Friday, March 08, 2013

Are Calvinism and the TULIP Dangerous Errors?

I am going to continue my series on "The Just Shall Live by Faith," Lord willing.  I thought, however, that it would be appropriate to take a one-week break and post the following analysis of Calvinism.

In relation to the points of the TULIP of Calvinism, Scripture teaches that man is pervasively and awfully depraved in his entire being before regeneration (Ephesians 2:1-3; Genesis 6:5), and nobody will exercise saving faith without the enablement of grace (John 6:44; Romans 3:11). Nevertheless, prevenient grace is given to all men (John 12:32) to enable them to respond to the gospel positively and receive the gifts of repentance and faith (2 Timothy 2:25; Philippians 1:29) from the Spirit through the Word (Romans 10:17) since God is not willing that any perish (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).  Personal election to salvation (cf. Romans 16:13) is based upon foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:2), which is not synonymous with foreordination.  While there is a special sense in which Christ died for “me” (Galatians 2:20), for the congregation of immersed believers (Ephesians 5:25), and for the elect (Romans 8:32), Scripture plainly states that Christ died for all men (1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:6) including specifically those who are never born again (2 Peter 2:1).  The grace of God is resistible, not irresistible (Acts 7:51; Matthew 23:37).  All believers are eternally secure and are preserved by the power of God from both hell and the domination of sin (John 10:27-30), so that no regenerate person ever can be eternally lost (Romans 8:28-39) or, during his earthly life, totally unchanged and exactly like the unregenerate (Ephesians 2:10).

John 12:32 affirms that the Lord Jesus draws “all men” to Himself, employing the same verb for drawing (helko) as that which is employed to state that nobody can come to Christ without being drawn (John 6:44).  The Calvinist contention that John 12:32 should be altered to affirm that Christ draws not “all men,” but “all the elect,” is purely gratuitous.  There is no exegetical or syntactical basis whatsoever for changing the “all men” of John 12:32 to “all the elect,” nor does any similar text with pas provide exegetical support for such an alteration—the Calvinist view of John 12:32 is eisegesis,  not exegesis.  On the other hand, there are sound exegetical reasons for supplying “men” with the “all” in John 12:32 and many other texts with the like syntax—including, it is worthy of note, every related text in John’s gospel (compare John 1:7 & 9; John 2:24 & 2:25; John 3:26 & 27; John 5:23 & 5:21-22; John 11:48 & 12:19; John 13:35 & 17:21; also Luke 9:23 & 25; Acts 21:28 & 22:15; Romans 16:19 & 1:8; Ephesians 3:9 & 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:12 & 5:14-15; 2 Timothy 2:24 & 2 Timothy 2:25-26; 1 Timothy 2:4; Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 2:17 & 2:15; etc.)

Furthermore, there is no evidence in the New Testament or in extrabiblical Koiné that the noun foreknow (prognosis) or the verb to foreknow (proginosko) mean anything other than precognition.  The Calvinist contention that the words really signify predetermine or something of the sort are arbitrary, and no such meaning for the word appears in the Liddell-Scott Greek lexicon, since in that work theology is not driving the meaning assigned to these words.  In all the clear instances, the words simply signify precognition, and no text requires a different meaning, either in the NT (Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:2, prognosis, Acts 26:5; Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:20 (the perfect tense probably explains the translation in the KJV); 2 Peter 3:17, proginosko, the LXX (Judith 9:6; 11:19, prognosis, Wisdom 6:13; 8:8; 18:6, proginosko), or elsewhere (cf. (1 Clement 44:2; 2 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 32:4; Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 1:39, 92, 134; Josephus, Antiquities 8:234, 418; 13:300; 15:373; 17:43; 18:201; Apion 1:232, prognosis, Shepherd of Hermas 31:4; 66:5, Apology of Justin 1:28, 43, 45, 49, 53; Trypho 1:42, 70, 77, 140–141; Athenagoras, Resurrection 1:2; Josephus, Antiquities 1:311; 2:86; 4:121; 5:358; 6:54, 348; 7:57; 8:419; 13:175; 16:214; 18:218; War 1:55, 608; 2:159; 3:484; 4:236; 6:8; Life 1:106; Apion 1:204, 256; Pseudo-Hecateus 6:23; proginosko).  Nor is it valid for the Calvinist to assume that senses of other words, such as know, uniformly transfer to the noun and verb foreknow (by such reasoning, baptidzo could be made to signify “to dye” because the verb derives from bapto, which has this meaning);  rather than making such an assumption, the actual words for foreknow, which are common enough, must themselves be analyzed.  While John 15:16, isolated from other texts of Scripture, is certainly consistent with an unconditional personal election to salvation, it does not require such a doctrine, even if one assumes that election to salvation, rather than the election of the twelve to their apostolic office, is in view.  The syntax “ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” while it certainly places the emphasis upon God’s choice of man, does not require the exclusion of all activity on the part of humanity any more than Paul’s “the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19) means that Paul did no good at all, or the statement that “it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:20; Mark 13:11) excludes human speech entirely.

Romans 9 also provides no support for Calvinism.  See the exposition of the passage in the notes on Romans in the “College Courses” section, subsection “Greek Courses,” at, or look at the articles on Romans 9 here on “What is Truth," such as  the "Why I am not a Calvinist" series.

Furthermore, while regeneration and faith are temporally simultaneous, the new birth is logically subsequent to faith (cf. John 3:1-21).  Scripture neither teaches the soteriology of Arminianism nor of TULIP Calvinism.  

