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John Calvin (1509-1564) on Unlimited Expiation, Sin-Bearing, Redemption and Reconciliation

March 1, 2008
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46 Comments leave one →
  1. Reid Ferguson permalink
    March 1, 2008 9:03 pm

    Flynn – On behalf of many many folks, and hopefully generations to come, thank you for your tireless efforts in this regard. We will all be better for it. I only wish I could contribute more myself. We simply must recover this for our age and those to follow. We are in your debt.

  2. Martin Thorley permalink
    March 2, 2008 1:22 pm

    A great big “here, here” to what Reid said. He said it so much better than I could anyway. Thankyou David.
    It seems to me that anyone who claims to have read all of this with an open mind and remains convinced that Calvin taught “limited atonement” is either unaware of how deceitful the heart is and thus that they are trusting in a ‘functional’ Lord (HT: Keller) that depends on keeping their beloved doctrines intact or else is a liar. I would say the same to anyone who tries to argue that this mass of statements doesn’t mean what it looks like when you read Calvin in context. That would be a bit like arguing that just because 999 peas in my bumber pea-pod are green doesn’t mean the 1000th one is.

  3. Martin Thorley permalink
    March 2, 2008 1:25 pm

    Ok, dreadful analogy, typed quickly. My point is that to respond that this mass of quotes proves nothing because “each statement must be read in context and it just doesn’t fit with what Calvin taught” is to be either blindly or willfully stubborn.

  4. March 2, 2008 10:37 pm

    I would sincerely hope that, before anyone is swayed one way or the other by this accumulation of quotations, consideration be given to Dr. Nicole’s article, “John Calvin’s View of the Extent of the Atonement”, Westminster Theological Journal (Fall, 1985) 47:2:197-225, and to that of William Cunningham, “Calvin and Beza”, British and Foreign Evangelical Review (July, 1861) 10:641-702, reprinted in The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (Edinburgh: Clark, 1862; Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, n.d., 1967 and 1979 printings), pp. 345-412.

    At the end of the day the following statement by Calvin must be reckoned with from his tract “On Partaking of the Flesh and Blood”: “Scire velim quomodo Christi carnem edant impii pro quibus non est crucifixa, et quomodo sanguinem bibant qui expiandis eorum peccatis non est effusus.” (translated as “I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins.”).
    [Note: the documentation of the extant sources for this tract may be found in Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation, pg. 396, and in Nicole, op. cit., pg. 200, note 14.]

    After everyone has finished painting Calvin into their corner on this issue, Sola Scriptura should call us back to what should be the first, and will be the final Word on the matter.

    May I add that the comments of Mr. Thorley above would appear to cross the line Mr. Flynn drew concerning abusive and accusative content, and seem especially inappropriate and ungracious if leveled against authors of the caliber and stature of Cunningham and Nicole.

    Soli Deo Gloria,

    John T. Jeffery
    Pastor, Wayside Gospel Chapel
    Greentown, PA

  5. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    March 2, 2008 11:44 pm

    Hey John,

    Some of us have already addressed that comment to Heshusius, here: John Calvin and Tileman Heshusius and here: Understanding Calvin’s argument against Heshusius

    You are welcome to table any argument from Nicole you wish in which you think establishes Nicole’s argument.

    Also, I am going to update my introductory comments to add a point to explain a critical line of argument adduced by Nicole et al.

    Thanks for stopping by.
    David

  6. Jerry M permalink
    March 3, 2008 9:24 am

    Excellent stuff. Thanks for posting.

    At the end of the day the strength of the unlimited position is that it is in fact what the Bible teaches.

  7. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    March 3, 2008 10:18 am

    I want to try and deal with some of the objections I have seen here and in other places.

    To the Heshusius comment, the best place to start is here:

    3) “Wicked” doesn’t mean “non-elect”

    Look at Calvin’s statement again. Does Calvin say that he would like to know how the non-elect (or the reprobate) eat the flesh of Christ offered in the Lord’s Supper?

    No. He asks how the wicked eat the flesh of Christ. Calvin does not here distinguish between elect and reprobate, but between believers and unbelievers, between worthy and unworthy partakers. There is no hint of Calvin’s argument treating of the unworthiness of the non-elect. Rather Calvin argues of the unworthiness of unbelievers.

    It will eventually be pointed out that the end of the same paragraph in which the famous quote is found contains a distinction between elect and reprobate:

    When he afterwards says that the Holy Spirit dwelt in Saul, we must send him to his rudiments, that he may learn how to discriminate between the sanctification which is proper only to the elect and the children of God, and the general power which even the reprobate possess. These quibbles, therefore, do not in the slightest degree affect my axiom, that Christ, considered as the living bread and the victim immolated on the cross, cannot enter any human body which is devoid of his Spirit.

    “Clearly,” the limited atonement advocate will say, “Calvin has the distinction between elect and reprobate in his mind.”

    But this is a sloppy approach. Careless readers often will look simply for the proximity of words rather than a connection of meaning and argument. The words “elect” and “reprobate” appear on the same page, and all analysis is at an end. “Context,” they will cry. They eagerly stamp their presuppositions on any mention of right-sounding words regardless of grammar and reason.

    But any sensible reader will see that in the sentence about Saul, Calvin speaks of the difference between elect and reprobate with respect to the presence of the Holy Spirit, not with respect to who is a worthy partaker and who not. That such is the case is conclusively proved by the last part of the concluding sentence: “Christ, considered as the living bread and the victim immolated on the cross, cannot enter any human body which is devoid of his Spirit.” The unbelieving (even if elect) have not Christ’s Spirit and therefore cannot participate in the spiritual benefits of the Lord’s Supper.

    The Source is here: Understanding Calvin’s argument against Heshusius

    Many Calvin scholars just make the leap from wicked to reprobate without justification. We are asking for that justification to be established.

  8. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    March 3, 2008 10:23 am

    Regarding Cunningham, this should be considered as well:

    After stating that ‘This is a very explicit denial of the universality of the atonement,’ Cunningham adds ‘But it stands alone-so far as we know-in Calvin’s writings, and for this reason we do not found much upon it’ (Reformers, p. 396).

    Cunningham goes on to try and ground his view on Calvin upon Calvin’s exegesis of 1 Tim 2:4 and 1 Jn 2:2. But these clearly do not work for him.

  9. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    March 3, 2008 10:29 am

    Regarding 1 John 2:2, the simplest response is to point out that by “extend” both Calvin and his opponent mean “apply”. And it is clear that Calvin is reading the import of the verse as speaking to those to whom the propitiatio is finally applied: which for Calvin, is the Church, present and future. Here Calvin follows Augustine exactly.

    So yes, as Reid says, the expiation is not extended (applied) to the reprobate, but nonetheless, for Calvin, the expiation pertains the sins of all men, reprobate included, as Christ also suffered for them as well. Scan the above file for where Calvin explicitly states in various ways that Christ suffered for all men.

    And I can add, even in the very 1 John 2:2 comments, Calvin affirms an unlimited expiation and suffering for all men (see above).

