April 11, 2006

2 Peter 3:9 and the Letterhead Argument

Update on 10-11-07:This video shows how the letterhead argument is used. It shows that my description of it below is not a misrepresentation or "straw man" fallacy [contrary to what Frank Turk or "centuri0n" says below]. Notice how the "you," "dear friends," and "beloved" [i.e. the believing elect] gets converted into the elect as such [i.e., including the unbelieving elect], hence the equivocation fallacy. I would also add that it's a false either/or dilemma fallacy to say that the "context" of the passage is eschatological, not soteriological. It's actually both, since it speaks of God's will for people to come to saving repentance in view of the coming eschatological judgment through Christ.

UPDATE on 12-23-06:
For those reading this post for the first time, please read the comments below it. Alot transpired after James White linked to this post on his blog. Incidently, he still has not apologized to me privately or publically. The comments below this post will explain this matter. You may also want to check this post as well: 2 Peter 3:9 and White's Blog

NKJ 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

When some Calvinists (not all) come to interpret 2 Peter 3:9, they say that it means that God is longsuffering toward the elect. The “us” refers to those the letter was written to, and who is that but the elect? They argue that the “context” gives them this conclusion. The passage, in their view, reads like this:

NKJ 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward the elect (by implication), not willing that any (of the elect by implication) should perish but that all (the elect by implication) should come to repentance.

There are other arguments that they use to maintain that this passage references the decretal will of God, but let’s examine the logic of this letterhead argument.

If the “us” refers to the elect, then there are only three logical options. Either the “us” is:

1) All of the elect who will ever exist, whether born or not yet born
2) All of the unbelieving elect presently existing on earth, or
3) All of the believing elect presently existing on earth

These are important distinctions to keep in mind when examining the usage of the term “elect” in theological and exegetical argumentation. Equivocations can occur in arguments, and the significant distinction between virtual and actual union can be easily blurred. This is more common than some think.

In what follows, I will seek to argue that all three options are exegetically and theologically absurd. The “context” does not argue for the letterhead argument used by some. In fact, the term “context” is often employed when people are merely importing systematic assumptions into the interpretation of scripture. These assumptions determine what the alternatives are, and what is theologically allowable. Let’s pull off the contextual mask, weigh the letterhead argument in the balance, and see if it is exegetically wanting.

Let’s consider the third option first:

3) The “us” refers to all of the believing elect presently existing on earth.

Rather than using the imprecise term “elect,” let’s substitute the word “believers” and see how the passage would look.

NKJ 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward believers, not willing that any believers should perish but that all believers should come to repentance.

This interpretation makes no sense theologically, that’s why few professing Calvinists take it. The sense of the passage when it speaks of “repentance” at least refers to conversion and believers have already been converted. The longsuffering is toward those who are not yet at peace with God and are therefore in danger of perishing. Furthermore, since Calvinists maintain that believers can never finally perish, most are not inclined to take position #3 described above. I expounded on the third option first because it seems to be the most easy to refute from within a Calvinistic soteriology.

Next, let’s consider the first option:

1) The “us” refers to all the elect who will ever exist, whether born or not yet born

This is a very abstract way of thinking of the idea of the “elect.” Does Peter have this theological abstraction in mind? What does it entail? I don’t think the letter was written to people who don’t yet exist, so the letterhead argument seems to rule it out from the start. Peter is clearly writing to people who exist. Furthermore, he says that God is “longsuffering” toward this existing group. The idea of longsuffering suggests a patient forbearance towards those who are provoking God to wrath. He’s demonstrating patience towards the ill-deserving. Is God being provoked by non-existent entities? Option #1 seems as absurd as option #3 above for at least these reasons (thanks go to David P. for pointing out the problem with option #1). I believe options 1 and 3 are defeated and shown to be absurd positions.

So, we come now to option #2:

2) The “us” refers to all of the unbelieving elect presently existing on earth

This seems to be the position that most high Calvinist interpreters have in mind, even though they are not always careful to state it as such. In fact, some may not want to be so careful for the following reasons. I believe this view entails an equivocation in the letterhead argument. Here’s what I mean.

