Posted tagged ‘free offer’

The Marrow Conditions the Atonement on What God Does in the Sinner, by Hanko

July 30, 2014

The Marrow view involved a view of predestination that was essentially Amyrauldian. The counsel of God with respect to predestination contained a determinative decree and a hypothetical decree. The former belonged to God’s secret will and the latter to God’s revealed will. The Marrow taught that the revealed will of God expressed God’s will as desiring the salvation of all who hear the gospel.

The Marrow Men claimed that by making this salvation conditioned upon faith, they in fact made the work of salvation particular because only the elect actually came to faith. But salvation was made dependent upon man’s faith, because one had to explain how only some were saved when in fact God desired the salvation of all, earnestly urged all to come to Christ, and provided an atonement which was sufficient for all, intended for all and available to all.

It is true that the Marrow Men taught that saving faith was worked in the hearts of the elect of God. And it was in this way that they hoped to escape the charge of Arminianism. But this will not work for two reasons. In the first place, how is it to be explained that God on the one hand desires to save all and expressed this desire in the preaching of the gospel; and on the other hand actually gives faith and saves only a select few? The Marrow Men, as the Amyrauldians before them, resorted to a distinction in the will of God but such a distinction sets God in opposition to Himself as being One Who on the one hand desires to save all, and on the other hand, desires to save only some.

In the second place, by making faith the condition of salvation, faith is set outside the benefits of the atonement. if the atonement is for every sinner, but faith is not for every sinner, then faith cannot be a blessing given by means of the atonement. Then faith is not one of the blessings of Christ’s death, but becomes a condition for making Christ’s death effective. One cannot have it both ways. Faith is either part of salvation or a condition to salvation; but both it cannot be.

Some have maintained that the Marrow Men were concerned with a conditional grace caused by hyper-Calvinism. Christ, so it was said, was being separated from His benefits in the preaching. The church could not offer the benefits of Christ to all because they were only for the elect, and the church had to know who were the elect before these benefits could be offered them. But those who were elect could be known as elect only by the manifestation of election in their lives. Thus Christ’s benefits hinged on this manifestation of election in a holy and sanctified life. The conclusion is, so the argument went, that the offer of the gospel was made conditional. One receives salvation only if he is elect, i.e., if he manifests election in his life and if he is assured of his election. Hence all the salvation was made conditional on the works of sanctification that prove election.

This interpretation, found among the defenders of the well-meant gospel offer, is an attempt to turn the tables by charging those who repudiate the offer as teaching conditions, while those who maintain the offer are the ones holding to sovereign and free grace. This interpretation is, however, false. The General Assembly (against whom the Marrow party reacted) never taught a conditional salvation. The Assembly did maintain that the promises of the gospel were only for the elect — that is true. But it did believe that the gospel had to be publicly and indiscriminately proclaimed along with the command to repent and believe in Christ.

The Marrow Men taught that everyone has a warrant of God that Christ is for him. This warrant from God is based on the cross, in which Christ became dead for everyone. Why are not all then saved? All are not saved because the condition for having Christ in possession is faith in Him, and all do not fulfill the condition. That is conditional salvation.

The idea was that while all those to whom the gospel came did not have Christ in actual fact, they possessed the warrant to have Christ, and therefore the warrant to believe. The best way to explain their use of the word “warrant” is to substitute the word “right”: all who heard the gospel have the right to believe. They have this right to believe because God has expressed in the gospel that nothing can possibly stand in the way of their salvation. Those who hear the gospel have no excuse for not believing what the gospel proclaims.

But this means that when the gospel proclaims that Christ died for sinners, those who hear have the right to say, Christ died for me; I have a right to believe that Christ died for me. It means, in fact, that when, more specifically, the gospel says that Christ died for His people, the individual hearer has the right to say, “I am one of God’s people, if I believe.”

First, if we are to press home this “warrant” to believe, we must make clear that the promises of the gospel are objectively for everyone. In the second place, we press home the “warrant” to believe by stating emphatically that the God who promises Christ to all who hear, even objectively, can do so only because, objectively, He loves all and desires their salvation. “God gives you the right to believe because He loves you and wants your salvation.”

Third, as far as the hearer is concerned, when persuaded that he has a right (warrant) to believe, he has also the promise of God along with the assurance of God’s love for him and God’s desire to save, Fourth, the only reason why a man with this warrant to believe is not saved is because he does not believe. Everything hinges on his faith. To have Christ in possession rests on faith. He has Christ in warrant, but in possession only at such a time that he “closes with Christ.” Faith itself is not included in this warrant proclaimed, and it is not included in God’s promise of Christ. This false gospel is Arminian and Amyraldian.

The twelve Marrow Men, among whom were Thomas Boston, James Hog, and Ebenezer Erskine, who opposed the decisions of the General Assembly that condemned Edward Fisher’s book, had to say something about the extent of the atonement of Christ. The Marrow Men insisted that by this condemnation the Assembly had made the preaching of the gospel to all men impossible. They claimed that the Assembly had made it impossible to fulfill the divine commission to preach salvation in Jesus Christ to all men without distinction.