Furthermore, statements advocating baptismal regeneration by Calvin and other Calvinists must be unequivocably repudiated and anathematized (Galatians 1:8-9).  Calvin taught:   “God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption . . . whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified . . . forgiveness . . . at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone . . . forgiveness has reference to baptism. . . . In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness of sins” (Institutes, 4:17:1, 4:15:3, 4, 15).  “We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. . . . Nothing is plainer than this doctrine” (1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Reply to the 1st Decree of the 5th Session).  Note the discussion in “Were the Reformers Heretics?” and Heaven Only For theBaptized? by Thomas Ross, in “Paedobaptism and Baptimal Efficacy,” Rich Lusk, The Federal Vision, ed. Steve Wilkins & Duane Garner.  (Monroe, LA:  Athanasius, 2004), and in “Regeneration: A Crux Interpretum,” David R. Anderson.  Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 13:2 (Autumn 00) 43-65.  Some advocates of Reformed theology follow Calvin in his error of baptismal regeneration (e. g., “The Bible teaches us that baptism unites us to Christ,” pg. 55, The Federal Vision; cf. pgs. 89ff., while others reject his doctrine and attempt to explain his statements away (e. g., James J. Cassidy, “Calvin on Baptism: Baptismal Regeneration or the Duplex Loquendi Modus? pgs. 534-554 in Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church, ed. Lane G. Tipton & Jeffrey C. Waddington.  Cassidy nonetheless has to admit (pg. 546): “[T]here are some quotations that make us scratch our heads and wonder whether [Calvin] did not, in fact, believe in baptismal regeneration”).  Baptismal regeneration as the view of the Westminster Standards is advocated by modern Reformed writers in Reformed Is Not Enough, Doug Wilson (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2002) pgs. 103-104; Lusk, Federal Vision, pgs. 96-99, etc.

Many Calvinists also hold the dangerous soteriological error, based on their view that regeneration preceeds faith, that infants and others may be regenerated, grow up, and go to heaven, without ever conciously coming to a recognition of their lost estate and consiously, for the first time, repenting and believing the gospel.  Thus, for instance, John Murray affirmed:  “Baptised infants are to be received as the children of God and treated accordingly,” citing the Directory of the Public Worship of God prepared by the Westminster Assembly, which affirmed:  “The seed and posterity of the faithful, born within the church have, by their birth, interest in the covenant . . . they are Christians” (pg. 56, Christian Baptism, John Murray.  (Philipsburg, NJ:  Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980).  Many others even repudiate the necessity of any kind of experimental religion (cf. the discussion in “Historic Calvinism and Neo-Calvinism,” William Young. Westminster Theological Journal 36:1 (Fall 1973) 48-65 & 36:2 (Winter 1974) 156-173, and the related discussion in “Edwardsean Preparation For Salvation,” John H. Gerstner & Jonathan Neil Gerstner, Westminster Theological Journal 42:1 (Fall 1979) 5-71).  Thus, while it is true that in exceptional and very unusual situations, such as a believer who suffers a mental disease and loses his memory of thirty years of his life, including that portion in which he was converted, when the Reformed affirmed “against the Anabaptists . . . that believers did not have to know, and could not always know, the time of their regeneration” (pg. 74, Reformed Dogmatics, Herman Bavinck, J. Bolt, & J. Vriend, vol. 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), they placed themselves on very dangerous ground.



Jon Gleason said...

Brother Ross, in regard to I Peter 1, I wonder if you would be interested in addressing a few things for me.

1. You've said, "based upon foreknowledge." The actual text is "according to" (Gr: kata). Certainly, there are some places in Scripture where the force of this preposition appears to be "based upon" -- but there seem to be far more where it is not. Could you elaborate on why you believe "based upon" is the meaning here, rather than "in agreement with" as is the more common sense of the preposition?

2. Although the word order in the Greek is obviously flexible, it isn't irrelevant. Given the word ordering of the original, can you explain why you believe "according to foreknowledge" refers to "elect" rather than to "strangers" or "scattered"? Would not the more natural reading of the Greek be that they have been dispersed according to the foreknowledge of God, or that they are strangers according to the foreknowledge of God?

3. In the context of the book as a whole, does it not make much more sense to see this as intended to comfort those who face imminent persecution that God has chosen them to "scattered strangers" and this condition is in full agreement with His foreknowledge? In other words, is it not better to see this as a pastoral statement rather than a technical statement about the nature of election?

It seems to me that any argument for or against Calvinism based on I Peter 1:1-2 is on very shaky exegetical grounds, and we would do better to build our soteriology on passages which are clearly intended to directly teach soteriology. I am unpersuaded that such is the intent of this text, though I'm certainly open to learning.

Now, rather than just snipe from the sidelines :), it's only fair to note that I've written about this passage before ( It was s summary of a sermon, not a theological treatise, yet I believe it to be sound. Nevertheless, I would welcome your critique if you believe I have missed the point of the passage.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent/Thomas,

I know I can’t keep saying that I “am just passing through” but it’s true again. I really can pick my days, can’t I? ;o)

OK, lots of stuff in this post. I fancy the Unlimited Atonement one or (to reverse the Calvinist position) “Not-for-anyone-in-particular Redemption” one. Let’s take the Rich Man in Hell from Luke 16:19-31. I believe he it is a case account and that, as I type these words, this damned soul has been tormented in the flame of Hell for at least 2,000 years and has still an eternity to go. Why is he is Hell? Simple. Because he incurred infinite guilt when he sinned against God and never repented or exercised faith in Christ. I assume we are in complete agreement on that matter.

Did Christ actually cover the guilt of the RM’s sins as He evidently did for those of poor old Lazarus who finally made it into Abraham’s bosom? I think we agree that to atone means to cover which is further enlarged upon elsewhere to mean “blot out as a thick cloud” (Isaiah 44:22) I assume that you believe that He did and that the RM’s greed and many other sins etc., were all in their totality judiciously laid on Christ and actually atoned for i.e. covered. If this is so, then can be said that they were no more or no less atoned for i.e. covered. than the sins of poor Lazarus or the Apostle Paul or yours and mine?

If you don’t mind, I’ll park her there for a while and see what you affirm or deny in my assumptions.

Thank you for your time.

Colin Maxwell

KJB1611 said...

Dear Colin,

The assumption that the extent of the atonement is the same as the number of those who actually go to heaven is, of course, the Limited Atonement position, but it is not taught in Scripture. If we just go with the plain sense of Scripture, Christ died for false teachers (2 Peter 2:1), for the whole world, for all, etc. and no text anywhere says He did not die for certain groups. I will go with the plain sense of Scripture, rather than assuming Limited Atonement in the way I phrase questions and then asking if, on my Limited Atonement presuppositions, Limited Atonement is the necessary consequence.

