Wednesday, August 30, 2006

New Testament Reflections: Phil 2:1-5

Philippians 2:1-5

Adopting the Right Mindset: The Exhortation

NASB: 1 If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

Literal: If, therefore, any encouragement in Christ; if any consolation of love; if any fellowship of spirit, if any tenderness and compassion; fulfill my joy so that you all think the same thing, the same love having, together in soul, the one thing thinking. [Do] nothing according to selfish ambition nor according to empty glory, but in humility regarding each other of more value than yourselves. Not each one paying attention to the matters of yourselves, but [also] the matters of each other. Have this way of thinking in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

2:1-2 Paul has exhorted the Philippians and comforted them in a variety of ways in his first chapter. He has also attempted to communicate to them the mindset of joy he himself has in the midst of the suffering that stems from opposition and persecution. He now appeals to them, on that basis, to adopt that same mindset: If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

One question that arises in this passage concerns the reference point for the conditionals ("if") in v. 1. Does Paul intend to be completely open-ended here? “If there is any encouragement in Christ—anywhere”; “if there is any consolation of love—anywhere”; “if there is any fellowship of the Spirit—anywhere”; “if any affection and compassion—anywhere.” Although the Greek of v. 1 is vague in this regard, the clauses are almost certainly intended to be elliptical. On such a reading, the phrase “if there is” almost certainly means something like “if I have left you with . . . in this letter.” Hence, v. 1 should be understood as: “If therefore I have left you with any encouragement in Christ in this letter, if I have left you with any consolation of love, if I have affirmed any fellowship of the Spirit, if I have shown you any affection and compassion in this letter.”

Paul has indeed left them with all these things. He has “encouraged them in Christ” in his affirmation of the continued advance of the gospel amid adverse circumstances (1:12-14). He has “consoled them in love” by affirming to them that he holds them in his heart (1:7-8). He has affirmed their “fellowship in spirit” (koinonia = participation) with him in the ministry of the gospel (1:5, 19, 29-30) (“spirit” here may be a reference to the Holy Spirit, or may just as likely be a reference to the fact that Paul and the Philippians are of one spirit in the ministry of the gospel). Paul has also, throughout all this, shown them both “affection” and “compassion.” The conditionals (“if”), however, are not an end in themselves. They act as a basis for an appeal. Paul says in essence, “If I have left you with these things, then in fair exchange, make my joy complete (lit., “fulfill my joy”). How does Paul suggest the Philippians do this? At first blush, it appears Paul merely wants the Philippians to be united with each other, to maintain the same love for each other, to be united in spirit with each other, and to be intent on one purpose among yourselves. There is some indication, not only from these exhortations but others as well (e.g., 1:27, “standing firm in one spirit, contending with one soul”), that the Philippians may have had problems with disunity. Certainly, Paul’s plea to Euodia and Syntyche in 4:2 suggests some kind of internal conflict (however, see my notes on that verse for an alternative understanding of this conflict).

Without minimizing the goal of Paul’s appeal as one of internal unity among the Philippians, it is doubtful that is precisely what Paul intends here. Certainly he wants them to be of the same mind with each other; but more importantly, he wants them to be of the same mind as he. That is the point he is trying to convey here—to adopt his mindset; so that the Philippians are of the same mind (literally, “think the same thing” or “have the same mindset”) as Paul himself, that they have the same love for him as he has for them, that they are united [with him] in spirit, and that they are (literally) thinking the one thing (i.e., the same thing as Paul). This last phrase is nearly identical to the first (“of the same mindset”), and is purposely redundant to bring focus to Paul’s core point—that of having the right mindset. Just what that mindset entails is the topic of vv. 3-5, which crescendos toward the ultimate example of this mindset in vv. 6-11.

2:3 Paul uses the word “to think” (phroneo and cognates) several times in this passage alone. Both the NASB and the NIV translate it as “attitude” in v. 5. That comes close, but in each instance the word “mindset” more nearly captures Paul’s intent. “Attitude,” at least to my thinking, conjures up a fleeting, in-the-moment adjustment of mental behavior; whereas “mindset” is much more a way of thinking or a point of view that carries a sense of permanence.

