Sunday, October 26, 2008

Calvinistic Thinking- Limited Atonement

I have a friend who was married for over twenty years. One day she found out that her husband was having an affair. In fact, he had gone to prostitutes for a while and then found this other woman. He was not sorry. Her world collapsed. She would go to work and not remember any of the drive. She became so physically ill she threw up. She couldn't think straight or concentrate for a year. This is what his unfaithfulness did to her. You probably know someone like her- maybe you have even been her before. I think God feels even more deeply than this. I know we like to think of God as someone who is utterly 'other', someone who is completely unaffected by what we do or how we feel. There is some safety in thinking in this way. If God is so far removed- so utterly 'holy' then what we do doesn't really matter. Our sin is not a big deal and therefore God's wrath wont be such a big deal either. This is not who we see in Jesus. This is not who the Word portrays God to be. God is intimately related to us- humankind who are His creation. I think that God being wholly other than we are means that He loves more deeply, more truly, more passionately than we mere humans can imagine. I think that His capacity to suffer is just as deep and wholly other than ours. We black out, we escape into fantasy or delusion, we deny and ignore. He never does. I think He FEELS in a way that we can not understand. He knows every inch of our rejection of His love, every detail of every betrayal and He takes it all in. He absorbs it in ways we will never understand.

As we look to theology to make sense of who God is we are betrayed at a key point and I think it is important to bring it up now. Most of our 'official' theology was written by lawyers. That's right, Calvin, Luther, Augustine and many others were all trained as lawyers. Now, bypassing all the great lawyer jokes I know let's look critically at what this means. I have some good friends who are lawyers and the reality is that they don't think like the rest of us. I read poetry and they read loopholes. Their worldview is different than most of the rest of us. I think that that is very valuable when trying to write a constitution that will protect the rights of a nation's citizens but it is not so helpful- or at least of limited help- in understanding God. Contrary to some popular books the Bible is not a code to be deciphered or a manual to build a healthy life. It is a love story. I heard a man preach once on Genesis 1 and proclaim emphatically that whales were the first mammal that God created. Well, Genesis 1:21 does list sea monsters first when talking about what God created that day... No, I am sorry Genesis 1 is a beautiful poem about the Creation. It is full of wonderful truths about God, nature, and Man. But reading it with a lawyer's eye is like reading Psalm 23 in order to determine how to get the best return on our flock of sheep. Excuse me while I get up, pace back and forth and give a loud frustrated 'AAARRRGGGHHH!'

So now finally, we come to Limited Atonement. Honestly, I have studied this and tried to get my head around what people are saying with this one and I don't get it. Limited Atonement means that Jesus only died for the elect- those who will be saved. He did not die for the those who will not be saved. Rev in the last comment section said truly that people for both sides could trot out our scriptures for both positions for and against this point and we would not get anywhere. I suppose he is right depending on where we want to go. It seems to me that what the Calvinist is saying is that God accomplishes everything He sets out to do and therefore if some are not in the end saved then He must never have purposed their salvation on the cross. That's lawyer talk for sure. Jesus did not hang on the cross writhing back and forth thinking, 'This blood is for Suzy, but not for Jimmy. This blood is for Sammy, but not for Jenifer.' The picture of the nature of Jesus and of His Father from start to finish is that of a God who stands on the hill over Jerusalem and pleads for His people to come to Him. And lest we lose sight of the facts we are all His people. There is no other creator. The only people walking this earth are people He created. 1 John 2:2 says that, 'he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.' There are scriptures that could be construed to mean that this is not so, I suppose but the point of what John is saying here is that you need not fear your sin because Jesus death on the cross covers all sin. I am not a Universalist. I do understand that many will reject His sacrifice. Indeed most today do not know or understand His sacrifice and will therefore not benefit from it. But I do not see any value in delineating some kind of fine line between those Jesus loves and redeems and those whom He loves and who remain lost.

