January 22, 2007

More From Erroll Hulse on The Great Invitation

Not too long ago, Phil Johnson of TeamPyro wrote:
Erroll Hulse wrote a wonderful book called The Great Invitation: Examining the Use of the Altar Call in Evangelism. In it, he discusses the question of whether it is ever appropriate to tell sinners indiscriminately that God loves them and wants them to repent and be reconciled to Him. It's a marvelously balanced approach to the whole question, from a Calvinist who is defending the doctrines of election, the sovereignty of God, and the inability of sinners to choose Christ unaided by God's grace. I commend it to you.
Soon after he made this comment, I posted two Erroll Hulse quotes on my blog. Here is another quote from that same book:
When we look at the revealed purposes of God, there can be no doubt at all about this matter. God's grace is exercised towards all and is expressed by his offering the gospel to all. 'For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men' (Titus 2:11). In Romans 2:4 Paul makes it plain that the object or exercise of the riches of God's goodness applied over a long period of patience is that men might come to repentance. As we view this text we appreciate the obligation that the expressions of God's love bring to men and women. The text is rich in meaning: 'Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you towards repentance?'

The preaching of the gospel throughout the world is possible because a time of probation has been provided. During this time God shows his love, goodness and sincerity, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Two passages are frequently quoted in support of God's desire that all men everywhere should repent. These are important.

The first is 1 Timothy 2:4: '. . . God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.' An examination of this statement within the context shows that its application to unbelievers in general is clear. It is a general statement referring to unbelievers of all kinds. We should note that it does declare God's determination to punish some sinners, such as the sons of Eli (1 Sam. 2:25).

The second passage is 2 Peter 3:9: 'The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.' Some insist that this text refers to believers, but that view can be challenged. Why should God's longsuffering be directed to his elect people who love and serve him? Surely, as we see in Romans 2:4, the word 'longsuffering' (makrothumia) is used with reference to the impenitent? In the days of Noah, God's longsuffering was directed specifically to the ungodly. He could legitimately have sent them all to a lost eternity, but he provided a time for repentance. Surely it can be argued that since it is repentance that is awaited, it is the unrepentant that are intended in the text.

It is gratifying to read G. C. Berkouwer on this theme. He urges that we should take these texts as 'presented to us in the dynamic and living context of the calling to repentance and to the knowledge of the truth'. God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). It is in the context of the universal call that these texts come.

We can call God's love for all people 'benevolent' love, a love which does good to its subjects. This is distinguished from 'complacent' love, which is that love which delights in its objects. The complacent love of God is promised by our Lord to those who keep his commandments (John 14:23, 24). It is the love expressed towards those who have been adopted as sons and daughters of God (1 John 3:2; Rom. 8:32). 'Benevolent' love is expressed towards those who are antagonistic, the unreconciled and the unrepentant. This love provides liberally so that the hearts of men and women are filled with joy (Rom. 2:4; Acts 14:17).

What are we to understand by the love described in John 3:16: 'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son'? Expressed here is the wonder of God's love. He so loved. Two features make this love to be unique. The first is that so great a gift should be given because of this love. The second is what makes the love and love's sacrifice astonishing. It is the world that God so loved. What is it about this world that makes this love so great? If it was a beautiful worthy object for which God gave his supreme sacrifice, then we would not be surprised, but it is the world, in its sin, rebellion and ugliness, that God loved and sacrificed to redeem.

It is a mistake to take the meaning of 'the world' here as something referring to largeness of numbers. The context is referring to unbelief and to condemnation because men love darkness rather than light. It is the sinfulness and wickedness of the world that we are to think of. In spite of this unrighteousness, God's love prevails. Although the character of God's holiness is in complete contrast to the evil of this fallen world, yet he so loved this world, in spite of its degradation, that he gave his Son for it.

Erroneous, too, is the notion that we can make the word 'world' in John 3:16 mean all God's elect. If that was the meaning, John possessed the vocabulary to say, 'For God so loved the elect that he gave . . .' This he does not do. Nor does John say, 'For God so loved ever single creature . . .' John 3:16 views the world not in terms of elect or non-elect, but as a sphere representing fallen mankind as a whole, estranged from God, far away from him, guilty and deserving just condemnation, wrath and punishment. This is a horrible world full of war, wretchedness and strife. Yet God's image is upon it. It is his handiwork and the sinners who inhabit it are made in his image. Despite its appalling character he so loves it that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
Erroll Hulse, The Great Invitation (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 1986), 71–73.

The Basis of W. G. T. Shedd's (1820–1894) Universal Gospel Offer

The universal offer of the gospel is consistent with the divine purpose of predestination because (1) Christ's atonement is a sufficient satisfaction for the sins of all men and (2) God sincerely desires that every man to whom the atonement is offered would trust in it. His sincerity is evinced by the fact that, in addition to his offer, he encourages and assists man to believe by the aids of his providence — such as the written and spoken word, parental teaching and example, favoring social influences, etc. — and by the operation of the common grace of the Holy Spirit. The fact that God does not in the case of the nonelect bestow special grace to overcome the resisting self-will that renders the gifts of providence and common grace ineffectual does not prove that he is insincere in his desire that man would believe under the influence of common grace any more than the fact that a benevolent man declines to double the amount of his gift, after the gift already offered has been spurned, proves that he did not sincerely desire that the person would take the sum first offered.
W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003), 349.

Also in W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1888), 1:457.


What interests me about the above quote are the following points:

1) Shedd connects the sincerity of the universal offer to the sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction made for the sins of all men and to God's desire that every man trust in it. Notice that Shedd does not say that Christ's death COULD HAVE BEEN (Owen's hypothetical way of putting it) sufficient for the sins of all men, but that IT IS sufficient. So, it's not just the case that there is a bare sufficiency because of Christ's infinite intrinsic value, but he really suffered or satisfied for the sins of all men in the death he died (an ordained sufficiency). Moreover, Shedd hasn't gutted the revealed will of God of any sense of desire, a want of compliance, willingness, a propensity, an active principle, velleity, or seeking. He sees the revealed will as a "desire" in God (like Calvin) and connects that to the basis for a sincere offer. Shedd's distinction between the secret and revealed will of God is not a distinction without a difference.

2) Shedd is not so decretally bent in his theology so as to gut common grace of the notion that God grants good things with a view to saving. He argues that the common bounties of providence are given to "encourage" and "assist" men to believe savingly. In other words, he's not merely paying lip service to the classical Calvinistic teaching on common grace.

Some higher Calvinists, due to their overly decretal view of things, have significantly distorted or gutted the classical conceptions of Christ's sufficiency, the revealed will and common grace, unlike Shedd. They can only affirm a hypothetical sufficiency, they don't really think the revealed will is a will (it merely points to a passive constitutional "delight" in God for certain abstract principles like repentance), and they don't think that the common bounties of providence stem from a seeking in God for the ultimate well-being of man.

Two serious theological errors have occurred in church history. There are 1) those who are inclined to think that God may not be able to bring to pass what he has determined to bring to pass (his decretal will), and there are 2) those who are inclined to think that God doesn't really will or want compliance to what he commands (his revealed will). To use an analogy from the Lord of the Rings movie, each position is like a ring of power. If you put on the first ring, the decretal will of God turns invisible. If you put on the second ring, the revealed will goes invisible. These two parties, which represent different halves of a false either/or dilemma (since it's really the case that God will bring to pass what he has determined AND he wants compliance to what he commands), continue to wage war against each other today. Both are in desperate need of the balance of W. G. T. Shedd. Because my blog is primarly concerned with taking the second ring of power to Mount Doom, those associated with the second party are not exactly enthusiastic about what I have to say.

MacArthur on God's Love

"The fact that God will send to eternal hell all sinners who persist in sin and unbelief proves His hatred toward them. On the other hand, the fact that God promises to forgive and bring into His eternal glory all who trust Christ as Savior - and even pleads with sinners to repent - proves His love toward them.

