Dr. Allen repeatedly makes the charge that both David Schrock and I are guilty of the “negative inference fallacy” in our appeal to certain texts as supporting definite, particular atonement. One case in point is his critique of my appeal to Jesus’ words in John 10 about laying down His life “for the sheep” (15) and then saying to the Pharisees who were there, “You do not believe because you are not part of my flock” (26). Allen writes,
Next Ascol turns to consider Jesus’ statements in John 10. “He [Jesus] pointedly excludes His critics not only from His flock but also from the scope and saving benefits of His death by revealing that they are not His sheep” (274). Actually there is nothing in Jesus’ statement that limits the scope of his death. As long as his critics refuse what Jesus is saying, they are incapable of receiving the saving benefits of His death. Even if Jesus’ statement indicates that his critics are not now nor ever will be among his sheep, such does not affirm or entail limited atonement. Ascol here succumbs to the negative inference fallacy – the proof of a proposition cannot be used to disprove its converse.
In his chapter in Whosoever Will (WW), Allen explains his meaning plainly: “One cannot infer a negative (Christ did not die for group A) from a bare positive (Christ did die for group B)” (93). Such reasoning, while impressive on the surface, undermines the very hermeneutical commitment that Baptists use to argue for baptism of believers alone. Jesus commands His disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, …” (Matthew 28:19). The “bare positive” (to borrow Dr. Allen’s phrase) is to baptize those who have been made disciples. But if we follow his logic in avoiding what he insists is a “negative inference fallacy” we must then go on and say, “One cannot infer a negative” (that we are not to baptize those who have not been made disciples). Let me restate it the way that Dr. Allen does in his critique. According to his logic,
One cannot infer a negative (we must not baptize those who are not disciples) from a bare positive (we must baptize disciples).
While our paedobaptist friends would no doubt say “Amen” to such reasoning, historically Baptists have carefully avoided such missteps, based on our appreciation for and application of the sufficiency of Scripture (for a thorough and rigorous treatment of this I highly recommend Dr. Fred Malone’s, The Baptism of Disciples Alone).
The General Baptist, Dan Taylor, raised the exact critique against the stalwart 18th century Baptist leader, Andrew Fuller, that Dr. Allen raised against David Schrock and me (Taylor: “It is nowhere expressly said that Christ died only for a part of mankind”). Fuller responds,
It is expressly said that he gave himself that he might purify unto himself a peculiar people; that he laid down his life for the sheep; that he loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he died that he might gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad; and that those who were without fault before the throne of God were bought from among men. But be it so that we no where (sic) expressly read that Christ did not die to redeem all mankind; the Scriptures do not so much deal in negatives as in positives; their concern is not so much to inform mankind what is not done, as what is done. I know not that it is any where expressly said that all mankind are not to be baptized; yet I suppose P. [Philanthropos] well understands that part of our Lord’s commission to be restrictive (Works, 2:495).
Once again we see that these debates have been around for centuries. Though it is no infallible guarantee of accuracy, I am glad to stand where Fuller stood in deriving the doctrine of particular redemption from Scripture.