11 January 2007

Don't make me stop this bus and come back there...

by Phil Johnson

I know I said I intended to post my thoughts about a certain controversial evangelistic video tonight or tomorrow, but I'm going to exercise my prerogative as founder and de facto boss of this blog and put that off till Monday or Tuesday.

Maybe even a few days later.

There are several reasons for this—chiefly the inconvenient timing of an entirely unrelated but vitally important matter that came up today related to my real-world responsibilities. It's not anything disastrous, but it's both urgent and weighty—the kind of thing I need to devote a few days of my undivided attention to.

So at the moment, it would be the height of folly to post something I know is going to generate a tidal wave of comments from certain friends and lesser acquaintances of mine who are already deeply entrenched and emotionally-invested in a position I'm about to disagree with. There are lots of things that rank higher on my list-o'-priorities than answering a tsunami of indignant blog-comments.

Did I say "indignant"? How about belligerent? I couldn't help noticing that a few people today flat-out ignored my plea for more light and less heat. I'm ashamed of some of the commenters here. All the unwarranted nastiness gives me extra incentive to hold off posting about the controversy as long as possible. I don't want to stoke whatever carnal impulses have turned friend so fiercely against friend and attracted a certain class of commenters who aren't really regulars here but who seem to like to show up and throw down (or sit on the sidelines and post commentary at another blog) whenever they think there's the potential for a big fight. Pheh.

Anyway, it'll take about one or two more gratuitously nasty remarks from someone on either side of this thing, and I'm going to put a month-long moratorium on the whole discussion.

Look: the gospel is supremely important. That's a strong and long-standing conviction of mine (in case someone hasn't noticed). So I understand why a discussion about whether someone is faithfully proclaiming the gospel or not stirs passions. But sometimes controversies like these also stir carnal and self-aggrandizing passions. It's not always easy in the heat of passion to evaluate one's own passions dispassionately. I admit that by nature I'm a pretty passionate and not particularly sensitive person myself. So it ought to tell you something that in my judgement a lot of the rhetoric in this debate has been exaggerated and ungracious to an incredibly embarrassing degree.

Now, cut it out.

I'm sorry to make such an unsatisfying post. But that's how I feel about what's been posted here this week. Keep things a lot more controlled and a little more cordial in the meta, and next week I'll tell you what I think about it.

Phil's signature


hearthevoice.com said...

Have you heard of the Bible project the pomos are putting together? It is called The Voice and you can see it at www.hearthevoice.com.

Tony Byrne said...

Hi Phil,

I also look forward to your response. I hope you can tell that some "Calvinists" and/or TULIPers are responding to some of the content of the Chan video with the a priori conviction that God in no sense desires the salvation of every man. I trust that you can discern that in the responses of some of the men you have begun to associate yourself with. Awhile back I asked Dr. Tom Ascol if he thought that God desired the salvation of all men. He said:

"I believe that God desires for all people to be saved but has purposed to save His elect. I see two (at least two) dimensions in God's will: revealed and decretive. Failure to make this kind of distinction is a failure to read the Bible's teachings on the will of God accurately."

A significant amount of people who claim to be Calvinists no longer believe that God desires the salvation of all. Ascol was virtually echoing Charles Hodge when he said what he said. He's right on target in his response.

I sincerely wish that, in your response, you would underline this VERY SIGNIFICANT POINT. The denial that God desires to save the non-elect forms a signicant presupposition for how various men are approaching this Chan issue and various biblical passages associated with it. Their faulty ideas need to be called out and refuted CLEARLY and EXPLICITLY, even if one also wants to be critical of certain elements of this Chan video. There's a "Quick and Dirty Calvinism" still running rampant, and I fear it's alot closer to you than you might think, I believe. They may not be saying so explicitly, but they're in denial of God's well-meant gospel offer.

I pray that you would underline points in your Primer LOUDLY and BOLDLY, even as you continue to emphasize the need for a careful presentation of God's gospel and his sovereignty in your usual Spurgeon-like fashion.

Anonymous said...

Thats whats called a "Phil-a-Buster" in Meta Land.

Yours truly.


Tony Byrne said...

Actually, let me put it stronger, Phil. Not only are some in denial of the idea that God desires the salvation of all, they're openly MOCKING that biblical concept in the name of their "Calvinism".

In contrast, Calvin once wrote about Jesus' "burning" and "ardent desire" for the salvation of those that heard the external call of the gospel:

"He who rejecteth me. That wicked men may not flatter themselves as if their unbounded disobedience to Christ would pass unpunished, he, adds here a dreadful threatening, that though he were to do nothing in this matter, yet his doctrine alone would be sufficient to condemn them, as he says elsewhere, that there would be no need of any other judge than Moses, in whom they boasted, (John 5:45.) The meaning, therefore, is: “Burning with ardent desire to promote your salvation, I do indeed abstain from exercising my right to condemn you, and am entirely employed in saving what is lost; but do not think that you have escaped out of the hands of God; for though I should altogether hold my peace, the word alone, which you have despised, is sufficient to judge you. Calvin on John 12:48.

