Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Continuing Saga of the White-Caner Baptist Calvinist Debate

There has been an ongoing online debate between Baptists Dr. Ergun Caner Dr. Ergun Caner, President of Liberty Theological Seminary and Calvinist Baptist apologist Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. Originally the two were about to do a face-to-face to debate Calvinism in Baptist movement, but something went through in the process such that the debate was cancelled. It is funny that after the cancellation, the two for a while debated online the reason for the cancellation of the debate! But lately Dr. White has been commenting on the sermons of Dr. Caner, an example can be found here.

As can be gathered, the staunch Calvinist is White and the anti-Calvinist is Caner. I am not sure if Dr. Caner would like to be labelled Arminian, but he is a Of "free-willer" at least that can be said.

The comments that Dr. White has been making is quite revealing as well as the sermon delivered by Dr. Caner too. What is revealed in these two is the fact again that the Cross or Justification is not at the center of these two people's positions. Dr. White says that Jesus should be Lord because He created people. That is true that Christ created us but that is not the reason he should be Lord. Dr. White does not want to go to the Cross because to do that would mean he has to deny the doctrine of Limited Atonement. That would be bad because he will lose the "reformed" label. The "Reformed" label is something people fight for - it is the IN word in Christian circles now a days. On the other hand, Dr. Caner emphasized the free-willing nature of human beings such that it makes man the determiner of his salvation. In other words, Dr. White's Calvinism means that it is God who determines who is lost and who is saved. For Dr. Caner, it is man who determines if he is saved or lost. None of these positions talk about the Cross.

It is disappointing for example that Dr. White wants us to hail Jesus is Lord because He created us, and not because He died for us. On the other hand, for Dr. Caner, man casts the deciding choice, all has been done, all we need to do is make the right choice, make Jesus Lord.

These two positions are too far from the sayings in our circle - Jesus is Lord precisely because He is our Savior. Of course by His right of creation He is Lord, yet that is not how God wants us to hail His Son. Rather we cry He is Lord because He bled and died for us, He is Lord because He saved us, sacrificed His all for us. He is Lord because He has won us and paid for us.


Lynchburger said...

I am confused by your comment. Both Calvinists and Arminians/Free-willers talk freely about the cross. Free-willers say that Jesus' death on the cross made salvation hypothetically available to everyone, but didn't actually do anything real or definite, and that to claim an interest in the work of the cross, one must stake a personal claim through an act of free will.

Calvinists like Dr. White and myself proclaim the cross on a regular basis as the way Jesus accomplished the real and definite defeat of evil and sin, that the believer's sin is fully paid for by the death of Jesus as our real substitute in punishment.

As for your distinction between Jesus as Lord because He overcame our sin versus His Lordship by right of being our Creator, I fail to see any important difference in the two grounds of His claim to authority. Perhaps I am just ill-informed. If He is truly the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, then as Creator He has, in some timeless sense, always been the victor over evil through the cross. That is central to who he is as Creator. Therefore His claim to Lordship encompasses all of who He is, both Creator over all and Savior of those whom the Father has given Him.

Please forgive me in advance if I have failed to understand your point, but the way you have stated it in your current post, no one who knows Calvinism would recognize the force of your argument.

L P Cruz said...

Hi Lynchburg,

I am glad you dropped by for a comment, you are most welcome. Did you listen to Dr Whites's previous broadcast?

Just to let you know I was a Calvinis before.

There is an important distinction. Calvinist looks at God as a Sovereign Lord who demands glorification by shear right of being Creator. Calvinistic authors oftern discuss God's grace without regard for the Cross because it looks as Grace separate from it. We (Lutherans) look at God as a Father who used his Sovereignty to actually forgive sinners by putting the punishment due to them upon his Son Jesus. God himself provides the Lamb. For this reason, I can call people to Christ with out equivocating or psychologically figuring out if truly Jesus actually died for Mr. X's sins.

The Sovereignty of God profits you and me nothing if he does not use it to our advantage. The Gospel says he did. We look at God's attitude to us, by looking at what He did to Christ. I can stand in a crowd and proclaim that with out a caveat - "you are all worthy of God's hell but God gave all of it to Christ". It is a sincere offer of forgiveness ( I do not have to psychologically process if he truly died for anyone). He died for all.

And I do undestand why Calvinist would look at my comment as odd. Calvinists center on God's Sovereignty. Yet The Cross is the center of our (Christian) theology - all branches of theology stem from there, that is our worldview. The beauty of Jesus is that he did not come to condemn but to give his life as a ransom for all. His beauty is not found in his Kingship alone, it is found in his humiliation. it is most profoundly seen in the nail pierced hand and the stripes on his back - you will forever see it in heaven - forever, you will see these scars as you walk with him there. The greatest thing Jesus did was to die for me (you) a wicked sinner of a worm.

This is why Jesus is different. He dies for his subjects, He dies for his enemies, that his those who know they can not love God and man and but offers his righteousness as theirs.

Drop or email me if this needs more explanation.

PS. If you study further, Calvinism has a different definition of repentance and faith from the Lutheran view and thus effectively has a different view of sola fide.

Lynchburger said...

I appreciate your thoughtful response, but I must respectfully disagree with your assessment of the Calvinist's approach to the cross. I do not try to process who is and who is not elect. That is only the province of God. Any learned Calvinist knows this. When I proclaim to others that Jesus died for the worst of sinners, and that they should repent and believe, and that if they do so, Jesus absolutely will receive them, I have been faithful to the Biblical model of Gospel presentation. I have read many Calvinists myself, and neither they nor I have any aversion to a bold proclamation of the cross, that Jesus died to set sinners free. Therefore I suppose my trouble is that I have not lived Calvinism they way you have described it. As I said in my earlier post, it is the very glory of God that He has, in His nature of love, been expressing that love toward his chosen ones from before time began, through His death on their behalf. It is inherent in who he is as Creator, that he is also our Redeemer. There is no reason to find a dichotomy here where none truly exists. People who set God's sovereignty at the center have not displaced the cross; they have exalted it further still.

In addition, I do not judge God's "worth" to me by what I get from him. His worth stands on its own. It wouldn't matter what I thought. I am, as Abraham said, mere dust. God did not consult me when he spread out the starry hosts, or laid the deep foundations of the earth. Yet he has, as you say, humbled himself to seek my salvation, humiliated himself on the cross to bring me eternal bliss. This is the One whom all learned Calvinists do glorify, from sincere hearts of gratitude, knowing that only grace flowing from the deepest kind of love could have motivated such a sacrifice. If this is whom you say that you glorify, you should not drive a wedge of division between those who really believe the same thing.

If, on the other hand, your position is that only by holding to a general atonement can one keep the cross at the center of the Gospel message, I must again respectfully disagree. A general theory of the atonement displaces the cross and puts man at the center of the Gospel message. Furthermore, it creates the logical basis for universalism, which historically is an early warning sign of eventual apostasy. You doubtless know the argument. If Jesus died for the sins of all humans ever, then no one can be in hell, because there simply is not any sin left anywhere for which anyone must still be punished.

