August 31, 2005

A Timely Quote from Spurgeon on Providence and Resting in God

A friend of mine read this Spurgeon to some of us online recently:
In seasons of severe trial, the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust to, and is therefore compelled to cast himself on his God alone. When his vessel is on its beam-ends, and no human deliverance can avail, he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! There is no getting at our God sometimes because of the multitude of our friends; but when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn, he flies into his Father's arms, and is blessedly clasped therein! When he is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time. Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble that drives thee to thy Father! Now that thou hast only thy God to trust to, see that thou puttest thy full confidence in him. Dishonor not thy Lord and Master by unworthy doubts and fears; but be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Show the world that thy God is worth ten thousand worlds to thee. Show rich men how rich thou art in thy poverty when the Lord God is thy helper. Show the strong man how strong thou art in thy weakness when underneath thee are the everlasting arms. Now is the time for feats of faith and valiant exploits. Be strong and very courageous, and the Lord thy God shall certainly, as surely as he built the heavens and the earth, glorify himself in thy weakness, and magnify his might in the midst of thy distress. The grandeur of the arch of heaven would be spoiled if the sky were supported by a single visible column, and your faith would lose its glory if it rested on anything discernible by the carnal eye. May the Holy Spirit give you to rest in Jesus this closing day of the month.
From Charles H. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening.

August 30, 2005

On the Existence of Ghosts

Here's a little something fun for you to ponder. Do Ghosts exist? A friend of mine sent this ad to me in an email. Let's see what you think. My friend said:
Strange but interesting.

This is a car advertisement from Great Britain.

When they finished filming the ad, the film editor noticed something moving along the side of the car, like a ghostly white mist. The ad was never put on TV because of the unexplained ghostly phenomenon. Watch the front end of the car as it clears the trees in the middle of the screen and you'll see the white mist crossing in front of the car then following it along the road......Spooky! Is it a ghost, or is it simply mist? You decide. If you listen to the ad, you'll even hear the commentator talk about it near the end of the commercial. It's little creepy but pretty cool!
Here is the YouTube version:

August 25, 2005

Kuyper on Diverse Literary Forms

Keith Plummer, of The Christian Mind, sent me this quote from Abraham Kuyper about a month ago. I am not sure of the source for this quote, but it is brilliant. It addresses the significance of the diverse literary forms in scripture.

There is a tendency among evangelicals to reduce the bible to the propositional. It's as if the expressions are getting in the way of our formation of propositional checklists. Our reductionistic mentality bypasses the significance of the diverse literary forms found in the bible, which were purposefully inspired by the Holy Spirit. These diverse literary forms are put there to address the whole person, not merely man's cognitive faculties. Truth is not less than the propositional, but it is much more. Here's the Kuyper quote:

"Man received in his creation more than one string to the harp of his soul, and according to the nature of the objects that hold his attention his mood changes, he strikes a different key, and his mental action assumes new phases....Thus the human mind is disposed by nature to a multiformity of expression, which sustains connection with the multiformity of material that engages our attention. And since there is a wide difference in the material that constitutes the content of Revelation, it is entirely natural that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has made use of that multiformity of our spiritual expression, and thus assumes at one time a lyric character, at another time an epical, sometimes even a dramatic, but especially also one that is didactic. To some extent one may even say that in these aesthetic variegations certain fundamental forms are given for inspiration, and if need be the entire content of the Scripture might be divided after these four fundamental types."

August 24, 2005

Decretalizing the Preceptive Will?

As many of you know by now, I frequently address what I consider to be a decretal sickness among so called "Calvinists." I don't have a problem with God's efficacious decree, or with the way the bible talks about it. However, many Calvinists are so focused on the decretive will of God that other doctrines get eclipsed. Everything is filtered through a decretal grid. They may even try to derive our duty from God's secret will, rather than from revealed commands.

Many doctrines can be decretalized, whether it's the issue of common grace (they remove any loving intentionality of God behind the gifts--it virtually becomes common hate), the offer of the gospel (they remove the "well-meant" aspect out of the doctrine--it virtually amounts to ill-meant offers), or the sufficiency of Christ's death (it's really not sufficient for all, but could have been hypothetically 'if God had so intended'--it's virtually limited sufficiency). All of these doctrines are made to collapse into the decree.

What's astonishing is that the preceptive will can also collapse into the decree. There is a sense in which some "Calvinists" decretalize the preceptive will.

Here's an excerpt from an online discussion that I think illustrates the point. As you read it, examine yourself to see if you are suffering from decretalism.

VV said:
But I would say all men are obligated to obey God, but God does not desire all to obey. i.e. Pharaoh and other vessels of wrath Rom 9:17-22. Now if you wish make man's obligation do [sic] obey God's desire than [sic] fair enough, I don't have a problem with that.

My reply:

I find the above statements contradictory. One the one hand you are saying that God does not desire some to obey what he has commanded, then on the other hand you say you don't have a problem with what I am saying, i.e. that God desires compliance to his commandments whenever he commands.

Paul is NOT teaching in Romans 9 that God does not want the vessels of wrath to obey. It's referring to the fact that God has a decree which will certainly come to pass in their case, and they are responsible before him. Wrath against them presupposes responsibility and culpability.

