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Christians believe the wrong doings, the inadequacies, the failure of man to be perfect is an offense which God has decided will earn mankind the death penalty. This wrongness of ours is called "sin." Sin is something we've all got on our wrap sheet. And death then is something we all have in our future. Or HAD in our future. God decided to allow someone else to sit in the electric chair for us.

The shirtless guy in the end zone holding up "JOHN 3:16" every Sunday the NFL has a game is telling the story, oddly, of how Jesus came to earth as man because God loved mankind, and how Jesus died and how if we believe this is true - that we have debt we can't pay and that Jesus paid it for us by dying in our place - we won't have to die. The apostle Paul told his jailer who asked how he could be "saved" simply "believe." Jesus has already died for "the world" and our simply believing it somehow crosses us over, Paul says, "from death to life." This act of dying so that mankind doesn't have to, this taking our place on the executioners platform and effectively paying for our sin with His life, is called "atonement."

But Calvin (and before him Augustine) said, "Wait a minute!" (Or, because he was German, "Ein minuten bitte.") "'World' doesn't mean everybody in the world, on this planet," Calvin hypothetically continues, "Just certain somebodies God loves more than the rest of the somebodies: only the 'elect' in the world were died for, had their debt paid, and are "saved" from death."

Other Calvinists have said it this way:
“It was just because God so loved the world of elect sinners that He sent His only begotten Son...” (Edwin H. Palmer, "The Five Points of Calvinism" p.44)

"The Biblical or Calvinistic position is that Christ intended that His death should atone only for the elect and not for others. According to this position, man is totally depraved, and God, loving some with a great love, elected them, or in other words, determined that they should be saved. He sent Christ to die for them and them alone, thereby saving them. Thus, the atonement of Christ is limited to some and is not intended for all. Hence, the name 'limited atonement'" (Dr. Edwin H. Palmer, "The Five Points of Calvinism" p. 35).

"Historical or mainline Calvinism has consistently maintained that Christ's redeeming work .... was intended to render complete satisfaction for certain specified sinners and that it actually secured salvation for these individuals and for no one else....Thus, Christ's saving work was limited in that it was designed to save some and not others..." (Steele & Thomas, "The Five Points of Calvinism", p. 39).

"For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith...it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross...should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith..." (Canons of Dordt (2nd Head of Doctrine -- Article 8)

Atonement is a mysterious thing and I'm not confident that I have it fully figured out, can or ever will, BUT the Calvinist view seems to me to be worth questioning. Doesn't mean its wrong, just that either I'm not predestined to understand it (little Cavinist humor there, sorry) or it does in fact contradict some pretty familiar words in the bible beginning with John 3:16 which has already been mentioned. Then there are these:

I John 2:2 "He Himself (Jesus Christ) is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

Hebrews 2:9 By the grace of God, Jesus "tasted death for everyone." "So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men" (Romans 5:18).

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again."

Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Not just some of what was lost)

Romans 5:6: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Not just some of the ungodly)

It's also taught by Paul in the bible that sin entered nature and man's mind and heart through one man: Adam. One man sinned and so ALL men became sinners. And Paul goes on to say that sin was paid for by one God/man: Jesus. One God/man died and ALL sin was paid for. He makes this point very clear when he says, "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."

So, again, teach me. I am only skimming the surface of Calvinism here but I'm doing it this way because, honestly, it's the little I know. In other words, I'm not being shallow on purpose. This is the deepest depth of my knowledge of Cavinism. I'm hoping somebody can teach me more here, take me deeper.

I'm listening.


Blogger Shaun Groves said...

John 6:51 "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever."

John 10:9 "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved."

1 Timothy 2:3-4 "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (Assuming God gets what God wants under the Calvinist's theology - big assumption I know - how is it explained that only SOME of mankind IS saved? Is something stopping God here or is the interpretation of the Calvinist that the word "elect" is implied between the words "all" and "men"?)

