Monday, February 28, 2005

The Muslims must have read my "How to Cash In On 'Grilled-Cheese Mary' Apparitions" blog entry

Mary shows up in bathroom tile. I guess Mary is intent on fulfilling Lumen Gentium's inclusion of Muslims.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Couldn't Have Said It Better

Some recent comments critiquing a recent blog entry found on a blog that is notorious for touting its "catholicity" while reveling in its idiosyncrasies are right on the mark.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The 21st Century King James Version is Here!

Found in the preface of the 21st Century King James Version:
It is not a new translation, but a careful updating to eliminate obsolete words by reference to the most complete and definitive modern American dictionary, the Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition, unabridged. Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization have also been updated.
Found in the text of 2 Thess 2:6-7 in the 21st Century King James Version:
And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now holdeth back will hold him back, until he is taken out of the way.
Um . . . er . . . why do I get the feeling they missed the point? Oh well, at least they changed "letteth" to "holdeth." And I thought I was behind the times : )

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

He Starts Out Well . . .

I'm referring to Doug Wilson's comments on Limited Atonement:
We must begin by rejecting a term that is commonly applied to this doctrine. The rejected term is that of limited atonement. It should be rejected for two reasons. One is that it is misleading with regard to the teaching of the Bible, and the other is that it misrepresents the debate. One of the most obvious features of the atonement in Scripture is its universality. Consequently, a phrase which appears to deny that universality on the surface is not useful.
Of course, I agree with this. But then he ends it this way:

Christ Died For . . .

These are our basic options. Christ died for:

1. All sins of all men

2. All sins of some men

3. Some sins of all men

4. Some sins of some men

If we opt for #3 or #4, then we have to say that no one is saved, because all have some sins to account for. If we say that #1 is the case, then the question is why some men are lost. Because they do not believe. Is this unbelief a sin, or not? If not, why are they condemned for it? If so, then did Jesus die for it? If so, then why are they not saved? If not, then Jesus did not die for all sins -- leaving us with #2.

I'm notorious these days for introducing the .5 position; and so, in that vein, I have to point out that Wilson's list has simply not exhausted the options. He concludes on the basis that Christ's death was vicarious that all those for whom he died must be saved, but neglects to address the issue of just when and how that atonement is applied. If it is applied at the point at which the penalty was paid on the cross, ipso facto, then why is the one whose sin has already been forgiven still referred to as a child of wrath (Eph 2:1)? And how can he remain in an unregenerate, unjustified state? Why must he "believe and be saved" if he has already been saved? Hence, Wilson's extended syllogism is faulty:
[1] If we say that [Christ died for all sins of all men], then the question is why some men are lost. Because they do not believe. [2] Is this unbelief a sin, or not? If not, why are they condemned for it? If so, then did Jesus die for it? If so, then why are they not saved?
The initial question may be answered by posing that same question of the elect; namely, Why are the elect still lost (still "children of wrath," still held culpable, and still told to repent to avoid the wrath of God) after the death of Christ and until they exercise faith in Christ? The whole point of "belief unto justification" is that we are removed from the state of wrath and placed in right standing befofe God, fully reconciled to Him--we have passed from death to life. But to be removed from a state of wrath implies we were previously in a state of wrath and in danger of being consumed by it.

Wilson answers his own question rightly. Why are some men lost? "Because they do not believe." That is correct, but that also and equally applies to the elect until they believe. And that is exactly how the sins of anyone--non-elect or elect, it doesn't matter--can be atoned for and yet the person can still be in a "lost" state; because the atonement is not applied until the point of belief. The elect will unfailingly reach that point, and the non-elect will just as certainly not reach that point. Hence, the benefits of the atonement will certainly be applied to the elect because they will certainly reach the point of belief, and the benefits of the atonement will never be applied to the non-elect because they will never reach the point of belief.

Wilson asks the further series of questions:
"Is this unbelief a sin, or not? If not, why are they condemned for it? If so, then did Jesus die for it? If so, then why are they not saved?"
But if belief is the point at which the atonement is applied to everyone without exception--and that no one in a state of unbelief can say his sins are yet forgiven (and everyone agrees with this except eternal regenerationists)--then all of us implicitly make a distinction between the sin of unbelief and all other sins. Like it or not, the prior "condition" (if you will) of the application of the atonement is belief (and nothing else), and the failure to meet that condition is the basis upon which the benefits of the atonement are withheld--from anyone, elect or non-elect. So, the reason the non-elect are condemned for their continued unbelief is the same reason that the elect are condemned prior to their coming to belief. Hence, Wilson's question, "[If Jesus died for the sin of unbelief] then why are [the non-elect] not saved?," is answered by asking that same question about the elect before they are justified by faith.

Wilson's further question, "Why did Jesus die for the sins of the non-elect?," is also one that can be asked in the converse (more on that in a moment). One reason the non-elect are included in the atonement is that Christ's death cannot help but atone for the sins of all mankind. He died for all those whose nature he shared. He did not take the form of the elect in the Incarnation; he became "flesh." He died for the category of those "in Adam" to make some in that category "sons," and those "in Adam" happen to include all men. Another reason (as I pointed out in my series on Limited Atonement) is that the atonement provides a basis for condemnation of the non-elect in their failure to believe. How can someone be condemned for failing to accept what was never applied to them in any case? Indeed, the converse question to Wilson's is better asked, How can the gospel be offered to those for whom Christ did not die? Wilson believes the offer of the atonement is universal. But what is the basis for that offer if not the atonement itself? And why are the non-elect held culpable for rejecting something which never applied to them in the first place? These are the considerations on this issue I don't think Wilson has well taken into account.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Just Added to the NTRMin Website

The back issues of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society is now online, and we have the link posted on our "Research Tools" page. Just click the "Theology" quick link.

Good News for Parents . . .

. . . or for anyone else who enjoys a good movie but cringes and walks out (or turns off the set) when they see or hear something offensive: a DVD player that filters out nudity, violence and foul language. Hollywood is upset that someone would have the gall to censor artisic expression.

Miscellanies on Postmodernism

From Doug Wilson's blog, a direct assessment of "evangelical postmodernism," a.k.a., "the emergent church." Once again, the postmodern "heretics" (Wilson's term) at the reformed catholicism blog are, predictably, up in arms over it. I'm, of course, a big fan of anything that creates the necessary internal conflict in the mind of one of the owners of that blog. On the one hand, he constantly chides us for "misunderstanding" his leanings and direction--and those of his cohorts--as postmodernism, and derides us regularly for upholding the importance of things like the gospel and the truth. On the other hand his own mentor has consistently come out against his ilk, and has most recently called their beliefs "heresy," chiding them for their ecumenism toward those who deny the gospel. Perhaps one day that internal conflict will come to a boil and will cause the owner of that blog to denounce Wilson as a "radical sectarian"? Or perhaps he will finally come to his senses and wake up in horror over the fact that the ecumenical "goo" he's been wading in is in reality postmodernist muck?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Real Clear Theology Blog is Coming of Age . . .

