You are hereUniversalism and Preterism: Bedfellows or Bedlam?

Universalism and Preterism: Bedfellows or Bedlam?

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By Sam - Posted on 04 September 2005

by Samuel Frost
I have been asked to write a paper on the issue of universalism and what some see within our movement as a “drift” towards this doctrine. I won’t delve into the history of universalism only to say that it did not arise within preterist circles. It is, therefore, a fallacy to associate preterism with universalism, or to conclude that preterism necessarily leads to such. It is just as bad a logic to insist that Calvinism leads to disregard for evanglelism or that driving a Volkswagon (German, for the “people’s car”), which was given to go ahead by Hitler, means you support Nazi-ism.I have been asked to write a paper on the issue of universalism and what some see within our movement as a “drift” towards this doctrine. I won’t delve into the history of universalism only to say that it did not arise within preterist circles. It is, therefore, a fallacy to associate preterism with universalism, or to conclude that preterism necessarily leads to such. It is just as bad a logic to insist that Calvinism leads to disregard for evanglelism or that driving a Volkswagon (German, for the “people’s car”), which was given to go ahead by Hitler, means you support Nazi-ism.First, I must define my terms with the particular type of universalism I want to deal with. I will call this Christ-centered universalism, or Bible-believing universalism because its adherents believe that the Bible is God’s revelation and that universalism is what it teaches. Keith DeRose, Allison Foundation Professor of Philosophy, Yale University, wrote a paper in support of this view. His definition is,

“universalism” refers to the position that eventually all human beings will be saved and will enjoy everlasting life with Christ. This is compatible with the view that God will punish many people after death, and many universalists accept that there will be divine retribution, although some may not. What universalism does commit one to is that such punishment won't last forever. Universalism is also incompatible with various views according to which some will be annihilated (after or without first receiving punishment). These views can agree with universalism in that, according to them, punishment isn't everlasting, but they diverge from universalism in that they believe some will be denied everlasting life. Some universalists intend their position to apply animals, and some to fallen angels or even to Satan himself, but in my hands, it will be intended to apply only to human beings. In short, then, it's the position that every human being will, eventually at least, make it to the party (Universalism and the Bible - http://pantheon.yale.edu/%7Ekd47/univ.htm#1)

Clarification is something I greatly appreciate and this is about as good as it gets. If a preterist proclaims the doctrine of annhilationism, then he cannot be a universalist. I know of no preterist that proclaims the salvation of satan or demons. So, let us stay in keeping with the definition above.

With that being stated, I want to argue three points: 1) Is this a biblical view? 2) Is this a heretical view, or one that can be tolerated? 3) In answer to the last question, if heretical, how are we to treat those who within our movement are universalists? The first question is exegetical whereas the last two are practical.

I will continue with DeRose and briefly consider the biblical arguments that he has made in his paper. First, I Cor 15.22 is appealed to as supporting universalism. That verse reads, “for just as in ha adam all are dying, in the same way also in ha meshiach all will be made alive” (my translation). A few remarks are in order, first. This sentence is composed of two clauses and are balanced equally in Greek by syntactical structure. I have used the Hebrew for “the Adam” and “the Christ” because this is what Paul has in mind. The entire question for interpreters is the definition of the word “all” here. If “all” in the first clause means “every single human being” then it must mean that in the second clause as well, so the argument goes. DeRose, “The grammatical function of “in Christ” here is not to modify or limit the “all.” The passage doesn't say, “...so also shall all who are in Christ be made alive.” If it said that, I wouldn't be so cheered by the passage. Rather, “in Christ” is an adverbial phrase that modifies the verb "shall be made" or perhaps the whole clause, "shall all be made alive." Thus, this passage says that all shall be made alive.” For those who do not know Greek, such an argument sounds quite convincing. But, not so fast.

This is a typical example of “prooftexting”. Taking one verse out of its context and applying meaning to it is impossible. Paul is comparing two bodies, those who have solidarity with the body of Adam (“all those who are dying/falling asleep”) and those “in Christ” (all those who are being made alive). “In Christ” is a rich theological phrase for Paul. It is true that the dative prepositional phrase “in the Christ/in the Adam” functions adverbially. But prepositional phrases go beyond mere adverbs. They also serve to highlight the noun as well. The noun in this case is “all” (plural) which is the subject of both verbs (“dying/made alive”). What Paul is saying, I think, must be understood from what was being denied: the resurrection of dead ones.

Verses 20, 21 make it clear that Paul is arguing against the denial of the resurrection of the dead by affirming that, “But now, Christ has been raised out of dead ones (those who have fallen asleep); he is the firstfruits of those who have been asleep (and are still asleep)” (my translation). Those who have been asleep and are still asleep (the perfect tense is used here) are the very ones who were being denied. Why are they asleep? Why are they not in heaven and awake? “For because through man – death! Also through man – resurrection of dead ones!” For Paul the state of being asleep and remaining asleep is to be under the reign of the last enemy: the Death (15.26). The Death is what keeps them in a state of sleep rather than bringing them into a state of being awake/quickened/made alive. It is not physical death that is in mind here, but the result of physical death: the state of sleep rather than the state of being awake in the presence of God. It is this result of physical death that is the punishment that came as a result of the sin of the Adam. For Paul, sleep is dying. Catch this: if the present tense is used for those “all” dying in Adam, and physical death is what is meant, then how can Moses, dead over a thousand years, still be dying? It is because he was currently under The Death’s power and sting: the state of sleep (we can see here why the Thessalonians were worried about their dead kin because they knew that the Death had not yet been conquered). But, we know that Moses was “alive” soulishly for to God “all is alive.” To be in the state of sleep was to be under the sting of the Death; that is, Moses was soulishly alive, but alive in a state of death/sleep. What Moses awaited for was to be made alive again by through Christ.

