Did you hesitate? Even for a second? Then you have a warped Calvinism. And there’s lots of it around.

When our son or daughter asks that question we must be able to look them in the eye and say with all the certainty we can muster and all the passion we can summon, “Yes, my son (daughter), God wants to save you.”

Verse to prove it?

1 Timothy 2v4 which speaks of God our Savior “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Sadly this “simple” statement of profound truth has been both perverted and explained away over the years.

Perversions and Evasions
Some have used it to support universalism, the idea that God will save everyone. However, that view ignores the rest of 1 Timothy which clearly speaks of some being lost (1:13; 3:6; 4:1; 5:24; 6:9-10); it also rejects many other parts of the Bible.

Others have used the verse to deny election. They say, “If God wants to save everyone in general then He did not choose anyone in particular.” But then we have to cut out multiple verses and chapters which do teach particular and individual election (e.g. 1 Cor. 1; Rom. 9).

Then there are those who say that as the previous verses are about civil government, “saved” here means physical preservation. However, Paul goes on immediately to speak of Christ as mediator and redeemer, and in the pastorals “salvation” most commonly means deliverance from sin (1 Tim. 1:15; 2 Tim. 1:9; 3:15; Tit. 2:11).

Well-meant Desire
Some Calvinists, out of a well-meant desire to honor the sovereignty of God, change the meaning of “all” to “all the elect.” They say, “If God wills the salvation of all, then all will be saved as God’s will is never thwarted. But not all are saved, so all here must mean all the elect.

This is very logical; but is it biblical? Is it the meaning that Timothy and the church at Ephesus would have understood when the letter was being read? Would they have made all the steps of logic required to get “all” to mean “all the elect?” Would they not have taken the words in their plain and simple meaning? God desires ALL to be saved

God’s Two Books
But not all are saved, so how do we understand this text without dishonoring God and making Him look defeated in His desire and will? The answer is found in the two books of God we find in Deuteronomy 29:29:

The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever that we may do all the words of this law.

God’s Private Book contains the things that He has decreed will happen or not happen from beginning to end of time. They include all the events of tomorrow, when and how we will die, the end of the world, the names of the saved, and so on. As its name suggests, this is a private book for God’s eyes only. He has not revealed the contents, will not reveal them, and we must not enquire into them either. God keeps that book behind the counter and forbids us from trying to look into it.

God’s Public Book is what He has revealed in the Bible, which, as Moses said, is all we need to know, believe, and do. It’s on the counter, open, and available for study.

In God’s Public Book, God often expresses a desire for certain things to happen that do not actually happen because He has not written them in His Private Book. For example, God desires all people keep His moral law which does not actually happen.

God also forbids things in His Public Book which He has decreed to happen in His Private Book. For example, in the Bible God forbids betrayal and murder and expresses His desire that no one be a victim of this. Yet, in His Private Book He ordained that His Son be betrayed and murdered (Acts 2:23).

Biblical but Illogical?
This is sometimes called an antinomy, a logical contradiction that cannot be resolved. Although we cannot square them in our minds, we must hold both because both books exist and are true.

Maybe if we personalize this, it’ll become clearer. Ask yourself, “Does God want me to live a holy life or an unholy life?” His Public Book tells me that He wants me to live a holy life (1 Peter 1:16). But it doesn’t happen. Does that defeat God or take Him by surprise? No, His Private Book contains all my sins and all my successes. His Public will is “thwarted,” but His Private will never is.

Now take the question, “Does God want me to believe the Gospel?” According to God’s Public Book, “Yes” (Isa. 45:22; 55:1; Ezek. 18:23; 32; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). But I never did it at all for 22 years and I still don’t do it perfectly or steadily. Again, no surprise to God, as His Private Book contains all my ups and downs, my faith and unbelief. 

The Kiddie Question Test
Finally, back to our first question. When our child asks, “Daddy, does God want to save me?” the last thing you do is go to God’s Private Book, and say, “Well, I don’t know honey, because I don’t know if you are one of the elect.” Put that book down. That’s God’s Private Book. You have no right to it and there’s no benefit in it for you.

Instead, pick up God’s Public Book and on the basis of 1 Timothy 2v4, say, “God wants to save you with all His heart! He doesn’t want you to perish.” So, repent and believe the Gospel with the assurance that if you call on the name of the Lord, you will be saved (Rom. 10:13).

If you can’t say that, your Calvinism fatally fails the Kiddie Question Test.

  • Slabbert Le Cornu

    I do not
    think it is the best to answer the Kiddie Question with the following
    explanation of 1 Tim.2:4,

    “This
    is sometimes called an antimony, a logical contradiction that cannot be
    resolved. Although we cannot square them in our minds, we must hold both
    because both books exist and are true.”

    This will confuse our little children even more if they are
    taught there are contradictions in Scripture, or between God’s secret (Private
    Book) and revealed will (God’s Public Book).

    I think a better answer would be to take our children to the
    following verses,

    “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be
    saved” (Rom.10:13; Acts 2:21))

    With the wonderful promise of John 6:37,

    “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise
    cast out.”