Thanks for the question.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi KJB1611,

Does just going with the plain sense of scripture (as you put it)lead you to affirm that the actual guilt of the damned Rich Man's sins were judicially laid on Christ and that they were actually atoned for i.e. eternally covered when He shed His blood? If so, then can it be said that they were no more or no less atoned for i.e. covered than the sins of poor Lazarus or the Apostle Paul or yours and mine?

Since there is nothing of a trick nature in these two simple, questions (God forbid) then I would have thought that simple affirmative or non affirmative answers would have quickly been forthcoming, especially seeing the Scriptures are so plain.


Colin Maxwell

Lance Ketchum said...

"Personal election to salvation." Can you show me anywhere in Scripture where election refers to someone being chosen to salvation other than II Thessalonians 2:13? The common context of chosen or election is always vocational, not salvational.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Colon,

We're having our academic meet today at our school, so I can't spend a lot of time, so I've got to let Thomas carry the water on this one, but I'll make one comment.

We derive our doctrine from what Scripture says, not from its silence. The parts that the Bible says nothing about, we can only speculate that. We understand how the work on the cross operates by what the Bible says. So Jesus could die for everyone and unbelievers not have that death apply to them. That seems simple to me. Paul said that when he went to Corinth (1 Corinthians 15), he preached that Christ died for their sins. Did Jesus die for the sins of everyone Paul preached for? Or was Paul lying when he preached that to them? Why would Paul preach that Christ died for them, when He didn't in fact know if they would believe until after they believed? Isn't it a lie to preach to anyone that Christ died for them if He died only for the elect?

I want to believe what you say, because then I could fit in with all the cool Calvinists out there (who don't apply God's sovereignty to the preservation of Scripture).

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,

I appreciate you taking time to answer me esp. when you have busy engagements.

Is the Scripture silent, though, in what Christ did for sinners upon the Cross? Either He made atonement for all w/o exception and covered the guilt of their sins or He didn't. If the Bible is silent on that, then Paul had nothing effective to preach at Corinth or anywhere. The only difficulty in the question lies not in the silence of Scripture, but in the somewhat embarrassing outcome of a teaching that has sinners enduring eternal penal suffering in Hell for guilt that has professedly been covered. Thankfully, I am not loaded down w/ any such denial and do not have to cover any theological nakedness withe fig leaf of an invented 'Scripture is silent' line.

The language of 1 Corinthians 15 is that Christ died for our sins i.e. the sins of the people of God. Perhaps you can show me anywhere in the NT where the Apostles used the words "Christ died for you" when preaching to an indiscriminate crowd or writing to anyone outside those addressed as saints or some other synonym. That is where, unless you can show me otherwise, the silence of Scripture may be observed.

You'll have to forgive me not rising to your last paragraph which really introduces other subjects outside the original issue as to what kind of atonement the Bible proclaims.


Anonymous said...

Actually, what Paul said was that "Christ for our sins" is part of the gospel message. He said this is what "I delivered unto you." So, Kent's point is precisely correct. When you preach the gospel to somebody, do you tell them that Christ died for their sins? If so, why? If not, what do you tell them?


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Colon,

It's tough with writing things, as I was only having fun with the last paragraph, so I apologize for that. Calvinism is an "in" doctrine among the intellligentsia, it seems, is what I was saying, but you were good not rising to that one. I like people like you and we wouldn't be at odds with each other if I just believed Calvinism, so I really do mean that I want to be a Calvinist. And P. S. Ferguson, another guy I like that comments here, wouldn't be opposed to what I write here on this.

I've read a lot of Calvinism, because I like reading the Puritans, Spurgeon, and there isn't much else to read, because not many other people wrote much. Baptists generally didn't fit into the state church situations in which there was more freedom to be published.

I know Paul said, "our sins." Peter said "we" on the Day of Pentecost when preached to them. Paul often used "we," when referring to people other than himself. But as you look at the context, Paul came to Corinth, and this is what he preached to them first. They weren't saved when he started preaching to them. He's saying, this is what you had to believe in order to be saved, so why is it that you would reject the resurrection of the body, when you believed that in order to be saved? Those reading are those who believed, but they weren't saved when Paul preached what he preached.

I personally don't believe Jesus merely atoned for sins, because His death was more than atonement, but that is another subject too. The one time "atonement" is used in the NT in Romans, it is the Greek word for "reconciliation," but I get how that the "L" in TULIP uses the word "atonement." Jesus' blood washes away sin.

Putting that aside, I believe he died for everyone's sins. I would apply 2 Peter 2:1 to him in Luke 16, since that passage doesn't say anything about whether Jesus died for him. Your point seems very narrow, that is, if Jesus died for someone, then he has to be "atoned for." But that's not how it reads in Scripture. It's why we should conclude that his death didn't apply to those who didn't believe. You are saying that means Jesus didn't die for him. But if Jesus died for everyone, then He did. His sins weren't washed away, because He didn't believe. If he believed, then the death, the shed blood, would apply. Someone has to come to a logical conclusion from what Scripture says. Mine makes sense out of all the "all" references. You've got to conclude that "all" doesn't mean all, but it doesn't end there. You've got to say then that grace is irresistible and that election is unconditional. Logical conclusions are being made by everyone, but they've got to be made based on the premises we read in the Bible.

Thanks Colin. I'm happy for your drive-bys. We'll see if I can get to answering if you write anything else.


Limited Atonement or Universalism is a false choice. The atonement is sufficient for all men but all men have not faith. That is, just because the atonement isn't applied universally (because of lack of individual faith) doesn't mean it isn't sufficient universally. Which Hell would be worse torment, one where you knew your sins were atoned for or one where you were merely not chosen? If you can't walk up to anyone on the street and tell them that Jesus loves you and died for your sins then what do you tell them?
John Gardner

KJB1611 said...

Dear Jon,

I don’t believe the gloss I used and the one you used are a dichotomy; thus, note BDAG (Greek font is Helena, the Accordance Greek font—if you don’t have it, you may see garble):

d. Oft. the norm is at the same time the reason, so that in accordance with and because of are merged: oi˚ k. pro/qesin klhtoi÷ Ro 8:28. kat∆ e˙pitagh\n qeouv 16:26; 1 Ti 1:1; Tit 1:3. k. aÓpoka¿luyin Eph 3:3 (Just., D. 78, 2). oi˚ kaq∆ uJpomonh\n e¶rgou aÓgaqouv Ro 2:7. kat∆ e˙klogh/n 11:5 (Just., D. 49, 1). Cp. k. th\n boulh/n Eph 1:11 (Just., A I, 63, 16 al.); 2 Th 2:9; Hb 7:16. k. ti÷ gnw¿somai touvto; by what shall I know this? (cp. {p. 513} Gen 15:8) Lk 1:18.—Instead of ‘in accordance w.’ k. can mean simply because of, as a result of, on the basis of (Ael. Aristid. 46 p. 219 D.: k. tou\ß no/mouß; Jos., Ant. 1, 259; 278; Just., A I, 54, 1 kat∆ e˙ne÷rgeian tw◊n fau/lwn daimo/nwn; Ath. 7, 1 k. sumpa¿qeian thvß para» touv qeouv pnohvß; 32, 1 k. crhsmo/n). k. pa◊san ai˙ti÷an for any and every reason (ai˙ti÷a 1) Mt 19:3. k. aÓpoka¿luyin Gal 2:2. Cp. Ro 2:5; 1 Cor 12:8 (k. t. pneuvma = dia» touv pn.); Eph 1:5; 4:22b; Phil 4:11; 1 Ti 5:21; 2 Ti 1:9; Tit 3:5; k. aÓna¿gkhn Phlm 14 (Ar. 1, 2; 4, 2 al.; Just., A I, 30, 1; 61, 10; Ath. 24, 2); IPol 1:3. oJ k. to\ polu\ aujtouv e¶leoß aÓnagennh/saß hJma◊ß 1 Pt 1:3.—kaq∆ o¢son (Thu. 4, 18, 4) in so far as, inasmuch as Hb 3:3. kaq∆ o¢son . . . , k. tosouvto in so far as . . . , just so far (Lysias 31, 8; Galen, De Dignosc. Puls. 3, 2, VIII 892 K.) 7:20, 22.

Note that kata can also be glossed “because of,” not in 1 Peter 1:2 only, but also in 1 Peter 1:3, “according to” God’s mercy means “because of” His mercy.

I think you can see the idea of the Greek in the following:
. . . to the elect aliens/strangers
of the dispersion of Pontus . . .
[elect—a diagram would draw a line to this word] according to the foreknowledge of God . . .

Also, it would be difficult to say that they were strangers through sanctification of the Spirit, and unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, but that latter phrase goes with the according to foreknowlege phrase. Thus, they are elect according to foreknowledge, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and the sprinkling of Christ’s blood, not strangers according to foreknowledge, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and the sprinkling of Christ’s blood.

Also, Romans 8 provides support for election according to foreknowledge also; 1 Peter is not the only passage.

While I don’t mind looking at your link, I cannot say I have the chance to do so at this point.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Colin,

I agree with what Pastor Brandenburg has said. I would be interested in seeing your exegesis of the texts that non-Calvinists use to, in my view, demolish the “L” of the TULIP.

I will simply add to Pastor Brandenburg the words of Demarest from pgs. 191-192 of his The Cross and Salvation, in which he proves that the provision of the atonement is universal, while the application of the atonement is particular:

We conclude that in terms of the Atonement’s provision Christ died not merely for the elect but for all sinners in all times and places. Christ drank the cup of suffering for the sins of the entire world. He died as a substitute, a propitiation, a ransom, etc. for the universe of sinners. The non-elect had their sins paid for on the cross, even though through unbelief they do not personally appropriate the benefits of his work. Christ, in other words, provided salvation for more people than those to whom he purposed to apply its saving benefits. The Atonement’s universal provision removes every barrier between a holy God and sinners, unleashes in the world a power for good that restrains evil, guarantees the future resurrection of all people from the dead (John 5:28–29), provides an additional just basis for the condemnation of unbelievers, and offers motivation for the proclamation of the Good News to every creature. [Such texts] emphasize the universality of the provision side of the Atonement.

Dear Lance,

I don’t believe election to salvation and to vocation are a dichotomy. People can’t serve God unless they are saved, so if they are elect to a vocation of glorifying Him they must be elect to being saved. Furthermore, 2 Thess 2:13 looks pretty clear to me; another example is Eph 1:4. We are chosen in Christ to be glorified, to be holy and without blame before God in love in the eternal state. That is being chosen to salvation, even though we will certainly have a holy vocation in the New Jerusalem.

Dear Calvinists,

I would like to know if those Calvinists who are reading this post and these comments, or are thinking about commenting themselves, will unequivocally anathemetize the baptismal regeneration clearly taught by John Calvin, the Federal Vision of Douglas Wilson, etc., and also decry the dangerous error that one can be saved without a conscious personal conversion to Christ.

Everyone, thanks for the comments.

Jon Gleason said...

Thank you, Thomas. There is no need to look at the link -- I can apply what you've said here to it. I will study this passage more.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,

Thanks again for getting back to me here. Before we get down to the real business, I don’t run w/ the Baptist lack of freedom to write observation. Persecution didn’t hinder Bunyan or the other Puritans including the Scottish Presbyterians etc. from writing great books. Furthermore, the persecution of Baptists finished about 300 years ago.

