To Whom Do You Listen?

Dr Pierre Coovert

We often hear non-Baptists lifted up as great theologians in Baptist pulpits. I don’t understand why we do this. Aren’t there any good Baptists to quote? (Remember, this is an unashamedly Baptist site!) One of the Protestant leaders that I hear lifted up as a great scholar or theologian is R.C. Sproul.

While I was doing some research for another article and I came across a video of R.C. Sproul answering a question that really showed the depth of thought of these supposed “great theologians.” I said depth of thought knowing that the depth was very shallow. He really didn’t have an answer. Here is the link to the video so you can listen for yourself:

In this video the “great theologian” R.C. Sproul is asked, “Does God desire all people to be saved?” The moderator, who asked the question for else someone who sent it in ,is Mark Driscoll. Mr Driscoll ended the video by saying that Mr. Sproul’s answer is a “great answer”. The only thing great about it was how clear his inability to answer a clear question from the Bible was. The question was based upon the Word of God (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

Mr. Sproul starts his answer by talking about the two different Greek words that are translated “will” in our Bibles. He does not tell us which one is used in this passage, so I will do so. The Greek word in this passage is θελω and the other Greek word translated “will” is βουλομαι.

Mr. Sproul implies that the passage is talking about God preferring, but not really willing, that all men be saved. Guess which of these two Greek words means to prefer something. It is the second (βουλομαι). Either Mr. Sproul does not know which word is used here, or he is deliberately vague because he has no answer that fits his Calvinistic beliefs.

Here are four verses where Jesus uses the word θελω, and I could give many more where he used it in the same sense.

Matthew 8:3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Matthew 15:32 Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

I have put the English words that come from θελω in bold type so it is clear where it is used. Do these verses seem to indicate that that it means a mere preference? I doubt that the woman only had a preference that her daughter be healed. I know that Jesus’ will to feed the people was more than just a preference because He took action. I am sure that Jesus’ desire to gather those of Jerusalem under His wing and protect them was a real strong desire and the only reason He didn’t was because, as a sovereign God, He had chosen to give them a free will, and they chose not to come.

Here are all of the verses where Jesus used the other Greek word (βουλομαι). You will notice here that Mr. Sproul’s characterization of the meanings is not accurate. Although this word means to prefer, as it is used by Jesus, it implies action will follow because of the preference.

Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

Luke 10:22 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.

Luke 22:42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

The first two of these are really only one, just recorded by different evangelists. In these two verses we are told that the Father is revealed to whomever the Son wills or desires to reveal Him. This kind of willing results in an action being completed here.

In Luke 22:42 Jesus asks the Father, if He is willing, to remove the cup from Him. Do you not think that the Father would have preferred not to have to send His Son to the cross? The sense of this verse is, if the Father has the desire or will to stop the whole process of saving mankind, Jesus asks Him to remove the cup. On the other hand, if the Father’s desire is to save mankind, then Jesus says that His own strong desire not to suffer the pain of the cross is subject to the Father’s desire to save mankind.

Mr. Sproul then does something similar to a bate and switch. He changes it from “does God desire all men to be saved?” to “does God take pleasure in the death of the wicked?” This is a standard practice when someone does not have a good answer to a hard question. By the way, it is only hard for a Calvinist.

He closes by saying that what (1 Timothy 2:3-4) is really talking about is that God takes no pleasure in sending someone to Hell. Read the verse again, without any prejudice, and see if that is what it really means.

Here is another verse that says essentially the same thing on this subject:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

This verse says it a little differently. In stead of saying that God wants all men to be saved, it says that God does not want any to perish. Interestingly, the word “willing” is the second Greek word (βουλομαι). What does this do to Mr. Sproul’s theory that one of the words means a mere preference and the other mean to really desire something?

It looks to me like God’s foreknowledge was in action here. He knew this theory would be used to try to justify the doctrine that His Son did not die for everyone. In one place He inspired one Greek word to be used, and in another He inspired the other Greek word to be used.

Mr. Sproul ends by saying that this shows God’s loving kindness, but does not annul God’s concern for righteousness and justice. Wow! Does this mean that those who are in the “elect” are righteous and just and therefore God chose to save them? I know that Mr. Sproul would never say this, but it seems to me that it would have to mean this if what he says is true.

If the Calvinistic doctrine of the sovereignty of God is true, and if God prefers that all come to salvation but only chooses a few, then he is and arbitrary and capricious god, and not the God of the Bible.

After listening to the video several times I am left with two things. The first on is that Mr. Sproul never answered the question. The question was “Does God desire all people to be saved?” His answer was God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. This is nothing more than intellectual slight of hand. It is, at best, ignorant, or, at worst, intellectual dishonesty.

The second thing that struck me was that Mark Driscoll called his non-answer a great answer. Mr. Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I really wouldn’t expect him to be discerning enough to understand that Mr. Sproul’s answer was not inline with Scripture.

Here is a quote from driscollcontroversy.com that shows Mr. Driscoll’s attitude toward Scripture:

Here is an extract from Mark Driscoll’s book on Jesus Christ, Second Person of the Glorious Godhead, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who is seated at the right hand of God the Father in the Majestic Glory.

Quote from pages 43-44

In the first chapter of Mark, Jesus starts off by yelling at complete strangers to repent of their sin, like the wingnuts with billboards who occasionally show up at shopping centers.  Shortly thereafter, Jesus orders some guys to quit their jobs and follow him, and before long Jesus is telling a demon to shut up and healing a leper only to tell him to shut up too. In the second chapter, Jesus picks a fight with some well-mannered religious types and does the equivalent of breaking into a church on a Sunday morning to make a sandwich with the communion bread because he was hungry.

In the third chapter, Jesus gets angry and also grieves and apparently needs Praxil.  Then he ignores his own mom, which threw Focus on the Hebrew Family into a tizzy, so they quickly issued a position paper renouncing his actions. In the fourth chapter, Jesus rebukes the wind, which caused an uproar with the local pantheists. In chapter 5, Jesus kills two thousand pigs, sending the animal rights activist blogosphere into a panic and creating a bacon famine only rivaled by the great Irish potato famine. In chapter 6, Jesus offends some people and apparently needs sensitivity training. In chapter 7, a few religious types have some questions for Jesus, and he cruelly calls them ‘hypocrites’ and goes on a lengthy tirade about them, which seemed very intolerant of their alternative theological lifestyle.’

Is this the kind of person you would take seriously? I sure wouldn’t!

That Mr. Sproul would even be on the same stage with Mr. Driscoll shows that his scholarship cannot be too deep.

For your information the other article is on 1 Corinthians 15:33 which says, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” It is a warning about following this kind of teacher. They will pull you down. You’ll have to wait a couple of days until I finish that article to see more on this subject.

Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved