Did Jesus Die Only To Save His Favorites? (The Calvinist Heresy of Limited Atonement)

Did Jesus Die Only To Save His Favorites? (The Calvinist Heresy of Limited Atonement) April 10, 2017

christianity-1867802_640

Regardless of what atonement metaphor one prefers (I prefer Christus Victor), Christians have historically held the position that in some way, Jesus died to save us.

Some say he died to pay the penalty for our sins, some say he died to defeat the works of the devil, others say he died to unmask our need for a scapegoat, and some will describe it yet other ways.

What is held in common is a belief in salvation through the cross, however one defines the surrounding terms we use in that general discussion.

But this brings us to the question: Who did Jesus die for? And that question brings us to a core Calvinist doctrine: limited atonement.

Limited atonement is a doctrine that begins on the premise of there being two groups of people who have ever lived: the elect and the damned. As Calvinist leader John Piper has previously stated, Calvinism (at least Piper’s flavor) teaches that before you were ever born God decided which category he was going to create your for. You were either created to be saved to eternal life, or created for the purpose of eternal damnation.

This, of course, is insane on an entirely different level, but double predestination isn’t the purpose of this post.

Back to the question: Who did Jesus die for? Everyone? The elect only?

The Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement argues that Jesus died only for the sins of the elect– that the power of the cross was limited to the people God had chosen ahead of time, to be saved.

It reminds me of the Calvinist version of Jesus Loves The Little Children:

“Jesus loves predestined children

All predestined children of the world

Jesus loves you and you, but no, not you

He has love for just a few

Jesus loves predestined children of the world.”

But are Calvinists right? Did Jesus die for the sins of a few?

Of course not– this idea is obnoxiously unbiblical. Here’s what the Bible *actually* says:

“(Jesus) 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

To make the idea of limited atonement work, one would need to redefine John’s term of the “whole world” so that such a redefinition didn’t mean “whole world” at all, but somehow came to mean “chosen few.”

We also see this is Paul’s letters to Timothy when he writes:

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” 1 Timothy 2:3-6

Once again, for Calvinist doctrine to work, one would have to argue that “all people” really means “just the elect.”

Those who argue for limited atonement cannot get around these texts. I mean, they try to with ancillary arguments not germane to the actual texts in question, but I have never once found any of those side arguments compelling enough to dismiss the idea that “whole world” and “all people” probably mean exactly that.

Now, does this mean everyone who has ever lived automatically is saved? No, I’m not a universalist (though I hope and pray universal salvation turns out to be true.) What it does mean, however, is that Jesus died for everyone and that his invitation to new life, eternal life, is not a limited invitation that can only be accepted by the chosen few, but is an invitation open to all people.


unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com. 

Be sure to check out his new blog, right here, and follow on Facebook:


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Does Calvinism allow Christians to be racists?

    I had never previously thought of it that way. But I think your post does seem to suggest that.

    Calvinism never made sense to me.

  • Tim

    “The Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement argues … that the power of the cross was limited to the people God had chosen ahead of time, to be saved.”

    While this is basically true (apart from the ‘limited’ bit), what the Calvinists (and indeed some others) seem to have missed is that God chose all of us ahead of time to be saved. “But each in his own order”, as Paul puts it.

  • Tim

    It allows them to be exclusivists at least; so potentially any “out” group is fair game.

  • Stuart Blessman

    Also rich vs poor, and educated vs illiterate.

    It’s very Darwinian.

  • So, as a former Calvinist, I feel like I need to offer a point of clarification. Keep in mind I do not agree with this, nor do I think it alleviates all the problems. It is most certainly grounded in the logic of penal substitution.

    Because if Jesus actually pays for the sins of the whole world, then that means Hell is full of people that Jesus paid for. This is untenable, so the Calvinist solution is limited atonement. Even though Jesus’ sacrifice is powerful enough to pay for everyone’s sins (sufficient), it only actually pays for the elect (efficient).

    Once again, I think all that is wrongheaded, but the doctrine of limited atonement isn’t meant to limit the scope of Jesus’ love or the merit of his sacrifice (although it may end up doing both), but rather deal with the theological problem of how people can end up in Hell if Jesus satisfied God’s justice for their sins. The whole TULIP system the Remonstrants articulated could be described as, “How do we solve all the theological problems our theology creates?”

  • Also very pro-capitalist.

  • So the parable of the good Samaritan is out for Calvinists.

  • Marshall Sutton

    Also, the book of Acts is problematic in its major themes.

  • Raymond Thomas Blanton

    The solution is that atonement means atonement and not salvation. Jesus tells the disciples “All judgment in heaven and earth is given to me.” Why? Because the cross is how Christ purchased the sin debt of the world and so became it’s judge, and therefore does not effect salvation for anyone. Is the atonement the basis of our confidence in salvation? Of course. Does it also deepen the guilt of those who reject the Savior that died for them? Of course.

    So of course the atoned for can be damned, in fact the logic of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world demands it.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    I recognize, and have, since Day 1, that this is a Christian-themed blog, and, as such, Dr. Ben pursues themes from within that framework…

    I’d just like to offer my personal perspective, from the standpoint of a politically and theologically liberal Jewish person…

    G-d, The One, if one truly subscribes to the omniscience of He who transcends all understanding, has a full comprehension of the “Schroedinger’s Cat” premise… and in His mercy, blessed be He, freely chooses to let the “cat” be alive and dead… It depends, to me, upon the choices a free human being makes, as to what becomes of such a soul, but no human has any right to determine such a state for any other human.

    I do not believe that any human being, whether or not seen as “divine” by some, or many, is required to atone or make reparation for the sins of any other human being… and, obviously, I do not regard Reb Y’shua as G-d in human clothing…

    To me, and, obviously I can only speak for myself, each human, apart from the sad individuals seemingly without conscience, has within her/him the capacity of doing what’s supposed to be done, or abstaining from what decent humanity says quite loudly what should be avoided or just not done…

    For certain people, with obviously vested interests, to say that some are destined for either Paradise or some burning hell, either for eternity, is the height of presumption. Some call themselves “Calvinists,” in the Christian oevre… others claim other labels…

    For myself, I consider such a mindset as presumption, arrogance, and greed…

  • Personally, I think the solution is to recognize that 90% of those categories and related discussions are totally off the Bible’s radar.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    So.
    God created some people to be damned by him and some people to be saved from him ahead of time. Although God created some people to be saved (from himself), he nevertheless required that the right to save those created to be saved (from himself) be purchased from himself by himself (Jesus being God) before it was permitted to save them (from himself), and in order to save (from himself) the ones he had decided on in advance would be saved, he purchased from himself the right to save everybody (from himself), but then only exercised the right to save everyone (from himself) he had purchased from himself in respect of those he had already decided in advance before he created would be saved (again, from himself)?
    Have I got this right?
    And this is required by logic and the action of an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God?

  • Starla Anne Lowry

    If the Bible was examined on this subject, they can see that no one is born to be saved or born to be lost, but the Bible does mention the elect (the “chosen”). Yes, God has chosen his people, but it is based on the fact that God KNOW who will come to him for salvation and who will not. That has nothing to do with being predestined. Everyone has a free choice. 1st Peter 1:2 (KJV) is one of the scriptures that mention this. There are others — check it out. Another scripture is Romans 8:28-30.

  • Mike Jones

    To ” hope and pray universal salvation turns out to be true” while not believing in it seems discordant to me. I do believe in the universal salvation of all mankind based on the grace of God alone. To hope and pray that something is true, while trying to reconcile that hope with an intellectual argument that says otherwise and betrays the beautiful God that you love, seems pointless. God wins in the end. If “God wins” means he has to send me, or my kids, or my neighbors, off to some eternal damnation when it’s well within the scope and power of this God who is Love to do otherwise, then “to hell” with that God. I don’t know that God, and I don’t WANT to know that God. God looks like Jesus. I’ll hang out with, and pledge my allegiance and entrust my life to, Jesus.

  • But you’ve just said that ‘the Lamb…takes away the sins of the world’. As far as I know, that’s in the Bible. According to that logic, then, those ‘sins’ are gone, removed, forgotten, lost, whatever you would call it. And so, if they are indeed gone, then what is there left to damn someone for?

  • Great post. Shows up these arguments for what they are. Hey, I love your test-card avatar too; I had a mega-crush on that girl when I was seven years old :) This is what she looks like now, apparently:
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a84e702670744f39be9d10f10d5e1f8ed8ccfef951897c6e7180768e7556b610.jpg

  • gimpi1

    I think anytime you set up walls, anytime you say the people on this side but not that side of the wall, you open the door for the criteria of what side of the wall you’ll find yourself on to be racial, to be based on physical appearance. One of the things people like to do best is splitting up into cliques, and we’ve used appearance as a reason for clique-membership well, forever.

