Rockport Sermon

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Brief Response to my son, regarding Mark Driscolls' "Death by Love" and Dr. Bruce Wares' article.

Dear son,
First, let me say that Driscolls new book , "Death by Love", is an extremely valueable book. What a blessing it is to the church and to many lost souls. God bless him and Dr. Breshears for this worthy work. What I am about to say, is being said matter of factly, and I encourage you to search these things out for yourself. Should you come to a different conclusion than me, that is fine. I want to again congratulate you for your accomplishments, in particular, for your choice of reading. And this book would certainly rank in the top of the many recent releases that are a great blessing to the church. I also read, Dr Bruce Ware's article on the mentioned subject, and applaud Dr Ware for his service to Southern and to the church.
Although I respect both Mark Driscoll and Dr. Bruce Ware, I must disagree with the limited/ unlimited view of atonement that they represent. They are good men, and are of great value to the church, but on this point, I believe that although sincere, they are wrong.
Although I understand the tone of this letter to his son, the implications of are simply the historical “four point Calvinism” stand that many Baptists hold to. I personally believe in an atonement that was efficient for the elect only, although certainly sufficient in value for the entire world. This does not mean that the atonement was “potentially” a benefit in particular for every single individual in the entire world at all. This would exclude the doctrine of unconditional election according to the foreknowledge of God. In fact, His foreknowledge of the elect would be no certain foreknowledge at all.
Basically the oxymoron of a limited / unlimited atonement is an old twist of Arminianism which basically states that the elect are those who believe, whom God foreknew would believe. In other words, it is all contingent on the activating of something for man by man. No my son, Salvation is of the Lord, and neither activating of faith for salvation or for the full benefits of the atonement ring true with a Sovereign salvation.

What does Driscoll mean when he says that God “desires” the salvation of all?
Does he mean that God “wills” the salvation of all? If so, then God is not able to accomplish what He wills.

In citing 1 Timothy 4:10, Driscoll mentions Christ “dying” as the Savior of all people in a general way.
First of all, the text in question in no way refers to the death of Christ in reference to all men. Christ is indeed the only Savior and in fact the only sustainer of life and existence. He is said in Pauls’ epistle to the Colossians to uphold all things by the Word of his Power. But here in Timothy Paul clearly refers to GOD, as the Saviour of all men, and in particular, those that believe. This is because God, the creator does indeed bless both the just and the unjust with his blessings of air, rain, food, etc. All life is from God. In fact, God is the Savior of the elect, because it was His plan to save the elect. It was not His plan to save the rest.
Driscoll using the words “Jesus’ dying….” instead of “the living God, who is the Savior…” brings questions to my mind. The references here and in 2 Peter 2:1 are similar to Wares arguments, but leave out some important things.
In Timothy, the entire passage is referring to the Providence of God upon all, and especially His providence on them who would believe, i;e; the elect. It is no secret that God has his hand in a special way on those whom He has ordained to eternal life.
Clearly the reference in I Timothy has nothing whatsoever to do with either the sufficiency or the efficiency of the atonement, which Driscoll later refers to. Although he is correct in his assessment that the atonement is sufficient in its value to redeem the world, and in fact, a world of worlds, the atonement is, as he says, efficient for the elect only.
This is in fact the historical position of those who would be deemed “Calvinist”. Driscoll’s conclusion here certainly falls within the beliefs that most "Calvinists" would espouse, although I really hesitate to use that word, since my belief in election and a limited atonement had nothing to do with Calvin per se.
Again, we would be sure to emphasize that Paul’s use of the word “all” has more to do with, “NOT JUST JEWS”, as is clear in some of his other epistles, which point I would be glad to elaborate on if I have time. This, to me, is a key note in interpreting many passages in James and Hebrews also, not to mention John’s letters.
It is the same in I Timothy 2:4, where the “will of God” is misunderstood, and so the conclusion is easily drawn wrongly, that God “desires” every single individual to be saved. This would mean that God’s will could be frustrated. And of course it can’t. The Sovreign, omnipotent, and all-wise God, could not will and decree something to happen and it not happen. It is a divine impossibility. But He could will that all men, rich and poor, bond and free, Jew and Gentile, etc. would be saved. All men from every context, nation and tribe, etc. Do you see how critical this Jewish understanding of these epistles are?
The entire context of the passage here in fact is Paul’s admonition to godliness, and that those who exercise themselves thereunto, have their reward, even though suffering. The reward is in the labor itself. There is no particular intention of Paul to address atonement or its sufficiency.
Driscolls reference to “a pile of verses” though in a “letter to his son” is inadequate, because we doubt the interpretation of each verse he may refer to by someone whose bent is Arminian.
In fact, here is a quote by Calvin on this passage, who Driscoll asserts would agree with him, after citing this passage.
“Who is the Savior. {1} This is the second consolation, though it depends on the former; for the deliverance of which he speaks may be viewed as the fruit of hope. To make this more clear, it ought to be understood that this is an argument drawn from the less to the greater; for the word swthr {2} is here a general term, and denotes one who defends and preserves. He means that the kindness of God extends to all men. And if there is no man who does not feel the goodness of God towards him, and who is not a partaker of it, how much more shall it be experienced by the godly, who hope in him? Will he not take peculiar care in them? Will he not more freely pour out his bounty on them? In a word, will he not, in every respect, keep them safe to the end?

