Contend Earnestly: 1 Timothy 4:10: Atonement Debate

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

1 Timothy 4:10: Atonement Debate

I guess I am a little confused over this post that has been brought forth. Because I could agree 100% with Turretinfan on his post and it does nothing to the implication of the Scriptures saying that Christ died for all, especially the elect. Even an Arminian could agree with what Turretinfan has posted. No one is debating that Jesus or God is the Saviour of the elect, we are debating on whether Jesus died for all people. Bnonn was correct in asking how this affects the debate in any doesn't.

Although I could agree with the entire post and just leave it, I really don't completely agree with his thoughts on this. The text in question is not saying that God is the preserver, which would be a verb, of the literal bodies, but is in fact stating that God is the Saviour, the noun, of all men. He is the One that saves and Him alone. This doesn't imply that He carries this out for all men, which would be a verb form, but that He is in fact the only Saviour for all men. It would be like saying that no one can be saved apart from Christ. Neither of us would disagree with this.

I actually find TF's use of Ephesians 5:23 to show the complete lack of understanding context in this verse. Here is the verse:

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.
Ephesians 5:23

The reference here is the comparison of the husband and wife, with Christ and the church. So when TF says that this is saying that Jesus is merely saving a "body" he misses the entire point of Ephesians 5. Christ is the Saviour of the church, the body, not merely a fleshly body as TF would purport.

Here is TF's comment in full in response to Bnonn and also TF's post that God is the Saviour of the bodies of all men.

You may be interested to consider/compare the usage of soter in Ephesians 5:23.
Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
Or consider the use of related words such as "saved" (Jude 5, 2 Peter 2:5, or 1 Peter 3:20).

I will quickly add this. Jude 5, 2 Peter 2:5 and 1 Peter 3:20 all use the term "save" or a derivation of it in the verb form, not the noun form. 1 Timothy 4:10 uses "soter" which is a noun and that is very big difference and the reason so many take 1 John 2:2 wrongly.

Even more so...1 Peter 3:20 speaks of "eight persons" being brought safely. TF uses this as kind of a proof text for 1 Timothy 4:10 and Ephesians 5:23, he might want to take a second look. The usage of "persons" in 1 Peter 3:20 is the Greek word "psuche" which means "soul" or "heart," NOT a physical body.

I actually believe that this comes from TF's continual ignoring the context in other discussions we have had. Especially when he says that when John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world" this is speaking of the created order. Then, TF says that John switches from using the term "kosmos" as "created order" to then John using it figuratively in other places. (I am paraphrasing here so if TF needs to correct me, then so be it)

Is this not what we would deem as eisegesis instead of exegesis? Especially in light of the fact that no major theologian, that I have found, would agree that this means "created order" here in John.

Here are my questions to TF to make sure we nail this down for his next post:

1. What does "created order" mean? And if you take John 3:16 to say that "God so loved the created order" then does this term, kosmos, switch meanings later in the same chapter? If so, why? Who is the judge of this? I am guessing it is our theological persuasion.

2. How does 1 Timothy 4:10 negate universal expiation? Not sure why you picked this verse as a strong argument.

3. Do you really want to stand behind the fact that Ephesians 5:23 is speaking of a literal "body" or do you concede that this is speaking of the church? If so, how does 1 Peter 3:20 help your seems to destroy it.


David Ponter said...

Hey Seth,

Let's first say, please do not republish my comments anywhere else, TF.

If TF is saying this:

"God is the 'soter of the bodies of all men, but especially of the persons of the church,' thats junk".

If TF is actually trying to proof-text the body of Christ as the literal physical body of something, that too is junk.

I could not figure how anyone would take those proof-texts as saying God saves the bodies of persons, as opposed to their person. If that was his argument, its just more absurdity.

If TF wants to say that God is the preserver of the bodies of all men, but the saviour (soteriologically) of the believers, thats junk too.

The one word, soter, covers both 'all men' and the 'believers.' For the believers tho, there is intensification, not a category change. What Paul is saying, God is this to all men, but even more so with regard to the believers.

Thus either God is the preserver of all men, but is the especial preserver of the believer (Augustine/Calvin) or God is the Saviour of all men, but especially of the believers (Boston). Either one is consistent and true to the semantic structure of the text.

But if its bodies versus persons, and physical preservation versus soteriological saviour, thats just unsustainable and absurd.

What is more, if one takes malista as "namely," thats junk too, but its at least internally more consistent.

But all that aside, I have to say "And so?" Even if Paul is saying God is the preserver of the bodies of all men, but the actual soteriological saviour of the believers, what happens? Nothing.

