Tuesday, December 01, 2009

All Means All...

...and that's all all means. That's what most Arminians will argue when quoting verses like 2 Corinthians 5:14 and 1 Timothy 2:6.

But does all really mean all all the time? Let's take a look at a couple of examples:
  1. We all live on the third planet from the Sun.

  2. Let's all go out to dinner.
One of the preceding statements refers to all people everywhere, and one refers to all people of a particular group. So, yes, in these examples all really does mean all. You won't get any argument from me.

A couple more:
  1. All sunrises occur in the eastern sky because of the direction of the Earth's rotation.

  2. It's a great restaurant; I eat there all the time.
Both refer to how frequently a particular event occurs. One can be taken in a wooden, literal sense while the other should not. How we make the distinction depends on the context.

All clear? Good!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

And yet we do know that "all" does mean "all" in places. So, context must rule.

1. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

2. For he is the father of all who believe (Rom. 4:11).

Perhaps there are some unskilled "Arminians" who confess their ignorance that "all" always means "all," but I have yet to read an Arminian scholar who believes such.

As for the two scriptures you offered, to whom do you suppose Paul is speaking? The elect? Could you offer just one lexicon to support that notion?

1 Corinthians 5:14: If all have died (i.e. are dead in sins - Eph. 2:1), then Christ died for "all." I realize that this conception rubs against Limited Atonement (in its intent), but perhaps it is your a priori which needs to be adjusted and not the proper interpretation of Scripture.

1 Timothy 2:6: Again, to whom is Paul speaking? Show us exegetically that Paul is speaking of the elect.

The Seeking Disciple said...

I agree with Billy. No Arminian actually takes the word "all" and says that it always means "all". Like any other literature, we must examine the context of the usage. In this case, Arminians have no trouble seeing that all means all in passages such as 1 Timothy 2:4 or Hebrews 2:9 (though the ESV has "everyone" it is still clear that it is "all) or 1 John 2:2 (again, the word "all" does not appear but it is clear that John has all in mind).

What we Arminians oppose is when Calvinisit insist that "all" does not mean "all" in the "all" passages. In this case Calvinists want to reinterpret all to fit their own theology and avoid the error of their theology.

Andrew Faris said...

The bigger issue than this, Lee, is what we mean by "desire". I've always been satisfied with the two wills of God approach here, for one thing because every non-universalist Christian has to say as much here.

Put simply, if God "desires" all men to be saved, why aren't all men saved? Because God's "desire" is not effectual for every person. Again, Calvinists and Arminians have to agree about this. Arminians say that the limitation of God's desire is because human will. Calvinists say that it is because of God's will.

I'll take the Calvinist interpretation.

Andrew Faris
Christians in Context

Lee Shelton said...

"In this case Calvinists want to reinterpret all to fit their own theology and avoid the error of their theology."

Isn't that exactly what Calvinists say of Arminians?

Lee Shelton said...

Perhaps we should consider in what sense Christ died for "all." Christ's death was certainly sufficient for all, and no Calvinist I know would have a problem saying Christ is the savior of all mankind because we realize that he saves all who come to him. But even the non-elect benefit from the cross because of common grace. Living in a world alongside those who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb is certainly preferable to living in a world in which people are allowed to be as wicked and sinful as they could be.

"Love" is another universal word with specific applications. Consider John 3:16. Yes, God loves the world -- the whole world -- but is his love for the elect exactly the same as his love for the non-elect? Is Christ's love for his bride (the church) exactly the same as his love for the rest of creation? A more obvious example can be seen all throughout the OT. God chose Israel from among the nations as his chosen people. Would anyone try to argue that he loved the other nations in the same way he loved Israel?

Anonymous said...

"Arminians have no trouble seeing that all means all in passages such as 1 Timothy 2:4 or Hebrews 2:9..."

IMO that's because they are looking at "all" or "pas" in 1tim2:4 and 6 from a modern, western viewpoint when paul is actually referencing the chief dispute in the christian church of that time...over which paul was constantly at odds with the judaizers...the reason for the first church council in acts15:

1tim2:7And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.

now that the gentiles have taken over en masse, we forget that it was not like that in the 1st century. up to that point, God was uniquely faithful to the jews in pursuing them as His possession.

