July 29, 2012

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) on Sinners Rejecting the Love of God

4. As great as this wrath is, it is not greater than that love of God which you have slighted and rejected. God, in infinite mercy to lost sinners, has provided a way for them to escape future misery, and to obtain eternal life. For that end he has given his only-begotten Son, a person infinitely glorious and honorable in himself — being equal with God, and infinitely near and dear to God. It was ten thousand times more than if God had given all the angels in heaven, or the whole world, for sinners. Him he gave to be incarnate, to suffer death, to be made a curse for us, and to undergo the dreadful wrath of God in our room, and thus to purchase for us eternal glory. This glorious person has been offered to you times without number, and he has stood and knocked at your door, until his hairs were with the dews of the night. But all that he has done has not won upon you. You see no form nor loveliness in him, no beauty that you should desire him. When he has thus offered himself to you as your Savior, you never freely and heartily accept of him. This love which you have thus abused, is as great as that wrath of which you are in danger. If you would have accepted of it, you might have had the enjoyment of this love instead of enduring this terrible wrath. So that the misery you have heard of is not greater than the love you have despised, and the happiness and glory which you have rejected. How just than would it be in God to execute upon you this dreadful wrath, which is not greater than that love which you have despised! Heb. 2:3, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?"
Jonathan Edwards, "The Portion of the Wicked," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), 2:887. Also in Jonathan Edwards [1743], Sermons, Series II, 1735 (WJE Online Vol. 50) , Ed. Jonathan Edwards Center


July 27, 2012

W. Lindsay Alexander's (1808–1884) Criticism of Owenism

While I don't agree with everything Alexander says in his chapter (XVI) dealing with the atonement, I think he is on the right path in his following criticisms of Owenism:
If Owen is right in restricting the atonement to the idea of purchase, his reasoning appears to me quite unanswerable. It is here, however, that he and his party err. Whilst it is true that the salvation of believers is a redemption, a purchasing of them from sin and misery that they may be restored to God, it is not in accordance with the representations of Scripture or the facts of the case to make this the only or even the essential idea of the atonement. The objections to this are many, and apparently conclusive. You will find them stated by Dr. Wardlaw in his Theology, vol. ii. Lect. xxiv., and by Dr. Payne in his Lectures on Divine Sovereignty, Atonement, etc., Lect. ix. The weightiest are — (a) that this view is really incompatible with a belief in the infinite value of the Saviour's propitiatory work, seeing it necessarily limits that to an equivalency with the guilt of the elect. (b) That on this view it is impossible to take, in their fair and proper sense, those passages of Scripture which state that Christ was a propitiation for the sins of the world, and that He was sent "that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish." (c) That on this view the salvation of the non-elect becomes a natural impossibility, just as much so as it is for those to see for whom no eyes have been provided, or those to understand from whom God has withheld the gifts of intellect. (d) On this supposition the general invitations and promises of the gospel are without an adequate basis, and seem like a mere mockery, an offer, in short, of what has not been provided.

It will not do to say, in reply to this, that as these invitations are actually given we are entitled on the authority of God's word to urge them and justified in accepting them; for this is mere evasion. The question is not as to whether they are to be regarded as sincere and valid, but on what ground can they be so regarded? Had God merely placed in Scripture these invitations and promises without making known to us anything regarding the work of Christ on which they are based, our wisdom would have been to accept the invitation and rely on the promise without further inquiry. But seeing it is not so; seeing God has rested His invitation and His promise on the work of Christ as made known to us in His word, we are not only entitled, but bound to inquire into the relation in which the two stand to each other, that we may see how the superstructure really rests on the basis. If a skilled architect tells me that a certain building is secure I may take his word for it and inquire no further; but if he insists on showing me the foundation, and how, resting on such a foundation, the building is secure, I am bound to examine and satisfy myself that it is really so. When, therefore, God is pleased not only to give us gracious invitations and promises, but to show us the foundation on which these rest, we are bound to examine this and see whether it is broad enough to sustain the superstructure that is erected upon it. And if on inquiry we find that the basis, according to our view of it, is not broad enough for what is erected on it, the fair conclusion seems to be that we have made a mistake in our survey, and that the basis is not such as we assumed it to be, but must be broader. Accordingly, when we find that the doctrine of a limited atonement, an atonement on the principle of a quid pro quo, does not afford a basis broad enough to sustain the unlimited offers of the gospel, it is surely a perfectly fair conclusion that the doctrine is erroneous, and cannot be the doctrine of Scripture. Finally, on this view the actual salvation of the elect ceases to be of grace, and becomes as much a matter of right on their part and of simple equity on the part of God as the release of a debtor whose debt has been paid by another is a matter of right and equity. If I am unable to satisfy the law, and the sovereign remits the penalty on some grounds of general jurisprudence or governmental righteousness which left Him free to give or withhold the blessing according to his sovereign good pleasure, then the reception of the benefit by me is purely of grace, and I am made thereby a debtor to grace. But if the debt which I owed has been paid, if every special claim which the law had on me has been met and satisfied, then my release is a simple matter of justice, the ruler is bound in equity to set me free, and no room is left for grace to enter.
W. Lindsay Alexander, A System of Biblical Theology, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1888), 2:110–112.