We must understand that it is God's very nature to love. The reason our Lord commanded us to love our enemies is "in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45, NASB). That passage and the verses in the immediate context refute Arthur Pink's claim that Jesus never told sinners God loved them. Here Jesus clearly characterized His Father as One who loves even those who purposefully set themselves at enmity against Him.

While we are all eager to ask why a loving God lets bad things happen to His children, surely we should also ask why a holy God lets good things happen to bad people. The answer is that God is merciful even to those who are not His own.

At this point, however, an important distinction must be made: God loves believers with a particular love. It is a family love, the ultimate love of an eternal Father for His children. It is the consummate love of a Bridegroom for His bride. It is an eternal love that guarantees their salvation from sin and its ghastly penalty. That special love is reserved for believers alone. Limiting this saving, everlasting love to His chosen ones does not render God's compassion, mercy, goodness, and love for the rest of mankind insincere or meaningless. When God invites sinners to repent and receive forgiveness (Isa. 1:18; Matt. 11:28-30) His pleading is from a sincere heart of genuine love. "'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, Oh house of Israel?'" (Ezek. 33:11). Clearly God does love even those who spurn His tender mercy, but it is a different quality of love, and different in degree from His love for His own.

A parallel in the human realm would be this: I love my neighbors. I am commanded by numerous Scriptures to love them as I love myself (e.g., Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39; Lk. 10:29-37). I also love my wife. That, too, is in accord with Scripture (Eph. 5:25-28; Col. 3:19). But clearly my love for my wife is superior, bot in excellence and in degree, to my love for my neighbor. I willingly brought my wife into my family to live with me for the rest of our lives. There's no reason to conclude that since I do not afford the same privilege to my neighbors, my love for them is not a real and genuine love. Likewise it is with God. He loves the elect in a special way reserved only for them. But that does not make His love for the rest of humanity any less real.

Furthermore, even in the human realm, love for one's spouse and love for one's neighbor still don't exhaust the different varieties of love we share. I also love my children with the utmost fervency; yet again I love them with a different quality of love than my love for my wife. And I love my Christian neighbors in a way that rises above my love for my non-Christian neighbors. Obviously genuine love comes in varying kinds and degrees. Why is it difficult for us to conceive that God Himself loves different people differently and with different effects?

God's love for the elect is an infinite, eternal, saving love. We know from Scripture that this great love was the very cause of our election (Eph. 2:4). Such love clearly is not directed toward all of mankind indiscriminately, but is bestowed uniquely and individually on those whom God chose in eternity past.

But from that, it does not follow that God's attitude toward those He did not elect must be unmitigated hatred. Surely His pleading with the lost, His offers of mercy to the reprobate, and the call of the gospel to all who hear are all sincere expressions of the heart of a loving God. Remember, He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but tenderly calls sinners to turn from their evil ways and live. He freely offers the water of life to all (Isa. 55:1; Rev. 22:17). Those truths are not at all incompatible with the truth of divine sovereignty.

Reformed theology has historically been the branch of evangelicalism most strongly committed to the sovereignty of God. At the same time, the mainstream of Reformed theologians have always affirmed the love of God for all sinners. John Calvin himself wrote regarding John 3:16, "[Two] points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish." Calvin went on to add this:
[In John 3:16 the evangelist] has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term world, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith.

Calvin's comments are both balanced and biblical. He points out that both the gospel invitation and "the world" that God loves are by no means limited to the elect alone. But he also recognizes that God's electing, saving love is uniquely bestowed on His chosen ones.

These same truths have been vigorously defended by a host of Reformed stalwarts, including Thomas Boston, John Brown, Andrew Fuller, W. G. T. Shedd, R. L. Dabney, B. B. Warfield, John Murray, R. B. Kuiper, and many others. In no sense does belief in divine sovereignty rule out the love of God for all humanity.

We're seeing today an almost unprecedented interest in the doctrines of the Reformation and the Puritan era. I'm very encouraged by this in most respects. A return to these historic truths is, I'm convinced, absolutely necessary if the church is to survive. Yet there is a danger when overzealous souls misuse a doctrine like divine sovereignty to deny God's sincere offer of mercy to all sinners."
John MacArthur, The Love of God: He Will Do Whatever It Takes to Make Us Holy (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1996), 15-18.

Update on 11-26-14:

MacArthur said:
God’s universal love is revealed not only in common grace and His great compassion, but also in His admonition to repent. God is constantly warning the reprobate of their impending fate, and pleading with them to turn away from sin. Nothing demonstrates God’s love more than the various warnings throughout the pages of Scripture, urging sinners to flee from the wrath to come.

Anyone who knows anything about Scripture knows it is filled with warnings about the judgment to come, warnings about hell, and warnings about the severity of divine punishment. If God really did not love the reprobate, nothing would compel Him to warn them. He would be perfectly just to punish them for their sin and unbelief with no admonition whatsoever. But He does love and He does care and He does warn.

God evidently loves sinners enough to warn them. Sometimes the warnings of Scripture bear the marks of divine wrath. They sound severe. They reflect God’s hatred of sin. They warn of the irreversible condemnation that will befall sinners. They are unsettling, unpleasant, even terrifying.

But they are admonitions from a loving God who as we have seen weeps over the destruction of the wicked. They are necessary expressions from the heart of a compassionate Creator who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. They are further proof that God is love.

The Gospel Offer

Finally, we see proof that God’s love extends to all in the gospel offer. We saw earlier that the gospel invitation is an offer of divine mercy. Now consider the unlimited breadth of the offer. No one is excluded from the gospel invitation. Salvation in Christ is freely and indiscriminately offered to all.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 22:2–14 about a king who was having a marriage celebration for his son. He sent his servants to invite the wedding guests. Scripture says simply, “they were unwilling to come” (v. 3). The king sent his servants again, saying, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast” (v. 4). But even after that second invitation, the invited guests remained unwilling to come. In fact, Scripture says, “They paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them” (vv. 5–6). This was outrageous, inexcusable behavior! And the king judged them severely for it.

Then Scripture says he told his servants, “The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast” (v. 9). He opened the invitation to all comers. Jesus closes with this: “Many are called, but few are chosen” (v. 14).

The parable represents God’s dealing with the nation of Israel. They were the invited guests. But they rejected the Messiah. They spurned Him and mistreated Him and crucified Him. They wouldn’t come—as Jesus said to them:

You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life. (Jn. 5:39–40)

The gospel invites many to come who are unwilling to come. Many are called who are not chosen. The invitation to come is given indiscriminately to all. Whosoever will may come—the invitation is not issued to the elect alone.

God’s love for mankind does not stop with a warning of the judgment to come. It also invites sinners to partake of divine mercy. It offers forgiveness and mercy. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29). And Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (Jn. 6:37).

It should be evident from these verses that the gospel is a free offer of Christ and His salvation to all who hear. Those who deny the free offer therefore alter the nature of the gospel itself. And those who deny that God’s love extends to all humanity obscure some of the most blessed truth in all Scripture about God and His lovingkindness.

God’s love extends to the whole world. It covers all humanity. We see it in common grace. We see it in His compassion. We see it in His admonitions to the lost. And we see it in the free offer of the gospel to all.

God is love, and His mercy is over all His works

January 18, 2007

John MacArthur Interview on Election

I wasn't able to recall where I first downloaded this interview, but after I heard it, I knew I had to link to it eventually. I did a google search and sure enough, Keith Plummer stole my idea (unconsciously of course) and linked to the interview before me! ;-)

Here's the link to Keith's blog on it:

You will hear Dr. MacArthur strongly affirming God's desire to save all mankind (well-meant offer), even as he underlines God's eternal purpose to save the elect alone. If I recall, MacArthur even mentioned God begging or pleading with men through the gospel call.

Alan Clifford on John Owen’s Triple Choice

“Under the influence of Aristotle’s teleology and the commercial theory of the atonement, Owen proposes a ‘dilemma to our universalists’ in a powerful piece of reasoning. After stating that there was a qualitative and quantitative ‘sameness’ in the sufferings of Christ and the eternal punishment threatening those for whom he died, Owen affirms, ‘God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some of the sins of all men’. This is Owen’s famous ‘triple choice’ position, which, in his view, conclusively settles the controversy in favour of a limited atonement. The last choice is quickly ruled out: if the atonement fails to deal with all sins, then the sinner has something to answer for. The first choice invites Owen’s question, ‘Why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins?’ He therefore concludes that the second choice alone fits the case; the atonement is exclusively related to ‘all the sins of some men’.

