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On the Atonement: Rebutting Standard Misconceptions

March 31, 2009

He has done it again.

Must reads:

On the atonement, part 6: universal atonement fails to actually accomplish redemption for anyone


On the atonement, part 5: universal salvation, or double payment

I think Dominic’s thoughts here just blow the limited expiation/imputation view out of the water. :-)

A couple of clarifying points, from experience with old friends, there can be a distinction between between double payment and double jeopardy. It is possible that one could reject the former, but try to argue for the latter. However, even the latter, posited on proper penal grounds (and not pecuniary) still suffers from being invalid: as Shedd pointed out. With that aside, what Dominic has to say is deadly to the High Calvinist polemic on these two points.

What would be good–and here I don’t meant to throw Dominic into a fight–but what would be good if there was an attempt at a serious reply. By serious, I don’t mean a thoughtless Puritanboard level of naked Assertion and Anathema, but some serious thoughtful interaction.

David

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan R permalink
    October 2, 2009 6:57 pm

    Forgive me for posting the whole article but it is not very long and well worth considering.

    THE ‘WORLD’ OF JOHN 3:16 DOES NOT MEAN

    ‘ALL MEN WITHOUT EXCEPTION’

    by Rev. David J. Engelsma

    It is now common among Reformed people that, when one confesses God’s election of some persons to salvation, God’s particular love for the elect, and God’s exclusive desire to save the elect, his confession is immediately contested by an appeal to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Indeed, this is almost the rule. The one who thus appeals to John 3:16 intends to assert that God loves all men without exception and that God desires to save all men without exception. The basic assumption underlying this appeal to John 3:16, as an argument against election, is that the word, world, in John 3:16 means ‘all men without exception.

    We do here announce, declare, and proclaim that this assumption is false. It is unbiblical. It commits one to a teaching that deviates from the gospel, fundamentally. The word, world, in John 3:16 does not mean ‘all men without exception.’

    We plead with our Reformed brothers and sisters who insist on understanding “world” in John 3:16 as ‘all men without exception’ and on using this text against the confession of God’s particular love for the elect to face up to the doctrinal position that they are taking. This, now, is their position:

    * God loves all men without exception, with a love that gives His only begotten Son for their salvation, that is, with the (saving) love that desires their salvation from sin and their eternal life in heaven.
    * God gave His only begotten Son for all men without exception, that is, Jesus died for all men without exception.
    * Nevertheless, many people whom God loves, whom God desires to save, and for whom Jesus died perish in hell, unsaved.
    * Therefore, 1) many persons are separated from the love of God; 2) God’s desire to save is frustrated in the case of many persons; and 3) the death of Jesus failed to save many for whom the Son of God, in fact, died.
    * The reason for this sad state of affairs is that those persons refused to believe in Jesus, although they were able to do so by virtue of their free will.
    * On the other hand, the reason why the others are saved is not that God loved them, desired their salvation, and gave His Son to die for them (for He also loved those who perish, desired their salvation, and gave His Son for them), but that they, by their free will, chose to believe.
    * In conclusion, the damnation of the wicked is the defeat and disappointment of God, whereas the salvation of the believers is their own work.

    When the all-men-without-exception-people quote John 3:16, this is how they are reading it: “For God so loved all men without exception, that he gave his only begotten Son to die for all men without exception, with the desire that all men without exception be saved, so that whosoever believeth in him, of his own free will, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

    Whenever anyone challenges the confession of God’s particular, exclusive love for His elect by quoting John 3:16, we must regretfully conclude that he holds the doctrinal position set forth above and wishes to confess it publicly, in order thus to overthrow the Reformed doctrine of predestination, limited atonement, total depravity, effectual grace, and the preservation of saints (which is only an elaborate way of saying, salvation by grace alone — the gospel).

    The word, world, in the gospel of John does not mean ‘all men without exception.’ Proof:

    – John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Did Christ by His death take away the sin of all men without exception? If He did, all men without exception shall be saved.

    – John 6:33: “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” Does Jesus give life (not, ineffectually offer life, but, efficaciously give life) to all men without exception? If He does, all men without exception have eternal life.

    – John 17:9: “I (Jesus) pray not for the world.” Does Jesus refuse to pray for all men without exception?

