Principles of Comparative Studies

[The following excerpt is taken from John H. Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Baker Academic, 2006), Chapter 1]

“Ten important principles must be kept in mind when doing comparative

1. Both similarities and differences must be considered.

2. Similarities may suggest a common cultural heritage or cognitive
environment rather than borrowing.

3. It is not uncommon to find similarities at the surface but differences at the
conceptual level and vice versa.

4. All elements must be understood in their own context as accurately as
possible before cross-cultural comparisons are made (i.e., careful background study must precede comparative study).

5. Proximity in time, geography, and spheres of cultural contact all increase the possibility of interaction leading to influence.

6. A case for literary borrowing requires identification of likely channels of

7. The significance of differences between two pieces of literature is
minimized if the works are not the same genre.

8. Similar functions may be performed by different genres in different

9. When literary or cultural elements are borrowed they may in turn be
transformed into something quite different by those who borrowed them.

10. A single culture will rarely be monolithic, either in a contemporary cross-
section or in consideration of a passage of time.[16]”

Cultural Dimension of Language and Literature

[The following excerpt is taken from John H. Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Baker Academic, 2006), Chapter 1]

“When we study an ancient text, we cannot make words mean whatever we want them to, or assume that they meant the same to the ancient audience that they do to a modern audience. Language itself is a cultural convention, and since the Bible and other ancient documents use language to communicate, they are bound to a culture. As interpreters, then, we must adapt to the language/culture matrix of the ancient world as we study the Old Testament. But as P. Michalowski has pointed out, “It is one thing to state banalities about ‘the Other,’ or about the inapplicability of western concepts to non-western modes of thought; it is something quite different actually to step outside one’s frame of reference and attempt a proper analysis.”[9]

When comparative studies are done at the cognitive environment level, trying to understand how people thought about themselves and their world, a broader methodology can be used. For instance, when literary pieces are compared to consider the question of dependency, the burden of proof is appropriately on the researcher to consider the issues of propinquity and transmission—that is, would the peoples involved have come into contact with one another’s literature, and is there a mechanism to transmit said literature from one culture to the other? Literary questions of genre, structure, and context would all be investigated as well as geographical, chronological, and ethnic dimensions.[10] When considering larger cultural concepts or worldviews, however, such demands would not be as stringent, though they could not be ignored altogether. When we see evidence in the biblical text of a three-tiered cosmos, we have only to ask, Does the concept of a three-tiered cosmos exist in the ancient Near East? Once it is ascertained that it does, our task becomes to try to identify how Israel’s perception of the cosmos might have been the same or different from what we find elsewhere. We need not figure out how Israel would have gotten such a concept or from whom they would have “borrowed” it. Borrowing is not the issue, so methodology does not have to address that. Likewise this need not concern whose ideas are derivative. There is simply common ground across the cognitive environment of the cultures of the ancient world.[11]”

The Lord’s Prayer (Part 2)

Verse: Matthew 6:10

A) English Translations

KJV: Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. NASB: ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. NLT: May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

B) Greek

ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου·
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου,
ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς·


Source: Continue reading “The Lord’s Prayer (Part 2)”

God’s Sovereignty in relation to Man’s sinful acts

[The following excerpt is taken from Henry Clarence Thiessen’s Lectures in Systematic Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1979), pp.124-125]

“How then do the sinful acts of men fit into the program of a sovereign God? Does God necessitate sin? Several incidents make it appear that way. God hardened Pharoah’s heart (Exod. 10:27); it was sin for David to number Israel, yet the Lord moved him to do it (2 Sam. 24:1; cf. 1 Chron. 21:1); God gave the sinner up to more sin (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28); he shut up all in disobedience (Rom. 11:32); and, during the tribulation, God will send a deluding influence so that unbelievers will believe a lie (2 Thess. 2:11). If God is not the author of sin (Hab. 1:13; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; 2:16), how can these incidents be explained? How is God related to man’s sinful acts?

This can be answered in four ways. (1) Often God restrains man from the sin which man intends to do. This is called “preventative providence.” God said to Abimelech, “I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her” (Gen. 20:6). David prayed, “Also keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me” (Ps. 19:13; cf. Matt. 6:13). God has promised not to allow the believer to be tempted above what he can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).

