God’s Love is Difficult to Understand if God Desires to Save those who Refuse God’s Offer

D A Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, Crossway, 76—-“If one holds that the Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for the elect, both sets of texts and concerns are accommodated.”

https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/carsonatonement.html

John Calvin— “This passage of the apostle (1 Tim. ii. 4) was long ago brought forth by the Pelagians, and handled against us with all their might. . . . I have nevertheless extorted from Pighius this much: that no one but a man deprived of his common judgment can believe that salvation was ordained by the secret counsel of God equally and indiscriminately for all men. The true meaning of Paul, however, in this passage now under consideration is clear. The apostle is exhorting that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings and all that are in authority. Who does not see that the apostle here is speaking of orders of men rather than of individuals? ”

Calvin: “But Paul teaches us (continues Georgius) that God would have all men to be saved. It follows, therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should reply that God wills all men to be saved on His part, or as far as He is concerned, seeing that salvation is, nevertheless, left to the free will of each individual,

Calvin: “I, in return, ask him why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? why he suffered so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death? ”

David Engelsma—The love of God of John 3:16 and the will of God for the salvation of sinners of John 3:16 are expressed in the giving of the only begotten Son to the death of the cross: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” If the love of God of the text and the desire of God for the salvation of sinners in the text are universal, so also is the atonement of the cross universal. The editors of the book themselves teach this idea of God’s desire to save all sinners in their introductory essay. They deny that the love of God in John 3:16 “refers to his love for the elect.” Explaining the love of God in John 3:16 in the light of their own notion of “the universal offer of Christ to all,” they open the way to viewing the giving of the Son in John 3:16 as a giving for the salvation of all, that is, as universal atonement (40). Typical of the weakness in the matter of the “well-meant offer” that runs through the entire book (From Heaven He Came) is Schreiner’s explanation of I Timothy 4:1. “God desires all to be saved” (386)

Engelsma—Schreiner does not hesitate to draw out the implication of the supposed desire of God for the salvation of all, which is Schreiner’s theology. He speaks of “a desire of God that is frustrated.” Thinking to mitigate his heresy of a frustrated God, Schreiner adds, “in part” (393). In fact, the words, “in part,” only make the heresy palpable. Schreiner’s God is at odds with Himself. Like us mortals, He cannot make up His mind. Does He, or does He not, desire to save Esau? With His sovereign will of reprobation, no. With His fervent will of love and love’s desire, yes.

Davenant’s last words on the the atonement appeared in his posthumous “A Dissertation on the Death of Christ, as to its Extent and special Benefits.” The core thesis of the “Dissertation” posits two divine wills: “There was in Christ himself a will according to which he willed that his death should regard all men individually; and there was also a will according to which he willed that it should pertain to the elect alone” (424, 425).

D. Broughton Knox— Were it not true that Christ had died for all men, it would not be possible to extend a universal offer; for the offer, if it is to be a true offer, must rest on true and adequate grounds, which cannot be less than the death of Christ for those to whom the offer is being made (468).

Engelsma—To every human without exception, in his own words, “every person on the planet,” John Piper preaches, “God loves you, and he offers you in Christ the fullest possible redemption in everlasting, all-satisfying fellowship with himself” (665). Boldly avowing the contradiction which is Piper’s gospel, Piper declares that “Jesus sincerely desires all to be saved, yet he does not always act to bring all to salvation.” Similarly, “God desires the salvation of the lost, but he does not save all of them.” Piper teaches an incoherent, heretical doctrine of a will of God for the salvation of sinners that fails to save (which implies, as none of the contributors seemingly recognizes, that the explanation of the salvation of some is not the will of God, but their own will)

According to John Murray, “many benefits accrue to the non-elect from the redemptive work of Christ,” and chief among the benefits is “the free offer of the gospel.” That is, Christ died for all in certain respects, including God’s making to all humans an offer of salvation that is grounded in His saving love for all; that expresses a sincere desire of God for the salvation of all; that may announce to all that Christ died for them all; and that unmistakably leaves the impression with all that the efficacy of the cross with regard to their salvation depends upon their decision to accept the offer (657).