Now, if “those who have been asleep and are still asleep” are those who are being denied resurrection life by “some” of the Corinthians is compared with those who are “fallen asleep in Christ” (15.18 – the verb here is aorist), then we have a definition of Paul’s “all.” If those who have previously fallen asleep are being denied, but those who have fallen asleep in Christ are not denied, then Paul is arguing that all, that is those who have fallen asleep and those who have fallen asleep in Christ will be raised. Both groups will be “made alive in Christ” since both groups have fallen asleep in Adam. In other words, falling asleep in Adam does not discount a person from being raised in Christ, which, apparently, some in Corinth thought that it did. From this perspective, “all” is not defining “every single human being,” but the group that was being denied (“those who have fallen asleep” – perfect tense) and the group that was being affirmed (“those who have fallen asleep in Christ” – aorist tense). Paul is saying that all (both groups) will be raised in Christ without entertaining every individual.

Verse 23 clarifies this even further in that “each in his own order” will be raised, first, “the firstfruit-Christ (those who have the firstfruits of the Spirit), then those who are of the Christ.” This limits the “all” to only “those who are in the Christ.” If Paul would have said, “the firstfruit-Christ, then all who die in Adam” the universalist would be thrilled. But, from our exegesis, the group being denied, who have fallen asleep, are also in Christ as well as those who have fallen asleep in Christ. Paul is not speaking of every single individual in this text.

It may seem that I have elaborated a great deal on this one verse to disprove DeRose. I have. DeRose and others like him make their case sound simple, but it isn’t. Context is everything. In my view the “all” is balanced nicely because the same “all” that were dying in Adam (sleeping) is the same “all” that will be made alive in Christ. However, for Paul the “all” are those who have hoped in Christ (15.19), and this cannot be said of every individual that came out of Adam. Those who would participate in the resurrection are not only those who fell asleep in Christ, but all those who hoped in Christ long, long ago. It was the latter group that was being denied in Corinth. Rather, then, than proving universalism, this verse proves that only those who hoped in Christ, along with those who fell asleep in Christ, will be made alive.

DeRose quotes two other verses, Col 1.20 and Rom 5.18. The first reads, “and through him to reconcile the all things to himself -- having made peace through the blood of his cross -- through him, whether the things upon the earth, whether the things in the heavens.” DeRose comments, “Note again the "all." Show me someone burning in hell, and I'll show you someone who's not yet been reconciled to God. So, show me someone who's under divine punishment forever, or who is simply annihilated, and I'll show you someone who's never reconciled to God through Christ, and thus someone who gives the lie to this passage.” But, this would include the devil and demons and the animal kingdom, slugs and bats – something DeRose said above that, “Some universalists intend their position to apply animals, and some to fallen angels or even to Satan himself, but in my hands, it will be intended to apply only to human beings.” Well, well. “The all things” here is limited to human beings! Let’s not forget trees, flowers and that fence in my backyard, either. I mean, “all things” means “every single possible thing that can be called a thing” right?

Well, let’s see. In Col 1.15 Jesus is called the “firstborn of all creation.” The next verse, “for in him the all things were created.” And what would that be? “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” One could certainly include devils and demons here! “For he is before all things and in him all things consist.” This asserts the pre-existence of the Son before God said, “let there be light” in Genesis. Certainly sounds like Paul is emphasizing all of creation; anything that was created. “And he is the head of the body, the ekklesia; he is the beginning, the firstborn out of the dead ones, so that in all things he might have priority.” Here we have the body of Christ, the ekklesia. “And through him to reconcile the all things to himself -- having made peace through the blood of his cross -- through him, whether the things upon the earth, whether the things in the heavens.”

If all things are reconciled to Christ, then every man will be made a member of the body of Christ. That is what DeRose is stating. So far, it would be difficult to argue against him. “The all things” in this verse must be the same “the all things” that started this thread; the “all things” of creation. Let us continue to read Paul, however. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Does DeRose take this last verse to refer to the same content of “the all things” in 1.15-20? “All creation” and “under heaven” are two phrases Paul has already used, but who would argue that the gospel was preached in Paul’s day to the Eskimos or the Chinese? Also, there appears to be a conditional “if” in verse 23. What would it matter “if” they didn’t remain in the faith, stable and steadfast? They are already reconciled. Finally, Paul concludes, “whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ (1.28).” That is, every man Paul ran across he taught so that he might present him to God, if that man remained steadfast in what he heard. But, again, why would this be necessary?

I want to use this as a segue into this question. The same comments I would make on Rom 5.18. There, it can be shown that “the many” are the Jews and the “all” are Jews and Gentiles, which has been Paul’s point all along: “is the God the God of the Jews only, or also of the Gentiles”? The universalist would argue that all men are made alive in Christ, or eventually will be. DeRose does not deny a phase of punishment. So, here, Paul wanted his hearers to come to Christ now instead of coming to Christ later under brutal conditions of punishment. Eventually they will come…so why not come now? When a person comes to acknowledge Christ (“every knee shall bow”) they will also be presented before the throne of God “spotless.” This spotlessness is achieved through acknowledging, “Jesus is Lord.”

Now, the reason DeRose does not accept the devil as being saved is because he is viewed as being thrown into the lake of fire. “Could they be including angels, including fallen angels, and maybe even Satan himself? My reason for not going out on that limb -- besides passages like Rev 20:10, which reports that the devil is "thrown into the lake of burning sulpher", where the beast and the false prophet (who's not clearly human) were previously thrown, and where "they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever" -- is that most of the universalist passages don't go that far. Some, like I Corinthians 15:22, write simply of "all", and, as I said, I think the most natural way to understand the scope of the "all" is as referring to all people. Indeed, it's difficult to construe that particular passage more broadly so as to include Satan, for there seems to be no good sense in which Satan died in Adam, and the passage reads: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”” Very well. But, when he comes to Col 1.20 and Rev 20.10, he writes, “How to square that with Rev 20:10, I don't know, though I am in general far more cautious about my understanding of Revelation than of any other book in the Bible.” That’s an honest enough answer.