It's absurd to draw the conclusion that God didn't want Pharoah to obey. This would make God's commandment to him, "Let my people go," a hypocritical command, i.e. he wouldn't really have a desire that Pharoah comply with that command. It's just the case that God's motive for his decree is stronger than his preceptive motive in that case. Paul is expounding God's decretive will in that matter in Romans 9, but not to the exclusion and eclipsing of the distinct preceptive motive. Dabney is trying to capture this idea:

4. God’s Volitions Arise out of a Complex of Motive.

The manner in which a volition which dates from eternity, subsists in the Infinite mind, is doubtless, in many respects, inscrutable to us. But since God has told us that we are made in His image, we may safely follow the Scriptural representations, which describe God’s volitions as having their rational relation to subjective motive; somewhat as in man, when he wills aright. For, a motiveless volition cannot but appear to us as devoid both of character and of wisdom. We add, that while God “has no parts nor passions,” He has told us that He has active principles, which, while free from all agitation, ebb and flow, and mutation, are related in their superior measure to man’s rational affections. These active principles in God, or passionless affections, are all absolutely holy and good. Last: God’s will is also regulated by infinite wisdom. Now, in man, every rational volition is prompted by a motive, which is in every case, complex to this degree, at least that it involves some active appetency of the will and some prevalent judgement of the intelligence. And every wise volition is the result of virtual or formal deliberation, in which one element of motive is weighed in relation to another, and the elements which appear superior in the judgement of the intelligence, preponderate and regulate the volition. Hence, the wise man’s volition is often far from being the expression of every conception and affection present in his consciousness at the time; but it is often reached by holding one of these elements of possible motive in check, at the dictate of a more controlling one.

For instance a philanthropic man meets a distressed and destitute person. The good man is distinctly conscious in himself of a movement of sympathy tending towards a volition to give the sufferer money. But he remembers that he has expressly promised all the money now in his possession, to be paid this very day to a just creditor. The good man bethinks himself, that he “ought to be just before he is generous,” and conscience and wisdom counterpoise the impulse of sympathy; so that it does not form the deliberate volition to give alms. But the sympathy exists, and it is not inconsistent to give other expression to it.

We must not ascribe to that God whose omniscience is, from eternity, one infinite, all-embracing intuition, and whose volition is as eternal as His being, any expenditure of time in any process of deliberation, nor any temporary hesitancy or uncertainty, nor any agitating struggle of feeling against feeling. But there must be a residuum of meaning in the Scripture representations of His affections, after we have guarded ourselves duly against the anthropopathic forms of their expression. Hence, we ought to believe, that in some ineffable way, God’s volitions, seeing they are supremely wise, and profound, and right, do have that relation to all His subjective motives, digested by wisdom and holiness into the consistent combination, the finite counterpart of which constitutes the rightness and wisdom of human volitions. I claim, while excersing the diffidence proper to so sacred a matter, that this conclusion bears us out at least so far: That, as in a wise man, so much more in a wise God, His volition or express purpose is the result of a digest, not of one, but of all the principles and considerations bearing on the case. Hence it follows, that there may be in God an active principle felt by him, and yet not expressed in His executive volition in a given case, because counterpoised by other elements of motive, which His holy omniscience judges ought to be prevalent.

Again, Dabney says:

“Every deliberate rational volition is regulated by the agent's dominant subjective disposition, and prompted by his own subjective motive. But that motive is a complex, not a simple modification of spirit. The simplest motive of man's rational volition is a complex of two elements: a desire or propension of some subjective optative power, and a judgment of the intelligence as to the true and preferable. The motive of a single decision may be far more complex than this, involving many intellectual considerations of prudence, or righteous policy, and several distinct and even competing propensions of the optative powers. The resultant volition arises out of a deliberation, in which the prevalent judgment and appetency counterpoise the inferior ones.”

VV said:
Is it not better to speak of the one will of God seen in different senses?

VV said:
But again my original question:
Is not better to speak of the one will of God that is seen in different senses, thats all, nothing more.

My reply:

I don't necessarily have a problem with that way of putting it, but it can be ambiguous and potentially misleading. Some might say the above when they see the preceptive will as merely a means by which God's real will, the decretive, comes to pass. In other words, the preceptive will is not really a distinct motive and active principle in the opinion of some. It's just a way of labeling God's commands which are means to his end, and the end reflects the only real will. They are still working with the assumption that God's real will is the decretive, and the issuance of commands are merely secondary causes by which God's real will comes to pass. This is an error, and a subtle one that is not frequently detected.

Some High and Hyper-Calvinists will admit a two-fold sense in which "will" is used biblically, but the preceptive actually collapses into the decretive in their view, hence the vagueness and ambiguity in the expression "one will of God seen in different senses." One has to ask the person, "What do you mean by saying that?" It will differ from person to person.

August 22, 2005

Watch Max McLean

Here is a free video sample of Max McLean reciting the passage in Genesis where Abraham is to sacrifice his only son.