    To me, it appears that Calvinism was an attempt to address the problem of the injustice of the classic “salvation” story. You know, the idea that people who never heard “the message” or the ones that got a poor messenger (we’ve all seen salespeople who couldn’t sell iced tea in the Mohave Desert) will suffer horribly for something that is obviously not their fault. However, instead of resolving the injustice, it made it worse. It turned God into a moral monster and demands that people become monsters, too. I’ve literally heard Calvinist believers say that God deliberately created most of humanity to deliberately torture them for all eternity “for His glory,” and that they believe that they must celebrate that.

    Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

  • Paul Schlitz Jr.

    Here’s another verse Ben, that really made me exit the Reformed juggernaut, Hebrews 2:9 stating that Christ tasted death for every man

  • Jason75

    Remember that “the lamb” hearkens back to the sin offerings made by the Hebrews for their nation. Anyone could become a Jew by accepting the Mosaic law (and men being circumcised) and there were also “righteous Gentiles” who kept most of the law but didn’t take the step of full commitment, and the sin offerings covered all of them.

    Becoming a Christian through faith (trust/allegiance/loyalty) to Christ avails a person of that offering, the one perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world, making the potential effectual. Anyone can become a Christian.

    The error probably lies in the idea of penal substitution. I prefer the honour debt model, where we, by rejecting God’s authority, dishonour God creating a honour debt nearly infinite in value (because his personal honour is the greatest), meriting shame of an equal degree. Jesus, being equal in honour to the Father, by experiencing the systematic degradation ritual of the cross, created a pool of shame sufficient to cover all the dishonour humans deserve. However, like money in the bank, this cannot be used to pay our debt unless we access it through allegiance to Christ, and because he has paid our debts we are obligated to him as bond slaves.

  • I think all such theorizing is just as arbitrary as Calvinism, honestly.

  • Once again, I’m no longer a Calvinist, but this distinction does not have anything to do with race. There are probably racist Calvinists just like there are racist anybodies, but it’s not a direct consequence of the theology.

    For Calvinists, no one can make a distinction between individual people about who is elect and who is not. Those who accept Jesus are elect, and those who don’t aren’t. There is no way for anyone to make this determination and, in many ways, is functionally exactly the same as Arminianism.

    What is different is the metaphysic behind how this happens. Calvinists ascribe the phenomenon fundamentally to God’s free choice from the foundation of the world and man’s free choice is a consequence, and Arminians ascribe the phenomenon to man’s free choice in conversion and God’s election is a consequence.

    Both systems to me are equally pointless, but it would be a mistake to say that Calvinists make some kind of practical distinction between types of people as their definition of “the elect.”

  • 1 Peter 1:2 does not say God’s election is based on knowing who will come to Him for salvation, and Romans 8:28-30 does not mention election at all.

  • ashpenaz

    This form of Calvinism is bad, but there are problems with Christus Victor. God lets us suffer for a long time under the dominion of the Powers until He gets around to defeating them on the Cross. Why allow the Powers to exist at all? Thanks for suffering with us, but I’d really rather You didn’t create the Powers that are causing me to suffer. You say you didn’t create the Powers? Then where did they come from? And why do You make it so that my suffering doesn’t end until I somehow give my life to Jesus? When, exactly, are You going to destroy my particular suffering?

    I think it’s simple, albeit counterintuitive, to believe that God did not create the Powers, and that sin, disease, and death only exist in human minds. If we can learn to see the world as God sees it, we would see that our suffering is just a shadow with no power. The Kingdom of God is present now, and there is no sin, sickness, or death in the Kingdom.

    Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet
    been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him,
    for we will see Him as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

  • Ron McPherson

    ” God has chosen his people, but it is based on the fact that God KNOW who will come to him for salvation and who will not. That has nothing to do with being predestined. ”

    How is that not predestination if it’s a foregone conclusion that person will not come to God for salvation and yet God is sovereign? How does that person have free will if their fate has already been determined? If God knows beforehand that person will not come to him, then why create them? The only way that person has free will is if their fate hangs in the balance based on their decision. How can God be both sovereign and not culpable at the same time?

  • Ron McPherson

    Exactly. It is anchored on the basis that Jesus’ sacrifice is enough. If he died for each and every person then each and every person is ultimately saved. Otherwise, Jesus’ offering would be insufficient on its own terms. So if a good Calvinist is not a universalist, then the only explanation is that ultimately Jesus in fact did not die for all. Because if he did, but yet not all are saved, then Jesus’ sacrifice is only effective when man makes it so. Several years ago I migrated to Calvinism because I couldn’t make God’s sovereignty work any other way. But I could never accept double predestination so I was more or less a 4.5 point Calvinist you might say. Now I don’t know what I am.

  • Ron McPherson

    Yep. Actually if God is all loving, all powerful and all knowing (all three), then the only thing that makes sense, logically speaking, is universalism. If God is any two of the three (not all three), then one can logically understand how some could be damned. But I’m wrong a lot too.

  • Ron McPherson

    Ya know, this actually made sense. Now I’m really scared

  • Ron McPherson

    Party pooper

  • Ron McPherson

    J.Vernon McGee once wrote that there are the whosoever wills and the whosoever wont’s. Also read in another place where someone said they’ve never met a Calvinist who did not consider themselves to be one of the elect.

  • John

    What do you think Jesus meant when he said that Capernaum would be worse off than the people of Sodom, and that it would not go to Heaven? (Matthew 11:23)

  • The question isn’t whether Calvinism is about race. The question is whether some Calvinists see it as allowing them to discriminate on the basis of race or religion or other characteristic.

  • John

    Why not post some verses from the other side, like Ephesians 1:4-14:

    “4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

    So God chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him, and it was according to His will. So, if God chose every person who is to be saved before the earth was even created, then that means He also knew exactly who Jesus’s death would atone for.

    About those specific words that you say Calvinists have to redefine: Take a look at the phrase, “Ford makes cars for the whole word.” Is there anything wrong with that statement? No, not really. Most people wouldn’t have a problem with it. Does that mean that Ford makes cars for literally every person in the world? No, of course not. It just means Ford’s reach is across the entire world. We understand that phrases can have non-literal meanings. This applied in Jesus’s time just as much as it does today.

    So, no, it doesn’t take some crazy redefinition to come to an understanding that fits right alongside the Calvinist understanding. I think the much greater challenge is in how you need to reinterpret entire passages to fit your understanding.

  • John

    How do you interpret Matthew 11:23 where Jesus specifically says that some people will not go to Heaven?

  • John

    Calvinism is certainly not an response to people who’ve never heard of the gospel. It’s a direct argument from scripture, and has been since John Calvin.

  • Bones

    Rubbish.

    It’s a medieval invention which flowed out of Medieval Catholicism.

  • Matthew

    Lutheran :-)?

  • Ron McPherson

    Probably just Christian ; )

  • I have never heard of such a thing, but I suppose it could happen. Anyone can find reasons to justify their prejudices.

  • Some people will not be in the Kingdom. Some people will die the second death which is total destruction not eternal suffering because man is not like angels in that respect. This is the oldest lie in the bible from Satan to Adam and Eve.

  • ashpenaz

    Let’s say that the purpose of the Cross was not a legal transaction of any kind between God or Satan or The Powers or anything. Let’s say the purpose of the Cross was to reveal that sin, disease, and death are illusions. God didn’t create them, and they don’t exist. Jesus shows us the reality of what actually exists in His Resurrection. The Fall was not the creation of evil, of adding something to the universe that God didn’t create. The Fall was man’s choice to believe there was something other than Good. The Fall only happened in man’s perception of Creation–man chose to see shadows and darkness in a world of Light. Salvation is returning our thoughts to God’s thoughts–removing sin, sickness and death from our minds the way a sunbeam removes shadows.

    Because the Resurrection is a revelation of a truth that has always been true, salvation belongs to everyone–it’s a matter of accepting this Truth.

  • “No, I’m not a universalist (though I hope and pray universal salvation turns out to be true.)” I like it. I hope that all believers pray for and hope for universal salvation.

  • Paul Schlitz Jr.

    My personal view is that God the Father was so impressed with what Jesus the Son did on our behalf that he forgives everybody. You cannot limit Jesus’ atonement. Now soteriology is another matter

  • That’s assuming that “us” means “we specific individuals reading the book of Ephesians” and not “we a community of people who are about to suffer with Christ.”

    Paul’s language here reflects not only Deuteronomy’s presentation of Israel as selected out of the nations of the earth, but more specifically, Isaiah’s election of the Servant (for instance, 41:8-9, 43:10, 44:1). If Paul is carrying through the Old Testament idea of election, he is addressing those early faith communities as those chosen among the nations to be God’s witnesses, specifically a people who will suffer in order to experience vindication.

    I’d be interested to hear your evidence that Ephesians 1:4 is best understood as God choosing specific individuals from the foundation of the world as opposed to God choosing a people to serve a particular purpose in the world. When the Old Testament talks about God electing Israel, surely it means that God has chosen the people Israel for a distinct purpose and not that God has chosen specific individuals to be Israelites.

  • He means that Capernaum will be destroyed.

  • I always thought this explanation didn’t make a lot of sense. God has to peer into the future, see what you’re going to do, then run back into the past to ordain your salvation from the foundation of the world.

  • Matthew 11:23 does not say some people will not go to Heaven. It says that the city of Capernaum will not ascend into the heavens but be brought down to Hades, comparing the city unfavorably with Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom – all cities God destroyed. The spiritual fate of individuals is not even addressed.

  • It is most assuredly not a “direct argument” from Scripture. You may think it articulates truths found in Scripture, but it is definitely not some mild restatement of the Bible.

  • Mike Jones

    Jesus uses hyperbole and extremism, a common form of exhortation in 1st century Jewish culture, in in his critiques of those cities, in essence contrasting their hardheartedness with the commonly known story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and other cities that they considered God to have passed judgement on. He is not condemning the populace of Capernaum to everlasting damnation, but warning them to pay attention to Jesus and his message: His witness to the love of the Father, and His miracles that attest to the truth of His witness, otherwise, they will miss out on the life that the Father has for them. They will not achieve heaven (The Kingdom of God that Jesus came to usher in), but instead will wind up with the dead (missing the Kingdom altogether). I think Jesus is not commenting on afterlife affairs, but affairs of life, right then and there, not the eternal destination of their souls.

  • John

    You may have well think it’s totally wrong, but the argument is from scripture. Calvinists don’t appeal to outside sources when presenting their theology.

  • John

    It seems pretty far fetched to totally separate the fate of a city and the people who live there since the city is nothing more than the people who make it up. Sodom was destroyed because of the Sodomites, Tyre because of the people in Tyre, etc.

  • Every theology makes its argument from Scripture.

  • Yes, those people died when the city was destroyed. The people in Capernaeum would presumably also die when the city was destroyed. What’s “far fetched” is to take a series of examples of cities God has destroyed and say what Jesus -really- meant was that the people listening to him would go to Hell.

  • Ron McPherson

    I’m still amazed how Rob Bell was essentially categorized as a false teacher by some heavyweight evangelicals for merely HOPING for universal salvation. Like how ironic is that lol?

  • John

    Not necessarily, many bring in emotional appeals of what they think God would probably do if he were, say, loving.

  • Ron McPherson

    ” I think the much greater challenge is in how you need to reinterpret entire passages to fit your understanding.”

    Kinda like how so many redefine the word ‘death’ or ‘perish’. Instead of it actually meaning, well, death and destruction, people redefine it to instead mean being scorched alive forever.

  • The early church was Jewish and had largely a Jewish mindset concerning this age and the age to come. Jesus was Jewish and preached abut the coming age and that this age was to be lived as if in the next, in preparation for it. The early church, before the Roman side took over, believed in a universal reconciliation of all creation which is also a Jewish thought. As for what a Jew can do with the whole “Jesus question,” I would recommend ditching pretty much everything Evangelicals (and some of the Progressive) and start from scratch. Why, because he’s yours. He was a Jew in a particularly important time in Jewish history, just before the destruction of the temple and he says some pretty helpful things.

    I think you can come up with some deep spiritual lessons from his life and death and his teaching. The concept of scapegoat, living a sacrificial life (cruciform), the dangers of marrying religious power and political power, etc. A major hurdle to face in studying Jesus is that the vast majority of Western Orthodoxy has been filtered through the Roman branch of Christendom. Anti-Semitism was rife in the Latin early church fathers, hence I suspect the appeal of eternal torment for those pesky Jews as well as anyone else Tertullian or St. Augustine disagreed with. But this was not the views of the early church for at least the first 150 years.

    Nor is the Reformed branch of Christendom any better. When the reformers broke from Catholicism they dropped a few things but left the toxic nature of the religion largely intact. Some books I will be reading this summer:
    A Jewish Understanding of the New Testament
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1594730482/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=2ZTDHPQ8NPIZS&coliid=I7JCOJKKD8682

    Modern Jews Engage the New Testament
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1683365488/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=2ZTDHPQ8NPIZS&coliid=I2LGN0JW28AD37

    What I am finding in my own spiritual journey is that my over-all world view is becoming more Jewish as Jesus bids me achieve a greater love and appreciation for all people of every tribe, nation and faith.

  • It is strange how hair triggered people get regarding theology and lose sight of heart and intention. I think so many Christians are just itching to find a target for their anger not even realizing that they are angry people. How could it be bad to WANT to see everyone in Heaven.

  • Ron McPherson

    I think a large part of it stems from how they view the scriptures. When one elevates it to worship status such that it practically becomes another member of the Trinity to them, then ironically it becomes more important to them than people themselves, made in the image of God. I think this happens without people even realizing they’re doing it.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    Thank you, good sir, for a well-considered, well-thought-out and well-written comment.

    There are some who frequent Dr. Ben’s blog who’ve come to know me, and have watched my, if not spiritual journey, my cautious venture into describing myself. (Herm, if you’re around, dear man, miss you much! *smile*)

    So, I do hope that the regulars, as well as our estimable host will forbear my every-couple-of-years apologia pro vita sua.

    I was born as a “whoops,” 60 years ago, with a sperm-donor who disavowed any responsibility for making me, and an apparently seriously intelligent woman, who saw herself as such, and, as such, knew that she had no wherewithal to provide for me…

    As the “daddy-dearest” was a seriously heavy drinker, I was born with conditions related to fetal alcohol effect… when daddy-dearest drinks heavily prior to conception, the effects are more subtle than fetal alcohol syndrome. Hence, I was born on the highest functioning end of the autistic spectrum, and with major depressive disorder, as well as a few treatable physical issues; would that medical science have known then what they know now.

    I was adopted at birth by a wonderful and loving couple… My very ethnic appearing Jewish father, and my Okie Southern Baptist Black-Irish Mama.

    Long-story-short, I lost my beloved Papa in ’04, and my beloved Mama in ’15… I have adopted the faith of my father, grandfather, uncle, and generations going back 3,000 years… That I was not born into the bloodline makes no difference, as I was adopted and accepted into the mishpocheh as lovingly as I have adopted them… and I’m 60, and still, always learning.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    I spent the latter 12 years of a 14-year marriage heavily involved in the American-style Evangelical Protestant oeuvre (love that word!), spent a decade in “Jesus Rock,” gospel (as in Aretha, and so forth) and other broadcasting, as well as blowing sax, playing keys and being a percussionist/drummer for various genres of religious performing groups; I spent a few years working for the Eternal Word Television Network as an overnight master-control operator and voiceover artist…

    I did not come to my observance of Judaism, in the fashion that I observe such, out of ignorance of what the Evangelical, Roman, or Eastern observances of Christianity… I still retain much respect for so many things, too many to list on a blog comment-thread…

    I just have found that I am content, happy, and meditative in the path which I’ve found myself walking, is all.

  • That’s a really good point! A type of tunnel vision ensues. I have to say as therapist, I’d take one more step back. My experience is that people wrap their theology around their dysfunction. So I would wonder what makes someone need to elevate scripture in such a way? My hunch is that there is a great need for a black and white rule book (substitute for real relationship with God) due to perfectionism and fear of failure. I imagine there could be many reasons but this hunch comes from working with a few people who have had that problem.

  • So glad for you, and thankful for your loving adoptive parents. Thanks for sharing something so personal. I can relate to still learning. I’m 66 and starting over so to speak, with my spiritual journey. God may be the same but my knowledge of Him is growing. God bless.

  • John

    Which verses are you specifically referring to? I know the word death is used for many other things than actual ceasing to exist. People are called dead in their sin, for example.