. . . and gaining a following I had no idea it had. This is rather late in the game (I'm about a month behind), but I've just now noticed that we made it as a finalist (within the top five) for the category of "Best Evangelical Blog--Apologetics" for Evangelical Underground's 2005 Evangelical Blog Award. Now, that means either that I have a lot of readers who took the time to nominate and vote for me (a thank you to those of you who participated), or that Evangelical Underground didn't have a lot of options from which to choose, and so this blog was thrown into the mix by default :)

I'm honored even to have been considered; we'll see if I do better next year.

In a related story, the theologcal resource "game standings" at Eternal Perspectives places Real Clear Theology as number one (scroll down and view sidebar). Alpha and Omega is currently 3.5 games behind. That makes me feel a little better since AOMin stole the show at the Evangelical Blog Awards :)

Why Do We Need Modern Versions of the Bible? (Part 3)

As we noted in our last entry in this series, there is a place for dynamic equivalent translations due to the fact that the Greek and Hebrew languages sometimes use grammatical constructions and idioms that are difficult for English speakers to understand. However, as valuable as a dynamic equivalent translation is for clarifying the meaning of some biblical passages, they just as often muddle the meaning of other passages. One such passage is 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, which reads (NIV):

"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears."

At issue here is the choice of verbs used for each subject after the first clause, "love never fails"; namely, what exactly does the text say about the fate of prophecies, tongues and knowledge? The NIV suggests a different fate for each subject: prophecies will "cease"; tongues will "be stilled"; knowledge will "pass away"--oh yes, and the imperfect will "disappear." This idea of different fates is true of practically every major translation, including the KJV. But notice how this differs in the NASB:

"Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."

According to the NASB, tongues will do one thing ("they will cease"), while prophecies, knowledge and the partial will do something else ("they will be done away"). In other words, Paul places tongues in one category (with one fate; they will cease) and everything else in this passage in a second category (with a different fate; they will be done away). The reason the NASB has it this way is because this is just what we find in the Greek: literally, prophecies "will be abolished" (or "will be superceded"; Gr., katargēthēsontai), tongues "will cease in themselves" (Gr., pausontai), knowledge "will be abolished" (or "will be superceded"; Gr., katargēthēsetai), and the partial (which according to v. 9 includes knowledge and prophecy, but not tongues) "will be abolished" (or "will be superceded"; Gr., katargēthēsetai).

Knowing how Paul categorizes these spiritual gifts is crucial for understanding this passage and the fate of tongues. The common fate for the category of prophecies and knowledge (that which is "in part") is that "they will be done away" (or superceded) when the "perfect" comes. The verb used for both subjects is in the future-passive, which means that the subject receives the action; that is, something else will act upon knowledge and prophecies and cause them "to be abolished," and that "something else" is "that which is perfect." I take this to mean the perfect state (see vv. 11-12). In other words, "partial" (or imperfect) knowledge and "partial" (or imperfect) prophecies will continue until the perfect state, at which time they will be superceded by the fullness of knowledge and the fullness of prophecies.

But tongues, we are told, "will cease of themselves." The word used here (pauō) is not only a different verb than before but is also in the future-middle (not passive), which means the verb performs the action on itself. Nothing else (such as the "perfect" or eternal state) will cause them to cease--they just sort of die off on their own. This stongly suggests that tongues will not continue until the perfect state as knowledge and prophecies will.

Now my intention here is not to resolve the debate over the issue of tongues, but merely to show how a literal translation can help clarify the issues in that debate. If, as the NASB (and the Greek text for that matter) suggests, Paul places tongues in a diffferent category than knowledge and prophecies--further, that those two categories will enjoy two different fates--then there are exegetical ramifications to that observation that cannot be ignored.

There are some who dismiss this observation by appealing to the possibility that Paul may be engaging in "stylistic variation" of verbs (D. A. Carson is disappointing on this point). But this is almost certainly not the case; else, why wouldn't Paul have used (per the NIV) different verbs for prophecies and knowledge--and a different one still for "the partial"? Why would he consistently use the word katargeō and consistently place it in the future-passive with three of the subjects (prophecies, knowledge, and "the partial," which we are told in v. 9 includes only knowledge and prophecies), and deviate from that pattern only with regard to tongues (pauō in the future-middle)?

The NASB on this passage shines through as an unmatched example of the importance of a literal translation. That is not to say that a literal translation does a better job of clarifying the issues in every case (we've already looked at several examples where a dynamic equivalent translation, such as the NIV, does a better job of conveying the intended meaning than does a literal translation--see parts 1 and 2 of this series). Only that a literal translation should not be so quickly and easily dismissed by those who seem to think that the value of a translation is bound up in how well it communicates to those immersed in the lingua du jour. There are some who believe the more colloquial and "hip" a translation is, the better. While they seek to be inclusive in their translation, they ironically end up alienating and excluding those who don't happen to speak that particular style of "modern parlance."

So which is the "best" translation? It depends on your purpose. Is your purpose personal devotion, rapid reading or lengthy public addresses? Then I'd go with a dynamic equivalent. I still prefer the NIV over some of its more recent competitors (such as the TNIV or the ESV), if for no other reason than familiarity; the text of the NIV has more or less become an established standard in the Evangelical community, and the way it words certain passages demonstrates a general "neutrality" in its theological slant. Is your purpose instead to do an in-depth Bible study? Then I would use as many versions as you can get a hold of (literal, dynamic equivalent, and paraphrase) so that you can compare them side by side. Yet for your primary text, you cannot do much better than the NASB. The only exception I might make here is an interlinear, such as Marshall's Parallel New Testament (my personal favorite), which has the Greek text and literal English translation of the Greek in the center column of the page, along with two other major translations (your choice) on the right and left columns of the page (the one I use has the NIV and NASB). With that as your basic text, and the other translations as safety checks to keep you from going too far astray in how you're understanding the literal wording of the text (here commentaries are a great help as well), you're well on your way to plumbing the depths of God's word.

Friday, February 18, 2005

We Have a Birthday Today!

Three years ago today, on Feb 19, 2002, I started the NTRMin Discussion Board. Here's a screenshot of what it looked like then. The original board was created in FrontPage and was as inflexible as a board can be. You couldn't so much as edit the spelling errors in your own posts! A year later we decided to go with EZBoard and have been with them ever since.

