Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Arminian Objections to Limited Atonement

The ongoing debate between "Calvinists and Arminians" seems like a hopeless, pitched battle where some people think we should just "agree to disagree" and move to our respective corners.  After all, we are all entitled to our "opinions" right?  Well dear reader, if our approach to truth is that it is all just a matter of personal or private interpretation, then why believe anything?  Why oppose any other belief no matter how shocking it may seem to us? If we make our faith out to be as if nothing, then the little faith we have will be taken from us and someday we would look back and wonder how we arrived at a point of almost disbelief -- compromising and trading our faith for peace.
The Calvinist vs Arminian debate isn't really about those two labels; it is about whether God is sovereign or not.  Is God really in control or has He gone so far but will go no further?  Is He now at the stage where He twiddles His fingers waiting to see what mankind will do with His propositions?  Is God disengaged more than ever before in the history of time?  That is the real debate.
But what I'd like to address here is the specific doctrine often called "Limited Atonement" which relates to the purpose and object of Christ's death on the Cross.  Did Jesus die to make atonement and salvation merely POSSIBLE for every individual or did He die to effectively secure the atonement and salvation of specific people?  That is the subject which we will take up in the form of answering a few objections by Arminians.
With the following statement, the Arminian argument intends to corner the Calvinist in what the Arminian thinks to be an indefensible position.

"It seems like [Calvinists] want to say He died for some people in all people groups (or all categories or all nations or all geographic regions or something like that)."

Well, it need not even "seem" like that is what Calvinists are saying, as if we would be afraid to affirm -- it IS what we are saying and it is what the Bible is saying. It is the original tension and issue with the early Church; ARE THE GENTILES ALSO GOING TO HAVE A PART IN THE KINGDOM, IN THE CHURCH?, IN THE COMMUNITY OF SAINTS?, IN THE RESURRECTION? That was the pressing issue and the answer was a resounding YES!!! That Christ came not just for the Jew but for the Gentile also -- the WHOLE WORLD, which does not mean every individual.
Romans 11:25
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Ephesians 3:8-9
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;
Colossians 1:26-27
the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
The "mystery", which has been hidden from ages and from generations is that the Gospel isn't just for the Jews but for the Gentiles -- for the whole world! Interestingly, the "mystery" wasn't really all that "hidden". For we read in the O.T., speaking of the Messiah,
Isaiah 49:6
Indeed He says, ‘ It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
Here we see the "mystery" in retrospect, that the Messiah was going to also be the Light of the World, bringing salvation to the ends of the earth. Amen?

The Arminian objection is, "The word world (kasomos) is never used that way." Yet to the Israelite/Jew, the Gentiles were "the world". The station of the Israelite/Jew within the covenant community was contrasted with "the world". Being cast out of the community was to be cast out into "the world".
Romans 11:11-15
I say then, have they [Israelites/Jews] stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh [race] and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
See Romans 11:12 COSMOS, See Romans 11:15 COSMOS as contrasted with the Israelites/Jews.

For an Arminian to keep arguing that world MUST include everything individual, would lead to univeralism (where everyone is saved) or to God being unable to secure man's salvation UNLESS individuals give Him permission -- who then is "God"?

The Arminian continues to challenge with this statement: "It would be best if it was an example of 'all the elect throughout all nations' (or people groups or geographic regions…). But I would even settle for an example of all X throughout all nations (or people groups or geographic regions…). If there are no such examples, I think we have good reason to suspect that this definition of world was made up to rescue limited atonement."

Besides what we have already shown, let us engage and show how the Bible does INDEED have statements like "all the elect throughout all nations" when refering to God's people coming out of all nations. And in actuality, the word ELECT by itself implies chosen ones, elected out from the masses. What masses? Just the Israelites/Jews? Or the whole world?

First, let's show how the "nations" were the Gentiles, "the world".
Genesis 10:5
From these the coastland peoples of the Gentiles were separated into their lands, everyone according to his language, according to their families, into their nations.
(side note, Gentiles included ALL non-Israelites/Jews, this means not just Caucasians, but African/Negrodic peoples were also considered "Gentiles")

God first shows us "typologically", through selecting the Israelites/Jews as special, set apart people from out of the "nations/peoples".
Deuteronomy 7:7
The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;
Deuteronomy 26:19
and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the LORD your God, just as He has spoken.”
The typological precedent is then shown, God "choosing" out (electing) from the peoples a people that He may call them a "holy people". So, when we get to the N.T. the Israelites/Jews are astonished that the Gentiles would EVER be considered part of this group.
Matthew 3:7-9
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
This was a direct reminder of what God said in Deut 7:7. Again we see this admonishment;
Romans 2:17, 28-29
Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God...For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
The text everywhere shouts EXCLUSIVITY, separation, called-out ones, elect and culminates in the N.T. showing that it is not good enough to be a people of God in race/flesh, but in the heart, a transformed people out of ALL PEOPLES, not just the Israelites/Jews.

Now to perhaps the most clear statement showing that the elect come from all nations throughout the world.
Matthew 24:30-31
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The elect are gathered from the "four winds", metaphorical for east, west, north, and south. From everywhere. The separations be it Jew vs Gentile, rich vs poor, free vs servant, male vs female no longer held a restriction to accessing God. (Gal 3:28) But to access God, you had to be GRANTED belief (John 6:64-65) and predestined (Romans 8:28-30), chosen by His own good pleasure before the foundation of the world to call-out as a special people. (Eph 1:4-5). But in all this who can boast? who can brag and swag that they are better than all others? Let us remember, Deut 7:7, Matt 3:9, Romans 2:29, and most of all:
Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
To conclude, we have already addressed that God's Will is more complex than what He "wants" since if God really "wanted" something -- He gets it, He is God after all.

And we put to rest the 3 objections of the Arminian
1) The Calvinist use of “world” is a special pleading
2) Conflating the two aspects of Christ’s work by denying the provisional aspect of the atonement
3) Implicitly undermining justification by faith
as we showed completely that the use of "world" in the Bible is many and perhaps most times in contrast to Israelites/Jews or a special group, such those within the community of saints. We have nullified the idea that Calvinists conflate two aspects of Christ's work, in that we show the provision of Christ's work on the Cross was not to just POSSIBLY atone for and save, but to ACTUALLY, EFFECTIVELY, COMPLETELY atone for and save ALL of those for whom it was ALWAYS intended even before the foundation of the world.

Lastly, we have shown that faith is not something we muster up within ourselves or something left over from the Fall as if every man has a spark of goodness remaining within him -- but faith is a gift (Eph 2:8, Lk 17:5), a gift to which more is added if we use what has been given to us. But this faith is NOT given to every individual, but only to those GRANTED to believe. Those regenerated and made alive. Those who's eyes are opened. Those who are given a heart of flesh instead of stone. God is an exclusionary God and some people can't tolerate that, so they must do all they can to undermine His sovereignty so that they may think to save Him from being "unfair".

God is Sovereign. He justifies whom He will...whether we like it or not -- and let no man boast or brag in a faith and belief he could not and did not obtain or attain by his own hand, heart or head -- but it is by GRACE we are saved. Amen?

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