I may have to go watch a performance when he is in the Dallas area this February. Here's a schedule of his upcoming live events:

Dr. Donald S. Whitney says this in a review:
"McLean doesn’t sound as though he is reading anything. Rather he sounds as you might expect the writers of the text to sound if they were speaking instead of writing. For instance, hearing McLean read Acts 2 almost has you believing that you’re listening to a recording of Peter preaching (in English, of course) at Pentecost. His ability to pause and add inflection to the words spoken by different characters in a dialogue makes you more aware of the give-and-take of conversation in a passage. His enunciation is crisp without sounding contrived. His manner of precisely articulating with lips and teeth, such as the way he bites off words in the imprecator Psalms, adds to the realism and believability of McLean’s work."

I listened to the free audio samples and watched the video. Whitney's words certainly describe what I sensed.

August 21, 2005

A Misrepresentation of Open View Theism Corrected

Open View Theism is a false view of God and human freedom that needs to be refuted biblically and logically. It's a gross theological error invading the church today. However, it is not right to misrepresent them, or any of our opponents for that matter, in our refutations. I recently read the following in R. Scott Clark's Foreward to Murray and Stonehouse's The Free Offer of the Gospel. He is seeking to briefly describe the position and rationalism of the Open View Theists.
Omniscience is redefined to mean that God knows only what can be known. The future, they argue, cannot be known, therefore God does not know it.
There is nothing wrong per se with saying that "Omniscience means that God only knows what can be known." I would not say that this is a "re-definition." What the Open View Theists are saying is that, since God can only know what is logically possible to know (this is true and compatible with versions of classical theism), it follows that he cannot foreknow what creatures will freely (read libertarian free will here) choose to do before they actually do it (this is patently false). This is because they are said to have libertarian free will, or the power of contrary choice (another false assumption). The OVT's want to take the classic definition of omniscience, but import their own libertarian assumptions into the formula so that omniscience does not include future free will decisions, i.e. God does not exhaustively foreknow the future. They are not saying that God cannot know the future. They are saying that God cannot know the future decisions of creatures who possess libertarian free will.

It's not;false to describe omniscience as the view that "God knows all that is logically possible to know," even as it is not false to say that "God's omnipotence means that God can do all that is logically possible to do." The Open View Theist assumes that man has the power of contrary choice, and therefore their future decisions are outside the scope of that which is logically possible to know. That's their error. Dr. Clark doesn't describe the OVT position carefully, so it could be misleading. Overall, his Foreward is good and worth reading in addition to Murray and Stonehouse on The Free Offer of the Gospel.

August 20, 2005

Tony Lane Quote on Calvin's Position on the Atonement

The advocates of limited atonement love to pose the dilemma: does the work of Christ merely make salvation "possible", without making certain the "salvation" of anyone, or does it effectually "guarantee" the salvation of the elect, for whom alone Christ died? Calvin's position is well summarized by the retort of Professor James Torrence: our salvation is made certain, not merely possible, by the combined work of Father, Son "and" Holy Spirit (i.e, not by the cross alone, taken in isolation).
Tony Lane, "The Quest for the Historical Calvin," Evangelical Quarterly 55.2 (April 1983): 100.

David Ponter comments:
In the 17th C, in the zeal to refute non-strict Limited atonement folk, the Reformed located a sort of certainty in the expiation itself. There is no scriptural warrant for it, but its now such a solid tradition that shaking it is very hard. The only reason that new idea was created was to refute others. The only reason it was created was to present a sort of modus tollens argument. Its a plain false-dilemma fallacy that needs to be discarded as a whole. Its not a simple either/or like that.
Comments taken from the Calvin and Calvinism list.

I also entered this quote at the bottom of my The Design of The Atonement: Dealing with a Popular False Dilemma post.

Equivocation on "Salvation"

I recently listened to a debate between a Calvinistic Baptist and a Church of Christ pastor over the issue of the necessity of water baptism for "salvation." The C of C pastor brought up Calvinism alot in the debate. In another forum, I commented on some things that concerned me in listening to the debate.

It is very common for people to equivocate when they use the term "salvation." It seems to be the default word among believers when they have justification in mind. One should be careful in employing that term. Anyway, here's what I wrote:

"There is also constant equivocation on the term "salvation." No thinking Calvinist (not that the Baptist debator made this mistake) should associate "salvation" with mere regeneration. That's an error. Some hyper-Calvinists make that mistake. Humans are not passive when they are said to be "saved" in the bible, but we are passive in God's initial act of regeneration. Salvation and regeneration should not be equated. Salvation is a term that properly refers to conversion (i.e. justification) and what follows (sometimes used in the sense of "being saved" [sanctification] or "shall be saved" [glorification]).

Nor should the bible be viewed as saying that our cooperation is the basis for salvation. Christ alone is the basis or legal ground of our salvation, but he is not ours except by means of the instrumentality of faith. Faith is indeed our act, and it is a necessary act or condition in order to be "saved," i.e. justified. But it does not follow that any of our acts are the basis for our acceptance with God. Faith is not reckoned as righteousness (contrary to what the NAS seems to suggest on Romans 4:5), but faith is reckoned unto the obtaining of righteousness, i.e. obtaining Christ as our savior and basis for justification. It's HIS obedience, and not ours, that is the basis for acceptance with God, but his obedience does not benefit us apart from the instrumental act of faith on our part.

Moreover, when we say that regeneration preceeds faith, we are not saying that it is chronologically prior, but logical. Regeneration preceeds faith in the sense of causal priority, even as the turning on of a light switch preceeds the appearance of light.

