07 August 2007

The Well-meant Offer of the Gospel?

by Phil Johnson

ffer might be too mild a word for it.

God pleads with sinners to repent. Moreover, we are commissioned as His ambassadors, to plead "in Christ's stead" for unbelievers to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Phil's signature

61 comments:

Sewing said...

Wow. That is not a trivial observation. Man alive!

...But the word "pleading" has the unstated implication of a desparate request that may or may not go answered. We know God does not fail in anything He does, nor has He ever any need to be desparate, for He is sovereign over all!

So this is the passionate cry of his outward call: the cry of John the Baptist in the wilderness, the call to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. God's effectual call is never pleading but irresistibly persuasive.

SB said...

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
(2Cor 5:20 ESV)

Thanks for this post-implore reminds me of plead-both good words

David said...

I appreciate this a lot. It will change my approach to sharing the gospel. But how do we plead for people to believe?

If you (Phil) or anyone else reading this can give me an example from their own life, I'd appreciate it. I see it all over Acts...but a gracious plea in 2007? I don't see it much.

-David

centuri0n said...

David:

I have some active examples.

The first is this audio by James White. Be forewarned that it is 27 minutes of audio and it is a direct link.

The second is this video by John Piper. This is a YouTube link.

Those would be what I would call "high visibility" examples. Here are a more-common example:

This would be me on the hope that we ought to be hoping.

My Daily Bread said...

Amen again! As you know, being a former Hardshell Baptist, a Hyper Calvinist, I did not believe in the well meant offer of the gospel. Today I do firmly believe it and I have written, in my ongoing book on The Hardshell Baptist Cult much lately on this topic.

I believe in giving warm invitations to the lost as did the Lord and the apostles and as did the Old Baptists.

God bless
Stephen M. Garrett
www.baptistgadfly.blogspot.com

donsands said...

Knowing that only the Father can draw one, and only He can open a heart, makes it no less heart wrenching for me to see my family living in darkness, as I once did.

I plead with the Lord to save them, and I plead with them to repent and believe the Good News.

The Gospel is the power that saves a dark soul, and a callous heart.

jsb said...

This is where Wesley and Whitfield met and respected each other.

YnottonY said...

Perhaps you could say "well-meant" might be too mild of a word for it. He is not only sincerely wills that they partake of the available benefit in Christ (whose life and death is conditionally held out or offered to them as a sufficient remedy), he "pleads" for them to do so.

"...but he is a profane man indeed that despiseth the gospel, because it offereth such an excellent salvation; that is profaneness, to slight God's best provision, to scorn his bowels, and, when the Lord hath made the bait an allurement so strong to gain man's heart, yet to turn his back upon it."

Thomas Manton, SEVERAL SERMONS UPON TITUS 2: 11-14 (Works, vol. 16, Sermon 1).

"God the Father, and the King’s Son the Bridegroom, are not only content and willing, but very desirous to have sinners come to the marriage. They would fain (to speak with reverence) have poor souls espoused to Christ."

James Durham, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Rept. Morgan: Soli Deo Gloria, p44.

On Isa. 55:1, Rutherford says:

"Ho, is a mark of sorrowing… it expresseth two things, 1. A vehemencie, and a serious and unfeigned ardencie of desire, that we doe what is our duty, and the concatenation of these two, extremely desired of God, our coming to Christ, and our salvation:..."

Samuel Rutherford, Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself, London, J.D. for Andrew Crook at the Green-Dragon in Paul’s Church Yard, 1647 p443f.

Wow! Look at Rutherford's words, and yet he's a supralapsarian Westminster man :-) SURELY his concept of the gospel "offer" presupposes "a vehement, ardent, serious, unfeigned and extreme desire."

SolaMeanie said...

I think that in this context, the Gospel has a double edge to it. It is indeed an offer, but also a command.

2 Thessalonians 1:8 speaks of it like this . . . dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Then there's 1 Peter 4:17 . . . For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

The term obedience implies that there is something to obey. Acts 17 says that men have been commanded (or God declares that they should) to repent.

God pleads that people receive His mercy, with the sure guarantee that they'll receive His justice if they don't respond to His call.

Mike said...

The way I've heard this explained is by offering (no pun intended) the concept of the two wills of God; one His volitional will and the other His sovereign will.

Passages like 1Tim 2:4, 2Pet 3:9, and Ezek 33:11 obviously testify to God's desire for all men to repent and receive forgiveness of sins.

The reality, though, is that not all are saved. So is God's will frustrated? I would say no.

While there is this merciful, compassionate desire for all men to see and savor His holiness, He Himself must never cease to glorify and savor His own holiness. And so His sovereign will, in submission to His holiness, justice, wrath, and the rest of the attributes, is that only a remnant be saved by Christ's atoning, propitiating blood.

So the pleading and imploring (2Co 5:18-21) comes in as a reflection of God's volitional will; whereas, as Sewing said, "God's effectual, irresistibly persuasive call" is given to only the elect, is indeed effectual, and accords with His sovereign will.

Please, fellas, do correct me if I'm wrong.

MIKE

donsands said...

"Passages like 1Tim 2:4, 2Pet 3:9, and Ezek 33:11 obviously testify to God's desire for all men to repent and receive forgiveness of sins.'

I believe 2 Peter is speaking of us, those who are God's sheep.

These other two verses do show God's desire is not that of maliciousness, and yet His holy wrath will be done.

Those are my thoughts on this deep doctrine.

Terry Rayburn said...

There is much in theology that simply cannot be understood until one comes to understand the concept of the "antinomy".

An "antinomy" is something which *appears* to be a contradiction, but is nevertheless true, because it is plainly Scriptural.

That doesn't mean that mere man can get his mind around it. But mere man can believe it.

The example in this case is that God cares and cries out and pleads through us (and even weeps as the Son of Man) for every person to come to Christ, yet without the slightest frustration, time-based disappointment, or sense of failure when they don't.

Just because we can't resolve that in our own minds doesn't mean it's not true.

Mike said...

"Just because we can't resolve that in our own minds doesn't mean it's not true."

Agreed 100%. It's in the Bible; it's true.

However, just because it is indeed difficult to understand or resolve doesn't mean we should cease trying to resolve it, nor does it mean that it can't be resolved.

Phil Johnson said...

I'm not a huge fan of the "antinomy" feint. I believe all truth is (by definition) self-consistent.

I think Packer was the one who introduced the term "antinomy" to the discussion. Technically, an antinomy is something that exists when two contradictory laws are on the books. But that involves a real contradiction, not an "apparent" one.

Kant seems to be the one who first employed the term "antinomy" to speak of knotty intellectual problems. In that philosophical context, the term has often been used to legitimize irrationality. Therefore it brings baggage to the discussion of divine sovereignty and human responsibility that is unhelpful and (I believe) unnecessary.

While there may be a difficult tension between the fact that God is sovereign and free agents are responsible, there is no real appearance of contradiction.

It is indeed difficult to juggle both concepts simultaneously, but think it through carefully, and I think you'll have to admit there's no need to treat them as contradictory or even "paradoxical." If anyone thinks otherwise, here's my challenge: point out the contradiction in a clear and logical syllogism.

I much prefer Spurgeon's description of these twin truths as two ideas that are "apparently parallel" and never seem to be brought together in one. Yet, Spurgeon says, they do come together, very near to the throne of God, where all mystery is finally resolved.

Mike said...

Thanks, Phil, for that clarification.

Would you also say, then, that the 'two-wills' thing I proposed is unnecessary or errant?

PS - donsands... thanks for that note on 2Pet 3:9. I re-read it a few times and realized that it's extremely clear that Peter's talking to believers. It's something that's quoted so much on its own that, ashamedly, I've neglected the context. Thanks again.

Daryl said...

I've geard the two-wills idea as well, John Piper is a proponent of this.
My difficulty with the idea (although it initially sounds appealing) is that one of God's wills will need to be thwarted. Somehow that doesn't seem to sit well with the "Godness" of God. How can he thwart himself? It almost (almost mind you) begins to look like a kingdom divided.

YnottonY said...

Hi Mike,

If you want to research these issues further, then I created a web page for you (to keep this brief :-) to read from some primary sources. Go here to see:

Links for Mike

Sewing said...

God's outward and effectual calls are symbiotic. Those whom He effectually calls must nevertheless hear the Gospel, as it is preached by the Lord's disciples the world over, who go forth to preach in discernment of their appointed vocation. He effectually gives those whom He is calling the ears to hear. His saints bring His sheep to the Shepherd.

YnottonY said...

grrr@transfer limit

Try this if the above link is not yet available, Mike:

Links for Mike

Phil Johnson said...

A Pyro-reader who wishes to remain anonymous e-mailed me with some questions, the heart of which was this:

"I am terrified of giving false hope to those who are lost, of giving them the impression that they are okay with God, because they think he LOVES them as they understand love."

Good point. That's why I suggested God's love isn't necessarily the best starting place for a gospel presentation, especially for people who are untroubled by their own guilt.

There's no question that one of the worst corruptions of the gospel today is that of people who talk only about God's love and mercy to people who are already so full of self-love that they never doubted in the first place whether God loves them supremely. They assume He does. They are wrong about that.

My concern in this post (and other comments in the same vein) is to arrest the attention of some of my high-Calvinist brethren, who in their zeal to correct the postmodern obsession with self-love sometimes run to the opposite extreme and flirt with the hyper-Calvinist notion that God is devoid of any love for humanity whatsoever, except insofar as He loves the elect.

God created man in His image, and the likeness of God in us, though marred by sin, is still at the heart of what it means to be human (cf. James 3:9). Surely God loves His own image, even in fallen and reprobate sinners.

So while it seriously corrupts the gospel to talk only of God's love, it corrupts the gospel just as surely and just as badly when people hesitate to affirm God's lovingkindness to sinners, or when they balk at presenting the gospel the way God Himself does—as an offer of forgiveness and a tender plea for repentance (cf. Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Corinthans 5:20).

Mike: "Would you also say, then, that the 'two-wills' thing I proposed is unnecessary or errant?"

No. I agree that a distinction must be made between God's preceptive will (what He wills for us to do) and His decretive will (what He is determined to do to bring His plan to fruition). Some use different terminology: God's secret will and His revealed will; etc. Whatever terms you prefer, the idea itself is a crucial (though somewhat difficult) distinction. Piper's treatment is the best I've read.

Except for one thing.

I don't like the language of "two wills." God has one will, with two aspects. Piper explains that fact, as I recall, in the article itself. But (perhaps because of the title he gave the article) it's more and more common to hear people using the language of "two wills" after reading Piper—as if God were double-minded, or juggling two disparate and contradictory wills. We should avoid such language, I think.

Sometimes (because we can't understand God's decretive will perfectly), the two aspects of God's will may appear contradictory. But they aren't. God cannot deny Himself.

Terry Rayburn said...

Phil,

You wrote: I believe all truth is (by definition) self-consistent.

I agree, since by definition, truth is truth.

You wrote: Technically, an antinomy is something that exists when two contradictory laws are on the books. But that involves a real contradiction, not an "apparent" one.

I agree again on the original technical meaning, which my Webster's Ninth says was originally used in 1592.

That's why I introduce the useful theological principle of two *apparently* contradictory statements. When I say *apparently*, I'm making the case that they are not *really* contradictory.

But they *appear* to be contradictory to the human mind, because God's thoughts are greater than ours, and His ways are higher than ours.

Paul says in Rom. 9:18, "Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills, He hardens."

When Paul anticipates the question in Rom. 9:19, "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?", Paul doesn't answer, "Well, let me explain it to you so that it makes sense and you can resolve it in your mind, and fully comprehend the sovereignty of God, and His dual identity as Love and Double-Predestination Wrath."

No, Paul merely says, "But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?'"

Why?

Because it's an *apparent* contradiction in the mind of man, but perfectly resolvable in the mind of the Creator.

Or consider the unbeliever who reasons with us Calvinists like this:

"You say that faith comes as a gift through the revelation of Christ in regeneration?"

"Yes."

"And God could regenerate anyone He chose to, though none of them deserve it?"

"Yes."

"But He chooses not to regenerate some?"

"Yes."

"Even though He could?"

"Yes."

"And He will cast them into the Lake of Fire, even though He could avoid it? I'm not saying they don't deserve it, only asking you the question."

"Yes, He will eternally punish them in His wrath, even though He could save them."

"Then that is not a God of love, which you claim He is. I could never worship a God like that."


He is merely reflecting on the *apparent* contradiction between a loving and a retributive God.

And that's what is meant theologically by "antinomy".

If you prefer Spurgeon's model, I can't quibble, but when you say,

I think you'll have to admit there's no need to treat them as contradictory or even "paradoxical", I would say you are right. They are neither contradictory (only *apparently* as I carefully defined my term), nor are they paradoxical (in the normal sense of the word which implies that it's a confusing puzzlement).

It's a paradigm shift where we readily accede to the truth of God's Word and character, whether or not we can explain it to the satisfaction of another human's mind.

I would add that to not understand the concept (or Spurgeon's version of it, which I like, and is certainly more poetic) has historically led to scores of false doctrines.

As one of my early mentors (couldn't get him all the way to Calvinism) J. Vernon McGee used to say, "Puny li'l man" would often rather argue with God, then to agree that His thoughts are greater than ours.

David said...

centuri0n,

Thank you for your links. I found a good one too: here.

As much as I appreciate this, I don't think I plan on sermonizing my friends and family who I talk with about Christ in this way. What I'm starting to realize is that, after I get done sharing Christ, I think I just may take a deep breath, say a small prayer and say, "Will you believe that? Do you want that for your life?"

That's just really hard to plan on doing, because that takes the conversation out of the intellectual realm of curiosity...and in a way, they're rejecting me as they reject the gospel at that point. Sound like a good application of that verse?

-David

Mike said...

Phil,

Thanks again for that tidbit on the two wills vs. two aspects of one will. I wholeheartedly agree and do apologize to anyone who understood me to be saying that God has two wills divided against each other.

Let me just say that it's been great to be corrected and instructed twice in one comment thread in one day. I'm really grateful for the protection you guys provide via caring about and upholding the Truth. It's a classic case of loving the brethren by loving God (1 John 5:2-3).

"Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding." -- Proverbs 23:23, NASB

PS - Thanks for the links, Tony. That was quite considerate of you, brother.

jsb said...

"While there may be a difficult tension between the fact that God is sovereign and free agents are responsible, there is no real appearance of contradiction."

The corect definition of sovereignty is of course a major issue among theologians. If one defines it as "omnicausality," a contradiction (or antinomy) seems unavoidable. But if one recognizes that a sovereign may choose to grant causal freedom to a subject, there is no contradiction.

Phil Johnson said...

jsb:

Spoken like a true Arminian.

But the better, and more biblical (and more logical), view, is that things have multiple causes. By affirming the liberty and contingency of second causes, historic Calvinism has avoided the dilemma you envision.

