July 21, 2012

John Murray’s Caution on the “Reprobation” Term

Since most Calvinists today use the word “reprobate” in a loose manner, and employ it to reference God's pretemporal decree in regard to the non-elect, this word of caution by Murray is needful:
In distinction from Dordt (cf. Arts. VI, XV, and XVI)1 the [Westminster] Confession does not use this term [reprobation]. This restraint must be commended. Although the Scripture uses the term that is properly rendered ‘reprobate’ (cf. Rom. 1:28; 1 Cor. 9:27; 2 Cor. 13:5, 6, 7; 2 Tim. 3:8; Tit. 1:16), yet its use is such that the elements entering into the decree of God respecting the non-elect could not legitimately be injected into it. The presumption is that the Westminster divines hesitated to employ it for this reason. Biblical terms should not be loosely applied.
1. Calvin frequently uses the term ‘reprobation’. Cf. citations given above.
John Murray, “Calvin, Dordt, and Westminster on Predestination—A Comparative Study,” in Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), 4:210.

In an official letter of the pastors of Zürich to Geneva during the Bolsec controversy, they, according to Venema, said, “Those who are reprobate (reprobi) are not defined in terms of a decree of reprobation but as those who do not believe the word of God (verbo Dei non credunt) and impiously live in opposition to God” (Cornelis P. Venema, Heinrich Bullinger and the Doctrine of Predestination: Author of “the Other Reformed Tradition”? [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002], 59n7). See “Réponse des ministres de Zurich à ceux de Genève,” in Ioannis Calvini Opera Quae Supersunt Omnia [CO], ed. Baum, Cunitz & Reuss et al., vol. 8 (Brunschweig: C.A. Schwetschke, 1863–1900), 231.

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