December 31, 2006

A Few Free Offer Quotes

God invites all indiscriminately to salvation through the Gospel, but the ingratitude of the world is the reason why this grace, which is equally offered to all, is enjoyed by few.

Notice carefully that Calvin is saying that it is God himself that ultimately does the "indescriminate inviting" and "offering", and not merely that we, as ignorant humans, do so. Also, notice that he calls this universal offer of the Gospel a manifestation of God's "grace".
God offers Christ's sacrifice to every man, without exception, and assures him that if he will trust in it he shall be saved, and gives him common grace to help and encourage him to believe. This is a proof that God loves his soul and desires its salvation. But God does not, in addition to this universal offer of mercy, promise to overcome every man's aversion to believe and repent and his resistance of common grace. Election and preterition have no reference to the offer of salvation or common grace. They relate only to special grace and the effectual application of Christ's sacrifice. The universal offer of mercy taught in this section evinces the universality of God's compassion towards sinners.
W. G. T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Unmixed (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1986), 27.

I can't remember if I quoted this from Shedd before, but I love the above quote so it's still worth a second citation. Observe again, that Shedd, like Calvin, is saying that it is God himself who does the offering. He also underlines the objective basis for assurance, i.e. that the lost sinner can be assured of God's interest in saving him because of Christ's ample sacrifice and God's common grace. Shedd rightly underlines the point of common grace. It has the sinners salvation in view, which he says God "desires". Further, common grace is proof that God loves the soul to whom it is given.

This is normal, biblical and classical Calvinism. If you're hearing anything else by popular "Calvinistic" bloggers or ministers who deny (even implicitly) the above truths, then they are just as imbalanced as many of the Arminians they so fervently oppose.

Awhile back I even asked Dr. Tom Ascol (of Founders Ministries) what he thought about God "desiring" the salvation of all. He said:
I believe that God desires for all people to be saved but has purposed to save His elect. I see two (at least two) dimensions in God's will: revealed and decretive. Failure to make this kind of distinction is a failure to read the Bible's teachings on the will of God accurately.
Dr. Ascol spoke accurately and correctly, but I don't know if he realizes that he's associating with some men who don't seem to agree with him. How these men can disagree and still believe in a sincere or well-meant Gospel offer is beyond me. If they deny well-meant gospel offers, then they're actually hypers, whether they realize it or not.

By the way, don't bother asking me for any names. Just ask people the following question and you will be able to get your own names:
Does God desire the salvation of all mankind, i.e. even the non-elect?
It's a yes or no question that's easy enough to answer, just as Dr. Ascol did in all honesty, brevity and forthrightness. I am not interested in giving names because some will already consider what I've said to be a "personal attack" rather than an objective theological assessment of their ideas. They can see that calling someone an Arminian is an historical label that locates a person's soteriological perspective, but to call someone a "hyper-Calvinist" is automatically considered a personal attack, even if I am just locating their soteriology in the framework of history.

So that some of you can see what I am getting at with the above question, here's what I mean. If one does not think that God desires the salvation of all mankind, then does he not will/want/desire gospel compliance from those he commands to repent and believe? He commands all men everywhere to repent. Is it the case that he's merely pretending to want obedience? Or does he really want it? Or does he merely want it from the elect but not the non-elect? If he only wants compliance from the elect because in their case alone it is efficacious, then how can the gospel call be "sincere" or "well-meant" in the case of the non-elect? That's the point of my above question. To deny that God desires the salvation of all those who hear the external gospel call (even the non-elect) is virtually to portray God as a hypocrit that pretends to want what he commands in the gospel. That's what hyperism amounts to and that's why I am so completely and utterly disgusted with the viewpoint.

The bottom line problem with the hypers is that they cannot accept the fact that God can will/want/desire that which does not come to pass. That God can truly will what is not effected is repugnant to them. To say that God wills what is against his will is contradictory to them, therefore they side with the decretal will as being the only true will of God. The so called "preceptive will" are just commands that God issues as means or instruments by which God effects his real will, i.e. his decrees. It's not as if God really wills compliance in the things that he commands and yet does not effect. Even if they distinguish between two senses of God's "will", it's ultimately a distinction without a difference. Therein is the problem. My question above to certain men is meant to bring their views into the light. It's one of the reasons why some of them stay silent on the subject.

I wrote and posted this article because I am concerned about some subtle trends that seem to signal a rising tide of hyper-Calvinism, especially within the ranks of young Calvinists and the newly Reformed. I have seen these trends in numerous Reformed theological forums on the Internet, including mailing lists, Web sites, and Usenet forums.
If that was true then, it's even more true now, even though few people are crying out against it. Phil calls the trends "subtle" for a reason. "Young Calvinists" and the "newly Reformed" are not as discerning in this area as they are in discerning the errors of free will theology. They need to have their senses equally trained to be discerning in both areas, I believe. That is most certainly NOT the case today. If they were trained to detect the errors of hyperism, they would not be so attracted to some of the imbalanced voices available on the internet. They already reckon themselves to be discerning since they've embraced Calvinism. After all, a belief in the doctrine of Total Depravity cleanses one from the remaining noetic effects of depravity, right? Wrong.

J. C Ryle's (1816–1900) Gospel and What We "Ought" To Say

J. C. Ryle said:
(b) For another thing, the doctrine of Election was never meant to prevent the fullest, freest offer of salvation to every sinner. In preaching and trying to do good we are warranted and commanded to set an open door before every man, woman, and child, and to invite every one to come in. We know not who are God’s Elect, and whom he means to call and convert. Our duty is to invite all. To every unconverted soul without exception we ought to say, “God loves you, and Christ has died for you.” To everyone we ought to say, “Awake, — repent, — believe, — come to Christ, — be converted, — turn, — call upon God, — strive to enter in, — come, for all things are ready.” To tell us that none will hear and be saved except God’s Elect, is quite needless. We know it very well. But to tell us that on that account it is useless to offer salvation to any at all, is simply absurd. Who are we that we should pretend to know who will be found God’s Elect at last? No! indeed. Those who now seem first may prove last, and those who seem last may prove first in the judgment day. We will invite all, in the firm belief that the invitation will do good to some. We will prophesy to the dry bones, if God commands us. We will offer life to all, though many reject the offer. In so doing we believe that we walk in the steps of our Master and His Apostles.
J. C. Ryle, “Election,” in Old Paths: Being Plain Statements on Some of the Weightier Matters of Christianity, from the Standpoint of an Evangelical Churchman, 2nd ed. (London: William Hunt, 1878), 469–469.


December 29, 2006

On Penal Substitution

I was interacting with a guy on Gene Cook's blog who thought that some who maintain that Christ died for the entire human race must also deny penal substitution by implication. Perhaps some of my readers may find my response helpful.

The following material is from one of my posts to him:
Actually, I think it would be good for you to reflect on the notion of a "Penal Substitution". Those two words are significant. First of all, let me say that Christ's work was more than a penal substitution, but it was not less than a penal substution. This is somewhat beside the point, but I think it's useful for us to reflect on other achievements of Christ's cross-work than merely emphasize the penal substitutionary nature of it. I think you would agree with me that no single atonement view (whether the governmental, moral example, or Christus Victor, etc.) fully captures the totality of what Christ did. Nevertheless, his work was not less than penal and not less than substutionary. So, let's reflect on those two notions.

Second, his work was a penal satisfaction, and not a commercial transaction. Therefore, the focus is on the person suffering and not the thing "paid". Here's what I mean. In a commercial transaction, the focus is on the thing paid. For instance, let's say a man named Bilbo eats at a restaurant and his bill comes to 40 dollars. Frodo hears that Bilbo does not have the money to pay and decides to step in and pay the bill. The restaurant will therefore not pursue Bilbo for the 40 dollars. The thing has been paid. Bilbo merely comes to a mental awakening to the fact that his bill has been paid by another [Frodo] and is thankful. Whether he's thankful and acknowledges it or not, no one pursues him for the money. It's paid in full and there are no further obligations.

A penal payment, on the other hand, is not like this. Consider the following scenario: Frodo is put in jail for committing a certain crime X for 10 years. Frodo is really innocent but suffers in jail for the full 10 years. Afterwards, it is discovered that Bilbo has really committed crime X and not Frodo. Even though Frodo has already suffered for 10 years, the state captures Bilbo and makes him suffer the same 10 years in jail, despite the fact that Frodo has already suffered the amount of time required. Can you see the difference? The focus in this penal transaction is on the person paying and not the thing paid.

