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Featured The World in Johannine theology

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC, May 15, 2020.

  1. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    God's salvific stance toward his fallen world. God so loved the world that he gave his Son (John 3:16). I know that some try to take"world" here to refer to the elect. But that really will not do. All the evidence of the usage of the word in John's Gospel is against the suggestion. True, world in John does not so much refer to bigness as to badness. In John's vocabulary, world is primarily the moral order in willful and culpable rebellion against God. In John 3:16 God's love in sending the Lord Jesus is to be admired not because it is extended to so big a thing as the world, but to so bad a thing; not to so many people, as to such wicked people. Nevertheless elsewhere John can speak of "the whole world" (1 John 2:2), thus bringing bigness and badness together. More importantly, in Johannine theology the disciples themselves once belonged to the world but were drawn out of it (e.g., John 15:19). On this axis, God's love for the world cannot be collapsed into his love for the elect. (D. A. Carson. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God)
     
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  2. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    When I first read this I thought I might print out all the usages of 'world' in John's corpus and see what conclusions one might draw, but I find that
    1. Kosmos is used 68 times in John's Gospel, 20 times in 1 John, once in 2 John 7 and three times in Revelation (11:15; 13:8; 16:14).
    2. Aionos
    is used in John 9:22.
    3. Oikoumene is used three times in Revelation (3:10; 12:9; 16:4).
    4. Ge is used in Revelation 13:3.

    Let's just take one verse: John 1:10. 'He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world did not know Him.' I take the first two usages to mean Planet Earth; I don't see that anything else fits. The third usage seems to me to mean the world as it stands apart from God; the world we are not to love (1 John 2:15-17). It obviously does not mean Planet Earth; nor does it mean all the people in the earth since in verse 12 we are told that some did receive Him. Nor, obviously, does it mean the elect.

    So my conclusion is that it is not possible to give a blanket definition of world, or even of kosmos. The context of each occurrence must be studied to provide the right answer. I have heard Don Carson speak many times (more, I think, than any other 'famous Christian') and read several of his books. I am not an unreserved fan, but he's right that the love of God is a difficult doctrine.
     
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  3. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    However we understand that concept, God still remains the God who has chosen to elect out and set apart certain sinners to be the undeserved receivers of His grace!
     
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  4. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I think that the difference here is D.A. Carson is speaking of the use of “world” in Johannine theology – not necessarily every use of “world” in the works of John.

    To be fair to Carson, the word in question was κόσμος. I was on my phone and the copy/ past function did not work for the Greek for some reason, so I omitted it by necessity from the quote.

    I disagree that “world” in John 1:10 refers to the planet earth. To me that does not make sense. I agree with D.A. Carson on this point – John using the word “world” primarily to indicate the moral order (humanity as a whole) which was in direct rebellion to God. It works in all three cases:

    Christ was in the world (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us), the world was made by Him (humanity, mankind was made by Christ), and the world (humanity, mankind) did not know Him. Likewise, God loved the world (humanity, mankind) by sending His Son that whosoever (whoever out of this world/ mankind/ humanity) believes will be saved.
     
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  5. 37818

    37818 Well-Known Member

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    Well, 'He was in mankind, and mankind was made by Him, and mankind did not know Him."
     
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  6. RighteousnessTemperance&

    RighteousnessTemperance& Well-Known Member

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    Yes, we should avoid wooden blankets, but that includes treating "world" as "planet earth" in v10. The preceding verse clearly has mankind in view, and was the case as of v4. Not "all things" but "all men," or humanity or mankind, is the world in this context.
     
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  7. Dave Gilbert

    Dave Gilbert Well-Known Member

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    Yes, they do.

    Some also, like me, waffle between "elect" and "the race of men"...
    But long ago I determined that it could not mean " each and every man woman and child" because of what Psalms 5:5, Psalms 11:5, Proverbs 6:16-19, Romans 9:13 and many others clearly teach...
    That God actually does hate the wicked and love the righteous.

    That He will indeed cast the wicked into Hell and eternal torment, and it isn't because He loves them in the eternal sense.
    So, when I read John 1:9-10, here is what I see:

    "[That] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
    10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not."


    1) The first occurrence of "world" means "existence" in the material plane. This planet Earth, flesh and blood, born into "the world".
    2) Same thing.
    3) Earth.
    4) Earth and all who dwell on it. The world of men.