July 26, 2012

Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) on the Difference Christ's Redemption Makes for the Generality of Mankind

God deals with the generality of mankind, in their present state, far differently, on occasion of the redemption by Jesus Christ, from what he otherwise would do; for, being capable subjects of saving mercy, they have a day of patience and grace, and innumerable temporal blessings bestowed on them; which, as the apostle signifies, (Acts xiv. 17.) are testimonies of God's reconcilableness to sinful men, to put them upon seeking after God.
Jonathan Edwards, "The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1992), 1:227.

Also in the Yale edition here: Jonathan Edwards [1758], Original Sin (WJE Online Vol. 3), Ed. Clyde A. Holbrook

1) On occasion of the redemption of Christ, God is dealing with the generality of mankind differently than he otherwise would (He is not dealing with men as He is with the fallen angels).
2) The generality of mankind, by virtue of Christ's redemptive work, are now "capable subjects of saving mercy," i.e. their salvation is possible.
3) They all are given "a day of patience and grace" because of Christ (common grace is associated with Christ's death in Edwards' theology).
4) Innumerable temporal blessings are bestowed on them (these common bounties of providence are blessings, or sent for the well-being of them all).
5) All of these things God gives to the generality of mankind "to put them upon seeking after God," i.e. He wants them all to be saved.

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.

July 15, 2012

Miles Mosse's (fl. 1580-1614) Early Reference to Calvin on Grace

I'm quoting Miles Mosse as an early testimony to Calvin's view of common grace, since there are some (such as Hoeksemian Hyper-Calvinists) who deny that grace is given to the non-elect, and claim Calvin for their position. Consider the following as yet another nail in their coffin:
"As it is with the Devils, so it is in this case with all Devilish men. No man so wicked, nor so very a Devil incarnate, but that besides the common gifts of nature, as strength, shape, limbs, sense, reason, and such like, (which all are good parts in themselves) he hath also many times, speciales dei gratia, (as M. Calvin dareth to call them) some special graces of God; quas varie & ad certum modum prophanis alioqui hominibus dispensat; which in diverse sorts, and certain measure, he disposeth to men otherwise merely prophane and void of all goodness, and religion. As for example: Esau had a certain extraordinary cunning and dexterity in his game. Balaam had a mighty gift of prophecie. Saul had another heart given him fit for government, and to go in and out wisely, and courageously before the people. Achitophel's counsel was an Oracle in his time. Judas had power to preach, and to do miracles. And yet Esau was a prophane person. Balaam loved the wages of iniquity. Saul was deprived of the spirit of God. Achitophel hanged himself. And Judas was a Devil. Baptism (saith S. Augustine) is the gift of God: But, habent illam boni, & mali: Evil men are baptised also: for so was Simon Magus. Prophecy is a gift of the Spirit: yet, Prophetassit Saul iniquus, saith S. Augustine in the same place [Aug. in frag. num. 7. ex serm. de miraculo 5. panum.]; Saul also was among the Prophets. At length he addeth, Numquid dicuntur credere sols boni? And as touching faith: Are only good said in Scriptures to believe? & demones credunt, & contreminscuut. No: wicked men are said to believe also: yea, The devils believe and tremble. So far S. Augustine. Now to come home to ourselves. He that will cast his eyes up and down in the world, shall he not see a good Statesman, and yet a mere Atheist? A deep Divine; and yet worldly minded? An expert Lawyer, and yet a corrupt Judge? An experienced Physician; and yet a daily Tobacconist? A fair Marchant, and yet a very merchant? A believer, and yet a devil? Chrysostome in one of his Sermons, which he entitleth in the commendation of David's Psalmes, hath this notable, but fearful speech: Qui volens delinquit, vel sponte furit, demon est: He that willingly sinneth, (that is to say with greediness: for I dare not understand him of every voluntary trespass) and furiously rusheth into it, (like a bard horse into the battle) he is no better than a devil in the shape of a man, or no better then a man, in the nature of a Devil. A terrible censure, given upon all our carnal Libertines, Atheists, blasphemers, common drunkards, daily whoremasters, continual userers, and oppressors, and their like, which were created to the image of God, but live in the likeness of the Devil: which profess to believe as the righteous, but go no further then the wicked: good parts they may have, so hath the Devil, yet good men they are not, nor in more assurance of salvation then are the damned devils of hell. And all this must teach us, not to content ourselves with ordinary gifts of nature, which are common with us, to the devils; no nor with some extraordinary grace, by which even wicked men are sometimes fitted to particular works, or special callings. But let us labor to turn truly unto God by repentance, which the devils cannot do: to be engrafted into Christ by faith, which the devils cannot be: and to possess the spirit of sanctification, which the devils cannot have. So shall we resemble the blessed Angels in goodness, and be partakers of their glory in the heavens."
Miles Mosse, Justifying and Saving Faith Distinguished (London: Printed by Cantrell Legge, Printer to the Universitie of Cambridge, And are to be sold by Matthew Law in Pauls Churchyard at the signe of the Foxe, 1614), 15-17.

