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Scott Shaver

They are quickly running out of authorities capable of influencing a change of heart. Good work here Pete.

David Jacks

I suspect, since none of my previous posts have ever been allowed here, the same fate will befall this one - but just in case I type anyway.

I believe you would do well to study the quote by D.A. Carson ... he is not saying what you hoped. Carson writes "On this axis, God’s love for the world cannot be collapsed into his love for the elect." All this is saying, at least in Carson's view, is that God does have some "type of love" for the world as He does for the elect (read the whole book). Notice what he is not saying ... that this "love" that God has for the "world" is the same "salvific love (penal-substitution)" he has for his elect. This is the problem with Arminian "theology" - it flattens out the love of God and does not make a distinction in God's love - as the Scriptures do. You see even the Arminian lives contrary to the false assumptions he heaps upon God. The Arminian shows that he/himself lives under various types of love and that all "love" in the Arminians life is not "flattened-out" and made to be the same "type of love" given to ALL people equally. Case in point Mr. Lumpkin is married and he loves his wife and his kids. If Mr. Lumpkin loves his wife and kids with the same type of love that he loves, say Adolf Hitler, then his wife and kids should have great concern. Why? Because it is natural and commanded in Scripture for Mr. Lumpkin to love his wife and kids more, better and differently then Adolf Hitler. No one would ridicule Mr. Lumpkin for loving his wife and kids more than Adolf Hitler ... people may think Mr. Lumpkin has real problems if he loves all peoples equally because not all loves are the same nor are these loves intended to be the same. Ergo - the reason why the Scriptures show us various TYPES of "love" and to whom these loves are to be rightly disposed. Context is king in Biblical interpretation ;) Sincerely, David Jacks

Paul Owen

Um, the problem here is that the love in John 3:16 is quite obviously not some sort of non-salvific generic love. God sent his Son into the world on a mission to save the world (on the condition of faith) through his death on the cross (John 3:14-17). Moderate Calvinists and Arminians can see what seems so unclear to strict and hyper-Calvinists.

peter lumpkins


First, what you mean by "none of my previous posts have ever been allowed here" I haven't a clue what you mean. Truth is, I don’t even recall you ever posting a comment on my site. So, I scanned the comments on my dashboard and sure enough you did comment—February 12, 2012.  As for other times, nothing exists. Perhaps you've got my site confused with another.

As for your point about Carson not not saying what I’d supposedly hoped, two things. First, even if you’re correct about my supposed misjudging of Carson, it affects little, if anything, toward my overall point. Second, I wouldn’t concede so quickly your denial Carson implies the point I make. You write, “All this is saying, at least in Carson's view, is that God does have some "type of love" for the world as He does for the elect.” To the contrary, my point does not concern the “type” of love God may or may not have for the world. Instead, my point is, regardless of the “type” of love being expressed, the love being expressed for the world in John 3:16 is not exclusively love for the elect but love for the world. So, how you reason Carson does not substantiate my point is not clear.

Concerning you analogy pertaining to my supposed “different” love for Hitler that I posses for my family I find absurd, David. Can’t you offer a more tasteful example?

More importantly, you’re tacitly assuming without argumentation that because human love might be expressed in very “different” ways toward other humans, God’s love to humans is precisely the same as human love to humans. This doesn’t necessarily follow.

In addition, you again assume without argument that ‘the problem with Arminian "theology"’ is that “it flattens out the love of God and does not make a distinction in God's love - as the Scriptures do.” Well, while I’m not sure “flattening” out God’s love is particularly a trait of Arminians or not, I do know that it is far from clear that Scripture demonstrates that God’s love is supposedly busted up into various “types” of love as you appear to assume.

For example, the late Harold Dekker, Associate Professor of Missions, Calvin Theological Seminary, argued that there existed no supposed “various types of love” as you’ve insisted upon. He wrote in a paper entitled, “God So Loved ALL Men!”:

“How much did God love? So much that He gave His only begotten Son. So much that He emptied Himself; He gave Himself. The amount of the love is indicated by the amount of the gift. That means no less than an infinite love.