Three years . . . I can't put my finger on just why, but it seems like so much longer than three years since we started that board. It somehow feels more like five or six. [scratches head]

Why Do We Need Modern Versions of the Bible? (Part 2)

In yesterday's blog we looked at one of the reasons why we need modern translations. At the beginning of the article I raised an issue that I didn't answer there; namely, in answer to the question "Which Bible version is the best one to use?," the most appropriate "answer" is another question; namely, "What do you plan to use it for?"

Every translation is replete with judgment calls, whether that translation is a Bible translation or something else. The very nature of translating from one language (the source language) into another (the receptor language) always lends itself to a variety of options. There are roughly three major categories of Bible versions, and the lines sometimes drawn to separate them are not always clear: they are literal translations, dynamic equivalent translations, and paraphrases. Each of these has a different purpose.

The goal of the literal translation is to render (as well as possible) a word for word translation from the source language to the receptor language. This kind of translation is ideal for in-depth Bible study, especially for those not familiar with the original languages. This kind of translation will allow the English reader to come very close to what the text says in the original. In my opinion, the NASB remains the best translation from this category, although there are others as well, including the King James Version, New King James Version, King James II, Revised Standard Version, English Standard Version, Young’s Literal Translation, and others. My personal favorite from this category is Marshall’s Parallel New Testament, which has the NASB on one side of the page, the NIV on the other side, and an interlinear (Greek with literal English translation) in the middle of the page.

The goal of the dynamic equivalent translation is (as well as possible) to translate thought for thought rather than word for word. Why would this be necessary? Because it is a rare case when there is direct correspondence between the idioms used in the source language and those used in the receptor language. Take the common Spanish phrase ¿Cómo se llama? We translate that phrase as “What is your name?,” but the literal translation is “How are you called?” Yet “How are you called?” does not make good sense in English. Similarly with ¿Cuántos años tenéis?, which means “How old are you,” but which translates literally as “How many years do you have?”

Indeed, all translations (even literal ones) engage in dynamic equivalent to some extent. A good example of this from the Greek is the expression “Greetings!” (chairein) which appears a number of times to denote a salutation in the New Testament (Acts 15:23; 23:26; James 1:1; 2 John 10-11). But the Greek phrase is an infinitive that, translated literally, means “to rejoice!” Since the English speaking world does not consider “to rejoice!” a greeting per se, we have to use a dynamic equivalent that translates the idiom, not just the words.

An example of this from the Hebrew might include Song of Solomon 5:4, which the NIV translates “My lover thrust his hand through the latch-opening; my heart began to pound for him.” The NASB translates the same passage as “"My beloved extended his hand through the opening, and my feelings were aroused for him.” Yet the KJV translates it as “My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.” Note to the ladies: If you decide to cite Sol 5:4 in a Valentine’s Day card to your husband, I don’t recommend you use the King James Version! The reason the KJV has “bowels” where the NIV has “heart” and the NASB has “feelings,” is that the Hebrew literally says “bowels” or “gut”! In the Hebrew mind, the seat of emotion was the bowels (think of the last time you were love sick; the bowels are where the physical turmoil associated with love does most of its damage!). Yet in the Western world (even in Greek), the seat of emotion is the heart (heartache, heart break, etc.). In this case, the KJV was more faithful to the literal translation of the Hebrew, but in the process completely missed the intended thought.

Last Sunday I appointed several of the participants in my Sunday School class to be the official "readers" of various versions so that we could do a comparison. I chose someone who was using the KJV, another who was using the NIV, and a third who was using the NASB, and I had them read a series of verses, including two which I addressed in yesterday's blog (2 Cor 8:1 ["we do you to wit"] and 2 Thess 2:7 ["let"]). The other verses we looked at included Gen 31:35, Sol 5:4,
and Sam 25:22.

The KJV version of Gen 31:35 reads (of Rachel): “And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me.” The phrase “custom on women” is ambiguous, and the NASB’s “manner of women” does not do much to clarify it. Does “the custom of women” have to do with some ancient cultural etiquette in which a woman is forbidden to stand up in the presence of men when inside a tent? The NIV clarifies this rather well: “Rachel said to her father, ‘Don't be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I'm having my period.’" Note well, the NASB and the KJV have captured nicely the literal Hebrew (“the way of women”), but in the process may have obscured to the English reader what was the undoubted meaning to the Hebrew reader. Hence, sometimes the Hebrew uses euphemisms that are not clearly understood.

A worse case scenario is when the Hebrew expression is more graphic than most English translations are willing to allow. One such case is 1 Sam 25:22, which in the NIV reads: “May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!" That seems innocuous enough, as does the NASB’s “May God do so to the enemies of David, and more also, if by morning I leave as much as one male of any who belong to him." But the KJV has rendered it in such a way that ensures no pastor using the KJV will be preaching on this passage from the pulpit any time soon: “So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.” The italicized phrase means “any male”; but the KJV renders it this way because that is just what the Hebrew say (the LXX has “those who make water against the wall”)!

Hence, there is nothing inherently evil about a dynamic equivalent--even the NASB has fudged in its literalness at many points where it is necessary to do so. The New International Version is still my favorite dynamic equivalent, although there are others available as well, including (with varying degrees of fluctuation between dynamic equivalent and literal on the one hand and dynamic equivalent and paraphrase on the other) New English Translation, New English Bible, Today’s English Version (“Good News Bible”), New English Bible, New Century Bible, the NET Bible (a very good online translation), and Today’s New International Version (which purports to be a “gender-accurate” translation, though the debate continues to rage between fine scholars like Wayne Grudem on the one side and D.A. Carson on the other—from what I have seem of the TNIV, I currently have no objection to it).

The final category is one I don’t much care for—the paraphrase. Prominent in this genre is the Living Bible, which began merely as one man’s paraphrase of the KJV, and which afterwards extended into a full-fledged translation produced by a committee of translators, and now takes the form of the New Living Translation (I still don’t care for it). Paraphrases tend to take too many liberties and tend to wander too often into exegesis and interpretation rather than settling for translation. They make exegetical decision for the reader that, once made, leave no clue to the reader that there are other viable exegetical options available. I’m sure other readers would benefit from this; but personally I want to know what the options are, and I don’t want someone else making exegetical decisions for me.

(To be continued in our next installment)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Why Do We Need Modern Versions of the Bible? (Part 1)

I'm currently in the middle of a Sunday School series ("in the middle of" always liberally means it's neither the first nor the last installment) titled "The Origin of the Bible," and thought I might share some of those notes here. Last Sunday we broached the topic of all the differing translations available today. One of the questions I am asked most is, Which Bible version is the best one to use? That's a question no one can answer off the bat because we must always ask in response, What do you plan to use it for? You see, different translations are suited for different purposes. But before we get into that issue, there is a prior question that must be answered: namely, Why is there a need for the modern translations in the first place? Why can't we just all use the King James Version?

