Karate Expert Dan Phillips Gets Body Slammed on 1 John 2:2

Calvinist Dan Phillips posted on Karate Exegesis, using 1 John 2:2 as an example, trying to use the old John Owen Trilemma argument to make his point.  He was then body slammed through the mat (in his meta) by what appears to be a  four point Calvinist:

Karate Dan writes in a portion of his post (please see the post for full context),

“I didn’t think you did. But that means you have a real problem with this verse, don’t you?” we could continue. “John writes that Jesus Christ is — not ‘would really like to be,’ or ‘wishes He could be,’ or even ‘stands ready to be,’ but is — the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. What is a propitiation?”

Our friend, an astute soul that he is, replies, “A ‘propitiation’ is a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God.”

We agree. Then with knitted brow, we ask, “So, if you’re right about ‘the whole world,’ then John is saying that Christ has turned away the wrath of God for the sins of every human being ever born — you, me, Judas, the Beast, the False Prophet — everyone.

“On that understanding, how can anyone be under God’s wrath, which Christ propitiated? How can anyone be in Hell? Why are they there? For what are they being judged and punished?”

“For their unbelief,” our friend may offer.

“Oh, I see. Is unbelief a sin?” we ask innocently.

Our friend may nor may not allow as much. If he does not, we could add, “From what I read, unbelief certainly is a sin. Or is it not a moral issue to call God a liar (1 John 5:9-10)? See,” we can conclude sympathetically, “you have a real problem. On your view, either unbelief isn’t a sin, in which case God is a liar; or everyone’s going to Heaven, in which case, again, God is a liar; or Christ really isn’t a propitiation for all the sins of everyone without exception — in which case, one more time, God is a liar. Do you think God is a liar?”

Maybe now our friend might be willing to consider that the text is capable of a better construction.

We might help him open up to the possibilities with another question: “I think it’s your idea of what John means by ‘world’ that is giving you such trouble. Can you think of any verses where ‘world’ unambiguously means ‘everyone who ever was born or ever would be born’? I can certainly think of many that do not. Maybe that isn’t the best way to read that verse?”

At the very least, he’ll now know that, if the verse is a problem for Calvinists, it isn’t a problem for us alone. If he’s honest, that is. (And why would we have dishonest friends?)

Later in Dan’s meta Ynotton Y lands a fatal counter attack with:

Moreover, the double payment argument that you’re using to suggest your opponents must be universalists is even deemed weak by Dr. Carl Trueman, not to mention Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney, W. G. T. Shedd, John Davenant [of the Synod of Dort], and the Puritian Edward Polhill, among others. Our Lord’s death does not function like pecuniary debt payments. It’s penal, not commercial. You’re leaning on commercial causality to get your strictly limited conclusion. Moreover, you’re not yet dealing with the fact that your argument is a double-edged sword. As I said on my blog:

“Wasn’t Dan under God’s wrath when he was in unbelief [Eph. 2:3], despite the fact that Christ died for his sins? Didn’t Dan stand under the condemnation of God when in unbelief [John 3:18], despite the fact that he was one of the elect for whom Christ died? Was God making sham threats about perishing to unbelieving Dan in the gospel call, since Dan was never really in a damnable state? On Dan’s system, it would seem, the elect are never damnable and the non-elect are never saveable. The elect are not receiving sincere threats and the non-elect are not receiving sincere offers, by implication. If Dan rejects this thinking or conclusion, then on what basis was he subject to God’s wrath and standing condemned? Because of his unbelief? Well, didn’t Christ die for that unbelief? We could say to Dan as he says to his opponent:

“On that understanding, how can any of the elect be under God’s wrath, which Christ propitiated? How can any of them really be subject to damnation and therefore sincerely threatened with perishing? Why do the unbelieving elect stand condemned? For what are they being judged and punished?”

“For their unbelief,” Dan may say.

“Oh, I see. Is unbelief a sin?” I ask innocently.

“From what I read, unbelief certainly is a sin.” I can conclude sympathetically, “you have a real problem. On your view, either unbelief isn’t a sin, in which case God is a liar; or none of the elect can be under God’s wrath, in which case, again, God is a liar; or Christ really isn’t a propitiation for all the sins of the elect— in which case, one more time, God is a liar. Do you think God is a liar?”

Dan would not accept the view that all of the elect are justified at the cross, or in eternity, but he has opened to door to that position in order to get the conclusion he wants, i.e. a strictly limited atonement based on the commercial causal categories involved in the double payment argument. If Christ can be the propitiation for the sins of all of the elect and yet they, when in unbelief, can stand condemned and be subjects of God’s wrath, then why can’t Christ also be the propitiatory sacrifice for more than the elect?”

I think this effectively deals with Dan’s “double payment” and “universalist” argument.  Dan had no response except to refer the commenter to a previous comment he made which he imagined answered the counter-argument.  It was pointed out that Dan’s previous comments did not even begin to address the counter-argument, and Dan had little more to say (except for some Karate avoidance tactics).

[this post was updated 7/16/09 in order to narrow the focus and context to Dan’s charge of double payment and universalism with the argument that unbelief is atoned for in Christ’s death, rather than the meaning of “whole world” in 1 John 2:2 (since I disagree with both Dan and YnottonY on the meaning of “whole world”)]

9 thoughts on “Karate Expert Dan Phillips Gets Body Slammed on 1 John 2:2

  1. Perhaps we should consider how Dan’s exegetical approach relates to the monergism karate chop in that Calvinist witnessing video you linked to a while back (the post: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/calvinist-and-arminian-witnessing/; the actual video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1ckoCBtXvU).