“Love without limit! Can an unlimited love be limited in its scope? Can an unrestricted love be restricted in those whom it loves? Can the infinite love of the incarnation have as its object only a part of mankind? Hardly. Neither does the Bible teach this. Rather we are told, "God so loved the world that he gave." Whether taken as the cosmos or as the human race, "world" in this passage clearly covers all men. By no strain of exegesis can God's redemptive love be confined to any special group. Neither the language of this verse nor the broadest context of the Scripture will allow any other interpretation but that God loves all men.”

Dekker goes on to categorically deny the two “types” of love you maintain, when you write in your interpretation of Carson, ‘Notice what he [Carson] is not saying ... that this "love" that God has for the "world" is the same "salvific love (penal-substitution)" he has for his elect.’ Contrarily, the late Professor Dekker wrote in another paper entitled, “God’s love to sinners—One or Two? :

“There are differences within God's love as exercised in relation to man. These differences, however, must be understood precisely. First of all, they are not to be understood as qualitative or essential. This point I have made before. Some writers and preachers distinguish between divine benevolence and love, between common and special grace, or between non-redemptive and redemptive love in such a way as to distinguish between two dispositions in God which are intrinsically different from one another. What they seem to mean is that God has two loves or two graces (I use the terms love and grace as synonymous in this discussion) which differ from one another so radically that the one is directed to all men while the other is directed only to the elect.”

Finally, David, if you’re correct about what you think Carson to be saying—namely that God has a “salvific love” for the elect He does not possess for the non-elect—congratulations!  You’ve just made Carson into a genuine Hyper-Calvinist!

peter lumpkins

Dr. Owen

Precisely. The love God showed to the world in John 3:16 is not the so-called common grace or general love some are trying to insist. Rather it's a fully revealed redemptive love--"so loved...He gave His only Son..." If that's not redemptive love, or as David suggested, salvific love, then what please tell is it?

Ben Simpson


You said, "If [God giving His only Son]'s not redemptive love, or as David suggested, salvific love, then what please tell is it? Peter, it very well be salvific or redemptive love, but it's not the fullness of God's love. That's only for those who are actually united in the New Covenant with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Andrew Barker

Peter, I have an observation to make which is not really scriptural as such, but I think it might pass scrutiny! If during the course of a discussion one party is struggling somewhat , there is a distinct tendency to bring in the "yeah, well what about Adolf Hitler" defence. It rarely works! Quite why people wish to bring Adolf to their aid is lost on me. He was another 'bully boy' who kept his followers in place by use of fear and ultimately lost the war! ;)


No need to get hung up on the use of Hitler (even if it was "over the top").

You know what point David was making.

You don't love your best friends family (who you love) with the same love as your own. You know that scripture describes different types of love between man.

The question is, (as Peter has already challenged) does God also operates with different types of love.

Perhaps David can give scriptural examples of God operating under different types of love?

peter lumpkins


I think you've got a valid point. Personally, I attempt to offer analogies which strike us as more in line with reality rather than attempt to go toward what may be described as argumentum ad absurdum...

peter lumpkins


I'm sorry. I'm not comfortable at all viewing "God so loved...that He gave His Son" as anything less than the fullness of His love. If you are, be my guest.

Nor do I imagine a biblical distinction between God's "redemptive love" on the one hand, and His "fullness love" on the other. Where do we find this supposed distinction explicitly spelled out in Scripture? I don't even think I've ever heard of such. In addition, I suggest you read the two essays by Harold Dekker I linked above. This might assist you in working through this...

Jim G.

Hi Ben,

I see you mentioned union with Christ and the elect. If I may, I'll ask you the same question that was ignored by another Calvinist last week. Is there any sense in which the non-elect are "in Christ?" If so, what sense is it? I understand an answer to this may be approximate and hesitant, but do you have any thoughts on the matter?

Adam Harwood


I commend you for gently but continually pounding away at this interpretive issue regarding John 3:16. This is a fantastic series of posts.

Some people may dismiss this as an insignificant point. Instead, it is paramount. Either "God so loved the world" (all people) or He only loved some people.

