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” inand 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 ; ; I ; ; ; ; 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. Init refers to the totality of the reprobate. In 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 , the word “God that made the world” means the totality of the universe. In ; , the word means the earth: “I am come into the world: again I leave the world and go to the Father.” In it means the whole human race without exception: “all the world—guilty!” In it means the human race, believers expected: “the world hates you (and) hated me.” In , 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 ; ; ; it means the totality of believers only! In it means that world which never is, never to be condemned. In and 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!