My recent blog post titled “5 Biblical Texts That Calvinists Can’t Wiggle Out Of” has gotten a lot of attention, and that’s an understatement. The day after I published it, this blog got 3,301 page views in a day where the average amount of page views per day is around 300-700. It attracted some back lash, some hostile and some cordial, one of those cordial responses to the article was written up by a Mr. Kevin Courter. I wrote a response to his response which was published yesterday. Today, I will be responding to Tony Lee Ross Jr.’s rebuttal of my post. You can read Tony’s post here.
Some Preliminary Issues
Before even getting to the “5 Biblical Texts That Calvinists Can’t Wiggle Out Of” Tony takes some issues with how I made my arguments and with how I interpreted texts such as John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4. I have given my reasons why I don’t find the “world” of John 3:16 and the “all people” of 1 Timothy 2:4 as meaning less than the entire scope of humanity in other blog posts, so I really have no issue in rehashing those here. All I’ll say is that “world” and “all people” or “everyone” can indeed mean less than all humanity when the context warrants or indicates it. But I don’t find that to be the case in the biblical texts we Arminians/Molinists often appeal to support the universal salvific will of God. There’s nothing in the broader context of John 3:16, for example, that would make you think Jesus means something less than the entire planet of human beings.
I take such little interest in addressing his response to these texts because they are not among the 5 biblical texts I said Calvinists couldn’t wiggle out of. They merely served as examples where the “all kinds of people” or “world of the elect” interpretation are applied to keep limited atonement from being falsified. It was to be a segue into a look at biblical passages where I couldn’t see how that kind of move could work without making the texts say something nonsensical.
Additionally, I did say at one point that I was done with Calvinism. I actually did get exhausted of the issue. I won’t rehash my reasons here, but all I’ll say is that I think I went too far to the other extreme. I went from writing about Calvinism all the time to not writing about it at all. I think it is important to blog on this issue at least some of the time. Why? Because I think Calvinism is not only extremely unbiblical but that if conceded, would have disastrous effects on our doctrine of God. It would undermine God as a Maximally Great Being because He wouldn’t be all loving, it would make God the author of evil, and it would make His courtroom a joke if He really punished people for sins he causally determined them to commit. So, I’ve changed my mind about being “done” with Calvinism. Nowadays, I’ve resolved to make the blog posts I write about Calvinism disproportionate to the number of articles regarding other topics. I do think refuting the Calvinist claims is an important apologetic issue. I agree with Tim Stratton who said: “Many ask me why I relentlessly argue against Calvinism and if this is a ‘ colossal waste of time.’ I think this topic is of great importance. I believe God has called me to help all people (whether they be church-goers, atheists, or anyone in between) see God for who He really is – to see God as a Maximally Great Being. When people see God as a Maximally Great Being, their lives are radically transformed! Since the philosophy of Calvinism is one of the reasons why atheists are coming out of the church (instead of disciples that make disciples), I will continue to demonstrate why Calvinism creates a mockery of God and a caricature of Christ’s true character.”1 (emphasis in original).
Passage 1: 2 Peter 2:1
Now, with regards to this passage, Tony writes: “Evan’s use of 2 Peter 2:1 is an example of Proof-Texting. Evan is using deductive reasoning, which we can all fall victim too. Essentially, Evan is convinced of a certain doctrine, so when he sees verses that on “plain reading” (which usually means first reading without any knowledge of context, church history, or the original languages) he gets a confirmation bias. This isn’t a personal thing, everyone falls victim to it once in a while, I just believe that is what is happening here with Evan’s argument.”