    Don't ask me why I understand it this way, I just do.
    I disagree, and I imagine that you already knew I was going to.

    The reasons are complex, but it has to do with God's love and how it is defined, and who it is shown to by His actions.
    I admit that John 3:16 by itself can ( and almost without fail, does ) be used to show that God loves all mankind in the eternal sense...

    But when other passages are brought to bear, I see that idea falling apart.
     
    #7 Dave Gilbert, May 16, 2020
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
  8. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    Good points, and I agree.

    I do not agree with D.A. Carson all the time either (those were his words), which is obvious as Carson is a Reformed Theologian and a Calvinist and I disagree with Calvinism. But I think that the context of his quote was directly to "world" in John 3:16 (that it is impossible for it to be reduced to "the elect" in that passage).

    I believe that the “world” has to mean “mankind as a whole” in the first three chapters of John and primarily within John’s theology as a whole when examining the love of God. I already explained why I believe this in John 1, so let’s look at John 3:16 God loved this “world” by sending His Son that whoever (out of this “world”) believes will be saved. This cannot mean “the elect” because it is directly implied that there is a population out of this “world” that will not believe.

    I believe it means mankind, even to include all individuals – NOT because all individuals will be saved but because they are the group from which the “whosoever” will come. Mankind is redeemed through Christ, although not all men are saved. I believe this is the context. If we were in a fantasy book I’d say “the world of man”.

    We have to remember as well that those who are not saved will not ultimately be a part of "mankind" or "humanity". They will be void of God. Even now the lost benefit from God's love. God causes the sun to shine on their faces, gives them breath, gives them physical life. But this will not always be.
     
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  9. Dave Gilbert

    Dave Gilbert Well-Known Member

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    Here it seems to me that Mr. Carson is trying with all his might to grapple with something that may offend some people with the results of, and is skirting around the tough questions that arise in people's minds when the love of God is discussed.

    Take for example the "Calvinist" stance:

    God loves His elect, the ones made righteous by the blood of His Son.
    He hates the wicked, those that were not made righteous by the blood of His Son, those that run to sin with no regard for the consequences or of the fact that those sins offend His holiness, and those who will never, of their own volition, repent and seek reconciliation with Him.
    The fact that He loves anyone is a miracle of His grace and mercy, and the fact that He hates those who hate Him and love their sin is is testament to His holiness and justice.

    To most who profess Christ, these statements are offensive.
    Why?
    Because to them it does not portray the God of the Bible, but a god of the "Calvinist" making.

    Yet, when the actual words on the page are brought forth in support of it, most seem to turn a blind eye to those very same words and simply go with what some preacher told them the love of God consists of.
    In other words, they simply disagree with the "Calvinist interpretation" of the words, and go with the "Cliff's Notes" version, in summary.

    This leads me to state unequivocally that I believe today's churches are literally filled with people who believe in an impotent god who cannot save without man's "permission", who extends His hand in reconciliation to a people that very often spit on it, and relies on man's will to determine whether or not He saves someone instead of His own will and purposes.

    They believe that He loves everyone, is not willing that any man perish ( but is equally powerless or chooses to stand back and watch as man goes over the edge of the cliff after giving them "a certain number of chances" to "accept Christ as Lord and Saviour" ), sent His Son to pay for everyone's sins ( and that they actually were paid for at the cross ) and that the sin of unbelief is the only one not forgiven and will cause those who reject Christ to be cast into Hell...

    Even though the rest of their sins were supposedly paid for at the cross and the Bible says that every man will be judged according to His works ( Revelation 20:12 ).

    To me, there is a major Scriptural inconsistency in this teaching that God loves everyone and sent His Son to die for everyone, and that "world" in every case where it seems to speak as if referring to all mankind, actually does.

    But, that does not mean that "world", in some or many cases does not mean, "the world of men" or "the race of men".
    I just disagree that it means, "each and every man woman and child who ever lived".
     
    #9 Dave Gilbert, May 16, 2020
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
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  10. Dave Gilbert

    Dave Gilbert Well-Known Member

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    I agree.
    Jon,
    Those that are described as the ones taken "out of this world", are His elect.;)

    Did that not occur to you?
     