Let’s run with the idea (which all here seem to shy away from actually stating) that when Christ cried “It is finished” then all the sins of the Rich Man in Luke 16 were actually atoned for by Christ i.e. they were covered over and blotted out as a thick cloud i.e. out of sight. What does this mean? It means that Divine justice, for the purposes of condemnation, cannot find them. A suitable Substitute has died and paid the full price 100%, and therefore the law must sheath its drawn sword and retire satisfied from the scene. If any one wants to raise a charge, then the Divine Blood speaks up and says: “I was shed for that particular loathsome individual called the Rich Man in Luke 16. I have made atonement for each, all and every last one of his millions of sins. They have been blotted out like one of those thick cumulous clouds – they are each and every one covered. You may see his sin, but God can only see the atoning blood and He has said, ‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you’ because Christ was our Passover, sacrificed for us i.e. the whole world of individual people, w/o any exception.” This is basically your position when carried to its full implication. Where the going gets rough and you want to get off is where you start to limit the intent of the atonement and that lands you in Calvinism, whether the use of this label is appropriate or not.

Had the Rich Man faith in this sacrifice that actually so covered all his sins? Obviously not, but even these sins of ultimate unbelief and impenitence are likewise atoned for and covered etc. What right had Divine Justice to rake back over atoned for sin and inflict further penalty when this man died and was cast into Hell? Either Jesus didn’t render a sufficient atonement for anyone and has left debt to be paid or God has gone beyond His justice and what goes on in Hell is unjust.

The Cross work of Christ was purely objective. What was done was done in its own right, separate from the creature. It was not Christ’s blood plus my faith that made atonement for my sin.

Perhaps you believe that Christ’s blotting out of the sins of the wicked only stands while they are in this life and still within reach. Then when they die in their sins and become the wicked damned, then somehow their sins are unatoned for and the thick covering cloud thins again? To be honest, this alternative scenario makes more sense than the doctrine that you are proposing. At least, it does not impinge on the doctrine of Divine Justice that reopens settled cases (“It is finished”) and dismisses the perfect atonement of the Saviour on the Cross as of insufficient value.

Re: the “alls” of Scripture, I do believe them. I just refuse to guillotine the English language and limit them to “all w/o exception.” A simple use of a concordance will soon show that all also carries the import of “all w/o distinction” i.e. “all kinds of.” The Greek word for all is sometimes translated as all manner of so we are on good ground here.

I do not doubt that when Paul delivered the gospel to the wicked Corinthians that he said “Christ died for our sins” I preach this regularly to the wicked, and (if the weather is any way half decent) will do so again this afternoon.

Must leave it there. I’m enjoying these chats. Sorry I can’t engage each and every contributor here, or take on each and every point raised in the above article. I would rather settle on one point and see it through than write screeds and still only skim the surface.


P/s I like you too ;o)

Lance Ketchum said...

Brother Kent,
If election is to salvation, you have numerous contradictions in Scripture of that premise. The exegetical principle of contradiction should tell you that you need to look deeper. Israel as a nation was elect/chosen of God. Were they all saved (Rom. 9:6-8)? Judas is referred to as elect. Was he chosen for salvation or was he chosen to fulfill a specific purpose? Is the context of Romans 8:29-30 salvation or glorification? If you are going to begin to understand any doctrine, according to the principle of first mention where do you begin and how does an inductive methodology of exegesis develop a doctrine?

In an inductive evaluation of the use of the Hebrew word bachar (baw-khar'), it appears to be apparent that the purpose of God’s choosing is service, ministry or, a specific task. The word always carries with it vocational connotations (not salvational; Eph. 4:1). This is the common usage regarding God’s electing throughout Scripture. Innumerable Scriptural examples in usage bear testimony to this common meaning. Since this election is vocational and not salvational, and since God selects certain groups and individuals for specific tasks, He can unselect them if they fail in His covenant requirements and He can then select others, or another, to fulfill His purpose. This is what happened with the Old (Mosaic) Covenant priesthood of Israel (Malachi chapters 2 and 3; compare Romans Chapter 11). None of the covenants carry salvational connotations or conditions. All of the covenants are between God and are with God’s elect. In other words, God elected and then made covenants with those He elected. Although some covenants are conditional for God’s blessings, none of the covenants are conditional for salvation.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thomas wrote what you are addressing, so for the sake of time, I'll let Thomas answer your comment.


Could you answer Bro. Ketchum's comment?


The Baptist history comment of mine was likely a tangent, like the preservation of Scripture one, so I'll let that go for now, because you are right about focusing on one point to its conclusion being a better use of time.

I'll come back later, because I can see I need to leave for several hours.

Johanna Sawyer said...


While I believe strongly in God's sovereignty and election, perhaps a bit more flatly than you do, I agree with you that Jesus died for all men. (It makes me happy to say it in fact)

I like to say I'm a zero point Calvinist but I believe in double predestination.

But I concur completely that regeneration before faith is a terrible error. Do you agree that it was "caused" by the practice of infant baptism?

One of the most terrible results is that people who trail in a theological system which assumed infant baptism--Even If They Themselves Do Not-- will find the Gospel of John somewhat incoherent. And they will find the NT teaching on regeneration likewise. They will find regeneration squishy, while justification will have clear borders.

For instance when Paul speaks of his own testimony in 1 Tim 1, he doesn't refer to :

15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

First, we see that for Paul belief is TO everlasting life and not everlasting life TO belief.

But we also see Paul stressing eternal life as the starting point of salvation, which is not often done in systems that flow from institutional infant baptism.

Perhaps this sounds like a hobby horse, but I find if a person knows when he received eternal life, the vividness of that will help them settle the assurance issue, better than those who know when they were saved, which is a larger category ad therefore perhaps somewhat less easy to grab hold of assurance- wise.

Blessing to all!

David said...


Say everyone in the world has a deadly disease. A cure is found and a rich man purchases an injection with the cure for every person. The cure is found. It is available. It is paid for already. There is nothing more to be paid for. This does not mean that everyone is cured or has applied the cure to themselves. Some refuse to believe they have the horrid disease. Others try other cures to no avail. What the people do does not cure them... only the injection being applied to them will do it. In this example, the cure is found, paid for, and available... but not applied until it is received. The one who provided the cure is not guilty when people refuse the antidote, the people are.

