Posted by: reformedmusings | October 10, 2007

Covenantal Univeralism Again

pduggie over at Hierodule posted some thoughts on my previous post about Jim Jordan’s Federal Vision gospel. I don’t have anything to add to my previous post, but I will offer some thoughts on pduggie’s. Although I rarely agree with pduggie on specific theological points in these discussions, I respect him and his carefully formed arguments. I will address his comments in the order he presented them. My critiques should not be interpreted as criticism of pduggie but rather of Jim Jordan’s absurd substitute gospel.

1. I think Jordan’s “scare quotes” around “for” serve to qualify his point about Jesus and Jesus death having universal impact. It’s not FOR all in same sense as it is for say the elect. Its “after a manner of speaking”; its “as it were”; its “covenantally speaking”. Its “savior of all men, but especially those that believe”

I don’t buy the “scare quotes” evasion anymore. After reading thousands of pages of Federal Vision stuff and hearing them use the technique to wriggle out of tight spots in examinations, I’m past the point of being fooled by this ruse.

Christ is in not the “savior of all men” in the sense of giving benefits limited to the elect (justification, adoption, sanctification, forgiveness of sins, etc.) to anyone other than the elect. That’s not what Paul was saying. That would be the very definition of universalism and directly contradicts the doctrine of definite redemption (the Limited atonement in the middle of TULIP). That also violates a host of Scripture passages, especially John 6:39, 40; 10:1-18; and Jesus’ upper room discourse in John 14-17 (remember all those contrasts with “the world”?). In these passages, Jesus makes it clear that His earthly mission only involved those elected before the foundation of the world. Remember the part about two groups with two fathers? The father of the non-elect is Satan. I stand by my original post.

UPDATE (sorry, but the FVers are in full distortion mode again): Think that I’m after a red herring here or putting words into Jordan’s mouth? Think Jordan isn’t talking about eternally saving benefits promised only to the elect? Here’s from Jordan’s original post as critiqued here:

I can say that Jesus died “for” everyone alive in the world at present, for He is the Hilasterion, the Ark-Cover, which is the Firmament between heaven and earth. He is the New Sky. God sees all the world through Him and His blood/death. I can freely say to any person, “God loves you and Jesus died for you.” That’s 100% true.

That is from Jordan’s own keyboard and it is also the very definition of universalism. So what about 1 Tim 4:10?

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (ESV)

We return to the concept of common grace here. See Calvin:

Who is the Savior* This is the second consolation, though it depends on the former; for the deliverance of which he speaks may be viewed as the fruit of hope. To make this more clear, it ought to be understood that this is an argument drawn from the less to the greater; for the word σωτὴρ is here a general term, and denotes one who defends and preserves. He means that the kindness of God extends to all men. And if there is no man who does not feel the goodness of God towards him, and who is not a partaker of it, how much more shall it be experienced by the godly, who hope in him? Will he not take peculiar care in them? Will he not more freely pour out his bounty on them? In a word, will he not, in every respect, keep them safe to the end?

* “The word Savior is not here taken in what we call its proper and strict meaning, in regard to the eternal salvation which God promises to his elect, but it is taken for one who delivers and protects. Thus we see that even unbelievers are protected by God, as it is said (Matthew 5:46) that “he maketh his sun to shine on the good and the bad;” and we see that all are fed by his goodness, that all are delivered from many dangers. In this sense he is called “the Savior of all men,” not in regard to the spiritual salvation of their souls, but because he supports all his creatures. In this way, therefore, our Lord is the Savior of all men, that is, his goodness extends to the most wicked, who are estranged from him, and who do not deserve to have any intercourse with him, who ought to have been struck off from the number of the creatures of God and destroyed; and yet we see how God hitherto extends his grace to them; for the life which he gives to them is a testimony of his goodness. Since, therefore God shows such favor towards those who are strangers to him, how shall it be with us who are members of his household? Not that we are better or more excellent than those whom we see to be cast off by him, but the whole proceeds from his mercy and free grace, that he is reconciled to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, since he hath called us to the knowledge of the gospel, and then confirms us, and seals his bounty toward us, so that we ought to be convinced that he reckons us to be his children. Since, therefore, we see that he nourishes those who are estranged from him, let us go and hide ourselves under his wings; for, having taken us under his protection, he has declared that he will show himself to be a Father toward us.” — Fr. Ser.

There’s no universalism here. [End update]

UPDATE 2: Dr. R. Scott Clark posted on an excellent exposition of 1 Tim 4:10 in context that makes the point in greater detail.

On the next point:

2. Everyone alive is alive today because of the death of Christ. God would have had to destroy the world had not Jesus been the man to stand in the gap and build up the wall.

All due respect, but this is an absurd statement. I’m not aware of any Scripture that says anything remotely like this. In the common grace sense, Acts 17 tells us that we live and move and have our being in God. The Son as a member of the Trinity certainly has some play in that, but not in the redemptive role. See the comments above on 1 Tim 4:10. Jesus “standing in the gap” sounds like the old Marcion heresy with the mean Father and kind Son having a cosmic disagreement. No thanks.

3. Israel’s rituals on the day of atonement were for Israel, but also the entire world.

Not hardly. God chose Israel out of the world as in Dt. 7:6, 7. He told them to either completely destroy or to avoid mixing with the entire rest of the known world. Why, then, would he turn around and command Israel to atone for those very people? This makes no sense. God never mentions atonement in reference to the world in general.

4. See 3. above.

5. I don’t get your point here. As I understand it, your argument only applies to Israel in the OT, not the rest of the world. Only the remnant received eternal life, but the rest benefited from God’s general protection of Israel, sitting under the law, manna in the desert, and other non-salvific benefits of sharing the tents with the remnant. So also in the visible church the reprobate benefit as listed in WLC Q.63, but they have none of the salvific benefits (justification, sanctification, adoption, perseverence, union with Christ, etc.) possessed only by the elect. I’ve never read anything where Calvin argued for some kind of universal covenant with the world.

6. I’m not a Lutheran scholar so I’ll pass on this one. My focus is on the PCA.

7. See my post on Union with Christ. Bottom line is there are only two kinds of union with Christ: real and apparent. The elect have a real union, the reprobate in the visible church have only an apparent union which only carries the benefits enumerated in WLC W.63. There’s no third or other type in Scripture or the Standards.

In the end, I find it hard to believe that any Reformed Christian can either put forth the covenant universalism gospel of Jim Jordan or defend it. Perhaps pduggie chooses to soften, smooth, or excuse the hard edges. I prefer to take Jordan at face value based on what he writes.



  1. […] first assertion about “the Savior of all people” was clearly answered in this post, including direct quotes from James Jordan giving the Federal Vision view and Calvin (and his […]

  2. […] Visionists take great liberties, like 1 Tim 4:10 (especially Jim Jordan as covered in two updates here) and Acts 2:39. Yet, the Divines did not take these verses beyond their context to accord […]


%d bloggers like this: