God knows He tried

May 26th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Given our recent discussions on the nature of the atonement and predestination, here’s an opportunity to apply this to something concrete at the popular level: a rap song named “He tried??” by Rapper Shai Linne. Evaluate the argument, pointing out the implicit assumptions doing the argumentative work. What does he get right? Where does he go wrong? Discuss!


Verse 1

Here’s a controversial subject that tends to divide
For years it’s had Christians lining up on both sides
By God’s grace, I’ll address this without pride
The question concerns those for whom Christ died
Was He trying to save everybody worldwide?
Was He trying to make the entire world His Bride?
Does man’s unbelief keep the Savior’s hands tied?
Biblically, each of these must be denied
It’s true, Jesus gave up His life for His Bride
But His Bride is the elect, to whom His death is applied
If on judgment day, you see that you can’t hide
And because of your sin, God’s wrath on you abides
And hell is the place you eternally reside
That means your wrath from God hasn’t been satisfied
But we believe His mission was accomplished when He died
But how the cross relates to those in hell?
Well, they be saying:

God knows He tried (8x)
(Did He try and fail, or did He succeed? Is there going to be one drop of the Savior’s blood in vain? Nah, perish the thought. The Lamb will receive the reward for His suffering.)

Verse 2

Father, Son and Spirit: three and yet one
Working as a unit to get things done
Our salvation began in eternity past
God certainly has to bring all His purpose to pass
A triune, eternal bond no one could ever sever
When it comes to the church, peep how they work together
The Father foreknew first, the Son came to earth
To die- the Holy Spirit gives the new birth
The Father elects them, the Son pays their debt and protects them
The Spirit is the One who resurrects them
The Father chooses them, the Son gets bruised for them
The Spirit renews them and produces fruit in them
Everybody’s not elect, the Father decides
And it’s only the elect in whom the Spirit resides
The Father and the Spirit- completely unified
But when it comes to Christ and those in hell?
Well, they be saying:

God knows He tried (8x)
(So if we can agree that the election of the Father is not universal, and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit is not universal, why would the atonement of the Son be universal? That would put the Persons of the Trinity completely at odds with one another. But the Triune God is completely unified.)

Verse 3

My third and final verse- here’s the situation
Just a couple more things for your consideration
If saving everybody was why Christ came in history
With so many in hell, we’d have to say He failed miserably
So many think He only came to make it possible
Let’s follow this solution to a conclusion that’s logical
What about those who were already in the grave?
The Old Testament wicked- condemned as depraved
Did He die for them? C’mon, behave
But worst of all, you’re saying the cross by itself doesn’t save
That we must do something to give the cross its power
That means, at the end of the day, the glory’s ours
That man-centered thinking is not recommended
The cross will save all for whom it was intended
Because for the elect, God’s wrath was satisfied
But still, when it comes to those in hell
Well, they be saying:

God knows He tried (8x)
(Look, at the end of the day, this is about giving God the maximum amount of glory. You know what I’m saying? We proclaim a Cross that actually saves, not makes salvation possible but actually saves. Matthew 1:21 His name shall be called Jesus because He will save His people from their sins, not might save them, not try to save, but no, He will actually save them. It is a definite atonement. And yo, this ain’t controversy for the sake of controversy, or theological nit-pickin. Salvation is of the Lord. To Him alone be the glory. Soli Deo gloria.)

H/T: Reformation Theology

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  1. I addressed at least some of these issues in the article on Soli Deo Gloria. It does not follow that the less we actually do in the salvation process, the more glory God receives.

    Mr. Linne’s argument seems to be thus:

    1. God’s will cannot fail.
    2. Salvation is not attained by everyone.
    3. Therefore it is not God’s will that everyone be saved.

    It makes sense and the original premise is correct. But we have it on divine authority (and reason) that it is God’s will for all to be saved. So how can this syllogism be false if the premise is correct?

    The answer is, or at least begins, in the title. The song says “Was He trying to save everybody worldwide?”

    The important word is “try”; trying indicates the possibility of failure. If I try to throw a rock a certain distance I might fail for a variety of reasons – all related to various natural powers… most notably – gravity and friction. But there is no power outside of God; therefore if God’s will is ever to “fail” it must fail on account of God’s own power which is nonsensical.

    How can God will everyone to be saved and this not actually be the case then? The answer is far from obvious. It has been an intellectual snare even for great theologians like Origen. Aquinas gives the following three ways in which we can make sense of this problem:

    First, by a restricted application, in which case they would mean, as Augustine says (De praed. sanct. i, 8: Enchiridion 103), “God wills all men to be saved that are saved, not because there is no man whom He does not wish saved, but because there is no man saved whose salvation He does not will.”

    Secondly, they can be understood as applying to every class of individuals, not to every individual of each class; in which case they mean that God wills some men of every class and condition to be saved, males and females, Jews and Gentiles, great and small, but not all of every condition.

    Thirdly, according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 29), they are understood of the antecedent will of God; not of the consequent will. This distinction must not be taken as applying to the divine will itself, in which there is nothing antecedent nor consequent, but to the things willed.