See also my comments in last week's thread (I was replying to Stephen Garrett, so search for that comment), where I pointed out the importance of distinguishing between "the first cause" and "the efficient cause"; between the proximate cause and the remote cause, etc. These distinctions all make the same point. It's a necessary point and it eliminates the "contradiction" Arminians typically imagine between divine sovereignty and human responsibility without making sovereignty mean something less than fully sovereign.

David Ponter said...

Hey Phil,

I will take the liberty to reply to some of this.

Your anom emailer expresses:

"I am terrified of giving false hope to those who are lost, of giving them the impression that they are okay with God, because they think he LOVES them as they understand love."

To this Phil adds:
Good point. That's why I suggested God's love isn't necessarily the best starting place for a gospel presentation, especially for people who are untroubled by their own guilt.

David say: I have to say I found your reply to ynottony on starting point to be odd. Surely you would not say that your starting point–that citation from some OT verse you cited–is comparable to something like John 3:16? In John, after John lays down some ground-work, he takes off from God’s love and provision to the world–as based on the typical relationship of God’s love and provision of the Bronze Serpent.

So why not John 3:14-17 as a starting point? So then we come to your terrified emailer. Working on the assumption that world there is the world of mankind, non-elect inclusive (cf Mac’s Love of God book), I can ask the question, should your emailer’s scruples have barred Christ from starting here?

I don’t want to sound rhetorical or ad hom, here, but honest here. How one may abuse something should not stop us from speaking faithfully from the text.

Phil says:
There's no question that one of the worst corruptions of the gospel today is that of people who talk only about God's love and mercy to people who are already so full of self-love that they never doubted in the first place whether God loves them supremely. They assume He does. They are wrong about that.

David says: What sort of argument is that Phil? Should we stop talking about predestination because some abuse and caricature it? Should we stop talking about redemption because some men are universalists? Again, not teazing, but calling for moderation.

Phil: My concern in this post (and other comments in the same vein) is to arrest the attention of some of my high-Calvinist brethren, who in their zeal to correct the postmodern obsession with self-love sometimes run to the opposite extreme and flirt with the hyper-Calvinist notion that God is devoid of any love for humanity whatsoever, except insofar as He loves the elect.

David: So true. But then we should not lose confidence in Scripture’s own ability to communicate itself. What do is state things carefully. Over at theology online I have just posted Calvin on John 3:16-17.. After speaking of the love of 3:16 as to the world and expressive of God’s pledge of love to the whole human race, yet Calvin would not say that any man could thereby just assume that even in his complete impenitency, God has an approving love, or a love that does not seek his repentance.

Cut

Phil:
So while it seriously corrupts the gospel to talk only of God's love, it corrupts the gospel just as surely and just as badly when people hesitate to affirm God's lovingkindness to sinners, or when they balk at presenting the gospel the way God Himself does—as an offer of forgiveness and a tender plea for repentance (cf. Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Corinthans 5:20).


David: I can see what you say here. But to me you are sending mixed signals. Its totally appropriate to speak of God’s love for mankind as a starting point, but thats not the same as saying we should only speak of God’s love. The starting point can be God’s love for mankind, the closing point could be the call for repentance and faith. I am sure you would agree. So stressing that we should not only speak of God’s love in no way militates God’s love for mankind, even the Gospel as the appointed plan of salvation for mankind.

Cut

Phil: I don't like the language of "two wills." God has one will, with two aspects. Piper explains that fact, as I recall, in the article itself. But (perhaps because of the title he gave the article) it's more and more common to hear people using the language of "two wills" after reading Piper—as if God were double-minded, or juggling two disparate and contradictory wills. We should avoid such language, I think.

David: Well, if you think it through, the categories of unification by which we speak of one will, are tools we use to impose and organise the biblical data. The biblical data itself does not do this. As Scripture reveals God’s character, it really does appear that sometimes he wills what he nills. We impose a unification construct upon that. And I think there are lots of complex reasons for that. To the end that many end by making the revealed will something insubstantive.

Take care,
David

David Ponter said...

oopss


I got the names mixed up:
In John, after Jesus lays down some ground-work, he takes off from God’s love and provision to the world–as based on the typical relationship of God’s love and provision of the Bronze Serpent.

Phil Johnson said...

Ponter: "I have to say I found your reply to ynottony on starting point to be odd."

No wonder. I found your interpretation of it to be quite odd as well. Why would you think my saying it's "Not necessarily the best starting point..." (carefully qualified the way I qualified it: "when we're talking to someone who is careless and already caught up in self-love") actually meant that we should "stop talking about" God's love? Especially in the context of THIS thread. It means nothing of the sort.

Even Steve Camp gets that.

Jesus Himself didn't use love as the starting point for the Rich Young Ruler. He went to the law. That is sometimes (again: not necessarily always, but in our culture, often) the right starting point.

And I do think my correspondent expressed a legitimate and important concern: there is a danger of reinforcing a careless sinner's indifference to divine wrath by giving an imbalanced perspective of what God's love means. In such cases, the fear of the Lord is clearly a better starting point (Psalm 111:10).

Ponter: "But to me you are sending mixed signals."

On this topic, it seems to me that the only way to avoid the accusation of "mixed signals" is by being imbalanced in one direction or the other. My views on this haven't changed since you and I first corresponded about it in 1995. You, on the other hand, have moved from the hyper-Calvinist end of the spectrum to the opposite side. Don't lose your equilibrium, David.

Re: "two wills."

Ponter: "As Scripture reveals God’s character, it really does appear that sometimes he wills what he nills." We impose a unification construct upon that. And I think there are lots of complex reasons for that. To the end that many end by making the revealed will something insubstantive.

Agreed. But Scripture also uses anthropomorphic and anthropopathic language about God. And we rightly don't accept the imprecision of treating that as woodenly literally—as if God really did have hands and feet or fits and tantrums. Likewise with the idea of "two wills": God does not have two conflicting wills (2 Timothy 2:13); He makes His will known in diverse ways that are often hard for us to reconcile, and he distinction between His decretively willing something and His preceptively willing something is important. No, it's absolutely necessary. But we're not to think He is double-minded or irrational.

Blessed is the man who can maintain balance in these issues.

Caleb White said...

Now that I think about it, the word plea should always be in italics. It's just not a word that should be used without emphasis.

David said...

That’s all well and good, but I have yet to hear a straightforward answer to a simple question: if by a sincere or well-meaning offer we mean one in which any recipient has a legitimate chance, which presupposes the ability, to accept, then how is the gospel a sincere offer to all? The unregenerate, with an inability to seek or please God, are, apart from divine regeneration, incapable of accepting. You might as well offer a blind man salvation if he can describe a picture placed in front of him in full detail. Just how is this offer "sincere," in the usual sense of the word for all men?

In fact, it is not even sincere in the normal sense of the word for the elect, for their decision is no less certain than that of the lost.

Please don't rant that what I am speaking is "Hyper-Calvinism" (a phrase that Phil Johnson does not understand, in my opinion) unless you provide a straightforward answer to that simple question.

Once again: if a man cannot accept the offer without being regenerated, and a man cannot affect his own regeneration, then how is the offer sincere or well-meaning for all men?

If I were not of the elect, I'd much prefer to take my chances with Arminian prevenient grace than to receive a well-meaning offer for which I had no moral ability to accept.

Sewing said...

I cannot speak for Phil or anyone else here.

But of all those who are alive today and not yet saved, do you or I know who among them is elect? No. It could be your grandma Millie; it could be the atheist couple next door; it could be two billion of the people alive today. We don't know. We do know that the number of God's elect is fixed, but we are not God and cannot discern who is among his not-yet-saved elect and who is not.