To David Jacks,

I enjoyed visiting your bookstore located near SWBTS a dozen years ago. I found several little gems for my library.

Blessings, brothers.

In Him,

Ben Simpson


You asked: Is there any sense in which the non-elect are "in Christ?"

I feel like this might be a trick question since it seems on its face completely obvious, but I'll bite.

The first response off the top of my head is that the non-elect are in no sense "in Christ." To be "in Christ" is to be united with Him by grace through faith in Him through the New Covenant. Since they do not believe on Christ, they are not "in Christ."

Ben Simpson


Thank you for pointing me to Dekker. I read both articles, but the second one speaks more specifically to what you and I are discussing.

In "God's Love to Sinners -- One or Two?" Dekker argues that God does not have two kinds of love, but he clearly argues that there are differences in God's love. For instance:

"The major theological issue remaining is ably stated by Rev. Peter DeJong in his letter which appears in this issue under the question "Does God Love All Men Alike?" Essentially the same question was raised in some of the letters which appeared in the February issue of this journal.[3] My answer depends on the exact meaning of what is strictly speaking an ambiguous question. God does love all men alike in the sense that He loves them all without exclusion -- and He does so with a redemptive love. On the contrary, God does not love all men alike in the sense that the love relationship which actually exists between God and man is the same for all men alike. The analogy of human love relations will clarify this. God requires us to love all our fellow men as ourselves, that is, according to the same standard and with the same love. In that sense we must love all men alike. All these love relationships, however, are not alike. They differ, for instance, in that some love is close and personal, other is casual and impersonal, and some is even extended but spurned. There are differences within God's love as exercised in relation to man."

"DeJong goes on to say, referring to Malachi 1:2-3, "If . . . we must interpret this passage to mean 'I loved Esau just as much and in the same way as I loved Jacob,' are we not flatly contradicting it?" I would agree."

While you are saying that God loves all people the same, Dekker and I are arguing that He does not. Where Dekker has challenged me is that while God does not love everybody the same, he argues that love is love and cannot be divided. I believe I provisionally agree with him. Therefore, "common love" and "special love" must refer not to love of different essences but of different quantities. I seems to me that that's what I argued earlier when I said, "Peter, [God giving His son to the world] very well be salvific or redemptive love, but it's not the fullness of God's love." I believe that Dekker supports my contention.

Andrew Barker

I feel like this might be a trick question since it seems on its face completely obvious, but I'll bite.

.... as Eve said to the serpent! ;-)

Jim G.

Hi Ben,

It's really not a "trick question." It gets to the heart of what salvation is ontologically. Sometimes we discuss particulars about salvation, such as extent of the atonement and election, but we fail to discuss the more basic questions like what it means to be saved. Certainly concepts such as election and extent depend on the ontological grounding of the doctrine of salvation, which I believe (as do most folks who have tackled that question in church history - Luther and Calvin included)IS the union of Christ and the believer.

You are going to want to rethink your answer - and this is not a "Calvinist" thing, either. Think of the varied ways the phrase "in Christ" or "in God" (including pronoun references "in him" or "in whom") is used in Scripture. Think also of Acts 17:28. This is an important point and I think it will help our discussion move forward.

Jim G.

peter lumpkins


If you think Dekker supports your suggestion that while God loves all men with a salvific love He does not love all men with a full love, I don't know what to say, really. I have no words for that.

I suppose I'll go back to my earlier statement--demonstrate how God's salvific love is not the same as God's full love.

Ben Simpson


Jim is in no way the devil. Please refrain from using such analogies toward him. Thanks!

peter lumpkins

Hey, Ben. I don't think you got Andrew's point. But I stand to be corrected...


God loves the world. That is a good thought. Thanks brother Peter.

Ben Simpson

Peter, did I accurately summarize Dekker?

Jim G.

Ben, Andrew, and Peter,

Thanks. I'm not offended, and I never took offense, but thanks anyway. I've been called a lot worse by my students. :0)

Jim G.