    By this we stay with what is revealed and commanded and do
    not fall in all kinds of contradictions trying to explain away the plain sense
    of 1 Tim.2:4 with a wrong appeal to God’s decreed will/private book.

    About 1 Tim.2:4,

    a. in the historical context Paul did not want to answer the
    church in Ephesus our modern question (at least directly), i.e. whether God wants
    all people [head-for-head] since Adam to be saved, because

    b. the question of his day, as seen through all the Gospels,
    letters, etc, was:

    i. whether God wants someone outside of Israel also to be
    saved, i.e. the Gentiles like Greeks, Romans, etc, and

    ii. whether God wants people from all different social
    status’, gender, positions, etc to be saved, not only people from a certain
    background.

    Paul clearly answered both questions positively in Gal.3:28,
    and also here in 1 Tim.2.

    Therefore the ‘all’ must be explained in it’s immediate
    context, and it’s further context of Scripture (not contradicting the rest of Scripture).

    It seems logical therefore, for our modern mind’s, to interpret
    the ‘all’ of v.4 literally in the context of our modern day debates (calvinism
    vs arminianism, etc.) to mean every person that ever existed, but is it really biblical ?

    If one compares the ‘all’ of v.4 with the immediate verses,
    for example v.1, then we see that ‘all’ cannot, and should not taken literally
    at all times, because we read there,

    “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications,
    prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men”(v.1)

    It it means literally ‘all men’, then it could mean we sin
    if we literally do not pray for each and every person that exists or existed.
    We all would reject such a silly interpretation.

    It is clear from the context, v.2, what is meant by ‘all men’,
    i.e. all kinds of people. Dr. George W. Knight gives a good explanation of pantes anthropoi (all men),

    As in v.1 Paul means by the phrase
    all kinds of people, all sorts of people, including civil authorities (cf. for
    a similar thought Tit.3:1-7, note also Rom.11:32, where the second ‘all’
    embraces Jew and Gentile, but not every person, cf. 9:6ff.; cf. again Gal.3:28;
    Col.3:11; 1 Cor.12:12; Hand.22:15). “[God] wishes all people to be saved”
    expresses the truth for which Paul continually contended, especially against
    Jews and Judaizers, and that he and the other apostles were agreed on. … where
    from the human side those from ‘all kinds of people’ who are saved are, from
    the Godward side, those ‘called’ ‘according to [God’s] purpose and grace, which
    was granted to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity [2 Tim.1:9; Rom.9-11;
    Eph.1-2]. …

    So step-by-step from monotheism to
    the gospel itself Paul has argued that it is self-evident that God desires all
    people, Jew and Gentile, slave and free, ruled and ruler, etc., to be saved,
    and that such a perspective should elicit our prayers for all people.” (Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles
    [NIGTC], 1992, p.119,121, see also dr. Knight’s explanation of 1 Tim.4:10).

    By understanding 1 Tim.2:4 correctly within it’s context,
    and using the correct verses to answer ‘kiddie questions’, we could be both
    biblical and logical without any
    contradictions, all to the glory of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, and
    love for our dear covenant children.

    • Michael

      Dr Murray antimony is a brittle bluish-white element ( symbol Sb, atomic #51) of metallic appearance. The word you are looking for is antinomy a contradiction in a law; conclusions discrepant though apparently logical. The Chambers Dictionary 12th edition, 2011

      • David Murray

        Thanks Michael, I’ve changed that. I could blame the spellchecker but it’s more likely my brain that was at fault.

  • Pete

    I hesitated, but not for the reason you implied (and helpfully addressed), but because the question implies your child is not saved. Am I misunderstanding you? If not, where does God tell believers to doubt the salvation of their children—unless of course, they reject His covenant promises in unbelief?

    • David Murray

      I assume my child is born dead in trespasses and sins and like Nicodemus needs to be born again. I do not assume new birth nor faith until there is evidence that the child has been born again and believes in Christ alone for salvation.

      • Pete

        Ok. Thanks. Does God’s Word instruct believing parents to assume our infants are unregenerate because they haven’t called upon Christ?

        • http://stephsoundoff.blogspot.com/ Steph T

          Pete, I believe your question only matters if an infant dies while still an infant. Otherwise, yes, we assume they are unregenerate (until they grow and may call upon Christ). Randy Alcorn has an excellent article titled “Do Infants Go to Heaven When They Die?” and it can be found here: http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Jan/5/do-infants-go-heaven-when-they-die/.

          • Pete

            But where does Scripture teach your belief and assumption?

          • http://stephsoundoff.blogspot.com/ Steph T

            The article I linked to explains perfectly what I believe and has the scripture references to anchor those beliefs. So I ask you–how do you believe we are saved and where do

          • Pete

            “I think we should view Scripture as largely silent on this subject, leaving us to draw from its principles and to trust in the character of our God” Alcorn
            Alcorn goes on to say that he believes dead babies and dead children are saved.
            Can you explain how Scripture’s principles and God’s character lead you to believe this, while you also believe that living infants are not saved?

