Allow Some Alls to Mean All

In an effort to prove that God’s atonement is limited to elect individuals some Calvinists have taken to highlight the context of enemy camp proof-texts to show how the “all” contained in those verses refers to a limited group. That’s fine to do; context always defines a word so when I shout at the guests who have overstayed their welcome with “all people in my house; get out” I am not referring to all the people in the world nor am I including myself or my immediate family in the statement—I’m referring to the guests. The context restricted the meaning of the words and the fact that Calvinists point that out is to be applauded.

But I do have a problem when some, in their zeal, take passages that have a definite universal aspect and force it to mean the elect (or whatever) because they can’t allow any verses to speak against their theological construct. In this post I’m not trying to fix the bad exegesis involved in limiting every verse that uses universal language but to encourage these brothers and sisters to enjoy the theological tension; rejoice in it.

God is bigger than our theology and although there are some things that we can bank on we can’t just twist every single passage of Scripture to conform to our theological framework. We can all agree that God is not like a man that He should repent ({{Numbers 23:19}}) and that He knows all things ({{1 John 3:20}}) but we have to look at a verse like {{Gen 6:6}} where God repents from something He has already accomplished—not just some sort of divine pity. I’ll personally wrestle with that, but I’m not going to water it down to make it say something the passage isn’t saying. I just have to deal with that tension; it just proved that there’s something about God that I don’t right get but that I can still trust Him.

Same thing with passages in Scripture that talk about the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in Christ bodily ({{Col 2:9}}) and those passages where Jesus seriously seems to not know something around Him (cf. {{Luke 8:45}}; {{Matt 24:36}}). It creates a tension and maybe some would go as far as a paradox—but that’s for the mortal frame to wrestle with.

Said Augustine: God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed.

So please, don’t try to create some oversimplified false dichotomy (ie: either this passage supports limited atonement or we must embrace Universalism) especially with passages that plainly portray some universal aspect to God’s work (cf. {{1 John 2:2}}; {{Rom 3:21-25}}). Stop, question your theology and if you’re convinced on that acknowledge that somewhere along the line God worked something beyond our puny understanding. In one of the most argued passages of Scripture ({{Romans 9-11}}) Paul looks back at it all and readily admits:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!

Revel in it Calvinist believers; as some of your raised banners say “semper reformada”.

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