Anonymous Carolyn Long said...

I was raised in a church that believed we were God's only chosen ones. There is something about that that draws people to it. We are a people that long to be on the team. It's not enough to be chosen. We want to be sure we're not the last one chosen, left standing on the sideline for everyone to see that we weren't good enough to be a first pick.

A couple of things have been running through my mind since this pondering began. Where there are firstfruits are there also seconds? What is it in man that makes him long to be exclusive at the expense of others? In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, there is so much angst at latecomers getting the same reward at the end of the day. In the parable of the wedding banquet, those who were chosen to be in attendance were off being to busy in the comfort of their "choseness" to attend, and others were found on the street to share in the rejoicing. Do these parables have a place in this discussion? One story....one faith....one God pursuant of His creatures. I wonder who He grieves after more...those lost who have yet to find the strength to look up into His light or those who have and have forgetten that they were once just as desperately lost.

I'm more comfortable and secure as I walk my way through this thought process. Thank you for taking us there.

Blogger Dave Haupert said...

I've thankfully never struggled with the whole predestination thing- I've always felt it a matter of perspective, from our point it does not matter. We are still to preach the gospel to all nations and trust that God will draw the spirit to those He chooses to draw the spirit to. There is not much we can really do different if predestination was God's intention all along, or if it wasn't.

It's odd how a certain topic or point can cause endless debate among believers, such as this and immersion baptisms. They divide the church and make us weaker, surely not something of God's doing, right?

I for one have always wondered why God cares if someone believe's in Him- it always seemed odd to me that God would make himself to some degree invisible to us, and then watch to see if we can believe that He exists without actually seeing Him, he'll allow Christ's death pay for our debt of sin. From my perspective it does not seem logical- I personally don't care if someone who has never seen me believes whether I exist. If I wanted them to, I'd simply show myself to them and end the debate. So the concept of believing in the unseen seems out of place to my mind, and nonsensical. But as I have struggled with this, I've come to realize that I can't possibly understand why this matters to God, but at the same time I don't need to. It's like a parent saying, "Because I said so, that's why", because the child simply could not understand the logic of what they were asking them to do. So in the same way I trust that God knows what He's doing, and that the 'why' of it has no bearing for me at this time.

Same seems true of this.

Blogger FzxGkJssFrk said...

There are also many Scriptures that would indicate that God's choosing is what ultimately matters. Jesus used the language of election and personal choice almost interchangeably, but I think Scripture says pretty consistently that election comes first, in the sense that it enables one to believe.

John 6:43-44 - "Jesus answered them, 'Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him.'"

John 6:60-65 - "When many of his disciples heard it, they said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, 'Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.' (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.'"

John 10:24-30 - "So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, 'How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.' Jesus answered them, 'I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep head my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.'"

So if it's God's choosing that is causative, and if it's true that not everyone is saved (contrary to the Arminian position, right?), then I think we unavoidably arrive at "limited atonement".

Regarding "God gets what God wants", I think that you might have come across what some call the "two wills" of God ("sovereign will" and "revealed will"); the sovereign will being what ends up happening, and the revealed will being what God instructs us to do. So I think that Calvinists would not so much reject your assumption as claim that it doesn't apply. Keep in mind that I'm not an expert, and I hope my remarks were graceful. I'd like to hear some more mature Calvinists' takes.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Is "draw" synonymous with "choose" in your thinking, Matthew?

As I said in the comments of part 2 of this series: Jesus also says that when he's "lifted up" (dies) he'll draw ALL MEN to himself.

So, it seems that he draws all men but not all men believe. Notice that in the passage you posted the thing Jesus emphasized - it seems to my brain - is belief, not being chosen. Jesus even says he spoke the words to everyone but not all believed. The ability to come is granted by God. He draws us all. He gives us faith but we don't all believe.

