Archive for the ‘John 3:16 Conference’ category

Owen on John 3:16 – Part 1b: God’s Love, the Reformed Perspective

February 15, 2010

Now we will consider “what we understand by the “love” of God, even that act of his will which was the cause of sending his Son Jesus Christ, being the most eminent act of love and favour to the creature; for love is velle alicui bonum, “to will good to any” [not necessarily to all]. And never did God will greater good to the creature than in appointing his Son for their redemption.”

Owen observes that God’s purpose in sending Christ, and His love for the elect, both work toward “the same supreme end, [which is] the manifestation of God’s glory by the way of mercy tempered with justice”.

Now, this love we say to be that, greater than which there is none.” We see that his continual argument is that God’s love for His people is and always has been much greater than a universal concept of atonement will allow.

Owen holds that “by love here is not meant an inclination or propensity of his [God’s] nature, but an act of his will (where we conceive his love to be seated), and eternal purpose to do good to man, being the most transcendent and eminent act of God’s love to the creature.”

 “It is the special love of God to his elect, as we affirm, and so, consequently, not any such thing as our adversaries suppose to be intended by it, — namely, a velleity or natural inclination to the good of all.  For:

 1) The love here intimated is absolutely the most eminent and transcendent love that ever God showed or bare towards any miserable creature… “loved,” with such an earnest, intense affection, consisting in an eternal, unchangeable act and purpose of his will, for the bestowing of the chiefest good (the choicest effectual love) … Whereunto, for a close of all, cast your eyes upon his design and purpose in this whole business, and ye shall find that it was that believers, those whom he thus loved, “might not perish,” — that is, undergo the utmost misery and wrath to eternity, which they had deserved, — “but have everlasting life,” eternal glory with himself, which of themselves they could no way attain; and ye will easily grant that “greater love hath no man than this.” Now, if the love here mentioned be the greatest, highest, and chiefest of all, certainly it cannot be that common affection towards all that we discussed before; for the love whereby men are actually and eternally saved is greater than that which may consist with the perishing of men to eternity.

 2) The Scripture positively asserts this very love as the chiefest act of the love of God, and that which he would have us take notice of in the first place: Rom. v. 8, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;” and fully, 1 John iv. 9, 10, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In both which places the eminency of this love is set forth exceeding emphatically to believers, with such expressions as can no way be accommodated to a natural velleity to the good of all. [We should take note that the use of “might” in such verses may itself be a cause of confusion to the modern reader – it does not indicate a conditional nor vague possibility, but the positive assertion of something that will indeed take place.]

 3) That seeing all love in God is but velle alicui bonum, to will good to them that are beloved, they certainly are the object of his love to whom he intends that good which is the issue and effect of that love; but now the issue of this love or good intended, being not perishing, and obtaining eternal life through Christ, happens alone to, and is bestowed on, only elect believers: therefore, they certainly are the object of this love, and they alone; — which was the thing we had to declare.

 4) That love which is the cause of giving Christ is also always the cause of the bestowing of all other good things: Rom. viii. 32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” [i.e. consider forgiveness, sanctification, fellowship, glorification, etc. – are all men recipients?] Therefore, if the love there mentioned be the cause of sending Christ, as it is, it must also cause all other things to be given with him, and so can be towards none but those who have those things bestowed on them; which are only the elect, only believers. Who else have grace here, or glory hereafter?

 5) The word here, which is ἠγάπησε, signifieth, in its native importance, valde dilexit, — to love so as to rest in that love; which how it can stand with hatred, and an eternal purpose of not bestowing effectual grace, which is in the Lord towards some, will not easily be made apparent.

 And now let the Christian reader judge, whether by the love of God, in this place mentioned, be to be understood a natural velleity or inclination in God to the good of all, both elect and reprobate, or the peculiar love of God to his elect, being the fountain of the chiefest good that ever was bestowed on the sons of men. This is the first difference about the interpretation of these words.”

Praise God for His gracious, intimate, eternal, effectual love for His children!

The next set of posts will discuss the second matter, the object of this love, called here “the world”.

Owen on John 3:16 – Part 1a: God’s Love, the Arminian Perspective

January 20, 2010

As discussed in the previous post, the first point of consideration and contention in the interpretation of John 3:16 can be posed, and is stated by John Owen, as such:

“What is that love which was the cause of the sending or giving of Christ; which they [the Arminians, who embrace universal atonement] make to be a natural propensity to the good of all.

In this post, we are simply offering Owen’s primary issues with this popular interpretation; not yet showing his proofs for the Reformed viewpoint he embraced.  Again, he summarizes the differences as follows:

“By ‘love’ in this place, all our adversaries [the universalists] agree that a natural affection and propensity in God to the good of the creature, lost under sin, in general, which moved him to take some way whereby it might possibly be remedied, is intended.  We, on the contrary, say that by ‘love’ here is not meant an inclination or propensity of his nature, but an act of his will (where we conceive his love to be seated), and eternal purpose to do good to man, being the most transcendent and eminent act of God’s love to the creature.”

Owen also identifies the love of God as understood by the Arminians to be a velleity, which is defined as the lowest level of volition [will], or a mere wish unaccompanied by action or effort to obtain it.  Considering this and the above quote, Owen and many others (myself included) contend that the Arminians embrace a much more severely limited atonement than do we – that is, they limit what Christ’s work accomplishes for anyone.

According to Owen, it should be evident that no natural affection is to be found in God, whereby He should by necessity be carried to anything outside of Himself.  His reasons are as follows:

1)  “ Nothing that includes any imperfection is to be assigned to Almighty God: he is God all-sufficient; he is our rock, and his work is perfect.  But a natural affection in God to the good and salvation of all, being never completed nor perfected, carrieth along with it a great deal of imperfection and weakness; and not only so, but it must also needs be exceedingly prejudicial to the absolute blessedness and happiness of Almighty God.  [Owen notes that the degree to which any being lacks the fulfilling of the desires to which end it strives, is also the degree  to which it lacks of blessedness and happiness.]  So that, without impairing of the infinite blessedness of the ever-blessed God, no natural affection unto any thing never to be accomplished can be ascribed unto him, such as this general love to all is supposed to be.

2)  “If the Lord hath such a natural affection to all, as to love them so far as to send his Son to die for them, whence is it that this affection of his doth not receive accomplishment?  Whence is it that it is hindered, and doth not produce its effects?  Why doth not the Lord engage his power for the fulfilling of his desire?  “It doth not seem good to his infinite wisdom,” say they, “so to do.”  Then is there an affection in God to that which, in his wisdom, he cannot prosecute.  This [sort of love], among the sons of men, the worms of the earth, would be called a brutish affection.

3)  “No affection or natural propensity to good is to be ascribed to God which the Scripture nowhere assigns to him, and is contrary to what the Scripture doth assign unto him.  Now, the Scripture doth nowhere assign unto God any natural affection whereby he should be naturally inclined to the good of the creature; the place to prove it clearly is yet to be produced.  And that it is contrary to what the Scripture assigns him is apparent; for it describes him to be free in showing mercy, every act of it being by him performed freely, even as he pleaseth, for “he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy.”  Now, if every act of mercy showed unto any do proceed from the free distinguishing will of God (as is apparent), certainly there can be in him no such natural affection.  And the truth is, if the Lord should not show mercy, and be carried out towards the creature, merely upon his own distinguishing will, but should naturally be moved to show mercy to the miserable, he should, first, be no more merciful to men than to devils, nor, secondly, to those that are saved than to those that are damned: for that which is natural must be equal in all its operations; and that which is natural to God must be eternal.  Many more effectual reasons are produced by our divines for the denial of this natural affection in God, in the resolution of the Arminian distinction (I call it so, as now by them abused) of God’s antecedent and consequent will, to whom the learned reader may repair for satisfaction.  So that the love mentioned in this place is not that natural affection to all in general, which is not.”