(2) God, instead of actively restraining man from doing evil, will sometimes permit sin to take its course. This is called “permissive providence.” In Hosea 4:7, God said, “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.” God “permitted all the nations to go their own ways.” (Acts 14:16; cf. 2 Chron. 32:31; Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).

(3) Further, God uses directive providence. He allows evil but directs the way it goes. Jesus said to Judas, “What  you do, do quickly” (John 13:27). Those involved in the crucifixion of Christ did what God predestined to occur (Acts 2:23; 4:27f.). Man’s intent was evil, but God used this evil intent to accomplish his will. God used the wrath of man to praise him (Ps. 76:10; cf. Isa. 10:5-15).

(4) Finally, God, through restrictive providence, determines the limits to which evil and its effects may go. He said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him” (Job 1:12; cf. 2:6; 1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Thess. 2:7; Rev. 20:2f.).

From these considerations it is clear that all evil acts of the creature are under the complete control of God. They can occur only by his permission, and insofar as he permits them. Though they are evil in themselves, he overrules them for good. Thus the wicked conduct of Joseph’s brethren, the obstinacy of Pharaoh, the lust for conquest of the heathen nations that invaded the Holy Land and finally carried the people into captivity, the rejection and crucifixion of Christ, the persecution of the church, and the wars and revolutions among the nations have all been overruled for God’s purpose and glory.”

God alone is good by nature

[The following is an extract from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae: Volume 2, Existence and Nature of God: 1a. 2-11 (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp.89-90]

“For to be called ‘good’ a thing must be perfect. Now there is a threefold perfection in things: firstly, they are established in existence; secondly, they possess in addition certain accidents necessary to perfect their activity; and a third perfection comes when they attain some extrinsic goal. Thus the primary perfection of fire lies in existing according to its own substantial form, a secondary perfection consists in heat, lightness, dryness, and so on; and a third perfection is being at rest in its appropriate place.

Now this threefold perfection belongs by nature to no caused thing, but only to God; for he alone exists by nature, and in him there are no added accidents (power, wisdom and the like which are accidental to other things belonging to him by nature, as already noted). Moreover, he is not disposed towards some extrinsic goal, but is himself the ultimate goal of all other things. So it is clear that only God possess every kind of perfection by nature. He alone therefore is by nature good.

Hence: 1. Being one does not involve being perfect, but only being undivided, and things belongs to everything by nature. For the natures of simple things are both undivided and indivisible, and the natures of composite things are at least undivided. So things whilst necessarily one by nature, are not, as we have shown, necessarily good by nature.

2. Although things are good inasmuch as they exist, nevertheless existence is not the nature of any created thing, and so it does not follow that created things are good by nature.

3. The goodness of a created thing is not its nature, but something additional: either its existence, or some added perfection, or some relatedness to a goal. This additional goodness however is said to be good in the same way that it is said to exist. Now it is said to exist as a mode which something exists, not as something having its own mode of existence. And so it is said to be good because things that possess it are good, not because it itself possess some other goodness making it good.”

Introduction to Soteriology (Debates)

This article is a follow up from our previous articles, also on an introduction to soteriology, which focuses on:

i) Creeds & Confessions[1]

ii) Books[2]

This article contains links to recorded debates on the doctrine of salvation. Debates are a good way to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a position as the debaters will rebut and cross-examine one another.

Arminianism – Calvinism

Calvinism – Traditionalism

Arminianism – Traditionalism

*None at the time of writing


[1] “Introduction to Soteriology (Creeds & Confessions).” Laikos Theologos. Accessed October 15, 2019.

[2] “Introduction to Soteriology (Books).” Laikos Theologos. Accessed October 15, 2019.

The Literature of the Old Testament (1913) [Chapter 10]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]



A) About the author of the chapter:

George Foot Moore “graduated from Yale College in 1872 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1877, in 1878 Moore was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry and until 1883 was pastor of the Putnam Presbyterian Church, Zanesville, Ohio.