Engelsma–Piper’s tortured account of God’s love makes a mockery of that love. In His love for all, God offers salvation to all, desiring to save all. But at the same time, God decrees not to save all, so that His universal love actually increases the punishment of many. His love, and the giving of the Son to the death of the cross in this love, fail to save.

Engelsma—This is outrageous theology. Sailing under the flag of the Reformed faith, it pretends that the Canons of Dordt do not exist). The day I am deceived into believing this outrageous theology is the same day I become one of the most fervent advocates of universal salvation the world of theology has ever seen. The cross of Christ cannot fail of achieving the loving purpose of God and of His Christ. By virtue of the saving love of God, the almighty will of God, and the very nature of the cross, this is absolute certainty. The cross of Christ cannot fail. Every one for whom Christ died will certainly be saved. For even one to perish in whose stead Christ died, in the loving will of God, would be the “ungodding” of God, the exposure of Jesus Christ as both unjust and a failure.

more from the outrageous theology of D A Carson—

Surely it is best not to introduce disjunctions where God himself has not introduced them. Of one holds that the Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for the elect, then both sets of texts and concerns are accommodated. As far as I can see, a text such as 1 John 2:2 states something about the potential breadth of the Atonement When Jesus Christ died, John rejoins, it was not for the sake of, say, the Jews only or, now, of some group, gnostic or otherwise, that sets itself up as intrinsically superior. Far from it. It was not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world. The context, then, understands this to mean something like “potentially for all without distinction” rather than “effectively for all without exception” – for in the latter case all without exception must surely be saved, and John does not suppose that that will take place.

Carson—In recent years I have tried to read both primary and secondary sources on the doctrine of the Atonement from Calvin on. [Footnote 3: One of the latest treatments is G. Michael Thomas, The extent of the Atonement: A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to the Consensus (1536-1675), Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1997).] One of my most forceful impressions is that the categories of the debate gradually shift with time so as to force disjunction where a slightly different bit of question-framing would allow synthesis. Correcting this, I suggest, is one of the useful things we may accomplish from an adequate study of the love of God in holy Scripture. For God is a person. Surely it is unsurprising if the love that characterizes him as a person is manifest in a variety of ways toward other persons. But it is always love, for all that.

Carson—I argue, then, that both Arminians and Calvinists should rightly affirm that Christ died for all, in the sense that Christ’s death was sufficient for all and that Scripture portrays God as inviting, commanding, and desiring the salvation of all, out of love . Further, all Christians ought also to confess that, in a slightly different sense, Christ Jesus, in the intent of God, died effectively for the elect alone, in line with the way the Bible speaks of God’s special selecting love for the elect

Carson– This approach, I content, must surely come as a relief to young preachers in the Reformed tradition who hunger to preach the Gospel effectively but who do not know how far they can go in saying things such as “God loves you” to unbelievers. When I have preached or lectured in Reformed circles, I have often been asked the question, “Do you feel free to tell unbelievers that God loves them?” No doubt the question is put to me because I still do a fair bit of evangelism, and people want models. I have no hesitation in answering this question from young Reformed preachers affirmatively: Of course I tell the unconverted that God loves them.

Carson: Certainly it is possible to preach evangelistically when dealing with a passage that explicitly teaches election. Spurgeon did this sort of thing regularly. But I am saying that, provided there is an honest commitment to preaching the whole counsel of God, preachers in the Reformed tradition should not hesitate for an instant to declare the love of God for a lost world, for lost individuals. The Bible’s ways of speaking about the love of God are comprehensive enough not only to permit this but to mandate it. [Footnote: see somewhat similar reflections by Hywel R. Jones, “Is God Love?” in Banner of Truth Magazine 412 (January 1998), 10-16.]

Carson—The Arminian believes that the cross is the ground of the Christian’s acceptance before God; the choice to believe is not in any sense the ground. Still, this view of grace surely requires the conclusion that the ultimate distinction between the believer and the unbeliever lies, finally, in the human beings themselves. That entails an understanding of grace quite different than the view that traces the ultimate distinction back to the purposes of God, including his purposes in the cross.
http://theologymatters.blogspot.com/2006/02/d-carson-on-extent-of-atonement.html

Assuming that whatever the taught was “the bible but not system” view of things, Spurgeon took the Arminian view of I Timothy 2:4 I quote: “You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. “All men,” they say,–”that is some men”: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said “some men” if he had meant some men. “All men,” say they; that is, some of all sorts of men”; as if the Lord could not have said “All sorts of men” if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written “all men,” and unquestionably he means all men. . . .

Spurgeon: “As it is my wish that it should be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are. . . . It is God’s wish that the sick should not suffer. Do you doubt it? Is it not your own wish? And yet the Lord does not work a miracle to heal every sick person. It is God’s wish that his creatures should be happy. Do you deny that? He does not interpose by any miraculous agency to make us all happy, and yet it would be wicked to suppose that he does not wish the happiness of all the creatures that he has made.”

Hugh L. Williams, in his excellent article on this sermon, gives a good reaction to Spurgeon’s assertions: “This is wrong. The Holy Ghost did not by the apostle write ‘all men.’ He wrote pantas anthropous. Now the question is what does the phrase mean.” Williams goes on to show that this means “all without distinction” rather than “all without exception.”

But hear more of what Spurgeon thinks he knows from the Bible: “God has an infinite benevolence which, nevertheless, is not in all points worked out by his infinite omnipotence; and if anybody asked me why it is not, I cannot tell…”

Spurgeon can tell you dogmatically what the Bible texts means. When contradicted (by an invented rhetorical dissent), instead of examining again his own reading, Spurgeon affirms the contradiction. and labels all dissent as rationalism: “Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of divine revelation..Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them.”

mark: yes, I know that a confession is more than a system of theology, but it’s not less.

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10 Comments on “God’s Love is Difficult to Understand if God Desires to Save those who Refuse God’s Offer”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Christ is the one who made the offering, and the offering was to God, not to us

    The “offer” is not about what God has done, but only a message about what God will do if you do something. For example, on p 193, Driscoll writes, “it all comes down to you and Jesus”. But in fact his message comes down to only you, the sinner. Jesus according to him has paid the ransom from hell for every sinner, so it most certainly does not come down to Jesus. It depends on the sinner, and then God will respond by applying it. Even though he writes about “efficacious” love (p 240), the success all depends on “if you turn”. He has no desire to tell the sinner that turning to the true gospel is a result guaranteed for the elect by the cross.

    Driscoll is offended by the cross making the difference. How can the cross be the difference between saved and lost when you have a cross which is saying that God loves every sinner?

    https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/mark-driscolls-book-death-by-love/

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Lee Gatiss argues that Calvinistic hypothetical universalism is, in the end, still a variant of limited atonement: Christ died effectually for the elect and only conditionally for the non-elect. The conditional intent for the non-elect is not in place of particular redemption for the elect (as in Arminianism), but in addition to or prior to this effectual atonement for those who will believe (For Us and For Our Salvation, 99).

    It is hard to see what concrete advantage accrues to the non-elect by saying Christ died for them upon the condition that they believe, when God does not in fact grant the gift of faith to any of the non-elect. This is the same point made by Dabney, whom Crisp employs in making the case for hypothetical universalism, when he observes: “To say that God purposed, even conditionally, the reconciliation of that sinner by Christ’s sacrifice, while also distinctly proposing to do nothing effectual to bring about the fulfillment of that condition He knew the man would surely refuse, is contradictory. It is hard to see how, on this scheme, the sacrifice is related more beneficially to the non-elect sinner, than on the strict Calvinist’s plan” (Systematic Theology, 520).

    Hypothetical universalism appears to do more for the Calvinist’s psyche than for the state of the non-elect.

    http://ww.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2015/01/30/a-more-generous-calvinism-2/

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Ten Ways to Teach a False Gospel by Arrogantly Rejecting any Dogma about God having Already Imputed the Sins of Only the Elect to Christ

    1. Naselli often denigrates any idea that general atonement or two wills atonement are heresies. He continually begs the question by insisting that those “evangelical options” are not heresies. He does not hesitate to use the “hyper” word to designate those who disagree.

    2. Naselli insists that we not only agree that those who hold the tow heresies are our brothers but that we describe the heresies in a way approved by the heretics. For example, even though the heretics deny that God has already imputed the specific sins of the elect to Christ so that Christ has already made penal satisfaction for these sins, Naselli insists that we agree with the heretics that they still teach “penal substitution”.