FX Turk said...


Did you read Phil's post at all?

So why are you posting this?

The dial here can go up to "11", but Phil has asked us to dial it down to "3" for now. You are on "8".

Have a danish or something. And a decaf.

FX Turk said...

The kicker is that I agree with you, and Calvin. Just tone down the "Quick and Dirty Calvinism" stuff.

Unknown said...


Do you believe in double predestination? Do you believe the reprobation of the non-elect involves God's *active* damnation? I believe the Bible teaches both and I believe these to be the historically reformed and confessional positions.

God desires the salvation of all of his elect.

Unknown said...

And FWIW, since the primer was brought up... I affirm the gospel call (general) and offer to all, I affirm faith to be the duty of every sinner, common grace, and I affirm God's love for the non-elect "in some sense".

But I also believe that the Bible teaches that God does not desire the salvation of all non-elect. I believe the Peter passage has been abused in this regard.

And I believe historic Puritanism, Reformed theology, and/or Calvinism falls firmly on the side of double predestination and limited atonement (the two are inseparable, IMHO), and that a failure to affirm either is theological "error". Call me "uncharitable", but I do not believe that Amyraldians have any claim to the Calvinist label, though historically, some in the Reformed camp have granted some notable passes. That Baxter, and Davenant to a lesser extent, has been granted such a pass isn't compelling.

I think if we are to preserve Reformed theology as it has been passed to us for the next generation, we will make the tough and unpopular statements that must be said.

Connie said...

Phil: thanks for taking time out to post this, I very much look forward to your further thoughts--in time.

I just RE-read your Jan. 03, 2007 post, "I walk the line - A Balanced Plea for Balance" because I find myself to be "in the middle" on this current controversy. There are people who have earned my respect on BOTH sides of this current matter.

Your opening comment, "There's an equilibrium to be maintained in true spirituality, and it's only our sinfulness that makes us become unbalanced in one direction or the other." was a great reminder and warning to ME as I continue to sift through all that has been/is being said.

Will be praying for you as you consider posting in the days to come.

James Scott Bell said...

Can't wait to have you back, Phil. I look forward to your post. Perhaps this Calvinistic "in house" debate is similar in kind to what going on over in Arminianism, between the classics and the Open Theists. IOW, I see classic Calvinism and classic Arminianism meeting in the middle, very close to a distinct fence, over which we can at least talk to each other and perhaps borrow a bowl of sugar from time to time; while at the extreme ends are hyper-Calvinists and Open Theists who not only can't see or hear each other, they are becoming ever more separated from those on the "same side" of the fence.

Remember that song from Oklahoma about the cow man and the farmer? Territory folks should stick together.

Rileysowner said...

It would be nice to see people dial things down a little (ok, sometimes a lot) so that the discussion does not degenerate to mere name calling and ad hominem propositions that do not advance things at all.

I don't mind controversy or discussion. I believe it is used by God to clarify things in the minds of believers. However, that is only when people stick to the point, and actually discuss it instead of attacking the person who is making the point.

I have appreciated the posts from Steve Camp and Frank. The 'how' of sharing the gospel, and the 'what' of the essentials that are needed is of great importance so don't let it get lost in all the static that seems to be building.

Connie said...

rileysowner: I agree with you, "I don't mind controversy or discussion. I believe it is used by God to clarify things in the minds of believers." As for me, that's one of the reasons I keep coming back to Pyro!!!

jsb: loved the "Oklahoma" reference, but now the song is playing over, and over, and over in my head! My ancestors (Cherokee) met those farmers and ranchers when the "Sooners" first arrived here. :-)

Please pardon my rabbit-trail!!!

Connie said...

rileysowner: I agree with you, "I don't mind controversy or discussion. I believe it is used by God to clarify things in the minds of believers." As for me, that's one of the reasons I keep coming back to Pyro!!!

jsb: loved the "Oklahoma" reference, but now the song is playing over, and over, and over in my head! My ancestors (Cherokee) met those farmers and ranchers when the "Sooners" first arrived here. :-)

Please pardon my rabbit-trail!!!

donsands said...

I wish more overseers would say, "Now, cut it out."

"Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." Heb. 13:17

"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in us that which is wellpleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be all glory for ever and ever. Amen." Heb. 13:20-21

C.T. Lillies said...

Yeah but ron...we don't believe in purgatory.

"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

Tom Chantry said...

Wars are messy, but sometimes they accomplish positive good.

I don't know whether I would classify this debate as a war in spite of the various mentions of it as a "blog war." It seems to me that the main participants are striving manfully to avoid turning it into a war, but everyone is afraid that someone is going to make it a war.

It isn't my intent here to weigh in with my opinion of Chan's video, but to suggest a way that all of us who are following intently to benefit from this debate, regardless of who is right and wrong:

Take a few minutes today to evaluate your own evangelism.