If you counter that one must individually claim a share of that atonement, then it cannot have been a true substitution. It is something else. It is something less. I don't even know how one could define it if it is not a true and valid substitution. And if Jesus was really my substitute 2000 years ago, then my sins are objectively gone, expiated, propitiated, thrown into the sea, and as far from me as the east is from the west. Either the atonement was real or it was merely theoretical. Either it was entirely dependent on the purposes of God, or entirely dependent on human will, to reach fruition. Calvinists declare it to be real.

If you counter that the cross covers all sins but not unbelief, then I must somehow try to think of unbelief as not a sin, and that surely is error. There is no greater sin than unbelief. It is the root and core of all other sins. If unbelief was accounted as under the cross, then no amount of unbelief is sufficient to cast that soul for whom Jesus died into hell. Otherwise, the sin was not in fact paid for. If the transaction of God accepting the death of Christ for individual sins was complete at the cross, any sinner so accounted has no further debt. None. Neither little sins or big sins, past sins or future sins, nor the great sin itself, unbelief. For the Calvinist, this is precisely the glory of the cross, in that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He really meant it.

Then there is the small matter of Scripture. Jesus died for the sins of His people, laid down His life for His sheep. That is the Scriptural scope of who is included in the atonement: His people. Our iniquity was laid on Him. Through His stripes, we are healed. That is the Scriptural nature of the atonement: He bears our sins. Yes, I know there are passages that speak of Him dying for all, but I have looked at those passages and see them as saying consistently that He is the propitiation, the complete satisfaction of the sin debt, for not only Jews but Gentiles too, not only for the poor and weak, but the rich and strong as well. The power of His atonement will ultimately be felt in every last tribe, tongue, and people.

Yet hell will not be empty. Those there will be paying for their own sins. The word of God does not contradict itself. It is perfectly self-consistent. It would not and does not teach that actual sins paid for by the precious blood of Christ will ever be cast back in the teeth of the original sinner who committed them. God is not like sinful man. He is holy and just. His balances are fair. He will not break His agreement and withdraw what He has unconditionally given. He will not exact a payment from Christ and then demand the same payment again from the original debtor. Such a thing would be wickedness if done between men. God is incapable of injustice. He will not do it.

In conclusion, I think you have rightly expressed how some Calvinists have indeed veered from the centrality of the cross, but I also believe you have wrongly expanded that to suggest that Calvinism itself does not properly focus on the cross. I hope I have demonstrated here how Calvinism, when understood as the Scriptural form of doctrine regarding God’s eternal plan of salvation, most certainly does revolve around the cross, because the cross is the ultimate expression of love, and therefore the highest expression of the nature of the God Who is love.

L P Cruz said...

Hi Lynchburger,

I appreciate too your sincere interaction with this post.

Firstly I am not talking about you as a particular Calvinist, I commented on Dr White's program. You would be one of those who are wise in not carrying one's Calvinism to its final consistent destination.

What I try to do is comment on the what people believe, teach and confess. I regret if it appears that I am hammering on personalities.

Let me start with 2 Cor 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[a] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Then let me quote 1 John 2:1-2. 2He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Let me now respond to some parts of your post and see if we get some precise understandings on our positons. you said this

In addition, I do not judge God's "worth" to me by what I get from him. His worth stands on its own. It wouldn't matter what I thought. I am, as Abraham said, mere dust. God did not consult me when he spread out the starry hosts, or laid the deep foundations of the earth.

1.) Agree indeed that God required none of my consent, yet what he proclaims in the Gospel is that precisely... God did not consult you/me when Jesus died for the sins of the world, yet that is what God did anyway, he exercised his sovereignty by giving us his Son. Jesus died for me/you before we were born, that is the Gospel as you know.

2.) We understand (at least I perhaps), that if we take an arbitrary person anyone whatsoever, say that man down in your street, the Scripture says that without doubt, Jesus died for that person's sins. This is what we (I) believe. Now when we proclaim to him the Law & Gospel, a few things can happen, a.) he could say, no, I am not a sinner and no one needs to die for my sins, or b.) yes, I may be a sinner, but I can certainly pay for my sins, or c.) he says - Yes - thank God, that gift of forgiveness is mine.

According to Eph 2:8-9, should c.) happens, then we say that God has granted that man the gift of faith. So in our world view, the death of Jesus for sins is a gift and the faith that receives that is a gift too. I believe you affirm these too but our understanding of our affirmations are different.

Thus in my understanding - by the death of Jesus God has declared all people forgiven in Christ. However, that forgiveness is located no where else but in Christ and Christ alone.
You said...If you counter that the cross covers all sins but not unbelief, then I must somehow try to think of unbelief as not a sin, and that surely is error. There is no greater sin than unbelief. It is the root and core of all other sins. If unbelief was accounted as under the cross, then no amount of unbelief is sufficient to cast that soul for whom Jesus died into hell.

I have a problem with that part of your statement. Your argument is logically valid and I would have agreed with you except Scripture says something about UNBELIEF. I think there is false dichotomy in the above statements and I respectfully assert that it is being conducted philosophically without full weight and reference to the words of Scripture. Jesus says that in Mk 16:16, "those who do not believe are condemned". That arguement is directed against Jesus' own words and I do not think you would like to do that.

What keeps people away from heaven is the rejection of the gift. Unbelief is calling God a liar with respect to the Gospel.

I quote 1 John 5:10-11 10Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 11And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

I quoted you Scriptures above that Jesus says unbelief will damn the person. Yes there is a "limiting of atonement" but not the way the Calvinist asserts it. God provided salvation for all, yet hell will not be empty, but not because Jesus did not die for them, but because they rejected the gift - Paul says not all have faith.

So clarify for me, how is a person damned in your Calvinism? In your Calvinism who is the ultimate cause of man's damnation?


Lynchburger said...


I contend that in all theistic systems based on the God of Abraham, God is the one who has acted first and all other acts flow in some sense from that first act. He is the Alpha, as well as the Omega. He does not share His glory with another. There are no close competitors for the primacy of God. However, that does not empower me to explain all (or even very many) of the relationships that exist between His first and all subsequent acts. Romans 9:19 forbids us from even asking about some of those relationships. Therefore, I am not in a position of sufficient knowledge or authority to answer what is the ultimate cause of a man’s damnation. I can, however, address what Scripture allows me to address. As you rightly point out, unbelief is the immediate cause of damnation. No learned Calvinist disagrees with this. Therefore, I believe you have misunderstood my argument regarding atonement for unbelief, as it is not at all in conflict with the words of Jesus.

By the way, let me say that I was somewhat concerned that I had not covered the unbelief question quite as thoroughly as I had hoped, and I was somewhat concerned you would run afoul of my inadequate portrayal of the problem. I apologize for the difficulty. Let me try again.)

First, as I have said, we do agree that belief has a direct causal relationship to damnation. Second, unbelief is nevertheless present in the elect person before they become a believer. This is definitional. Paul was “a chosen vessel,” yet he was for a time steeped in unbelief. That unbelief was sin, as offensive to God as any murder or lie, and meritorious of punishment. Elect persons who are not yet believers are presently sinners as to unbelief. That unbelief must come under the blood of the cross. Otherwise, no elect person could be saved, unless perhaps they never experienced unbelief at all before their conversion, which is obviously nonsensical. No, I see no way to remove unbelief from the category of those sins accounted under the blood of Christ.

Third, unbelief of a less absolute kind continues to act as a force for sin even in the life of a believer. Mark 16:14: “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.” See also the children of Israel in Psalm 78. See also Mark 9:24: “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Then consider also the following episode from Sarah’s life, after God had said she would bear a son to Abraham: Genesis 18:11-15: “Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.”

Herein we reasonably understand that unbelief is warp and woof part of every sinful response to God. If I really believed God, I would never doubt either His authority or His good intent. I would not question His promises, though they seemed absurdly beyond human possibility. I would never have to fear His punishment or try to hide my guilt if I did not disbelieve His commands. Any such act against the commands of God necessitate a belief in me that something God has said is untrue. If I lie, I have disbelieved His assertion that truth is better. If I steal, I disbelieve His assertion that He has granted the one from whom I steal a right to keep what he has earned. If I murder, I deny the truth that man is made in the image of God, and therefore holds a right to live unharmed in the dignity of his being.

Therefore, all sin is derivative of unbelief at some level. How can Christ’s atonement exclude this unbelief? It cannot, else we are all doomed. You may respond that I have created a hypothetical person who would die in unbelief and yet rise to glory. Such a person cannot exist in the full context of Scripture, because all that the Father gives to Jesus do ultimately come to Him, and none of them is cast out. God does not provide half a salvation. He does not purchase our redemption at such outrageous cost, only to let slip the small detail of creating for Himself a people zealous of good works, a people who believe in Him, who hear His voice, and follow Him. You cannot have a coin without two sides. Both sides are always there. Those for whom He has laid down His life will come to Him and will be raised up in the last day. What God has purchased for us in His blood from before the world was formed, we necessarily experience as the finite creatures of the present. Our debt of sin was nailed to the cross, but we could not appreciate it till we encountered Jesus on our own Damascus road.

Yet under a theory of general atonement, not only was Paul’s unbelief paid to the full measure by the death of Christ. So was the rank and uninterrupted unbelief of the Pharisees, most of whom never in their life repented (to my knowledge), and would therefore be in hell at this moment. What of their unbelief? It is sin and so must be eradicated by the cross. You doubtless respond that they never entered into Christ, and that therefore they did not obtain relief from their sin debt. Then I say Jesus did not die for that sin that now holds them in hell. Otherwise, Jesus did not receive in His body the wounds deserved by the sinner for whom He died. The Pharisees are receiving their own wounds for their own sin in hell. General atonement leaves utterly unexplained how God could wound two persons for one sin.

I apologize for my slow-wittedness, but I cannot see how general atonement can be true without resulting either in universal salvation or injustice with God. As I am unprepared to accept either conclusion, I must continue with my original thesis, that Christ died specifically for His people, that the “all” of 1 John 2:2 cannot reasonably refer to all humans ever, but only to all classes and kinds of people, and that the death of Christ was a real substitution on the sinner’s behalf, eradicating all the specific sins, including unbelief, of all those sinners who ultimately do put their faith in Him.

You may offer me the kind thought that I am somehow not “consistent” with my Calvinistic principles to hold the cross in such high esteem, that I am somehow different from other Calvinists, like Dr. White, et al. My response is that this is not my experience of Calvinism as it is practiced by those among whom I have lived for the latter three decades of my life. I have seen great love of the cross among those who honor the reality of what Christ accomplished upon it. I think that a high view of the cross is not only consistent with Calvinism, but because Calvinism is consistent with Scripture, it is consistent with Scripture as well. The Calvinists I know would not disagree with me on this.

I regret that your exposure to Calvinism has disposed you to see it differently. I can only offer that Dr. White is fighting a particular battle and has chosen his emphasis as a reaction to the areas in which Biblical doctrine is being attacked by Arminianism, Open Theism or whatever is the problem of the day. I trust that if you were exposed to the full preaching and teaching ministry of all Calvinist teachers ever, you would be pleasantly surprised at the centrality of the cross in their message. As we can never reach all such teaching, no, not in a lifetime of reading and listening, we will just have to agree to disagree on this point. For my part, I am confident it is so.

I will not have much more to say on this, as I have exams coming up, and many responsibilities that will spend my time for me. I did want to say I have enjoyed our conversation, and I wish you all the best. Seeing through a glass darkly is frustrating, but it is a temporary condition, and we shall know more fully by and by.

“…the greatest of these is charity.”

Steve said...

The problem I have with strict 5 point Calvinism is the idea of a "limited antoinment" by Christ. This rans counter to scripture since Christ stated that he came to save the "whole" world (John 3:16).

Likewise I have problems with "free will" since it states that Man isn't true dead in his sin, but has the ability to "decide to follow Jesus". This runs against the teaching that we are dead to God and it is God who gives us the life and the ability to say "Yes" to God.

Man only has the ability to reject God and we do that in our sinful nature. It's only a the life that we have in Christ can we say "Yes".

Lynchburger said...

My apologies Lito and Steve. It was late last night, and I misspoke regarding 1 John 2:2. I referred to the "all" of the passage, and of course that is not the contested wording here, but rather "whole world" (Greek: holos kosmos). The passage reads as follows:

"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

We must be careful in Biblical interpretation not to import the substance of modern debates and current usage of terms back into First Century expressions. At the level of raw linguistic content, there are a variety of legitimate understandings of this set of words. Lito, as an IT person (as I also am), surely you would appreciate the problems one would have writing a program in a modern language such as Visual Basic and trying to run it under the original Basic interpreter. It just wouldn't work.

Likewise, if we moderns have come to think of "world" as always and only ever meaning "all humans ever," we have stretched the Greek "kosmos" in a direction and to an extent well beyond it's typical use in the Greek. It is more likely that John, who was frequently ministering to predominantly Jewish congregations local to the Mediterranean region, used kosmos to remind his readers that the benefits of Christ's propitiation reached all kinds of people in every imaginable location, whether rich or poor, strong or weak, Jew or Gentile. "Whole world" was, I believe, an expression of the breakdown of that wall of division Paul speaks of in Ephesians, that had keep Jew and Gentile in separate "sheepfolds." But now John would have his readers know that Christ's propitiation fully satisfied the wrath of God against the sins of not only us here in this congregation, but that in the end, every tongue, tribe and people would be represented in that great throng singing the praises of the Lamb upon His throne for all time to come (Steve, I believe this would also apply to John 3:16).

That this is a better approach that superimposing a modern "all humans ever" theory is borne out by the force of the verb "is" (Greek: estin), which here expresses a simple present reality: Christ actually really is the accomplished propitiation for sins. The act of propitiation itself is done and is a present reality, not a future potentiality. There is no looking forward to some eventual human act to complete the transaction. His death has in past time satisfied God's wrath against us for our specific sins. The substitution has already transpired, the debt paid, and the transaction sealed by the lips of Jesus with the common Greek expression of commercial debt satisfaction, "It is finished."

Furthermore, no hermeneutic can survive without being honest with both the immediate text and the broader context in which it occurs. John in the surrounding passage is making the point that Jesus is our advocate when we sin, that we must admit we do sin, but that we may take comfort that the wrath of God against our sins is presently satisfied by the death of Jesus on our behalf, and not ours only, who are here reading this message, but that the power of His sacrifice embraces untold millions all around the world, regardless of their race or estate in life. This then should encourage us to come to Him when we do sin, to confess, to repent, and to bring forth the fruits of repentance, seeing we have so great a Savior. I believe that is the central focus of the passage.

