Ah, yes, the wonderfully reassuring Calvinist doctrine of God choosing some He created to roast in hell.
Ok, kids, now get out your decoder rings, we are going to read the Bible Calvinist style! Ready....here we go.
"All" ... dial in the code and you will see that really that word is "some"
"World" ... dial in that code and you will see that word is really "some of the world."
You get the picture.
Creepy stuff indeed.
# posted by ptmccain : 1/17/2006 7:01 PM
Gene Bridges, in his excellent reply, hasn’t left much for me to say by way of responding to McCain’s latest salvo. So my own rejoinder will be a footnote to his—a mopping-up operation.
1.On a side note, I find it odd that McCain keeps trying to drag me into a fight over Lutheranism. While I have some definite disagreements with Lutheran theology, there's almost nothing I disagree with in Lutheran theology that I don't disagree with in a number of other theological traditions, while Lutheranism has a number of compensatory virtues which are absent from the other theological traditions. Indeed, it even has virtue lacking in the Reformed tradition—an unsurpassed musical legacy. Hence, until McCain came along, I've had next to nothing to say by way of explicit criticism of the Lutheran tradition.
McCain suffers from a deep-seated antipathy towards Calvinism which I just can't reciprocate towards Lutheranism. Indeed, when I was still living in California I used to attend a WELS church for the singing and preaching.
2.It’s striking to see how Mr. McCain simply blew past all the verses I cited in support of double predestination.
Now, I’ll grant you that citing a concatenation of prooftexts is not the same thing as proving your point. It’s not a substitute for exegesis. But Lutheranism needs to do something with all these passages as well.
Calvinism didn’t invent the doctrine of election whole cloth. And Calvinism didn’t invent the doctrine of reprobation whole cloth. This is not the implication of a belief-system. Rather, Calvinism taking its cue from the witness of Scripture.
3.It’s always funny to see so many critics of Calvinism appeal to the passages of Scripture which seem to speak of the atonement in cosmic or universal terms.
Our critics act as if they held the patent on these particular verses of Scripture. But if we were to interpret words like “world” and “all” the way McCain chooses to do, then the only theological tradition which could monopolize on these passages of Scripture is universalism.
And this is not just a hypothetical position. In our own time, writers like Thomas Talbott, Marilyn McCord Adams, and Jan Boda have penned book-length defenses of universalism.
4. Regarding the “universal” (“every,” “all”) passages, McCain doesn’t know the function of a universal quantifier. He doesn’t know the difference between sense and referent. If he’d doing any serious reading in Biblical semantics he’d know this.
5. Regarding the “cosmic” (“world) passages, McCain is like an old-time fundamentalist who assumes that a word has the same meaning for a contemporary reader that it had for the original author. As Vern Poythress put it:
“’Plain interpretation,’ let us say, is interpretation of a text by interpreters against the context of the interpreters’ tacit knowledge or their own worldview and historical situation. It minimizes the role of the original historical and cultural context. Grammatical-historical interpretation differs from plain interpretation precisely over the question of the primary historical and cultural context for interpretation. Plain interpretation reads everything as if it were written directly to oneself, in one’s own time and culture,” Understanding Dispensationalists (Zondervan 1987). I’d add that more astute fundamentalists are correcting for this mistake.
Now, when, as 21C reader, you come across a word like the “world,” what comes to mind? Doesn’t it conjure up a mental image of the globe, as seen from outer space by Apollo 11? Doesn’t it trigger a mental map of glowing cities and swarming multitudes scattered all across the face of the earth?
When we, as modern readers, come across this word, we bring a tacit geography to bear on the meaning. We prejudge the meaning based on our own experience and usage.
But to assume that this must be what John or Paul intended courts a gross anachronism.
If McCain were to spend a little time with the standard Greek lexicons and dictionaries (e.g., BAG, DNTT, EDNT, TLNT), he’d see that his assumption is quite unscholarly and simplistic.
Let’s take some concrete examples. In the most recent major commentary on John, this is how Andrew Lincoln interprets Jn 3:16:
“Some argue that the term ‘world’ here simply has neutral connotations—the created human world. But the characteristic use of “the world” (ho kosmos) elsewhere in the narrative is with negative overtones—the world in its alienation from and hostility to its creator’s purposes. It makes better sense in a soteriological context to see the latter notion as in view. God loves that which has become hostile to God. The force is not, then, that the world is so vast that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it, but rather that the world has become so alienated from God that it takes an exceedingly great kind of love to love it at all,” The Gospel According to St. John (Henrickson 2005), 154.