    This last text points out that the word, world, in the gospel of John does not always have the same meaning. In John 3:16, the world is loved by God, with a love that gives the Son of God for its sake; in John 17:9, the Son of God refuses to pray for the world. The saints must not come to an understanding of the world of John 3:16 by a quick assumption, but by careful interpretation of the passage in the light of the rest of Scripture.
    What then is the truth about the world of John 3:16?

    Loved by God with Divine, almighty, effectual, faithful, eternal love, the world is saved. All of it! All of them!

    Redeemed by the precious, worthy, powerful, effectual death of the Son of God, the world is saved. All of it! All of them!

    The salvation of all the persons included in the world of John 3:16 is due solely to the effectual love of God and the redeeming death of Christ for them; whereas the persons who perish were never loved by God, nor redeemed by Christ, that is, they are not part of the world of John 3:16.

    The world of John 3:16 (Greek: kosmos, from which comes our English word, cosmos, referring to our “orderly, harmonious, systematic universe’s) is the creation made by God in the beginning, now disordered by sin, with the elect from all nations, now by nature children of wrath even as the others, as the core of it. As regards its people, the world of John 3:16 is the new humanity in Jesus Christ, the last

    Adam (I Corinthians 15:45). John calls this new human race “the world” in order to show, and emphasize, that it is not from the Jewish people alone, but from all nations and peoples (Revelation 7:9). The people who make up the world of John 3:16 are all those, and those only, who will become believers (whosoever believeth”); and it is the elect who believe (Acts 13:48).

    This explanation of John 3:16 is not some strange, new interpretation dreamed up by latter-day hyper-Calvinists, but the explanation that has been given in the past by defenders of the Faith we call Reformed, that is, by those who confessed the sovereign grace of God in the salvation of sinners.

    This was the explanation given by Frances Turretin, Reformed theologian in Geneva (1623-1687):

    The love treated of in John 3:16. .. cannot be universal towards all and every one, but special towards a few… because the end of that love which God intends is the salvation of those whom He pursues with such love.. . If therefore God sent Christ for that end, that through Him the world might be saved, He must either have failed of His end, or the world must necessarily be saved in fact. But it is certain that not the whole world, but only those chosen out of the world are saved; therefore, to them properly has this love reference… Why then should not the world here be taken not universally for individuals, but indefinitely for anyone, Jews as well as Gentiles, without distinction of nation, language and condition. that He may be said to have loved the human race, inasmuch as He was unwilling to destroy it entirely but decreed to save some certain persons Out of it, not only from one people as before, but from all indiscriminately, although the effects of that love should not be extended to each individual, but only to some certain ones, viz, those chosen out of the world? (Theological Institutes)

    About the word, world, in Scripture, Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch theologian (1837-1920) wrote:

    For if there is anything that is certain from a somewhat more attentive reading of Holy Scripture, and that may be held as firmly established, it is, really, the irrefutable fact, that the word, world, in Holy Scripture, means “all men” only as a very rare exception and almost always means something entirely different.

    In explanation, specifically, of the “world” of John 3:16, Kuyper went on to say that the reference is to the “proper kernal” of the creation, the elect people of God, “which Jesus snatches away from Satan.” out of this kernal, out this congregation, out of this people, a “new world,” a “new earth and new heaven,” shall one day appear, by a wonder-work of God. The earth does not merely serve to allow the elect to be saved, in order then to disappear. No, the elect are men; these men form a whole, a collection, an organism; that organism is grounded in creation; and because now this creation is the reflection of God’s wisdom and the work of His hands, God’s administration of it may not come to nothing, but in the Great Day God’s will with this creation shall be perfectly realized. (Dat De Genade Particulier Is (That Grace is Particular). My translation of the Dutch.)