Next or thirdly, let's consider the substitutionary aspect of Christ's work. Let's suppose that Bilbo commits crime X but denies it, and yet Judge Gandalf rightly finds him guilty, but Frodo loves Bilbo and agrees to suffer for crime X. Judge Gandalf is under no obligation to accept Frodo's willingness to suffer in his stead, but graciously allows the arrangement under some conditions. Judge Gandalf allows Frodo to suffer for X but will not release Bilbo from his penal obligations unless he confesses to committing crime X and joins Aragorn's army within a span of time. Even though Frodo has suffered for crime X in his innocence, Bilbo may still be charged with the crime and not be released unless he fulfills the judges aforementioned conditions. There is no injustice if Bilbo suffers for crime X even though Frodo has suffered for it, since it's not the same person "paying twice". Injustice would occur if the same person suffered twice for the same crime, but there is no injustice if person 1 [Frodo] suffers for person 2 [Bilbo] and person 2 [Bilbo] remains under penal obligations [remains under penal wrath, so to speak] unless he fulfills certain conditions.

There is graciousness in 1) the judge even allowing for a substitute and in 2) allowing the suffering of Frodo to be credited to Bilbo when the conditions are met. Both acts are gracious since it's a penal SUBSTITUTION. If it was a commercial transaction, Bilbo, whether he's thankful or not, could claim that it's his right to be released since the thing has already been paid by Frodo.

However, this commercial presentation is not what we find in scripture regarding Christ's work. We find that it's penal (not commercial) and that it's substitutionary (entirely an act of grace with no obligation to release upon the thing being suffered). If Christ suffers for someone and yet that same person suffers for their own sins, there is no "double jeopardy". It's not the same person suffering twice, but two different people suffering. God has added conditions to His gracious scheme in order for the guilty party to be released from their penal obligations. If one does NOT meet the conditions (i.e. repent and believe), then they are still held accountable to suffer for their crime (hell).

Thus, I (as one who maintains that Christ suffered for the entire human race) really hold to a penal substitution and not a commercial transactionalism. Even though Christ's work is analogically compared to various commercial transactions in scripture for the sake of illustration, it is not an univocal comparison. Christ's satisfaction is not literally commercial, but penal in nature. If one pushes the commercial analogies so far as to make them literal, then I believe that one will arrive at a pound for pound (so-much-suffering-for-so-much-sin) viewpoint, such that Christ was wounded measurably for the amount of the elect's sins alone which were transferred to him. This view has been called "Equivalentism" historically.

Here's how one hyper-Calvinist named John Stevens put his view:
Therefore if we suppose anyone to stand in the place of one lost sinner, we are not in so doing, to imagine, that such a substitute must, on that account, suffer as much as though he represented all lost sinners. The greater the guilt, the greater the punishment: the greater the number of sinners, the greater the measure of guilt. It must therefore follow that, if more sinners had been saved, the sorrows of the Saviour must have been proportionally increased.
Cited in Robert W. Oliver's History of the English Calvinistic Baptists (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2006), 209.

Owen even speaks of a certain "weight and pressure" in Christ's sufferings (i.e. his suffering was proportioned to the amount of the elect's sins "imputed" to him). This shows that he was taking his commercialistic categories seriously. I used to hold to a form of Equivalentism since I used to conceive of Christ's work as a commercial transfer rather than a penal imputation.

I would also argue that if only the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ, then his suffering is not sufficient for all. And, if it is not really sufficient for all, then the gospel offer is insincere, or not well-meant. God says to the unbeliever through the external gospel proclamation that, "if you believe, you will be saved". Such a conditional promise presupposes an ample sufficiency in Christ's satisfaction for the covering of the sins of all that hear the external call, whether elect or not, even as, by analogy, the lifted up serpent in the wilderness was able to heal all those bitten, if they would only but look through faith in the sincere promise of God.

God's name is besmirched if his gospel offer is made to be insincere by the theological systems of men that undercut Christ's sufficient suffering. That's no small charge.

December 21, 2006

Controversial Calvinism Blog

My friend Steve Costley has been busy blogging, when I didn't even know it. I checked his KeyLimePi blog (which he hasn't updated since the days of Noah lol) and saw that he created a new one. Here's his new blog:

I'll try to catch up on reading it later, Steve ;-)

December 16, 2006

Thomas Manton (1620–1677) on Man’s Part in Salvation

But especially let us have regard to the mandatory part of the gospel; there we are apt to flinch and start aside; but we must hearken not only to what God hath done for us, but what he requires of us, that we may obey the counsels as well as believe the history of the gospel. The covenant is mutual; there is an obligation upon God, and an obligation upon us; therefore we read, Exod. 24:7-9, that half of the blood was sprinkled upon the altar, to note God took upon him his part of the obligation, and half upon the people, to note they must take upon them their part of the obligation. It is true that God in the covenant of grace gives the condition as well as the blessing promised, but our obligation is to be acknowledged; though it be wrought of God, yet it is to be done by us. And there must be a restipulation, 'the answer of a good conscience towards God,' 1 Peter 3:21. What answer do you make to God's proposals and articles? It is an allusion to the manner of admitting persons to baptism in those days; they were to answer to questions. Credis? dost thou believe? The person to be baptized was to answer, Credo, I do believe. Abrenuncias? dost thou renounce the world? he answered, Abrenuncio, I do renounce. Spondes? dost thou undertake to obey God? Spondeo, I undertake, I promise so to do. We must not only regard what God and Christ have done, but there must be something in us before we can make use of what God and Christ have done for us. There is a mutual consent of both sides; the gospel is as it were an indenture drawn between God and us; therefore, as we look to God for eternal life and salvation, which is made over to us in the promises of the covenant, so God looks for obedience and faithfulness from us, which is required of us in the precepts of the covenant.
Thomas Manton, “Sermons Upon Titus 2:11-14,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, D.D. (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1874), 16:65.


December 1, 2006

Faber Hymn

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Frederick Faber

(HT: Martin)

November 25, 2006

R. C. Sproul (1939–2017) on Statism

Relativism Ultimately Results in Statism

Pluralism and relativism have no possibility of being true because, from the beginning, the very possibility of truth itself is eliminated. If everything is true, then nothing is true. The word truth is now empty of meaning. That is why modern man finds himself in a dilemma. He is thrown into chaos long-term, and man cannot continually live in intellectual chaos. There is a sense in which our present culture, more often than in any other period in history, is “up for grabs.” When this emptiness has happened in the past, something has come to fill that vacuum. Relativism is ultimately intolerable. What will come to this vacuum is some form of statism because something has to bring unity. The good of the “state” will become the ultimate point of unity.

I saw this picture on the Drudge Report after the last elections. This Sproul quote immediately came to mind.The rapid growth of the centralized state is happening before our eyes in the United States. Consider the areas where people of America formerly looked to God for their security, their meaning, and their decision making and now, instead, they look to the state. This eventually becomes statism, where the state becomes the goal of life. The state becomes the reason for us to live. The state unifies, transcends, becomes absolute, and is eternal.

The state steps in and says we are going to be united. How? By going to the same schools, by learning the same things, by saying the same words. At the extreme, look at the nation of China, a uniformity by enforced unity. We may say that is the very opposite of pluralism. No, that is the result of pluralism. That is the result of the loss of transcendent unity. The God whom we worship is a God who brings unity, but at the same time preserves diversity. We all have a sinful tendency to force everybody else to conform to us. Even in the church we see this tendency. I am a teacher and I want to exalt teaching as the only significant gift of the Holy Spirit. You’re an evangelist and you have no time for the teacher. Yet God has said one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism – but a diversity of gifts and talents, a diversity of personality. Your humanness is beautiful in the intricacies of its diversity, but your humanness also finds an ultimate point of reference in the character of God. Take away that ultimate reference point and humanity itself is demeaned.

We cannot live on this side of the wall alone. We are going to either have God on the other side of that wall or we will substitute the state in His place. I challenge you to find one culture in the world where that has not happened. That’s what terrifies me.

The American government faces a serious crisis. People are demanding from the state more than the state can give. People are looking to the state for salvation. Unfortunately, the state does not have the equipment to save a fallen race. The state exists on this side of the wall. It can never provide ultimate unity for our plurality unless it becomes absolute. Relativism provides a moral vacuum that screams to be filled. As nature abhors a vacuum, totalitarian governments love one. They rush in to fill a vacuum.
R. C. Sproul, Lifeviews: Make a Christian Impact on Culture and Society (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1986), 126–127.

I also remember the following story being conveyed on the radio by either R. C. Sproul sr. or his son. Sproul jr. said:
My father tells a story about sharing a cab ride to the airport with the late Dr Schaeffer after they had spoken together at a conference and my dad, not wishing to miss the opportuninty, asked Dr Schaeffer: “What is it that you are most worried about for the church in the future?”

