Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Provisional Atonement Part 1: Dealing With John Owen's Arminian Dilemma


I lifted this from Jeff Paton's website. He gives an answer based on his commitment to the governmental view of the atonement, which allows him to bypass the force of Owen's argument.

As I have stated before, I am not (at this time) dogmatic about views of atonement. I do, however, favor the penal satisfaction view which seems to be the view that Owen is describing as incompatible with Arminian soteriology. I reject any view that does not incorporate some form of substitution. Since I more or less hold to the view that Owen thinks incompatible with Arminianism, I thought it might be fun to take on his little "dilemma" (Owen's argument is in blue).

"To which I may add this dilemma to our Universalists --"

Of course Arminians are not Universalists in a strict sense. I hope that Owen wasn't trying to paint Arminians in a negative light with this comment. Jeff Paton seems to think he was.

"God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for,

1. either all the sins of all men,

2. or all the sins of some men,

3. or some sins of all men."

I like #1 which Owen thinks incompatible with Arminianism.

"If the LAST, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved; for if God entered into judgment with us, though it were with all mankind for one sin, no flesh should be justified in his sight: "If the LORD should mark iniquities, who should stand?" [Ps. cxxx.2] We might all go to cast all that we have "to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty." [Isa. ii. 20, 21]"

I agree. #3 is no good.

"If the SECOND, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world."

I disagree. #2 is incompatible with numerous Scriptures which must be made to undergo tortured exegesis to comport with this position. #2, therefore, is no good. Sorry John Owen.

"If the FIRST, why then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, "Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.""

That is a very good answer. Count me among those who would say that.

"But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not?"

If by "unbelief" Owen means to reject Christ, then yes, unbelief is a sin.

"If not, why should they be punished for it?"

If it is sin, like all sins, then they should be punished for it. I personally think that sinners being condemned for unbelief creates serious problems for Owen's Calvinism, but we will get to that in Part 2. For now I will agree and walk headlong into the "dilemma".

"If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not?"

This seems overly simplified, but I will concede that Christ suffered even for unbelief.

"If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins."

And now Owen sticks it to me, so to speak. What am I to do? If I say that Christ died for unbelief and believe that he died for all, then I must adopt universalism (real universalism, i.e. all will be saved). If I deny universalism, then I am stuck with a limited atonement. So, Owen points out below...

"Let them choose which part they will."

I think I will choose a third option. An option that I believe best comports with the Biblical data. I will affirm that atonement is provisional "in Christ". In other words, Christ's death made provision for all sin, yet only those who come to be in union with Christ partake of that provision. I believe this view is supported by numerous Scriptures. Below are a few of them (emphasis mine):

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us [believers] with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." Eph. 1:3

All spiritual blessings are found in Christ. I think this must include (if not be founded on) the benefits of the atonement. We find further evidence of this in Ephesians 1:7:

"In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace..."

I think this passage confirms that the benefits of the atonement are provisional "in Christ".

Look at Colossians 1:13 and 14:

"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

Again we see that the benefits of the atonement are provisional in the "beloved Son".

So how does one come to be in union with Christ and therefore benefit from the redemption and forgiveness provided in Him?

"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation- having believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise." Eph. 1:13

We come to be in union with Christ through faith.

As soon as we accept the Biblical teaching that forgiveness is provisional in Christ, Owen's "dilemma" amounts to nothing. Unbelief is atoned for, but only "in Christ". When we are placed in union with Christ by the Holy Spirit, through faith, our former "unbelief" is atoned for just as our other sins are atoned for. If we continue in unbelief, we cannot benefit from the forgiveness that is in Christ alone, and will therefore suffer condemnation. In other words, the moment we believe, our prior unbelief is forgiven, and not before. Since the atonement is provisional in Christ we can both affirm that He died for all and that only believers will benefit from this atonement. 1 Tim. 4:10 states this truth very well:

"For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men [provisional], especially of believers [conditional application]."

I think that this passage plainly teaches that the atonement is provided for all, while only believers will actually experience forgiveness on the condition of faith (which unites us with Christ and the benefits of His atonement).

Calvinists struggle to get around the implications of this passage. Some will suggest that the "all" has reference to the elect. That would reduce the verse to tautology as follows:

"...who is the Savior of all [elect men], especially of believers [the elect]."

Some reason that the "all" means simply "all people groups" or "all kinds of people". There is no contextual warrant for this interpretation and it amounts to little more than the interpretation we just dealt with above:

"...who is the Savior of the elect [among all kinds of people], especially of believers [the elect]."

Still others note that "God" has reference to the Father as Savior, rather than Christ, as if this changes things. Does not the Father save through Christ?

Perhaps a last attempt should be added. Some Calvinists posit that "Savior" should be understood in a sense in which all of mankind, including the reprobates, enjoy certain divine blessings. Again, there is no contextual reason for assigning some other meaning to "Savior" other than the way Paul always uses the term in connection with God. This is truly a desperate attempt to avoid the Arminian implications of this text.

So, I think that we can safely conclude that Owen's dilemma poses no difficulty at all for Arminians who hold to both a universal and penal satisfaction view of the atonement. All one has to do is realize that the atonement is provisional and applied only on the basis of faith union with Christ.

Owen, however, has some dilemmas of his own to account for in his #2 choice above. We will deal with those in Part 2.

25 comments:

Classical Arminianism said...

Don't you sometimes wish you could talk one on one with some of the old-time Calvinists like Owen? Like, you could go out to lunch and realy wrestle over these issues.

However, from I've read about most Calvinists in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, after lunch, and after they have condemned you as a heretic, they would most likely burn you at the stake.

Oh well, so much for my dialogue with Owen.

Excellent job and very Biblical (as usual). Thank you for this insight.

Billy

Godismyjudge said...

Great post Ben. Two quick points. Governmental atonement might be helpful for this specific argument. But Owen adapted this argument for just about everything, not just penal satisfaction. IE sanctification, redemption, reconciliation.... So at the end of the day, even GT adherents have to uphold the "provision for all/application for some" distinction you present.

God be with you,
Dan

Paul said...

Ben,

Before you move on I was hoping that you could help me understand this better. You say that you advocate for view number one in which Christ died for the sins of all men. You then list Scripture verses Ephesians 1:3, 7, 13 along with Colossians 1:13, 14. Now would it be wrong to say that all of those verses could be used for limited atonement side since all of them talk of a certain group, rather than all men? That being said it seems none of those verses address the dying for ALL part of your thesis.

Now you also pointed out 1 Timothy 4:10 and doing a quick search of the term Savior there from Strong’s Concordance we see that it is defined here more in line with God, rather than Christ and more in the mode of preserver, rather than eternal salvation. So if we take that Savior here is a reference to God rather than Christ, which the context would lead us to believe, it would be fair to say then that God plays a different role then Christ and Strong’s defining it as “preserver” would be more applicable; seeing “preserver” means that God gives life, breath and all things to all. So we can see that God is a “preserver” of all, especially His people. One other point would be that the verse and chapter are not really referencing eternal salvation; this would then give more credence to the “preserver” view that we find in Strong’s Expanded Exhausted Concordance of the Bible.

Anyways, I am sure that someone could say it more eloquently or plainly but that does not fit my style:)

kangaroodort said...

Paul,

Thanks for your insight.

You wrote:

You then list Scripture verses Ephesians 1:3, 7, 13 along with Colossians 1:13, 14. Now would it be wrong to say that all of those verses could be used for limited atonement side since all of them talk of a certain group, rather than all men?

It really wasn't my purpose to prove the universal scope of the atonement. What I was trying to do was demonstrate that when we view the atonement as provisional it makes it possible to hold to both a penal satisfaction view of the atonement and an atonement that was made for all.

Personally, I think the universal scope of the atonement is more obvious in Scripture than the deity of Christ (and I think the deity of Christ is very obvious). The burden of proof rests with those who wish to deny an atonement made for all, since the Scriptures plainly say that he did die for all.

No one could come to a limited atonement view from just reading the Scriptures IMO. The only way one could come to that conclusion is by presupposing a theological system that demands it. That seems backwards and dangerous to me, and I think any theological system that leads to doctrines which are plainly contradicted by Scripture should be abandoned. That's why I am not a Calvinist :) But like I said, that was not the purpose of this post.

Now you also pointed out 1 Timothy 4:10 and doing a quick search of the term Savior there from Strong’s Concordance we see that it is defined here more in line with God, rather than Christ and more in the mode of preserver, rather than eternal salvation.

I wonder why there are no translations available that say "preserver"? Again, I think that the Father is a Savior in the same sense as the Son. The Father saves mankind through the Son, just as He created the universe through the Son and reveals Himself through the Son. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. There is nothing in the context to suggest Paul means only "preserver", which is probably why no one translates it that way.

If you could point me to a single reference by Paul in which He speaks of God as the Savior of man in a sense other than what we would normally conclude, then I think it would help your case some (but still not "make" it). It is a stretch to suggest that this is the only time Paul does that, especially since the only reason someone might say that (as far as I can tell) would be due to an objection of the idea that salvation and atonement are provided for all.

While we can almost say that any intepretation is "possible", I think we can safely conclude that the interpretation you are offering is just about as "improbable" as one could get.

God Bless,
Ben

kangaroodort said...

Dan,

You are far more familiar with Owen than I am, and I can see how any substitution view could be in view. I do think that Owen was especially targeting penal satisfaction as he used the "paid for sin" lingo, which most, if not all, governmental view proponents would quickly object to.

BTW, I think you are doing a great job with Owen's "arguments" at your blog!

God Bless,
Ben

kangaroodort said...

Dan,

Sorry, I should have said, "punishment lingo" above.

Paul said...

Ben,

I have no idea why no translation says preserver, perhaps it is possible for people to see that the word Savior here is different in Greek then when used in other places which would then lead them to see what else it could mean. Now I wonder why Strong’s would have it defined that way if there were no warrant for it? Again, it seems clear that the verse is not referencing Christ, nor eternal salvation. It seems to be saying that while it seems hard to live a godly life we should put our hope and trust in him to preserve us, just as he preserves all things. After all we know that God preserves both man and beast.

Also, if we take it that Christ is Savior of all men, especially of believers it seems that the condition that you want is not met in the text. You want it to say that Christ is the possible Savior of all men, only though if they believe. That seems like reading into the text. It says that He isthe Savior of all men, especially of believers. At best what can be said is that he saves all men, but he especially saves believers. It seems that is kind of silly to say. For your view to hold on this particular verse you would have to add and subtract words in order to derive your conclusion. It seems much better to render the verse that God is the preserver of all men, especially of believers, who we know doubt would agree are more precious to him.

Anyways, good luck with your blog and your posts.

Robert said...

Hello Ben,

I believe that you make a key distinction when you write and add editorial comments to 1 Tim. 4:10:

“Since the atonement is provisional in Christ we can both affirm that He died for all and that only believers will benefit from this atonement. 1 Tim. 4:10 states this truth very well:

"For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men [provisional], especially of believers [conditional application]."”

The two errors to be avoided are Universalism (i.e., that Jesus died for all so all people’s sins are covered and all will eventually be saved) and Calvinism’ “limited atonement” view (i.e., that God only wants to save some [the elect] so Jesus died only for believers, not for the world). The provision versus application distinction helps to see where the errors are. The error with Universalism is that they are correct that Jesus died for the world (the provision is for the world), but they are incorrect that the atonement will be applied (the application of the atonement) to all. The error with the Calvinists is that they are correct that Jesus’ death only covers the sins of believers (because the atonement is only applied to believers), but they are incorrect that the atonement is not offered and provided for all (they err on the provision of the atonement).