What exactly is this “way of thinking” Paul wants them to adopt? Negatively, it is to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit; and positively, it is with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself. The word “selfishness” is more correctly “selfish ambition,” which Paul equates with “empty conceit” (literally, “empty glory”). Our actions are the fruit of the way we think. Christianity is not so much about doing the right thing as it is about thinking the right way. Right thinking results in right actions and right behavior. Faulty thinking results in the opposite. If we are self-absorbed, we will act in our own best interest; in the interest of self-preservation rather than in the best interest of the church. “Selfish ambitions” is, in fact, “empty glory”; an attempt to elevate ourselves (or maintain the status we have achieved) so that we can promote our own “glory.”

If our focus is instead on the church, we may end up doing even those things that prove detrimental to us personally. But that is just the mindset each one of us is called to nevertheless: to regard others (Paul has in mind the church in particular) as of higher value than me—more, to do this in humility (tapeinophrosune, literally, “lowliness of mind). A word which in itself encompasses the word “to think,” tapeinophrosune is a distinctively Christian concept, at least in its positive connotation. It is almost invariably a pejorative term when used outside the context of the New Testament. Status was measured (and still is) by being in a position to be called lord, rather than in a position that multiplies the number of people one might address as lord. That required (and still does) looking out for number 1, investing in and boating about one’s own achievements, regardless of how many people must be trampled in the process. To think “in lowliness of mind” was/is, of course, counter-productive to all that. Only a fool would take such an approach to life because it meant (and means) certain failure of personal goals. Hence, one who is “lowly of mind” was not, in the first-century world, thought of in very flattering terms.

2:4 But Paul calls us to be just that, and explains just what he means by regarding others of higher value than self: do not merely look out for (that is, pay attention to) your own personal interests (your own affairs or the matters that concern you), but also for the interests (or matters) of others (lit., “each other”; i.e., those in the church). In a Christian culture in which self-love, self-esteem, and self-affirmation have taken center stage (owing far more to pop-psychology and proof-texting Scripture than to exegesis), and in a church driven by “relevance” and “purpose,” one of the swiftest remedies to the self-absorption that always accompanies such fads is to get your mind off self and onto the church. When one is not constantly thinking about himself, the issue of whether he has a good self esteem or a bad self esteem—and the like—becomes incredibly moot. “Esteem” is something given to those in the church, and particularly to those who have devoted their lives to the ministry of the saints (1 Thess 5:13). It was never intended biblically to be directed toward self.

2:5 Paul finally introduces as the pinnacle of his point the ultimate example of selfless humility—Christ himself: Have this attitude (this way of thinking) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. The mindset Paul wants to impart to the Philippians, he’ll go on to argue, is the self-same mindset operating in Christ himself when he became a man and died on the cross. Philippians 2:6-11 is one of the most hotly disputed passages in the entire New Testament, both in terms of its theology and the precise meaning of the words used. Our treatment will by no means be exhaustive, and will assume certain readings that (to my mind) have been argued successfully elsewhere. There is little to be gained—and much to be delayed—by entering the fray on each disputed point in a commentary of this type. We will instead adopt what I deem the most certain (Evangelical) reading, and comment on the text from that starting point, allowing indulgent exceptions where I think more detail is needed to demonstrate just why we have adopted that particular reading. Having made all the necessary disclaimers, I will no doubt be unable to resist addressing the disputed points.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Notable Series

I have placed the current series on Philippians in the sidebar under the NOTABLE SERIES heading. Chapter one is now complete.

New Testament Reflections: Phil 1:27-30

Philippians 1:27-30

Conduct Amid Persecution

NASB: 27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Literal: 27 Only in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ conduct yourselves, in order that whether coming and seeing you [or] whether being absent I hear the things concerning you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul fighting together for the faith of the gospel. 28 And not being frightened in anything by the ones opposing, which is to them evidence of destruction, but of you salvation, and this from God. 29 Because to you it has been graciously given the in behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also the in behalf of him to suffer. 30 the same struggle having such as you saw in me and now you hear in [reference to] me.