  10. March 3, 2008 3:46 pm

    It might also be noted that Calvin, in 1 John 2:2, affirms the Lombardian formula as true, and not in the modern sense of a bare sufficiency. He does not use it to make sense that particular text, but he does say it is theologically true in passing that Christ suffered sufficiently for all.

    Also, kosmos, for Calvin, does not mean elect as such, but the believing elect scattered abroad, just as Augustine thought on 1 John 2:2.

  11. Cadis permalink
    March 3, 2008 6:41 pm

    I just wanted to say thankyou for your work , It is appreciated. I also liked Jerry M’s comment “At the end of the day the strength of the unlimited position is that it is in fact what the Bible teaches.”

  12. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    March 4, 2008 10:41 am

    The following is a response to some comments found here: Calvin, Unlimited Expiation, and Stuff Calvinists Probably Don’t Believe.

    I have posted this over there, but wanted to post it here too. Here I have deleted references to personal names.

    Regarding cherry-picking.

    I would like to know what does that mean exactly? Normally when I think of cherry-picking, I think of someone taking this cherry, but leaving that cherry. There is a process of selection involved.

    So when I read the accusation one is cherry-picking Calvin, I get the impression one is being accused of selectively quoting Calvin. Now, if I am wrong as to the intent, please do correct me.

    Let me assume I have understood the cherry-picking accusation correctly for now.

    How would you prove it? What cherries would you pick? If you point to the Heshusius comment, it has already been listed that and discussed in detail. If you point to Calvin’s point on 1 Jn 2:2 it too has actually been listed both occasions within the file.

    The cherry-picking accusation seems to some us to be an unhelpful assertion.

    Lets assume that Calvin was inconsistent. Lets assume that your two cherries have been correctly picked by you and incorrectly picked by us, for example, what then?

    We have 2 cherries versus (approx) 150? What happens then? Why should one discount the approximate 150 cherries for the sake of 2? Or, why could not one say, when Calvin made those 2 comments, he was speaking inconsistently, and out of sync with his entire corpus and life-time of writing?

    So we have two teams claiming Calvin by sourcing their ideas in two apparently diverse modes of thought in Calvin. At the least, that should give us something like a permissive parity: that is, our claim to Calvin should be just as valid as your claim. Right? Or else you would need to show us why your two cherries, and what other arguments you can supply, should be taken as so forceful as to negate or delimit or restrict our sources in Calvin. Do you have anything like that?

    I mean, sometimes people say, “Well early on Calvin held to unlimited expiation, but later he rejected it and embraced limited expiation.” That’s one way to deal with the permissive parity problem. But we now know that that line is untenable. From his earliest days to his last, he was affirming an unlimited aspect of the expiation and redemption.

    Or you would need to show how it is that all these quotations do not mean what they–to all intents and purposes–as saying what they appear to say.

    So we need something from your side to refute the other team.

    We can see, then, that there are actually a few alternative lines of thought open, rather than just asserting that the 2 cherries should interpretatively constrain and delimit the life-time of his writings?

    However, we on our side are not left there. We can show why it is fairly probable that in one of your cherries he is not attempting to delimit the scope of the expiation: as Calvin says the blood-shedding of Christ is not for the wicked. He does not say not for the reprobate. If you want to take him literally, he is now saying Christ did not die for sinners. The irony is, that’s most likely what is going on here (Cf Rollock Those for whom Christ did not come to save

    Thus, there is a good case for claiming that something else is going on for Calvin there.

    And 1 John 2:2 is also very interesting in that Calvin right there affirms that Christ suffered for all. What he does not affirm is that the expiation is applied to all: as per Pighius and co. The universalism of Pighius was prevalent even into the later 15thC.

    Anyway, I would just like to see some evidence that Calvin has been selectively cited by us. I totally agree on the moratorium of citing Nicole. Some of us are so non-plussed by such retorts. If one thinks that Nicole has supplied the definitive refutation, and given that we don’t see it, please put up for discussion his best argument(s) and let’s talk about it. What happens is that so many just do a sort of ‘drive-by’ comment, claiming we must read Nicole, but never tell us why Nicole’s arguments are to be granted.

    Regarding Neo-Amyraldianism: Again some of us find that an unhelpful response. The theology being claimed, and argued to, predates Amyraut by a century–at least. Amyraut sought to integrate classic aspects on the expiation with the new emergent Federalist schemas. When he originally stressed that Christ died for all, he later clarified that as referring to the sufficiency of the expiation. He affirmed over and over that Christ died effectually and especially for the elect. Turretin’s critique of Amyraut also misses the point and misrepresents the man. At times Turretin defines Amyraut’s position correctly, but then responds to it as if it is identical to the Arminian position. Overall, Turretin’s replies are off-target and irrelevant in our opinion. The term “amyraldianism” is just a shibboleth used to scare away good thinking. Absolutely nothing argued for in the Calvin file hinges on Amyraut in anyway. Amyraut might never have existed and nothing from Calvin, from Bullinger, from Luther, from Zwingli, from Vermigli, and many others, changes.

    To conclude: in all the above, I don’t think that we, for our part, are being unreasonable in asking you and others to take your claims further, beyond mere assertions.

    David

  13. Martin Thorley permalink
    March 20, 2008 6:33 pm

    I feel I should respond to Pastor John. If I have caused offense I am truly sorry. I certainly did not mean in any way to be abusive or ungracious. I meant it more as a challenge. I think it may be that we operate under such different presuppositions. I have been influenced by what we might call modern gospel-centred teaching – Tim Keller being one of the better known proponents. This has taught me a lot about how deep our sin runs and how, when we are not satisfied in Christ alone and actively rejoicing in God’s grace, then sinful motives will all-too-readily be mixed up with good ones. This is because we are all, believers and non-believers alike, (amongst other things like something to worship) constantly seeking a sense of worth, justification and righteousness. Though we as believers do objectively have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us yet we often forget this and seek to justify and promote ourselves before others. (As a consequence, we inadvertently shift the focus to our own performance: when we do well, we can so easily and subtly start to feel proud of ourselves. When we screw up we start to beat ourselves up. We don’t think our performance affects our righteousness before God but we do mistakenly think it affects our relationship with Him). If we are not constantly thankful in prayer, thinking of things above, focusing on Christ, reminding ourselves that all progress is by faith alone through God’s grace alone, etc, we end up, as Keller says, with another, “functional” saviour – whether it be our image, our possessions, our family, our doctrines, what others think of us, or whatever. Through this teaching (of which this was a very poor and incomplete attempt at a summary!) I have come to see that, for example, in disagreement with others, we can so easily approach the discussion, without even realising it, by trying to find a way to win, to be seen as ‘in the right’. I believe this can blind us and stop us from taking what is said at face value. In essence, then, what I am trying to say is this: I believe that the evidence is incontestable that Calvin did NOT hold to the currently popular (amongst the Reformed) doctrine of Limited Atonement and I am struggling to see how anyone can reject that. Therefore, I do not really believe that people are being deliberately deceptive, I was using it as a sort of crude ‘literary device’ to arrest the reader’s attention. The idea being that people would naturally reel away from it in horror with the hope that they might be prompted to more carefully examine their motives. In other words I really do believe that many who strongly defend limited atonement are just not self-aware in this way. I foolishly hoped that I might make a difference for perhaps one reader. I myself had to go through this process. You see, I once held fervently to limited argument but now find all the arguments, including those of Nicole, Cunningham, et al unconvincing.

