Well, as followers of this blog know full well I’ve been in two blog wars with Kevin Courter and Tony Lee Ross Jr. over my blog post “5 Biblical Texts That Calvinists Can’t Wiggle Out Of”. Tony Lee Ross Jr. wrote a response to that article here, and then I wrote a response to his response here. After that, Tony responded to that post in a blog post titled “More Amygdala Than Cerebral: A Response to Evan Minton”.
In this blog post, I will be responding to the content of “More Amygdala Than Cerebral: A Response to Evan Minton”. This will be my final post on the topic, as in my past experience, I have found blog wars to be hard to follow once both sides exceed more than 2 responses. Tony has written his second response, and this one is mine. Tony may, if he wants, decide to write a response to this blog post, but I’ll let him have the last word. After all, someone has to have the last word or else it’ll go on ad infinitum!
A Preliminary Issue
First off, Tony writes “A few days ago, I responded to an article written on Cerebral Faith by Evan Minton. He has now responded to my response, so I will now respond to his response of my response. Under the subheading of ‘preliminary issues’ Evan merely restates some basic Arminian presuppositions on John 3:16 but concedes that “All I’ll say is that “world” and “all people” or “everyone” can indeed mean less than all humanity when the context warrants or indicates it.” (bold his.) He then goes on to presuppose a universal salvific will, a one will view and the intentions of God into atonement, admits to doing so and then says the verse fits in this pre-made theological box and therefore sees no reason why John 3:16 would fit in with a limited atonement scheme. (Hint: How about those folks who are already condemned in John 3:18?)”
Tony is, I hate to say, majorly misrepresenting what I said. How did I “presuppose a universal salvific will” and then say that the verses (e.g John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4) “fits in this pre-made theological box”? All I said was that I take a text employing universal language as being literally universal unless something makes me think otherwise (for example, common sense, the wider context in which the verse is found, etc.). This is why I don’t think 2 Timothy 3:16 is referring to only some of every type of scripture, and why Romans 3:23 doesn’t say “all kinds” of people sinned and fell short of the glory of God, and why I think Philippians 2:10 says that literally every single knee will bow and every single tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I take these texts as absolutely universal for the same reason I take John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4 as universal; (1) they employ universal language, and (2) there is nothing in the text to make me think they should be restricted in any way.
But then Tony says “what about the people condemned in John 3:18?” Yeah? What about them? God loved the world, and this prompted him to sacrifice his son, so that whoever puts their faith in Him will have eternal life, however, John 3:18 says that if you don’t believe in Jesus, you’ll be condemned. Jesus gave himself for the world, but we have to respond to him in faith or else the wrath of God will abide on us (cf. John 3:36). I believe the atonement is universal in its intent, but limited in its application. It’s applied only to those who believe. Those who don’t believe are condemned.
Passage 1: 1 Peter 2:1
With regards to 2 Peter 2:1, Tony wrote “Evan starts with 2 Peter 2:1, quotes me then goes on to admit he comes to the text with an Arminian bias.” Wait, what? When did I say that I came to 2 Peter 2:1 with an Arminian bias? Perhaps Tony is referring to where I said that I didn’t come to scripture as a blank slate and that it was possible that I was influenced by my pastor, parents, and other teachers I heard. But when I said that, I was referring to interpreting The Bible in general, not with regards to any particular text. After all, I didn’t even think of interpreting Matthew 24-25 in any preterist manner before reading Hank Hanegraaf’s book The Apocalypse Code.
However, the first time I ever heard John 3:16 read, as far back as my memory will permit, I remember think “Wow! The whole world!? That’s a lot of people! That includes me!” The universal intent of John 3:16 just jumped out at little 3-year-old me. Now, being challenged by Calvinists has only solidified my interpretations of the universal texts as whatever presuppositions I may have had have been challenged time after time. I’ve repeatedly had to revist the question “Why do I believe what I believe?” I’m more sure that God loves and desires a relationship now than I ever was.
Tony then wrote “Evan responds to my assertion that every mention of “bought” is referring to a saved group of people with ‘So what if every reference of “bought” passages are referring to saved people? I believe Jesus died on the cross for those who actually get saved and those who never do? This isn’t a problem for Arminian soteriology.’ That’s the problem, Evan. I don’t care if it fits neatly into your atonement model, because it doesn’t’ fit entirely with your theology to interpret it in this way.”
The problem, Tony, is that the burden of proof is on you to show that 2 Peter 2:1 isn’t referring to Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of people who aren’t ever going to be saved. As I said in my second response to Kevin Courter (which will be published soon), that Jesus died to atone for the sins of these false prophets is a natural reading of the text precisely because everywhere else Jesus’ death is mentioned and “bought”, “buying”, “purchased” language is used, it’s used to convey the message that Jesus died to atone for sins. Yeah, every other instance involves saved people. So what? This may be one instance in which “bought” language is used in reference to non-elect people, and given that “bought” language is used to mean “died for sins” everywhere else, I think it isn’t just possible, but likely!