And without hesitation Dr Schaeffer said, “Statism”. Now when we think Stateism, our tendency is to think, high taxes. Our tendency is to think strictly in terms of day-to-day headaches that come from the State. But Stateism as an ‘-ism’ is so much broader than that. It communicates the view of the State as god. The metaphor of the state determines reality, the state determines morality, the state determines teleology, the state determines everything. And that works itself out in ways that don’t look like Stateism, but really are...

Peter Toon on the Divine Art of Meditation

St. Thomas' Episcopal Church has three sermon series available online by Dr. Peter Toon. Here are the files for the series on The Divine Art of Meditation:

Peter Toon: The Divine Art of Meditation: 1 of 4 (8/7/2005)

Peter Toon: The Divine Art of Meditation: 2 of 4 (8/14/2005)

Peter Toon: The Divine Art of Meditation: 3 of 4 (8/20/2005)

Peter Toon: The Divine Art of Meditation: 4 of 4 (8/27/2005)

Other messages available:

HEAVEN, already but not yet:
Sermon 1. "We shall rest"
Sermon 2. “We shall see.”
Sermon 3. "We Shall Love"
Sermon 4. "We Shall Praise"

Fear & Love, inseparable twins (also in 4 parts)

Toon's written material on meditation can also be found HERE.

November 22, 2006

Gratitude, God's Revealed Will and a Prayer

Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One,
Give thanks because He's given
Jesus Christ His Son

This Thanksgiving I will be with my mom, my brother and his family who live nearby. They have not yet trusted Christ. However, I am glad I can come to them with the good news of the gospel and freely tell them that God gave his Son to die to save them. I can honestly look them in the eye and tell them that God is good to all because he wishes to save all, therefore he grants food, rain, sunshine, a free society and clothes etc. with a view to stimulating them to repentance (see Rom. 2:4). This is the point of common grace and all mankind receives this grace, to one degree or another. Everyone is enjoying these common bounties of providence because of God's benevolent will (Matt. 5:45).

Instead of merely looking at the world through the secret will of God this Thanksgiving (and how Christ came to especially save you as one of the elect), try looking at it through God's revealed will as well, and think about what the death of Christ means for all mankind, particularly for those lost family members that you love and desire to be saved. If you desire them to be saved, it's because the Holy Spirit is at work in you to desire such a thing. It's not as if your will to see them saved is out of harmony with God's will, as if you merely desire such a thing because you're ignorant about who is elect and who is not. Christ, as the Godman, wished the same thing for his lost family members.

Since my family knows that I am a student of theology, they may ask me to pray before the meal, as if I am to function as a kind of family priest (we were raised Roman Catholic). If I am asked to pray, I suppose I will say something like this:
Heavenly Father,
Your Son taught us to first hallow your name when we pray. I am grateful that you are holy, just and good. You are also patient and full of generosity, so much so that you gave your only begotten Son to die for the salvation of the whole human race. I thank you for bringing my heart to know that fact and to trust in him. May you do this for those I love as well. May we all give thanks for your constant generosity this Thanksgiving in such a way that we come to your Son for forgiveness and healing, for it is in Him that you accept our prayers and thanks. Amen.

Now THAT'S a Calvinistic prayer! :-) More importantly, it's a biblical prayer.

November 7, 2006

Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) on Christ's Death

If then Christ by his death has reconciled all people who are on earth when he poured out his blood on the cross and if we are on earth, then our sins, too, and those of everyone who has ever lived, have been recompensed by the one death and offering.
Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol. 1, p. 97.


Hans Boersma on Richard Baxter (1615–1691) and Moïse Amyraut (1596–1664)

The view of Baxter as an Amyraldian theologian needs some modification, especially in light of the view that he did not derive his position on the extent of the atonement from Moyse Amyraut. When, in his Parænesis ad ædificatores Imperii in Imperio (1656), Lewis Du Moulin denounces Amyraut's theology, he comments that "in England only one Baxter is exceedingly pleased with his method." Baxter denies being a proselyte of Amyraut, saying that "this unus Baxterus did write a Book for Universal Redemption in this middle sens[e], before ever hee saw either Amyraldus, Davenant, or any Writer (except Dr Twisse) for that way ..."

Yet, Baxter is not adverse to the views of John Cameron and Amyraut on redemption. On the contrary, when John Tombes reproaches Baxter for his view on universal redemption, Baxter replies: "And to tel[l] you freely my thoughts, that is the point of universal Redemption wherein I think Amyrald doth best, and in that ... I approve of most he saith." What is more, when Baxter distinguishes the absolute promise of the first grace for the elect and the legal moral donation for all, he specifically appeals to Cameron, Amyraut, Davenant, Samuel Ward, and the Canons of Dort for support. Thus, while it does not appear that Amyraut had an immediate impact on Baxter's views on the extent of the atonement, there is an obvious congeniality between the two authors.
Hans Boersma, A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter's Doctrine of Justification in Its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy (Vancouver, BC: Regent, 2004), 197–198.

Brian Armstrong on Amyraut and Justification

Amyraut defines justification in the same terms as did Calvin. That is, justification consists of two parts: “. . . the remission of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.” It is forensic in nature, for we are accounted righteous for the sake of Christ: “We maintain that when God will give us life and the Kingdom, He will not consider any other merit nor any other obedience than that of His Son whom we embrace by faith.” Moreover, this manner of justification is in opposition to our natural inclination, for all men believe that they will be justified by their own merit, by their own works. For this reason in this matter man must, according to one of Amyraut’s favorite passages, bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ and recognize that “justification by faith is by a totally supernatural revelation and institution, for there is nothing less in accord with the institutions of nature than to justify a guilty man by imputing to him the sufferings of another who has been punished for him.
Brian Armstrong, Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy: Protestant Scholasticism and Humanism in Seventeenth-Century France (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004), 225.

Notice the substitutionary language when Amyraut says, "imputing to him the sufferings of another who has been punished for him." Also, as Armstrong points out in the rest of Chapter 5, Amyraut made a very crucial distinction between the covenants of law and grace in his system. Whoever associates Amyraut with Baxter's neonomianism betrays a profound ignorance of Amyraut's covenantal scheme and how vital it is to his view of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

November 6, 2006

Amyraut and Ordered Decretalism

Here’s what Brian Armstrong says about Amyraut and lapsarian speculations:
One of Amyraut’s favorite criticisms of orthodox theologians was of their metaphysical speculations, which he apparently felt resulted from their methodology. He was fond of emphasizing Calvin’s principle that God’s essence is incomprehensible for rational man, that “Men who . . . resolve to seek out what God is are but merely amusing themselves with insipid speculation.” In particular, Calvin cautioned that this principle must be applied in any consideration of the decree of election; it can be a source of consolation only if man begins with faith rather than the counsel of God. He says:
The election of God will be a fatal labyrinth for anyone who does not follow the clear road of faith. Thus, so that we may be confident of remission of sins, so that our consciences may rest in full confidence of eternal life, so that we may boldly call God our Father, under no circumstances must we begin by asking what God decreed concerning us before the world began. Rather we must begin by seeking what through His paternal love He has revealed to us through the Gospel. We must seek nothing more profound than that we become the sons of God.
Amyraut considered the orthodox doctrine of predestination, with all its speculation about the order of God’s decrees, an outright denial of this principle, and constantly called on Calvin in his desire to correct this orthodox tendency. Concerning the ordering of the decrees he makes the following incisive judgment:
... I am well aware that Calvin has said many things relating to the "impulsive" causes of the decrees of God, but as to their order I do not see that he has ever said a word. Why God has created man for hope of perpetual blessedness, he states that the only reason for this is His goodness. Why, man having fallen into sin and condemnation, God willed to send His son into the world to redeem men by His death, Calvin states that the only reason for this is an admirable love of God for mankind. Why He has elected some and passed by others in imparting the grace of faith, Calvin states that the only reason for this is the mercy and severity of God. Why God has preferred one individual to another in the distribution of this grace, Calvin does not recognize any other reason than solely the perfectly free will of God. Why He has willed to save believers and to condemn unbelievers unto eternal punishment, Calvin has thought that the reason for the latter must be taken from the justice of God whereas the reason for the former must be taken from His mercy...But what has been the order according to which God has arranged all these things in His eternal wisdom, when it is a question of His having proposed of thinking or willing what comes first or last, Calvin has never explained this nor has he the least interest in doing so.
Amyraut goes on to say that this order in the decrees is a matter in which the "secrets are so profound, and the abyss so impossible to explore, that whoever will undertake to know them would necessarily be swallowed up by them or will necessarily remain eternally deluded as being in a completely inexplicable labyrinth." Nor, he continues, has the Spirit of God furnished and light on this matter in the Word.
Brian Armstrong, Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004), 162–164.

