Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is God at Odds with Jesus in His Intentions?

Next, Reymond offers this:
It is unthinkable, because of the essential and teleological unity of the Godhead, to suppose that Christ’s sacrificial work would conflict with the overall salvific intention of the Father in any way.

In other words, if it can be proven that the Father's intention is only to save the elect, then it would be purposeless for the Son to die for the elect PLUS others. Jesus came to do the Father's will; therefore He would not act in a way that the Father's will had not decreed.

The answer to this objection is quite simple. God has revealed his desire that everyone be saved.

David: Scripture also displays God as willing and desiring by will revealed that all men be saved. Within the Will of God there is will secret, and will revealed. The work of Christ exhibits both these dimensions within the Godhead.
God is not in conflict at all. See Scudder, Charnock, Daniel and Lane on this.

Did Christ ever pray for the non-elect?

The fifth line of evidence that Reymond offers is the common observation that I have heard several times from high Calvinists. Jesus only prays for the elect. He doesn't pray for the non-elect. This is a sure sign that Jesus did not intend to die for the sins of the non-elect. Otherwise, there would exist an inconsistency between his work of intercession and his sacrificial work. Sure enough, In John 17, Jesus prays,
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.

My response: Isn't this partially an argument of silence? How are we to know WHY Jesus did not pray for non-believers at this point? One of the reasons offered to me was that Jesus would in no way pray for the non-elect, because those would be unanswered prayers, and it is inconceivable that any of Jesus' prayers would go unanswered by His Father.
David observes: And who were the ones given there in John 17? The 11 disciples are the ones given. The disciples were not a reference to the elect as a total class. And secondly, in verses 21-22 he does pray for the world, as follows:
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Werner: Jesus is praying that through the unity of the ELECT, the world may believe in Him! This is an incredible thing. Here is a distinction between ALL those who will believe in Jesus and the world in general. Jesus prays for the unity of all believers (i.e. the elect) so that the world may believe! Reymond's evidence is non-existent at this point.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reymonds Evidence for Particular Atonement

Next, the author uses these evidences.
God’s Redemptive Love Not Inclusive of Fallen Angels and The Irreversible Condition of Lost Men Already in Hell When Christ Died

Presenting fallen angels as evidence for a point about redemption is just plain irrelevant and totally speculative.

Here is his argument about those already condemned in eternity.
Unless one is prepared to say that Christ gave all the dead a second chance to repent (some would say a “first chance”), it is impossible to suppose that Christ died with the intention of saving those whose eternal destiny had already been sealed in death, who were at the time of his death already in hell. He clearly did not die with the intention of saving them.

David's Answer: This is a complete caricature and just plain unreasonable. Christ came into this world to save the world, i.e. the living. Christ was never sent into the realm of the dead. God loved the world that he sent his Son into the world to save the world. There is no mention of the realm of the dead. But now this is true: while a man was alive, in the realm of the living, he was an objective of redemption. Death closes the door though to the man who dies unrepentant.

Reymond says
It is difficult to believe that the Triune God intended Christ’s death for every man, woman and child, the blessing of which is enjoyed upon condition that they believe in him, when he has not arranged for everyone to hear the gospel.

David: This would negate the doctrine of the Revealed will (for example, The Lord is ...not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance) as much as the general reference of the atonement. The fact that God told us to go to every creature, as a duty, seems to counter his reference. So, rather than viewing the fact that some are not able
to hear as our failure to obey God's command to preach the gospel to every creature, Reymond uses this to prove that Jesus did not die for every creature to whom we are commanded to go with the "good news".

Friday, July 25, 2008

Response to Robert Reymond's Ten Lines of Evidence

Quite recently, I received a paper entitled, Ten Lines of Evidence for the Doctrine of Particular Redemption, by Robert Reymond. I have never heard of Reymond, but a quick trip to Google tells me he is a Ph D from Bob Jones University (is that a Calvinistic school??). He is a former prof at both Covenant Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. He now preaches in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It is obvious from his article that Reymond is a Hyper-Calvinist. For a good article on what Hyper-Calvinism is, check out what Phil Johnson (a solid five point Calvinist) says.

