Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Universalism Squeezing Arminianism

This post from Steve Hays at Triablogue presents an interesting question that I think all synergists (not merely Arminians) need to answer.  Read his post. It doesn't start out as an attack on Arminianism, but rather winds up posing some sticky questions re: "evangelical" universalism.

If you're too lazy to read the post, here's the point that is interesting. Universalism is on the rise in modern "evangelicalism" (so-called.) The Universalists use a lot of the same texts to prove their case that the Arminians use to combat Calvinism, texts focusing (supposedly) on God's great desire to save each and every individual. And, it seems, it's the Universalists who take these texts at greater "face value." This highlights the oft-made observation that many of the Arminians proof texts, if they prove Arminianism, really prove more than that: Universalism. (e.g. When the Bible tells us that Jesus is the "savior" of the whole world, on the face of it that would seem to support Universalism more naturally than it would Arminianism, especially when Arminians hold such statements up as proof against the idea of decretal election.)

Since we are graced here with the presence of some thoughtful Arminians and other synergists on occassion, I'm curious what your answer is to Hays' post. And, of course, I'd challenge you to answer him directly. I've got my popcorn ready.


Strong Tower said...

Baitin' a fight?

It has long been observed that the track of those who use these texts this way end up in U. The samething happens when a surface reading of texts on oneness in the Godhead neglect other texts that fill out the theology. It is no surprise then that Us'eventually join forces and become UU's.

It is not true of all, though it takes keeping eyes closed to the logical end of the assertions made to keep from sliding all the way down hill.

Thanks for keeping up here.


Strong Tower said...

"But that’s a pretty pyrrhic victory. If you can only argue for universalism from Scripture by rejecting the inspiration of Scripture, then universalism cannot claim to be a revealed truth. It’s merely Paul’s opinion, and not even a consistent opinion at that."

This is what I have been arguing in SBC circles. The battle for inerrency was far from over with the ouster of the errentists, for the anti-authoritarian majority remained in power. Authority in Scripture is indispensible for inerrency. That meaning, Scripture has to be without contradiction, so we have to rule out contradictory statement, either through, negation by denial, or just eliminating the offending text. The first is the mode the SBC chooses to follow. Worse is the admitted compromise required for cooperation between competing soteriologies. For both sides must allow the other to define Scripture according to their prejudices and not according to the inerrent authoritative word.

On the Calvinist side it is not through denial of the meaning of the text that they are partaking of this error in reason. Still, by allowing a non-authoritative word to stand as an equal, they show themselves amenable to the idea that the Bible is without authority, at least in the eyes of the world. Being without authority, it cannot be claimed that it is without error.

Gordan said...

"Baitin a fight?"

Yeah, you got me. I'd like to see someone fight Steve Hays, or try. When I grow up I wanna be just like him. One time I had a minor disagreement with something he said and dared to comment to that effect. He took my simple little comment apart phrase by phrase, utterly destroying me in the process. It was so cool! He's the man.

J.C. Thibodaux said...


This highlights the oft-made observation that many of the Arminians proof texts, if they prove Arminianism, really prove more than that: Universalism. (e.g. When the Bible tells us that Jesus is the "savior" of the whole world, on the face of it that would seem to support Universalism more naturally than it would Arminianism, especially when Arminians hold such statements up as proof against the idea of decretal election.)

Actually, they're using the same interpretive fallacy the Universalists and other biblically unsound groups employ: Stripping one set of scripture of all meaning whatsoever in favor of their interpretation of another. Hays' argument is the typical "it's our way or Mormonism/Universalism/Pelagianism slippery slope that's a staple for certain among the Triabalunderers (yes, I've seen them use this fallacy before). If the scriptures take two seemingly opposite stances on an issue, the resolution can very often be derived from taking both to be true, one as general or default, the other as the exception.

For instance, God promised the Israelites victory over their enemies in the land of Canaan,

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:16)

Yet a few verses later He states,

And the LORD said to Moses: "Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, 'Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?' (Deuteronomy 31:16-17)

So which is it? Will God never forsake them, or will He forsake them if they forsake Him? You could have two opposite extremes that adopt their own radical interpretations of either set of passages while completely discounting the other: one side (call it 'side X') that insists that God will continue to bless them regardless of whether they serve Him or not (a serious and potentially deadly error), the other group ('side Y') insisting that God is not trustworthy and that He doesn't keep His promises (outright blasphemy).

Now say some Israelites (call them 'side Z') accepted both sets of statements as fact, that God won't be unfaithful in forsaking Israel, but that there would be an exception to His blessing them if Israel forsook Him, thus agreeing with all of scripture as well as passages which reconcile the two concepts, such as,

Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all the good things have come upon you which the LORD your God promised you, so the LORD will bring upon you all harmful things, until He has destroyed you from this good land which the LORD your God has given you. (Joshua 23:15)

"As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever." (1 Chronicles 28:9)

An apologist for side X might berate those who believes both sets of scriptures to be true (just as Hays blitheringly does) because he believes like the blaspheming side Y crowd, that Deuteronomy 31:16-17 does in fact imply that God might reject Israel as a nation. He might give shallow and snide remarks like, "We believe in God's faithfulness more than you do," or, "You agree with the blasphemers that God could forsake the nation of Israel to its enemies." But the reasoning behind their beliefs is completely different: The one who believes the whole of scripture understands that God is not unfaithful as the blasphemers claim, but that His blessing is provisioned upon following His commands. Scripture and history both make it plain that the view of both being true is correct, God did bless Israel and kept His promises, but when they forsook Him, He sold them to their enemies as He'd also promised.

