January 21, 2009

Robert Godfrey on Matthias Martinius (1572–1630)

In his twenty-fourth thesis Martinius described his reasons for defending at such length the notion that Christ died for all:
The clear reasons why I follow this opinion are three: 1. So that the Scriptures can be reconciled in a way that is not perplexing. 2. So that the glory of truth, mercy, and justice remain to God in the Evangelical commands, promises and warnings, and that God is not judged by these things to wish or to do anything other than what his words declare. 3. So that it is manifested that the guilt for the destruction of the impious is in themselves, not indeed in a defect of the remedy through which they might have been saved.45
Martinius, like Davenant, was concerned to speak about God's general concern for his creation and the conditional promises offered truly to all on the basis of the death of Christ . . . Like Davenant, although not with the clarity of his treatise, Martinius based his defense of this notion on an expanded view of sufficiency.

Thesis XXV summarized his position: ". . . Merit, I say, and application are equally broad and not equally broad in different respects; and there is no contradiction. Christ died for all with the intention of saving them and he did not so die for all."46 Some of the strict Calvinists might well have taken considerable exception to this. But Martinius had a surprise waiting for them if they did, for though he did not cite the source of his thesis, Martinius' statement was almost a direct quotation from Ursinus.47 Ursinus was one of the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the very documents that the Synod had been convoked to defend against the attacks of the Remonstrants. A little later in his Theses Martinius did cite Ursinus explicitly in his own defense.

Martinius' seven theses on the death of Christ as it related to the elect noted that there was a special decree which accomplished for the elect and applied to them the saving benefits of the death of Christ. In the fifth thesis, an especially significant thesis, Martinius affirmed that saving faith is solely a gift of God and is given to the elect alone. This thesis revealed that however much Martinius, like Davenant, wished to expand the notion of sufficiency beyond the bounds that most of the strict Calvinists were willing to accept, he maintained the Calvinist position that all efficacy in the process of salvation came from God alone. Thus, in no sense could Martinius rightly be associated with the Remonstrants or 'semi-Remonstrant' cause.
45. Acta Synodi, II, 137–138.
46. Acta Synodi, II, 137.
47. Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, translated by G. W. Willard (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1954), p. 223.
W. Robert Godfrey, Tensions within International Calvinism: The Debate on the Atonement at the Synod of Dort, 1618-1619 (Ph.D. Dissertation, Stanford University, 1974), 196–198.

On page 200, Godfrey says that Martinius' Theses in fact showed that he "really was within the camp of orthodox Calvinism and that he definitely accepted the received distinction and at least in large part the received restriction on efficacy."

January 16, 2009

Rapping Owenism

Gene Cook has posted a song by Shai Linne called "Mission Accomplished." Linne cleverly puts Owenic arguments for a strictly limited atonement together into lyrical form.

I've posted a few comments over there for Gene to consider. All of Gene's old online friends (Terry, Bradford, Trey, and another friend he doesn't know about yet :-) have converted to the moderate Calvinistic position after researching the material posted by me and David. Gene himself, however, remains a high Calvinist.

January 15, 2009

Robert Godfrey on the Concerns of the Moderates at Dort

The broader concerns influencing the moderate group, composed of Martinius, Davenant and Ward, were quite different [from the strict delegations]. The main theological motive of the moderate group could also be called a concern for Reformed catholicity, but the moderates had quite a different vision of Reformed catholicity from that of their strict colleagues. For the moderates, catholicity encompassed more than a clear rejection of the Remonstrant heterodoxy. All the moderates did join in a fundamental rejection of the Remonstrant position, yet they felt that the threat to the Reformed faith was not exclusively the threat of the heterodox. They feared that the strict orthodox erred in using some novel theological expressions which tended to cut them off from the tradition of Christendom. The moderates contended that an excessively rigorous rejection of the universal significance of the death of Christ would simply feed Roman Catholic and Lutheran charges that the Reformed were sectarian. The moderates perceived Reformed catholicity in terms of the continuity of Reformed doctrine with the whole history of the Church.

This moderate concern focused on a particular doctrinal point: the importance of the universal offer of the Gospel. The Christian preacher must be able to declare the offer of salvation unreservedly to all who would believe. The moderates claimed that the sincere offer of the Gospel could only be undergirded by a broad statement on the sufficiency of Christ's death. Only such a statement, the moderates argued, would insure the continuity of the Reformed Church with the patristic and medieval history of the Church and guard against any charge of sectarianism.
W. Robert Godfrey, Tensions within International Calvinism: The Debate on the Atonement at the Synod of Dort, 1618–1619 (PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 1974), 231–232.

Samuel Ward (1577–1640): The "Semi-Arminian" Synodist

It is evident, however, that their [the English divines] unwearied labours in softening the synodal decrees, and the moderation of their conciliar conduct, had rendered them objects of suspicion to many in the Synod [at Dort]. Dr Ward, in a letter to Archbishop Usher says:—
We had somewhat to do when we came to frame canons with the provincials, and some of the exteri touching some points, especially touching the second Article. Some of us were held by some [as] half Remonstrants, for extending the oblation made to the Father to all, and for holding sundry effects thereof offered serio, and some really communicated to the reprobate: I had somewhat to do with a principal man on this point: somewhat passed between us privately. We were careful that nothing should be defined which might gainsay the Confession of the Church of England, which was effected, for that they were desirous to have all things in the Canons defined unanimi consensu.
From Morris Fuller's The Life, Letters & Writings of John Davenant. (London: Methuen & Co. 1897), 90.


If you hold to a moderate view of Christ's death and ground the "serious offers" of the gospel upon his oblation made to the Father for all, be prepared to be looked upon suspiciously, and to be slandered as either an Arminian or semi-Arminian ("half remonstrant"). It's nothing new. Samuel Ward, James Ussher and Ezekiel Culverwell (and many others) were all treated that way.

January 4, 2009

George Swinnock (1627–1673) on What Will Aggravate the Misery of the Damned

5. It will greatly add to their torment and anguish to consider, that they were sometime near the enjoyment of this blissful presence of Christ. Pardon, and Peace, and Love, and Life, and the endless fruition of the blessed Jesus were tendered to them, were nigh them, were at the very door of their hearts. They were solemnly commanded, lovingly invited, severely threatened, sweetly allured, and pathetically persuaded to accept of Christ and Grace; yea, and Heaven, and Happiness, and eternal Life; yea, and their hearts began to relent, and to close with the entreaties of the Gospel; They were almost persuaded to be Christians indeed. There was but a little, a very little between them and Christ. The bargain was driven so far, that Christ was got into their consciences, they bore witness for him, and warned them, if they loved their Lives, their Souls, to accept of him while he would accept of them; yea, Christ was got into their Judgments, they gave their Verdict on his side, as one infinitely more amiable and eligible than the World or Flesh; nay, he had possibly got into their Affections, they delighted to hear of his great Love to poor Sinners, and of the great things he purchased for them by his own blood; and yet though they were so near, they came short, and like Ephraim, played the part of unwise Sons, and stayed in the place of the breaking forth of Children.

O how like a Dagger will it pierce the heart of them that live under the Gospel, and neglect the great Salvation offered to them; when they come to be banished [from] the presence of Christ, and to see others, who made Religion their business on Earth, bathing their Souls in Rivers of Pleasures, drawing water with joy out of the Well of Salvation, eating of the Tree of Life that groweth in the midst of Paradise, and housed in the Arms of their dearest Saviour, and shall reflect and consider with themselves, all those Joys and Pleasures, all those Dainties and Delicacies, all those Robes, and Riches, and Glories, and Felicities, which they enjoy in the presence of Christ, might have been mine; they were freely, and frequently, and affectionately offered to me, I had the refusal of them; nay, I had a good mind to them, I was not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. There was but a little between me and them, they were at the very door of my heart, and stood knocking there for admission, and desired only hearty acceptance; but like a Fool I dallied with them, and deterred them, as if hereafter had been time enough, and so have lost them forever.

6. It will much augment their anguish and misery to consider, who it is that passeth so severe a doom upon them. This dreadful Sentence is pronounced by Love, and Grace, and Goodness itself. He that sometimes called them to him so sweetly, so affectionately, now calls them from him so sharply, so furiously. He who sometimes cried to them, Come to me all ye that labour, and are heavy laden; and wept over them, O that thou hadst known, even thou in this thy day, the things of they peace. He that formerly invited, entreated, besought them to be reconciled, 2 Cor. 5:20. and showed them his heart-blood, the price of their Pardon and Life, and stretched out his Arms to embrace their returning Souls, will now in wrath, and rage, and flames, and fury, bid them be gone from him, and his Curse go along with them. And if Love prove their Enemy, surely Wrath will not be their Friend. And if Mercy be thus against them, surely Justice will not be for them. Ah how sorely will it gall the Sinner to consider, This dreadful doom is denounced against me not by an Enemy, or one that hated me, but by a Friend and Father, by one that loved me, and took my nature on him, and suffered therein the Law's Curse, to render me capable of escaping these Torments which I now suffer, and partaking of those Pleasures which yonder blessed Souls enjoy.
George Swinnock, The Sinners Last Sentence to Eternal Punishment for Sins of Omission (London: Printed for Geo. Swinnock, and are to be sold at the Bible and Three Crowns, at the lower end of Cheapside, 1675), 48–51.