    3. Naselli is dogmatic that universalism is heresy but that a general atonement which does not effectively atone is not heresy. Instead of actually pointing to any real person who now denies the need for evangelism, he assumes that the folks who deny any responsibility to believe the two wills false gospel are also people who deny any responsibility to believe the true gospel (or obey God’s law.) Referencing Ian Murray and Peter Toon and Curt Daniel does not define “hyper”, but only shows it to be a relativist term which depends more on where “evangelicals are now” than it does in clarifying the nature of God’s external command to believe the true gospel.

    4. Naselli denigrates any notion of what they call a ‘commercial or mathematical” view of the atonement as if such descriptions fail to talk about God’s purpose or Christ’s priesthood, even though Naselli has just agreed that words like “infinite” and sufficient” and “efficient” can be used ambiguously (flexibly) —by those with the two heresies and by those who claim to believe in effective atonement. But read Tom Nettles for more on the importance of commercial language.

    5. Naselli teaches that the atonement is “unlimited in its sufficiency, its value, and offer” even though he calls universalism a heresy. But how can the death of Christ be enough if God never imputed the sins of the non-elect to Christ? And how can the death of Christ be enough for every sinner if in the end it is not enough to save every sinner from God’s wrath? How can the death of Christ be enough if it’s not enough to purchase and provide faith in the gospel for every sinner for whom Christ died?

    6. Naselli asserts that Packer overstated the importance of the extent of the atonement . Packer wrote in his introduction to Owen’s Death of Death that “universal atonement is destructive to the gospel.” But Nasseli disagrees with Packer about the implications of universal atonement not logically be consistent with a substitutionary atonement. But Naselli assures us, “this doctrine is not necessarily at the heart of the gospel.” He follows the liberal policy of Grudem’s Systematic Theology and claims that “other doctrines are much more significant.”

    7. Naselli denies that “only non-Calvinists can tell a non-Christian that God loves them”. Naselli knows that some Reformed folks don’t think we should say “Jesus died for you” to all sinners, but he insists that such a “statement is true and right”. At this point Naselli quotes his pompous mentor DA Carson being condescending to other Reformed teachers who are “young”. Apparently it has never occurred to Carson that anybody who disagrees with him about the two heresies might be as mature and thoughtful and as well read as he is. They always think it’s the other fellows who are being “schismatic”

    8. It’s like Bill Clinton saying “it depends in what you think is means”. It depends on what you think sex means. Thus Naselli—A Calvinist can tell a non-Christian that “Jesus died for you” because non-Christians generally understand the “for” to mean that the benefits of the death of Jesus are “available IF THEY REPENT AND BELIEVE.’ But why should anybody actually believe the gospel want non-Christians to believe the false gospel that God loves them and that their salvation depends on the sinner? It seems that “the Calvinist” in question does not believe that the sins of the elect have already been imputed by God to Christ. A person who teaches that sinners impute their own sins to Christ is neither a Calvinist nor a Christian.

    9. Naselli gives us the impression that he now has a “complete understanding” of what it means to be flexible and to be “evangelical” and what is and is not “heresy”. He ends with the truth that not any of us understand anything perfectly, but does not apply this lesson to himself when he pontificates on what Calvinists can say or what “the more significant doctrines are” He seems to forget that he also has a finite mind when he separates himself from those who call the two heresies heresy. What looks like “tolerance” on closer look is one more “limited understanding” of the gospel, especially when it discounts the factor of God having already imputed the sins of the elect to Christ.

    10. those who accuse the other of being strident don’t seem to notice that they are using an ad hominum argument. They think that only the others use such arguments. For 45 years of my life, I was very proud of the good Reformed doctrine I learned in books and in how I had advanced in understanding over other Christians. But there came a day when God taught me to fear Him, and when I discovered that I had not yet been born again, and that the evidence of this was that I did not yet even know or believe the gospel.