Applying that concept to the passages at hand, most Synergists believe both sets of passages to be true: That Christ died for all men, yet the benefits of His death are provisioned upon living faith in Him. The childish smear tactic of trying to say "you kind of partially agree with/sound like Universalists!" is just as utterly devoid of sound reasoning as the above hypothetical accusation that those who believe that God's blessings upon Israel were conditional agreed with those who thought God was unfaithful, both being superficial and ultimately inviable comparisons. Kind of sad really, I'd honestly hoped Hays would have at least grasped the basics of fundamental logic by now.

Anonymous said...


"It is not true of all, though it takes keeping eyes closed to the logical end of the assertions made to keep from sliding all the way down hill."

Does that include the slippery slope towards hyper-Calvinism from the tenets of basic Calvinism? ;)


Anonymous said...

"I'm curious what your answer is to Hays' post. And, of course, I'd challenge you to answer him directly. I've got my popcorn ready."

Answer Steve Hays? Would you feed a crocodile from your hand? Hays is not interested in dialogue.

He tells one commentator:

"You need to spend less time in front of the mirror — especially since your spiritual reflection is less than flattering to behold."

"So why don’t you take your own advice and shut your big mouth? It would free up bandwidth for someone who, unlike you, hasn’t disqualified himself from saying anything worthwhile."

"For all your pretentious verbiage, you’re not terribly bright."

"It wouldn’t hurt you to climb out of your own egotism for long enough to actually listen to what another human being else [sic] has to say . . ."

"You have a habit of using expensive words to cloak your dime store philosophy. It [sic] you’re going to peddle this faux radical chic scepticism, then why not drop the pose of being a Christian and just admit that you’re an infidel at heart?"

Is this way a CHRISTIAN dialogues with another Christian? Even if "Exist-Dissolve" was not a brother in Christ, Hays still disobeys Scripture, which instructs us, "Let your GENTLENESS be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." (Phil. 4:5 NKJV) Or how about 2 Tim. 2:25? "in HUMILITY correcting those who are in opposition . . ."

Gordon, I pray to God that you DO NOT "grow up" to become like Hays, but like Christ. Hays is just one more nasty, mean-spirited Calvinist who gives you guys a bad rep. And if you all ever became like him, you can be sure that you would lose my respect as godly men with whose fellowship and commentaries I can appreciate.

(Yes, that's meant to be a compliment.)

In Christ,


Gordan said...

Billy, I hope you could tell that I was being a little humorous in that comment. Maybe "very little." But, though I wouldn't seek to defend every jot and tittle that Hays has ever said, those particular quotes you pasted here need to be seen in their context, specifically, the context of the history that Triablogue has with Exist-Dissolve. Is there EVER a time to be mean to a heretic? Is it never permissible to treat a wolf like a wolf?

Generally, I think the rule I've seen them adhere to at that blog is that they'll treat you respectfully until you prove yourself unworthy of that respect. And by that, I don't mean simply holding to the wrong ideas. (Generally. I've seen a couple of exceptions to that rule, too.)


I'd grant you some of that, in the sense that there are Calvinists who commit the error you're talking about there.

But I think the post is directed to Arminian-types who also commit that same error in the opposite direction (i.e. contra Calvinism); and it's pointing out that to use those universal-sounding texts to nullify the Bible's teaching on election would seem to eliminate the ground the Arminian stands on, when he's arguing against universalism. Specifically, if 2 Peter 3:9 really does wipe out the force of all the texts that show that repentance is a gift that is selectively given, and really does do away with the idea of decretal election, then it would seem that the farm has already been sold to the Universalist who would say a loud Amen, and praise God for not desiring that any should perish at all.

Of course, I realize not all synergists would insist on such a strident interpretation of Peter there, but at some point it is fair to conclude that if the atonement is not limited, then that means it's un-limited.

Or what?

Anonymous said...


"Is there EVER a time to be mean to a heretic? Is it never permissible to treat a wolf like a wolf?"

No. Because Paul wrote that we are to humbly correct opponents, "if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." (2 Tim. 2:25-26)

I don't recall (please correct me if I'm wrong) that Jesus was ever mean to an unregenerate heretic; His problem was with religious, self-righteous people.


J.C. Thibodaux said...

