May 7, 2011

Alexander C. De Jong on an Obscuration in the Free Offer Debate

Hoeksema's doctrine of reprobation renders the reliability of God's unsimulated call to salvation disputable. He objects to the truth of a well-meant gospel offer because it implies that God wants all sinners to be saved in the way of repentance. He says,
en let er wel op, der leer [concerning the gospel offer as well-meant] is niet, dat het Evangelie door den prediker aan alle menschen moet worden verkondigd, zonder onderscheid, maar dat God zelf, ann alle menschen zijne genade aanbiedt, en dus daarmede de ernstige begeerte openbaart, dat het zal worden aangenomen door allen.141
In passing we wish to remark that it makes no difference in our problem whether a human, fallible preacher makes this offer of grace or God makes this offer. In the current discussions in the Protestant Reformed Churches Hoeksema is trying to use this argument.142 The late Dr. C. Bouma also used this distinction to plead for the legitimacy of a genuine offer of grace. At one point in his discussion he says that if God himself, "zonder tusschenkomst van menschen, kwam en zondaars het Evangelie predikte, dan stond de zaak anders."143 This distinction between noetically-limited heralds and the noetically-perspicuous God serves to obscure the real questions involved. In addition such a distinction neglects the truth that God speaks in and through the instrumentality of the preacher.
141. GCA, p. 9, 10. [Note from Tony: I tried to use Google Translate for the Dutch, so this quote may mean something like, "and please remember, [the] doctrine [concerning the gospel as well-meant] is not that the Gospel preacher is to preach to all men indiscriminately, but that God himself, offers his grace unto all men, and so thus reveals the earnest desire that it be adopted [accepted?] by all."]
142. Cf. SB, XXIX, 19, p. 437. "The Rev. De Wolf did not say: 'I preach to every one of you that, if you believe, you shall be saved.' This might pass, even though it would not be the whole truth.... But the Rev. De Wolf said nothing of the kind. He said: 'God promises salvation to everyone of you.'"
143. C. Bouma, Geen Algemeene Verzoening, p. 160. [Note from Tony: The Dutch may possibly mean "without interference from men, came and preached the Gospel to sinners, this would be different."]
Alexander C. De Jong, The Well-Meant Gospel Offer: The Views of H. Hoeksema and K. Schilder (Franeker: T. Wever, 1954), 122–123.

Note: Frequently in conversations with those who have a problem with the free offer of the gospel, one will notice that they switch the topic from God himself sincerely offering to all that hear the gospel to the topic of noetically-limited preachers offering/preaching to all. As De Jong notes, this is done in order to obscure the real issues involved, i.e. the sincerity and well-meant nature of God's own offer to all, and what that presupposes with respect to God's revealed will. This switching of the subject is not new today.

Gardner Spring said:
If it be said, that in commissioned messages like these, God requires the ministers of the Gospel to make this indiscriminate offer of salvation, because they do not know who will accept them, and because it is not their province to distinguish between those who are and those who are not his chosen people; it must be born in mind that the offer is God's own offer, and that his ministers make it only in his name. He endorses it, and speaks through them. He knows who his chosen people are; and the gracious overture is made by his authority and on his behalf.

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