In other words, Jn 3:16 defines the love of God, not by the number of the people whom God loves, but by the kind of people whom God loves.
And if McCain were to consult a concordance of Johannine usage, he could see for himself that this is, in fact, characteristic of Johannine usage.
Or let’s consider the universal language of the Pastoral Epistles. This is how one scholar, in a standard commentary on the Pastorals, broaches the question. He begins with a discussion of the "Ephesian heresy”:
“Paul explicitly calls the teaching ‘Jewish’ (Titus 1:14) and speaks of ‘those of the circumcision” (Titus 1:10). The opponents want to be known as teachers of the law (1 Tim 1:7), and to apply its restrictive function to all people for both salvation and lifestyle…Repeatedly Paul calls the teaching ‘myths’ (1 Tim 1:4; 2 Tim 4:4; Titus 1:14). ‘Myths and genealogies’ (1 Tim 1:4; Titus 3:9) are probably haggadic Midrash: allegorical reinterpretations of the OT, perhaps as fanciful interpretations of the OT genealogies…along the order of those found in Jubilees and Pseudo-Philo Biblical Antiquities…The heresy appears to be sectarian and exclusive, or anti-Gentile (1 Tim 2:1-7), warranting Paul’s emphasis on the universal offer of salvation to all people (1 Tim 2:6; 4:10; cf. 1:15), including Gentiles (1 Tim 2:7),” W. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (T. Nelson, 2000), lxix-lxx.
Regarding 1 Tim 2:5 in particular, he then says:
“The only other place Paul speaks about a mediator is in Gal 3:19, where he identifies Moses as the mediator of the OT law…It is also possible that here Paul is contrasting Christ’s mediatorial work for all people with the Jewish concept of Moses as mediator for Jews along,” ibid. 88.
On this interpretation, Paul’s point in 1 Tim 2:5 is that Christ is the only mediator for Jews and Gentiles alike.
Another scholar approaches the same question from the same point of departure, but arrives at a somewhat different interpretation:
“Much remains uncertain about the false teachers in 1 Timothy since Paul dismisses their teaching instead of refuting it. It may be that they were consumed with genealogies because they restricted salvation along certain ethnic lines (1 Tim 1:4)…When Paul says that God desires all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and that Christ was the random for all (1 Tim 2:6), he may be responding to some who excluded Gentiles from salvation for genealogical reasons,” T. Schreiner, “Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (IVP 2001), 184-85.
“Tit 2:11 should be interpreted along similar lines…Paul counters Jewish teachers (Tit 12:10,14-15; 3:9) who construct genealogies to exclude some from salvation,” ibid. 185.
“Some object to the interpretation proposed here, arguing that ‘all’ must include all people without exception. Good reasons exist, however, to think that ‘all’ or ‘world’ must be interpreted carefully. For instance, the hymnic statement in 1 Tim 3:16 says that Christ ‘was believed by the world.” The word kosmos here cannot mean that every person without exception has trusted in Jesus Christ, for it was obvious to Paul that many in the world disbelieved. Paul almost certainly means that the whole world, comprising both Jews and Gentiles, believes. In other words, ‘world’ here denotes all without distinction and not all without exception,” ibid. 185-86.
“Such an interpretation is also a sensible reading of 2 Cor 5:14-15…The ‘all’ for whom Christ died are not all without exception but all without distinction, including both Jews and Gentiles. Such an interpretation would explain how ‘all died’ when Christ died for them…2 Cor 5:15 seems to support this view as well: ‘he died for all so that those living should no longer live for themselves but for the one who died and has been raised for them.’ When Paul uses the phrase ‘those living (hoi zontes)…[it] refers to those who are spiritually alive. Those who are spiritually alive are the ‘all’ for whom Christ died in 2 Cor 5:14. In dying to the power of sin in Christ, they also came to life in Christ,” 186.
Schreiner’s entire excursus is well worth reading.
Both Schreiner and Mounce begin by trying to isolate and identify the Ephesian heresy. In order to know what Paul is affirming, you need to know what Paul is opposing.
In addition to this general consideration, Schreiner and Mounce both construe the text before them on the basis of specific contextual delimiters.
This, Mr. McCain, is how to do exegesis. In a sense, you do have to decode the text of Scripture. You cannot simply use your own cultural code. Rather, you need to dial in the cultural code of the original author, audience, and opponent.
That’s what the grammatico-historical method is all about. McCain defends his own position by resorting to obscurantism. But although the Bible was written for us, it wasn’t written to us. So one must make some elementary effort to bridge the gap between now and then. It means what it meant.