This topic will be discussed in more detail in the next post, “God’s Love, the Calvinist [or, perhaps for greater clarity, the Reformed] Perspective”.

Owen on John 3:16 – Introduction

November 30, 2009

Possibly the most well-known and oft-quoted verse in all of scripture, John 3:16 has even been referred to as “the gospel in a nutshell”. Regarding that label, it would be improper to limit ourselves to the contents of one nutshell when we should feast on the entirely of God’s revealed word. Nevertheless, for the truth contained therein, as with all of scripture, this verse is certainly precious, particularly when taken in context with all of John chapter 3, and indeed with the Bible as a whole.

 The third division of The Works of John Owen, delineated the “Controversial” division, begins with Volume 10. Here, following the excellent “A Display of Arminianism”, is found one of his most famous works, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”, a thorough analysis of the intent and accomplishment of Christ’s atonement. The latter part of Book 4, Chapter 2 of “The Death of Death” deals specifically with John 3:16.

 Owen brings out this verse as the first of several which those asserting universal redemption [Christ dying for each and every person] put forth. As he states,

 “This place, I say, the Universalists exceedingly boast in; for which we are persuaded they have so little cause, that we doubt not but, with the Lord’s assistance, to demonstrate that it is destructive to their whole defense.”

 Since this verse is mishandled today as in Owen’s day, and even served as the title of last year’s anti-Calvinist “John 3:16 Conference”, it is appropriate to give a synopsis of this theologian’s analysis of the verse, which for many may prove to be rather different from that which they are used to hearing. Not that Owen teaches here some new and strange thing, but in fact that which is faithful to the text and consistent with the whole of scripture. The reader may come to appreciate that some of what is often professed about John 3:16 in Baptist and other circles is indeed rather that which might be called strange. Of course, this tidbit of Owen’s defense is a minimal representation of the many detailed and solid arguments against universal redemption which he sets out in his works.

 Regarding that conference which shamefully associated itself with this scripture, Timmy Brister had an excellent short post about a year ago HERE , which gives some context within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and also provides helpful background to this blog, SBF. I highly recommend Timmy’s post to any readers who have not yet seen it.

This introduction will conclude with Owen’s overall comparison of the universalist’s interpretation of John 3:16 with his own, via paraphrase. Following posts will specifically address the three key areas from where the difference stems, and that is, the understanding of:

     (1) the love of God, which is the cause of sending Christ,

     (2) the object of this love, called here the world, and

     (3) the intention of God in sending his Son, said here to be that believers might be saved.

 “I will give you, in brief, a double paraphrase of the words, the first containing their sense, the latter ours. Thus, then, our adversaries explain these words:

 “ ‘God so loved,’ – had such a natural inclination, velleity [wish], and propensity [tendency] to the good of

 ‘the world,’ – Adam, with all and every one of his posterity, of all ages, times, and conditions (whereof some were in heaven, some in hell long before),

 ‘that he gave his only-begotten Son,’ – causing him to be incarnate in the fullness of time, to die, not with a purpose and resolution to save any, but

 ‘that whosoever,’ – whatever persons of those which he had propensity unto,

 ‘believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,’ – should have this fruit and issue, that he should escape death and hell, and live eternally.”

 Owen a little later gives the interpretation which he embraces:

 “Now, look a little, in the second place, at what we conceive to be the mind of God in those words; whose aim we take to be the advancement and setting forth of the free love of God to lost sinners, in sending Christ to procure for them eternal redemption, as may appear in this following paraphrase:

 “ ‘God’ the Father ‘so loved,’ – had such a peculiar, transcendent love, being an unchangeable purpose and act of his will concerning their salvation, towards

 ‘the world,’ – miserable, sinful, lost men of all sorts, not only Jews but Gentiles also, which he peculiarly loved,

 ‘that,’ intending their salvation, as in the last words, for the praise of his glorious grace, ‘he gave,’ he prepared a way to prevent their everlasting destruction, by appointing and sending ‘his only-begotten Son’ to be an all-sufficient Saviour to all that look up unto him,

 ‘that whosoever believeth in him,’ – all believers whatsoever, and only they,

 ‘should not perish, but have everlasting life,’ – and so effectually be brought to the obtaining of those glorious things through him which the Lord in his free love had designed for them.”

