As a result of the recent article by the New York Times, I posted several tweets. They are as follows:
“Evangelicals Find Themselves in the Midst of a Calvinist Revival” but by what means?
Not all evangelicals welcome a Calvinist Revival.
“Calvin did not read Scripture literally… Often misquoting it, & he makes up Scripture passages that don’t exist.” (quoting Serene Jones)
#calvinism is reformed Roman Catholic teaching. Embrace it & one moves from evangelicalism closer to ecclesiasticism.
As one might imagine, these tweets resulted in a friendly debate via Twitter with a Colin Maxwell, whose twitter username is @weecalvin1509 and whose blog can be found here. The discussion was started by the tweet, “To say Christ didn’t provide redemption for all fails to see God didn’t send Christ to damn (John 3:17).” To me, this should be a open-shut case of basic Christianity. Can there really be self-proclaimed Christians who deny that Jesus is for everyone without exception?
After some interaction, the crux of the debate centered around the following question:
“In atoning for the sins of mankind, did the Lord Jesus atone for the sin of rejecting Him, what some call “ultimate unbelief?”
My answer was that, of course, Christ did not atone for the sin of “ultimate unbelief.” Rather, the effective point of the Lord Jesus’ atonement was in God the Father’s having made Christ the object of men’s belief or disbelief. My opponent then stated that I had helped him prove his point, which was, that Christ did not die for all of the sins of all men.
To me, Colin Maxwell (like other Calvinists) uses a rather irrational twist of poor logic to prove his theology by a loophole. I will demonstrate below:
As I stated throughout our twitter interaction, the atonement was a provision for redemption and “provision is not the same as possession” (Ryrie, Basic Theology, “Extent of the Atonement,” p. 318). Yet Calvinists assert that Christ caused men to possess redemption by His cross. If Calvinism were to concede universal provision of atonement as opposed to automatic possession of it, then the faulty logic which binds them to particular redemption would fall away; but, Reformed Theologians are so adamant on this point that, in order to refute the potentiality in Christ’s mission statement (“may/might” John 10:10), they posit that the context of John 10 was Christ’s address to those of Israel only. However, I affirm that Christ also spoke of “another flock” in this same passage; and so, to limit the Lord’s comments to Israel only, based on context, is actually itself a poor treatment of the context (John 10:16-18). In fact, Reformed Theologians shy away from decisively commenting on who is the “other flock” Christ mentions. Some say it is the Samaritans. If it is the Samaritans, who were half-gentile/half-Jew, then why can’t it refer to all gentiles as later is witnessed by Acts 10:28?
It is best to say that Christ “fulfilled the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). The little word to is very important, because in context it shows vantage point. From the believer’s point of view (as opposed to the resisting Jew’s viewpoint) Christ is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, establishing righteousness for them. I also point out that the Law of Conscience (to those who do not have the Law of Works [Moses]) is a condemning factor, and for this Christ also made full provision of atonement (Rom. 2:12-16). Whether Moses’ law or that of conscience, to the believer Jesus Christ has completed every obedience the Law requires of a person. Coincidentally, this is the Father’s view as well (Is. 53:11; Rom. 3:25). The work of Christ’s suffering and resurrection earned him the title of “Savior of all mankind,” whether or not one receives him as such; but to those who do believe, he is especially known as Savior (1 Tim. 4:10).
The decision to believe (John 1:11-13) leads me to see there are 2 sets of Law at work, to which anyone may appeal at any time in order to plead his case before God. There is the Law of Works, which is based on one’s (in)ability to keep the Law of Moses; and there is “the Law of Faith” (Rom. 3:27). Christ has indeed provided atonement for ALL of the sins of all men which are against the Law of Works (Rom. 10:4; Heb. 10:8-10). But, if one speaks of rejecting Christ, then that is not under the Law of Works (Moses). Christ’s provision of atonement does not extend to one’s rejecting the Lord Jesus, since Christ (in His atonement) was made the very object on which the New Covenant and the Law of Faith are founded (1 Cor. 3:11).
Therefore, the choice to reject Christ and its consequences do not pertain to the Law of Works but rather to the Law of Faith (Heb. 10:26-31). Since the rejecting party refuses to appeal to the Law of Faith by his rejection of Christ, then he appeals through default to the Law of Works, by which no flesh can be justified (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16). This makes God faithful toward both Christ’s sacrifice and the Christ-rejector, since the sacrifice of Christ is upheld lawfully and since the rejecting party is accurately judged according to his own merits weighed against the standard of the Law of Works (Moses). However, to one who chooses to believe, and so, appeals to the Law of Faith, righteousness is credited to his/her account on the basis that the Law of Faith was established by both Christ’s fulfillment of the Law of Moses (positive aspect) and in His providing propitiation for every offense (negative aspect).
Indeed, an awful lot of wrangling can be set aside by conceding the points of universal provision for the Law of Works and the establishment of the Law of Faith by Christ’s sacrifice. To help this along, I offer the rest of my argumentation:
Secondly, there is another matter of faulty logic with Calvinism. In passages such as John 3:16ff, “…it is claimed [by Calvinists] the elect, which the world hates and from which it has been saved, is the “world.” (Chafer, vol.3, 187-190). This is an example of breaking logic’s Law of Non-Contradiction.
Lastly, despite the debatable claim by Calvinists that “all” sometimes bears a restricted meaning regarding atonement or redemption, “The word whosoever is used at least 110 times in the New Testament & always with the unrestricted meaning” (Chafer, 187-190). For the sake of argumentation, if I am to concede that “all” is sometimes restricted in scope [a logical fallacy, even with special regards context], are Calvinists prepared to admit that “whosoever” is never restricted?
IN CONCLUSION, If one wishes to be logically sound and valid, he must found his premises about the extent of the atonement using the term “Law” in the same sense consistently (either Law of Works, or Law of Faith); but no one may use both senses of “Law” when addressing the matter of ultimate unbelief. Therefore, it is not logically sound or valid to say God did not provide atonement for all of the sins of all mankind (in regards to the Law of Works), because Christ did provide atonement for all of the sins of all mankind with regards to the Law of Works. If one strictly speaks of the Law of Faith, then it is both sound and valid to say Christ did not provide atonement for the sin of “ultimate unbelief” through his cross and resurrection, because Christ’s sacrificial work on the Cross was about fulfilling the old Law (of Works), so that the Law of Faith may be established. The Lord’s passion was the very act by which God satisfied the Old Covenant (Law of Works) and established the New Testament with its new Law, a Law of Faith. Whoever rejects Christ rejects the full provision of atonement for his sins against the Law of Works; but whoever receives Christ by faith gains a declaration of right standing with God against the Law of Works, as well as all the blessing that affords. The grounds by which a new covenant is established cannot be prevailed upon by an old covenant, especially if the old covenant is fulfilled by the act which ratifies the new covenant.
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent … toward [him] and [have] faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 17:30; 20:21, underscore mine, brackets mine).
In this knowledge I hasten to add without exception:
“The Lord … is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
The Anabaptists by Scot McKnight via Patheos
Damn, Yawn, Offer, or Save? – A brief thesis examining the theological presuppositions and resultant skewed interpretations of Calvinism.
For Whom Did Christ Die? by Bible Prophecy Blog
Jesus Christ, the Elect by Present Truth Magazine