However, if I add to the passage the “hidden text” that “whole world” really means “all humans ever,” I am adding the bizarre implication that I should take courage to come to my great Advocate with my sin because He was a fully satisfactory propitiation for all human souls ever, even though a countless number of those same souls now reside in hell because His propitiation had no effect on their sins. One cannot easily or naturally reconcile this implication with the overall sense of the passage.

I recognize that people of good will may look at this passage and reach different conclusions. I respect that, but I do believe this explanation is consistent with the principles of Divine justice revealed in the death of Christ on the cross, that it is consistent with the ordinary use of the relevant Greek terminology, and that it avoids the secret intrusion of modern definitions into the text. I therefore believe it should be the approach adopted in the court of Christian opinion, as that which most glorifies our great Redeemer-Advocate, Jesus.

L P Cruz said...

Hi Lynchburger,

I glad we are conducting this conversation in a civil manner.

I have two general streams to say...

Firsly to the question "Who is responsible in the end for the damnation of people, in your Calvinism"? If you noticed this was left in my last reply, and I think there is plenty of moving forward to do had you provided answer

As a Calvinist, which confession do you subscribe to? Are you Presbyterian (WCF), Baptist (LBCF) or Continental Reformed ( Heidelberg/Belgic/Canons of Dort). I was in the camp of Continental Reformed.

Let me quote the answer of WCF (Chapter 3, article 3) to which LBCF is I believe the same
III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.

According to Meriam Webster "foreordinaton" is synonymous to "predestination". Now I heard some Calvinists say that this "foreordination" is simpy "foreknowlege", I do not buy it and I consider it a weak attempt to change the meaning of the words to make the article a lot more acceptable.

So, according to this Calvinist confession - God is responsible for the damnation of some men.

Secondly my comment is now on 2 John 1: 1-2 (and by implication John 3:16). I am sure you have Edwin Palmer's TULIP or Duane Spence's TULIP books, as I have. I studied for years on the Calvinist doctrine of Limited Atonement and after much thought on their exegesis on 2 John 1:1-2 their explanations failed to convince as it fails logic. No offense, but what you offered is the standard party line.

If one says "the whole world" here means the classes of men, and not the whole humanity, then we ask the question, is there some one here who does not belong to a class of men? Poor, rich, aboriginal, caucasian, laborer, office worker, male, female, grandmom, grandad? No, all men belong to a class of some sort and if Jesus died for the class of all men, then none is excluded.

Also why I am not convinced by the so called exegesis of Calvinists on this passage is because it relies on special pleading. This is my observation as others have. Calvinist exegesis always pleads for the special. They say ahh, but this passage here is special and should not be interpreted in the light of other passages when in fact the contrast that John makes in 1 John 2:1-2 is forceful, he says this is not for ours only but for the whole world without exception. The text is clearly asserting the good news, that Jesus death is for the whole world. "Estin" is not the subject of discussion we agree Jesus' death finished the rescue operation. It is a done deal. The subject of concern is "monon" in comparison to (i.e. "alla") "holou", that is the force of the issue, "holou" in context means "whole,entire, completely". The point is that this propitiation is a rich gracious gift for the whole sinful world.

The Calvinist interpretation and the Lutheran interpretation are mutually exclusive. Only one of them (not both) is on the side of Jesus, indeed, the Jesus projected by both are not the same Jesus. The picture that emerges are two different understanding of Jesus.

What convinced me more? I saw people who were 5 pointers like Eric Svensen, abandoning it (Limited Atonement). Lastly and above all the most disturbing reality - I heard Calvinists who themselves doubt if Jesus died for them - ie they feared that they might be one of those Jesus did not die for. And rightfully so, they should wonder if by chance by their own teaching and confession if they were one of the elect. Thus, even Calvinist themselves failed to be comforted by their own doctrine. Some I believe are still wondering.

Why did James White not say - Jesus is Lord because Jesus died for you? Instead he said - Jesus is Lord because Jesus created you? It is not without reason. White was being consistent with his confession. He can not say Jesus is Lord because Jesus died for you --- because he does not believe the latter part of that sentence. Why? Because part of TULIP ssys, it is possible that Jesus did not die for you. And I ask - is this statement - Jesus is Lord because Jesus created you - the Gospel? No. The apostles did not preach that way, rather they said - We preach Christ Crucified (for sinners).

Lynchburger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynchburger said...


Greetings. I hope you have enjoyed our time of national thanksgiving. My response was to be short, owing to many pressures in my life, but I have failed in that. I hope I will not fail in the more important task of being faithful to Scripture.

First, while I am not an opponent of the substance of most of the reformed confessions, my familiarity with them is apparently not as extensive as your own. I tend to be dismissive of precise parsings of confessions anyway because they lack the fundamental quality of divine inspiration. They are a great place to go to see what others have thought, and upon what Scriptures they have based those thoughts. A confession is always a good teaching tool, but I do not, as some of my reformed brethren have, elevate any confession to a level of authority anywhere close to Scripture. Indeed, I have suffered some small loss for adamantly holding to the primacy of Scripture, because neither my Catholic nor my uber-confessional acquaintances think that I have an individual right of conscience to understand Scripture apart from the dictates of the Magisterium, be it headquartered in Rome or Geneva. Do not misunderstand. I believe Geneva and I have far more in common than not. It is a question of freedom of conscience as a creature made in the image of God, and as a believer having the Holy Spirit as my teacher He has given me my own little sphere of control and I mean to use it well. I will not face the Westminster divines on that day when I stand before Him to talk about my life.

Therefore, you will find my answer now the same as the answer I gave before. I apologize if you think it non-responsive or disappointing. As a lawyer in training, it troubles me when a witness on the stand offers an unsatisfactory response. My teacher (who has since gone on to his reward) has taught us that with such a witness, you simply take what you can get and save the devastating analysis for the closing statement. That would be my advice to you. The short of it is that, confessions aside, I do not know how the “ultimate” cause of damnation works. Being a Christian, as any Christian (because this is true for all Christian theologies), I must deal with the fact that nothing would exist at all apart from the will of God. As I pointed out before, He is the first cause, the Alpha, of all things, “for of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36. My wife and I go round and round on this. Why did God allow evil to exist in the first place. She is as unhappy with me as you are. There should be a clear, easily grasped answer that makes it all make sense. If there is, I don’t know it, and that after more than a half century of having a Bible and a brain to search for it. I suppose I am just not as sharp as others.

Having said all that, the nearest I can come to responding is to point trembling to that apostolic statement in Romans that God is the potter and humanity is the clay, and He is free to make out of them whatever serves His purposes, whether for glory or for common use. In either case, He is glorified because, as I understand it, the ultimate act of faith is to acknowledge that all that God does is holy and just, whether it accommodates my tiny little brain or not. Therefore, when, in Romans 9:19, he says not to challenge God’s motivation in His decisions of election, I take that seriously. I see it as a room in the house that God has said I should stay out of. I mean to stay out of it.

As to the alleged Creator-Redeemer dichotomy, of course Dr. White is right to say that Jesus is Lord without respect to whether a person loves or hates Him. Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, and God shall put all things into subjection, as under the feet of Jesus, whether lofty things or low things. His glory as our Redeemer is not in conflict with His glory as our Creator. Indeed, without understanding His inherent right to be our Sovereign, it is impossible to acknowledge the full meaning of sin, and without a full apprehension of sin, there can be no full appreciation of His bearing it on our behalf. His Creatorship and His crucifixion are linked at the core, are part of each other. I must be honest and say the distinction you try to make here has continued to elude me.

As to whether it is right to say to someone, “Jesus died for you” versus “Jesus died for sinners,” I think you have started your analysis from the wrong starting point, which, as always, must be Scripture. What model is provided in Scripture, wherein Paul or any apostle, said to any sinner who was in a state of unbelief, “Jesus died for you specifically?” Never. It is always that Jesus died for sinners, of whom I am chief, thus repent and believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and obtain life in His name. By contrast, you are enunciating a subtle form of the concept that in order to approach the crucified Jesus, the sinner must have what is called by some hyper-Calvinists a “gospel warrant to believe,” that is, he must find some basis in human reason, apart from the simple command to repent and believe, for thinking that God has included him among the elect. The hyper-Calvinist would look to some leaning of inward desires toward Christ before such a warrant is found. Evangelists of the general atonement make that warrant out of the rationalist argument that all sinners, regardless of belief, were included in the atonement. It does appeal to reason. It says to a named sinner, “believe in Jesus, sinner so-and-so, because He has already done away with your sins.” But the apostolic preaching of the cross does not ever name specific sinners, and the warrant of faith does not come until after faith has already appeared. Otherwise it would not be faith, but sight.

I am sensitive to the confusion sometimes experienced by those who question their own election, but surely some occasional doubt entangles all believers when we sin, or when we are ill-informed of the certainty God attaches to calling His sheep to Himself. Make your calling and election sure, says Peter (2 Peter 1:10). Apply diligence to firm it up. These are not words you hear in modern circles. Our calling and election is certain, but we hold these treasures of grace in vessels of clay, and we are subject to times of stronger and weaker perception of our connectedness to God, of the substantiality of our faith. The fact that we are imperfect does not justify dismissing a doctrine clearly taught in numerous Scriptures. Even a belief in general atonement is insufficient to overcome uncertainty in a weak soul. Yes, Jesus died for my sins, says the weak one, but today I looked at a woman with lust, and that proves my faith in Him too weak to save me, ah me, I am lost again. I must go and get saved again, for surely if I die before I repent of this sin, the death of Christ will avail me nothing, though it covered all my sin, past, present and future. You know this does occur.

My point is this. Accepting or rejecting a particular doctrine does not depend primarily on human experience, but on honestly interpreting the Scriptures. That must be the starting point. Else we must subject Scriptural truth to the test of lowest common denominators, i.e., no truth can be accepted if anyone at all has a bad experience with it. If that were our test, no truth would survive, and there would be no church left. It is true, however, that some interpretations, over time, do give rise to certain problematic patterns in the church, and it is fair to recognize and to deal appropriately with these patterns and the interpretations that give birth to them. In that sense I suppose you and I are on opposite ends because we have differing experiences of the negative effects of certain patterns of belief. You rightly point out that some tender souls have struggled with doubt over election. I would contend that many more sweet souls have tortured themselves unnecessarily over whether their self-generated faith was sufficient to claim an interest in the blood of Christ. This difference in experience relegates us to an appeal to Scripture as the arbiter of Christian belief. If that fails, we have no further recourse in this life, but must wait for that day of final clarification, each obeying the light he has been given to the best of his ability until then.

As for Eric Svendsen, I have done some study on his teaching regarding the subject of Limited Atonement, and have concluded that he has not altogether abandoned it. He himself designates himself as a “4.5er,” which means that he still hold the atonement to be relevant primarily to the elect, but he has coupled that with a notion that sin as a nature or property of humanity as a whole is still somehow encompassed in Christ’s defeat of sin on the cross (the latter point is in fact consistent with Calvinist belief, although we would derive it differently). He therefore permits himself to speak of Christ’s death as being significant to all human individuals, but significant to the elect in a way different from the non-elect. He does this in a manner similar to your own approach, such that the Owens syllogism is incomplete because it does not account for the acquisition of forgiveness through faith in the continuum of time.

Allow me to explain. The Owens syllogism states that there are but four possibilities regarding the atonement of sin under Christ. The death of Christ covers 1) all the sins of all men, 2) some of the sins of some men, 3) some of the sins of all men, or 4) all the sins of some men. #1 yields universalism, and we both reject that. #2 and #3 don’t save anyone, because everyone would have some sin remaining. #4 is Calvinism’s limited atonement, and under it, some men are fully saved. Svendsen holds that application of the benefits of the atonement in time through faith adds more possible conditions than the four given above. He therefore posits that traditional Limited Atonement theory fails to account for conditions where the atonement is of no value to even an elect sinner until that moment of faith, wherein the value is made real and applied. This allows Svedsen to treat the allegedly universal passages as potentially universal until ratified into definite form by an elect person exercising faith. I understand he is trying to reconcile the “all” and “world” language in a self-consistent manner, but he does not give a proper account of the eternal nature of the decrees of God, that from the perspective of eternity, time collapses out of the equation, leaving the original four posits of the Owens syllogism. I would agree with his evaluation if it appeared uncertain what the elect sinner would ultimately do, but as it is entirely certain, it adds nothing of hermeneutical value to buy peace with some few textual tributaries at the expense of introducing an unwarranted uncertainty into that great roaring stream of truth regarding golden chain of redemption.

As for your assertion of special pleading, surely you recognize that in my last post I am claiming that it is the general atonement theorist who is making a special pleading regarding “whole world.” It is special because for it to include “all humans ever,” it must openly and repeatedly defy the typical usages of kosmos found in the early Hebraic writers, whose pattern of usage would reasonably surface in the writing of John, himself a native Jewish writer using the Greek but thinking and therefore writing with a distinctive Hebraic flavor. To demonstrate this, consider that in both the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud, Gentiles were specifically excluded from propitiation, it being said that “there is no propitiation for them.” (See John Gill on 1 John 2:2, where he cites to T. Hieros. Nazir, fol. 57. 3, and T. Bab. Succa, fol. 55. 2. ). Therefore John had an entrenched basis in Jewish thought he specifically needed to overcome to communicate inclusion of the Gentiles in the spiritual people of God.

John also wrote in a context where refernce to Gentiles were frequently spoken of as "the whole world." See John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth, where he cites to the Talmud to show Gentiles being refereed to as a class of persons using the expression “whole world” (Talmud, Rabbet, and Zohar. Vid. Jarchi in Isaiah lilt. 5. Vid. Shemot Rabba, fol. 98. 3, and 99. l,: Shirhash, Rab. fol. 24.1.; Jarchi and Kimchi, in Zechariah 9:1.).

Furthermore, "whole world" is used in other places to show sweeping, but not all-inclusive, multitudes of various sizes, Jewish or otherwise:

"it happened to a certain high priest, that he went out of the sanctuary, … and the whole world went after him; and when they saw Shemaiah and Abtalion, they left him, and went after them.” See John Gill on John 12:19, where he cites to T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 71. 2.).

Therefore, when you consider that in Jewish literature, the “whole world” is a phrase that can have such a wide range of meanings, including the idea of encompassing Gentiles as a class, it is perfectly non-special pleading to think that John, as a Jew, would have been using this expression in a manner typical of Hebraic writing.