Compilation of Responses to the John 3:16 Conference

March 25, 2009

A Response to Dr. Paige Patterson’s Presentation on Total Depravity

A Response to Dr. Richard Land’s Presentation on Unconditional Election,
Part 1: The Historical Question
Part 2: C.S. Lewis’ Philosophy of God’s Relationship to Time
a. In Mere Christianity
b. In Miracles
Part 3: Romans 9
a. In Ironside’s Lectures
b. In Dr. Land’s Framework
Addendum to the Historical Question

A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement,
Part 1: The Historical Question
a. In Regards to Martin Luther
b. In Regards to Jonathan Edwards
Part 2: The Evangelistic Question

A Response to Dr. Steve Lemke’s Presentation on Irresistible Grace
Part 1: “People Resisting God”
Part 2: “Jesus’ Teaching Pattern”
Part 3: Dr. Lemke’s Final Objection to Irresistible Grace

A Response to Dr. Ken Keathley’s Presentation on the Perseverance of the Saints

A Response to Dr. Ken Keathley’s Presentation on the Perseverance of the Saints

March 17, 2009

[Read the live-blog account of this presentation HERE.]

In attending the John 3:16 Conference, I was especially interested to see how the anti-Calvinist Southern Baptist presenters at this Conference would address the Perseverance of the saints, seeing as how the Baptist Faith and Message has a fairly strong statement in favor of this doctrine– even using the word “persevere” according to the historic, Calvinistic understanding.

In this [relatively] short response to Dr. Keathley’s presentation, I hope to clarify one point, provide some links to respond to another point, and then provide some points of discussion concerning matters of historical theology. (more…)

A Response to Dr. Steve Lemke’s Presentation on Irresistible Grace, Part 3. Dr. Lemke’s Final Objection to Irresistible Grace

February 24, 2009

Finally, NOBTS Provost Dr. Steve Lemke on November 17, 2008 at the John 3:16 Conference, as reported in Vision:

In addition to the all-inclusive invitations of scripture, when people in the Bible ask, “What must I do to be saved?” Lemke said they are told to repent and believe. He expressed concern that irresistible grace can lead to the denial of the necessity for conversion.

I also am concerned “that irresistible grace can lead to the denial of the necessity for conversion.” More specifically, I am concerned that some people may misunderstand the doctrines of election and irresistible grace to mean that we need not implore sinners to turn from sin and turn to Christ in faith. And other Southern Baptists who are Calvinistic in soteriology share this concern as well. This is why Founders Ministries has labored against hyper-Calvinism [ Dr. Lemke has demonstrated his ignorance of what “hyper-Calvinism” means on a couple of occasions- at the John 3:16 Conference he defined it as “someone who is more Calvinistic than you are”- but his ignorance would be overcome if he would study historical theology, particularly the “modern question” among Baptists in the 18th century and the controversy over “common grace” among Reformed churches in the 20th century], as Tom Ascol notes:

  1. In 1996, the Founders Journal published a letter I [Tom] wrote to a father whose son was caught up in real hyper-Calvinism, trying to counsel him on how to help and evangelize his son. In that same issue, an excerpt from a small book I [Tom] wrote was included under the title, “Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism: Issues Shaping Our Identity as Southern Baptists.”
  2. In 1996, Founders Ministries gave away 2000 copies of Iain Murray’s book, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism. We were ridiculed, chastised and questioned by friend and foe alike for “stirring up trouble when there is none.” We pressed on with this effort because, as students of history, we know that hyper-Calvinism is a parasite and it only emerges where true Calvinism lives. Because we saw the danger of what might attend the resurgence of true Calvinism, we sought to educate as many people as we could about the issues.
  3. We have, on this blog and elsewhere, repeatedly addressed the error of hyper-Calvinism, calling it pernicious, damnable, and unbiblical.