Psa147:19 He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel.
20 He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the LORD.

question: did God want "all" to be saved in the OT? why did He not reveal Himself as intimately to the rest of the nations? (certainly He forced jonah to ninevah against his will but comparing Matt12:41 with Matt11:21 brings up some problems.)

but for timothy, it was important for paul to remind him as he struggled against judaizing influences that Jesus died for all kinds of men: both jews and gentiles.

and i have to say it's almost painful to watch arminians repeatedly bring up heb2:9 as if it existed isolated in a void somewhere. the context is abundantly... redundantly clear to whom the "all" of v9 is referring:

heb2:10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” 13And again,
“I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
14Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants.

did He taste death for every single person or for His brothers/children/sons/those who are being made holy/abraham's descendants (gal3:29)? the 2nd chapter of hebrews taken as a whole is brutally clear for those who don't cut and slice to fit their own theology.


Anonymous said...

“Arminians have no trouble seeing that all means all in passages such as …1 John 2:2 (again, the word "all" does not appear but it is clear that John has all in mind).”

It’s clear to whom? To John’s first century readers – those to whom he wrote the letter in the first place? Or to modern arminians?

Again, it goes back to the historical/cultural context. And the bible teaches us that John was primarily concerned with jewish congregations:

Gal2:9James, Peter and JOHN, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they TO THE JEWS.

1John2:2He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Like it or not, there was a jew-gentile divide in the first century which is not much of an issue now. You would be wise to consider it in interpreting the NT. In this instance, John was likely reminding the jewish contingent that he was responsible for shepherding that Jesus was not only the atoning sacrifice for the believing jews, but equally the propitiation for gentile believers as well. A lot of jews in the 1st century denied that God could accept the uncircumcised as readily as the circumcised...Heck, Peter had to be told at least 3 times to stop worrying about the food laws. (Mark 7:19; Acts 10; Gal 2)

Fortunately, John wrote a lot that was inspired by God and preserved in the scriptures. Here is another passage written by John which is virtually a parallel to 1John2:2:

John11:51He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.

Did Jesus die for “all” gentiles or for the “scattered children of God?” Did Jesus want both believers and unbelievers to be one? Or was it intended that His death would bring together believing jews and believing gentiles to be united in Him?

John17 echoes this passage and again tells us that Jesus prayed that those who are (and will be) His would be one. (v.11,21) He clarifies that He is not praying for the “world” but only for believers. (v.9)

Reading all of John's writings and understanding his role in the early church gives us a clearer understanding of verses like 1john2:2. But sure, if we read the bible without studying and attempting to correctly handle it, we might say “1john2:2 was written to me…I’m a believer…so it must mean that Jesus died not just for believers but also for those who persist in unbelief.” Which leads to the Arminian error that God’s wrath has been propitiated for every single person…which logically leads to denying that God is coming to judge in wrath and that He will cast unbelievers into Hell. Instead God loves them and can only passively stand aside as some choose to go to Hell.

That’s why C.S. Lewis claimed that in the end, God will say to unbelievers “thy will be done” as if He’s only helplessly giving them what they want…or Adrian Rogers said, “If you go to hell, a broken-hearted God will watch you drop into hell.” If they are in agony like the rich man in Luke16, presumably they can wander into Heaven for a spell to relax…God won’t mind after all…He’s not angry with them. Bizarre.

But it’s great to hear that more arminians are learning that “pas” doesn’t always mean “every single individual.” Those “all means all” rants were pretty exasperating.


Anonymous said...


I have a couple of questions.

But even the non-elect benefit from the cross because of common grace.

1. But "common grace" existed before the cross, so how is the cross any type of benefit to the non-elect?

2. God's love for the "whole" world: Is unconditionally reprobating the non-elect by a mere decree (whether supra- or infralapsarian) what one would call loving?

While I think it is fit to distinguish between God's love for His redeemed people and that of the presently unredeemed, how far do we want to take that? James White says that God hates the non-elect (without biblical warrant of course). But is White not being a bit more consistent than many Calvinists who suggest that God "loves" the "whole" world but has only unconditionally elected to save some of them. It turns out as God implying: I love you all, but I haven't unconditionally chosen to save you all. I could unconditionally save you all. But I have only chosen to unconditionally save some.

So, God's "love" for the non-elect consists in "common grace," but not in "electing grace," I presume. And if that's what you want to argue, that's fine. But I find it difficult (and near to hypocritical) for Calvinists to tell the "whole" world that God loves them, when in fact He has not unconditionally elected to save the "whole" world. God "loves" them enough to provide for their temporal needs, but not for their (more importantly) eternal needs.