An equivocation fallacy occurs when a key term in an argument changes meaning. The Fallacy Files puts it this way:
“Equivocation is the type of ambiguity which occurs when a single word or phrase is ambiguous, and this ambiguity is not grammatical but lexical. So, when a phrase equivocates, it is not due to grammar, but to the phrase as a whole having two distinct meanings.

Of course, most words are ambiguous, but context usually makes a univocal meaning clear. Also, equivocation alone is not fallacious, though it is a linguistic boobytrap which can trip people into committing a fallacy. The Fallacy of Equivocation occurs when an equivocal word or phrase makes an unsound argument appear sound.”

The letterhead argument of some Calvinists looks this way:

1) Peter is writing to the elect.
2) The “us” in 3:9 refers to those written to.
3) Therefore, the “us” are the elect.

Question: Does the term “elect” have the same sense in proposition #1 as it does in proposition #3 (the conclusion)? Or is there a subtle change in meaning? Proposition #1 would be more accurate if it stated that Peter is writing to believers. As Peter himself plainly states, he’s writing “To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…” These same people are then said to be participating in and enjoying the life and promises of God in Christ. And, in Peter’s first letter, he’s also writing to those who are born again to a living hope and are sprinkled with the blood of Christ. Even though he calls them “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God,” he’s not writing to the elect as such, but to those elect who have come to believe by the Spirit.

If the letterhead shows that Peter is writing to believers, then how can the “us” refer to the unbelieving elect as stated in option #2? It seems to me that all three options in the letterhead argument are fallacious, and therefore not exegetically sound. I would argue that the “elect” options are argued to sustain a system that is not giving proper attention to the revealed will of God as truly volitional. As Calvin says about this passage, “But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel.” In other words, Calvin is saying that this passage is referring to the revealed will of God made known to us in the gospel, not to God’s hidden or secret will. Calvin was not being Arminian or arguing for an absurd universalism in taking this interpretation.

Some High Calvinists seem to suggest that the only alternatives are either their “us = elect” view, or an Arminianism which, they argue, entails universalism. Notice the false dilemma? This dilemma is created by a system which determines what is theologically and exegetically allowable. Once again, system is driving exegesis and it leads to such fallacious arguments as the letterhead argument. Much more could be said about the passage at hand, but I just wanted to offer a few defeaters to the very common letterhead argument.

29 comments:

MacoMan said...

Very good, Tony. Your blogs are as good as an evening cup of coffee with a friend.

Question: What is the referential significance of the "promise" to the "longsuffering" and "not willing"(ness)? It seems there is at the very least a "holding out" (for lack of a better way of putting it) on God's behalf because (perhaps) it does not please God that any should have to perish. Your thoughts?

YnottonY said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the compliment. I've enjoyed our conversations on paltalk.

To answer your questions, I would say that the promise in verse 9 refers back to verse 4 and "His coming." The idea may be more than that, but it is not less than that. Since the entire context seems to stress the Lord's righteous judgment, I am inclined to think that He is longsuffering toward all sinners because he does not delight in the death or perishing of the wicked as Ezekiel says. He has promised to come in flaming fire to judge, but he graciously delays to give men room to repent. God has commanded all men everywhere to repent, and that's called the "will" of God. Therefore, there is a sense in which he wants all lost sinners to comply with that command and be saved.

As I look to verse 13, I see that there is a promise to also reward the righteous. Christ promises to return and reward both the righteous and wicked according to their works. Peter talks about the negative side in verse 9 in order to get his audience to understand why God delays and why they are suffering. Peter wants the lost to repent by pointing to the goodness of God's patience, but also to encourage believers to patiently endure while suffering and to look to the coming reward. He references the days of Noah as an illustration and I think that also argues for a broader view of "us" contextually. God wasn't only delaying for the sake of Noah and his family. Noah was a preacher of righteousness commanding people to repent. Noah could have said to people in his day: "The Lord is delaying the promised flood in order that we sinful humans might repent. Obey, for this is the will of God concerning you!" That's the idea and I think Calvin would agree.

However, my post was not concerned to set forth other possible interpretations (as Mike knows). I was interested in offering defeaters for decretal interpretations of this passage (i.e. interpretations that take the "willing" to refernce the decretal or the efficacious will of God) that make the "us" imply the "elect" by necessity. If future readers want to comment, I hope they interact with the logic of the main entry. I don't think it can be refuted.

Steve Costley said...

