Tuesday, January 17, 2006

For Paul McCain-The Extensional Fallacy

Dr. Paul McCain continues to allow his emotions to skew his exegesis of Scripture.

He writes in Double Presdestination:

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.

... 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.

A. First, the sad truth for Dr. McCain is that the Bible itself discusses this issue:

Proverbs 16:4: The Lord has created everything with its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Then there's Jude 4: "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men who turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our Master and Lord Jesus Christ.

By the way, just like our Arminian friends, Dr. McCain still must answer his own objection. It is undeniable God chooses some to "roast in hell." If He did not choose some for that purpose, then every person would hear the gospel and be saved. Men would not be born in lands completely cut off from the gospel. In fact, even if this argument from outrage he and the Arminians offer is correct, then we are still left with a God who creates people knowing full well they will reject the gospel or not ever have any hope of hearing it. Why does He do this if He loves everybody redemptively?

Now, he may say that it arbitrary if God creates some to reprobate for His glory, but that would be a non-sequitur. I should think that what is arbitrary has no purpose, so this objection would, in point of fact, supply its own reason.

Besides, Paul declares of Pharaoh, "For this purpose I raised you up."

B. I realize that Dr. McCain says he repudiates Arminianism. However, he's borrowing a page from Arminianism on this issue. How ironic.

C. As to his latter statements, Dr. McCain, one would think, would understand the basic rules of exegesis. On the other hand, maybe not, since the best he's been able to do of late is say "Read the Formula of Concord."

Let's review this basic exegetical fallacy for him one more time.

Over on the right of this blog is an index of articles Steve has archived. I copied his essay "Favorite Fallacies" 1 and 2 awhile back. I encourage Dr. Mccain to review them.

Steve writes: Christians who deny special redemption typically appeal to the “pantos” (“all’) passages of Scripture. But this confuses extension (referent) with intension (sense). A universal quantifier has a standard intension, but a variable extension. That follows from the nature of a quantifier, which is necessarily general and abstract rather than specific and concrete marker in the text. That’s what makes it possible to plug in concrete content. A universal quantifier is a class quantifier. As such, it can have no fixed range of reference. In each case, that must be supplied by the concrete context and specific referent. In other words, a universal quantifier has a definite intension but indefinite extension. So its extension is relative to the level of generality of the reference-class in view. Thus, there is no presumption in favor of taking “all” or “every” as meaning everyone without exception.

Dr. McCain, there is no presumption for taking words like "world" and "all" to mean "all person without exception." “All” or “every” is always relative to all of something. All of what? What world?

Take 1 John 5:18 and 19:

18We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

So, here we have the whole world being under the power of the evil one, but immediately before this, we have believers excluded. This is the world of unbelievers and the world system, yet it is "the whole world."

Then we have 1 John 2:2: 2and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

Shouldn't we allow John to define what he means by "world" here instead of assuming it means "all persons without exception?" Or should we let our outrage define it for us? Is this the whole world, every person without exception? Is it the known geographical world? Is it the planet? Is it the world system? Is it the world of unbelievers? There are many ways to define the term.

It just so happens we have a linguistic parallel here with John 11:51 - 52:

51Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,

52and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.


1 John 2:2

He Himself
is the propitiation for
our sins
and not for ours only
but also
the world

John 11:51 - 52
he prophesied that
would die for
the nation
and not for the nation only
but also
that He would gather together in one
the children of God scattered abroad

Who, then, composes “the whole world” in 1 John 2:2? Answer: “the children of God scattered abroad.” Thus “our” refers to Jewish Christians and “the whole world” to those who are Gentiles scattered abroad or, more broadly, “our” refers to “all believers alive at the time John wrote his epistle,” and “the whole world” could refer to “all believers yet to come.” Either way this is the whole world of believers.

Once more just to be clear: Dr. McCain, there is no presumption for taking words like "world" and "all" to mean "all person without exception." “All” or “every” is always relative to all of something. All of what? What world?

In the end, his argument is simply an argument from outrage. Perhaps one of these days he will decide to present an exegetical argument instead of repeating the Formula of Concord. Otherwise, he simply proves he's a one trick pony. If he wishes to critique Reformed exegesis, he will need to offer his own positive exegetical presentation, not facile, hit-and-run arguments from emotion.


  1. "Argument from outrage." Exactly. Good stuff.

  2. Gene, I think I'll start calling you "Dr. Bridges."

    Nicely said, sir!

  3. We had a long discussion with Rev. McCain and some other Lutherans about this over at Baylyblog awhile back...

    I think it's important to note the Sproul comment: "God from all eternity decrees some to election and positively intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a monergistic work of grace. To the non-elect God withholds this monergistic work of grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves. He does not monergistically work sin or unbelief in their lives. Even in the case of the 'hardening' of the sinners' already recalcitrant hearts, God does not, as Luther stated, 'work evil' in us (for hardening is working evil) by creating fresh evil in us."

    In other words, everyone who goes to Hell will roundly deserve it. IMO, this cannot be made clear enough when talking to Lutherans.

    -Jack from jackspipe.com

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  6. Sorry about all the posts, but I forgot to note one other thing. Rev McCain has written that he is a monergist. Therefore, those whom God elects are saved, those who don't die in their sins. Calvinists say that God decides not to elect some, Lutherans say "no he only elects some that's all we can say about the matter." Calvinists fault Lutherans for not making the logical step (and one that is grounded in Biblical passages), Lutherans fault Calvinists for reaching beyond what the Word says, but frankly I don't see that there is a huge difference. We are all monergists. (There are downstream differences when it comes to Tulip 3-5, but the whole issue of predestination... I just don't get Rev McCain's continual harping on this particular matter of double predestination... the fact is, God elects some and he does not elect others).

  7. There is, of course, a big difference between saying that God has created the wicked, and saying that He predestined them to be wicked.

  8. JacksPipe...

    If God created them evil in the first place, regardless of whether God took an active hand in making them more evil or not - surely its not their fault for being evil? You don't blame a dog for being a dog do you? This is all very odd.

    If I somehow created a concious robot to defy me, I can't then turn around and blame it for defying me ...and say it is just to throw it into hell forever? Or can I? How does this work?