I couldn't comment on what other Synergists believe, since I hold that election is primarily individual (not corporate/universal). I would contend from scripture that God provisionally desires that none should perish (for it's clear that He has no pleasure in the the wicked perishing, but desires their repentance - Ezekiel 33:11), but even inherent in that statement is the fact that those who remain unrepentant will perish, leaving Universalism far in the heretical left-field for anyone with even a modicum of scriptural discernment. Perceived superficial similarities between how different belief systems interpret passages may be interesting, but as counter-examples will show, they don't really constitute a valid argument.

I'd have to concur with Billy concerning Hays, I've engaged Steve extensively at one point and found decent dialogue with him to be impossible. He has a good writing style and a broad knowledge base --he knows his rhetoric, but his critical thinking skills are abysmal...outmaneuvering him becomes fairly trivial as a result, it's stamping out the scores of other fallacies/hominems/red-herrings that he showboats with that gets tedious. And no, in my experience, neither he nor several of his colleagues make any effort to remain even mildly civil when speaking to other Christians, resorting to childish and malicious smears, unfounded accusations (see: false witness) and outright misrepresentation of facts. I'd be embarrassed to have them argue for what I believe. If they're typical for what's being produced in the modern Calvinist think tanks, the reformed resurgence is doomed.

Gordan said...

Joshua, my point wasn't really to argue 2 Peter 3:9 right here. I'm glad to hear you believe in individual election, though.

My point was that some would want to argue against Universalism from the very same hills they berate Calvinism for trying to occupy.

The Calvinist God is a monster if he doesn't have a deep-down longing to see everyone in heaven; but when facing the Universalist, well, you must understand that this particular deep-down desire has been completely subjugated to his other, more profound deep-down desire to let everyone choose their own destiny.

That's where I see the irony.

Gordan said...

Billy, I'm not advocating let's go and bully and harrass folks as our first line of defense, or anything like that.

I do understand your answer on this.

But I think that the Bible's total witness on the matter of things like sarcasm and mockery is much more broad than merely the examples you've given, thinking especially of Old Testament characters. I do think Paul's instructions to Timothy are in the context of pastoral ministry to the flock; and, in fact Paul was not beyond expressing whithering scorn and disdain in other contexts, so I'm not sure it's so cut-and-dried as your simple "No" answer.

Gordan said...

Joshua, by the way, just being honest, I followed your scuffle with T-blog over your Invincible Destruction of Calvinism Challenge, or whatever that was called back then.

I did think they were a little quick with the name-calling, but I'd have to admit yours was the argument I had trouble following. Color me stupid or whatever.

And, honestly, when you hit us here at RM with that Devestating Challenge to Calvinism Based On Scriptural Fact, And Not the Flimsy Hooey of Puny Reformation Theology...I'll admit that we here, not knowing you from Adam at the time, thought you had to be the most arrogant SOB to come down the pike, because that's how it sounded. I think that's exactly how it struck the ears of the Triabloguers as well, which may go some way toward explaining how they met your challenge.

Now, of course, I no longer believe that about you...I'd have to put you at like third of fourth. (LOL)

Exist-Dissolve said...

Is there EVER a time to be mean to a heretic? Is it never permissible to treat a wolf like a wolf?

Really Gordon? I'm a heretic now? Based on what? Because I don't by into a concept of Scriptural interpretation that is rooted more in Western philosophy than anything else?

I love how those who have no meaningful refutation resort to such petty responses, just as Steve over at Triablogue lives his life to do. Theology makes for the grumpiest and most narrow-minded people I've ever known.

Strong Tower said...


Show me how they do.

J.C. Thibodaux said...


That's insulting... I should rank at least second place ;)

I realize that my manner of writing is very straightforward, though I figure if someone can make a good case he should. I had a recent bit of conversation with John Hendryx concerning his challenge to all Synergists from some time back; I of course don't agree with all of his lines of reasoning, but I see such as confidence rather than arrogance (unless he demonstrates otherwise).

Notice that I didn't include mild name-calling and ribbing in my list of problems with the T-bloggers. I don't really care about that, I do care that they try to twist peoples' words, purposely misconstrue facts, and bear false witness against other Christians. Bridges in particular leveled several indisputably false accusations and was disobedient to the Lord's command against addressing Christian brothers as 'fools' (in which Hays followed suite). Then there was of course the whole fiasco with the sockpuppetry...when substantial evidence that they may have done so came to light, we presented it, but did not accuse them, we merely asked if they had, but never could get a straight answer. When we inquired further, Hays insinuated that Ben and I had been sockpuppeting, and were just trying to cover our tracks -- despite the fact that Ben and I both affirmed that we had never engaged in such practice...quoting Hays:

As far as that goes, we have no evidence that Ben and J.C. haven’t been sockpuppeting. They’ve denied it, but they’ve also defined sockpuppeting as a deceptive practice-so if they were sockpuppeting, we’d expect them to deny it. Deceivers lie about their underhanded ways, do they not?

So why should anyone take *their* word for it? That’s like asking a hacker if he makes a living as a hacker. You think he’s going to admit it?

