November 26, 2008

Curt Daniel on God's "Universal Saving Will"

Yet another problem facing Calvinists is the nature of the universal saving will in the Revealed Will. Much of it revolves around the exegesis of 1 Tim. 2:4. Some say that salvation belongs only to the Secret Will; the Revealed has only to do with the Law. If that were so, then the Gospel is a secret -- how could we preach it? The truth is that the call of the Gospel commands faith in all who hear it -- God wills for them to believe the Gospel, in the Revealed Will. In that sense, He wills all to be saved. But remember, the Revealed Will is conditional. He wills for them to be saved by believing the Gospel. But He has not intended to give them all faith. This too is a paradox which we will examine more closely later.
Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism (Springfield, IL: Good Books, 2003), 208.

John Piper also used the expression "universal saving will of God" three times in his article "Are There Two Wills in God?," in Still Sovereign, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner & Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker, 2000). See pages 107, 108 and 122.

November 24, 2008

C. H. Spurgeon on Loving Christ Through Doctrine

What is doctrine after all but the throne whereon Christ sitteth, and when the throne is vacant what is the throne to us? Doctrines are the shovel and tongs of the altar, while Christ is the sacrifice smoking thereon. Doctrines are Christ’s garments; verily they smell of myrrh, and cassia, and aloes out of the ivory palaces, whereby they make us glad, but it is not the garments we care for as much as the person, the very person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Charles Spurgeon, MTP, 8:339. Cited in Iain Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2000), 122.

November 23, 2008

Answering an Email on the Narrow Mind

I called into The Narrow Mind radio program again and answered a couple of questions about my historiography and hyper-Calvinism. Here's the edited portion that includes my call:

Download Clip Here

November 22, 2008

More from MacArthur on God's Universal Saving "Wish" and "Desire"

God sincerely wishes that all men and women would turn to Him in saving faith; yet He chose only the elect "out of the world" (John 17:6) and passed over other sinners, leaving them in their depravity and wickedness (cf. Rom. 1:18-32). As a result, they are damned solely because of their sin and rejection of God. He is in no way to blame for such unbelief and is not happy that many people ultimately choose hell. However, God will receive glory even when unbelievers are damned (cf. Rom. 9:22-23).

How this great program of redemption and condemnation, with its apparent paradoxes and divine mysteries, unfolds in a way that is completely consistent with God's will can be answered only by Him. Believers who seek to be faithful witnesses as they embrace God's truth must do so by faith in His Word, trusting in such profound declarations as this:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. -Rom. 11:33-36

Since the Lord "desires all men to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. Matt. 23:37), it is not our concern to know if someone is elect before praying for that person's salvation We may pray for anyone who is unsaved, knowing that such prayers are fully consistent with God's desire. After all, "The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works" (Ps. 145:8-9).
John F. MacArthur, Nothing But the Truth (Wheaton: Good News Publishers, 1999), 43.

November 17, 2008

Radio Interview on the Conference Chart

Last Saturday morning, I did a radio interview with Gene Cook of Unchained Radio (click) on the subjects contained in my conference chart (Arminianism, Classic Calvinism, High Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism). Here's the audio for the show:

Download Broadcast Here (click)

November 16, 2008

Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847) on God Begging

On the authority of my text I call you—Christ speaketh there, and what he utters is an actual prayer to you, that you would be reconciled unto God. And what is more, God speaketh there—I and the Father am one, says the Saviour; and such is the unity of mind and of purpose between them, that a call from Christ is a call from God. And accordingly, what do we read in the text? God beseeching you—the Lord of heaven and earth descending to beseech you—He whom you have trampled upon and put far away from you—He before whom you stand with a load of sins calling for vengeance, in what situation does the text represent Him? The mighty God who fills all space, and reigns in majesty over all worlds, standing at the door of the sinner's heart, humbling Himself to the language of entreaty, beseeching the sinner to come and be reconciled to Him, begging for admittance, and protesting that if you only come unto Him through Christ, He is willing to forgive all, and to forget all. Oh! my brethren, ought not this to encourage you? Yes! and if you refuse the encouragement, it ought also to fill you with terror. The terrors of the Lord are doubtless sometimes preached to you, and I am now preaching to you the goodness and the tenderness of the Lord; but be assured that this goodness, so far from setting aside the terrors, will, if despised and rejected by you, give them their tenfold aggravation.

November 14, 2008

A Timely Quote from Matthew Henry on John 3:21

It is a common observation that truth seeks no corners. Those who mean and act honestly dread not a scrutiny, but desire it rather.
Matthew Henry, "An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of the Gospel According to St. John," in Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1991), 1931.

November 13, 2008

Dr. Curt Daniel on the Free Offer, The Will of God and Hyper-Calvinism

Hypers usually reject the idea of offers that are free, serious, sincere, or well-meant.
Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism (Springfield, Ill.: Good Books, 2003), 89.