Perhaps you have a favorite tract, or maybe you just tend to follow a certain outline. Think through all the issues raised in this thread, or rather set of threads, and ask yourself some questions:

1. Does my evangelism display the majesty of God, who is sovereign over all things?

2. Does my evangelism display the grace of God, who ever stands ready to save sinners?

3. Does my evangelism hit the hard facts dead on the nose: that men are sinners, and that God will punish sin with damnation?

4. Does my evangelism explain clearly the central points of the gospel: the death and resurrection of God the Son and the implications this has for sinners?

5. Does my evangelism call on men to turn away from sin and from self?

6. Does my evangelism call men to faith in Christ as the only hope for sinners?

I took the time to review my church's website today with those questions in mind. I found it a worthwhile exercise, so I, for one, am glad this particular debate detonated this week.

FX Turk said...


Here's the nicest thing I can say to you.

In the Chan video, that pastor says to people, "God loves you and doesn't want to punish you." But that statement is not a get-out-of-jail card, no matter how anyone wants to try to position it that way. Pastor Chan did an expert job -- in short form -- to express that God wants to forgive you but you have to repent You have to say, "I screwed up", and you have to accept the offer of Christ crucified on the cross.

What God wants is for all men to repent. Inherent in the command to repent is the assurance that repentence is met with forgiveness. Now: you can make your life's work into demanding that the only way to say "repent" is to use the word "repent", or you can decide that another way to rightly view the call to repent is to see it as an offer to forgive.

The declaration of the Gospel is not either/or: it is both. It is both a command to repent and an offer to forgive -- and the offer is not made as a grudge from omnipotence: it is made for the sake of love. The motive in forgiveness is love, and the source is the one who is both Lord (demand to repent) and Christ (offer to forgive).

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That's the Gospel, dude. You can make all the philosophical arguments you want, but that's it -- that's all there is.

And listen: if you want to hyper-nuance "us" in that passage, that's great. I'm with you -- but explain the offer of the Gospel to me if it is not, "whosoever believes". The offer is to all who will believe -- the call is to repent and believe. It's not "you have to decide if you can believe first, and then I can tell you the good news".

The offer is that God has done something loving, and now as we see that matter, that historical fact, we have to do something. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself -- to which us, um, excuse me, you reformed types say "see: Peter is saying 'only the elect'" -- but I promise you that the Jews standing there understood him to mean "all who hear and receive".

That's not a violation of election or predestination -- it's admitting that Peter made an open call to all the ones who will believe, all the ones who are willing. If you want to beat me up over the mechanics of how they get to be believers, and how the new birth works, I'll bet it's a beating in which you can't score any points -- because I don't just believe Jn 3:16 -- I believe all of Jn 3.

Peter didn't toss a stumbling block in front of the Gospel -- he didn't say, "all you who know of and accept the election". He said, "this is an open invitation -- not just to Jews, or Jews in Jerusalem, but to all men to who God makes this call."

That's what the passage says. We can interpret some other meanings backwards into it if we are of that kind of thinking, but the passage says what it says to whom it says it.

Tony Byrne said...

Hi Centuri0n,

Just for the record, the above two posts are the only responses I've entered anywhere in the blogosphere on the subject of this Chan video. I am a late comer to the "dispute". One can see that in my above post that I've tried to emphasize the IDEOLOGICAL and not the personal. Maybe my CAPS in certain places makes it seem like I was generating more heat than light, but I only put the caps because I was too lazy to use the bold html code hahaha.

Also, as I'm sure you know, I was referencing one of Phil's first posts in the blogosphere when I brought up the "Quick and Dirty Calvinism" subject. I think the content of that post is just as relevant today as it was back then, and I'm sure you agree. But, again, I am concerned about the IDEAS that are problematic, and not so much the "tone" and "personal behavior" issues.

Anyway, I do not plan on saying anything much more for now. I'm not even sure that I will feel inclined to post after Phil addresses the matter. I just want to blow my theological whistle loud enough for HIM to hear and to take notice of what I have said. I believe the subjects of my first two posts above are vital for the life and health of Christ's church.

In conclusion, I'm not at an "8". If you were Truly Reformed, you would know that I'm at a 7.27384874374 LOL jk

I would be more than happy to answer your questions and to interact with you on some aspects of Calvinistic soteriology, but this doesn't seem to be the appropriate time or place to do so, especially since there's been a call to "cool things down". If I started to address your questions and unload piles of quotes from Augustine, Prosper, Calvin, Musculus, Zwingli, Bullinger, Ursinus, James Ussher, John Davenant, John Preston, John Howe, Edward Polhill, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, J. C. Ryle, Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney, W. G. T. Shedd, R. B. Kuiper and Curt Daniel (and I could go on and on), then things would only heat up I'm sure :-)

Moreover, it seems to me that your comments above merely serve to provoke. I find your historical assessments to be extreme and unfair to the facts, but I suppose that discussion will have to wait for another time, Lord willing.