Calvin’s notes on Col 1:14 have to do with redemption and forgiveness. Surely Driscoll, in citing Calvins comments on expiation, does not think that the sins of the entire world have been covered, or expiated? well, I guess he does in some way. But, in my estimation, this is redemption and only the elect are redeemed.

Driscoll comments also on Calvins notes on Gal 5:12, citing that Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, failing to mention that the text says that Paul’s desire was that some would even be emasculated, and at another time, he called curses on them that did not preach the same gospel as he.
Calvins notes in context have to do with our responsibility to glorify God above all, and that even though Christ may have died for “all men”, i.e. even those Jews whom Paul denounces, we ought to aim at the glory of God before the salvation of men. That was the force of Calvins argument on Gal 5:12

Having said this, I would not disagree that Calvin seems to lean towards a “general” redemption in some of his writings, but this is debated among scholars, and when his writings are closely looked at, it seems that Calvin understood the bent of the Jews to claim the Messiah as only theirs.
For instance, see these notes of Calvin, directly addressing the point from 1 John 2:2:
“the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world.”

Yes, certainly there are universal benefits of Calvary that are apparent. Societal, our laws, our culture, etc. That is not the point. The point is that, certain summations, for instance, that those is hell are somehow “reconciled “ to God, and are no longer rebels, is contradictory to my understanding of scripture.
Those in hell are eternally tormented. What kind of reconciliation could there possibly be? What scripture does he offer that they are no longer rebels?
Wares’ and now Driscolls’ assertion on these facts are no where scripturally based. It is simply an assumption that if all things are now reconciled, that there hell is included, when Paul goes on to specifically mention all things regarding “earth and heaven”. Hell is a thing in and of itself.

Ware and Driscoll also mention their assertion that Christ died so that there might be “bona-fide” offer of the gospel. This is to assert that the offer of the gospel can not be made in “good faith” to everyone, or that it is not a sincere offer of the gospel, unless the atonement could be applied to the person who believes. Of course this is an unnecessary argument, because it is clear that “everyone who believes” is saved. Our responsibility is to preach the gospel to all men, not to save all men. That is God’s job. Our job is to preach the gospel of Christ crucified, dying and being raised for our justification. God’s job is to use His word to save those whom He gives faith. (It might help to have a good understanding also of what the Foreknowledge of God means.)

When Ware and Driscoll talk of a redemption for the entire world and an atonement only for the elect. To me, that doesn’t make sense
What kind of a salvation is a potential salvation?
These and other questions have not been sufficiently addressed by either Ware or Driscoll for my satisfaction.
There is so much more that can be said, but I hope some of these issues that I have raised will only heighten your desire to fully search these things out in scripture for yourself.
Let’s talk more about this and investigate the glories of our atonement further. Especially the fact of the substitutionary aspect which propitiated the wrath of God due us!
All my love,

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