My simple, twitterish, response was: “I believe that the Holy Spirit moves on, prompts, and draws all men to Christ.
This prompted an email from one reader who wanted to probe deeper. Here’s my response.
The first place I would probably point for this verse is John 12:32 which is in reference to the golden snake from the Exodus which was fashioned for all the people of Israel, not all of whom chose to look upon the symbol for salvation.
Does all mean all?
The response from my new friend was along the lines many proponents of limited atonement use which is to claim that verses that contain unqualified references to mankind aren’t really talking about mankind but rather are talking about all ethnic groups, tribes, tongues, nations, etc.
Here’s my response to this objection.
The problem with interpreting “all” to be people groups as opposed to all people is that in Revelation 5:9 we are explicitly told that the author is referring to nations as opposed to people. This is ironic since it is the same author who chose to use the words “all”, “whosoever”, and other unqualified terms to refer to the wide availability of salvation that is offered through Christ.
I think we can both agree that not all will accept Jesus, the question rather is whether everyone has within their power (given, obviously by God) the ability to choose Christ in the first place. In that respect I think that the entire third chapter of John should suffice to show us that God does indeed will that no man should perish (2 Peter 3:9) but that the decision to accept the grace freely offered has indeed been given by a sovereign God to his creatures in the interests of love.
I think we should back up to John 3:14 where, before the famous verse in John 3:16, Jesus mentions the snake being an archetype of the salvation he is about to offer. Was the snake only offered to those who were going to look at it anyway? Hardly, since many still perished even after the snake was fashioned as a means of grace offered to a rebellious people.
Skipping ahead to the verses you mentioned1, I fail to see how they present a general view of election wherein many are called and yet few are chosen with chosen being chosen in Christ based on repentance and free acceptance of a freely given gift.
Not that God doesn’t know whom will be saved. I think the verses you pointed out clearly present God as possessing the foreknowledge of who will and won’t accept or reject him.
I simply question, however, the notion that God’s foreknowledge is logically tied to a causal decree. In other words, I don’t see how God’s foreknowledge is inextricably tied to the causally deterministic notion that God also causes those he foreknew to accept the grace he has offered.
I also don’t see how God’s foreknowledge necessitates the other reformed doctrine that the atonement is somehow limited because, based on my understanding of the reformed doctrine of limited atonement, if Jesus’s sacrifice were to have been made for the whole world, many of whom willfully reject Him, that his death and subsequent atonement would have somehow been wasted.
The above aren’t merely rhetorical questions. While I think they pose significant barriers to belief in reformed doctrine, I’d love to hear what you think. Whether you agree or not, leave a comment below!