Posted tagged ‘David Engelsma’

Thomas Boston’s Offer—Grace is a Right Even for the Non-Elect But God won’t Enable Them to Accept It

March 18, 2016

Two peculiar doctrinal statements were especially at the heart of the Marrow controversy. The first concerns the preaching of the gospel to all men indiscriminately—what the Marrow men describe as the “offer” (rather than the “call”). According to the Marrow theology, in the preaching of the gospel God in Jesus Christ, “God moved with nothing but his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all, that whosoever shall believe in this his Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life” .

As confusing as the language is, specifically, the phrase, “deed of gift and grant,” it is evident that the statement intends to teach God’s would-be love to all humans who hear the preaching on the condition that they believe. Implied in this statement is the doctrine that Christ died for all humans without exception. The church must “go and tell every man, without exception, that here is good news for him! Christ is dead for him! and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have him”.

The language is odd . “Christ is dead”? And Christ is dead for every human who hears the gospel? Not: “Christ died for every human.” But: “Christ dead for every human.” Contrast this confusing statement concerning the extent of the atoning death of Christ the clear language of the Canons of Dordt— For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father, etc. (Canons of Dordt, 2.8).

If what orthodox Reformed theology regards as the external call of the gospel is, in fact, a gracious deed of gift and grant of Jesus Christ to every human who hears the gospel, , Christ must have died for all mankind lost, for every human without exception.

This fundamental statement of the Marrow theology is false on its very face. Christ is not dead! He is not dead in relation to anyone, including the elect. He died, in the past. But Christ is NOT dead. Christ is alive, having risen from the dead. In order to introduce into Reformed churches the doctrine of universal atonement (in support of their heretical teaching of the “offer”), without exposing themselves to the charge of teaching universal atonement, as would have been the case had they explicitly stated that the church may say to every human, “Christ died for you,” the Marrow men resorted to linguistic subterfuge: “Christ is dead for you.” This is despicable theology,

The Canons of Dordt make plain that the “offer” does not mean a gracious effort on God’s part to save all who hear, in view of a love of God for all hearers and with the desire to save them all. Head one of the Canons confesses the eternal non-election of some humans in a
hatred of God for them. Head two confesses that Christ died for the elect alone, according to God’s lasting love for them. Heads three and four confess that the saving call of the gospel, that which has its source in God’s election, is for some hearers of the gospel, not for all without exception.

With regard to the Marrow’s assertion that the gospel is a deed of gift and grant to all who hear, head two of the Canons teaches that Christ “purchased” for the elect, not only forgiveness and eternal life, but also faith itself (Canons 2.8).

The non-elect unbeliever does not have a warrant to believe in Jesus Christ. He does not have the ability. But neither does he have the right. Faith in Jesus Christ is a privilege, a right earned for the elect by the death of Jesus. “Warrant” implies right. The non-elect hearer
of the gospel has the DUTY to believe in Jesus, but he lacks both the ability and the right. This truth demolishes the theology of the Marrow.

If God in the gospel lovingly offers salvation to all humans without exception, on the ground of Christ’s death for everyone, Christ is not the whole savior. But the sinner himself, by his acceptance of the offered Christ, is instrumental in his own salvation. Indeed, the whole Christ is dependent upon the sinner’s acceptance. The Arminians call this acceptance “free will.” And the Marrow Calvinists call this acceptance “regeneration followed by instrumental faith”. But in both cases, Christ is not the savior because what God does to make the sinner accept Christ is the most fundamental part of salvation.

According to Thomas Boston. the offer is God’s gracious gift of Jesus Christ to all who hear the gospel, including those who are not saved by the gospel. It is not a gift to effectually save anybody, but in such a way as to make Jesus available to all those God predestined to be in the same room with gospel preaching. . Boston uses the example of the gift of money to a poor man: “Even as when one presents a piece of gold to a poor man saying, ‘Take it, it is yours’; the offer makes the piece really his in a sense nevertheless, while the poor man does not accept or receive it, it is not his in possession, nor hath he the benefit of it; but, on the contrary, must starve for it all, and that so much the more miserably, that he hath slighted the offer and refused the gift”

