Friday, January 09, 2015

God So Loved the Elect?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

[John Owen] conceives a hyponymous relation between world and elect here (i.e. world includes 'elect' as a subset).  This is not possible in John where the elect are defined against the world -- they are those given to Jesus by the Father "out of the world" [17:6], that is, 'elect' is a concept in John which is in opposition to 'world', defined over against it.  Owen's substitution would lead 3:16 to read "God so loved those He chose out of the world", which alters the sense of the verse significantly, in effect denying what the verse affirms, a love of the world.  World is a description of a qualitative state of rebellion against God, which does not have reference to anyone's relation to the decree of God, the latter being manifested in John by coming to Jesus, listening to His voice, believing in Him.  But when an individual does that he is, as stated above, no longer "of the world".  To make the 'world' the 'elect', even to view it as a mixture of elect and reprobate [i.e. in terms either of eternity or potentiality], is to commit a category confusion in Johannine theology, and one not without effects, not least being the complete loss of connotative meaning.  As [D.A.] Carson notes, to say that God loves only the elect and hates the rest, which is the motivation for making 'world' here equal 'elect', "would destroy the evangelistic thrust and the emotive incentive to belief based on God's love for the 'world', a love which sent the Son of God on His saving mission and robs the 'world' of excuse."

--Neil Chambers, A Critical Examination Of John Owen's Argument For Limited Atonement In "The Death of Death In The Death of Christ.", p.152-153

1 comment:

Rob Lombardi said...

Which part of John Owen's work is Neil Chambers interpreting as having a "hypnonymous" relation between the world and the elect?

I don't see how Neil necessarily interprets taking "out of the world" to be denying a love for the world. While at the same time Neil admits that the scripture should be interpreted to show that God chose against the world, while still showing a love for the world. It would seem that choosing out of, or against the world would still be a loving act of God. Because in both cases God is being gracious and forgiving sins and applying his love to those who were lost in the world.