Please also note this same John, who wrote the disputed words of the epistle, uses the same basic conceptual structure in John 11:51-52: “And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” The parallelism is compelling. Jesus dies for the children of God, be they Jews, or those scattered abroad among the Gentiles. The burden of special pleading must surely fall to your side of the argument, at least for all the “world” passages, for none can be found that definitively support the idea of “all humans ever, without exception.” Indeed, I think you will find that, unlike your quote, the passage does not contain the words “without exception” anywhere. Perhaps you are using a different version.

As for the effect of categorical separation implied by “only” (monon), John is speaking to a specific, real group of contemporary believers. That he should expand the scope of his subject beyond that group, for the benefit of that group, is not at all surprising. It would be amazing indeed if such a simple and innocent expression as “ours only” enclosed within itself the entire concept of the church universal, because it is so easily subject to more a localized meaning with no violence to the text or its grander import.

As for whether reference in Scripture to classes of people always includes all individuals within that class, that is a matter of linguistic absurdity. No language that I know, as language, requires such a conclusion. I say, “Blue-collar workers get lower pay than white-collar workers.” Simply not true, if taken as absolutely inclusive. Some blue-collar folks make significantly more money than many of their white-collar counterparts. Yet generally, if taken as a class, the proposition might well be true. In general, we would agree that “the whole world lieth in sin.” This statement is not true, if taken as absolutely inclusive. Yet it is quite true if kosmos refers to the world system as a whole, with the church as the exception, for the way is broad that leads to destruction, but narrow is the way that leads to life. You might counter that we all lie in sin to one degree or another, but I would then say what of the saints now in glory? You say, they are no longer in the world. Then I say you have changed the meaning of “world” on me, as now it no longer refers to all humans ever, but only those humans you wish to include for purposes of your argument. I can think of nothing that looks more like special pleading than that.

So you see, my approach to this whole subject is derived primarily from Scripture, to the extent I am able to understand it. In-depth philosophies about causation are beyond me. Nor have I read the books you mentioned. Almost all my fundamental learning of the doctrines of grace has come from a few gentle souls who constantly directed me to set aside the works of men and look only to the Scripture. That is the quest of my life, to be faithful with the light and the gifts he has given me. I believe the same thing is true of you. I truly wish for the day when believers no longer quibble about the things of God. Division breaks my heart. May that day come, and soon, when we will set aside our trinkets for that greater weight of glory, to love God with all our hearts, and each other as ourselves.

“…the greatest of these is charity.”

L P Cruz said...

Dear Lynchburger,

For a short post you gave that is quite long. Nevertheless I am trying to decipher your line of reasoning.

Firstly on your appreciation of confessions but not subscribing to them. I too look at confessions as not at par with scripture but I do my self great harm in thinking that those ancients who came before me were dumb that I as a modern have all the aces which they missed to see. Even Luther whome Calvinist admire so much saw sola gratia and solo fide in the church fathers. I tell you why I differ towards a confession.. why? Because new heresies are just old ones rehashed.

Labels are important because it allows one to identify where the other is coming from. If I were you since you do not subscribe to the expositions of these Calvinist confessions as accurately reflecting the intent of Scripture, I would not identify myself as a Calvinist since you are, shall we say (w/ respect), espousing an eclectic view.

On this quote here What model is provided in
Scripture, wherein Paul or any apostle, said to any sinner who was in a state of
unbelief, “Jesus died for you specifically?” Never
is the first line of divide. What model? I point to say Acts 2:38-39 with the emphasis at the moment for discussion v. 39. I have spoken and debated/discussed with other Calvinists and what I see in your line is what I have seen before, and it proves a point. We do have some subtle differences concerning the good news.

According to scripture Jesus died on the Cross for us while we were in the state of unbelief - While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly Rom 5:8. So I say to mr. X down the street, this means you!

Correct me if I am wrong I seem to get from your exposition that the ground of our justification, in your view, is faith? Is that correct?

You said this But the apostolic preaching of the
cross does not ever name specific sinners, and the warrant of faith does not
come until after faith has already appeared. Otherwise it would not be faith,
but sight.

With regards to hyper-Calvinist discussion, I find it irrelevant because I am not a Calvinist, I am Lutheran. Lutherans do not command people to "repent and believe" as if people have the ability that they can do that. Lutherans believe that "repentance and faith" are God's gift that He himself creats in the sinner when the Law and the Gospel have been preach. We do not command people to decide to believe or decide to repent, do you? Why? Because we know they can not so we lead them to the Law and bring them the Gospel. If you are not sure of what this Lutheran Law/Gospel distinction is, I am happy to explain it in a separate post.

You sais Even a belief in general atonement is insufficient to
overcome uncertainty in a weak soul. Yes, Jesus died for my sins, says the weak one, but today I looked at a woman with lust, and that proves my faith in Him too weak to save me, ah me, I am lost again. I must go and get saved again, for surely if I die before I repent of this sin, the death of Christ will avail me nothing, though it covered all my sin, past, present and future. You know this does occur.
Yes I agree this occurs, but your description is fitting for an Arminian or someone who as not read our confessions which deny that we are saved by our repentance or saved by our faith.

We deny that the ground of our justification is our faith.

On experience, I agree, but if you notice in the last post I offered a plausible exegesis of 1 John 2:1-2 which was first from scripture. Then I showed that even Calvinist are now rethinking "L" and in pastoral practice such a doctrine produces uncertainty. What am I showing? I am showing that the system is riddled with weakness.

As for Mr Svendsen, well he denied being identified as a 5 Pointere and instead made himself known as a 4.5 Pointer so I think we are playing with semantics here - Svendsen does not subscribe to 5 Point exposition - that is that. As for John Owen's syllogism, may I refer you to a former fellow Calvinist Dr. Bickel of Dawning Realm and his paper

As for the "whole world", sure there are instances when it might mean people in general but in 1 John 2:1-2, does it mean what John Gill says it mean? Even if you grant that John was writing to Jewish people, the point is still the same if you say that the "whole world" means Gentiles. Why? Well for the simple reason that you are either a Jew or a Gentile. There is no one in between so - it is inexcapable - He died for all. John Gill illustrates a very creative exegesis which coerces the meaning of scripture. John Gill should have looked at the Fathers and showed that there were the Church Father that believed in Limited Atonement like he did.

But more on this - it is you who attaches the philosophical notion that when the scripture says "whole world" it also means people in heaven. You mentioned linguistics, yet we both know that the meaning of a word is determined by the context where it is placed, so I suggest that it is you who is equivocating in your syllogism on the meaning of "whole world" without respecting where it is used. Yes words do change its meaning but not in the same context and sense, here you do change its meaning in the context or in the domain of discourse/discussion.

Lastly, since we are not moving beyond exegesis I offer to you the witness of those who have gone before us - the witness of the Creeds, and here I refer you to the Nicene Creed which people of long ago , Christians of all stripes affirmed as true message from scripture. Do you subsccribe to the Nicene Creed? If you do not then you are not a catholic ( I do not mean Roman) , I mean you are not even a small c - catholic (universal Christian) who has linkage with the saints who have gone before.

In the Nicene Creed there is a line about Jesus that says "For US and for our salvation, he (Jesus) came down from heaven...etc".