          • http://stephsoundoff.blogspot.com/ Steph T

            With all due respect you did not answer my question: how do you say that a person is saved? What scripture do you use to support your claims?

          • Pete

            Thanks for the interaction Steph.
            But I asked Dr. Murray a question (or two) which he declined to answer. That is fine. I admitted I may have misunderstood that he seemed to believe his child was not saved. That concerned me so I inquired about it.
            You stated your belief that my follow up question did not matter unless our infants die. Since you did not explain why you hold to this belief, I asked for some Biblical reasons for it. Neither you nor Alcorn provided any reasons as to why you believe my question does not matter.
            Next you assumed unregeneration, before proceeding to question me.
            How is that respectful!?!
            If you don’t want to answer my question, that is fine; no hard feelings. If you think the question is flawed, trying to explain this would show some respect.
            But dismissing my question without explanation, then insisting without explanation that I owe you an answer, is not respectful, despite the “with all due respect” cliché.
            So I’ll sign off now. Thanks for trying and feel free to have the last word. Wishing you and yours the joy and comfort that is yours through faith in Christ. Pete

  • John Frederick

    David, may I suggest that the word “all” always has a context. It can sometimes mean all people everywhere – many times it does – but it sometimes means “all” in the sense of “all kinds” or “all classes, types” of people or at other times it refers to all within a certain type or class.. For instance, we do the same thing in our English language when a school teacher in a classroom may ask the question, “are we ALL here?” or “is EVERYONE here?” She is not asking if everyone on planet earth is in the classroom, but because of the context in which the question is framed (the school teacher’s classroom) we understand she is referring to all within a certain class or type – in this case, all the students signed up for the class.

    Just by exegesis, I believe 1 Tim 2:4 is speaking of all in this sense of “all types.” What is my biblical basis for saying this? The context. Lets read the passage:

    1 Timothy 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    Who are the “all people” of verse 1? I believe the “all people” of verse 1 are the same “all people” of verse 4, as the subject matter does not change in any way at all in the intervening verses.

    When Paul wrote “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people..” was he asking Timothy to get the equivalent of the local phone book and starting with the alphas and going all the way through to the omegas (the Greek alphabet) make supplication, pray, intercede and make thanksgiving for each individual in the city… or more than that, the whole world?

    I don’t think so. Why do I say this? Because Paul qualifies verse 1 with verse 2 when he speaks of “kings” (kings are types of people) and “those in high positions” (again “those in high positions” are types of people).

    Why should we pray for them?

    One of the reasons we should pray for them is because these people (kings and those in high positions of authority) make decisions which affect society at large. If these people have their eyes opened, they will not be persecutors of Christians but will enact laws that will actually restrain sin so “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” So one of the reasons to pray for them is because good government can mean a measure of peace in a society, and it is a lot easier to spread the Gospel when there is no civil unrest.

    The passage also points us to another reason to pray, namely that God desires all (all who?) .. ALL TYPES OF PEOPLE.. including these influential people with authority in society.. to be saved.

    His message to Timothy was this: Do not just pray for the peasants, the farmers and the uneducated (the people who seem to be coming to Christ in great numbers right now), but remember to pray for kings and the very rulers in society who are at this moment persecuting Christians. Make prayer of this kind a priority – do it “first of all” – pray for these people Timothy – make sure the Church is praying for these people – because God desires all kinds of people – even kings (or Emperors like Caesar) and the elete in society – as well as the poor – people of every kind, to be saved. We must remember that the earliest Christians were almost all from the lower class of society, so this would be BIG news to them.

    • David Murray

      Yes, John, I can see such an exposition being a viable interpretation. Thanks for the time you put into setting this out. When I set out to expound the text, that’s the direction I was going in, but I eventually felt that I was trying too hard to fit/squeeze the verse into my “system.”

      For the sake of healthy debate, let’s just say that the verse is best explained in the way you outline. How then would we answer the child’s question? Does this verse help us to answer it or are there other better verses to support the “Yes” answer?

      • John Frederick

        Many thanks for interacting with me David. I would answer the question “God wants to save sinners just like you and me. Turn to Christ in repentance and faith.” Once the precious child has done so, we can rejoice together that this indeed was all God’s master plan from eternity past. Election is best understood in hindsight. As Acts 13:48 says, “…and all who were ordained/appointed to eternal life believed.” All who had the appointment, made the appointment.

        Harry Ironside gave the illustration of the sinner coming to the door of salvation (John 10:9). Above the door was a sign which says, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). The sinner responds to this gracious invitation, trusts Christ and he is gloriously saved. He now turns around and looks at the door through which he had just entered. He sees above the door another sign which says, “Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

  • Theo K

    David,

    May I add one more exegetical thought to John Frederick’s post?

    If the ‘all’ of verse 2:4 means all individuals that have ever lived and will ever live – without any exceptions,

    then the same word ‘all’ should have the same meaning in verse 2:6 :

    “Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all” – for all individuals that have ever lived and will ever live

    As far as I can tell, you wouldn’t agree with this interpretation of the word ‘all’ in verse 2:6.