Thanks for pointing out the equivocation fallacy. I think that's what is going on in most of the Calvinistic views of this verse. Good analysis Tony.

centuri0n said...

Hey Tony:

What's your basis for making the substitution "believers" for "elect" in this passage?

Rev. S. Michael Huffman said...

Tony-
I think that you need to look at the original language before you want to substitute "elect" for "believers" Check out my sight: www.faithdefense.blogspot.com

YnottonY said...

Hi Centurion and Michael:

There's a significant distinction between all the elect considered as an abstract class, whether existing or not yet existing (elect qua elect), and the elect who are believing. Peter is clearly writing to believers qua elect. He's writing to those who have already received a like faith (believers).

So, if one wants to appeal to the group spoken to in the letterhead, then let the sense of "elect" stay the same in their argument. One commits an equivocation fallacy if they say the letter was written to the "elect" (who are really the believing elect) and therefore the "you" are the "elect" (the unbelieving elect in their argument). That's my point.

It comes down to the following. Is the sense of "elect" the same in premise #1 and premise #3 in the high Calvinist argumentation?

1) Peter is writing to the **elect**
2) The “us” in 3:9 refers to those written to
3) Therefore, the “us” are the **elect**.

My original post was not meant to be an exposition of the passage, but an analysis of the logic that some high Calvinists use in interpreting the passage.

As far as the meaning of this passage goes, I am inclined to agree with Calvin. I suppose that makes me a "would-be" Calvinist (what White calls me on his blog).

I am not saying that the bible always uses the "elect" term in the same sense. I am saying that the sense of "elect" in the letterhead of Peter's epistles references the BELIEVING elect. I am saying that we need to be careful to distinguish between the beliving elect (who are NOT under God's wrath) and the unbelieving elect (who ARE under God's wrath). To fail to observe this biblical distinction can cause confusions between virtual and actual/real union with Christ.

Paul Owen said...

Hey Tony,

Great essay, as usual. I've written some thoughts of my own on this passage over at www.communiosanctorum.com. Keep up the great work!

Paul

Kaalvenist said...

Tony,

As I recall, Sproul presented either option as the possible interpretation of the passage (that "will" refers to either decretive or revealed). But the fact that the apostle prefaces his statement regarding "any" and "all" with "to usward," or "toward us," seems to bring a focus and particularity to his statement, which you seem to want to avoid.

I looked back at some of your other posts and would guess you to be an Amyraldian (given the references to Ussher, Davenant, and the quote from Curt Daniel, especially 8.B) -- a "Christmas Calvinist," as Sproul calls it. And I don't celebrate Christmas. Your critiques of "High Calvinism," as you call it, seem actually to be barbs against regular ol' five-point Calvinism (besides confusing the lapsarian debate between Calvinists, which has traditionally been referred to as "High" vs. "Low Calvinism," i.e. Supra vs. Infra).

That being the case, and since you seem to have access to several out-of-the-way works, I would recommend John Brown of Wamphray's critique of Universal Redemption, which appears as Chapter 8 in his "Quakerism the Pathway to Paganism" (subtle title, I know), and as an Appendix in his "Life of Justification Opened." (Brown of Wamphray was a student of Samuel Rutherford, Covenanter theologian, and exile to Holland in the late 17th century.)

In Christ,
Sean

YnottonY said...

Frodo believes 2 Peter 3:9 means P. Bilbo believes 2 Peter 3:9 means Q. Frodo happens to hear Bilbo set forth his case for a Q interpretation. Frodo seeks to test Bilbo’s interpretations by pointing out possible logical defeaters. Frodo doesn’t need to prove his case for P to successfully defeat Bilbo’s argument for Q. If Frodo successfully defeats Bilbo’s argument, it does NOT follow that his own is true. It only follows that he has defeated some particular arguments that Bilbo has used.

High Calvinists argue that Q is the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9. I don’t have to prove the validity of my position in order to defeat Q. Now, if I want to argue that P is true, then I have the burden of proof. I would have to prove that P is true, and also be subjected to possible defeaters. If, however, I am just seeking to defeat Q (as with this post) then people need to think through the defeater itself, rather than demand my full blown exegesis of the text. I am happy to try to expound the text, but that isn’t the point of my 2 Peter 3:9 and the Letterhead Argument post. Please keep these distinctions in mind as you read and compare things.