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  11. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    Yes. I agree. Therefore "the world" cannot mean "the elect". I believe in John 3:16 "world" means "mankind" and whosoever out of mankind believes will be saved (and are the elect).

    I think we are agreeing but maybe I worded it poorly in my previous post.

    I am not saying the "reprobate" are taken out of this world, but they are the "world" that is left after the "elect" are removed.
     
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  12. Van

    Van Well-Known Member
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    John uses the Greek word translated "world" to refer to mankind or the corrupt value system of mankind. A few places the planet earth might be intended, but it is just as likely John was being consistent with His usage. As incarnate Christ, the Word came into mankind, and mankind was indeed made by the Word. There are no examples in the Gospel of John, that I am aware of, where "mankind or the corrupt value system of mankind" does not seem to fit.
     
  13. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    I can see your point; it doesn't make much sense for John to use the word with different meanings in the same sentence. But I think there is a nuance that is different. Christ was in the world - not just the world that did not know Him, but the world that did know Him also. Because there is also a 'world' of those who know Christ. Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." The sin of those who reject Christ is not taken away. The 'world' here is those who come to know Him: Jews and Gentiles men and women, old and young, rich and poor all over the - dare I say it? - world. So Christ was in a world where some knew Him and some didn't.
     
  14. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    I don't think this is correct. The Greek word translated 'all things' is panta. It is neuter plural. If the Holy Spirit had wanted to say 'all men,' He would have caused John to write pantoi, which is masculine plural. Panta certainly includes all men, but it includes everything else as well.
     
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  15. JonC

    JonC Moderator
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    I agree that there is a population who knows Christ and a population that does not. I am not sure that I agree this population who knows Christ is the "world" in John's writings. I tend to look at as @Dave Gilbert brought out - that we are taken out of the world. The only redemption for humanity/ mankind is this group which is called the elect or the Bride.

    The difference, I think, is applying "world" to individuals. I can't see that "world" in the first three chapters of John can mean anything but mankind or humanity. God loved mankind by saving the part of mankind that would believe. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (the sin of humanity/ mankind). I just am not sure that John was speaking about individual people in these passages (it seems to me that it was a more general usage that is sometimes pressed into services by people on both sides of the issue).
     
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  16. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Well we shall have to agree to disagree. :) Our Lord came into a world where some received Him and some didn't (John 1:11-12). He has not taken away the sin of humanity / mankind (John 1:29).

    There is a saying that if your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. We all (me included) need to beware of deciding what we believe and then forcing the text to agree with us. Kosmos means what the context dictates.
     
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  17. RighteousnessTemperance&

    RighteousnessTemperance& Well-Known Member

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    Are you claiming that "man" is not specifically mentioned, that someone later added that to the text in v9 and in v4? I ask because that's what it would take to refute my point.

    Not only that but your own interpretation requires considerable anthropomorphism, witnessing to nature with the expectation of saving belief. For example, the Baptist wasn't merely in the wilderness but preaching to it. Success would have called for major flooding. :Wink
     
    #17 RighteousnessTemperance&, May 16, 2020
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
  18. Martin Marprelate

    Martin Marprelate Well-Known Member
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    Ah! I'm sorry! :Redface I was looking at verse 3 when you said verse 4. The dementia is playing up again. :Rolleyes
    However, I don't see that the fact that 'men' are mentioned in verse 4 and 'every man' in verse 9 has a bearing on the meaning of world in verse 10. Indeed, in verse 9, 'That was the true light which gives light to every man coming into the world,' 'world' would seem to be the place where men live - Planet earth.
     
  19. RighteousnessTemperance&

    RighteousnessTemperance& Well-Known Member

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    OK, I can agree that there is a certain necessary element involving a quick transition, as the Incarnation is God becoming part of his creation. But the focus and effect are specifically on mankind. God came to man as man for man. My point would be that John is not anthropomorphizing here. It is not general creation but more specifically man, whom he created, that he came to but who didn't know him.
     
  20. percho

    percho Well-Known Member
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    Or, the ordered system, which had been laid down for purpose, that required man among other things like, life, law, sin, death.

    And before that system was laid down, God had predetermined to send his only begotten Son into that system as a man.

    IMHO Darkness and sin was already in, the creation of God, before the laying down of the ordered system. The foundation of the world.
     
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