For most of my life, had you met me, you would have had no inkling that I would one day confess Jesus Christ as my saviour. Yet here I am, having been moved effectually to this point by God in many different and unmistakable ways, yet also having the "deal sealed" by being in the right church on the right time and day with the right pastor, hearing the right sermon on the right passage of Scripture, and hearing unmistkably God's outward call in a way that this intellectually stubborn, proud sinner could understand and accept, and put together with the jigsaw puzzle pieces of many years of effectual calling.

God calls all to be saved, even though not all will be saved. But neither you nor I know who will not be saved. All we can do is bring his call to repentance and salvation to everyone, and let God do the rest of the job.

Sewing said...

...Oh, and Spurgeon preached on this very question: Election No Discouragement to Seeking Souls. Seekers will be saved, since their seeking is in fact the work of God creating a longing in their hearts for Him.

donsands said...

David,

Why does God have mercy on anyone at all?
We all sin and rebel against a good and gracious Lord and Creator, and we want to be left alone, so why does God even bother with us? If He judged us all we would be receiving our just reward.

That's the amazing mercy of God we see when the Lord quickens a dead soul.

It's not about the clay, it's all about the Potter.

Just a couple thoughts I had. Hope you don't mind me chiming in.

David Ponter said...

G’day Phil,

Phil Johnson said...
No wonder. I found your interpretation of it to be quite odd as well. Why would you think my saying it's "Not necessarily the best starting point..." (carefully qualified the way I qualified it: "when we're talking to someone who is careless and already caught up in self-love") actually meant that we should "stop talking about" God's love? Especially in the context of THIS thread. It means nothing of the sort.

David: I guess I couldnt see the point of referring to some obscure OT text and what you said about it as some sort of rebuttal or counter to YnottonY. I believe the context was the “God has a wonderful plan for your life” as a starting point. The counter you gave struck me as odd. Anyway.... The one below is much better. I think it makes the point.

Phil: Even Steve Camp gets that.

David: okay... I am sure I should feel abased now. ;-)

Phil: Jesus Himself didn't use love as the starting point for the Rich Young Ruler. He went to the law. That is sometimes (again: not necessarily always, but in our culture, often) the right starting point.

David: Sure thats good. I appreciate this point. So we can say that sometimes starting with God’s wonderful love for men and women is one valid starting point? We can say that the problem with the opener from the old 4 spiritual laws is not so much the theology, but the pragmatic and reductionist methodology. If that is our complaint, then thats fine. I am with you.

Phil: And I do think my correspondent expressed a legitimate and important concern: there is a danger of reinforcing a careless sinner's indifference to divine wrath by giving an imbalanced perspective of what God's love means. In such cases, the fear of the Lord is clearly a better starting point (Psalm 111:10).

David: Okay. I can accept that you took it that way. I just wondered if it is an unnecessary terror. If were in a context of Zanian antinomian types, I could more appreciate the concern. Anyway, my perceptions of that person’s anxiety is mine, and its apparent relevance to me is mine, while yours is yours. We can disagree on that.

cut

Phil: On this topic, it seems to me that the only way to avoid the accusation of "mixed signals" is by being imbalanced in one direction or the other. My views on this haven't changed since you and I first corresponded about it in 1995. You, on the other hand, have moved from the hyper-Calvinist end of the spectrum to the opposite side. Don't lose your equilibrium, David.

David: Sure, I never thought you had changed. Thats not the mixed signals I was getting from you, more in terms of communication. Is it okay to start with God’s love or not, sort of thing. Did you think I thought you were going off the wall into hyperism? If so, not at all. As to the free offer and common grace I have no moved since those days when we first began interacting. Do you recall your shameful post on common grace? Ha ha. I know you will say shameless.

Whats the other end of the spectrum to hyperism? is it open theism, Arminianism? If you think that, be assured, that is not the case. So, if that is what you mean, I have to say the “opposite” side comment is a little off the mark. [said in a friendly manner]

Phil: Agreed. But Scripture also uses anthropomorphic and anthropopathic language about God. And we rightly don't accept the imprecision of treating that as woodenly literally—as if God really did have hands and feet or fits and tantrums. Likewise with the idea of "two wills": God does not have two conflicting wills (2 Timothy 2:13); He makes His will known in diverse ways that are often hard for us to reconcile, and he distinction between His decretively willing something and His preceptively willing something is important. No, it's absolutely necessary. But we're not to think He is double-minded or irrational.

David: Sure. I am just concerned that some are more keen to unify Scripture where Scripture does not, to an extent it does not itself seek unification. What is that cool C Hodge quotation... let me find it... here: “They are under no necessity of departing from their fundamental principle that it is the duty of the theologian to subordinate his theories to the Bible, and teach not what seems to him to be true or reasonable, but simply what the Bible teaches.” We have an inclination to make the Bible “reasonable”.

David: its like that. We have both seen too much the attempt to make the will revealed a something purely phenomonological. That’s was my point. We want to subordinate the one under the other because we want one to be more real than the other, when Scripture does really describe God’s will that men live and no die as something substantive. Recall Dabney’s reference to Howe and his insight into this.

Take care,
David

David said...

Sewing,

I don't know if you are responding to my question, but I'll assume you are.

Of course we don't know who is of the elect. Of course we are to obey the command and partake of the privilege of announcing the gospel to all men, and we are to do so vigorously. Of course we are, from our perspective, to treat every individual as if they have the ability to accept the gospel.

That, however, does not mean that the offer is sincere in the usual sense of the word. Though invisible to us, the hearer either lacks the ability to respond affirmatively, or will inevitably respond affirmatively.

The offer is not sincere (in the sense I have described—that a sincere offer carries with it the presupposition that one has the ability to accept it or reject it) at all. The gospel message is sincere—Christ's blood has the power to redeem. And the presentation of the gospel is done to glorify God. To call the offer "sincere" in the usual sense is, in my opinion, to do violence to the scriptures and to impugn God's character.

SJ Camp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SJ Camp said...

I agree with PJ here.

Better to begin a gospel presentation with the Law of God; the fall of man; total depravity; God's righteous demands that man is incapable of satisfying, etc. rather than love.

True story: as a young high school student, I went with my church youth group to the mall on Saturday to pass out tracts. We used the Four Spiritual Laws tract (I know...). As I went to converse with my first passerby, I read him the first law: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." He immediately responded by saying, "thank you for reassuring me I'm alright." He started to walk away. Taken back by his response, I followed him and asked him if he would further explain to me his reaction and if I could continue to share with him the rest of the tract? Again his response wasn't in the training class I had just gone through. He said, "Why? Why do I need to hear the rest of your little tract? If God really loves me, it can't get better than that..."

Lesson learned.

That was the first and last time I ever used that little tract.

As Phil started his post with "offer might be too mild a word for it." Fully agree. The gospel is not really an offer; it is a command to repent (Luke 24:47); a call to follow Christ (Matt. 16:24-26); and a compelling (pleading) for people to be reconciled with God (2 Cor. 5:18-21).

Is the love of God part of the gospel? Yes--most definitely. Consider the words of the Apostle John: "In this is love, not that we loved God, but He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10). God's love is always the motivating factor behind the once for propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our divine substitute.

However, in saying that, one interesting side note: the love of God is never mentioned one time in the entire book of Acts. That must seem strange to our postmodern American ears--but its true. When the gospel was exploding under the preaching of the Apostles and regenerating ministry of the Holy Spirit throughout the book of Acts, the primary message was not founded upon love. But the call and content began with "repent and believe." (i.e. see Peter's tremendous sermon in Acts 2:14-41).

As Phil has said on this thread: "Balance..."

I have always used this brief outline in proclaiming the gospel. I pray it can be an encouragement to others here today and a safeguard in avoiding cheap grace, easy believism, and a man-centered faith.

Principles of a Gospel Proclamation:
1. The Law
2. The depravity and sinfulness of man
3. Eternal judgment and punishment in Hell
4. Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ Alone
5. The vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ
6. Imputation
7. The Lordship of Christ
8. His bodily resurrection from the grave
9. And, the call to repent of sin and what it means to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

The cross is a radical thing,
Steve
Gal. 2:20-21

David Ponter said...

Camp says:

Better to begin a gospel presentation with the Law of God; the fall of man; total depravity; God's righteous demands that man is incapable of satisfying, etc. rather than love

David says: why is that better? Was Jesus' own approach then, less than better? Talking like that is the problem. There are ways and there are ways. Some contexts are better for this approach or that approach. But there is no "better" approach. Thats the confusion I am seeing.

David

Sewing said...

David (not Ponter, the other David):

Yes, I was replying to you.

The offer is sincere. The offer is of salvation and eternal life for repentance of sins. It is not an unconditional offer: it is conditional on repentance, and in that it is sincere. God's promise is sure—have we any reason to doubt it?

In the wrong hands, Romans 10:9 or John 3:16 is unquestionably the stuff of rank easy-believism. But taken together, they and similar passages are sure promises from the Lord that whoever confesses and sincerely believes that Jesus Christ is Son of God, Lord and Saviour will be saved. (And inherent in that is the doctrine of Jesus' propitiary atonement for the sins of the elect, for his birth, life, death, and resurrection are meaningless without it—so we may add as a corollary condition that of repentance for sins.)

Now, if the offer is worded, "Jesus died for YOU," that is problematic. If the offer is "You are a sinner. Jesus died to pay the ransom for the sins of those who believe," how is that not sincere? Should we doubt that God will deliver on his clear promise?

Sewing said...

P.S.: I've found a dusty old, 2004-vintage blog post that more precisely answers your question: Calvinism and the sincere offer of the Gospel.

Also, questions of the sincerity of the gospel offer, etc., always seem to come up on this blog whenever certain commenters appear (who shall remain nameless, but some of them have commented on this very post). I do not speak for any of them, and have not yet been able to fully fathom where they're coming from, so am trying not to get drawn into another, broader discussion here....

jsb said...

Phil, our positions, I think, are closer than those of, say, a hyper-Calvinist and semi-Pelagian. And while I don't think Calvinism, even as eloquently as you present it, can fully extricate itself from the logical and theological problems mentioned, I fully respect your position, which is why I hang out here. Thanks letting me do so.

Daryl said...

Just thought I'd add my 2-cents here...

I'm glad Campi mentioned that the gospel is a command and not an offer per se. (I've not been able to post today until now and have been waiting anxiously for someone to say that whilst I read). The offer is of course, "Whoever comes to me I will in no wise cast out.", not "Please come to heaven." In that way, it is genuine and sincere.

The bigger issue is, of course, the command "Repent and believe." which follows exactly along the lines of the law (which is the category I think "Repent" falls under.

Why does God command us to repent?
Two reasons :

A) To show that you can't

and

B)you can't be forgiven if you don't

Just as the decalogue was firstly a demonstration of our inability to stop sinning, not a description of how we get to heaven.

They run exactly parallel in my opinion. God says "Don't kill" knowing we will unless he prevents us.. Does that make it an insincere command?

God says "Repent", knowing we can't unless "who knows but that he may grant repentance". Does that make it an insincere command?

I seems to me that to tslk about the insincerety of the offer is to first misunderstand the command. In that way Phil nailed it. Gods loving offer of salvation is only a good starting point if the person understands the command (or their fsilings relative to any of his commands) and in that sense isn't really a start at all.
The only real start is the law and sometimes we are there to deliver that, sometimes we aren't.

We need to remember that just because it's our first time talking to someone, we're not starting anything. "Some plant, some water and some reap the increase" (or something like that.

AmI making sense?

YnottonY said...

Beware of false dilemmas, such as:

1) The gospel is a command, not an offer.

The gospel is BOTH a command AND an offer. No one denies that it is at least the former, but some are confused and deny that it is also the latter. The gospel is not less than an offer, or a proposal. The statement, "if you believe, I will give you eternal life," is a conditional offer, i.e. I will give you this if you do that. So are these:

If you come to me, you will have eternal life. If you come to the water of life, you will never thirst. If you come to me as burdened and heavey laden, I will give you rest. If you look upon me as the Israelites were to look upon the lifted up serpent, you will be healed.

All of these statements are conditional (involving instrumental conditionality, which John Flavel effectively addresses) promises, or proposals found in scripture. So, pointing out the truth that the gospel is a command does not negate the truth that it is also an offer.

Again, beware of false dilemmas. ALL faulty theology is ultimately grounded in some bogus either/or dilemma.

Examples:

a) God is one, not three.
b) Jesus is God, not man.
c) God is transcendent, not immanent.
d) God wrote the bible, not man.
d) We are raised with Christ already, and there is no future resurrection.
e) God loves the elect, and not the non-elect.
f) God is gracious to the elect, and not to the non-elect.
g) God wants the elect to believe and repent, and not the non-elect.
h) We should follow God, not man.
i) The gospel is a command, not an offer.

Orthodox Calvinists have always maintained that the gospel is an offer, even though it involves more than that. Take a look at some confessions here:

Various Confessions and the Gospel Offer

YnottonY said...

Some are not only questioning if the gospel is an offer, but also if it is in fact "well-meant." Why? Because they confuse the senses of "ability." Since man is "unable" to come, they conclude that God cannot be sincerely commanding all of the lost to come to him. After all, command does not imply "ability," does it? Various physical analogies are used to illustrate the point, such as blind men being commanded to describe a painting. The person lacks the eye balls (seeing faculties) to do so.

What these people and their analogies fail to distinguish between are senses of "ability." Command does imply ability in one sense, but not in another sense. If God commands us to do something, it is because we have the necessary faculties to do so. God is no Pharoah who commands people to make bricks without supplying straw. We possess minds to grasp his commands, and a will to perform his commands. So, all men have this constitutional ability to obey his commandments, since all men still have the image of God in them. What then is lacking? What is lacking is MORAL ABILITY, and not constitutional ability. The problem is man's WON'T power, and not his will power (lacking the faculty), so to speak. If God commands us to do something, that does presuppose that we have constutional ability, but not necessarily the moral willingness to do so.

All men are entirely depraved (all their faculties are tainted with sin), and therefore all men are hostile to the things of God and lack the proper affections to perform his will. Only when the Holy Spirit comes in effectual and renewing grace can we want to believe in the Son unto salvation. Our minds are illuminated and our affections are transformed. When that happens, our wills are now MORALLY FREE to act rightly and therefore we embrace Christ in evangelical obedience.

The offer would be insincere or ridiculous if we did not have the necessarily faculties with with to respond. That is not, however, the case. We possess constitutional ability. Election does not create physical barriers to our obedience. Election involves God's purpose to grant the MORAL ability to believe to some (in that sense faith is the gift of God) and to pass over others.

Thus, man's inability cannot negate the sincerity of God's gospel offer, since the inability involves man's own moral stubbornness, and not some lack of necessary faculties to respond.

The scriptural analogies where lame men are likened to our lost state are meant to illustrate our MORAL inability. They should not be pressed so far as to argue for a CONSTITUTIONAL inability. If we push the analogical language into univocal categories, we will end up arguing for the absurd view that the gospel offer is insincerely given, which is blasphemy.

The gospel is an offer, as I argued above. It is also sincere or well-meant because of the following reasons:

1) We possess the faculties necessary to respond

AND

2) God truly wants compliance to those things he has commanded, which includes evangelical commands, i.e. believe and repent.

Whoever wants to argue against the sincerity of the gospel offer must undermine the above two points. To negate the first truth, "total inability" must be pushed so far that the image of God in man is completely obliterated. To negate the second truth, one must blasphemously argue that God does not want us to comply with his commandments. That is one of the roots of antinomianism.

David said...

Ynottony,
Regardless of whether or not fallen man has the “constitutional ability” (I have gotten a handle on what you mean by that) we are in agreement that fallen man lacks the moral ability. Which means fallen man lacks the ability, period. Which means the offer is not sincere in the usual way we use “sincere” offer. Which means, it is a command, not an offer.

We all are commanded (and some provided the means) to repent, we are not offerered. We all are are commanded to stop sinning (and some provided with the ability to choose not to sin) we are not offered. Likewise we all are commanded to embrace Christ for eternal life, and some are given the ability.

Daryl said...

Ynottony,

I'm sorry but your distinction of abilities sounds like so much double-speak to me. Our lack of moral ability is not just a lack of desire, we are dead (or at least we were...) and so are unable.
The Bible seems clear to me that we are unable to respond to the gospel just as we are unable to obey the commands.
Jeremiah says this very thing in 10:23

"I know, O LORD, that a man's way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps."

And Jesus, quoting Isaiah, with regards to why he used parables basically says "otherwise they would understand and repent". So clearly the gospel is being withheld from the perishing and they are not SIMPLY failing to respond.

Did Paul not say in Galatians (and Romans) that the primary purpose of the law was to demonstrate our inability to keep it? That is, to drive us to Christ out of our need.

I don't think we need to synthesize God saying "you must" and God saying "you can't unless I draw you".

Just as in Romans 9, where Paul tells us that is "not to him who wills or him who runs but to God who shows mercy", it seems to me that God cannot show mercy (or at least His mercy won't be percieved) unless he first gives a command/call that we cannot accept/obey without his direct intervention.
Then mercy can be seen to be merciful.

For me, the desire to see that the call is sincere, as in truly answerable, lies in my wish that God be fair. However, it is God and his mercy that is on display in the Gospel, not his "fairness".

It seems clear to me that the sincere offer is to those who repent, it is not given/offered to the unrepentant. The command (in my mind) precedes the offer.

D.R. Brooker said...

Did God sincerely desire the salvation of Esau, whom He reprobated in eternity past (Rom 9:11-13), and we are clearly told that he was one whom God hates? The Psalmist tells us clearly that God hates the "workers of iniquity" (Psa 5:5), ie. the reprobate. To paraphrase the point that David (not Ponter) made: How can it be said that God "sincerely desires" the salvation of those from which He purposely (and judiciously) withholds the only means of salvation? How can He desire that which He purposed would never occur? (And the "two wills" of God is not a sufficient answer, IMO).

Later in Romans 9 we are told of the vessels of wrath. Did God sincerely desire the salvation of these vessels whom He created for the sole purpose of raising up and displaying his wrath in? Not unless He wills against Himself.

There are numerous texts that stand against this being the slam dunk it's presented to be.

The reason why I and others would hold to this position is because: 1) we believe the Bible clearly teaches it, 2) one cannot truly understand the undeserving nature of God's grace to sinners without it, and 3) it gives a more biblically balanced view of God and His attributes. These are obviously points of disagreement.

While hyper-Calvinists may hold to this, it does not necessarily entail that one is a hyperC because they do. It is not in and of itself an impediment to evangelism for as Spurgeon said, "If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t I must preach 'whosoever will' and when 'whosoever' believes I know he is one of the elect." We preach and command all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel, knowing that those whom God has set His affections on most certainly will.

John Owen: "We deny that all mankind are the object of that love of God which moved him to send his Son to die; God having 'made some for the day of evil' (Prov. 16:4); 'hated them before they were born' (Rom. 9:11, 13); 'before of old ordained them to condemnation' (Jude 4); being 'fitted to destruction' (Rom. 9:22); 'made to be taken and destroyed' (II Pet. 2:12); 'appointed to wrath' (I Thess. 5:9); to 'go to their own place' (Acts 1:25)" (Works, vol. 10, p. 227). "... reprobation ... [is] the issue of hatred, or a purpose of rejection (Rom. 9:11-13)" (Works, vol. 10).

A. W. Pink: "‘Thou hatest all workers of iniquity’—not merely the works of iniquity. Here, then, is a flat repudiation of present teaching that, God hates sin but loves the sinner; Scripture says, ‘Thou hatest all workers of iniquity’ (Ps. 5:5)! ‘God is angry with the wicked every day.’ ‘He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God’—not ‘shall abide,’ but even now—‘abideth on him’ (Ps. 5:5; 8:11; John 3:36). Can God ‘love’ the one on whom His ‘wrath’ abides? Again; is it not evident that the words ‘The love of God which is in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:39) mark a limitation, both in the sphere and objects of His love? Again; is it not plain from the words ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’ (Rom. 9:13) that God does not love everybody? ... Is it conceivable that God will love the damned in the Lake of Fire? Yet, if He loves them now He will do so then, seeing that His love knows no change—He is ‘without variableness or shadow of turning!’" (The Sovereignty of God).

Daryl said...

Ynottony,

Upon further reflection it appears to me that your 2 points are easily disposed of:

1) As dead men, we do not possess the faculties necessary to comply with any of God's commands/wishes. Hence the need for his saving mercy. (See Jer 10:23 as I quoted earlier, Jeremiah flattly denies any ability on our part to direct any of our steps, let alone the steps towards God.)

2) The wicked "created for destruction", does God want them to obey? If he did, they would repent, for Paul in his letter to Timothy makes it plain that it is God himself who "grants repentance." Repentance not offered by the sinner, is repentance not permitted by God himself.

ddd said...

Phil:

Why must pleading for sinners to repent must of necessity presuppose the theory of the 'well-meant offer of the Gospel'? It makes absolutely no sense! I plead for sinners to repent because God does the same, but by God pleading for them to repent does not in any way means He desires their salvation.

ynottony:

""It is also sincere or well-meant because of the following reasons:
1) We possess the faculties necessary to respond
AND
2) God truly wants compliance to those things he has commanded, which includes evangelical commands, i.e. believe and repent.""

And what bearing does the truth of both these two qualities have on the theory of the well-meant offer? I don't see why it is that God cannot want compliance to commands like repentance which He has commanded without desiring their salvation?

There is a BIG difference between God wanting compliance with His commands (including the command to repent) and God wanting all people to be saved (well-meant offer of the Gospel). Very big!

If anyone insists on accepting the well-meant offer of the Gospel, then the only consistent way to do so is be a neo-Amyraldian. You decide.
(http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/ddd_chc82/theology/Gospel_proclamation.html)

Oh, btw, I am using the term 'free offer' or 'well-meant offer' according to John Murray's definition.

Phil Johnson said...

DDD: "God pleading for them to repent does not in any way means He desires their salvation."

That assertion would be incomprehensible on its face to the average person. And when you break down what you are saying, I would suggest that you come very close (if not all the way) to impugning God's sincerity.

"Desire" is an admittedly problematic term when it comes to expressing the mind of God. But let's take it as an anthropopathic expression, the same as we would the idea of the Holy Spirit's being "grieved," and we'll work with it.

Daniel, the problem you have with this stems from the fact that you seem to assume that whatever God "desires" He must decree; and you likewise seem to think if He is sovereign, He could never have any volition or preference or wish for anything to be other than it is, right?

In other words, I think you presume (quite wrongly, in my estimation) that if God in any sense would desire or prefer or want to see the reprobate come to repentance rather than damnation, then His sovereignty is compromised.

So then let me ask you a few questions: Is it (to borrow words from 1 Thessalonians 4:3) "the will of God . . . that [we] should abstain from sexual immorality"? Did God (in any sense) desire David in the OT to abstain from adultery with Bathsheba? Or, to bring it down to today, is there any true sense in which it was God's will and preference for [insert name here of any evangelical celebrity who has committed fornication] to remain pure instead?

And what is Luke 7:30 talking about when it says "Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves"?

You will get yourself into serious trouble if you define God's sovereignty in such a way that you think it's never appropriate to suggest that God has any kind of will or desire or preference whatsoever to see anything happen other than the way He decreed it.

I realize thats a difficult concept, but it is precisely why we make a distinction between the decretive and preceptive aspects of the divine will. If you accept that distinction, there's no good reason to balk at speaking of God's desire for the repentance of the reprobate. God Himself speaks in those terms often.

Back to your original statement (above): If you had said "God's pleading for them to repent does not mean He has decreed their salvation"; or "God's pleading for them to repent does not mean He desires their salvation above every other good"; or "God's pleading for them to repent does not mean He absolutely and in every conceivable sense desires their salvation"—then I would agree.

But when you say, "God pleading for them to repent does not in any way mean He desires their salvation," you intrude where you do not belong, into the secret counsels of God.

If that which He has revealed is for us, and the secret things belong to Him (Deuteronomy 29:29), and He says He pleads for the repentance of the reprobate, and states emphatically that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked—then it is positively sinful to suggest that He doesn't really mean those things sincerely.

YnottonY said...

"If God desires people to repent of sin, then certainly he desires them to be saved, for salvation is the fruit of such repentance."

John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2002, see pages 528-538.

YnottonY said...

Daryl said:

"As dead men, we do not possess the faculties necessary to comply with any of God's commands/wishes."

Ok. The spiritually dead don't possess the faculties necessary to comply. So it follows that the spiritually dead are not in the image of God as it respects their minds and wills. In fact, they don't have wills or minds. Their acts of unbelief must not be mental states and willful rebellion. I guess they are not response-able to obey God's commandments. You deny their responsibility.

Again, our being "dead" in trespasses and sins is an analogy. It's a comparison between a bodily state and a spiritual state. A bodily dead person is numb to any tender touch by loved ones. They are unresponsive and cannot perceive physical things anymore. They cannot hear. They cannot taste. Quite frankly, they stink.

In a similar way, the unbeliever, apart from efficacious grace, cannot respond to God's touching appeals and goading of the conscience. They cannot obediently hear the word of God. They cannot see the significance of the truth in Christ Jesus. They cannot and will not taste and see that the Lord is good. They are a stench in the Lord's nostrils and altogether repugnant to his Holiness. It does not entail that they lack the faculties with which to respond. To say so amounts to a denial of human responsibility. Responsibility involves being able to respond, hence response-able. The above characteristics of the spiritually dead speaks to MORAL inability.

Your formula to command all to repent but only offer Christ to sensible sinners (those showing signs of being elect by their genuine conviction and repentance) is classic hyper-Calvinism, Daryl. I know you won't like that because it suggests you are imbalanced, but it is an historically accurate label nonetheless.

Check out Robert W. Oliver's History of the English Calvinistic Baptists (Banner of Truth, 2006) for primary source documentation if you want. It's based on his doctoral dissertation and has a Foreward by Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin. Or, for a more expansive work, check out Dr. Curt Daniel's 900+ page doctoral dissertation on Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill. One can also listen to him lecture on the subject HERE (source page is HERE). I would strongly encourage others to get these resources as well.

YnottonY said...

Dr. Peter Toon's work on The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity may be consulted HERE. In his historical description or definition of hyperism, he says that one aspect is that "Christ may be offered only to the elect." Actually, only some hypers thought that. Others denied that it was an offer at all, since they conceived of the evangelical covenant as utterly unconditional. An "offer" presupposes some sense of conditionality, even if only instrumental conditionality.

Iain Murray, in The Forgotten Spurgeon, says that hyperism "asserts that we have only warrant to invite to Christ those who are conscious of a sense of sin and need. In other words, it is those who have been spiritually quickened to seek a Saviour and not those who are in the death of unbelief and indifference, to whom the exhortations of the Gospel must be addressed."

See The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1998), p. 47.

Daryl said...

Ynottony,

Perhaps you are mis-reading me (or perhaps I don't understand myself- equally possible).
I am certainly not saying that we don't offer Christ, nor that we don't deliver his command to repent. After all, who knows the elect but God himself?

What I am not clear on (and plainly this is where our apparent differences lie), is in the area of ability and responsibility.

Dead in sin cannot be an analogy (I don't think) because to say so is to deny that God spoke the truth when he told Adam "In the day that you eat of it, you shall die." Which I take to mean that he wasn't promising that someday later he would die, but on the very day of the fruit-eating he would die. Also, Paul didn't say "It's like you were dead in your trespasses and sins." he said "You WERE dead."

Given that we are condemned already by Adam's sin, there is no need to find a direct causal relationship between our own sins and our condemnation. Paul establishes in Romans that we sin because we are condemned, not the other way around.

Perhaps, technically, I fall under someones description of hyper-calvinism, although I'm not sure how (perhaps I just misunderstand exactly what hyper-calvinism is) Although reading Dan's (was it Dan's or Phil's, I forget) primer on hyper-calvinism I don't recall anything that made me sit up and take notice as relates to me. Perhaps I'm a bad explainer...

I certainly don't reject the idea that God works through means and doesn't save people in a vacuum. I don't reject human responsibility one whit. But again, our responsibility to obey does not necessarily imply an ability. (Romans 9 "how can he find fault for who resists his will??)
I just reject the idea of moral inability set against any other ability.
Either we are able or we are not, plainly that doesn't avoid our culpability before God, but there it is.
I never said or hinted at the idea that we command some and offer to others. What I said was that the gospel is first a command (Repent) and within that is the offer that if you do you will be saved. It is God who will make that distinction in peoples hearts, not I. I have always believed and still do, that it is not ours to determine who is elect, nor is it for us to say 'God will do it" and leave it alone (ala Hudson Taylor's "advisors").

Seems to me that Hyper-Calvinism deals with things that affect the practicalities of all this, not the technicalities.

Hope that clears the waters a little.

Daryl said...

Ynottony,

I re-read the primer on hyper-calvinism and I think I see what I was confused on and why you suggested that I was a hyper-calvinist.

Our differences are not so large I don't think. It seems that I wasn't really understanding you or quite getting a hold of the differences in natural vs moral inability. I think I understand it now and have clipped the quote below to deomonstrate that.