That the doctrines of grace (including the doctrine of irresistible grace) can lead unstable people into errors does not mean that they are not true. When preaching on grace apart from works of  law, the Apostle Paul apparently encountered people who wanted to distort his message to say that we need to sin more so that the grace in our lives can increase (see, for example, Romans 6:1). Paul did not therefore abandon his teaching on grace, but taught it more clearly. Likewise, when we find that the Bible teaches irresistble grace in passages such as the end of John 6, we do not have the option of ignoring it simply because people may attempt to use it to promote laziness or apathy.

A Response to Dr. Steve Lemke’s Presentation on Irresistible Grace, Part 2. “Jesus’ Teaching Pattern.”

February 19, 2009

Again, NOBTS Provost Dr. Steve Lemke on November 17, 2008 at the John 3:16 Conference, as reported in Vision:

Whether generalized or personalized, Jesus’ teaching pattern seems to be inconsistent with irresistible grace, particularly in his lament over Jerusalem, Lemke said.

In Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, where Jesus longed to gather his people as a hen gathers her chicks, Lemke said the Greek verb “to will” has an even sharper contrast, so Jesus is saying, “I willed but you were not willing.”

In both examples, Lemke said, it is not just the current generation that is being addressed but many generations.

a. Jesus is not teaching against irresistible grace in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34

In reference to the particular passages that he cites- Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, which are parallel passages- it must be noted that Jesus is not indicating that His desire to bring eternal salvation to a particular group of people is one that may be frustrated by their sinful unwillingness; instead, these passages in context speak of the sin for which the leaders of Israel will receive judgment. [The following section- to the conclusion of point “a.” is from the website The Objective Gospel, on which is found an exegesis of Matthew 23:37 based on the work of Reformed Baptist apologist James White.]

Matthew 23:37

ESVMatthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

This is a verse used to demonstrate the ability of man to resist God and of God’s desire to save being thwarted by the free will of man. Is that what this Scripture demonstrates? I believe yes, and no.

First, yes–fallen man can and does resist God at almost every turn. It is only a misunderstanding of Irresistible Grace (Effectual Calling) that would cause someone to think that Calvinists don’t believe in man’s ability (and propensity) to resist God. Effectual calling refers to God’s sovereign regeneration of his elect.


Whenever you want to know what a Scripture is teaching, you need to put it in its context. This verse is found in the same context with these:

ESVMatthew 23 1″Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you- but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice…
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides…
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…
33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

As you can see, this passage comes in the context of a fierce rebuke of the religious leaders of the Jews. Note who the pronoun “you” refers to in verses 33-35 where the killers of the prophets are described. We see the killers of the prophets (Jerusalem) being lamented over. One would be hard pressed to make “Jerusalem, the city … your … you” be anyone other than the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus has been rebuking.

Now let’s look more closely at who was resisting and who was to be gathered. Do you see it? Here Jesus laments that the religious leaders were resisting him in his drawing of their children.

To sum up, we have a verse where the religious leaders are being lamented (after the sharpest rebuke Jesus gave anywhere) over their resistance (something no Calvinist would deny) to God’s drawing of the children of Israel.

Matthew 23 is perfectly consistent with reformed theology.


A Response to Dr. Steve Lemke’s Presentation on Irresistible Grace, Part 1. “People Resisting God.”

February 12, 2009

[Sources cited: In the following posts offering a response to Dr. Lemke’s presentation, I draw from my own recollection of his presentation found at, from johnMark’s account of this presentation, and from the Baptist Press story on the John 3:16 Conference, but the main source I will be citing is the article, “Lemke addresses Calvinism at John 3:16 Conference,” found in Vision, the magazine of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Winter 2008 issue, Volume 64.4.]