Owen anticipates the universalist objection that men are only lost through an unbelieving rejection of the atonement. He asks:
But this unbelief, is it a sin or not: If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death?. If he did not, then did he not die for all the sins.
For all its apparent cogency, this compelling argument raises some important problems. It is clear that unbelievers are guilty of rejecting nothing if Christ was not given for them; unbelief surely involves the rejection of a definite provision of grace. It also makes nonsense of the means of grace, depriving general exhortations to believe of all significance.

A further objection arises from an unexpected quarter. In Owen’s view the sufferings of Christ not only deal with the guilt of the believer’s pre-conversion unbelief, they are causally related to the removal of unbelief. But Owen’s pastoral experience taught him that even true believers – or those who have grounds to regard themselves as elect – continue to be plagued with unbelief. Should this be the case if Christ had died to purchase faith for them, or are they perhaps deceived? Owen certainly denies that lapses of unbelief in the elect are not sinful if Christ has paid the penalty for them. Neither would he question the fact that doubting believers fail to participate fully in the subjective blessings Christ’s death has purchased for them. In other words, his argument applies as much to supposed believers as it does to unbelievers, with interesting consequences. For if partial unbelief in a Christian hinders him from enjoying the fullness of those blessings Christ has died to purchase for him, this is no different in principle from saying that total unbelief in a non-Christian hinders him from ‘partaking of the fruit’ Christ’s death makes available for him too.

Basic to Owen’s argument is his theory of the nature of the atonement, which will be discussed in the next chapter. Suffice it to say that making the sufferings of Christ commensurate with the sins of the elect in a quantitative, commercialistic sense explains and reinforces his teleology of the atonement. This was the consideration which led him to modify the sufficiency-efficency distinction. His apparent acceptance of it is really little more than lip-service; his deliberate redefinition of it means that the atonement is only sufficient for those for whom it is efficient. In other words, if the atonement is strictly limited, then the ‘credit facilities’ of the gospel are only available to the elect.

This prevented Owen from seeing that there was an alternative way of dealing with his ‘triple choice’ challenge. For earlier generations of Calvinists the solution was a simple one. Viewing the sufficiency of the atonement in terms of a universal provision of grace, they would embrace the first choice (all the sins of all men) with respect to the atonement’s sufficiency, and the second (all the sins of some men) with respect to its efficiency. As an earlier chapter has demonstrated, the sixteenth-century Reformers taught – both in their writings and in their confessions of the faith – that the atonement was relevant and applicable to all, though it was applied only to the elect. This much is clear: Calvin and his companions believed that the sufferings of Christ were related to the sins of the whole world; men are lost, not for lack of atonement, but for not believing. Unlike Owen, the Reformers had little difficulty in establishing the basis of human guilt. While guilt is undoubtedly defined in terms of transgressing the law, a very significant component of it arises from ungrateful neglect of the gospel remedy. But on Owen’s account, if the atonement relates only to the sins of the elect, then it is doubtful justice to condemn anyone for rejecting what was never applicable to them.

Owen’s acceptance of common grace is surely in conflict with his view of the atonement’s sufficiency, for it implies a broader view than his narrower theory will allow. As a corollary, his acceptance of the ‘free offer’ of the gospel is embarrassed by his strict commercialist position. He does indeed assert that the gospel is to be preached to ‘every creature’ because ‘the way of salvation which it declares is wide enough for all to walk in’. But how can this be if the atonement is really only sufficient for the elect? Calvin and his colleagues had no difficulty in speaking like this, but Owen cannot consistently do so. Not surprisingly, Gill and his fellow hypercalvinists employed the very kind of commercialism espoused by Owen, but did so to deny the validity of universal offers of grace.”
Alan C. Clifford, Atonement and Justification (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 111-113.

For more on this subject with extensive quotes from Reformed/Calvinistic men, see my post on Double Jeopardy?

Johannes Wollebius (1586–1629) on God's Revealed Will

Just as the edicts of a magistrate are called his will, so the designation of will may be given to precepts, prohibitions, promises, and even deeds and events. Thus the divine will is also called that which God wants done [voluntas signi], because it signifies what is acceptable to God; what he wants done by us. It is called “consequent” because it follows that eternal antecedent; “conditional” because the commandments, prohibitions, warnings, and promises of God all have a condition of obedience or disobedience attached to them. Finally, it is called “revealed,” because it is always explained in the word of God. It must be observed that this sort of distinction does not postulate either really diverse, or contradictory, wills in God.
Johannes Wollebius; quoted in John W. Beardslee, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 48. The title of the original work which Beardslee reproduces was, The Compendium Theologiae Christianae (Compendium of Christian Theology). It was published originally in 1626.


DWP said:
Beardslee notes:

"Ernst Bizer, who has reprinted the original in our generation, would now warn against overestimating its importance, here agreeing with several nineteenth-century historians, but it cannot be denied that its extensive use during the seventeenth century, its brevity, clarity, and faithful positive expression of what Reformed theologians were saying in the decade of the Synod of Dort and would keep on saying, entitle it to consideration as an avenue to an over-all picture of the accepted "orthodox" understanding of the Reformed faith--the teaching commonly accepted in our churches, on which Voetius, Turretin and others set such store." From the preface, p. 11.

On page 10, Beardslee says he chose Wollebius because it was the best summary of Reformed Dogmatics from this period, i.e., the first quarter of the 17th C (ibid., 10).

The will of sign was a sub-category of the revealed will. It dates back to the medieval scholastics.

Given Beardslee's remarks, is the denial of the will of sign as expressive of what God wants us to do a departure from the received orthodoxy (at this point)?
Me now:

We're seeing in mainstream Reformed theologians that the revealed will is what God "wants" (Wollebius), "wishes" (Turretin), "desires" (Turretin), and even "ardently desires" (Calvin, Murray, Kuiper, etc.). It's an "active principle" (Dabney), and "propension" (Howe, Manton, Dabney) that "seeks" (Perkins, Durham, Edwards, Bavinck) creaturely compliance. There are some today, unfortunately, who want to vacate God's revealed will of any notion of want/wish/desire. They share that in common with John Gill, and not with the consensus of the Reformed community.

Various Confessions and Gospel Offer Terminology

Some think that important Reformed confessions do not make much (or even nothing at all) of a desire or will in God for the salvation of all. Since an offer by God is by definition sincere or "serious," then the confessions that speak of God's indiscriminate offer of salvation are by implication addressing a wish or desire in God for the salvation of all. Moreover, how could "grace" be "offered" by God and it not be well-meant? I simply cannot see how some can think there is a serious offer of grace to any whom God does not desire the salvation thereof, etc. It seems to me that a denial of a wish or desire in God for the salvation of all is virtually the same as denying God's well-meant offer of grace, which is an aspect of hyper-Calvinism. However, let it be known that I reserve the label "hyper-Calvinism" for those who explicitly deny a well-meant gospel offer by God in the external call. It just seems to be the case that some want to deny a desire in God for the salvation of all in the gospel offer, and yet maintain that they are not denying the well-meant gospel offer. They wish to be reckoned within the pale of Reformed orthodoxy. Frankly, if I denied that God desired the salvation of any non-elect person, I would see the obvious implications of that and deny that there are well-meant gospel offers made to them. Note well: A command by God implies or presupposes a desire or wish for compliance, and He's commanding all men everywhere to repent.

Just as the confessions address "duty-faith" implicitly, so they address the "well-meant gospel offer" or (the desire or wish of God for the salvation of all) by implication.