1:27 As we have shown in our comments on the preceding passage, Paul has left his fate open-ended, in spite of the confidence he exudes about his impending release from prison. Here, once again, he entertains the notion that he may not be coming back to the Philippians after all, and so wants to give them further instruction, just in case. The NIV has captured the intent of monos (“only” in the NASB) in its “Whatever happens.” Whether Paul makes it back to them (whether coming and seeing you) or continues his plight in prison (whether being absent I hear the things concerning you), he has but one instruction for the Philippians: Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. The root of the word translated “conduct yourselves” in the NASB (politeuomai) means literally “to live as a citizen.” Paul will later make the connection that “our citizenship (politeuma) is in heaven” (Phil 3:20), not on this earth. We do not hold dual citizenship, but are ambassadors of one country (a heavenly kingdom) to another (an earthly realm). Paul’s instruction, therefore, is to “conduct yourselves as citizens” of Christ’s kingdom in this world.

Such a statement is so all-encompassing of the Christian life that it hardly requires explanation. Any believer who hears it intuitively knows what it entails, even if he does not always or ultimately act on that instinct. If I am living as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, I will be performing those tasks that advance that kingdom, and avoiding the things that do not advance it. But here Paul has something more specific in mind. The goal of his exhortation is to ensure they are standing firm in one spirit. How exactly does Paul envision this “standing firm” should be accomplished? With one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Notwithstanding the NASB’s “one mind” or the NIV’s “one man,” the Greek mia psyche is best translated as “one soul.” It is one’s inmost being that Paul wants active in the defense and advancement of the gospel. But it cannot be done alone; the entire church must be up to the task, and must collectively, as one soul, “strive together” (the word can also mean “fight together”). Hence, as much as the ambassador model holds true for the Christian living in this world (whose primary role is reconciliation), Paul’s point here is much more forceful. His imagery is rather that of a soldier infiltrating the enemy’s camp to advance his Captain’s cause while at all costs defending the ground of that cause—in this case, “the faith of the gospel.”

What is striking is that Paul envisages this “striving for the faith of the gospel” as the single most important mission of the church; and he assumes it is best done by the church collectively. Paul would surely disapprove of a church in which the “defense of the gospel” (v. 16) is a secondary activity relegated to one or a mere handful of individuals. This is an activity that Paul sees as a shared goal by all in the church. Soldiers in battle quickly fall if they separate and each one is left fending for himself. But they gain ground when they move together. Paul’s singular concern is that the church is “standing firm,” after all, and this can be done only by propping each other up, standing side by side and back to back as it were, “fighting together with one soul.” Any church found downplaying the importance of this mission, or relegating it to some obscure “parachurch” ministry, has missed the Apostle’s message.

1:28 It is little wonder that most churches today simply relegate this mission to parachurch ministries. After all, the prospect of “fighting together for the faith of the gospel” usually results in the unpleasantness of opposition. No one but the contentious enjoys conflict; but it is to conflict we are called nevertheless. Paul makes no pretense of what the outcome will be when defending the faith, and he anticipates the church’s reaction to it by issuing another exhortation: in no way alarmed by your opponents—literally, “and not being frightened in anything by the ones opposing.” Opposition will always accompany a defense of the gospel. People do not like to be told they are in error, and that that error carries consequences for them. And so, in various ways they lash out, attacking the source of the message. Historically that sometimes takes the form of a counter argument, sometimes persecution and confiscation of property, and sometimes imprisonment and death. To be sure, there is little that is more disheartening than being opposed and attacked merely for speaking the truth. It is discouraging to be the recipient of slander, gossip, and bad will; and frightening to know your very life may be at stake.

Such was the situation in Philippi, a major outpost of the Roman empire, populated by Roman soldiers who were tasked with upholding legal religions (religio licita) and squashing illegal ones. Paul and Silas had been thrown in jail there many years prior (Acts 16), and the church there was in no better shape now that their ringleader, Paul, had landed in prison once again, but this time in Rome. It is in such a context that Paul exhorts them not to fear the opposition. But under the circumstances, how could they avoid it? Paul’s explanation is not as clear as we might like: which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. The first question we might ask here is just what is the antecedent of the relative pronoun “which”? That is to say, just what is the “sign of destruction” envisaged here? The Philippians’ fear; the attacks of those who oppose, or both? Second, just who is the object of destruction in the phase “sign of destruction for them”? The Philippian believers or those who oppose them? And third, what does the phrase “but of salvation for you” mean?