John Quick reports what the Amyraldian party said before a French Synod (probably Alencon) this way:
2) As to making distinct decrees in the council of God, the first of which is to save all men, through Jesus Christ, if they shall believe in him, the second to give faith unto some particular persons, Amyraut, along with Testard, declared, that they did this upon no other account than of accommodating it unto that manner and order which the spirit of man observeth in his reasonings for the succour of his own infirmity; they otherwise believing, that though they considered this decree as diverse, yet it was formed in God in one and the self-same moment, without any succession of thought or order of priority and posteriority.
John Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata (London: Printed for T. Parkhurst and J. Robinson, 1692), 2:355.

If one wants to understand what Amyraut said about the decrees and their ordering, don't consult unreliable secondary sources that perpetuate a mythological Amyraut instead of the authentic Amyraut. Since there is only one of his works translated into english (his Brief Treatise on Predestination translated by Richard Lum in 1985 in partial fulfillment of his doctoral degree at Dallas Theological Seminary), he is severely misunderstood and misrepresented. If one wishes to research the man and his thought, consult those that have dealt with the primary sources and cite them carefully.

Incidentally, R. L. Dabney and Herman Bavinck are other examples of Reformed men who have been critical of the tendency to speculate about the order of the decrees. Both of them rejected lapsarianism.

See the following posts for more about Amyraut's views:

Nicole Quoting Quick

Paul Testard's Dualism

These two posts should help to dispel the myth that Amyraut argued that Christ died for all equally, without any qualifications. Too many are eager to erect this straw man in their arguments. On the contrary, Amyaut taught that the death of Christ was equally for all, but that Christ died unequally for all. In other words, there is no limitation in the death itself or the imputation of sin to Christ (it's equally sufficient to save all sinners), but there is a limit in Christ's intentions in suffering such an all-sufficient death. He wholeheartedly affirmed the classic understanding of Christ suffering sufficiently for all (the general intent), but especially for the elect (which is the special intent).

If someone wants to call you an "Amyraldian" for holding a dualistic view, ask them why they are not calling you a "Calvinist." After all, Amyraut was echoing Calvin's views regarding Christ's satisfaction. Here's the dirty little secret: They are calling you an "Amyraldian" because they aren't even interpreting Calvin correctly and they want to alienate you from Reformed/Calvinistic circles. Instead of engaging Calvin's own categories as presented in the primary sources, they just tell you to consult their "experts." When someone calls me an Amyraldian, I just say "I am an Amyraldian in so far as he agrees with Calvin." :-) Or, I could say, "I am an Amyraldian in so far as he agrees with Calvin, Musculus, Bullinger, Zwingli, Ursinus, Ussher, Cameron, Davenant, Polhill, Baxter, Martinius, Calamy, Vines, Seaman, Arrowsmith, Preston, Watts, Marshall, Howe, Bunyan, Ryle, Dabney, Shedd, C. Hodge, Kuiper..." and on and on it goes. I might also add EVERY OTHER CHRISTIAN THAT LIVED PRIOR TO BEZA, with the exception of Gottschalk.

The Heidelberg Catechism and Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583) on Christ's Death and the Will of God

The Heidelberg Catechism on Question 37 says:
37. Q. What do you confess when you say that He suffered?

A. During all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end, Christ bore in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race. Thus, by His suffering, as the only atoning sacrifice, He has redeemed our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtained for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.

Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583), in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, said:
Question: “If Christ made a satisfaction for all, then all ought to be saved. But all are not saved. Therefore he did not make a perfect satisfaction.”

Answer: “Christ satisfied for all, as it respects the sufficiency of the satisfaction which he hath made, but not as it respects the application thereof.” (HC commentary, p. 215.)

Here are a few more quotes from Ursinus:
God willeth that all be saved, as he is delighted with the salvation of all...[and] inasmuch as he inviteth all to repentance: but he will not have all saved, in respect of the force and efficacy of calling. Ursinus, The Summe, p. 353.
Quoted in G. Michael Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus (1536–1675) (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1997), 110.
He satisfied for all regarding satisfaction, but not with respect to application. The Summe, pp. 131–132.
Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement, 111.
The cause why all are not saved by Christ, is not the insufficiency of the merit and grace of Christ (for Christ is the full propitiatory sacrifice for the sinnes of the whole world, as concerning the worth and sufficiency of the ransome and price which he paid) but it is the infidelity of men, whereby they refuse the benefits of Christ offered in the Gospel...
Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement, 111.
Christ was ordained by God the offer himself a sacrifice propitiatory for the sins of all mankinde...and lastly to apply effectually his sacrifice unto enlightening and moving the elect. The Summe, pp. 116–117.
Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement, 111.

Thomas comments on Ursinus:
Ursinus' double-sided doctrine of the extent of the atonement resembles Bullinger's position, as does his use of the conditional covenant theme. It also bears a strong resemblance to that of the Bernese theologian Wolfgang Musculus (1497–1563).
Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement, 112.

R. L. Dabney (1820–1898) on the Westminster Confession and Commercialism

Again, the Confession asserts with most positive precision the penal substitution of Christ, the imputation of our guilt to him, his punitive sufferings and sacrifice therefore, and the imputation of this satisfaction to all believers for their justification. It holds fast to the truth of particular redemption. Yet it carefully avoids implying any limitation upon the infinite value and merit of Christ's sacrifice. It carefully avoids confusing the two concepts of legal satisfaction for guilt with the consequent at-one-ment, or reconciliation, for the believing sinner. And it gives no countenance to the quid-pro-quo [tit for tat] theory of expiation, which affects, with a mischievous over-refinement, to affix a commercial ratio between the sins of the elect and the one indivisible and infinite merit of the divine sacrifice.
R. L. Dabney, "The Doctrinal Contents of the Westminster Confession of Faith," in Discussions (Harrisonburg: Sprinkle Publications, 1999), 5:130.


John Howe (1630–1705) on Blood Guiltiness and the Redeemer's Death

(2.) But we are further to persuade this reconciliation to God, from the way wherein our Lord effects it: "in the body of his flesh, through death," or by dying a sacrifice upon the cross. And now you know this, will ye not yet be reconciled to him? Consider,

[1.] You will herein frustrate, and make insignificant to yourself, the highest demonstration that could be given of God’s good-will towards you. "God so loved the world," &c. John iii. 16. And what could our Lord himself have done more to testify his own love? "For greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends," John xv. 13. Yea, for those that were not so before, but wicked enemies; only that thereby they might be made friends, Rom. v. 8. And what could it signify to you, to represent the divine love to you by so costly a demonstration, if it do not gain your love?

[2.] And what could be so apt a means, sinner, to break thy heart, and conquer all thy former enmity, as to behold thy Redeemer dying upon the cross for thee? "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn," Zech. xii. 10. "And I, if I be lift up, will draw all men to me;" which our Lord said, signifying what death he should die, by being lift up on the cross, John xii. 32, 33. Now what dost thou think of thyself, if such a sight will not move thee? An earthly, carnal, worldly mind, is declared over and over to be enmity against God, Rom. viii. 7. James iv. 4. But how remarkable is it, that such a temper of mind should be so peculiarly signified to import enmity to the cross of Christ! Phil. iii. 18, 19. I tell you of such, weeping, saith the apostle, that do even continue their enmity even in the face of the cross! And who even by that itself are not overcome!

[3.] If thou wilt not be reconciled, Christ did, as to thee, die in vain; thou canst be nothing the better. Think what it must come to, that so precious blood, (infinitely exceeding the value of all corruptible things; silver and gold, &c. 1 Pet. i. 18, 19,) should be shed, to redeem and save such as thou, and yet do thee no good?

[4.] If thou continue to the last unreconciled, it not only doth thee no good, but it must cry, and plead, most terribly against thee. Blood guiltiness is a fearful thing! What must it be, to be guilty of such blood! If thou wert guilty of the blood of thy father, thy child, or of the wife of thy bosom, how would it astonish thee! But to be guilty of the blood of the Son of God! How canst thou live under it? If thou wert guilty of all the innocent blood that ever was shed since the creation of the world, it were not comparable to the guilt of this blood!
John Howe, "Of Reconcilation Between God and Man," in The Works of John Howe (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), 1:459–460.