He was Hitchcock professor of the Hebrew language and literature at Andover Theological Seminary, 1883–1902. In 1902 he became professor of theology and in 1904 professor of the history of religion at Harvard University.” [1]


B) Chapter Summary:

“First Samuel shows how the conquest and occupation of central Palestine by the Philistines led to the establishment of a national kingdom under Saul, a Benjamite; narrates the rise of his rival, the Judæan David, and the feud between them, down to the disastrous battle with the Philistines at Mt. Gilboa in which Saul and his gallant sons fell. Second Samuel is the history of David’s reign and the tragedy of his house, the conclusion of which, the intrigue which raised Solomon to the throne and the death of the aged king, is treated as the prelude to Solomon’s reign and carried over into 1 Kings.”[1]

“Chapter 9, in which Saul is a young man in his father’s house, does not tally with c. 14, where he has a grown-up son. The author of this narrative made it up from traditions of diverse origin, some of them more strictly historical, others embellished with legendary traits. In its main features, however, it gives us a trustworthy account of the establishment of the kingdom. In c. 13, the breach with Samuel, vs. 7b-15a (with x. 8 which prepares for it), are not part of the original narrative; c. 15 gives another account of the origin of this breach, which was evidently a standing feature of tradition. In the remaining chapters of 1 Samuel the central interest is the relations of David to Saul. Here also there are not only two main literary sources but evidence of variant traditions underlying the oldest narrative, and of the additions by later editors, sometimes of their conception, sometimes taken from old and good sources.”[2]

“It must suffice to say that the further on we go, the more the older and better of the histories predominates. In 2 Samuel almost the whole is from this source (c. 7 is a notable exception, in the spirit and manner of the seventh century). Abridgment and transposition have brought matters into disorder at some points; but 2 Sam. 9-20 is a well-preserved piece of continuous narrative, of which 1 Kings 1-2 is the sequel. 2 Sam. xxi. 1-14 and c. 24 are from the same source, but must originally have stood at an earlier point in the history; their present position is best explained by supposing that they were once omitted—which their contents make very natural—and subsequently restored from a completer copy, not in their proper connection but in an appendix.”[3]

“The history of Saul and David gave little invitation to a moralizing improvement such as we have found in Judges and shall find again in Kings. Whatever faults those heroes had, a propensity to the worship of heathen gods could not be laid to them. The national uprising against the Philistines was, in fact, a revival of religion. If in times of peace men sought the blessing of the gods of the soil (the Baals) upon their tillage, in war their only reliance was on Jehovah, the god of Israel. Nor was the worship of Jehovah at the village sanctuaries (high places) or upon altars erected for the nonce, illegitimate, even in deuteronomic theory, till God had taken up his sole abode in Solomon’s temple.”[4]

“Its historical value is also very high. The account of David’s later years in 2 Sam. 9-20; 2 Kings 1-2 bears all the marks of contemporary origin. It comes from one who not only knew the large political events of the reign, but was intimately informed about the life of the court, and the scandals, crimes, and intrigues in the king’s household which clouded the end of his glorious career. These things are narrated with an objectivity and impartiality which cannot fail to impress the reader. The author has a high admiration for David, but this does not lead him to gloze over his faults or even his grave sins, nor to disguise the weakness of his rule in his own house which was the cause of so much unhappiness.”[5]

The continuity is, however, only a narrative continuity; historically there are great gaps in it, or, more exactly, the traditions cluster about only a few points, such as the exodus and the invasion of Palestine, and these are embellished with a wealth of legendary and mythical circumstance beneath which the facts are effectually hidden. The nature of this material may be judged from the fact that between Joshua and Eli there are only the episodes of the judges, strung on a chronological string, generalized as experiences of all Israel, and put under a theological judgment—invaluable as pictures of civilization, but as a history of a couple of centuries (the chronology says four) evidently insufficient.”[6]

“This earliest book of history is commonly designated in the Pentateuch and Joshua by the symbol J. It is disputed whether the oldest history of the founding of the kingdom in Samuel should be regarded as a continuation of J. If it were meant thereby to affirm unity of authorship of this strand from Genesis to Samuel, that would be saying much more than the facts warrant; but there is through the whole so noteworthy a congruity of conception and sameness of excellence in style that it is not inappropriate to use for it the one symbol J in the sense of the oldest Judæan history.”[7]

[1] pp.91-92

[2] pp.93-94

[3] pp.94-95

[4] p.95

[5] p.96

[6] p.99

[7] pp.99-100


Jewish Theology Systematically and Historically Considered (1918) [Chapter 7]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Torah – The Divine Instruction


A) About the author of the chapter:

Kaufman Kohler “… was educated at the Universities of Munich, Berlin and Leipzig, (1865-69), and received the degree of Ph.D. from the University of Erlangen in 1868.” [1]

“Feb. 26, 1903, he was elected to the presidency of Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati.” [2]



B) Chapter Summary:

“During the Babylonian Exile the prophetic word became the source of comfort and rejuvenation for the Jewish people. Now in its place Ezra the Scribe made the Book of the Law of Moses the pivot about which the entire life of the people was to revolve. By regular readings from it to the assembled worshipers, he made it the source of common instruction.”[1]

“Upon the Pentateuch was built up the divine service of the Synagogue as well as the whole system of communal life, with both its law and ethics.”[2]

“The prophets and other sacred books were looked upon only as means of “opening up” or illustrating the contents of the Torah.  These other parts of the Mikra (“the collection of books for public reading”) were declared to be inferior in holiness, so that, according to the Rabbinical rule, they were not even allowed to be put into the same scroll as the Pentateuch.”[3]

“… neither the number, order, nor the division of the Biblical books was fixed. The Talmud gives 24, Josephus only 22.96 Tradition claims a completely divine origin only for the Pentateuch or Torah, while the rabbis often point out the human element in the other two classes of the Biblical collection.”[4]

“The traditional belief in the divine origin of the Torah includes not only every word, but also the accepted interpretation of each letter, for both written and oral law are ascribed to the revelation to Moses on Mt. Sinai, to be transmitted thence from generation to generation. Whoever denies the divine origin of either the written or the oral law is declared to be an unbeliever who has no share in the world to come, according to the Tannaitic code, and consequently according to Maimonides also.”[5]

“Originally, no doubt, Torah signified the instruction given by the priests on ritual or juridical matters. Out of these decisions arose the written laws (Toroth), which the priesthood in the course of time collected into codes. After a further process of development they appeared as the various books of Moses, which were finally united into the Code or Torah. This Torah was the foundation of the new Judean commonwealth, the “heritage of the congregation of Jacob.”[6]

“Judaism has the two factors, the priest with his regard for the law and the prophet with his ethical teaching; and the Jewish Torah embodies both aspects, law and doctrine. These two elements became more and more correlated, as the different parts of the Pentateuch which embodied them were molded together into the one scroll of the Law. In fact, the prophet Jeremiah, in denouncing the priesthood for its neglect of the principles of justice, and rebuking scathingly the people for their wrongdoing, pointed to the divine law of righteousness as the one which should be written upon the hearts of men.”[7]

“In a still larger sense the Pentateuch as a whole contains priestly law and universal religion intertwined. In it the eternal verities of the Jewish faith, God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and moral government of the world, are conveyed in the historical narratives as an introduction to the law.”[8]

“Thus the Torah as the expression of Judaism was never limited to a mere system of law. At the outset it served as a book of instruction concerning God and the world and became ever richer as a source of knowledge and speculation, because all knowledge from other sources was brought into relation with it through new modes of interpretation. Various systems of philosophy and theology were built upon it. Nay more, the Torah became divine Wisdom itself, the architect of the Creator, the beginning and end of creation.”[9]

“While the term Torah thus received an increasingly comprehensive meaning, the rabbis, as exponents of orthodox Judaism, came to consider the Pentateuch as the only book of revelation, every letter of which emanated directly from God. The other books of the Bible they regarded as due only to the indwelling of the holy spirit, or to the presence of God, the Shekinah. Moreover, they held that changes by the prophets and other sacred writers were anticipated, in essentials, in the Torah itself, and were therefore only its expansions and interpretations. Accordingly, they are frequently quoted as parts of the Torah or as “words of tradition.”[10]

“Orthodox Judaism, then, accepted as a fundamental doctrine the view that both the Mosaic Law and its Rabbinical interpretation were given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai.”[11]

“To them and to us the real Torah is the unwritten moral law which underlies the precepts of both the written law and its oral interpretation. From this point of view, Moses, as the first of the prophets, becomes the first mediator of the divine legislation, and the original Decalogue is seen to be the starting point of a long process of development, from which grew the laws of righteousness and holiness that were to rule the life of Israel and of mankind.”[12]  

[1] p.42

[2] Ibid.

[3] pp.42-43

[4] p.43

[5] Ibid.

[6] p.44

[7] pp.44-45

[8] p.45

[9] Ibid.