He accuses me of proof-texting: starting with the presupposition that God loves all and wants all saved, and then go on to find passages supporting that. He says that my interpretations are colored by confirmation bias. The problem with his argument is that the passages that convinced me of my Arminian soteriology convinced me of it before I even knew there was such dispute over how many people Christ died for, whether man is free, whether grace is resistible or irresistible and so on. When I first became a Christian, for years I didn’t even know this split existed in the church. I just studied my Bible. I started my study of the scriptures to just figure out what they were saying. John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, John 12:32, 1 John 2:2, Romans 5:15 and 18 just seemed to obviously point to the conclusion that God’s salvific will is universal in extent, and that Christ’s death was intended to applied to everyone. And this realization sparked a deep spirit of worship in me. I thought “How awesome must God be to want everyone to enter His kingdom? Even the worst of the worst like Hitler or Osama Bin Ladin, God loves and Jesus died for!” I was in awe at the limitless love of God.
Now, I’m not saying I didn’t have any presuppositions or biases when reading the text. After all, I now find myself baffled that I never saw that Matthew 24-25 were prophesying events that were fulfilled in the 1st century. I grew up on Left Behind eschatology and that colored the way I read eschatological texts. It would be extremely naive of me to say that I came to scripture with a completely objective and blank slate. No one does. That said, I’ve changed many of my theological views over the years as I examined The Bible and found that what I initially thought it said is not what it really said. I am more concerned with letting God’s Word speak for itself than I am with preserving any pet doctrine. It’s just that when I read The Bible (several times before I even knew the Calvinist/Arminian divide was a thing), these texts just stuck out to me. I saw nothing in their surrounding contexts or even the context of The Bible as a whole that would make me think they referred to anything less than humanity. I genuinely thought that’s what the texts were saying. I find it offensive that Tony would accuse me of trying to force fit the scriptures to fit my view. Though I suppose I’d be a hypocrite if I criticized him for that, for from my perspective, the Calvinists are doing just that.
Tony then writes “Every verse he brings up is a reference to a saved group of people. When Paul says you were bought at a price, he is talking to saved people. I would challenge Evan to present an example of Paul indicating that the Lord purchased everyone in the world.”
So what if every reference of “bought” passages are referring to saved people? I believe Jesus died on the cross for those who actually get saved and those who never do? This isn’t a problem for Arminian soteriology. However, given that “bought” and “purchased” are always used to refer to Jesus’ death on the cross for the salvation of human beings, it should strike the adherent of Limited Atonement odd that we have a verse that uses that language of people who are clearly never going to be saved.
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign LORD who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves.” – 2 Peter 2:1
In every case in which Jesus is spoken of as “buying” people, it’s used with reference to His death on the cross for the purpose of obtaining salvation for them. The doctrine of Limited Atonement states that Jesus died only for the elect (i.e those God chose to save prior to the creation of the world). Limited Atonement states that Jesus only died for the elect, and did not die for the non-elect. So, for those who have ended up in Hell, they had no means of atonement provided for them. Now, when you read 2 Peter 1 and the verses that follow, it’s clear that these false prophets are not saved, nor will they ever be saved. They’re going to bring swift destruction upon themselves. Peter goes on to describe angels who God will cast into Hell and bind up in chains for the day of judgment (verse 4), and he goes onto describe the destruction of Noah’s contemporaries and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (verses 5-6). The false prophets mentioned here are clearly on their way to Hell, yet The sovereign Lord bought them. If one excepts the claim “Jesus only died for the elect” then you’re forced to either conclude that false prophets who deny him and end up in Hell are among the elect, or you’re forced to make some other theological manuever. The former is obviously absurd. In his blog post, Tony Lee Ross Jr. does the latter.