I guess the point I want to make in this post is that I don't really care if technically Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross is only 'for' the redeemed or if He really did mean that His sacrifice was sufficient to cover the sins of all men for all time. The nature of Jesus is that He loves all of us with a real and tangible love that is deeper and more passionate than pitiable human words can convey. Do what you want with the lawyer talk but do not minimize His love because to do so would minimize His pain. The depth of His pain is real just as the depth of His love is. His wrath makes no sense otherwise and His wrath is real as well. Since I have been back in the West I have heard several people say that we hear too much preaching on the love of God, what we need is more preaching on His wrath. I hate this kind of talk with a great hate. It is a misunderstanding of who He is on so many levels. There is no wrath without great love and I don't hear anyone talking about His love with any depth of passion. Preaching on His love is sufficient to change the world. Too many have opted out of the true Gospel for a bunch of lawyer talk that presents passionless principals for living that look nothing like the one who laid down His life for us. Let us be passionate, feeling, loving people who serve and walk in the ways of a passionate, feeling, loving God. Surely His sacrifice has purchased at least that much?


Anonymous said...

I do believe in Limited Atonement. I also agree with you concerning the love of Christ, but Strider remember, it is the Christian who does not have to fear God's wrath because of what Christ did on the cross yet they are the ones who fear it, and it is preached that God's wrath is still to be feared by Christians. That is the false gospel. IOW I agree with your whole last paragraph and I would add a loud Amen. Those without Christ should fear it and yet don't.

Strider said...

Debbie, You bring up a good point in that I emphasized the limited part and failed to write much on the atonement part. Limited or no the sins of those who belong to Him are forever atoned!

BKC said...

With all due respect you have drawn a false dichotomy with you lawyer references. There's no reason a lawyer might not like poetry more than you and be able to read the Bible as well as you.

I'm not all that concerned (personally) over TULIP. But I do think you give a pretty minimal definition of Limited Atonement. Also, the view is more nuanced among some of the so-called neo-Calvinists.

Just a couple of things to think about. You make some good points here.

Strider said...

BKC- I am not wrong about the lawyer thing. There are many lawyers perhaps who can appreciate poetry to a much higher degree than I but that does not change the basic world-view of a lawyer. My point was that he thinks differently and I simply point to any piece of legislation that any lawyer has ever written as proof.
The definition of Limited Atonement was purposely left thin. I have read several of the neo-calvinist and I still don't get it. I take full responsibility for not getting it. Bottom line is when I read what the Calvinists say about Limited Atonement I see nothing of the character or nature of Jesus there. If this doctrine has an important point that will transform my understanding of God then I have missed it and I admit that.
As I said to Debbie however, I did not react at all to the Atonement aspect of Limited Atonement. When I get to Perseverance of the Saints I will revisit this issue I think.

Rev said...

Hey Strider.

Your posts are getting interesting.

It is hard to believe that God plays Duck-Duck-Damn with people, and I totally understand how that doesn't sit well with those who see and know God's love in the Bible for the world.

And to an extent you are right about the lawyer background and interest in many of the early reformers.

...and i share your love for the story of the Bible, its poetic beauty, the unfolding drama of redemption. I love how God put his Word into song, and chants, and wisdom, stories, love letters, visions and chronicles. Not only that, but they are all woven together to help tell one grand story of God's salvation in Christ. It is truly breathtaking. And a lot of power of it dies when straight laced nit-picks turn the Bible into a magic-book of western logic.

I will simply suggest that maybe we shouldn't pit poets against lawyers. For the same way we shouldn't pit scripture against scripture. And i think that each TEAM has the propensity to only see their side.

I wouldn't want a lawyer to interpret the Song of Solomon for me (that would be a disaster!). But i wouldn't want a poet to interpret Romans 1-11 for me either. I think there is enough literary diversity in the Bible for all kinds of examination. But each should stick with what they can do well and still learn from each-other.

Strider i think you did what i said usually happens. You ventured into philosophy on your 3rd paragraph. You summarized why you think why Calvinist buy into 'L' without really dealing with any of their arguments from the Bible. C'mon man, how is that fair? You totally called Calvinist lawyers and then you, like a lawyer, appealed to the jury using this emotionally charged statement "this blood for Suzy and not for Jennifer", then you quoted one verse.

I wasn't joking when i said there really is a pile of verses that Calvinists have. And there is a pile of verse for the "L". And i think you skipped over it just as fast as a Calvinist skips over the other side (like 1 John 2:2).

Read these verses (in context) and explain the "L" away without any lawyer talk:
Matthew 1:21
Matthew 20:28
Ephesians 5:25
John 10:27-30
Romans 8:30
These verses are pretty straight forward in saying that Jesus died for "his people", "some", "his church", "his sheep", "the elect" right?