Curt Daniel lists four "main Hyper-Calvinist arguments" against "free offers" along with the historic Calvinist reply. The fourth in the list says:
(4) "Free offers imply that God wishes all men to be saved. This contradicts the doctrine of election. It also implies that grace is universal." But: The Reformed doctrine of the revealed will of God is that there is a sense in which God certainly does will the salvation of all who hear the Gospel, just as He wills all who hear the Law to obey. He has no pleasure in the death of the one who rejects either Law or Gospel. True Reformed theology keeps the balance between the secret will (election) and the revealed will (Gospel), but Hyperism over-emphasizes the secret will. Similarly, special grace reflects election and the secret will, but there is also common grace for all men as creatures in the revealed will.
Ibid., 90.

Curt Daniel also briefly discusses this in his doctoral dissertation.

See Curt Daniel, Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1983), 426–429.

Update on 9-19-14:
'Free offer' was the debated term in mainstream Hyper-Calvinism, but 'well-meant offer' has been the debated phrase within the Hoeksema school. In essence, however, they are one and the same. The first simply brings out the aspect that God wishes to give something without cost, while the second points to God's willingness that it be accepted.
Curt Daniel, Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1983), 410.

John MacArthur on the Sincerity of the Gospel Offer

Is God Sincere in the Gospel Offer?

Of course, people who assert that God's love is exclusively for the elect will usually acknowledge that God nevertheless shows mercy, longsuffering, and benevolence to the unrighteous and unbelievers. But they will insist that this apparent benevolence has nothing whatsoever to do with love or any sort of sincere affection. According to them, God's acts of benevolence toward the non-elect have no other purpose than to increase their condemnation.

Such a view, it seems to me, imputes insincerity to God. It suggests that God's pleadings with the reprobate are artificial, and that His offers of mercy are mere pretense.

Often in scripture, God makes statements that reflect a yearning for the wicked to repent. In Psalm 81:13 He says, "Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!" And, again, in Ezekiel 18:32 He says, "'I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,' declares the Lord God. Therefore, repent and live.'"

Elsewhere, God freely and indiscriminately offers mercy to all who will come to Christ: "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. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes [whosoever will—KJV] take the water of life without cost" (Rev. 2:17).

God Himself says, "Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other" (Isa. 45:22). And, "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost" (Isa. 55:1). "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (v. 7).

There are some who flatly deny that such invitations constitute any sincere offer of mercy to the non-elect. As far as they are concerned, the very word offer smacks of Arminianism (a name for the doctrine that makes salvation hinge solely on a human decision). They deny that God would "offer" salvation to those whom He has not chosen. They deny that God's pleadings with the reprobate reflect any real desire on God's part to see the wicked turn from their sins. To them, suggesting that God could have such an unfulfilled "desire" is a direct attack on divine sovereignty. God is sovereign, they suggest, and He does whatever pleases Him. Whatever He desires, He does.

Let us be completely honest: this poses a difficulty. How can unfulfilled desire be compatible with a wholly sovereign God? For example, in Isaiah 46:10, God states, "My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure." He is, after all, utterly sovereign. It is not improper to suggest that any of His actual "desires" remain unfulfilled?

This issue was the source of an intense controversy among some Reformed and Presbyterian denominations about fifty years ago—sometimes referred to as the "free offer" controversy. One group denied that God loves the non-elect. They also denied the concept of common grace (God's non-saving goodness to mankind in general). And they denied that divine mercy and eternal life are offered indiscriminately to everyone who hears the gospel. The gospel offer is not free, they claimed, but is extended to the elect alone. That position is a form of hyper-Calvinism.

Scripture clearly proclaims God's absolute and utter sovereignty over all that happens. He declared the end of all things before time even began, so whatever comes to pass is in perfect accord with the divine plan.

What God has purposed, He will also do (Isa. 46:10-11; Num. 23:19). God is not at the mercy of contingencies. He is not subject to His creatures' choices. He "works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11). Nothing occurs but that which is in accord with His purposes (cf. Acts 4:28). Nothing can thwart God's design, and nothing can occur apart from His sovereign decree (Isa. 43:13; Ps. 33:11). He does all His good pleasure: "Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps" (Ps. 135:6).

But that does not mean God derives pleasure from every aspect of what He has decreed. God explicitly says that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:32; 33:11). He does not delight in evil (Isa. 65:12). He hates all expressions of wickedness and pride (Prov. 6:16-19). Since none of those things can occur apart from the decree of a sovereign God, we must conclude that there is a sense in which His decrees do not always reflect His desires; His purposes are not necessarily accomplished in accord with His preferences.

The language here is necessarily anthropopathic (ascribing human emotions to God). To speak of unfulfilled desires in the Godhead is to employ terms fit only for the human mind. Yet such expressions communicate some truth about God that cannot otherwise be expressed in human language. As noted in chapter 3, God's own Word uses anthropopathisms to convey truth about Him that cannot adequately be represented to us through any other means. To give but one example, consider Genesis 6:6: "The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart." Yet we know that God does not change His mind (1 Sam. 15:29). He is immutable; "with [Him] there is no variation, or shifting shadow" (Jas. 1:17). So whatever Genesis 6:6 means, it cannot suggest any changeableness in God. The best we can do with such an anthropopathism is try to grasp the essence of the idea, then reject any implications we know would take us to ideas about God that are unbiblical.