Here's one reason--languages come and go, and in the process always change in form over time. Here is an example of John 3:16 in an early English version:

"For God so loued the world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but haue euerlasting life."

Now, if you don't recognize this version you may be surprised to learn that it is nothing less than the original 1611 KJV. Some of you may be saying to yourselves, "But that doesn't look like my KJV." That's because it isn't. The KJV most people use today is the 1769 revision of the original (there were many revisions in between). Obviously, most people today would find it rather rough sailing to read the original 1611. The English language had changed significantly between 1611 and 1769 (roughly 150 years), and that phenomenon is even more pronounced in the etymological changes that took place in the English language from 1769 to modern times (roughly 250 years).

But the original KJV, believe it or not, was condemned as a "modern translation" and had just as much trouble gaining acceptance from those in its own day as the modern translations do from those who hold to a KJV-only stance. Opposers of the KJV were used to existing translations, such as:

"For God so loueth the world, that he hath geuen his only begotten Sonne: that none that beleue in him, should peryshe, but haue euerlasting lyfe." (The Geneva Bible, 1557).

"For God so loued the worlde, that he gaue his only begotten sonne, that whosoeuer beleueth in him, shulde not perisshe, but haue euerlasting lyfe." (The Great Bible, 1539).

"For God so loveth the worlde, that he hath geven his only sonne, that none that beleve in him, shuld perisshe: but shuld have everlastinge lyfe." (Tyndale, 1534).

And these translations themselves were "updated" versions that replaced older translations, such as:

"for god loued so the world; that he gaf his oon bigetun sone, that eche man that bileueth in him perisch not: but haue euerlastynge liif." (Wycliff, 1380).

Which itself was a "modern version" compared to this one:

"God lufode middan-eard swa, dat he seade his an-cennedan sunu, dat nan ne forweorde de on hine gely ac habbe dat ece lif." (Anglo-Saxon, 995 AD).

Obviously, there is a need for modern translations. Some may respond by insisting that the 1769 version of the KJV is clear enough. But is it? Let's look at a couple of passages in the KJV:

"Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia" (2 Cor 8:1).

Now, without looking at a modern translation, what does "we do you to wit" mean? My guess is that most readers of this blog have no clue. And that's not surprising since that phrase is no longer in common use today. (If you are still wondering what is means, look at the same passage in the NIV or the NASB).

Here's another one . . .

"For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way" (2 Thess 2:7).

The question is, what exactly is the meaning of "let / letteth" in this passage? The word "let" today normally means "to allow." But in Elizabethan English, it also meant the exact opposite; namely, "to hinder or forbid"--and that's just what it means in this passage. That is why modern translations have translated this word as "restrain" or "hold back" instead of "let."

The translators of the KJV recognized that they were not making some "end all and be all" translation that would never need to be replaced by another. Here is what they wrote in the preface of their original:

Truly (good Christian Reader) wee neuer [never] thought from the beginning, that we should neede to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one,... but to make a good one better. . . . that hath bene [been] our indeauour [endeavor], that our marke. . . . Blessed be they, and most honoured be their name, that breake the yce [ice], and glueth onset vpon [upon] that which helpeth forward to the sauing [saving] of soules. Now what can bee more auaileable [available] thereto, then to deliuer [deliver] Gods [God's] booke vnto [unto] Gods [God's] people in a tongue which they vnderstand [understand]? Since of an hidden treasure, and of a fountaine that is sealed, there is no profit.
The KJV translators recognized the same principle upon which the apostle Paul himself operated in delivering the gospel:

"praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak" (Col 4:3-4).

The overarching goal of any translation should be to make the word of God clear, not to obscure it with archaic idioms that no one today understands.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

On Real Unclear Things

Just posted on the Reformed Catholicism blog:
I think we should steer clear of saying that anything is "clear" or that there is a "plain meaning" of a text. This is a fairly naive Epistemology. This is more of a Modernist Epistemology (read Foundationalist or Correspondance/Coherentist theory of truth), and has been thoroughly Deconstructed by Postmodernism. . . . We cannot escape our presuppositions, and this is what Derrida is saying. All of life is a "text" and all of life is "interpretation". . . . Thus, the community of faith can only come to meaning in so far as it participates in God (building off of the chief theme of Radical Orthodoxy, that something only *is* insofar as it participates in the Triune God, which guards against any sort of autonomy of thought). How do we participate in God? I would argue for three ways in which we participate in God: through divine liturgy and the aesthetics thereof, through the eucharist, and through baptism. Hence, all of our knowledge and interpretation is predicated through the community of faith by participating in the divine.

I'd respond, but post-modernism has deconstructed my ability to ascertain the "plain meaning" of the author's words above. Moreover, even if I were to respond (in spite of that hurdle), post-modernism has deconstructed your ability to figure out just what I said in the response. In fact, if you think you understood what I just said, you're wrong. You can't understand it--no one can--because we are all hopelessly enslaved to Modernism. There's no use reading anything--blog, article, book--because you'll just never be able to decipher it meaningfully.

I have an idea--let's treat the post-modernists the way they think the real world works. The ridiculous conclusions and ramifications they come up with, based on pomo writers, should be viewed and treated for what they truly are--incomprehensible and self-contradictory nonsense. Maybe we should just ignore them and leave them with their agenda-based inability to understand everyone else.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Expect Blog Entries to be Spotty . . .

. . . at least until Thursday. I'll be traveling for the next few days and won't return till late Wednesday evening. On top of that, my main computer went into a comma on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, all my "current issues," including my blog materials, are on that hard drive (when will I learn to keep things on the server?). I'm having my desktop computer repaired while I'm out of the office, and will be using my laptop instead. Hopefully, it will be restored by the time I return on Thursday. Until then, I will attempt to post various unstructured musings that come to mind.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Judgmentalism and Unconditional Love

John Wilson hits the nail on the head in his review of Gregory Boyd's book, Repenting of Religion. The thesis of Boyd, who is a proponent of Open Theism, is that no Christian has a right to call into question another professing Christian's activities or beliefs: "The only conclusion about other people that God allows us and commands us to embrace is the one given to us on Calvary."

Wilson's review effectively shows how Boyd violates his own operating principle when he sits in judgment of everyone else with whom he disagrees, and I'll leave it to the reader to click the above link to read it for himself. What I'd like to do here is show biblically why Boyd and his ilk are wrong. Anyone who has immersed himself in the New Testament will find Boyd's reasoning on this issue completely foreign to the sentiment of the NT writers.

The letters of John, for instance, are nothing if not exhortations to the believing community to scrutinize the claims of anyone who professes Christ but (1) denies essential beliefs regarding the person of Christ (such as his humanity or his deity), (2) does nothing to meet the physical needs of another brother or sister in Christ, or (3) lives an immoral lifestyle, contary to the teachings of Christ. In these cases, John is uneqivocally direct.