The US in that creed refers to us human beings without exception. So I would like to ask if there was a church father somewhere who believed in Limited Atonement. If I may be pointed to such person's writings I would be very appreciative for my research and education.

I make a tentative assrtion, it seems to me: that the ancient Christians did not believe in Limited Atonement as evidenced in the ecumenical creeds.

I have abandoned the notion that it is just me and my Bible Christianity. Doctrine has been passed to me, formulas have been transmitted to me by those who have gone before - I better profit from their mistakes and not re-invent Christianity from scratch.

I bid you peace and with a last quote of wisdom from Santayana

They that do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it...

Lynchburger said...


Acts 2:38-39 does not contain a direct reference o Christ dying for a specific named individual. My question to you remains unanswered. As you wish.

If you have heard my arguments before, I have also heard yours. Romans 5:8 addresses the state of the sinner when Christ died for him. Indeed, all the elect are ungodly before they are converted. It does not address the question of specific sinners. It does not say that Christ died for all the ungodly ever. It only says that those for whom He died, when He died for them, they were ungodly, and that is true as it stands. No need for extra 20th century baggage.

As to the hyper-Calvinism argument, I regrettably failed to make clear that I am saying you have something in common with the hyper-Calvinist that I do not: A gospel warrant to believe, that is, a rationally perceptible basis for believing that a hearer of the Gospel message can become a believer. The hyper-Calvinist grounds this warrant in “signs of electness” rooted in attitudes of the would-be believer. The general atonement theorist grounds this warrant in a presumption that all humans ever were included in the atonement. The traditional Calvinist does not seek a pre-salvation warrant in a hearer to justify his preaching of the Gospel to that hearer. It is enough that Jesus commanded it. Those who have ears to hear will hear it.

I do know about using the law as a precursor to the Gospel, and I have no problem with it. Happily, here is something about which I need write nothing.

As for your showing that the system is riddled with weakness. 1) That would hardly matter to me if the “system” accurately reflected Scripture, because I would find the weakness, not in difficult Scriptural truths, but in the vessels of clay that bear them. We have met the enemy and he is us. 2) It is always possible to find someone somewhere rethinking something. You need more manly statistics than that. And Svednsen doesn’t count, because, as I pointed out before, he still hold a version of limited atonement despite his theorizing, as evidenced by his calling himself a 4.5er. In most Calvinist discussions I know about, hanging on to that last half point means you see limited atonement as plausible or even probable but, as you say, are less confident of the exposition than others. That is really not the same thing as “abandoning” the belief. To use a less controversial example, I may have a particular belief about who the nephalim were in Genesis 6, but may be less than dogmatic in my exposition than others because I hold to certain rigid hermeneutical premises. If someone reads of my expository doubts and trumpets that I have abandoned my original theory, that is too rash, and is likely going to result in misrepresentation. If this is your best evidence, it is very weak indeed.

As for pastoral practice, my only spiritual charges at the moment are my family, so Ii cannot speak beyond that. But this I can tell you, that substantial comfort has accrued to us because of the certainty of sins removed by a positive act of unconditional substitution by Jesus Christ. You may ask, from within our system, what warrant we have for thinking it applies to us. Simple. Jesus said that all who come to Him would by no means be cast out. If a sinner obeys the call to look unto Jesus, then he may rest easy in his soul that his sins are forever lost under the divine blood.

I do not know the language that requires all the instances of a class to always be inferred by a reference to that class. If you think Gill’s “whole world” argument creative, I think it well-grounded in substantial linguistic evidence that I have already cited to you which you have not directly addressed. Again, (and I have recited this before to no avail but you compel me to repeat it) speaking in class terms like Jew and Gentile does not infer inclusion of every individual in the class. If you think it does, you have a great deal of ordinary, every-day language to overcome to make your point.

I do regret that you got my mention of those in heaven as part of “whole world” exactly backwards as to how I meant you to understand it. My point was precisely that by stretching “whole world” to include all humans ever, you, in your system, must necessarily include all those humans who have passed into glory, which I agree is absurd. For me, on the other hand, “whole world” is still just John (not Gill) talking about the expansive reach of the propitiation in Christ beyond the closed world of John’s Jewish congregants. I did not mean you to think that I actually thought “whole world” incorporated the deceased, only that such an inclusion was necessary to a consistent application of your unproven “all humans ever” hypothesis.

As for our shared past as believers, I told you before, I am not dismissive of the those who have gone before. I take value from their work. I do not, however, elevate it to Scripture. My view may or may not be eclectic, but there are many believers who did quite well outside the hostile walls of a persecuting Roman church and I believe I am not at all alone in standing where I do. I do think your assertion about the Nicene Creed asserting general atonement proves my point about 20th century baggage. The Christians of 325 or 381 were not inclined as we are to worry about whether “us” accounted for all humans ever. That is a modern category problem unknown to them. Rather, like 1 John 2:1-2 and John 3:16, “us” need imply nothing more than fallen humanity in general, and conceivably even less, as this creed is read with regularity in Reformed congregations, often every Sunday, with “us” being understood as the believing reciters of the formula, not indiscriminate humanity. When I recite it, I can clearly see the directedness it has toward those who believe, because none of the warm relational tone of that confession extends beyond the community of believers. Yet if one comes at it to resolve a 20th Century dispute over the exact body count of those whose sins are atoned, they will find nothing in that text that is capable of making a point in that argument one way or the other.

And that perhaps is good, because then it can truly remain a catholic confession, focusing our minds and hearts on those things essential for our well-being as believers. The creed is great, but Scripture is greater. The centrality of Jesus and His atoning work must not be lost either to an overemphasis on sterile theological correctness, which will save no one, nor to a subtle but real diminution of the substitutionary nature and value of His atonement, and the implications that has for His divine justice.

You are right, of course, about history. We must avoid mistakes made by those who have gone before us. We must be willing to learn, even when such learning drives us from our comfort zone. History will teach us that no one much thought about the scope of the atonement in the modern terms of the debate until a certain welsh monk known as Pelagius formalized a notion of general atonement during his conflict with Augustine in the fifth century, well after both versions of the Nicene Creed became known. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the consensus of the church universal and catholic has adjudicated that Pelagius was the theological loser of that conflict. Such momentous victories as that should never be forgotten, else we will spend millions of needless hours spilling cyber-ink trying to undo the damage wrought by our forgetfulness.

It is enough for me. I have struggled and given my heart to the effort, but I have other things that must now happen in my life. Exams are looming, and I must be ready. If I return to this place and you have responded again, I will be too tempted to rejoin the conflict. Therefore, as a matter of personal discipline, I must not return here until Christmas break begins. I say this so you know that if I do not respond, it is not for lack of interest, but only for my near-term survival. I bid you peace.

“…the greatest of these is charity.”

L P Cruz said...

Dear Lynchburger,

I hope you do well in your exams. I am a student too so I understand. Do not be in a hurry to respond.

1.) Now, you wanted me to give you specific instances that Jesus died for named individuals... Now this is getting a bit silly, don't you think? The Bible speaks of general assertions that are applicable to the truth and context to which it asserts just see John 1:29 [ Behold, the Lamb of God ] The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!.

Nevertheless there are individuals that have been referred to that would be in heaven for example the thief at the Cross.