Tony cites Dr. Matthew McMahon’s exegesis in which he states
“The word avgora,santa is a masculine participle verb in the aorist tense. It is a derivative of avgorazw. Before I explain what the tense means, you should be aware that the verb itself is literally defined as ‘someone or something bought or purchased, as a slave would be bought or purchased in the marketplace.’ That means the verb does not mean ‘hypothetically bought’ but ‘actually bought.’ Then, getting back to the tense which amplifies the meaning, the aorist tense means that it has been completed in the past. For example, I bought some groceries. That does not mean I am in the process of buying, or that I hope to buy, or that I possibly bought groceries depending on one or two other factors. It emphatically demonstrates that I bought them and they cannot be anything else other than bought. In the verse we are looking at, the verb tense and meaning refers to the buying a slave’s freedom for a price paid by a benefactor, or to “redeem.” Now the aorist tense makes this very plain. According to the verse these false teachers have actually been bought. There is no possibility of being possibly bought, or any dependence on other actions. The Lord literally buys these false teachers, and they are truly bought or, more theologically, they are redeemed. Hmmm, now what do we do? We seem to be confused about the meaning. Either they are false teachers going to hell, or they are elect saints redeemed by the Lord. Which is it? It seems to say both, but that would be a contradiction. It cannot be both… Think for a moment, what half-sane Christian church would ever believe or follow after a false teacher who admits they are a false teacher and admits they are unconverted? My heavens, they would be admitting the obvious and the church would never, ever be foolish enough to follow them! If the devil popped up in all his wickedness and announced he was the devil, the one who desired to drag all people to hell to be tormented, who would be so foolish as to listen? However, it makes perfect sense that these false teachers are not openly admitting that their heretical doctrines are in fact heretical. Rather, they are claiming to be saved with their mouth, though their doctrines are false. They are claiming to be servants and Disciples of Christ, but have really only obtained a nominal knowledge of the Savior. They claim to be bought as slaves, but their doctrine proves them to be hell-deserving false teachers.”
I’ll admit that the first part of Dr. McMahon’s response is well thought out and not that easy to respond to. However, Dr. McMahon’s latter statement isn’t at all persuasive. From what I understand McMahon to be saying is that Peter described these false teachers as having been “bought by The Lord” because they claim to have been bought by the Lord, they’re in the Christian community and therefore are not obvious wolves, they’re wolves in sheep’s clothing. Granted, no one would think that these false teachers Peter is referring to are going around saying “Psst! Hey, Kid! Want some heresy?” These would obviously be the ancient equivalent of a Joel Osteen or Rob Bell. However, Peter does not merely say “There were false prophets among the people, just as there will be false prophets among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Sovereign Lord whom they claim bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves”. No, he says they will deny The Sovereign Lord who bought them. Not “The Lord whom the false prophets claimed bought them”, not “The Lord whom you [Peter’s Readers] believe bought them”, but “denying The Sovereign Lord who bought them”.
If Peter meant simply that his readers falsely believed these false teachers were bought by the Lord, or that the false teachers were proclaiming The Lord bought them, then why didn’t he say that? Certainly, the Greek language was big enough to convey the two aforementioned interpretations more clearly.
How would an Arminian/Molinist respond to the first part of McMahon’s response: that the Greek indicates that “bought” language implies that the one spoken of was “actually bought”, not “hypothetically bought” or “potentially bought” as would be the case for the non-elect? Well, certainly God’s inerrant Word cannot be saying that a group of men are both redeemed and not redeemed. That would indeed be a contradiction. Nor could it be the case that these false teachers repent at a later date (I explained why this won’t work in “5 Biblical Texts That Calvinists Can’t Wiggle Out Of”.
One possibility is that 2 Peter 2:1 is referring to Christian Apostates: people who actually accepted Christ and were born again, but then rejected Him and fell into heresy. A few verses at the very end of this passage makes this plausible: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”[g] and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”(verses 20-22).
