Calvinism’s TULIP

Calvinism’s TULIP May 4, 2011

Many of us, and I would include myself in this number, were taught that Calvinism’s theology is TULIP theology. That is, Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. Ken Stewart’s new book, Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition , shows why this way of framing Calvinism is neither the most accurate way and is, in fact, a late comer in how to frame Calvinism. In fact, he goes further: he suggests that this way of framing Calvinism belongs to the margins of Calvinism.

Here’s how his approach works:

First, Loraine Boettner, in 1932, used TULIP but evidently his use was putting into a print a common acronym. His book began the common approach to Calvinism as TULIP theology. The earliest known usage, from 1913, reveals that at that time this was not at all the standard way of framing Calvinism. But from 1932 on this became one standard way of framing Calvinism’s theology. TULIP then is a 20th Century development.

Questions: I’d like to hear how Calvinists “frame” Calvinism? How do you summarize it for someone who asks “What is Calvinism?” And another one: If it could be demonstrated from Scripture that a believer could “lose” (forfeit, walk away from) salvation, would Calvinism be disproven? [Are central ideas so interwoven that this would unwind the whole?]

Second, he sees two kinds of Calvinism in the resurgence groups, a “sovereign grace” approach that champions God’s purposing an omnipotent electing grace — and TULIP is sacrosanct (Steele-Thomas, Seaton, Custance), and an “apologetic” approach that focuses on sharper understandings of TULIP ideas (Palmer, DeWitt, Sproul, Nicole, Mouw, George).

Third, these two groups are both wedded somehow to the appropriateness of TULIP as the way to frame Calvinism. Stewart says this is “unwarranted” — and that the Canons of Dordt are better framed than with TULIP.

Fourth, loyalty to TULIP is based on misunderstanding; fixation on TULIP enshrines emphases that are “off”; use of TULIP fragments [divides] when we should aim at inclusion

Finally, Calvinism needs to engage the Canons of Dordt to frame its theology most accurately.

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  • As for framing Calvinism, I think I would begin by saying it is based on a belief in the LOVING sovereignty of God as presented to us through the primary revelatory act of Jesus Christ and witnessed to in an inspired Scripture that is itself revelation. The addition of loving is key here, because neo-Reformed theology, with its absolute decree of double predestination, has a rather difficult, if not impossible time of holding together God’s love with his sovereignty in election. How can a God whose essence is defined as loving condemn billions and billions of people to Hell before they exist? Rather than focusing on a hidden decree of God behind the back of Jesus Christ, the foci is shifted to emphasizing the love of God through Jesus Christ for the whole world. And it is real love towards all, not simply a love parsed into three levels as typical neo-Reformed theology has done (intratrinitarian love, love for the non-elect and love for the elect..where are the latter two distinctions in Scripture).

    From here, I would actually utilize TULIP as a jumping off point to explain how the strand of Reformed theology I hold differs from that espoused by the acronym. The predominant differences, I hold are on “L” and “I.” I can no longer, in the face of overwhelming biblical evidence, believe in a limited atonement. That’s the easy part of explaining how I differ, but it is much tricker to understand how grace can be resistible in the face of emphasizing God’s sovereignty in salvation.

    Torrance, Gunton, and David Fergusson have reworked the notion of election (Jesus Christ is THE elect man and in him all others are derivatively elect, but only realize their election in the Spirit; note the similarity and difference in Barth’s accounting) in ways that I can’t draw out here due to space constraints, but what I would point out is that their reworked system is closer to an Arminian/Wesleyan framework of thought and Fergusson explicitly notes as much. This is especially so in their notion that grace creates a situation similar (but different) to that sketched by Arminian thinkers in relation to prevenient grace, grace which is resistible. The difference is that the weight is never placed on human responsibility in making the decision for Christ; the focus is still all on God’s enabling grace. Yet, one can resist this grace in an unexplainable way, analogized with the first sin of Adam in the garden. However, the responsibility for rejection is placed on the human and not on God, while still placing any ultimate responsibility for acceptance of God’s grace with God. Their is an asymmetry at work here. Fergusson explains it well in refuting universalism and the double decree at the same time in favor of his view of sovereignty in conjunction with God’s love:

    “Human freedom is not to be invoked as an explanation for our redemption; the love of God in Christ and the influence of the Holy Spirit are all-sufficient. To isolate our acceptance of grace is to assign it a significance it does not deserve. The appeal to human freedom as an explanatory condition is valid only in the asymmetrical case of unbelief. Here we are confronted by a possibility that has not explanation beyond an absurd use of the freedom that God grants us as human persons. Without some such appeal to deliberate human rejection of God, we can explain the possibility of unbelief only in terms of ignorance or a divine decree. Neither alternative can be consistent with the love of God declared in Scripture (David Fergusson, “Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God,” edited by Kevin Vanhoozer, 200).”

    There is much, much more I could work out, but I think these primary differences are enough to show that their is a richness in Reformed theology that is untapped even by Stewart because he neglects significant thinkers within the broader movement of Reformed theology. I would point you to my friend Bobby Grow’s website, The Evangelical Calvinist, for much much more info on this version of Reformed theology:
    http://evangelicalcalvinist.com/the-themes-of-evangelical-calvinism/

  • scotmcknight

    Randy, I appreciate your comments but this one is so long … and long comments discourage the thread from developing. I’ve cut it back… sorry.

  • Ken Stewart

    Randy:
    I don’t customarily comment on comments. But in this case, I will make an exception. Every book deserves to be read in terms of its aims and objectives. If you begin to read my book at its beginning (‘Why Ten Myths?’) I spell out quite elaborately what the book aims to do. It is not a history of Calvinism and does not pretend to be.

    It is not either (as you surmise) a protest against elements of the YRR movement. What it is is a caution against the Calvinism of the post-Victorian age. Since the massive translation and publication of Calvin’s works in the 1840’s, this reformer has been awarded a role more dominant than he perhaps enjoyed in his lifetime. Since the 1840’s, conservative Calvinists have bowed and scraped and deferred to him. And in the case cited by Jesus Creed today, they have taken over uncritically mantras like TULIP in the blind confidence that Calvin, by anticipation, would have endorsed it.
    The book is a plea for a Reformed faith that engages critcially with theological development over time and a protest against theological primitivism.
    Since conservative evangelical Calvinists are my intended readers, I have been content to show them that Karl Barth is part of this story and belongs to one of six ‘waves’ of renewed interest in Reformed theology since 1800.
    So, my plea is – read my book in terms of its stated aims.
    You can write the book extolling Karl Barth if you care to do so; but aren’t there plenty of these already on the market?

  • Chris Paytas

    I had much to say but Randy stole my thunder. So I will just echo the sentiment. The Gospel Coalition, in my view, presents a very simplified version of Calvinism but it’s not even T.U.L.I.P. as I understand T.U.L.I.P.

  • Most pure Calvinists I talk to, cannot handle the tension that the loftiness of truth presents. Most like to put God’s revealed truth, via scripture, on the witness stand with a courtroom approach. IOW – Try to share the variations (I do not classify them as contradictions) from scripture that imply “eternal security” and imply the possibility of losing your rescued status. Hebrews 6 is a monkey wrench that provokes eisegetical tap-dances.

  • Rick

    Jeff #5-

    I am sure you are aware that Calvinists would say the same (“eisegetical tap-dances”) about some positions taken by other theological streams.

  • Dr. Stewart,

    I apologize for not commenting on your book with its intended aims in mind! That is unacceptable on my part. I excitedly received your book in the mail because I felt like whether it was your intended aim or not, this book is a critique of the YRR movement because it calls for more subtlety in examining the Reformed tradition. The YRR movement tends in my opinion towards blind confidence and deference to Calvin and so I am excited that someone is questioning this in an intelligent way. It seems as if it was more my wishful thinking that this was your primary aim!

    In reference to Barth, I guess I only wanted to see the strand of the Reformed tradition following him and mentioned above as a more major part of the discussion. I feel that even for conservatives Barth offers some substantive resources for theological thinking (not blindly) and he is a massive thinker that must be dealt with no matter your persuasion I think the exclusion of Tom Torrance and Colin Gunton was more surprising actually because they offer ways forward for conservative, Reformed, evangelicals as critical appropriators of Barth. Again, I am sorry for not reading with your intended aim in mind and I thank you for your gentle correction that I will keep in mind as I comment in the future.

    Scot, sorry for the length earlier, I’m a bit passionate on this issue to say the least. Thanks for this forum and for your contributions to the Kingdom.

  • I think my theological position must have been built around CHRYSANTHEMUM.

  • smcknight

    :mic, abbreviated of course to “mum”.

  • Regarding your questions, Scot, it has always seemed to me that the “L”, limited atonement, is the weakest link. I’ve never been interested in going “on the attack”, but to do so that’s where I’d start. That loose thread may unwind the whole sweater. Because TULIP is a strong, airtight, logical system it does seem that the doctrines are intertwined and stand and fall together.

  • Robin

    It seems to me that the central idea behind any kind of reformed theology is that God is doing the work. I mean isn’t that really the key difference between reformed theology and arminianism. In Calvinism you have a human race that is so sinful they won’t freely choose to come to God on their own so not only does he have to pay their ransom but he was to effectually draw them to himself and keep them there. Whereas in arminianism God just has to make the sacrifice and then wait for people to freely choose him, and presumably keep on choosing him until judgement.

    So in both systems God makes the atonement for sinners, but in one system people are so sinful they wouldn’t repent and believe without God intervening, and in the other there is enough “goodness” or “life” left in sinners that they will, of their own free will, and without any specific divine guidance, freely choose to repent and believe, and to continue repenting and believing, out of their own strength, until the day they die.

    Whatever system you need to put in place to explain God doing the work, T.U.L.I.P or some other framework, that, to me, is really the key aspect of calvinism.

  • Robin

    For my arminian brethren, I grew up in the South and all of the god southern baptists around me simultaneously hold that people choose to repent and believe out of their own free will, but that once they have believed there is perseverance of the saints. Kind of like, you choose to come by your own free will, but once you have, you cannot unchoose it.

    Is this just a geographical mutation from arminianism or is it prevalent?

  • Robin

    *good southern*

  • smcknight

    Robin, you may have grown up among Arminians but reducing it to humans choosing is more inaccurate than TULIP is to Calvinism. I suggest you read Roger Olson’s fine book on Arminian theology.

  • Rick

    Robin-

    “In Calvinism you have a human race that is so sinful they won’t freely choose to come to God on their own so not only does he have to pay their ransom but he was to effectually draw them to himself and keep them there. Whereas in arminianism God just has to make the sacrifice and then wait for people to freely choose him, and presumably keep on choosing him until judgement.”

    That is not arminianism, at least not classical arminianism (Arminius, Wesley, etc…). Because of depravity, man is unable to choose God. Only by God’s grace are they even able to have faith.

    Keith Drury did a nice presentation of Calvin, Wesley, and modern Arminianism in a interview form. It breaks down the differences (actually similarities of Calvin and Wesley) nicely. In it Drury states the position of Wesley:

    “It is a gift of God. Faith is not a decision we make any time we want to, but is a gift of God that comes in God’s timing not ours. Humans can’t work up faith on their own or try to believe. To find faith an unbeliever can only put themselves in the “means of grace” where God can and will in His own timing grant them faith.”

    http://www.drurywriting.com/keith/wesley.calvin.mod.drury.htm

  • Robin

    Scot,

    Maybe you could elaborate a little more on your comment. All we have heard about the past couple of weeks following the Rob Bell controversy was about the unmolested free will of sinful humans that was a necessary condition for God to be loving. If the entire choice is dependent upon free will then I think it is fair to characterize a “human choosing” as a major component of the theology.

  • Robin

    Rick, that last paragraph would be perfectly acceptable to almost all calvinists I know. There is nothing in it about free will, and it implies that the decisions regarding salvation are entirely in God’s court.

  • scotmcknight

    Robin, it would be fair to say Rob Bell doesn’t represent Arminian theology, nor has he ever said that to my knowledge.

  • Robin

    Scot,

    I must admit then I am confused about the central tenets of arminianism, classical and otherwise. Maybe after you finish with the posts on calvinism you could do something similar for arminianism.

  • Robin

    Out of curiosity. If you wouldn’t describe Bell as an arminian, and he isn’t a calvinist, then what broad category would you put his soteriology in?

  • Rick

    Robin-
    As has been said, they are not necessarily that far apart.

    Drury writes:

    “Calvin: I believe the moral image of God has been completely destroyed in humanity; humans are spiritually dead to God; the only way to be saved is by God taking the first step; however, some vestiges of “natural image” and “political image” of God remain enabling human rationality—but these remnants are never enough to enable a person to move themselves toward salvation…

    Wesley: I have nothing at all to add—I agree 100% on this point with Calvin.”

    Drury does point out a slight difference, which touches on your free-will comment:

    “Calvin:…When God gives a man faith he cannot refuse it, after all God is God—if humans could resist Him he would not longer be sovereign. What other idea would make any sense to a thinking man?…

    Wesley: I can travel the road a long way with you Brother Calvin but not this far. I believe that when God chooses to give a person the gift of faith that person can resist the grace—refusing to receive the grace God is giving and refusing to let the seed of faith grow in their heart. While I do not believe in the sort of “free will” that enables a person to choose Christ whenever they want, I do believe a human has free will enough to refuse God’s grace when it comes.”

  • I think that Calvinism is best understood in a trinitarian framework. However, in my opinion Calvinist soteriology loses much of its meaning apart from it being embedded within covenantal theology. My hunch is that Calvin would probably be willing to go ten rounds with guys like Driscoll and Piper regarding their underlying presuppositions of the Scriptures.

    That’s my best attempt at synthesizing an answer to at least your first question.