Of course from what I've read so far on Calvinism makes me wonder if you'll then say something about those God draws MUST come to Him. No one can resist God, you might say. We'll get to that on I: Irresistible Grace - but for now I don't understand how a Calvinist can say they can't resist God but yet they sin everyday unless God forced them to sin. Why is God only irresistible when it comes to salvation but not when it comes to obedience and holiness? Doesn't make sense. Same God.

Good comments, Matthew. I don't mean to make it seem like you don't have me thinking - like I've dismissed everything you've said. I haven't. I'm wrestling. I'm also asking questions out loud here that I really have. Thanks for listening to them and answering when you have the time.


Blogger FzxGkJssFrk said...

I only have a minute, not enough time give your comments the thought they deserve!, but I do think that draw means "choose" in this case because that's how Jesus interprets "draw" in the latter part of John 6 ("this is why I said to you..."); the Father "grants" it. I think you're on to something about the five points kind of bleeding into one another. I'll be back later!

Blogger FzxGkJssFrk said...

Oh, also, I interpret "come to me" to mean "be saved", not just "be drawn", in John 6:65. Just in case that wasn't clear, and I could be wrong.

Blogger Seth Ward said...

one cavil,

the difference between Agustine's Predestination and Calvins is this:

Calvinist: affirms not only a priveleged choice of the elect by God but at the same time the predestination of the sinner to hell and the absolute powerlessness of the one or the other to escape from the irresistible impulse which drags them to good or evil.

Augustine: while the elect by God is very real, gratutitous and is the "grace of graces", His decree does not destroy the Divine will to save men, which, moreover is not realized except by human liberty that leaves to the elect full power to fall and non-elect full power to rise. (Catholic encyclopedia)

Agustine preached -"All can be saved if they wish",
and "It depends on you to be elect"

So while Calvinists quote Agustine quite a bit they kinda leave out the other half of his teaching on predestination.


Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Very enlightening Seth. I'm seeing Augustine everywhere in the Calvinist stiff I've been reading. Good points about the difference. I get that now. Thanks.

Blogger introriff said...

As I have read the discussion on the election process and have thought and prayed about this, I can't help but turn back to Genesis and start where our poor decisions began.

Is freewill still that difficult to understand? We have the freedom to choose by design. God's design. Nothing in that department has changed since God created man, and men still willingly choose to disobey God.

God is all knowing, but it doesn't change the fact that we make all of the choices in our life. Some of us make those decisions with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, some do not. God promises to call all men. I trusted God enough to claim that promise, but others, even some that I love and care for dearly, will not.


Anonymous kaltrogge said...

It seems that the Scriptures say both: the Gospel is open to all men and God elects. Calvanism/Arminianism is a long continuum with hypers at each end and many perspective in between. The truth must lie somewhere in the middle. Charles Spurgeon described them as the two rails of a traintrack. They are both in Scripture yet they can't meet in the minds of men. Someone else said that people of both convictions try to carve out parts of Scripture that don't seem to fit their systems and then do violence to the Word. Ever read John Piper? He would be of a Reformed persuasion but his passion for God, evangelism and knowing the beauty of God in the face of Jesus is incredible. Try not to get stuck on whose choice salvation is. Only He knows in the end. Don't give up yet!

Piper's site is: http://desiringgod.org/.
"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him" John Piper

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Election and predestination are both words in scripture. So they exist. We all agree on that I think. But we define them differently and I think that's where the crux of my questions comes from. I need a greek or hebrew scholar to explain what the original language meant. It's sometimes helpful to peel back the layers of interpretation in English and go back tot he roots of words in scripture - it's OFTEN helpful for me in fact.

Can anyone speak to these words' meanings in the original languages of scripture?


Blogger Michael Terry, Jr. said...

Hey Shaun,

First let me say that I enjoy you music and I also am glad your getting these topics out for discussion.

The greek word for "World" is kosmos and it has several meanings. The following is copied from an A.W. Pink site...