That same principle applies when we are grappling with the question of God's expressed desire for the wicked to repent. If God's "desire" remains unfulfilled (and we know that in some cases, it does--Lk. 13:34), we cannot conclude that God is somehow less than sovereign. We know He is fully sovereign; we do not know why He does not turn the heart of every sinner to Himself. Nor should we speculate in this area. It remains a mystery the answer to which God has not seen fit to reveal. "The secret things belong to the Lord our God"; only "the things revealed belong to us" (Deut. 29:29). At some point, we must say with the psalmist, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain it" (Ps. 139:6).  
John MacArthur, The Love of God (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996), 107–110.

Commenting on this book by MacArthur, Armstrong wrote:
A biblical study which demonstrates that the Father’s heart is one of love for all people, especially for His own. A good corrective to the emphasis of newer hyper-Calvinism.
John Armstrong, "Annotated Bibliography," Reformation and Revival 7:2 (Spring 1998): 146.

Gonzales on God's Heart for the Non-Elect

This sermon compliments the material by Sam Waldron in the previous post, which has been updated.

Brief Biography:

Robert R. Gonzales Jr. has been a pastor since 1997 and currently serves as one of the pastors of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church. He is a graduate of the Reformed Baptist School of Theology, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also holds a Master of Arts degree (M.A.) in Theology and a Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University. He is an Associate Editor of and contributor to the Reformed Baptist Theological Review (RBTR) and a member of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). Bob and his wife, Becky, have five children.

November 10, 2008

Dr. Sam Waldron on the 1689 LBC and God's Saving Will

B. The free offer in the Bible

'But the witness which I receive is not from man, but I say these things, that you may be saved' (John 5:34). This text epitomizes the crux of the free offer. That crux is God's indiscriminate desire for the salvation of sinners. The 'these things' of the text refer to the testimony of John the Baptist to the messianic dignity of Jesus (John 5:33, 35–36). The phrase, 'that you may be saved', states Jesus' goal in mentioning the testimony of John. This clause begins with one of the most important Greek words which express purpose. His true purpose in alluding to the testimony of John is not to defend himself, but to save his hearers. The pronoun 'you' clarifies those who are the objects of Jesus' saving intention. This pronoun in this context plainly refers to the 'Jews' (cf. John 5:18–19, 33 with 1:19–24). Throughout this Gospel this designation refers to the Jewish leaders (5:10, 15, 16, 18, 33; 1:19–24; 9:22). The character of these 'Jews' is abundantly clear. They were those who, though blessed with great light (5:35), had ultimately rejected that light (5:38–47). These men were no ordinary sinners, but murderers who would bring about Jesus' death (5:16, 18; 18:12, 14, 31, 36, 38; 19:7, 12, 38; 20:19). The destiny of many of them, at least, was to die under the wrath of God (John 8:21, 24; Matt. 12:24, 31; 24:15–28; Luke 21:20–24; 1 Thess. 2:14–16). This very, in fact, teaches that these Jews, having rejected the true Messiah, would receive false messiahs (John 5:43). The phrase, 'I say', emphasizes that it was no one less than God's eternal Son (John 1:18; 5:18–26) and God's eternal Word who uttered these sentiments (John 1:1; 5:19, 43). Given this emphasis of the Gospel of John, we must recognize that Jesus here reveals God's heart and God's will (John 12:49–50; 14:10. 24; 17:8).

The doctrine of this text that God earnestly desires the salvation of every man who hears the gospel and thus freely offers Christ to them is confirmed throughout the rest of Scripture. The Bible teaches that the good gifts which God bestows upon men in general, including the non-elect, are manifestations of God's general love and common grace towards them (Matt. 5:43–48; Luke 6:35; Acts 14:17). While they do serve to increase the guilt of those who misuse them, this is not the sole intention of God towards the non-elect in giving them. The Scriptures teach that God desires the good even of those who never come to experience the good wished for them by God (Deut. 5:29; 32:29; Ps. 81:13–16; Isa. 48:18). The Scriptures also teach that God so loved sinners that in the person of his Son he weeps because of the destruction they bring upon themselves (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34; 19:41–44). God emphatically expresses his desire that some should repent who do not repent (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; Rom. 10:11). The Scriptures teach a general gospel call which comes to the hearers of the gospel indiscriminately and which may be, and often is resisted (Prov. 1:24; 8:4; Isa. 50:2; 65:12; 66:4; Jer. 7:13–14; 35:17; Matt. 22:14).