  • smcknight

    Robin, I suspect Rob is an Arminian, but taking his view as representative — and using your sketch of his view — is problematic. I did a long series on Roger Olson’s book when it came out … so it’s in this blog somewhere.

  • rjs

    Robin,

    Scot blogged on the book back in Fall 2006 – a 10 part series. You can find it by searching “Do Calvinists Understand Arminianism” or try this link: Do Calvinists Understand Arminianism?.

  • I am a 5 point Calvinist, and it took me about a decade to finally accept Limited Atonement, but now that I have, I can’t see it any other way. Owen said this, “If Christ died to pay for all of the sins of all of the people in the world, then why are not all of the people in the world saved? To which people respond, “That’s only because they don’t accept Christ by faith.” But is not the rejection of Christ and unbelief also sin? Of course it is! This is why freewill theology leads ultimately to one of three deviations: 1. a governmental theory of the atonement that says Christ did not pay for anyone’s sins. 2. Christ only died for some sins. He doesn’t really atone for all sins because the sin of unbelief really can’t be incorporated there. Or 3. Christ died for all the sins of all people and eventually all people will be saved.

    Verses such as 1John 2:2 used to give me trouble: “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

    But now I see this as actually a support to Calvinism, not against it. If Jesus actually propitiated the Father for every human being, then by the very definition of propitiation it would mean that God is no longer angry with them for their sin. He has nothing left to punish. He’s been satisfied. It leads to universalism.

    Both sides of the debate limit the atonment. You either limit who the atonement was intended for, or you limit the atonement’s power and say it only made salvation possible, rather than as Scripture teaches, that Jesus accomplished everything necessary for our redemption. If Jesus paid for every sin of every person then no one would go to Hell.

    One question you ask above in the article is not valid. For it is impossible to demonstrate from Scripture that a believer can lose his salvation without doing injustice to the overwhelming evidence in Scripture that we can rest in the promises of Christ that we have eternal life.

    I look forward to reading the book. I’ve read the Canons of Dordt several times and have thought that the TULIP is a good expression of it, but I want to hear what you have to say.

  • Scripture teaches that Christ actually paid for all of our sins and redeemed us. That’s what Limited Atonement leads to.

    Universal atonment leads to Christ doing little more than making salvation possible, not actually taking away our sins and redeemed us.

  • In its simplest terms the Reformed belief is this: Christ’s death saves sinners. It does not make the salvation of sinners a mere possibility. It does not provide a theoretical atonement. It requires no additions, whether they be the meritorious works of me or the autonomous act of faith flowing from a “free will.” Christ’s death saves every single person that it was intended to save.
    The Potter’s Freedom, James R. White, p. 230

    “It becomes evident that it is not the Calvinist who limits the atonement. It is the Arminian, because he denies that the atoning death of Christ accomplishes what we most desperately need—namely, salvation from the condition of deadness and hardness and blindness under the wrath of God. The Arminian limits the nature and value and effectiveness of the atonement so that he can say that it was accomplished even for those who die in unbelief and are condemned. In order to say that Christ died for all men in the same way, the Arminian must limit the atonement to a powerless opportunity for men to save themselves from their terrible plight of depravity.

    On the other hand we do not limit the power and effectiveness of the atonement. We simply say that in the cross God had in view the actual redemption of his children. And we affirm that when Christ died for these, he did not just create the opportunity for them to save themselves, but really purchased for them all that was necessary to get them saved, including the grace of regeneration and the gift of faith.
    – John Piper

  • Re Triston, I think it would help the discussion if you could share what finally convinced you re “L”. What were the threads that finally came together for you? You mentioned a couple of sources in your post above – were there other influences/texts/arguments?

  • Randall

    How does one come to believe in limited atonement using scripture apart from the philosophical objection to whatever else someone believes it may imply? I have tried as hard as I know how to see this in scripture and I must not have the intellectual horsepower to do it. It is the reason why I can’t identify as a calvinist. Was it scripture or just the philosphical argument that did it for you?

  • Robin

    Randall,

    Which of the following three possibilities do you think make the most sense in light of verses such as “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

    1. Jesus really is the propitiation for ALL the sins of his elect, and WORLD refers to all of the elect from the entire world.

    2. Jesus really is the propitiation for ALL the sins of the entire WORLD, and therefore every individual in the world will enter into heaven.

    3. Jesus really is the propitiation for the sins of the entire world, except for the sin of unbelief. Anyone who refuses to believe has not had that sin forgiven, but for those who do believe, Jesus is the propitiation for the rest of their sins.

    Honestly, as a calvinist, when I read that verse universalism makes the most sense. When I try to square that verse with the rest of scripture (passages that appear to imply judgement, etc.) then calvinism looks like the better option. I cannot read that verse, along with the rest of scripture, and conclude that people will be judged for sins that Jesus already provided a propitiation for, or that they will be judged for unbelief, which happens to be the one sin Jesus didn’t atone for.

  • Tom F.

    Triston, thanks for your posts. I appreciate the tight logical consistency, but I think it misses the forest for the trees. You bring up that without limited atonement, Christ’s sacrifice leads to all sort of problems, such as the possibility of universal salvation. But to me, these logical problems are nothing compared to the problematic image of God that is revealed in a doctrine of limited atonement.

    If God is the sole author of salvation, and Christ’s sacrifice could, theoretically, account for the sins of every human who ever lived, without being added to, but God only applies that atonement to a limited few, than what is left is a God who could save all people but who doesn’t. Not that God is in anyway obliged to save anyone, but you still have a God who could save more and who doesn’t. To me, you might as well pack up and go home at that point, because the picture of God that results is capricious and seemingly withholding. It becomes meaningless to say that God is a God of love. If God loves all, but saves only some, than God’s love determines none of God’s saving action. If God loves only some, than where does God get off telling us to love everyone?

    I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how to resolve all the big questions. I just can’t see how limited atonement would leave me with a God worth worshiping. Other may feel differently, and I respect that, but that’s where I’m at.

  • Robin

    If you are an arminian, please rephrase my point (3) so that it is consistent with your view of arminianism as well as the text (if I have failed to do so).

  • Randall

    I see 2 as the most likely reading even though I believe that the last phrase you add as a conclusion should be dropped in this discussion.

    I would rewrite the meaning of your line

    2. Jesus really is the propitiation for ALL the sins of the entire WORLD, and therefore every individual in the world will enter into heaven.

    as

    2. Jesus really is the propitiation for ALL the sins of the entire WORLD.

    and leave off the conclusion you bring to it. It may be true and it may be false; but, I don’t think it is the conclusion that scripture wants you to make.

    As a have said a 100 times before, the weak aspect of calvinism is that I can’t see straightforward handling of the universal scope verse. When that’s dealt with I’ll order a tee shirt.

    The incarnation displays God taking on the form of sinful flesh, that sinful flesh includes everyone as everyone is as sinful as the elect are. Parsing it up just ‘looks’ dishonest to me even though I understand it doesn’t to one who accepts it already.

    Robin, I think I have a problem with the way your alternatives draw conclusions from the statements in scripture.

