Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Parallel

“Seventh, particular intent maintains the parallel between our solidarity with Adam and our solidarity with Christ. As Neal Punt puts it, Romans 5:15-17 ‘[does] not say that one of the differences between Adam’s transgression and Christ’s obedience is that the transgression resulted in actual death while the obedience merely established a potential or possibility for life. Instead of making such a distinction, Paul, using the identical grammatical construction, makes a parallel application of actual death and actual life in verse 18. Calvinists are unmistakably correct in noting that Romans 5:12 through 21 says‘acquittal and life’ actually come to all those represented by Christ just as certainly as it declares that‘sin and death’ actually came upon all those represented by Adam’” (Dr. Terrance L. Tiessen, “Who Can Be Saved? ReAssessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004, page 98).

In recent posts, I have discussed in great detail the Calvinist notion that God’s sovereignty involves the necessity of salvation for all those God intends to save. Since the Scriptures and experience teach that every individual does not come to faith, Calvinists reason that this is evidence in favor of the Calvinist position of limited atonement. God did not die for every person; therefore, every person cannot be saved. As a result of Calvinist logic, the phrase “all men” in Romans 5:18 has been twisted to mean “all men that Christ intends to save.”

But today, I wanna examine this concept in the text of Romans 5 itself to see if the Calvinist interpretation plays itself out. Did Christ’s atonement not only purchase but THROW the gift of salvation into the laps of certain individuals? Or did Christ’s atonement purchase salvation while allowing individuals to receive or reject it? For the answers to these questions, we now turn to the Scriptures themselves.

Tiessen (and Neal Punt, in the quote above) argues that Romans 5 details the parallel unions between Adam and Christ (the “second Adam,” 1 Cor. 15). In order to keep the parallel (according to Neal Punt, whom Tiessen quotes), we have to argue for efficacious grace; that is, that “all” that Christ intended to save were made alive and justified because of Christ’s obedience. If we don’t argue the Calvinist logic, we lose the parallelism of Romans 5.

But why is this the case? I will get into that momentarily. If one reads Romans 5, one will quickly notice that Neal Punt (and Dr. Tiessen) quickly skirt over verses that seem to undermine their interpretation of the passage. For example, they point to verse 18 (in the above quote) but what about verse 17? Verse 17 states that “those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (NKJV). So here, the gift is given to those who “receive” it, not just given to a select few. The gift is not automatically given without reception. The condition for possessing the gift is reception of the gift. One must reach out and grab it, otherwise, salvation becomes of no use.

But what about the parallelism of the passage? Doesn’t Romans 5 loses the parallelism if we interpret the text the way I did above, that “all men” are those who “receive abundance of grace of the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17)? Actually, no. Dr. Tiessen and Neal Punt err when they make such a statement. Why? Because, if you look at the text, you’ll notice that Romans 5:12 states that Adam sinned, death spread to all, and that “all sinned”. Every single human being sinned in Adam. When Adam chose to disobey God, every human being (by virtue of mortal union with Adam) disobeyed God as well. Paul tells us in the text that “all sinned,” asserting that it was a deliberate choice on the part of humanity to sin against God.

So, if “all sinned,” then what does the text mean by “all will be made alive”? As I aforementioned, the “all” of the text in verse 18 refers to “those who receive” the grace and gift in verse 17. “All will be made alive” means “all those who receive the grace and gift of salvation” will be justified. The parallelism of Romans 5 has not been lost. Every single person CHOSE to sin in Adam; there must be a choice if someone is to be made alive in Christ. The mortal union involved a deliberate choice to sin; the spiritual union with Christ involves a deliberate choice to receive God’s grace and His gift of salvation. Where has the parallelism been lost in this interpretation?

But what about Ephesians 1? This is the classic text used by Calvinists to claim that humans don’t make choices...rather, God picks and chooses. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,” they say (Ephesians 1:4). The problem with the Calvinist interpretation is that they don’t see the phrase “in Him.” How is one united to Christ? Romans 5 tells us: we are united to Christ “by faith.” The spiritual union with Christ comes to those who “receive abundance and the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17). God chose humans before the foundation of the world to be His own...but He did not choose individuals without regard to Christ. Rather, He set faith as the condition for salvation and, on that basis, chose believers to be His own.

To end the post, I’d like to talk more on Ephesians 1. I just stated here that God “chose believers to be His own.” This is a significant statement indeed: God could not choose individuals without regard to grace and faith because, prior to this, we were all “children of wrath.” Calvinists often read Ephesians 1 but fail to read Ephesians 2; yet, it is in Ephesians 2 that we realize we were under the wrath and condemnation of God prior to faith. So if God chooses us without regard to faith, God chooses to smile on sinners and their sin---which is something that the Bible states God cannot do. Whenever a Calvinist says, “God chose us to be in Christ,” what he is really saying is “God was delighted to smile on us while we were yet sinners.” If God favored us as sinners, why then, did He require Jesus to go the cross? Why was Christ the penalty for our sins, if God smiled on us as sinners? Paul states that the reason Jesus was sent to Calvary was because

“in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, TO DEMONSTRATE AT THE PRESENT TIME HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, THAT HE MIGHT BE JUST AND THE JUSTIFIER OF THE ONE WHO HAS FAITH IN JESUS” (Rom. 3:25-26).

Part of the purpose of Calvary (aside from purchasing the salvation of every person) was to deal with sin. “The wages of sin is death,” Paul writes (Rom. 6:23). Christ came not only to purchase our salvation, but to suffer the penalty for our sin (1 John 2:1-2; 4:10). If this be the case, then God must first have dealt with sin in the eternal decrees before granting salvation. This is why Classic Arminians hold to the idea of conditional election. When it says that God “chose us in Him,” we understand that only by the divine gifts of Christ, grace, and faith, are we chosen for salvation.


whenindoubt said...

Responding to The Parallel, posted 12/26/2010 by Deide Richardson

Although there are other significant errors in Deide Richardson’s posting this response will be limited to her major premise that: “Every single human being sinned in Adam” so also every single human being in Christ “will be made righteous.” Part B of this claim is correct; part A is not true.

Jesus Christ is an “offspring” (seed) of Eve (Gen. 3:15) and from “David’s family” (2 Sam. 7:12; Rom. 1:3). “Death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15: 21, 22). Verse 22 does not say “all in Christ,” as Richardson claims, in both English and Greek it says: “in Christ all will be made alive.”

If Jesus is not a true human being who remained in every sense “the sinless one” he cannot be our Savior. Therefore it can not be said that “every single human being sinned in Adam.”

The “all men” in Romans 5:18a must be defined as “all men except those persons who are designated in the Bible as those who were not corrupted by the sin of Adam.” The Scriptures reveal that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only human being who was not defiled by Adam’s sin. He is an exception to the “all men” spoken of in 5:18a.

The Bible does not say, either in John 3:16 or anywhere else, that some persons will be saved “because they believed.” Such a condition for salvation would give these sinners “reason to boast” as over against those who did not chose to believe. Furthermore, they were “dead in sin” (not merely weak) before new life was given to them. The Scriptures do say that some will not be saved “because” they refused to believe (see John 3:18b).

The “all men” in Romans 5:18b is a precise (exact) parallel to the “all men” in 5:18a. It must be defined as “all men except those persons who are designed in the Bible as those who will not be made righteous.” The “all men” of Rom. 5:18b is reflected in these “so-called” universalistic texts: John 1:29, 3:17, 12:32, 12:47; Rom. 3:23, 24, 11:32; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:14, 5:19; Phil. 2:10, 11; Col. 1:20; 1 Tim. 2:6; 1 Tim. 4:10; Titus 2:11 (RSV); Heb. 2:9; ;1 John2:2. These are not universals; they are generalizations because they have designated exceptions.

No one is designated an exception to the “all men” of Rom. 5:18b exclusively on the basis of inherited (original) sin committed by Adam. The designated exceptions to Rom. 5:18b are those, and only those, who in addition to their sin in Adam have willfully, persistently and finally disregarded God’s will, as they have known it, during their lifetime on earth. (For basis of eternal death see: Matt. 7:23; 16:27; 25:42, 45; John 3:36; 5:29; Rom. 1:20, 24, 26, 28; 2:1- 2, 5-8; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7; Eph. 5:5, 6; Col. 3:25; 2 Thess. 2:12; Rev. 20:12b, 13 and 22:15.)

What about the need to “repent, believe and willingly obey”? These are not conditions for redemption to occur. Such a condition would demean that work that was accomplished fully, completely and perfectly by Jesus Christ some 2,000 years ago. No conditions remain to be fulfilled. Jesus does not share the work needed for our redemption. The Bible speaks of this as a completed work (See Luke 1:68; Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19; Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:22; 2 Tim. 1:9, 10; Titus 2:11 (RSV); Heb. 1:3b; 7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:14; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2; Rev. 5:5, 9).

Repentance, Faith and joyful obedience are required of all who hear the gospel because to refuse to do these things would be an act of willful disobedience against the known will of God. Such persistent refusal is the basis for the sentence of eternal death.

Deidre Richardson, B.A., M.Div. said...


Thanks for your response. In regards to Christ being human, the text doesn't deny that. However, the problem with your interpretation is that Christ is the one being discussed in the passage as the parallel to Adam (that is, as being the spiritual head of the spiritual union between God and believers). So Christ wouldn't be discussed in the idea of mortal humanity to which I am speaking.

In regards to belief as a legitimate reason to boast, this is purely a philosophical argument. Where is the proof in the Scriptures for this interpretation? What about the text of Romans 4 where it states that Abraham was only accounted as righteous when he "believed God"? Explain how Abraham's belief gave him "a legitimate reason to boast"...and then I might believe you.

You mention that believers were "dead in sin" before Christ made them alive, not merely weak...I believe the same. It appears that you misunderstand the nature of Classical Arminianism. Nowhere in our theology do we argue that man was merely weak in sin. To argue that is to argue a purely Pelagian notion of sin and salvation. If you read the work of James Arminius, he never actually states anything like Pelagius. In actuality, what you'll find when you read him is that he disagrees with Pelagius completely and argues for the Augustinian notion of grace. Arminius argued that the fall was so devastating that man can only believe because of the awakening grace of God. Without it, man would never come to faith.

When you speak of belief in order for redemption to occur, you misunderstand my view. What I mean in regards to salvation is that salvation is only granted to a person on the basis of faith. To argue anything other than this would be to contradict the Scriptures themselves. Faith is a consistent message throughout Scripture...which is the reason why I find unconditional election to be unbiblical. How can God elect without regard to faith, but tell humanity that they must believe? God becomes nothing more than a trickster if such an interpretation is true (which I doubt).

Please write back for more discussion.