Speaking of Puritans, here's an excellent quote from John Howe that seems fitting:

"And now, shall our Redeemer be left to weep alone over these perishing souls? Have we no tears to spend upon this doleful subject? O that our heads were waters, and our eyes fountains! Is it nothing to us, that multitudes are sinking, going down into perdition, under the name of Christian, under the seal of baptism, from under the means of life and salvation! perishing! and we can do nothing to prevent it? We know they must perish that do not repent and turn to God, and love him above all, even with all their hearts and souls, and mind and might; that do not believe in his Son and pay him homage, as their rightful Lord, sincerely subjecting themselves to his laws and government. But this they will not understand, or not consider. Our endeavours to bring them to it are ineffectual, it is but faint breath we utter. Our words drop and die between us and them! We speak to them in the name of the eternal God that made them, of the great Jesus who bought them with his blood, and they regard it not. The Spirit of the Lord is in a great degree departed from among us, and we take it not to heart! We are sensible of lesser grievances; are grieved that men will not be more entirely proselyted to our several parties and persuasions, rather than that they are so disinclined to become proselytes to real Christianity; and seem more deeply concerned to have Christian religion so or so modified, than whether there shall be any such thing, or whether men be saved by it or lost!"

John Howe, "The Redeemer's Tears, etc." In The Works of John Howe (Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1990), 2:322-323.

Unknown said...

>I promise you that the Jews >standing there understood him to >mean "all who hear and receive".

If you're talking about ALL in the church to which Peter is writing, I agree with you. If you're talking about an indiscrimate, universal group of people, I disagree... those to whom he was writing knew he was talking about THEM.

Otherwise, I agree with pretty much everything you stated in this post. Where we disagree is that I don't believe what you're writing is actually and in real time reflected in Chan's video. Apparently you and I (and James White, Campi, Alan K., etc.) haven't seen the same video. :-)

God *both* calls on men everywhere to repent *and* desires to punish the wicked. Isaiah 53:10 says God took pleasure in crushing the suffering servant/sacrificial lamb in satifsying his justice (vs. 11). God always has pleasure in seeing his justice accounted for (gr).

Mike Felker said...

Wouldn't it be cool if we just dropped this whole thing and focused on something a little more important? I just don't think anything Pastor Chan said was really that destructive :-/

FX Turk said...


The point could be made without slapping a label on it. I think you have a point which needs some airing out -- to compare it to what it is criticizing. "Sloppy Agape" notwithstanding, the labels tend to inflame.

And I rounded up -- I have the old analog TR levelometer, and it doesn't have the new 6-point floating digital readout you guys who are still TRs got yesterday in the mail. I'm trying to see if the Semi-Pelagian League of Arminian Technophiles (SPLAT) has a compatible device, but you know how they are about compatibilism.

FX Turk said...


That's an interesting interpretation of the phrase, "For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." I'd love to see you defend it in some way.

And it's strange -- you think I'm alone on this side of the discussion? or I only have iMonk, perhaps, cheering in vengeful glee? Doesn't that itself tell you that you're missing something -- that you don't see anyone else worth reading saying that it is right to makes God's free offer of the Gospel as if it was actually to all men?

The longer this goes on, the better I feel about it. There are good men on your side of this discussion -- but they are wrong. I have three examples which I am working out on this issue, the first of which is at my blog right now, on Jonah, Ninevah, and the steadfast love of God. When the others are fully formed, you'll be able to see them there.

candy said...

I say we scrounge up a bunch of those old Chick tracks and pass them out. :)

Catez said...

you can make your life's work into demanding that the only way to say "repent" is to use the word "repent", or you can decide that another way to rightly view the call to repent is to see it as an offer to forgive.

I hope it'ok to lift that out - it has me thinking, because I've sometimes done that - I mean about the offer to forgive.

On using the word - I think we can - non-Christians and even the secular media do it. I think we can explain it. But I'd agree that the word itself is not a formula i.e. I use that word in a culture that uses that word. But what you've said here has me thinking about the times I haven't used the word but have conveyed the same meaning. I do like what you've said - I think implicit in the offer to forgive is the recognition of wrongdoing - and wrong condition perhaps. Otherwise why would one need to be forgiven, and why would would agree and want to be?

Just don't tell me to take repent out of all our bibles. That will send me sniffling to watch to Spongebob Squarepants forthwith.

littlegal_66 said...

"........and attracted a certain class of commenters who aren't really regulars here......."

I guess I would have to plead "guilty as charged" on that count. ;-) But, no need to bring the bus to a complete stop on my account.......(just slow down a little, and I'll leap out the back emergency exit). :-D

Really, I hope my posts on "that other thread" didn't compound any friction that could have been lurking around the comment section. I was attempting to help defuse, but maybe it backfired?

This concludes the bus tour.....if you're on the left, please step to the right, if you're on the right, please step to the left. Also, please remember to tip your driver as you disembark. :-)

DJP said...

littlegal, I am pretty sure Phil DID NOT have you in mind.

littlegal_66 said...

In that case, I'll remain seated and at least finish the tour, (but I may have some questions for the tour guide once we come to a stop). For now......who's got the chips....?