    It was a painful moment when I had to admit to myself and before God that I had not really been engaging in an honest enquiry or in earnest debate fully prepared to change my view. This I found, in part, to be because I was getting, if you like, a sense of identity from being part of a band of people with the same beliefs. So hopefully you will see that whilst I can say that I believe many advocates of limited atonement don’t realise that they are not really open to be persuaded – or at least the doctrine is so embedded that it takes some dislodging – I am not being hypocritical and suffering from the same lack of self-awareness since I was once also in the same camp.

    Also please understand that those of us who hold to this position are often on the receiving end of many ad homs and dismissive comments that don’t really engage with the arguments so perhaps a little of my frustration surfaced there. I can only apologise that I didn’t put the time and effort in to try to explain myself better which hopefully I have now done?

    Having said all that, I am hoping that you might also realise how the comment about “painting Calvin into(our) corner” is an example of just the sort of dismissive comment we often receive. Of course sola scriptura should be our primary concern in such matters (and naturally I think scripture is indeed very clear on this matter). However, this post wasn’t about what the scriptures say but what Calvin said. Assuming that you are not someone whose mind is made up but are open to challenging your own beliefs and presuppositions, why not engage with all that has been written here and show us where we have got Calvin wrong? By all means use Nicole as has been suggested but please understand that simply naming Nicole, great and respected though he may be, does not refute us. Neither myself, nor, I am sure David, thinks themselves greater than Nicole, we just find his arguments unconvincing. Do please show us where we err…

    I think your other comments have been dealt with. I do hope you are able to take the time for a careful reading of the Heshusius article and look forward to your further response.

    Warmest regards in Christ Jesus,
    Martin

  14. Martin Thorley permalink
    March 20, 2008 6:35 pm

    I wish you could go back and edit your typos. I bet it doesn’t frustrate me as much as David though :-)

    David adds: you are asking ME to fix your typos, and then you slam me in the same breath. Oi vey… ;-)

    I fixed up the spelling errors as much as I could see. If you want to edit any more let me know. You can even resubmit it to me and I can simply swap the old out and in the new.

    Now, should I email that fellow and let him know you have replied?

    Take care and thanks,
    David

  15. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    March 31, 2008 2:42 pm

    I have updated this file. See Entry #53 under Sins of the World. The citation is from, John Calvin, The Eternal Predestination of God, 70-1.

  16. Richard permalink
    May 10, 2008 11:39 am

    Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Eternal Predestination of God & the Secret Providence of God

    Quote: p.165-166
    Georgius imagines himself to argue very cleverly when he says, ” Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Therefore, those who would exclude the reprobate from a participation in the benefits of Christ, must, of necessity, place them somewhere out of the world.” Now we will not permit the common solution of this question to avail on the present occasion, which would have it that Christ suffered sufficiently for all men, but effectually for His elect alone. This great absurdity, by which our monk has procured for himself so much applause amongst his own fraternity, has no weight whatever with me. John does indeed extend the benefits of the atonement of Christ, which was completed by His death, to all the elect of God throughout what climes of the world soever they may be scattered. But though the case be so, it by no means alters the fact that the reprobate are mingled with the elect in the world. It is also a fact, without controversy, that Christ came to atone for the sins ” of the whole world.” But the solution of all difficulty is immediately at hand, in the truth and fact, that it is ” whosoever believeth in Him” that ” shall not perish, but shall have eternal life.” For our present question is, not what the power or virtue of Christ is, nor what efficacy it has in itself, but who those are to whom He gives Himself to be enjoyed. Now if the possession of Christ stands in faith, and if faith flows from the Spirit of adoption, it follows that he alone is numbered of

    166 CALVIN’S CALVINISM.

    God among His children who is designed of God to be a partaker of Christ. Indeed, the evangelist John sets forth the office of Christ to be none other than that of ” gathering together all the children of God ” in one by His death. From all which we conclude that although reconciliation is offered unto all men through Him, yet, that the great benefit belongs peculiarly to the elect, that they might be ” gathered together ” and be made ” together ” partakers of eternal life.

    Be it observed, however, that when I speak of reconciliation through Christ being offered to all, I do not mean that that message or embassy, by which Paul says God ” reconciles the world unto Himself,” really comes or reaches unto all men; but that it is not sealed indiscriminately on the hearts of all those to whom it does come, so as to be effectual in them. And as to our present opponent’s prating about there being ” no acceptance of persons with God,” he must first ” go and learn ” what the word ” person ” meaneth agreeably to our preceding explanations of it; and then we shall have no more trouble with him on that score.

  17. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    May 10, 2008 1:37 pm

    Hey Richard, thanks for posting this. Can you tell us tho what specific point you want to make?

    How you read this may be very different to how we are reading it. For example, if you are telling us that Calvin denied that the expiation is “extended” (ie applied) to all, we agree. Or if you are telling us that Calvin believed that John’s point here was that the elect and children of God scattered throughout the world will be gathered in, we understand that too.

    Thanks
    David

  18. May 10, 2008 6:42 pm

    “Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” If Calvin believed that the world meant the elect scattered throughout the world, (John does indeed extend the benefits of the atonement of Christ, which was completed by His death, to all the elect of God throughout what climes of the world soever they may be scattered.)then how this is not limiting? What do you mean by limited atonement/redemption? What then is unlimited atonement/redemption?

    I notice something in your response. (Or if you are telling us that Calvin believed that John’s point here was that the elect and children of God …..) Help me understand who the elect are and who the children of God are?

    Thanks,

    Eager to learn

  19. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    May 11, 2008 1:05 pm

    Hey Richard,

    I have edited out your parentheses, in your first paragraph, the make the sentence smoother.

    You ask: “Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” If Calvin believed that the world meant the elect scattered throughout the world… then how this is not limiting? What do you mean by limited atonement/redemption? What then is unlimited atonement/redemption?

    David:

    I would say, there are two levels here. There is the exegetical level at which Calvin believes John here is making a statement, and then there is the level of Calvin’s own wider views on the extent of the expiation.

    There are plenty of good reasons for supposing this, internal markers and the full weight of all of Calvin’s other statements.

    Internally we can place this comment from the tract with his comments from his commentary on 1 John from a year earlier.

    Let us do the tract:

    Calvin:
    Georgius thinks he argues very acutely when he says: Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; and hence those who wish to exclude the reprobate from participation in Christ must place them outside the world.

    David: There are a couple of things to keep in mind: 1) Both, I think, Calvin and Goergius, are reading the Latin propitiatio as relating to reconciliation. 2) Goergius is using this verse directly to prove his universalism.

    Georgius and his crowd, for some wild reason were even trying to extend (apply) the expiation to the reprobate and to demons. Here we have an early form of universalism. Georgius objects that if we deny this, then we must take the reprobate out of the world. Goergius is using a classic style of dialectic and reductio, by stating a thesis and then positing an absurd counter-thesis. The counter-thesis is to be denied. He is trying to grip his opponent upon the horns of an inescapable dilemma.