NKJ 2 Corinthians 4:6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The Church of Christ pastor never replied to the Calvinistic Baptist's Philippians passage:

NKJ Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

God grants us the moral ability (not that we previously lacked constitutional or natural ability--we have a will, but a stubborn one that is in bondage to the sin principle within, i.e. the flesh) to believe, and thus we act in faith and embrace Christ. I don't see how the C of C pastor, or anyone else for that matter, can get around the implications of the Philippians passage."

August 19, 2005

John Flavel Quote on Keeping the Heart

I was just reading the bottom of Dr. Naugle's web page and saw this great quote by John Flavel:
“The heart of man is his worst part before it is regenerated, and the best afterward; it is the seat of principles, and the foundation of actions. The eye of God is, and the eye of the Christian ought to be, principally fixed upon it.”—John Flavel, Keeping the Heart

August 17, 2005

The Right Questions Book Excerpts

I was listening to a radio interview with Phillip E. Johnson regarding his book The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning and Public Debate. He mentioned that everyone ought to read Nancy Pearcey's Foreward. Here is the link to read excerpts from that book:

August 16, 2005

C. H. Spurgeon's Beautiful Expression on Divine Illumination

Spurgeon's notes on Psalm 119:130:

NKJ Psalm 119:130 The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
He Who, by His incubation upon the waters at the creation, hatched that rude mass into the beautiful form we now see, and out of that dark chaos made the glorious heavens, and garnished them with so many Orient stars, can move upon thy dark soul and enlighten it, though it be as void of knowledge as the evening of the world's first day was of light.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Psalms, ed. David Otis Fuller (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980), 555.

August 11, 2005

John 17:9 and Decretalism

I was in a discussion in another forum with a person who is bordering on Hyper-Calvinism. He continually brought up the John 17:9 passage, so I decided to address it. Here's what I posted:

Theological Presuppositions Addressed

Your assumption is that "world" in John 17:9 means non-elect. You would have the passage read, "I am praying for my elect, but I am not praying for the non-elect." Why must it mean this? Well, for one thing, it might be said by some that Jesus is now praying according to his divine nature, and cannot pray for what does not come to pass. Decretalism is read into this entire passage so that Jesus can't pray anything that is ineffectual. This is an unbiblical assumption. For, consider the following:

1) Jesus could pray for the forgiveness of the guilty people below him at the cross. "Father, forgive them...," etc. If you do not accept this as textually reliable, we can still know that it was the Spirit of Christ moving Stephen to pray for his persecutors (Acts 7:60), and Paul to pray for Israel's salvation (Rom. 10:1).

2) Jesus could pray in Gethsemene for the cup to pass from him.

3) Jesus could pray that part of the "Lord's prayer" that says, "Thy [revealed] will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

4) All the members of the Godhead could wish for and pray for the following:
NKJ Deuteronomy 5:29 'Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!
5) Jesus does pray that the world may believe and know in John 17:21, 23. More on this later.

All of this accords with God's revealed or preceptive will, which you so easily overlook. The special prayers for believers in John 17:9 are effectual as they correspond to God's decree, but it does not follow that he could not pray for things that are ineffectual with reference things that accord with God's revealed will. To use this one passage to argue that Jesus could not pray for the salvation of the non-elect undermines the biblical teaching regarding God's preceptive will.

Another faulty assumption is that Jesus' prayers must be consistent with the Father's will (in the sense that it can be only decretive), therefore "world" must either mean elect or non-elect, depending on your reading of the various contexts, since what he prays is always effectual and decretive. This is the old "contradiction within the Trinity" objection.

What you forget is that each person of the Trinity possesses all the properties of the Godhead (except those properties that properly distinguish them from one another), therefore each person has a decretive and preceptive distinction in their volitions. Jesus' prayers were always holy and righteous, and therefore were consistent with the Father's preceptive will. But we see him also submitting to the Father's ultimate decree as well (the secret will). Jesus and the Father could both pray for and wish for certain things that do not come to pass (according to the preceptive will), but what the Godhead has determined to come to pass will in fact come to pass (according to the decretive will). Each person of the Godhead desires our obedience, but they have not purposed that we shall always obey.

Exegetical and Theological Observations
NKJ John 17:9 "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
The idea of being "given" to Christ here (but not necessarily in all contexts) has to do with history and not eternity. Although it is true that the elect were decreed to be given to Christ from eternity, that is not the point of this passage. The disciples here were manifestly given or actually given to Christ when they believed. They were really, actually, or vitally united to him through faith. This is unity the passage is referring to. The preoccupation with eternal, pre-temporal decrees over what happens in time is typical of both High and Hyper-Calvinism. The focus of this passage is on what actually happens in time, with His disciples.

The proper distinction in John 17:9 with regard to the "world" and those "given" is not between non-elect and elect, as abstract classes, but between believers ("elect" in that sense) and non-believers (the "world"). Jesus could pray for things for believers that he could not pray for non-believers. The "world" in this context refers to that mass of lost humanity (made up of both elect and non-elect) who are in systematic opposition to God. They are hostile to God, abide under his wrath, and are under the sway of the wicked one. Even the elect, when they are in an unbelieving state, are in this category.
NKJ Ephesians 2:3: among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
Further, as Norman Douty (in For Whom Did Christ Die?) observes, Jesus did pray for the world indirectly. Douty says, "As a matter of fact, Christ indirectly prayed for the world in this same chapter: “that the world may believe that Thou didst send me” (v. 21); and “that the world may know that Thou didst send Me” (v. 23)." Douty also rightly remarks on this passage: "Christ’s actual intercession is not to be correlated with His provisional atonement, but only with His atonement as applied through faith. He prays, not for all for whom He provided atonement, but only for those who have received it."