November 5, 2006

John Howe (1630–1705) Exhorting Unbelievers

You cannot please him, because the bent of your carnal mind lies cross to his saving design; you are enemies in your mind to him, for your mind is most opposite to his mind; he is for saving you, you are for self-destruction; you hate him, as you love death, Prov. viii. 36. Therefore also they that love this world, the love of the Father is not in them, I John ii. 15. He would have them do his will, and abide in a blessed state for ever; but while they love this world, their hearts are set upon a vanishing thing; for the world and the lust thereof must pass away and be gone, v. 17. They cannot love him, while in mind, and will, and design, they so little agree with him. And hereupon is the friendship of this world said to be enmity against God, and he that will be a friend of this world, makes himself an enemy to God, James iv. 4. The design of his amity with you is disappointed and lost, therefore he can look upon you no otherwise than as enemies to him.

And now, if this be the temper of your mind and spirit, how easily, by looking into your own hearts, might you discern it? "Know you not your ownselves?" 2 Cor. xiii. 5. As if it were said, it is a reproach to be ignorant or without this knowledge! What is so near you as yourselves? Do you not know your own minds; whether you had rather have your portion for ever on earth, or in heaven, whether you more value a heavenly treasure or the treasures of this earth? If you chiefly mind earthly things, how can you but know it? Do but take an account of yourselves, where are your hearts all the day from morning to night, from day to day, from week to week, from year to year? What thoughts, designs, cares, delights are they that usually fill your souls? Are they not worldly, carnal, earthly? Trace your own hearts: how canst thou say, I am not polluted? see thy way, (Jer. ii. 23,) mark thy own footsteps, see what course thou hast held, years together, even under the gospel; and when though hast been so often warned, even by him who bought thee by his blood, to seek first the kingdom of heaven, to strive to enter in at the strait gate; and told how precious a thing thy soul is, even more worth than all the world; and how fearful a bargain though wouldst have of it, if thou shouldst gain the whole world, and lose thy soul! And if all the neglects of his warnings and counsels have proceeded from the worldliness, earthliness, and carnality of thy heart and mind, and all this is declared to be enmity against God; then cast thyself down at his foot, and say to him, "Now, Lord, I yield to conviction; I now perceive I have been alienated, and an enemy in my mind by wicked works, though I never suspected any such thing by myself before." And know that till then the gospel of reconciliation will do thee no good; thou wilt never be the better for it, though thou livest under it all thy days; all exhortations to be reconciled to God, and to get this dreadful disease of enmity against God cured, will avail no more than physic, or a physician, to one that counts he is well, and feels himself not at all sick. All thy Redeemer's calls will sound in thine ears, as if he called the righteous, and not a sinner, to repentance.
John Howe, “Of Reconciliation Between God and Man,” in The Works of John Howe (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), 1:433–434.


John Howe, a very prominent (but much-neglected) Puritan theologian and chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, is indiscriminately telling unbelievers (even the non-elect) in this writing that Christ is their Redeemer and bought them with his blood. He clearly held to a classical Calvinist form of universal redemption.

John Howe (1630–1705) on Romans 2:4 and God's "Kind Intention"

3. Consider the forbearance of God towards you, while you are continually at mercy. With what patience doth he spare you, though your own hearts must tell you that you are offending creatures, and whom he can destroy in a moment! He spares you that neglect him. He is not willing that you should perish, but come to the knowledge of the truth, that you may be saved; by which he calls and leads you to repentance, Rom. ii 4. On God's part, here is a kind intention; but on man's part, nothing but persevering enmity.
John Howe, "Of Man's Enmity Against God," in The Works of John Howe (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), 1:415.


In the above quote, I think he's also alluding to 2 Pet. 3:9 ("He is not willing that you should perish"), and 1 Tim. 2:4 ("come to the knowledge of the truth, that you may be saved"). It's also significant that he calls God's forbearance, mercy, and patience (i.e. common grace) with men who are enemies a "kind intention" that is given with a view to saving. High Calvinists are careful to avoid calling God's revealed will an "intention," but not John Howe.

For more on Romans 2:4, see my post on The Force of "agei" in Romans 2:4 and Common Grace.

John Howe (1630–1705) on the Design of Christ's Death

The enmity to him, which he so much resents, is not your designing any hurt or prejudice to him; but the contrariety of your temper to his kind and merciful designs towards you. Therefore they that mind earthly things, that is, that savour them most, (as the word signifies) and it must be understood as excluding the savour of better things, that is, who only savour them, and taste no pleasure or delight in spiritual or heavenly things; such are said to be enemies to the cross of Christ, i.e. to the design of his dying upon the cross, which was to procure for his redeemed a blessed state in heaven, and to bring them thither, not to plant and settle them here on earth. They are enemies, therefore, because his design and theirs lie contrary, and oppose one another. He is all for having them to heaven, and was so intent upon that design as not to shun dying upon a cross to effect it; they are all for an earthly felicity, and for a continual abode on earth to enjoy it. This is an opposition full of spite and enmity, to oppose him in a design of love, and upon which his heart was set with so much earnestness!
John Howe, "Of Reconciliation Between God and Man," in The Works of John Howe (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1990), 1:432.


One website says that Howe "was as illustrious in his day as John Owen..." Too bad that so few "Calvinists" today are acquainted with his writings.

November 1, 2006

On the "4 Point Calvinist" Label (part 1)

Those who use labels to describe various theological positions are not always conscious of the bias that is inherent in them. For instance, there has been recent discussion about the label "partial preterism" for the orthodox preterist eschatological position as over against "full preterism," or unorthodox preterism. The orthodox preterists are feeling some pain because they realize the bias (and the confusion) that is inherent in the label "partial preterism." Thus, they want to reject that label for one they think is fair to the facts of the situation. A dispensationalist might call an orthodox preterist a "partial preterist" instead of a "full preterist" because he thinks the "full preterists" are more consistent (he wants to argue a reductio ad absurdum). Likewise, the unorthodox preterists might like the label "full preterists" because they deem themselves more consistent than the "partial preterists." The "full" preterists might think that "partial" preterism logically entails dispensationalism, so they also may attempt a reductio ad absurdum from the other side. They have a vested interest in keeping the label "full preterism." Those called "partial preterists" now prefer to be called orthodox preterists because they want a label that's fair, accurate and without confusion.

To show some other examples, the same thing can be seen in the labels "anabaptist" and "replacement theologian." The label "anabaptist" (or re-baptizer) presupposes the legitimacy of infant baptism (as if it is, in fact, a Christian baptism), the very thing that credo-baptists reject. Credo-baptists might reject the label "anabaptist" because it carries the bias of their critics. Leonard Verduin says:
The “heretics” were also called “Anabaptists,” a word meaning rebaptizers. The word is loaded, for it implies that the first lustration was genuine baptism – which was precisely the point at issue. No “Anabaptist” ever acknowledged that he was involved in a second baptism. In their more hostile moments, enemies of the rival church also called them “Katabaptists,” a word meaning “averse to baptism.” This term was also extremely unfair, for no one in the rival church was averse to baptism; they were against christening, that is, against baptism as a sacrament
The Anatomy of a Hybrid: A Study in Church-State Relations (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 146.

Dispensionalists deem Covenantal Theologians to be "replacement theologians" because CT's seem to equate the church with Israel. Since dispensationalists presuppose a distinction between Israel (i.e. Jacob and his physical descendants) and the church, they accuse covenantalists of giving to the church the distinct promises that properly belong to Israel. They see covenantalists as "replacing" Israel with the church, hence the label. One can see how the label is as loaded as the others and why the CT's would reject it as not factual.

My point is that the same thing occurs when the label "4 point Calvinist" is used. When a person who holds a strictly limited atonement view accuses a non-strict advocate of being a "4 point Calvinist," they're presupposing that their strictly limited perspective is the only historically legitimate and consistently Calvinistic viewpoint. The former claim is certainly not true. There have been diverse views among Calvinists on the subject that go back to the days of Calvin and the early Reformers. Just consult the doctoral work of G. Michael Thomas on The Extent of the Atonement (Paternoster Publishing, 1997) or Owen Thomas' The Atonement Controversy (Banner of Truth, 2002) to see that fact. Or, just read about the differing views among the Calvinistic delegates at the Synod of Dort, or the debates among Calvinists on general redemption in the Minutes of the Westminster Assembly. It's reported that there were such sharp differences between Matthiuas Martinius (a moderate) and Franciscus Gomarus (a supralapsarian) at the Synod of Dort that Gomarus wanted to challenge him to fight a duel! (see G. M. Thomas, pages 144 and 147). As for the consistency of the strict view with scripture, that's up for debate.