    Perspectives On the Extent of the Atonement, ed by Nselli and Snoeberger, B and H Academic, 2015 http://www2.bhpublishinggroup.com/PDF/9781433669712_sampCh.pdf

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Tom Nettles, By His Grace And For His Glory ” . from the chapter on world missions ” .
    “Offer” is not used in Scripture to describe how God gives his gifts to men … The word offer has too dormant a connotation to incorporate the vivid and active images picturing the effectuality of gospel preaching : the blind see , the dead live , the sleepers awaken , the sinners’ resistance is aggravated , and a sweet-smelling savor rises to the nostrils of God . In apostolic examples of preaching , we see little of what might be called ” offer ‘ and much of what is called ” command . ” Men are commanded to lay down arms and surrender to God , who demonstrates his sovereign holiness in all his actions — creation , providence , and redemption — and promises of forgiveness encourage those who truly comply . The unabridged version of the gospel simply cannot be contained within the normal connotations of the word offer.”
    Grace cannot be “offered .” Grace is purely within the sovereign prerogatives of God and those who argue for the validity of offering grace place themselves in the position which they claim is so presumptuous in the hyper-Calvinist . To offer grace is to determine human responsibility from a supposed knowledge of the divine intentions toward all men in particular . Those who argue for general atonement on this basis pursue the same erroneous line of thought . Neither the evangelist nor the sinner need have guarantees that grace accompanies their interaction for the responsibility of either to be established . It is enough that both know that God commands all men everywhere to repent an .
    Grace is the sovereign bestowment of salvific blessings. Its appearance among men is purely a matter of sovereign discrimination . Such an understanding is nothing less than historic evangelical Calvinism . An ” offer ” of grace presupposes a redefinition of the word grace

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Phillip Jensen’s video interview on the St. Helen’s ‘Preaching Matters’ site. If you’ve not seen the video, Jensen’s main point is that we should be like Calvin, who was a Bible man first not a systematic theologian first; rather than like Calvinists, who are systematic theologians first, not Bible men first.
    Jensen explains it like this: for those who put system first, ‘their knee-jerk reaction to Bible texts is through the system, and they preach the system rather than preaching the passage.’ They do not ‘do justice to the complexities of the scripture’, and impose an unbiblical logic-chopping upon it which refuses to hear what Scripture actually says.
    The first problem with this is that it seems to conflate imposing an unbiblical system of thought upon our reading of the Bible (which heretics such as JWs, the church of Rome, and Liberals do all the time) with allowing the Bible itself to shape our system of thought – which is what responsible Christians have always sought to do in their reading of the Bible. Indeed, it is what the Bible itself constantly expects us to do as we read it. Believers are expected to remember all that God has said in the past. It is scripture which interprets scripture. We are to have minds renewed by all that God has revealed of himself in Scripture (Romans 12:2). There is no conflict between scripture and having a system of thought; the conflict is between the Biblical system of thought and unbiblical ones.
    What Jensen appears to be advocating is a sort of stoic refusal to allow our minds to hold together the full witness of scripture as we expound it; to forget what we have read in Genesis as we expound Romans, or vice versa, lest it somehow prejudice our reading of the text. Leaving aside the question of how knowledge of God’s word could prejudice our reading of God’s word, the problem with this is that this is neither what Jensen himself does – including several times in this video – nor is it even achievable. And if we try, what it will lead to is exactly the sort of imposing a non-biblical system on the text which he so fears. Let me explain.
    Jensen compares those who believe in a system to Job’s comforters, who are theologically correct but are nevertheless wrong. He characterises them by using a bit of theological logic which (on the basis of Deuteronomy 6:5 and 2 Cor 4:4) concludes that the devil is the only God. And he says that their position leads to Unitarianism and Quakerism. The question is, how does he know that each of these is wrong? How does he know that Job’s comforters are wrong, if not because they must be read in the light of what the rest of scripture has to say about Job’s situation? But that is of course to apply a biblical system – bringing together the witness of the whole of scripture to bear on actual issues and situations. We have to think something about any particular issue, not twelve things based on twelve different texts; and what that thing is needs to be shaped by what the whole of the Bible has to say. That is what Jensen is doing when he (quite rightly) rules Job’s comforters out of order; and that is what systematic theology means, neither more nor less. ‘Doing justice to the complexity of scripture’ is precisely the task of systematic theology; when that is not done, that is not too much system, but simply an unbiblical system! We can say the same about the bit of logic regarding the devil. How does Jensen know that the devil is not God? Because of what he has read in the rest of scripture, of course, and because of his refusal to forget that while reading 2 Corinthians 4:4. Or perhaps we should believe that the devil is God while reading that verse, and believe something else when we read Deuteronomy 6:5, or any other verse in the Bible for that matter? Of course not, and Jensen certainly does not do that or think that we should, but it is where his recommended procedure would lead us.
    Most clearly of all, how does he know that it is a bad thing for your children to become Unitarians? Deuteronomy 6:5 seems pretty clear to me that there is only one God. Surely Jensen is not assuming that, when preaching that passage, we should allow the ‘system’ of the whole of scripture to shape how we preach that passage? But of course he is – because no Christian can escape being a systematician. The doctrine of the Trinity is the clearest example of that. Appealing to the need for Trinitarian orthodoxy as an argument against systematic theology is a very peculiar procedure indeed.
    We all have a system of belief. Thankfully, Jensen’s system is a highly biblical one which is why he knows that Unitarians are wrong. The problem with being suspicious of systematics is that it doesn’t lead to you having no system of belief, it leads to you never examining the system of belief you do have. And if you don’t examine your system, you will most likely allow all sorts of unbiblical ideas and convictions to lie there undetected. And that is the reason why if anyone truly tries to follow Jensen’s advice they will end up doing exactly what he fears: unwittingly imposing upon Scripture an unbiblical system of belief.
    Indeed, this applies particularly with reference to ideas about logic. Is it possible to have an excessive devotion to logic in our system of theology? Certainly – that is what lies behind almost every heresy which has blighted the church, as men have sought to bring God down to our level. Does that mean that the Bible itself has no system of thought to teach us? That we should refuse to use our memories and logical capacities as we read scripture? Certainly not – and teaching us to use our minds properly, as creatures, not deities, and as God’s covenant people, not ignorant pagans, goes right to the heart of the blessings that God gives to his people in Christ by the power of the Spirit. Jensen’s own arguments show that, despite what he says, he knows that.