When Christ said "It is finished," the cure was found, paid for, and available... for every person. The payment was made. Scripture is clear that it is applied, though, through faith. I am completely missing why this is a contradiction to you? Payment made and payment received are not necessarily the same thing.

If you don't believe in sinless perfectionism, (and I doubt you do), then you would agree that there is a difference between something made available (salvation from sinning) and applied (not sinning/having victory over sin).

Paid for and available is not the same as applied and received.

I'm with the others who have commented that believe a presupposition must be required to make the "all" and "world" to refer to only the elect and not all people.

"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)

Christ's blood/sacrifice is the antidote for the sins of the whole world.... but is must be received.

David said...


Consider that if you believe that atonement equals applied and there is no differentiation between paid for and applied, then you don't believe one must put their faith in Christ for salvation, which the Bible is clear on. You are stating that the elect were saved before they were saved and that there was no condemnation before they repented and trusted in Christ. Why then does Paul say in Romans 8 that "There is therefore NOW no condemnation..."? Why does John 3 state that before we believe we are condemned? You asked if we can assume on the statements you made earlier are true, but the answer is no. You have some BIG faults in your reasoning. It is tainted by TULIP not by Scripture. I am praying that you see your failure to separate payment made and payment received on this... because otherwise you are throwing out some very clear passages in Scripture. It is great to see you discussing things here. If something I had written is not clear, let me know.

Any of you other men see this as a point of departure that is leading him off track?

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi David,

As written before, for good practical reason, I cannot either reply to all who comment on this page or take up every matter raised in the original article. Initially, I addressed Kent/Thomas and asked and continue to ask whether or not that when Christ died, did He actually cover the sins of the Rich Man damned in Hell, as recorded in Luke 16:19-31. Only Kent has replied so far and we are currently discussing it. I have reason to believe that Kent has more to say on the matter and either confirm or deny as to whether or not Christ actually covered the sins of those in Hell. If Christ didn’t, then no atonement was made for them and (as said) this is the #Calvinist (and I believe, Biblical) position. If Christ actually did (as opposed to merely offering to do so) atone for and cover their sin, then we are entitled to ask either why atoned for and covered sin has not failed to keep him out of Hell, or if he is in Hell for some other non penal reason.

FTR: I have never stated at anytime, as you report, “that the elect were saved before they were saved and that there was no condemnation before they repented and trusted in Christ.” Ths is not my position and therefore I would never state it, as you charge.


KJB1611 said...

Dear Colin,

Christ died “for” both the rich man in hell and Lazarus, because Scripture says He died for all men. I am not sure who believes that Christ’s blood + a person’s faith atones for sin; unless you can prove that this is a real position out there, I can’t help but think that it is simply designed as a scary idea to draw us to adopt limited atonement.

I am glad that, as you affirm, you wish to be honest with the “all men” sort of texts. Most limited atonement people, in my view, seem to be willing to torture these passages to fit in with their predisposed theory. If you are not going to do so, I am very glad. I wrote about these texts in the main body of my post as follows:

John 12:32 affirms that the Lord Jesus draws “all men” to Himself, employing the same verb for drawing (helko) as that which is employed to state that nobody can come to Christ without being drawn (John 6:44). The Calvinist contention that John 12:32 should be altered to affirm that Christ draws not “all men,” but “all the elect,” is purely gratuitous. There is no exegetical or syntactical basis whatsoever for changing the “all men” of John 12:32 to “all the elect,” nor does any similar text with pas provide exegetical support for such an alteration—the Calvinist view of John 12:32 is eisegesis, not exegesis. On the other hand, there are sound exegetical reasons for supplying “men” with the “all” in John 12:32 and many other texts with the like syntax—including, it is worthy of note, every related text in John’s gospel (compare John 1:7 & 9; John 2:24 & 2:25; John 3:26 & 27; John 5:23 & 5:21-22; John 11:48 & 12:19; John 13:35 & 17:21; also Luke 9:23 & 25; Acts 21:28 & 22:15; Romans 16:19 & 1:8; Ephesians 3:9 & 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:12 & 5:14-15; 2 Timothy 2:24 & 2 Timothy 2:25-26; 1 Timothy 2:4; Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 2:17 & 2:15; etc.)

I would be happy to hear if you agree with my exegetical conclusion that “all men” really means “all men,” not “all the elect,” etc. in texts such as those I mention, and if you do not, what your exegetical basis is for so disagreeing.

Dear Lance,

Certainly the word “elect” is not always talking about personal election to salvation, as with Israel’s national election, and so on.

Perhaps you can explain how a person like Rufus (Rom 16:13) can be chosen to glorification but not chosen to salvation; I am not sure how you are using the word “salvation” here, as going to heaven in a glorified body is certainly part of salvation, and nobody will be glorified who is not also justified. Also, salvation is vocational. God didn’t save us for us just to sit around, but to glorify Him. I’m not assuming you disagree with any of this, but I am not following your argument. I would appreciate an explanation of how election can be personal and vocational but not be salvific.

Thanks for the comments.

Colin Maxwell said...


I’ll snatch a moment her to answer you while waiting on and until Kent and/or Thomas to get back on the matter I have raised specifically with them.

Will you consciously affirm that Christ has actually covered the sin of the Rich Man, now in Hell? It is either covered or it is not. I say that it is not and I invite you to join me in my constant and clear denial.

Let me make another statement here and again I invite you to stand with me on the matter: “Covered sin cannot be punished in Hell because it was already punished on the Cross.”


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Colin,

KJB1611 is Thomas. He's not a Ruckmanite. He uses that as his handle, however.

Regarding what you are saying, it's like we are talking past each other. You're saying that if Jesus died for people, the benefits of that death must be applied to them. I don't know what verse you're taking that from. What I'm saying is that Jesus can die for someone and that person will receive the benefits only if he believes. That's what point David above seems to be making. We've got a verse that deals with the situation with 2 Peter 2:1. I recognize that "all" doesn't mean everyone in the world in certain contexts, so that's not the best argument, but it also wasn't the one Thomas was using. He was looking at "all," as in its context, the meaning of "all" being the normal meaning of "everyone" in its context. You would have to deal with his contextual argument to argue against it, not something like "all" sometimes doesn't mean "all." We know that. But the normal usage is "all," not "some," and when it is used in that normal way, like Thomas showed, it should be taken that way by faith.