  • AskCarter

    The moment I understood you didn’t have to know you were a Christian to accept him as your savior, regardless of where or how you were raised changed my entire perspective on the redeeming grace of Jesus. It was at a fall women’s retreat and during a discussion on personal transformative experiences both within and outside of the context of religion. A young mother told a story about how she was introduced to Jesus. She had spent the first five years of her life in a chldren’s group home before being adopted. Her adoptive parents were Christians who had put a children’s Bible story book on her shelf. Then she stopped time and said that when they got to the story of Jesus allowing the children to come to him, she didn’t want to turn the page. When her mother asked her why she said it was because it had a picture of her friend. When she couldn’t tell her mother his name, she was asked how she could have a friend and not know his name. She replied by explaining that at bedtime you can’t talk, but every time she was sad or scared her friend came and sat quietly at her side, and she knew that’s what friends do. I no longer saw the narrow gate in the way I’d been taught. I believe it is meant for those who fail to see Christ in every human being. Jesus by any other – or no – name.

  • Ron McPherson

    Pretty much throughout the entire bible. John 3:16, Romans 6:23, etc. Jesus was clear that only those in him will live forever (John 6:58; 11:26) but many instead believe that ALL will live forever (some will have a good life in heaven, the others a really bad life in hell). So in order to fit that theology, the word death doesn’t really mean death. Gehenna is rendered as hell, hades (the grave) is rendered as hell, etc

  • Ron McPherson

    Yeah it just comes across as intellectually dishonest (not that that is anyone’s intention), especially to those who are skeptical anyway. I think we Christians come up with stuff like that because we feel the need to somehow defend God when theological tensions arise. I was guilty of this for years, so I don’t want to come across as throwing rocks. But if God is sovereign, then why do people go to hell (the eternal conscious torment version)? So to make it work, soft hearted non calvinists allege that God doesn’t send anyone there, but rather people send themselves there (I’ve actually heard that one multiple times). And so skeptics are like ‘What’? No wonder so many think the whole lot of us are crazies. I think we make up a lot more ground as Christians if we could just start from scratch by pretty much tossing traditionally grounded theology and instead just honestly grappling with the text. This need to somehow biblically systematize everything such that every word must somehow tie together in turn forces the need to read theology ONTO the text rather than just letting the text speak for itself. So to make apparent contradictions work, we change the meaning of words themselves instead of just stepping back and saying, wait a minute, this is a different author speaking to another group of people around a different subject in a different setting at a different time. But instead, we treat the Bible as if every author sat down at the same time and wrote a 66 book volume to just us in the 21st century.

  • Matthew

    When´s your book coming out Ron :-) :-)?

  • Matthew

    Someone close to me who is still (like me) moving slowly away from conservative evangelicalism says that the black and white, nice and tidy, theological paradigms and culture of this group is very attractive to many people.

    Easy answers … no room for real critical thinking.

  • Many?

    John Calvin quoted Cicero constantly. The Puritans regularly appealed to both reason and nature as support for their Calvinism. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a Calvinist talk about “the freedom of God.” The Westminster Confession of Faith begins with describing God as the “fount of all being.”

    You seem to be under the impression that Calvinism only comes from Scripture whereas every other theology is a collection of extrabiblical arguments, and that’s so self-evidently false as to be literally ridiculous. EVERY theology musters up a combination of proof texts, logical extrapolations of varying quality, appeals to God’s character, etc. Calvinism has no objectively firmer grounding than Arminianism.

  • Tim

    “Yeah it just comes across as intellectually dishonest (not that that is anyone’s intention), especially to those who are skeptical anyway. I think we Christians come up with stuff like that because we feel the need to somehow defend God when theological tensions arise.”

    Reminds me of a quote I saw recently: “Why do we believe stuff that isn’t true?” “Because it’s easier than admitting we don’t know”.

  • Tim

    Yes correct, because this is what atonement means; sin-covering or reconciliation. There is literally nothing left to be damned for, Christ has covered it and reconciled God and man.

  • Ron McPherson

    I’m merely on Phil’s coattails ; )

  • Tim

    No, sorry. That doesn’t make any sense. If the atoned for can be damned, then there was no point. Because humanity being in that state was the whole purpose of the atonement to begin with.

    The judgment of which you speak was indeed passed at the crucifixion, and the judgment pronounced was “not guilty”, meaning precisely salvation for everyone. “And when I am lifted up from the earth (crucified) I will draw (Gr. drag) all to me.” “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”.
    Jesus cannot be rightly called the saviour of the world if he only saved some of it.

  • Yes, when you really begin to explore this tension, the need for concrete simple answers seems to be rooted in anxiety avoidance.

  • John

    There’s a difference between pulling in alternative things in addition to Biblical support and using alternative sources in contradiction to, or in absence of, Biblical support.

    As I said, people are welcome to disagree with the Calvinistic interpretation. That’s fine, and there are lots of very smart and Godly people who do so. My point is simply that every position held by Calvinism will have a Biblical basis to turn to.

    As a side note, you also have groups like Catholicism who appeal to tradition, while fully admitting that scripture is silent, on quite a few dogmas (like the immaculate conception of Mary).

  • John

    Matthew 18:8 – “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.”

    Matthew 25:46 – “46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.””

    The idea of eternal punishment is also present in the Bible.

    Do you deny that the word ‘death’ has lots of meanings in the Bible that don’t refer to actual death? Paul says that our body is already dead because of sin, and that we were previously dead in our trespasses. Clearly these don’t mean literal death. (Romans 8:10, Ephesians 2:1)

  • John

    So what city goes to Heaven separate from the people within that city?

  • John

    Can you explain how a nameless, faceless group can be chosen for individual things, like adoption as sons, without any reference to individuals?

    People are adopted, not anonymous groups.

  • Scifigal777

    What’s interesting is that Jude 1:7 says Sodom was destroyed with eternal fire but Ezekiel 16:23 basically says Sodom will be restored. So somehow a city gets punished with “eternal fire” but ends up restored? Not only does that put a chink in the ECT view, but also in the annaihilationist view.

  • John

    That seems to suggest that there’s a difference between spiritual/eternal, and physical/temporary results. Israel was the chosen nation of God, even if they were physically destroyed and taken into captivity, but in the same way Sodom is damned with eternal fire while also being physically and temporarily allowed out of captivity.

    It’s good to note that Sodom is released from captivity in Ezekiel in order to shame Israel, not because of some desire by God to bless Sodom. There is no promise of permanent restoration.

  • Scifigal777

    That never happened though. It was destroyed and never restored. Unless you think God’s going to restore it just to destroy it again, which doesn’t make any sense.

  • Tim

    Plus, there is a misunderstanding of election here. Election is not to salvation, but to a specific role or function. Part of the purpose of the elect is to help bring and restore the rest of creation into the fullness of salvation; it’s not a private country club.

  • John

    Ezekiel says that they will be released from captivity, not that the city will be restored. Also note, as I said, that they were released from captivity in order to shame the Israelites, not because God desired to restore Sodom.

  • Scifigal777

    53 “‘However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them, 54 so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in giving them comfort. 55 And your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to what they were before; and you and your daughters will return to what you were before.”

    Sounds like the city being restored to me.

    Those two reasons aren’t mutually exclusive. Paul in Romans actually writes with a similar theme of God saving the Gentiles to provoke jealously in the Jews. But that doesn’t mean that’s the only or even primary reason.

  • John

    The NT gives us lots of other reasons for the saving of the Gentiles, but the OT does not give us any other reasons for the bringing of Sodom out of captivity. It specifically says that they are being brought out “so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed.” That’s the explicit reason given.
    About the restoration? How do you we know whether the city of Sodom was temporarily restored? There’s no promise of permanent restoration.

  • Scifigal777

    As I’ve mentioned before, it makes no sense for the restoration to be temporary. If your house was destroyed and you said you were going to restore it how would it make any sense for me to claim you’re going to destroy it again?

    Do you think God loves all Gentiles EXCEPT Sodom?

  • “My point is simply that every position held by Calvinism will have a Biblical basis to turn to.”

    Yes, just like any heresy since time immemorial could prooftext their position as well. I guess I’m still trying to figure out what you think is so distinctive about Calvinism. If it’s that, “We can find Scripture to support our assertions,” I mean, that’s like everybody.

    That’s a very interesting assertion you made about Catholics. It’s interesting that the actual Catholic church seems to think Scripture supports the immaculate conception:

    https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/the-immaculate-conception-in-scripture

    Maybe before you go spouting off on what other groups believe and how they defend themselves, you should actually hear it from them instead of saying what your pastor told you. Talk about appeals to tradition.