So until how this argument actually is supposed to preclude unlimited expiation, I will pass. If TF wants to just assert those category equivocations, there is nothing much more that I can say other than its just incoherent to the semantic structure of the verse.


Turretinfan said...


Blogger automatically republishes your comments LOTS of other places. If you don't want your comments republished, don't publish them on Blogger.


I couldn't find anything in David's comments beyond bare, and rudely phrased, assertions. If you think he makes any worthwhile points, please highlight them, and I'll address what you highlight.


David Ponter said...

Hey TF,

Last I knew, Blogger does not actually publish my comments at a URL. What it does do is not the same as what you did. I could say a lot more about it all, but for now... the verse. There is nothing there Fan. Nothing. If your point is that God is preserving the bodies of all men, but saving believers persons--as if thats the point of the verse--that is not an argument. (Assuming that is what you are saying or even implying.) And I see that Seth is not even sure why you bring this verse up.

But lets grant what looks to be your point: so what? How does that disprove Seth's argument?

Why be so cryptic, come out and tell us how that refutes Seth's position. I cant believe that thats all you want to do with this verse. Please do make explicit your point.


YnottonY said...

Just for the record, I haven't said anything (in email or otherwise) about T-Fan's republishing of our comments other than what I expressed openly on T-Fan's own blog.

However, I would say this, Turretin Fan. I think the way you should have responded to David here, as one Christian to another Christian, is to say something like:

"David, while I happen to respectfully disagree with you over the legal parameters of what I did, I will not do what I did again, given your requests here. Nevertheless, what is done is done at my blog. Since I do not want to offend you as a brother in Christ, I will try to comply with your concerns in the future. I apologize if I have offended you. I hope we can now move on and have a constructive dialogue."

That's the way to deal with something like this, rather than virtually saying, "You don't like it? Tough!...I think I am within my legal rights."

YnottonY said...


I mentioned in the other thread that T-Fan might have been anticipating that you would use this text to establish your case for an unlimited expiation. So, he tabled the verse and offered his interpretation as a defeater for anyone who wants to use this passage for their positive case. The problem is, you might not use this verse for your positive case. You may just think it is neutral and move on. T-Fan certainly can't use it to establish his positive case. So people are left wondering why it was brought up.

About all the universal redemptionist could do with the passage is argue inferentially that God is the Saviour to whom all should look because he is sufficient through Christ's unlimited satisfaction (the appointed means of salvation) to save all. But we might just say that it is implicit at best and prefer not to use it at all for our positive case.

T-Fan might be erroneously thinking that you would convert the noun into a verb, as he does, and then argue that Christ sufficiently saves all mankind, but especially the elect through the death he died.

But, again, he will have to explain himself. I am just guessing.

Turretinfan said...


Thanks for stating your opinion, though I respectfully disagree. Agreeing to restrictions on where I respond to comments is outside of what I consider reasonable, given that we are not dealing with a sensative matter that ought to be kept secret. I also decline, in the interest of peace, to get into that issue further.

If anyone thinks that I have wronged them, my email address is obtainable through my blogger profile.

In case my intent was unclear, my intent was simply to respond to all the outstanding comments at one time before moving on to the next post. I didn't do it to provoke anyone or create a turf war.

I didn't do it thinking it would provoke petulance (count the uses of the word "junk" above) or otherwise to gain any kind of unfair advantage.


Turretinfan said...


As I have now also pointed out in the other thread, your guess was mostly correct. I'll explain myself shortly in a new post to be emailed to Seth.


David Ponter said...

To TF: Please do not republish my posts at your blog or any other blog or web-site without my permission.

Hey Tony,

You say:
About all the universal redemptionist could do with the passage is argue inferentially that God is the Saviour to whom all should look because he is sufficient through Christ's unlimited satisfaction (the appointed means of salvation) to save all. But we might just say that it is implicit at best and prefer not to use it at all for our positive case.

David: Sure, agreed. The argument has a couple of critical hinge points. For the ulta-Calvinist who wishes to make soter something other than soteriological, they have to prove that Paul is using soter in a non-soteriological sense. But that is impossible. When Paul references soter with God, its always soteriological. Eg:

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope

1 Timothy 2:3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior,

Its always with reference to persons, not merely their bodies' physical preservation.

When Paul references soter with Christ, its the same thing.

There is no internal evidence that soter is being used as preservation in a non-soteriological sense.

Of course, the idea behind preservation is deliverance from something, which is the same as saviour in the final analysis.

Given that Paul's only usage of this word is soteriological, then as you say, the argument presupposes a salvation as provision for all men.