If Jesus died in only one way for the world, then why would the cross also mention specifics? A similar question goes to Debbie: If Jesus only died for the elect then why does the Bible often mention the work of the cross being for everyone besides the elect also?

All Im saying is that the Atonement is more full of meaning than just he only died in one way for one group of people.

My main point is this: To affirm that Jesus died for all does not deny that in a particular way he died for the Church. And to say that Jesus died for the Church doesn't mean that he didn't die for the world in a particular way. They are complimentary not exclusive.

Also let me throw in a wrench to both of the systems. How do you interpret (and read the context!)

Colossians 1:20 "and through him [Jesus] to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross"

Jesus died for all things on heaven and earth? Yes. Jesus' blood has something to do with allowing a New Heavens and New Earth.

How's that for unlimited! Now it doesn't make me a universalist to believe it, just as believing 'all' means 'all' shouldn't keep you from believing that Jesus' death also had something specific in mind (like the ransom of the Church).

My final question for Stryder and Debbie,

1) Why do you have any reason to believe that there are not multiple applications of the atonement?

2) Do you have any reason to believe that your view excludes ANY possible application of the other view.

3) How do you justify stating that the cross is intended to benefit only one group when in-fact both groups are mentioned specifically as receiving benefited by the atonement?

P.S. sorry for the really long comment!

John Alexander said...

I would add a verse to the above comment. St. John wrote in 1 John 2:2, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." Sounds contradictory to Limited Atonement to me.

Thus far, no one has managed to convince me that Limited Atonement accounts for all of Scripture. Sure, TULIP (I won't say Calvinism since so few Calvinists have ever read the Institutes) accounts for the passages that speak to predestination. What does TULIP say about the vast number of passages in the Old Testament that records God calling people to repentance? Why would He spend so much time asking people to repent if He had already condemned them to sin? Given the limited number of words we have from God in Holy Scripture, certainly He wouldn't waste any of them asking for the impossible.

Rev said...

welcome to the discussion John Alexander!

First... oddly enough in the "above comment" I already mentioned 1 John 2:2. So... um... how are you adding anything to the discussion?

Wow! i must be clairvoyant! How did i know someone would jump in, not read the comments, and proof-text 1 John 2:2??? Strider is there a character in Lord of the Rings that can kind of see the future? if so can i be named after him/her.

Oh and John, the answer to your question is no. TULIP does not deny the truth of a universal call to repentance. If your pastor thinks otherwise I suggest you don't drink the Kool-Aid offered during fellowship hour.

John Alexander said...

"It is as Lord Denethor predicted! Long has he foreseen this doom!" Probably not the character you had in mind, rev... ;-)

Yes, I read your comment regarding 1 John 2 (which you merely mentioned but didn't really comment), and no, I'm not talking about the universal call to repentance. I'm talking about the reason why the universal call exists. Why would God issue a universal call that humanity cannot meet?

Frankly, I see no reason for Limited Atonement in the grand scheme of things. God chooses people from before the foundation of the world; Scripture clearly teaches it. But why must we believe that Jesus died only for those chosen?

Like Strider, I'm not a universalist. I know many - most - humans will not choose salvation even if offered to them. However, the offer still stands. Should they choose Jesus' atoning death for their sins, any human will find His blood atones for them.

Rev Denethor said...

Hey John, im glad your back!

Good questions man.

Why does the universal call exist?
I think it exists because it pleases God that everyone should know God's glory and love in the giving of his Son, and that the offer for whosoever. I think that is the answer i can best find in the Bible.

I am wondering how you answer your own question. If it has something to do with some western philosophical concept of freedom how are you going to show it comes from the Bible and not Immanuel Kant?

you asked:

"But why must we believe that Jesus died only for those chosen?"

Jesus didn't die ONLY for the elect. But he did die in a special way for the elect. There is a difference. I am arguing for a limited aspect of the Atonement and also for a universal aspect of the atonement. I believe in Limited and Unlimited atonement.