    Calvin: For this, the common solution does not avail, that Christ suffered sufficiently for all, but efficiently for the elect. Now Calvin sees the false-dilemma and seeks to resolve it by positing a way out of it.

    David: Here Calvin notes the classic formula. Here he makes no claim against it or for it. In his commentary on this verse, he grants it to be true, just not applicable to this verse.

    Calvin: By this great absurdity, this monk has sought applause in his own fraternity, but it has no weight with me.

    David: Now here is the diff., part. Is Calvin calling the formula absurd or Georgius’ claims? I think the latter. He is now referring back to the wild claims.

    Calvin: Wherever the faithful are dispersed throughout the world, “John” extends to them the expiation wrought by Christ’s death.

    David: I have emphasized extend. For Calvin, extend is to apply (see below) So here Calvin asserts the true proposition. Calvin asserts his own set of theses.

    Calvin: But this does not alter the fact that the reprobate are mixed up with the elect in the world.

    David: It seems to me that Calvin uses “world” as the totality of the elect and non-elect. Both are in the world. When Calvin uses the term “world” he always means the total collection of mankind, elect and non-elect.

    Cavlin: It is incontestable that Christ came for the expiation of the sins of the world.

    David: This is his other thesis. Again, I argue that whenever HE uses world, he means all of us.

    So Calvin has reset the theses, contra-Goergius.

    1) The expiation is only extended to believers.

    2) The expiation was made for the world.

    Both are true. And there is no evidence that “he” is using world to mean the elect alone.

    Calvin: But the “solution” lies close at hand,

    David: So there it is. He sees that between these two propositions a solution is needed. I would ask, if he meant world = elect, he would see no need for a solution.

    Calvin: that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but should have eternal life (Jn 3:15). For the present question is not how great the power of Christ is or what efficacy it has in itself, but to whom he gives Himself to be enjoyed.

    David: Whosoever believes does not perish. He is sustaining premise 1 of his here. And so, the question is not the nature of the expiation, its efficacy, but to whom is it applied.

    Calvin: If possession lies in faith and faith emanates from the Spirit of adoption, it follows that only he is reckoned in the number of God’s children who will be partakers of Christ.

    David: Again, here is enforcing the point that the expiation is only efficacious to whom it is applied: and that to the elect alone by the agency of the Spirit.

    Calvin: The evangelist John sets forth the office of Christ as nothing else than by His death to gather the children of God into one (Jn 11:52).

    David: Now he moves to what he thinks John is saying.

    Calvin: Hence we conclude that the reconciliation is offered to all through Him, yet the benefit is peculiar to the elect, that they may be gathered into the society of life. However, while I say it is offered to all, I do not mean that this embassy, by which on Paul’s testimony (II Cor 5.18) God reconciles the world to Himself, reaches to all, but that it is not sealed indiscriminately on the hearts of all to whom it comes so as to be effectual. John Calvin, The Eternal Predestination of God, p., 148-9.

    David: the solution is that even tho it is “incontestable that Christ came for the expiation of the sins of the world” the application is only to believers, and thus he solves Goergius’ false-dilemma. The problem one must face is what and why did Calvin say “It is incontestable that Christ came for the expiation of the sins of the world.” Someone like Nicole would have to say that Calvin was equivocating on world here, that he meant elect, and so differently to his opponent. But it seems to me that Calvin has not told us he has coded “world” to mean elect. The irony is, if Calvin was as Nicole alleges, then its far from incontestable that Christ came to expiate the sins of the world. Its the very issue being contested.

    David: Now lets look at the commentary:

    Cavlin: Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated?

    David: Here he sets out the question: how has the sins of the world been expiated?

    Calvin: I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who under this pretense extend salvation to all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself.

    David: Here is the proof that extend means to apply.

    Calvin: Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation. They who seek to avoid this absurdity, have said that Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage;

    David: So here we see that Calvin asserts that Christ suffered for all sufficiently? Here is where I ask people to tell me what that meant for Calvin? If you go back to the file, you will see that for Calvin, Christ suffered for all men. He says this over and over. Thus when Calvin says Christ suffered for all, he meant, Christ bore the curse of the law for all men. Go up and read the file or search on the word suffer/suffered.

    Calvin: for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church.

    David: Here we see that Calvin thinks John here is specifically saying that the application is to the church.

    Calvin: Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world.

    David: Here he says “John” uses the terms to denote the believers of the world, so “world” for John here, thinks Calvin, is sort of short-hand for the believers of the world. Calvin is tacitly using Augustine against Georgius, as he is following Augustine here.

    Calvin: For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world. John Calvin, 1 John 2:2.

    David: His closing comment. This goes back to his idea that grace is offered for all the world, but not applied to all but to the believing alone.

    You ask:

    I notice something in your response. (Or if you are telling us that Calvin believed that John’s point here was that the elect and children of God …..) Help me understand who the elect are and who the children of God are?

    David: Does the above help?

    There are two ways of reading Calvin. Both interpretations are determined by wider assumptions. I say because of the total weight of his other comments where he clearly asserts unlimited expiation, he is not here denying it. And what is more, I say that Calvin’s particularistic reading of John here is not evidence that he held to limited expiation himself, just as the fact that Vermigli and others took a particularistic reading of 1 Tim 2:4 proves that they held to limited redemption either.

    So, I know that my interpretation is not bullet-proof, as someone committed to reading Calvin as and advocate of limited expiation/redemption will insist that when he speaks of the incontestability of the expiation for the world, etc, he really didn’t mean world inclusively. But I say, given his overwhelming and undeniable statements from all over his corpus that Christ did suffer for all the sins of all the world, there is a greater weight of evidence to read his comments here as I have done.

    Hope that helps,
    David

  20. May 12, 2008 7:03 pm

    Calvin’s Calvinism p.99

    Just so it is with respect to the conditional promises of God, which invite all men to salvation. They do not positively prove that which God has decreed in His secret counsel, but declare only what God is ready to do to all those who are brought to faith and repentance.

    I can see the statement ” Christ is the propitiation of the sins of the world.” being unlimited if the conditional statements repent and believe are in view.

    I do not believe that the sins of all mankind where imputed to Christ on the cross.

  21. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    May 12, 2008 7:27 pm

    Hey Richard,

    Assuming I understand you, you say Calvin could speak as he did because he held to something like a conditional imputation of the world’s sins. If I have understood correctly:

    Can you prove that connection? I mean, its fine to assert that Calvin simply spoke of a conditional imputation of the sins of all the world to Christ (in a way analogous to his conditional willing that all be saved etc), but can you demonstrate from Calvin that posited such a conditional imputation?

    Further, on the conditional will and promise, I put it to you that you have misunderstood Calvin there too. For Calvin, God wills the salvation of all men, but through faith and repentance. His desire that all men be saved is not “unconditional” ie absolute. The same with the promise. The promise is made to all, but the application of the benefit is conditioned by faith.

    So if we apply that to your assertion, the sins of all mean imputed to Christ, but the benefit f the expiation is only applied by condition. Thats actually closer and truer: but I doubt thats what you meant.