The strange thing is that you will switch the meaning of "world" in these later verses (verses 21 and 23) to mean the elect, but in verse 9 you think it must mean the non-elect, because your system says so, not the text. I find it curious that the High's and Hyper's will have to change either the meaning of "world" (John Gill's move) or of "believe" (John Owen's move) in the surrounding verses. I think this exposes some of system-driven hermeneutics. For example, "world" in verse 9 they take to be functionally equivalent to the non-elect, but will then possibly (if they follow Gill) change it to mean elect in verse 21. If they do not follow that maneuver, they have to change the idea of "believe" in verse 21 to mean mere mental assent (or demon-like faith, so to speak, James 2:19) that brings judgement (Owen). This is also very awkward since they will take "believe" in verse 20 to mean an evangelical, or saving faith! There is either an equivocation on "world" (Gill) or "believe" (Owen) in the context in order to preserve a system.

My interpretation of "world" in this context is consistent. I take it to reference that mass of lost humanity still in sin and under the wrath of God, which is inclusive of both the unbelieving elect and the non-elect. They are all equally lost or "children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). These lost humans are excluded from the special intercessions of Christ that pertain to believers alone since they are in unbelief.

C. K. Barrett, in his commentary on John's Gospel, observes:
It must be emphasized once more that John, having stated (3.16) the love of God for the κόσμος, does not withdraw from that position in favour of a narrow affection for the pious. It is clear (see especially v. 18) that in this chapter also there is in mind a mission of the apostolic church to the world in which men will be converted and attached to the community of Jesus. But to pray for the κόσμος would be almost an absurdity, since the only hope for the κόσμος is precisely that it should cease to be the κόσμος (see on 1.10)...

The world cannot be prayed for because, as the κόσμος, it has set itself outside the purpose of God. The disciples on the other hand belong to God as they do to Christ.
C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, 2nd edition (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1978), 506.

Leon Morris describes the situation in the same way:
He makes a distinction between the little band of disciples and the world. His prayer is not for "the world". This does not mean that "the world" is beyond God's love. Elsewhere we are specifically told that He loves it (3:16). And throughout this chapter it is plain that Jesus came with a mission to the world, and that the disciples were now to carry it on. A little later Jesus prays that the disciples may do certain things "that the world may believe..." (v. 21), and "that the world may know... (v. 23). The world is to be reached through the disciples and it is for His agents that Jesus prays. But He could scarcely pray for "the world" as such. As "the world" it was ranged in opposition to God. Its salvation lay precisely in its ceasing to be "the world". Prayer for the world could only be that it be converted and no longer be the world. But that would be a different prayer. We see it for example in His prayer for those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). Now He prays rather for the little group of His friends. Notice that they are again described in terms of their relationship to the Father. They have been "given" to Christ. They belong to the Father.

An Excellent John Calvin (1509–1564) Quote on Redeemed Souls Perishing

David Ponter continually posts excellent quotes from Calvin at the Calvin and Calvinism list (a place that I frequent because of the focus of my current studies) like the one below. I thought I would put this quote on my blog so that others may see it. There are a plenty of statements like these in Calvin, yet he continues to be misrepresented in the secondary literature. What is called "Calvinism" today is significantly different from Calvin's Calvinism. The "Calvinism" today is really Owenism, and few seem to recognize the significant differences historically and theologically. The conceptual shifts that take place in Owen's theology have serious ramifications for theology proper, Christology, and soteriology. Few people seem to be pointing it out, so that's why my blog seems like a sounding board on this subject. Many "Calvinists" today are suffering from the sickness of decretalism (hence the decretalization of passages that really have the preceptive will in view), and a return to Calvin will begin to help remedy the situation. It will also help to remedy the coldness in the hearts of some TULIPers, even as it protects them from the errors of Arminianism and Open Theism.

Anyway, here's the Calvin quote:
Thus all the more ought we groan, seeing that the world is too perverse to return to God, but rather elects to oppose him. This seeing how truly the Devil has blinded humankind, we are right to feel dejected and sad. Why? Because to see souls created in the image of God move toward their own damnation is hardly a light matter, especially souls that were redeemed at such a cost by the blood of God's Son. It ought to make us sad to see them perish so miserably. Above all, we must keep in mind the purpose for which our Lord ordained the preaching of the Gospel, that by faith, as Saint Paul says, we might render to God the obedience and honor that God is due [1 Timothy 1:17; 6;16], and that humankind might be saved, "for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" [Romans 1:16]. Consequently, in view of the fact that human malice frustrates God's intentions, we are justified in raising a lament similar to Micah's.
Calvin, Sermons on Micah, Sermon 25, 7:1-3, p. 371.