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/03/everyone-has-a-system.php

  6. markmcculley Says:

    http://oakhill2.ablette.net/blog/entry/family_rows_followers_of_calvin_and_the_calvinists

    Phillip argues that Calvinists are not true followers of Calvin, because where Calvin was a Bible theologian first, Calvinists are systematic theologians first and when preaching the Bible end up preaching their system because they approach the text with that so strongly in their minds.

    In particular, while we need to systematise when we teach, Phillip says, preaching the system does not allow for the rich complexities of the Bible. Followers of Calvin do what Calvin did, not what Calvinists do. Phillip goes on to argue that the outcome of Calvinism is to kill evangelism in favour of education and to commit us to presuppositional rather than evidential apologetics.

    We must now distinguish several different issues of varying importance.

    1. Is this a fair characterisation of Calvinists, who do, after all, labour under the impression that their views bear some passing resemblance to those of John Calvin and would count themselves precisely as ‘followers of Calvin’?

    2. Does this capture what Calvinists think they are doing when preaching the Bible?

    3. Who are these Calvinists anyway?

    4. Does this capture what in fact happens when a Calvinist preaches?

    Of these, the last is the most important. Do Calvinists preach a system rather than the Bible? Given that the Bible is to be our final authority in life and doctrine, of course this is the most important question and, since I am, as I type this, not yet perfect but am still tempted to disregard God’s Word, I do well to listen to Phillip’s challenge and examine it. I am after all, simul justis et peccator, both justified and sinful: mild apologies for letting my systematic theology peep out there.

    Let me make some comments on this primary question.

    First, yes, of course there is a risk that Calvinists preach their system and not the Bible. They are humans who are not yet perfected and that risk is therefore always there. Phillip is giving me a sharp but valuable warning.

    Secondly, this risk is not confined to Calvinists. History is replete with those who end up teaching their systems rather than the text. The obvious contemporary example are Jehovah’s Witnesses. We may say that the risk Phillip highlights is not simply due to the fact that one is a Calvinist, but more to do with the fact one is human.