The Fantastic Daughter-In-Law's Spouse said...

I've heard you say "cut it out" probably more than any other person on the planet...I think you're missing a bit of the essence that is "cut it out"...it could rarely be interpreted as benign or indifferent. Typically it starts slow and gathers towards a crescendo that gives "OUT" some bite to it...never should that phrase appear so docile!

Carla Rolfe said...


I had them, but I ate them all. I'm a hyper-chipper and I do not share. Ever.

eklektos said...

I don't think you're a heretic, or that you've gone off the reservation(or your rocker). I simply think your assesment is worng. It's half a gospel to me, and we have enough people proclaiming half a gospel. But, having said that I agree it's not a big enough issue to cause dissention over. In fact, as the video is quite typical of pomo evangelicalism and nothing new, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

GeneMBridges said...

Augustine, Prosper, Calvin, Musculus, Zwingli, Bullinger, Ursinus...

Just one note. I gather this is related to the decretive - consequent will distinction so often employed relative to 2 Peter 3:9. However, if these folk are to be cited, the final five in particular, a few things should be noted:

In 1 Tim. 2:4, Augustine exegetes this in line not with that distinction, but with the universality of kinds.

Calvin was speaking of preaching not the atonement, and as I recall, Tony's issue is twofold: the offer in preaching and the offer in atonement; the former does not depend on the latter in Calvin's theology; rather it flows from His command and the obligation of all sinners to repent.
The twofold will appears also in his exegesis of Ezek. 33:11, and in neither place is it ever connected to atonement.

This distinction is often defended, but does anybody know where it finds its historical terminus in Reformed exegesis?

"The distinction of the divine will into antecedent and consequent is used among our theologians" says Rijssen as a reference to the decretive and preceptive will of God.

So far, so good. We all know this. It's a standard exegetical move many make.

The decretive (antecedent)will "was determined by God from eternity before any created things existed." The latter rests upon the voluntas decreti as on its proper antecedent. The "Neopelagians" of the age, however, offer a different explanation of the distinction: the antecdent will of God they place, not prior to all creation, but prior to the acts of creatures, and the consequent will they do not rest on the voluntas antecedens bu ton the will of the creature that precedes it in time." (Rijssen, Summa Theo., III.xxxi, also Zanchius, De natura Dei, III.iv, and Turretin (IET, III.xvi.3).

So, while employing it, they were also wary of its abuse, because it can be used to assert a conditional will in God, as in God wills salvation contingent on faith," or "salvation rests on faith as a condition, established or foreknown to reside in the will of God that confers salvation." The latter they said is false, the former is true, because the latter makes that which is temporal control that which is atemporal.

Also, this distinction is more of holdover from Medieval Scholasticism, an item they found useful to keep - as they stripped down much of the ideas of the earlier time, and it crops up in Ockham and Aquinas. Ockam used it in discussing 1 Tim. 2:4. It is also linked to Anselm. Anselm makes a distinction between two kinds of necessity: there is preceding necessity (necessitas praecedens) and there is subsequent necessity (necessitas sequens). Preceding necessity is an efficient kind of necessity, and it is the cause of a thing's being the case. The subsequent necessity does not cause anything, but is caused by a thing's being the case. It's easy then to see how this can relate to the antecedent and consequent wills of God. The point here is that in defending these positions, we need to have some clarity about their origin at times, and that this particular distinction employed even in Reformed exegesis is somewhat associated with the ancilla of philosophy - not the grammar of the text. Rather it is employed to cap some holes in the exegetical theology of the age - for exegetical theology as we know and do it is a 19th century product. We should not forget that, and because it is part of the wider Reformed tradition, and we do agree - from other clearer texts - that the decretive - revealed distinction is valid as it describes what we find in Scripture - it gets employed. Those who differ are often those who do not dispute the validity of the distinction in other texts, rather they believe it is an invalid move to draw it from this particular text, because it seems to freight the text with ideas that are not immediately present following the grammar and context. So, let's step back, as the debates of the past few days have demonstrated, and get some perspective.

For example, Dort employs the "suffient/efficient" distinction. This finds its terminus in Aquinas, if by this you seek to use it to defend a universal saving will of God through the atonement proper. It is not employed prior in that manner. If you use it at all, you need to know it is first found, to the best we know, in Peter Damian in the 11th century. Now, it may be true, and there is an exegetical argument for it, as there is for the wider exegesis of 2 Peter 3:9, but, again, let's be sure we're not spending more time defending historical traditions and views than we are exegeting Scripture.

Certainly, before we start laying down which view is "the" Reformed view, we should realize that Reformed theology is quite varegated, and to oppose Calvin or any others to another set is, in the words of Muller, "facile contrast or juxtaposition," for it sets one theologian or more up as "the" spokesman and all others as "distorters."

Phil Johnson said...

eklektos: "I simply think your assesment is worng"

Yeah? Which "assesment" is that?

Kim said...

I know! Why don't we all sing a resounding chorus of "The Wheels on the Bus."

Come on now; group hug.

Tony Byrne said...

Hi Gene,

This is only the second time I have spoken with you. The first time had to do with a brief exchange on the subject of John Gill on the StrangeBaptistFire blog. I have felt reluctant to dialogue with you on these Calvinistic subjects because of a post on Triablogue awhile back that seemed, unfortunately, quite hostile to me (I still have a copy of the post). It was actually a personal/private email between you and others that EvanMay put out on the public site, but it was subsequently deleted without any comments or apology issued to me. For that reason, I only wish to make a few comments to you here, and then encourage you to dialogue with others, while I, in turn, will do the same. This should, I hope, help us abide by Phil's concern to keep things calm.

I do want to say a few things here regarding my exchange with "Breuss Wane" (Chad) so that you understand the context. Here's the situation:

1) To begin with, I made a request to Phil to reflect upon and possibly comment on the matter of God's desire for the salvation of all mankind. I know he would agree with the quote that I provided by Dr. Tom Ascol, and so would I. Admittedly, each of us work out the theological details differently with respect to God's will and Christ's penal satisfaction, but we (Tom, Phil, Frank, Dan and Me) agree with respect to the notion that God desires to save all mankind. None of us are saying that A) God EQUALLY desires all mankind. Neither are we saying that B) God only desires the salvation of the elect. Rather, we are saying that C) God desires to save all mankind, but ESPECIALLY the elect. There are those on the internet who, in their rejection to position A, have gone on to position B. Some in position B, even some big name bloggers, are not so explicit about their rejection of the C position as well. Breuss was honest enough to come right out and say that he thinks C is false as well (and I respect that he was forthright about that), just as I noted. He does in fact reject the notion that God desires the salvation of the non-elect. This belief functions as a significant presupposition for what is exegetically and systematically allowable.

2) After Breuss (Chad) honestly admitted that he rejects position C (i.e. that God desires the salvation of all mankind, but especially the elect), he went on to make certain historical claims, which was to say that Amyraut, Baxter and Davenant are not Reformed. He came out and said that because he went over to my blog after my above comments to see where I was coming from theologically. Thus, he wants to be explicit about what he thinks of my general soteriological positions as well, which is fine. He has been interacting with others on the 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Tim. 2:4 passages. I haven't brought those up at all. In fact, this is only my fourth post in the blogosphere on the Chan video, and the previous three are in this thread.

3) So, when I brought up the long list of names above, I was not doing so in the context of their various interpretations of the two passages. I brought them up as men who have taken a position like mine, which Breuss labeled as generally "Amyraldian". In his opinion, it's not a "Truly Reformed" position AT ALL, even though some have erroneously considered such men as "Reformed". Breuss, according to his own self-description, is not so "charitable" as to view it that way.

4) Therefore, in my opinion, it is he who is not recognizing the variety of thought within the Reformed tradition on these subjects. I recognize a great deal of variety, so I don't think it's necessary to remind me that "before we start laying down which view is "the" Reformed view, we should realize that Reformed theology is quite varegated." It seems to me that he's in need of that reminder instead of me.

5) To prove my point about the diversity of opinion within Reformed circles and that my so called "Amyraldian" position (Incidently, Amyraut himself was deemed sufficiently Reformed by the French Reformed Synods. See John Quick's Synodicon) is compatible with great Reformed men, I cited the seven you mention, plus many more. The seven you quote again are: Augustine, Prosper, Calvin, Musculus, Zwingli, Bullinger, Ursinus. Just to demonstrate the diversity of opinion in the Reformed tradition and how these seven men said things that are compatible with my view, here are quotes from these seven men alone. I will try to only choose one quote that is the most brief in order to save space. If necessary, much more could be posted by each man.


6) Augustine: 1) "To suffer indeed He had come, and He punished him through whom He suffered. For Judas the traitor was punished, and Christ was crucified: but us He redeemed by His blood, and He punished him in the matter of his price. For he threw down the price of silver, for which by him the Lord had been sold; and he knew not the price wherewith he had himself by the Lord been redeemed. This thing was done in the case of Judas." Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol 8, 309.

7) Prosper, in his very Defense of Augustine said: "Accordingly, since our Lord in very truth took upon Himself the one nature and condition which is common to all men, it is right to say that all have been redeemed, and that nevertheless not all are actually liberated from the slavery of sin. Defense of Augustine (Newman Press, 1963), p. 164. For reputable supporting documentation: see Godfrey, W.R. Tensions Within International Calvinism: The Debate on the Atonement at the Synod of Dort, 1618-1619. Ph.D diss., Stanford University, 1974, pp.,74-76. and Thomas, O. The Atonement Controversy: In Welsh Theological Literature and Debate, 1707-1841. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth, 2002, pp., 112-116.