The “universalistic” passages on the atonement speak to the provision element of the atonement: while the more narrow “particularistic” passages on the atonement speak to the atonement being applied only to believers.

Dan is doing an excellent job of showing the logical problems with Owen’s arguments. What Owen does, which calvinists are forced to do, is to attempt to set up arguments against “unlimited atonement”.

What really sinks the calvinist ship in my opinion, is two very conspicuous facts when you look at scripture on the atonement issue.

First, the "universalistic" passages are very clear and show that Jesus died for the world with respect to the provision of the atonement (more than just those who would eventually come to faith in Christ), not just for those who eventually become believers.

Second, in regard to the burden of proof, the calvinists have **no** scriptures teaching that Jesus died only for believers. Put another way, for the calvinistic view to be true they would have to show verses that demonstrate exclusion of some people (e.g. a verse that said, say “Jesus did not die for . . .) or restriction of the atonement to only some people (e.g., a verse that said “Jesus died **only** for . . .). That word “only” or words synonymous to it, is completely absent when it comes to the atonement verses. The calvinists are left with verses that speak of who Jesus did die for (including the church, his sheep, his people). But in none of these verses is the language of exclusion or restriction present with respect to the provision of the atonement. If the word “only” were present they would have a case, but that is the missing word in their arguments. So having no bible verses showing exclusion or restriction, they then have to engage in Owen-like arguments. But showing that Jesus died for his own, for his sheep, for the church, is insufficient to show that the provision of the atonement is only for believers. The application is indeed only for believers, but the provision is for the world.

Ben and the others here, have you folks read Kevin Bauder’s brief (only a couple of pages long) but extremely well written article on the atonement? It is one of the best rational and concise presentations on this subject that I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, I would love to share it with you all, with Ben’s permission.

Robert

Godismyjudge said...

Dear Ben,

No doubt Owen is a strong advocate of penal satisfaction. So much so that he doesn't really explain the pecuniary aspect of the atonement, if he held to Christ being a pecuniary at all.

I think Owen's argument is just based on the way he understood the atonement. It's not specifically targeting GT. Owen uses the same structure for any aspect of the atonement that deals with salvation (not just the aspects dealing with substitution). Christ death either redeems or not, it either sanctifies or not... Owen doesn't see a provisional aspect of the atonement. It's like an on/off switch.

The logical outcomes of Owen's position are:

1) there can be no justification by faith. Those who Christ died for were justified at 33 AD, not when they come to faith
2) Christ is unable to save those for whom He did not die (not just that He will not save them, He cannot save them)
3) Those for whom Christ died were born forgiven.

Calvinists love to ask: Did Christ’s death make men savable or did it actually save?

I think the perfect counter question is: Based on what Christ actually did on the cross, can He save everyone?

God be with you,
Dan

kangaroodort said...

Paul,

Strong’s lists “savior” (as in the sense of one who saves spiritually) as well as “preserver” (which also could have reference to spiritual preservation depending on context). The list of passages given which use the word (soter), are overwhelmingly describing spiritual salvation.

I checked a few lexicons and found support for the interpretation I offered with the exception of Vine’s Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Vine’s lumps 1 Tim. 4:10 in with Luke 1:47; and 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3 and says of all these verses, “(in sense of Preserver, since He gives to all life and breath and all things”), but ignores the contextual implications of “especially of believers” for 1 Tim. 4:10, and the sort of “life” being described in 1 Tim. 4:8.

The smaller “Kittle” volume says this:

“…in 1 Tim. 4:10 it is a title [for God]. The general thesis, in opposition to those who contend for a restricted salvation, is that God is the Savior of all, not merely as the Benefactor, but as the Savior whom Christians know and trust. In 1 Tim. 4:10 the meaning might be the broader one of Benefactor (in view of v. 8), but the addition “especially of those who believe” (cf. also 2:3-4) supports the more distinctive sense.”
[(TDNT, pg. 1139)]

Robertson seems to also agree when he concludes:

{Specially of them that believe} (malista pistwn). Making a distinction in the kinds of salvation meant. "While God is potentially Savior of all, He is actually Savior of the pistoi" (White). So Jesus is termed "Savior of the World" (#Joh 4:42). Cf. #Ga 6:10.
[Robertson’s NT Word Studies (1 Tim. 4:10)]

So while Robertson and Kittle draw there conclusions based on context, Vine’s seems to largely ignore the context and assume the “Preserver” interpretation.

While Gordon Fee would probably consider himself Arminian in his theology, it would be hard to find a better authority on Paul then him. He argues that the “saying” that is in view (in verse 9 which leads into verse 10) is the second part of verse 8 which, according to him, should be understood as “the promise of life found in godliness”. He further says concerning the “life” of verse 8:

“Indeed, it [godliness] has value for all things (better, “in every way”), because it holds promise for life, both the present life and the life to come. (the idea of godliness as holding promise of life is reiterated in Titus 1:2) Here is a clear reference to Paul’s understanding of Christian existence as basically eschatological. Life, which means “eternal life” (see 1:16), has already begun. The life of the future is therefore both a present reality and a hope of life to come.”

He later concludes his treatment of verse 10:

For this, the present and future life that godliness promises, we “contest” and strive, because (or “in that”) we have put our hope in the living God, who alone can give life now and to come. Our hope rests in him, because he is the Savior of all men, that is, he would save (give life to) all people, but salvation is in fact effective especially for those who believe. This latter addition makes it clear that the universal scope of salvation argued for so strongly in 2:4-6 is not at the same time an expression of universalism.” [NIBC 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus,104-106]

I think Fee’s observation with regards to the connection to verse 8 and the “life” being referred to in that verse is the key. If the “life” of verse 8 is the spiritual life that results from godliness, then the idea that “Savior” means only preserver of life in general, in verse 10, is very hard to sustain. God is the potential source of spiritual life for all, while the provision of life is actually experienced only by those who apprehend it through faith and, by extension, godliness.