In this case, the false prophets really were redeemed! They were “actually bought”, not “potentially bought”. Now, if this is true, then 2 Peter 2:1 wouldn’t simply be an argument against the L in T.U.L.I.P, but the P as well, for it would entail (A) That Christ died for someone who is not elect, and (B) that a genuinely saved Christian lost their salvation. The Sovereign Lord bought them, but then returned them to the store. If this is true, then maybe my Can/Won’t model of security could and won’t be true (pun intended). For those who don’t know, I accept a form of Eternal Security that I call The Can/Won’t model. I’m certain these last verses in 2 Peter 2 are indeed warning passages for true Christians, and given that they’re in the same context as the false prophets spoken of in the first verse, this could mean Peter is referring to genuine apostates. Now, if that’s the case, McMahon’s argument crumbles, but so does The Can/Won’t model of OSAS! As stated above, I want to know what God’s word actually says. If 2 Peter 1 really is referencing an actual act of apostasy, then abandon the Can/Won’t model I will. However, it might be the case that having mentioned the false prophets and the fate that befell them, Peter says what he says in verses 20-22 to warn his saved readers not to follow in their footsteps. I think the Can/Won’t model of eternal security isn’t necesarilly in trouble. Whether this alternate interpretation is valid depends on whether eternal security can be biblically grounded (and I think it can).
But let’s suppose that the false prophets are not redeemed people that became unredeemed, then what shall we say? I’ll take your Dr. Matthew McMahon and raise you one Brian Abasciano. Abasciano responds to Dr. Matthew McMahon as follows: “McMahon is correct that the Greek word used does not in itself mean ‘hypothetically bought.’ But did anyone need him to appeal to the Greek for that? It is not as if the English says ‘hypothetically bought.’ But what could happen in both Greek and English is that someone could buy something but never take possession of it, or God could buy someone, have possession of them, but never grant that person the blessing of being part of his people. Now I am not saying those are necessarily likely. I am just saying that the Greek does not really tell you as much as McMahon is claiming. On the other hand, ‘redeemed’ seems to normally mean not just bought, but experiencing the blessings of salvation (I am just going by impression there, not having anything specific in mind). So one would have the burden of proof of showing that something short of that full experience is meant. I find McMahon’s claim of the text referring the false teacher’s false claim of having been redeemed special pleading. The text does not give any indication it is speaking of the false teacher’s subjective yet false perspective. The unquestionably plain reading is that of the text giving the author’s (and so as Scripture, God’s) perspective…” 2
Passage 2: Romans 5:15, 18
First of all, although this isn’t germane to Tony’s overarching point, while I do hold to tabula rasa, this does not mean I hold that infants are unaffected by Adam’s sin. I believe we all inherit a sin nature from Adam and that we all have had a sin nature since birth since conception even! What I argue against is that while we inherited Adam’s nature, we did not inherit Adam’s guilt. It’s one thing to be born with a sin nature, it’s another thing to commit sin, and I don’t believe infants are capable of breaking any of God’s commands. For more on my view of infants and sin, see chapter 4 of my book A Hellacious Doctrine: A Biblical Defense Of The Doctrine Of Hell. Tony Lee Ross Jr. misrepresented my view on infants and salvation.
Tony then cites Charles Hodge to explain how he understands verses 15 and 18 of Romans 5.
Hodge wrote “The second question of importance respecting this verse is, whether the all men of the second clause is co-extensive with the all men of the first. Are the all who are justified for the righteousness of Christ, the all who are condemned for the sin of Adam? In regard to this point, it may be remarked, in the first place, that no inference can be fairly drawn in favour of an affirmative answer to this question, from the mere universality of the expression. Nothing is more familiar to the readers of the Scriptures than that such universal terms are to be limited by the nature of the subject or the context. Thus, John 3:24, it is said of Christ, “all men come to him;” John 12:32, Christ says, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” Thus the expressions, “all the world should be taxed,” “all Judea,” “all Jerusalem,” must, from the nature of the case, be limited. In a multitude of cases, the words all, all things, mean the all spoken of in the context, and not all, without exception; see Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:20, 1 Cor. 15:22, 51, 2 Cor. 5:14, &c. This limitation is always implied when the Scriptures elsewhere speak of a necessary condition connected with the blessing to which all are said to attain. It is everywhere taught that faith is necessary to justification; and, therefore, when it is said “all are justified,” it must mean all believers.”