Hi Paul,

I'll check out your site again to see what you've written. Thanks.

YnottonY said...

Kaalvenist (Sean) said...
"Tony,

As I recall, Sproul presented either option as the possible interpretation of the passage (that "will" refers to either decretive or revealed). But the fact that the apostle prefaces his statement regarding "any" and "all" with "to usward," or "toward us," seems to bring a focus and particularity to his statement, which you seem to want to avoid.


Me now:
Sean, I am not wanting to avoid the “usward,” the “any” or the “all” terms. I am just asking if they have the same sense when High Calvinists appeal to the letterhead. They say the letterhead is written to the elect. That’s true, but it is written to the elect WHO HAVE BELIEVED. If the “us,” the “any” and the “all” have the same sense as those spoken of in the letterhead, then it does not follow that these three terms mean the unbelieving elect. Such an argument would commit a basic equivocation fallacy.

Sean also said:
"I looked back at some of your other posts and would guess you to be an Amyraldian (given the references to Ussher, Davenant, and the quote from Curt Daniel, especially 8.B) -- a "Christmas Calvinist," as Sproul calls it. And I don't celebrate Christmas. Your critiques of "High Calvinism," as you call it, seem actually to be barbs against regular ol' five-point Calvinism (besides confusing the lapsarian debate between Calvinists, which has traditionally been referred to as "High" vs. "Low Calvinism," i.e. Supra vs. Infra).

Me now:
You err in thinking that Davenant, Ussher and Amyraut were not five point Calvinists. They would all agree with the Canons of Dort, and Davenant was even a delegate. It’s just not the case that these three men were STICT particularists like others at Dort. They were dualists. The above men, like Calvin himself, all said that Christ suffered sufficiently for all, but efficaciously for the elect alone. This is consistent with 5 point Calvinism, but not of the variety that you’re used to hearing about. Are you calling Amyraldians 4 point Calvinists? If so, James White himself apparently disagrees with you.

Sean,
I wanted to address these subjects because you brought them up in your comments. However, I would ask that you and others stick to the subject matter of this particular post, i.e. the logic of the letterhead argument on 2 Peter 3:9. That will help the discussion to remain coherent.

Thanks...grace to you,
Tony

YnottonY said...

Readers of this post might also read what is said on the following link for further explanation of things that have been said:

2 Peter 3:9 and White's Blog

centuri0n said...

Tony --

I find your argument interesting because it is a straw man. That is to say, you have erected a "Calvinist" argument which is easy to defeat (and ironically, not the Calvinist argument).

You claim this is the "Letterhead argument":

1) Peter is writing to the elect
2) The “us” in 3:9 refers to those written to
3) Therefore, the “us” are the elect.

And there is no doubt that this structure of argument is fallacious. The problem is that I am not aware of any Calvinist who makes this argument in this way.

If pressed, I would suggest to you that this is the right way to read 2Peter 3 --

[1] Peter is writing to "those who have obtained like precious faith with us" (cf. 1Pet 1:1)
[2] "us" in 2Pet 3:9 requires an antecedent; particularly, in the Greek, because of the use of "hemas".
[3] There is limited competition in the previous 48 verses for an antedecent to "us"; either Peter means "me and my companions who are writing to you-all" (cf. 1Pet 1:1) or "all of us -- both you-all I am writing to and us-all who are writing" (again, v. 1:1)
[4] Either of these choices comes down to one thing: "us" are those who "have obtained precious faith".

And that's fine -- it hardly stirs up any controversy at all. The "us" here cannot mean all men. If that's your point, then I'm not sure why this is causing an argument.

YnottonY said...

Hi Centurion,

I think it's quite common to hear the following argument in Calvinistic circles (one could provide links to sites and blogs where this sort of argument is made):

1) Peter is writing to the elect
2) The “us” in 3:9 refers to those written to
3) Therefore, the “us” are the elect.

They are usually not careful to specify what they mean when they use the term "elect." I am not misrepresenting what alot of Calvinists say on this point. It's actually how they argue.

