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John Owen also said "All thing I thought I knew; but now confess, the more I know I know, I know the less."

Andrew Barker

Does anybody ever preach "for God so loved the elect"?
I appreciate it is taught as part of Calvinist doctrine to the 'faithful' but do any noted gospel preachers use the phrase?

Ben (aka Godesteem)

Context, context, context...

"First, If this word whosoever be distributive, then it is restrictive of the love of God to some, and not to others,--to one part of the distribution, and not the other. And if it do not restrain the love of God, intending the salvation of some, then it is not distributive of the fore-mentioned object of it; and if it do restrain it, then all are not intended in the love which moved God to give his Son. Secondly, I deny that the word here is distributive of the object of God’s love, but only declarative of his end and aim in giving Christ in the pursuit of that love,--to wit, that all believers might be saved. So that the sense is, “God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave his Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved.” And this is all that is by any (besides a few worthless cavils) objected from this place to disprove our interpretation."

Owens specifically says "the sense is" and then provides the words Mr. Lumpkins quotes. Of course, the wider context of Owens discussion provides even more insight to his conclusions, but I will leave that to whoever bothers to actually read beyond one sentence quotes...

peter lumpkins

Hi Ben,

Yes, and all the ink Owen spilled on rationalizing his position offered not an iota's worth of insight as to whether "kosmos" denotes "world of the elect" in John 3:16 or anywhere in the NT for that matter. If you have a Greek lexicon, dictionary, or any other reputable language tool which differs, please log the source. Otherwise, reading more of Owen will do the reader little, if any, good so far as "world" in John 3:16 is concerned.

Scott Shaver

Regarding the "kosmos" of John 3:16. Owen and Pink are saying the same thing here with Owen a little more unsettled and obtuse than Pink. For the purpose of this thread's subject, several of us have already rejected the thought trajectory of both Pink and Owen, hence Pete's comment that further reading of Owen (I include Pink as well) "does the reader little, if any good" with regard to John 3:16's use of the Greek word.

There's still a little time left in the day. So I invite our our Calvinist friends to serve up another SGM hero for our consideration before supper.

I would like to got to bed tonight with this "kosmos" issue settled. LOL.

Ben (aka Godesteem)

My point was that John Owen was hardly trying to drag theological baggage onto the words of Jesus, his discussion (which is about 10 pages) was simply summed up with the quote you provided. Again, he says "the sense is" which is a perfectly acceptable way of providing fallible commentary on the Scriptures. I actually agree that the discussion of the word translated "world" is rather moot. The more important issue is what the phrase "whoever believes" (pas ho pisteuwn) is referring to, i.e. is it suggesting a general open invitation to every human being ("whosoever"), or more specifically pointing to the idea that all the ones believing have eternal life, i.e. there is no such thing as a believing person who will not receive the promised benefit, hence, “whosoever.”

Back to "world" in John 3:16... to quote James White (hardly a "SGM" hero, but does have training in the Biblical languages):

"The great controversy that rages around the term “world” is wholly unnecessary. The wide range of uses of kosmos (world) in the Johannine corpus is well known. John 3:16 does not define the extent of kosmos. However, a few things are certain: it is not the “world” that Jesus says He does not pray for in John 17:9, a “world” that is differentiated from those the Father has given Him: “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours.” It is not the “world” that is arrayed as an enemy against God’s will and truth, either, as seen in 1 John 2:15: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Obviously, the “world” we are not to love in 1 John 2:15 is not the world God showed His love toward by sending His unique Son. The most that can be said by means of exegesis (rather than by insertion via tradition) is that the world is shown love through the giving of the Son so that a specific, particular people receive eternal life through faith in Him. Since we know that not all are saved by faith in Christ, it is utterly unwarranted to read into kosmos some universal view of humanity: how is God’s love shown for one who experiences eternal punishment by the provision of salvation for someone else?"

I think the burden of proof is actually on the person who believes that "world" in John 3:16 refers to every single human being without exception.

peter lumpkins


You write,"My point was that John Owen was hardly trying to drag theological baggage onto the words of Jesus..." Yet, that is precisely what Owen did! Until you can show, lexically and linguistically, how "world" in John 3:16 may legitimately be translated either "believers" or "world of the elect" then all that remains is theological presuppositions dragged onto the text as some sort of filter to come up with a preconceived notion. No Greek lexicon, dictionary, or other original language tool remotely hints that KOSMOS may legitimately translate KOSMOS of the elect [i.e. believers]. If any scholarly tool is an exception to this, produce it Ben.

Nor are you listening to your own theological tradition albeit you cite James White. Contra James White, D.A. Carson, a reputable Calvinist scholar if ever there was one flat says,

“I know that some try to take “world” here to refer to the elect. But that really will not do. All the evidence of the usage of the word in John’s Gospel is against the suggestion..."

More significantly, Calvin himself had this to say on the world of John 3:16:

"“Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish…And He has employed the universal term “whosoever”, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term “world”, which He formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the “world” that is worthy of the favor of God, yet He shows Himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when He invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ…”(John Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol.17, p.122-125).

Yet you skip both John Calvin and D.A. Carson's seasoned judgments and settle for someone's judgment who may have studied Greek but by no stretch is considered in any academic circles as a reputable Greek scholar, namely James White who simply sidesteps the linguistic evidence, and posits instead what world in John 3:16 theologically cannot mean. For him, Pink, Owen, and apparently you, Ben, theology precedes exegesis...theology overrides the inspired text. I'm afraid we are just not going to let you or another get by with that here.

Finally, it makes sense that Calvinists like White would suggest the argument over world in John 3:16 is, as he put it, "wholly unnecessary," and ride off into the sunset proclaiming from other texts what cannot be for world in John 3:16, a diversionary tactic if ever there was one. The truth is, linguistic scholarship on the meaning of world in the NT (especially in texts like John 3:16) remains firmly on the side of those who argue for universal atonement. Thus, the further strict Calvinists can steer the argument elsewhere the better they will be in making their case for Particular Redemption.

Ben (aka Godesteem)

"Thus, the further strict Calvinists can steer the argument elsewhere the better they will be in making their case for Particular Redemption."

Again, you cited John Owen's loose paraphrase of John 3:16 (i.e. his "sense" of the verse) and somehow "strict" Calvinists are using John 3:16 to make a case for Particular Redemption? Are you serious? James White, whom I assume you would call a "strict" Calvinist, along with John Piper, and as you cited D.A. Carson (whom, by your criteria, would have to be among those pesky strict Calvinists) all do not suggest that the world mentioned in John 3:16 is equivalent to "the elect".

James White attempts to rebut the tradition that emphasizes the "whosoever" phrase in John 3:16, in the sense that everyone has the ability to believe (which is actually an argument against unconditional election, not particular redemption), when in fact the text says nothing about who has the ability to believe in Jesus. Again, I am curious about any "Calvinist" who would try to exegete John 3:16 in an attempt to define and defend particular redemption!

peter lumpkins

Ben (aka Godesteem)

Please. I'm very much aware of strict Calvinists who do not hold world as referring to either “believers” or “elect”. My series began making this very point! But your final statement is completely baffling:

“Again, I am curious about any "Calvinist" who would try to exegete John 3:16 in an attempt to define and defend particular redemption!"

Who has suggested this? Where? Calvinists would never dream employing J316 in defending particular redemption. What strict Calvinists routinely do, however, is clump John 3:16 into a category of “objectionable passages” usually dubbed something like “ALL passages” and proceed to show how it doesn’t affect their understanding of LA. So no, they don’t exegete J316 to defend LA, they defend LA from the objection J316 and other similar “ALL passages” pose. This is virtually standard protocol for strict Calvinist apologists.   


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