Boston comments— This giving, which in light of I John 5:11 is certainly gracious on God’s part, does not, however, put anyone in possession of eternal life. It merely makes it possible for humans to take possession”of eternal life. This giving of eternal life by God in the offer is not to and for the elect, but to and for all who hear the gospel, including those who may be reprobate, and perish. The party to whom eternal life is given by the offer is not the election only, but mankind lost.” In the offer, there is a giving of Christ and salvation to many where there is no receiving, for a gift may be refused.”

http://commongracedebate.blogspot.com/2016/05/review-of-whole-christ.html

 
       

Faith is Not a Work but only An Instrument, therefore we can say that Faith is a Condition? No!, by Tianqi Wu

November 8, 2015

Mike Horton—“The New Testament lays before us a vast array of CONDITIONS for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor ” God of Promise, p 182

Mike Horton—To be claimed by water baptism as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. HOW CAN THEY FALL UNDER THE CURSES OF A COVENANT TO WHICH THEY DID NOT BELONG? God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet the instrumental CONDITION is that they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator….” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/09/13/kingdom-through-covenant-a-review-by-michael-horton/

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/reformed-theology-vs-hyper-calvinism/

Mike Horton–As Packer explains it, “love is not the whole story” . We are faced with mystery — and the two guardrails that keep us from careening off the cliff in speculation. God loves the world and calls everyone in the world to Christ outwardly through the Gospel, and yet God loves the elect with a saving purpose and calls them by His Spirit inwardly through the same Gospel (John 6:63–64; 10:3–5, 11, 14–18, 25–30; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28–30; 2 Tim. 1:9). Both Arminians and hyper-Calvinists ignore crucial passages of Scripture, resolving the mystery in favor of the either-or. Either election or the free offer of the Gospel, conditioned on God giving faith to the sinner.

Mike Horton–While it is among the sweetest consolations for believers, election is not the whole story of God’s dealing with this world. Does God love everybody, or is His kindness simply a cloak for His wrath — fattening the wicked for the slaughter, as some hyper-Calvinists have argued? Scripture is full of examples of God’s providential goodness, particularly in the Psalms: “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made …. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm. 145:9, 16) The doctrine we are talking about has come to be called “common grace,” in distinction from “saving grace.” Some have objected to this term (some even to the concept), insisting that there is nothing common about grace: there is only one kind of grace, which is sovereign, electing grace. However, it must be said that whatever kindness God shows to anyone for any reason after the fall, can ONLY be regarded as gracious. Once again, we face two guardrails that we dare not transgress: God acts graciously to save the elect and also to sustain the non-elect and cause them to flourish in this mortal life. .

David Engelsma—Mike Horton affirms that God promises saving grace in Christ to every baptized baby. For a Reformed theologian, it is the same as to affirm that God promised saving grace to Esau in his circumcision. This affirmation implies that God failed to keep His promise. His promise failed. Grace is resistible and ineffectual. The reason, they will say, is the unbelief of Esau. Whatever the reason, grace does not realize itself in one to whom God is gracious. Regardless of the reason for grace’s impotence, the teaching is heretical. If God promises saving grace to both Esau and Jacob, as Horton affirms, but the promise fails because of Esau’s unbelief, then the conclusion necessarily follows that grace succeeded in the case of Jacob, not because of the Christ’s death for Jacob but rather in the sovereign power of grace enabling Jacob to accept the grace and thereby meet the “conditions of the covenant”.

Tianqi Wu— Unbelief of the gospel is sin. If God justifies us on the condition we don’t sin the sin of unbelief, then Christ’s death is not what saves us.. But a common obfuscation is to say “faith is not a work” and thus argue that it does not violate “grace alone” to make faith part of the reason God justifies us. Many people think Romans 4 is teaching that God counts our believing as righteousness. Some variations of this I’ve seen:

1, they think our believing satisfies the law, because our believing is obeying
2, they think our believing doesn’t satisfy the law, but God graciously counts it as satisfied the law
3, they think our believing doesn’t satisfy the law, but God counts it as righteousness, because believing is what God considers real righteousness

In all these views, faith works as a work that forms our righteousness.

But the main reason that “faith is not a work” is that we are not justified because of our faith. Faith is not part of our righteousness. God does not count our believing as righteousness, God counts what he announces in the gospel (Christ’s death provided by God for those elected in Christ and appointed to eternal life) to the recipients . The gospel announces Christ’s death as the righteousness of the elect who will believe this gospel. Faith in the true gospel is itself a benefit given by God along with the imputation of righteousness. (Faith in the gospel is a gift obtained by Christ for those he redeemed by his blood. II Peter 1;1 To those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ)

We should not identify Christ’s death on the cross with justification, because justification (like faith) is a spiritual blessing given by means of the righteousness of the cross. Once we realize this, it takes away the objection against “application”of (imputation of ) the reconciliation accomplished at the cross as the basis for (in order to) justification. If the “new heart” is not immediately given at the cross (or even immediately given at the birth of each elect after the cross), then it is conceivable that “forgiveness of sins” is also not immediately given at the cross. ”

Stoever, A Faire and Easy Way, explains that “John Cotton professed himself unable to believe it possible for a person to maintain that grace works a CONDITION in him, reveals it, makes a promise to it, and applies it to him, and still not trust in the work. Even if a person did not trust in the merit of the work, he still probably would not dare to trust a promise unless he could see a work…”

“Grace and works (not only in the case of justification) but in the whole course of our salvation, are not subordinate to each other but opposite:as that whatsoever is of grace is not of works, and whatsoever is of works is not of grace.

Mark McCulley—Faith is a work. No, it’s not a work. The debate won’t take you very far. Even if the debate is about if faith comes from fallen man’s freewill contribution, the Calvinist accusation that says “well then it’s a work” does not do much because the Arminians will quickly explain that they never say it’s a work and that they know it’s not a work. https://markmcculley.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/does-god-count-the-faith-god-gives-us-as-righteousness-since-faith-is-not-a-work/

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

July 1, 2014

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.

Engelsma on Psalm 73

September 7, 2013

Prosperous Wicked and Plagued Saints: An exposition of Psalm 73, by David Engelsma (Reformed Free Presbyterian, 2007)

It’s a good book, well argued, and I am going to find it perhaps even more useful to give to people than Engelsma’s Common Grace Revisited debate with Mouw, because it starts with the biblical text and stays with it in detail. Of course it’s a polemic, but not in reaction to the passing ideas of one or two preachers.

The thesis is clearly stated: If the prosperity of the non-elect is some kind of “grace”, then the troubles of the elect must be not-grace. This antithesis is carefully argued again and again.

My favorite paragraph in the book is the second one on p 9. Here Engelsma writes about God’s justice in the gospel. God is both sovereign and just. God is not only just to the non-elect. God is also just in saving the ungodly elect, because God in Christ has a righteousness for these elect. “God blesses the elect on the ground of the righteousness of the atoning death of Christ.” Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, God has no righteous basis for blessing the non-elect.

Engelsma asks: “On what basis would God bless the ungodly, who are outside the elect church of Christ by God’s own decree of reprobation? The only explanation by those who confess the biblical doctrine that Christ died only for the elect church is that God’s grace ignores and conflicts with His righteousness….If God can bless guilty sinners apart from the cross of Christ in earthly things, why cannnot God also extend …eternal life to them apart from the righteousness of the death of Christ?”

I think this is the very heart of the issue, of the problem with most who profess to be “Calvinists”. First, many of them want to say that God has “multiple-purposes” (many intents) for the cross, and thus they say one of the reasons for the cross was to obtain “common grace” for the non-elect. In fact, God has one purpose in Christ. Everything Christ does is for the glory of Christ, and we need to be more simple about that.. We need antithesis. God’s love is not nearly “difficult” and complicated as most would have it.

Second, and even more importantly, these folks don’t see the justice of the cross—they see only sovereignty, they see only many purposes. It’s not only that they don’t see the effectiveness, the success of the cross. They don’t see the nature of the cross as a substitutionary satisfaction of divine law. Righteousness obtained and imputed demands life. Where there has been no righteousness, no satisfaction of the law, then God has no basis to give life (or any grace). Christ has not satisfied justice for the non-elect. Therefore God has no kind of salvation or blessing for the non-elect.

I was glad to see Engelsma come back to this theme on p 30. God despises the non-elect. “The Bible is clear that, apart from the basis of righteousness, there is no blessing of sinful humans.” Romans 1 teaches that the wrath of God is already being revealed to the non-elect, as sinner is being “handed over” to sinner. The non-elect are not being handed over to the elect (no theocracy for those who are not elect, no Christendom where the supposed elect govern the non-elect). But God is not only always in control, but also already in some intermediate ways, displaying His wrath to the non-elect.