    Shouldn’t this lead us to to conclude that John Frederick’s exegesis isn’t only a viable interpretation, but the only that is consistent with the rest of scripture?

    I would also approach (for similar reasons) in the same way 2 Pet 3:9.

    In answer to your question, which verses to use, I personally agree that Ezek 18 can be used to refer to “God’s Public Book”.

    But maybe a better approach would be to point to Rom 10:13 (a promise to all hearing it) or, even better, 1 John 3:23, everyone is commanded by God to believe the gospel!

    What do you think?

    • John Frederick

      Theo, just wanted to say that I totally agree with you regarding verse 6. I would have added that to my posting but was conscious of already having written a great deal and needing to bring it to a close. :)

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  • PurchasedAndFree .

    What I believe to be true is not subject to a child’s fallen notions of fairness.

    When God told Joshua to slaughter every man, woman, child and infant in the city it won’t pass the kiddie test either.

    God punishing people in hell forever for a finite number of sins won’t past the kiddie test. We have no ability to comprehend the vast holiness of God that would make this “palatable” to our understanding.

    I think we err when we try to warp a text which refers to kinds of people (not every single person) in order to make it seem nicer”.

    I think the worst thing you can do for a child is to teach them that if something doesn’t seem right or fair to you, then it is therefore untrue. We can’t teach our children to be their own moral authority. If God said it, that settles it. I trust he is good, I know the extent of my own sinfulness, and I know how limited my perspective is.

    He has given us His revelation and we are to trust in him not subjecting his word to kiddie tests.

    • Jared

      So you would agree then that God wants our children to be saved since 1 Timothy 2:4 says He desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth?

      • PurchasedAndFree .

        God desires all men to be saved, not just the poor and lay people, but Kings and authorities too. All KINDS of people. Not every SINGLE person. If you back up and read the context it’s quite clear.

        I Cor. 15:50-52 “…For we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

        Does not refer to sleeping babies in the church nursery. Context my friend.

        • Anderson Torres

          So, can you appoint clearly God desiring the damnation of the damned?

    • Anderson Torres

      “What I believe to be true is not subject to a child’s fallen notions of fairness.”

      But, strangely, it is subjected to YOUR FALLEN notion of fairness, right? Or maybe to a fallen opinion of a fallen god caricatured by a fallen theology.

      Well, how can we escape from that fall? Believing in you, a ‘better fallen child’?

      Even more strange, God uses a child to illustrate those who will gain the Heavens… Not a depraved theology :)

      “When God told Joshua to slaughter every man, woman, child and infant in the city it won’t pass the kiddie test either.”

      No? Well, maybe not in your cultural set, but

      1 – Every man and woman and child (not infant) slaughtered in Joshua isn’t innocent. According to reputable history geeks, Canaan was an immoral city – babies burned, zoophilia, cultic prostitution…

      2 – The babies were spared from the evilness they were inserted.

      I think it suffices for a kiddie test!

      “God punishing people in hell forever for a finite number of sins won’t past the kiddie test.”

      Hell is not about punishment by torture, but by eternal separation from the Source of All Life. Torturing hell is not even in the most reputable ancient sources, only
      Also, in Hell the people consciously and continuously reject God – it is not God rejecting good people, but bad people rejecting God.

      I think it suffices for a kiddie test!

      “We have no ability to comprehend the vast holiness of God that would make this “palatable” to our understanding.”

      But we have ability to recognize that your argumentation is weak.

      “I think we err when we try to warp a text which refers to kinds of people (not every single person) in order to make it seem nicer.”

      There is NOTHING NICE on it, because in our cultural setting we are more concerned about ourselves as single individuals, and not in other individuals as a whole. There is no good news in things like “Jesus love all men on earth”, but certainly there is a whole good news on “Jesus loves you the most perfect manner ever seen”.

      *I think the worst thing you can do for a child is to teach them that if something doesn’t seem right or fair to you, then it is therefore untrue.*

      So, you think it is fair to be a murder, because for a child is ‘apparently wrong’ to be a murder?

      *We can’t teach our children to be their own moral authority.*

      You, as always, are conflating moral ontology and moral epistemology…

      *If God said it, that settles it.*

      Interestingly, God says He loves everyone, and you add “everyone I have elected” to your words, and you use some twisted logic to convey your “settled” interpretation… Double stantard, “purchased slave of himself”?

      *I trust he is good, I know the extent of my own sinfulness, and I know how limited my perspective is.*

      But you don’t recognize He loves everyone on Earth…

      *He has given us His revelation and we are to trust in him not subjecting his word to kiddie tests.*

      And not even your adultic exegesis :P

      • PurchasedAndFree .

        “You, as always, are conflating moral ontology and moral epistemology…”

        As always? You don’t know me. I’ll assume you are a Christian, and a brother in Christ, so I’ll just let you know that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Let’s not sneer at one another. We’ll be praising Jesus together in heaven for ever and ever, isn’t that great?! We won’t have to worry about comment sections! I said it’s not good to teach children to be their own moral authority, I don’t see how that is confusing ontology and epistemology.