[Note: I've updated some of the spelling. Some of his words, particularly those in Latin, are not clear, so I no doubt made mistakes in spelling. Also, since his references to Calvin and Chrysostom are not legible, I've inserted pictures of his marginal references in the text.]


Robert Letham (1947–) on the Compromise at Dort

Thirdly, controversy [at Dort] raged over the extent of the atonement. Martinius, one of the Bremen delegation, as well as Davenant and Ward of the English delegation wished to stress the universal significance of Christ's death. Their language proved unacceptable to many and the resultant disagreement threatened to stall the Synod's progress and even to destroy its hopes of success. The English delegation made hasty consultation with the authorities at home. Eventually, they were instrumental in encouraging agreement and effecting an ingenious compromise that did justice to the universal sufficiency of Christ's death in a way calculated to win the support of Martinius, Ward and Davenant, while at the same time safe-guarding the orthodox concern for the particularity and efficacy of the intent of the atonement.13 Consequently, in the second head of doctrine, the Canons devote four sections to the universal significance of Christ's death. It is an atonement abundantly sufficient for the sins of the whole world.14 The value of Christ's death is infinite both because of who he is and what he endured.15 Therefore, the promise of the gospel, as it focuses on Christ and his death, should be proclaimed to all men without exception.16 The unbelief of man is attributable in no way to any supposed defect or limitation in the death of Christ but is fully man's own responsibility.17 Only then do the Canons move on briefly to refer to the intent of the atonement. God intends that the efficacy of Christ's death should be extended to the elect.18 God's purpose will be accomplished and the elect will receive salvation.19 Such a statement is nothing if not eirenic. Its balance leans, if anything, in the opposite direction from popular caricatures of limited atonement. Together with the statements on infralapsarianism, Dort is faced by an extreme hard-line option and firmly rejects it, choosing instead a moderate course acceptable to the bulk of international Reformed opinion.20
13. See Godfrey, pp. 135–269.
14. Canons 2, 3 in Schaff, Creeds, 3:561.
15. Canons 2, 4 in Ibid.
16. Canons 2, 5 in Ibid.
17. Canons 2, 6 in Schaff, Creeds, 3:562.
18. Canons 2, 8 in Ibid.
19. Canons 2, 9, in Ibid.
20. Kendall's characterization of Dort as rubber-stamping Bezan theology is misguided. Beza was a thoroughgoing supralapsarian; Dort is, almost to a man, infralapsarian. Beza disliked the distinction between the universal sufficiency and limited efficacy of the atonement because he thought it weakened the emphasis on the particularity of redemption; Dort stresses the universal scope of the atonement. See Kendall, pp. 175–177.
Robert W. A. Letham, Saving Faith and Assurance in Reformed Theology: Zwingli to the Synod of Dort, 2 vols. (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Aberdeen, 1979), 326–327.

[Note: The pagination of Letham's 1979 edition of Kendall's book (or his D.Phil thesis submitted to Oxford in 1976) is different from my 1997 Paternoster edition. I can see where Kendall on page 210 characterizes Westminster teaching as virtually "rubber-stamping Bezan theology," as Letham calls it (in footnote #20 above), but I don't yet see where Kendall makes that claim about Dort.]

July 14, 2012

Robert Letham on the Primacy of the Gospel over Election in Ludwig Crocius (1586/7-1653/5)

4.9.2 The primacy of the gospel

For Crocius, God's revealed will as it finds expression in the gospel promise has predominance over the doctrine of election. The mercy of God, which is the source of our salvation, is that by which God embraces the whole human race and so wishes all men to be saved. His grace is, consequently, not restricted to the elect alone but to the entire race.287 Yet this universal love of God does not oppose election. Nor does it follow that all men are elect.288 Therefore, while he holds to limited atonement he can stress with considerable emphasis the universal sufficiency of the atonement. Christ's sacrifice is of infinite value because of who he is and because of what his offering actually was.289 His atoning work is offered to all men and is effective for them upon repentance and faith.290 But its intention and efficacy is for the elect only.291

This primacy of the gospel over election is seen also in his moderate position on reprobation, which he sees as God's just judgment on the impenitent and so as essentially his reaction to their sin.292 It is seen in his adoption of infralapsarianism293 and in the close link he draws between election and soteriology.294 He also attempts a Christocentric formulation, although he does not allow the in Christo to function to the same extent as Martinius.295

Election serves as the basis for the doctrine of perseverance,296 although again the work of Christ in his atoning death,297 his continuing intercession for us298 and his omnipotent lordship at God's right hand299 is the real (soteriological not causal) support of perseverance. This objective, Christocentric ground of perseverance ensures that our certainty is rooted objectively in Christ and comes to us in the gospel.300