In reference to those who claim to be Christians but live immoral lifestyles he writes:

"The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4).

And . . .

"No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious. (3:6-10).

In reference to those who claim to be Christians yet withhold "love" from them (interpreted by John as showing concern and providing for their mundane needs), John has this to say:

"The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now" (1 John 2:9).

And . . .

"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." (3:14-18).

And . . .

"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (4:20).

Of those who claim to be Christians but hold to false teachings about Christ he writes:

"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also." (2:22-23).

He explains why he thinks it is important to tell us this:

"These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you" (2:26).

And it is not as though John expects us to sit by silently and wait till he himself renders a specific judgment--he wants us to participate in the same kind of "judgment":

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (4:1).

The problem with Boyd and those like him is not so much that they error on the side of love. It is rather the case that they mistake a complete lack of judgment for love, and as a result are misleading the believing community into adopting a blind, anti-discernment paradigm. No one in the NT lauds blind acceptance. And no one in the NT equates the scrutiny and rejection of the aberrant beliefs and practices of some who claim to know Christ with a lack of love. That's simply a modern distortion of what true love is. In case it slipped anyone's notice, the apostle who so strongly exhoted us to love ("God is love"; "let us love one another"; etc.), and the one who so strongly exhorted us to scrutinize the claims of those who hold to aberrant theology or lifestyle (see above), are one and the same.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The More They Speak . . .

. . . the more obvious it is that they, along with their RC "covenant brethren," are bent on promoting a works righteousness--I'm referring, of course, to the "reformed catholics"--and then attempting to convince everyone else they alone, as the Illuminati, are the keepers and deliverers of the Calvin gnosis (arrogant statements such as "I wouldn't classify what you wrote as a 'refutation', but just as one more 'common Reformish misunderstanding' of the Reformation's principles" and "all that stuff [our opponents] memorized in seminary might need to be reformed" bear this out quite adequately enough). The article itself is not so much the thing that interests me (given the author, its content is predictable) as does the ensuing discussion in the comments section (which is also predictable, but a bit more interesting). The poster who goes by the name "Ron" does an admirable job in adding sanity to the discussion (as do other posters, whose posts are sometimes deleted). But I truly believe the "Reformed Catholic" crowd is quite beyond correction and will continue to spiral down into ever increasing idolatry over the works of their hands. They've frequently denounced us in no uncertain terms--"I Hate Evangelicalism!" Very well then; we should reciprocate: "We hate your stinking idolatry and your Postmodern Captivity!"

It may be well past time to wash our hands of them completely and refuse to accept them as brothers. With the Psalmist, we should never fail to affirm: "I hate those who cling to worthless idols; I trust in the Lord" (Psalm 31:6).

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Blog Neglect

No entry yesterday . . . no musings today . . . better thoughts tomorrow :)

Oh, one thing to report (maybe the right people will see it). I attempted to listen to the Feb 8 archive of the Dividing Line show (I can never seem to get to the live show on time), but the archived file seems to be corrupt. It fails consistently at min 2:13, right after the statement "dump this guy, or something like that . . . ." Too bad; I was looking forward to the announcement :)

Monday, February 07, 2005

Contending for the Faith

I forgot to mention in my prior entry that along with the completion of the Jude webinar comes the release of the Jude commentary. Part of my purpose for doing the webinar on Jude was to put the finishing touches on my newly completed commentary on Jude. Doing such a study forces me to rethink all my comments in light of questions asked during the study, and revise them accordingly. It also allows me to find last-minute typos (though I surely missed at least some of them even after doing the study).

In any case, the commentary is now available at the NTRMin Store (go to and click the NTRMin Store link at the left) and is advertised on the News and Notes page of the website.

Jude Webinar is Finished

Last Saturday we finally completed our webinar study of Jude. In spite of the deceptively small size of Jude, the study required no fewer than ten different sessions, each of which took over an hour to complete. As the participants in the study can well attest, every paragraph in Jude is pregnant with theology and rich in exegetical points. In fact, the theological content of this oft-neglected letter rivals NT letters three times its size. I would encourage anyone interested in uncovering theological depth and finding rich, modern-day application to begin his study with the letter of Jude.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

On the Lighter Side . . .


And, yes, I do remember those days.

Time Releases Its List of the 25 Most Influencial Evangelicals in America

. . . and that list includes:

T.D. Jakes, a Oneness Pentecostal who denies the Trinity ("God in three Manefestations," for the Sabellian-challenged, is not to be equated with "God in three Persons"),

Brian McLaren, a represenative of the post-modern "emerging church" movement,

Joyce Meyer, a "Word-Faith" Pentecostal,

And . . . . (drum roll please) . . .

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus . . . a Roman Catholic priest, no less, and one spearhead of the ECT movement!

Now, there is no doubt that all the members of Time's list have had an influence on Evangelicalism. But bear in mind, Time does not purport to give us a list of people who are most influencial on Evangelicalism. It purports to give us a list of the most influencial Evangelicals in America. The list also includes Senator Rick Santorum (a Roman Catholic), as well as other dubious "Evangelicals."

Why is it that Time always seems to botch anything that has to do with Christianity?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Limited Atonement Debate in Historical Perspective

I’d like to add an historical perspective to the discussion at this point. I have been greatly enlightened over the past few weeks by a number of friends and acquaintances who have pointed out to me something I had not considered before. It now seems clear to me that the issue of the extent of the atonement was hotly debated among the Reformed writers of the earliest centuries after the Reformation. John Owen took the limited atonement view; but his view was opposed by other Reformed writers like Richard Baxter, whose opposition to limited atonement was later followed by nineteenth-century Reformed writers like William Shedd, R. L. Dabney, A. A. Hodge, and Charles Hodge. All of these men held to the fact that the atonement applies to both the elect and to the non-elect, but in different ways. Indeed, Calvin himself seems to have held to the later views of Baxter et al. Below are only some of the relevant excepts from the writings of these men, but they are (I think) sufficient to illustrate the point.

One important point before I proceed with this. I do not cite these sources because I think it proves my view. Only the Scriptures can do that. Rather I cite them to show that my view of this issue is not unique, or unusual, or anti-Reformed. In fact, my view on this issue was firmly held by writers whose Reformed credentials I do not think anyone can question. I say this to ward off potential suspicion from those who hold to limited atonement and think any other view constitutes a departure from Reformed soteriology—or who may suspect that modifying the “L” in TULIP somehow “weakens” or “softens” one’s view of all the other points. Neither charge has merit.