I also have the following quote by Prosper on my blog: 2030 [Sent. super Cap. 8] "Again, whoever says that God does not will all men to be saved, but only the certain number of the predestined, is saying a harsher thing than ought to be said of the inscrutable depth of the grace of God, who both wills that all should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), and fulfills the proposal of His will in those whom, when He foreknew them, He predestined, when He predestined them, He called, when He called them, He justified, and, when He justified them, He glorified (Rom. 8:30). . . . And thus, those who are saved are saved because God willed them to be saved, and those who perish do perish because they deserved to perish. William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 3, p. 190.

8) Since so many people seem to be confused about what Calvin thought, several quotes may be required to remove their doubt:

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

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

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

"He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God's benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him." Calvin on Romans 5:18

9) Musculus: "That reprobate and deplorably wicked men do not receive it, is not through any defect in the grace of God, nor is it just, that, on account of of the children of perdition, it should lose the glory and title of universal redemption, since it is prepared for all, and all are called to it." Wolfgang Musculus Common Places, p. 151.

10) Zwingli: "If then Christ by his death has reconciled all people who are on earth when he poured out his blood on the cross and if we are on earth, then our sins, too, and those of everyone who has ever lived, have been recompensed by the one death and offering." Zwingli, Exposition and Basis of the Conclusions or Articles Published by Huldrych Zwingli, 29 January 1523, Pickwick Publications, vol 1, p, 97.

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

12) Ursinus: "4) Obj. 4. If Christ made satisfaction for all, then all ought to be saved. , But all are not saved. Therefore, he did not make a perfect satisfaction. Ans. Christ satisfied for all, as it respects the sufficiency of the satisfaction which he made, but not as it respects the application thereof; for he fulfilled the law in a two-fold respect. First, by his own righteousness; and secondly, by making satisfaction for our sins, each of which is most perfect. But the satisfaction is made ours by an application, which is also two-fold; the former of which is made by God, when he justifies us on account of the merit of his Son, and brings it to pass that we cease from sin; the latter is accomplished by us through faith. For we apply unto ourselves, the merit of Christ, when by a true faith, we are fully persuaded that God for the sake of the satisfaction of his Son, remits unto us our sins. Without this application, the satisfaction of Christ is of no benefit to us. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p., 215.

13) And just for a bonus, I'll throw in some Vermigli: "They [the anti-predestinarians] also grant that "Christ died for us all" and infer from this that his benefits are common to everyone. We gladly grant this, too, if we are considering only the worthiness of the death of Christ, for it might be sufficient for all the world's sinners. Yet even if in itself it is enough, yet it did not have, nor has, nor will have effect in all men. The Scholastics also acknowledge the same thing when they affirm that Christ redeemed all men sufficiently but not effectually." [Peter Martyr Vermigli, Predestination and Justification, trans., by Frank A. James, (Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies, 2003), vol., 8, p., 62]

NOTA BENE: 14) The point of this post is NOT to argue whether or not the above unlimited expiation/universal redemption view is correct. Nor is it to posted in order to delve into matters regarding God's will and how we are to make various distinctions. Rather, my purpose is to document "Truly Reformed" men that Breuss (Chad) will have to write off as NOT "Truly Reformed". What's he going to do? Toss out these men as a bunch of "Amyraldian", "Calminian" or "semi-Pelgians"? None of these men, or even the others I referenced, would deny that God desires the salvation of all mankind, albeit not in an equal sense. It seems we need to do a better job in searching out the original sources. After all, wasn't it the Reformers who cried "Ad Fontes!"?

p.s. I hope that Phil will indulge this lengthy post for information purposes. I think people need to be exposed to the diversity of perspectives and what classical Calvinists have said historically. May this post encourage readers to go and check out primary source materials for themselves. I would prefer to not have to post this kind of stuff at length again, but I am more than able to keep piling on the quotes to back up my case, if necessary ;-)

Grace to you,

Unknown said...

"For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

You've just made my point. "Everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself" is a select, limited group of people who were once "far off", and who in this instance happen to include both parents and children.

Unknown said...

Gene wrote:
>Just one note.

Good post.

I learned a long time ago, for my own sanity, most of the time it's not in the best interest of the audience to give the "David Ponter school of historical revisionism" a platform for long winded posting. :-)

Unknown said...

>He came out and said that because >he went over to my blog after my >above comments to see where I was >coming from theologically.

This is simply false. I have yet to peruse your blog. I don't need a blog to know where you're coming from theologically.

David B. Hewitt said...

hey all --

I don't usually comment here (I know, that might put me in the camp of those who are doing a drive by on this particular issue), but must say I've been interested in the conversation, especially some of the issues that Tony is raising related to Phil's excellent primer.

Admittedly, I've experienced a little bit of confusion over a few things Tony has said regarding the "free offer" issue; I do believe readily that the Gospel must be proclaimed freely to any and everyone, that they must be commanded to repent and believe (Mark 1:15) and invited to do so.

However, I have this nagging feeling that there is more to this issue than just the above. So... I look forward to Dr. Johnson's assessment of the video and how (or if) it pertains to the other issues raised.


Tony Byrne said...