    Are there any other parallel examples from his friends and contemporaries who held to something like a conditional imputation as you mean it? No.

    As I think about that too, you would then land solidly into hypothetical universalism in saying that.

    But, I respect your assertion here, but until I see some evidence…

    Did you read the file itself? Calvin is very clear. I was going to post some here, but I wont. They are all there. And you have many statements about unbelieving souls redeemed as well.

    All I will do is encourage you to read the direct affirmation from Calvin the very thing you here deny. You say: “I do not believe that the sins of all mankind where imputed to Christ on the cross.” To that I would say please check out the section “the sins of the many” in the Calvin file, where he says that Christ bore the sin not of part of the world, but of the whole world, all of it, the whole human race, etc. If that is not clear, Richard, I sincerely dont know what could be for you.

    One last thing, whats also odd with the Nicole-Helm type of reading is that its now clear that no one contemporary to Calvin, say from the 1500s to the 1560s held to limited expiation. I am not even convinced Bucer did. But I could grant him, there is no one else.

    Anyway, thanks for interacting. But you need some evidence for your claim to be plausible. I say that with respect btw. I am not trying to be snippy.

    Take care,
    David

  22. Adithia Kusno permalink
    July 13, 2008 7:52 am

    It’s a delight for me to read your article on Calvin view of atonement. Here I want to give comment and ask you:
    1. What do you mean with ‘high Calvinism,’ is that mean Calvinist who’s denied that God sincerely offered salvation to all (elect and reprobate)? Because I actually hold to supralapsarian which is high Calvinist but I also believe in general redemption, as noted in footnote on Calvin Comm. on Romans 5:18.
    2. I’m totally agree with term that Christ died for all (elect and reprobate), only the elect being effected by saving faith and the reprobate get temporary faith. Because in 1 Cor. 15:20-24, Paul said that this is the reason why then all resurrected. Elect to glorification and reprobate to damnation. Do you hold this view like me?
    3. For good advice I think it is better if you differentiated between effective limited atonement which is God hidden counsel only to the elect and graciously general atonement which is God permissive will to the reprobate and elect alike. Because even I hold on general redemption like Calvin, I’m also high Calvinist and five point Calvinist. And I see no contradiction.
    4. Calvin in Comm. on Hosea hold on twofold election, general election for reprobate and special election only to elect; Calvin also hold resistible grace for unregenerate to against the external calling but also hold irresistible grace for regenerate to freely receives internal calling. Even I noticed in your article Calvin said God’s love is threefold, and God’s will also twofold, one permissive will to sincerely offer salvation to all and second hidden decree to regenerate only elect.
    I’m pray that through this sincere dialog we can see God’s name be glorified. Amen.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Adithia Kusno

  23. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    July 13, 2008 1:29 pm

    Hey there Adithia,

    You say
    1. What do you mean with ‘high Calvinism,’ is that mean Calvinist who’s denied that God sincerely offered salvation to all (elect and reprobate)? Because I actually hold to supralapsarian which is high Calvinist but I also believe in general redemption, as noted in footnote on Calvin Comm. on Romans 5:18.

    David: High Calvinism is generally characterised by something like Banner of Truth Calvinism, or John Murray Calvinism. High Calvinists are strict TULIPers, who believe in the free offer on the one hand, but a limitation in the nature of the expiation and the redemption on other hand. By limitation, Christ only bore the sins of elect Peter, but not non-elect Judas. Thus, Christ only sustained a proper penal relationship with Peter.

    You say:

    2. I’m totally agree with term that Christ died for all (elect and reprobate), only the elect being effected by saving faith and the reprobate get temporary faith. Because in 1 Cor. 15:20-24, Paul said that this is the reason why then all resurrected. Elect to glorification and reprobate to damnation. Do you hold this view like me?

    David: Sure, as stated. I do believe with Calvin that Christ came into this world to save all mankind.

    You say:

    3. For good advice I think it is better if you differentiated between effective limited atonement which is God hidden counsel only to the elect and graciously general atonement which is God permissive will to the reprobate and elect alike. Because even I hold on general redemption like Calvin, I’m also high Calvinist and five point Calvinist. And I see no contradiction.

    David: For this file my aim was to set out Calvin’s theology. Calvin posits no limitation in the nature of the expiation itself. The limitation is only in the application. Calvin also held to unconditional election, which must be set out side by side with unlimited expiation (sin-bearing etc.) and redemption. For my file to add too much interpretation or commentary is not what I wanted to directly do, unless if it was to defend or explain the documentation. Make sense?

    You say:

    4. Calvin in Comm. on Hosea hold on twofold election, general election for reprobate and special election only to elect; Calvin also hold resistible grace for unregenerate to against the external calling but also hold irresistible grace for regenerate to freely receives internal calling. Even I noticed in your article Calvin said God’s love is threefold, and God’s will also twofold, one permissive will to sincerely offer salvation to all and second hidden decree to regenerate only elect.

    David: Yes Calvin held to general election of the nation etc. I have a few posts from Calvin on that documented. I have posted some here. The other comments you make there are right.

    You sya:
    I’m pray that through this sincere dialog we can see God’s name be glorified. Amen.

    David: me too, and thanks for stopping by.

    Take care,
    David

  24. Adithia Kusno permalink
    July 15, 2008 9:18 pm

    Halo David, here I want to ask and give more comment:

    You say:
    1. High Calvinists are strict TULIPers, who believe in the free offer on the one hand, but a limitation in the nature of the expiation and the redemption on other hand. By limitation, Christ only bore the sins of elect Peter, but not non-elect Judas. Thus, Christ only sustained a proper penal relationship with Peter.
    Adithia:
    I believe that Christ died for all and redeemed all, but not all get the benefit because only true church in special election being regenerated. Do we have the same position?

    You say:
    2. Sure, as stated. I do believe with Calvin that Christ came into this world to save all mankind.
    Adithia:
    Do you mean universalism that all eventually will be saved even not regenerated? Or Christ died to save all is the external redemption and only true church being regenerated on complete redemption as Calvin stated? I believe the latter.

    You say:
    3. Calvin posits no limitation in the nature of the expiation itself. The limitation is only in the application.
    Adithia:
    I’m totally agree with you.

    Here I want to ask a few questions:
    1. From whose did Calvin view being deflected on this issue? Did Beza did this?
    2. May I know where I can get complete eSermon from Calvin?
    3. May I know your position on TULIP? It’s rare to know Calvinist like you compared to other Bezian.
    4. Do you hold single or double predestination? Do you have article on that position? I’m first.
    5. Do you hold supra, infra, sub, or agnostic? If you have article about Calvin and other Reformers on this issue please tell me. I’m supra.

    Thank you for your article, it’s trully a blessing. May God bless you.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Adithia Kusno.

  25. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    July 16, 2008 7:36 am

    Greetings Adithia

    You ask:
    Halo David, here I want to ask and give more comment:

    David: Sure.

    Adithia:
    I believe that Christ died for all and redeemed all, but not all get the benefit because only true church in special election being regenerated. Do we have the same position?

    David: yes we do have the same position.

    Adithia:
    Do you mean universalism that all eventually will be saved even not regenerated? Or Christ died to save all is the external redemption and only true church being regenerated on complete redemption as Calvin stated? I believe the latter.