Dort: 3–4: 9
It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the Word refuse to come and be converted. The fault lies in themselves; some of whom when called, regardless of their danger, reject the Word of life; others, though they receive it, suffer it not to make a lasting impression on their heart; therefore, their joy, arising only from a temporary faith, soon vanishes, and they fall away; while others choke the seed of the Word by perplexing cares and the pleasures of this world, and produce no fruit. This our Savior teaches in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13).
Faith is therefore to be considered as the gift of God, not on account of its being offered by God to man, to be accepted or rejected at his pleasure, but because it is in reality conferred upon him, breathed and infused into him; nor even because God bestows the power or ability to believe, and then expects that man should by the exercise of his own free will consent to the terms of salvation and actually believe in Christ, but because He who works in man both to will and to work, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also.
French Confession:
Art: XIII. We believe that all that is necessary for our salvation was offered and communicated to us in Jesus Christ. He is given to us for our salvation, and 'is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:' so that if we refuse him, we renounce the mercy of the Father, in which alone we can find a refuge.
10:2: This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man,who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.
Shorter Catechism:
Q31: What is effectual calling?
A31: Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
Shorter Catechism:
Q86: What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A86: Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.
Larger Catechism:
Q68: Are the elect only effectually called?
A68: All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.
LBC London Baptist 10:2
This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from anything at all forseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature, being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit; he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.
Savoy, 10:2
This effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.
Second Helvetic:
Chapt 17: What Is the Church? The Church is an assembly of the faithful called or gathered out of the world; a communion, I say, of all saints, namely, of those who truly know and rightly worship and serve the true God in Christ the Savior, by the Word and Holy Spirit, and who by faith are partakers of all benefits which are freely offered through Christ.
39 Articles, Art 7:
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.
LC 67:
Q67: What is effectual calling?
A67: Effectual calling is the work of God's almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.
Berne Theses (Published and revised later by Zwingli, written by Berthold Haller and Francis Kolb):
Article 3:
Christ is the only wisdom, righteousness, redemption, and satisfaction for the the sins of the whole world.
Translated in P. Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, vol. 1, p. 365.

If Christ is the redemption of the whole world or suffered for the sins of the whole human race, then it certainly stems from the fact that God in the revealed sense wills/wants/wishes/desires their salvation. The same can be argued from the following confession.

Heidelberg Catechism, Question #37:
Q. What does it mean that He suffered?
A. That all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race, in order that by His passion, as the only atoning sacrifice, He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.
Update on 7-27-19:

Offer language is scattered throughout the Reformed confessions. See “The Tetrapolitan Confession (1530),” in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, 4 vols., ed. J. T. Dennison (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008–2014), 1:143; “Calvin’s Catechism (1537),” 1:367, 378, 419, 421; “Waldensian Confession of Mérindol (1543),” 1:456, 459–60; “Calvin’s Catechism (1545),” 1:484, 511; “Valdés’s Catechism (1549),” 1:528; “Consensus Tigurinus (1549),” 1:541, 543; “Consensus Genevensis (1552),” 1:726, 751, 804, 805; “Articles of the Church of England (1552/53),” 2:3; “The French Confession (1559),” 2:147, 153; “Theodore Beza’s Confession (1560),” 2:273, 274–75, 286, 288, 290, 291, 294–95, 297, 350; “Theodore Beza’s Confession at Poissy (1561),” 2:418; “The Hungarian Confessio Catholica (1562),” 2:471, 509–10, 536, 580; “Confession of Tarcal (1562) and Torda (1563),” 2:668, 693, 694, 696, 708, 713, 714, 715, 719–20, 731; “The Thirty-Nine Articles (1562/63),” 2:757; “The Synod of Enyedi (1564),” 2:802, 803, 808; “The Second Helvetic Confession (1566),” 2:844, 863; “The Antwerp Confession (1566),” 2:884; “The Netherlands Confession (1566),” 2:891; “Sandomierz Consensus (1570),” 3:233, 234, 237, 242, 243, 269, 271, 273, 274; “Confession of the Synod of Csenger (1570),” 3:298; “The Bohemian Confession (1573),” 3:339, 369, 386; “The Bohemian Confession (1575/1609),” 3:420; “The Nassau Confession (1578),” 3:474, 476; “Craig’s Catechism (1581),” 3:550, 578, 589, 590; “The Bremen Consensus (1595),” 3:726; “The Stafforts Book (1599),” 3:767, 769, 780, 784; “The Evangelical Church in Germany (1614),” 4:64; “The Irish Articles (1615),” 4:104, 106; “The Canons of Dort (1618–1619),” 4:134, 137; “Leipzig Colloquy (1631),” 4:176; “The Colloquy of Thorn (1645),” 4:213, 214, 222, 223; “The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646),” 4:247, 267; “Westminster Larger Catechism (1647),” 4:311, 312; “Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647),” 4:357, 365; “The Geneva Theses (1649),” 4:420; “Waldensian Confession (1655),” 4:439; “The Savoy Declaration (1658),” 4:469, 486; “The Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675),” 4:527; “The London Baptist Confession (1677),” 4:541, 545; “The Baptist Catechism (1693),” 4:577, 585. This listing of “offers” in this 4-volume work is exhaustive and in chronological order.

Francis Turretin (1623–1687) on the Will of God

The following quotes from Francis Turretin (1623-1687), a high Calvinist Italian Reformer who followed Calvin and Beza in Geneva, are important because 1) he connects God's command with his preceptive "will" 2) he connects God's preceptive will with a serious "wish" and "desire."

We may build the case from the following Turretin quotes the following view of God's preceptive or approving will:

1) What God commands he seriously wills by will of precept.

2) What God wills by precept is a serious "wish" and "desire."

3) When God calls a man to salvation by will of precept, he seriously wills, i.e., he wishes and desires it.