Tony then referred back to his citation of Dr. Matthew McMahon whose commentary on 2 Peter 2:1 Tony summarized by saying “Peter could be referring to the fact that they’re claiming to be saved by Christ but are damning themselves by lying about the efficacious work of Christ.” But again, as Brian Abasciano said, such an interpretation is special pleading. There’s nothing in the text to make us think that when Peter says “even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them”, he’s referring to what the false prophets are claiming to the congregation or even to what the congregation believes about these false prophets. If that’s what Peter meant, why isn’t that what Peter said? Surely the Greek language was large enough to more clearly convey that idea. So why didn’t Peter say “Even denying the Sovereign Lord they claimed bought them” or “even denying the sovereign Lord whom you believe bought them?” Tony has not given us reason to believe that Peter was speaking from the perspective of the false prophets or the congregation. He merely puts it forth as an (albeit implausible) possibility. A plain reading of the text indicates that Peter is speaking from his and God’s perspective.
With regards to tabula rasa, there’s nothing pelagian about it. I absolutely believe infants inherit the sinful nature from their parents, and that this inheritance of the sinful nature extends all the way back to Adam in the garden of Eden. This sinful nature affects the whole of the human person and prevents us from coming to Christ apart from a work of grace. I don’t believe anyone inherits Adam’s guilt. However, to deny inherited guilt is not to deny inherited depravity. And I believe this inherited depravity is a total depravity.
Passage 2: Romans 5:15, 18
In this section, Tony Lee Ross Jr. basically doesn’t respond to what I said in the previous blog post whatsoever. He wrote “Regarding Romans 5:15, 18 Evan merely restates his original argument as if It wasn’t dealt with and presents a false trilemma. (is that a thing? It is now.) I see no reason to address this point again until he responds to the original line of argumentation. Let’s move on.”
No, I restated my argument after addressing Ross’ cited Calvinist theologian, and I said that nothing he said did anything to address the trilemma. Now, Tony call this a “false” trilemma. Is it really? If there are more than those 3 options available, let Tony put them forth. For some reason, he didn’t do that in his most recent blog post. He most certainly did not in the one before that. Moreover, I only restated the argument after I “responded to the original line of argumentation”. Charles Hodge didn’t even touch upon my trilemma argument, much less do so successfully. I said as much in the very context of my restatement of the argument.
Passage 3: 1 Timothy 4:10
Tony asks how God can be the Savior of someone He didn’t save? I explained this in “5 Biblical Texts That Calvinists Can’t Wiggle Out Of”. God is the Savior of all people in the sense that Jesus died on the cross to atone for the sins of all people and sends prevenient grace to all people to enable them to respond to the preaching of the gospel (or general revelation if they’re among the unevangelized). God is the Savior “especially” of believers because believers actually respond positively to prevenient grace and therefore are regenerated and have the blood of Christ applied to them. In other words, believers actually enjoy the benefits of Christ’s atoning work while those who reject Him do not.
What Tony said was that “Is there any other savior of the world than Jesus? Jesus clothes, feeds and provides sunlight and other common graces to everyone, so in one sense, he saves people like a fireman saves someone, in another sense he gives people eternal life.”
In other words, how Tony understands 1 Timothy 4:10 is that God is the savior of all people in some sense or other. For some, He gives eternal life. For others, He only gives Earthly benefits such as clothes, food, shelter. etc. Although The Bible certainly teaches a doctrine of common grace (I gave Matthew 5:45 as an example), it never connects common grace to God’s status as Savior. The Bible never depicts God as someone’s “Savior” just because He gave them a nice hot meal. Yeah, Jesus clothes, feeds, provides sunlight and other common graces to everyone. But it’s scripturally unfounded to say that this is a sense in which Jesus is someone’s Savior.
Passage 4: Ezekiel 18:32
I was very disappointed in this section as Tony didn’t interact with my rebuttal at all. He merely said it would be problematic for God to have mixed feelings about punishing the wicked, but he didn’t expand on that. I can’t respond to what he said in this section because he didn’t give me anything to respond to.
Passage 5: 1 John 2:2
Again, Tony didn’t give me any rebuttal to respond to. He simply restated his point that this could be John addressing the Only-We-Jews-Can-Be-Saved attitude by saying “No, he’s not only the atoning sacrifice for our sins, but also for the sins of gentiles”. However, even if that was John’s intention, it doesn’t mean we have to restrict “the whole world” to only some within every people group. Perhaps John was saying “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world” to say “You think you Jews are the only people Jesus came to die for? Nah man. Jesus died for the entire human race. That includes gentiles as well as Jews!”
Should “Whole World” be taken to mean all of humanity? Why not? I see nothing in the context of this verse that would restrict it to the elect or only some within every people group.
I have to say, this was quite the stinker as response articles go. I expected a much more robust rebuttal on Tony’s part, but his responses were extremely weak. I guess the wiggly Calvinist has run out of wiggle energy.