Even the label “Amyraldian” is used in a loaded way, since it’s erroneously assumed that an Amyraldian is a “4 pointer.” If one is called an Amyraldian by your average Calvinst, that’s what they mean. They usually haven’t studied Amyraldism historically. If they have, they’ve only checked out unreliable secondary sources at best, particularly those that they know already agree with their position.

There are some moderate Calvinists who describe themselves as 4 point Calvinists, or 4.5 Calvinists, etc. This doesn't help to clarify matters at all. If they really do adhere to the other points, then I would submit that they are not 4 point Calvinists at all. They would have to admit that Christ had a special intention for the elect alone in coming to die for the sin of the whole world, and that this special intent issues in a special application by the Holy Spirit in regeneration and conversion. All of that must be true if there is a special and unconditional election as Calvinists maintain. They must, at least, see some "limit" in Christ's intentions and in the Spirit's intentions that correspond to the special decree of the Father. What they don't do is deny any other general intent that moves Christ to come as a sacrificial lamb to take away the sins of the whole world. They do not have to see any limitation in the penal substitution itself, as if so many sins of so many elect people are imputed to Christ when he died. That's the further limitation argued for by high Calvinists, in addition to their denial of a general intent to save all mankind behind Christ's redemption, which is the reason why some of them deny it's universal sufficiency.

Also, as Dabney argues, "atonement" properly refers to what happens at the point of the application of Christ's work, and not before. When one is sprinkled by the blood through faith, then one's sins are atoned for. Christ's cross-work, in and by itself, is not properly an "atonement," even though it's constantly called that by scholars and theologians. An atonement requires the further work of the Spirit to apply Christ's work to a given sinner through the instrumental hand of faith.

So, do moderate Calvinists believe in limited atonement? Of course they do, so long as the "limit" is properly understood to refer to the special intent (I say "special" because it’s not as if there is only one intent in Christ's will to save [the decretal will], as high Calvinists seem to suppose) and the special application (I say "special" because it’s not as if there are no other applications through Christ to all unbelievers, such as the bounties of common grace). If “limited atonement” can only mean the view that Christ only suffered the legal requirements due the elect when he died (limited imputation), then moderates do not adhere to that concept of limited atonement. Since they do not, they think they can consistently affirm the ordained sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction.

October 29, 2006

Another Excellent Quote from James Ussher (1581–1656) on Christ's Sufficient Redemption

The bond of this mysticall union betwixt Christ and us (as elsewhere hath more fully been declared) is on his part that quickening Spirit, which being in him as the Head, is from thence diffused to the spirituall animation of all his Members: and on our part Faith, which is the prime act of life wrought in those who are capable of understanding by that same Spirit. Both whereof must bee acknowledged to be of so high a nature, that none could possibly by such ligatures knit up so admirable a body, but hee that was God Almighty. And therefore although we did suppose such a man might be found who should perform the Law for us, suffer the death that was due to our offence and overcome it; yea and whose obedience and sufferings should be of such value, that it were sufficient for the redemption of the whole world: yet could it not be efficient to make us live by faith, unless that Man had been able to send Gods Spirit to apply the same unto us.
James Ussher, "The Mediatorial Office of Christ," in an Introduction to Puritan Theology: A Reader, ed. Edward Hindson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976), 125.

Bishop Ussher, in the above quote, doesn't ground the efficacy of our salvation in the sufferings and death of Christ, but rather in the Spirit who works according to the will of the Mediator who sent him. This quickening Spirit applies the work of the Son to the elect through faith. Ussher also affirms that the sufferings of Christ are "sufficient for the redemption of the whole world."

The editor of this book says "Though not a Puritan as such, James Ussher was a Calvinist and the Puritans esteemed him highly." Also, that "Cromwell admired him for his learning and Calvinism (p. 105)."

Among some popular "Calvinists" today in the blogosphere, his atonement views would be suspect at best, or, more probably, rejected as non-Calvinistic. That should come as no suprise. There were ignorant men in his day who treated Ussher "as if" he "had confirmed Papism" or "Arminianism," after he wrote one of the articles below. These buffoons apparently have some theological offspring among us today.

For more on Ussher, see the following:

October 26, 2006

Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) on Laying Hold of Christ's Sacrifice

6. We must then lay hold on this sacrifice. The people were to be sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice, Exod. xxiv. 8, so must we with the blood of our Lamb. Thus only can it save us, 1 Peter i. 2. Thus is our Saviour described by this part of his office: Isa. lii. 15, 'He shall sprinkle many nations.' Our guilt cannot look upon a consuming fire without a propitiatory sacrifice; our services are blemished, so that they will rather provoke his justice than merit his mercy; we must have something to put a stop to a just fury, expiate an infinite guilt, and perfume our unsavoury services. Here it is in Christ, but there must be faith in us. Faith is as necessary by the ordination of God in a way of instrumentality, as the grace of God in a way of efficiency, and the blood of Christ in a way of meritoriousness of our justification. All must concur, the will of God the offended governor, the will of the sacrificing mediator, and the will of the offender. This will must be a real will, an active operative will, not a faint velleity. We must have a faith to justify our persons, and we must have an active sincerity to justify the reality of our faith. Christ was real in his sacrifice, God was real in the acceptation of it, we must be real in believing it. Rocks and mountains cannot secure them that neglect so great a sacrifice, that regard this atoning blood as an unholy thing. It is as dreadful for men to have this sacrifice smoking against them, and this blood calling for vengeance on them, as it is comfortable to have it pleaded for them and sprinkled on them. Why will any then despise and neglect a necessary sovereign remedy ready at hand? Is it excusable, that when we should have brought the sacrifice ourselves, or ourselves have been the sacrifice, we should slight him who hath voluntarily been a sacrifice for us, and cherish a hell merited by our sin, rather than accept of a righteousness purchased at no less rate than the blood of God? This sacrifice is full of all necessary virtue to save us, but the blood of it must be sprinkled upon our souls by faith. Without this we shall remain in our sins, under the wrath of God and sword of vengeance.
Stephen Charnock, "Christ Our Passover," in The Works of Stephen Charnock (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1985), 4:538.


October 24, 2006

J. C. Ryle (1816–1900) on John 6:27

John 6:27 "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."
When our Lord says, "The Son of man shall give you the meat that endureth to everlasting life," He appears to me to make one of the widest and most general offers to unconverted sinners, that we have anywhere in the Bible. The men to whom He was speaking were, beyond question, carnal–minded and unconverted men. Yet even to them Jesus says, "The Son of man shall give unto you." To me it seems an unmistakable statement of Christ's willingness and readiness to give pardon and grace to any sinner. It seems to me to warrant ministers in proclaiming Christ's readiness to save any one, and in offering salvation to any one, if he will only repent and believe the Gospel. The favorite notion of some, that Christ is to be offered only to the elect, – that grace and pardon are to be exhibited but not offered to a congregation, – that we ought not to say broadly and fully to all whom we preach to, Christ is ready and willing to save you, – such notions, I say, appear to me entirely irreconcilable with the language of our Lord. Election, no doubt, is a mighty truth and a precious privilege. Complete and full redemption no doubt is the possession of none but the elect. But how easy it is, in holding these glorious truths, to become more systematic than the Bible, and to spoil the Gospel by cramping and limiting it!
J. C Ryle, Expository Thoughts On The Gospels (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 3:353.


My observations:

1) Ryle apparently felt that he had to deal with certain hyper-Calvinistic notions in his day. They rejected free and sincere offers to all indescriminately. Nota bene: They were not against preaching to all, but apparently said "that grace and pardon are to be exhibited but not offered to a congregation." They were not against "evangelism" as such, but they were against free offers. Whoever says that they are not a hyper-Calvinist on the basis that they 1) believe in evangelism and 2) in preaching to everyone is ignorant about the history of hyperism. One can still be hyper and believe in our need to evangelize and preach to all. Some hyper-Calvinists just don't believe we are warranted to "offer" Christ indescriminately to all, especially if we are seeking to assure them that Christ, as a divine person, wants, wills or "ardently desires" (to use an expression used by John Murray and John Calvin) to save them. Ryle is dealing with the sort that think that Christ is only offered to the elect. Some hypers rejected the idea of offers altogether. Underlying all of this is the problem of not thinking of the revealed or preceptive will of God as truly a will.

Several months ago I spoke to Dr. Curt Daniel by phone. I asked him about his doctoral dissertation on hyper-Calvinism and if he would change anything that he wrote. As I recall, he only mentioned one thing. Instead of arguing that the essence of hyperism is the rejection of offers, he said it really boils down to a problem they have with the revealed will of God. I completely agree. That's why I keep posting material related to that subject. This problem is far more rampant among Calvinists than many people think. It just seems so normal to them to think along purely decretal lines. That type of thinking gets reinforced over and over again as they interract with other "Calvinists" online.

