Thursday, January 01, 2009

Answering Roger Nicole on 1Timothy 2:5 (part 3)

To briefly recapitulate: my first two arguments against Nicole's reading of Calvin on 1Timothy 2:5 consisted of examining the allegedly qualifying language of class vs. individual that Calvin used in his commentary on the verse. Whereas Nicole would have us read Calvin as speaking of some of all kinds of men, this doesn't seem to work when applied to two actual cases that appear in the immediate context: the preaching of the gospel and prayer.

What we saw was that if we applied Nicole's some of all kinds logic to Calvin it gives us awkward -- or simply impossible -- readings. In the first case we saw that we would have to read Calvin as saying that the gospel ought to be preached to all kinds of men rather than to all individuals (see Calvin on 1Timothy 2:4). This is awkward if we are saying that Calvin taught elsewhere that we should preach the gospel to all men, excluding none. Nicole says explicitly that Calvin taught that the gospel should be preached to every individual, and even that Calvin's universalistic language should be understood in just that way.

Second we saw that using Nicole's analysis we would have to read Calvin as saying that we ought to pray for some of all kinds of men (excluding some, wicked Nero for example, as John Gill did), whereas Calvin taught an idea diametrically opposed to that (see Calvin on 1Timothy 2:1-2).

All of all classes

The third argument I would make is that in analyzing Calvin's language of "class" v. "individual" [genera v. persona], though Calvin may not be speaking of individuals, he has in mind the exclusion of no individuals.

Consider Calvin's treatment of those for whom we are to pray. He says that we are to pray for "all mankind." Here is his comment on 1Timothy 2:1:

That, above all, prayers be made. First, he speaks of public prayers, which he enjoins to be offered, not only for believers, but for all mankind.

~Calvin, Comm. 1Timothy 2:1

Notice the categories: believers v. unbelievers, which categories make up "all mankind." Calvin urges us to include the ungodly in our prayers:

Some might reason thus with themselves: “Why should we be anxious about the salvation of unbelievers, with whom we have no connection? Is it not enough, if we, who are brethren, pray mutually for our brethren, and recommend to God the whole of his Church? for we have nothing to do with strangers.” This perverse view Paul meets, and enjoins the Ephesians to include in their prayers all men, and not to limit them to the body of the Church.

* * *

Paul, in my own opinion, simply enjoins that, whenever public prayers are offered, petitions and supplications should be made for all men, even for those who at present are not at all related to us.

~Calvin, Comm. 1Timothy 2:1

If we are to pray for all men, we cannot pray for them individually, but as a class. To answer the childish sophistry that asks whether I suggest getting out the phone book and start praying for "all men," beginning at the A's, I answer that clearly the apostle is speaking of classes, not of individuals. And I think that's exactly what Calvin has in mind here. Calvin (if not the apostle) would have us pray for all men, excluding none; not praying for them all by listing all particular men, but including all generally by reference to the relevant class. (I do not suggest neglecting to mention individuals by name, especially government leaders, but I do suggest the inclusion of all by reference to relevant classes. For example, one might pray for "all my neighbors," or "all residing in Phoenix." There is no need to resort to the phone book.)

It is equally important to see that Calvin's conception of "all men" does not exclude any individual. In his commentary on 1Timothy 2:4, Calvin combines his language of classes with the exception of no one:

for the Apostle simply means, that there is no people and no rank in the world that is excluded from salvation; because God wishes that the gospel should be proclaimed to all without exception. Now the preaching of the gospel gives life; and hence he justly concludes that God invites all equally to partake salvation. But the present discourse relates to classes of men, and not to individual persons; for his sole object is, to include in this number princes and foreign nations. That God wishes the doctrine of salvation to be enjoyed by them as well as others, is evident from the passages already quoted, and from other passages of a similar nature. Not without good reason was it said, “Now, kings, understand,” and again, in the same Psalm, “I will give thee the Gentiles for an inheritance, and the ends of the earth for a possession.” (Psalm 2:8-10.)

In a word, Paul intended to shew that it is our duty to consider, not what kind of persons the princes at that time were, but what God wished them to be. Now the duty arising out of that love which we owe to our neighbor is, to be solicitous and to do our endeavor for the salvation of all whom God includes in his calling, and to testify this by godly prayers.

