Since God is Sovereign, Does It Even Matter how precise you are about the Gospel?

Tolerant Calvinists i tell us that, while Arminians may THINK that their salvation is conditioned on them, those Arminians are still saved and that this their salvation is not conditioned on them. After all, they say, they are not “stingy with the love of God”.

Does this mean that God loved the elder brother in spite of his legalism? Since most of those tolerant Calvinists claim that God has an universal “non-saving love” for all sinners, I am sure they would say that God does love “in some way” that elder brother.

But is that elder brother justified before God? Must the one who came home from the hog pen confess that the elder brother is his brother? Back in the days when I became an universalist, I said yes: all are brothers.

What do you say? I do not ask if you think the elder brother was non-elect in the secret counsels of God. Rather I ask—is a legalist already regenerate and justified while still left in his legalism? Are “good sincere people” saved also, despite their being deceived about their sins and about the gospel?

Is the love of God so weak that it cannot save a person who remains a legalist? In spite of his legalism? Is the love of God so weak that it cannot save a person who remains an Arminian? In spite of his Arminianism?

My answer is that the love of God is so powerful that it CONVERTS the sinner. The sinner is not saved BECAUSE OF his turning from from the false or BECAUSE OF his faith in the true gospel, but the sinner CONVERTED BY GOD does have faith in the gospel. The sinner is not saved BECAUSE he understands and submits to the righteousness obtained by Christ’s death for the elect, but the converted sinner will understand and submit to that righteousness.

The converted sinner will believe the gospel BECAUSE OF THAT RIGHTEOUSNESS. Romans 8:10– the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” What God did at the cross is not merely “potential”. The power of true doctrine cross is used by the Holy Spirit to “crucify” sinners so that they understand that salvation is not conditioned on the sinner. We should not presume that any man who does not know this is our brother.

But tolerant Calvinists won’t say this when it comes to submitting to effective atonement. Sometimes some of them suggest it when it comes to those “who only walked the aisles” But they won’t say it about it legalists. And all Arminians are legalists.

Because anybody who says that Christ died for everybody but some of them are not saved MUST be looking to the sinner as the difference between saved and lost. Even if the legalist gives his god or election the “credit” for the difference, he MUST locate that difference in what he thinks his god is doing in himself and not in what Christ did at the cross.

I understand that you believe that Jesus died only for some. But you think knowing about this death is not necessary. It is the cause, sure; but you don’t think they need to know that it’s the cause.

Tolerant Calvinists like to sneer at “hyper_Calvinists” un-named and un-defined) but in effect they agree with the Primitive Baptists that people can be converted without hearing the gospel. Either that, or these tolerant Calvinists think that Christ died for you and everybody” is still the gospel.

They say John the Baptist was, and that people can be converted “directly” without the message of the cross. So they think it doesn’t matter if the elect hear the true gospel or the Arminian gospel or any gospel.

I reject this. I know that the non-elect will refuse the gospel. I know that the elect must be made alive in regeneration (on account of imputed righteousness) before they will submit to the gospel. But I also know that people need to hear the gospel before they can believe it. (I Peter 1:22-23).

To obey the truth, they must hear the truth. To believe the Word, they must hear the Word. Those who have never heard anything but the Arminian gospel have not yet heard the gospel, and are still lost in their sins.

We are not liberals. We know that not all men are our brothers. It is good and necessary to focus on the elder brother’s refusal to say that the one who came home was his brother. My question: WERE they brothers? If the elder brother goes on like he is, never repenting of his legalism, is he in the family of God?

The tolerant Calvinist assumption, adapted to their purpose of being intolerant and attacking “these people” who say that Arminians are lost, is that both brothers in the parable are brothers in Christ, not only in the flesh. But that is a false assumption.

Though Cain and Abel are brothers in the flesh, both creatures of God, made in the image of God, not both were justified before God. The one who came home was justified; the elder brother is still in condemnation. They ultimately do not have the same home or the same gospel or the same God.

We need to know what the gospel is. And we need to say that those who reject the gospel are condemned already. John 3:17-21 “He who DOES THE TRUTH comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

There is no pleasing God without faith in God’s gospel. We “do the truth” only when we confess that salvation is not caused by our deeds but “done in God”. The “good works” of Christians are necessary but they are not “good works” unless the sinner has understood that his salvation is conditioned on what God did at the cross and not on these works. Faith must exclude itself as the condition of salvation, or it is not faith in the gospel and is not pleasing to God.

Workers must exclude works as the condition of salvation, or they are not ‘good works” and the people who do them are elder brothers, not yet in the family of God, but still lost in their sins. Elder brothers do not “do the truth”. They can talk much of their works, but they will not bring these works to the light of the true gospel, for the true gospel would say that their works were not acceptable.