4) Turretin interprets the meaning of the Synod of Dort as saying these things by implication.
VIII. (3) The question is not whether there is in God a will commanding and approving faith and the salvation of men; nor whether God in the gospel commands men to believe and repent if they wish to be saved; nor whether it pleases him for men to believe and be saved. For no one denies that God is pleased with the conversion and life of the sinner rather than with his death. We willingly subscribe to the Synod of Dort, which determines that "God sincerely and most truly shows in his word, what is pleasing to him; namely, that they who are called should come to him" (Acta Synodi Nationalis . . . Dordrechti [1620], Pt. I, p. 266). But the question is whether from such a will approving and commanding what men must do in order to obtain salvation, can be gathered any will or purpose of God by which he intended the salvation of all and everyone under the condition of faith and decreed to send Christ into the world for them. Hence it appears that they wander from the true order of the question who maintain that we treat here only of the will of approbation (euarestias), but not of the will of good pleasure (eudokias). It is evident that we treat not of that which God wishes to be done by us, but what he wills to do for the salvation of men and of the decree of sending Christ for them (which everyone sees belongs to the will of good pleasure [eudokias] and not to that of approbation [euarestias]).
Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. G. M. Giger, ed. J. T. Dennison, 3 vols. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994), 1:397.
XLI. God wills those to be saved (whom he wills to repent and believe) in the same manner in which he wills them to believe. If he wills them to believe decretively and effectively (as with respect to the elect), he also wills them to be saved in this respect and so they are really saved. If he wills only preceptively and approvingly (as with respect to the reprobate upon whom he enjoins faith and repentance), in the same manner also he wills them to be saved (i.e., that he approves of and is pleased with their salvation), but not immediately that he destines it to them or intends it either absolutely or conditionally (because the method of the decretive will differs from that of the preceptive and approving). God indeed ought necessarily to will what he commands, but in the manner in which he commands (i.e., as he wills its being enjoined, but not always as to the execution and issue). Nor immediately does he intend what is commanded, since many things are commanded which are by no means intended. Thus God commanded Pharaoh to let the people go and yet he cannot be said to have actually intended (either absolutely or conditionally) their dismission since he intended on the contrary the hardening of Pharaoh and the retention of the people. He ordered Abraham to offer up his son and yet did not intend his immolation. He commands all to obey the law which yet he does not intend. As therefore from the command to fulfill the law you would erroneously gather that God intends the perfect sanctification of men and their justification and life from it, so from the command to believe and repent, you would notwithstanding falsely infer that God by that very thing intended the faith and repentance and so the salvation of all those to whom such an external command is promulgated. But although the end of the command in the signified act and on the part of the thing may be said to be that they should believe and repent, yet it cannot be determined that this is the end intended on the part of God and in the exercised act (for if he had intended this, he would have procured and effected the necessary means by which it would be brought about). Therefore the precept signifies that God really wills to enjoin that upon us, but not that he really wills or intends that what is commanded should take place. Nor does the example of legislators (who will and intend, as much as they can, those things which they enjoin upon their citizens) pertain to this because in them cannot be distinguished (as in God) the will of thing, could they immediately give effect to it as God can).
Ibid., 1:413–414.
XVI. It is one thing to will reprobates to come (i.e., to command them to come and to desire it); another to will they should not come (i.e., to nill the giving them the power to come). God can in calling them will the former and yet not the latter without any contrariety because the former respects only the will of precept, while the latter respects the will of decree. Although these are diverse (because they propose diverse objects to themselves, the former the commanding of duty, but the latter the execution of the thing itself), still they are not opposite and contrary, but are in the highest degree consistent with each other in various respects. He does not seriously call who does not will the called to come (i.e., who does not command nor is pleased with his coming). But not he who does not will him to come whither he calls (i.e., did not intend and decree to come). For a serious call does not require that there should be an intention and purpose of drawing him, but only that there should be a constant will of commanding duty and bestowing the blessing upon him who performs it (which God most seriously wills). But if he seriously make known what he enjoins upon the man and what is the way of salvation and what is agreeable to himself, God does not forthwith make known what he himself intended and decreed to do. Nor, if among men, a prince or a legislator commands nothing which he does not will (i.e., does not intend should also be done by his subjects because he has not the power of effecting this in them), does it follow that such is the case with God, upon whom alone it depends not only to command but also to effect this in man. But if such a legislator could be granted among men, he would rightly be said to will that which he approves and commands, although he does not intend to effect it.
Ibid., 2:507–508.
XXI. The invitation to the wedding proposed in the parable (Mt. 22:1-14) teaches that the king wills (i.e., commands and desires) the invited to come and that this is their duty; but not that the king intends or has decreed that they should really come. Otherwise he would have given them the ability to come and would have turned their hearts. Since he did not do this, it is the surest sign that he did not will they should come in this way. When it is said "all things are ready" (Lk. 14:17), it is not straightway intimated an intention of God to give salvation to them, but only the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. For he was prepared by God and offered on the cross as a victim of infinite merit to expiate the sins of men and to acquire salvation for all clothed in the wedding garment and flying to him (i.e., to the truly believing and repenting) that no place for doubting about the truth and perfection of his satisfaction might remain.
Ibid., 2:509.

The Formula Consensus Helvetica (in which Turretin assisted) also says:
Canon XIX. Likewise the external call itself, which is made  by the preaching of the Gospel, is on the part of God also, who calls, earnest and sincere. For in His Word He unfolds earnestly and most truly, not indeed, His secret intention respecting the salvation or destruction of each individual, but what belongs to our duty, and what remains for us if we do or neglect this duty. Clearly it is the will of God who calls, that they who are called come to Him and not neglect so great salvation, and so He promises eternal life also in good earnest, to those who come to Him by faith;...
Translated in A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 661.

Klauber's translation:
Canon XIX: Likewise the external call itself, which is made by the preaching of the Gospel, is on the part of God also, who earnestly and sincerely calls. For in his Word he most earnestly and truly reveals, not, indeed, his secret will respecting the salvation or destruction of each individual, but our responsibility, and what will happen to us if we do or neglect this duty. Clearly it is the will of God who calls, that they who are called come to him and not neglect so great a salvation, and so he earnestly promises eternal life to those who come to him by faith;
Martin I. Klauber, “The Helvetic Formula Consensus (1675): An Introduction and Translation,” Trinity Journal 11.1 (Spring 1990): 120.

See also Donald J. MacLean, James Durham (1622–1658) and the Gospel Offer in its Seventeenth-Century Context (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015), 34–35, for an explication of Turretin’s view on the free offer.


January 17, 2007

More False Dilemmas

Yesterday, on James White's blog, he described the content of his radio program in light of the recent Chan video controversy:
"I contrasted exhorting men and women, boys and girls, to plead for mercy from God with presenting God as if He is pleading for mercy from men!"

We have two views "contrasted":

A) exhorting men and women, boys and girls, to plead for mercy from God


B) presenting God as if He is pleading for mercy from men!

Is this a fair either/or dilemma? Is Chan describing God as if his view is that "God is pleading for mercy from men?" Or is Chan just claiming that God pleads with men to come to him for mercy? I would say that those who differ with White are just claiming the later view and not the former. Disagree with it if you will, but at least represent the perspective of others accurately.

Chan would agree with this proposition:

1) We need to exhort men and women, boys and girls, to plead for mercy from God

It's just the case that he's also affirming this:

2) God also pleads with men to come to him for mercy/forgiveness.

Chan well knows that God is not pleading mercy from man. However, if one only wants to affirm proposition #1 to the exclusion of proposition #2, then it looks much better to set proposition #1 in contrast with the manifestly absurd view that "God is pleading for mercy from man". It's an example of a false either/or dilemma. We do not have to choose between #1 and #2. Affirming them both is faithful to the scriptural picture of God.

Let no one misconstrue my responses to the Chan video situation as a complete endorsement of everything in it. It's just the case that many of the responses to it are significantly imbalanced. Whoever complains that our culture is filled with Arminians needs to take another look at the following words:

"Neither is there hope that the Arminians will be drawn to acknowledge the error of their position, as long as they are persuaded the contrary opinion cannot be maintained without admitting that an untruth must be believed, even by the commandment of him that is God of truth, and by the direction of that word, which is the word of truth." James Ussher

In this case, the untruth would be to think that proposition #2 is false:

2) God also pleads with men to come to him for mercy/forgiveness.

NKJ 2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God.

NKJ Romans 10:21 But to Israel he says: "All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people."

January 16, 2007

Two Erroll Hulse Quotes from The Great Invitation

The Bible declares clearly and unmistakably that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live (Ezek. 33:11). This pleasure is in people, not an abstract principle. In other words God is declaring of any sinner whatsoever that he has no pleasure in his destruction or punishment, but rather pleasure in his turning and living. He is not saying that he is delighting in a principle as an engineer might delight in equations and formulas. This pleasure is in people personally as individuals.
Erroll Hulse, The Great Invitation (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 1986), 64.

The above quote is significant because some "Calvinists," in seeking to avoid the idea that God desires the salvation of all (even the non-elect), say that God delights in the principle of repentance, but not that he wants John Doe Non-Elect (a particular person) himself to repent. They say that God delights when sinners repent, not that He delights that a particular person repent.
The motivation and strength to show real love for those outside the church is surely found in God himself. If he does not love them, we cannot expect to find the resources in him for us to love them!
Erroll Hulse, The Great Invitation (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 1986), 74.

It's a shame that the Reformed Baptist movement these days seems to be moving away from the influence of Hulse into significantly higher versions of Calvinism.

See also my post on Erroll Hulse on 2 Peter 3:9 in Reformation Today.

Update on 9-16-14:

Along the same lines as what Hulse says above, Ken Stebbins says the following, even though he (at the original time of this writing) had reservations about using the word "desire":
This [that which is spoken about in Ezek. 18:31-32; 33:11] is not just a delight or abhorrence in 'things' abstracted from the person as Owen (Death of Death p200) would have us believe. God's delight would be not just in repentance and faith as things in themselves--but in the wicked repenting and believing (This is not the same as saying He actually desires their salvation as we shall see later). Similarly His abhorrence would be not just in the concept of death. His abhorrence would be in the death of the wicked himself.

God may indeed delight to see His righteousness vindicated and His justice manifested in the death of the wicked. But He takes no delight in his actual death.

This would seem to be the plain and consistent meaning of the passages in Ezekiel. To say that God's delight is just in "things" and not in "persons performing those things" does not do justice to those passages.
K. W. Stebbins, Christ Freely Offered (Lithgow, Australia: Covenanter Press, 1996), 17–18.

