Is Kosmos An Undifferentiated Totality?

In Prof. H.C. Hoeksema’s very illuminating and adroit editorial series on the “ ‘Report of the Doctrinal Com­mittee’—A Critical Study—The Com­mittee on the Atonement” the reader is provided with the most competent leadership and commentary relative to the so called “Dekker Case,” the Christian Reformed Three Points of Common Grace and the “atonement issue.” In these editorial pieces the best and safest guidelines are indicated and the Reformed truth is expressed and expounded in the clearest and most unambiguous terms. Certainly, for the security and the well-being of the church founded on the Reformed truth, it behooves all concerned to ben­efit from the friendly warnings and wise counsel so capably delineated in these articles.

What this writer is particularly con­cerned with at this time is the above committee’s alleged grounds for main­taining the doctrine of limited atone­ment, especially Ground C as quoted in by Rev. R.C. Harbach The Standard Bearer, May 15, 1967, p. 367:

C. The word “world” in John 3:16 and related passages is to be inter­preted not distributively, but as refer­ring to an undifferentiated totality. Also the words “all” and “all men” used in such passages as II Cor. 5:14, 15; I Tim. 2:4-6; I Tim. 4:10; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:9; II Peter 3:9; should be interpreted in the light of the delimitations evident in the context.” (Ital. added).

It ought to be obvious to the above committee and to every Reformed mind that the above “ground” cannot be a ground for maintaining limited atonement. For to take the word “world” as “referring to an undifferentiated totality” is to think in terms of universalism. The word “world” in Scripture does indeed refer to a totality. In II Peter 2:5 it refers to the totality of the reprobate. In John 1:29 it refers to the totality of the elect. The word as used in Scripture never refers to an undifferentiated totality, for the simple reason that Scripture is definitive—of its own terms. The word “undifferentiated” means, according to Funk and Wagnalls, “not differentiated; not clearly distinguished or distinguish­able, or having parts that cannot be distinguished; not exhibiting distinctive characters.” The term, then, cannot apply to the word “world”, for the word is one which in Scripture is as differentiated as possible. The careful examination of every context where kosmos appears will prove this. In Acts 17:24, the word “God that made the world” means the totality of the universe. In John 13:1; John 16:21, 28, the word means the earth: “I am come into the world: again I leave the world and go to the Father.” In Rom. 3:19 it means the whole human race without exception: “all the world—guilty!” In John 15:18 it means the human race, believers expected: “the world hates you (and) hated me.” In Rom. 11:12, it means the world of Gentiles, for “the riches of the world” is distinc­tive, being explained by “the riches of the Gentiles,” and so excludes the Jews! In John 1:29; John 3:16; John 6:33; John 12:47 it means the totality of believers only! In John 3:17 it means that world which never is, never to be condemned. In John 12:31 and I Cor. 11:32 it means the world which is and shall be condemned. Ground C, above, by the employ of the word “undifferentiated” has emptied itself of meaning. For world in the NT is as distinguished and distinguish­able as possibly can be!

In the same editorial, on the next page (p. 368, second column, 8th line from bottom) our editor writes, “…this is a new doctrine for the Christian Reformed Church. In no official deci­sion heretofore has the Christian Re­formed Church ever connected common grace with Christ’s atoning death…” We agree with this. No official deci­sion in the CRC has connected common grace with limited atonement. But practically this is so. For as Part II, Chapter V, of The Protestant Reformed Churches in America, pp. 343ff shows, the very texts all the Reformed ex­plain as maintaining Limited Atone­ment, and so explain in refutation of its antithesis—Arminianism, the CR advocates of common grace and of a general offer of salvation also try to explain as teaching common grace. But it should be plain to all that the same texts cannot possibly teach particular atonement and common grace. That would mean that these texts do and do not teach particular atonement. And that is nonsense!