287. Crocius, Syntagma, pp. 960-963.
288. "Alterum vero est, quod haec dilectio Dei, qua totum mundum complectitur, non pugnet cum electione filiorum Dei, minimeque sequatur, si Deus totum mundum ita dilexerit, etiam totum propterea elegisse ad salutem."
Ibid., pp. 966-967.
Ibid., p. 1019.
290. "Nam mortuus est pro omnibus, phrasi scripturae, quantum ad perfectionem & sufficientiam meriti sui & satisfactionis, quia hanc gratiam, quae in Evangelio annunciatur, quod nempe per fidem remissionem peccatorum consequi debeant, pro omnibus hominibus in hoc mundo, imo si eorum & alter mundus esset, plenissime, sufficientissime & efficacissime per mortem suam impetravit, ita ut 1. omnibus communiter serio ac bona fide offeratur. 2. ab omnibus vera poenitentia ac fides haud simulate exigatur, & 3. omnibus simul serio propeter Christum remissio peccatorum & vita aeterna sub conditione fidei promittatur. Unde & 4. omnes obligati sunt ac tenentur resipiscere ac credere in Christum tanquam Messiam suam & Salvatorem, ut promissionem consequantur." Ibid., pp. 1013-1014. [Ludovici Crocie, Syntagma sacrae theologiae quatuor libris adornatum, Quo exhibetur idea Dogmatum Ecclesiasticorum, Pro conditione ecclesiae Sardensis (Bremae: Typis Bertholdi Villeriani, 1636), 1013–1014.]
291. "Christus non pro omnibus, sed pro solis credentibus mortuus sit, quantum ad actualem communicationem & applicationem meriti mortis ipsius, quia non omnibus actu pleno prodest, neque eius omnes homines sic reipsa participes fiunt, sed soli illi, qui vera fide amplectuntur."
Ibid., p. 1016. He cites Calvin in support, p. 1017, significantly in view of suggestions that Calvin taught universal atonement, see
Ibid., pp. 979-980.
293. "Nam hac secundum consilium & propositum suum Deus homnibus lapsis in Christo ab aeterno miseranter dispensare constituit hanc gratuitam lucem verbi & spiritus sui..."
Ibid., p. 977.
Ibid., p. 979.
Ibid., p. 977-979.
296. Crocius,
De perseverantia, p. 17.
Ibid., p. 16.
Ibid., p. 17.
Ibid. And, "Certitundo & perseverantia sanctorum in fide non nititur viribus eorum naturalibus, aut gratia adjustis, sed clare patefactio evangelii verbo..." Ibid., p. 16; Syntagma, p. 979.
Robert W. A. Letham, Saving Faith and Assurance in Reformed Theology: Zwingli to the Synod of Dort, 2 vols. (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Aberdeen, 1979), 2:124.


[Note: One should be careful with Letham's confused way of describing things. The modern interpreter may read Letham's statement that Crocius held to "limited atonement" (his modern label) and think Crocius did not believe Christ satisfied for all men. That is not the case. Even the Latin that Letham cites in footnote #290 reveals Crocius to be using the language of the moderate Calvinists at the Synod of Dort, such as Davenant and Martinius. Crocius' view of sufficiency does not read as a "bare sufficiency," but as an "ordained sufficiency" for all that properly grounds the serious, bona fide offer to all in the Gospel. Like all Calvinists, however, Crocius sees an effectual limitation in the application of Christ's death to the elect alone, which stems from Christ's effectual intent. When Crocius cites Calvin (ad Johann. cap. 3.17.) in support of his point concerning the effectual application to the elect alone, it is not as though he thinks Calvin did not teach that Christ satisfied for all men, as Letham seems to infer in footnote #291. To cite Calvin in support of an application that is effectual to the elect alone does not tell us anything about Crocius' opinion of Calvin's view of the satisfaction itself (i.e. whether it was for all men or not), contrary to Letham's inference.]

July 13, 2012

Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949) on God's General and Special Love

"God has a general love for all mankind, and a special love for his elect. The general love of God is universal, but in the case of the non-elect, it is only temporary and will pass away, whereas his just wrath will abide on them eternally (John 3:36). The special love of God which is given only to those whom God has, from all eternity, chosen for eternal life, is an eternal love and will supersede all wrath and will be the possession of God's elect forever."
Johannes Geerhardus Vos, "God is Love" Torch and Trumpet 1:3 (August - September, 1951), 14.


Robert Letham on Heinrich Bullinger's View of the Extent of the Atonement

267. Bullinger refuses logically to subordinate other areas of his theology to the doctrine of election. Thus the atonement is not qualified by election and so Bullinger's understanding of its extent is muddled and contradictory. In some passages he teaches universal atonement, Ibid., 2:196, 198, 199, 200; 3:42, 218–219; 4:68. On other occasions his language is ambiguous, Ibid., 2:159, 164, 249. Despite this unwillingness to make election a central theological structure, Bullinger's formulation of the doctrine does enable him to provide the necessary ground for his new attitude to faith.
Robert W. A. Letham, Saving Faith and Assurance in Reformed Theology: Zwingli to the Synod of Dort, 2 vols. (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Aberdeen, 1979), 2:32.

