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”)]