So, while in view of the entry in Vine’s my earlier comment, “I think we can safely conclude that the interpretation you are offering is just about as "improbable" as one could get” would appear overstated, I think it is still safe to conclude that the interpretation I offered best fits the context and purpose of Paul’s statement in 1 Tim. 4:10.

Thanks for forcing me to look closer into this.

God Bless,
Ben

kangaroodort said...

Robert,

I think your comments are excellent and I agree completely. There are many passages which say exactly what Arminians believe (which is why Arminians believe it), but there is not a single unambiguis passage that could be used to support a limited view of atonement.

I don't suppose you have a link to that three page essay?

God Bless,
Ben

kangaroodort said...

Dan,

You said,

The logical outcomes of Owen's position are:

1) there can be no justification by faith. Those who Christ died for were justified at 33 AD, not when they come to faith
2) Christ is unable to save those for whom He did not die (not just that He will not save them, He cannot save them)
3) Those for whom Christ died were born forgiven.


I think you are spot on. These were exactly some of the "dilemmas" I was going to bring up in Part 2. I don't see how these conclusions can be avoided unless the Calvinist admits a provisional aspect to the atonement. The momment one does that, the dorr is wide open for the Arminian view.

kangaroodort said...

Should be "moment" and "unambiguous" above. I need to proof read better.

Paul said...

Ben,

Thank you for your reply and for your research into this. It gives me encouragement to think that my view has been proposed before by far greater men than me. I will have to humbly reject your view of this particular verse and I hope to give some more thought on why. What I see happening in verse 8 is Paul telling them that godliness has value in all things and believers are blessed beyond measure in that they are blessed not only in this life, but the life to come. Notice how he transitions in verse 9 to elaborate further on what he just said by writing what he did in verse 10. He starts off verse 10 by saying that it is for this that they labor and strive, because you could take what he said in verse 8 to think that believers should live a charmed life, but he corrects any hint of that here by reminding them that while it appears that believers are sometimes the most hated and suffer the most in this life that they should not look to the outward appearance to judge such things. This would tie in beautifully with the beginning of verse 8 where he tells them that bodily discipline is only of little profit. He tells them why they should view it this way when he reminds them that they have put their hope in the living God.

I do not think that eternal salvation or atonement is referenced here at all. In fact I ask anyone to judge what does more injury to the text; saying it they way you seem to be

he would save all people, but only if they believe or saying it this way

who is the preserver of all men, especially of believers

It seems clear to me that the latter does the least injury to the text and fits the context better. Again, for your interpretation to hold one must add and/or subtract words and bring all kinds of presuppositions into the text. As for the universal scope of salvation argued for so strongly in 2:4-6, I do not see it, but that is not what we are discussing so I will not go into it. I thank you for letting us flesh this out a bit and while we will probably still differ on this I thank you for your work and time.

omakase said...

Great post!

I was wondering, maybe you could take a quick break from the Calvinist/Arminian debate once in a while and tackle some other issues. One thing I'd be interested in is the issue of alcohol consumption and different views concerning what Scripture has to say about it.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My Strong’s Concordance says that Saviour can mean a savior, deliverer, preserver and that in 1 Tim. 4:10 it is used of God in the sense of “preserver”, since He gives “to all life and breath and all things”.

It seems that we have Strong and Vine that see it as Paul has described it here. Now I have never seen it presented that way, but that does not mean that it is wrong. No matter what, thank both of you for this thought provoking discussion.

Robert said...

Hi Ben,

Thanks for your information on the 1 Timothy 4:10 verse. You concluded with:

“So, while in view of the entry in Vine’s my earlier comment, “I think we can safely conclude that the interpretation you are offering is just about as "improbable" as one could get” would appear overstated, I think it is still safe to conclude that the interpretation I offered best fits the context and purpose of Paul’s statement in 1 Tim. 4:10.”

One of the big reasons for me that calvinism ought to be rejected is how, as with the 1 Tim. 4:10 verse, they have to do eisegetical gymnastics to get around rather clear and plain scripture verses. This is most clearly seen when they deal with words including “Savior” and “World.” They strenuously try to make “Savior” mean not Savior, but “preserver” or some other mistaken notion. And “World” according to them, does not refer to the whole world of men, but to the “elect” or to all “kinds of people in the world”, “all men without distinction,” etc. They can be quite ingenious in these eisegetical attempts. Their whole “interpretive” efforts are aimed at preserving and defending a system of exhaustive determinism. So the system determines the meaning of scripture rather than proper exegesis. Though the scripture plainly and clearly teaches that God loves the world and provides Jesus as a Savior for the whole world. And though most Christians for most of church history have had no difficulty seeing this, nevertheless, those who desire to hold to determinism, will reject the plain and clear meanings of scripture, in favor of their attempts to argue alternative interpretations where “Savior” no longer means Savior and “World” no longer refers to the whole world.

Robert

PS – here for everyone’s enjoyment and profit is Kevin Bauder’s paper. One of the best, most rational, and well stated discussions of the atonement that I have ever seen. Every theological presentation should be like this! :-)

The Logic of Limited Atonement

One regularly hears the argument that Limited Atonement stands or falls with the other four points of Calvinism. Both Calvinists and anti-Calvinists attempt to use this argument to demonstrate the inconsistency of holding Unconditional Election while denying Limited Atonement. The argument purports to be strictly logical. The Calvinist argues that Christ would not die for someone whom He did not intend to save. The anti-Calvinist finds it incredible that Christ would fail to elect someone for whom His blood was shed. Both sides allege that holding only four points of Calvinism is logically impossible.