Jesus died as a ransom: Elect
Jesus died to expiate the stain of sin: Elect
Jesus died to defeat Satan and Demons: All
Jesus died to be the first fruit of a new creation: All
Jesus died to demonstrate the love of God in the gospel: All

Here is my question for you. If Jesus ransomed all then how will there be those in hell with their sins unpaid-for? If Jesus expiated the sins of all, then how can God be a just God in judging sins that have been washed away? If you say Jesus merely died so that all could be ransomed and expiated then you are not really saying, in dying, Jesus ransomed and expiated the sins of all. you are just saying that he could.

First let me make it clear that i agree that Jesus died for all. Of course he did. I think the difference between us is not what you affirm but what you deny. Just because you don't see the value of Jesus paying a dowry for his Bride doesn't mean it isn't there and we shouldn't believe it.

I still have my Limited Atonement scripture list up there. I do not have any takers in explaining it away?

Strider said...

Welcome John A to the discussion, I had not seen you here before. Welcome to Middle Earth.

Rev- Well Friend, I am having trouble answering you because I like some of what you say and disagree with a great deal else. Where to begin? First, My 'emotionally charged' illustration was the point. We can look at scripture with the lawyer's eye trying to parse meaning but when we put flesh and blood on it how does it look? In the case of LA it doesn't look pretty. In fact, for my money it doesn't look anything like Jesus at all.
So, second to look at the verses you listed I simply do not see it. In Matt 1 for instance if Jesus is promised to come for His people how does that limit the atonement? If I had never heard of LA and I read the verses you mentioned it would never occur to me to think, 'Hey, that means that Jesus' sacrifice was never meant for those who would not believe.' Just because all the apples in the basket are red does not then mean that those are the only red apples on the planet. 1 John 2 says that He died for the whole world. And, to follow this line of reasoning up is the Calvinist saying that Jesus death was not enough to cover the sins of those who will not in the end accept Him? I don't think Calvin would ever word it that way, but is that not a logical conclusion of the view? It gets ludicrous to say Jesus blood only covered so much say He only chose to save so many. I am sure that no Calvinist believes this and yet LA sounds like this to me. Again, I don't understand it. I admit that.
Third, Your questions are real or rhetorical at the end of your last comment? The issue we both come to is that only the elect are saved. The question then is why are the non-elect not saved. The Calvinist says they were not chosen and the non-Calvinist says that they did not have faith in Christ and therefore His sacrifice was not effective. Calvinists hate this kind of talk because it can sound like works righteousness and it can sound like we are placing God in our power instead of us in His. I will deal with these questions in my next post.

Rev Denethor said...

Truth is Calvinists are as emotionally entrenched in their defense as you. Basically we are afraid that without election God turns into Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty, LOL! We have more but i wouldn't want to sling mud or to mock. Needless to say each side has enough ridiculous things to say about the other.

The verses do not say Jesus "came" for his people. It says the will save them from their sins, die for them, shed his blood for them, buy them. It is exactly what we are talking about.

For the record. I do not think, "'Hey, that means that Jesus' sacrifice was never meant for those who would not believe.'" And if that is what Calvinists think then i don't want you to be a Calvinist! and I do not to be one either! ;-)

I just can't seem to set the record straight. Some Calvinist believe in both-and atonement. And others believe in OLA: Only Limited Atonement. There are actually not many OLA people around.

If you want to argue against OLA then you are throwing a rant into cyberspace and no one around here is going to set the record straight (maybe if Debbie comes back). It just going to be a lot of talking into thin air.

I think i made a good case for Limited-Unlimited Atonement or the other word used is Multiple Intentions View. I think it is the higher ground.

Strider said...

Rev- Hey, I had this big bag of rocks to throw and you are telling me there is no one to throw them at? I am devastated. Seriously, I am not so entrenched as you think. I have long believed that the issue with Calvinism is not that it is 'wrong' but more that it does not ask or answer the right questions. As I have been saying in my post from the beginning, it does not describe God for me.
I can get my head around what you are saying here with your understanding of LA. I have not heard- or at least understood- this view of LA before. I already said that while I believed that Christ died for the sins of everyone His death was only 'effective' for those who believe. Now, you are saying that His death was effective for everyone but in different ways. It seems that what we think about Limited Atonement is not that different but what we think about election is possibly very different. I am learning here, thanks for sharing.

Rev said...

Stider i realize i didn't answer your question.

I intended my questions to be questions not rhetorical. I really want to know why you and Debbie want to reject the both-and possibility.

If the Bible says "some" and "all" then isn't the burden of proof on you and Debbie to prove it is one way or another?