Norman F. Douty (1899–1993) Describes a Dualistic View of the Atonement

Douty wrote:
Inasmuch as Christ is an infinite Person, the value of His performance was infinite, and, therefore, superabundantly sufficient to provide for the sinning inhabitants of any number of worlds. Accordingly, the value of His redemptive work is far more than enough to take care of the need of the non-elect as well as those of the elect. It is evident, however, that if there had been no elect persons to be saved, the Son of God would not have come, and so there would have been no overplus existent for the non-elect. The provision for the latter class was contingent on the provision for the former one.

We observe, therefore, that Christ’s redemptive work was primarily for the elect, and only secondarily for the rest of men. It was mainly for those chosen unto salvation, and only subordinately for the non-elect. It was designed to make salvation sure to the former class, but only possible to the latter. In both cases, repentance and faith are required, but only in the first are they divinely induced. Whosoever will may come, but only the elect will do so. Thus God’s intention in the death of Christ was not the same with reference to the two groups.

But though God’s design in Christ’s death was dual, we must not think that the death itself was; for Christ did not die in one sense for the elect, and in another for the non-elect. He died in precisely the same sense for both companies – bearing the judgment of God against human sin – yet the value of that fact is appropriated by the elect, but not by the rest of sinners.

So the sense in which Christ died for the elect and non-elect was single, but His object in doing so was double. He aimed by His death to bring the elect infallibly to glory, but He never aimed by it to bring the non-elect there. All He purposed to do for them was to make it possible for them to get there, provided they repent and believe.

Consequently, we have no quarrel with those who insist that the atonement "had special reference to the elect," as [Charles] Hodge says. He asks:
Had the death of Christ a reference to the elect which it had not to other men? Did He come into the world to secure the salvation of those given Him by the Father, so that the other effects of His work are merely incidental to what was done for the attainment of that object?
If by "incidental" he means "subordinate," we reply to both questions in the affirmative.

What we deny is that God sovereignly decreed that His vast redemptive provision should be inapplicable to the non-elect, because He knew that they would not avail themselves of its saving worth. Instead, He authorized His servants to offer salvation to all men. Their sad state is their own fault, not His. He proffers them eternal life, but they stubbornly refuse to come unto Christ for it (John 5:40). This is quite different from saying that Christ died only for the elect. We grant, yes, we contend, that His death had a special reference to the elect, but we strongly deny that it had an exclusive reference to them.

We concur with Hodge when he says that Christ "did all that was necessary so far as a satisfaction to justice is concerned, all that is required, for the salvation of all men," and adds that "all Augustinians can join with the Synod of Dort in saying, No man perishes for want of an atonement." This is conceding the crucial point.
Norman F. Douty, Did Christ Die Only for the Elect? (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1998), 61–62. I reviewed the book on Amazon.


John Davenant on John 3:16

(UPDATE on 8-21-07: Some of John Davenant's writings can be found online for free HERE).

Bishop John Davenant was one of the English delegates to the Synod of Dort.
"And here it is the be shewn, not from human reason or fancy, but from the holy Scriptures, that the death of Christ, according to the will of God, is an universal remedy, by the Divine appointment, and the nature of the thing itself, applicable for salvation to all and every individual of mankind. From many testimonies I shall select a few:

1. The principle is that of John iii. 16, God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life. It is not difficult to deduce every particular of the aforementioned proposition from these words. For, in the first place, Christ given up by the Father to death, is here proposed as an universal remedy provided for the whole world. Then this panacea of the death of Christ is declared applicable for salvation to every man, and the manner or condition of the application is at the same time shewn in those words, that whosoever believeth in his should not perish. From this testimony we incontrovertibly conclude, that the death of Christ by the ordination of God is applicable to every man, and would be applied if he should believe in Christ. Shew me an individual of the human race to whom the minister of the Gospel may not truly say; God hath so loved thee, that he gave his only begotten Son, that if thou shouldest believe in him, thou shalt not perish but have everlasting life. This, on the certainty of his believing, might be announced to any individual. Therefore the death of Christ is applicable to every man according to this will and ordination of God. I know that some learned and pious Divines, by the world here understand the world, or whole body of the elect, and rely on this argument, that it is said, the Son of God was given, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish: and the elect alone are they who so believe in Christ that they should not perish, but have everlasting life. But I answer, that nothing else can be inferred from hence, than that the death of Christ brings salvation eventually to the elect alone, and is actually applied by means of faith: but it cannot be inferred that it was not a remedy applicable to others, and by the ordination of God to be applied, if they should believe. We will illustrate this by a case in some measure parallel. Suppose that all the inhabitants of a certain city laboured under some epidemic and mortal disease; that the King sent to them an eminent physician furnished with a most efficacious medicine, and caused it to be publicly proclaimed, that all should be cured that were willing to make used of this medicine. Doubtless we might truly say of this kind, that he so loved that city, as to send his own most skilful physician to it; that all who were willing to attend to his advice, and take his medicine, should not die, but recover their former health. But if any should object that this physician was sent only to those who should follow his prescriptions, and that his medicine was applicable by the appointment of the king only to those who were willing to take it, he would in reality not only make the beneficence of the king appear less illustrious, but affirm what was evidently false. For medical assistance was offered to all, without any previous condition on the part of the person sent, or of the sick; healing medicine applicable to all without exception was provided. The willingness to receive the physician and take the medicine had no connexion with the intention of the Sovereign in sending the medical assistance, but with the certain restoration of health.

The ancient Fathers seem to have been much pleased with this similitude. Prosper has respect to it, when Vincentius objected, That according to the opinion of Augustine, our Lord Jesus Christ did not suffer for the salvation and redemption of all men, he replies, For the disease of original sin, by which the nature of all men is corrupted, the death of the Son if God is a remedy. And a little after, This cup of immortality has indeed in itself this virtue that it may benefit all men, but if it be not taken it will not heal. Our faith therefore is required not merely to assent to the proposition, that God has given or ordained his Son to be a remedy for us, but that being given and ordained, He should be received by us to the obtaining of eternal life. Rhemi and Haimo enlarge the aforesaid similitude on those words Hebrews ii. That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. Whom, if you please, you may consult.

2. The second testimony is derived from two passages conjointly considered and compared. The first is John iii. 17, 18, God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth in him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Let us annex to these words those of John xii. 47, 48, If any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not, for I came not to judge the world but to save the world. He that rejecteth me and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. In these words we learn that the Son of God was sent by the Father, that he might bring an universal remedy applicable to the whole world. Nor can the sense be restrained to the world of the elect. For, first, this world, to save which Christ was sent is divided into believers and unbelievers. But the world of the elect consists only of believers, or at least, of those who shall ultimately believe. Secondly, because some will be condemned, to save whom it is here affirmed Christ was sent. But none of the elect shall be damned. Thirdly, because those who are here declared to be condemned, are said to have come under condemnation because they have not believed in the only begotten Son of God, or, because they have rejected him. In which manner of speaking, it is implied in a way sufficiently perspicuous, that he was offered to them by God, and sent to save them. But how, or in what sense can we rightly understand that Christ was sent to save those who perish by their own fault, that is, through their own unbelief? Not otherwise than is expressed in our proposition; namely, that the death of Christ is an universal cause of salvation appointed by God and applicable to every man on the condition of faith, which condition these by their own voluntary wickedness have despised. Thus did Calvin understand these words; for on John iii. He has observed, That the word WORLD is repeated again and again, that no one might suppose that he should be driven away, if he kept the way of faith. And on John xii. 47, he has observed, In order that the minds of all men might be inclined to repentance, salvation is here offered to all men without distinction. It appears, therefore, from these passages, that the death of Christ is to be proposed and considered as a remedy, applicable to all men for salvation, by the appointment of God, although it may be rejected by the unbelieving."
John Davenant, A Dissertation on the Death of Christ (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1832), 343-346.

St. Prosper on the Will of God (c.390–c.455)

[Sent. super Cap. 8]
Again, whoever says that God does not will all men to be saved, but only the certain number of the predestined, is saying a harsher thing than ought to be said of the inscrutable depth of the grace of God, who both wills that all should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), and fulfills the proposal of His will in those whom, when He foreknew them, He predestined, when He predestined them, He called, when He called them, He justified, and, when He justified them, He glorified (Rom. 8:30). . . . And thus, those who are saved are saved because God willed them to be saved, and those who perish do perish because they deserved to perish.
William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, 3:190.

Primary source [click here for more]:
QUALIFICATION OF ARTICLE 8: Likewise, he who says that God will not have all men to be saved but only the fixed number of the predestined, speaks more harshly than we should speak of the depth of the unsearchable grace of God.

God, who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth fulfills this free decree of His in those whom He foreknew and predestined, predestined and called, called and justified, justified and glorified. In so doing, He does not lose anyone that belongs to that fullness of the nations and to that completeness of the race of Israel for whom the eternal kingdom was prepared in Christ before the creation of the world. Out of the entire world the whole world of the elect is chosen; out of the totality of men the totality of the elect are adapted. Nor can the unbelief and disobedience of many annul the promise God made to Abraham: In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”Whatsoever God has promised, He is able to perform.’” And so the elect are saved because God willed them to be saved, and the reprobate are lost because they deserve to be lost.
Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans. P. De letter (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 159.

August 10, 2005

A Tribute to Dr. S. Lewis Johnson

Since I live in the Dallas area, I had the honor and priviledge of meeting Dr. S. Lewis Johnson in person. I first heard of his teaching through the book Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, and then on a local radio program. I was delighted to hear the fine examples of careful biblical exposition. After my conversion in 1990 at age 20, I was hungry for in-depth exegetical teaching. I listened to other teachers on the radio and noticed a lack of care and theological precision. Also, I wanted to hear someone with a thorough understanding of the entire bible, not merely a New Testament teacher. I longed to hear a biblical scholar with the qualities of honesty and humility. I found such a man in Dr. S. Lewis Johnson.

Believers Chapel is in the process of putting all of his audio teaching online, so bookmark the site and check for updates. I have listened to all of his teaching in audio form (about 826 cassettes with 2 messages per tape usually), and I was amazed by the content. If you long for in-depth exegetical teaching, then listen to this man. Not only was he a fine scholar, but he modeled sound doctrine by his life.