This biblical witness does not overthrow the scriptural teaching of an unconditional election and an irresistible grace. When our finite minds contemplate the glory of the incomprehensible God revealed in the Scriptures we often will be unable to penetrate completely how two seemingly contradictory truths may be reconciled. It ought, however, to rid us of every hesitation in calling men indiscriminately, passionately, freely and authoritatively to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the gospel.
Samuel E. Waldron, Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1989), 121–122.
Most people who believe in particular redemption also believe in the free offer. I emphatically am one of them. God not only commands but also desires the salvation of everyone who hears the gospel, whether they are elect or not. This view is embedded in the Canons of Dort themselves (third and fourth heads, Article 8): “As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God has most earnestly and truly declared in His Word what is acceptable to Him, namely, that those who are called should come unto Him. He also seriously promises rest of soul and eternal life to all who come to Him and believe.”
Sam Waldron, “The Biblical Confirmation of Particular Redemption,” in Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, ed. E. Ray Clendenen & Brad J. Waggoner (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2008), 149.

Robert Reymond's (1932–2013) Denial of God's Universal Saving Will

25. Some Reformed theologians teach that God can and does earnestly desire, ardently long to see come to pass, and actually work to effect things which he has not decreed will come to pass. Basing his conclusions on his expositions on Deuteronomy 5:29, Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11; Matthew 23:37 and 2 Peter 3:9, John Murray states in "The Free Offer of the Gospel," Collected Writings of John Murray (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), that God represents himself as "earnestly desiring the fulfillment of something which he had not in the exercise of his sovereign will actually decreed to come to pass," that he "expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass," that he "desires . . . the accomplishment of what he does not decretively will," that Christ "willed the bestowal of his saving and protecting grace upon those whom neither the Father nor he decreed thus to save and protect," that "God does not wish that any man should perish. His wish is rather that all should enter upon eternal life by coming to repentance," and finally, that "there is in God a benevolent lovingkindness towards the repentance and salvation of even those whom he has not decreed to save" (4:119, 130, 131–132). John H. Gerstner similarly asserts, but without the requisite scriptural support, in A Predestination Primer (Winona Lake, Ind.: Alpha Publications, 1979) 36–37, that God sincerely "strives with men whom He knows and has predestined should perish," that "God, who knows all things, including the fact that certain persons will in spite of all efforts reject and disbelieve, continues to work with them to persuade them to believe," and that "God, who knows the futility of certain endeavors to convert certain persons, proceeds to make these endeavors which He knows are going to be futile." If one followed this trajectory of reasoning to its logical end, one might also conclude that perhaps Christ, though he knew the futility of his endeavor, did after all die savingly for those whom his Father and he had decreed not to save. But all such reasoning imputes irrationality to God, and the passages upon which Murray relies for his conclusions can all be legitimately interpreted in such a way that the Christian is not forced to impute such irrationality to God. For these other interpretations I would refer the reader to John Gill, The Cause of God and Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Sovereign Grace, 1971), 4–6, 22–26, 28, 62.
Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), 692–693n25.


From the above citation, one can see that Robert Reymond does not think that God in any sense wills, wishes or desires to save the non-elect, in contrast to John Murray and the early John Gerstner. I say "early" John Gerstner because he changed his position (from that which is in his Primer), as can be seen in his Foreward to David Engelsma's Hyper-Calvinism & The Call of the Gospel, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1994), vii–ix, and his statements in Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism, 2nd ed. (Morgan, Penn.: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2000), 142–146.

It is also astonishing to see Robert Reymond's reference to and approval of John Gill on this point.

Similarly, Gordon Clark, who also appeals to John Gill on the will of God, said:
If this verse [Deut. 5:29] or any verse speaks of God as wishing the salvation of someone whom he has rejected as reprobate, there would be an inconsistency implying hypocrisy.
Gordon H. Clark, Biblical Predestination (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1974), 130. Also, in Clark’s commentary on 2 Peter 3:9, he said, “...God does not will the salvation of every member of the human race. It is not his will that every man without exception should repent.” See New Heavens, New Earth: A Commentary on First and Second Peter (Hobbs, NM: The Trinity Foundation, 1993), 231–232.

Gill, Hoeksema, Clark, Engelsma, and Reymond are all in agreement on this particular topic, though they differ on other matters.

November 9, 2008

Iain Murray on the Love of God and Hyper-Calvinism

Hyper-Calvinism, on the other hand, denies, in the words of John Murray, 'that there is a love of God that goes forth to lost men and is manifested in the manifold blessings which all men without distinction enjoy, a love in which non-elect persons are embraced, and a love that comes to its highest expression in the entreaties, overtures and demands of gospel proclamation.'3
3. 'The Atonement and the Free Offer of the Gospel' in the Banner of Truth (London, 1968), July-August, p. 29.
Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), 98.

Iain Murray on Spurgeon, Hyper-Calvinism and God's Saving Will

These quotations lead us on to the fourth and perhaps the most serious difference of all between evangelical Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism.

Hyper-Calvinism and the Love of God

Spurgeon saw that behind the distortion of predestination, and the unwillingness to believe that the gospel invitations are to be addressed freely to all men, lay a failure to understand what Scripture reveals about the character of God himself. If God has chosen an elect people, then, Hyper-Calvinism argued, he can have no desire for the salvation of any others and to speak as though he had, is to deny the particularity of grace. Of course, Hyper-Calvinists accepted that the gospel be preached to all, but they denied that such preaching was intended to demonstrate any love on the part of God for all, or any invitation to all to receive mercy. On the contrary, they taught that no man has any right to trust in a loving God until he has first some personal evidence that he is one of the chosen.

