience? Can we not recognize geographical, ethnical, and time-age-related distinctions? In fact, the linguistic parallel here with John 11:51-52 is terribly close, so much so that is simply dishonest to avoid the conviction that this is John’s meaning here:

John 11:51-52 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

Notice the parallel:

1 John 2:2
And
He Himself
is the propitiation for
our sins
and not for ours only
but also
for
the world

John 11:51-52
he prophesied that
Jesus
would die for
the nation
and not for the nation only
but also
that He would gather together in one
the children of God scattered abroad

Who, then, is the world? The children of God scattered abroad. Jesus didn’t just die for Jews but Gentiles as well (ethical distinction), not just for those in Asia Minor but from every nation (geographical distinction), not just for those who lived in the 1st century but for all ages to come (time-age-related distinction). In short, with his blood he redeemed a church “from every tongue and tribe and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).

Now that we’ve gotten past the first paragraph of Scripture prooftext citations, we should be able to move quickly in future posts to come!

Evan May.

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10 Comments on “They’re Creeping In! Pt. 3”

  1. David Hewitt Says:

    Evan,

    Nicely done. I am going to have to read your response to Elmer Towns as well. Keep up the good work!

    SDG,
    Dave

  2. Josh Buice Says:

    Evan,

    I am convinced that many people fall prey to false doctrine because they sit under preachers who do not properly exegete the Word each week. For instance, when a person sits under “popcorn” sermons for three years, they never grasp fully why John was writing his epistle, to whom was he writing, and other contextual issues – because the person never studies through the entire text.

    Furthermore, people are spiritually shallow due to internet, ball practice, and other job related functions that prevent time in the Word. People spend less time reading the Bible than brushing teeth – and this causes spiritual anemia.

    It is important to sit under clear expository preaching and teaching for true doctrine to be embedded into the heart.

    For the glory of God!

    Josh Buice
    Practical Theology Discussions
    http://www.joshbuice.blogspot.com

  3. Scripture Searcher Says:

    PERSEVERE!

    You are read and ministering to many more than you realize!

    PERSEVERE!

  4. Francesco De Lucia Says:

    VERY GOOD! I appreciated your explanation. Simple, clear, biblically coherent.

    May God bless this work to reach SO much people.


  5. Thank you for your work in your explanation. But, as one who has used the same explanation to no avail how do explain the lack of understanding, especially of the atonement and what propitiation really is.

    The conversation usually goes something like this:

    If “propitiation” is Christ’s actual dealing with/paying for sin then if He was the “propitiation” for the world (universal) then all are either saved or some are wrongly in hell.

    The answer is either: 1) the propitiation just makes salvation possible
    (This ignores the explanation given on what actually took place)

    2) Well in (you name the verse with “all” in it) it says He died for all

    I then explain that “all” does not have to mean the universal “all” and that Paul used the word he had to use and it had numerous definitions that need to be understood by the context of the passage, the book and ultimately the entire bible. I even explain how even today when a person says the word all they do not usually mean all in a universal context.

    From here it is usually “all” down hill.

    I have to agree with Josh that some are just simply taught such pabulum that eating real food cannot be stomached. But others simply cannot get past their own personal views of God. Who has not heard the statement: That is not the kind of God I could worship.

    In the end we can just do as you guys are doing and pray that God takes off the blinders.

  6. Gayla Says:

    Just wanted to throw in some of my ‘general’ thoughts…

    I’ve been going to the many links over at Baptistfire, just wanting to see what everyone is saying. I even ordered a $2 booklet from Adrian Rogers’ ministry, entitled Predestined for Hell? Absolutely Not. I received it in the mail on Sat and read through it. I was stunned. And grateful – grateful that God had opened my eyes to the truth. I was caught in this web myself for many years.

    Another thing struck me about it. At the end of the book was of course ‘the sinner’s prayer’ then it listed the things *you* needed to *do* in order to be saved. Can’t remember all of them right off the top of my head, but there were four.

    “First, you must acknowledge that you are a sinner, etc”

    “Second, you must believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, died on a cross, etc”

    “Third, you must ask God to forgive your sins, etc”

    “Fourth, can’t remember”

    Anyway, you get the point. This sounds suspiciously like ‘works’ to me.

    Another article I read by Mr Rogers about the’hyper-Calvinist’ acronym TULIP totally misreprented it, especially the ‘T’ He says, “I know of not a single Bible verse that says anything about the persevering of the saints.” This stunned me, as even the most simplest of searches led me to no less than 10 or 12 verses that speak directly to that.

    You guys are so much more learned and scholarly on all of this than me, and my thoughts on it seem so elementary, but this is still so new to me. I’ve discovered that in studying the Word for myself (as opposed to just swallowing everything espoused from the pulpit), God has deposited so much truth into my heart. Until He illuminates the truth and makes it real in our lives, it’s just a whole lot of great discussion material.

    Sorry to ramble; keep up the great work you’re doing here!

    “I have to agree with Josh that some are just simply taught such pabulum that eating real food cannot be stomached. But others simply cannot get past their own personal views of God. Who has not heard the statement: That is not the kind of God I could worship.”

    I couldn’t agree more!

  7. Evan May Says:

    Gayla:

    Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful and kind words.


  8. Keep it up. We are reading and enjoying every bit of it.


  9. […] They’re Taking Over! Pt. 4 By Evan May We are continuing our series of responses to the “Crept in Unawares…” article from BaptistFire (the first three posts can be read here: 1, 2, and 3). We now move on to the second paragraph: Southern Baptist Calvinists Are Well Organized […]

  10. David Says:

    I am sadly amused at the name-calling that supposed followers of Jesus Christ do. Reading the websites of calvinists, arminians and dispensationalists, though diverse in theology, is numbingly the same when it comes to ungraciousness. Their complaints against one another can be universally applied. For example, you complain – “I noted in my first response that the entire purpose of this section of the article is to cast Calvinism in the negative light.” Well, aren’t the articles of calvinists intended to put arminian and dispensationalist theology in a “negative light”?

    I recently came across this comment by a non-calvinist.
    “If you disagree with a calvinists he will –
    1. Accuse you of misundstanding the Bible, and/or
    2. Accuse you of misunderstanding Calvinism, and probably also
    3. Attack you personally.
    But what he will never do is concede for moment that there might be non-calvinistic altermatives that are legitmate or biblically defensible. The calvinist can never admit that anyone else’s opinion is legitimate. And –
    4. The defenders of the so-called “Doctrines of Grace” are among the least gracious people on the internet.”

    Of course the first three points probably apply equally to all the theological camps, but I think that writer may be right about the ungraciousness of the defenders of the doctrines of grace. I guess the early calvinists started a pattern when they had some of the remonstrants killed!

    A great example of calvinists contempt toward others is found here – http://www.soundofgrace.com/v6n4/editorial.htm – a letter from one calvinist to another attacking the latter for having an “impure” calvinism.

    As for genuine theological discussion (as opposed to the typical attacking of strawmen) – I doubt any one here is genuinely interested, but for an exposition of 1 John 2:2 from an Arminian viewpoint, you might look at a series of articles posted here –

    Did Jesus Die for the Whole World or Not?
    http://schooleyfiles.blogspot.com/

    I think there are three brief articles that deal with 1John 2:2. If you decide to read them you ought to ask yourself not simply whether or not you agree with them (you will not), but ask yourself whether or not the arguments are at least defensible, i.e. do they use decent principles of reasoning, etc.

    Well, God’s grace to all of you. May the defenders of the doctrines of grace learn to be more gracious than the rest.

    – David


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