John Calvin

"I approve of the ordinary reading, that he alone bore the punishment of many, because on him was laid the guilt of the whole world. It is evident from other passages, and especially from the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that 'many' sometimes denotes 'all.'"(On Isa 53:12)"

"For though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God's benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him." (On Rom. 5:18).

“And again, has not our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed men’s souls: true it is that the effect of his death comes not to the whole world: Nevertheless for as much as it is not in us too discern between the righteous and the sinners that go to destruction, but that Jesus Christ has suffered his death and passion as well for them as for us: therefore it behooves us to labour to bring every man to salvation that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ made be available to them.” (Sermons on Job, p., 454).

“Therefore when we see any man do amiss, let us learn that it is no love nor charity to cloak his evil doings, so as we should dissemble them and make no countenance at all of them: but that if we have a care of him that is so fallen, we must turn him away. If a man be in the mire, we will reach him our hand to help him out: and if we pass by him and will not seem to see him, shall he not say it is too shameful an unkindness? Even so is it when we suffer a man to fall asleep in his sins: for by that means he is sunk down to the bottom of perdition. Then is it too great a traitorousness, if we do wittingly suffer a man to undo himself utterly and therewithal we show also that there is no zeal of God in us. For if he be our father, ought it not at leastwise to grieve us and make us sorry, when we see wrong and injury offered unto him? So then, if the souls which our Lord Jesus Christ hath bought so dearly be precious unto us, or if we set so much by God?s honor as it deserveth: it is certain that we will not so bear with men’s faults, but that we will endeavor to amend them.” (Sermon 36, Gal 6:1-2).

“If the faith of one individual were in danger of being overturned, (for we are speaking of the perdition of a single soul redeemed by the blood of Christ) the pastor should immediately gird himself for the combat; how much less tolerable is it to see whole houses overturned?” (Commentary, Tit 1:11).

“For the faithless have no profit at all by the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather are so much the more damnable, because they reject the mean that God had ordained: and their unthankfulness shall be so much the more grievously punished, because they have trodden under foot the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was the ransom for their souls.” (Sermons on Galatians, 1:3-5).

“And he employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance to life.” (On John 3:16).

Richard Baxter (17th Century Puritan)

“When God telleth us as plain as can be spoken, that Christ died for and tasted death for every man, men will deny it, and to that end subvert the plain sense of the words, merely because they cannot see how this can stand with Christ’s damning men, and with his special Love to his chosen. It is not hard to see the fair and harmonious consistency: But what if you cannot see how two plain Truths of the Gospel should agree? Will you therefore deny one of them when both are plain? Is not that in high pride to prefer your own understandings before the wisdom of the Spirit of God, who indicted the Scriptures? Should not a humble man rather say, doubtless both are true though I cannot reconcile them. So others will deny these plain truths, because they think that all that Christ died for are certainly Justified and Saved: For whomsoever he died and satisfied Justice for, them he procured Faith to Believe in him: God cannot justly punish those whom Christ hath satisfied for, etc. But doth the Scripture speak all these or any of these opinions of theirs, as plainly as it saith that Christ died for all and every man? Doth it say, as plainly any where that he died not for all? Doth it any where except any one man, and say Christ died not for him? Doth it say any where that he died only for his Sheep, or his Elect, and exclude the Non-Elect? There is no such word in all the Bible; Should not then the certain truths and the plain texts be the Standard to the uncertain points, and obscure texts?” (Richard Baxter, Universal Redemption of Mankind by the Lord Jesus Christ, London, 1694, 282-283).

“Now I would know of any man, would you believe that Christ died for all men if the Scripture plainly speak it? If you would, do but tell me, what words can you devise or would you wish more plain for it than are there used? Is it not enough that Christ is called the Saviour of the World? You’ll say, but is it of the whole World? Yes, it saith, He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole World. Will you say, but it is not for All men in the World? Yes it saith he died for All men, as well as for all the World. But will you say, it saith not for every man? Yes it doth say, he tasted death for every man. But you may say, It means all the Elect, if it said so of any Non-Elect I would believe. Yes, it speaks of those that denied the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And yet all this seems nothing to men prejudiced.” (Ibid., 286-287).

R. L. Dabney

Nor would we attach any force to the argument, that if Christ made penal satisfaction for the sins of all, justice would forbid any to be punished. To urge this argument surrenders virtually the very ground on which the first Socinian objection was refuted, and is incompatible with the facts that God chastises justified believers, and holds elect unbelievers subject to wrath till they believe. Christ's satisfaction is not a pecuniary equivalent, but only such a one as enables the Father, consistently with His attributes, to pardon, if in His mercy He sees fit. The whole avails of the satisfaction to a given man is suspended on His belief. There would be no injustice to the man, if he remaining an unbeliever, his guilt were punished twice over, first in his Savior, and then in Him. See Hodge on Atonement, page 369.” (Lectures on Systematic Theology, p., 521).

Charles Hodge

“The satisfaction of Christ being a matter of covenant between the Father and the Son, the distribution of its benefits is determined by the terms of the covenant. It does not ipso facto liberate. The people of God are not justified from eternity. They do not come into this world in a justified state. They remain (if adults) in a state of condemnation until they believe.” (Systematic Theology, Vol 2., p., 472).

What is sufficient for one is sufficient for all. Nothing less than the light and heat of the sun is sufficient for any one plant or animal. But what is absolutely necessary for each is abundantly sufficient for the infinite number and variety of plants and animals which fill the earth. All that Christ did and suffered would have been the necessary had only one human soul been the object of redemption; and nothing different and nothing more would have been required had every child of Adam been saved through his blood” (Ibid., pp. 544-545)

“Augustinians readily admit that the death of Christ had a relation to man, to the whole human family, which it had not to fallen angels. It is the ground on which salvation is offered to every creature under heaven who hears the gospel; but it gives no authority for a like offer to apostate angels. It moreover secures to the whole race at large, and to all classes of men, innumerable blessings, both providential and religious. It was, of course, designed to produce those effects; and therefore, He died to secure them. In view of the effects which the death of Christ produces on the relation of all mankind to God, it has in all ages been customary with Augustinian to say that Christ died ‘sufficienter pro omnibus, efficaciter pro elcetis’; sufficiently for all, efficiently only for the elect. There is a sense, therefore, in which He died for all, and there is a sense in which He died for the elect alone” (Ibid., pp. 545-546).