I don't really care about the terminology "limited atonement." Does Jesus only "atone for," "reconcile," those who believe? Yes. But you would also say that He dies only for the elect. I don't see that taught by Scripture.

When Jesus said "It is finished," He doesn't tell us what He finished. How I have explained it, however, is that He finished everything that needed to be done for anyone to be saved who believed on Him. No work is necessary because of His finished work. The cross work that the Father gave Him to do was finished. The results were ongoing, since it is perfect passive. He didn't need to do anything else, repudiating the Catholic mass.

When Paul preached to unbelieving Corinthians, did he preach, "Christ died for our sins," and he wanted those people hearing him to think that he meant "the sins of the elect"? Paul wasn't crafty and didn't handle the Word of God deceitfully (2 Cor 4:2). He wouldn't give them an impression that something was occurring that was not in fact occurring. If he was preaching to unbelievers that Christ died for our sins, He meant that Christ died for the sins of believers and unbelievers (again see 2 Peter 2:1). He wasn't saying "Christ died for our sins," but (wink, wink) I mean those elect according to the foreknowledge of God. Your position belies language. You don't talk to people and say "our sins" and not be referring to them without explanation. If not, you are being crafty. They think you mean them, or else you would say "my sins," not "our."

I believe David has a point too. The reason sprinkled infants in Calvin's system could "now" have no condemnation is because their sins were "atoned for" before faith. I'd be glad to find out differently, but that's how Calvin reads.


I don't know how that you could believe in double predestination without believing that someone's sins are "atoned for" before he believes. I can be happy that you believe anything that the Bible says, but it does seem to be contradictory.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent/Thomas,

Oops! re: Thomas'handle. At least it proves I only pass through every now and again. All being well, I'll get back to this in the morning. I certainly appreciate you both taking time to answer me.


Charles E Whisnant said...

Kent Brandenburg believes that "there is no evidence in the New Testament or in extrabiblical Koiné that the noun foreknow (prognosis) or the verb to foreknow (proginosko) mean anything other than precognition." So, does that mean God learns by taking in new information? He isn't directing things according to his will but simply responding to what he sees? I read this today.

Kent Brandenburg said...


First, Thomas wrote the post, not me. TDR is at the bottom of the post, but that blog didn't see the need to check on who wrote it. Second, Thomas shows what the Greek word means. For someone to argue with that, they actually have to do some work with words, not just throw out some outlandish statement that tires to make us look like open theism. Third, Believing in foreknowledge would mean just the opposite than what that guy asserted there. If God knows everything before it happens, then He isn't in fact learning anything. Nothing is occurring to Him. What Thomas seems to be concluding, and I agree with him, is that foreknowledge doesn't mean forordination or fore'love,' but just what it says, foreknowledge. We're not concluding more than what Scripture says. That does leave a tension that I'm comfortable with, but that the Calvinists are not. They can't have Scripture speak for itself. They have to make words mean something different in order to be sovereign over God's sovereignty.

Lance Ketchum said...

There are three basic views of God’s foreknowledge of human history and the given details of future events.

1. God foreknows because He is able to look down the hallways of time and see future events before they actually happen. Those holding to this view believe that God learns as He sees the future before it happens.
2. God foreknows because He causes all events in the history of the world. This view is known as Causation, Predeterminism, Fate, or Sovereign Grace. Those holding to this view believe that the only way God can know the future is because God foreknows what He causes in the future by intervening in every matter and detail in human history.
3. The third view is that God simply knows all things (omniscience). Those holding to this view do not try to explain how God knows things past, present, and future. They simply accept that God knows and that He is immanent within His creation according to His perfect will. They accept that there are many aspects of God’s attributes of which they cannot explain and therefore, they do not go beyond what Scripture reveals through rationalism, logic, and Suppositionalism.

Johanna Sawyer said...

Hi Pastor Kent,

Though it might have been hard to decipher, that is probably a point of agreement between you and I. (I've sometimes been known to prematurely hit the return on only semi-coherent comments.)

What I mean when referring to myself as a zero-point Calvinist (but a believer in double predestination) is simply that there is often a tendency to put too fine a point on the "points" in my opinion. This makes it hard for me to sign-on to even those where I agree with the basic premise. I think there is often a desire to articulate them in a way that listeners are either all-in or all-out. Since I am strongly persuaded that Jesus died for all, I suppose I am slow to sign-on even in a partial way.

Generally though I was glad to see your comments on the problem of thinking of regeneration as preceding saving faith.

David said...


Thanks for replying. You made a statement at the end of it that I don't believe you can shrug off so easily. At the end of your reply, you said:

"I have never stated at anytime, as you report, “that the elect were saved before they were saved and that there was no condemnation before they repented and trusted in Christ.” Ths is not my position and therefore I would never state it, as you charge."

Maybe you can help me understand how this is not the conclusion from what you are proposing in regards to the RM. You are asking if the sins of the whole world were atoned for by Christ, then why would the RM be in hell?

You are assuming that atonement = payment for sins provided AND APPLIED

(you said, "all the sins of the RM in Luke 16 were actually atoned for by Christ i.e. they were covered over.... It means that Divine justice, for the purposes of condemnation, cannot find them"). The Bible says in Romans 8:1 that only those "in Christ Jesus" are without condemnation. John 3:18 says, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Your assumption above in the equation is where you are being led down the error of limited atonement. With your assumption above, you are led to believe that only the elect were atoned for on Calvary. Your assumption also is resulting in the elect's atonement being provided AND APPLIED back on Calvary. If the elect's sins were applied back on Calvary, then the elect were never condemned during their lifetime on earth. The Bible says that our condemnation is not removed (applied) when Christ died but when the payment for our sins was received by faith.

