Defining The Elect: A Review Article -- By: C. Samuel Storms
JETS 27:2 (June 1984) p. 205
Defining The Elect: A Review Article
Unconditional Good News: Toward an Understanding of Biblical Universalism. By Neal Punt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980, v + 169 pp., $6.95 paper.
The controversy over the nature and extent of God’s saving grace, which has raged ever since Augustine and Pelagius came to literary blows, shows no signs of subsiding. Over the past few years a spate of books has perpetuated—often eloquently, at other times not—the question of to whom and on what conditions, if any, God’s grace is bestowed. One of the more recent entrants into this field of theological warfare is Neal Punt’s Unconditional Good News. My analysis of Punt’s contribution will proceed according to the chapter divisions of his book.
1. Punt is manifestly dissatisfied with the many attempts to deal with the universalistic texts in Scripture (e.g., John 1:29; 12:32; 1 Cor 15:22). While rejecting Origen’s “absolute universalism” (p. 2), according to which “all will find salvation in Christ, either in this life or in a future existence” (p. 2), Punt is equally disinclined to the view of historic, Reformed Protestantism, which teaches that “all are lost except those who believe” (p. 3). He believes that this “protectionist attitude” (p. 3) is due to the failure (or fear) of letting stand the simple declarations of Scripture. Thus he queries: “Does the fact that not all are saved mean that one must approach these passages with the prior understanding that all are lost and look only for ‘the exceptions’ in Scripture? Is there any sense in which these texts can be accepted as saying that all are saved” (p. 3)? “Yes,” answers Punt, once it is conceded that the true teaching of Scripture is that “all persons are elect in Christ except those who the Bible declares will be lost” (p. 4). The prevailing assumption that all persons are outside of Christ except those who the Bible declares will be saved “distorts” (p. 5) the universalistic spirit of God’s Word. Punt does not shy away from emphasizing the destructive effects of this soteriological principle (p. 5):
This unexamined assumption has thus deprived many sincere Christians of the assurance of their salvation and has often placed believers in doubt as to whether they should press the claims of Christ’s kingship upon everyone everywhere. It has tracted from the positive, world-embracing, thrilling good news of what God in Christ has done for humanity. It is the positive good news, the universal evangel, that should spur us on to proclaim enthusiastically God’s message of salvation worldwid...
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