Dec 5, 2011

Difficult, Especially for Hardshells

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (I Tim. 2: 1-6)

These verses have been the subject of disagreement between Calvinists and Arminians and present some difficulty for both groups.  The first area of debate is over who is meant by the term "all men."  Arminians affirm that "all men" means every human being.  Calvinists are not uniform in their interpretation.  Some affirm that "all men" simply means "all kinds or classes of men," or "all men without distinction," or "some men."  Other Calvinists will agree with the Arminians that "all men" literally means all men without exception.  With these Calvinists, the discussion moves from discerning who is meant by "all men" to discerning what is meant by God being "willing" that all men be saved.  Is God's predetermined will or predestination the thing alluded to by reference to the will of God, or is God's will of precept alluded to?  These Calvinists will affirm that the "will of God" has two significations in scripture, sometimes it refers to what God has decreed will absolutely and unconditionally come to pass and sometimes to what God calls upon creatures to do of their own wills. 

For myself, I agree with Spurgeon, a five point Calvinist, who believed that "all men" did not mean "some men" only, but that the "will" of God denoted what God wishes to see occur as a result of the choices of men.  Does God want all men to tell the truth?  Certainly.  Does he decree postitively that they all will in fact tell the truth?  Certainly not. 

Did the text say simply "who will have all men to be saved," there would be less reason to believe that "all men" literally meant every person without exception.  But, it also adds "and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 

Obviously God does not want all men to be saved, for many will not be saved.  Even Arminians admit that God does not want unbelievers to be saved.  Paul is not saying that God "will have all men, both believers and unbelievers, to be saved."  Only the Universalists would affirm such from Paul's words. 

Why would any Calvinist see a need to deny that God wants all men not only to tell the truth, but to believe the truth?  Admitting that God wants all to know the truth, including the truth about God and salvation, does not overthrow Calvinism nor endorse Arminianism. 

Do all Calvinists deny that God "wants every sinner to be saved"?  Some do, but not all.  Spurgeon believed, as I said, that "all men" excluded no one.  But, he nevertheless still taught that Christ died only for the elect, for believers.  God has a general will and a special will.  Paul wrote:

"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe."  (I Tim. 4: 10)

Here Paul plainly says that God is the "Saviour of all men."  And, if he is the "Savior of all men," then he is so because he wants to be so.  And, if he wants to be the Savior of all men, then this is all the same as saying that God "wants to have all men saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."  Thus what Paul affirms in I Tim. 2: 1-6 is no different from what Paul says in I Tim. 4: 10.  Both Calvinists and Arminians should be able to agree that God is the Savior of all men, that he wants all men to be know the truth and to be saved. 

Both should agree and affirm that God, however, is not in fact the Savior of all men.  Both agree that all men will not be saved.  God is the Savior of those who perish, in some sense, but is also not their Savior, in some sense.  If a person is in Hell, he can hardly say that God is his Savior and Deliverer.  When a person says of another person - "he is my rescuer," he may mean either 1) "he is my appointed rescuer in case I ever need one," or 2) "he is the one who actually rescued me."  In the first case a savior/rescuer was provided, and in the latter case a savior actually rescued.

Paul says that God is "especially" the Savior of believers.  Thus, we may say that God is not especially the Savior of unbelievers.  The term "savior" is not apropos for unbelievers.  Again, both Arminians and Calvinists should affirm that God is not the Savior of unbelievers, especially speaking.  But, they should also both affirm that God is the Savior of all men, believers and unbelievers, generally speaking. 

Both Arminians and Calvinists should also agree that God's wishing to see all sinners saved, to see all become believers in the truth, is not sufficient in itself to save all.  If God's wishing it was all that was needed, then Universalism would be true.  God wishes that all men keep his laws, but this in itself is obviously not sufficient to make it so.   

If then God's general wishing of the salvation of all is not sufficient to save, then what ultimately does make the difference in why one believes and is saved and one not?  Or, to put the same question into words of scripture, "who makes you to differ from another?"  (I Cor. 4: 7)  The apostolic question shows that such a question is not one of those "foolish and unlearned questions."  (II Tim. 2: 23)  Our inquiry into "why" one person believes, and is saved, and "why" another believes not, and is not saved, is a good question, one raised in scripture.  Both Calvinists and Arminians should agree that Paul affirms that God is the reason for one differing from another.  The reason lies in God.  The outcome of gospel preaching is owing to God.  Paul does not say "you made yourself to differ," but "God made you to differ from another."  So he also taught in I Cor. 3: 6, 7:

"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase."

When a sinner hears and believes the gospel and is saved, it is because God "gave the increase," and that he was the cause or reason why the seed germinated, or why the plant that was planted in their hearts produced fruit.  God is to be credited for "making the difference."

God then has a general will and a special will in regard to the salvation of sinners.  We are authorized to say that God  has a general will that all men believe and be saved, but not a special will for such an end.   Generally willing a man's salvation is insufficient for salvation, as I have shown.  It is the special willingness of God that makes the difference in why the seed germinates in one heart and not in another, why one believes and is saved and another is not.  Cannot both Calvinists and Arminians agree on this much?

Certainly they can both agree that the number of the elect is equal to the number of believers.  All Arminians would affirm such, and most Calvinists.  Those Calvinists who would not affirm such would be the Hyper Calvinists and Hardshell Baptists.  These believe that the number of the elect is greater than the number of believers, for not all the elect, they affirm, become believers.  But, more on them later. 

The chief disagreement between Arminians and Calvinists involves the question of whether faith is the cause or the effect of the divine choice to salvation.  Am I chosen to believe or chosen because I believed?  To my mind the answer to this question has already been demonstrated.  God gives the increase, he is the reason for why one is different, why one believes and another does not.  He had a general will that all believe, but he had a special will for some to believe.  While the general will is not sufficient to save anyone embraced in it, the special will actually guarantees salvation for all embraced in the special will.    

There are three expressions in I Tim. 2: 1-6 where the discussion is focused.  They are 1) "who will have all men to be saved," and 2) "who will have all men to come to a knowledge of the truth," and 3) "who gave himself a ransom for all."  The first two have been discussed, so the latter will now draw our attention.

"All" refers of course to "all men."  Here the debate continues regarding whether "all men" means "some of all kinds," or "every person."  Those Calvinists who believe that Christ died only for the elect defend their views, relative to this passage, in one of two ways.  Some will say that "all men" does not mean "every single person without exception," but means "all men without distinction, not all men without exception," or "all classes or kinds of men."  Other Calvinists, though affirming that "all men" does in fact refer to every person, will rather focus on determining how Christ can be said to be the ransom for all and yet be the ransom for some only, for only the elect. 

Both Arminians and Calvinists should agree that Christ is not, in every respect, the Redeemer and Ransomer of all.  That Christ has ransomed all, generally speaking, and the elect (believers), especially speaking, ought to be affirmed by all. 

It is said that Calvinists have difficulty with Christ giving himself a ransom for all men (I Tim. 2), and that Arminians have difficulty with Christ shedding his blood "for many" (Matt. 26: 28), and with his "giving his life a ransom for many."  (Matt. 20: 28)  How can one reconcile "for many" and "for all"?  It is argued by Calvinists that "many can mean all but all cannot mean many."   I think this is irrefutable. 

Obviously Christ is, in some sense, a ransom "for all," and is in some sense only a ransom "for many."  Becoming more precise in defining and describing wherein this difference lies is not easy.  But, if we could stick to what has been said thus far, both Calvinists and Arminians should be in agreement.  As the terms "general" and "special" may be used in regard to what God wills, so also in regard to what he does, or to his works.  It seems that Calvinists need to affirm that atonement and redemption are, in some respects, general and unlimited, and that Arminians need to affirm that atonement and redemption are, in some respects, particular and limited. 

One of the ways that theologians have sought to restate the teaching of scripture on this point is to say that the atonement and ransom of Christ is "sufficient for all, efficient to the elect (believers)."  It is only the Hyper and extreme Calvinists, however, who would not accept such a statement.  They do not believe that God, in any sense, or in any degree, desires or wills that all men believe and know the truth, or be saved, nor that Christ, in any sense, died for, or provided himself a ransom for, all men. 

"Sufficient for all" often involves the idea of provision, and so may include the idea of "provided for all."  Thus the question - "was salvation provided for all?"  And, who can deny, that the answer is "both yes and no"?  Christ made what we may call, in keeping with one of our themes, a "general" provision, in his death, and also what we may safely call a "special" provision. 

But, into the depths of that question, we will not descend, but hopefully what has been stated thus far should be acceptable to both Calvinists and Arminians.  But, let us recap a few points and then see how Hardshells and Hyperists have the greater difficulty relative to I Tim. 2: 1-6.

The salvation of the passage cannot be made into what the Hardshells call "time salvation" because the salvation under consideration is paired with being ransomed by the death of Christ.  Being ransomed by the death of Christ is the same as being eternally saved, and no Hardshell will deny this.  But, if they admit that this salvation is equated with being ransomed by the death of Christ, then they are confronted by the words - "who will have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."  Coming to a knowledge of the truth, and becoming a believer, is said to be as much the result of God's wishing and willing as is being saved.  Paul couples together being "saved" with "believing."  How can the Hardshells deny that this salvation is eternal?  How can they deny that those under consideration, the "all men," or "the elect," are as much willed to a knowledge and belief of the truth as to eternal salvation?

If they argue that "God will have" means "God absolutely and unconditionally will have," then they must affirm, to be consistent, that God is then saying that he "will in fact absolutely and unconditionally have them both saved and to know and believe the truth." 

If the reference to God's will be interpreted to refer to his decree, to his predestination, then it is detrimental to Hardshellism, for they do not believe that all the elect will be both saved and believe the truth.  If the reference be made to God's preceptive will, to his mere general wish and will, then the Hardshell still has difficulty, for he then must make eternal salvation to be through means, through the means of precept. 

In closing let me present some further observations and questions for further investigation. 

1.  If "all men" means "every human being," does it include Christ himself?  Does it include those who are not sinners, to those who die in infancy and before the "age of accountability"?  

2.  If "all men" means "every human being," are we to pray for those who are in Hell, seeing that we are to pray for all men?  Does it include Judas Iscariot?

3.   If "all men" means "every human being," does this include those who died never having heard the gospel?

Let me close this posting by noting that the great evangelist, D. L. Moody, is reported to have said that "whosoever will" is on the front side of the door to heaven, but that "chosen to salvation" is on the other side.  Moody used to say - “The elect are the ‘whosoever wills’; the non-elect are the ‘whosoever wont's.'”

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