January 4, 2014

Greg Nichols on Dort, the Free Offer and Hyper-Calvinism

Greg Nichols is a pastor of Grace Immanuel Reformed Baptist Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan. More biographical information is available here (click). He has lectured on The Canons of the Synod of Dort. Nichols holds to a strictly limited (or an Owenic limited imputation) view of the atonement, and also doesn't seem to be well-studied in the diversity of views that were present at the Synod (which is why I do not recommend this lecture series), but he does strongly hold to the well-meant gospel offer. In lecture #10, he spoke on the atonement's necessity, nature, sufficiency, and the obligation for the indiscriminate publication of the gospel. He is expounding this section of the Dortian consensus:
Second Head: Article 5.

Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.
From minute 45:54 to 47:30, Nichols says the following, at times speaking rhetorically or sarcastically, as if he were a hyper-Calvinist:
I wanted to call this [the Dortian statement] 'the free offer,' but I can just imagine some of my hyper-Calvinist friends pointing out to me that it no where says that it was 'well-meant' or 'well-intentioned,' only that it 'ought to be declared. [It] no where says why. [It] no where says that God wants them to repent and believe. [It] no where says that God has good-will for the reprobate. It doesn't say that.' I can just hear them [hyper-Calvinists]. So, in deference to those voices of hyper-Calvinists pounding in my head, I have kept myself from putting my 'spin' on it [Nichols uses the exact language of Dort], and referring to it as 'the free offer of the gospel.' It doesn't say why it was intentioned, only that 'it ought to be,' only that it should be, not because we care about people, only because God tells us to.' [sarcasm] [audience chuckles] That's all it says, right? [It] doesn't say we ought to do it because we love people; [it] doesn't say we ought to do it because we love God; [it] doesn't say because we care about people [sarcasm]. No, no, no, [it] doesn't say that; all it says is that it 'ought to be', so we ought to do it because it is our duty to do it, not because we care about people and love people [sarcasm], is that clear?

[An audience member says, 'So it [the hyper-Calvinist reading] is like a pretty heavy spin.']

Well, that's a spin too, isn't it? I agree. You've got to really go out of your way to put that 'spin' on it, but there are some who do and some who will. So, let's just be honest with what it says. All it [the exact Dortian statement] says is that 'it ought to be published and declared,' not out of good-will, which to me [that hyper-Calvinist 'spin'] is preposterous!
The point is this: not only does this Reformed Baptist elder strongly believe that the gospel offer is free, well-meant and well-intentioned, since God has good-will for all men (including the non-elect), but he (like Curt Daniel, Iain Murray, and many others) associates the denial of the well-meant gospel offer with hyper-Calvinism, and rightly so.

January 2, 2014

Curt Daniel on the Calvinism Debate and 4 Main Issues Regarding Hyper-Calvinism

On November 3 of 2013, Dr. Curt Daniel spoke on "The Calvinism Debate" (click) at Faith Bible Church in Springfield, Illinois. From minute 21:50 to 24:43, he addressed the matter of hyper-Calvinism by saying the following:
What is hyper-Calvinism?... It revolves around 4 main issues:

Number one, the free offer of the gospel. Historically, all Calvinists have believed in the free offer of the gospel, where God holds out His arms and says, "Come! Everything is now prepared! Please come and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!" Calvinists believe in that; hyper-Calvinists do not believe in that.

Secondly there's the universal saving desire of God; that God, in the preaching of the gospel, He desires that all those that hear the gospel repent and believe and be saved. That's part of the free offer. Historic Calvinists believe in that, hyper-Calvinists do not believe in that.

Thirdly there's the issue of common grace. Now here's where there is debate even amongst hyper-Calvinists. Common grace says God has a general love for everybody, but there's also a special grace just for those that have been elected. That's what the bible teaches. That's historic Calvinism. On the one hand Arminianism says, "No, no, no. God loves everybody equally and there's no differentiation." That's one of Dave Hunt's arguments. That it's not common and special. It's all common. Hyper-Calvinists go to the other extreme and say, "No, no, no. It's only special grace. God only loves the elect. He has no kind of love, mercy or compassion on those that he has not chosen. So many of them reject the idea of common grace...most, but not all.

Fourthly there's the issue of duty-faith. What's that? Historically, Calvinists, just like others, have believed that in the preaching of the gospel, those that hear the gospel have the duty to savingly believe in Jesus. If they do not believe, they are condemned for that. And that's what all Calvinists, evangelical Arminians and Lutherans have believed, but many hyper-Calvinists reject that. And they give a lot of arguments like, "Well, how can it be their duty if they are not able to believe? And if faith is a gift, how can it be a duty? Duty...that sounds too Arminian, and that sounds legalistic." So that's how they come to reject it, and yet the bible clearly teaches it; that it's a command. In fact, 1 John 3 says, "this is His command, that we believe in Him that He has sent, that is Jesus Christ His Son." So you can see where this differentiates Calvinists from hyper-Calvinists.

Who are these leading hyper-Calvinists? They're not very well known. I like to say they are big fish in a small pond. People like John Gill, who was an English Baptist 250 years ago. Herman Hoeksema, who is [was] a Dutch American, and a few others, but by and large they are not well-known outside of their own circles. They're a tiny but very vocal minority. They're on the Internet. That's part of this ongoing debate. Is there a free offer? and so forth...

Samuel Willard (1640–1707) on the Conscience of the Damned Remembering the Day of Grace

(1.) The Soul shall be tormented with a never dying worm. And this contains in it all the spiritual plagues which shall then seize upon it; and is mainly contained in those terrible agonies, and horrors of conscience which will then fill the soul. Some sinners, and at some times, have terrible gripings of this in this world: though for the most part sinners now rock their consciences asleep, or get them benummed or seared: and yet this worm is all the while insensibly, though continually growing out of the filth and corruption which they lie wallowing in: but then it shall be quick and active, and fearfully torment them; when it shall look back, and put them in remembrance of all the sins that ever they committed, with all the awful aggravations of them: shall remind them of all the mercy and goodness of God which they abused; of a day of grace they once enjoyed; of all the calls, and counsels, and warnings that God had been giving them; of all the patience of God, and strivings of his Holy Spirit, and fair probabilities they were in of Salvation; of all the offers of grace which they despised, and inward motions which they quenched; and so of the righteousness of their own condemnation: and then look forward, and see nothing before it, but those fearful miseries which it suffers, and from whence it must never expect release: what horrors, what despair, must needs be hereby produced? The girds, and stings, and reverberations of such a conscience must needs be a torment inexpressible.
Samuel Willard, A Compleat Body of Divinity in Two Hundred and Fifty Expository Lectures on the Assemby's Shorter Catechism (Boston in New-England: Printed by B. Green and S. Kneeland for B. Eliot and D. Henchmand, and Sold at their Shops, 1726), 240–241. See also the first point under Use 1 on p. 249. Edward Pearse has similar language concerning "fair probabilities of salvation."