        “But, strangely, it is subjected to YOUR FALLEN notion of fairness, right? Or maybe to a fallen opinion of a fallen god caricatured by a fallen theology. Well, how can we escape from that fall? Believing in you, a ‘better fallen child’?”

        So because I say that truth is not subject to a child’s conscience (but rather, scripture), you interpret that as me saying that I (a 29 year old man living in virginia) am the arbiter of all truth? That is a little far fetched.

        “Hell is not about punishment by torture, but by eternal separation from the Source of All Life. ”

        Hell is eternal separation from God’s love, but it is not eternal separation from his wrath. God punishes unbelievers in hell forever with great wrath.

        “But we have ability to recognize that your argumentation is weak”

        Well that is an opinion.

        “So, you think it is fair to be a murder, because for a child is ‘apparently wrong’ to be a murder?”

        I think you meant to say “murderer” here. If a child believes murder to be wrong, the child would be right because it lines up with scripture. God is the ultimate authority as revealed in scripture, not man.

        “Interestingly, God says He loves everyone, and you add “everyone I have elected” to your words, and you use some twisted logic to convey your “settled” interpretation… Double stantard, “purchased slave of himself”?”

        Yes I affirm that God loves everyone! Even those who are not among the elect! It’s an amazing testament to his love that we are all not in hell right now as we speak. He causes it to rain upon the earth and produce crops, gives us wonderful sunshine, animals, beautiful mountains, delicious food, gives us children and on and on the blessings go. But obviously for those who God will punish in hell forever and ever, they do not receive the same kind of love that the elect do.

        “But you don’t recognize He loves everyone on Earth…”

        Not so.

        • Anderson Torres

          *So because I say that truth is not subject to a child’s conscience (but rather, scripture), you interpret that as me saying that I (a 29 year old man living in virginia) am the arbiter of all truth? That is a little far fetched.*

          Your personal interpretation of Scripture is not the same as Scripture itself.

          *Hell is eternal separation from God’s love, but it is not eternal separation from his wrath. God punishes unbelievers in hell forever with great wrath.*

          No way, at least not directly. The separation of all Love IS IN ITSELF the punishment – and the most hard punishment ever seen or made! God doesn’t need to add insult to injury here.

          Normally Calvinists think it is wrong to apply double jeopardy/punishment. SO, you will need to recognize that separating from the Source of Love is enough as punishment.

          Also, wrath

          *If a child believes murder to be wrong, the child would be right because it lines up with scripture.*

          In the same manner, the child above recognizes a truth from Scripture – ‘the Calvinistic limited love is false’.

          *But obviously for those who God will punish in hell forever and ever, they do not receive the same kind of love that the elect do.*

          OBVIOULSY? Where is the “obviously” here? In your “Scripture”?

          Also, Jo 3:16 says very plainly God gives His own Son because He loves the World. The text doesn’t say:

          I love you, and I give to you rain and sun – and a bit of burning hell
          I love you more, and I will give to you heaven – and a bit of sun and rain

          • PurchasedAndFree .

            “Your personal interpretation of Scripture is not the same as Scripture itself.”

            You misunderstand here. I said that truth is NOT subject to man, but subject to scripture. We do have to interpret the scripture, but the point is that the final authority is not our fallible conscience, but rather the truth of scripture.

            “No way, at least not directly. The separation of all Love IS IN ITSELF the punishment – and the most hard punishment ever seen or made! God doesn’t need to add insult to injury here.”

            The wrath of God being poured out on unrepentant sinners for all eternity is what the Bible teaches. .

            “Normally Calvinists think it is wrong to apply double jeopardy/punishment. SO, you will need to recognize that separating from the Source of Love is enough as punishment.”

            Might I gently suggest that you are confused in your categories here. What you are referring to is related to the atonement. Historically, Calvinists have pointed out that the Arminian belief that the atonement is for every single person leads to double jeopardy with the unbeliever being punished for a sin that Christ already atoned for on the cross. Hence a double dose of God’s wrath for sin.

            Being separated from God’s love and being punished by God’s wrath is not double jeopardy.

            “In the same manner, the child above recognizes a truth from Scripture – ‘the Calvinistic limited love is false’.”

            My grandfather who I love dearly and is a committed Christian is more Arminian in his understanding. I am more Calvinist. We both arrived at our positions through our understanding of scripture. The point is that, although we may interpret scripture differently, for both of us, the scripture is our ultimate authority. Consequently, the child should not subject their understanding of the Bible to their conscience, but rather their conscience should be subject to what scripture teaches.

            “OBVIOULSY? Where is the “obviously” here? In your “Scripture”?”

            I wasn’t quoting scripture. I was pointing out a concept that I believe is biblical.