NOBTS Provost Dr. Steve Lemke on November 17, 2008 at the John 3:16 Conference:

“Salvation is tied in some measure to our response,” Lemke said, citing several biblical examples of what he said were people resisting God. For example, in Acts 7:51 the Jewish men who stoned Stephen were said to be “always resisting the Holy Spirit.”

Lemke said that while Calvinists don’t deny people can resist the Holy Spirit in some situations, they believe the effectual call is irresistible.

“It doesn’t seem to me that [the effectual call] helps in this particular situation, because the Jews after all were God’s chosen people, they were under the covenant. If you have a covenant theology, then these people would seem to be among the elect… It is precisely these divinely elected people who are resisting God.”


A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 2. The Evangelistic Question

January 30, 2009

1. The Historical Question

a. In Regards to Martin Luther

b. In Regards to Jonathan Edwards

[I had intended to post on Dr. Allen’s charge of hyper-Calvinism against Dr. James White; I think, however, that I have nothing original to add to that discussion beyond what has already been written- I encourage readers interested in that controversy to view Timmy Brister’s timeline of events found HERE. As Dr. Allen’s charge against Dr. White was intended to discredit Founders Ministries through guilt-by-association, I would especially recommend the post at the Founders Ministries blog found HERE.]

2. The Evangelistic Question

In speaking against the doctrine of Limited atonement, Dr. Allen asserted that any teaching that says Jesus did not die for everyone is unbiblical and should be rejected. In the context of this assertion, Dr. Allen gave a quote from Dr. Sam Waldron, in which Dr. Waldron made the point that the free offer of the gospel does not require us to tell people ‘Christ died for you’ (individually).

This brings up a specific question in regards to how the doctrine of Limited atonement effects evangelism; namely, should we, in proclaiming the gospel to individual non-Christians, tell them, ‘Christ died for you’?

From a Calvinistic perspective, the answer to the above question would be, ‘no,’ for the following three reasons:

  1. The fact that the New Testament never calls on any non-Christian “to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him” [see J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 68].
  2. The fact that the New Testament connects the death of Christ to the benefits secured by His death on behalf of those for whom He died, so that only the group that can actually claim these benefits can claim Christ’s death for their own [see, for example, Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (ESV)].
  3. The fact that non-Christians who are told, ‘Christ died for you,’ may then receive a false assurance of God’s favor toward them based upon mere intellectual assent, apart from repentance and faith.

From Dr. Allen’s point-of-view, telling the individual non-Christian ‘Christ died for you’ is an essential part of our gospel witness. In his presentation at the John 3:16 Conference, Dr. Allen argued against point 1, listed above (it should be noted that if Dr. Allen’s argument against point 1 is valid, then points 2 and 3 are rendered irrelevant, for if the New Testament does indeed call on any non-Christian “to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him,” then we must re-interpret other passages that may seem to limit the extent of the atonement; if the New Testament does indeed call on any non-Christian “to repent on the ground that Christ died specifically and particularly for him,” then point 3 is an invalid objection to telling non-Christians ‘Christ died for you,’ and non-Christians would have to be warned not to make the seemingly rational conclusion that they need not fear God’s judgment irrespective of repentance and faith). Dr. Allen argued against point 1 through a citation of New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:3, in which Paul related what he said to the Corinthians as he proclaimed the gospel to them, including, “Christ died for you,” and in Jesus’ statement of the cup at the Last Supper, “This is my blood,” was given while Judas was at the table.

As Dr. Allen had mentioned Dr. Sam Waldron, I contacted Dr. Waldron for a response concerning the New Testament passages cited by Dr. Allen.

Dr. Waldon wrote [the following is from a personal email, reproduced here by Dr. Waldon’s permission]:

1 Corinthians 15[:3] might imply what Dr. Allen says, but it also might not. The burden of proof is on him to prove that it must imply what he says. I think Dr. Allen’s exegesis stretches the bounds of good and necessary inference. What 1 Corinthians 15[:3] actually says is that Paul taught the Corinthians that Christ died for “our sins.” This is patently different than saying that Christ died for their sins. That Christ died for our sins preached to unbelievers might mean at least couple of things consistent with particular redemption.