This argument rests upon both a logical and a theological confusion. The theological confusion lies in the failure distinguish the provision of salvation from the application of salvation. The distinction between provision and application is crucial to biblical soteriology, even if Limited Atonement is true. Salvation is not automatically applied to anyone for whom Christ provided it. The New Testament is clear on this point. Prior to their conversion, even the elect are dead in trespasses and sins. Until they believe they remain children of wrath. Therefore, everyone for whom salvation has been provided must still believe on Christ before it will be applied. Sola fide remains the maxim of justification.

Everyone except the universalists recognizes that the atonement is limited in its application. The question is whether God intended to limit the atonement in its provision. One cannot answer this by appealing to evidence for limited application. Even if one recognizes (as Calvinists do) that part of God’s intention through the death of Christ was to secure the application of salvation to the elect, such belief still does not reveal for whom God intended to provide salvation.
This exposes the logical confusion in the argument for Limited Atonement. That argument is that the affirmation of Unconditional Election is strictly incompatible with the rejection of Limited Atonement. Such a contradiction, however, is entirely illusory. This will become evident if the argument is reduced to clear, molecular statements. Limited Atonement includes both an affirmation and a denial. It affirms that God intended both to provide salvation for the elect and to apply it to them. It denies that God intended to provide salvation for the non-elect. This denial is what really defines Limited Atonement. Therefore, the Limited Atonement theory can be summarized in the following molecular statement.

Proposition One:
Some persons are not persons for whom Christ intended to secure the provision of salvation.

Those who reject Limited Atonement do not object to what it affirms, namely, that Christ died to provide salvation for the elect. The question is about the status of the non-elect: did Christ intend to provide salvation for them, or did He not? At this point, those who reject Limited Atonement answer with an affirmative. Christ did indeed intend to provide salvation for all people. This theory of a General Atonement can be expressed in the following molecular statement.

Proposition Two:
All persons are persons for whom Christ intended to secure the provision of salvation.

Proposition One and Proposition Two directly contradict each other. Exactly one statement must be true and one must be false. To affirm both at the same time is a logical impossibility. One cannot hold to Limited Atonement and General Atonement simultaneously. You may ask, But what about Unconditional Election?

Unconditional Election is the teaching that God, in eternity past, chose certain persons to be saved for reasons not grounded in any foreseen merit or action on their part. According to Unconditional Election, God always planned to apply salvation to the elect, whom He chose for reasons sufficient to Himself. The strongest form of Unconditional Election states that one purpose of Christ’s work was actually to secure the application of salvation to the elect. This teaching could be expressed in logical form in the following molecular statement.

Proposition Three:
Some persons are persons for whom Christ intended to secure the application of salvation.

Proposition Three is not incompatible with either Proposition One or Proposition Two for the simple reason that its predicate contains a different term. In the first two propositions, the predicate is about those for whom Christ intended to provide salvation. In the third proposition, the predicate is about those to whom Christ intended to apply salvation. In other words, Unconditional Election is logically compatible with either Limited Atonement or General Atonement. The vaunted argument from logical consistency turns out to be a mirage.

In fact, it is not an argument based upon logic at all. It is an argument based upon plausibility. The statement that Christ would not die for someone whom He did not intend to save is really not a statement about Christ. It is a statement about what the speaker would do if he were in Christ’s place. The same is true of the statement that Christ would not fail to elect someone for whom He shed His blood. Such arguments sound reasonable and they seem persuasive. Upon examination, however, their persuasiveness is found to be psychological rather than logical. They are speculations about how God would handle Himself if He were altogether such an One as us.

Limited Atonement may or may not be true. If it is true, however, its truth cannot be established by the “Appeal to Logical Consistency.” The truth of Limited Atonement (if it be true) must be founded upon the statements of Scripture. The strongest case for Limited Atonement would be made if its proponents could offer specific biblical texts that named particular individuals or groups for whom Christ did not die to provide salvation. Barring such evidence, the best that can be said for Limited Atonement is that it remains in doubt.

Paul said...

Robert,

Thank you fro providing that information, even though I had the honor of reading it before on another forum I thank God that he has seen fit to have me read it again.

I would like to address your statement that ”… as with the 1 Tim. 4:10 verse, they have to do eisegetical gymnastics…” now I will not assume that you are referring to me in this instance seeing as I have not “strenuously” tried to make the word say something that it is not. In fact all I have done is seen that the verse does not reference Jesus, but God and that Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance states that the term saviour in this particular verse means “preserver”. It appears that Ben and Anonymous have stated that it is also interpreted that way in Vine’s, but I do not have access to that source so I will take their word for it. If you knew me then you would know that my body, for that matter even my mind, is not conducive for gymnastics of any sort. That being said I have no shame in stating that the verse does not reference atonement or eternal salvation, it seems that you disagree with me on that. Now Ben has stated previously that there are many verses that show the universality of the atonement and that may very well be true, but it would appear that this verse cannot be used by either side to claim one thing or another.

Being of simple mind I tend to view it rather simply, in that when I look at the verse and reads like this in my Bible:
… who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
Now I can take that simple verse to read this way:
… who is the possible Savior of all men, but salvation is effective only for believers.
Or I could take the verse and read it this way:
… who is the Preserver of all men, especially of believers.

My simple mind tends to gravitate to the latter, but I could just be deluding myself. I will pray that the Spirit will guide me and that I not stumble over simple things, but that I submit myself to Him and throw myself at the mercy of the cross. Thank you again for pasting Kevin Bauder’s paper.

kangaroodort said...

Paul,

You are quite right that we will probably just have to agree to disagree on this, but I want to address some of the things you said.