In answer to the first question, although the antecedent of the relative pronoun “which” could grammatically be the Philippian believers’ fear, that solution does not go well with the phrase “but of salvation for you,” which is presented as a coordinating clause to “sign of destruction for them.” Fear has no place in the salvation of God’s people (1 John 4:18), and so could not act as a “sign of salvation.” Hence, the antecedent of the relative pronoun is much more likely the persecution and opposition the Philippian believers were experiencing.

The answer to the second question is a bit more difficult to determine. Do we take “sign of destruction” as referring to the Philippian believers from the viewpoint of the opposition, or as referring to the opposition from the viewpoint of the Philippian believers? For reference sake, I have enlisted the help of three translations below:

which is to/for them a sign/evidence of destruction, but your salvation, and this from God (literal translation)

which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God (NASB)

this is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-- and that by God (NIV)

While the NASB has left the matter open, the NIV has come down on the side of the first option with its “This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed.” On this rendering, however, the “sign to them” is a sign they will never actually see. After all, (1) how exactly would their persecution of the church act as a “sign” that they themselves will be destroyed, and (2) who would proceed with an action if he has accurately discerned the sign and cognitively knows he will be destroyed for it? Conceivably, the sign could one issued by God for the benefit of the Philippian believers. But in that case, it is difficult to envisage in what way Paul could rightly say is it a “sign to them” (i.e., the opposition). Arguably, it is even more difficult to know in what way this persecution could act as a sign to the same persecutors that the Philippian believers “will be saved” (NIV).

Much of the confusion clears up if we note two things that can be seen in the literal translation above. First, the dative case personal pronoun autois can be read just as readily “to them” as “for them” (as any first-year Greek student knows, either translation is equally valid). Second, the word translated “sign” (endeiksis) is just as readily translated “evidence/indication.” The only other places it occurs are in Rom 3:25 & 26 (both occurrences translated “demonstrate” or “demonstration”), and 2 Cor 8:24, where the meaning is clearly “proof” or “evidence”—it is this latter option which I will argue is operative in the present passage.

These things noted, the phrase is to be translated (literally) as something like, “which [opposition] is, to them, evidence of destruction, but your salvation, and this from God”; and means something like, “While this opposition you are experiencing is evidence to them that you will eventually be destroyed (by the Roman officials who will be alerted to this opposition and will begin investigating your religio illicita status), in reality it is objective evidence of your salvation.”

One final question surrounds the use of the phrase but of salvation for you. Paul has used this word before (1:19) when referring to his anticipation that his own present circumstances will “turn out for his salvation” (translated “deliverance” in the NASB and NIV, though unjustly). There we saw that the word is used as a likely reference to his impending death. But that is really only half the story. The word “salvation” (soteria), as used by Paul in 1:19, 1:28, and 2:12, implies more than the end result. For Paul it includes the life, actions, and conduct that lead to that result. His designated “way of salvation” in 1:19 is that he would “magnify Christ,” and in the process “not be made ashamed in anything” leading up to or upon reaching that point. In 2:12, Paul will instruct the Philippians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Here as in 1:19, “salvation” is viewed as an entire way of life, carved out by God and leading to an ultimate climax.

This usage, although rare, is not without precedent outside this letter. In 2 Tim 2:15, in the context of the proper role for a woman, Paul insists that he does not want women “to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (2:12). They are, in contrast, to “learn in quietness and full submission” (2:11, NIV). That is their role in relation to authority in the church. Paul explains that the reasons for this can be traced back to creation, and are two-fold: (1) Adam was created first (a sort of authority by priority, 2:13), and (2) Eve was “deceived” by the serpent and “fell into transgression” (imposing a legal ruling of sorts on all daughters of Eve, 2:14).