I am trying to point out that it is imprecise to say that Peter is writing to the "elect." If we want to be more exact, he's writing to the elect who have come to believe. One can just say they are "believers." Now, the "us" surely does contextual significance. I am not denying that. We must look at antecedent ideas and terms, just as you say. It's just the case that many Calvinists leap back to the letterhead to gather the connotation of the "us," and they judge that it's "the elect." Then they immediately go back to 3:9 and plug in "the elect" as the reference.

As I said, this causes an equivocation fallacy. The term "elect" does not have the same meaning in the first and third premise.

Let's look at your argument that is much more careful:
[1] Peter is writing to "those who have obtained like precious faith with us" (cf. 1Pet 1:1)
[2] "us" in 2Pet 3:9 requires an antecedent; particularly, in the Greek, because of the use of "hemas".
[3] There is limited competition in the previous 48 verses for an antedecent to "us"; either Peter means "me and my companions who are writing to you-all" (cf. 1Pet 1:1) or "all of us -- both you-all I am writing to and us-all who are writing" (again, v. 1:1)
[4] Either of these choices comes down to one thing: "us" are those who "have obtained precious faith".

I am inclined to think all of your premises are true. But then, you make this statement: "The "us" here cannot mean all men." Well, what do you mean by "all men"?

Do you mean:
1) The set of all human beings either created or uncreated, whether on earth or already in hell.
2) The set of all sinful human beings living on earth at that time, whether elect or not.
3) The set of all the believing elect humans living on earth at that time.
4) The set of all unbelieving elect humans living on the earth at that time.

Now, in your 4th premise, you seem inclined to take the "us" as meaning #3. Why can't the sense of "us" mean #2 (Calvin's view), particularly when he's just made the comparison between Noah's day and his own day IN THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT? I see no reason to rule out option #2's sense of "all men." Certaintly Peter is not using "us" in the sense of #1.

Thanks for your careful considerations. However, I don't think I have committed a straw men fallacy when representing the high Calvinistic argument. Maybe they just need to tell us what they really mean in a more careful way. I have yet to see this done. Perhaps you can help.

Grace to you,
Tony

Jon Unyan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jon Unyan said...

Oh yeah, what was all that P and Q stuff again? Bilbo and Frodo? Boy, am I confused :-)

--Jon Unyan

YnottonY said...

Hi Jon,

I think my arguments stand or fall on their own merits or demerits, despite the opinions of others. I am glad when people think I am arguing cogently and virtuously, but I don't lean on that to reckon my arguments to be sound. As you know, we don't arrive at truth by counting noses, or by looking at the kinds of people who believe those particular arguments.

Centurion is doing a good job in trying to engage the logic and exegesis of the situation. That's the kind of interaction I crave. Notice that he hasn't said anything that is even a bit insulting. It's just careful, brotherly analysis. That's how we should interact, as you know.

Thanks,
Tony

p.s. Watch your P's and Q's ;-)

Jon Unyan said...

Hi Tony,

My above deleted comment was in reference to having your argumentation complimented by Paul Owen. I think that actually works against you on this subject. :-) As a brotherly warning I would not waste your time on his web site.

--Jon Unyan

YnottonY said...

Hi Jon,

Yes, I read and posted in response to your initial comment. See above.

As for now, I am just getting ready to go into work at UPS. I work during the evenings, so I won't be making further comments until later, if it's necessary.

One of the BELIEVING elect by grace,
Tony ;-)

YnottonY said...

Centurion,

Take the time to re-read White's article slowly. You will see that he makes a shift in the 6th paragraph, and starts to use the term "the elect" at that point. In the previous paragraphs, he was talking about believers. This change in terminology is key to his argument.

The flow of thought in White's article is like this:
1) Peter is writing to a specific people throughout this epistle. Clearly they are believers who have received the gift of faith.
2) The "us" and "all" are not indefinite and vacuous but refer to the same audience throughout the context.
3) They are "the elect."

The shift from talking about "believers" to talking about "the elect" is important. When he starts to talk about the "us" and "all", the sense is no longer believers, but the elect unbelievers.

Watch out for the use of the "elect" term. It's certainly a biblical term, but subtle equivocations can take place in modern arguments that often go unnoticed.

Consider these alternatives:

1) The entire class of the elect, whether born or not yet born, or believing or not yet believing.
2) The class of the elect existing on earth who have not yet believed.
3) The class of the elect existing on earth who have believed.