    I can certainly understand where Mr. Linne is coming from, but Aquinas offers at least a plausible way to avoid this error.

  2. God DOES will everybody to be saved (contra Calvin who believes God wills some to Heaven while others to Hell); however, HUMAN will gets in the way.

    Also, when did Bryan Cross start listening to RAP????

    What ever happened to his proper sense of CULTURE????

  3. Tim/Roma,

    Interesting quote from Aquinas. Calvinism teaches the distinction between God’s revealed will and decreed will. God’s revealed will forbids murder, but his decreed will decrees the execution of His Son (Acts 2:23). Does Catholicism teach such a distinction as well? I think it is helpful for the current question. I understand God revealing his desire for all to saved, but decreeing only the salvation of the elect.

    Roma- what is wrong with RAP? Just curious.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  4. Jeremy,

    Aquinas gets at that later in the same passage I quoted. The distinction he makes is between antecedent and consequent wills. I don’t think the categories of decreed and revealed help us understand what’s going on very well. Aquinas’s distinctions seem more helpful to me.

    Everything that is willed by God is willed in so far as it is good. In so far as it is not good, it is not willed by God except consequently. For example – by willing justice, God wills punishment. But punishment is an evil and God does not will evil. But punishment is willed consequently to justice for where justice exists, so does punishment.

    Thus that a man should live is good; and that a man should be killed is evil, absolutely considered. But if in a particular case we add that a man is a murderer or dangerous to society, to kill him is a good; that he live is an evil. Hence it may be said of a just judge, that antecedently he wills all men to live; but consequently wills the murderer to be hanged. In the same way God antecedently wills all men to be saved, but consequently wills some to be damned, as His justice exacts.

    God also wills some things absolutely and some things contingently.

  5. I was diggin the rap!

  6. Tim,

    I understand the reasoning behind Aquinas’ quote you provided, and it is certainly true in certain contexts, but I don’t think it answers the question when God’s will for the elect is absolute and not consequent or contingent. If his will for the elect was consequent or contingent, then it makes sense that his will for the reprobate is consequent and contingent, but since Gods will for the elect was established before the foundations of the world–before they did anything good or bad(i.e. absolute)–then it seems correct that his will for the exclusion of others is also an absolute will. I would also observe that in Rom. 9 there is a deliberate descrimination between the elect and non-elect in God’s saving work. What are your thoughts?

    In Christ,
    Jared B

  7. Jared,

    It’s not that God consequently wills salvation – God antecedently wills everyone’s salvation and only consequently wills their damnation if they persistently refuse His grace.

    So you said:

    If his will for the elect was consequent

    But it should be clarified that God’s will for the elect is not consequent but absolute in that it is antecedent by primary cause (God’s unmerited grace) and accepted by secondary cause (man’s cooperation). These we refer to the elect – those who God chose to be saved. Of course – we’re treading where angels dare not :)

    BTW, I was diggin the rap too.

  8. Well excuse me Mr. Linne, but I think you’re confused
    And there are one or two verses which you have misused.
    It’s true – God only saves the group He’s elected
    But that doesn’t mean we’re born preselected.
    The ‘children of promise’ He’s chosen to save;
    All who seek God through works remain in the grave.
    And God truly desires all men to believe;
    His words in The Book weren’t meant to deceive.

    And the elect themselves were just like all others,
    Once children of wrath, just like their brothers.
    So even if His death was selective,
    Was the atonement He made somehow defective?
    See, the blood only protects when it’s spread on the door,
    And the rod only heals when you lift your eyes from the floor.

    Faith is not a work; it gives us no merit.
    Of itself, it’s not any credit.
    Faith alone cannot save, unless it’s in Jesus,
    His passage through death is what’s freed us.
    Faith is the bond; it’s only the tether;
    It’s the thing that ties you and Christ together.
    That’s why we can believe, even when we’re depraved,
    We can obey the gospel even when we’re enslaved.

    And here’s what I feel I must simply decry:
    You don’t even know why Christ came to die!
    You think He came to win some sort of game?
    A no-risk endeavor to garner more fame?
    There is only one reason He came down from above:
    Sheer, incomprehensible, disinterested love.
    It’s the central truth of Christianity
    That’s been flippin’ the world since 30 AD.
    And yes, when we step back and look at God’s plan,
    We admit he failed miserably to woo every man.
    But don’t you see? He knew this from the start.
    That’s what sets our God apart.
    He willing opened Himself up to rejection,
    Knowing that we would ignore His affection.
    And yes He was ‘crushed,’ and yes He cried.
    He had no dignity; He laid it aside.
    And He prayed for those who killed Him as He died.

    Now when it comes to the millions who are going to hell,
    You think God is up there saying, “Oh well”?
    Do you think he is sitting in heaven above,
    Watching only the ones He loves?
    Or perhaps he glances, from time to time, at unending throngs condemned to die,
    And says, “I could have saved them too, if I had bothered to try.”

  9. Nice job Dan!

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