    Your link between propitiating sin and going to heaven seems more ‘pat’ than I think scripture makes it. Maybe that’s part of this.

    At any rate, thank you for the challenge as I will spend time this evening mulling your trilemma.

  • #28 Dru and #29 Randall, admittedly, there is a lot of Scriptural evidence for a universal atonement, which is why I remained a 4-point Calvinist for a decade. Scripture does teach that Jesus died for “His sheep” (John 10:11, 15); that Jesus died for “the Church” (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-27); that Jesus died for “the scattered children of God” (John 11:52). However, none of these were enough to convince me and I remained “leaky” on limited atonement. What finally convinced me is that it is clearly biblical to say that Christ died to take away our sins. That He has redeemed us. That he has saved us. It is not biblical to say that Christ only made salvation possible (which is what a universal atonement inevitably leads to). That is what made the difference in my mind. So I prefer to call it “definite redemption” rather than “limited atonement” because it is the belief that Jesus actually saves sinners, not just makes salvation possible.

  • Robin

    Tom F.,

    I appreciate the problem that you see, but the easiest resolution to that problem is universalism. I firmly believe that if most of the neo-reformed could explain away the parts of the bible that seem to indicate punishment for sins, the existence of hell, etc., then they would become universalists. There is a very real problem, from a calvinistic perspective, with an atonement “for the world” that doesn’t really atone “for the world” unless individual members of “the world” respond in faith.

    How can you say that Osama Bin Laden’s sins were atoned for (he is a member of “the world”) if he never responded in faith, and will ultimately end up suffering for his own sins in hell?

    That is a real hurdle for calvinists, and not just of the neo-reformed variety. Triston quoted John Owen above and the first really good explanation of this point I saw was from J.M. Boice in something he wrote 30 or 40 years ago.

  • Robin

    Randall,

    regarding the universal aspect the conclusion I have come to is to generally read “world” like it is used in John 12:19.

    “So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!””

    This is from John, just like John 3:16, and it clearly shows that, at least once, when the author used “world” he didn’t mean “every single individual on the planet, or every single individual who would ever live.”

    I’m sure people on here could have a more meaningful discussion on the use of Kosmos in John 12:19, John 3:16, and 1 John, but for now, it is enough for me to understand that kosmos doesn’t always mean “every individual on the planet, or even every individual in a specific location” sometimes it just means “a whole lot of people.”

  • JoeyS

    “If you are an arminian, please rephrase my point (3) so that it is consistent with your view of arminianism as well as the text (if I have failed to do so).”

    “3. Jesus really is the propitiation for the sins of the entire world, except for the sin of unbelief. Anyone who refuses to believe has not had that sin forgiven, but for those who do believe, Jesus is the propitiation for the rest of their sins.”

    Better: Jesus really is the victor over all of the sins for the entire world, always.

    Can you show me in scripture where unbelief is a sin? How can the lack of something be a sin? Is non-existence a sin?

    As an Arminian, I hold that Jesus blood covers all – is sufficient and great enough to be offered for every sin. But love requires relationship and relationship requires freedom. The prodigal son was already forgiven by his father, but in order to know this he had to turn (repent) and go home. The father’s forgiveness did not change, the son did. I don’t mean this to be a cheap shot but any atonement that does not cover all wrong seems small and weak compared to a God who’s work is all expansive.

  • Robin

    JoeyS,

    Please correct any misunderstandings that follow.

    I listed unbelief as a sin because if Jesus really is the propitiation for all the sins of every individual on the planet, yet some people end up going to hell or suffering some other punishment for their sin, then either the same sins are being paid for twice (by Jesus and the sinner) or there was some sin (I postulated unbelief) that wasn’t paid for when Jesus atoned for the rest of them.

    You seem to be saying that Jesus wasn’t “THE” propitiation for all of the sins of every individual in human history, but that he provided “A” propitiation that will pay for all of the sins of anyone who chooses to restore their relationship with him. Meaning that there are lots of individuals “in the world” who won’t choose that relationship and who therefore Jesus will not have provided a propitiation for.

    If that reading is correct, then both your atonement and a calvinistic atonement are limited in scope. In your scenario the atonement is limited to the people who will eventually CHOOSE to repent and believe of their own free will. In traditonal calvinism the atonement is limited to those people whom God will eventually CHOOSE to repent and believe as a result of irresistible grace, but under both the atonement is effectually applied to a limited number of people. Under neither scenario is it actually applied to every person in human history.

  • Scot McKnight

    Robin,

    But try as you may you will have a hard time proving 1 John 2 fits limited atonement or definite redemption:

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

    World can mean less but it requires clear evidence to do that. The “whole world” goes after him is a good example of hyperbole, as in the “whole South” supported Reagan.

    There are no limiting features in 1 John 2. In fact, the move from “ours” to the sins of the whole world proves expansiveness, universal atoning power.

  • Randall

    Tristan and Robin,

    I guess it still looks to me like your reasoning is one part scripture and 4 parts logic and it lacks the punch to me that I think you afford it in your thinking.

    Tristan, I get the particular affirmations you mentioned. You just need to bring a verse that reads as follows, “therefore he gave up himself not for the reprobate.” and we’re all set to sign me up.

    I have a confession to make, discussing scripture with calvinists causes me to wonder why universalism isn’t deemed as explicitly taught in scripture.

    I wonder if everyone assumes that any judgment precludes final redemption.

    Robin,

    “How can you say that Osama Bin Laden’s sins were atoned for (he is a member of “the world”) if he never responded in faith, and will ultimately end up suffering for his own sins in hell?”

    What I say here doesn’t matter; but, doesn’t scripture say that the Lamb takes away the sins of the world?

    Bin Laden’s in hell?
    Really?
    And some one knows this for sure?

    This is what Rob Bell is engaging, we draw lots of conclusions based on our knowing and I wonder if we know as much as we think.

    I will go on record as saying ‘that Jesus atoned for the sins of Osama Bin Laden’. Does that mean he must be in heaven? I am less sure about that question.

  • My big complaint isn’t so much about the doctrines of TULIP (not that I’m a big fan of those, either) as with the way it’s organized. I’ve complained about this before, so I’ll just quote myself:

    (T)he acronym’s letters each come from the adjective describing the doctrine, and opposed to the core word of the doctrine itself. Knowing “Total, Unconditional, Limited, Irresistible, and Perseverance” doesn’t tell you as much as knowing what or who those adjectives refer to, even if you know those things, but don’t know the adjectives.

  • E.G.

    Robin,

    Lots of good questions.

    I have one for you… are you familiar with the concept (often attributed to Wesley) of prevenient grace?

    A decent statement about it (and more Wesleyan theology) is here:

    http://www.shol.com/featheredprop/theo4.html

    “Wesley views conversion as prompted by prevenient grace. This is God’s divine love that surrounds all humanity and prompts our first awareness of God and our desire for deliverance from our sin. It is this love, Wesley believes, that moves us toward repentance and faith.”