What is missed though is that those not found written in the book of life were also cast into the same place the devil was. If DeRose is willing to leave the devil there, then how can he bring those men who were also thrown there, out? DeRose does not answer. He does talk about “second chances” and such after death, but what is pictured in Rev 20.11-15, your name is either there or it isn’t. Rev plainly teaches that the destiny of the devil is the same destiny of those not found written in the book of life: the second death.

It is towards the end of DeRose’s paper that he runs out of Scripture and begins to think in other terms. There is not much exegetical weight for the universalist. In fact, some of them admit this. It’s a wish built on a few verses that at first glance appear to teach universalism, and so the naïve and well-wishers believe that they have enough “evidence” to at least give some credence to their position as tenable and Evangelical.

Here, I want to answer the first question: is universalism biblical? My answer would be, “no.” Does that mean that it is heretical? I do not believe that speaking in tongues today is biblical (even though I used to speak in so called tongues). Does that make it heretical? Here we begin to enter into the question of what is, and what it not “heretical.” For the preterist this is made even more difficult because, by all definitions from church history, councils, creeds and confessions, he is a heretic! A heretic calling another person a heretic is downright funny.

Preterists never seem to take this last point seriously. “So we disagree with two-thousand years of church history and every creed and confession that have been written…big deal.” One can rightly see that those who are “orthodox” would look upon this attitude as simply, well, heretical. After all, didn’t Joseph Smith do the same thing? I take church history extremely serious. After all, God’s providence has guided the church for the last two-thousand years, so it can’t be all bad. It’s a heavy burden the preterist carries (and one that many preterists are not even aware of, or either care about, which I find shocking and arrogant). Others, like myself and Ed Stevens, have attempted to wrestle with this question, and have come out with two very different answers. I applaud the wrestling.

The universalist Christian, such a DeRose, is trying to make an honest answer, no doubt. He is sincerely trying to teach the contents of the gospel, and he cannot be said to use trickery when he plainly admits that he does not know how some passages should be reconciled. Sounds like a preterist! Does the attempt to construct a universalist message within the context of faith in acknowledging Jesus is Lord, the Bible is God’s word, and the church is God’s people make one a heretic? That is the question I am struggling with. At the request of those who wanted me to write this paper, I must confess in all honesty – hanging myself out there to dry – I don’t know. Is the great church father Origen in the lake of fire? He was a universalist, too!

Now, I can hear many already starting to scream that somehow I am giving credence to universalism. I am not. I don’t know how one could say that after the exegesis and analysis I have just provided. Universalism cannot be sustained in my opinion. Therefore, I will counter it wherever I run into it (like I counter freewill, tongues, futurism, anti-church gathering, empiricism, scientism, liberalism, homosexuality, etc.). The question asked is, is DeRose a heretic? Rather, should folks like DeRose be considered heretics from a preterist perspective? I can see where they would be, and have no real issue with those who say that they are. I am saying what I think – a preterist is a heretic according to the majority of the church, and that is the first problem we should be dealing with. Of course, does this mean “anything” goes? Well, one has to be somewhat inclusive at this stage of the game. Should I endorse the rapture in A.D. 70? Annhilationism found in much preterism? How about the tongue-talkers among us? Maybe the “Israel are the Gentiles” gang are heretics and neo-racists. Is the corporate body view what Paul taught? This gets back to the question of what we “let in” and “keep out.”

What do we “let in”? Naturally, we would say, “what the Bible teaches.” Well, that is currently the issue, is it not? Personally, we at Regnum Christi Ministries teach that the Westminster Confession of Faith is correct unless changes need to be made in light of preterism. The same for the Apostles’ Creed. Therefore, we as a ministry reject universalism and will not condone it as a viable, biblical alternative. But, I also reject other preteristic theories as well. Can we reject the teaching and not the teacher? Can I reject the teaching of DeRose, but continue to have a dialogue and friendship with him? What does Paul say, “live at peace – as much as you can – with all men.” We are never told to hate our enemies.

Some might also think that “petty differences” are okay, but not major ones. But, when seen from Paul’s admonitions (down to hair coverings, and speaking in tongues) none of these things were “petty” to him. To deny someone’s claim today that they speak in tongues is, to their mind, to deny the active work of the Spirit Himself! Imagine if speaking in tongues, we come to find out, is a viable work the Spirit does and here many of us have been actively opposing it! Petty? I think not! Same for the rapture in A.D. 70 view. Ultimately what this view is saying is that God Himself did this, and for us to oppose it would be to oppose the work of God. That is, if you have ever thought that this view was “silly” or “nonsense,” then you have just called the work of God, “nonsense” if the view is true. When these “petty things” are seen from this perspective, perhaps we will speak more cautiously.

What I am trying to do, and what I think needs to be done, is balance the love for correct doctrine with the love for each other that we must have in order to follow Christ. Never compromise doctrine, but neither have an attitude that just because you don’t see it my way, it’s the highway. Some might claim that Paul did, but last I checked no one reading this article is Paul – nor are they apostles with authority to bind and loose. There is within the Christian ethic of love a tension. Romans 14 notes this tension very well and roots it in a person’s conscience. The conscience for Paul was the transformed heart, the inner man, the “spiritual man” as he called it. He is bound by text, which is outside to him and dictating to him rules for living and thinking. Yet, the text is subject to misinterpretation by the text-reader – by a sincere text reader. What does one do when two get together in the name of Jesus (Jesus is Lord), reading the text (God’s holy word), and agreeing on the essentials of the deity of Christ, the equality of the Godhead and kingdom of God, differ? DeRose affirms all these things. Does his going off course with universalism mark him out as an unbeliever after all? When I say I do not know, I mean that I cannot answer that question from God’s perspective (typical Calvinist answer). Now, do I have responsibility to mark him out regardless? I think, since the agreement we have is much more on essentials, that continued dialogue/debate is in order.