First, it might mean that Christ died for our (the church’s–believers’) sins and that if they believed that death would be for them as well.

Second, it might mean that Christ died for our (generally the human race’s) sins and that, if they believed, it would be for them in particular. Particular redemptionists teach that Christ died for all men without distinction, but not all men without exception. It would be appropriate to say this to a group of unbelievers without intending the individualizing application that Christ died for everyone of them in particular.

As to the interesting passage that Allen cites in Luke 22:20-[22, in regards to the Last Supper], here it is in its entirety.
Luke 22:20-22 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. 21 “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. 22 “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” [NASB]

Let me make several comments which I think undermine Dr. Allen’s claims.

First, Jesus says that His blood is the New Covenant. Does Dr. Allen think that Judas had a part in the New Covenant? Only true disciples who know the Lord and whos sins are permanently forgiven have such a part. Only if Judas was such a disciple could he have a part in Christ’s blood.

Second, can we not apply to Jesus’ general statements the comment he makes in the parallel passage in John 13? John 13:17-18 17 “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’ [NASB]

Jesus here makes clear that the things he is saying at this point are for His genuine disciples and not necessarily individually true of all at the table including Judas. So when Jesus says this is my blood shed for you, it is quite possible he meant to exclude Judas and was thinking only of those who genuinely loved Him. Note the qualifying phrase especially, “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table.”

Third, those 12 gathered at the table were at the moment the visible church. I think it true to say that Christ died for the church and thus for the visible church. This does not mean that everyone who is ever part of the visible church was died for by Christ any more than that everyone in the visible church is truly Christ’s disciple. (more…)

A Response to Dr. David Allen’s Presentation on Limited Atonement, Part 1b. The Historical Question in Regards to Jonathan Edwards

January 20, 2009


b. In Regards to Jonathan Edwards

In the list of theologians that Dr. Allen claimed as Calvinists who rejected Limited atonement, perhaps the most surprising name mentioned was Jonathan Edwards. While most people who hold to a Calvinistic soteriology have not read anything by theologians such as Bullinger or Ursinus, the works of Jonathan Edwards are much more popular, having been recently emphasized by teachers such as John Gerstner and John Piper. John Gerstner’s student R.C. Sproul has written the influential works Chosen by God and Willing to Believe and many readers have been inspired to further studies on topics addressed in these books, and have thus read Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, which Sproul recommends.

In Freedom of the Will Jonathan Edwards argues vigorously against Arminianism. One of the main books Edwards opposes in this work is Dr. Whitby’s Discourse on the Five Points in which the Arminian Dr. Whitby critiqued the five points of Calvinism. If Edwards himself agreed with the Arminian position of unlimited atonement, or if he disagreed with the Calvinist view of Limited atonement, then it would seem that he would make this known at some point in his arguments. Instead, Edwards argues in favor of Limited atonement in the conclusion of Freedom of the Will [most of which can be found on Google Books HERE], writing:

From these things it will inevitably follow, that however Christ in some sense may be said to die for all, and to redeem all visible Christians, yea, the whole world, by his death; yet there must be something particular in the design of his death, with respect to such as he intended should actually be saved thereby. As appears by what has been now shown, God has the actual salvation or redemption of a certain number in his proper absolute design, and of a certain number only; and therefore such a design only can be prosecuted in any thing God does, in order to the salvation of men. God pursues a proper design of the salvation of the elect in giving Christ to die, and prosecutes such a design with respect to no other, most strictly speaking; for it is impossible, that God should prosecute any other design than only such as he has: he certainly does not, in the highest propriety and strictness of speech, pursue a design that he has not. And, indeed, such a particularity and limitation of redemption will as infallibly follow, from the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge, as from that of the decree. For it is as impossible, in strictness of speech, that God should prosecute a design, or aim at a thing, which he at the same time most perfectly knows will not be accomplished, as that he should use endeavours for that which is beside his decree. [Emphases added.] (more…)