    Also, google it. Lots of information on the concept. It might help with your excellent probing on this issue.

  • Scot #39. Do you define propitiation the same way as Robin and I do? Do you agree that “to propitiate” means to “take away wrath”? If so, then how can any of those in the world for whom Christ propitiated possible suffer the wrath of God for their sins? It makes no sense that God can both be propitiated and punish them in wrath at the same time. Moreover, unless you change the definition of propitiation, how can you square John 3:36 with 1John 2:2:

    “he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” and “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” How can “God’s wrath abide upon them at the same time that God is propitiated for their sins?” Propitiation means His wrath has been taken away completely.

    Could John in 1Jn. 2:2 have meant “Not only us Jews” or “Not only us believers”, “but also people throughout the world?” Did Jesus really die for every sin of every person in history? How about the people who were already in Hell before Jesus went to the cross, with no chance whatsoever for redemption? Did Jesus die for them, too? Really?? For what purpose?

    Jesus didn’t die for the angels either. They didn’t get a second chance. How come no one complains about the “fairness” in that?

  • Robin

    Randall,

    I appreciate your candor. I admit that I think a univeralist reading of these texts is by far the most natural, the only reason I don’t adopt such a reading is that the rest of scripture doesn’t support universalism in my estimation.

  • Tom F.

    Robin, off the top of my head, I don’t know what I’d say about the lost who were indeed atoned for. I’ll think about that some.

    I guess it just seems to me that something that casts doubt on God’s character (limited atonement) is a much bigger problem than something that might be logically inconsistent in salvation (universal atonement without universal salvation). However, perhaps you see universal atonement as somehow affecting God’s character as well, too?

    I’m also not sure why the fact that the “easiest” solution is Universalism is pertinent. If you have a huge problem like limited atonement, but the “easiest” solution is a dead end, why don’t you instead look for a “harder” solution that is not a dead end? Why stop asking the questions?

  • scotmcknight

    Triston, I’ve written on atonement theory and I argue there that propitiation does mean the appeasement of wrath. I don’t have a problem with wrath as you suggest; it can be argued with as much logical rigor that what God made potential must be trusted in order to become effective. It makes the most sense of texts that say wrath has been both absorbed and yet still can abide. What “could have” meant doesn’t work; we have to find what it “does” mean and “what it probably means” and not say “since it could have, therefore it does.” 1 John 2:2 says in plain Greek and English that the sacrifice of Christ deals with the sins of the whole world. You can play games with the word “world,” but we are far better off reading texts like 1 John 2:2 in light of what they do say and not in light of what they might say. When it compares ours and then whole world, it is clear to most of us exactly what “whole world” means. It may not fit limited atonement, but it fits within other consistent theologies.

  • Randall

    Robin,

    My candor is in 2nd place to yours my friend,

    So, the natural way to read it would admit an understanding of the atonement that is universal; but, since that seems hard to reconcile with what you already think we drop it? That isn’t what your saying is it.

    Ok, I am going to use the ole saw told of an Arkansas church that called a pastor that denied the general atonement even though they had it stated on the Marquee.

    You don’t think the scripture states it plainly enough to accept. Would you please write just a simple statement or verse of one or two sentences that is something that, if stated in scripture, would lead you to believe that ‘Christ died to redeem all of mankind without excluding anyone’. I maintain that the Bible does already, you don’t seem to, what would it take for you to believe that?

    The answer to that at least provides a insight into where we are at.

    When I did this, I had to admit that Christ died for all, and by all I mean everyone.

  • Robin

    Tom F.,

    I agree with your last sentence. Universalism is the easiest way to make sense of those verses, but it is a dead end because of the rest of scripture.

    “Universal atonement without universal salvation” is dead in the water for me because it implies that either (1) it wasn’t a real atonement but a potential one or (2) it was a real atonement, but people who fail to repent and believe will be punished again for things that were atoned for.

    The calvinist view is a hard view, and it does require someone to adapt to the tensions created by a calvinistic worldview (A God who loves the whole world and has the power to save everynone, yet doesn’t. A God who is sovereign over weather, disease, sickness, etc., but still allows things like hurricanes, tornadoes, cancer, and Aids to occur) but right now it provides the clearest explanation of who God is and how he operates in the world, in a manner that harmonizes all of scripture.

    I understand that right now I am looking through a glass, darkly, but as of right now calvinism provides the clearest view.

  • Robin

    Randall,

    the easiest solution would be for you to find a verse where Jesus says “there is no hell” or “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Also, don’t fear God either because he will not destroy both soul and body in hell.”

    There are lots of other problematic verses that I can’t get past yet on my way to universalism.

    In my view universalism is a natural reading of passages like 1 John 2:2, and it completely abandons scripture in favor of logical resonance when dealing with passages like the ones I listed above. My views on scripture would have to change dramatically in order for me to cast aside my difficulties regarding passages like Matthew 10:28.

  • Scot: Good thoughts. And I certainly don’t think this should be a dividing point among Christians. You do make my case, however, when you say “What God made potential…” Universal atonement always leads to potential, rather than reality. God gave the possiblity of salvation. Christ gave the possiblity of sins taken away. Rather than that Christ secured our salvation on the cross. This “potential” redemption makes the atonement seem theoretical, rather than actual. That is the difference I believe between universal atonement and limited atonement. But I’m glad Christians can disagree on this and many other issues and still remain united by our faith in Christ.

  • Randall

    I understand Robin, there will always be hard things to understand, I see that you reference judgement verses when asked how scripture could assert the universal atonement.

    We’re not talking about hell, we can; but I simply asked how would the Bible convince you that Christ died for all? I think the move to judgment verses strengthen the contention I make rather than detract so I would leave the judgment passages alone.

    You don’t see it yet; but, the judgment passages destroys what you attempt to maintain. What function would a warning of an inescapable demise or condemnation serve? There’s no basis for forgiveness, in your view; plus, amazingly, they would be brought to repentance through fear rather than love and Paul thinks it is God’s kindness and mercy that performs that end.

    Keep hell, that still doesn’t answer how the Bible could convince you that Christ died for All since All were dead. The redemption grew to, equaled, and surpassed the need. Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. There aren’t places where there’s sin unless there’s more grace than sin.

    Just my thoughts, we’re not going to convince each other of much probably; but, this discussion is helping me think though what I believe better, thanks.

  • Ken Stewart

    On this subject of the scope of the atonement, two interesting things emerged in researching the ‘checkered’ history of TULIP. The _first_ is that the Synod of Dordt itself placed no upper limit on the intrinsic value of the atonement wrought by Christ. Modern Calvinists are quite often accused (not without justification) of holding an almost algebraic conception of the atonement: thus the atonement can reach ‘x’ but not ‘y’. But Dordt insisted that as to its intrinsic value, the death of Christ was “abundantly sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world”. At the same time, Dordt maintained that the atonement served a design.If you consider yourself a real Calvinist, watch out for this algebraic understanding.