Ben Simpson


I believe you are trying to make more of something than is there. Surely, the non-elect exist because of Christ. God the Father did indeed make everything that exists through Jesus and sustains them through Jesus.

But, that's now how the Bible uses the term "in Christ" when talking about salvation, and I expect you fully know that. Think of Romans 3:24 and 1 Tim 1:14. "In Christ" means to be united to Christ covenantally. I think I'll stand by my answer.

So what is your position? Are the non-elect in Christ? In other words, are they united to Christ in the New Covenant?

peter lumpkins

Ben to Jim: "Jim, I believe you are trying to make more of something than is there."

Peter to Ben: "Ben, I believe you are trying to make more of something than is there."

While I'm not so sure about the first one, I'm much more convinced about the second! ;^)

Andrew Barker

Oh dear, a bit of light relief went wrong. Well in fact there was more behind my post than maybe was immediately obvious, but I was hoping that people would think before commenting.

So at the risk of explaining a 'joke' away, here goes!

The scene is set with Eve in the garden and she is tempted by the 'serpent' who asks her to question God's word. She is asked to doubt that God has her best interests at heart. Did God say this that and the other? The serpent then informs her that God's true motive is to prevent her from becoming like God!! The serpent is in effect telling Eve that God doesn't want the best for her or to put it in other words GOD DOESN'T REALLY LOVE HER! You see Ben, what Peter and many of the rest of us on this blog are trying to point out is that this is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, lies on the planet ie that God does not love 'everyone'! He does!

I had no idea what Jim was actually going to say but the analogy of someone being tempted and then 'biting' was too good to miss.

It is useful however to note that God's plan of salvation is brought into action at this very point in history. When God's love to the whole world is being questioned, (yes I know there were only two of them at that time!) he responds by demonstrating his love by sending Jesus.

So no, I'm not saying that Jim is the devil incarnate (he will be delighted to know). If Eve had considered what the serpent was saying more carefully she may not have taken the bait. So Ben, you've had your leg pulled a bit, but please take it in good spirit and accept my apologies in advance if you can't. Blessings to all.

Jim G.

Hi Ben,

I'm quite conversant with the meanings of "in Christ." Since it was part of my dissertation research, I read pretty much everything ever written on it up until that time. I lived in the word of Deissmann, Dunn, Barclay, Best, Son, Mascall, and others while immersing myself in the Pauline texts. The textual nuances are pretty fascinating if one takes the time to look at them.

Because Jesus Christ is God incarnate, he is the God in whom we live and move and have our being, to quote Paul's words to the Mars Hill philosophers. (Paul even quotes the pagan philosophers with some approval, saying that all men are the children of God, but that's a little off-subject). To deny that the non-elect are in Christ in any sense is to deny the full deity of Christ.

Now, since the God in whom we live, move, and exist became human and lived and died, I do not think we can say for certainty that not all humans are included in his death, burial, and resurrection. That is, because all creation is "located" in Christ because he is the creator (and not a creation himself - the council of Nicea), then all creation is "located" in him in his death, burial, and resurrection. If this is true (and I cannot see how it could be otherwise), I do not see how anyone can hold tightly to particular redemption.

The obvious (to me, at least) corollary of the full deity of Christ (in the full, biblical sense of deity) is that all humanity is included in his death, burial, and resurrection in the ontological sense. If all are ontologically included in Christ's atoning work (as I believe Rom 5:18 and 1 Cor 15:22 allude), then particular redemption as taught by our more reformed brothers becomes completely untenable. The fact that we can epistemologically deny what is ontologically true is what prevents universalism, but I just threw that in because it invariably comes up.

Jim G.


This is one of the those really good examples where the adherents to a system of theology employ the system to change what is being said in the text.

Love for the "world" is what it says.

Ben Simpson

Peter, you've probably been busy, but did I accurately summarize Dekker?

peter lumpkins

Not quite, from what I can tell, Ben. While he mentions a difference, he does not allow the usual difference strict Calvinists maintain, the very difference you said you maintained, Ben: "John 3:16 does not address the special love that the Father has for His [people]... It is only speaking about the common love that God has for all of mankind. While this love is great, it’s not the fullness of God’s love. It does not meet the criteria for the special love God has for His children and Jesus’ bride." This is the very thing Dekker rejects, Ben.