It is not our purpose here to enter the fray of the debate surrounding the role of women in the church. What is of special interest to us is what comes next. Paul says, “But women will be saved through childbearing-- if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” The word “saved” here (sozo) is the verbal form of soteria. This is not some alternative means of justification before God, as though Men are justified by faith and women are justified by having children. Paul is rather speaking of the role of the Christian woman on this earth before God. Rather than occupying their lives with pursuits that God has carved out for men (doctrinal teaching, exercising authority in the church, etc.), they are to pursue those things that fall along the path God has carved out for women—domestic activities, represented here by childbearing. That is their path of “salvation,” not aspiring to teach and to exercise authority. Those things, in Paul’s view, are part of the “salvation” path God has carved out for the man.

In a very similar way, Paul insists that the present opposition of the Philippians is part of this “salvation path.” It is easy to lose the Christian perspective on this when undergoing opposition and persecution. The internal turmoil that accompanies personal attacks—whether physical, legal, or merely verbal—often takes precedence over wisdom and insight. It is just like Paul to put things into spiritual perspective; and that is just what he does here with the little phrase, and that from God. It is tempting to associate this phrase only with the salvation of the Philippian believers, and not with the persecution itself. But that would be a mistake. The current opposition is no accident. Paul envisions both coming from God, which idea becomes even clearer in v. 29.

1:29 Part of the “salvation path” carved out for us is unique to each individual. For Paul, it was impending death and then ultimate martyrdom (1:19)—something to which not all Christians are called. Part of this path, as we have seen in 1 Tim 2:15, is unique to each gender. But the largest part is common to all Christians: For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. Paul now makes clear just what he means by the phrases “your salvation” and “that from God” in v. 28. “Suffering”—here and elsewhere in the Bible, it is important to note, specifically in the form of external opposition and persecution due to taking a stand for the gospel; not the morbid self-flagellation of Roman Catholic tradition—is part and parcel of the Christian life. As such it stands as the most glaring contradiction of Christianity as we know it in the Western world today. Persecution and suffering are things we hear about at a safe distance.

But could it not be argued, someone might ask, that this is the salvation path for the Philippian church (and perhaps other churches as well), and not for the whole church? Could Paul’s words “it has been granted to you . . . to suffer for his sake” be taken in limited application, intended only for to the Philippians? Exegetically, this is an option; theologically, it is not. There are just too many other places in Scripture that say the same thing. Jesus insists the very basis for this persecution is our election and calling out of this word: “but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn 15:19); and guarantees that his followers would be mistreated as he was: “A slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:20), “If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!” (Matt 10:25). Paul affirms this is the general and expected fate of the church when he says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor 4:8-9). When the Thessalonians were undergoing trials of persecution, Paul reassures them by reminding them this is just what is to be expected: “You know quite well that we were destined for [these trials]. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know” (2 Thess 2:2-4). That this would be no limited persecution of selected churches, but a way of life for each Christian is evident from Paul’s statement elsewhere: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).

But such persecution and opposition is no sign of God’s displeasure. Quite the contrary; the context makes it clear that persecution/opposition is a good thing from the standpoint of the Christian way of thinking, precisely because it is something determined for us by God himself. It is counted as a privilege that has been granted to us. Indeed, it is a gift “graciously given” (charizomai, from charis = “grace”) by the hand of God. Such people are “blessed,” according to Jesus: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” (Matt 5:11-12). And this was certainly the attitude of the first believers, for after being flogged for their stand for the gospel the apostle left the Sanhedrin “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41).

Moreover, this “grant of suffering” for Christ goes hand in hand with our very “grant” to believe: “For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Strikingly, Paul does not attempt here to persuade the Philippians that the very ability they have to believe in Christ is a “grant” from God given to some and not to others. Indeed, he assumes this is common knowledge for the Christian, and presents it as a mere throw-away statement intended only as a basis for helping them to understand why they are now being persecuted. Paul tells them, in essence, to view their current suffering with the same joy they had upon learning of their election to salvation. Just as God sovereignly led them to faith in Christ through his gracious “grant,” so also he is sovereignly controlling the circumstances of the persecution they are now experiencing. This persecution teaches them the mindset of Paul (which Paul will soon reveal is the very mindset of Christ, 2:1-11) regarding his purpose on this earth; a mere vessel of Christ to be used up and disposed of at His good pleasure. In Paul’s mind, how could that not be an occasion for rejoicing!