Hodge says that no inference can be drawn from the mere universality of the language. Why? Because, after all, there are some instances where universal language doesn’t really mean the entire human race. One of the issues I take with Hodge’s response is that several of the instances he cited, I do take to mean the entire human race (e.g John 12:32, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Corinthians 15:51, Colossians 1:20). Nevertheless, I concede that there are instances in scripture make use of universal language in less than universal terms (e.g John 3:24, Luke 2:10, John 12:19). Hodge’s argument is simply the usual Calvinist argument that universal language isn’t universal 100% of the time, therefore, we can just relegate passages like John 3:16 or (in this specific case) Romans 5:18 simply to the elect.
The problem though, as I stated near the beginning of this blog post, is that sometimes, often times, universal language is universal. Just because you can point to some instances where it does doesn’t say anything about Romans 5:18, John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, or any other text that employs universal language. What would Tony Lee Ross think if I argued that because there are several instances of universal language being taken non-universally in The Bible, that therefore we can say that Romans 3:23 doesn’t mean that literally, the entire human race fell short of God’s moral standard? What would he say if I argued that 2 Timothy 3:16 doesn’t mean that literally, all scripture is God-breathed, but only all kinds of scripture is God-breathed? You know, 2 out of 4 gospels, some of the epistles, some of the prophets, some of the Proverbs, etc. But not literally every verse from Genesis to Revelation. What would he say if I told him “You know, I think Philippians 2:10 doesn’t mean that literally every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I think this is restricted to only the elect”. My Justification for making these interpretations? Well, sometimes The Bible uses universal language non-universally.
Obviously, sometimes “all” really does mean “all”. Just because it doesn’t always mean “all” doesn’t entail that it never means “all”.
This raises a question though: How do we know when to take a universal expression universally and when it’s merely being used hyperbolically or metaphorically? Context! My general rule of thumb is that if neither common sense, a study of the original language, or a study of the verse’s broader context, gives us any indication that “the world” doesn’t refer to the entire planet, then we should interpret it as meaning literally the entire planet. For example, in the case of Luke 2:10, we know from common sense that the emperor couldn’t have literally taxed every single person on the planet. In the case of John 12:19, we know from the context that not literally every person on the planet is following Jesus. The Pharisees were speaking hyperbolically. However, I see nothing in the context of John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, John 12:32, 1 Timothy 2:4, etc. that would indicate a less than universal intent. Merely pointing to verses like Luke 2:10 aren’t very compelling. As I said, that logic could be applied to 2 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 3:23.
Moreover, Hodge’s citation doesn’t address the argument I made in “5 Biblical Texts That Calvinists Can’t Wiggle Out Of”. “Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.” Does “all people” mean “all types of people” in the latter, and literally all human beings in the former? That’s what Hodge contends. He says that the “all” in the latter part of the verse are believers. If this is the case, then Paul is equivocating. Does it mean “all types of people” in both instances? Then Paul is saying only some in every group of people is affected by Adam’s sin. Does “all people” mean every human being in both instances? Then Limited Atonement is false.
These are the options
1: Paul is equivocating. “Adam brought condemnation to all men” (literally all of humanity), “Christ brought justification and life to all men” (only the elect). “All men” takes on one meaning in the first part, and a different meaning in the second part. This is problematic because, as Molinist theologian Kenneth Keathley explained: “Again, Paul declares, ‘So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone’ (v. 18). In his discussion of this verse, John Murray tried to argue that the guilt of Adam’s race was not imputed to Christ, but rather only the guilt of a subset—the elect—was laid upon the Savior. He contended that the ‘everyone’ in the second part of the verse does not have the same meaning as the ‘everyone’ in the first part. However, he provides no exegetical justification for his claim. It would seem that if a word used twice in the same verse changes meanings with nothing in the context to indicate a change, then all hope of doing exegesis is lost.”3
2: “All Men” only means “All types of men” in both instances. This is problematic because if you restrict the “all men” in the latter part of the verse, well, you’ve preserved limited atonement but at the cost of denying the universality of sin.