A sermon of 1858 which Spurgeon preached on 'Sovereign Grace and Man's Responsibility' identified this crucial difference with Hyper-Calvinism. He took for his text the words of God quoted by Paul in Romans 10:20-21, 'I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith, all day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.' In such words Spurgeon saw the proof that God can be said to desire the salvation even of those who persist in rejecting him:

'Lost sinners who sit under the sound of the gospel are not lost for the want of the most affectionate invitation. God says he stretches out his hands ... What did he wish them to come for? Why, to be saved. "No," says one, "it was for temporal mercies." Not so, my friend; the verse before is concerning spiritual mercies, and so is this one, for they refer to the same thing. Now, was God sincere in his offer? God forgive the man who dares to say he was not. God is undoubtedly sincere in every act he did. He sent his prophets, he entreated the people of Israel to lay hold on spiritual things, but they would not, and though he stretched out his hands all the day long, yet they were "a disobedient and gainsaying people" and would not have his love.'1

Spurgeon regarded the denial of God's desire for the salvation of all men as no mere theoretical mistake. For it converged with one of the greatest obstacles to faith on the part of the unconverted, that is to say, a wrong view of the character of God. Men 'imagine that God is a severe being, angry and fierce, very easily moved to wrath, but not so easily to be induced to love.' The truth of divine love is the last to enter men's heads. Because Hyper-Calvinism is wrong here it fails to disabuse the minds of fallen men of this error. It does not give men the warning to be found in such evangelical Calvinists as John Owen who counseled, 'Let us not entangle our own spirits by limiting his grace ... We are apt to think that we are very willing to have forgiveness, but that God is unwilling to bestow it.' Scripture, Owen continued, sets forth the contrary in order 'to root out all the secret reserves of unbelief concerning God's willingness to give mercy, grace, and pardon unto sinners ... Therefore, the tendency of our former argument is, not merely to prove that there is forgiveness with God, which we may believe and not be mistaken, but which we ought to believe; it is our duty to do so. We are expressly commanded to believe, and that upon the highest promises and under the greatest penalties.'
1. NPSP, vol. 4, p. 341. As John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse observe, 'It would appear that the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men.' See 'The Free Offer of the Gospel' in Collected Writings of John Murray (Banner of Truth, 1982), vol. 4, pp. 113–32.
Iain H. Murray, Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), 88–91.

November 8, 2008

Conference Chart

Here is a modified pdf copy of the chart I created in 2008 for Dr. David Allen to use at the John 3:16 Conference:

It compares Arminianism, Classic/Moderate Calvinism, High Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism on 8 different (but related) topics:

1) God's Love
2) God's Will
3) God's Grace
4) Gospel Offers
5) Christ's Death, or the Extent of Expiation and Redemption
6) Sufficiency
7) Human Ability
8) Responsibility

I believe he made enough copies for about 800 people, and I see that one person already has a low quality scan of it online. So, here is a much better copy to distribute.

Also, I did a radio interview (click) (or here) on this chart that may be helpful for further explanation.

Update on 9-27-11: In retrospect, I think it is proper to place William Twisse's name in the classic-moderate category on the atonement. Andrew Fuller's name should be qualified since he changed his position later in life. He was a High Calvinist on the atonement early on, then switched to the moderate camp. Also, William Carey's views are not yet known (insufficient documents), so he should not be listed, not even as a High Calvinist. When I made this chart, I was not sure about Fuller's switch, so I assumed he and Carey were both High-Calvinists. I have updated the "Notable Representatives" section of the chart to reflect these facts and others.

November 7, 2008

Ezekiel Culverwell (c.1554-1631) on God's Revealed Will in 2 Pet. 3:9; Ezek. 18:23, 32; Matt. 23:37 and 2 Cor. 5:20

"Having in the former part of this Treatise sufficiently proved by many Scriptures this point, that Christ and his benefits be freely offered without exception to all mankind, as that one place Mark 16:15 expressly shows; I only now advise every one who is kept from believing by this, that he knows not whether he be contained under the pardon or no, not to look to God's secret will, but to attend to God's revealed will in his Word, wherein it is expressly said, That God would have no man to perish, but would have all men come to repentance; and so oft. That he desires not the death of a sinner, that hereby he may be moved to seek and hope for that mercy, which God is so willing to bestow upon him, if the fault be not in his own self, as it was in the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem, of whom our Saviour complained, saying, How often would I have gathered thy Children, as the Hen gathereth her Chickens under her wings, & ye would not?

A further manifestation of this willingness in God to save sinners, may be seen in his gracious invitation of the unworthiest to come to the wedding of his Son: yea, more by his beseeching sinners to be reconciled to him: and by the many and weighty arguments he uses to persuade men to believe, by the great rewards, earthly and spiritual, temporal and eternal, which all believers shall enjoy; and by the fearful woes which shall fall on all unbelievers, both in this life, and that to come, as plentifully is to be seen throughout the Scriptures."
Ezekiel Culverwell, A Treatise of Faith (London: Printed by J.D. for H. Overton, and are to be sold by William Sheares, 1648), 184-186. I have updated the English.

Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) on God's Will to Bring Men to Repentance

1. Now is the season of repentance—and everything is best done in its season. "Now is the accepted time" (2 Cor. 6:2); now God has a mind to show mercy to the penitent. He is on the giving hand. Kings set apart days for healing. Now is the healing day for our souls. Now God hangs forth the white flag and is willing to parley with sinners. A prince at his coronation, as an act of royalty—gives money, proclaims pardons, fills the conduits with wine. Now God promises pardons to penitent sinners. Now the conduit of the gospel runs wine. Now is the accepted time. Therefore come in now and make your peace with God. Break off your iniquities now by repentance. It is wisdom to take the season. The farmer takes the season for sowing his seed. Now is the seedtime for our souls.
Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), 87.
The Lord proceeds gradually in his judgments. First he sends a lesser trial—and if that will not do, then a greater one. He sends upon one a gentle illness to begin with—and afterwards a burning fever. He sends upon another a loss at sea—then the loss of a child—then a loss of a husband. Thus by degrees he tries to bring men to repentance.
Ibid., 116.


Thomas Watson (c.1620–1686) on Considering the Mercies of God

2. The second serious consideration to work repentance, is to consider the mercies of God.

A stone is soonest broken upon a soft pillow, and a heart of stone is soonest broken upon the soft pillow of God's mercies. "The goodness of God leads you to repentance" (Romans 2:4). The clemency of a prince sooner causes relenting in a malefactor. While God has been storming others by his judgments—he has been wooing you by his mercies.

(1) What preventative mercies have we had? What troubles have been prevented, what fears blown over? When our foot has been slipping, God's mercy has held us up! (Psalm 94:18). His mercy has always been a screen between us and danger. When enemies like lions have risen up against us to devour us—free grace has snatched us out of the mouth of these lions! In the deepest waves the arm of mercy has upheld us—and has kept our head above water. And will not all of God's preventative mercies lead us to repentance?

(2) What positive mercies have we had! Firstly, in supplying mercy. God has been a bountiful benefactor, "the God who fed me all my life long unto this day" (Gen. 48:15). What man will spread a table for his enemy? We have been enemies—yet God has fed us! He has given us the horn of oil. He has made the honeycomb of mercy drop on us. God has been as kind to us—as if we had been his best servants. And will not this supplying mercy lead us to repentance? Secondly, in delivering mercy. When we have been at the gates of the grave, God has miraculously preserved our lives. He has turned the shadow of death into morning, and has put a song of deliverance into our mouth. And will not delivering mercy lead us to repentance? The Lord has labored to break our hearts with his mercies. In Judges, chapter 2, we read that when the angel had preached a sermon of mercy, "the people wept loudly." If anything will move tears, it should be the mercy of God. He is an obstinate sinner indeed—whom these great cable-ropes of God's mercy will not draw to repentance!
Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), 114–115.


November 6, 2008

Walter Travers (c.1548–1635) on the Solemn Commemoration of the Death of Christ

We do also administer it in both kinds, of bread and and wine. Further the minister doth take the bread and give thanks, break it and deliver it to the communicants. Likewise he taketh the cup and after thanksgiving, poureth out the wine in the cup to be delivered to all that are to be partakers of the communion. The people that do communicate receive the bread and eat it, and the wine likewise, and drink it.

Now the end and use of all this is added hereunto, which is in general the solemn commemoration of the death of Christ. In particular, and that first in regard of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, to magnify the goodness of God, in not sparing to give his only begotten Son for the redemption of the world; and to give him most due thanks for such his unspeakable grace and mercy. It is likewise to glorify our Saviour Christ, and to give thanks for his exceeding love to mankind, in that for our redemption, he hath vouchsafed to humble himself to take upon him our nature and the form of a servant, and in that nature to humble himself for us even to the death, and that the accursed death of the cross.
Walter Travers, Vindiciæ Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ: Or A Iustification of the Religion Now Professed in England (Printed at London by T. C. & R. C. for Michael Sparke, 1630), 45. I have updated some of the English.

Travers, a Puritan divine, was educated at the University of Cambridge, and then travelled to Geneva to visit Theodore Beza (with whom he formed a friendship). He was ordained by Thomas Cartwright in Antwerp. He was unwilling "to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles," and "declined to receive orders in the C. of E." "Throughout the 1580's, he was one of the leaders of Presbyterian activity in London. His principal works defended the Presbyterian form of Church government as of Dominical institution and proposed a scheme for practical implementation; they provided the most important English exposition of the Presbyterian case, and as such exercised great influence in that wing of the Puritan movement." See "Travers, Walter" in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, 3rd edition (Oxford University Press, 1997), 1637–38.