This could be an actual provision, like the feast or the pool of siloam, or a hypothetical provision as with Owen's truly hypothetical universalism.

Tony says: T-Fan might be erroneously thinking that you would convert the noun into a verb, as he does, and then argue that Christ sufficiently saves all mankind, but especially the elect through the death he died.

David: The problem of second guessing your opponent.

The defeaters are just unsound. Citations where in typical instances people were saved from physical bondage does not prove that Paul is now using soter non-soteriologically in anti-typical references simply as a reference to bodies. The citation to souls, as in Noah, is not helpful. The counter that Christ saves his body, is just useless, as clearly the body of Christ consists of persons, not just bodies. So there is no valid counter-factual here.

So unless one can show that Paul has this ability to split a noun where the one noun covers both classes, the set and the sub-set, with separate caregory meanings, or convert the word into preserver so that God preserves the physical bodies of all men, is unsustainable.

Interestly, in ulta-Calvinist literature, this conversion is just always asserted. The normal method is to go to a lexical index, pick a definition of soter, and claim that particular definition applies here: all the while completely ignoring Paul's consistent use of the word. That is not exegesis. I think this is why Skeat's argument is being received.

For the debate: I thought the idea was that TF should bring to the table the strongest argument, and then work down. Its not my debate, I know.

What the ultra-Calvinist should do is something like this: "all men" there does not mean all men, it only means some of all sorts of men, all kinds of men, all men without distinction. :-)

Thus God is the saviour of all men without distinction, some of all sorts, ie all kinds of elect men, but the especial saviour of the beleivers.



Anonymous said...


I am not on TF's side nor am I on yours.

I find this debate quite useful in my hope of better serving the ignorant as I am slowly moving away from it in this debate.

You must admit that TF has been forthright and honest and I would say most tolerant here seeing the standard some of the variant have raised over his wretch soul is in some ways higher than the Standard of Christ Himself, yes, that's a stretch but it's close to reality.

David, for what it's worth, you have become somewhat personal and you might heed Tony's call specifically to TF to take the low ground.

For the record as being one who is a novice here, much to gain and learn, your "witness" as one of God's Elect is wanting.

You have some good stuff but when I want to get to it, you have surrounded it with a lot of dirt, some pea gravel and quite possibly some skin and feathers from the pigeon offerings and sacrifices at the altar.

Please stop, be civil and a Christian mature man in the rest of this dialogue.

Here's why, and please note, I am no exception and please freely give me just deserts:

1Co 10:32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
1Co 10:33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Seth, please be thorough and by all means use all the coaching Tony, David, Bnonn and others might add to it in bringing out a clear unequivocal side. TF has and he is to be commended that he hasn't wilted in the process!

Tony, to your remarks then. You said to Seth above:

y:I mentioned in the other thread that T-Fan might have been anticipating that you would use this text to establish your case for an unlimited expiation.

Would you expand on that or Seth?


Seth McBee said...

Hello everyone...good to see you guys aren't all dead...


As far as this debate is concerned...TF took a chance that I would use this as a universal redemption verse, but I don't...I have in the past, I will admit, but looking closer at it I can say that it wouldn't be a good one to use because of the noun soter and the use of looking at context.

So, TF I think you have suffiently told me why you chose this verse, so that takes care of question #2 in my post.

Question #1 by the way for all our readers. This was a bad mistake by myself. I told TF that we would be moving on and I didn't. I apologized to TF and said that I would remove this question and move on, but he has said that he would like to comment on it. But, if he decides to move on and not comment on it...I am fine with that too. So, thank you to TF for being patient with me in that regard.

I am expecting that TF will decide to still answer question #3 in my post and then we will once again move on.

I am going to ask in email form to TF to come with his strongest argument for limited atonement alone. And then we can take it from there.

It looks as though most want me to not just defend TF's arguments but take the offense with my position. I will tell you that we will probably get there and get into more good discussion.

The intent of this to start was that TF had said on his blog he would like to discuss this further, so I asked him to bring his strongest arguments for a limited expiation alone figuring that would bring out my position.

In my honest opinion, and I bet in TF's opinion, he hasn't come with his strongest argument for a limited expiation alone.

So, don't get too bogged down, we'll get there.

Hope all is well out there in blogdom.

Everyone remember...We are all brothers in Christ here, we need to remember. Sometimes we hide behind our computers and forget that we are talking and dealing with actual brothers.

I am the first to admit this. I used a word (betrayal) in my post against TF that I changed because it offended him, and rightfully so. I was wrong and I apologized.

I pray that we can move forward from here and respect each other's insights and wishes in regards to all and everything involved.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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