“The doctrines of foreordination, sovereignty, effectual providential control, go hand in hand with those of the liberty and responsibility of rational creatures. Those of freedom from the law, of salvation by faith without works, and of the absolute necessity of holy living stand side by side. On the same page we find the assurance of God’s love to sinners, and declarations that He would that all men should come unto Him and live, with explicit assertions that He has determined to leave multitudes to perish in their sins. In like manner, the express declarations that it was the incomprehensible and peculiar love of God for His own people , which induced Him to send His Son for their redemption, that Christ came into the world for that specific object; that He died for His sheep; that He gave Himself for his Church; and that the salvation of all for whom He thus offered Himself is rendered certain by the gift of the Spirit to bring them to faith and repentance, are intermingled with declarations of good will to all mankind, with offers of salvation to everyone who will believe in the Son of God, and denunciations of wrath against those who reject these overtures of mercy. All we have to do is not to ignore or deny either of these modes of representation, but to open our minds wide enough to receive them both, and reconcile them as best we can. Both are true, in all cases above referred to, whether we can see their consistency or not” (Ibid., p. 561).

William G. T. Shedd

“Christ's death as it relates to the claims of the law upon all mankind, cancels those claims wholly. 'It is an infinite propitiation for the sins of the whole world,' 1 Jn 2:2. But the relation of an impenitent person to this atonement, what the atonement has effected objectively in reference to the attribute of divine justice, is not effected subjectively in the conscience of the individual. There is an infinite satisfaction that naturally and necessarily cancels legal claims, but unbelief derives no benefit from the fact (Dogmatic Theology, vol 2, 437).

“This one offering expiated ‘the sins of the whole world,’ and justice is completely satisfied in reference to them. The death of the God-man naturally and necessarily cancelled all legal claims. When a particular person trusts in this infinite atonement, and it is imputed to him by God, it then becomes his atonement for judicial purposes as really as if he had made it himself." (Ibid., p. 438).

"Vicarious atonement without faith in it is powerless to save.” (Ibid., p 440).”

"The mere fact that Jesus Christ made satisfaction for human sin, alone and of itself, will save no soul. Christ, conceivably, might have died precisely as he did, and his death have been just as valuable for expiatory purposes as it is, but if his death had not been followed with the work of the Holy Ghost and the act of faith on the part of the individual men, he would have died in vain. Unless his objective work is subjectively appropriated, it is useless, as for as personal salvation is concerned. Christ's suffering is sufficient to cancel the guilt of all men, and in its own nature completely satisfies the broken law.” (Ibid., pp 440-1).

In summary, I’d like to call attention to the following points:

1. I believe the limited-atonement proponent confuses the predestination of our union with Christ in his death with the act of that union itself. Yet he does not confuse the predestination of any other similar act with the act itself, such as the justification and glorification of the elect, our “burial” with Christ, or our “being raised up with him.” In those cases, he seems to make a proper distinction between, say, our being predestined to justification and the actual act of justification itself; such that he does not conclude we are eternally justified in the same way that he seems to conclude we are eternally united with Christ in his death. I think this is inconsistent. In short, I believe that view places our union with Christ in his death in the same category as foreknowledge and predestination, when that union should instead be placed in the same category as our justification, our “burial” with Christ, and our being “raised together with him.”

2. This dialogue has allowed me to clarify my own thinking on this issue, particularly with regard to the purpose of Christ in the atonement; and for that I’m thankful to Dr. White who’s forced me to think more closely about this issue than I’ve had to in the past. As a result, I am abandoning my former phrase “incidental atonement” in referring to how the atonement applies to the non-elect. I no longer believe anything about the atonement is incidental. Rather, I’m convinced that Christ had a dual purpose in the atonement: one for the elect, and another for the non-elect. In the case of the elect, the atonement provides the necessary ground for redemption. In the case of the non-elect, the atonement provides the necessary ground for condemnation in the rejection of the gospel. Further, I think the limited atonement view so focuses on the former that it neglects the latter, and in so doing unwittingly renders groundless the condemnation of the non-elect in their rejection of the gospel. At the very least, I don’t think the limited atonement camp can any longer make the charge that every other view except five-point Calvinism posits some sort of “unfulfilled purpose” of Christ in his death and atonement.

3. I do not believe the TULIP model represents the classic Reformed position. Indeed, I’m now convinced the acrostic is little more than the later outworking of one school of Reformed thought, albeit the school that eventually became dominate. The sixteenth-century Reformers affirmed both particular atonement (at least in intent) and universal atonement (at least in extent), and the seventeenth-century Reformed debated these point. Some notable Reformed writers of the past agree with me on the universality of the atonement (listed above), not least of which is Calvin himself. Whether classic Calvinism is best represented by referring to it as 4.5 point Calvinism (which recognizes “particular atonement” of the elect as the “drive” which compelled Christ to go to the cross, while equally recognizing that if Christ atones for the sins of only one in the stock of Adam, he also by necessity atones for the sins of all), or 6-point Calvinism (which recognizes two intents and purposes in the atonement: the one [particular atonement] to provide the necessary ground for redeeming the elect, and the other [universal atonement] to provide the necessary ground for binding the non-elect in an obligation to respond to the gospel), I do not know. What I do know is this: if some in the limited atonement camp are still not fully convinced by the evidence I have presented here, I think at the very least they must allow for the possibility of my view, both biblically and historically.

In any event, I hope to have put to rest the notion that unless one unconditionally accepts the “L” in TULIP he cannot be fully Reformed in his soteriology, or he must be “weak” in his view of the other points.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

When Does Our Union With Christ’s Death Occur? The Ongoing Dialogue on Limited Atonement (Part 3)

Here is part 3 of my response to Dr. White on the issue of limited atonement:

Dr. White continues:

Once again, the eternal reality determines the events in time, and in God's sovereign decree He chooses to bring us out of darkness into His marvelous light at a particular point in time. Until that time, we are slaves so sin and walk just as Paul describes.
Nothing I can see in the New Testament prevents us from viewing our union with Christ in this same way—that is, as one of those “in time” events that are predestined in eternity past, but are not brought about until the point of belief. Indeed, I think the New Testament expressly affirms it.

Dr. White writes:

However, is there any chance at all that the wrath of God itself could fall upon such a person? Not if they were given to the Son in eternity past (John 6:39), for that would involve His losing one of those thusly given. So, recognizing that regeneration, faith, repentance, and justification are all things experience by the elect in time itself is not the same as saying that these things are doubtful or uncertain from the divine perspective, nor that the ground upon which the Spirit acts in regenerating us and giving us the gifts of faith and repentance and hence bringing about our justification is not specifically oriented toward the elect alone, for in all of this, it is the love of God that directs and completes the work of salvation.
As a staunch affirmer of the sovereignty of God, you’ll get no other response from me on this point except for a hearty “amen!” All I’m asking Dr. White to do is to take everything he’s just said in regard to “justification” and apply it to “union with Christ.” I genuinely do not understand why there should be such a problem with doing that.

Dr. White writes:

And Dr. Svendsen and I agree, that kind of redeeming love is not expressed for the non-elect.
Again, Amen!