    David: No, I don’t hold to UniversalISM, that all men will actually be saved. I do believe that Christ came into this world “to save” all, and that his Gospel is further outworking of this desire.

    Adithia:

    I’m totally agree with you.

    David: So how came you to this understanding? Are you part of a church which holds to the same?

    Adithia:
    1. From whose did Calvin view being deflected on this issue? Did Beza did this?

    David: I cant say Beza for certain. It may be that he started a trajectory away from Calvin’s original position, or that he was a part of an already established trajectory of limited expiation. The two candidates for this limited expiation have always been Beza and Bucer. But I have my doubts about Bucer. And it may be that we are to think in terms of incremental steps which came to form a trajectory or movement. It may be that Beza just modified a few critical exegetical points (eg 2 Pet 3:9, Matt., 23:37, John 3:16, etc) which others took up and ran with. A good source on this is: Thomas, G.M., The Extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus, UK: Paternoster: 1997.

    Adithia:
    2. May I know where I can get complete eSermon from Calvin?

    David: I don’t know about sermons specifically. You can get a lot of his material online here: And you can purchase the Ages cd which has nearly all his works (but mostly in older translations.

    Adithia: 3. May I know your position on TULIP? It’s rare to know Calvinist like you compared to other Bezian.

    David: I would say: Dort is not TULIP. Dort is not about negating the nature of the expiation or limiting that nature to any. What Dort is seeking to refute is the Arminian idea that Christ did not come to die and thereby save anyone effectually. Dort counters this by acknowledging that Christ did come to die effectually for some alone. TULIP on the other hand posits a limitation in the very nature of the expiaton, of its sin-bearing actions. So if by TULIP one means that Christ died effectually and infallibly for the elect, which is not to the negation that he died for the non-elect with another or other intention, then I would hold to TULIP. As to Beza, many argue that Beza was the first to posit a limitation in the extent and nature of the atonement itself. I have stopped relying on secondary sources, and so until I read something from a primary source itself, I will be agnostic on Beza.

    Adithia: 4. Do you hold single or double predestination?

    David: I hold to the classic position of unconditional election and preterition. However, with regard to damnation, I hold to conditional predamnation. Men are pre-damned in the decree, on account of known sin. This decree, tho, is not conditioned by bare foreknowledge, or based on bare foreknowledge, as all God’s foreknowledge is based on decree. However, with regard to sin, God’s permissively decrees to ordain it. You can read excerpts I have posted in the categories of this blog.

    Adithia: Do you have article on that position? I’m first.

    David: No not really… well I do… I will have to think about that.

    Adithia: 5. Do you hold supra, infra, sub, or agnostic? If you have article about Calvin and other Reformers on this issue please tell me. I’m supra.

    David: I agree with Dabney and reject all attempts to posit an ordered decretal system. However, if you were to push me, I would say I am infra, with the proviso that the infra-lapsarian ordering is not taken as an exhaustive capturing of all of God’s redemptive dealings with men.

    Adithia: Thank you…

    David: no, thank you. I will post some more stuff on the decrees and on reprobation later if I can.

    Take care and thanks for visiting.

    David

  26. Adithia Kusno permalink
    July 16, 2008 11:06 pm

    Halo David, you say:

    David: So how came you to this understanding?

    Adithia: Went I read 1 Tim. 4:10, I’m convinced that Christ came to die for all. In 1 Cor. 15:20-24, Paul said that this is the reason why then all resurrected, because Christ died for all and being the first ressurected. And in 2 Pet. 2:1, the word ‘bought’ for false teacher is the same as for elect in 1 Cor. 6:20 and 7:23. Finally when I read John’s Gospel and his letters, I realise the word ‘world’ means not only the elect in the whole world but whole human race.

    David: Are you part of a church which holds to the same?

    Adithia: I’m from Reformed Evangelicals Church in Indonesia, my Pastor is Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong which recently got (Hon.) D. Div. from WTS. I’m never ask him on this subject. But from his sermon I never heard him said that Christ only die for the elect only.

    David: So if by TULIP one means that Christ died effectually and infallibly for the elect, which is not to the negation that he died for the non-elect with another or other intention, then I would hold to TULIP.

    Adithia: Yes, I think we’re on the same understanding. Because L is inter-dependent with U in the sense that only the elect being regenerated. Which is not a contradiction with Christ died for all so that all being ressurected on the last day.

    David: I hold to the classic position of unconditional election and preterition. However, with regard to damnation, I hold to conditional predamnation. Men are pre-damned in the decree, on account of known sin. This decree, tho, is not conditioned by bare foreknowledge, or based on bare foreknowledge, as all God’s foreknowledge is based on decree. However, with regard to sin, God’s permissively decrees to ordain it.

    Adithia: I agree with you, I think we got the same reason for damnation but we’re separate on the meaning of ‘conditional’. I hold that this election is not conditioned outside of God but only conditioned on His good pleasure. And His decree is fourfold: ordain, guide, permit, left. On the elect God ordain to marry His only beggoten Son to the Church, the other left to Fall and remain unregenerated. Therefore election is prior to decree of Fall, to actualize this plan God permit Adam and Eve Fall, so both the Church and non-elect Fall. Then decree to save all to ressurected all, elect to glorification and reprobate to damnation because they against the One who bought them (2 Pet. 2:1). Here I came to supra position, which J. V. Fesko in Diversity with the Reformed Tradition: Supra- and Infralapsarianism in Calvin,Dort, and Westminster, has prove side-by-side that Calvin and Beza both are supra.

    David: I agree with Dabney and reject all attempts to posit an ordered decretal system. However, if you were to push me, I would say I am infra, with the proviso that the infra-lapsarian ordering is not taken as an exhaustive capturing of all of God’s redemptive dealings with men.

    Adithia: I agree with Bavink that God’s decree inter-dependent and should not be viewed with sequence. Therefore what I mean with ordered decree is the same with Edwards view that there is a relation between one decree and the reason why God dicided to make another decree in relation to the former decree. When I ask Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong, he said that this is not an important subject to speculate, but he also said that supra position maybe not wrong.

    David: no, thank you. I will post some more stuff on the decrees and on reprobation later if I can.

    Adithia: I hope you have time to write on that issue, and especially abot Calvin on that issue. I believe Calvin hold supra position as T. H. L. Parker say about Calvin position on predestination. Because after all Calvin in Institutio say that not because they will sin that God reprobate them (because elect also will Fall) but because they are reprobate they go to damnation.

    Your brother in Christ,
    Adithia Kusno

  27. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    July 17, 2008 6:59 am

    Hey Adithia,

    I will move this discussion to the a comments box under Turretin and Supralapsarianism, if you dont mind. That seems to be a better place given the shifting of the subject matter between us. I dont want to cut off conversation, but just keep this thread crisp and relative to Calvin specifically.

    Thanks,
    David

  28. Josh Follansbee permalink
    July 27, 2008 4:17 pm

    Wow, David! You have come along way since I talked you into blogging.

    I love this page! I am waiting till you finally succumb to our desires to write a book. Or, with all the material you have, a series of books!