Note: Actually it is Latham's thinking that is "muddled." Since he doesn't understand how a universal satisfaction is compatible with election, he imputes contradiction to Bullinger. At least he can see that Bullinger is espousing a universal view, unlike most other high Calvinists (Letham takes the high view) today who can't see that. Also, in this footnote, Letham is referencing The Decades of Henry Bullinger, trans. H. I., 4 vols. Edited for the Parker Society by the Rev. Thomas Harding. Cambridge, 1849.

Letham continues:
277. Ibid., pp. 18b-19. Note that Bullinger clearly espouses a universal atonement. He goes out of his way to cite testimonies from Scripture and from the Fathers to show that Christ suffered not just for a few, but for all men. "Principio pro omnibus hominibus, non pro paucis, aut pro patribus duntaxat passum esse dominum nostrum Iesum Christum..." Ibid., p. 12b. Not that all men will be saved but that though Christ... [next page missing].
Ibid., 2:33.

Robert Letham bio:
Wales Evangelical School of Theology

July 11, 2012

William Bagshaw (1628–1702) on Special and General Grace

"2. Are not they [Rome] also chargeable with drawing a Cloud betwixt us, and the clear shinings of free rich grace, who hold, and hold forth that sound and saving conversion is not an effect of special grace? We are far from denying any thing which the holy Scripture affirmeth concerning general grace. We grant, that there is such a sufficiency in the grace of God, which hath appeared and is offered to us all, that if we do heartily accept of and comply with it, it will bring salvation to us. We lay the blame and fault of those who refuse it upon themselves; their wills are not forced, but free in the refusal. Yet withal, we say that it is grace which maketh persons to differ, and they who have hearts throughly resolved for God, have nothing therein, but what they have received from the hand of grace, and as for that text [Marginal reference: Amesius, in his Coronis, p. 282], to which I now have respect, if it be (as some speak) to be interpreted as gifts, as distinguished from saving grace; we are of his mind, who judgeth that our Argument doth thereby receive strength. If God make men to differ, as to the gifts which refer to others edification; surely it is he who maketh them to differ as to that grace which accompanieth their own salvation. It is certain that what we will, we will freely: but that we freely will that which is best, this we set upon the score of differencing grace."
William Bagshaw, The Riches of Grace (London: Printed for Tho. Parkhurst at the Bible and three Crowns in Cheapside near Mercers Chappel, 1674), 15-16.


July 9, 2012

Louis Berkhof (1873–1957) on the Great Love of God in the External Calling

c. The general nature of the external calling. While all the other movements of the Holy Spirit in the ordo salutis terminate on the elect only, the external calling by the gospel has a wider bearing. Wherever the gospel is preached, the call comes to the elect and reprobate alike. It serves the purpose, not merely of bringing the elect to faith and conversion, but also of revealing the great love of God to sinners in general. By means of it God maintains His claim on the obedience of all His rational creatures, restrains the manifestation of sin, and promotes civic righteousness, external morality, and even outward religious exercises.2

2. Cf. Bavinck, Geref. Dogm. IV, pp. 7 f.
Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 457.

John Richardson (1580-1654) on Christ Begging

my locks with the drops] Thus Christ stands bare-headed, as with cap in hand, and that in foul weather too, suing, wooing, and begging admittance, and yet must go look another lodging.
John Richardson, Choice Observations and Explanations Upon the Old Testament (London: Printed by T.R. and E.M. for John Rothwell, at the Fountain and Beare in the Goldsmiths-Row in Cheapside, 1655), 342.


Other advocates within the Augustinian tradition who use the metaphor of God begging are the following men:

Augustine, Hugh Latimer [Early English Reformer], Samuel Rutherford [Westminster divine], Thomas Manton [Puritan], Jeremiah Burroughs [Westminster divine], John Trapp [Puritan], Sydrach Simpson [Westminster divine], Joseph Caryl [Westminster divine], Robert Harris [Westminster divine], Theophilus Gale [Puritan], William Gearing [Puritan], Isaac Ambrose [Puritan], Stephen Charnock [Puritan], John Flavel [Puritan], Richard Sibbes [Puritan], John Shower [Puritan], John Collinges [Puritan], William Gurnall [Puritan], George Swinnock [Puritan], Ralph Venning [Puritan], Daniel Burgess [Puritan], Samuel Willard, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Andrew Gray, Ralph Erskine, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

July 5, 2012

Richard Muller on Francis Turretin and Free Choice

Dr. Richard Muller said the following in a recent interview with R. Scott Clark on the topic of "Recovering the Past for Use in the Present" (see minute 7:39–8:26):
If you read Francis Turretin’s Institutes of [Elenctic] Theology at the beginning of each topic, he has a state of the question. What are we actually discussing here. A good example is when you ask the question, “Do human beings have free choice?” Turretin will say we are not discussing the question of whether human beings have free choice in every day matters. There’s no debate. They do. We’re not discussing the question of whether human beings have free choice to obey the law on a daily basis, the civil law or moral law. We all agree, they do. What we are debating is the specific question, “Do human beings have free choice in matters of salvation, matters of being righteous before God. And the answer we have is, no they don’t. We disagree with Rome and Arminians and the like on that point.
See also Reformed Thought on Freedom: The Concept of Free Choice in Early Modern Reformed Theology, eds. Willem J. van Asselt, J. Martin Bac, and Roelf T. te Velde (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010). They cover the positions of Zanchi, Junius, Voetius and Turretin.

Update on 8-28-2014: Muller also writes this about Robert Baron's treatment of Calvin on free will:
Calvin is similarly defended on the issue of free choice by various others, including the St. Andrews and Aberdeen University metaphysician Robert Baron (1593–1639). In the particular case of free choice of the will, Calvin's rather hyperbolic language of the bondage of the will and its inability to to any good (quite in parallel with Luther's De servo arbitrio) had to be argued as referring to the specific case of the fallen will in its inability to choose a saving good rather than, as one might read Calvin's unqualified language, as a full doctrine of free choice. Baron pointed out, against Ballarmine, that the issue in debate was not the human power of free choice in natura sua considerato, which all human beings can exercise, but rather the limitation of free choice in fallen humanity and the issue of free choice in the instant of conversion.
Richard A. Muller, "Reception and Response: Referencing and Understanding Calvin in Seventeenth-Century Calvinism," in Calvin and His Influence, 1509–2009, ed. by Irena Backus and Philip Benedict (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011),  189.

July 3, 2012

Leonard Verduin on the Reformed Faith and Symmetrism

Reformed Faith and Symmetrism
by Leonard Verduin

According to the Belgic Confession our God may be known both from His works and from His words. That Confession warns against abuses in connection with either of these. It is an old truism that if both of these self-disclosures of God are read correctly they will be found to tell the same story.

From His works as well as from His words it appears that our God is not as fond of symmetry as one might have expected Him to be. In fact His works and His words show that He has a dislike for perfect symmetry: and, at some very significant points.

Perhaps the word "symmetrism" needs explanation before we go on. It may be said to mean "after the same measurements." Symmetrism is the condition that we encounter wherever the component and complementary parts of a thing are exact repetitions of each other. Take this illustration. Here is a duplex dwelling. It consists of two halves that are identical: both have a kitchen, both have the same number of sleeping rooms, both open on the street. The only difference is that one is right and the other is left. The two apartments may be said to stand in symmetric relationship.

The word "asymmetrism," which we shall also have occasion to use, intends to convey the idea of "no-symmetrism." It stands for the condition where the component parts do indeed belong together, but do not stand in a symmetric relationship to each other.

To go on then, we have contended that God's works and God's words reveal that He is a God who has no penchant for symmetrism. He has will to place component parts in an asymmetric relation to each other.

May we submit an example? When God made Adam and Eve He made them to complement each other, but not in a pattern of symmetrism. He did not make Adam on this side of the hill and Eve on yonder side, with the intention that the two should meet at the brow of the hill: He made Adam, and in a different way, and afterward He made Eve. It is said that Adam was made of the substance of the earth; but Eve was made of the substance of Adam. Keenly aware of the manifest asymmetrism that obtains at this point, the inspired Apostle informs us that "the man is not of the woman but the woman of the man."

In line with this asymmetric relationship between our first parents God made Adam, not Eve, to be the head of the Covenant of Works, so that it may be said that Original Sin is a paternal and not a maternal heirloom.

* * *

This asymmetrical relationship between the sexes is, as might have been anticipated, solidly endorsed by known biological facts. The process of reproduction manifests assymetrism very clearly. The parts played by ovum and spermatozoon are indeed complementary parts, but not in any symmetric fashion. The latter seeks out the former, and not vice versa: the former is penetrated by the latter, and not the other way around. This is manifestly an asymmetric situation.

Because of this situation men have long since, and by a wholly defensible insight, expected the prospective husband to court and the prospective wife to be courted. In all societies men have had an aversion, perhaps an intuitive aversion, to a mixing of the roles in the matter, that is, with a courtship practice smacking of symmetrism. (The fact that among a few tribes it is the woman and not the man that takes the initiative in the preliminaries to marriage, does not militate against our thesis; in fact, it endorses it. Such tribes are just as aware as any others are of asymmetrism. The only difference is that they have reversed the pattern, perhaps consciously).

How deep-seated this principle of asymmetrism is in the relationship of the sexes may be known moreover from certain other well-known facts in the mechanics of reproduction. We know that the female parent produces so-called X-chromosomes, whereas the male parent produces not only X-chromosomes but also Y-chromosomes. When an X-chromosome of the father unites with an X-chromosome of the mother female offspring results: but when a Y-chromosome of the father unites with an X-chromosome of the mother the offspring is male. Female offspring results from an X plus X; male offspring results from X plus Y; there are no Y plus Y offspring. For this reason it is wholly reasonable that offspring by parthenogenesis (the development of new individuals from females, without the benefit of fertilization by the male, which occurs especially in certain insects, crustaceans, and worms) is invariably female.

Even in situations where God has willed pairs of identical organs, as in the case of two eyes, two hands, etc. even these do not usually stand in symmetric relationship to each other; men are born either right-handed or left-handed. Ambidextrous people are made not born, in all probability. And even in instances of organs that occur in pairs these are frequently not in a position of perfect symmetry in relation to each other.

* * *

All this adds up to a situation of very evident asymmetrism.

Turning now to God's self-disclosure in the Book we find, as we had anticipated, the same situation.

Take for example, the matter of Good and Evil. It is one of the first tasks the Bible sets for itself to make it plain to us that Good and Evil do not stand in a symmetric relationship to each other. Good is primeval; Evil is a superimposed accident. For this reason it is pious to say of the Good, wherever it shows itself: "All of Thee, O God"; but it is blasphemous to say of the Evil; "All of Thee, O God."

The Bible makes it very plain that also in the angelic world (out of which Evil sidled into our world) Good and Evil stand in an asymmetric relationship to one another. God created only good angels; He did not create any devils. The latter are good angels gone bad. Gabriel was always in his present modality; Satan not so.

This asymmetric relationship between Good and Evil has complicated things for us. It has given rise in Reformed theology to a set of terms that would have hardly been necessary in a symmetric system. It has made necessary such terms as the "decretive" will of God over against the "preceptive" will (sometimes called the "will of decree" and the "will of command"; of, the "hidden" will and the "revealed" will. There are still other pairs of terms for these concepts.) The good deeds of men are embraced by the preceptive will as well as by the decretive will; not so the evil od deeds.

When speaking of the decretive will of God typically Reformed writers have always hesitated to tie the sin, or the sins, of men to that decretive will with the same composure that they evince when they tie the good deeds of men to that decretive will. This has led them (and this too is an essential and integral feature of the Reformed idiom) to say that as to the decretive will God has willed sin "in a way." To include the evil of men in the preceptive will of God is to commit blasphemy: but to include the evil of men in the decretive will without such reservation as is attempted in the expression "in a sense" is to err in a not dissimilar way. Unless a man is prepared to utter the wholly offensive assertion that God willed the good "in a sense" he is driven to accept asymmetry as the proper term for setting forth the relationship of good and evil. God willed the good; He willed the evil also, but, "in a sense." not to have this modifying phrase ready to hand at all times as one makes bold to talk about these things, is to reveal a penchant for symmetrism that must not be tolerated. Consistent symmetrism pulls God's truth out of shape; and this is always bad.

* * *

At yet another point in the Reformed system, a point quite closely related to the former, asymmetrism appears, namely, in the doctrine of the "double predestination."

Election and reprobation (or whatever term is devised to designate "the other half of the picture" -- it speaks volumes that no single term for the negative side of predestination has been able to get itself generally accepted) are not related to each other as the two halves of a duplex are. They stand in the asymmetric relationship to each other.

This is evident from the nomenclature. Opposite the word "election" there is no symmetric counterpart in common use. Its correlative is called "preterition," "leaving in sin," "rejection," "reprobation." But none of these is the symmetric opposite of election. If we were permitted to think in terms of symmetry we would have to put "election to death" over against "election to life" -- but that is terminology too contrasty for Reformed thought. It is a habit of long standing in the Reformed tradition to treat of this stupendous matter along the lines of asymmetrism.

The Belgic Confession, for example, tells us that "all the posterity of Adam being thus fallen into perdition and ruin...God did then manifest Himself such as He is; that is to say, merciful and just; merciful, since He delivers and preserves from this perdition all whom He in His eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness has elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without respect to their works, just, in leaving others in the fall and perdition wherein they have involved themselves" (Art. XVI). This is a beautiful statement, and a true one. But it is a classic of asymmetrism. First of all, because merciful and just are not symmetric opposites. Then too "to elect" some and "to leave" others is to do two things that are not the symmetrical opposites of each other; if they were one we would be able to say "God elected some to life and passed the others by," and say, with equal propriety "God elected some to eternal death and passed the others by." The collision that occurs here is not a head-on collusion; it takes place obliquely.

Similarly the Heidelberg Catechism. It speaks clearly of a "church chosen to everlasting life" (L.D. 21); but it leaves the idea of another company "chosen to everlasting death" unmentioned. It leave the matter of reprobation to be inferred. This is good theology; but it is not symmetric theology.

And the Canons of Dordt, even the Canons of Dordt, avoid carefully the language of symmetrism. They speak enthusiastically of election; but they are content to say the rest "He leave the non-elect...to their wickedness and obduracy" (I, 6). They declare that "God passes them by" (I, 15). They warn us that it is "blasphemy" to implicate God in the evil of men as he is implicated in the good of men (I, 16). They shy away from such language as "God willed sin." These Canons were drawn up by men whose training was long on courses in logic; this fact make their language of asymmetrism all the more significant. We may say that they loved symmetry; but not to the extent of entertaining the blasphemous for the sake of symmetry.

He whose soul is so angular that he cannot live in the presence of asymmetrism may have his book -- but it will not be The Book. The Koran should be much more to his liking; for it speaks the language of perfect symmetry, with its Almighty saying "This one to eternal life and what care I? and this one to eternal death and what matters it to me?"