Nor does he embrace a "quantitative" love that you say you accept but flat rejects it as inapplicable to his view.

Nor have I actually stated as you presume "you are saying that God loves all people the same" but have only stated contra you that the love in J316 is obviously a redemptive love since the love is such a love that it prompts God to send His Son. What I have asked twice I think is for you to demonstrate from Scripture the division you place on God's love and later I asked you to demonstrate the distinction you drew between salvific love and fullness of love. Dekker offers you no support on these Ben.

Scott Shaver

Have really appreciated Jim Gifford's contribution to these discussions.


Me too, Scott!


To the people that think that God loves people differently in a salvific sense and say, "You don't love your best friends family (who you love) with the same love as your own. You know that scripture describes different types of love between man."

I would ask you to think about the doctrine of Imago Dei, that all of us are priceless because we are made in the image of God. That, at least to me, makes the "Kosmos" of John 3:16 to mean the entire world. Sinners and saints are deemed worthy of redemption, because no other animal or species are created in God's image and therefore all humans have inherent value independent of their utility or function.

I mean honestly, every person has a soul! And that soul is important. Can any "strict calvinist" person prove biblically that any soul is not important in the eyes of God?

The doctrine of Imago Dei exists in reformed theology, because I was taught it at GGBTS by my calvinist professor. When I challenged him on point "L" of tulip with this, I later received a lower grade. He liked how Barth reconciled this, but I was underwhelmed by Barth's relational concept.

Ben Simpson


I would really encourage you to rethink this sentence: "Sinners and saints are deemed worthy of redemption..." No person is worthy of redemption. It is completely of grace, owing nothing to what we deserve.


Dr. Haykin's quote couldn't send a clearer message to the non-Calvinist majority in Southern Baptist ranks: "With all of my heart, I believe that the Reformed faith, or 'Calvinism,' is biblical Christianity—or the closest thing to it in the history of the church."

His words are reminiscent of Dr. Mohler's: “Where else are they going to go? If you’re a theological minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going to end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this new Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing, there just are not options out there, and that’s something that frustrates some people, but when I’m asked about the New Calvinism—where else are they going to go, who else is going to answer the questions, where else are they going to find the resources they are going to need and where else are they going to connect. This is a generation that understands, they want to say the same thing that Paul said, they want to stand with the apostles, they want to stand with old dead people, and they know that they are going to have to, if they are going to preach and teach the truth.”

“Calvinism is biblical Christianity” … "Where else are they going to go ... there just are not options out there … if they are going to preach and teach the truth" … and SBC Calvinists wonder why SBC non-Calvinists are concerned about such indoctrination at our seminaries?! Our dilemma is as clear as the nose on your face, as they say in my neck of the woods.

Scott Shaver

Drs Haykin and Mohler put their britches on one leg at time just like you and me Max.

The "dilemma" I'm beginning to see is wholly unlike the one you envision.

And I wholeheartedly agree the "dilemma" is a clear as the nose on our faces (i.e. "Calvinism is biblical Christianity").


Ben, I think you are looking at what I wrote with calvinistic glasses frankly. Let me rephrase: Sinners and saints are deemed worthy of redemption by God, not man, due to the doctrine of Imago Dei. Humans are "worth" something. Need Scripture?
Matthew 10:29-31

Scott Shaver

Individual high Calvinists may show virtue and some splendid qualities. But the influence of their theology paralyzes both the social development and the hermeneutic of those who follow.

Looks like the SBC has a much bigger problem brewing now than they ever had with so-called moderates.

I look for the SBC at some point to start rolling out new confessions at every annual meeting with revisions posted during the off season.


"Looks like the SBC has a much bigger problem brewing now than they ever had with so-called moderates."


Ben Simpson


You have in a sense have changed the discussion by playing up my common love vs special love categories. Let me go back to my original comment in our discussion of the topic from Monday, May 6, 3:51pm:

However, what many conditional electionists miss is the fact that while God loves every person, He does not love every person the same.