~Calvin, Comm. 1Timothy 2:4

In reading that quote, notice that the language of classes is combined with universalistic language: "all without exception," "all equally," and "all whom God includes in his calling." That this includes the non-elect should be obvious because Calvin speaks of those to whom the preaching of the gospel comes, all whom God "includes in his calling" (i.e., the external call). And it is for the unbelieving as well as the believing, for it is not our duty to consider "what kind of persons the princes at that time were, but what God wished them to be." That is, Calvin would have us pray for bad princes as well as good. In his comment to 1Timothy 2:2, he mentions that these magistrates might be such as "were so many sworn enemies of Christ." But we are to pray for them.

A little consideration of Calvin's comment to verses 1 through 4 of 1Timothy 2 will show that Calvin's language of classes is not intended to exclude any individual because he is not one of the elect. We are to pray for them all and preach the gospel to them all.

This View Confirmed from Isaiah

I have mentioned in a previous blog post that Calvin elsewhere says that Christ "became surety for every one of the most excellent of the earth, and suffered in the room of those who hold the highest rank in the world." (See Calvin on Isaiah 53:12. This is also where Calvin says that "many" sometimes means "all.") If we're speaking of classes (as, in this case, the class consisting of kings, rulers, and the like), then it doesn't help Nicole to say that Calvin is speaking of classes v. individuals if the relevant class includes the most wicked sworn enemies of Christ and includes "every one" of the relevant class. It doesn't help Nicole, for this class would clearly include some who are not elect; and Nicole's entire purpose in pointing to the notion of classes is to make the exclusion of the non-elect possible. Clearly Calvin is not excluding any person by suggesting the idea of thinking in terms of classes rather than individuals. Calvin's idea of classes excludes no person.

This View Confirmed from 1Timothy 2:5!

Interestingly enough, Nicole's view of Calvin is refuted in the very passage he cites for support. Here is some of Calvin's comment to 1Timothy 2:5:

Accordingly, whatever diversity might at that time exist among men, because many ranks and many nations were strangers to faith, Paul brings to the remembrance of believers the unity of God, that they may know that they are connected with all, because there is one God of all — that they may know that they who are under the power of the same God are not excluded for ever from the hope of salvation.

~Calvin, Comm. 1Timothy 2:5

All those ranks and nations (classes!) are all "under the power of the same God," and therefore "are not excluded for ever from the hope of salvation." What could be clearer? Calvin excluded none from the class of those who are given the hope of salvation.

If you want to see what excluding individuals would look like, consult John Gill on this passage. You'll find nothing of Gill's like in Calvin's theology.


Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Steve,

I bumped into this post via several blog rolls.

Marginally off-topic, will you be engaging Roger Nicole on the issue of 1 Timothy 2 with regards to the issue of evangelical egalitarianism/feminism whereby male headship in the home and church (as per Scripture) is being challenged?

I like Roger Nicole, he believes in inerrancy and Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 1979, but I was flabbergasted to later find out that he's an egalitarian and a member of Christians for Biblical Equality.

Apparently he's able to reconcile inerrancy and egalitarianism, but I think it's a farce.

Anyways, you have a nice blog.

Steve said...

Hi Truth ... glad you bumped into my blog.

I'm sure Nicole is a fine Christian man, and I imagine I would like him if I knew him personally. My gripe is with his propping up a view of Calvin (and Calvinism) that is wrong. I hope to show gullible people that they need not believe what "experts" say about things they can find out for themselves. Don't just follow the experts!

I have no plan to criticize him on egalitarianism or feminism ... though from the sounds of it, I would fundamentally disagree with his view of a Christian home. If you yourself blog about it, feel free to post a link here in the comment box. :-)

Zao Thanatoo said...

Just letting you know that I'm linking to your blog on my blog.

I think your contentions regarding the atonement, the universal offer of the gospel, common grace, etc., are spot on!

Steve said...

Thanks, Zao, for the link and your comment. Come back often! :-)

Donald Hightower said...

Old post. But a great answer on teaching the truth!

Steve said...

Thank you, Donald. Re-reading the post after all these years is a pleasure. I still think it's a good analysis, and I appreciate your kind words.