* * *

One of the sinister results of symmetrism consistently embraced is that it robs us of a genuine Gospel method. The idea of a well-meant offer must invariably atrophy in its presence. If God "means it" when He confronts the sinner with the possibility of salvation in the same way, symmetrically, in which He "means it" when He threatens the elect, then the practical upshot as well as the theological implication is that He does not "mean it." And the next thing is to put one's tongue in his cheek when he reads the Lord's assertion, made under oath at that, that He takes no delight in the death (destruction) of the sinner. Let us not take this lightly. The Evangel as a bona fide invitation to the good things that are in Christ cannot survive the blighting influence of symmetrism. It has not survived in the case of ancient symmetrists; it will not survive in the case of contemporary symmetrists.
Leonard Verduin, "Reformed Faith and Symmetrism," The Reformed Journal 5.9 (October 1955): 1–3.

July 2, 2012

William Lyford (1598-1653) on Common and Saving Grace

"By Civil honesty, which we teach cannot bring men to heaven, we do not condemn justice and honesty in mans dealings; But we mean mere civil honest men, that is, deluded, & formal Christians, who being free from gross sins, and outwardly conformed to good orders, do flatter themselves in a moral righteousness without faith, or any assurance of their particular interest in Christ, or any endeavor to attain thereunto.

By Common Graces, we mean such gifts or God's Spirit as be common to the elect and reprobate, as gifts of Miracles, of Prophesying, and other abilities to spiritual duties.

By Saving Graces we mean the special work and fruits of the renewing Spirit which whosoever hath received, is undoubtedly saved.

By restraining Grace we mean that power of God's word on the conscience, whereby men do outwardly forbear evil, though they do not inwardly hate it."
William Lyford, Principles of Faith & Good Conscience, 4th edition (Printed at Oxford by Henry Hall for John Adams, and Edward Forrest, 1655), 270-271. [Some spelling updated]


July 1, 2012

Charles Hodge on "God is Love"

"4. Positively [that "God is love," 1 John 4:18, 14], it means that love in God, as desire, complacency and benevolence, is essential, eternal and infinite. a. It is universal, extending to all his creatures. b. It is intelligent. c. It is holy. d. It is unfathomable. e. It is sovereign and discriminating. one creature is an angel, another a man, and another a brute, another an insect. Of rational creatures, some are preserved holy, some left to sin. Of the latter some are redeemed and others are not. f. It is affluent, rejoicing in enriching and adorning his creatures. g. It is immutable in all its forms, whether of simple benevolence or of electing saving love. h. It is manifold, manifesting itself in one form towards merely sentient creatures, in another towards rational beings, in another towards the unholy, and in another towards the redeemed, his peculiar ones, his יתידים (if that word can have a plural)."
Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1879), 12.

Charles Hodge (1797–1878) on John 3:16 and the Design of God to Render the Salvation of All Men Possible

2. It is here [in John 3:16], as well as elsewhere taught, that it was the design of God to render the salvation of all men possible, by the gift of his Son. There was nothing in the nature, or the value, or the design of his work to render it available for any one class of men only. Whosoever believeth, etc. This is not inconsistent with other representations that it entered into God's design to render the salvation of his people certain by the death of his Son.
Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1879), 17.


Charles Hodge (1797-1878) on Our Benevolent Sovereign

"Who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).

God desires the salvation of all men. This means 1st, just what is said when the Scriptures declare that God is good; that he is merciful and gracious, and ready to forgive; that he is good to all, and his tender mercies over his works. He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. This goodness or benevolence of God is not only declared but revealed in his works, in his providence, and in the work of redemption. 2nd, It means what is said in Ezekiel 33:11, 'As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked', and in Ezekiel 18:23. Also Lamentations 3:33, 'For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.' It means what Christ taught in the parable of the prodigal son, and of the lost sheep and the lost piece of money; and is taught by his lament over Jerusalem.

All these passages teach that God delights in the happiness of his creatures, and that when he permits them to perish, or inflicts evil upon them, it is from some inexorable necessity; that is, because it would be unwise and wrong to do otherwise. His relation is that of a benevolent sovereign in punishing crime, or of a tender judge in passing sentence on offenders, or, what is the familiar representation of Scripture, that of a father who deals with his children with tenderness, yet with wisdom and according to the dictates of right.[1]"

1. From Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons. First published by the Trust in 1958 this fine volume of annotated sermon outlines was recently reprinted for the fourth time in 2011 (clothbound, 400pp., ISBN 978 0 85151 285 3, £15.50/ $26). J. I. Packer once wrote of this great book: 'The Princeton Sermons of Charles Hodge, one of the greatest Christian teachers of the 19th century, and are extraordinarily suggestive and satisfying. Preachers who would teach, and Christians who would learn, will enjoy this book, though it will not yield much to lazy minds.'
"Our Benevolent Sovereign," in Banner of Truth 584 (May 2012), 1.

Also in Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1879), 18-19.