    Keep em coming!

  29. November 17, 2008 1:54 pm

    Bro! I’m with Josh. You definitely need to write a book.

  30. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    November 17, 2008 2:17 pm

    Hey Barry,

    I wont consider writing a book until at least you add me to your blog-roll. ;-)

    Thanks for the kind words.

    David

  31. November 18, 2008 2:04 pm

    David,

    Your wish has been granted!

  32. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    November 18, 2008 2:11 pm

    Hey Barry,

    You are very kind. I reciprocated. I hope this site can be a blessing to you. About the book, just to let you know, my main desire is still a Ph.D project first. Right now I am very content in working through the material and publishing the raw data.

    God Bless,
    David

  33. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    May 7, 2009 8:37 am

    I have updated the Calvin file. See entry #55 under the sub-header: Redeemed souls perishing and redemption voided.

    David

  34. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    May 8, 2009 7:55 am

    Update for the Calvin file. See entry #3 under the sub-header: [11] Christ seeks the salvation of the world and reprobates: sermons.

    David

  35. Dan R permalink
    September 26, 2009 10:04 am

    I don’t think Calvin ever believed that what he taught would be called “Calvinism” :-)
    My comment is on the word “world”. I do believe the main problem is Westernizing this word to mean every person on the face of the earth. Hebrew thought would never accept this. The idea concerning “world” as understood by the Jewish people at that time is that God sent His Savior not just for Jews, as they believed that Gentiles were dogs subject to the wrath of God and that God would never save them, but for Gentiles too. See Jo. 3:16,17 etc. as Jesus explains to Nicodemus in v.17 that God did not send His Son to “condemn” the world…. You see, the meaning of “world” to Nicodemus was Gentile dogs. John wrote that He is the propitiation for our sins and not our sins only but for the whole world. Did he really mean for everybody on the face of the earth? I cannot possibly see that what was meant. Jews believed that God was only going to send the Messiah for them. That is indisputable. Now the question is did Calvin mean by “world” everyone on the face of the earth? “And when he says, the sin OF THE WORLD, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race; that the Jews might not think that he had been sent to them alone.”

  36. Dan R permalink
    September 26, 2009 10:10 am

    (continued). I borrowed this quote from the blog. Also, concerning the OT sacrifices the offerer laid hands on the sacrifice leaning on it to show how that individual’s sins were being laid on this particular sacrifice. Atonement was always particular and not just a general shedding of blood for whomever. Therefore, when the Scripture says, “All that the Father has given me WILL come to me” it is stating that Christ (Messiah) has a particular people given to Him. Perhaps, Calvin meant by the “whole human race” all races without exception not every being upon the face of the earth. Now as regards how we preach the Gospel, I believe that who these elect are is God’s business. We have absolutely no idea who they are so as far as we are concerned everyone we talk to or see might be one of the elect. If they repent and believe in the Lord then we see the “elect” coming out of the woodwork, so to speak.

  37. Dan R permalink
    September 26, 2009 10:16 am

    (final). I believe we in the West have committed some serious errors in interpretation and translation by not being submerged in the Hebrew thought and culture of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments were couched in Hebrew thought. In conclusion, I think we can see from the Bible that God has an elect people but an unbeliever is to hear the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. This elect stuff has absolutely no meaning to one before he is saved. That is God’s divine mystery and that is His business. Yet, I believe that as we preach the true Gospel “all that the Father has given me” (Messiah) WILL come to Him and ALL the glory and honor is His ALONE.

  38. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    September 26, 2009 6:08 pm

    Hey there Dan,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    #1) I doubt that Calvin or Scripture understood John’s “world” as the Gentiles. That idea started about the second half of the 17th century. It was sometimes popular among Puritan writers. Modern scholarship generally reject that now. The world for John means apostate mankind (which includes all postential ethnic distinctions). For Calvin, he understood world in about 3 relevant senses, all mankind in unbelief, all of us. All the reprobate as opposed to the elect. And in two places, as the church scattered throughout the world. For Calvin on Jn 3:16-17, he took as all mankind, elect and non-elect in unbelief. You can see this by reading his comments on that and on Jn 12:47. The idea that world meant for John, the Gentiles, was itself actually a 17th century Western development (eg the Puritan Hebraist John Lightfoot).

    What evidence do you have that Hebrew thought could never mean every man on the face of the earth? What is more, don’t make the mistake of juxtaposing only two alternatives, ie, world means either absolutely all living (and/or who have died, and/or who shall live) as opposed to the Gentiles. There are other options. Calvin knew this as well.

    #2. A) The yearly OT sacrifices were for all the sins of all the people. Calvin builds on this as a type for Christ bearing all the sins of all the world’s people. B) For Calvin, there is no conflict or denial of Christ’s unconditional election and effectual calling of those elected. In no way does this preclude universal expiation. C) There is no evidence in Calvin that by the term “whole human race” that he meant all races without exception. Indeed, he goes out of his way deny that.

    #3. I think the substance of your third comment is beyond Calvin specifically, so for the most I shall pass on that. If we go back to John and his use of world, the important thing is that he, like Paul, was including the Jews within the scandal of the cross, within the scandal of rebellion. They were in opposition to God as much as the Gentiles. For Calvin, as Ive read him, he never makes the sort of ethnic distinction that arose later in the 17thC. He sees it as Ive outlined, and where he does deviate from his normal usage (of world equaling all mankind or all the reprobate) he follows Augustine and makes the distinction rest upon the church verses those outside of the church. He doesn’t actually ever make world, all races, or all kinds of races within the church or in the world, or anything like that.

    Have you read the entire Calvin file? Also compare his wording and categories with that of Bullinger, Musculus and others Ive documented. If you do so, Calvin you should get a better feel for what Calvin is saying.

