December 27, 2007

Offer Terminology in Theodore Beza, Jerome Zanchius and William Ames

Update on 12-31-07:

Since one Clarkian hyper-Calvinist has linked to this post and missed the point of it (mainly because he is only doing cursory glances at a few of my posts in a very superficial way), clarification may be necessary. The purpose of this post is not to demonstrate whether or not Beza, Zanchius and Ames held to a "well-meant gospel offer." Rather, it is to demonstrate that each of them called the gospel an "offer." It was not until the time of Davis and Hussey that the term was rejected to describe the gospel. Moreover, one can observe that Beza speaks of God himself offering the gospel, even unto reprobates. That's what is mainly in focus, and not the issue of our need to offer in the sense of preaching the gospel to all.

The reader may wish to consult my subject index on the topics of "The Gospel Offer," "The Grace of God," "The Love of God," "The Will of God," and "The Atonement."

When dealing with the subject of "offer terminology," Curt Daniel says the following in his doctoral dissertation:
2. Beza: "It ought not to seem absurd, that God unto reprobates, living in his Church, doth offer grace in his word and sacraments. For he doth it not to this end, that they may be saved, but that they may have less excuse than others, and at length be more grievously punished" (quoted in Twisse, Riches, Part II, p. 167). This was the aspect of offers emphasized by Supralapsarians, which went beyond the orthodox High Calvinist idea and prepared the way for the Hyperist position. But Beza still used the word. The same state of affairs can be seen with Zanchius, who with Beza was most responsible for introducing the distinctive 'High' elements into Reformed theology (see Chapters IV and IX). There is a passage in his Absolute Predestination which deals with the question: "Thus argued St. Augustine against the Pelagians, who taught that grace is offered to all men alike; that God, for His part, equally wills the salvation of all, and that it is in the power of man's free will to accept or reject the grace and salvation so offered" (p.137, S.G.U. edition). Neither Zanchius nor Augustine are denying that offers should be made to all. Rather, they are saying that grace is offered to all men but not equally to all men. No man can accept the offer unless special grace is given and it is not given to all men, for God wills all men's salvation but not equally for all. Even so, Zanchius felt that the revealed will offers grace.
Curt Daniel, Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill (PhD diss., University of Edinburgh, 1983), 397n2.

Footnote #8 on page 398 also notes the fact that William Ames uses the terminology in The Marrow of Theology (Durham: The Labyrinth Press, 1983), 157–158.

Daniel also wrote:
It cannot be debated that the word was employed with all regularity throughout the Puritan era. It was used by a host of theologians representing all the main schools of Reformed theology. It was used by Low Calvinists, including the Neonomians and Amyraldians. Mainstream Federalists employed it often, as well as Supralapsarians. Moreover, even the Antinomians (forerunners of the Hyperists) had it in their vocabulary. Throughout the period up to the end of the seventheenth century we find the word nearly everywhere and almost always with the same basic meaning, though with various emphases according to different writers. But none of them explicitly rejected it. Some, of course, may not have used it; but to argue from this that they actually dismissed the word would be a gross argumentum e silentium. In all our researches we have not found a single instance in which the word was explicitly rejected by any Reformed divine or preacher previous to the year 1700.

Similarly, the word has enjoyed a continued usage down to the present. In the eighteenth century it could be found in all the most important Reformed literature, with the exception of the Hyper-Calvinist books.
Ibid., 398–399.

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