We have had two universalists that wanted to join our fellowship. We had no problems with them coming. When they found out that we were committed to a Calvinistic understanding of things, they left. I have not seen them since. I won’t pursue them, either.

What does that say? Well, I don’t know their eternal destiny. I do know that we must stand up for what we believe in (responsibility). I also know that had they wanted to continue fellowshipping with us, knowing our stance, then they most certainly would have been invited to continue fellowshipping (in hopes of changing their minds to our view!). In other words, in my mind, it takes a stronger person to tolerate another’s view while standing his own ground without compromise. It is a weak person that seeks to write off everything and everyone that disagrees with him. That’s easy. Love is hard. Had I written off the first heretic preterist that I met on the basis that his view was not “orthodox” and “biblical,” would I have become a preterist?

So, I guess in conclusion I am saying several things: 1) A believer must stand his ground against universalism, constantly pointing out the ramifications it has on evangelism, the gospel and the like. It does not affect the deity of Christ or the trinity, nor does it affect the substitutionary atonement of Christ (since it believes that Christ substituted himself for all). This keeps it, somewhat, within the pale of allowing tolerance to at least some degree and to at least some point. If I am in error on this point, I will glady accept criticism. 2) By standing firm on the issue, it keeps the debate alive and active for those who are considering buying into this false doctrine. Compromise would be to simply let this issue go, pretending that it has no real overall problems. A true defender of the faith from an evangelical perspective would be to keep alive the debate with the hopes of convincing universalists to turn from that alternative. 3) It does not deserve the vicious attacks it has received as being “another gospel”. Those who hold to universalism (biblical universalism, as defined by DeRose) does not mean that they automatically “deny the faith” or are “lost.” I think that that point comes when Scripture is denied as God’s word, when Jesus himself as the Second Person of the Godhead is denied, when the Trinity is denied. Yet, one of our members told me that when he first became a Christian, he took a Modalist view of the Trinity. Within a year, he came to accept the orthodox position. When was he saved? Is faith ever allowed to mature? Can a Christian believe in doctrines through sheer ignorance of the alternatives? It is at this point that the fruits of the Spirit must be exercised. You can watch the downward spiral of someone in practice and in doctrine. First this is denied, then that, then finally, all of it. I am asking for keen and loving sensitivity and I think that this can be done without knee jerk reactionism.

So, I think that I have been clear enough to state where Regnum Christi Ministries is coming from on this issue. I think it is painfully clear in our constitution and by-laws (located on our site) what we stand for. If, then, any think that by having friendships with those who espouse a “generous orthodoxy” or who may be universalists is a sin, then I guess that will have to be proven to me in such a way that it has the stamp of “thus saith the Lord” on it. The Jesus way is to talk with any and all, and if they stick around as friends, keep on talking with the hopes of convincing them of your views. If they walk away, they walk away. You have done your duty, stood your ground, and walked in humility.

(Addendum): I recently had a wonderful conversation with a preterist brother who asked very practical questions concerning this topic. In a Christian fellowship, we of Christ Covenant Church espouse a very open policy. Like the example of the two universalists that came our way, they did not come back. If they had wanted to become serious fellow-laborers of what we are accomplishing here, their universalism would be more seriously challenged. The reason for this is practical. If any come into any fellowship with an agenda that is not the vision and goal of the group, dissension will arise. Universalism is not apart of the doctrinal views of our fellowship, and if someone came in to our fellowship with a bent to convince us of universalism, dismissal would be the result. But, this is true of trying convince us of homeschooling (a divisive issue, to be sure); A.D. 70 rapture theory, or tongues, or whatever. We tolerate those who may hold to these things and want to honestly discuss them. That’s one thing. But, when it becomes divisive, that’s another. Pastorally speaking, the one causing the division must be removed for the sake of peace among the greater number.

Samuel Frost

MichaelB's picture

The Atonement: an analysis of Calvinism, Arminianism, and Universalism

John 10

14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.

A) Jesus laid down his life for his sheep.

B) Some do not believe because they are not his sheep.

C) Jesus does not lose any sheep.

Matthew 25

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

A) At the great white throne judgment there are only two categories: sheep and non-sheep (goats).

B) Sheep receive the kingdom.

C) Non-sheep (goats) receive punishment.

Therefore:

A) The Arminian view of universal atonement where some are still lost can not be true because: 1. If Jesus died for all the sins of all men then no one should be punished. 2. Jesus lost sheep. They were snatched out of his hand. 3. If the Arminian argues that they were punished because of unbelief, we will point out to them they do not believe because they are not his sheep. It does not say that they are not his sheep because they do not believe. 4. This view ignores the classification of non-sheep (goats).

B) The Universalist argument can not be true because Jesus laid down his life for the sheep. 1. If all were sheep then there should have been no punishment (whether temporary or permanent) given out at the great white throne judgment since every persons sins were atoned for. 2. This leaves the Universalist to have to say that there is more than one way to the Father besides the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. 3. This view ignores the classification of non-sheep (goats).

Conclusion:

Only one view of the atonement does not violate the scripture. That is the Calvinistic view of the atonement where we see an atonement that is affective for those that were given to Jesus by the Father. Not everyone that ever lived. We must view all scriptures regarding the atonement in the Calvinistic manner or else contradictions will be found in the bible and Christianity would be compromised.

zweiteskommen's picture

"We must view all scriptures regarding the atonement in the Calvinistic manner or else contradictions will be found in the bible and Christianity would be compromised."

This type of blind, proof-texting devotion should be rejected by all be it Calvinism, Anhiliationism... or even PRETERISM. It belies an unteachable heart and disparages other critically-thinking men of faith for coming to a contradictory and biblically-subtantiated conclusion. WOW!

Z

"It is amazing what you can see if you just look around." - Yogi Berra

MichaelB's picture

Zweiteskommen wrote:
It belies an unteachable heart and disparages other critically-thinking men of faith for coming to a contradictory and biblically-subtantiated conclusion.