    More seriously, even if the atonement were to function like pecuniary debt payment , Dan’s argument would still be easily refuted. There are plenty of economic analogies that fit perfectly with provisional atonement. Moreover, I would disagree with Y’s definition of “world”. It is really pretty close to as Dan accused. But the bizarre thing is that the most authoritative NT Greek lexicon (BDAG) defines “world” just as A’s do and lists plenty of examples including John 3:16. Hence plenty of scholarly C’s now agree that world/kosmos refers to humanity in such texts.

    So while it looks like Y did refute Dan pretty handily, he did so with some poor arguments (some of what he said was dead on though), which only shows how poor Dan’s position is!

  2. Arminian,

    I agree. I was primarily referring to the latter part of his comments where he turned Dan’s argument against him very effectively (so effectively that Dan had no answer for it). In other words, he allowed Dan to lunge clumsily, and then unleashed some mayhem on him!

    God Bless,

  3. I love the title. I rolled my eyes about fifty times reading Dan’s ridiculous post. The whole John Owen’s dilemma is so easily handled, I can’t believe he ever published it, as smart as he was.

  4. Hello Ben,

    ” He was then body slammed through the mat (in his meta) by what appears to be a four point Calvinist”

    It is nice to see an arrogant calvinist like Phillips really get schooled in terms of argument.

    The guy who put him in his place and posted as “Ynottony” is a guy named Tony who is a four point calvinist and has a website called THEOLOGICAL MEDITATIONS. It is a very good site if want arguments that show John Owen’s arguments to be weak and refutable. Tony also works with another four point calvinist named David who has a site called [[CALVIN AND CALVINISM:
    An Elenchus for Classic and Moderate Calvinism]] which also has some really good material showing the problems with the so-called “limited atonement ” view of five point calvinists.


  5. Not a surprising outcome. Even masters of Karate-do who don’t move outside their own discipline enough to learn how to grapple will almost invariably be KO’d or tapped out by wrestlers and jujutsu practitioners who know how to avoid a sucker-punch.

  6. Jay wrote:

    “What is your specific understanding of “whole world” as John uses it?”

    Many calvinists **assume** that Arminians mean by the term “world” all people who have ever lived without exception. But this view has to be false as Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus was a man and yet never was part of the “world.” If you examine the usages of “world” in John you will find several different meanings. You will never find “world” referring exclusively to the elect or believers. You will find places (e.g., John 3:16) where it refers to the group of nonbelievers who are hostile to God and rebelling against Him and are under the authority of Satan. This is the group of human persons for which Jesus died. This group or set of human persons includes some who eventually come out of the “world” and become followers of Christ as well as some who never come out of the “world” and continue in their unbelief and rebellion until they die.


    PS – Tony a calvinist over at THEOLOGICAL MEDITATIONS recently posted in response to Dan Phillips of Pyromaniacs and gave a helpful chart that hits the nail on the head:

    [[see THEOLOGICAL MEDITATIONS post titled: “Dan’s Karate, or Kah-rrah-tay? from July 9, 2009 and scroll down to see the chart]]

    Tony then wrote of this chart:

    The proper view of what the “world” is biblically is not (A), (C1), or even the entire class of all the elect considered in the abstract. Rather, it is (C2), or all living apostate humanity on earth at any given point in time, which includes the unbelieving elect and non-elect. Some eventually come out of the world by the effectual grace of the Holy Spirit [i.e. the believing elect in C1] and eventually enter heavenly bliss (D1), while others remain in the world and eventually die in their unbelieving state (D2). Dan, again, sets up a simplistic picture of what his opponents believe on the term “world,” as if they all think it is (A). Then, since they cannot biblically prove that the “world” is ever used of class (A), or all humanity that will ever exist, he can suggest that it may mean all of the elect as such or perhaps the believing elect in some contexts. He never pauses to consider if (C2) would make sense, as in John 3:16 or 1 John 5:19. It’s as though Dan can’t conceive of a consistent Calvinist saying what Ezekiel Culverwell said, i.e. “I profess I cannot find any one clear place where [the World] must of necessity be taken for the Elect only.”

  7. Jay,

    I take “whole world” to mean, well…whole world (all of humanity). That is the normal way the words would be understood. Any limitation would need to be expressed very clearly in the context. There is nothing in the context to limit whole world in any sense, even in the sense of the apostate world at the present time. We could possibly limit it in the context of John speaking first of believers and then unbelievers, but that would still fall within the normal usage of the word that includes everyone. So we could say that “whole world” means all unbelievers, but such a limitation is not necessary as all unbelievers would naturally be included in “whole world” anyway. Either way, limited atonement is ruined by this passage which speaks directly to the scope of the atonement (and therefore should be a primary text in discovering what the scope of the atonement is- i.e., universal).

    Again, the issue gets back to Christ’s atonement being provisional. I have no problem with “whole world” extending to every person who ever lived. In fact, I think it must. The writer of Hebrews tells us that the blood of goats and bulls can never take away sin. Therefore, Christ’s sacrifice must be the means by which Abraham and any saint prior to Christ’s coming would have been saved. Through their faith in God, Christ’s sacrifice would have been credited to them proleptically (forward looking). Though they had not received the gospel, their faith in God to save was credited as righteousness and they were justified by God based on the sacrifice of Christ, even though that sacrifice had not yet been made in time (since He is the lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world). This must be the case since there is no other way for sins to be atoned for according to Hebrews.

    The provisional nature of the atonement along with its conditional application safeguards any charges of double payment or universalism even if “whole world” is understood to include every human being who ever lived or will live (i.e. all of humanity in general).

    God Bless,

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