4 For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;

And as Engelsma makes clear (p 20), this prosperity of the non-elect is not random. Their prosperity is God’s doing. Sometimes (not always, since non-elect Syrians are starving and being killed every day) the non-elect have no pangs of conscience, and then die without much trouble–often an “easy death”. On one level, we can say that they are deeply unhappy on the inside, and that they know enough by ‘general revelation” to know that God exists and that they are in trouble (and will be). But on another level, some of these non-elect boldly ask: How can God know?

In other words, they think there is no god, or if there is a god, then this god “has no clue”. On the one hand, many of these non-elect are Kantians who claim that being moral should never be contaminated by any thought of blessing or reward. The only way to be completely self-less, they say, is to be atheist and to deny any future beatitude ((or condemnation). But on the other hand, they say, well those who believe the gospel are not getting paid for it. Like Satan’s comment to God about Job, these atheists say—nobody really is moral, because everybody does what they do to get paid, so take away Job’s blessing and he won’t be moral anymore. Thus the atheist conclusion: nobody really is moral. But some of us are getting paid, and it’s not those who are trying to be moral!

They have not considered the idea that God is on purpose INCREASING THEIR PROSPERITY ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR SIN, which is the opposite of what you would expect. Less sin, more prosperity, we tend to think, when we are not trusting God. But Psalm 73 teaches a “double bind”. God increases the prosperity of the non-elect not only because of their sin but also in order to make them more sinful and hard. What a fearful thing this is. As Engelsma points out on p 31, “God uses the “no troubles” as a means to increase their sin.

Engelsma rightly asks— what kind of “grace” is this, that is used as means to increase sin? It’s not a “strange grace” (p 32) it’s NOT grace at all! I think of Romans 6, which teaches that the justified elect are not under the dominion of sin BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT UNDER LAW BUT UNDER GRACE. Nobody understands this who does not believe the gospel. All who are not justified are still under law, and this means that God has no grace for them (unless they are elect, in which case they will be placed into Christ’s death and justified). This means that all the not-justified do is nothing but sin. It also means that that there is no kind of grace for the non-justified. They are still “under law”. Therefore sin has dominion over them. Therefore, God uses prosperity as a means to increase their sin.

I don’t think Engelsma directly referenced Job. But as I was reading his book, I kept thinking of Job. p 39–“God sent the troubles which plagued the psalmist, but the troubles were not direct judgments upon specific sins. If that were the case, the psalmist would not have had a problem with the troubles.”

I also like very much his discussion of the “wakening of God” (p 66, also with a reference to Psalm 44:23) It looks that way to us when we are not trusting God. But God is not slumbering. God is controlling every detail in the lives of the non-elect. God is not “allowing” or “permitting” anything. Thus Engelsma quotes the misguided approach of Martin Lloyd Jones (p 58) who wrote: “We have to remember God’s permissive will..He has allowed sin to develop and reveal itself for what it is.” As Engelsma very firmly points out, God’s purpose is that they slide into destruction.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.

I also think Engelsma is correct to see the being “pricked in heart” of verse 21 as being about the godly sorrow that the psalmist experiences (when he understands again the truth, when he comes to the sanctuary). This pricking of heart is NOT the sinful thinking he was doing before, because it is not that envy but rather it is his present repentance about that envy. He confesses: “I was like an animal”. It’s important for us to see that he doesn’t dismiss knowledge and rationalism as so many do today. He doesn’t excuse his ignorance, or blame it on other people (his preachers, his parents etc). As Engelsma concludes on p 73, foolish thinking is sin. And it’s a sin for humans to think like an animal.

One point I would stress here. I guess it depends on a distinction between indicative and imperative. If we say– well real Christians don’t ever think like that, what we mean is—Christians should not think like that. Neither Engelsma nor the psalmist is denying that Christians do sometimes think like that. But the point is that we should not think like that. We can sin, we should not sin. But our hope is not that we keep ourselves from sinning, or that we keep holding on. Our hope is that when we do sin in this way, with foolish thinking, with lack of trust, God is continually with us, holding us, keeping us from falling.

And then Engelsma writes about the “afterward”, the glory to come. Kant was wrong about the idea of future blessing contaminating morality. To the extent we Christian sinners are moral, our motive is gratitude for both the past and for the future which is come. Since that future glory is certain for the elect, the “thankful” category is not out of order. Faith is not something else than assurance, and therefore faith is not something else than gratitude for all that will be given in Christ. Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

A New Book from the Andrew Fuller “Free Offer” School

September 2, 2013

Salvation by Grace: The case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration, by Matthew Barrett, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2013.

