Tuesday, October 22, 2013

All means all

"All" is a big little three letter word that may be used in English as an adjective, adverb, noun or pronoun. Its definitions encompass "the whole of", "wholly", "every" and so on. Its meaning is a source of constant soteriological debate (i.e., regarding the extent of the atonement). Its bigness promotes use as a rhetorical device to convince the naysayer and squelch debate. In a recent sermon Eric Hankins of First Baptist Oxford, Mississippi, stated that "All means all and that’s all all means." Who could argue with that, right? This inspired Tom Hicks to ask, "does “all” ever mean “all” in Scripture?" That is, is "all" ever used in Scripture to mean "all without any kind of limitation." I would say that all always means all and yet might not agree with the point Hankins is making. All -- like "all" other English words -- means what it means within the context in which is it written or spoken, and is limited and clarified by that context. "All have sinned" doesn't mean all of everything that ever is or was. It doesn't include water, willows, rocks and raccoons. Not even all of the angels, and certainly not God. "All" in that case, as in "all" cases, is understood within the context in which it is placed. I'm not now taking on the bigger task of solving the soteriological squabble. Hopefully we can "all" find ground for agreement -- all means all and is always defined by its context. Let's all discuss the contexts rather than debate a cute rhetorical device.

Links that argue whether "all always means all"
* #2 All means all -- "Another more common use for all which ends up meaning less than each and every is an implied qualifier. Someone says all, but they mean all within the context."
* All means all and that’s all all means but not always -- "I confess I was never familiar with the phrase “All means all and that’s all all means” until the last couple of years and while it certainly sounds good, especially as it is related to the Bible, is it an accurate statement?"
* Calvinists Do Not Know What “All” Means -- "I suggest other verses -- Verses with context so tight not even the most absurd Calvinist who thinks “all means some in the Greek” could not rationally twist the meaning of all men."
* Does “All” Ever Mean “All” in Scripture? -- "The meaning of “all” in Scripture is always determined by the context, and rarely, if ever, means “all without any kind of limitation.”"
* Eric Hankins’ sermon on Election at NOBTS -- "All means all, and that’s all all means."
* That “All” Is Always Defined By Context -- "But in other occurrences, the word “all” is defined by its context in such a way so as to preclude the universal sense of the word."
* What Does "All" Mean? -- "Can "all" mean different things in different verses?"
* What Part of "All" Do You Not Understand? -- " He fails to understand that "all people" can be taken more generally, in a non-literal fashion, as constrained by obvious practical considerations."

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