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11 Comments on “Since God is Sovereign, Does It Even Matter how precise you are about the Gospel?”

  1. how could the work of Christ “finished” if it was not only for those who are saved

    in other words, if Christ’s death needs to be finished by our accepting it, then it’s not finished

    the only way it’s a “finished work” is if Christ’s death actually will save all for whom Christ died, ie if Christ died for everybody then everybody would be saved, or if Christ died only for the elect then all the elect would be saved

    but you could say: maybe the new believer has not thought this all out

    none of us has thought anything “all out”

    but my guess is that most who profess to be Chrsitians do have an opinion already, and that opinion is that Christ’s work was “finished” for everybody but that “finished” does not really mean “finished” until you accept

  2. Consistency is very narrow. And one man’s heresy is another man’s diversity.

    Mark Jones—-First, I wonder if the reader could be forgiven for thinking that Crisp views Arminians as a branch within the Reformed tradition, as many Remonstrants today wish to argue. Crisp states on page 27 that “most Reformed theologians (though perhaps not all) are said to affirm monergism.” In the footnote he then claims: “Reformed theologians are typically theological determinists, but some have advocated theological libertarianism, like the Arminians.”

    Mark Jones—Does Crisp think the Arminians are, in some sense, Reformed? Or are those Reformed who have advocated theological libertarianism doing so in the same way the Arminians did? I am also left wondering who these Reformed theologians are who were not monergists? I can’t think of anyone.

    Mark Jones—Crisp states on the next page (28) that it is not clear to him that “Arminians are synergists.” He also raises the question over how the human will may “contribute” to salvation. So if there are (hypothetically?) Reformed theologians who are not monergistic, but it is also not clear to Crisp that Arminians are synergistic, then what categories does he have in mind to sort this problem out? Are Arminians monergistic but some Reformed are not?

    Mark Jones–As we study the historical context of debate between the Arminians (Remonstrants) and Reformed, we note that they had strong disagreements on almost every major point of theology (e.g., providence, Christology, trinity, covenant, doctrine of God), especially justification. For the Arminians, it is the (human!) act of faith that is (by grace!) counted as (evangelical) righteousness, as if it were the complete fulfillment of the whole law. It is a genuine human act, coming forth from the liberum arbitrium. So that is synergistic, in my mind.

    Mark Jones—In addition, we should also add that Arminius’s vigorous commitment to scientia media meant that God responded to hypothetical human willing prior to God’s providential concursus…. Historically speaking, the term Reformed has reference to a particular confessional tradition. Arminius, for example, came into conflict with this confessional tradition. He tried to claim he held to the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession, but this was deceptive on Arminius’s part. I wonder if Crisp thinks that Karl Barth is part of this Reformed confessional tradition, as well?

    Mark Jones on “when calling someone a heretic”—–” I would argue that Pelagianism is a heresy, but Arminianism is not. Pelagianism overthrows several fundamental articles. I would argue that Arminianism is a serious error, but it is not a heresy… should be very careful, indeed – when you hurl around the word “moralist”… on matters that do not rise to the level of soul-damning doctrine. ….We do not need to shrink back from lively, vigorous theological debate. Amyraldianism and closed communion and episcopacy are all errors, in my view. But, these errors are not heresies. A wall exists between my brothers who hold to any one of these views, but the wall is not so high that we cannot “shake hands” as brothers.”

    mcmark– in the meanwhile, it can never hurt to use the word “antinomian” when talking to your congregation, because in this day and age those in the covenant need to be reminded that sinners who actually practice sin are “antinomian” and it’s very well possible that many in your congregation will not do the works necessary to stay in covenant and attain final justification.

    I am reminded of the Ian Murray defense of Wesley—it’s not his fault that he was Arminian because it was the fault of the “truly reformed” Antinomians….

  3. Only “antinomians” need be excluded. You can accuse anybody you want of “antinomianism” at any time they disagree that there is a “future aspect of justification”. But as for “hypothetical universalists”, you need to be very cautious about even hinting that they are not “Reformed” enough. Arminians always have an excuse, and that’s because they are only reacting to the “antinomianism” of hyper-Lutherans.

    Waddington—“Dr. Fesko offers a fascinating discussion of hypothetical universalism . It is a fact that there were members present in the assembly who held this view, and the author notes the complexity of the matter and the various views that fall under the label of hypothetical universalism. My concern is not with the details of the discussion. Muller has brought this issue to our attention as well so we are familiar with it. My concern is theological more than historical. As I have already noted, it is a fact that members of the assembly held to a variety of views that can be classified as forms of hypothetical universalism.”

