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)