    Thirdly, the risk is greatest for those who claim they do not approach the Bible with preconceptions but just allow the Bible to speak on its own terms. Again the church scene is and has been full of those who say just this: Open theists today and, come to that, various 19th century liberals would claim precisely that they were the ones handling the Bible ‘properly’. In fact, my blood runs cold when I hear someone say they just give me the straight Bible with no preconceptions: this is one of those cases where Phillip is right to remind us that the Bible gives us a complex picture.

    Part of its complexity are those texts which remind us not just of the corruption of our hearts pre-conversion, but of the ongoing temptation and falling into sin we experience post-conversion (1 John 1:8, 2 Timothy 4:3). If I am to handle God’s Word rightly for others, I do well to examine my own heart and how I as a human creature in space and time continue to be affected by the world around me. I cannot assume I approach the Bible with purity.

    Fourthly, a key issue is this: when am I preaching my system and when am I doing the necessary systematisation of which Phillip approves? There is a danger here. It is tempting to write somebody else off as ‘just preaching their system’ and vindicate myself as ‘just doing necessary systematisation’. This is dangerous because if I say ‘Squiggins is just preaching his system – again’, then I tend to stop asking if Squiggins is in fact right.

    The language of ‘over-logical’, ‘logic-chopping’, ‘doing theology by numbers’ does not help clarify matters. I am very much afraid it sometimes serves us as a way of saying, ‘I don’t like this, but can’t see where it’s wrong, so I’ll just write it off without thinking properly by dismissing it as logic-chopping’. If we get to that point, then we are in real danger of becoming unteachable ourselves. And I am at my most unteachable when I hold opinions so deeply I am not aware even of holding them. The most uncorrectable systematic theologian is the one who denies he or she has a systematic theology

  7. markmcculley Says:

    F YOU —-promises have consequences, laws have consequences
    the theology of glory is a prosperity theology
    prosperity theology is a “possibility theology”
    sarcasm alert
    have you “actualized” your “potential”?
    1. make sure you have oil in your lamps
    if you don’t, there will be consequences
    if you do have oil, be sure to thank god for his grace in causing you to have oil in your lamp
    2. exercise your faith in the gospel
    appropriate by faith being united to Christ
    act on your option to accept the offer which is sufficient if you meet the conditions of the gospel
    3. F YOU as a legalist elder brother welcome those your Father welcomes, then the consequence is that you get to be at the party
    but F YOU as a legalist elder brother do NOT welcome those your Father welcomes, then you will NOT get to be at the party
    but you “sinned against grace”, against “potential”
    you excluded yourself, since God excludes nobody but “offers” to save the non-elect
    and despite your legalism, we must assume that you are a Christian
    because God is your father
    and your baby brother was already a Christian before he left home
    circumcised as a baby because he was born a Christian,
    just like you were
    otherwise the law could not have commanded you to obey the law and the gospel could not have commanded you to obey the gospel


  8. When the clergy says that “the snow is for you”. we need to make distinctions. This is both true and not true . We will not say “it snowed for you” but we will say “the snow is for you”. Only rationalists reject this distinction and they reduce the God of Scripture to an idol. To really be rational about the need to “appropriate” the snow, we need to understand rightly that our sovereign God is also free to reveal himself as desiring certain things God has not willed in His decree.
    Because God has commanded in His law that we should obey all the law, this shows that God really really wished for Adam to obey the law and even gave Adam the ability to obey all the law for long enough, but God also in His decree did not will for this to happen. This is why we say that “the snow is for you” but do not say that “it snowed for everyone”. This is why we say that “the snow is promised to everyone in the covenant” but also say that those who do not believe in the snow will receive the curses of the covenant.
    Given the necessary chasm between God and the creature, God must accommodate himself to his creatures. This accommodated revelation of God’s mind and will is ectyptal theology. The gospel offer is based upon God’s self-understanding, but not identical with it. The revelation is true, but it is accommodated to human creature. All revelation is necessarily an accommodation. It is not as if we have direct, unmediated access to God. This is pilgrim theology, not -yet theology. Rationalists have explanations in a theology of glory. But in the theology of the cross the snow gets gray.
    If we were to say that “it snowed for you”, that would be too abstract and impersonal. But if we say that “the snow is for you”, that opens up space for an invitation and lets sinners know that they are responsible for their own history.


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