The burden of proof is on Debbie to explain how "all" doesn't mean "all". And on you to show how "some", "the church", "his sheep" doesn't mean just that.

we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim 4:10

Cheers Strider!

John Alexander said...

I don't think anyone can "prove" the issue, either Strider or Debbie.

Now that I've seen the Calvinist debate play out in the SBC for a few years, I'm close to adopting a quote from a pope - Alexander Pope, that is:

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

I see too many people believing they know exactly how God works in soteriology, a claim not even the angels would make. St. John himself says that no one could write enough books to encompass even what Jesus said or did in His mere 33 years (or so) on the planet. If we cannot understand 33 years out of millennia, when God Himself walked among us, how can we claim to understand His ways in eternity?

This much I know: Jesus' atonement works for anyone who confesses Him as Lord, believing God raised Him from the dead. I have no need to understand its implications past that point, although I suspect it transcends anything we can imagine. We'll understand its true extent at The Day of the Lord.

It seems I'm learning to accept some mystery in my faith, something incredibly difficult for a computer guy and pastor. I'm prepared to accept that the extent of the Atonement will remain a mystery.

Romans 11:33-36


John Alexander said...

I don't think anyone can "prove" the issue, either Strider or Debbie.

Now that I've seen the Calvinist debate play out in the SBC for a few years, I'm close to adopting a quote from a pope - Alexander Pope, that is:

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

I see too many people believing they know exactly how God works in soteriology, a claim not even the angels would make. St. John himself says that no one could write enough books to encompass even what Jesus said or did in His mere 33 years (or so) on the planet. If we cannot understand 33 years out of millennia, when God Himself walked among us, how can we claim to understand His ways in eternity?

This much I know: Jesus' atonement works for anyone who confesses Him as Lord, believing God raised Him from the dead. I have no need to understand its implications past that point, although I suspect it transcends anything we can imagine. We'll understand its true extent at The Day of the Lord.

It seems I'm learning to accept some mystery in my faith, something incredibly difficult for a computer guy and pastor. I'm prepared to accept that the extent of the Atonement will remain a mystery.

Romans 11:33-36


Rev said...

Yes Strider! YES!

I agree 100% that we are very very close in our views of the Atonement. So close that I'll leave it to the lawyers to sort through our differences.

And yes i am with you that the 5 points by itself is a unhelpful theology. I am a Calvinist because i can affirm the 5 points not because I think the 5 points are helpful. I would never teach the 5 points to anyone!

Election is probably where the significant disagreement is.

And John, angels fear to tread on this subject? I would imagine that the "sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories... [are] things into which angels long to look" (1 Peter 1:11-12).
When we talk about atonement we talk about the glories that Jesus accomplished by his blood.

Don't go mystic contemplative on us man. God is not found in your naval :-D. I would rather you jump back into the discussion.

John Alexander said...

I'm extremely wary of mysticism. I once heard it defined by a priest as "misty thinking that leads to schism." Sounds like a good definition to me. Therefore, my "navel" has no part to play in the issue. :-)

OTOH, I still fail to see the value in Limited Atonement. Strider wrote in his post, "I guess the point I want to make in this post is that I don't really care if technically Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross is only 'for' the redeemed or if He really did mean that His sacrifice was sufficient to cover the sins of all men for all time. The nature of Jesus is that He loves all of us with a real and tangible love that is deeper and more passionate than pitiable human words can convey." I agree, and there I stand. I see no reason to speculate that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross occurred only for the benefit of a preordained elect. I agree it applies to those who accept His atonement for their sins. I don't know how it affects others, nor do I see a reason to speculate.

BTW, I've enjoyed the discussion, Strider, and hope I'm not intruding too much. I have no desire to hijack the blog.


Rev said...

I believe you John, I was teasing you, as i tend to do. Thanks for being a good sport. Im a expatriate in Asia and i guess i have a hard time finding fun things to do in the 3rd world!

I think the limited atonement thing has run its course and I had fun in the discussion.

But may I challenge you in something? It does raise my eyebrows when people won't investigate something the Bible if they think "that is not Jesus!" or "that is not helpful".

Can i challenge you with an example?

Revelation 14:10 he [beast worshipers] will also drink the wine of God's wrath.... he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

In the presence of who? The Lamb. Who is the Lamb? Jesus is the Lamb.