Now you and I do not see our names in the Bible mentioned but it mentions us a a class of beings, we are part of the world which the Bible speaks of as the object of Jesus' work. Also your future proginy is a part of that.

If you do not like these verses, you would also not accept if I refer you to the "ALL" in Romans 5. and the force of all being sinners in Rom 3.

2.) You claim that I am importing the notion that the whole world refer to the whole mass of human beings...You claim that this is a modern interpretation. Yet when I ask you to show me where Limited Atonement as defined by TULIP has been believed by early Christians, you can not give me an example...I find this unfair, you are not able to produce a witness. In fact it was I who has produced one that supports universal atonement, I have given you the Nicene Creed - the US in that creed have been interpreted as "we human beings". Also you again limit the confession of the Nicene to those confessing it at that time, but the confession is meant to be a declaration of truth believed and truth that is taught. It is not confessed to ones self but it is confessed to the whole world (I mean whole not part)! I dare say that TULIP believers that change the meaning of whole to "part", ie it effectively says Jesus died for part of the world.

3.) Observe too that you used John Gills interpretation of limiting the notion of whole world to that of Gentile world. Yet I showed by his own logic, the text, attacks his interpretation. It is funny because John Gill is known to be a Hyper-Calvinist and you use his interpretation then you turn around and accuse me of hyper-Calvinism who is not by any stretch a Calvinist! (at least no longer a Calvinist). Can you see how this is getting a bit humorous? Furthermore on the nature of classes, well Lynchburger this is simple set theory. Either you are a Jew or not a Jew and you can not be both in the same sense - this is Law of Excluded Middle, so either you are P or not P. To be None Jew is to be a Gentile - that is the Hebrew notion. Humanity = Jew + Non-Jew. This is high school set theory and natural language, I know you know this being in IT but I think you purposely refuse to see it.

4.) You said Simple. Jesus said that all who come to Him would by no means be cast out. If a sinner obeys the call to look unto Jesus, then he may rest easy in his soul that his sins are forever lost under the divine blood.

What you say is true from the universal atonement side (to some extent) but the implication of Limited Atonement (LA)runs counter that. Because it is simple according to LA, either Jesus died for you or he did not. Even if you want to go to heaven but God created you for hell then you are doomed if he did not die for you. I said what you said is true to some extent because there is a slight nuance,so in your quote - a person is saved because he (your words) "obeyed" to come to Jesus, so he is saved by his obedience not because Jesus died for him? You make the poor Christian look at his coming to Jesus as the basis of his Salvation not the fact that Jesus died for him. Rather I say the sinner is accepted when he comes to Jesus because Jesus has already paid for him as per 1 John 2:1-2. There is some subjectivity in your take here.

5.) Please observer that when you say I did not mean you to think that I actually thought “whole world” incorporated the deceased, only that such an inclusion was necessary to a consistent application of your unproven “all humans ever” hypothesis. You are creating a strawman of my position and are saying I indulge in sleepery slope fallacy.

jim cronfel said...

Dear Bro Pastor Lito,

Jesus died only for forenamed individuals:

Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

In Christ,

L P Cruz said...


Thanks for the comment. I thought long and hard on this passage, but as you have quoted, it does not say in that passage that Jesus did not die for those whose names are not written in the Book of Life.

In otherwords, I like to get a passage that explicitly says that Jesus did not die for those whose names are not written in the Book of Life.

The passage above does not support Calvinistic Limited Atonement. The question is still outstanding and question begging answers do not help.

So I say again, how are people damned? Dr. White says in one of his broadcast, that people are damned because of their sins, this is partly true but is not the whole story. Jesus says "If you do not believe that I AM he, you will die in your sins" (John 8:34). So unbelief damns as pointed in Mark 16:16.

Calvinist says because the cause of your salvation is God then he is the cause of your damnation too. NOT! Arminians say because the cause of damnation is you, then the cause of your salvation is you too. NOT! Lutherans says the cause of your salvatio is God but the cause of your damnation is you.


Anonymous said...

Dear Lito,

Here is the "not written" verse:

Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

I think that we can agree that grace, not faith, determines salvation. Q: If Jesus doed for you will you come to faith? Q: If you have faith and Jesus did not die for you will you be saved?


Jude 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ,

L P Cruz said...

But Jim, this is the thing, the bible says he died for even those who rejected him like the Pharisees. To be condemned and Jesus dying for the condemned are not necessarily contradictory, but the Calvinist see it as such.

jim cronfel said...

Dear Lito,

I am afraid but Jesus dying for the condemned is a starck contradiciton if there ever was one.

That is why you do not truly understand how grace is the primary cause and faith is only the means. You are making faith into a cause when you say that Jesus died for the condemned. You are making faith the answer over and above the nature of atonement/grace itself, which must the basis of, and preceede faith.

Faith is a mental phenomonon. It is mere knoweldge.

In Christ,

L P Cruz said...


You look at it as a logical contradiction but the Bible says so, so which do you belive, the Bible or your logic?

I am not saved by my faith, I am already saved by the death of our Lord Jesus that happened before I was born or could even believe, so how do I miss the grace of God here?

The Calvinist system have no recourse but to declare God the author of the damnatio of souls.


jim cronfel said...

Bible says God only died for the Elect:

Revelation 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Revelation 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

"The Calvinist system have no recourse but to declare God the author of the damnatio of souls."

I am afraid but I see no problem with this assertion other than that with fills me with terror and awe.

Lynchburger said...


I am still running breathlessly to my next law school deadline, but I stopped by and thought I would make a comment or two.

First, John Gill's alleged hyper-Calvinism is a matter of considerable historical argument. I read him regularly, but have found nothing offensive in that regard. However, at your prompting, I did some research and found the following site:

You may wish to look at it, as it convincingly portrays Gill making a passionate presentation of the crucified Christ to lost sinners, something quite alien to true hypers I have known.

Second, I am intrigued that you would make my assessment of "world" as a class reference into simple high school set theory, and that you would think me deliberate and insincere in doing so (unless I have misunderstood, and if so, please accept my apology in advance). Language is more complex than set theory of any kind I know. As programmers go, I am a good programmer, but only a marginal mathematician (I am thinking of my tax final).

But that’s OK because law has more to do with language than with math. In law, we train daily on listening for and identifying the thousands of untidy categories that creep up in language. That is what I sincerely see in the writing of John. He draws a small circle, "us," then a bigger circle, "kosmos," for whom Jesus is the propitiation, but not as to all discrete persons, only as to included classes, Jews first, but also now Gentiles. Jesus lays down His life for His sheep from both sheepfolds. By contrast, those not of his sheep are still in their sins. He said so. The book of life, wherein are the names of the elect only, is the book of the slain Lamb. His book. His people. Matching sets. Works for me.

As to evangelistic subjectivity, I do not tell people what the Bible does not tell me to tell them. The Bible says, repent of your sins and look to Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. Not, "believe that Jesus died for you personally, for only then can you be saved." The Scriptures are my guardrails., and it is my most sincere effort to stay within them.

"...the greatest of these is charity."

Anonymous said...

If you read your Bible, which should be our one and only source of authority, anytime the Bible mentions election or predestination, it is always talking about those who are saved, never about lost people.

L P Cruz said...

I absolutely agree. Never will we find predestination spoken of in connection with the lost. There is no predestination to damnation that the Bible speaks about - at least from the Biblical data this is so.