  • RonnyTX

    Benjamin, thank you for your great post here! :-) As for myself, I was brought up from birth, in a Calvinist teaching/believing church. When I was 16teen years old, God let me know I was lost. Then God directed me to a man, who simply read a scripture passage to me and as he did, I knew God was there as well and God who was holy. God showed me my sin and led me to repentance and just as soon as I had repented, the love of God began to pour out on me and God put a picture in my mind of three crosses. And I knew on that center cross was Jesus Christ and that he was there for me, there taking all of my sins upon himself. I believed God and I prayed and thanked God, for what He had just done for me. :-) And an outcome of this, was God giving me the great desire, that every person have the same type of relationship with God,as I then had. :-) God gave me that; but my local church taught me, that such was not to be. And I am just so glad, that 6 or 7 years ago now, God showed me the great truth, that Jesus Christ is indeed the Saviour of the whole world and that taking in everyone, from Adam on down. :-) One of the best webpages I’ve seen on this so far, is at tentmaker.org.

  • John

    The Catholic church argues that the Bible supports the church’s position of the immaculate conception, but they do not hold that it comes directly from scripture. In the words of Catholic Answers, one of the most well known Catholic apologist sites:

    “Since the Immaculate Conception and Assumption are not explicit in Scripture, Fundamentalists conclude that the doctrines are false. Here, of course, we get into an entirely separate matter, the question of sola scriptura, or the Protestant “Bible only” theory. There is no room in this tract to consider that idea. Let it just be said that if the position of the Catholic Church is true, then the notion of sola scriptura is false.” (https://www.catholic.com/tract/immaculate-conception-and-assumption)

    This shouldn’t be surprising since they don’t hold to Sola Scriptura and don’t think all dogma, doctrine, etc. need to be found totally in scripture. They have their position from tradition and go to the Bible to find support for it instead of getting the belief from the scripture. This isn’t even controversial.

    On the other hand, every Calvinist doctrine will have scripture that it is directly based on. Other sources can come alongside the Biblical arguments to provide greater support, but they are not necessary, unlike Catholic dogmas like the immaculate conception or the assumption of Mary.

  • The city isn’t “going to Heaven” anymore than Tyre or Sidon went to Hell.

    The contrast is very clear. Capernaum and Bethsaida expects that they will be exalted, but instead they will be destroyed if they do not repent. This is why they can be compared with Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom. Jesus’ contention is that, if those cities had witnessed what Palestine was witnessing in Jesus, they would have believed and repented and avoided destruction.

    Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom were all cities taken by invading armies, with Sodom having the additional renown of also being destroyed by a rain of fire from the heavens (the sky, I mean, not an eternal spiritual realm, just to be clear since that seems to be throwing you). None of these cities went to Hell. They were conquered and razed – wholly or in part – by invading forces. Sodom is the exception in that we also get some supernatural destruction in as well, but still, it is physically destroyed.

    The obvious meaning here would be that, despite the cities witnessing Jesus believing they will become great, they will actually be destroyed if they do not repent. Otherwise, comparing them to other cities is completely pointless and misleading. The punishment of Tyre isn’t that the individuals all went to Hell whenever they happened to die individually – the punishment of Tyre is that Alexander the Great showed up and wiped out the city and tore down its port.

    Jesus’ example is just nonsensical if your reading is correct.

    “Remember how Tyre was destroyed? Remember how Sidon was destroyed? Remember how Sodom was destroyed? Well, none of that is actually going to happen to you. All of that is a spiritual metaphor for the fact that all of you will eventually, gradually go to Hell as you die through natural processes. Just like th… well, not like any of those cities. But sort of metaphorically.”

  • But he chose that group for adoption.

    It’s like if I said, “I chose to adopt the Kansas City Royals as my children. I have appointed them to play catch with me in my backyard.” The individuals enjoy that benefit (well, I guess benefit is debatable) because they are in that group. I chose the group for a certain thing. If the pitcher decided he didn’t want to be adopted, and he resigned from the Kansas City Royals, he would not be adopted. Because I’m adopting the Royals. I’m not adopting a list of predetermined individuals who just happened to be the Kansas City Royals.

    I chose a people for a status and a task. Your membership in that group determines whether or not you will participate in that status and task. This is precisely how God’s election of Israel works in the Old Testament. God did not elect individuals to be Israelites; He elected Israel. If you belonged to Israel, you were in the elected group. If you didn’t, you didn’t. If you decided you had it with Israel and left them and became an Assyrian citizen, you were not elect because you were no longer a member of the people God elected. If you were Assyrian and decided to get circumcised and hook up with Israel, you were elect because you were a member of the people God elected.

    If you think “us” in Ephesians 1 means, “Specific individuals through space and time that just so happens to include me and you guys,” I’d like to hear why this scheme of election and appointment to be a witness in the world varies so radically from God’s election of Israel.

    When Paul tells the Ephesian church that they have been elected, adopted, etc. this is good news, but it also involves a path of suffering. If someone converts later, they will belong to this group appointed for this purpose. If someone leaves the church and turns away from the faith, they won’t be.

    The only reason this wouldn’t be a very natural way of understanding Paul’s letter is if we’re just Hell bent (no pun intended) on Paul’s letter including -us- as individuals and wanting to make the rest of Calvinism work.

  • John

    You’re switching around what I said. I didn’t say the verse shows that the people will go to Hell. I said that it shows the people won’t go to Heaven. Although related, these are not the same point. An annihilationist could make the same argument.
    Note the focus on future judgement. The verses say that the cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom will be better off at that time than the cities who refused to repent after seeing Jesus’s miracles and hearing his words. So we are clearly not just talking about the physical destruction of those cities. They’ve already been destroyed, yet Jesus is talking about a future judgement.

  • John

    But you can’t adopt a group as sons. That’s not how adoption works. You must adopt each individual within that group. The usage of the idea of adoption makes it inherently personal.

    The big difference between the Israelite election and the church’s election is in the basis of membership. An Israelite was an Israelite whether they accepted or rejected God. God held them to the standard of the chosen people whether they wanted to or not. A child born a Jew was part of the group, no matter what. They did not have the ability to join or leave it.

    On the other hand, the church is made by creed, not by blood. We are a member of the church based on our individual belief. We enter into the group on an individual basis.

  • “The Catholic church argues that the Bible supports the church’s position of the immaculate conception, but they do not hold that it comes directly from scripture.”

    You mean, like the doctrine of the Trinity? Or the idea of an eternal decree? Or virtually anything the Remonstrants ever wrote down?

    Seriously, dude, just get over it. I know you want to have some privileged epistemic basis for your own views. Who wouldn’t want that? You’re just going to have to live with the fact that Calvinism is a system that does not come from direct quotations of Scripture, but is a theological interpretation of things contained in Scripture, and this is exactly what everybody else does. It has no epistemic superiority to any other theological position.

  • John

    What non-Biblical source is relied upon in order to establish the Trinity?

    This isn’t even controversial when it comes to the Catholic church. They don’t even pretend to hold to Sola Scriptura. They see tradition, infallible papal proclamation, etc. as good foundations of doctrine.

  • Yes, he is. And at the time Jesus is talking, Tyre and Sidon are both cruising along fine as cities. Sodom isn’t, but the land of Sodom is, which is what Matthew says (ge sodomon). At some point in the future, another judgement is coming, and it will go better for those other places than Capernaum and Bethsaida, who will be subject to a worse fate if they do not repent – specifically because those areas have witnessed Jesus’ miracles and heard his message while the other areas have not. This is Jesus’ whole point – people much wickeder than they will be better off when Rome comes rolling through.

  • John

    Why do you think the “day of judgement” is a physical attack of the Romans?
    The phrase is used to mean the last judgement or final judgement in other places in Matthew. Matthew 12:46, for example, has a similar line of thought. It says that the people of Nineveh and the Queen of the South will both condemn the people who heard and didn’t repent. These are specific people who existed at a specific time. So it can’t be referring to general places that will be attacked or conquered by Rome.

  • Ron McPherson

    Well I don’t see unending conscious torment in any of those verses. Matt 18:8 says the fire itself is eternal, but metaphorically this seems to be no different than the OT usage (i.e. the fires in Palestine are not still burning).

    Matt 25:16 contrasts life with punishment (the key word there for me is life).

    And Paul does speak of being dead in our sins, but I take that to mean, yes, a literal death, as in it being sin’s wages (Rom 6:23).

    In John 8:24 Jesus says, “…unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins .”