    Thanks for stopping by,
    David

  39. Dan R permalink
    September 27, 2009 9:40 am

    Thanks for your reply but if you would be so kind, David, would you research Jesus’s reply to Nicodemus and consider these things. Why did Jesus tell Nicodemus that “God so loved the world”? Wouldn’t you think that meant Nicodemus didn’t believe that. Also, why would Jesus continue by saying, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world”? Wouldn’t you think that meant Nicodemus thought Messiah came to condemn the world? As far as Jewish thought on the word world, this is not an original though by Lightfoot. I don’t have any direct quotations for you yet but it is absolutely true that Jewish people believe there are 2 kinds of people, Jews and Gentiles. They refer to Gentiles as “world.” I will get you some quotes from Jewish writings on that. Also, the word translated world which is kosmos does not carry the idea of every individual on the face of the earth. There is a word like that but I believe it is “oikomenos”. The Scriptures constantly make it clear that the idea that God did not come for the Gentiles was believed by the Jews at that time. There is absolutely nothing that could prove it otherwise. Therefore, when the word “world” is used, many times it refers to Gentiles and not to every individual on the face of the earth. That is why John could say and “not for us only…” Obviously, he is showing that the Gospel is not just for Jews, as it comes to the Jew first, but also for Gentiles. As far as Calvin, I have to admit that I have not yet read all of the “Institutes” but am in the process of doing so. Whether he believed that world meant everybody on the face of the earth or not doesn’t mean that is the truth. If he really did believe that then I believe he made an error. The thing is that everything must be in context or you can make Calvin say whatever you think he meant. From the impressive work you’ve done I can see that we(general) might have made some of his teachings say things that he really didn’t. I also see that in Spurgeon and whether he was premillenial or postmillenial or whatever. At times, he seems like one view and other times like the opposing view. There is definitely a universal use for the preaching of the Gospel. That cannot be denied but then there is also the truth that God has chosen his elect “before the foundation of the world” and “all that the Father has given me will come to me” and “no one can come to me except the Father draw (like dragging in a net full of fish) him,etc. Your appeal to the word “world” and the several quotes from Calvin is based on the Western idea that world means “everyone on the face of the earth” vs all mankind, in general. That’s different than using the word world in a way when researched shows that it was never meant to be translated that way. Your whole argument of making the atonement for everyone who ever lived on the face of the earth rests on that error. Yes, Christ (Messiah) died for the sins of the world which means not just Jews but people of all races (Gentiles). It is not a specific teaching that Messiah died for everyone who ever lived or will live or died or will die on the face of the earth. That is the strong point of all this. That is, Christ (Messiah) did not come for Jews only but for non-Jews too. This is constantly repeated because the prevailing idea at that time was that God would never send His Son (Messiah) to atone for Gentile dogs. I pray that God might open your eyes to sincerely look into this and pray for God’s truth. If I am dead wrong then I pray that God will show that to me too.

  40. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    September 27, 2009 5:12 pm

    Hey Dan,

    If you wouldn’t mind, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but the Theology Online blog is a better place to discuss some of this, or the Calvin and Calvinism Yahoo list. The C&C blog is focused on historical theology, with the view of examining the history of Reformation soteriology.

    I take a brief stab at some of this here, but if you wish to reply, can you reply over at Theology Online. The Wardlaw post will do if you like.

    Dan: Thanks for your reply but if you would be so kind, David, would you research Jesus’s reply to Nicodemus and consider these things. Why did Jesus tell Nicodemus that “God so loved the world”? Wouldn’t you think that meant Nicodemus didn’t believe that.

    David: Basically, is the idea here that how the hearer would understand the terms delimits the meaning of the author’s intent? That’s valid to a certain degree. However, we may have good evidence that the authors, in his case, Jesus and John, may have had a different meaning, to which they were trying to bring their respective audiences to. Further, even if we factor in ethnic exclusivism, the point still holds, in Jesus and John, the whole world is involved in the scandal, not just the Gentiles.

    Dan: Also, why would Jesus continue by saying, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world”? Wouldn’t you think that meant Nicodemus thought Messiah came to condemn the world?

    David: My reply would be the same again. And we can add the typical serpent. The serpent a provision for the Jews. Christ is the anti-type and is a provision not only for the Jews–so wake up Nicodemus–but for the world. Jesus does this quite a few times, the bread for the nation, is now the bread for the world. and so on.

    Dan: As far as Jewish thought on the word world, this is not an original though by Lightfoot. I don’t have any direct quotations for you yet but it is absolutely true that Jewish people believe there are 2 kinds of people, Jews and Gentiles.

    David: I can only deal with the latter at this point. Sure, that’s not the problem. The question is, could Jewish language speak of a category of the world as including all individuals without any exception? You said that’s impossible. Secondly, the next question here is, what was John and Jesus thinking?

    Dan: They refer to Gentiles as “world.” I will get you some quotes from Jewish writings on that. Also, the word translated world which is kosmos does not carry the idea of every individual on the face of the earth.

    David: That would be good. A few things though. Do you have any instances where the Jews spoke of the world as containing all living members of it? Secondly, in terms of church history, I believe I am still correct. In terms interpretative history, the idea that world for John meant the Gentiles, as opposed the Jews, etc, really took off in the 17thC. For the most part, from what I can see, the basic interpretation was the church scattered throughout the world (Augustine), or all mankind etc.

    Dan: There is a word like that but I believe it is “oikomenos”. The Scriptures constantly make it clear that the idea that God did not come for the Gentiles was believed by the Jews at that time. There is absolutely nothing that could prove it otherwise. Therefore, when the word “world” is used, many times it refers to Gentiles and not to every individual on the face of the earth.

    David: There are some layers here that are being conflated. There is the point regarding what Calvin believed. There is my personal opinion about what Scripture and classic lexicography imply, your opinion, what the Jews allegedly thought, and the idea that world must mean all men without any exception.

    So lets separate some of this. I am not committed to saying that kosmos for John means all men alive without any exception. I can extend this to mean, all who have lived, live, and shall live, as well as the more simple: all men without any exception alive at any given time. I dont need to defend this in regard to John 3:16, etc.

    Rather I am committed to the idea that John, and Jesus, primarily used kosmos to denote the apostate world in opposition to God alive at any given time. I think this is Calvin’s intent. The world means all of us, as we are in unbelief.

    Dan: That is why John could say and “not for us only…” Obviously, he is showing that the Gospel is not just for Jews, as it comes to the Jew first, but also for Gentiles.

    David: I address the use of John 11 here John 11:51-52 and 1 John 2:2

    cut

    Dan: …Your appeal to the word “world” and the several quotes from Calvin is based on the Western idea that world means “everyone on the face of the earth” vs all mankind, in general.

    David: The question is: did Calvin commit this alleged Western error?

    Dan: That’s different than using the word world in a way when researched shows that it was never meant to be translated that way. Your whole argument of making the atonement for everyone who ever lived on the face of the earth rests on that error. Yes, Christ (Messiah) died for the sins of the world which means not just Jews but people of all races (Gentiles).

    David: Sure, I understand the formal argument. I don’t find it convincing. I find the idea platonic, as it makes John and Jesus define world in the terms of “forms” and “kinds” which opposed the generally Semitic idea of concrete particulars. When some say Christ died for the world, it works like this: World=Gentiles, Gentiles=elect. That has to follow if we believe that within the term “world” Jesus, and John, had identifiable concrete particulars in mind.

    Dan: It is not a specific teaching that Messiah died for everyone who ever lived or will live or died or will die on the face of the earth. That is the strong point of all this. That is, Christ (Messiah) did not come for Jews only but for non-Jews too.

    David: Sure, I understand the claim. The question though, should “world” be taken by way of Plato or by way of Aristotle? If we say Plato, we end in irrationality. If we say Aristotle, we have to face further questions.

    Dan: This is constantly repeated because the prevailing idea at that time was that God would never send His Son (Messiah) to atone for Gentile dogs.

    David: Okay… We also have to ask ourselves, this, Did Jesus mean to Nicodemus, that God so loved the Gentiles *a group set apart in opposition* to the Jews? is that the thought, Dan?

    For the sake of this blog’s purpose, what I will do if you chose to reply, is repost your future comment over at Theology Online and reply there if you don’t mind. If you do mind, email me.

    If you want to speak to Calvin directly, we can deal with that here.

    Thanks for your patience.

    David

Trackbacks

  1. Calvin, Unlimited Atonement, and Stuff Calvinists Probably Don’t Believe « Wedgewords
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