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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, December 04, 2008
2 Peter 2:1 and the Atonement.
1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction." - 2 Peter 2:1 [ESV]

There are many good articles written with regards to the interpretation of this verse.

There is a real and present danger, in any passage of scripture, to wag the dog of the verse by the tail of your theology, and being well aware of my own understanding of the atonement, I must guard myself (when coming to this verse) from trying to marry it back to my theology regardless of what it "plainly says".

I put "plainly says" in quotes like that because it is common practice for anyone who wants to make a point to suggest that the point is rather obvious, and that it is only obscured by one's presuppositions - we therefore say something is plain, when what we usually mean is that since we believe it means such and such, and we believe that a simple reading of it will always produce that interpretation, the only reason you don't see it is because you want it to say something else.

This verse isn't all that "plain" nor is it all that simple. There is a lot of ambiguity in it, and when we see ambiguity, it is our nature to fill in the blanks with what we think should go there. I am reminded of various optical illusions where this happens - we see colors that arn't there, or dots etc., because our mind is filling in the gaps for us. We are wired, I believe, to do the same thing when it comes to ambiguity - we fill in the cracks with whatever putty is at hand, and whether the putty at hand leans to the left or to the right, as it were, so our "plain and simple" reading will reflect that.

Which is my way of noting up front that many come to a firm conviction with regards to what this verse means without identifying or quantifying/weighing any of the ambiguities in it.

The links given above spell out how the word translated as "Master" here is only ever used to describe God the Father anywhere else in scripture. The word translated as "bought" here does not, and cannot mean "paid for but did not take ownership of". Likewise, When Peter calls to mind the false prophets of the OT, we can look to the OT to find what Peter is talking about, and most agree the passage in Deuteronomy 32:6 is what Peter is referencing - and if so, it stands to reason that if Peter is reasoning from an OT passage, the thrust of that passage is likely the current upon which this present verse is floating - meaning that there is more to consider here than how it reads in the English.

Now, the question that everyone asks of this verse is this: Is Peter, in discussing something entirely different, tangentially endorsing an unlimited atonement - that is, even though Peter is not talking about the atonement, is he assuming that Christ died (atoned) for everyone? Are we right, or is it proper to infer from Peter's language that He believed (and therefore taught and assumed this general knowledge from his readers) that Jesus died for every person who ever lived.

Let's be succinct here. The verse doesn't say that Jesus died for every person who ever lived, but it certainly can be read in a way that suggests that, and we must be fair here, no matter what we believe - it isn't a stretch to read the verse that way.

You may have noticed that I highlighted in red three things when I presented the verse above: the people, false prophets, and them.

One way to "plainly" read this verse is to say, the false prophets will arise from amongst the people and will introduce destructive heresies to the people, even denying the Master who bought the false prophets.

Another way to read this verse is to say, the false prophets will arise from amongst the people and will introduce destructive heresies to the people, even denying the Master who bought the people.

The first interpretation has the false prophets introducing the people (Christians) to destructive heresies then noting that one such heresy would be to deny the Master who bought even the false prophets.

The second interpretation has the false prophets introducing the people (Christians) to destructive heresies such as teaching the people to deny the God who bought them (the people).

I honestly think the second is more obvious than the first.

There are godly people who see it the other way, and would refute my understanding with grace and far more who would refute it without grace. Both camps appeal to verses that inform their opinion, and I don't suggest that this is going to change any one's decided opinion. It was just my meditation this morning, and I will continue to examine it.

I don't believe for a second that when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies on the day of Atonement, he was offering atonement for the whole world. I think the names of the tribes of Israel carved into the epaulets on his shoulders, and again the dozen stones on his breast piece give testimony as to who was being born into the place of atonement - and it was not the Gentiles - it was not the whole world, only Israel was being remembered there - only Israel was being atoned - and I think this is the picture we see elsewhere. Noah's ark wasn't built big enough to hold everyone on the earth, it was designed beforehand to hold just as many as were actually going to be on it. There is no provision made on the cross for those who will not be on it in Christ.

I don't believe that God is trying to save everyone.

Let me briefly qualify that. When Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, I don't believe it was God's purpose to try and save everyone, for were that the case, then God failed, since not everyone looked to what God raised up for their salvation. Rather I think the purpose was to raise up something by which the faithful would be saved; i.e. God's intent was to save all of the faithful from the serpent.

Anyway, the point is not to get into a grand "I am right, you are wrong" kind of atonement argument - for those abound elsewhere, and you are free to grind your axes elsewhere. The point was to just air out some of my thoughts and perhaps in doing so help others who struggle (or ought to struggle) with this verse.


posted by Daniel @ 6:55 AM  
  • At 9:26 AM, December 04, 2008, Blogger Rose~ said…

    Anyway, the point is not to get into a grand "I am right, you are wrong" kind of atonement argument...

    Phew. ;~)

    Thanks, Daniel for a very thought-provoking post.

  • At 9:46 AM, December 04, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    Rose, you're welcome. I find it nigh impossible to present an opinion about something without (in doing so) presenting an argument to those who do not share my opinion.

    The main thing I wanted to do was to say, "Hey, this verse isn't cut and dry!" - you know, to draw attention to the thought that this verse is actually deeper than most people are willing to dig. Yet the moment anyone mentions the scope of the atonement on the internet - it tends to stir fruitless debate rather than thoughtful discussion. I had seriously considered turning off the comments for this one - just to avoid that.

  • At 10:19 AM, December 10, 2008, Blogger Strong Tower said…

    Thanks for your thoughts on this.

    I am doing a "scope" of the atonement series out of Hebrews. Thanks for the breast plate analogy.

    Can I call you Daniel the Avoider, now ;)

  • At 10:42 AM, December 10, 2008, Blogger Daniel said…

    S.T. I think Daniel the magnificent avoider, has a more humble ring to it.

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