I am by no means suggesting that anyone whatsoever deserves God's grace (electing or common grace respectively). I just find the Calvinist's statement concerning God's "love" for the "whole" world, including those whom He has unconditionally elected not to save, a bit empty.

Lee Shelton said...

1. Common grace existed before the cross, but all of scripture points to the cross. The benefit for the non-elect (an act of mercy on God's part) comes in sharing this earthly existence with those whose sins are covered. Imagine how horrific this world would be without the presence of those in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.

2. So God standing by and simply allowing people to continue on to eternal damnation, even though he is entirely capable of saving them, is somehow more loving?

It is not our place to determine what kind of love God has for a particular person. We are to proclaim the gospel. Period.

Rachel R. said...

If Christ literally died for "all" - as in, fully, every single person ever - then the logical result is not Arminianism, it's universalism.

Anonymous said...


What is the biblical evidence connecting common grace to the cross? Or is it primarily a logical connection? Can you suggest link(s) or a book?

WWB wrote: "James White says that God hates the non-elect (without biblical warrant of course)."

Psa5:5The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong.

Psa11:5The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.

grammar lesson: does God hate the wrongdoing, or sin, in the above verses or does He hate the wicked...the sinner?

I could point to Romans 9, but I know noncalvinists will try to point out that “Esau” refers to Malachi 1 and is about a nation (that God "hated" before they were "born" or had "done anything good or bad") and that “hate” actually just means “to love less.” It’s always interesting to watch the attempted slight of hand when Rom 9 is discussed – but let's stick with whether Mal 1 is really using “hate” in the sense of “to love less?”

Mal 1:3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals."
4 Edom may say, "Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins."
But this is what the LORD Almighty says: "They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the LORD.

Sure looks to me like God loves the people of Edom a whole lot less than the people of Israel…to the point where the english word “hate” fits pretty well. (And if you can convince yourself that the notion of headship is completely absent here and it’s mere coincidence that God inspired the writer of Hebrews to include Jacob among the men of faith in chapter 11 while remembering Esau as an example of the “godless” (12:16)…then I leave that between you and God.)

But to say "without biblical warrant?" Come on. Isn't Jesus waiting "for his enemies to be made his footstool?" Heb10:13 (Open theists who deny that Jesus knows the difference between enemies and friends until the end might have some kind of argument here - but much deeper troubles in total.)

Matt5 and Luke6 tell us that God is still good to His enemies - giving them more than they deserve - even knowing that some will always be ungrateful and unrepentant. The bible calls this a form of love and tells us that we should imitate this kindness. Do such acts of kindness completely exclude divine hatred? I think White has the right idea but at the very least, his argument deserves more than such a shallow rebuttal...


Lee Shelton said...

God "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). I think it's logical to conclude that the non-elect also benefit from sharing the earth with Christians.

I would disagree with anyone who says that God has no love whatsoever for the non-elect. They are, after all, part of God's creation. As you point out, Charles, the mercy God bestows on the wicked is a form of love.

One passage that comes to mind is that of the rich young man. Nowhere in scripture does it indicate that he was repentant, or that he expressed any kind of faith in Christ, yet Mark 10:21 says that Jesus "loved him." Of course, God's love for the elect is entirely different than his love for the non-elect. I love other people, but not in the same way I love my wife.

Diane Dekker said...

For God so loved the world... The word "loved" is past tense. Jesus did not say, "For God so loves the world." When did God SO love the world that he decided to send his son? We know that God loved the world and everything in it when he had a perfect relationship with man in the Garden. In Genesis 3 we read of God's plan to redeem that world. In Genesis 6, God was repenting of creating mankind, "his heart was filled with pain" and he decided to destroy the world with a flood, saving only righteous Noah.

From that point on in Scripture we read that the Lord loves the righteous, but "you hate all evildoers," and "you destroy those who tell lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man." Psalms and Proverbs are full of this kind of language--nothing ambiguous about it.

Also, if we are going to insist that "the world" means "every single person" in John 3:16, what do we do in John 17 where Jesus says, "I am not praying for the world." The Father loves "every single person" but the Son refuses to pray for "every single person." The Greek word "kosmos" is used in both instances. Are we ready to say that Jesus rebelled against the Father?

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