3: “All men” means literally of humanity in both parts of the verse. This option preserves the universality of sin but undermines limited atonement.
My argument here is that Paul understood the sin of Adam and the atonement of Christ to be symmetrical. The number of people affected by sin is the same number of people Christ died for. Attempts to deny this symmetry result in a double talking apostle or the conclusion that not all people are under the influence of sin. Neither Tony nor his cited Calvinist theologian adequately addressed this trilemma.
I’ll just throw this in before I move on. This symmetrical relationship between the number of people who are sinners and the amount of people Christ died for is also found in Isaiah 53, which prophesied the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. Verse 6 says “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Passage 3: 1 Timothy 4:10
Tony Lee Ross Jr. wrote “The next passage he goes too is 1 Timothy 4:10. Another great Universalist proof-text! Wait…that’s not what he’s arguing for. Again, Evan shows no familiarity with the Calvinist literature on this passage. There is nuance to be sure, but the most common response you will see to this verse being used against us is that there are two senses of savior being used here. What does “especially” mean? I think me and Evan would agree that especially has to indicate that those in the “especially” category or the ones actually saved by Christ. Where we would disagree is the people before that, Evan says these are the people Christ died for. I say rather, that this is a statement of authority rather than of scope of atonement. Is there any other savior of the world than Jesus? Jesus clothes, feeds and provides sunlight and other common graces to everyone, so in one sense, he saves people like a fireman saves someone, in another sense he gives people eternal life. If the Arminian hypothetical salvation was true, Jesus couldn’t be deemed the savior of someone he didn’t save. Authority and Common grace, in my opinion, make much more sense of this passage than what Evan has provided. Again, I don’t think assuming your theology into 1 Timothy 4:10 is enough to prove unlimited atonement.”
The Problem with Tony’s proposal is that it’s just prima facie implausible. This verse says that God is the Savior of all men. How does The Bible understand what it means for God to be Savior? God the savior because He saves us from our sins! Nowhere in the scriptures is there any notion of God being a “savior” to someone in the sense of giving them clothes, food, sunlight, and other worldly goods. Yes, The Bible says that God does do these things (e.g Matthew 5:45) but it never connects that to The Lord’s status as “Savior”. To say essentially “This is the sense in which God is the savior of the non-elect”, Tony is going to have to cough up some good exegetical evidence for this. It seems he is the one assuming his theology into 1 Timothy 4:10, not I.
Passage 4: Ezekiel 18:32
Tony writes “Evan assumes that Ezekiel 18:32 is universal, which is a consistent trend in his thought process on biblical passages. But if it is, we find ourselves in a bit of a contradiction, because in other passages we see that God is laughing at the wicked at their demise and is righteous and judge and enjoys being that way. Whether you think free will is involved or not, people are unrighteous and God is righteous and judges people who don’t have the imputed righteousness of Christ.”
Before I address Tony’s contradiction argument, let me point out that I think he missed the point of my argument entirely. God says in Ezekiel 18:32 and again in Ezekiel 33:11 that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Not a Hebrew scholar, so I’m not sure if the translations that render it “death of anyone” are how the verses should be rendered. If they are, that would certainly imply that God’s displeasure at the death of wicked sinners is universal. He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of anyone. However, even if that English translation isn’t the best, that’s not vital to my argument anyway. I don’t have to assume Ezekiel 18:32 is universal for it to be a problem for T.U.L.I.P.
Follow me on this. According to most Calvinists, God causally determines all things to occur. According to most Calvinists, God only want certain select individuals saved (he has no desire for the rest). Accordingly, Jesus only died on the cross for these individuals. God sends these select individuals “irresistible grace” which inevitably brings about their salvation. Now, if God is taking displeasure at the death of a wicked sinner, why does He not send that sinner irresistible grace? Why did Jesus not die for them? If God hates the thought of Bob perishing, why does God withhold grace from Bob? In other words, why isn’t Bob elect? This makes more sense on the Arminian view, where God sends Bob resistible grace because, while God wants Bob saved, God wants Bob to come to Him freely because only if Bob comes into a relationship with Bob freely will Bob’s love for God be genuine.