[10] pp.45-46

[11] p.46

[12] Ibid.

Facebook Discussion on the Atonement

I came across an interesting discussion on Facebook involving the atonement. The question revolved around whether or not Jesus has “forgiven and paid the price for those who are in hell.”

The original poster, in answering the question, said:

“Yes I do believe that Jesus has paid the price for them but has [sic] not forgiven because they didn’t respond in faith!

The provision is unlimited but the application is only by faith. So those who are in hell are not there because they are sinners & Christ did not provide an atonement for them but rather that Christ provided the atonement for them but they rejected it.”

The objector then replied, inter alia, the following:

“With all due respect, I think your position that [Jesus paid but they suffer for their rejection] fails for 2 main reasons: (A) Logical Reasons & (B) Biblical Reasons…

A. Logical Reasons

Logically the position is incoherent because it fails to account for those who never heard the gospel. Here are 3 questions to consider:

i. Did those who never hear the gospel reject it?

ii. Shouldn’t they be saved because Jesus died for them and they never rejected it?

iii. If your answer to (II) is “yes”, then why bother preaching the gospel? Ignorance would be bliss [Literally], wouldn’t it?

Furthermore, it would be a logical contradiction to claim Jesus died for all sins of all men and yet send them to hell for the sin of rejection. If Christ died for ALL sins then He also died for the sin of rejecting the gospel. Your only way out is to claim that rejecting Christ is not a sin? Do you want to take this exit route?

B. Biblical Reasons:

Biblically, people are sent to hell not for rejecting Christ but for their sins and disobedience:

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 5:6)

In the context of Ephesians 5, a list of sins are presented, none of which have anything to do with rejecting the gospel. We find a similar list in Colossians 3 and Paul repeats the same warning

“For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6).

Nowhere does the Scripture teach that the provision is unlimited. It does teach, however, that faith itself is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9).”

The Logical Reasons Objection

The Incoherence Objection

i) Incoherence 1

One option to avoid the incoherence is to view things from a Molinistic framework[1] – namely that, before the foundation of the world, God middle knew which individuals and/or people groups would freely accept or freely reject the Gospel should it be presented to them.

In light of this knowledge, God actualizes a possible and feasible world in which some individuals who would freely reject the Gospel are not presented with the Gospel. Paul Copan puts it as such:

“God has arranged this world in such a way that those who never hear the gospel would not have responded to it even if they had heard it. Those who are beyond the reaches of the Gospel in the actual world could be those who would never have responded to the Gospel in any possible world.”[2]

These individuals are still deemed to have rejected the atonement which was provided for them because the atonement would have applied to them had they freely chosen to accept it.

Another option to avoid the incoherence is to embrace the inclusivist position in the context of those who have not heard the gospel. John Sanders explains that, for the inclusivist, “The unevangelized may be saved if they respond in faith to God based on the revelation they have.”[3]

Inclusivism advocates that “salvation found only in Jesus Christ is made universally available.”[4] This universal availability should not be confused with universalism which espouses that “no human being will be condemned or allowed to suffer pain and separation forever.”[5] Universalism teaches that all will be saved.

John Sanders provides some Scriptural support for inclusivism:

“Inclusivists glean from various biblical texts an optimism of salvation, for they see God working outside the bounds of ethnic Israel as well as the church. God made a universal covenant through Noah, and God’s choice to work through Abraham was for the purpose of blessing the nations (see Genesis 12:3). Scripture mentions several nations for whom God provided land by driving out the previous inhabitants (see Deuteronomy 2:5, 9, 19, 21–22; 2 Kings 5:1). The prophet Amos declared that God had performed events similar to the exodus of Israel for other nations (see Amos 9:7). Attention is drawn to the so-called “holy pagans” in scripture.[33] God seems to have looked favorably upon non-Israelites such as Melchizedek, Jethro, Job, and the Queen of Sheba. On several occasions Jesus commented on the extraordinary faith He discerned among Gentiles such as the Canaanite woman (see Matthew 15:21–8) and the Roman centurion (see Matthew 8:10). Though God was doing a special work in Israel, God was working and was known outside her borders.