""Kosmos" is used of the Universe as a whole: Acts 17:24 - "God that made the world and all things therein seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth."

"Kosmos" is used of the earth: John 13:1; Ephesians 1:4, etc., etc.- "When Jesus knew that his hour 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." "Depart out of this world" signifies, leave this earth. "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world." This expression signifies, before the earth was founded—compare Job 38:4 etc.

"Kosmos" is used of the world-system: John 12:31 etc. "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the Prince of this world be cast out"— compare Matthew 4:8 and 1 John 5:19, R. V.

"Kosmos" is used of the whole human race: Romans 3:19, etc.—"Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God."

"Kosmos" is used of humanity minus believers: John 15:18; Romans 3:6 "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you." Believers do not "hate" Christ, so that "the world" here must signify the world of unbelievers in contrast from believers who love Christ. "God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world." Here is another passage where "the world" cannot mean "you, me, and everybody," for believers will not be "judged" by God, see John 5:24. So that here, too, it must be the world of unbelievers which is in view.

"Kosmos" is used of Gentiles in contrast from Jews: Romans 11:12 etc. "Now if the fall of them (Israel) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them (Israel) the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their (Israel’s) fulness." Note how the first clause in italics is defined by the latter clause placed in italics. Here, again, "the world" cannot signify all humanity for it excludes Israel!

"Kosmos" is used of believers only: John 1:29; 3:16, 17; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 2 Corinthians 5:19. We leave our readers to turn to these passages, asking them to note, carefully, exactly what is said and predicated of "the world" in each place.

Thus it will be seen that "kosmos" has at least seven clearly defined different meanings in the New Testament. It may be asked, Has then God used a word thus to confuse and confound those who read the Scriptures? We answer, No! nor has He written His Word for lazy people who are too dilatory, or too busy with the things of this world, or, like Martha, so much occupied with "serving," they have no time and no heart to "search" and "study" Holy Writ! Should it be asked further, But how is a searcher of the Scriptures to know which of the above meanings the term "world" has in any given passage? The answer is: This may be ascertained by a careful study of the context, by diligently noting what is predicated of "the world" in each passage, and by prayer fully consulting other parallel passages to the one being studied. The principal subject of John 3:16 is Christ as the Gift of God. The first clause tells us what moved God to "give" His only begotten Son, and that was His great "love;" the second clause informs us for whom God "gave" His Son, and that is for, "whosoever (or, better, ‘every one’) believeth;" while the last clause makes known why God "gave" His Son (His purpose), and that is, that everyone that believeth "should not perish but have everlasting life." That "the world" in John 3:16 refers to the world of believers (God’s elect), in contradistinction from "the world of the ungodly" (2 Pet. 2:5), is established, unequivocally established, by a comparison of the other passages which speak of God’s "love." "God commendeth His love toward US"—the saints, Romans 5:8. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth"—every son, Hebrews 12:6. "We love Him, because He first loved US"—believers, 1 John 4:19. The wicked God "pities" (see Matt. 18:33). Unto the unthankful and evil God is "kind" (see Luke 6:35). The vessels of wrath He endures "with much long-suffering" (see Rom. 9:22). But "His own" God "loves"!!" A.W.Pink

Blogger Mark said...

Hey Shaun,
It's my understanding that every time the word, "predestined", is used in scripture it is used to describe the saved, or "elect", people. Johnnny Hunt describes this in his two message series called, "The security and sureness of our salvation". He says, that that world in the Greek means, "To mark out", in other words, once you have got it, salvation, your predestination is God's foreknowledge of His plan for your life. Anyway, for what it's worth.
Mark Meyers

Anonymous Robin Woodson said...

Hi Shaun,

I'm the distraught lady who met you the other night at Greenville College (the one who still hasn't gotten to see a whole concert). Hehe. Enough said about that...

I came home and checked out your website. Wow, I love it! Enough said about that...