I start with a quotation from p78.

“In the Twentieth century, hyper Calvinism has shown its head yet again in the work of Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)…Building off of HIS VIEWS ON election and reprobation, Hoeksema argues that there can be no well meant offer of the gospel, which would imply and desires the salvation of the nonelect, for Scripture is clear that God determines to harden the hearts of the nonelect, not to save them. In fact, says Hoeksema, God does not even desire the salvation of of the nonelect, nor does God act favorably toward the nonelect, but only acts to further their sentence to destruction. When the gospel is preached it is not a free offer to whomever will believe, but rather it is simply a promise meant only for the elect. The only thing the nonelect receive in hearing this message is condemnation.”

Barrett continues: “Hoeksema’s view is deeply unbiblical. Scripture everywhere affirms the well-meant offer of the gospel, as Capsar Olevian termed it, the evangelium oblatum (Scott Clark) whereby God genuinely desires the salvation of the lost (II Peter 3:9, I Timothy 2:4). Jesus Himself DID KNOW who was the elect and noneelect were and yet he offered the gospel freely (Matthew 22:3-8, Luke 14:16-21, John 5:38) Hyper Calvinists like Hoeksema are wrongly used as representatives of Calvinism instead of the traditional Reformed Reformed theologians.”

mark mcculley:

1. Throughout the book the reference to “historic” or “traditional” Calvinism is used as a code word to mean the “universal sufficiency” view of Andrew Fuller, who of course reacted against earlier “traditional” views. The idea is to appeal to a broad historic tradition, at least for appearance sake, but in the meanwhile to exclude and marginalize other historic views as not being really “historic”. The strategy is often used by Kenneth Stewart to argue that Reformed people should be more “evangelical”. Steward of course is one who endorses this book, along with Haykin, Timothy George, Robert Letham, Greg Forster. Bruce Ware, Fred Zaspel, and other Andrew Fuller fans. It’s a tricky strategy, because on the one hand, it’s saying that the “God does not love everybody” view is a tiny blip, not really Calvinism, but then on the other hand, it acts as this “hyper” threat is very dangerous and important.

2. Putting 2 Peter 3:9 or some other reference in parenthesis is not careful PHD exegetical work. It’s simply begging the question.

3. There’s no mention of the details of the “offer” debate. Barrett does not discuss the views of Gerstner, Gordon Clark, and others who agree with Hoeksema in denying that God loves everybody. Barrett simply quotes Anthony Hoekema, with whom Barrett agrees. From Hoekema’s Saved by Grace: “The Bible teaches that God seriously desires that all who hear the gospel should believe in Christ and be saved. To our finite minds it seems impossible that election and this should both be true… One type of rational solution is that of Hoekseam and the hyper-Calvinists. Since the Bible teaches election, it cannot be true that God desires the salvation of all to whom the gospel comes. Therefore we must say that God desires the salvation only of the elect among the hearers of the gospel. This kind of solution may seem to satisfy our minds, but it completely fails to do justice to Scripture passages (Ezekial 33:11, Matthew 23:37, II Corinthians 5:20, and II Peter 3:9).”

We see that Anthony Hoekema is also a master of the parenthesis (without exegesis). His finite mind is simply not satisfied with any idea that God loves some sinners and does not love other sinners, so Hoekema assumes that only other minds perhaps more finite than his own would be satisfied with a rational solution. Hoekema assumes that his own rational solution is a better solution and that this conclusion somehow transcends even being rational. It does, you must remember, come along with some Bible texts referenced in parenthesis. But nowhere does either Barrett or Hooekema prove from the Bible that God loves the nonelect or desires the salvation of the nonelect. They simply begin with that assumption and then argue in a circle back to it.