    The _second_ is that older Reformed writers in the nineteenth century and earlier were conscious enough of this Reformed heritage of ‘adequacy’ of atonement in Christ that they tried to spell out certain ways in which the atonement of Christ carried universal benefits as well as a specific application. One finds this as late in the nineteenth century as in Hodge and Dabney.

    In stating this, I do not mean to suggest that this double approach solves every difficulty related to the scope of the atonement. But I do think that it shows that older Reformed theology did a better job than many modern Calvinists in holding the universal/specific principles together and attempting to do justice to both.

  • Jason Dudley

    “Potential” is not the opposite of “real,” nor is it synonymous with “theoretical.”

    Also, I think everyone in this discussion would agree that we (Christians) continue to experience the consequences of sin, despite the fact that they are atoned for. This is only begun to be set right when we find ourselves in Christ. So, in an unlimited atonement/limited salvation framework, humans who live their life consistently rejecting Christ and his kingdom are punished in hell as a consequence of that rejection (however atoned-for that rejection might be). Just a thought, though.

  • Jason R

    Scot, In terms of your questions above, I don’t think Calvinism/Reformed theology would sink if it was proved one could walk away from her/his salvation. If this was so, it would center Calvinist theology on Soteriology/Atonement theory and not on the sovereign freedom of God. That is partly why I don’t care for TULIP. It seems to center “Calvinism” on us and our situation. I think Calvin would be quite upset to discover this given his emphasis on the sovereign love and freedom of God. I think there needs to be space in all Reformed theology for God’s freedom to graft, prune and re-graft as God see’s fit to do so (Rom. 11:11-24). Therefore I don’t think proving one can resist God’s grace would destroy Calvinistic or Reformed theology.

  • I’m with Triston above, when I read the Canons of Dordt it sure sounds like they’re saying the same things as what’s said via the TULIP acronym.

    My framing of Calvinism would start with total depravity and move to divine sovereignty (and it would happily exclude Wesley’s prevenient grace). The few times I’ve taught small groups about election, their objections always stem from a lack of belief (or understanding) in total depravity.

  • And by the way, Ken thanks for engaging in the discussion. And many thanks for the book. I haven’t had a chance to work through it but I plan to in the near future.

  • If you should show me the definiteness of redemption: That Christ did not merely make salvation possible (which I find unbiblical) but actually secured our redemption on the cross, then I would most certainly embrace universal atonement.

  • I’m reading Book 1 of Calvin’s “Institutions of the Christian Religion.” So far Calvin sounds nothing like the people who claim to follow him! For Calvin, the Gospel begins and ends with God; but for folks like Mark Driscoll, the Gospel begins and ends with Total Depravity.

  • Tom F.

    Robin, I think that at the end of the day, we just prefer different paradoxes. I would much prefer the paradoxes of atonement to the paradoxes (I believe you use “tensions”) of God’s character. Honestly, I would probably prefer a dozen other paradoxes to your “hard” view of God. To me, Calvinism is “dead in the water” to the extent that it posits a God that loves and yet doesn’t save, or simply doesn’t love. I don’t really know what else to say. This is a pretty basic non-negotiable for me. What profit is it to a man if he harmonizes the whole of scriptures, but loses God’s soul in the process?

  • Robin

    Tom F.,

    I understand, but I have to ask one last question (it turned out to be several). Last week tornadoes in Alabama and the rest of the southeast killed 300 people. Do you believe God could have stopped those tornadoes? Could he have stopped that loss of life? If so, does the fact that he allowed such a thing to occur, when he could have stopped it, do anything to damage God’s character in your mind?

  • Tom #59. I’ve lived overseas for almost 15 years now (mostly in Nepal), and I can tell you, without resorting to Calvinism that God is not “fair” as you say fairness, and God does not love all equally as you make it out to be. I first noticed this in Pakistan. Take a walk down a busy city street on a Friday when every man is wearing his Muslim best. It will feel like you are only one Christian in a sea of about 100,000 non-Christians. And you are! You are just one Christian in a sea of non-Christians. Is God loving them just like he is loving in another country, like the US where there are many Christians? Why are so few saved?

    Now walk in a conservative town of Afghanistan (or Pakistan for that matter). For every one woman you see outside, you will see one thousand men. All the other women are tucked away in their homes and do not have the slightest chance to become followers of Jesus unless their husband or father becomes a Christian first, which is quite unlikely in a sea of only unbelievers. Is God giving equal chance to these women, the same chance as He does to women in America, where every neigborhood has a church, every home has a Bible and you can just turn on the radio to hear the Gospel? No He isn’t! God is not giving equal opportunties to Afghan women or Pakistani women to hear the Gospel that He gives to American women. Not even close! No one who has seen their plight could deny that what I am saying now is true. They have no access to the Bible, and they have no access to any Christians to minister the Gospel to them. So you have the same problem in the world today in reconciling God’s love, whether or whether not you embrace Calvinism!

  • henrybish

    Tom F,

    Thanks for your candid comments. You said:

    To me, Calvinism is “dead in the water” to the extent that it posits a God that loves and yet doesn’t save, or simply doesn’t love. I don’t really know what else to say. This is a pretty basic non-negotiable for me. What profit is it to a man if he harmonizes the whole of scriptures, but loses God’s soul in the process?

    I would like to ask you, in a nice way, why it is that you are willing to give so much thought to finding ways round these difficult doctrines and yet are unwilling to give any thought to questioning the truthfulness and purity of your own moral presuppositions?

    In what you write it seems like you believe your moral feelings about what God should be like are the infallible standard of goodness. Could your sensibilities not be distorted and wrong? Could you not be blind in this area? Why not explore this path with the same tenacity as you have used to find ways around reading the difficult texts? Or are you so sure you are right?

    I can testify personally that the emotional ‘hump’ can be gotten over. I have been there myself, as a former arminian.

  • henrybish

    Tom F,

    also, you say:

    To me, you might as well pack up and go home at that point, because the picture of God that results is capricious and seemingly withholding. It becomes meaningless to say that God is a God of love.

    How is it capricious to punish the guilty? Or to put it in more stark terms, think of a person who you struggle very much not to hate because of the wrong they have done you. Lets say they brutally rape someone you hold dear and laugh and mock you after they have done it. And when they come to stand before the courts they weasel their way out of it somehow and end up going off scot-free, pridefully laughing on their way. Do you think that is just? Do you feel glad that the unrepentant guilty person gets a free pass?

    I bet, if that person was brought to justice, you would not call the judge who sentenced them ‘capricious’. They gave justice and justice is what was due.

    The miracle is that God has mercy on anyone at all, since we are all like that wretch.

    God is a God of love yes, but he is also a God of justice. Other people, like Jonah for example, struggle with the opposite dilemma than you. They are outraged that God will forgive the guilty. How can God allow the murderous villains of Ninevah to go unpunished?

    If amongst human beings we can get such a wide divergence of feelings towards God’s actions, then that should give us pause about being so sure of our own moral sensibilities.