Hopefully, in the next few posts, I will post a point by point response to his Ten Lines of Evidence. David, my helpful online brother has already provided me with a good response, and I will be posting his contributions as well. I will always identify who the speaker is.

So here we go with his first argument which he entitles, The Particularistic Vocabulary of Scripture .

What he is referring to, of course, is the fact that some Bible verses tell us that Christ died in particular for believers, who are described as the church, his sheep, the elect, etc. Here is an example.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”(Mt 1:21).

In my presentation, I dealt with this category of verses using this particularistic language by pointing out the logical fallacy that is often committed here. Don Carson speaks about this fallacy in his book, Exegetical Fallacies. It is the fallacy referred to as the Negative Inference Fallacy. He puts it this way.
"It does not necessarily follow that if a proposition is true, a negatve inference from that proposition is also true. The negative inference MAY be true, but this cannot be assumed." (Exegetical Fallacies, p. 101)

Here is a plain example of a negative inference.
a. All Big and Tall people can shop at that store
b. Raymond is neither big or tall
c. Therefore Raymond cannot shop at that store.

My conclusion (c) is not valid, because my particularist vocabulary did not go far enough. It is not exclusive vocabulary. I did not say ONLY Big and Tall people can shop at that store.

This is by far the most common exegetical mistake that supporters of Limited Atonement are making. They take the particular vocabulary of the New Testament and make it exclusive.

Reymond sees this and he does not commit the negative inference fallacy. Here is what he says.
It is true, of course, that logically a statement of particularity in itself does not necessarily preclude universality.

But then he goes on to try to prove that this category of texts where believers are mentioned in particular is still evidence of a particular atonement.

Reymond says:But it should also be evident that one of these particularizing terms—the “elect”—clearly carries with it the
implication that some are excluded from the saving intention and salvific work of Christ.
David responds: the term elect only denotes specificity and emphasis, not particularity and in no way denotes exclusivity. So if we say, Christ died for all men generally, but for the elect especially, then his argument is incorporated into our paradigm and we can say thanks for the input. This argument would work against someone who said Christ died for all in the exact same way, with no differentiation at all.

Werner: Along the same line of argumentation Reymond then turns to the passage in John 10, where Jesus speaks about His sheep. And he says, incredibly: does it come about that one is his sheep? By believing on him? Not at all. Jesus said to the Jews, not (as it is often represented): “You are not my sheep because you do not believe,” but: “You do not believe because [ὅτι, hoti] you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to [believe] my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:26–27).

This is very telling. He claims that we do not become his sheep by believing. This is classic hyper-calvinism. He wants to emphasize the sovereignty of God to the extent that he wipes all human responsibility off the board. There is certainly plenty of other clear texts making belief the condition necessary to become His sheep.

Granted, Jesus says plainly in this chapter that the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Without resorting to the Negative Inference, how does this demonstrate that Jesus did not die for the sin of the world? This passage does not preclude that whosoever will may become his sheep by faith. This text certainly delineates sheep that belong to Jesus (believers) from those that do not belong to Him. And clearly, belief is a hallmark of those who belong to Him. But to infer from this that it is impossible for these other sheep to become his sheep by believing in Him is reading 20th century theology back into a first century inspired text.

It is as if the atonement as a standalone component is what makes them his sheep. Let's hear what WGT Shedd has to say about the atonement"
It may be asked: If atonement naturally and necessarily cancels guilt, why does not the vicarious atonement of Christ save all men indiscriminately, as the universalist contends? The substituted suffering of Christ being infinite is equal in value to the personal suffering of all mankind; why then are not all men upon the same footing and in the class of the saved, by virtue of it? The answer is because it is a natural impossibility. Vicarious atonement without faith in it is powerless to save. It is not the making of this atonement, but the trusting in it, that saves the sinner: "By faith are you saved" (Eph. 2:8); "he that believes shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). The making of this atonement merely satisfies the legal claims, and this is all that it does. If it were made but never imputed and appropriated, it would result in no salvation.

Here is David's comment:
Lets grant that they do not believe because they are not his sheep. Lets convert the terms thus: you do not believe because you are not the children of Abraham. The point is, the “true” children of Abraham would have the faith of Abraham.