When reading White's article, watch for the connotations of the term "elect." See if you notice him starting from sense #3, then moving to sense #2 and working back to sense #1 by implication. It's as if he's not even conscious of those conceptual changes throughout his brief article. It's as if there is no significant difference between classes 1-3 above. There's an unconscious glide from sense #3 to sense #2 by the 6th paragraph of his text.

I am not making the distinctions needlessly. If you are aware how significant mistakes can be made by using the ambiguous word "saved," then you can realize how the same thing can happen with the term "elect."

Some people use the term "saved" or "salvation" to mean:

1) Mere regeneration before conversion (some hyper-Calvinists tend to use it in this sense).

2) For conversion or justification.

3) For sanctification

4) For glorification

If you heard someone say that you needed to be sanctified in order to be "saved," you might be alarmed. You might say "legalism!" If you heard someone that you don't have to do anything in order to be saved (sense #1), you might say, "antinomian!" If you heard someone say that you must believe to be saved, you would think that's normal because we usually use "saved" in sense #2, but we would remark that there are other biblical contexts in which senses 3 and 4 are the case.

Making these distinctions for the "saved" term can help certain confused people. I'm just trying to point out that certain confusions can take place when people start employing the term "elect." The term isn't bad (it's biblical). It's just the case that few people think critically about the use of it in argumentation.

YnottonY said...

White says in his article that, "It is silly to think that "elect" is an imprecise term."

Ok then, here's a question:

Are the elect under the wrath of God?

If the term is precise (not imprecise), then just answer the question without making distinctions. If you answer "yes" to the question, then I can go to the book of Romans in chapter 8 and show how believers are no longer under the wrath of God. If you answer "no," then I can go to Ephesians 2:3 and prove that the unbelieving elect were once children of wrath by nature, even as the rest. If you answer "it depends on what you mean by the 'elect' term," then you have proved my point and refuted White's statement above. It's not silly to think that the "elect" term is imprecise.

YnottonY said...

For those only reading this comment thread (and not the other as well), you may not realize that I sent this message to White BEFORE he put up the "Tony Byrne Demands Free Advertising" comments. I said this in the prior email:

"Dr. White,

I would sincerely request that you link to the sources on my blog that you quote from. I am not so interested in getting the traffic as in getting people to consider my original words in contrast to your arguments. They need to be able to compare and contrast. Also, I am interested in seeing fellow Christians behave ethically in the blogosphere. I need to be exhorted to do the same thing, and I have been so exhorted by good Christian friends."

Then James White wrote this AFTER I sent him the above email:

"I guess he wants the traffic."

"Of course, that is the same link I referred to on the Founder's blog, but I guess that isn't generating enough traffic."

Such comments are slanderous and unfair, yet he seems to frequently get away with this sort of thing. His readers and other Christian ministers don't seem to be holding him accountable for making such public comments. It's quite grevious.

YnottonY said...

I just put up this brief by relavent post:

Ambiguity and the "Elect" Term

YnottonY said...

Among general Calvinistic thinkers, the 2 Peter 3:9 dispute is not that big of a deal. They see that it can be interpreted in the sense of God's revealed will that all men be saved, or in the sense of God's decretal will that the elect come to repentance. However, the issue is much more important for those who don't think that there's ANY SENSE in which God wills the salvation of the non-elect, and that's what I've heard White thinks. One cannot go to ANY passage in the bible to sustain the idea that God wills the salvation of the non-elect. This extreme view has been historically associated with hyper-Calvinism, not high Calvinism. Even Turretin and Owen (both high Calvinists, but infralapsarian) admitted that there's a sense in which God wills the salvation (not to merely physically preserve them) of the non-elect.

White cannot even allow Calvin's view of 2 Peter 3:9 to be even a possible alternative. He has a theological a priori that rules it out as an option. The vast majority of Calvinists do not go that far.

YnottonY said...

White says in his article:
“In closing I would like to note one other item. This same author in another article refers to my commentary on Matthew 23:37,”

Me:
White has still not linked to this article, even though I requested that he do so. He finally linked to my article on 2 Peter 3:9, but hasn’t done so on Matthew 23:37, despire the fact that 1) I sent the link to him and 2) he quotes from it. When I requested that he cite his sources when he quotes from them at length, I was slandered as requesting “free advertising.” He hasn’t apologized for that remark to this day, and none of his peers seem to be holding him accountable to do so.