            “Also, Jo 3:16 says very plainly God gives His own Son because He loves the World. The text doesn’t say:
            I love you, and I give to you rain and sun – and a bit of burning hell
            I love you more, and I will give to you heaven – and a bit of sun and rain”

            Are you saying that it is untrue that there are those who God gives minor blessings to, who He also throws into the lake of fire in the final judgement?

            Is it untrue that God gives minor blessings to some, who he also grants eternal life in heaven?

            You seem to be mocking these concepts.

            The love described in John 3:16 is not describing God’s love expressed in common grace (sun, food, health etc), but rather his love expressed in sending his son to atone for sin for the world.

            You and I would have different interpretations of what the term “world” means as used in this case and context. You would assume “world” means every single person which I would disagree with.

          • Anderson Torres

            *You misunderstand here. I said that truth is NOT subject to man, but subject to scripture.*

            Truth by itself is not even subjected to Scripture. In fact, the Scripture is subjected to the Truth, because The One who inspirated the Scripture is trustful and truthful.

            *The wrath of God being poured out on unrepentant sinners for all eternity is what the Bible teaches. .*

            Irrelevant. After all, wrath is not a literal red fluid. And God doesn’t need to impose torture, because to live without God’s love for all eternity is the definitive punishment. It doesn’t and in fact can’t be made worse.

            Also, you said something about interpretation. And your interpretation failed miserably here.

            “Normally Calvinists think it is wrong to apply double jeopardy/punishment. SO, you will need to recognize that separating from the Source of Love is enough as punishment.”

            *Might I gently suggest that you are confused in your categories here. What you are referring to is related to the atonement.*

            Well, maybe. But the “double jeopardy principle” is used as “a general principle, applied to a particular case”. So, I can use the general principle against your “no love plus torture” interpretation.

            *Historically, Calvinists have pointed out that the Arminian belief that the atonement is for every single person leads to double jeopardy with the unbeliever being punished for a sin that Christ already atoned for on the cross. Hence a double dose of God’s wrath for sin.*

            A complete stupidity, in my opinion – even because it implies some strange type of Pelagianism. But it is another story.

            *Being separated from God’s love and being punished by God’s wrath is not double jeopardy.*

            Yes, it is. Or do you think it is not applying two essentially equivalent punishments to a single offense?

            *Consequently, the child should not subject their understanding of the Bible to their conscience, but rather their conscience should be subject to what scripture teaches.*

            Irrelevant. Even because the same Scripture can’t teach two completely opposite things. Then at least one of them, you, the child and your daddy are wrong (or even all!).

            *I wasn’t quoting scripture. I was pointing out a concept that I believe is biblical.*

            But only now you put it as “your belief”. Above it was just “something obvious”…

            *Are you saying that it is untrue that there are those who God gives minor blessings to, who He also throws into the lake of fire in the final judgement?*

            No, I am not saying that. I am saying that God desires to save even those who will be sent to hell.

            [You can now insert all your jokes and false dilemmas, conflated with a stupid idea of 'frustrated omnipotence' here.]

            *You and I would have different interpretations of what the term “world” means as used in this case and context. You would assume “world” means every single person which I would disagree with.*

            I think “World” here specifically is about the evil people in the world, the world described as hating Jesus and the Apostles in John’s Gospel.
            But I don’t think it is restricted to the elect ones.

          • PurchasedAndFree .

            I’ll let you have the last word brother. Blessings!

  • Daniel

    Dr. Murray, I also respectfully disagree from your exegesis of 1 Tim. 2:4. Context is overwhelmingly clear to be ignored (as Mr. Frederick and others pointed out). I think you picked the right doctrine, but the wrong text. Why not to point this child to the promise of baptism? Acts 2:38-39 seems to be perfect here. In these two verses there is the promise given to them (v. 39), which brings comfort, but there is also a call to faith in Christ with repentance of sins (v. 38).

    • Jamie

      Thank you David! I love your blog- one of my favorites! I would like to
      ask everyone (the bashers in particular) who has commented this
      question, “Did God DESIRE for Adam and Eve to AVOID eating from the tree
      of the knowledge of good and evil? Did God DECREE (notice I didn’t say
      CAUSE) that they would eat from the tree? The answer should be YES to
      both questions. Is Ezekiel 33:11 true? Yes it is! Is Romans 9 and
      Ephesians 1 and Acts 13:48 true? Yes they are! How can we reconcile
      these things? We don’t. We look to Deuteronomy 29:29 and Isaiah 55:8-9
      and say “Blessed be the Name of the Lord who is infinitely wiser than
      anything we can rationalize in our feeble, sinful hearts.”

      • Jamie

        Sorry, that should not have been a reply to you Daniel. My bad. It was a general comment to all.

        • John

          Heh. . . all.

      • James Boyd

        It’s good to show the distinction between WANT and WILL there Jamie. Lots of people seem to me to be blending those.

        The following verses, to me, show that God’s desire and His will aren’t so simplistically equalled:

        Lam 3:31-33:
        “For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
        But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
        For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.”