Go ahead critically thinking Zweiteskommen. Show us how to break John 10 and Matt 25 down without making any contradictions =)

We are all waiting.

By the way - how can something be contradictory and biblically substanciated at the same time. Christianity is based on truth.

Either Preterism is true or Christianity is a lie. Most of us wouldn't be scared to say that.

"Consider this: Christians often use the "Liar, Lunatic or Lord" argument with non-believers in regard to statements Jesus made about being the Son of God. We say that either Jesus is Lord as He claims, or He is a liar or lunatic, which would make following Him just as unwise. The same is true of His claims as to His Second Coming. Either He returned in that generation over 1900 years ago as He and His disciples promised He would, or He is a liar or a lunatic. He didn’t say He might return. He said He would return. Either He did return and fulfill everything He said He’d fulfill at His coming, or He lied. The very foundation of the Gospel rests upon His words."

I am just saying the same thing but about the atonement.

zweiteskommen's picture

Michael wrote:
"Go ahead critically thinking Zweiteskommen. Show us how to break John 10 and Matt 25 down without making any contradictions =)

We are all waiting."

You misread me. My comments regarding the "critically thinking" should in no way be interpreted as including me. I am far more humble than that! :-)

By the way - how can something be contradictory and biblically substanciated at the same time. Christianity is based on truth.

Good question. Because infallible man is "in the mix" where interpretation is concerned. The point is that a Calvinistic interpretation, biblically substantiated, is contradictory to an Arminian interpretation, which is also biblically substantiated. Obviously both cannot be right, but both purport to faithfully exegete scripture. Far too many "critically thinking" scholars sit on opposite sides of this theological fence for you to cast such dispersions.

Concerning Lewis' Trilema, this is a great example of why we should be teachable and not "close the door" on any position. Modern critical scholarship posits a dichotomy between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith. In other words, Jesus is a legend and the Trilemma is found to be an untenable position. Anyone dogmatically asserting "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" has in recent years found themselves admitting such a position is not as comprehensively failsafe as they originally thought.

Look, I'm not argueing for or against Calvinism. What I'm argueing against is the uncharitable position that "I am right; all others are wrong". You can hold your position without being intellectually arrogant at the same time.

Peacefully,

Z

"It is amazing what you can see if you just look around." - Yogi Berra

MichaelB's picture

Z wrote:
Look, I'm not argueing for or against Calvinism. What I'm argueing against is the uncharitable position that "I am right; all others are wrong". You can hold your position without being intellectually arrogant at the same time.

Z, I would describe my position more like...

"I strongly believe I am right because it makes logical sense and doesn't contradict the scriptures; show me logically where I am wrong".

I am not trying to stunt critical thinking.

Peace =)

zweiteskommen's picture

MichaelB wrote: "I strongly believe I am right because it makes logical sense and doesn't contradict the scriptures; show me logically where I am wrong".

Now that is a statement I can abide by. Your original post just did not come across as charitable... at least to my mind. Thanks for clarifying.

Z

"It is amazing what you can see if you just look around." - Yogi Berra

Roderick's picture

David Curtis (another "leader" in the preterist community) has also written a 16 page paper on universalism -- I hope Virgil will post the entire paper as an article (I know I will at the website I can't mention).

You can find this paper by Curtis at:

http://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/colossians/1_20.htm

Allow me to quote a little from it:

"This doctrine is congenial to human nature. Most unbelievers think that when someone dies they go to heaven. What do people usually say when they lose a loved one? "We know they're in a better place now." This doctrine goes back to what the serpent had to say to our first parents: "Ye shall not surely die." God says that sin leads to death, but we don't want to believe that, we'd rather believe the serpent."

Note, Curtis says universalism stems from congenial human nature -- read emotionalism. Thus, Curtis says what I've been saying, or rather I've said what he has said.

In Christ,
Roderick

Jer's picture

Hmmm... Curtis uses the Calvinist framework to disprove Universalism. I guess I would need to be convinced of Calvinism first ;)

He refers to "the elect" many times in his article. How does this work post-Parousia?

the_prophet_whiteboy's picture

I agree Rod, no difference. : )

MichaelB's picture

Law of non-contradiction:
These can't both be true:

P is true
(not P) is true

Now lets insert some scripture...

John 6
14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

P is true (Jesus died only for his sheep)
not P is true (Jesus died for everyone)

Therefore: The only way to look at the atonement is in a limited way.

We MUST then conclude that the other verses that talk about Jesus dying for the "whole world" must be referring to his sheep that would know him out of the world who would believe on him.

Therefore: The Arminian view of the atonement is false because Jesus said that he laid down his life for the sheep, and not all are his sheep.

Therefore: The Universalist view of the atonement is false because Jesus said that he laid down his life for the sheep, and not all are his sheep.

Jer's picture

Your argument isn't as sound as you may think. John 10 does not say Jesus died "only" for his sheep. You have assumed that limitation. 1 John 2:2, however, expressly says that he is the atoning sacrifice "NOT for our sins ONLY, but also for the whole world."

You have also assumed, "We MUST then conclude that the 'whole world' must be referring to his sheep that would know him out of the world who would believe on him." Why? One can just as easily argue the opposite. For example, "We MUST conclude that Jesus died for more than 'his sheep' since he is said to be the atoning sacrifice for the whole world."

On a more technical note, your argument has bad form.

Your Argument:
P is true (Jesus died only for his sheep)
not P is true (Jesus died for everyone)

You are not consistent with your "P's." Theoretically, "his sheep" could include "everyone" so there would be no contradiction. For example:

P is true (Jeremy only likes apples)
not P is true (Jeremy likes fruit)

There is no contradiction in the above statements, however, the argument has bad form. The second statement does not contradict the first. Likewise, your argument should read:

P is true (Jesus died only for his sheep)
not P is true (Jesus did not die only for his sheep)

Of course, the text does not say "only" so I can reject your argument based on a faulty premise and bad form.