Hays unwittingly proved 4 things with such an assertion,

1. He's not willing to engage in straightforward dialogue, which kills pretty much all chance of it being meaningful.
2. He's not willing to even give others who disagree with him the benefit of the doubt or take them at their word concerning their own motives (this goes for Manata as well, who once tried to correct me on what I meant when I wrote something - cue forehead slapping).
3. He's willing to infer guilt (notice that his line of reasoning requires assuming that we're being dishonest?) without substantial evidence, but merely on basis of lack of evidence to the contrary, which is again bearing false witness.
4. The "you can't prove you didn't" assertion is a rather obvious logical fallacy (appeal to ignorance) that even an amateur logician would recognize, succinctly demonstrating that Hays' reasoning skills are basically non-existent (or dissolved). At that point it was quite clear that further attempts to meaningfully communicate were pointless.

Given these factors, further interaction with Hays can be expected to be about as productive and edifying as trying to talk sense to the [Ir]rational Response Squad.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


For example (from Phil Johnson on hyper-Calvinism):

"[Hyper-Calvinism] is a system of theology framed to exalt the honour and glory of God and does so by acutely minimizing the moral and spiritual responsibility of sinners . . ."

If God decreed and CAUSED the fall (not by secondary causes), then how can man be responsible for sin, since God CAUSED them to sin? (Though I know that many, many Calvinists do not hold this, still, many do.)

"It emphasizes irresistible grace to such an extent that there appears to be no real need to evangelize; furthermore, Christ may be offered only to the elect. . ."

I know that Calvinists tend to say that God has ordained the means as well as the end, so the need to evangelize is imperative (plus it was commanded by Christ). But Christ IS only offered to the elect; unless Calvinists are ready to concede a proffered atonement to all, or prevenient (resistible) grace.

Moreover, in what genuine sense can God be said to "offer" salvation to those not elected unto salvation? He "offers" salvation to His elect by regenerating them. He does not "offer" the non-elect salvation, period.

Johnson writes, "A hyper-Calvinist is someone who either:

1. Denies that the gospel call applies to all who hear, OR

2. Denies that faith is the duty of every sinner, OR

3. Denies that the gospel makes any 'offer' of Christ, salvation, or mercy to the non-elect (or denies that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal), OR

4. Denies that there is such a thing as 'common grace,' OR

5. Denies that God has any sort of love for the non-elect."

POINT 1: But God has not decreed that all hear the gospel.

POINT 2: But God has decreed to "give faith" only to His elect.

POINT 3: But God has truly only decreed to "offer" salvation to His elect.

POINT 4: (That's just silly of them.)

POINT 5: But God has only truly loved His elect.

So, it seems that basic Calvinism easily leads to hyper-Calvinistic tendencies.

I know full-well that you guys avoid ALL of hyper-Calvinism's conclusions. You have solid arguments for each and every one of them. But the "slippery slope" is inherent in some of the very basic tenets of classical Calvinism.

Arminianism biblically avoids the heresies of Universalism IN THE SAME FASHION that you guys avoid the heresies of hyper-Calvinism: by appealing to a systematic approach to hermeneutics. Thus when Christ says that the Father is greater then He is, we do not construct a theology that Jesus was not divine. We take all that Bible has to say on the matter.

It is the same with this Universalism matter. Is God the Savior of the world? Yes. Paul writes that God is "the Savior of all men, ESPECIALLY of those who believe" (1 Tim. 4:10). The word "especially" denotes the distinction. God is the Savior to all people, but is "especially," applicably the Savior to those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21).

This was my feeble attempt at offering you an example. I'm sure you will have plenty to say, so I'll come back tomorrow and read your input.

God bless you guys,


Pizza Man said...

Hi guys,

It seems to me that Universalists borrow from both A and C to arrive at their conclusion.

from A = God wants all to be saved.
from C = God's grace is irresistible.

If God doesn't want all to be saved OR saving grace is resistible, then U can't be true.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

That's an excellent observation Pizza Man. As far as irresistible grace, from what I understand, many Universalists don't even believe that repentance is required for salvation, making them more akin to the Antinomians. Speaking of which, isn't it interesting that Antinomians use a lot of the same texts to prove their case that the Calvinists use to combat 5-point Arminianism, i.e. the texts focusing on God not letting any who believe perish? It seems it's the Antinomians who take them at greater face-value (the Calvinists attaching their own caveats and what-not). This of course proves that if these texts prove Calvinism, they must really prove more than that -- Antinomianism ("For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" or "Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them." would seem to more naturally support the view that 'we're saved strictly by an instant of faith and a formulaic prayer' rather than 'we're truly saved if we have faith and we persevere,' especially when Calvinists try to use such texts as proof that one who has believed can never really be lost).

We should all thank Steve Hays for showing us this wonderful "argument by vague resemblance" method of polemics, tune in next week when I show that Reformation Day and Halloween both falling on October 31 proves conclusively that Calvinists must be Satanists. (Okay, pulling tongue out of cheek now)

Strong Tower said...

But the "slippery slope" is inherent in some of the very basic tenets of classical Calvinism.

What I asked was what was inherent in the basic tenets that would lead to this slide. What you gave was the result of what men do who do not hold to the basic tenets.

The case is different. For example you quote: "God is the Savior to all people, but is especially" (of those who believe.) The word especially (a superlative form of specially related to a word equivalent of amen, mala meaning very), can mean specifically and not just more so, as in: "But [chiefly] them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government..." or, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine..." In the latter Paul is distinquishing between the prebuteros of the first verse of 1 Tim 5 where prebuteros is aged men and not officers of the church.

Even at that, how is it that God is the Savior of all me if indeed he is not? And how is "above others," which is what malista means lexigraphically, not making a distinction in how He is a Saviour to all? The all does not have an all inclusive singular meaning. It rather has a specific application that must be conditioned upon the context and other words in that context, as well as other Scripture, that refine it. It is without doubt that all mankind will be saved, it is without doubt that the whole world will be saved, it is even without doubt that the whole of the kosmos will be saved. What that means is defined though by specific application. As all, kosmos can have a very narrow as well as a universal application as we see in John 3 where both nuances are used.

As for the hypers, you make the case that they do not honor secondary means which God uses. The hypers err in that they reject any complimentary means in the Gospel as necessary for salvation, when in fact the Scripture is clear that one is not typically without the other. Our only exception, as is pointed out in the 1689, is for those who by the fact of natural inability cannot respond. The appeal to the fall does not work, for the Calvinist does not view the fall as without secondary means. And our confessions make that clear also.

IOW, it is the hermenuetic that universalizes the language itself that is in question. It is true that those who fall in either camp to these extremes have done so by disallowing their own hermenuetic to be the rule of interpretation. When the language is handled that way, as you did above by making "specially" mean only one thing, and "all" mean absoluteness of all humanity, the question must be raised as to why then that is it not true in all cases? In your above quote, a singular meaning is imposed upon the text that all means the entirety of humanity, that especially means "more so" but in doing so what meaning is assigned to Savior. It certainly cannot mean Savior in the same absoluteness that all is being used or all would be saved. So the hermenuetic must diminish the salvific work of Christ and make Savior mean potential savior, but not really Savior at all, or it must reveal that God is the Savior of all men but not to all individually.

If all men, has a more nuanced meaning, that is all men who are specifically those who believe, then God is the Savior in the absoluteness of the specific target for which He intends. The, though not all men will be saved, results because not all men were the intended scope of salvation. However, all of mankind will be saved if what is meant by all men is mankind as a general description and not all mankind in individualistic totality. The Calvinistic hermenuetic will not isolate all, from specially, from Saviour. It instead harmonizes the whole.

That is why I said, and Hays, no matter how he said it, that except an artificial line be drawn within and between texts the Arminian hermeneutic logically leads "some" to the false conclusion of Universalism/Unitarianism. But, it is the hermenuetic itself that leads that way. The same is not the case for the Calvinist's hermenuetic.

Thanks for answering. And I agree, that those who wrongly apply definitions and Scripture will end up in error. However, that is not what I asked. What I asked was what basic tenet of Calvinism by the meaning inherent to it in concert with the systematic, logically leads to those errors?

Anonymous said...


I'm sorry for not being more clear. It's hard to be concise and meaty in a combox without providing too much info.

IMO, hyper-C's conclusions are bourne out of some of C's basic tenets. For a brief example:

HC's Point #5. Denies that God has any sort of love for the non-elect.

In basic Calvinism, God has only ever TRULY loved His elect. For who would concede that God can be said to "love" the non-elect? It is as though God is saying, "I love you, but I have not chosen to save you." Even James White, who is not a hyper-C, has admitted that God hates the non-elect, in his "Potter's Freedom."

That God only loves the elect is a tenet of hyper-C. Does it not flow from basic, classical Calvinism? And if not, then are men like James White hyper-C's? Unless we're going to make distinctions between what God means by saying, "I love you."

So, it seems that basic Calvinism, at least at point #5, easily leads to hyper-Calvinistic tendencies. (Though, as I stated before, Calvinism can avoid hyper-C without "drawing artificial lines within and between texts," just as Arminians can with Universalism.

Your qualifying of "especially" was interesting. What of Paul's statement, "Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come ~ and the books, especially the parchments" (2 Tim. 4:13 NKJV)?

Was Paul not making a distinction here? He wanted the books, and then he added, "especially the parchments." You stated, "The word especially (a superlative form of specially related to a word equivalent of 'amen,' 'mala,' meaning 'very'), can mean 'specifically' and not just 'more so' . . ."

I really don't think you've proven your point. Paul desired to receive a number of books, AND ESPECIALLY the parchments "more so," "in addition to." How is that any different in linguistic principle from his statement that God is the savior of all men, AND ESPECIALLY of those who believe?

