The American Gospel: Christ Alone (for the “Elect” Alone?)

From a recent interaction with this post on YouTube:

 

My initial comment:
The “American [prosperity] Gospel” is dead wrong (as this documentary points out so clearly) – but so is the “Calvinist Gospel” that is used to counter it. I was a “Calvinist” pastor for around 15 years – and seminary trained in “Reformed” theology (at Reformed Theological Seminary).

But the skeleton in the Calvinist’s closet is that “Christ Alone” is only for the “elect alone”.

This is assuredly NOT the “sum” (Psalm 199:160) of Biblical truth regarding the Gospel. The Good News (when all is said and done) is this: Jesus is Lord – and He is “the Savior of all mankind” (1 Timothy 4:10) – and to this irrefutable fact every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that ‘Jesus is Lord’, to the Glory of God the Father. (see Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10–11; Isaiah 45:23)

Reply from the video’s author, “Polite Leader”:
Hi Wayne. I’m confused. How could you have been trained at RTS and been a Calvinist pastor for 15 years and not know the Reformed responses to text like 1 Tim 4?

My reply:
I guess your confusion arises from an assumption that the “Reformed responses” (which I am well aware of after 65 years of life) are logically irrefutable. For me – they no longer are.

Here’s the fundamental issue (as I understand it): when a passage says something that must be explained as *really* meaning something that it does NOT say (i.e. words must be added to qualify [change] the given meaning of a text) then our hermeneutical alarms should go off. This is especially true when the “Reformed response” would make a passage (regarding the power, extent and scope of the Gospel) mean something LESS than what it most naturally means when left “as is”.

(Be assured – I fully know that there ARE passages where we are truly forced to take this approach – e.g. where Jesus tells us “you must hate your parents” if you would be a true disciple…. But even in this case our interpretation expands toward grace and love – but “contracts” the concept of “hate” as hyperbole that, instead, is calling for radical commitment to Christ.)

Paul consistently leans in the *other* direction: “grace did much more abound”, “above and beyond what you can ask or imagine”, “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”, etc.

So I think our first inclination should (as a hermeneutical principle) be to take the “larger” more benevolent view (as we do with the “hate your parents” passage above) – if it is at all possible and more commensurate with the God who IS Love… (not the “God is love- BUT…”)

So, the “Reformed responses” (it seems to me) are *predisposed* to circumscribe any hint to a “larger hope” e.g. (as here) that God’s intention is to bring salvation to ALL humanity – not just an “elect” few. (BTW – I DO believe in “election” – but in a way that better parallels the election of Israel among the nations – not as an end in themselves – but, in their case, as a light to the Gentiles, etc. – the “elect” are chosen to reach the “non-elect”, etc.)

Why do they (the “Reformed”) do this? Fundamentally because the literal “as is” meaning of the text runs counter to the Calvinistic doctrinal scheme they subconsciously impose… the “systematic” that will not allow for “all” to be saved – i.e. because of the doctrine of “limited atonement”. But, of contextual importance, Paul has already said in the very same epistle (2:4),

“[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

And the solid theological underpinning for this is found in the next 2 verses:

5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

YES – I understand the “Reformed/Calvinist” response is to say “Paul means ‘all kinds of people'” – But there is just one simple burning issue: the text does not say that – and you must add to the text (read into the text?) to make it say something it simply does not say.
Why can’t we just let grace “much more abound” here and leave it at that?

Surely you believe (as I do) that our Sovereign God gets what He wants!
That His Word – sent forth to save the Cosmos (John 3:17) – will achieve His full purpose! (Is.55:11) It will not return to Him void.

Finally – there is no passage of scripture that better presents the universal hope of the Gospel than Romans 5 where the effect on humanity by the “last Adam” is plainly contrasted to the universal effects on humanity of the first Adam:

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Indeed – “…where sin abounded, grace did MUCH MORE abound!”

WARNING: If you are seriously willing to engage in a conversation about this – you should be warned that NO one is closer to embracing universal reconciliation than a 5 point Calvinist! All you have to do is have your mind changed on the single most dubious “point” of them all: “limited atonement”… – (see for example Peter Sterry, the Puritan theologian and member of the Westminster Assembly – in R. Parry’s “A Larger Hope”).
I highly recommend one of the most transforming books I’ve read in this regard: “The One Purpose of God” by Dutch Calvinist pastor, Jan Bonda – which helped me to RADICALLY change my understanding of Romans 9-11.

I could go on (and on) but I will stop for now.

Thanks and God Bless You!

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