So my loving Jesus rules Hell and is going to watch the unrepentant burn.

Honestly, the Bible saying that Jesus is going to stand with the angels and watch people burn doesn't help me very much. It doesn't help me sleep at night. It challenges my idea of who Jesus is. I was told Hell was separation from God. How can this be so? I Can't really put this in a neat little box. It is unhelpful and contrary to much of what i think i know of Jesus. Oh how shallow my knowledge and relationship with him is! He is so much more than i can take in.

John, I am not saying this to contradict all the true things you said about Jesus' amazing and incomprehensible love for all people. But... i hope you see what im getting at here!

If you had a wife that always agreed to everything you said you wouldn't have much of a relationship with her. If she did disagree with you but you responded, "no honey, that is not helpful, that is not really you speaking" you would be you would be ignoring her. She would be your doormat and you wouldn't have a growing relationship with her. You couldn't learn from her or about her.

It is easy for us to settle for what we know about Jesus and stop listening to him.

You can say "unhelpful!" and "that is not Jesus!" all you want to me if i am saying something wrong. But if you say that to Scripture then how are you allowing Jesus to teach you?

Jesus dying in a way for his own people may not help you. And it may not sound like Jesus to you. Ok granted. But, John, you should give-a-rip if it is what Scripture says or not. That is why i think you should care. Just as much as i think OLA peeps should not shut their ears to the massive message that Jesus died for all. We all have the tendency to domesticate Jesus, thus ignoring him.

Even if LA is true it is not a very large theme of Scripture so i don't think it is something anyone should get bent-out-of-shape about. But if it challenges your view of Jesus that should be a reason for studying it, not a reason ignoring it! it might just help you grow in your personal relationship with Jesus.

In the end that is what we all want.

JeraldD said...

Wow! This is some great discussion. I'm so glad I'm not a theologian.
I wonder, what does your belief about lawyers have to do with how you witness to someone who is a lawyer - or anyone else, for that matter?

John Alexander said...

I agree with you completely, rev. I freely confess I need to know more Scripture; I want to know more, and if presented with solid proof of my errors, I will change. I've done so before and will inevitably do so again.

To address your specific example, I really see no contradiction between Jesus' love and Rev. 14:10. Although He is love, He will also rule with perfect justice. Those who reject His mercy will receive justice. I'm certain someone has argued before that perfect love requires perfect justice for those who reject the love.

BTW, there's a discussion happening at regarding Satan and hell. Recommended.

Expat in Asia, huh? We have friends in Japan. Very long story, but one with a lot of potential for God's grace.


Strider said...

Welcome Jeraldd to Middle Earth. If you are not a theologian who is? As for lawyers coming to Jesus it doesn't matter how we present the gospel to them since they obviously are not elect. Ok, that is a bad lawyer joke. Sorry to my good friends who are lawyers but followers of Jesus first.

Rev- I feel the need to make clear that as I have written each of these posts I have talked about Jesus as what it is recorded He said and did, not what the romanticized view of Him is. I believe that I addressed the Rev 14 passage indirectly in this post in fact, as I discussed the depth of pain He experiences making sense of the depth of wrath that will be faced by all who do not know Him.
I need to write more but have no time. Forgive me- maybe tomorrow after the whole Halloween deal.

Rev said...

Jerald, I might tell them that the best lawyer that ever lived was Jesus. No one else, and no other religious makes a water-tight case of God's love. He proves to us how every obstacle that keeps us from knowing and being with God has been taken care of by him. He is like the best prosecution lawyer, showing how unjust the people of the world are. But in leveraging his perfect standing before God on our behalf on the Cross be becomes the best defense lawyer who ever was, proving to all (even God) that there is no longer any charge that can stand against us. All our guilt taken, and all the restitution we owe to God given by Jesus' suffering. The verdict of our aquital due to Jesus' suffering for us is what the earliest christians called the 'good news'. All you need to do is rest on that verdict and live your life in light of the verdict.

Jerald, that is not the only way you can say it... but you can have fun with thinking about Jesus fits into the lawyer paradigm. It is truly neat stuff.

John, Right on man.

Rev 14:10 was just the best verse i can think of that is probably one of the more challenging parts about Jesus for me, and a Western Worldview.