Edward Polhill (1622–1694) on Christ's Satisfaction and Unequal Love in God

Christ in his Coming and satisfactory Sufferings had a respect to all Men, so far as to procure for them Salvation on Gospel-terms, but he had not an equal respect to all; it being utterly unimaginable that he should have as great a respect to those in the Pagan World, who have no Christ, no atoning Sacrifice, no Promise of Life and Salvation revealed to them, as he hath to those in the Church, who have all these glorious Objects evidently set forth before them: Greater Donations argue greater degrees of Love; or else, which is very hard to believe, God loves all Creatures alike, notwithstanding that he measures out his Goodness to them in a very various and different manner, to some more, and to others less.
Edward Polhill, An Answer to the Discourse of Mr. William Sherlock Touching the Knowledge of Christ and our Union and Communion with Him (London: Printed for Ben. Foster, 1675), 104–105.


A Quote from William Jenkyn's (1612–1685) Dying Thoughts

Great is the heinousness of sin, since it can provoke a God of much Mercy to express much severity. That drop of Gall must needs be bitter that can imbitter a whole Sea of honey, how offensive must sin then be that can provoke a God, to whose Ocean of pity the Sea is but a drop! God doth not Afflict us willingly: He gives Honey naturally, but stings only when he is provoked by us. So that every Sufferer Coines his own Calamities, & there is no Arrow of Judgment falls down upon us, but what was first (in sinning) shot upwards by us; no shower of miseries sent down upon us, but what was First caused by the ascent of the vapours of our sin; Nor any Print of Calamity made on us, but sin is the Print that makes it. What a folly is it then for us in our suffering to be impatient against God, and yet patient with our sin, or to be angry with the Medicine, and yet in love with the disease. Let us justify God therefore in all our sufferings, and condemn ourselves.
Mr. Jenkins's Dying Thoughts: Who Departed this Life on Monday the 19th of this Instant January, in the Prison of Newgate (London: Printed for Edward Goldwin, 1685).


Jenkyn is one of my favorite Puritans. It seems that every sentence in his writings is loaded with wisdom and excellent illustrations.

Andrew Gray (1634–1656) on Christ Begging

3. Thirdly, Let this consideration provoke you not to slight this great salvation, that Christ is exceedingly serious, and earnest that ye should embrace it: And I think that Isa. 28. 23. speaketh out his exceedingly seriousness, where four times he beggeth of his hearers, that they would give ear and hear his voice, saying, Give ear and hear my voice, hearken and hear my speech. What needeth all these exhortations? But that Christ is most serious that they would embrace the great salvation. And O, that there were a person here today, as serious to the bargain as Christ is! But be who ye will that slight this great salvation, [believe me] the day is coming wherein ye shall cry out, Alas for my slighting of it!
Andrew Gray, The Great Salvation Offered and Tendered (London: Printed for H. Barnard in the Poultrey, 1694), 19–20.


Jeremiah Burroughs (c.1600–1646) on 1 Peter 3:18-20

That is vainly made use of by some, to prove that Christ's soul did descend into Hell, to go and preach to the damned in Hell, but certainly that is a vain conceit, if you observe the text, you shall find that this is the meaning of it, observe the 20th verse, It was to those spirits which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God, waited in the days of Noah. Those spirits that did live in the days of Noah, and Noah's preaching unto them; Now (the text says) they are in prison, Jesus Christ went and preached to the spirits that were disobedient in the times of Noah, that now are in prison. How did he go but by his Spirit? By his servant Noah, [by Noah]. The preaching of Noah was the preaching of Christ.
Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Reconciliation, Or, Christ's Trumpet of Peace to the World (London: Printed by Peter Cole, 1657), 285–286. I have updated some of the English.

Burroughs, Flavel and Howe are all in agreement on this text.

November 3, 2008

J. L. Dagg (1794–1884) on Various Senses of "Decree"

Writers on theology have employed the term Decrees, to denote the purpose of God. It is an objection to this term, that there is no inspired authority for its use in this sense. When the Scriptures use the term decree, they signify by it a command promulged, to be observed by those under authority. It is the will of precept, rather than the will of purpose. And further, its use in the plural number does not accord so well with the oneness of the divine plan.
J. L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, VA.: Gano Books, 1990), 103–104.


Edward Polhill has made similar observations about the term (click). See Edward Polhill, “The Divine Will Considered in its Eternal Decrees,” in The Works of Edward Polhill (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), 131–132.

J. L. Dagg (1794–1884) on God's Will of Precept

"Besides God's will of purpose, we have seen that he has a will of precept. According to the latter, he commands all men everywhere to repent; he requires all to believe in Jesus Christ; and it is his will that all men should honor the Son. To all who obey his will in these particulars, he gives the promise of eternal life. The precept and the promise are both included in the revealed will of God. It is the revealed will of God that the gospel should be preached to every creature, and that every creature who hears should believe, and that all who believe shall receive life everlasting."
J. L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (Harrisonburg, VA.: Gano Books, 1990), 325.


More from Dagg on the revealed will of God can be read HERE.