2) Notice that Ryle speaks of a "complete" and "full" redemption that belongs to the elect alone. He could, in a sense, be said to adhere to the doctrine of particular redemption. Only the elect are completely and fully redeemed because they alone fulfill the condition (because they are granted the moral ability to believe through regeneration) for their release from spiritual bondage. Christ redeemed all men sufficiently through what he suffered (he pays the ransom price of all - 2 Tim. 2:6), but not all have complete and full redemption, because they remain in unbelief. Ryle is basically saying what Peter Martyr Vermigli said long ago:
They [the anti-predestinarians] also grant that "Christ died for us all" and infer from this that his benefits are common to everyone. We gladly grant this, too, if we are considering only the worthiness of the death of Christ, for it is sufficient for all the world's sinners. Yet even if in itself it is enough, yet it did not have, nor has, nor will have effect in all men. The Scholastics also acknowledge the same thing when they affirm that Christ redeemed all men sufficiently but not effectually.
Vermigli, Works, v 8, p. 62.

And also Wolfgang Musculus:
That reprobate and deplorably wicked men do not receive it, is not through any defect in the grace of God, nor is it just, that, on account of of the children of perdition, it should lose the glory and title of universal redemption, since it is prepared for all, and all are called to it.
Wolfgang Musculus, Common Places, p. 151.

Though these men affirm a kind of universal redemption, it is not an equal universal redemption as non-Calvinists think. Rather, it is an "unequal universal redemption," as Richard Baxter would put it. It's not that there is an inequality in what Christ suffered, but there is an inequality in terms of his intention in suffering for the sins of the whole world. As the last Adam, he substitutes for all mankind in suffering the righteous requirement of the law, but he did not do so with an equal intention to save all. He especially wills the salvation of his elect.

Edmund Calamy argues the same basic position when he said in the debate on redemption in the Westminster Assembly:
I am far from universal redemption in the Arminian sense, but I hold with our divines in the Synod of Dort that Christ did pay a price for all, [with] absolute intention for the elect, [with] conditional intention for the reprobate in case they do believe; that all men should be salvabiles, non obstante lapsu Adami; that Jesus Christ did not only die sufficiently for all, but God did intend, in giving of Christ, and Christ in giving himself did intend, to put all men in a state of salvation in case they do obey.’…‘This universality of redemption does neither intrude upon either doctrine of special election or special grace.
Minutes of the Westminster Assembly, p. 152.

J. C. Ryle is taking the same position when he speaks of a "complete and full redemption" of the elect alone in the above quote.

3) Also, note what Ryle says about some who hold to the "mighty truth" of election. It's "easy," for some of them, "in holding these glorious truths, to become more systematic than the Bible, and to spoil the Gospel by cramping and limiting it!" These who virtually "spoil the gospel" would never think that they are doing that. It's just the case that they are blinded by a system and it's strong presuppositions that go undetected. The presuppositions are so strong in their minds that they don't even realize that they even warp sacred scripture to preserve the system. What causes such a "cramping" and "limiting" of God's generous gospel? It has to do with a diminished conception of the revealed will of God that issues in a strictly limited conception of Christ's death. This, in turn, results in limited offers (i.e. if they consistently reason out their views).

Take care that you're not guilty of "cramping" and "limiting" God's gospel in Christ in order to preserve a theological construct. Such cramping is totally unnecessary to preserve a classical and biblical view of Calvinism.

October 23, 2006

Donald J. Westblade on God's Will

Not infrequently, one encounters the protest that God is unworthily pictured as entertaining these same two conflicting wills about the salvation of the world. That God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. 2 Pet. 3:9) is understood to preclude a call from God that discriminates, and discriminates effectually, for any purpose. The objection, however, does not square with common experience. Good parents who are not willing that their children should suffer injuries prefer a world in which their children do suffer some scrapes and falls in order to learn sturdiness and responsibility as they explore the limits of their abilities, to a world in which their children never experience the discipline of a misstep. An important official charged with law enforcement might be similarly of two minds if a close relative were taken hostage: she might be willing for personal reasons to pay any ransom or negotiate any concessions in order to obtain the loved one's freedom; at the same time she understands that her obligations to the public trust demand of her a steadfast will to refuse any concessions to the captors, lest their success encourage others to seek advantages by means of kidnapping.

To attribute two wills in a similar manner to God is no less consistent, no more an affront to his character, and no more anthropomorphic than to attribute one will to him. Even those who displace the point of effectuality from God's call to an alleged free will in the human agree (unless they are prepared to affirm an eventual universalism) that God elevates a will that the world should include people who in their freedom do perish over his will that not any should perish. This they can do only by assuming that Paul's view of God's overriding concern makes human freedom paramount. Yet Paul consistently awards pride of place instead to God's purpose to glorify himself.
Donald J. Westblade, “Divine Election in the Pauline Literature,” in Still Sovereign, ed. Thomas Schreiner and Bruce Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 69–70.

John Howe (1630–1705) on God's Will (part 2)

Unto what also is discoursed concerning anger and grief, (or other passions) ascribed to God, it will not be unfit here to add, that unless they be allowed to signify real aversion of will, no account is to be given what reality in him they can signify at all. For to say (what some do seem to satisfy themselves with) that they are to be understood secundum effectum, not secundum affectum, though true as to the negative part, is, as to the affirmative, very defective and short; for the effects of anger and grief, upon which those names are put, when spoken of God, are not themselves in him, but in us. But we are still at a loss what they signify in him. Such effects must have some cause. And if they be effects which he works, they must have some cause in himself that is before them, and productive of them. This account leaves us to seek what that cause is that is signified by these names. That it cannot be any passion, as the same names are wont to signify with us, is out of question. Nor indeed do those names primarily, and most properly, signify passion in ourselves. The passion is consequently only, by reason of that inferior nature in us which is susceptible of it. But the aversion of our mind and will is before it, and, in another subject very separable from it, and possible to be without it. In the blessed God we cannot understand any thing less is signified than real displacency at the things whereat he is said to be angry or grieved.

Our shallow reason indeed is apt to suggest in these matters, Why is not that prevented that is so displeasing? And it would be said with equal reason in reference to all sin permitted to be in the world, Why was it not prevented? And what is to be said to this? Shall it be said that sin doth not displease God; that he hath no will against sin; it is not repugnant to his will? Yes; it is to his revealed will, to his law. But is that an untrue revelation? His law is not his will itself, but the signum, the discovery of his will. Now, is it an insignificant sign? a sign that signifies nothing? or to which there belongs no correspondent significatum? - nothing that is signified by it? Is that which is signified (for sure no one will say it signifies nothing) his real will, yea or no? Who can deny it? That will, then, (and a most calm, sedate, impassionate will it must be understood to be) sin, and consequently the consequent miseries of his creatures, are repugnant unto. And what will is that? It is not a peremptory will concerning the event, for the event falls out otherwise; which were, upon that supposition, impossible; "for who hath resisted his will?" as was truly intimated by the personated questionist, (Rom. ix. 19;) but impertinently, when God's will of another (not a contrary) kind, i.e. concerning another object, was in the same breath referred unto, "Why doth he yet find fault?" It is not the will of the event that is the measure of faultiness; for then there could not have been sin in the world, nor consequently misery, which only, by the Creator's pleasure, stands connected with it. For nothing could fall out against that irresistable will. The objector then destroys his own objection, so absurdly, and so manifestly, as not to deserve any other reply than that which he meets with; "Nay, but who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?"

And what is the other object about which the divine will is also conversant? Matter of duty, and what stands in connection with it, not abstractly and separably, but as it is so connected, our felicity. This is objectively another will, as we justly distinguish acts that respect the creature, by their different objects. Against this will falls out all the sin and misery in the world.

All this seems plain and clear, but is not enough. For it may be further said, When God wills this or that to be my duty, doth he not will this event, viz. my doing it? Otherwise wherein is his will withstood, or not fulfilled, in my not doing it? He willed this to be my duty, and it is so. I do not, nor can hinder it from being so; yet I do it not, and that he willed not. If all that his will meant was that this should be my duty, but my doing it was not intended; his will is entirely accomplished, it hath its full effect, in that such things are constituted, and do remain my duty, upon his signification of this his will; my not doing it, not being within the compass of the object, or the thing willed.

If it be said, he willed my doing it, i.e. that I should do it, not that I shall, the same answer will recur, viz. that his will hath still its full effect, this effect still remaining, that I should do it; but that I shall, he willed not.