Furthermore, God doesn't expect us to love every person the same. In fact, it would be sin for us to love every person the same. Husbands are to have a special love for their wife that is way more than the love he is to have for other people. Fathers are to have a special love for their children that is way more than the love he is to have for other people. For him to do otherwise is to sin.

The same is true for God. In fact, the husband/wife & father/children relationship is used over and over again by God in Scripture to point us to His love. Not every person is Jesus' bride. Not every person is God's child. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ have those metaphors applied to them, and it's to these individuals that God has a special love.

So, yes, God indeed loves every person who has ever lived or will live, but He does not love every person the same. That's the truth of Scripture! I don't say that as a boast before those who are not Christ's. I say that as a rejoicing before the Lord from the elect, whichever way you define that term. http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2013/05/the-world-of-john-316.html?cid=6a00d83451a37369e2017eeadf7991970d#comment-6a00d83451a37369e2017eeadf7991970d

So, as you can see from the beginning, I've argued that God loves everybody, but He does not love everybody the same. Some experience the fullness of His love while others do not. My labels of special and common are simply ways to quickly show that difference. While Dekker doesn't like the labels, he clearly affirms that God does not love everybody the same.

You claim that to have never put forth that God loves everybody the same, and perhaps you haven't in those exact words, but you've clearly stated that every person experiences the fullness of God's love through giving of Jesus Christ. For example, you said, "What would constitute an expression of the fullness of God's love if not the death of His only Son?" http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2013/05/the-world-of-john-316.html?cid=6a00d83451a37369e201901be70e4d970b#comment-6a00d83451a37369e201901be70e4d970b

You also said, "I'm sorry. I'm not comfortable at all viewing 'God so loved...that He gave His Son' as anything less than the fullness of His love." http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2013/05/contemporary-reformed-authors-on-john-316.html?cid=6a00d83451a37369e2017eeb26d433970d#comment-6a00d83451a37369e2017eeb26d433970d

If every person experiences the fullness of God's love, then you are indeed claiming that God loves everybody the same, regardless of the status with God. That's just not rightly dividing the Word.

As far as Scripture affirming this difference in love, let's just begin with Malachi 1:1-5, The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. 2 "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have You loved us?" "Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness." 4 Though Edom says, "We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins"; thus says the LORD of hosts, "They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever." 5 Your eyes will see this and you will say, "The LORD be magnified beyond the border of Israel!"

Andrew Barker

God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:8

I think everybody will agree that we are all sinners, so any difference of opinion will revolve around whether Christ died for the elect only.

John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that he gave ...

Nobody has shown any good reason for narrowing the meaning of the word 'world' to anything less than the whole of mankind. But some want to maintain that 'world' implies the elect only.

It becomes apparent that the reason for insisting that God loves everybody, but not necessarily in the same way, is because it highlights deficiencies in Reformed thinking.

In particular it throws a question mark on the nature of God's character in choosing an 'elect'. Since, if God shows his love to us by sending Jesus, then why oh why did not God show his love to all of us, by choosing all of us?

Ben Simpson

Andrew said, "It becomes apparent that the reason for insisting that God loves everybody, but not necessarily in the same way, is because it highlights deficiencies in Reformed thinking."

Andrew, that's just not the case. By saying that God loves everybody but not in the same way is trying support the idea that the biblical concepts of union with Christ, adoption by the Father, and election from the foundation of the world(however one believes one becomes elect) actually mean something and change the relationship between man and God, bringing about a fullness of the love relationship.

Andrew Barker

Ben, you're welcome to your view, but I don't think you're putting questions which you want answered, so much as stating your case.

Election is the real issue here and what's more it's the topic under discussion. God loved the world, not just the world of the elect as you want to put it, so he sent his son to die. If that's not enough love for you then so be it. It is certainly enough to keep me going. And yes, when I get to heaven I will know more of God's love than I do now. But that's a deficiency on my part, not God's. I believe his love is unchanging, unfathomable and unbounded. Always has been, always will be.

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