One of the reasons i think the Bible is from God is because it both attracts and offends every culture that ever was. It is truly other-worldly. The West loves what the Bible says about forgiveness, but we hate what it says about marriage and family. The East loves what the Bible says about marriage and family, but struggle with forgiveness. The Gospel can make itself at home in any culture, but it will always change the culture. Amazing.

I guess while Strider gets ready for the next post i hope he is cool with us playing in his comment sandbox.

Ill post another comment that is back on topic and see what you guys think.

P.S. I've visited iMonk off an on for a couple of years now. He has posted some really provocative stuff over the years. A great blog for discussions. iMonk is someone that frustrates lawyer types cuz he is hard to put in a box. In the past he ticked a lot of the TR (Truly Reformed) people as he calls them. Basically the TRs are uptight Calvinists who got angry with him for blurring some of their neat little theological boxes. Fun stuff.

P.S.S. John im glad you are sticking around.

Rev said...


Rereading my comment i realize what i did! I was responding to what i thought John was saying by quoting you. The quote in the context of your post is very well balanced. Very well balance.

Picking Rev 14:10 was really not inspired by anything present or absent in our discussion. It happened to be something personally challenging for me that read recently. I used it by way of my own devotional illustration. As far as i know, i am the only person in this discussion that struggles with that it says about Jesus.

I am embarrassed as how my post comes off. I apologize for pulling your words it way out of the context of your post.

JeraldD said...


You can say that Jesus was a good lawyer, maybe even the best, because he did teach the lawyers of his day a thing or two. But his arguments were not just verbal. He lived his arguments, even the forgiveness one.
Remember the Rich Young Ruler (probably a lawyer) saw something in Jesus that made him call him good - something that he knew that only God was.
You said, "He proves to us how every obstacle that keeps us from knowing and being with God has been taken care of by him. He is like the best prosecution lawyer, showing how unjust the people of the world are."
Well, his proof was not in presenting evidence other than himself and his own actions.
He even demonstrated to the 'lawyers' of that day that he was sinless by not throwing a stone at the woman caught in adultry but admonished her to mend her ways after not condeming her.
I think that we've lost sight of the fact that it's Christ in us that proves our salvation.
I love this discussion and reading everyone. It's great!

Strider said...

I am pleased that everyone is enjoying the discussion. Keep it going as you want to. The in-laws are here so I wont likely get anything new up until Monday. I am confident that I will get up a new post on Monday since I have a lot of other work to do and I always get my best posts written when I am procrastinating the work I am supposed to be doing.

Rev said...

Or that time when Jesus decimated the Sadducee movement by pointing out the verb "to be" was in the present indefinite tense. Yeah Jesus could and did at times think like a lawyer. So I wouldn't go so far as to say that the lawyer paradigm can't teach us anything about God. In Matthew 22 Jesus teaches much about God through the lawyer-like disputes. But in using broad strokes I would agree with Striders original post that the lawyer paradigm isn't fit for understanding a Bible that in its unity is a story of redemption, or as he put it, a love story.

Strider I wonder what kind of Calvinistthat you mingle with. More and more i wonder if the brand of calvinism you are surrounded by is the kind that follows the wake of John MacArthur.

Cuz when you say calvinist have a lawyer worldview i began asking myself: ok, compared to who?. Compared to the Catholocism of the Middle ages? sure. but in modern times, it it the calvinist or non-calvinist who are guilty of rigidly interpreting the Bible like a text book. And i think i have history on my side.

I mean, in terms of historical movments...

Who started the "creation science movement"? non-calvinists

Who catelyzed the above movement by writing the book Genesis Flood? Non-calvinists

Who chopped the Bible into dispensations? non-calvisnists

Who drew rediculous endtimes charts? Non-calvinists

Who flocked behind the Left Behind movment? Non-calvinists

Who, all the while, criticize the reformed churches that they were "liberal" for not taking the bible "literally"? non-calvinists

What movement is characteristic of a concrete-literal interpretation methodology? Dispensationalists (traditionally non-calvinists)

What movement was more prone to a literary-literal approach to interpretation? Covenant Theology i.e. Reformed i.e. Calvinists.

Who, for years, have argued for a more literary sensitive take on end-times leading to amillenialism, and postmillenialism? Calvinists

Who sides with concrete-literal friendly postmillenium complete with naked flying people (the rapture)? Non-calvinists.