4. Of course it will always be said that the problem here is merely semantics, and that we need to remember that God has “two wills” and that we must use the word “will” in two senses. But the truth of it is that people who advocate the “free offer” are intentionally use the word “will” in a double sense so as to sneak in their assumption without making an argument for it. Of course God’s law does not depend on the ability of humans to keep it for that law to be legitimate. Of course God can and does command all sinners to believe the gospel. Barrett writes as if Hoeksema somehow denies that responsibility depends on ability, and that this is somehow in parallel to the Arminian argument that inability to keep the law would mean that we have no duty to keep the law. But Hoeksema nowhere makes this argument, and Barrett is projecting it onto Hoeksema to avoid the read question which is about God’s supposed desire to save all sinners. Barrett assumes that God loves all sinners. When Hoeksema denies that, Barrett accuses Hoeksema of making duty depending on ability.

Barrett is doing exactly what Andrew Fuller did, which is confusing the gospel with the law. It was not Hoeksema but Andrew Fuller who ultimately made duty depend on ability, because it was Andrew Fuller who said that if God commanded all sinners to believe the gospel, then we must make some kind of distinction between “moral inability” and “natural inability” so that we can say that all sinners can be told that God loves them. Fuller got this from the New England Theology (and Jonathan Edwards). Instead of merely saying that God commands all sinners to believe the gospel, the Andrew Fuller–Southern Baptist approach of Michael Barrett turns this into the “will of God” and then confuses this “will of God” with the non-biblical idea that God “wants and wishes and desires” to save all sinners. It comes down to the idea that, since God commands you to believe the gospel, then that must mean that God wishes (unsuccessfully in many cases) that you would believe the gospel, and that those who deny this are being “insincere” when they call people to believe the gospel.

Of course, much more could be said. In what way do we make a distinction between the command to believe the gospel and the gospel itself? is the command itself part of the gospel? Is the gospel in the end no different from law, with commands and “conditions”? In what way do we make a distinction between the promise of the gospel and the gospel itself? What is the promise of the gospel (or of “the covenant”)? Is the promise of the covenant that God loves everybody, or is it a promise that God only loves those in the covenant? Or only the elect in the covenant?

But to return to Barrett’s language (first paragraph above) when he’s describing Hoeksema’s position—“When the gospel is preached it is not a free offer to whomever will believe, but rather it is simply a promise meant only for the elect.”

I will ask two questions.

1. Does God desire the salvation of the sinners who never hear the gospel? Barrett keeps saying that God desires the salvation of all who hear the gospel. What about those who never hear the gospel? Does God want them to be saved as well? If the gospel in the end is also the law, so that only those who hear the gospel can justly be condemned, how can those who never hear “the gospel” be justly destroyed by God? And why, if God really loved them, did God not send somebody with the gospel to these people? If Jesus died in order to condemn those who resist them, how can God condemn those who never heard of Jesus? Now it will be argued that these questions are another topic, and not appropriate for the book Barrett wanted to write. But if there can be no sin unless God has first somehow loved you and desired your salvation, then this changes everything about how we approach the Bible. Instead of beginning with our plight (before the law), the Andrew Fuller school begins with a well-intentioned solution, which is God’s love, which is supposedly universally sufficient but in the end not quite enough.

2. “When the gospel is preached it is not a free offer to whomever will believe, but rather it is simply a promise meant only for the elect”. What if I flip the phrases around here in the structure of this sentence? What if I “deconstruct” the implied (but un-argued) difference? Are there any elect who will never believe the gospel? Are there any nonelect who will believe the gospel? When the gospel is preached it is meant only for those who believe, to as many as who believe, for all who believe it. The gospel is not good news for those who will not believe it. How can it be gospel for who will perish to be told that those who won’t believe will perish? Thus far I leave out the word “election” (the word most Calvinists want to leave out when they do evangelism), but my point is that Barrett has not yet argued for a real difference between those who believe and those who are elect. This is good news for those who believe. This is good news for the elect. There’s no ultimate difference, unless you are somehow ashamed of the word “election” and want to leave it out and say something like “covenant” or “promise”.

Use that word “promise”. The gospel is a promise of life (not maybe, but certainly) if and when a sinner believe the gospel, only for them, as many as them. all of them. no more than them. I know a couple of preachers who actually use the word “free offer” and that’s all they mean by the expression. But they should not use the expression, because “historically” it now has built into it a false idea that God also desires the salvation of those who never believe the gospel. Barrett of course believes that God DOES (now, I don’t know about later, will God still be desiring their salvation after the second coming and the second death?) desire the salvation of the non-elect. But Barrett needs to argue directly for this, instead of falsely representing Hoeskema as agreeing with Arminians that duty depends on ability.