White says:
“and makes the statement, "He was using James White’s argument (and White got it from John Gill's hyper-Calvinistic book The Cause of God and Truth--he cites some of Gill's "exegesis" on this verse favorably in The Potters Freedom) that there is a distinction between "Jerusalem" (the leaders) and the "children"." Two quick items: 1) I did not "get it" from John Gill, and I would like to know how this gentleman knows otherwise,”

Me:
I say he “got it” from Gill because 1) he cites it as a source in The Potters Freedom and 2) Gill is the only extant Calvinist who makes that Jerusalem/Children distinction (a distinction which I say is valid in my article) in Matthew 23:37 in order to argue against the idea that God wills the salvation of those not gathered. Since White doesn’t think that God wills the salvation of the non-elect, he shares that a priori concern with John Gill. The Calvinistic interpretations of men like John Murray are not even a viable option for such men. It’s ruled out by a theological allegiance to a presupposed system.

White says:
“and 2) Gill's work addresses a wide variety of topics. If Gill defends the fact that there is one true God, does this mean it is "hyper-Calvinistic" to believe in one true God?”

Me:
I didn’t call White a hyper-Calvinist for citing Gill (straw man). I just mentioned where he got his material and the theological viewpoint of that author. I mentioned that Gill’s theology in that book is hyper-Calvinistic. If I had said that White is a hyper-Calvinist because he appeals to some material in that book, then that would be poisoning the well. However, if I did not do that, then White commits a straw man fallacy when he accuses me of poisoning the well.

White says:
“Are "hyper-Calvinists" precluded from accurately handling the text? For someone who emphasizes how often others allegedly use false forms of argumentation, this kind of poisoning of the well should be obvious.”

Me:
Of course they are not, but we should acknowledge that they had seriously faulty a priori theological constructs that drove their interpretations. This is particularly true of Gill. Many of his interpretations of controversial Calvinistic passages were impositions of his conceptual system on the text, rather than examples of inductive exegesis. Once again, I didn’t “poison the well.”

White says:
“Given the swill that fills the bookshelves of most "Christian bookstores" today, I would much rather have someone reading The Cause of God and Truth with balanced discernment than 99% of what is being put out today.”

Me:
Since James White doesn’t think that God wills the salvation of the non-elect, I hardly think he has “balanced discernment” enough to detect where Gill goes astray in that particular book. Thankfully, one is not stuck with the options of either Gill or the “swill.” Either hyper-Calvinism or Osteen? What a sad either/or state of affairs that would be!

YnottonY said...

Steve Costley has replied to White here:

The Hermeneutics of 2 Peter 3:9

YnottonY said...

"John Owen and 2 Peter 3:9

One of the readers of Reformation Today has pointed out that John Owen, a foremost and respected theologian, restricted the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9 to 'the elect'. The text reads as follows, 'The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness: but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.'

In seeking to refute Arminianism Owen became intolerant of the Arminian interpretations and said, 'I shall not need add anything concerning the contradictions and inexplicable difficulties wherewith the opposite interpretation is accompanied.' He also said, 'That to believe that God has the same will and mind towards all and everyone in the world is to come not far short of extreme madness and folly'
(Owen's works vol. 10, p. 348ff.).

We do not believe that God has the same will and mind towards all in the world in as much as he has by sovereign election determined to save a people for himself. We are dealing now with the question of his revealed will, in which he will have all to be saved. This Owen himself, and all the Puritan divines, maintained. The question before us is whether 2 Peter 3:9 should be included as one of the passages which either directly state or infer that God's revealed will is for all to be saved. Under pressure Owen sought to restrict it, but was it necessary to do so?

Since this issue arose from the article by Bob Letham, 'Theology well formed or deformed?', we have asked him to give us an exposition of 2 Peter 3:9. He has responded as follows:


The particularity of redemption is not endangered by adopting a more inclusive reference than Owen would allow. Indeed, Calvin himself understood Peter's language in precisely that way. However, we would all agree that our ideas should not rest on human authority or tradition, but on biblical exegesis.

There are, in fact, strong exegetical reasons in favour of viewing the clause in 2 Peter 3: 9 ('God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance') as having a universal reference.