R. B. Kuiper said,

“When the Reformed theology describes the universal offer of salvation as sincere, it does not merely mean that the human preacher, who obviously cannot distinguish with certainty between the elect and the non-elect, must for that reason issue to all men indescriminately a most sincere offer of eternal life and an equally sincere invitation to accept that offer. It most assuredly means that, but it means incomparably more. The Reformed theology insists that ***God Himself***, who has determined from eternity who are to be saved and who are not, and therefore distinguishes infallibly between the elect whom He designed to save by the death of Christ and the reprobate whom He did not design to save, makes on the ground of the universally suitable and sufficient atonement a most sincere, bona fide, offer of eternal life, not only to the elect but to all men, urgently invites them to life everlasting, and expresses the ardent desire that every person to whom this offer and this invitation come accept the offer and comply with the invitation.”

R. B. Kuiper, For Whom Did Christ Die? (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), p. 86.

R. B. Kuiper (1886-1966) was President of Calvin College (1930-33) and Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (1933-1952). He finished his career as President of Calvin Seminary.

Notice carefully what Kuiper is saying. He is not merely saying that free and well-meant offers are necessary to give by us. He's underlining the fact that it is GOD HIMSELF WHO ISSUES INDESCRIMINATE AND WELL-MEANT GOSPEL OFFERS TO ALL THAT HEAR THE EXTERNAL CALL. That's crucial, for it seems that some want to make the issue about whether or not we, as human beings, are to indescriminately proclaim the gospel. No one doubts that. Many, it seems, doubt that God is well-meaning in his offer of the gospel to the non-elect. That's what some cannot swallow.

p.s. Phil, as you read through recent comments made on some major blogs, see if you notice any affirmation of the universal love of God. Or does it strike you that they are, in effect, saying that God only loves the elect? I just read a major blog that just presents the love of God as being in Christ and directed to the elect, so the distinct impression is left that He only loves the elect. In response to one critic, there is no affirmation of God's love for all. NONE. I'm not engaging in an argument from silence, so I am not concluding that this individual is definitely in denial of God's universal love. I just find it very striking that an affirmation of God's general or universal love is absent.

Tony Byrne said...

I said about Breuss that:

"He came out and said that because he went over to my blog after my above comments to see where I was coming from theologically."

I apologize for my bad guess. Apparently there's another way you know about me. Either way, it doesn't matter to me, but I don't want to spread inaccurate information, so I retract the above quote if it's false.


There's no need to bring the names of other men into the discussion and smear them as being "revisionists". If you want, stick to falsifying my documentation. I am particularly interested in what you're going to say about the excellent Calvin quotes :-)

Clearly he wasn't Truly Reformed. lol

James Scott Bell said...

"Many, it seems, doubt that God is well-meaning in his offer of the gospel to the non-elect. That's what some cannot swallow."

We non-Calvinists wonder the same thing. I would sincerely like to see more on this. The question would be in what sense is it "well meaning" to make an "offer" than cannot be accepted?

From the outside looking in the above forumlation does not seem consistent with the system. The Kuiper quote appears to hold the same conundrum. That Calvinists are differing on this point is interesting to me. I'd like to get a sense of the breakdown in the current Reformed world on this particular issue. Is this a major divide right now?

MarieP said...


This is something that I and several others thought of that I think needs to be addressed.

I know I said I wasn't going to post on Triablogue about it, so I will post it here.

What makes Rick Warren's presentations of the Gospel worse than Francis Chan's? If we are going to defend Chan's, shouldn't an apology be made to Warren?

Unknown said...

My comments on the Calvin quotes are the same for any of the other quotes provided: selective quotation proves nothing and leads to all sorts of deceptive historical revisionism.

Tony Byrne said...

Breuss said:

"My comments on the Calvin quotes are the same for any of the other quotes provided: selective quotation proves nothing and leads to all sorts of deceptive historical revisionism."

Ok, Breuss. I think that should be illuminating for the readers who saw the quotes.

Take care :-)

Tony Byrne said...

jsb asks:
"The question would be in what sense is it "well meaning" to make an "offer" than cannot be accepted?"

Well, it depends on what you mean by "cannot". Some Calvinistic theologians (like Charnock, Edwards, Fuller and others) have made a distinction between moral and constitutional ability. In other words, what's lacking in the unregenerate sinner is not a faculty with which to respond (constitutional ability resulting from the image of God in them), but the desire to respond due to their depraved affections (moral inability). If the sinner wishes to persist in their stubborness in rejection to God's offer, then that's no fault of God's. The have the equipment to come (mind, emotions and will), but not the affections to. The problem is not with their will power, but with their WON'T power.

The problem with the non-Calvinist is that they think the will is MORALLY able to choose the things of God (free will in contrast to free agency), despite the picture that John and Paul present in scripture. According to the book of Acts, the Lord first OPENS THE HEART so that a person responds trustingly. He doesn't give them some new faithing faculty, but renews their hearts in regeneration with the result that those effectually and inwardly called come voluntarily. They're driven by new and loving affections for Christ, rather than being driven by sin and shame to flee from God like their ancient father in the garden.