    When we bring a predetermined eternal conscious torment view onto the text, we tend to forget that life means life and death means death.

  • John

    So how do you interpret the phrase “eternal punishment?” Note that this is in context of the final judgement, not our current life on earth. This is a future “eternal punishment” and “eternal life.”

    Also, Ephesians 2 states that we were already dead in our sins:

    “2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

    In your view, how were we literally dead?

  • Matthew

    What do you think eternal fire means Ron?

  • Ron McPherson

    Yes Eph 2 indicates we were already dead. I take that to mean without Christ, our fate is already sealed because of sin. With Christ we will be raised to newness of life. I could be wrong. That’s happened before.

    Regarding eternal punishment, to me that again means death, as in the punishment cannot be altered.

    For me, I believe the biblical evidence is overwhelming that only those in God have life. But the reality is that those with an ECT view and universalists both can point to select passages to support their views as well, so I get that. I just think it’s easier to take Jesus at his word when he says only those who believe upon him have eternal life. It would seem to me that if unending conscious torment awaits most everyone, he would have left no doubt about every time he opened his mouth. Same with Paul and the other biblical writers. In fact, I can’t think of a single instance from scripture where the threat of hell was ever used as a conversion tool in bringing someone to Christ.

  • Ron McPherson

    Eternal comes from the Greek aionios, which in its purest sense conveys the concept of perpetual I suppose. In some ways I equate it to the use of unquenchable (asbestos) as in Matthew 3:12. Even though the fire of judgement is ‘unquenchable’, the chaff itself is burned up. In other words, it’s the fire itself that never ceases. But I think it’s important to understand the OT uses as well. Fiery judgment was deemed unquenchable upon Jerusalem (in Jeremiah) but yet those fires are not still burning today. So it would seem that unquenchable conveys the sense of the destruction event being unalterable rather than unceasing.

  • Now *that’s* what I call Good News :)

  • John

    Wait a second, I thought death means death? He doesn’t say we were going to die, but that we were already dead.

  • Richard Rosser

    However unfair the concept of election appears—in the end it appears to be more fair than any other alternative. Some say salvation is contingent upon man’s response to Christ’s offer of salvation—-but all do not get the same opportunity, are not subject to the same influences. Some say—it all depends on how well we respond to the light we have—then let’s put babies to death before they have the opportunity to refuse the light. Election is a mystery—but it puts the whole matter of salvation in the hands of a just and loving God. Who can improve upon this?

  • You seem to know a lot about how adoption could and couldn’t work in first century Ephesus. Personally, I don’t know a lot about it.

    What I do know is that my business partner befriended a poor, single father in Ethiopia in his travels there and, one day, offered to adopt all the man’s sons, which he did and does. I’ll tell him that adoption doesn’t work that way according to you, but he may beg to differ. The United States seemed to be ok with it, too. Note, he adopted all the siblings in that family. He did not go around looking for individual kids to adopt and, lo and behold, they just happened to be in the same family. Their individual destinies were tied to their collective identity, just like Israel, just like the Church.

    Ok, God did not elect Israelites. He did not pick and choose people to become Israelites. He elected Israel.

    Most commonly, a person was born into that identity and stayed there, but even that was not the final word on the subject. Gentiles could become proselytes, and ethnic Jews could become unfaithful to YHWH. In fact, it is the very phenomenon that Paul relies on to explain how God is still faithful to His promises to Israel even though so many Jews rejected Jesus – not all are Israel who are of Israel. In fact, several penalties in the Old Testament laws involve being cast out of the community and/or being killed.

    But whether we enter the group on an individual basis or not, that doesn’t change the fact that God has a plan for the group, and you are either a part of it or not. Sure, pack up and leave the Ephesian church, and you will not be a member of the group God has appointed to suffer and be vindicated. It’s not like suffering and glory will follow you around because God predestined you as an individual from all time for suffering and vindication. As far as Paul’s letter is concerned, if you are a faithful Ephesian believer, then you will participate in the suffering of the Son and consequent glorification. If you aren’t, you won’t. I don’t know why this seems so outlandish to you.

  • I believe aionios has the meaning “age,” more like our English era, a period of time. It does not have the connotation of eternal. Fire, “pur” in the NT is the root we get purify and pure from and does not signify torture but purifying. In the context of purifying metal in fire it didn’t mean the metal was destroyed, but purified. The problem with Strong’s and other language helps is there is an agenda afoot to bolster the orthodox doctrine of hell and eternal torment. We have 2000 years of twisting Scripture to a support Roman belief structure.

  • Your commitment to your own superiority is unreal.

    J: “Calvinism comes straight from the Bible.”
    P: “Everyone’s theology claims that.”
    J: “Yes, but their theology will refer to things outside the Bible.”
    P: “Calvin and Cicero, WCF and scholasticism, Puritans and Ramism, etc.”
    J: “Yes, there are things outside the Bible that they use to support Calvinism, but all of it also has a biblical basis. Not like those Catholics that just make things up.”
    P: “Catholics use the Bible to support their beliefs.”
    J: “Yes, but they only have biblical support. It’s not explicitly taught in the Bible.”
    P: “Lots of things you believe aren’t explicitly taught in the Bible, either, like the Trinity.”
    J: “Yes, but it is only supported by the Bible – nothing else.”

    Your dedicated inconsistency/hypocrisy is genuinely infuriating. Honestly, if a neighbor pointed out that your grass was brown, you’d argue that brown in your country was a shade of green, so all your grass is actually green, but all the other brown grass was brown.

    The Trinity is a doctrine that takes various Scriptures and, through the process of Aristotelian ratiocinations and Platonic definitions of identity concludes that God must be fully one in substance and three in persons. There is no Bible verse that states that God is this. It is a theological construction that tries to make sense of biblical passages that appear to give conflicting information on the subject.

    Calvinism is a set of theological summation points articulated against the students of Arminius, none of which are citations of Scripture. There is no verse that talks about limited atonement or irresistible grace. These are categorizations and collations of truths believed to be present in individual scriptures performed by lawyers-turned-theologians who support their argumentation with healthy doses of appeals to Roman statesmen, scholasticism, and Scottish common sense realism.

    It is exactly as artificial or as genuine as any other theological endeavor that takes Scriptures and tries to make cohesive sense of them at a level of abstraction beyond what the texts themselves actually say. You aren’t special. You are products of a particular zeitgeist just like everyone else. Calvinism did not come from Jesus to his apostles to John Calvin. The fact that you can say, “Well, most of what we say has some reference point in Scripture” puts you in the same boat as David Koresh. Congratulations.

  • Because every example ever given of God’s wrath and judgement in the Bible is expressed as a concrete historical event? Because barring a few truly exceptional supernatural destructions, these are almost exclusively invasions by armies? Because Jesus expected this calamity would be visited on his generation and could be escaped by fleeing to the mountains before it got rolling? Because the language the prophets use to describe these events is uniformly cosmic and grandiose far above and beyond the actual historical events? Because Jesus stands in the line of those prophets? Because Jesus expects that his listeners know what he’s talking about and should respond accordingly? Because there is no example in the Scriptures of God’s judgment being expressed as a spiritual matter? Because Peter said that Pentecost was the event that fulfilled prophecy for what was supposed to happen right before the Day of the Lord? Because Jesus says Elijah has come again?

    I think the real question is, why would anyone think God’s prospective judgement in the first century would be of a radically different character?

    The people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba condemn the Pharisees and scribes who demand a sign because the people of Nineveh repented at the warning of Jonah (who was warning them – that’s right – that their city would be destroyed if they did not repent). The Queen of Sheba also accepts Solomon’s teachings, although we don’t know anything about what specifically they talked about. My guess is, considering Jesus is using her here, it was about the worship of the true God and the outcomes for the nations that oppose His people. These events testify against the generation who won’t believe Jesus.

    I mean, are you suggesting that what Jesus means is that, at some point in the far, far distant future, the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba are going to rise from the dead and proceed to chew out all the people who died during Jesus’ time?

  • Ron McPherson

    Yes, age is probably a better definition. Thanks for clarification

  • Ron McPherson

    I don’t see God confined by chronological increments of time, but whatever. Anyway, I think I’ve discussed why I believe the way I do so you’re certainly free to disagree. I’m ok with that

  • John

    I’m suggesting, like the Jews have believed for thousands of years, that there is a final judgement and that the people of Nineveh and the Queen from the south will be able to condemn the Jews who refused to repent after hearing Jesus and seeing his miracles. Jesus is making the bold statement that even these gentiles have better standing before God than the Jews who refuse Jesus as their Messiah.