A problem surrounds the pronoun in the preceeding clause (ύμας). If we allow that είς ύμας is preferable to both the textual variants (είς ήμας) and (δί μύας), the question remains: What is the extent of the reference of those to whom God's longsuffering (μακροθυμεί) is displayed? Is it displayed to the readers of the letter, to believers, only? Or is it shown to the ungodly as well? The personal pronoun itself has a built in ambiguity. Even if Peter intended it to refer particularly to the recipients of the letter there is no evidence that would demand its restriction solely to them. At least there is no certainty that the longsuffering of God is restricted to believers.

Even if we were to restrict the scope of God's longsuffering in 2 Peter 3:9 to believers, that of itself would not require us similarly to restrict the reference of the following clause since the latter might be intended to enunciate a general principle (God is not willing that any should perish) which would undergird the more pointedly specific statement that preceeded (God is longsuffering toward you).

Elsewhere, Peter reflects on the longsuffering (μακροθυμεί) of God. In 1 Peter 2:20; 3:9, 14-17; 4:1, 12-19) he draws attention to the forebearance God showed in the days of Noah, prior to the Flood. Five factors are present in the context of 1 Peter 3:20 which are of importance for us:

1. the godly remnant (όλίγοι) who were eventually saved through water;

2. the ungodly to whom God exercised μακροθυμεί;

3. God, who exercised μακροθυμεί;

4. the preparation of the ark;

5. the eventual flood.

In the context of 2 Peter 3:9 the same factors are evident if we allow for developments in the history of redemption:

1. the churches to whom Peter was writing, who were facing mockery from their pagan neighbors (vv. 3-7);

2. the ungodly scoffers who were belittling the promise of Christ's return (vv. 3-7);

3. God, who is not slow in fulfilling his promise but exercises μακροθυμεί (vv. 8-9);

4. the Lord's promise of a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (vv. 4,9,13);

5. the impending Judgment day in which the world will be destroyed by fire as at the Flood the world was destroyed by water (vv. 5-7, 10).

Peter evidently viewed the flood as a significant precursor (almost a type) of the Last Judgment, and thus the circumstances which attended that great cataclysm are seen as analogous to those which exist in these last days, the final age ushered in by the death and resurrection of Christ. He was probably echoing the teaching of Jesus himself (Luke 17:26).

In the days of Noah, God's longsuffering was specifically directed to the ungodly. Though they provoked him so intensely that he determined to destroy the world yet he allowed man a breathing space while the Ark was being constructed and also gave a promise of deliverance from the coming judgment through the Ark itself. Moreover, God's μακροθυμεί was manifested in conjunction with Noah's own preaching or proclamation (2 Peter 2:5) - whether this was by word or deed is of small account. Since there is this clear parallel between the days of Noah and the last days in which we are living it should not be difficult for us to see that God's continuing longsuffering is also associated with the distinctive proclamation of the last days, the promise of deliverance from the coming judgment-by-fire by Christ, and that it continues to be displayed towards the world of the ungodly. He could legitimately send all men to instant damnation yet he provides a time for repentance and extends a promise of mercy in Christ, which nevertheless is regarded with contempt (2 Peter 3:3f.).

Thus there should be no reason why the extent of reference of God's μακροθυμεί in 2 Peter 3:9 should not embrace a wider constituency than the recipients of the letter, or the elect, alone. In this case, the subordinate clause that follows, 'God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance', means precisely what it says and is therefore a reference to God's will as expressed in the gospel promise and not to his hidden will in election."

Errol Hulse on 2 Peter 3:9 in Reformation Today, no 38, p. 37-38.

Erroll Hulse on 2 Peter 3:9 in Reformation Today

YnottonY said...

The reader may also want to check out these posts by Trey Austin:

Calvin v. (Some) Calvinists on the interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9.

High Calvinist Interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9: Equivocation.

Wanderson Nascimento said...

Could somebody update or send me the link for watching the video?
My email is wanderson.nascimento.93@gmail.com
Thanks for attention

Tony Byrne said...

Hi Wanderson,

I updated the video. You'll see in the video that they commit the equivocation fallacy, as if the "elect" to whom Peter is writing in his first epistle can be converted (in 2 Peter 3:9) to all the elect in the abstract when considering the "us," or the "dear friends."