  • carolinaborn77

    As a father of three, I feel the tension in this question. I also think that as Calvinists, we can unnecessarily complicate the issue. My oldest once asked me this question (albeit in a slightly different manner). I responded, “Are you a sinner? Then yes, God wants to save you.” “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” 1 Timothy 1:15. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

  • eluros

    Wow. If I can be completely honest, I found this article deeply disturbing and would hope that it’s not an acceptable response/explanation to the question.

    You literally say that the answer to that question results in an
    antimony– a contradiction– and all we can do is disregard one half of
    the contradiction. That’s obscene.

    Philosophically, it opens us
    up to the principle of explosion (thus, one could prove that the Bible is false!). Theologically, it means we server a
    vocally contradictory God– a lying God. Metaphysically, if God’s public
    will is always trumped by his private will, we get gnosticism (with
    secret principles winning over revealed principles). Practically, it
    means that the Father ought to respond, “Yes, God wants to save you, but
    he has two wills, and the ‘will’ that will actually win out may not want
    to save you. God’s public will is not triumphant, and at the end of the
    day, the God we serve does not desire all to be saved more than he
    wants the opposite. If the two contradict, the public will must always lose.”

    • Adrian Keister

      This is the thought running around in my head, though I might express it more softly. We simply cannot embrace a fundamental, genuine contradiction anywhere in theology. That’s bad theology, because it’s bad logic; God is utterly logical, with no contradiction in Him whatsoever. He should be – He gave us logic! It’s part of Who He is. We can embrace paradoxes – seeming contradictions – with no problem, if the Bible clearly teaches both sides. God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is one example. The Trinity and the hypostatic union are two more examples. They are paradoxes, not contradictions, and they resolve themselves at God’s level of understanding, even if they never resolve themselves at ours. Based on the nature of God, we must affirm that all paradoxes in theology resolve themselves somewhere. God is the God of order, not of confusion. So, if we run up against something that looks a lot like a contradiction, but we’ve done our due diligence in exegesis and hermeneutics, and we find that the Bible affirms both sides, we must call it a paradox, and not a contradiction.

      What is truth? Truth is the set of all statements that correspond to reality as God sees it. Since God sees no ultimate contradiction in all truth, if we would see reality as it is, we must at least affirm that there are no fundamental contradictions, even if we don’t see how certain things manage to avoid being one.

      Those are my thoughts concerning something that is obviously tangential to your point. As for the substance of the post, I would have to think about that some more. I’m not sure I’m willing to label it a twisted Calvinism that would hesitate to say to their child they’re not sure if God wants to save them. There are some good comments on this post.

  • Mark

    To put it another way, salvation comes through trusting in God alone. Trusting in anything except God is idolatry. God commands all people everywhere to turn from idolatry. Therefore God wants all people to turn from idols and to trust in God. At the level of what God commands, invites, exhorts, holds people responsible for, God certainly desires that all be saved.

  • Mark

    This is a terribly sad post that reveals the moral bankruptcy of Calvinism. Basically the author says “Lie to your child. Deceive him/her. Don’t tell them what God is really doing – that’s in His private book.” But it’s not that private. We all know it. We know God – according to John Calvin – does not want to save everyone or He would not have set up a system where He arbitrarily arranges it so that some cannot and will not be saved. After all the games and tinkering with the Scripture this is what we are left with: we don’t know if you or your child or anyone will be saved because, as the article, maybe you’re not in the elect.

    When will people see Calvinism for what it is? It makes God into a monster who condemns people through no fault of theirs. It means you cannot answer this question from a child straightforwardly but must lie like this article suggest. But it is Calvinism that is the lie! 1 Tim 2 and a host of passages implore all to be saved because God truly does want all to be saved. Election and the rest of Calvinism is a pack of lies that dishonor God and the gift of His Son!

    • Bob Browning

      Mark,
      I don’t know any Calvinist who “makes God into a monster who condemns people through no fault of theirs.” If you truly believe that, then I would like you to show me a person who does not deserve eternal condemnation. Where are these perfect people that have not offended the God of the universe? Are you denying that man is sinful? Are you denying that sin should not be punished?

      I have a good friend that is a Free Will Baptist, so I understand you may have reservations about Calvinism, but you really don’t seem to understand what any true Calvinists are teaching. My friend and I get along just fine because he knows that my gospel proclamation is not restricted by my Calvinism, and my gospel message is identical to that of Jesus: “whoever will repent and believe will be saved!”

      Just because Calvinists are more comfortable living with the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is not grounds for you to accuse them of making God into a monster. That’s extremely divisive language and appears to be intentionally hurtful. If you are truly seeking to see all people following after Christ, I suggest you engage in more profitable discussion with a more sincere tone that truly seeks to reflect a balance of grace and truth like that of our Lord.

      Grace and peace.

  • TJ

    Free will is involved in our salvation. Jesus paid the price for All…it is up to us to except.