The reason for Stebbins' reservations for using desire language, at least for the Ezekiel texts (and others) at the original time of this writing, is stated on page 20:
'To desire' has both constitutional and volitional overtones. It implies, not only a 'delight in' (constitutional), but a positive 'wish' or 'will' (volition). As such, the term is confusing, since we have seen that the Ezekiel passages speak of God's 'delight' as that which constitutes His nature, apart from, and prior to any consideration of decreeing or commanding. God's 'delight' refers to the very character of God; but 'desire' speaks not so much of His character, as of the volitional expression of that character.
Ibid., 20.

In his introduction to the second edition of this book written 20 years after, Stebbins said:
I would have liked to have revised this book before it was re-published, to express better what I have already said and to incorporate many of the helpful criticisms and suggestions that I have received over time; but I'm afraid that many other present commitments make that impossible. But one thing I wouldn't change is the central theme; I am more convinced than ever that a healthy church must be engaged in and committed to the full and free offer of the Biblical Gospel, centered on the work of Christ our Saviour upon the cross.
Ibid., 8.

Stebbins also acknowledges that the language of God’s desire for the salvation of all hearers of the gospel has been “used by nearly all reformed theologians from Calvin down to the present day” (ibid., 20).

January 15, 2007

A. T. Robertson and Diotrephes

NKJ 3 John 1:9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.

A. T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, reports that:
Some forty years ago I wrote an article on Diotrephes for a denominational paper. The editor told me that twenty-five deacons stopped the paper to show their resentment against being personally attacked in the paper.
A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1933), 263.

I thought this was funny. A. T. Robertson just exegeted the text and didn't name anyone. As a result, 25 deacons felt personally attacked and cancelled their subscriptions to the paper.

The Gospel and The Revealed Will of God

People are called or "invited" to believe in/obey the revealed will in the gospel, not God's secret decrees. In other words, the lost are to hear and believe in the fact that God stands mercifully ready and prepared to forgive all mankind, or all those listening, and not how he has secretly purposed to ultimately save his elect alone. The later doctrine of election is certainly true and biblical, but it's distinct from God's revealed will and it's focus.

If you read what some are saying in response to the Chan video, they are, in effect, making the object of faith the decretal will of God, i.e. that people are called to believe that God is determined to save his elect through Christ's "limited atonement". On the contrary, the gospel focus is on the Father's readiness and desire to forgive all that hear the external call of the gospel, whether elect or not, based on grace alone through faith alone in the sufficient sacrifice of the risen Son, which is suitable to the salvation of any given sinner. All, therefore, are commanded and beseeched by the Spirit in the gospel to believe and call on his name.

If this revealed will aspect of Christ's work is taken away and the gospel is a call to believe in his death, burial and resurrection, then one has to conclude that people are called to believe in his death, burial and resurrection for the elect alone. If one affirms the revealed will aspect or the sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction for all, then the gospel call concerns the need to believe in the sufficiency of his death, burial and resurrection for the life of the entire world, on condition of faith.

The ultimate logical outcome of making God's secret will (instead of the revealed will) the object of faith is to make the TULIP doctrines the gospel (and essential for salvation), which some on the internet are doing. Therefore, to them, if one denies or does not believe in one or more of the 5 points, they have denied the gospel and show that they are really unregenerate. Very few have gone to these extremes, but many more are making the gospel focus to be God's secret will, which paves the way to, or lays the conceptual groundwork for, the absurd outcome.

Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575) on Christ's Expiation for the Sins of All Men

The Lord made to meet on him, as an expiatory sacrifice, not one or another or most sins of one or other man, but all the iniquities of all of us. Therefore I say, the sins of all men of the world of all ages have been expiated by his death.
Bullinger, Isaiah, p.266b, sermon 151; cited in G. Michael Thomas, The Extent of the Atonement: A dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus 1536–1675 (Paternoster, 1997), 75.



Zwingli has many similar statements (click).

Farel likewise said:
Jesus died as if He had done all that men and women have done and will do from the beginning to the end of the world, since all is put on Him.
Guillaume Farel, quoted in Henri Heyer, Guillaume Farel: An Introduction to His Theology, trans. B. Reynolds (Texts and Studies in Religion 54; Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1990), 90.

Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583) on Christ's Satisfaction

4) Objection. 4. If Christ made satisfaction for all, then all ought to be saved. , But all are not saved. Therefore, he did not make a perfect satisfaction.

Answer. Christ satisfied for all, as it respects the sufficiency of the satisfaction which he made, but not as it respects the application thereof; for he fulfilled the law in a two-fold respect. First, by his own righteousness; and secondly, by making satisfaction for our sins, each of which is most perfect. But the satisfaction is made ours by an application, which is also two-fold; the former of which is made by God, when he justifies us on account of the merit of his Son, and brings it to pass that we cease from sin; the latter is accomplished by us through faith. For we apply unto ourselves, the merit of Christ, when by a true faith, we are fully persuaded that God for the sake of the satisfaction of his Son, remits unto us our sins. Without this application, the satisfaction of Christ is of no benefit to us.
Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 215.

Ursinus, in the last sentence above, sounds like Calvin in his Institutes 3.1.1:
And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us.

From Prosper's (c.390–465) Defense of Augustine: On Christ's Redemption

Prosper of Aquitaine said:
1) OBJECTION: The Saviour was not crucified for the redemption of the entire world.

ANSWER: There is not one among men whose nature was not taken by Christ our Lord, though He was born in the likeness of sinful flesh only, while every other man is born in sinful flesh. Thus, the Son of God, who was God Himself, becoming partaker of our mortal nature without partaking in its sin, granted to sinful and mortal men the grace that those who by regeneration would share in His nativity could be freed from the bonds of sin and death. Accordingly, just as it is not enough that Jesus Christ was born for men to be renewed, but they must be reborn in Him through the same Spirit from whom He was born, so also it is not enough that Christ our Lord was crucified for men to be redeemed, but they must die with Him and be buried with Him in baptism. If that were not so, then after our Saviour was born in the flesh of our own nature and crucified for us all, there would be no need for us to be reborn and to be planted together in the likeness of His death. But because no man attains to eternal life without the sacrament of baptism, one who is not crucified in Christ cannot be saved by the cross of Christ; and he who is not a member of the Body of Christ is not crucified in Christ. And he is not a member of the Body of Christ who does not put on Christ through water and the Holy Spirit. For Christ in the weakness of our flesh underwent the common lot of death, that we by virtue of His death be made partakers of His resurrection. Accordingly, though it is right to say that the Saviour was crucified for the redemption of the entire world, because He truly took our human nature and because all men were lost in the first man, yet it may also be said that He was crucified only for those who were to profit by His death. For St. John the Evangelist says: Jesus should die for the nation and not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God that were dispersed. He came into His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave the power to be made sons of God, to them who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Their condition, therefore, is different from that of men counted among those of whom he said: The world knew Him not. In that sense we may say: the Redeemer of the world shed His blood for the world, and the world refused to be redeemed, because the darkness did not comprehend the light. Yet, there was a darkness which did comprehend the light, that, namely, of which the Apostle says: You were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. The Lord Jesus Himself, who said He came to seek and to save that which was lost, also says: I did not come but to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel. And St. Paul explains who are those sheep of the house of Israel: For all are not Israelites that are of Israel, neither are all they that are the seed of Abraham children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is to say, not they that are the children of the flesh are the children of God, but they that are the children of the promise are accounted for the seed. Among them are counted those to whom refers what we quoted above: Jesus should die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but to gather in one the children of God that were dispersed. It is not only from among the Jews but also from the Gentiles that the sons of God, the sons of the promise, are gathered into the one Church by Him who calleth those things that are not, as those that are, and who gathereth together the dispersed of Israel, in order to fulfil the promise of God to Abraham, that in his seed all the tribes of the earth would be blessed.
Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans. P. De letter (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 149–151.
2) QUALIFICATION ARTICLE 9 : Likewise, he who says that the Saviour was not crucified for the redemption of the entire world does not take into account the power of the mystery of the cross, but considers only the portion of mankind who have no faith.