    Are you taking these claims of Jesus as being totally allegorical, having no basis in reality?

  • John

    You disagreed with the idea that death might mean something other than literal death, that it was just a twisting of definitions by Calvinists, but then you do the exact same thing when Paul says that we were already dead in our sins. Your hermeneutic doesn’t seem consistent.

  • Bones

    The problem of course is your whole concept of salvation……

  • Ron McPherson

    I do believe death means literal death. The fact that Paul uses the word in a past tense does not negate that fact in my mind because, again, death results from sin but God is not confined by time as if it is on some linear continuum. If you disagree that’s ok.

  • John

    You’re just arbitrarily dismissing it. Paul says WE were dead, not that God was dead. He’s talking about us, people who do live in the time continuum. We were already dead. It’s something that happened and has passed.

  • Ron McPherson

    Um…would it make you feel better if I were to just say, Ok you’re right, when Jesus said the word ‘death’ he really meant instead ‘an infinitely torturous LIFE’ and for some inexplicable reason his original hearers were supposed to understand it that way too. And when he used the word ‘life’ to insure his followers that they would live, he instead meant that EVERYONE (not just them) would live regardless (only that some would have a blissful life, while the rest suffered unending agony); and his original audience, again for some inexplicable reason, would have understood it that way as well.

  • John

    The point is that “death” has a lot more in it than just ceasing to exist. Death can be a state of separation from God, it is a state of corruption and abhorrence, it is a state where God’s wrath rests on you, etc.

    “Death” has a whole lot of meaning that goes WAY beyond disappearing from existence.

    The Bible often uses the terms “life” and “death” in a qualitative way instead of a quantitative way. They can describe how you are living just as much as whether you are actually alive or not alive.

  • Ron McPherson

    “Death can be a state of separation from God, it is a state of corruption and abhorrence, it is a state where God’s wrath rests on you”

    I understand the spiritual connotations. Without Christ we are ‘dead men walking.’ Sin leads to death. By the way I think we’re going in circles.

  • Timothy Weston

    Would the concept of the Elect as described have something to do with the rise of capitalism? They both started in the same place at about the same time.

  • The Jews certainly believed in a final judgement. The question is whether or not they believed that final judgement was of a fundamentally different character than every other event they ever labelled as a judgement in their history.

    I’m taking Jesus’ claims about an imminent future destruction as apocalyptic. That doesn’t mean they have “no basis in reality,” but it does mean they are hyperbolic to get a point across, just like literally (heh) every other use of apocalyptic language inside and outside the biblical writings.

    If you think Jesus’ words are essentially a news report of exactly how things will literally play out, and you think the final judgement is sending everyone to Hell, I encourage you to provide evidence that anyone would have understood it that way. Rabbincal commentary? Old Testament precedent? Intertestamental attestation?

  • Ancient Israel?

  • Sarah ‘Norris’ Hissin

    What resources would you recommend instead of Strongs???

  • Sarah ‘Norris’ Hissin

    I enjoyed your circle and learned a couple things too.. thank you

  • Ron McPherson

    Thanks much!

  • I am not saying to that Strong’s is not useful, but its best to use a wide resource of Biblical helps to avoid confirmation biases. I am probably going to get this book soon:
    https://www.amazon.com/NIV-Exhaustive-Bible-Concordance-Third/dp/0310262933/ref=pd_sim_14_3?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0310262933&pd_rd_r=4QV7ZJS8NB7YS80XK7Z7&pd_rd_w=jzr8s&pd_rd_wg=R8v51&psc=1&refRID=4QV7ZJS8NB7YS80XK7Z7
    My Greek knowledge Has severely atrophied over the last 35 years and am looking forward to getting back into it. There are online resources as well. The internet is really a game-changer.

  • Sarah ‘Norris’ Hissin

    I added these books to my Amazon cart… excited!!

  • Dabney11

    What does “fair” have to do with it. If God is “fair”, then we, as sinners, go to hell. I don’t want justice or fairness. I prefer God’s mercy . Seems Corey is a selective reader and still has not found the 100 or so verses in the old and new testatments that make it clear that God chooses, elects, draws, whom He pleases.

  • Matthew

    And possibly his biblical interpretation?

  • Bones

    Well those goes without saying, Mattie…..

  • Matthew

    Yep.

  • Realist1234

    Except it isnt true.

  • Realist1234

    Although I have alot of time for the belief in annihilationism, I think you are being unfair to those who reject it and hold the ‘traditional’ view. They get it from the text, from all of the teaching of the Bible. I agree we need to look at the original languages, rather than wholly relying on modern English translations, but even when you do that, there is sufficient grounds to hold the traditional view. Personally I am undecided as I can see both sides of the argument from the text.

    But as for universalism, that is patently false. When even a ‘progressive’ such as Ben rejects such a belief, that speaks volumes.

  • Realist1234

    Perhaps, but the idea of ‘eternal’ (whether life or ‘hell’) does not depend on a single word. Your view also begs the question, if such experience (presumably unpleasant to say the least) is only for an ‘age’, how long does that age last?

  • Realist1234

    There is no reason to think that God would not restore Sodom at a particular time for a particular reason. But that does not mean that restoration lasted. Sodom was destroyed as a direct result of God’s judgement. The text does not say, for example, I will restore Sodom for ever.

  • Realist1234

    They will be condemned because they refused to repent and believe Him, despite the fact that He demonstrated who He was many times in that city. They were happy for Him to heal them, but that was it for the most part. His words also indicate a self-righteousness that the people of Capernaum had about themselves, the sort of attitude that Jesus condemned in the Pharisees. So its a message not just for those people, but all people.

  • Realist1234

    I think you are dismissing election too quickly. And I do not think you can explain it by God seeing the future (which I think He does as He is not limited by time) and what choices we will make . Personally I am content to hold both election and free will simultaneously. Whatever the truth of the matter, it will make perfect sense.

  • Ron McPherson

    I’ve been clear in my other comments that all three views (ECT, annihilationism, Universalism) can claim some support from the biblical text. But I absolutely believe that a great many (not all) holding to ECT primarily do so because that’s what they’ve been taught, and thus, read a pre-existing belief back onto the text (but that goes for a great many other things as well, in which most all of us are guilty in one way or another).

  • Realist1234

    Calvinists didnt just make up the idea that Jesus died only for the elect as a solution to a problem. It comes directly from, for example, Jesus’ own words (eg ‘I lay down my life for my sheep’ – clearly not everyone in the world are Jesus’ sheep, as not everyone listens to His words and follows Him), I believe Jesus’ death is sufficient for literally every single human being to be saved, but the reality is that not every single human being will be saved. Whether that is down to election, human free will or both is open to debate. As I said in another post, I am content to hold both as true.

  • Realist1234

    It depends how you define those 3 attributes. Does, for example, ‘all powerful’ mean overriding human free will? God isnt a machine. He is a personal Being.

  • Realist1234

    The fact that so many simply do not heed Jesus’ words and are therefore not His sheep negates your view. All people will not be saved but salvation is available to all. But many are simply not interested because of their self-righteosness. To think otherwise is a delusion.

  • Unfortunately, Jesus did not say, “My death is a sacrifice that will pay the penalty for the sins of an elect group of people,” so, no, it doesn’t come directly from Jesus’ own words. Although “my sheep” is the lost of Israel in that passage, and he is laying his life down for her, that is light years away from limited atonement.

  • Realist1234

    Strange that you would quote Paul to justify universalism. If there’s one NT writer who would disagree with you, its Paul.

  • Realist1234

    Indeed. I am not aware that Capernaum as a town was destroyed, certainly not by AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. But perhaps an historian or archaeologist could comment.

  • Realist1234

    How could it? If Calvinism is true, then God has clearly ‘elected’ people from ALL races to be saved, not just white Americans! Perhaps there is a reason why you hadnt thought of it before!

  • Realist1234

    I would have thought ‘to discriminate on the basis of race’ is a good definition of racism.

    It seems you are attempting to say something nasty about Christians who disagree with you.

    You’ll find that racists come from all walks of life, from all creeds and colours.

  • Realist1234

    So the only people who Jesus gives eternal life to and who will not perish, per John 10 26-28, are particular Jews in the 1st century. Oh dear, we’re all doomed then.

  • Ron McPherson

    All powerful means just that. No one would choose (i.e. human free will) to endure unending suffering. So in this case, it means God having the power to end the torture that otherwise would be unending?