Getting to the point -- Our family attends a church whose "official stand" on the issue goes kind of like this. Q: Are you Calvinist or Armenian? A: Yes.

Rather than me go into some long monologue trying to explain myself, you'd be much better off to read something out of a book entitled Calvanism, Arminianism, and the Word of God. It's just a short seven-page book that you can read in its entirety in pdf format at www.calvarychapel.com/assets/pdf/ebooks/calvanismarminianismandth.pdf.

There's another little book I personally like called The Five Points of Calvinsim Weighed and Found Wanting by George L. Bryson.

Well, there's something to start with.

One of these days I'm gonna get to see a whole concert. :)

BTW -- I passed your Dear Guitar Theif blog to my guitar-playing husband. He liked it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Micheal, it seems that in your paragraph, you still proved that it is somehow, both at once. I could "by a careful study of the context, by diligently noting what is predicated of "the world" in each passage, and by prayer fully consulting other parallel passages to the one being studied", come to the same conclusions about God's Divine will to save men, which, moreover is not realized except by human liberty that leaves to the elect full power to fall and non-elect full power to rise.

Could we not propose that when John and Jesus speak of the world in these passages they speaking of Mankind. If one is to take the "world" from the standpoint of the elect it seems that you would have to take the Lord's words in 17 as something else than what is stated. It would seem nonsensical for him to say, "For God did not send his Son into the preselected for Glory (world) to condemn the preselected for Glory (world)" You would also need to change the meaning of World in other passages which would not make sense in the wash. World in vs. 10 "He was in the preselected for Glory (world), and though the preselected (world) was made through him the preselected (world) did not recognize him. -Then "Yet to all who received him, to those who receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." So when we applying the second half of vs. 10 to the first half, is John is now implying the preselected of the preselected?

Blogger Jeffrey J. Stables said...

I find it simplifies my thinking on limited atonement to not try and speak in extremes (ONLY the elect, ALL the world, etc.) and simply try to deal with reality.

Reality #1: God loves men, even though they rebelled against Him, and desires them to be saved.
Reality #2: Christ died for mankind's sins.
Reality #3: Not all are saved.

Of course we can't say that God's desire is somehow thwarted. It must be in His plan for some not to be saved, or we risk saying that God is not completely in control (sovereign). I think limited atonement is just an attempt at reconciling this tension, but it merits a bit of re-phrasing from what has been stated on this post.

According to our realities #2 and #3, Christ died for the sins of the world, but not all the world is saved. Therefore, while His death was sufficient to save all the world, it does not. We needn't say that Christ didn't die for unbelievers, only that He didn't die in the same way for those who would never believe. In other words, His blood is not applied to them, though it was nonetheless potent enough to save them. His blood is not wasted in His having died for the whole world, but He obviously did not die for the nonbeliever in the same way He died for the one who would believe. (Otherwise everyone would be saved and we'd be Unitarian Universalists.)

I think that is the crux of limited atonement: Christ's blood is not wasted, He didn't give everyone a free ticket into heaven whether they believe or not, He simply died for those who would have the blood applied in a different way than He did for those who would go to hell. The efficacy of His death is thereby safe from both extremes.

If one denies this statement of limited atonement, I see little hope of him avoiding one of these two conclusions:

(1) Christ's death saved all, regardless of conversion.
(2) Christ's death was not sufficient to save all.

Both are dangerous and difficult to avoid without a doctrine like limited atonement.

Anonymous Bobby Crenshaw said...

Thanks for being honest about only "skimming the surface" with your knowledge of Calvinism and being open to listen to the other side.

I have a book that I would like to suggest to you if you would like to see a scriptural defense and answer to many of the scriptures that are often presented (John 3:16, 2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:4, etc.) found here:

"The Potters Freedom" by James White which has a great chapter dealing with 3 of the most often used verses.

Also, here is a shorter link explaining John 3:16


Also, 1 John 2:2


May God bless you my brother
Bobby Crenshaw


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