Batman's picture

So Jer,

Christ died for the goats as well as the sheep? I think you're stretching it a bit don't you?

--Batman

--Batman

Jer's picture

I think you may have misunderstood. I did not draw that conclusion. I wasn't making a theological statement. Michael made an invalid argument and I pointed that out. If you think his argument was valid, address my criticisms.

MichaelB's picture

Jeremy wrote:
Likewise, your argument should read:

P is true (Jesus died only for his sheep)
not P is true (Jesus did not die only for his sheep)

Of course, the text does not say "only" so I can reject your argument based on a faulty premise and bad form.

Fair enough Jeremy - let's change it

P is true (Jesus died for his sheep)
not P is true (Jesus did not die for his sheep)

Jeremy - who besides sheeps and goats who would need an atonement at the sheep and goat Great White Throne Judgment? I think we can all agree just sheep and non-sheep.

If there are only two groups - sheep and non-sheep.

Then:

A) Only the sheep are saved.
B) No one would be saved.
c) If he was an atonement for the goats too then they should not have received any punishment either because their sins were atoned for.

Matthew 25
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Thanks for constructive criticizm. I was assuming there was only two groups. I needed to show it by pointing it out at the great white throne judgment.

Virgil's picture

A) Only the sheep are saved.
B) No one would be saved.
c) If he was an atonement for the goats too then they should not have received any punishment either because their sins were atoned for.

Again, you are ignoring everything previously written here by myself and others. I don't care about the extent of the salvation or whether or not Unviersalism is false. I do care about WHO Jesus died for. You are the one who brought this up initially...did you forget about it or are you ignoring the issue on purpose?

the_prophet_whiteboy's picture

Did Jesus die for ALL?, that is every indiviual to ever walk the planet.

Matt. 26:28, "for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for MANY for forgiveness of sins."

John 17:9, "I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine;"

Isaiah 53:12, "Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors."

Virgil's picture

I already dealt with John 17 in several other comments. Yes, Jesus died for every individual who ever walked the planet.

the_prophet_whiteboy's picture

Virgil, just because you dealt with it doesnt mean your right.

: )

Roderick's picture

Quoting Virgil: "Yes, Jesus died for every individual who ever walked the planet."

And Virgil says he's not an Arminian? And Virgil says he is not an Universalist?

The only constant here is that people are contantly waffling with what they say in contrast to what they believe & what the Bible actual says.

If Jesus died for every individual who ever walked the planet then:

  • He failed to actually atone for those who perish.
  • Everyone is "saved" -- Universalism
  • Hard to escape the soteriological implications isn't it???

    Virgil's picture

    And Virgil says he's not an Arminian? And Virgil says he is not an Universalist?

    yes, I do. Here...I will say it again. I am not an arminianist...nor a universalist.

    Hard to escape the soteriological implications isn't it???

    Where have you been Roderick? What have we been talking about on this website for the last six months?

    MichaelB's picture

    Virgil writes:
    I am not an arminianist...nor a universalist.

    Thats fine Virgil...

    So Virgil what is your answer to the dilemma that Roderick put forth.

    If Jesus died for every individual who ever walked the planet then:

    He failed to actually atone for those who perish.

    Everyone is "saved" -- Universalism

    Virgil's picture

    Why does this have to be an "either or" situation? Are you that confident of what you believe to so strongly put forth two possibilities? What if there is a middle ground, or perhaps a third, or fourth possibility?

    You are using theology and soteriology developed by a futurist, in a futurist Church and you conclude that despite Preterism, it is still 100% accurate. Why?

    Why can't my proposition of comprehensive reconciliation be valid? Why can't a first-century election only be valid? Why is it that it's ok for you to say that the Church was only a first-century occurence but the elect was not?

    I've already put forth an answer to the dilemma but you guys are too busy assuming that you already know what I believe. It may not be a complete answer but it's an attempt...and it sure as heck is better than calling people names and accusing them of universalism!

    davo's picture

    Virgil: Why can't my proposition of comprehensive reconciliation be valid? Why can't a first-century election only be valid? Why is it that it's ok for you to say that the Church was only a first-century occurence but the elect was not?

    Gee-wiz Virgil, you're skating close to the thin ice, like what are you asking for - consistency? ;)

    davo – pantelism.com –

    "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." 1Jn 2:2

    Parker's picture

    Virgil:
    Why can't a first-century election only be valid? Why is it that it's ok for you to say that the Church was only a first-century occurence but the elect was not?

    Parker:
    If the Church was a first-century only occurrence (it was not), and if election was a first-century only occurrence (it was not), then why can't the Ancient Hebrew God also be a first-century occurrence? C'mon folks, let's be consistent. By this cessationist hermeneutic one is forced to conclude that the biblical people and their local god are long gone--2000 years gone. They've all moved on and we're all stuck without any contact with their god in the modern world.

    Full preterism--if it rejects a covenantal, sacramental and continuationist context for understanding the New Testament--ends up in deism at best.

    Virgil's picture

    Gee-wiz Virgil, you're skating close to the thin ice, like what are you asking for - consistency? ;)

    Why should't I just ask, but DEMANT consistency? I find it amazing that Rodericks claims the Church was only a pre-AD 70 thing, but the elect was not. Then he criticizes me for suggesting the elect was a first-century occurance. Does that make any sense to anyone at all?

    Roderick's picture

    First Davo says: ""And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." 1Jn 2:2

    Davo wants the reader to conclude that 1 John 2:2 is a universalism proof-text, but it is clearly not so.