  • Ron McPherson

    “I believe Jesus’ death is sufficient for literally every single human being to be saved, but the reality is that not every single human being will be saved”

    Well if that’s the case (that Jesus died for all but not all will be saved) then it would mean that Jesus’ death, at least on its own, was indeed NOT sufficient; i.e. it would take something else to make it so. That’s why Calvinists lean so hard on election. If Jesus died for all, and if his sacrifice alone is sufficient, then the only outcome is that all will have eternal life (Universalism). But if not everyone receives eternal life, then either he didn’t die for each and every individual, or he in fact did, but his sacrifice alone was not sufficient to get the job done.

  • That is a good question, and one I am wrestling with. I am reading a number of books on the doctrines of hell, ECT, the millinium and the afterlife in Jewish and Christian thought. My beliefs on the afterlife are very much in flux right now. I have one Rob Bell book, plus another on pre-order, as well as “Raising Hell,” by Julie Ferwerda. It is pretty clear to me that the redemption of the earth and all inhabitants was a fairly common theme in both Judaism and early Christianity, with ECT not taking hold until appx the 6 or 7th century. The problem for me arises when we discuss judgement. The Bible definitely presents it as an unpleasant experience, the duration of which can be quite lengthy. Does it have an eventual goal of burning off the “chaff” and lead to repentance? Both ECT and annihilation (if following torment) don’t make a lot of sense and seem to serve little purpose. Ms. Ferwerda has proposed in her book, that those unworthy of the marriage supper of the Lamb and the subsequent millennial reign, stay in Sheol until the millennium ends, going through a period of refinement. It all seems a bit conjectural to me.

  • Tim

    Paul’s theology is heavily drawn from in support of universal salvation, as he makes some of the most blatant statements in favour of that position. Not sure what you’re on about here.

  • Tim

    “I have other sheep that are not of this fold”. -Jesus

    That fact negates nothing. Many will unfortunately not experience that salvation on this side of physical death, but universal salvation in terms of what happens when we die was a unilateral decision from God manifested at the cross and resurrection.

  • The only people who will survive the first century destruction of Jerusalem are particular Jews in the first century, sure.

    There’s not really a point in discussing with you, though, since all your views come directly from Jesus. Thanks for sprouting up, once again, to deliver his words that come directly from your brain.

  • Realist1234

    Np. Always happy to ‘sprout up’ (like a weed?) anytime.

  • Realist1234

    You misquoted me. I didnt say ‘Jesus died for all but not all will be saved’. I said His death was sufficient for every single person to be saved, but not all will be saved. If there had only ever been a single sinful human being, the death of Christ still would have been necessary. It makes no difference that the world has billions of people. But you are missing the 2nd part of salvation – our human response. I do not claim to fully understand it all, but it seems obvious from Jesus and His apostles that a human response, however one defines it, is required. The problem is, so many people do not respond.

  • Realist1234

    Jesus said He laid down His life for His sheep. He defined His sheep as those who listen to His voice, and follow Him. That would tend to imply that those who do not listen to Him and do not follow Him are not His sheep (like the rich ruler who would not listen to Him and would not follow Him – are you arguing that that individual was saved, despite Jesus’ words about Him?). It would seem obvious that a significant number of people would not be deemed His sheep based on Jesus’ own words.

    Perhaps you could point to the New Testament where it explains that ‘universal salvation…was a unilateral decision from God’.

  • Ron McPherson

    Well, Jesus told the apostles that he chose them, not the other way around. So there’s evidence both ways. But personally, I’m arguing neither for or against Calvinism, per se. And I’m not ‘missing’ the issue of a ‘human response.’ That’s the whole Calvinism vs Arminianism debate. My point is that it seems disingenuous (not saying that’s you) to suggest on the one hand that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient ON ITS OWN (sorry, not yelling, just doing this for emphasis) to save everyone, while at the same time asserting that a human response is required in order to make it so.

  • Grigori Schmidt

    Of course calvinist view is totally biblical

    Mark 13:27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

    So jesus has his elect.
    ´´
    Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

    many is not all

  • Good point, dude, since there are absolutely no verses whatsoever that sound like Jesus’ work applies to everyone. None at all. How would anyone even get that idea?

    Your critique is truly devastating; thanks for sharing. I don’t think anyone who isn’t a Calvinist has ever heard those verses before or had to think about them. Bravo, sir. Bra – vo.

  • Dean

    Not every single verse in the Bible is about who goes to heaven and who goes to hell or who is saved and who is not. I would start there and go back to some of these texts and see what you find. The problem with Calvinism is when you put on TULIP colored glasses that’s all you see. That’s obviously from a lot of the comments from Calvinists here and elsewhere, there’s no way to convince you guys that maybe the author is just talking about something different entirely.

  • Dean

    Limited Atonement is heretical, in every sense of that word. I’m tired of Calvinists calling Arminians “semi-Pelagian” and “sub-blbilcal”, as if we are somehow second class citizens who don’t understand the Bible. Calvinism has always been a minority view in the Church (which is exactly how they like it), was invented hundreds of years after the death of Jesus and Calvinists cherry pick and distort scripture like the best of them. You’d think they took tips from Bill Clinton the way they talk. It’s not even the theology itself that really gets me, as grotesque that it is, it’s this misplaced sense of self-assuredness about their doctrinal positions (I mean have you heard James White talk, he oozes so much condescension and sarcasm you wonder if he has red blood cells). Not just him, but the whole lot of them, let’s see:

    You have JMac, the Godfather of Calvinism, and you had better bend the knee or you know, you’ve seen the movies. You have the misogynist and rageaholic Mark Driscoll. The village idiot and washed out comedian, Todd Friel. The sex-abuse facilitator, CJ Mahaney. The two-faced politician Al Mohler who can’t exegete a Bible verse to save his soul (it’s a good thing he didn’t have to). The odious Vincent Cheung who says God is the author of sin.The pretentious Tim Challis/Kevin DeYoung/Justin Taylor (I can’t even tell them apart) who’ve made a cottage industry in picking out specks in everyone else’s eyeballs. Doug Wilson, who I think would have preferred the Confederacy had won the war. Oh, don’t forget the charming Robert Morey, just Google his God loves you video. You guys know what I’m talking about right? These are just off the top of my head. I guess you can take it all the back to their hero, the murderer John Calvin, so the apple doesn’t really fall far from the tree. I think the only other Christian movement right now with this many truly terrible people would be the prosperity gospel folks, but at least those guys would be fun to hang out with. The only person I would have a beer with on this list is Mark Driscoll (maybe the only allowed?), but just one beer, because any more and he might try to kick my ass. There is no universe where these folks just happen to have the “correct” theology and the rest of us are misguided idiots.

  • Realist1234

    Believe me that is not what I do. I am just trying to understand the text, and what God said then and says now. I would suggest, however, that the particular words of Jesus that I quoted, ‘I lay down my life for my sheep’, and similar words seem to have a basic meaning from which you cannot get away. And I am taking them in context.

    As I said in another post, I hold both election and free-will and am quite content with that.

  • Dean

    I don’t know man, I just read the passage again and I don’t see anything about heaven or hell or who is saved and who is damned. Jesus does talk about that in other places, but not here, and I’m not certain he means what you think he means in those other places either. Jesus preached a message of the coming of the Kingdom of God. He said it was here. He believed that the Son of Man would return soon and bring a final judgment on the world so we should be ready for it. Paul and all the apostles thought this would happen in their lifetimes. This whole heaven and hell and who is saved and who is damned business just doesn’t make any sense in that context. The hell all of them were talking about was the end of the world as we knew it, which seemed to happen in A.D. 70. Now, 2000 years later, we have become obsessed with this heaven and hell business and who gets in and who gets out and entire lives have been wasted divining the scriptures for the exact formula, incantation dare I say, to achieve that coveted thing we call immortality. That’s the reason I think TULIP is wrong and a total waste of your time, my time, everyone’s time who’s reading this. I just honestly don’t think that’s what Jesus taught, or what the Bible says or what the Bible is even for. The Bible is a collection of writings from people who have encountered God in some way and they wrote it down for us to learn from in hopes that you and me and our communities can try to figure out how to live together without destroying each other and maybe even learn to love one another and live as our creator intended us to. It’s not some magical book where once you understand the secret message you will attain eternal life. That’s called Gnosticism.

  • raven nevermore

    I’m late responding to the article. Effectively stated. I have often said that Calvinism is tainted with the demonic. Calvinism is the dark side of Christian spirituality. Thanks for writing this.