1:30 Indeed, Paul’s earlier statement regarding their “partnership” with him “in the gospel” (1:5) now takes a definite form; because in undergoing this opposition, they are experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me. The Philippians knew firsthand of Paul’s persecution. They witnessed his incarceration with Silas so many years before (Acts 16). And now (if not then) they know his joyful mindset through that persecution, and his great hope that they will come to share that mindset. Paul will expand on this mindset in chapter 2.

Monday, August 21, 2006

This Joyful Eastertide

Steve Hays has written a dissertation-length work refuting a publication that purports to overturn the evidence for the Resurrection. Anyone who has read Steve's blog knows he and his fellow triabloguers put out massive amounts of material, particularly in response to atheist writings, that have done much to strengthen the brethren and encourage the church. The best news is that this is a free, downloadable e-book, available both here (give it a minute to download--it's huge) and now on our Apologetic Resources page.

The book also has contributions by Jason Engwer and Gene Bridges

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Follow-up to the "L" Word

If you are a subscriber to HBO, the title of this post is sure to mislead you. I'm not going to address the HBO series here. L = Limited, not . . . what you might think it means.

In any case, I stumbled upon this excerpt from a book by D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 2000). It is helpful in that (with the exception of his treatment of 1 John 2:2) it expresses my own view on this issue. Here is a short excerpt from the link. Click this link for the full thing:

"I argue, then, that both Arminians and Calvinists should rightly affirm that Christ died for all, in the sense that Christ’s death was sufficient for all and that Scripture portrays God as inviting, commanding, and desiring the salvation of all, out of love (in the third sense developed in the first chapter). Further, all Christians ought also to confess that, in a slightly different sense, Christ Jesus, in the intent of God, died effectively for the elect alone, in line with the way the Bible speaks of God’s special selecting love for the elect (in the fourth sense developed in the first chapter)."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Time to Stop Making the "L" a Litmus Test for Reformed

About a year and a half ago, I carried on a dialogue with James White on the extent of the atonement. The entire series may be found under NOTABLE SERIES in the sidebar to the right, but here are the links:

Christmas Calvinist
Limited Atonement or Intentional Atonement?
A Brief Aside
When Does Our Union with Christ's Death Occur? (Part 1)
When Does Our Union with Christ's Death Occur? (Part 2)
When Does Our Union with Christ's Death Occur? (Part 3)
The Limited Atonement Debate in Historical Perspective

Since that time, it appears, that debate has been reopened by some other bloggers. One of the resources that came up in the discussion is a very helpful outline from Bruce Ware, Professor of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ware calls his position (II.C on the outline) alternately "Un/Limited Atonement," Multiple Intensions View," and "Four Point Calvinism"--though I have doubts about the third title since it is also used by those who see no multiple intention.

In any case, Ware argues for his "multiple intentions" view in a virtually identical way as I argue for what I have called "4.5 Calvinism." I would add to that outline the historical evidence that many of the earlier reformed writers also held to this view (including Calvin himself), and that full-blown five-point calvinism did not begin to hold sway until much later in the game.

So, when someone refers to 5-point calvinism as "the reformed view," I have to ask, According to whom? Without doubt, there are many in the reformed camp today who hold to all five points of TULIP. But that certainly has not been the historical reformed view (see my final installment to that debate at this link); and so it is an error, plain and simple, for anyone in that camp to claim their view is "the reformed view."

It is time for us--as those who fully affirm the complete and utter sovereignty of God, the divine decree of God that he has determined all things that shall come to pass, and the election of those God has chosen from the foundations of the world through no action, potential merit, or foreseen effort of their own--to stop making the "L" a litmus test for reformed theology. If you prefer to hold to the "L" (though I think you are on exegetically precarious ground to do so), well and good. I embrace you as a reformed believer who is in error on that point. But the minute you make statements like the "L" represents the reformed view--and anyone who denies it is some kind of Arminian--then you are speaking in a historical vacuum, preferring theological ramifications to exegetical observations, and unnecessarily alienating those who are otherwise your allies. In a word, you marginalize yourself by drawing a circle around "reformed" that excludes all but a small minority of those who enthusiastically affirm the sovereignty of God in the redemption of man.