How is Christ the Savior of all people when all are not saved (making Him only a "potential" Savior, as you put it)? Christ is also Lord of all, but not all acknowledge His Lordship (though all will one day ~ Phil. 2:11). Is Christ only a "potential" Lord? Or is He really Lord? God is God of all people, but not all people acknowledge Him as God (though all will one day). Is God only a "potential" God? Or is He really God?

Must all people be saved in order for Jesus to "actually be" the Savior of the world? Must all people acknowledge God in order for Him to "actually be" God?

But, it's like you said, for Calvinists, it was never God's intention to efficaciously save all ~ therefore, Christ cannot be the "actual" Savior of the world, since only the elect will "actually" be saved. We'll never agree on this, that's for certain.

But there is little need to say that Universalism is actually more consistent than Arminianism, when U's either do not take the scope of the whole of Scripture into consideration, or outright deny inerrancy.

And there is little need to say that hyper-Calvinism is actually more consistent than Calvinism, when hyper-C abuses Scripture and relies more upon philosophy than the Bible.


Strong Tower said...

"especially the parchments"

Yes there is no doubt about it, in this case the nuance is "above all". That is allowed by the language.

The point that I was making is that a certain narrowness is foisted upon texts when in fact that narrowness may or may not be indicated by the text.

If it is allowed that meanings such as "Savior of the World" or "God Savior of all men" can have more than one meaning we can surely agree to disagree. What cannot be done is to import meaning that can never be the case. I allow that "God the savior of all men" can mean what you believe. It does not have to. When the U's obscure that, it will lead inexorably to their position, and I will admit that if the HC's do likewise with their selected meanings, it will likewise lead to that.

As to the love of God, in the broadest sense, Calvinists that I know of do not wall off only one particular kind or application of love. #5 only eventuates when the particularity of God's love for the elect becomes the only kind of love God can have. Surely, you and I would agree that God loved Adam and that Adam as the federal head of mankind, that love to them is extended to all in the same way. All are the children of God when children is taken to mean those he creates. We also, I think, would agree that God hated Adam in that what Adam did made him the object of God's wrath, and that likewise the fallen state of Adam is imputed to his offspring making all loathful as Romans defines. We might even agree, that God still hates the elect in the sense that when the elect do sin, that he disciplines them as lawbreakers, eventhough, he does so as their Father and the Father of children he loves in a way that he does not love the "illegitimate" ones.

I think what is true of #5 is true of the whole. It is the wrong application, or perhaps the wrong hermenuetic to begin with, that determines the outcome. That does not mean that where there appears to be an unbreachable point that either side does not draw lines. For the Calvinist, more often than not, in God's immanence in the free-acts of his creatures Calvinists draw a line of "mystery" beyond which they will not go. I tend to side with Edwards, others would not go that far. And that is out of fear, and not that they want to deny the texts, but that they honor God's holiness.

I think, what is really at stake, is what hermenuetic is being applied. Where rules of interpretation are used, consistency is of utmost importance. We might have a different hermenuetic. And that is fine and by them we will most surely come to different conclusions. What cannot be allowed is both to stand in the same field as equals. And, within a single hermenuetic, the rules, must be applied without compromise or rules simply measure nothing.

That is what I think Hays was saying. Whem U's apply Arminian hermenuetics they end up where they are. I don't really know that they actually do use them. I do not think it is impossible when one starts from the Calvinist hermenuetic, to end up where HC's do.

I posted at Triablogue, the simple equation that a text, any text, has a certain absolute value. That value can be expansive, it can be very narrow, it can be inclusive, it may also be exclusive. Still, it cannot say what it does not, "A cannot be non-A." Then definitions become all important. And two examiners beginning with the same definitions cannot end up in opposite places unless one of the parties has imported meaning that does not belong. That is what Hays was pointing to, I think, and that is why I posted what I did. ED brought to the table something foreign to the discussion, namely his presupposition that there is no absolute. Well that ends all discussion of the absolute value of the text. What eventuated there is that ED simply refused to drop the self-examination and engage the subject.

In that, I don't think that Gordan's label of wolf is inappropriate at all. ED didn't come there to discuss the proposition but to proselytize to his foreign religion. There have been other discussion there concerning epistemology. Hays' post wasn't one of them. It did show one thing though, ED and those like him, do not care to really find answers. It is presupposed by them that nothing can be known, which is all the more fascinating that ED would assert that he knows what Hays does not.

God bless you muchly,


Anonymous said...

ST (TT),

I agree with much that you've stated. And I'm glad that you added what you did concerning ED. That actually did shed a new light for my perspective. Thank you.

God bless you guys,


A.M. Mallett said...

Having encountered this charge of universalist tendencies contained within Arminian thought, I find it somewhat amusing when it is considered that Universalism seems to have a far more common ground among Calvinist doctrine. Once eternal torment is removed from the Calvinist paradigm, there is no conflict of doctrine between the Calvinist and the Universalist. The Universalist who accepts evangelicalism can easily embrace each letter of the TULIP acronym with eternal torment removed from consideration.

It would seem the unfriendly fellows at T-blog have more in common with their nemesis heretics than they might have imagined.

Gordan said...