So, do you believe that atonement for Christ's sins on the cross resulted in payment for sins or payment for sins provided and applied to the individual?

On another note, I found it interesting that "atonement" is only mentioned once in the NT. Romans 5:11 says that atonement is "received" (taken). The other places in the NT where the Greek word is found, it is usually translated as "reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5 states the fact that Christ provided the reconciliation of the world "unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" but that we must receive the reconciliation. Paul says in verse 20 that God commanded the Corinthians there through Pauls preaching to be reconciled to God (to receive the payment and have it applied to them). Colossians 1:20-21 also show the fact of provided atonement/reconciliation but not applied until conversion. Verse 21, Paul says that the people "were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works." This was AFTER Christ's atonement for sins on the cross. But once they were saved, Paul says, "yet now hath he reconciled."

The payment for the RM's sins was provided for but not received. Atonement was going to be provided for his sins by Christ's blood, but it was not applied. Was atonement/reconciliation for his sins made (provided)? Yes, but it was not received (applied). This, I believe is the Biblical stance on atonement.

So, Colin, for me not to still be convinced of my previous statement on you believing people are saved, not condemned before repentance and faith, please show me that you don't believe atonement = payment for sins provided AND APPLIED.

P.S. Have you read Thomas Ross' series on "Were the Reformers Heretick?" If you decide to remain in Reformed Theology, it would be worth knowing the glory and the guts of those who have so strongly shaped your view on the Scriptures. Still praying for you.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,

I don’t think we are talking past each other here. You made a very agreeable statement in your last reply. I quote: Does Jesus only "atone for," "reconcile," those who believe? Yes. You can find whatever terminology you desire for it, but if Jesus only (your words) atoned for believers, then it is limited to believers and obviously not for unbelievers.

So if Christ died for all w/o exception, (as you say) then while His death had an atoning element only for the elect, then there was (according to you) something in the atonement for reprobates, but falling short of actual atonement. I can live with that. Several 5 point Calvinist theologians e.g. John Murray hold that the fact that any sinner is not immediately damned into Hell is due to the gracious mercy of God based on the atonement. But like yourself, they say that Jesus only atoned for believers i.e. only for the elect. The sins of the Rich Man in Hell were not atoned for and so, lying uncovered by the Divine blood, are the cause of his eternal damnation.

I see that you have posted another (interesting) article. I am not sure if this means that you like to wind down discussions on previous articles e.g. this one. Should this be my last post on this subject, let me state further, if only for the record:

The gospel is to be preached to every last sinner w/o exception. Christ only atoning for the sins of believers does not prevent us from preaching salvation to the “Whosoever will” and we are more than happy to do so. The history of Calvinistic evangelism as seen in the revivals under Edwards, Whitefield or Spurgeon etc., show this to be the case.

Enjoyed our chat. If you wish to come back on something, I’ll “keep an eye” on your page.


Jon Gleason said...

Gentlemen (and Lady :)), a couple thoughts that may help by clarifying terminology.

In talking about a limited or universal atonement, we need to decide whether or not we are using the OT or NT usage of atonement.

In the NT, as has been noted, the word only occurs once (Romans 5:11), and means reconciliation. The context of the preceding verse makes it clear that this is man being brought back into a relationship of peace with God -- a change in man. It is manifest that not all have been thus reconciled.

Under the NT usage of "atonement," therefore, atonement is not universal. Not all are reconciled.

The OT usage is a covering for sins. It was accomplished by the sacrifice of animals, but Hebrews tells us that the blood of bulls and of goats cannot remove sins. Thus, OT atonement was covering, not removal. The work of Christ did more -- that is the point of the discussion in Hebrews.

Therefore, it is probably an error of imprecision to talk about the atoning work of Christ in the OT sense of the word, for His work did not merely cover, but removes, sin.

Part of the work of Christ was God-ward (propitiation). Part of it was man-ward (washing of regeneration, reconciliation, etc). In a sense, there was a dual reconciliation -- God was reconciled to us by propitiation, we are reconciled to Him by cleansing, justification, etc.

There is no logical reason, despite what many insist, that the scope of the God-ward work of Christ must match the scope of the man-ward work. It is entirely logical to believe that the work of propitiation is universal, thus placing God in a position of desiring reconciliation with all and His demands for justice being satisfied, while also believing that the man-ward work is limited in scope to those who believe (the elect, for those of a Calvinist persuasion :)).

It is only believers who are washed. It is only believers who are reconciled. That does not mean that God was not propitiated for all. It is not logical to demand (as Colin appears to be doing) that the scope of propitiation be the same as the scope of washing. Certainly, God COULD have thus limited the scope of propitiation. But I John 2:2 and II Peter 2 provide strong evidence that He did not. And there are many passages (Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, for instance) that show a Divine heart which has been propitiated even towards rebellious unbelievers who never repented.

Perhaps we would do better to speak of a universal propitiation but a limited atonement (reconciliation).

Kent Brandenburg said...


Everything you wrote rings true to me. I can't refute any of it.


That was very interesting and thought provoking. Thanks. I couldn't disagree with it either.


Thomas wrote this post on Friday. I write Mon and Wed, so almost always I move on, even if we're not done. I will keep disucssing things if need be. I didn't grow up or start with Calvinism. I have had a lot of interaction wit Calvinists, as I said. I'm open to it.


Thanks for those three views laid out. That was helpful. I don't see God as looking through the corridors of time and learning things. I see God as always knowing everything and learning nothing. He is the source of all knowledge, not a recipient of it. He knows ahead of time because He isn't bound by time. He created time in the beginning of the heavens and the earth. He is infinite, therefore, timeless. He has no shadow of turning.

KJB1611 said...

Yes, I'm KJB1611, at least when logged in on Google so that I get follow-up comments.

Good points by many above.

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,

You wrote: I didn't grow up or start with Calvinism. I have had a lot of interaction wit Calvinists, as I said. I'm open to it.

Which at least, in your opinion, effectively answers the question that heads the artice in the negative.


James M. said...

For a thorough perspective on the errors of Calvinism, I would highly recommend visiting