    Essentially the same is the interpretation of Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952):

    Turning now to John 3:16, it should be evident from the passages just quoted that this verse will not bear the construction usually put upon it. “God so loved the world.” Many suppose that this means, The entire human race. But “the entire human race” includes all mankind from Adam till the close of earth’s history: it reaches backward as well as forward! Consider, then, the history of mankind before Christ was born. Unnumbered millions lived and died before the Savior came to the earth, lived here “having no hope and without God in the world,” and therefore passed out into eternity of woe. If God “loved” them, where is the slightest proof thereof? Scripture declares “Who (God) in times past (from the tower of Babel till after Pentecost) suffered all nations to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16). Scripture declares that “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Rom. 1:28). To Israel God said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). In view of these plain passages who will be so foolish as to insist that God in the past loved all mankind! The same applies with equal force to the future . . . But the objector comes back to John 3:16 and says, “World means world. “True, but we have shown that “the world” does not mean the whole human family. The fact is that “the world” is used in a general way.. . Now the first thing to note in connection with John 3:16 is that our Lord was there speaking to Nicodemus, a man who believed that God’s mercies were confined to his own nation. Christ there announced that God’s love in giving His Son had a larger object in view, that it flowed beyond the boundary of Palestine, reaching out to “regions beyond.” In other words, this was Christ’s announcement that God had a purpose of grace toward Gentiles as well as Jews. “God so loved the world,” then, signifies, God’s love is international in its scope. But does this mean that God loves every individual among the Gentiles? Not necessarily, for as we have seen the term “world” is general rather than specific, relative rather than absolute. . . the “world” in John 3:16 must, in the final analysis refer to the world of God’s people. Must we say, for there is no other alternative solution. It cannot mean the whole human race, for one half of the race was already in hell when Christ came to earth. It is unfair to insist that it means every human being now living, for every other passage in the New Testament where God’s love is mentioned limits it to His own people — search and see! The objects of God’s love in John 3:16 are precisely the same as the objects of Christ’s love in John 13:1: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His time was come, that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” We may admit that our interpretation of John 3:16 is no novel one invented by us, but one almost uniformly given by the Reformers and Puritans, and many others since them. (The Sovereignty of God)

    We can only marvel that Reformed men and women are so soon removed from the truth of God’s sovereign, particular, electing love in Jesus Christ, which truth has not only been confessed “by the Reformers and Puritans” before them, but has also been confessed by the Reformed church herself in her Creed, the Canons of Dordt.

    Who hath bewitched them?

    As for us, we are determined, out of love for the truth, to oppose the lie of a love of God in Jesus Christ for all men without exception; to try to rescue those who have been taken captive by this doctrine; and to preach and testify, near and far, in season and out of season, a love of God for the world that saves the world, a death of the Son of God that redeemed the world, a purpose of God for the saving of sinners that is accomplished, and a salvation of enslaved sinners by the sovereign power of the grace of God alone — for the comfort of every believer and the glory of God.
    * * * * * * * * *

  2. Flynn permalink*
    October 5, 2009 9:30 am

    Hey Dan,

    Dan says:

    Forgive me for posting the whole article but it is not very long and well worth considering.

    David says: Your original argument and claim was firstly:

    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.

    David: We’ve not seen any documentation for this.

    David says: Cant you post something in your own words? You obviously realize that posting this large piece by Engelsma is not normally considered kosher, hence the request for forgiveness.

    After this the issue was also the nature of the expiation-satisfaction

    I will respond only to the Engelsma’s arguments which speak to John 3:16. I will skip Turretin and Pink etc, as 1) we know what they believed, but that does not prove the point exegetically, or that the unlimited reading of “world” is unReformed; 2) There is hardly any basis for thinking that Turretin’s conception of world is the same or close to Engelsma’s.
    Dan citing Englemsa:

    Engelsma: We plead with our Reformed brothers and sisters who insist on understanding “world” in John 3:16 as ‘all men without exception’ and on using this text against the confession of God’s particular love for the elect to face up to the doctrinal position that they are taking. This, now, is their position:

    [cut]

    When the all-men-without-exception-people quote John 3:16, this is how they are reading it: “For God so loved all men without exception, that he gave his only begotten Son to die for all men without exception, with the desire that all men without exception be saved, so that whosoever believeth in him, of his own free will, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

    David: The problem is the caricature in all this, as well as the simple lumping together of ideas. The big caricature is the idea that world must mean all who live without exception, and not the world in unbelief. The second distortion is that one who believes that the world of 3;16 means all mankind in unbelief, also believes that Christ died for all men. Not all who held that world means all mankind in unbelief held that Christ died for all.

    Its always easier to beat up and defeat a strawman.