    Waddington—However, beyond doing us the favor of reminding us that at the time of the assembly hypothetical universalism was a live option, one gets the sense that there is also at work here a theological agenda. The contemporary view is too narrow perhaps. Church history hopefully involves an increasingly more precise and improved understanding of the Scriptures and theology.

    Waddington– In other words, should we try to turn back the clock and broaden our confessional views on this? Maybe so. Maybe not. That is a matter for exegetical, biblical, and systematic theology. Historical theology has done us the service of reminding us that at one point hypothetical universalism, at least in some of its variations, was acceptable. We recognize that there is development in theology and that we need to be historically sensitive to this.

    Waddington–Would it be right to judge earlier formulations by later standards? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that if a later development actually is an improvement and refinement and correction to earlier views, we would not want to revert to the earlier formulations. No, in the sense that we will recognize earlier formulations as defective but not necessarily erroneous or heretical.

  4. Roger Olson, another evangelical— “C S. Lewis more than implied that God will sometimes accept as worship of Him the worship of other gods. The logical import of such a statement is that, in effect, the person was worshiping ‘the same God’ whether they knew it or not. Billy Graham stated very publicly in a video recorded interview with Robert Schuller, that he did not think only Christians could be saved….

    Granted, those who “become Reformed” entered the world with more IQ points than Arminians, and for that they cannot take credit. But can’t we attribute something to years of studying good confessionally Reformed theology? After all, that simple old “Jesus died for you and it will work if you accept” gospel was what God sovereignly used to effectually call us, correct? And knowing about election might not be even a second blessing because sometimes that only puts you in a “cage-stage”….

    John Bolt—“God’s saving grace is always particular, to the elect. The promise of the gospel “that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life…, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel” (Canons of Dordt, II, 5)…. Whatever “light of nature” remains in man only serves to make him inexcusable….”


    Mark Jones—“I sometimes worry that their zeal for Confessional fidelity. The better versions of hypothetical universalism – which differ from the views of Amyraut or Cameron – are practically indistinguishable from certain versions of particular redemption. John Owen was actually the novel theologian when he wrote The Death of Death.”

    mcmark—Why can’t we all just get along? We are justified by means of SOME doctrine, but since even correct doctrine needs also the efficacy of the Holy Spirit,. maybe some are justified by the Spirit using false doctrine, perhaps even lies and falsehoods.

    Since we all live in the not yet, everything is “gray” in the real world For justification, sure maybe we still need some precision, but who can say how much, or how much lack of sinning you need to go along with your doctrine. it’s not like the old days.. Now we live in a context where covenant children fornicate with other covenant children, and so maybe it’s a good thing to be less than precise about justification of the ungodly.

  6. Bonhoeffer—”There are some who, when they find out that the bus is going the wrong direction, walk toward the other end of the bus.

    Leithart assures us of a catholic space with room with all kinds of diversity, even though views other than his own are “deviant”

    Leithart—-“appointed, willed, and ordained that the death of his Son should be, and should be esteemed, a ransom of such a kind that it might be offered and applied to all …In Crisp’s summary, “God ordains and intends that the satisfaction of Christ be a means of salvation that is truly sufficient for all but conditional upon faith,” a faith that is given only to the elect.. Crisp argues that this view isn’t excluded by any Reformed confession, even the Westminster Confession, which comes the closest to excluding it. The Canons of Dort, for instance, declare that the “benefits of Christ’s work only to those with faith, whom God has elected,” but Crisp argues that “this is entirely consistent with the claim that the work of Christ is sufficient for the salvation of all humanity in principle,” and that it was in fact intended to be sufficient, while “effectual only for the elect who are given faith” (180).

    Leithart—-Crisp refutes the notion that hypothetical universalism reduces to Arminianism. The fact that the two positions overlap in language and content doesn’t mean they are equivalent, and they aren’t: “Whereas the hypothetical universalists claimed that God effectually applies the work of Christ only to those whom God has eternally elected according to God’s good pleasure and will, the Arminian’s claim that God elects those ‘individuals who through the established means of his prevenient grace come to faith and believe’ and persevere in the faith…. the hypothetical universalist scheme claims that God elects independent of any knowledge God has concerning foreseen faith” (188).

  7. Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings

    p238 “According to fatalism, the word of truth having no influence, is of no use in regeneration, the salutary and important change being produced entirely without it..It is too hastily assumed that the mind is prepared to receive the light of spiritual knowledge before the truth have any influence on it.”

    p247 “Now the question is: Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the gospel? I think not. It is written: by the law is the knowledge of sin.

    p249 “For an ‘awakened sinner’ to be persuaded that regeneration is effected without the instrumentality of divine truth, is to give an injurious direction to his prayers and expectations.