What I see happening in verse 8 is Paul telling them that godliness has value in all things and believers are blessed beyond measure in that they are blessed not only in this life, but the life to come.

I understand that this is what you see, but that is not what Paul is addressing in the context. He is speaking of the benefits of training oneself in godliness. While physical training may benefit our flesh and temporal existence, training in godliness benefits our spiritual life and gives us the hope of salvation. The “life” of verse 8 as relates to godliness is spiritual life, as Fee demonstrated, and this is very important for understanding verse 10.

Notice how he transitions in verse 9 to elaborate further on what he just said by writing what he did in verse 10. He starts off verse 10 by saying that it is for this that they labor and strive, because you could take what he said in verse 8 to think that believers should live a charmed life, but he corrects any hint of that here by reminding them that while it appears that believers are sometimes the most hated and suffer the most in this life that they should not look to the outward appearance to judge such things.

I have no idea where you are getting the idea that Paul is addressing believers who might falsely assume that they should live a charmed life, and that they should not be surprised that they are suffering and hated and should not look at outward appearances, etc. Again, Paul is speaking of the necessity and benefits of disciplining oneself in the practice of godliness. Such training is a safeguard against false teachers and false doctrine. Chapter 4 is about persevering in faith through diligence in godliness, and continuance in right doctrine, for the purpose of attaining salvation. Paul is nowhere, as far as I can tell, addressing the suffering of believers and makes no mention of them being hated by the world. Maybe I missed something, but it seems that you are reading these ideas into the text to bolster your interpretation of verse 10.

This would tie in beautifully with the beginning of verse 8 where he tells them that bodily discipline is only of little profit.

It might if we could find such concepts in the text. He is, rather, contrasting the temporal benefits of physical training with the eternal benefits of spiritual training in godliness and right doctrine. Such training in godliness results in salvation for those who persevere in it. Salvation is in focus throughout the chapter, which is why I find your following statements to be particularly strange:

I do not think that eternal salvation or atonement is referenced here at all.

I agree that there is no mention of the atonement in this passage. However, Paul is speaking of God as “Savior”, and God saves through Christ and His atonement. Salvation is certainly in view throughout the chapter.

In fact I ask anyone to judge what does more injury to the text; saying I they way you seem to be

he would save all people, but only if they believe or saying it this way

who is the preserver of all men, especially of believers


Of course I do not think that my interpretation does “injury” to the text. I am trying to understand the text based on the context, which you seem to have missed or at least misunderstood. Since God is the Savior of all men, we can know that He is on our side and that our efforts are not in vain. God’s desire to save all encourages us and reminds us that we can always trust that His intentions are to lead us to salvation. If we take a limited view of salvation [that God only desires to save “some” and has only made provision for “some”] we can never be sure of God’s favor, for we cannot be certain that we are among those “elect” few whom alone God has purposed to save, until we endure in the faith to the end. It is God’s desire to grant eternal life to all, but only those who believe will receive the life that God has secured in Christ. God’s saving intentions for all gives special encouragement and confidence to those who have trusted in Him.

Your interpretation forces us to see “preserver” in two different senses. “All men” are preserved with temporal existence, while “believers” are preserved with eternal life (if we want to connect this with the “life” described in verse 8 as we seem to agree is the “trustworthy saying”). My interpretation has us seeing “Savior” in two different senses. God is Savior of “all men” in terms of provision [i.e. the source of salvation for all], while only believers benefit from this provision of salvation. It is no different than saying Christ is “the Savior of the world”, as Robertson points out above.

Both of us must understand “Savior” in two different senses, whether we want the word to be rendered “Preserver” or “Savior”, so I fail to see how my interpretation does more “injury” to the text than yours, especially considering the context of the chapter.

There is more that could be said on this, but I am out of time for today.

God Bless,
Ben

Robert said...

Paul,

You wrote:

”I would like to address your statement that ”… as with the 1 Tim. 4:10 verse, they have to do eisegetical gymnastics…” now I will not assume that you are referring to me in this instance seeing as I have not “strenuously” tried to make the word say something that it is not.” In fact all I have done is seen that the verse does not reference Jesus, but God and that Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance states that the term saviour in this particular verse means “preserver”.”

The phrase “eisegetical gymnastics” means when someone, usually because they have an “axe to grind” (some mistaken system or group’s theology, etc. etc.) rather than taking the text in its plain and simple meaning, intentionally **reads in** (eisegete means to “read into”, as opposed to exegesis which means to “read from” or “read out from”) some meaning that fits their preferred view (the view which they came to the text with and want the text to say), rather than taking the text’s intended meaning.

Non-christian cults often do this (and unfortunately sometimes Christians engage in this process as well) so they are able to “escape” the meaning of a text and hold onto their false views. Another indication of “eisegetical gymnastics” occurring is that the person’s proposed “interpretation” either does not fit the text very well or nearby texts that are discussing the same thing.

In 1 Tim. 4:10 Paul writes: “who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” In the same letter, just a couple chapters earlier, Paul wrote in 1 Tim. 2:3: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I would suggest that “Savior” in both of these verses has the same meaning (i.e., it speaks of God as being the one who saves, delivers, rescues people). In 1 Tim. 2:4 the phrase is explained a bit more with the phrase “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So in 2:4 it clearly is connected with what we normally call salvation. “Savior” in 2:3-4 does not mean “preserver.” It seems better to take it to have the same meaning in both 2:4 and 4:10. “Preserver” does not fit 2:3-4 (it would then state in 2:3-4 – “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our preserver, who desires all men to be preserved [taking sodzo as preserved rather than saved]] and to come to the knowledge of the truth”).