For it is certain that the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is the price for the redemption of the entire world. But they do not share in the application of this price who either cherishing their captivity refused to be liberated or having been liberated returned to their captivity. The word of the Lord did not fail to be accomplished, nor was the redemption of the world frustrated of its effect. For though the world considered in the vessels of wrath did not know God, yet the same world considered in the vessels of mercy knew God liberated the second, without any previous merit on their part, from the power of darkness and translated them into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans. P. De letter (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 159–160.
3) OBJECTION Our Lord Jesus Christ did not suffer for the salvation and redemption of all men.

ANSWER: The truly effectual and unique remedy for the wound of original sin, by which the common nature of all men was vitiated in Adam and condemned to death and which is the source of the three forms of concupiscence, is the death of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who being free from all necessity to die and the only sinless one, died for sinful men, who are condemned to die. Considering, then, on the one hand the greatness and value of the price paid for us, and on the other the common lot of the whole human race, one must say that the blood of Christ is the redemption of the entire world. But they who pass through this world without coming to the faith and without having been reborn in baptism, remain untouched by the redemption. Accordingly, since our Lord in very truth took upon Himself the one nature and condition which is common to all men, it is right to say that all have been redeemed, and that nevertheless not all are actually liberated from the slavery of sin. It is beyond doubt that the redemption is actually applied only to those from whom the prince of the World has been cast out,' those who are no longer vessels of the devil but members of Christ. His death did not act on the whole human race in such a manner that even those who would never have been reborn in baptism would share in the redemption, but so that the mystery accomplished once for all in the person of Christ should be renewed in each and every man by the sacrament of baptism which he is to receive once also. The beverage of immortality prepared from our weakness and God's power is apt to restore health to all men, but it cannot cure anyone unless he drink it.
Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans. P. De letter (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 164.

My Note:

If one reads through these Prosper quotes carefully, they will be able to see that his point is this: Christ redeemed all men sufficiently, but only the elect efficiently, or Christ suffered for all sufficiently, but only for the elect efficiently, as it is only applied to them. The formula later gets converted into: Christ died for all sufficiently, but only for the elect effectually. Ultimately, the concept of the Lombardian formula (see his Sentences, Book III, Section 20, Paragraph E) goes back to the days of Prosper (who wrote as a defender of Augustine's viewpoint), and even to Ambrose. The early Reformers, such as Musculus, Zwingli, Vermigli, Calvin and Bullinger, knew this well and believed it. It's a shame that this dualistic perspective is being eclipsed by those that read Calvin through the lens of later thinkers (post-Reformational scholastics), rather than through the lens of those who preceded him (the fathers and the schoolmen), such as Ambrose, Augustine, Prosper, Anselm, Aquinas, Lombard etc. However, the truth is coming out nonetheless :-)

John Calvin on Those Who Hear the Gospel and Those Who Don't

For here he meant to show, that the Devil must needs possess those that make none account of God’s mercy, that is uttered in our Lord Jesus Christ, and daily offered us in his Gospel. For look how oft the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is preached unto us, and the infinite goodness of our God talked of: so oft is this message renewed unto us, that our Lord Jesus Christ calleth us unto him, to the end we should forsake the world and being out of all hope in ourselves, fasten and settle our whole trust in him. Sith it is so: it is good reason that we should not reject the grace of God. And Saint Paul in saying so, meant to call back such as had gone astray before, and to show them the way, as if he had said, whereas the poor ignorant souls that never heard the word of the Gospel might be excused: we must needs be worse than damnable, seeing we refuse the grace of God when it is offered us: for it smelleth of such an unthankfulness, as can by no means be excused. Saint Paul therefore doth here make mention of those whom our Lord Jesus Christ calleth to the hope of salvation by his Gospel, and yet do still welter in their own wretchedness, and become brutish, not knowing whither there be a better life or no: or else of such as are sufficiently tormented with inward heartbiting, and yet seek no remedy nor comfort. Yet notwithstanding, all they to whom our Lord Jesus Christ hath not preached his Gospel, shall not fail to perish without mercy. They cannot defend themselves by ignorance: I say that all the heathen folk and Idolaters that ever were, must have their mouths stopped. And what shall become of us then, which have had our ears beaten daily with the message that God sendeth us: which is that he requireth nothing but that we should be drawn unto him, whereunto he encourageth, yea and beseecheth us, as we have seen in 2 Corinthians 5:20? Is it not a great shame for us, that God should so far abase himself in the person of his only son, that he should beseech us? Let us fall to atonement, saith he. And what hath he done on his side? What hath he offended us? Nay contrariwise, we cease not to provoke him daily against us, and yet he cometh to say unto us I will fall to atonement with you, whereas notwithstanding there is nothing but spitefulness in us, we be like little fiends, and to be short, we be damned and forlorn, and yet cometh he to seek unto us, and desireth nothing but to have the atonement made.
Calvin, Sermons on Galatians 14th Sermon, 2:20–21.

One quick note:

Since the term "atonement" is so frequently used of Christ's satisfaction itself (of the accomplishment) considered apart from the application, some may not see what Calvin is saying in the last portion of the quote. He's saying that God desires to apply Christ's work unto the lost sinner that hears the external call with the result that their sins are covered/forgiven, i.e. to have atonement made.


January 14, 2007

HCTU Audio

The achive at the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding has several audio lectures available. Some of the reputable speakers include: Timothy George, Mark Noll, Alvin Plantinga, and Donald A. Carson.

[HT: KP]

Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) on God Begging

Besides, it is no derogation for God to beseech His creatures. You say we make God beg to His creatures. Assuredly that is how the Lord represents Himself—“All day long have I stretched out My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying generation.”

This quote is not as explicit, but Spurgeon is still saying here that "The Lord begs" some to give Him their hearts:
Remember, wherever we speak about the power of grace we do not mean a physical force, but only such force as may be applied to free agents, and to responsible beings. The Lord begs you not to want to be crushed and pounded into repentance, nor whipped and spurred to holy living. But “My son, give me thine heart.” I have heard that the richest juice of the grape is that which comes with the slightest pressure at the first touch. Oh, to give God our freest love! You know the old proverb that one volunteer is worth two pressed men. We shall all be pressed men in a certain sense; but yet it is written, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” May you be willing at once!
The above is an excerpt from a sermon by C. H. Spurgeon on The Heart: A Gift for God


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

Augustine (Early Church Father), Hugh Latimer (Early English Reformer), Isaac Ambrose (Puritan), Daniel Burgess (Puritan), Jeremiah Burroughs (Westminster divine), Richard Baxter (Puritan), Joseph Caryl (Westminster divine), Thomas Case (Puritan), Stephen Charnock (Puritan), John Collinges (Puritan), John Flavel (Puritan), Theophilus Gale (Puritan), William Gearing (Puritan), Andrew Gray (Puritan), William Gurnall (Puritan), Robert Harris (Westminster divine), Thomas Larkham (Puritan), Thomas Manton (Puritan), John Murcot (Puritan), George Newton (Puritan), Anthony Palmer (Puritan), Edward Reynolds (Westminster divine), John Richardson (Puritan), Samuel Rutherford (Westminster divine), John Shower (Puritan), Richard Sibbes (Puritan), Sydrach Simpson (Westminster divine), William Strong (Westminster divine), George Swinnock (Puritan), John Trapp (Puritan), Ralph Venning (Puritan), Nathaniel Vincent (Puritan), Thomas Watson (Puritan), Samuel Willard, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, Thomas Chalmers, Walter Chantry, Erroll Hulse, John MacArthur and Fred Zaspel.

Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) and the Idea of God Begging

Samuel Rutherford, a man who was a High Calvinist, said the following while preaching from Song of Solomon 2:14:
"God has made Holes and Windows in Christ that his Doves may flee into, and make their Nest in his Heart. O Dear and Precious Dwelling; The Lodging cost us Nothing, yet we are desired to Dwell in it. Now what is Christ's Petition? Cause Me to hear thy Voice. It is ordinary for man to beg from God, for we be but His beggars; but it is a miracle to see God beg at man. Yet here is the Potter begging from the clay; the Savior seeking from sinners!"
Samuel Rutherford, Christ and the Doves Heavenly Salutations, With Their Pleasant Conference Together: Or A Sermon Before the Communion in Anwoth. (Anno 1630), p. 8.