But what if God’s displeasure at the death of the wicked extends beyond just Bob? What if it is universal? Certainly, there’s nothing in the book of Ezekiel that would make us think this displeasure should be restricted, and Tony doesn’t say that there is. Rather, Tony attempts to make a reductio ad absurdum argument. If Ezekiel 18:32 is universal, then there’s a contradiction in scripture? Why? Because we have texts that indicate that God laughs at the wicked’s demise.
One example: “Just as the LORD has found great pleasure in causing you to prosper and multiply, the LORD will find pleasure in destroying you. You will be torn from the land you are about to enter and occupy.” – Deuteronomy 28:63
Tony seems to think that only if Ezekiel 18:32 is limited can we avoid a contradiction. God weeps for some and laughs at others. While this would certainly be one way to harmonize these seemingly conflicting verses, it isn’t the only way.
It’s possible that God could have mixed feelings about punishing people. On the one hand, He does it with a heavy heart because He loves them and doesn’t want to punish them, on the other hand, He’s happy that justice is done and that the wicked don’t get away with the sins they have committed. I felt this way when Bin Ladin was shot. When it came on the news back in 2010 that Bin Ladin had finally be shot and killed, I literally wept with sorrow. On the one hand, I hated that another soul went to Hell. My heart grieved that he didn’t repent before his death. On the other hand, I felt glad that that maniac was no longer a threat to the US. I don’t want anyone (not even terrorists) to go to Hell to suffer forever but I also don’t want them to be a danger to us. So in that case, I guess you could say I was sad and glad at the same time. In the same way, might God be sad in one sense and glad in another sense? I don’t see why not. God is sorrowful at the thought of causing sinners to suffer but that he is glad that evil will not go unpunished.
Passage 5: 1 John 2:2
What would happen if we concede the premise that “The heart of John’s Epistles concerns the Judaist heresy.” so that the point of 2:2 is to say that Christ is not the Savior merely of Jews, but of Gentiles also. What follows from that? If the Arminian view is correct that God wants all humanity to be saved, then, of course, His love and salvific will would extend beyond ethnic Jews! This is to be expected! It doesn’t prove that the phrase “the whole world” only means certain people out of all people groups around the globe. That conclusion simply doesn’t follow from the premise.
We could just as well take John’s words as saying “Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins! But don’t think he merely died to atone for the sins of us Jews. He died to atone for the sins of all humanity! Everyone all over the world!”
The fact that a universal passage may be a polemic against the Only-Jews-Can-Be-Saved ideology says nothing about whether the author only meant that some individuals within all types of people all over the world could be saved. Indeed, the author may be stating the Arminian view that God wants every single member of the human race saved in order to refute such Jewish centered thinking.
I have appreciated the interaction of Calvinist bloggers with my recent blog post. It gave me an opportunity to address objections I hadn’t even considered. I was also thankful that both Tony and Kevin were cordial in their responses. We are brothers in Christ and we should treat each other with respect when we disagree on theological topics. As Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”.
That said, neither Kevin nor Tony was able to successfully avoid the theological implications of the 5 verses examined. While they brought up alternative explanations that I didn’t think of or address in my original article, these alternative explanations couldn’t stand up to scrutiny.
1: Tim Stratton, The Petals Drop: Calvinism Implies Atheism, FreeThinking Ministries, April 27th 2015, http://freethinkingministries.com/the-petals-drop-calvinism-implies-atheism/
2: From a conversation, I had with Brian Abasciano while doing research for this article.
3: Keathley, Kenneth. Salvation and Sovereignty (Kindle Locations 3540-3546). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.