The Gentile that inclusivists highlight is Cornelius, a God-fearing uncircumcised Gentile who prayed continually. One day an angel informed him that his prayers and alms were a memorial offering of which God took note, and he was given instructions to send for Peter (see Acts 10:4). Peter arrives and informs the household about the redemption in Jesus, whereupon the household is baptized in the name of Jesus. In light of these events, Peter declares, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him” (see Acts 10:34–35). The welcome of God extends outside Israel and outside the church.”[6]

This view seems to also find support from Acts 17, Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill.

Acts 17:22-31 NASB

[22] Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.

[23] For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

[24] The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;

[25] nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;

[26] and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,

[27] that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

[28] for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’

[29] Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.

[30] Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,

[31] because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Caveat: I do not know if this is a position held to by the original poster but from my understanding of incoherence 1 and inclusivism, in the context of those who have not heard the gospel, the latter would resolve the incoherence.

Caveat: The author does not hold to inclusivism and is concerned about views within the inclusivist camp that result in a reduced necessity to preach the Gospel.

ii) Incoherence 2 & 3

Incoherence 2 does not hold water because the original poster also explicitly said that those in hell “didn’t respond in faith.” This shows that a mere ignorance about the provision of the atonement of Christ would not be sufficient to save a person.

I will not address incoherence 3 in light of my observations regarding incoherence 2.

The Contradiction Objection

If indeed the original poster believes that those who are in hell are there only because they rejected Christ’s atonement, this would be inconsistent with the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death in Romans 6:23 is used in contrast to eternal life, indicating that death refers to spiritual death/separation from God. Thus, it is clear that because we are sinners, we are deserving of hell.

The position I suspect the original poster holds to, because of his use of the phrase “sinners,” is that those in hell are there because of their sin and though they were offered a way to avoid hell, by way of Christ’s atonement, they rejected it. This, of course, is merely my inference and is subject to correction by the original poster.

The logical contradiction raised by the objector arises because of a conflation of the provision and application of the atonement. In a previous article, I compiled 4 responses to John Owen’s Double Payment Argument.[7] Response 1, would be the most relevant to the discussion at hand:

“The provision and application of the atonement must be distinguished. After all, “Eph. 2:1-3 makes clear that even the elect are under the wrath of God, “having no hope” (v.12) until they believe.”4 However, “the moment the debt is paid the debtor is free, and that completely. No delay can be admitted, and no conditions can be attached to his deliverance.”5.

What can be deduced is that the atonement is only applied upon the profession of faith. “… as 2 Cor. 5:18-21 makes clear, reconciliation has an objective and subjective aspect to it. The death of Christ objectively reconciles the world to God in the sense that his justice is satisfied, but the subjective side of reconciliation does not occur until the atonement is applied when the individual repents of sin and puts faith in Christ.”6

Consider the Day of Atonement. It was for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year (Leviticus 16:34). An Israelite applied the benefits of the annual atonement by humbling his soul and not doing any work on that day (Leviticus 16:29). If a person will not humble himself on that day, he will be cut off from his people (Leviticus 23:29). As for a person who does any work on that day, he will be destroyed from among the people (Leviticus 23:30).7″[8]

Further biblical examples, demonstrating a distinction between the provision and application of the atonement, are as follows:

i) “The blood of the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:6, 21) was provided for all of Israel (Ex. 12:3), without a hint of it being only for an ‘elect’ group within Israel.  But the fact that the blood of the Passover lamb was provided for all Israel didn’t automatically guarantee that all Israel would benefit from it.  The blood became effectual only after it was applied to the door posts (Ex. 12:7, 22); the blood itself didn’t save anyone.  Any Israelite who failed to apply the lamb’s blood to their doorpost would thus have failed to receive any benefit from the death of the Passover lamb, in spite of the fact that they could have, as they were provided for.”[9]

ii) “Because the people of Israel became impatient and complained against God and Moses (Num. 21:4-5), God sent fiery serpents among the people, and the serpents bit the people, so that many people died (Num. 21:6).  When the people acknowledged their sin, they asked Moses to pray to God for them (Num. 21:7). God answered Moses’ prayer, saying,

“‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’  So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” (Num. 21:8-9)