    And how does your notion of God’s love square with reading the book of Revelation or the Prophets? I think those books should give you very good reason to explore the possibility that your moral sensibilities have been warped by sin. I don’t mean that in a nasty way at all, just trying to persuade you to question your assumptions.

    Regards,

  • John I.

    Punishing the evil is not capricious, what is unloving and also capricious is to ordain before creation that all humans will sin and also that they will be culpable for it, and then out of that group selecting only a small fraction to save, and doing one’s selecting without regard for any characteristic or attribute inherent in those humans.

    On the premise that heaven will be sinless, the atheist rightly asks why wouldn’t an omnipotent God, who will determine beforehand all that happens, simply start with humans living sinlessly in heaven? Why predetermine that all humans will be sinful and deserving of death, and then go ahead and kill them and then force them to exist forever in circumstances of extreme pain?

    It seems to me that other (non-Calvinist) viewpoints have just as much warrant and justification to believe that it is the the moral sensibilities of Calvinists have been warped by sin (and not themselves). It seems to me that it does not advance the cause of unity to accuse brothers and sisters in Christ of having wrong doctrine because their moral sensibilities warped by sin.

    In terms of a return to the canons of Dordt, I find it odd and also inconsistent that the reformed believe that infants can lose their salvation, but then have a problem believing that adults cannot.

    John I.

  • John I.

    As regards the discussion between Tom F and henrybish, it strikes me (from my own reading and study) that Tom F’s moral sensibilities and picture of God is built upon the overall narrative and thrust of Scripture and God’s revelation of his character, whereas the “difficult doctrines” are built upon only a select few of the verses in the Bible–verses that can admit of more than one interpretation.

  • henrybish

    John I,

    It seems to me that it does not advance the cause of unity to accuse brothers and sisters in Christ of having wrong doctrine because their moral sensibilities warped by sin.

    Why is there such incessant intolerance when somebody says something that might make challenge someone’s ways?

    Do you think things would have worked out better on the ‘unity’ front if Paul had refrained from publicly accusing Peter of wrongful motives? Seems like when you shoot me you also shoot Paul, Jesus and the Prophets with the same bullet.

    What is more, how can you possibly make that statement right on the heels of making *the same accusation* yourself:

    … just as much warrant and justification to believe that it is the the moral sensibilities of Calvinists have been warped by sin (and not themselves).

    !

    Astonishing!

  • Dana Ames

    Henry,

    John’s whole post @64 indicates to me that he believes “everybody’s doing it”, and that it’s *wrong* no matter who is doing it.

    It is possible to challenge people and not be condescending.

    I have no doubt you are my brother in Christ. I also believe Calvinism the way it is expressed by its proponents today is mistaken, and that Calvin himself was mistaken about a lot. However, I’m not going to get into an argument with you about the subject. You can write me off, that’s ok. I’ve simply come to a place in my life where I believe respectful discussion is a good thing, but take-no-prisoners argumentativeness is not. If you want the former, you’ll find it here; if you want the latter, you’re not going to find it at Jesus Creed. Though sometimes it’s difficult to keep attitudes clean, because the discussion is about things people hold to be of supreme importance. But generally this is not the place for the kind of challenge you seem to want to engage in.

    Forgive me, a sinner.

    Dana

  • Dana Ames

    Henry,
    I’m not trying to persuade you of anything.

    Forgive me, a sinner.

    Dana

  • I really don’t see the “attitude” in Henry’s words that you accuse him of. It seems like an unfair attack to me.

  • Dana Ames

    Triston,
    I had no intention of attacking anyone. I’m sorry if it came across that way.

    Dana

  • It’s all good, sister.

  • John I.

    henrybish, “Why is there such incessant intolerance when somebody says something that might make challenge someone’s ways?”

    It’s not the disagreement that’s the problem, it is the assumption, arrogance, and declaration of moral superiority that is the problem. I have no issue with a disagreement, and obviously I do think that tulip Calvinism is wrong. However, I find that Calvinists frequently write that the moral views of others are deficient because those others are not Calvinist–no other evidence required. That sort of argument goes both ways, and does not advance clarity of thought, truth, or love.

  • That which makes Calvinism (i.e. Augustinian-ism) distinctly unique from other protestant traditions of interpretation is its particular form of syncretism. (Syncretism: “The reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief.” American Heritage Dictionary).
    It is the strict adherence to one sacred rule of exegesis. All interpretation of scripture must affirm the indisputable premise of “universal divine determinism”. This rule of exegesis is not unique however to Augustine…….or Calvin who would later follow in Augustine’s footsteps.
    In many religions “Universal divine determinism” is used as a lens though which one views their deity. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theological_determinism

    When I insistence that my deity predetermines or *predestines* all things, I gain for myself a significant advantage. From this platform I can claim that my exegetical tradition *honors* my deity more than others. I can then posture myself as the one and only true *solder of the faith* because my characterization of my deity makes him appear the most powerful (Sovereign).

    However, a significant problem is found when applying this characterization to the God of the bible, because the bible’s consistent and premier characterizations God are honesty, integrity and benevolence. Other religions don’t face this problem because their deity’s primary characteristics are not declared to be honesty, integrity and benevolence. This effect is what presents the primary conflict between Augustine’s (and later Calvin’s) view of God, with other Christian exegetical traditions.

    For example: When one applies “universal divine determinism” to God’s (forbidden fruit) warning which he gave to Adam and Eve, one is forced (as Calvin was) to insist that God essentially deceived Adam and Eve by giving them the false impression that that He *wanted* them to obey.
    Calvin, by applying “universal divine determinism” as the primary rule of God’s character is then forced to insist that God has both a *declared* will and a *secret-hidden* will. And that scripture documents historical events in which God’s *declared* will is in direct opposition to His *secret-hidden* will. Throughout the events of scripture, He will give specific commandments to His people, giving them the false impression that they have the *ability* obey, and thus holding them as the responsible party. Then secretly and supernaturally He will ensure that their *ability* to obey is sufficiently thwarted. He commands them to obey, but at the same time *predestines* them to disobey.
    After having *predestined* them to disobey, He can then Judge them for the very disobedience that He *predestined*. This characterization of the God of the bible is problematic for non-Calvinist traditions of exegesis.

    One of the obvious by-products of this belief is that Calvinists are never really absolutely certain that they are saved. The scripture says “If God be for you, who can be against you”. But here, the scripture is providing God’s *declared* will for the Calvinist’s salvation. And they can’t help but wonder if God’s *secret-hidden* will for them is an eternal lake of fire. A currently popular teacher of Calvinism, John Piper declares that he wants his sons to be saved, but he will praise God even if its God’s *secret* will for his sons to spend eternity in a lake of fire.

  • amanofgod

    Triston,

    I know I am a bit late in joining into this discussion.

    But what you have said:

    “For it is impossible to demonstrate from Scripture that a believer can lose his salvation without doing injustice to the overwhelming evidence in Scripture that we can rest in the promises of Christ that we have eternal life.”

    That may well be, but… let me introduce a thought that you may not have had. I have spent close to 14 years researching the following two notions.