Fred G. Zaspel has written (back in January 30, 2004) a tribute to Dr. Johnson that is worth reading. He says this about Dr. Johnson:

On January 28, 2004, Dr. S. Lewis Johnson passed away at age eighty-eight. He was a Biblical scholar and theologian of rare abilities and of international renown, and he was a beloved friend. His influence on my own ministry would be difficult to measure. The hundreds of tapes of his preaching and teaching have gone free of charge to thousands of people all over the world, and it was by means of these tapes that I first became acquainted with him. When he first came to preach for me I asked the congregation if any had previously heard him. No one had, but I was quick to assure them all that they had indeed heard him often! Over the years he came to speak at our church and at our pastors' conference many times, and even in his latest years it was challenging and blessed to hear him expound the Word of God with such precision and clarity.

Dr. Johnson was born in Birmingham, AL and grew up in Charleston, SC. He was always quick to assure everyone that his smooth, dignified, and pleasant southern accent was actually "English in its pure form." He graduated from the College of Charleston with an B.A. degree in 1937 and was converted through the teaching of Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse while in the insurance business in Birmingham. He left the insurance business in 1943 to enter Dallas Theological Seminary, from which he received the Th.M (1946) and Th.D. (1949) degrees. He completed further graduate work at the University of Edinburgh, Southern Methodist University, and in the University of Basel. Remaining at Dallas Seminary Dr. Johnson was Professor of New Testament from 1950 to 1972 and Professor of Systematic Theology from 1972 to 1977. He later served as Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, and as Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology at Tyndale Theological Seminary, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Dr. Johnson preached and lectured in many places, large and small, taught countless home Bible studies, and was involved in starting several churches. In 1963 he and others planted Believers' Chapel in Dallas, and it is from the Chapel that so many thousands of his tapes have gone to the benefit of countless people.

He was in so many ways a man to emulate. He was a true gentleman. He was always personable and a great delight in conversation. His humor was always good, and his wit was always quick. He was a careful student of the Scriptures with unusually superior abilities as an exegete and theologian. His abilities with the original languages were clearly superior, and when discussion began he would always lead from his Greek and Hebrew text. He was a man of conviction, willing to step down from a noted career rather than surrender his beliefs. He was passionate for the gospel, and his heart was always hot for Christ. He was a humble and godly man. I have said many times that if God would allow me to grow old as gracefully and as saintly as Dr. Johnson I would become proud and ruin it. He was a model scholar, a model teacher, a model preacher, a model friend, and a model Christian. He was that rare combination of so many abilities and virtues. I thank God for him and feel much the poorer without him.

Among his greatest passions was the faithful expounding of the nature of Christ's atoning work. He clearly cherished any and every opportunity to demonstrate from the Scriptures the success and effectiveness of Christ's death as a substitute for His people. And when it was his turn to listen, elderly though he was, he would sit right up front with his Greek and Hebrew Bible in hand. And though virtually every speaker he would hear would necessarily be a man of comparatively inferior abilities, he seemed always just to delight in hearing the Word of God preached. And afterwards he was always eager to fellowship with younger preachers and laymen alike and discuss the things of Christ and examine the Word of God together.

The last time I spoke with Dr. Johnson, about a month or so ago, it was evident that he was growing tired and frail. He fell ill earlier this month, but his illness was brief before the Lord took him home to glory. He leaves behind him his wonderful wife Martha whom we love dearly also, and our prayers are now for her. By his tape ministry I came to love Dr. S. Lewis Johnson before I ever knew him, and I count it a great blessing to have known him. Probably no one outside my own father has taught me more, and few could ever be more beloved. I praise the Lord for him.

I praise the Lord for him as well, and I encourage you to listen to his teaching. Phil Johnson was also acquainted with his teaching, and he bookmarks the Chapel with the following comment:

Selected articles and other resources from Believers Chapel in Dallas—best known for the excellent teaching of the late Dr. S. Lewis Johnson. You'll find some excellent material on key doctrines here.

August 8, 2005

An Interesting Athanasius Quote on the Incarnation and Atonement

The following quote was originally posted on the Calvin and Calvinism list. The implications of what Athanasius is saying is worth a considerable amount of meditation. Christ legally represented all men, as the last Adam, in his death since he took their nature.
§8. The Word, then, visited that earth in which He was yet always present ; and saw all these evils. He takes a body of our Nature, and that of a spotless Virgin, in whose womb He makes it His own, wherein to reveal Himself, conquer death, and restore life.

For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God comes to our realm, howbeit he was not far from us before. For no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with His own Father. But He comes in condescension to shew loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. 2. And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption; seeing, too, that the threat against transgression gave a firm hold to the corruption which was upon us, and that it was monstrous that before the law was fulfilled it should fall through: seeing, once more, the unseemliness of what was come to pass: that the things whereof He Himself was Artificer were passing away: seeing, further, the exceeding wickedness of men, and how by little and little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves: and seeing, lastly, how all men were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery—lest the creature should perish, and His Father’s handiwork in men be spent for nought—He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours. 3. For He did not simply will to become embodied, or will merely to appear. For if He willed merely to appear, He was able to effect His divine appearance by some other and higher means as well. But He takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, knowing not a man, a body clean and in very truth pure from intercourse of men. For being Himself mighty, and Artificer of everything, He prepares the body in the Virgin as a temple unto Himself, and makes it His very own as an instrument, in it manifested, and in it dwelling. 4. And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father—doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord’s body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire.
Athanasius, "On the Incarnation of the Word," in NPNF, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, 2nd Series (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2004), 4:40.