Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The verse that makes you a moderate Calvinist II

Jude 1:5 "Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe" 

Hyper Calvinists assert that Christ died only to pay the penalty due the elect alone and did nothing for the non-elect.  "For if Christ intended to save the non-elect" they argue "then they would no longer be non-elect, they would by definition be elect.  Yet they are in hell, so obviously He did not intend to save them, which means His death was of no use to them.  He did in no way die for them."
With great difficulty the occasional hyper Calvinist may be argued down to the position where he assents that Christ's death is sufficient to save everyone, theoretically, because Christ's blood is of limitless value, but they would compare it thusly: if I invited George Washington to sleep at my house for the night there is room enough in the house, there is no deficiency in the house, but the corpse is not going to make good on my offer, therefore I never intended to have G.W. over.

While that has a certain appeal in being able to easily understand the mission and motive of Christ (save the elect) we must first ask ourselves, is this Biblical?  

The answer is ultimately no, because of the Jude passage which speaks to this point exactly. Jesus saved a people out of Egypt, but then because of their unbelief destroyed them. Christ dying to save mankind and then condemning them for their sins is therefore not only in character for Him, but an action that has historical precedent.  Jude felt that this aspect of God's character was so important that He was giving a special note to it.  Paul too has this same thought in 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 "For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did."
Moderate Calvinism is then the only one which can successfully make sense of these two passages: Christ's death is for all mankind, but especially for those who believe and are thereby saved fully.  For just because the children of Israel didn't make it into the promise land didn't mean they were not delivered from slavery in Egypt.

The hyper Calvinist will attempt to hold fast to his worldview by reading the word saved as separated.  Jesus did not save them, but culled them so that He might pour His great fury on them in the wilderness. "Yes God drew them out of Egypt, but since they perished in the wilderness it was His will to destroy them, therefore God drew them out to destroy them." To this, three answers.  (Likewise, since Jude established a connection between the desert wanderings and our faith, each of these arguments is directly applicable to the satisfaction provided by Christ on behalf of all mankind.)

  1. It's expressly and explicitly against Scriptures.  Deuteronomy 6:21,23 "then you shall say to your son, 'We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand....And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers" 
  2. It's against reasonWhy should God rescue them and not merely let them perish with the wonders in Egypt when He poured the plagues on them?
  3. The word saved is the same found in Matthew 1:21.
  4. It sows confusion into the text.  When Moses begged God on behalf of Israel, what did he say?  Exodus 32:11 "Why should the Egyptians say, 'With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people." For His glory, and because Moses asked, God relented.  Yet if the hypers are right this passage makes no sense, because it was always God's intention to destroy them, certainly not to allow Moses to intercede.
It will also be argued that the Jude passage is a warning to the elect, who cannot lose their salvation because God will preserve them until the end.  But that cavil only is to nullify Jude's warning and wipe out the passage entirely. "Christ will save you regardless, so who cares about what the children of Israel did or didn't do in the desert?" Christ perseveres us in Him by His power, by having us work out our own salvation, by having us strengthen ourselves, by making our election secure.  He warns us that the warning may goad us into action. To ignore the warning then is to miss the salvation it points towards.

If the Bible says that the problem with men not being saved is in their lack of faith, then we should insist that lack of faith not sufficient atonement is the problem.  Jude is a warning that the failure mechanism lies with us, not God's intention for us.  If people end up in hell it's because of their own lack of faith, not because of a sufficient provision. Not because Christ didn't atone for their sins, but because they didn't accept His offer. 
Thus, moderate Calvinism is the only one which allows us to make sense of this passage.


Ryan said...

"Yet the text says that He first saved them, then destroyed them for their unbelief, laying the blame upon them, not that He saved them for the purposes of destroying them."

But the text does not preclude that possibility, so your inferences are unnecessary. Your exegesis is too fast and loose.

Phil said...

Yes, you are right, I'm going to give it a more robust treatment tomorrow or this weekend. I threw it down in haste because I had to get back to work.