So, when we speak of the unregenerate elect one as a "child of wrath," we are speaking descriptively, and confessing that we lived and acted and thought like every other person who is likewise spiritually dead.
I think the phrase suggests a bit more than that. “Children of wrath even as the rest” describes our state as people “deserving wrath”; indeed, “destined for wrath” if we were to continue in that state.

Dr. White states:

We should not, however, extend that to mean that the elect were not already clearly differentiated in the love of God, which was set upon them before creation itself.
Agreed; we were differentiated in the love of God, and that was done in eternity past. But I think viewing the phrase “children of wrath” as a mere characterization of how we behaved before the point of belief, and without the attendant consequences associated with that condition, unnecessarily makes that condition anemic and the application of the atonement of Christ a mere formality. How else could we legitimately affirm to the elect that they are hell-bound sinners who are condemned by the law and who are in need of repentance lest they perish according to passages like Matt 5:30? (Unless of course this passage applies only to the non-elect; in which case that creates even more problems for the limited atonement view along the lines of 2 Pet 2 and Heb 6, 10; namely, that in passages like these the non-elect are actually commanded to obey the gospel). Why would the threat of hell sans repentance be issued to the elect unless that condition is a real one?

I wrote: “If the fact that the trespasses of the non-elect are still held against them constitutes ‘proof’ that Christ did not pay for their sins, then passages like Eph 2:3 would likewise ‘prove’ Christ didn't pay for the sins of the elect--for they are still ‘children of wrath’ even after Christ died.”

Dr White responded:
This is in reference to 2 Corinthians 5:19, which reads, "namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation." The key issue in the text, as I see it, is the fact I know of only one other passage wherein we see the non-imputation of sin, and that is on Romans 4:6-8.
I do not think the non-imputation of sin is to be equated with “reconciliation” in 2 Cor 5:19. Indeed, I do not think reconciliation is to be equated with justification, period. Reconciliation has to do with providing the basis upon which God can now justly forgive those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ. It is to those—and only to those—who exercise faith in Christ that it can be said God does “not count their trespasses against them.” Reconciliation does not mean God has forgiven; it means he stands ready to forgive, based on the atoning work of Christ. The non-imputation of sin is the application of that reconciliation to all those who receive the message and believe (see G.E. Ladd’s discussion of this in his New Testament Theology). Indeed, if we were to equate reconciliation with justification and “non-imputation of sin,” then just what is the “message of reconciliation” mentioned here? That the elect have already been forgiven based solely on Christ’s work on the cross even before they believe? I do not think Dr. White wants to conclude this.

Dr. White continues:
“Clearly, ‘world’ here cannot include those who will, in fact, have their sins held against them.
Actually, I believe that is exactly what is in mind. If we keep in mind that after we’re told “God was reconciling the world to himself” we are immediately entreated by Paul, “Be reconciled to God!”, then we see that the reconciliation God effected according to 5:19 must be personally applied by faith according to 5:20 before the non-imputation of sins is applied. Sin is still held against the man who refuses the “message of reconciliation.”

Dr. White continues:
The "world" here would have to be co-extensive with the blessed man of Romans 4:8, to whom righteousness is imputed apart from works, and we know who those folks are, I'm sure.
If the non-imputation of sin occurred on the cross, then we’re right back to the idea that justification must have taken place for all the elect no later than the point of the cross. Yet, we are specifically told that we must act on the “message of reconciliation” before full reconciliation can take place: “we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!”

In other words, “reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians 5 encompasses two parts: On the one hand, God “reconciled the world to himself” through the death of Christ, and as a result he stands ready to forgive (that is, he now has a just basis for forgiving). The image here is that whereas God's face was once turned away from mankind, it is now turned toward mankind.

On the other hand, we are entreated by Paul, “be reconciled to God!” But why? If God has already accomplished “full reconciliation” and “non-imputation of sin” on the cross, why the further obligation on our part to “be reconciled to God”? The answer is, we do not become fully reconciled to God except through faith in him. God stands ready to forgive, but that forgiveness is not actually applied to anyone until the point of belief. It is at that point that we experience the “non-imputation” of sin found in Rom 4: 6-8, not before.

I think this is also the idea behind Paul’s statement regarding the propitiation of Christ in Rom 3:25: “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (NASB; or, “though faith in his blood,” NIV). The propitiation—the full satisfaction of God’s justice—is applied to us only “through faith.” The propitiation of Rom 3:25 is the “reconciliation” of 2 Cor 5:19-21. But neither one is applied to anyone while in a state of unbelief, whether elect or non-elect. The elect and the non-elect are equally commanded to be reconciled to God. The elect will believe because they have been predestined to do so. The non-elect will just as certainly not believe, and as a result will be held accountable for rejecting that “message of reconciliation”—or, as Peter calls it, the “holy commandment delivered to them.” Once again, how can they be held accountable for rejecting something that was not legitimately offered to them in the first place? And if there is no obligation on the part of the non-elect to believe (since, per limited atonement, they are not included in the gospel call), then how can Jesus maintain in Matt 22:14 that “many are called but few are chosen”? The summary point of that parable, in context, is one that deals with redemption and retribution. In what sense are the many "called" but not "chosen"? Certainly not in the effectual sense. The “calling,” in context, is a general invitation to which some give heed (v. 10) and which others reject (v. 5). I contend that this passage—and the myriads like it—makes no sense unless we view the gospel as a universal call; and that universal call must have a legitimate ground in a universal atonement.

There is a dual purpose to the death of Christ; and that is why the limited atonement camp cannot legitimately charge the 4.5 camp with viewing the universality of the atonement of Christ as an example of Christ failing to accomplish his mission. On the one hand, the death of Christ provides the necessary ground for God’s redemption and forgiveness of his elect. On the other hand, Christ’s death provides the necessary ground for God’s just condemnation of the rest of the world, who reject the command to believe the gospel and be saved.

Indeed, if we wanted to press it (we won’t), the opposite charge could be made against the limited atonement view; namely, that on that view, in his singular intention to save his elect, Christ failed to provide a sufficient basis for condemning the non-elect whom he specifically commands to believe. If the non-elect were not included in the scope of the atonement, then those who refuse to believe in Christ’s substitutionary atonement for their sins cannot legitimately be condemned for their refusal to believe in Christ’s substitutionary atonement for their sins! For in that case, they are merely acting on what is true of them! And yet, the New Testament makes it clear that “whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son” (John 3:18). The reason the non-elect are condemned (at least according to John 3:18) is because they do not believe. But how can they be compelled to believe and be held accountable for refusing to believe if, as limited atonement suggests, the gospel is not extended to them in the first place? I think this is a decisive point against the limited atonement view.

In tomorrow’s blog, we will address the historical side of this debate.