      Correct interpretation:

    Not just for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles

  • Commentary:
  • "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only (not only for the sins of us Jews, us that are Abraham’s seed according to the flesh), but also for those of the whole world." -- Matthew Henry

    "This propitiation is made for the whole world, not for the Jews only" -- JN Darby (even he understand this -- sheesh)

    "he comforts them with the consideration of the advocacy of Christ, and of his being the propitiation for the sins both of Jews and Gentiles" -- John Gill

    "It is not for us apostles that he has died, nor exclusively for the Jewish people, but peri olou tou kosmou , for the whole world, Gentiles as well as Jews" -- Adam Clarke

    "For men of all sorts, of all ages, and all places, so that this benefit being not to the Jews only" -- Geneva Study Bible

    "And not for ours only. He added this for the sake of amplifying, in order that the faithful might be assured that the expiation made by Christ, extends to all who by faith embrace the gospel. Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated? I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who under this pretense extend salvation to all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation." -- John Calvin

    As for Virgil's comments, He knows I've never advocated the Church was only a pre-AD 70 thing -- but I guess he doesn't read his own website. Even Sam Frost (whom I had these debates over the nature of the Church would correct Virgil on this matter) The pre-parousia Church served a bit different purpose than the parousia Church, one was the Church Militant, waiting for Christ to return, the other is the Church Triumphant, living & ruling with Christ in His Presence.

    Maybe I should whine & cry how Virgil is misrepresenting me??? -- No, because what I've said about the Church has not wavered, so I don't need to re-explain it.

    In Christ, the savior not only of the Jews, but of the whole world,

    Roderick

    MichaelB's picture

    "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."

    compare to:

    Acts 20
    28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,which he bought with his own blood.

    Rev 5
    9And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

    Revelation 14
    3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.

    Virgil's picture

    They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.

    Actually you are proving my point by quoting this. I don't know how many times I have to tell you that the elect WERE the firstfruit, which WERE the first-century believers, resurrected in Christ. They were the firstfruit. WE, today are the full harvest. The harvest is not the firstfruit.

    I've asked you before and I am asking you again...read my three articles on Preterism and Calvinism. I have already answered all these questions and all these passages in part 3 and I don't have the time to reply with the same ideas over and over again.

    MichaelB's picture

    Virgil - was Jacob elect?

    Jer's picture

    Those are good references.

    Revelation 5 and 14 are referring to firstfruit saints. No one prior to Christ was a "fruitfruit" (inlcuding OT Israel). No one after A.D. 70 (the harvest) is a firtfruit, assuming the truth of Preterism. Are you sure you want to make Christ's death that exclusive? You are not a firstfruit. Therefore, Christ's death is of no benefit to you. Abraham was not a firstfruit... Abraham wasn't even "in the church." (Your Acts reference) Therefore, Christ's death, even though promise was made to Abraham, was of no benefit to him.

    Of course if you can't accept those conclusions, then Christ died for people who were not firstfruits and even those who were not "in the church." Did Christ die for Abraham?

    PreteristAD70's picture

    Jer,

    You forget that after the firstfruits comes the harvest ... =)

    --Mike

    MichaelB's picture

    Jer writes:
    Revelation 5 and 14 are referring to firstfruit saints. No one prior to Christ was a "fruitfruit" (inlcuding OT Israel). No one after A.D. 70 (the harvest) is a firstfruit, assuming the truth of Preterism. Are you sure you want to make Christ's death that exclusive? You are not a firstfruit.

    Jeremy that is a false dilemma. For instance let's say that a group called the elect is told to flee Israel. This does not mean that for instance Jacob was not part of the elect (which he was according to Romans 9). No it doesn't. It just means that the scripture was speaking to a certain group of the elect that were still alive (audience relevance).

    It is in the new covenant that they would receive forgiveness of sins. The blood was poured out for the covenant people.

    Matthew 26
    28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

    The covenant people are those that believe.

    Acts 10
    43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

    Jesus tells us who it is that would believe.

    John 10
    14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

    Those in the covenant would receive the inheritance.

    Hebrews 9
    15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance

    The dead WITH FAITH were going to receive the same inheritance - That inheritance was the COVENANT.

    Hebrews 11
    13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. 39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect

    Therefore: The blood was for the covenant people. The focus however was on the firstfruits because they were who the NT letters were written to.

    1 John 2:2
    2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

    1 John 2:2 must be looked at and harmonized with the above scriptures. It can easily be done.

    1 John 2:2
    2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins (JEWS WHO BELIEVE), and not only for ours (JEWS WHO BELIEVE) but also for the sins of the whole world. (GENTILES WHO WOULD BELIEVE).

    Let’s see if we can find scriptural support for this idea…

    Acts 20
    28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,which he bought with his own blood.

    Rev 5
    9And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

    Revelation 14
    3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.

    Jeremy writes:
    Of course if you can't accept those conclusions, then Christ died for people who were not firstfruits and even those who were not "in the church." Did Christ die for Abraham?

    Christ died for all that had faith (substance of things hoped for) that they would receive the ETERNAL INHERITANCE (The New Covenant where they had forgiveness of sins)

    Christ was an atonement. An AT-ONE-MENT. If he was an atonement for all men then there should have been no judgment because all sins were forgiven.

    Both OT and NT saints had the New Covennat by faith (the substance of things hoped for). The blood was shed for those who were going to receive that covenant where there is forgiviness of sins.

    Where the pre-70 AD believers had to wait for that covenant to replace the Old. I entered the New Covenant the moment I believed.

    Jer's picture

    Yeah, I know it was a false dilemma. That was the point... :D Your previous post required elucidation.

    Paige's picture

    Jer,

    Good questions. I don't know if you've had a chance to read this article yet, but it gives a different perspective. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on it.

    http://www.thepaulpage.com/Atonement.htm

    Paige

    Jer's picture

    Thanks for the link, Paige. I was able to get through part of it yesterday. I like the approach - trying to understand Paul from his cultural perspective. I think many times we read ourselves back into a text. I'll keep chewing on it :)

    MichaelB's picture

    "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."

    compare to:

    Acts 20
    28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,which he bought with his own blood.

