I am a Calvinist, and I make no bones about that. I am proud of my Calvinism. I believe that it is the most Biblical systematic statement of faith that exists in our day and age. But I don’t always agree with the methods Calvinists use to interpret the Scriptures. Here is an example.
Homer C. Hoeksema says in his booklet entitled God So Loved the World,
In the high-priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus, preserved for us in this same gospel narrative of John, chapter 17, verses 8 and 9, we read: “For I have given unto them the words which thou gayest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” From this passage, in comparison with John 3:16, it is evident, in the first place, that the term “world” here in John 17 is not the same as in John 3. This is evident from the simple point that Jesus does not pray for this “world.” And certainly, it would be blasphemous to assume that our Lord Jesus Christ does not pray for the world which God loved. In the second place, it is evident that the term “world” in John 17 cannot possibly mean “all men.” This is plain from the fact that the Lord Jesus makes a very clear distinction between His disciples, who believed that the Father had sent Him, who were given unto Jesus, and who are the Father’s, on the one hand, and the world, on the other hand. Notice: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine.” In the third place it is also clear that in John 17 those whom God loved are just exactly not the world, but those whom God gave to Christ in distinction from that world.
Now, he is right in making these comments. That is exactly what Jesus is saying in that prayer. But the verses he quotes from the prayer are a favorite proof text for the Calvinist. But what does a Calvinist who is trying to rightly divide the entire Scriptures do with what Jesus says in another part of the prayer?
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 ESV)
The scope of Jesus’ prayer is still limited, and the meaning isn’t too different, but the focus of the prayer has left those who have been given Him there, namely the disciples, and turns to those who will believe in the future through their message. You don’t see many Calvinists deal with that part of the prayer though. It seems the only part most know is verse 9:
I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. (John 17:9 ESV)
This being the case, we Calvinists shouldn’t be so quick to condemn the Arminian for proof texting, and we need to come to a realization that we do the same thing and in the same manner they do. Instead of proof texting, let’s rightly divide the entirety of Scripture. Doctrine is much more consistent that way.