Next Reymond says:
Another example is Ephesians 5:25, where Paul teaches, first, that Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. From this juxtaposition of these two verbs, it may be inferred both that the church enjoyed a special existence and a standing before Christ such that he “loved” her prior to his “giving” himself for it, and that his love for his church was the motivating power behind his “giving” himself for it. Second, Paul teaches that the husband is to love his wife just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. But if Christ does not love his church in a special way, different in kind from the way he loves all other people, and if the husband is to love his wife just as Christ loved the church, then the husband is to love all other women in the same way that he loves his wife—surely a grotesque ethic! For Paul’s comparison to have any meaning for his readers, Christ’s love for his church must be construed as a special particularizing, distinguishing love.

Werner: He seems to admit that Jesus Christ loves sinners who are not a part of the church(in a different sort of way, just like I ought to have a general love towards all other women. Not so grotesque after all!) Does Christ have a special love for the Church? Or course He does.
David:There is the point then. All this could preclude is the denial of the claim that Christ died in a special way for the elect. :-)

Stay tuned... more to come.

Pardon Me: You have a Petal Missing.

Well, one of my summer projects has come and gone.. but I will continue to work on it for months to come. Hopefully my blog will reflect the work I am doing on the topic of Unlimited Atonement.

Last night (July 24th) I met with about 20 people, some of whom are pastors and church planters who had raised the question with me several months ago, so I began to do some research and found some fascinating work being done by David who possibly has the most extensive collection of quotations from pre-reformers, first generation reformers and post-reformers that exist anywhere on the web or in print. He doesn't write much of his own stuff per se, but just categorizes these quotes according to topics such as "The Sincere Offer", "Double Jeopardy". He is breaking new ground, and I will be unashamedly riding his coat-tails, so to speak.

I 'met' David on the web years ago. He and I were members of a theology discussion email list. At the time he was a convinced High Calvinist. The action on that discussion list got pretty hot at times. John MacArthur's right hand man, Phil Johnson was a contributor at that time, and of course they are all convinced 'five pointers'. I think I held my own, but I tired of the endless discussions and arguments. I was told by one strict Calvinist that if I did not accept Limited Atonement, I was likely not even saved. To be fair, I should add that THAT particular participant was banned from the list. I stopped following the discussions at that time. That was years ago. There are some email list members who are able to disagree rigorously and yet be affirming as a brother. David was one of those types. There are others who cannot disagree without making use of the well known ad hominem.

Recently, I started tracking discussions there again, and there was David, once an ardent High Calvinist, now arguing for a form of unlimited atonement. He had changed his viewpoint. He has since started a blog where he almost daily puts up new material. So I have taken up correspondence with him again (now that we are on the same side).

A lot of those quotations on his blog are written centuries ago in language that may be difficult to decipher, so over time I would like to mine his blog for the jewels (or precious metals, if you will) and present them in a simpler style. He has said in am email to me,
The blog is meant to be a raw-materials ammo-dump for folk to come and use.

Some might ask, "Why focus on such a narrow issue? Aren't there more important issues to deal with?"

My answer:
1. It becomes an important issue once it affects the area of evangelism (is the offer of salvation a sincere offer if Christ did not die for all?)

2. It is a huge area of interest, but can also become a point of fellowship/division. I have an email from a pastor who extends a general kind of fellowship to me, but would withhold "church fellowship" because I do not believe in particular atonement. I suppose that means he would have a coffee with me at Tim Horton's as a brother in Christ, but I would not be able to break bread with him around the Lord's Table. Perhaps someone can clarify what "church fellowship" means. The so-called doctrines of Grace can be held so ungraciously at times.

3. The question has been a theological area of interest for me for a long time now. Since I first heard of the controversy, I have wanted to get to the bottom of it. So finally I would like to put it all down in a structured manner. Hopefully it will be of help to some of you.

4. I am not aware of any other Canadian Christian who is digging deeply into this issue. If you know of any work being done by a Canadian in this area, please let me know.

5. Lastly, my work is not a reflection of any official position taken by the Associated Gospel Churches of Canada, my involvement in the Doctrine and Credentials Committee notwithstanding. Our denomination takes no position on either side of this question.

Feel free to leave your comments as I get the topic fired up. We are going to be here for awhile.