[%] Pheh. baptists! [intro notes]

As I was thinking about this topic while walking in the icy breeze between buildings, one of the things that crossed my mind was the complaint that arguing about John 3 or John 1 and who is actually saved by Christ is distracting from, for example, the looming martyrdom of Abdul Rahman. The complaint would go something like this -- that Abdul Rahman's extraordinary show of faith should not be sullied by squabbling over whether (and the Boarsmen have tossed around) "all means all".

Let me suggest to you something, even though I have not interviewed Mr. Rahman myself: I think it matters to him whether "all means all". If "all" means "all men, including all who would be islamofascist jurists," then he's throwing his life away for nothing. If even the islamofascist is saved by the Son God gave, then dying a martyr's death rather than renounce Christ is overkill, to say the least.

But martyrdom is not portrayed that way in the NT, and the Gospel is not portrayed that way in the NT. If we are going to understand why Abdul Rahman is unwilling to say, "I renounce Jesus, because there is only one God and Mohammed is his prophet," we have to understand what John 3 says in detail and not just as a scattering of verses.

In that, I might have let the exchange at BHT go south on its own if there had not been two grossly-exaggerated statements made in the discussion. The first is this, by the redoubtable iMonk:
[the evangelist John did not believe] that the divine narrative was culminated in a series of technical definitions of words that indicate Jesus Christ came to limit salvation to a few Reformed Baptists.
The exaggeration is this: there not even any legitimately-called "reformed baptists" who believe this. One might want to paint with an acre-wide brush and call (for example) Fred Phelps a "reformed baptist", but those who are actually reformed baptists (you know: like John Piper, and James White, and Tom Ascol, and Albert Mohler, and Mark Dever, and ... oh, you get the idea ...) would have a somewhat-large problem with that over-generalization. It would be like calling iMonk an "emergent pastor", which can only be true in a world where iMonk is "emergent" because of his internet pulpit, and a "pastor" in the sense that he was one once.

Reformed baptists are confessional in nature, and conform themselves to a limited number of admittedly-limited documents. Many of them refer to the LBCF (1689) as a standard. Ad in that case, what the LBCF has to say about the number of the elect, and the scope of Christ's atonement, is 100% applicable to the discussion of whether or not the RB's think only RB's are saved.

The real question is this: even if RB's are that frankly-addled in their reading of John 3, did John have any specific intention in writing the Gospel of John? Or was he merely spinning a great story by which he thought he could get people to say, "huh. Can't wait for the Movie." (or in ancient terms, "O Iohannes! Enim non expecto dramae!") And particularly, does John 3 tell us anything about the work of Christ?

UPDATED: iMonk has delivered the correction in the meta of this post that his reference to "Reformed Baptists" was a funny, a gag, a jest, a quip, a wisecrack, a bit of waggery -- exaggeration made with a light heart.

I accept the correction and leave the note here for reference. Next time I'll try to read a little more closely and frankly, with an ounce more charity. I am quite sure, however, that his main line of reasoning is to agree with Dennis Laing and to argue against the {false} view that Jesus narrowed the scope of God's salvation rather than broadened it if one reads this passage as harmonious with the reformed view.

That is a question we shall deal with in the next post. First, let's deal with the second exaggeration in the exchange at BHT:
I'm certain Nicodemus wasn't blown away by the new found thought that God has narrowed to doors to salvation.
Again, who believes that? Could Dennis Laing name someone who does? I can't.

Look: even the HyperCalvinist -- the one who would say there's no reason for evangelism, and that you can tell God's elect from the time of their birth because of the the outworking of the Holy Spirit due to their election -- would not say that the assertion of particular redemption narrows the Jewish understanding of God's salvation of men. What Jesus has done specifically is to overturn Nicodemus' view that human birth dictates elective state. How do we know this?

Good heavens -- read John 3:
    1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him."
Now stop a second: who is "we" in Nicodemus's statement? Is it the royal "we"? I suppose Nicodemus, who is a Pharisee in the synagogue might use the royal we. But isn't it more likely that John, in saying "a man of the Pharisees", is setting up Nicodemus to be speaking for the group of Pharisees with whom he is in agreement? The "we" here is the Jewish religious leaders with whom Nicodemus would associate -- and in that, he is speaking for Jews who are waiting for a Jewish Messiah to restore the thrown of David.
    3Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
And think on it: Jesus doesn't say, "I'm so glad you guys see it my way." He says, "Nobody can see what I am doing unless you have something other than your human birth to inform you."

It is not the Jewish birth which informs you about the Messiah: it is the spirit of God, and Jesus makes that clear thus:

    4Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (ESV)
In that, Jesus has radically broadened the scope of salvation from Jewish salvation to salvation wherever the Spirit wishes.

And it is in the extraordinarily-expanded view of God's saving grace that John 3 continues in Jesus' discourse on the salvation of the world.

Now, if dispelling these two gross overstatements were enough, we could stop here and say a blessing on the men who said them, having been corrected they would surely recant and either withdraw or rephrase their concerns. But there is so much more here which directly relates to why Abdul Rahman will not recant his confession of Christ that we will pick this up tomorrow and go through both John 1 and John 3 to have the Gospel by two hands and not to let it go for the sake of a political point.