  • Guest

    I notice you’re trimming out any comments that disagree with the Almighty John Calvin and his ungodliness. But please know – I printed your article out as a marvelous marvelous way to show people the immorality and heresy that is Calvinism. When you have to lie to your child about God’s intentions something is seriously seriously wrong. I’m sorry you can’t see that – but I’m so glad you wrote this because it will sure be helpful in turning many away from the lies of Calvinism to the truth of the Gospel. God does want all to be saved and has not devised some capricious and arbitrary mechanism that would prevent folks who want to do His will from being saved (Ezek 18; John 3:16; Acts 2; 1 Tim 2:4). I hope you will repent and be saved, as God desires, instead of telling people that God is a monster who arbitrarily condemns people to hell for no reason and we just can’t understand why but have to believe it anyway. God forbid!

    • Ben Thorp

      “God does want all to be saved and has not devised some capricious and arbitrary mechanism that would prevent folks who want to do His will from being saved…..arbitrarily condemn[ing] people to hell for no reason”

      I think you’re misrepresenting Calvinism here – a Calvinist (and, as I understand it, an Arminian too) would argue that, because of our depravity, we do not want to do His will. Likewise, neither party would ever want to suggest that God condemns anyone unjustly or without reason.

    • David Murray

      Romans 9

  • Guest

    Do you know what normal people call someone who says one thing publicly but secretly believes and/or does another? A hypocrite and a liar. God wants “all” people to be saved but yet He also has vessels purposely prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22). So God wants to save those He has decreed for destruction? Either God is lying or He’s schizophrenic. The Straw Man Calvinist’s answer you seek to refute in this article is actually the CORRECT answer in Calvinism, you are just uncomfortable with the implications of telling your kid their entire life might be one exercise in futility that neither you nor they can do anything about. So the better option is to simply lie to them as if you knew for certain that God actually loved them. In that case you’re doing exactly what you say the Straw Man Calvinist shouldn’t do: presuming to know the private book.

  • Bob Browning

    Dr. Murray, I think you should take heart in the fact that you are being bashed by both sides. Grace and peace.

  • Rob B

    I hesitated.

    God has elected His own people, who,
    through the work of the Holy Spirit have been convicted of their sin and have
    been atoned with God through Christ’s blood. God has elected all to bring glory
    to his name (Psa 86:9 KJV), some have been elected to salvation, and others
    have been elected to damnation (1 Pet 2:8 KJV)

    How can God desire the salvation of ALL men if he has
    elected some to Salvation and others to Damnation?

    “First of all, then, I urge
    that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of
    all men [meaning] for kings and all who are in authority, so that we
    may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good
    and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men [meaning
    certain kings and certain people who are in authority] to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the
    truth.” – 1 Timothy 2v4

    • Anderson Torres

      *How can God desire the salvation of ALL men if he has elected some to Salvation and others to Damnation?*

      “God elected them based on the answer to the Gospel” is a viable option. Also, the Twofold Will, teached by Aquinas, is a viable answer to your questioning: God desires all to repent, but if the human being doesn’t answer the invitation, he will be damned.

  • Steve Stutzman

    Isn’t this basically the difference between the general calling to all and the specific calling of the elect? That both occur in the scriptures and we shouldn’t fuss about those who are elect and those who are not?

  • Steve Stutzman

    BTW I’m thankful you addressed the “all” equal to “all the elect.” I’ve never found that logic to be persuasive. Seems to me proponents would have to do some fancy exegetical footwork to arrive there.

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  • Wanderson Nascimento

    Murray says: “the last thing you do is go to God’s Private Book, and say, “Well, I don’t know honey, because I don’t know if you are one of the elect.” Put that book down. That’s God’s Private Book. You have no right to it and there’s no benefit in it for you.”

    Murray your suggestion in saying that ” You have no right to it and there’s no benefit in it for you” show how calvinism complicates simple things. If calvinism is the real biblical truth and a nickname for the gospel we should expect have no problem in confronting him with the truth that God supposedly clearly teaches in his book

    The question you brought here is very simple for a calvinist distract the child from the point. But let’s say that my child asks me if he is an elect, what I could say? I cleary shouldn’t go to God’s public book, but to God’s private book.

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  • Don Bryant

    This is exactly what Calvinism makes you ask. Not to ask it denies the very theological system that it is.

  • Jon

    Wait…wait.. so it’s subjected to the child litmus? Is this an emotional ploy to make us feel bad for verses like:
    “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
    Why not just answer the question like that?
    Or:
    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

  • max

    I would interpret the “all” as “all kinds of men” as previous comments suggest. How would I respond to the child then?
    I’d answer with a question: “Do YOU want to be saved?”
    If the kid asked its first question, it is more than likely that it will answer the second question in the affirmative. Then I’d say something like:”If you have that desire, then God is already working in your heart right now! Listen to what he says: “Come to me, you who are burdened, and I will give you rest!” God promised that everyone who comes to him with nothing but their sins and weaknesses, looking to Christ for their salvation, will be saved and not disappointed. Do not harden your heart, but trust in him!”
    I don’t have to abandon theological consistency in order to get to the child’s heart. Instead of answering the question directly, I will go to the child’s heart.
    If the child answers my first question with a “no”, then i will ask why it would even care.

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