“Preserver” also does not fit 4:10: if you are going to claim that God is the “preserver of all men, **especially** of believers” that does not make sense. Believers face trials and temptations just as other people do. The promise of working all things together for good (Rom. 8:28) applies only to believers, not unbelievers. If God preserves all men in what way does he preserve believers “especially”? Perhaps in the United States believers have it easy, but in other places (e.g., Muslim countries) believers are less “preserved” and more attacked then the general population. So your suggested meaning for 4:10 of “preserver” does not fit that verse. And it makes no sense of 2:3-4 either.

Incidentally, the Greek noun “Soter” or “Savior” was often used of Caesars who were believed to be both divine and the ones who would save their people. Paul is using a common Greek term often applied to Caesars and taking the term and applying it to the God of the bible. What got the early Christians in trouble in the Roman Empire was not that they were religious and worshipped God: but that instead of saying that “Caesar is Lord, Caesar is Savior,” they claimed that “Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Savior.”

An important principle in interpreting the bible is to compare scripture with scripture, especially when similar words or concepts are being discussed. Paul’s statement in 4:10 is not stated in a vacuum, but occurs just two chapters and in the same book as what Paul says in 2:3-4. If we compare 2:3-4 and 4:10 as we should, it makes better sense to take “Savior” as having the same meaning in both texts, not “preserver”, but the one who saves, delivers, or rescues.
Sometimes when preaching in an evangelistic setting when I come across the word “Savior” I will talk about that the word is a noun referring to a person who saves: and ask “saves from what?” Then I will talk about being **saved** from the penalty of sin and the wrath of God against sin. Taking “Savior” to mean “preserver” makes no sense in this context as well.

”Being of simple mind I tend to view it rather simply,”

Paul why don’t you take the meaning of “Savior” in 2:3-4 (where it clearly refers to rescue/deliverance/saving from the penalty of sin and God’s wrath), and allow it to simply mean the same thing just two chapters over in 4:10?

Robert

Paul said...

Ben & Robert,

It seems that my poor writing skills/communication skills have muddied the waters a bit, so I will try to simplify what I believe to be the main point that I would like to make. If, Lord willing, I am able to articulate my points about the overall context I will post it for your review.

What we have are these possibilities, if there are more please feel free to add.

…who is the [“Deliverer”/”Preserver”] of all men, [‘especially’/’chiefly’/’most of all’/’above all’] of those that believe.

It is my contention that if one were to use the word “Deliverer” here it would have to be taken universally since there is nothing in the verse or context that puts a condition/restriction on it.

The best that you could say, and the only thing that the context would let you say, is that He is the Savior of all, especially/chiefly/most of all of those that believe; notice that the text says that he IS this for all men. The verse and the context will not let us limit or put a condition on it and we can not change the word is to be may/could/possible/any other thing that would make it easier for us to read into the text what we want it to say. I have not seen either Ben or Robert address this issue in anything that they have written. Now unless one or both of you subscribe to universalism then the best rendering of the text would be to use what Strong and Vine have used for translating it as “Preserver”.

As for both of us understanding it in two different senses, I feel that your view brings along a great deal of baggage. While I agree even my view has two different senses I feel that it requires less “eisegetical gymnastics” than your proposed interpretation:)

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Paul,

Ben's view doesn't really require any gymnastics, as that sort of idiom is used sometimes scripture. For instance, God is called the God of all flesh,

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27)

Yet He is in a stronger sense to those who obey Him,

Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.... (Jeremiah 7:23)

So Christ can be the 'Savior of all men' in that He died for all men, but especially to those who believe because His death profits them eternal life.

Paul said...

I will answer Robert’s question to me when he asked why I do not see it as Deliverer here in this verse. I hope that the Lord will let me state it simply and honestly as I see it and that my feebleness in mind will not show as much as it normally does.

The reason I can not see it as Deliverer here is because I believe that this is the Word of God and that it can not contradict itself, but also that it will be plain and simple without requiring any reading into the text to understand its meaning. If the term Preserver cannot be used here to define saviour because that is not how it is usually defined in the NT, then where can we use preserver when the text says saviour? I have shown that if deliverer is used here that it would have to mean universalism and that would contradict other parts of Scripture. So how can we best render that verse without reading into it or adding a meaning to it that is not there, in my opinion it is to render it as Preserver. Now it appears that the compilers of Strong’s and Vine’s concordances and dictionaries define it in those terms as well for this particular verse. These men that put that together are far smarter and godlier than I am so I will take their informed, well educated word that the best rendering here is Preserver.

J.C.,

Again, you have not shown how that is possible in this text/context. Also, notice that you added in a great deal of extra meaning and added words that are not present in the text. Now I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and that if the Apostle wanted us to understand it as you would then it would have been simple to say/write it that way. Notice though that the Scripture tell us that God is preserver of all men and beasts, and that believers are the apple of God’s eye.

I will stick with preserver here, not because of some devotion to some theological ideology, but rather because it is what is the most plain and agreeable with the text.

kangaroodort said...

Hey Paul,

It seems that we could really go on and on with this so I will try to make these my last comments concerning this passage. You are welcome to continue discussing it with Robert or anyone else.

You wrote:

It seems that my poor writing skills/communication skills have muddied the waters a bit, so I will try to simplify what I believe to be the main point that I would like to make. If, Lord willing, I am able to articulate my points about the overall context I will post it for your review.

I feel like I have also done a poor job of explaining myself. I think that I did not do well to say that “Savior” is used in two different senses in my interpretation. That was a misleading way of putting it. God is the same Savior to men whether they believe or not. He is not a different sort of Savior to believers, but believers alone experience the salvation of the God. Your interpretation, however, does cause us to see God as a “Preserver” in two different ways. He is a “Preserver” of all men in one way (temporal existence), and “Preserver” of believers in another way (eternal life). This is, again, based on the connection with the “trustworthy saying” of verse 8, which speaks of the spiritual life that results from training in godliness.