I haven't called you a heretic or anything else. I was only speculating on why T-blog might deal with certain people in certain ways.

To all others:

This attempt at reversing the orginal charge, while creative, is unconvincing. "Universalism is a lot like Calvinism...if only you remove certain core doctrines from Calvinism."

And, excuse me, A.M. Mallet but it isn't merely Calvinism that becomes Universalism once you remove the threat of hell; but, any Christian theology becomes universalism without hell, including Arminianism. That's a bit like suggesting that Calvinism is the same as atheism, once you remove the Calvinist's concept of a deity.

The synergists' comments here have struck me as being all like this. You're arguing an identity fallacy in order to defeat what you see as an identity fallacy.

But neither Hays at his blog, nor I here have made hay with the simple idea that Arminianism has stuff in common with Universalism.

Rather, I think we're talking about an interpretive problem for synergism, which no one here has apparently recognized. Maybe I'm not explaining it well.

To wit, if the classic Calvinist-defeater texts of Arminianism/synergism really defeat unconditional election, etc., then there is no textual reason for rejecting the Universalist interpretations of the same texts. (You must import to them, yet again, an extra-biblical notion of Libertarian Free Will. Or, the other option is to begin to argue with ideas borrowed from Reformed theology, like maybe the "world" in a specific text is not a reference to every individual, etc.)

However, this is not a huge issue for me personally. I merely found it interesting and was hoping to watch some fireworks at T-blog...like Billy getting his hand bit off or something fun like that.

Thanks for all the input.

J.C. Thibodaux said...


This time I understood from the outset what was being said, I'm not sure you're seeing where the error in logic is here:

To wit, if the classic Calvinist-defeater texts of Arminianism/synergism really defeat unconditional election, etc., then there is no textual reason for rejecting the Universalist interpretations of the same texts.

And exactly what textual reason is there for embracing it, or isolating such passages from the rest of the text of scripture for that matter? That's a simple variation of the slippery-slope fallacy, assuming that if evidence goes against X, it must mean that there's no reason to reject the farthest extreme or left-field non-X interpretation of that evidence.

As I'd already pointed out with ludicrous counter-example (going by that line of reasoning), if the classical Conditional-Securist defeater texts of Calvinism/Modern-Evangelicism really defeat conditional security, then there's no textual reason for rejecting the Antinomian interpretations of the same texts. The list of such fallacies could go on and on, "if you cite verses to try to combat libertarian free will, there's no reason to reject the interpretation that God is the author of sin," or how about, "if you cite verses to prove that salvation doesn't involve cooperation by unregenerate sinners, then there's no reason to reject the interpretation that evangelism is pointless," or maybe, "if you cite verses to prove limited atonement, then there's no reason to reject the interpretation that Christ's death was of too little value to save the non-elect," ...you couldn't pay me to argue such incongruous nonsense. Such poor attempts at establishing associations between two opposing beliefs via vague resemblance from a third perspective that disagrees with both don't really say anything, but are rather sophomoric and transparent attempts at spurious correlation.

A.M. Mallett said...

I am not sure if you have grasped the point I made. Universalism is quite comfortable with the acronym TULIP once eternal torment is removed. Since the truth of hell and eternal damnation is consistent with both Calvinist and Arminian doctrine, why do you suppose the Universalist would find agreement with TULIP? It should be obvious that the Calvinist and the Universalist share a common doctrinal view that most of the Body of Christ rejects. Consider your own acronym. The evangelical Universalist embraces the doctrine of total depravity cured only by the grace of God. He agrees with unconditional election of souls by the God without any merit on the part of men. He agrees with a Limited Atonement designed for mankind only, He believes that God's grace is ultimately irresistable and he agrees that all men will persevere.
It appears to me that the Universalist is one of your own near Kinsmen.

Gordan said...


I was gonna close down the comments on this thread until I ran across this last comment.

I am still trying to figure out if you're serious or not; or, if you're maybe just hoping to score points with a reductio.

Your two comments here represent the most blatant mangling of the TULIP I've seen in some time.

What you fail to take into account is that the TULIP is hinged on faith in Christ for justification.

So, for instance, the Unconditional Election is, as we experience it, first an election to justification by faith. If you have not faith, you have not election.

In Limited or Particular Atonement, it is faith that is the sole instrument by which the benefits of Christ's work are applied to the individual. If you have not faith, you have not atonement.

Irresistable Grace is that which draws us eventually to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Likewise the Perseverance is primarily a perseverance in faith.

Since the Universalist denies the need for conscious faith in Christ for salvation, he could not agree with any of these points, as they have been historically well-defined for anyone to read.

In addition, I doubt you'd find any Universalist who could sign on to a Calvinistic (or Arminian, for that matter) statement of Total Depravity. The founding belief for most Universalists is that there is something inherently worth saving in each individual: an idea that is foreign to TD.

Only by redefining the TULIP acronym can you stretch it into something that a theoretical Uni might accept. But thanks for demonstrating, once again, that an actual understanding of Calvinism is usually quite lacking in its opponents.