It may be said, I do plainly go against his will, however; for his will was that I should do so, or so, and I do not what he willed I should. It is true, I go herein against his will, if he willed not only my obligation, but my action according to it. And indeed it seems altogether unreasonable, and unintelligible, that he should will to oblige me to that, which he doth not will me to do.

Therefore, it seems out of question, that the holy God doth constantly and perpetually, in a true sense, will universal obedience, and the consequent felicity of all his creatures capable thereof; i.e. he doth will it with simple complacency, as what were highly grateful to him, simply considered by itself. Who can doubt, but that purity, holiness, blessedness, wheresoever they were to be beheld among his creatures, would be a pleasing and delightful spectacle to him, being most agreeable to the perfect excellency, purity and benignity of his own nature, and that their deformity and misery must be consequently unpleasing? but he doth not efficaciously will every thing that he truly wills. He never willed the obedience of all his intelligent creatures, so as effectually to make them all obey; nor their happiness, so as to make them all happy; as the event shows. Nothing can be more certain, than that he did not so will these things; for then nothing could have fallen out to the contrary, as we see much hath. Nor is it at all unworthy the love and goodness of his nature not so to have willed, with that effective will, the universal fitness, sinlessness, and felicity of all his intelligent creatures. The divine nature comprehends all excellencies in itself, and is not to be limited to that one only of benignity, or an aptness to acts of beneficence; for then it were not infinite, not absolutely perfect, and so not divine. All the acts of his will must be consequently conform and agreeable to the most perfect wisdom. He doth all things according to the counsel of his will. He wills, it is true, the rectitude of our actions, and what would be consequent thereto, but he first, and more principally wills, the rectitude of his own; and not only not to do an unrighteous, but not an inept, or unfit thing. We find he did not think it fit efficaciously to provide concerning all men, that they should be made obedient and happy, as he hath concerning some; that in the general he makes a difference, is to be attributed to his wisdom, i.e. his wisdom hath in the general made this determination, not to deal with all alike, and so we find it ascribed to his wisdom that he doth make a difference; and in what a transport is the holy apostle in the contemplation and celebration of it upon his account! Rom. xi. 33. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" But now, when in particular he comes to make this difference between one person and another, there being no reason in the object to determine him this way more than that, his designing some for the objects of special favor, and waiving others (as to such special favor) when all were in themselves alike; in that case wisdom hath not so proper an exercise, but it is the work of free, unobliged sovereignty here to make the choice; "having predestinated us unto the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." Eph. i. 5.

Yet, in the meantime, while God doth not efficaciously will all men's obedience introductive of their happiness, doth it follow he wills it not really at all? To say he wills it efficaciously, were to contradict experience, and his word; to say he wills it not really, were equally to contradict his word. He doth will it, but not primarily, and as the more principle object of his will, so as to effect it notwithstanding whatsoever unfitness he apprehends in it, viz. that he so overpower all, as to make them obedient and happy. He really wills it, but hath greater reasons than this or that man's salvation, why he effects it not. And this argues no imperfection in the divine will, but the perfection of it, that he wills things agreeably to the reasonableness and fitness of them.
John Howe, "The Redeemer's Tears Wept Over Lost Souls," in The Works of John Howe (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990), 2:386–389.

Also in John Howe, "The Redeemer's Tears Wept Over Lost Souls," in The Works of John Howe, 6 vols. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1862), 2:353–357.


October 17, 2006

Stephen Charnock (1628–1680) on the Redeemer's Voluntary Suffering

4. How willingly then should we part with our sins for Christ, and do our duty to him! Oh that we could in our measures part as willingly with our lusts as he did with his blood! He parted with his blood when he needed not, and shall not we with our sins, when we ought to do so for our own safety, as well as for his glory? Since Christ came to redeem us from the slavery of the devil, and strike off the chains of captivity, he that will remain in them, when Christ with so much pains and affection hath shed his blood to unloose them, prefers the devil and sin before a Saviour, and will find the affront to be aggravated by the Redeemer’s voluntariness in suffering for his liberty. How willingly should we obey him, who so willingly obeyed God for us!
Stephen Charnock, “The Voluntariness of Christ’s Death,” in The Works of Stephen Charnock (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1985), 4:551.

Notice that Charnock is including unbelievers in his exhortation, and he says that Christ shed his blood to unloose them, with so much pain and affection. Some for whom Christ died may remain in their sins, which means Christ shed his blood for the non-elect as well.


On Natural and Moral Inability

I was recently questioned about the distinction between natural and moral inability. Here's my reply:

If we are to affirm that man is in fact responsible, then he must be just that: response-able. One of the reasons that hypers like to speak of man being "accountable" rather than "responsible" is because they overstate the T in TULIP. They deny any sense of ability in man to believe. What then do Calvinists mean when they speak of "Total Inability" if not that man is without any sense of ability to believe whatsoever?

I think it's better to speak of Total Moral Inability. It's not that man lacks the faculties with which to respond to God in repentance and faith, but that he lacks the desire or want to do so. Man's problem is not in their will power, so to speak, but in their WON'T power.

Fallen man is entirely corrupted by sin. It pollutes their entire persons: mind, body and will. Even though man is fallen and dead in trespasses and sins, they still have the image of God, which AT LEAST consists in their being rational moral agents. Sinners cannot complain that they have not the faculties with which to respond to God. They are constituted by God with minds to think and wills to act. This is what I mean when I speak of "natural ability."

When I speak of the "moral inability" of those still dead in trespasses and sin, I am saying that they're so fixed and determined in their stubborness that they do not even desire to turn to God in truth. The warped affections of their hearts (moral impulses) causes them to perpetually use their God-given intellectual and voluntary instruments (natural abilities or capacities) to play nothing but a cacophonous noise. They are content being in such a state of deadness until the Holy Spirit grants them a new heart with new affections, which creates new moral impulses to use their members (mind, body, wills etc.) to the glory of God.

I am distinguishing between man's constitutional (or natural) abilities and his moral abilities, but I don't want to suggest that we can separate them. They are, admittedly, interrelated. However, what the bible is constantly underlining when it describes our naturally enslaved state is our moral inability, and not our lack of constitutional capacities.

When God regenerates us, he doesn't give us new personalities or new faculties. It's just the case that our faculties are renewed even as our hearts are renewed. When quickened by the Spirit, our wills change because our spiritual affections have changed. The regenerate are now motivated by a love to God and the love of our neighbor. This is now our dominating moral impulse, even though we still struggle with remaining pollution (the flesh principle). Consequently, our minds are no longer "set on the flesh" as they once were.

Does that help you understand the distinction I am trying to make? "Ought" does imply "can" in some sense (in the sense that we possess the faculties with which to respond to God's commands), but "ought" does not imply "can" in another sense (in the sense that our mind and/or wills are morally neutral, or without a dominant moral impulse).

I then provided this quote by Stephen Charnock that relates to the same subject:
"(2.) It doth not disparage his wisdom to command that to man which he knows man will not do without his grace, and so make promises to man upon the doing it. If man indeed had not a faculty naturally fitted for the object, it might entrench upon God's wisdom to make commands and promises to such a creature as it would be to command a beast to speak. But man hath a faculty to understand and will, which makes him a man; and there is a disposition in the understanding and will which consists in an inclination determined to good or evil, which makes us not to be men, but good or bad men, whereby we are distinguished from one another as by reason and will we are from plants and beasts. Now the commands and exhortations are suitable to our nature, and respect not our reason as good or bad, but simply as reason. These commands presuppose in us a faculty of understanding and will, and a suitableness between the command and the faculty of a reasonable creature. This is the reason why God hath given to us his law and gospel, his commands, not because we are good or bad men, but because we are men endued with reason, which other creatures want, and therefore are not capable of government by a command. Our blessed Lord and Saviour did not exhort infants, though he blessed them, because they were not arrived to the use of reason; yet he exhorted the Jews, many of whose wills he knew were not determined to good, and whom he told that they would die in their sins. And though God had told them, Jer. xiii., that they could no more change themselves than an Ethiopian could his skin, yet he expostulates with them why they 'would not be made clean:' verse 27, 'O Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?' Because, though they had an ill disposition in their judgment, yet their judgment remained, whereby to discern of exhortations if they would. To present a concert of music to a deaf man that cannot hear the greatest sound were absurd, because sounds are the object of hearing; but commands and exhortations are the object, not of this or that good constitution of reason, but of reason itself."
Stephen Charnock, "A Discourse of the Efficient of Regeneration" in The Works of Stephen Charnock (Carlisle, Penn.: Banner of Truth, 1986), 3:227-228.

For those interested, Jonathan Edwards makes the distinction in his work on the Freedom of the Will.