    1. You cannot lose your salvation.

    2. You can lose your salvation.

    And have accumulated enough arguments and cogent points that I could win perhaps 75 percent of my debates arguing for either side out of the word of God, while personally being ambivalent to either camp.

    Perhaps, this may be taken as splitting hairs but I am fully persuaded as to believe that instead of having “lost his salvation” the believer only was unchosen after his calling. “many are called, few are chosen”

    I could call it: “predestined for rejection, through reconciliation”.

    Some like Epicurus, already, call God malevolent because while being fully able to help men, He chooses not to. Some godly men, such as Job have married, and the woman says “why don’t you curse God, and die”

    Some like Tom F. Say:
    “To me …the picture of God that results is capricious and seemingly withholding. It becomes meaningless to say that God is a God of love…”

    reveling a man who has an Idol of God in his life, made in his own image because the God of scripture isn’t the God he has made for himself.

    Isiah under the influence of the Holy Spirit, wrote these words:

    “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.”
    —Isaiah 45:7

    Translators, stumble over these words, and newer translations try and soften them with falsehoods, in their place. Because it is incomprehensible that the God of their understanding would have said them.

    Another spot: From the prophet Ezekiel:
    20Then I said to them, “The word of the LORD came to me saying, 21’Speak to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am about to profane My sanctuary”

    And this came to pass, God Ordered it.

    ” 6″Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.” So they started with the elders who were before the temple. 7And He said to them, “Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!” Thus they went out and struck down the people in the city. 8As they were striking the people and I alone was left, I fell on my face and cried out saying, “Alas, Lord GOD! Are You destroying the whole remnant of Israel by pouring out Your wrath on Jerusalem? ”

    God defiled His own temple. God profaned His own temple.

    Think about this for a moment, it should shake you up. It should cause you to seek His face for an explanation. You are but a vapor, a worm, here today, and gone tomorrow.

    Your very next breathe isn’t promised to you. Do you really think you have God, the Creator pinned down in a theological trap, as injustice has to be dealt to the overwhelming evidence that we can rest in the promises of Christ that we present tense have eternal life.

    Do you think you already have the crown of life, that is only given, to him that endures to the end, and overcomes?

    Yes, you may well have found the Gate of Life.

    Perhaps, I cannot shake you up. But God can. Do not become so comfortable in your faith, as to think yourself invincible. Paul wrote these words to Christians in ROME. They are not a bluff.

    “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them who fell away (the jews), severity; but toward you (Christian gentiles), goodness, IF you continue in his goodness: otherwise you also be cut off”

    Fact: if you do not continue in His goodness, you will be cut off.

    But lets back up to a meta-view…

    Few find the gate that leads to life, fewer yet enter into it.

    There are two soil types that are Christan, one that receives the Gospel with great joy and apostatizes, and the other produces fruit.

    Why does the first soil type Christian fail to produce fruit.. because the calling, initially, produces a “false convert” if you will…

    OTOH it is the one who enters into relationship… and abides (in Christ) that produces fruit out of a regenerated nature… according to John 14… and the fruitless Christian is gathered up and burned.

    Didn’t Jesus describe this Christian in detail:

    “he beats his fellow servants, gets drunk, and does not live in expectation of the Master’s coming.

    …he beats his fellow servants…

    …his fellow servants…

    …servants…

    Everyone in this story were God’s servants, this was *not* a story about unbelievers. But of one who came to a state of being, and lived in defiance of the master’s expressed will. (love one another as I have love you)

    [… Perhaps, as a matter of pure conjecture and speculation, this hypothetical servant bought into a theology much like “hypergrace theology”, that presently, has run amuck in Christendom, (the mutated spawn of Charles Findley’s new methods: decisional regeneration, and the flu-hell-shot gospel, that have become mainstream evangelical methods.) …]

    What happened to this servant? God took away everything which the servant had, separated him from his earthly body (cut him in two parts), and threw him into hell with the unbelievers, to await a final judgment.

    The idea that no one can snatch us out of the Son’s hand fails to take into account that the Son is the final judge, not the Father.

    The hand can throw down what it wants to, and tread it underfoot upon the threshing floor. All the Father has was given to the Son.

    And don’t miss this.
    All was given to the Son, Including the Wrath of God.

    It is not the Wrath of the Father that we now carefully flee… but the “wrath of the Lamb”. We flee to the city of refuge that is Christ Jesus.

    “And they said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb”

    Yes, this passage deals with un-believers trying to hide from God, but I just want to point out it is not the Father’s wrath they are hiding from, but the Son’s.

    There is a caricature of this gentle mild teddy bear Jesus… and He is a Lion. There are just a few more verses, that I will leave you with.

    “And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto them that obey Him.”

    The elect will obey him (how-ever inconsistently and imperfectly), it is a distinctive of the elect. Say what you will about Lordship Salvation, It is biblical, and antinomians/hypergracers hate it. Realize, something here…

    It doesn’t say He became the author of Eternal Salvation unto them who keep the law of Moses, or Work for their salvation.
    But unto all of those who “obey Him.”

    The word obey has drifted in meaning, it used to mean: “to hear” but now it pretty much exclusively means “to do what is heard”

    I guess both work…

    because…

    He says on the day of the White Throne Judgment: “depart, I never knew (yad’ah) you” to one group of people.

    But to a different group of people that He describes: “My sheep hear my voice, I know (yad’ah) them, and they follow me.”

    The only way, you can hear His voice, is that the Holy Spirit is residing within, and by working of the Holy Spirit, The Father and The Son come and dwell with you. (John 14:23)

    So While the body of the Son hung on the tree, becoming accursed of God, God Himself, was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their sins on them. and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.

    But… a careful understanding of the word “reconcile” means both to add and to subtract that a ledger is become fully balanced.

    Some are reconciled in Christ as “added to the kingdom” from the world.

    Others are reconciled in Christ “as a net loss” from the world, and not added to the kingdom.

    And yet, even others, are reconciled in Christ on the cross, and are removed as a permanent loss, by have their names “blotted out” from the lamb’s book of life (ledger) after having been “added to” the book as a believer.

    To be blotted out by the Son, means to have been written in first, by the Father with the Son’s Blood.

    Ergo,

    I am fully believing the Omni-potency / Authority / Sovereignty of the Son trumps our doctrines that we have created for ourselves. These Doctrines we created to understand and teach the Word of God. Doctrines such as perseverance of the saints.

    In the end, the only thing that matters, is faith expressing itself as love.

    Because I love you, I am writing this to you. The shortest statement to take away from all of this…..

    is this:

    “Sov, of Jesus > Our Doctrines”

    Let us trust with all we are in Him who is rescuing us, even if He should choose not to accept us. If our trusting in Him is simply to be rescued from the wrath of the Lamb and the lake of fire, then we do not love Him who died for us, but really we only love ourselves. Therefore, love Him because He is the only thing that is Lovely, and worthy of our Love.

    As He has said: John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will obey My words”