Nathan Finn-“Chun agrees with scholars who emphasize greater continuity than discontinuity between Edwards’s understanding of the atonement and the moral government view of the New Divinity theologians. Fuller embraced governmental language and was actually much closer to Edwards, who also allowed for a governmental aspect . Both men combined a universal sufficiency with a particular efficacy, the limitation being in God’s covenantal design rather than in the nature of propitiation itself.”

Andrew Fuller (Reply to Philanthropos, Complete Works,II, p499) comments: “There would be no propriety in saying of Christ that He is set forth to be an expiatory sacrifice THROUGH FAITH IN HIS BLOOD, because He was a sacrifice for sin prior to the consideration of our believing in Him. The text does not express what Christ WAS as laying down His life , but what He IS in consequence of it.”

Andrew Fuller made a distinction between “covenantal intent” and “the nature of the atonement itself”. We need to examine Fuller’s controversy with Abraham Booth, and take sides with Abraham Booth.

This is NOT a question about the duty of the non-elect to have faith in the gospel, and the related question of “two kinds of ability” (as argued by Edwards and Fuller). That is a distraction from the greater question about the nature of the atonement. While I don’t see much in the Bible about the “duty” of unbelievers to believe the gospel, I don’t deny that all sinners are commanded to believe the gospel. And (unlike Edwards) I don’t need to connect that command to some philosophical account of “ability”.

This is not even a question about the optimism of the post-millennial fantasies of Edwards and Andrew Fuller. It’s a question about both the love and the justice of God, and about the justice of God in Christ dying for the sins of all those God loves imputed to Christ by God. If the sins of all those God loves are not “really” justly imputed to Christ, then the death of Christ itself is not that which “really” makes God both just and the justifier of those God loves.. Instead we would have to look away from the cross itself, and look to what God is now doing in terms of some kind of “covenantal intent”.

Election is God’s love, and when the Bible talks about God’s love, it talks about propitiation. I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If all we can stipulate is that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s not enough to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as God’s propitiatory love will not be proclaimed.

You can use the word without agreeing with the Bible about what it means. A propitiatroy love for the non-elect amounts to nothing. Since there is only one propitiation, a propitiation for the elect which is also the same thing for the non-elect, amounts to nothing. The “young restless and Reformed” (and the “confessional” who support them) need to stop playing with words and tell the truth.

Do those who talk about being “Reformed” (and about “the covenant”) love the gospel of election, or do they hate the doctrine and suppress it? Yes, Christ loved the church, but the church in the non-election way of talking is not individuals written in the lamb’s book, but a “sort of people” who continue to meet “covenantal conditions”. Many of these Ian Murray/ Errol Hulse “free offer Calvinists” refuse to talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. Even worse, they want to say that God wants the non-elect to be saved (even though these people officially agree that Christ did not die for these people that God supposedly desires to be saved!

These folks wants you to “love Christ back” without knowing anything about election. Then someday they will teach you that all who “give themselves” to Christ were given to Christ. Like Norman Shepherd, they will justify this (God loves everybody and wants everybody to be saved) as being the only perspective possible to us. We have to know we believe, before we can know if we are elect.

I agree that knowing our election before we believe is impossible. Knowing our election is not our warrant to believe. (See Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings). But this is no excuse for leaving the doctrine of election out of the doctrine of redemption and propitiation by the cross. And it certainly no excuse for telling everybody that God loves them and wants to be their Father!

Though Andrew Fuller affirmed a particular atonement in a certain sense- in that the atonement will procure faith for only the elect-he was not willing to say that Christ was only the propitiation for the elect alone. Instead of telling that plain truth, that Christ either already died for a sinner or already did not, Andrew Fuller wanted to say that Christ died for all sinners in some sense. This universal sense advocated by Andrew Fuller has to do with the nature of propitiation. He denied that Christ in the past propitiated the Trinity for the sins of any specific person. Rather, Andrew Fuller taught that Christ died to make a “free offer” of propitiation to every sinner.

According to Andrew Fuller, what’s important is the “covenantal design and intent” of what Christ did, that there could be propitiation now if the Holy Spirit were to cause a sinner to accept the “free offer” of propitiation and thus join themselves to Christ through faith . Fuller asserted an universal conditional sufficiency in Christ’s death for all sinners. It is an old and subtle doctrine, but Andrew Fuller was a very subtle man, much like John Wesley, using words like “imputation” in ways meant to mislead those who had a different meaning for the words.

