August 7, 2014

Curt Daniel on Hyper-Calvinism and the Denial of God's Universal Saving Will

Dr. Curt Daniel has given several lectures on hyper-Calvinism (see here and here), but this latest one given in 2013 is particularly good:

There are three sections to this lecture:

1) An Introduction [min. 0:40–11:37],
2) A Four-fold Description of the Hyper-Calvinist Distinctives [min. 11:37–65:40], and
3) A Question and Answer Period [min. 65:40–75:05].

The four-fold description of hyper-Calvinism's distinctives involve their rejection of:
2A) the free offer of the gospel [min. 11:42–23:54],
2B) the universal saving will of God [23:54–33:00],
2C) common grace [min. 33:00–46:00], and
2D) duty-faith [min. 46:00–56:12].

Here is the section dealing with hyper-Calvinism's rejection of God's universal saving will [min. 23:54–33:00]:
Number 2: There's more. It's what is involved in the free offer from God's point of view in His attitude. Now, I have a little booklet here I will give out in a minute by the late John Murray, a first class, mainline Calvinist scholar. The very first sentence of it hits the nail on the head:
It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men.
And he's right. All  mainline Calvinists have taught what we call the universal saving will of God in the preaching of the gospel. Now, one or two have kind of been unclear on that, but you can still find it in their writings, such as John Owen. But all hyper-Calvinists have denied that, because they deny the free offer and they say, "No, God does not desire the salvation of everybody, but only the elect."

Now, to lay the groundwork for this debate, we first have to understand something very distinctive to Reformed theology, and that's the two-fold will of God. What do we mean by that? The two-fold. For example, there's the secret will of God that we call predestination. God has foreordained everything that comes to pass, including election. It will happen. Period. It's never frustrated. But then there is also the revealed will of God, and that is what we find in the law, and in the gospel; that is His will of command, desire, His wish, and it is not always fulfilled. In fact, it rarely is. But it includes law and gospel. We have to keep those two in balance. But the hyper-Calvinists do not. You can tell which one of them they put all the emphasis on, the secret will. Now, true historic Calvinists study the bible, and they say that the bible clearly does teach that in the revealed will, in the gospel, God does earnestly, sincerely desire the salvation of all those that are lost, and especially those that hear the gospel. That desire is well-meant and sincere. For example, John Calvin said this in his Institutes (III.iii.21):
Indeed, God declares that He wills the conversion of all and He directs exhortation to all in common.
In the handout I'll have a dozen or so more similar quotes. You can multiply hundreds like that. God sincerely desires and offers the gospel to all lost sinners.

Now, how do we base our case in Scripture? Well, first, we see several scriptures which says God holds out His hands to lost sinners in general. Romans 10:21 quotes Isaiah 65:2: "All day long I have held out my hands to a lost and rebellious people." You find that in Proverbs 1:24 and elsewhere. He holds out His hands and He calls and beckons to lost sinners to come. Secondly, three times in Ezekiel, 18:23, 18:32 and 33:11, God says, "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but only that they repent and live." God's pleading with them. That's a saving desire for them. Now, that leads us to two verses upon which mainline Calvinists are not in complete agreement: 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. 1 Timothy 2:4 says God desires all those to be saved. 2 Peter 3:9 [says that] "God is not willing that any should perish, but all come to repentance. Some, such as Calvin, say both of these are referring to the revealed will of God, not the secret will; in other words the gospel, not predestination. But then as you continue to study this you'll find that some Calvinists will say that one of them refers to the secret and the other one to the revealed, or vice versa, and then still others say both of these refer to the secret will. But yet, even those they will say we still believe in the universal saving will of God, whether it's taught in either or both of those two verses [i.e. Mainline Calvinists are in theoretical agreement regarding God's universal saving will, even if they disagree on the interpretation of some verses used to support the doctrine]. So we can't found our case completely on them, although it is interesting that John Calvin went on record in his Commentaries on those to say that in the revealed will of the gospel, God does desire the salvation of all those that hear the gospel.

Here's another one that we would appeal to: Romans 10:1. Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (very important) said, "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved." He's not praying just for the elect, because he didn't know who the elect Israelites were. My desire for them in prayer is that they may be saved. Similar words are found in Acts 26:19, speaking to Agrippa, he said that, "I wish that you were altogether like me, except for these chains." And he said all those that would hear me. That's a desire. This is crucial. If God desires people's salvation, so should we. But if God does not desire everybody's salvation, neither should we; and we cannot pray for everybody to be saved, or pray for anybody to be saved because we don't know who the elect are. Sometimes I wonder if our hyper-Calvinist brethren desire the salvation of people. We'll get back to that later. I wonder if they pray for their lost loved ones, "Lord, save them!" Paul says "my desire is that they be saved." Paul's prayer was right! It echoed God's desire for lost sinners to be saved.

Next, if God commands sinners to believe, and faith is a condition of salvation, it logically follows [that] God desires their salvation. If He commands faith which leads to salvation, certainly a command is an expression of desire. You can't get around that. It won't do to say, as some hyper-Calvinisnts say, "well God has no unfulfilled desires." They're confusing the two-fold will of God. The secret will is always fulfilled, the revealed will is not usually fulfilled. So to say "no unfulfilled desires," they don't know their scripture. John Murray, for example, refers to four verses, that are what's called the "optative desires." Deuteronomy 5:29 and other ones where God says, "Oh, that my people would do this!" That's a desire. But [if] you look up those verses you will find out that the people were not honoring that desire. It was one that did not come to pass. Again, the revealed will of God does not always come to pass. If you say that it always comes to pass, then you say that everybody obeys God's law. God's law does not always come to pass. Same thing with the gospel.

Now, let's give just one or two of their arguments on this. Sometimes hyper-Calvinists will argue, "there can be no contradiction between the secret will and the revealed will. There's only one will of God." Well I'd appeal to John Calvin that said ultimately God has only one will, but He condescends to explain it to us in part by saying it's two aspects. So we would say it's a paradox, not a contradiction. And we'd say both of them are legitimate because both are taught in the bible: the secret will of predestination and the revealed will of law and gospel. By the way, the Arminians say you can't have it both, so they go with the revealed will and they negate the secret. Hyper-Calvinists tend to do it in reverse and say since they can't be harmonized, we reject the revealed and go with the secret. But they're inconsistent. What God has joined together, let no many put asunder. They're both taught in the bible.

Now their next argument would be similar to that. They say, "well, God wills only the salvation of the elect. If God desired that people be saved, they would be saved!" To which we say, in the secret will, yes, revealed will, no. They do not see the difference between them. They're confusing the categories. Mainline Calvinists, including your pastor, say, in the secret will whoever God wills to be saved, he chooses. They will be saved. But in this universal desire, He desires all. But only those that He has chosen will be saved. So we dare not confuse or eliminate either one.

So, that's our second point: mainline Calvinists have repeatedly taught God sincerely desires the salvation of all lost sinners, especially those that hear the gospel. But since some Calvinists deny this, they are going beyond the mainstream. Therefore, on this point, they are hyper-Calvinists. They have gone too far, not only out of the mainstream, but out against what scripture itself teaches.
Elsewhere Daniel noted:
Another thing called hyper-Calvinism says since God has chosen some, He does not sincerely desire [the salvation of] those that are not chosen, therefore there is no free offer.
Curt Daniel, "Q&A 2017 Conference," October 7th, 2017. See minute 10:20–10:31

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