A.M. Mallett said...

You have made an assumption that the manner I have presented TULIP is an academic exercise. Of course it is not. For every Calvinist who can turn to Dordt and extract the TULIP doctine, there is another Calvinist whose knowledge of Calvinist doctrine is as succinct as yours is with Arminianism. As for your assumption I am ignorant of Calvinist doctrine, quite to the contrary, I am certainly capable of instructing you in it's precepts and various evolved doctrines.
As for finding Universalists in agreement with the Calvinist distinctives, that is not so troublesome as you imagine. The fellows at this site would find themselves very comfortable with your doctrines.
The purpose of my posts on this thread was simply to expose your fallacy and the common slander of your fellows who sling such trite nonsense around without properly thinking through the consequences. The bare truth of the matter is that evangelical universalists agree with the primacy of faith (even though logically faith is a mere convenience in Calvinist doctrine). So surrounding yourself with an argument premised on faith is a poor defense as the evangelical universalist will readily agree with you.
It would be more profitable and edifying for Calvinists to come to terms with their unique doctrines and realize that it is they along with the Universalists and others who have struck an unorthodox stand in the church rather than the Arminians and most of the Body of Christ. More plainly put, such accusations as you promote in your opening post cause you to present yourself as one who holds an enmity towards the body of Christ with the falsehoods you imply. Consider the source. Triablogue is perhaps the more carnal and flesh focused of many Calvinist websites. While I cannot judge their salvation, I do fear for it.
Now, if you wish to censure my post, I will understand and certainly not feel slighted for your having done so.

Blessings in Christ,
A.M. Mallett

Gordan said...

AM Mallet, please, in the future, do not post links in the comments sections without prior approval.

I have no doubt you could instruct me in what you think Calvinism is, and all the ramifications of it you've imagined. Dave Hunt knows more Calvinism than most Calvinists, too. Just ask him.

Yeah....I'll probably take a pass, there.

A.M. Mallett said...

Gordon, Please accept my apologies for providing a rebuttal link in the comments section. It was not my intent to violate any expectations you have for participants.

It would appear your last response is a fallacy of guilt by association. I am not a particular fan of Dave Hunt and find his methods and knowledge questionable. My preference is far more academic when instructing a class of students or an individual. A study of Calvinist doctrine would focus more on Calvin's Institutes, his commentaries and a proper systematic (Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology being my preference) However if I wanted to bring somebody into the deterministic viewpoint of today's wayward Calvinist I would offer them Beza's Tractationes Theologicae.
I am guessing the extent of your theological world is this silly internet. Nonetheless, please offer the last word and let it be gracious as is your LORD.

Blessings in Christ

Gordan said...

You guess wrong, sir. Yes, I actually read books, too. I feel no need to write out a bibliography here, though. As far as I am aware, you are not the one who needs to punch my theological tickets. I guess I'm in trouble if you are...

The Dave Hunt reference was in regard to a growing trend among anti-Calvinists, in which they make grand claims to knowing more about Calvinism than Calvinists do. Yours was merely the latest.

I don't doubt that you are an educated, erudite person; that much is apparent from your use of the language. But two of your statements cause me to doubt that all your book larnin' has done you the good you hope it has.

1. First, stated three times above, the notion that the historic TULIP is somehow compatible with so-called evangelical universalism. I followed the link you posted and actually read some stuff there. It baffles me that an educated man (specifically, educated in theology) would miss that the EU's have simply redefined classic terms. i.e. Their "salvation by faith" can be a faith that doesn't actually appear in this life. That is not anything like Calvinism. They believe in people being saved in the afterlife, in spite of all the choices they made on earth. Again, not only is this opposite Calvinism: but it ought not be that hard to distinguish.

2. Also repeated above, the assertion that "most" of the Body of Christ is not Calvinist, and that this somehow ought to give the Calvinist pause. This notion is baffling on a couple of counts:

i) Where should I go to find a statement of what "most" of the Body of Christ believes?

ii) Clearly (i) is going to depend greatly on your definition of the Body of Christ: who you let in and who you deny.

iii) The idea also depends implicitly on the notion that the Body of Christ determines truth. Where shall we find a concise statement of such things? The Council of Trent, maybe?

iv) In fact, expanding on (iii) history, both Biblical and ecclesiastical, teaches us that minority opinions are often the correct opinion. Ask Jeremiah, or Athanasius, how much they should've been swayed by the majority opinions of the people of God in their day.

So, sure, we would hate to be Lone Rangers, thumbing our noses at the collective wisdom of God's people.

But I've been a member of too many churches to worry that 99 out of 100 modern pew-sitters disagree with me about anything. It's not just that they wouldn't like my take on Romans 9, but rather, they'd need someone to tell them what is in Romans 9 first, just so that we could begin the conversation.

The appeal to majority opinion is neither biblical nor scholarly, unless your aim is to please the majority of scholastics you're hoping to work with/for.

However, I thank you for your challenging comments. God bless.