"In other words, the sinner's inability to obey God does not nullify his duty to do so. This is a crucial point—perhaps the most crucial point of all—because it is the very point that ultimately distinguishes true Calvinism from both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism. Both Arminians and hyper-Calvinists will protest that it is illogical or unjust to teach that God demands what sin renders us incapable of doing.
But it is neither illogical or unjust. Sin itself is a moral issue, and since sin is the cause of our inability, it is, as Jonathan Edwards said, a moral inability, not a natural one. The defect in man is his own fault, not God's. Therefore man's own inability is something he is guilty for, and that inability cannot therefore be seen as something that relieves the sinner of responsibility."


I see now that what you were saying is that the offer is made to us on the basis, really, of how we were created and our inability is the result of Adam's (and our) sin. Hence, the offer is on God's terms, we (in Adam) have mucked ourselves up enough that we can't respond.
I like how Phil says that our inability is our fault, not Gods (duh), thus making the offer at once genuine and yet unacceptable to the unelect.


This is good for me, I certainly fall under the "newly reformed" category so I'm still sorting all this out.

Thanks for your time.

ddd said...
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ddd said...

ynotty: "If God desires people to repent of sin, then certainly he desires them to be saved, for salvation is the fruit of such repentance."

First of all, when it comes to John Frame, I do not highly regard him when it comes to soteriology, because it is his predecessor Cornelius Van Til who shamelessly oppose Gordon Clark and promote irrationality, his theory of 'analogy' and the unknowability of God; not to mention the fact that the Neo-Legalists Norman Shepherd and co. came out around his time and (at least Norman Shepherd) were protected by Van Till until protection became impossible.

Anyway, back to the sentence.I disagree with the statement, first of all because I disagree that God wanting people to repent is a desire; it is a 'preference' or command. Secondly, even if God desires that Man repent does not imply that God desires them saved, although repentance necessarily implies that the person would be saved. As an analogy, it could be the case that if I do an action like eating fattening food (p), then the consequent of becoming fat (q) would follow. Therefore, if p, then q. Let's say that I desire to eat fatty foods (p). However, does that necessarily mean that I like being or I desire to be fat(q)? NO, it doesn't. I may like eating fatty food because they taste nice, not because I desire to be fat. Therefore, just because I desire the antecedent p does not mean that I desire the consequent q, and thus the statement made by John Frame is illogical.

Oh, just fyi, I am against the 'well meant offer', NOT the offer of the Gospel.

ddd said...

Phil: "Desire" is an admittedly problematic term when it comes to expressing the mind of God. But let's take it as an anthropopathic expression, the same as we would the idea of the Holy Spirit's being "grieved," and we'll work with it.

I'm fine with using the term as an anthropopathic expression. In fact, it is precisely because of this that I personally object to the use of the word 'desire' to speak of God's command that all should repent and turn to Him.

'Desire', as a word, carries with it the connotation of a strong want; to wish for something earnestly (from Dictionary.com). As human beings, we do not of course get everything we desire, due to our creaturely limitations, and we may get miserable if we do not get what we desire. For example, if I strongly desire my sick father to be healed, then I would be severly unhappy if the healing did not happen. However, if I am a policeman who strongly commands a murderer not to resist arrest, I cannot say that I would be unhappy that my command was not carried out, but that I would be wrathful if he does so. My bone of contention is that if we use the word 'desire' of God's command of the reprobate to repent, then that would mean that God desires something which he would not bring to pass, and that would make Him eternally unhappy.

So, yes, I assume that whatever God desires, He must decree to pass. I would likewise affirm that since God is sovereign, then God would not have any volition or wish for anything to be other than it is. However, I deny that if God is sovereign, then God would not have any preference for anything to be other than it is. Preference involves the hypothetical option of choosing a course of actions among the possibility of possible courses of actions, whereas volition involved the actual choice of a course of action among all other possible courses of actions. Therefore, I affirm that God may have different preferences according to the manifestations of His various attributes but He has only one Will.

I do subscribe to the essence of the decretive and preceptive aspects of God's will, but I deny that the correct terminoloy is utilized. Whatever is God's Will is whatever He has chosen to act on (volition), and therefore I deny that the preceptive aspect of God's Will can be in any shape reformed be called 'God's Will'; it is a misnomer. It is God's standard; God's commands, even God's preferences (if you like that term) and I would just leave it as that. I would rather call God's so-called 'desire' for the salvation of the reprobates, if it would be placed under God's 'preceptive will', to be called God's sincere command. It was never a will to being with, since it will never be acted upon by God nor is God pleased to act upon it. Unlike desires, God would not be rendered unhappy in Him not acting on this command He gave to the reprobates.

With regards to 1 Thess. 4:3, what this verse is mainly saying is that God's decretive will for us is our sanctification, which will be definitely be accomplished when we reach heaven. The verse then goes on to show a very pertinent example of how sanctification is to be worked out in this life, which is that we abstain from sexual immorality. So, far from this verse talking about God willing something which may not occur, God is willing something which would definitely occur, when we reach heaven of course.

With regards to your other questions, I would use the same tactic. God did not desire for David to abstain from immorality with Bathsheba, but he has commanded him not to and he thus 'prefers' him not to do so. Ditto for any evangelical leader who has commited fornication too.

As for Lk. 7:30, my ESV uses the word 'purpose' instead, not will. So, yes, I can affirm that the Pharisees and the lawyers had rejected God's purposes for them, for purposes clearly refer to God's commands or God's 'preferences', not to God' (decretive) Will.

Just fyi, I used an interlinear Bible to check for the words that was translated 'will' according to what you have said (in 1 Thess. 4:3 and Lk. 7:30) and they are clearly distinct Greek words. The word used in 1 Thess. 4:3 is thelema while the word used in Lk. 7:30 is boule. Perhaps someone who is interested may do a case study of how the two words are used in the Scripture when referring to this issue...

The reason why I am arguing over what seems by possibly many people to be mere semantics is that the words we use convey concepts which could have logically unacceptable consequents, and thus resulted in erroneous conduct in things liie evangelism. If we say that God somehow desires the salvation of all including the reprobates, knowing how the world defines 'desire', what does that tell the unbeliever, but that God wants him/her saved and would be unhappy if he/she is not saved. What's the difference between saying to an unbeliever 'God desire your salvation' and 'God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life'? Furthermore, what it is that will stop us from acting this 'truth' out in the same manner as how the world understands the concept of 'desire'? What is to stop us from presenting God as a star-eyed lover proposing to unbelievers His love for them? Yes, such practices ARE distasteful, but why are that wrong if God desires their salvation? Much can be made of the need for holiness etc, but that doesn't answer the root question, does it?

Daryl said...

Is the plea to be reconciled to God found anywhere else? I only ask because after rereading 2Cor. 5:20 and the surrounding verses it sounds like Paul is talking the the Corinthian church, not to unbelievers.

Just wondering.

YnottonY said...

Hi Daryl,

I'm glad you're studying and pondering these matters, as you strive to refine your views in the process. May God bless your labors.

With respect to 2 Cor. 5:20, it is true that Paul is talking to the Corinthian church, but he is talking to them about the content of his gospel of reconciliation. He's rehearsing the gospel content, as it were, which involves God pleading through him for sinners in general to receive the reconcilation available in Christ.

You can find the image of God pleading with sinners indiscriminately in Romans 10:21

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

The stretched out hands is a pleading and welcoming gesture, as if to say "I do not delight in your perishing. Come to me that you might have life!"

This is another strong passage as it relates to all of Israel. God says:

NKJ Deuteronomy 5:29 'Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!

Those are just two more examples.

Hope that helps,
Tony

Daryl said...

Thanks Tony,

Those verses do clear it up. I can't believe I missed the whole tenor of the OT prophets with regards to Israel.

Daryl.