    You also might consider scoping out the John 3:16 archive at the C&C site. You can also see them listed in the main index. If you do that, you will see John Calvin pointing his finger against Engelmsa. Next, you should note that Engelsma is hardly a trustworthy scholar, I have documented his willful dishonesty in documenting his historical sources, see here.

    Engelsma.

    The word, world, in the gospel of John does not mean ‘all men without exception.’ Proof:

    – John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Did Christ by His death take away the sin of all men without exception? If He did, all men without exception shall be saved.

    David: Why not? If we understand the word there to bear, as to carry, then Christ bears the sins of the world.  From Augustine to Calvin this was the received interpretation.

    Engelsma:

    – John 6:33: “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” Does Jesus give life (not, ineffectually offer life, but, efficaciously give life) to all men without exception? If He does, all men without exception have eternal life.

    David: This trades on the assumption that “gives” entails an effectual divine action.  Rather the reference is to the gift of Christ to the world. Note the context:

    "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world."

    That bread was Christ. Christ was GIVEN to them, the pharisees, the very ones who rejected Christ (see context, eg: “But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.”). Hence, “giving” CAN NOT refer to the effectual giving of Christ in the Effectual Call.

    Engelsma:

    – John 17:9: “I (Jesus) pray not for the world.” Does Jesus refuse to pray for all men without exception?

    David: Can the context is the world as opposed to the 11 Apostles. Context again is clear:

    1 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, 2 even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. 3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4 "I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. 6 "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 "Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 “I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

    David: The given-ones are the 11, who are then set over and against the world. The world has to include all those apart from the 11. There is no honest way to avoid this. Later, Jesus prays for future believers. And then later, he even prays for the world in some sense:

    20 "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

    We also have some secondary questions. Engelsma’s tactic is what? It seems to be that if we can show that John’s “world” does not always mean all men without exception, so in John 3:16 it means… the elect…?

    Engelsma: The world of John 3:16 (Greek: kosmos, from which comes our English word, cosmos, referring to our “orderly, harmonious, systematic universe’s) is the creation made by God in the beginning, now disordered by sin, with the elect from all nations, now by nature children of wrath even as the others, as the core of it.

    David: Which is your position, Dan? Does “world” for John mean orderly kosmos or Gentiles? Either way, lexically, that is not how John uses kosmos in the chapters of John or 1 John.

    Engelsma: As regards its people, the world of John 3:16 is the new humanity in Jesus Christ, the last Adam (I Corinthians 15:45). John calls this new human race “the world” in order to show, and emphasize, that it is not from the Jewish people alone, but from all nations and peoples (Revelation 7:9). The people who make up the world of John 3:16 are all those, and those only, who will become believers (whosoever believeth”); and it is the elect who believe (Acts 13:48).

    David: No argument here, just assertion. Kosmos denotes orderly kosmos, then its the new humanity? 

    Engelsma: We can only marvel that Reformed men and women are so soon removed from the truth of God’s sovereign, particular, electing love in Jesus Christ, which truth has not only been confessed “by the Reformers and Puritans” before them, but has also been confessed by the Reformed church herself in her Creed, the Canons of Dordt.

    David: All this is thus beside the point, Dan. There are tons of Reformed theologians who held that the world of John 3:16 included all mankind. Calvin stands first in line, then after him, men such as Bullinger, Musculus and others. 

    Rest cut.

    Dan, again, I invite you to provide arguments in your own words focused on your two original claims.

    Against your first argument, I tender this argument:

    John 12:47 "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

    John 12:48 "He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.

    David: Jesus speaks of a hypothetical objector. Jesus then says, if any man rejects my words, I do not condemn him, for I did not come into this world to condemn the world. It has to follow that the objector is part of the world. Why is this man not condemned? Because Christ came not to condemn the world.

    What is more, we also know that this objector is reprobate, for as Jesus says: “the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

    We know that John 12:47 is identical to 3:17: John 3:17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

    The world of 3:17 is the same world of 3:17. There is no credible reason to make the “worlds” refer to different objects in verses 16-17.

    John 6:30 So they said to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’" 32 Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." 34 Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 "But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.

    David: The Pharisees are part of this world which has been given life in the person of Jesus Christ.

    Take care,
    David

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