What did Andrew Fuller accomplish by shifting from what Christ DID back then over there to who Christ Is and what He “Can” do here and now if the Spirit helps a sinner to take up the “free offer”? Andrew Fuller changed the meaning of the propitiatory love of Christ. With the Arminians, he made the propitiation to be dependent on the sinner having faith. The subtle “hybrid” part though is that (with more historic Calvinists) Andrew Fuller also made the having faith be dependent on what God obtained by means of Christ’s death.

Andrew Fuller ended up putting the emphasis on God’s supposed universal love as opposed to justice. God is sovereign now to give faith to elect sinners because of Christ’s death. The idea that God has already been JUSTLY propitiated for a sinner (or not) is no longer in the picture. Andrew Fuller’s notion of “sovereign grace” is opposing the gospel of God being justified in justifying the ungodly. He is opposing justice by his references to divine universal love.

Two final comments. First, even though Fullerites want to say that the only way to be consistent in teaching a definite propitiation (what Christ WAS as laying down his life) is to teach an eternal justification, where the elect only subjectively find out that they were always justified, I do not (and Abraham Booth did not) teach that any unbeliever is justified.

All the justified elect are people who believe the gospel. Belief in the gospel is an immediate consequence (not a condition) of God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect (not of God’s imputation of the elect’s sins to Christ).

“Through faith” in Romans 3:25 does not mean “conditioned on faith”. Faith for the elect is what God’s justice demands will happen as soon as righteousness is imputed by God. I do not say this gift of faith is “our right” but it is Christ’s right because of what Christ WAS AND DID. Once sins were imputed to Christ, then Christ died by the law because of these sins, and now Christ is free and justified before the law.

So I can and do say to any unbeliever, unless you believe the gospel, you are not yet justified. But I also say to those unbelievers: your believing is not something you can or will do unless Christ died for you, and you will never know if Christ did until you believe the gospel.

Second comment. Look at what Andrew Fuller is saying with his distinction between what Christ is as opposed to what Christ was. Fuller is teaching that God is governmentally sovereign and therefore God can do whatever God wants to do now with what Christ did then.

If so, why did Christ die? Does God’s love make salvation possible? Does God’s love mean that propitiation “might” happen? To ask such questions leads to another question. If God is so sovereignly superior to strict justice in His government, why did Christ need to die at all? If the meaning and effectiveness of the propitiation was only to be assigned later, is that meaning a matter of justice or only arbitrary?

Romans 5:11 “We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the atonement.”

Although the gospel teaches that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, the gospel does not teach that all the elect were justified as soon as Christ bore those sins. Romans 6 explains how the elect must come into legal union with Christ’s death. Until the elect are “placed into” that death, they remain under the wrath of God.

But folks like Andrew Fuller use “union” talk to change the meaning of the atonement and accuse people who disagree with thinking there is no command for faith in the gospel. If the substitution for sins has already been made, they say, then all for whom it was made should logically already be justified. If the righteousness has already been obtained, then all for whom it was earned should logically already be justified by it.

There is no justification apart from faith. Faith in the gospel is NOT a mere recognition that we were already justified. But those who follow Andrew Fuller practically deny any distinction between the atonement and the legal application of the atonement.

At the end of the day, these folks locate the efficacy of the atonement not in Christ’s propitiation itself but only in the efficacy of regeneration to “covenantally unite” people with that propitiation. Though they may formally agree to some “legal aspect” to “union”, for all practical purposes they ignore the reality that God already imputed the sins of only the elect to Christ.

In this way, the followers of Andrew Fuller make way for the idea of some “universal sufficiency” in Christ’s propitiation. And when it turns out that this `sufficiency” is not enough to save the non-elect, they answer: “well, you can’t say that there’s double jeopardy until after a person has been married to Christ by faith. Then, and only then, they say, could you say that a person was dying for the same sins twice.”

The followers of Andrew Fuller teach universal sufficiency and a “free offer” ( at least to everybody who is not already dead) . They claim that we can teach everybody that “Christ is dead for you” without that meaning that Christ has died for your sins, because according to Andrew Fuller, Christ’s death for sinners is not the same thing legally as Christ’s death to pay for the specific sins of sinners. God did not really impute specific sins, according to Andrew Fuller.