    Rev 5
    9And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

    Revelation 14
    3And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.

    Virgil's picture

    Davo wants the reader to conclude that 1 John 2:2 is a universalism proof-text, but it is clearly not so.

    I am not arguing on behalf of Davo here. I never suggested that 1 John 2:2 teaches universalism. I simply said that it teaches that Jesus died for the whole world, as the text teaches. If you are going to disagree with me regarding the meaning of "world" I suggest you read all three epistles first and rethink the idea that "world" means "gentiles." It doesn't.

    And even if "kosmos" did mean "gentiles," why don't you make holou tou kosmou mean "the whole of gentiles" since that's what the text actually says? The text doesn't just mention "the world" it actually says "the whole of the world - ALL of it."

    Are you suggesting that Christ died for every single gentile ever alive on this planet? Of course not...you can't, because Calvinism doesn't allow you to, even when the text is unambiguous about it.

    Jer's picture

    But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.

    Most people leave off the previous verse. The our of verse 2 is the same as we in verse one. If you wishes to argue that our is limited to Jews, then one must do the same in verse 1. In other words, it should read:

    But if anyone does sin, we Jews have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for Jewish sins, and not only for Jewish sins but also for the whole world.

    Be consistent ;)

    MichaelB's picture

    Virgil writes:
    What if there is a middle ground, or perhaps a third, or fourth possibility?

    Virgil why dont you work up your 3rd and 4th possibility and we will put them to the test =)

    Virgil Pre-70AD...please tell us your view.

    If Jesus died for every individual who ever walked the planet then:

    He failed to actually atone for those who perish.

    Everyone is "saved" -- Universalism

    Virgil writes:
    It may not be a complete answer but it's an attempt...and it sure as heck is better than calling people names and accusing them of universalism!

    Virgil are you saying universalism is a bad name? Even I have never said that =)

    Virgil could you please exlain the difference between comprehensive reconciliation and universalism?

    Virgil's picture

    I already told you I put forth this position months ago. Please read my three articles on Calvinism...you can click on my name under Columns and find them on the list.

    MichaelB's picture

    Virgil - you also said that Jesus died for every individual that ever lived.

    Now you are saying calvinistic pre-70 the comrehensive post 70. Which is it?

    Can you see why we are confused on where you stand on this?

    Jer's picture

    ... or perhaps you have presented a "false dilemma." There may be a third alternative :)

    MichaelB's picture

    Jer wrote:
    ... or perhaps you have presented a "false dilemma." There may be a third alternative :)

    Perhaps - but what is it?

    Perhaps saying that "perhaps there is a false dilemma" is really a "red herring" =)

    Peace Jer =)

    davo's picture

    MichaelB: Jer wrote:
    ... or perhaps you have presented a "false dilemma." There may be a third alternative :)

    Perhaps - but what is it?

    PANTELISM

    davo – pantelism.com –

    "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world." 1Jn 2:2

    Jer's picture

    Perhaps :D

    Roderick's picture

    we're waiting..... :-)

    Jer's picture

    Yeah, yeah... and I'm still waiting for you to answer my questions, too. Don't be in such a hurry :D

    Since Jesus died only for the elect in your view, how does that work post-Parousia? Who are the elect now? How does one know? Has the definition of "elect" changed in light of Preterism?

    MichaelB's picture

    Virgil writes: Yes, Jesus died for every individual who ever walked the planet

    Then why were people judged as goats Virgil? Was his blood not good enough?

    If you say because they didnt believe - didnt Jesus say only his sheep believe?

    Which is it?

    MichaelB's picture

    Jeremy - I will make this nice and neat and sound tomorrow with the John 15 and the Matt 25 scriptures all in one solid logical argument. Better worded etc. I will post it tomorrow. it is late here. Thanks again.

    Virgil's picture

    Michael,

    I'm not trying to respond directly to the argument you have been formulating here, but you have reminded me of something regarding contradiction that I wanted to comment about (which is why the reply is here).

    I like the way Sproul addresses contradiction. He says that something cannot be both true and not true at the same time and in the same relationship. Hence, it is a contradiction to say that "I am a son" and "I am not a son" in the same relationship. There is no contradiction, however, if the statements are made in regard to different relationships. Similarly, according to Sproul, it would be a contradiction to say that God is both "one in person" and "three in person", but it is not a contradiction to say that God is "one in nature" and "three in person".

    I think that we can safely substitute the word "perspective" for "relationship" without doing violence to Sproul's definition of contradiction, "perspective" meaning "that which is in view." A person can be a son in view of one relationship and not be a son in view of another relationship without contradiction. A person cannot be a son and not be a son in view of the same relationship. God can be said to be "one" in view of essence or nature and "three" in view of personhood without contradiction. He cannot be said to be "one" in view of personhood and "three" in view of personhood.

    I have reached no conclusions on the atonement in my ongoing studies, but I have to wonder if Sproul's reminder, that for apparently contradictory statements to be truly contradictory they must be speaking about the same relationship (or from the same perspective), might be helpful in resolving some of the various statements about the atonement. Hence, I can speak of Christ as: "savior of the world" in that He is the only savior that any man can ever have, or "savior of the world" in that He is the savior of every class of people, or even "savior of the body" in that He effectuates only their salvation. In none of those do I see a contradiction. Similarly, I could say that Christ "died for only the elect" in that He died intending to effectuate only their salvation, or I could say that Christ "died for the sins of the whole world" in that He died to offer salvation to everyone. I see no contradiction, as these statements are made from different perspectives. It would be a contradiction to say that Christ died to effectively atone for the sins of only the elect, and that He did not die to effectively atone for the sins of only the elect (but I know no one who would make such a statement).

    There are two questions which I think are important:

    1) Did the Apostles always share the same perspective when they spoke of the atonement?

    2) Is it even possible to formulate a perspective-neutral statement about the atonement that is absolutely true from every possible perspective?

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