  8. John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them…There are some who define the eating of the flesh of Christ, and the drinking of his blood, to be, in one word, nothing more than believing in Christ himself. But Christ seems to me to have intended to teach something more sublime in that noble discourse, in which he recommends the eating of his flesh—viz. that we are quickened by the true partaking of him, which he designated by the terms eating and drinking, lest any one should suppose that the life which we obtain from him is obtained by simple knowledge.”

    Calvin—“For as it is not the sight but the eating of bread that gives nourishment to the body, so the soul must partake of Christ truly and thoroughly, that by his energy it may grow up into spiritual life. According to them, to eat is merely to believe; while I maintain that the flesh of Christ is eaten by believing, because it is made ours by faith, and that that eating is the effect and fruit of faith.
    According to them, eating is faith, whereas it rather seems to me to be a consequence of faith. The difference is little in words, but not little in reality.”

    Calvin–“Although the apostle teaches that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, no one will interpret that dwelling to be faith All see that it explains the admirable effect of faith, because to faith it is owing that believers have Christ dwelling in them. In this way, the Lord was pleased, by calling himself the bread of life, not only to teach that our salvation is treasured up in faith in his death and resurrection, but also, by virtue of true communication with him, his life passes into us and becomes ours.” Institutes 4:17:5

  9. markmcculley Says:

    i notice that the same people who deny unconditional love, and who teach that love has a goal of turning the prodigal into somebody morally like the elder brother, also teach a conversion which is unconditional on knowing the truth of the gospel. This makes me wonder they they “turned Reformed” and why they have conferences which attempt to turn other people “Reformed”.

    Why not continue to get the doctrine of the gospel as wrong as possible, in order to magnify the grace of God?

    Romans 6 What should we say then? Should we continue in sin in order that grace multiply?

    Should we continue to preach Wesley because some people can’t be saved except God using Arminianism to do it? Shall we continue in teaching universal atonement, because false doctrine only causes grace to multiply?

    D.M. Lloyd-Jones from “The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors”:

    “At this point I would make a comment, and put it in the form of a question. Is there not a real danger of our becoming guilty of a very subtle form of Arminianism if we maintain that correct doctrine and understanding are essential to our being used by the Spirit of God? It is sheer Arminianism to insist upon a true and correct understanding as being essential. John Wesley was to me the greatest proof of Calvinism. Why? Because in spite of his faulty thinking he was greatly used of God to preach the gospel One of the greatest proofs of the truth of the doctrines emphasized by Calvin, what is known as ‘Calvinism’ – though I have already said I do not like these terms – is John Wesley. He was a man who was saved in spite of his muddled and erroneous thinking. The grace of God saved him in spite of himself. That is Calvinist! If you say, as a Calvinist, that a man is saved by his understanding of doctrine you are denying Calvinism. . We are all saved in spite of what we are in every respect. Thus it comes to pass that men who can be so muddled, because they bring in their own human reason, as John Wesley and others did, are saved men and Christians, as all of us are, because it is ‘all of the grace of God’ and in spite of us.”

  10. markmcculley Says:

    Giovanni Camacho—–If you don’t understand something, then you can’t really agree with it. If you agree with something without understanding it, that is foolishness. To say yes to something you don’t understand is foolish. It’s like signing a document in Japanese when you can’t read Japanese. What if you just agreed to have your family killed? Did you just shake your head, assuming you would agree and sign the document?

    Those who have been taught false gospels (but have not yet been granted repentance from dead works) are familiar with certain historical facts about Jesus while not yet believing His gospel. These are those who say we are conditioning salvation on perfect knowledge. They still think that the gospel is about something the sinner does to get salvation.

    They don’t believe that belief of the gospel is a result of being been placed into Christ’s death and then effectually called. They piously claim that it is “Christ who saves” while denying both His person and His work. In their book, as long as you believe Christ saves, then you’re good.

    Of course, they think their brand of antinomianism is better because they think the sinner only needs a little knowledge (correct or incorrect) in order to be saved. They think that because their version of the gospel (a lie. a falsehood) makes salvation conditionally available to all, that it is better.

    John 10: He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. They will not follow a stranger.

    Knowledge of the gospel and agreement with the gospel is the result of Christ’s death imputed. When you are justified, you WILL believe certain things and NOT other things about Christ and His death. Not to make Christ’s death work, but as a result of Christ’s death working. Believing the right gospel is something purchased by Christ’s death. Insisting that any gospel will do is the testimony of the natural man who doesn’t care about the glory of God in salvation.

    It is the death of Christ that makes God just in forgiving certain sinners. The question is-how do you know that death was for you? You should NEVER assume that the death was for you until you believe the gospel.

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