The bronze serpent was a provision for “everyone” and “anyone”. But the fact that the bronze serpent was provided for all Israel didn’t automatically guarantee that all Israel would benefit from it.  The bronze serpent became effectual only after someone looked at it by faith.”[10]

iii) “The cities of refuge were a provision for the manslayer (Num. 35:9-15). Furthermore, it was a provision for any manslayer – the people of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner (Num. 35:15).  But the fact that the cities of refuge were provided for any manslayer did not automatically guarantee that any manslayer would benefit from them.  The city of refuge was only effective as long as the manslayer entered, and stayed within, the boundaries (Num. 35:26-28).  Any manslayer who refused to either enter in (in the first place), or remain in, the cities of refuge would thus fail to receive any benefit from said cities, in spite of the fact that they could have, as provision was made for them.”[11]

It would not be a logical contradiction to say that Christ died for the sins of all men and yet some are sent to hell for rejecting the provision as Christ’s death does not necessitate an automatic application of the atonement.

Another way to possibly put it is that Christ’s death is sufficient for all but efficient/effectual for some, the latter being those who do not reject the provision/respond in faith.

Even the Synod of Dort used similar phraseology:

“Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ’s Death

The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”[12]

“Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ’s Death

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all the elect, in order that God might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that Christ should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death). It was also God’s will that Christ should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.”[13]

G. T. Shedd, 19th century theologian, appears to have shared this view when he said:

“Christ’s death is sufficient in value to satisfy eternal justice for the sins of all mankind … Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins for all and every man in the world.”[14]

The Biblical Reasons Objection

I would agree with the first 4 paragraphs of the objector’s reply in the event the original poster does take the position that individuals are only in hell because of their rejection of the provision of the atonement.

With regards to whether the provision of the atonement is limited or unlimited, this is and has been a matter of immense debate.[15] This debate cannot be settled by way of a one liner assertion that the atonement is unlimited (the original poster’s position) or that it is limited (the objector’s position). It is even debated whether or not John Calvin himself held to unlimited atonement[16] or to limited atonement.[17]

The objector takes an overly simplistic position in arguing that “nowhere does Scripture teach that the provision is unlimited.” Ron Rhodes, a 4-point Calvinist, has a list of Bible passages hinting in favour of unlimited atonement.[18]

As for use of Ephesians 2:8-9 to argue that faith is a gift from God, this is also a debatable matter. Daniel Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary,[19] has noted:

“[Ephesians 2:8-9] is the most debated text in terms of the antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun, τοῦτο. The standard interpretations include: (1) “grace” as antecedent, (2) “faith” as antecedent, (3) the concept of a grace-by-faith salvation as antecedent, (4) καὶ τοῦτο having an adverbial force with no antecedent (“and especially”).”[20]

Even John Calvin himself was of the opinion that, “… they commonly misinterpret this text, and restrict the word ‘gift’ to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating his earlier statement in other words. He does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or that we obtain it by the gift of God.”[21]

[1] Molinism is a view of Divine Providence, advocated by Luis De Molina, which espouses inter alia that “[God’s] middle knowledge, although being eternal, reflects what the creature will do freely and depends on what it will do, thus it does not necessitate A doing B.” [Alexander Aichele, and Mathias Kaufmann, A Companion to Luis de Molina (BRILL, 2013), pp. 372-373]

[2] Paul Copan, “True for You, But Not For Me”: Deflating the Slogans that Leave Christians Speechless (Bethany, 1998), p. 128

[3] Salvation in Christ: Comparative Christian Views, ed. Roger R. Keller and Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005), 299–325

[4] Gabriel J. Fackre, Ronald H. Nash, and John Sanders, What About Those Who Have Never Heard?: Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized (InterVarsity Press, 1995), p.22

[5] “Our Spiritual Perspective.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

[6] Salvation in Christ: Comparative Christian Views, ed. Roger R. Keller and Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005), 299–325.

[7] “Collection of Responses to the Double Payment Argument.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Feedback: Arminians Limit the Power of the Atonement.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Canons of Dort.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

[13] Ibid.

[14] William Greenough Thayer Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Volume 2 (Scribner, 1888), p. 464

[15] In favour of limited atonement, see e.g. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, eds. David Gibson, Jonathan Gibson (Crossway, 2013). In favour of unlimited atonement, see e.g. David L. Allen, The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review (B&H Publishing Group, 2016)

[16] “Calvin and Calvinism.” Accessed October 2, 2019. “When I discovered for myself that John Calvin did not believe in limited atonement I was both thrilled and sobered … Calvin taught that Jesus died indiscriminately for all people. Calvin taught that although Jesus died for all people, He made intercession for the elect only. That is four and a half point Calvinism”;

See also Curt Daniel, “Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill” Ph.D. diss., University of Edinburgh, (1983), 819–22 which contains an extensive 50 page appendix entitled “Did John Calvin Teach Limited Atonement?” (pp. 776-828); P. L. Rouwendal, “Calvin’s Forgotten Classical Position on the Extent of the Atonement: About Sufficiency, Efficiency, and Anachronism,” WTJ 70 (2008), p. 328; David Ponter, “Review Essay (Part One): John Calvin on the Death of Christ and The Reformation’s Forgotten Doctrine of Universal Vicarious Satisfaction: A Review and Critique of Tom Nettles’ Chapter in Whomever He Wills,” Southwestern Journal of Theology, 55.1 (Fall, 2012): 138-158. Part Two can be found in SWJT 55.2 (Spring, 2013): 252-70

[17] See “Calvin, Indefinite Language, and Definite Atonement by Paul Helm.” Accessed October 2, 2019.; “John Calvin’s view of Limited Atonement – by Dr. Roger Nicole.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

[18] “The Extent of the Atonement—Limited Atonement versus Unlimited Atonement.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

[19] “Daniel Wallace.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

[20] Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1996), p.334

[21] John Calvin, Commentaries, Volume 11 (Eerdmans, 1959), p. 145

The Literature and History of the New Testament (1915) [Lesson 6]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Messiah


A) About the author of the chapter:

John Gresham Machen “studied at Johns Hopkins University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the universities at Marburg and Göttingen. In 1906 he joined the faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary …

He left Princeton in 1929, after the school was reorganized and adopted a more accepting attitude toward liberal Protestantism, and he helped found Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.” [1]


B) Chapter Summary:

The promised king of David’s line at last has come. Acts 2 : 30; II Sam. 7 : 12, 13; Ps. 89 : 3, 4; 132 : 11. And David’s son is David’s Lord—David’s Lord and ours. Acts 2 : 34, 35; Ps. 110 : 1; compare Matt. 22 : 41-46.[1]

1. The New  Testament Appeal to Prophecy

“This speech of Peter [in Acts 2:17-21] is typical of the preaching of the early Church. The appeal to prophecy was absolutely central in the presentation of the gospel.”[2]

“Israel had looked not merely for a king, but also for a prophet and a priest. Peter, after his first arrest, for example, could appeal to the notable prophecy of Deuteronomy: “A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me.” Acts 3 : 22; Deut. 18 : 15, 19. The author of Hebrews could appeal to the priest after the order of Melchizedek, Heb. 5:6; Ps. 110 : 4, and to the symbolic sacrifices of the temple which found their fulfillment on Calvary.”[3]

“What Old Testament passages has Paul here in mind [in 1 Corinthians 15]? With regard to the death for our sins, the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah was probably in his mind. That passage was being read by the Ethiopian when Philip met him, and Philip made the passage a basis for preaching about Jesus. Acts 8:27-35. With regard to the resurrection, it is natural to think of Ps. 16 : 10. Paul himself quoted that passage in his speech at Pisidian Antioch. Acts 13 : 34-37.”[4]

“The appeal to prophecy did not begin with the apostles. It was initiated by Jesus himself. “To-day,” said Jesus at Nazareth after the reading of Isa. 61 : 1, 2, “hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears.””[5]

2. The Messianic Hope A Preparation for the Gospel

“When the gospel was preached to pure Gentiles, a great deal of preliminary labor had to be done. Under what title should the claims of the Saviour be presented? “Christ” to the Gentiles was almost meaningless, till explained. “Son of God” was open to sad misconception. There were “sons of God” in Greek mythology, but they were not what the early Christians meant to show that Jesus was.”[6]

“In the synagogues, ” Christ” was no new term, and no new conception. In the synagogues, one proposition needed first to be proved, ” This Jesus … is the Christ.” Acts 17 : 3. If that were proved, then the rest would follow.”[7]

“It will be remembered that the synagogues attracted not merely Jews but also Gentiles. The Gentile “God-fearers,” as well as the Jews, were acquainted with the Messianic hope. Even the Gentile mission, therefore, was prepared for by the prophets of Israel.”[8]

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