This quote is actually interesting in light of what some confused people are saying on the internet today:
"The only time I have ever heard anyone say that God begs for anyone to do anything, is when I was in a 100% Arminian church. God doesn't beg anyone to do anything, He commands all men everywhere to repent."
This is a very common example of a false either/or dilemma. God can both command and entreat/"beg" men to come to him. It's not an either/or. It's the same sort of reasoning that says the Gospel is a command, not an offer, or that it's a command, not an invitation. This is one of the reasons why I quoted D. A. Carson below on the subject of false dilemmas.

Think of this analogy for a moment. A parent sees their child dangerously running toward moving traffic to their eventual ruin. The parent yells, "Stop running! Come here! Come to me! Look out!" There's a commanding and authoritative tone in all of this, but there is also, at the same time, a passionate plea and entreaty for the child to come to the parent. Wouldn't you think it very strange for someone to think that a godly parent can only command their child to come to them out of danger and not also passionately plea for them to do so?! Yet this is how some would have us think about the biblical portrayal of God.

Now, in drawing this analogy, I also acknowledge what R. L. Dabney said long ago as well:
"The truth we must apprehend, then, is this—we cannot comprehend it—that God eternally has active principles directed towards some objective, which combine all the activity of rational affections with the passionless stability of his rational judgments, and which, while not emotions, in the sense of change, or ebb or flow, are yet related to his volitions in a way analogous to that which obtains between the holy creature's optative powers and his volitions."
It's time to start documenting more Calvinists who have spoken of God "begging" sinners to come to him.

January 13, 2007

Augustine Quotes on Christ's Death

1) "To suffer indeed He had come, and He punished him through whom He suffered. For Judas the traitor was punished, and Christ was crucified: but us He redeemed by His blood, and He punished him in the matter of his price. For he threw down the price of silver, for which by him the Lord had been sold; and he knew not the price wherewith he had himself by the Lord been redeemed. This thing was done in the case of Judas." Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol 8, 309.2

2) "For men were held captive under the devil, and served devils; but they were redeemed from captivity. They could sell, but they could not redeem themselves. The Redeemer came, and gave a price; He poured forth His Blood, and bought the whole world. Ye ask what He bought? Ye see what He hath given; find out then what He bought. The Blood of Christ was the price. What is equal to this? What, but the whole world? What, but all nations? They are very ungrateful for their price, or very proud, who say that the price is so small that it bought the Africans only; or that they are so great, as that it was given for them alone. Let them not then exult, let them not be proud: He gave what He gave for the whole world. He knew what He bought, because He knew at what price He bought it." Augustine, Exposition of the Psalms, Ps 96:53.

3) "Therefore lift up the eyes of your souls, and see how in the whole world all nations are blessed in Abraham's seed. Abraham, in his day, believed what was not yet seen; but you who see it refuse to believe what has been fulfilled The Lord's death was the ransom of the world; He paid the price for the whole world; and you do not dwell in concord with the whole world, as would be for your advantage, but stand apart and strive contentiously to destroy the whole world, to your own loss. Hear now what is said in the Psalm concerning this ransom: They pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones; they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. Wherefore will you be guilty of dividing the garments of the Lord, and not hold in common with the whole world that coat of charity, woven from above throughout, which even His executioners did not rend. Letters of Augustine, Letter 76 (AD 402).

Even More From Calvin on the Extent of Christ's Sufferings

"3. Now if we demanded here, whether it be not lawful to be conversant with the wicked and froward to win them: I answer, yes, verily, until a man find them to be past remedy. For to give over a man at the first dash when he has done amiss, or when he is as it were in the highway to destruction: is a furthering of the destruction of the wretched soul that was redeemed by the bloodshed of our Lord Jesus Christ." Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, Sermon 119, 20:16-20, p., 731.

"However, St. Paul speaks here expressly of the saints and the faithful, but this does not imply that we should not pray generally for all men. For wretched unbelievers and the ignorant have a great need to be pleaded for with God; behold them on the way to perdition. If we saw a beast at the point of perishing, we would have pity on it. And what shall we do when we see souls in peril, which are so precious before God, as he has shown in that he has ransomed them with the blood of his own Son? If we see then a poor soul going thus to perdition, ought we not to be moved with compassion and kindness, and should we not desire God to apply the remedy." Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, Sermon 47, 6:18-19, pp., 684-5.

"You should have kept silence, says Pighius. It would have been a treacherous and abominable silence by which God's glory, Christ, and the gospel were betrayed. Is it possible? So God shall be held up as a laughingstock before our eyes, all good religion shall be torn apart, wretched souls redeemed by the blood of Christ shall perish, and it shall be forbidden to speak? ...shall the church be plundered by the thieving of the ungodly, shall God's majesty be stamped under foot, shall Christ be robbed of his kingdom, while we watch and say nothing?" Calvin, The Bondage and Liberation of the Will, p., 19.

"Hence it ought to be observed, that whenever the Church is afflicted, the example of the Prophet ought to move us to be touched (sumpatheia) with compassion, if we are not harder than iron; for we are altogether unworthy of being reckoned in the number of the children of God, and added to the holy Church, if we do not dedicate ourselves, and all that we have, to the Church, in such a manner that we are not separate from it in any respect. Thus, when in the present day the Church is afflicted by so many and so various calamities, and innumerable souls are perishing, which Christ redeemed with his own blood, we must be barbarous and savage if we are not touched with any grief. And especially the ministers of the word ought to be moved by this feeling of grief, because, being appointed to keep watch and to look at a distance, they ought also to groan when they perceive the tokens of approaching ruin." Calvin, Isaiah 22:4.

"Behold our Lord Jesus Christ the Lord of glory, abased himself for a time, as says St. Paul. Now if there were no more but this, that he being the fountain of life, became a mortal man, and that he having dominion over the angels of heaven, took upon him the shape of a servant, yea even to shed his blood for our redemption, and in the end to suffer the curse that was due unto us (Gal 3:13): were it convenient that notwithstanding all this, he should nowadays in recompense be torn to pieces, by stinking mouths of such as name themselves Christians? For when they swear by his blood, by his death, by his wounds and by whatsoever else: is it not a crucifying of God's son again as much as in them lies, and as a rending of him in pieces? And are not such folk worthy to be cut off from God's Church, yea, and even from the world, and to be no more numbered in the array of creatures? Should our Lord Jesus have such reward at our hands, for his abasing and humbling of himself after that manner? (Mich 6:30) God in upbraiding his people says thus: My people, what have I done to you? I have brought you out of Egypt, I have led you up with all gentleness and loving-kindness, I have planted you as it were in my own inheritance, to the intent you should have been a vine that should have brought me forth good fruit, and I have tilled thee and manured thee: and must thou now be bitter to me, and bring forth sower fruit to choke me withal? The same belongs to us at this day. For when the son of God, who is ordained to be judge of the world (John 5:22), shall come at the last day: he may well say to us: how now Sirs? You have borne my name, you have been baptised in remembrance of me and record that I was your redeemer, I have drawn you out of the dungeons where into you were plunged, I delivered you from endless death by suffering most cruel death myself, and for the same cause I became man, and submitted myself even to the curse of GOD my father, that you might be blessed by my grace and by my means: and behold the reward that you have yielded me for all this, is that you have (after a sort) torn me in pieces and made a jestingstock of me, and the death that I suffered for you has been made a mockery among you, the blood which is the washing and cleansing of your souls has been as good as trampled under your feet, and to be short, you have taken occasion to ban and blaspheme me, as though I had been some wretched and cursed creature. When the sovereign judge shall charge us with these things, I pray you will it not be as thundering upon us, to ding us down to the bottom of hell? Yes: and yet are there very few that think upon it." Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, Sermon 33, 5:11, p., 196.