What we have are these possibilities, if there are more please feel free to add.

…who is the [“Deliverer”/”Preserver”] of all men, [‘especially’/’chiefly’/’most of all’/’above all’] of those that believe.


Can you see that above we are forced to understand “Preserver” in a very different way in both instances? If he preserves men with temporal life in the first clause, then we should understand the second clause as, “He especially preserves believers with temporal life”. While verse 10 says nothing about “life” we are forced to understand this preservation in the context of the trustworthy saying of verse 8 as discussed above. The problem is that the trustworthy saying of verse 8 has only to do with the spiritual [eternal] life which results from training in godliness. So the “Preserver” interpretation in light of verse 8, would force us to see this preservation as spiritual life in both clauses, which would make the distinction, “especially of believers” nonsensical.

It is my contention that if one were to use the word “Deliverer” here it would have to be taken universally since there is nothing in the verse or context that puts a condition/restriction on it.

The best that you could say, and the only thing that the context would let you say, is that He is the Savior of all, especially/chiefly/most of all of those that believe; notice that the text says that he IS this for all men. The verse and the context will not let us limit or put a condition on it and we can not change the word is to be may/could/possible/any other thing that would make it easier for us to read into the text what we want it to say. I have not seen either Ben or Robert address this issue in anything that they have written. Now unless one or both of you subscribe to universalism then the best rendering of the text would be to use what Strong and Vine have used for translating it as “Preserver”.


Your hang up seems to be with the fact that the text says “is Savior”, rather than “is potential Savior” or something to that effect. I understand the objection but I don’t think it holds much weight. It is no different than when John the Baptist says that Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, or when, as Robertson points out, Jesus is called the Savior of the world (Jn. 4:42; cf. Gal. 6:10), or nearer to the context, when Paul says it is a trustworthy saying that “Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am worst” (1 Tim. 1:15). Paul has confidence that Christ came to save him, because he knows that Christ came to save sinners. Since Paul is a “sinner”, there can be no doubt that Christ came into the world to save him. We would be wrong, however, to conclude from this that all sinners will be saved, even though there is nothing in the text that explicitly says otherwise. This is the same reason, I believe, that Paul first mentions in verse 10 that God is the “Savior of all men” as I mentioned before. All men can be encouraged that God wants them to be saved (e.g. 1 Tim. 2:3-6), which gives supreme confidence to those who are believers, that their hope is not in vain.

Joseph Sutcliffe expresses this well:

“Therefore, for the hope of obtaining the promise of the present life, and also of that which is to come, we both labour and suffer reproach. We likewise continue in those labours, and support those conflicts, because we trust in the living God, who is, swthr, the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe. The term Conserver of all men, does not fully express the apostle’s meaning; “for unless a man believe that God willeth all men to be saved,” says Theophylact, “how should he sustain all those conflicts for their salvation? Timothy is excited here to endure sufferings, and not relax in duty, nor seek help in afflictions from any other source, but hope in him who ever lives, and who is the only Saviour.” [Commentary on 1 Timothy]

I know that you have said that you do not see a universal aspect in 1 Tim. 2:3-6, but I find it very relevant to the passage in question in many ways. We again see the title “Savior” being applied to God (vs.3). We also see that God desires all men to be saved (vs. 4). We see that God saves through the mediation of Christ who died for “all” (vs. 6 [i.e. made provision for all to be saved]). The context has to do with the ministry of prayer for all people. The context of 4:10 has to do with the ministry of training in godliness and sound doctrine. The purpose of speaking of God desiring all to be saved and calling Him the “Savior of all men” is the same. In 2:3-6 the idea is that no one should be excluded from our prayers, since God has not excluded anyone from the provision of His salvation through Christ. In 4:10, no one should think it vain to train oneself and others in godliness, since God is the Savior of all men, especially of believers (those who are trusting in His promises and striving and laboring for Him, knowing their efforts are in line with God’s desires as Savior of all men).

These passages compliment each other and help us to understand that God has made provision for all while only believers will benefit from that provision. The attempts to limit the universal scope of 1 Tim. 2:3-6 are, in my opinion, some of the plainest examples of “eisegetical gymnastics” that one could find.

As for both of us understanding it in two different senses, I feel that your view brings along a great deal of baggage. While I agree even my view has two different senses I feel that it requires less “eisegetical gymnastics” than your proposed interpretation:)

We will have to agree to disagree I guess.

I want to finish by addressing the suggested rendering of Vine’s and Strong’s that you feel bolsters your interpretation. While I respect Vine’s and Strong’s, the fact remains that context must control the interpretation. It should also be mentioned that Robertson, and the TDNT especially, carry much more scholarly weight than Vine’s or Strong’s. I especially think their view is more acceptable due to their attention to immediate context (and we could add Fee, a first class scholar of the Pauline corpus, to the list). Vine’s and Strong’s both base their preferred rendering on “for he gives life and breath to all things”. This phrase has nothing to do, however, with the context of 1 Tim. 4:10. This phrase is found in 1 Tim. 6:13 and has no connection with soter (savior/preserver). This is a red flag for me and strongly suggests that the suggested rendering of Vine’s and Strong’s should be rejected in favor of the view I have proposed which is supported by the TDNT (as well as Fee and Robertson) based on the immediate context of the passage.

You will likely still disagree, but I hope that this will help you understand why I reject your interpretation. I have enjoyed the interaction and thoughtful comments. I hope you will feel free to share your views here in the future.

God Bless,
Ben

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Again, you have not shown how that is possible in this text/context.

For starters, there was no 'again,' that was my first post on this thread. Secondly, I was demonstrating the use of such idiom in general, if by way of proof you're expecting a big neon sign attached to the passages in question saying "look, I'm the same kind of idiom," you're out of luck.