Who catalyzed Bible science? Dispensationalists

Who are mostly Dispensational today? Non-calvinists (with the exception of MacArthur's brand of calvinism), baptists, independent bible churches. Methodists and almost every other non-reformed evangelical church.

Who tends to have conferences on culture? Calvinists

Who has conferences on Bible prophesy and the end times? non-calvinists.

What theological paradigm was criticized for "spiritualizing" things instead of taking them "literally" by the dispensationalist's brand of concrete-literal interpretation? Anwer, calvinists were criticized for spiritualizing.

i rest my case.

So who is guy arguing about whales? I bet you 100 bucks he does not have deep ties in the reformed movement. My best guess is you are mingling with southern dunker MacArthurites.

Truth is, MacArthur's calvinism is the oddball in the reformed movement of the past 500 years.

Emerging, newer evangelicals, are rediscovering the literary depth of the Bible. These people are like a pendulum shift away from old rotten dispensationalism with its shallow concrete-literal paradigm. The reason why newer evangelicals are not all coming to calvinism is because of the cultural disinterest in history and heritage. People are not interested in what calvinism really means, they are after what is new.

My guess is that you Strider come out of that pendulum shift. You might be one of the early bloomers among southern dunkers (if that is what you are). People in your 'tradition' are discovering calvinism too, but from my observation, southern dunker calvinists follow the wake of MacArthur's calvinism that still is livid with concrete-literal dispensationalism. That is why MacArthur is one of the first notable calvinist to actually that support creation science ministries (like Answers in Genesis) which previously were supported entirely by non-calvinist dispensationalism.

Sorry for all the history. Maybe i totally missed what you meant by your lawyer paradigm.

But MacArthurite whales-were-first preachers are modern day theological freinkinsteins that didn't exist at all 60 years ago! They are not good examples of mainstream calvinist thinking.

And since you entitled your series Calvinists Thinking i thought it was important to mention the difference between MacArthur's brand of hick calvinism, and everyone else.

There is a huge difference between the two!

Strider said...

Rev- Thanks for the insights on Calvinism. They fit with what I have witnessed. I should be clear on this point about what I mean by Calvinistic thinking. What I am getting at is a worldview that looks at things a certain way and puts them in certain preconstructed boxes. Limited Atonement is a good example. The way you define LA is not very different from how I see Atonement. But you are squeezing it into a five-point box that is unhelpful. This is where I am going with these posts and my understanding of Calvinism. It is not that Calvinism is 'wrong' it is that it ask the wrong questions and places spiritual realities in uninformative constructs. As I have said before- they don't describe Jesus.
So, I really appreciate your part in this discussion- it has cleared up much for me. And I need to repeat that I greatly value many Calvinists and their contribution to our understanding of God.
So, I will peck out at least two more posts on this and see where that leads. I know it will not lead to a universal decision about TULIP for any of us- not even me. But I hope it does deepen our understanding of God and makes each of us more loving, more worshipful, more thankful children.

Anonymous said...

John Calvin was a theologian as was Martin Luther who were both transformed by the book of Romans as were Charles Spurgeon and many others. It has been said that if one can understand the book of Romans then one can understand the whole Bible. If I say that all of you are invited to my house, would that mean everyone in the whole world or those who read or hear my voice. There are times the Bible uses the word all as meaning everyone in the world, there are times that it is for those who hear his voice, whom God changes. Revelation 5:9 tells who all are. The gospel is offered to all, but not all come. Why? Is it because some are better than others? Irresistible Grace and Unconditional election also link with Limited Atonement in my view.

As for the word all not meaning every single person, read John chapter 3 past verse 16. Matthew 1:21, 20:28, John 10:14-18, 17:9, Acts 20:28, Romans 5:8-9, Titus 2:14.

Anonymous said...

As for telling the gospel being a waste of time because some may not be elect, the truth of the matter is that I do not know who the elect are, and I want to tell everyone, something wonderful has happened to me and I want every single person to know of this Person Jesus Christ who came and died that we might live and not just live but live abundantly. It's the HS in me that compels me to give the gospel to everyone that God puts in my path. I believe that there will possibly be more in heaven than in hell. Christ is already King and his kingdom isn't here on this earth. Jesus commands us to give the gospel to every one. That is enough for me.