Dr. David Allen's Review of Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue has posted Dr. David Allen's review of the book Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue. This book is the collection of papers that were delivered at the Building Bridges Conference. While Dr. Allen does not consider himself a Calvinist, he reviews this book with theological clarity, objectivity and overall competence. I can only hope (perhaps in vain) that the civility with which he addresses the subjects is also found in his Calvinistic critics, particularly by those in the blogosphere.

As some of you may know, Dr. Allen will be one of those lecturing this coming Friday at the John 3:16 Conference. His topic will be Limited Atonement.

November 2, 2008

J. L. Dagg (1794–1884) on Other Forms of “Particular Redemption”

The adaptedness of Christ’s death to serve as a ground for universal gospel invitations, constitutes it in the view of some persons a universal redemption. . . Other persons who maintain the doctrine of particular redemption, distinguish between redemption and atonement, and because of the adaptedness referred to, consider the death of Christ an atonement for the sins of all men; or as an atonement for sin in the abstract.

Dagg seems to be saying this in the above quote: He’s aware that there are some Calvinistic men who hold to a form of “particular redemption,” but they “distinguish between redemption and atonement.” By the term “atonement,” they’re referring to the satisfaction of Christ itself, such that they think “the death of Christ” was “an atonement for the sins of all men” (i.e. an unlimited imputation of sin to Christ, contrary to Dagg’s own limited imputation perspective). In their use of the term “redemption,” they’re referring to the effectual application that the elect alone receive at the point of faith by the regenerating power of the Spirit. What is interesting is that this is the very model set forth later on in W. G. T. Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology. Shedd speaks of an “unlimited atonement” with a “particular redemption” in the above sense.

Similarly, A. A. Hodge noted the distinction in some Calvinistic theologians:
In modern times some Calvinistic advocates of an indefinite atonement distinguish between the terms [atonement and redemption] thus. Atonement, or the sacrificial impetration of salvation, they claim to be made indefinitely for all men. Redemption, which they understand to include the intended application as well as the impetration or salvation, they hold to be confined to the elect (Dr. W. B. Weeks, in “Parks’s Atonement,” p. 579).
A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 403.

J. I. Packer (1926–) on the Importance of Friendliness in Evangelism

The next time you engage in face-to-face evangelism yourself, or read some (perhaps totally anonymous) blogger who fancies himself as an evangelist and/or an über-apologist on the internet, or if you enter into a "Christian" chat room, observe if the following principles in Packer's book are being violated.
There is a famous old book on personal evangelism by C. G. Trumbull, entitled Taking Men Alive. In the third chapter of that book, the author tells us of the rule that his father, H. C. Trumbull, made for himself in this matter. It was as follows: 'Whenever I am justified in choosing my subject of conversation with another, the theme of themes (Christ) shall have prominence between us, so that I may learn of his need, and, if possible, meet it.' The key words here are: 'whenever I am justified in choosing my subject of conversation with another'. They remind us, first, that personal evangelism, like all our dealings with our fellow-men, should be courteous. And they remind us, second, that personal evangelism needs normally to be founded on friendship. You are not usually justified in choosing the subject of conversation with another till you have already begun to give yourself to him in friendship and established a relationship with him in which he feels that you respect him, and are interested in him, and are treating him as a human being, and not just as some kind of 'case'. With some people, you may establish such a relationship in five minutes, whereas with others it may take months. But the principle remains the same. The right to talk intimately to another person about the Lord Jesus Christ had to be earned, and you earn it by convincing him that you are his friend, and really care about him. And therefore the indiscriminate buttonholing, the intrusive barging in to the privacy of other people's souls, the thick-skinned insistence on expounding the things of God to reluctant strangers who are longing to get away—these modes of behaviour, in which strong and loquacious personalities have sometimes indulged in the name of personal evangelism, should be written off as a travesty of personal evangelism. Impersonal evangelism would be a better name for them! In fact, rudeness of this sort dishonours God; moreover, it creates resentment, and prejudices people against the Christ whose professed followers act so objectionably. The truth is that real personal evangelism is very costly, just because it demands of us a really personal relationship with the other man. We have to give ourselves in honest friendship to people, if ever our relationship with them is to reach the point at which we are justified in choosing to talk to them about Christ, and can speak to them about their own spiritual needs without being either discourteous or offensive. If you wish to do personal evangelism, then—and I hope you do; you ought to—pray for the gift of friendship. A genuine friendliness is in any case a prime mark of the man who is learning to love his neighbor as himself.
J. I. Packer, Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1991), 80–82.

Some of the Christians on the internet who are violating these principles are not only not accountable to other believers, but they are not even accountable to their own Church elders, and yet demand respect for their "evangelistic" or "apologetical" activities. As Packer points out above, we are hardening people against the truth, rather than winning them to the truth, when we behave "so objectionably" toward others.
ESV 1 Peter 3:15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
Biblical apologetics doesn't merely involve an intellectual ability to give an answer to those who contradict God's words. It also involves a level of maturity in conversation such that our neighbor can tell that we have an interest in their ultimate well-being, that we truly respect them as made in God's image, and genuinely desire that they come to the knowledge of the truth.