“Now here’s the most objectionable, probably, of all of them.”

[Please see yesterday’s post for the context of what you are about to read.]

Dr. Vines began his anti-Calvinism speech with the following two statements, declaring:

“Number 1. I’m not going to attack individuals in this message. I have many friends and they’re many sincere Christians who are Calvinists. I’m not dealing with personalities or individuals; I’m dealing with the theology of Calvinism; Number 2, What I’m going to say to you tonight is not exhaustive. I will not deal with every Scripture that is used on both sides of the issue, nor will I address every logical argument pro or con.”

Likewise, the current series of posts on Strange BaptistFire are in no way an attack on Dr. Vines as an individual. I personally have little knowledge about Dr. Vines or his past ministry. I do know that he has a very good reputation among many in the Southern Baptist Convention. As Dr. Vines said, “I’m not dealing with personalities or individuals.” Instead, my contribution to this series of posts will be to examine Dr. Vines’ recent teaching against the doctrine of Limited atonement. Following Dr. Vines’ lead in terms of relative brevity, this will not be an exhaustive treatment of the Bible’s teaching on the extent of the atonement. Again, as Dr. Vines stated, “I will not deal with every Scripture that is used on both sides of the issue, nor will I address every logical argument pro or con.” I do hope, however, to give a fairly throrough examination of Dr. Vine’s teaching on this subject as presented in the speech under consideration, as well as asserting what I believe to be the biblical response to his position.

Statement of the Calvinist position on the extent of the atonement

In Dr. Vines’ anti-Calvinism presentation the section that concerned his thoughts on Limited atonement began with the statement that is the title of this post, then he made the following assertion of what Calvinists believe about the extent of the atonement:

“Calvinism teaches that Christ’s death on the Cross was for the elect and not for the whole world.”

This statement is, at very best, presented in a way that is unhelpful for anyone who would truly want to understand what Calvinism actually teaches on this issue. Dr. Vines presented the teaching of Calvinism in such a way as to make it appear in direct contradiction of Scripture, so that he could assert Calvinism teaches that Christ’s death on the Cross was not for the whole world, then he could later present John 1:29, in which Jesus is named the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and the case would already seem to be closed.

This is identical to the Roman Catholic or Mormon apologetic tactic of stating that Evangelicals believe in justification by faith alone, then citing James 2:24, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone,” and, for them, the case is closed. No context is given either for the Evangelical doctrine or for the verse found in James. Likewise, Dr. Vines gave no context for the Calvinist position or for John 1:29.

So I present the following in hopes of giving some context to clarify the Calvinist teaching on the extent of the atonement.

  1. “Calvinism teaches that Christ’s death on the Cross was for the elect…”
    1. Calvinism, indeed, teaches that Christ’s death on the Cross was for the elect- those who are chosen by God the Father and called by the Holy Spirit to faith in Jesus- because this is what the Bible teaches, as demonstrated in Hebrews 9:15, Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Emphases added.)
    2. Calvinism teaches that Christ’s death on the Cross was for the elect because the Bible teaches that His work in making sacrifice for our sins actually accomplished reconciliation to God, as demonstrated in Colossians 1:22, But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him– (HCSB)
  2. “…and not for the whole world.”
    1. Calvinism teaches that Christ’s death on the Cross was not for the whole world in that His death did not redeem the whole world from the wrath of God and reconcile the whole world to the love of God. The verses cited above indicate that His death actually accomplished redemption and reconciliation, but to say these things were accomplished for everyone- even those who will never come to faith in Jesus- contradicts verses such as John 14:6, where Jesus is said to have declared, No one comes to the Father except through me.
    2. Calvinism teaches that Christ’s death on the Cross was for the whole world in that His death accomplished redemption and reconciliation not only for the Jewish nation or some other racial or regional group, but for the elect from throughout the earth, just as the saints will sing to Jesus in heaven, as recorded in Revelation 5:9, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Hopefully, the statements above help to begin providing a foundation for the Calvinist teaching on the atonement. In subsequent posts I hope to further explore the extent of the atonement as presented by Dr. Vines and to weigh his presentation against biblical teaching on this crucial subject.

[More to come…]

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12 Comments on ““Now here’s the most objectionable, probably, of all of them.””

  1. Nathan White Says:

    Personally, I was struck by the fact that there were many ‘Amens’ and even an applause when Vines so emphasized ‘the WHOLE world’. Now, I know this is the probably the most controversial point, but it struck me as odd because Vines really didn’t make that much of an argument. I was like, ‘what are they applauding? He quoted a few verses in passing and failed to go into any real detail on any of them.’

    We all tend to be a little blind towards our own traditions, and we all will approve when our deeply-held convictions are voiced, but when stating this position as a counter-point to the Calvinist teaching, one would hope that a better argument would be put forth before the crowd starts patting him on the back.

    Good post.

    SDG

  2. Jeff Jones Says:

    I do wish that you had qualified your use of the phrases, “Christ’s death was for the elect… not for the whole world.”

    In its redemptive aspects, that’s absolutely true. Yet it should also be pointed out that Christ’s death DID purchase grace of another sort for all individuals, in that while God is about bringing in the elect on His divine timetable, the reprobate are permitted to continue to live – eating, breathing, sleeping, not yet facing their final punishment. This delay of judgment is merciful on God’s part, and is a result of the cross. In short, Christ’s death on the Cross bought redemption for some, and time for the rest. I don’t see that as merely incidental, or unintentional on God’s part – this is a deliberate and intentional act of mercy. Without the cross, God would have no reason to delay judgment.

    Furthermore, Philippians teaches that because of Christ’s humility and obedience on the Cross, the Father has exalted Him, and has given Him the name above every name, so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess. This is another aspect of Christ’s death that is not redemptive, but has a universal effect.

    So my biggest problem is actually with the words, “died for the world.” Died in what sense? Did Christ atone for the world? No. Did his death have other, universal effects? Yes.


  3. Thanks, Nathan,

    I hope to briefly examine the verses Dr. Vines did cite in a future post. And you’re right, they’re mentioned “in passing” w/ no context given. One real danger for a preacher using this kind of proof-text argumentation to persuade his congregation is that it opens his flock up to all kinds of erroneous teaching, for every cultist missionary out there can usually cite a whole list of verses out of context that ‘plainly teach’- for example- that Jesus is not God. Now, someone reading my above post will say that our argument, too, is based on a select series of verses out of context. But I have not yet really presented the positive argument for Limited atonement, which is different than simply quoting the few isolated verses Dr. Vines says we have in our favor.

    In Christ alone,
    -Andrew

    [More to come…]


  4. Sad, Sad, Sad that the majority of Baptist people have been kept in the Dark all these years. Their not wanting to really study their Bibles or get into a Bible Study has been their downfall. Why have they been kept in the Dark? Most when being asked they don’t understand their KJV version of their Bible. Church is a social function for fellowship and gossip. They would rather have their ears tickled and that is their reason for applause. I pray that they just wake up and get into God’s Word so they get to know the One and Only, instead of sitting in the pews.

    In His Name

    Wayne Smith

  5. Josh Says:

    I’ve written a longer post on this but I don’t think this is going to be pretty when it comes to a boil. To many long held and well cherished beliefs.

    Josh


  6. Jeff:

    I greatly appreciate your comment. Hopefully some of your concerns will be addressed in following posts. I also agree w/ the substance of your distinction between universal effects of Christ’s death and the particular reconciling and redeeming work actually accomplished on the Cross. In my view, Phil Johnson has done a great job addressing this subject at the Shepherds’ Conference. A transcript of his lecture on this can be found at the following link: http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/SC03-1027.htm
    There is some debate in Calvinist circles about this issue, but (in my view) the most important distinction to be made is whether Jesus’ death on the Cross secured a reconciliation to God that will certainly be applied to specific individuals or did His death only made people in general savable- that is, whether His sacrifice was sufficient for the salvation of His people or whether another work is required subsequent to the Cross for our justification.

    CRUX sola est nostra theologia,
    -Andrew


  7. umm…
    thanks for that(?), jM

  8. Garrett Says:

    Hey Jeff,

    I was wondering about this comment you left:

    “Yet it should also be pointed out that Christ’s death DID purchase grace of another sort for all individuals, in that while God is about bringing in the elect on His divine timetable, the reprobate are permitted to continue to live – eating, breathing, sleeping, not yet facing their final punishment. This delay of judgment is merciful on God’s part, and is a result of the cross.”

    My question is this: are there really any verses that specifically tie in Christ’s cross work with purchasing common grace?

    gh


  9. […] After giving his definition of what Calvinists believe concerning Limited atonement and after making an appeal to popular Baptist hymns in an attempt to demonstrate that Baptists do not believe in this doctrine, Dr. Vines next turned to the proof-texts commonly used on both sides of this debate. […]

  10. todd wells Says:

    Was anyone a bit shocked at Dr Vines rather blatant (and seemingly arrogant) boast about firing a youth leader who admitted to him that he was teaching calvinism? Dr Vines says something like, “i told him, if you want to teach that, go get your OWN church to KILL. You’re not going to KILL this one!”

    With all due respect to Dr Vines, i thought that was a particularly LOW point in his lecture. He SEEMED (and God only knows) as though he took almost a vicious delight in firing that guy.

    or am i reading too much into that???

  11. Rob Says:

    What ever happened to just accepting Christ as your personal savior and loving him, God, with all your heart – mind – soul.
    What you people are saying is even if you do this you are not assured of salvation or that you are one of the elect.
    This all reads like a legal document.
    God is not a boogey man.


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