Previously, I made a response to Jason Stevens. In an attempt to prove his views on the Atonement, Mr Stevens apparently did a word search for “whosoever” in the KJV, and then interspersed his own interpretation, resulting in a nearly 16,000 word blog post. My own 7 word response was not only a refutation of his hermeneutic, but also a response to his protracted repetition.
Mr Stevens has, as of November 2018, attempted to consolidate his thesis into a single 52:42 YouTube video. Mr Stevens’ attempt to be more concise is commendable, but his attempt to disprove Calvinism out of one verse was an abject failure.
When you read Jane Austen, you approach her using appropriate categories. You understand the form of writing (fiction), the time of writing (19th century), the time of the setting (19th century), the intended audience (Regency era English folk), and the author herself. Furthermore, you understand the conversation of the characters not through doing a word study, but through reading their words and first grasping the context. To grasp the context, you work from larger to smaller things. Roughly, they are history, culture, genre, author, book, chapter, paragraph, sentence, clause, and word.
Scripture is no different. Yet, after reading two verses, what does Stevens jump right into? The final “might” of John 3:17. And what does he use it to prove? The message of Scripture as a whole. This is quite backwards. I’m not saying Stevens has to walk us through every step of the context, but it’s something he needs to do as part of his homework.
I very strongly recommend the book “Grasping God’s Word”, which will guide the reader in properly interpreting Scripture.
Mr Stevens invited those who disagree with him to join a Facebook group filled with those who agree with him. I decline. I’ve had more than my fair share of 4 against 1, and 5 against 1 debates. Ain’t nobody got time for that; it’s Sisyphean. If Mr Stevens wants to respond to this, he is more than welcome; if not, I understand.
Since Mr Stevens’ video response to Calvinism is somewhat ad hoc, it would be difficult for me to maintain continuity. Therefore, I’m going to address 1) John 3:17, and 2) about the first 7 minutes of his video. I think the careful listener to Mr Stevens will find a common theme: Mr Stevens assumes much.
Let’s start with taking a look at John 3:17, in context.
Setting: Jesus is talking with Nicodemus, a religious teacher and a ruler of the 1st century Roman-occupied Israel. Nicodemus comes at night and confesses Jesus is sent from God. Jesus then speaks about being born again, and affirms his own testimony. Jesus then returns to talking about salvation.
The meaning of “For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” is simple and two-fold. One, the world stands condemned and God is saving people through Jesus. Second, Jesus has a purpose for the time: it is not the time for final judgement, but for the giving of salvation. The triune God ordained purposes for both the first and second comings of the Messiah. The first coming is for salvation. (John 12:47) The second coming is for judgement. (Matt. 25:31-32, Revelation 6)
It is within the meaning of the verse that we must interpret “world”. When it comes to the definition of “world”, Mr Stevens takes a particular view of what “world” means. That’s not a problem in and of itself, but it’s something which must be defined and defended, not assumed.
Instead of looking at the verse in context, Mr Stevens isolates a clause, “the world might”, assumes “world” means each and every individual, and proceeds to hang an awful lot off the word “might”. In summary, his argument is “this is subjunctive, which means a man could or could not be saved, depending on his free will choice”. Now let me ask you, where does the text or grammar call for any of that? Where does the text bring in free will? Where does it bring in ANY particulars of salvation? Where does the grammar implicate men as actors? Nowhere. These are all presuppositions brought to the text.
“OK Mr Brilliant Britches, so just what does ‘world’ mean?” you might ask. It means what it means in the context. It’s used to speak broadly of people.
The idea that “world” is intended to convey the precise extent of the Atonement is not warranted by the text, context, or grammar. No, that is all presupposition, carried into the text by Mr Stevens. The extent of the Atonement is addressed by other passages.
The First Seven Minutes
Within the first 45 seconds of the video, Mr Stevens suggests more qualified men, men he looks up to, namely, Leighton Flowers and Mike Winger, “do not recognize the power and effectiveness of this particular verse and argument”. Mr Stevens, maybe they’ve seen this verse and recognize the argument cannot be made from the text.
The first textual claim is there’s one verse which refutes Calvinism. The only time you can say one verse proves or refutes something is on a very simple subject, such as the deity of the Son (Hebrews 1:8). Soteriology is not simple, it is compound. A valid soteriology has considerable depth and breadth.
I would take verses 16 through 18 as the immediate context of John 3, but that’s not a massive deal.
Right at the 1:10 mark, “whosoever” gets morphed into “anyone and everyone”. Can Mr Stevens support that interpretation from the Greek? Nope, he admits he doesn’t know Greek.
Mr Stevens says ” ‘Might’ means everybody has the ability.” No, “Might” refers to God’s intentions, not man’s ability. Read the context.
What lexicon is used for the definitions of kosmos? It’s not exactly clear, but it appears to come from: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g2889 If that is the case, I would simply note that not only has Mr Stevens quoted some definitions while leaving out others, but he cut off definition 6 before the final clause. Why?
Regardless, even Stevens’ selective quoting shows “world” can mean a few different things, and doesn’t automatically mean any one thing. To wit, it can mean a place. It can mean a people. It can be self inclusive or self exclusive. It can be inclusive of the Jews, or it can be used to mean Gentiles. It can mean the powers of the world– kings and rulers. It can mean the things of this world– riches, pleasures, and possessions. However, Stevens’ only working definition of world is inclusive of every individual, regardless of whether that fits the context or not.
I’m glad Mr Stevens denies universalism, but his affirmation of universal atonement has yet to be supported. It is assumed.
Mr Stevens changes “world” to “the whole world” or “all of humanity” (and does so more than once). It’s one thing to say “kosmos” means all men. It’s another thing to say it means absolutely all men. That’s a big claim, and requires big arguments, arguments that Mr Stevens can’t produce.
I would like to know the source of Mr Stevens’ description of the subjunctive mood. (Cite your sources, please.) The subjunctive can be used in different ways, but he only focuses on what helps his case. Regardless, it’s the context which determines the meaning, and the context does not support his presuppositions.
The purpose for the subjunctive is to make clear the aim of God. It explains why God did and did not send his Son into the world. The word “might” does does not declare a point of choice for men, but rather the intentions of God.
For more helpful information, check out the second question in this link: http://salvationbygrace.org/current-qa/understanding-a-hina-clause/ Also, https://www.aomin.org/aoblog/2000/08/17/tim-staples-false-assertion-regarding-galatians-216/#_edn1
My baby has the potential to swim. She cannot actually swim. Bad analogy, but hey, we all make them from time to time.
John 3:17 is all about what God is doing in the world through the Incarnation and first coming of Christ. Mr Stevens “refutation” of Calvinism is simply a circular argument, fueled by overstepping his understanding of grammar and Greek. His understanding of “world” is based on an assumption, and he uses that assumption to prove his understanding of “world”. He has gone nowhere.
Since Mr Stevens made some strong pleas toward Calvinists, I’m going to leave him with some strong words. Read Mark 7, and think about what Jesus said about bringing your traditions to the words of a thrice holy God.