Before I continue, I should point out that I had mentioned in my last post that "It's not really clear whether Ponter understands what non-speculative hypothetical universalism is." The expression "hypothetical universalism" is a technical term of theology that has itself had a range of meanings. I had suspected that Mr. Ponter had simply borrowed the expression from Muller discussing something written by Jonathan Moore, which was confirmed by Mr. Ponter's brief linking to that article in response to my point (link).
In fact, Mr. Ponter had previously written, "For example, on Contend Earnestly the label of hypothetical universalism or hypothetical atonement has been tabled. The phrase is either so poorly defined or not defined or inaccurately defined." (source)
As I note above, however, the concept has a range of meaning. The concept of "hypothetical universalism" can even include those particularists classified as Infralapsarians.
Picking up with Ponter's last stand, Ponter states:
4) It actually works against his own position. That is, his position becomes self-contradictory and irrational. For when he wants it, he can say here and here they did mean world in an exhaustive sense, either the whole world, or of the elect. Take his citation of Knox. Clearly “whole world” means all mankind, because for some almost magical reason, our opponent is able to say, ‘here Knox means ‘exhaustively’ the whole world.’ However, when it comes to Bullinger’s identical use of the phrase “whole world,” our opponent asserts the contrary.
a) As previously discussed, the irrationality is simply the product of the fact that Mr. Ponter has presented a straw man rather than the actual criticism pressed against his points.
b) It is actually Mr. Ponter who seems to wish to be able to assert that words in old writings mean what he would like them to mean today.
c) Mr. Ponter's quotation is fabricated - it's not drawn from the actual criticism.
d) It is Mr. Ponter who wishes to make identical (at any rate, similar) statements from Bullinger and Knox mean different things - just as he wishes to make the less clear statements of Calvin and Knox before the Arminian controversy means something different from the more clear statements of Turretin after the controversy.
5) He has no public rules by which he determines when and where each instance of “world” means all mankind or some non-defined entity. He just picks and chooses at will.
Actually, as noted above, it is Mr. Ponter who picks and chooses the exhaustive sense of the word "world" as the meaning when he thinks it helps his case.
6) He completely misleads his readers about the fact that Bullinger et al, did in fact go to lengths to define “world” as all mankind, the whole human race etc. As an aside, we see similar explicit attempts by men such as Musculus (click here) and Calvin (click here) where they define their terms like world and human race to mean the whole of it, all of it.
Mr. Ponter's apparent idea that if the word "world" gets defined by someone once in one particular context that it consequently always carries that same weight is a rather droll concept - amusing but not something we can take seriously. Despite Mr. Ponter's false charges, the reader is not mislead by considering the words Bullinger (and the rest - Calvin especially) uses in the context in which they use them, rather than trying to find some place where the word is used in the way one would like, and then apply that specific definition everywhere it seems helpful to one.
But now let us grant that our opponent might have a case if Bullinger had merely referenced “the world.” The problem is, though, this is not the case.
Actually, if Mr. Ponter had read the criticism more carefully (so as not to misrepresent with straw men, for example) he would have seen that in fact the criticism accounted for the idea that Bullinger (or Calvin) could mean by "world" what Ponter and his gang mean by the word "world." The result, however, is something not Reformed at all - and not something that Ponter and his gang are willing to endorse openly (as far as I know).
Its not rocket science. Its not the fog our opponent wants to bring down over our heads. Bullinger uses many helper terms. I will not multiply the citations here. I have listed dozens of them already: click here. If the reader clicks over to the main file page, he or she will see Bullinger use helper terms such as “all the world” “the whole world,” “all the sins of the world,” even “all the sins of all the world.” What is more, he will use equivalent terms interchangeably, “all men,” “all mankind” “all sinners” “all the sinners of all the world” and “all men of all ages.” At some point, the honest reader has to admit the Bullinger’s true position on the extent of the expiation.
a) No, it's not rocket science - it's the more interesting and difficult science of theology. That's why its important to be clear and not bandy about words that one doesn't understand, simply because one thinks they sound nice next to one's hypothesis (whether that word be "all" or "non-speculative hypothetical universalism").
b) Actually, as observed above, the reason for all those qualifications was to counter the very limited position on the atonement advocated by, for example, the papists who opposed Bullinger and asserted that venial sins were not satisfied-for by the atonement or that only the sins of the Old Testament fathers or only Original Sin was atoned for by Christ. To counter purgatory, indulgences, and penance one may resort to very broad language - and in the absence of the Arminian controversy - who would expect the reader to have an Amyraldian misunderstanding of what is being said?
c) But Ponter is not even willing to be intellectually honest enough to acknowledge the alternative (and true) explanation for the broad terminology employed by Bullinger, which tends to reinforce the theme that Ponter has an axe to grind.
The old adage that "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail," comes to mind. One can certainly appreciate how Bullinger's comments could initially be taken by someone intent on establishing a hypothesis that the early Reformers were all advocates of Universal Atonement, but when that person tries to shift the burden for his thesis on his critics, refuses to interact with the actual criticism leveled against his theories, and refuses to revise his theories when the context is explained to him, all the while suggesting that everyone who disagrees with him is a fool or a knave, one loses sympathy for that person and his pet project. It is time for Mr. Ponter to move on, and I hope he will.