The Marrow Men denied that they taught universal atonement, but their denials rang false. These men distinguished between a giving of Christ in possession and a gift of Christ as warranted men to receive Him. Where did this warrant come from? It had to come from the atoning sacrifice that Christ completed on Calvary. The Marrow Men approved of Fisher’s book The Marrow of Modern Divinity, which taught that (and again we have a very strange distinction) while Christ did not die for all, He is dead for all. They solemnly assured the Assembly that they considered it heretical to teach that Christ’s atoning sacrifice was for all men; but they approved of the expression that Christ is dead for all men. The distinction is impossible to understand, and can only be interpreted as a rather subtle way to introduce into the teachings of the church a universal atonement of our Lord. It was intended to teach, I think, that while Christ did not in fact die to save all men, nevertheless, His death has universal significance and benefit.

If everyone who hears the preaching has a “warrant” from God to believe in Christ, that “warrant” must have a juridical basis. That is, if I promise ten men a thousand dollars each if they will come to my house, I had better have ten thousand dollars available to me, or my “warrant” is a lie. If God gives everyone who hears the gospel a “warrant” to be saved if they believe in Christ, that salvation must be available for the non-elect. If it is not, the promise of God is false

But God did not impute the sins of the non-elect to Christ, and Christ did not die for the non-elect, and the promise of the gospel is only for those who believe the gospel. As true it is that nobody can know if they are elect until after they believe the gospel, it is also true that nobody can know if Christ’s death has any benefit for them until after they believe the gospel.

http://www.prca.org/current/Free%20Offer/chapter6.htm

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Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing’s Slander of Herman Hoeksema

April 29, 2014

Salvation by Grace: The case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration, by Matthew Barrett, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2013.
I start with a quotation from p 78.

“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, 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.”

1. Throughout Barrett’s book the reference to “historic” or “traditional” Calvinism is used as a code word to mean the “universal sufficiency” view of Andrew Fuller. 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 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 Hoeksema 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 Hoekema prove from the Bible that God loves the non-elect or desires the salvation of the nonelect. They simply begin with that assumption and then argue in a circle back to it.

4. 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 basic questions 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 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 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.

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 non-elect 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 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.

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 a word without agreeing with the Bible about what it means. A propitiation for the non-elect which does not save 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” 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 the “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 want 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.

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. Fuller was 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 “faith” 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.

God Does Not Want to Save All the Sinners God Commands To Believe the Gospel

April 26, 2014

What follows below is analysis and critique of the “free offer” theology by William Young according to the OPC Minority Report

In some Calvinistic circles there is an identification of the free offer of the gospel with an alleged desire that all who are called externally should be saved. Those who fail to find Scripture warrant for such a claim are sometimes regarded as denying the gospel offer and even the gospel itself. It should be pointed out that there are ambiguities in the claim itself. Some who are well-instructed Calvinists may use the word “desire” to mean nothing other than the revealed will of God in the commands, promises and invitations of the gospel. Others appear literally to suppose a frustrated desire as an emotion in God in tension with the decree to save the elect. This article seeks to show that the second of these understandings is unwarranted in the teaching of Scripture and contrary to the understanding of the revealed Word in the Westminster Confession.

The word “offer” is not used in Scripture in connection with the gospel call, while it does so appear in the Westminster Standards (Westminster Confession of Faith 7:3; Larger Catechism 32, 67f.; Shorter Catechism 31, 86). The term, when used by those who subscribe to these standards, must be used in the Scriptural sense intended by the Westminster divines and not as implying ability in unrenewed free-will to comply with the offer. In view of the widespread prevalence of Arminian and Amyraldian views of universal grace and redemption, some Calvinists may prefer not to use the term, while heartily holding to its sense as it has been used by sound Presbyterian and Puritan divines. Such ought not to be scornfully called Hyper-Calvinists.

What then may be said to be the Biblical teaching that the subordinate standards designate as the free offer? Passages setting forth the gracious invitations of the gospel as Isaiah 55:1ff. and Matthew 11:28 at once come to mind. Reflection on these texts gives rise to the questions: Is it meant that those that thirst, that are weary and heavy laden, represent all sinners, indiscriminately, or are they such as have been brought to some awareness of their need? The Westminster Standards do not pronounce on this matter of exegesis, and admit of a difference of judgment on it.

The commandment to repent and believe is issued (Acts 17:30; 1 John 3:23) and the promise of eternal salvation is made to those who obey the commandment (John 3:16; 6:37b; Acts 16:31). The command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is followed by the promise of salvation. This sufficiently explains the sincerity of the gospel command without adding the supposition of a divine desire in back of the command and promise. Indeed, even on the level of human procedures, there may be offers made with good reason without the desire of their reception being the ground of the offer. Much more are the procedures of infinite wisdom to be accepted without prying into reasons that have not been revealed, and least of all, inventing such as are contrary to revelation.

God “freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ” (WCF 7:3). The following words “requiring of them faith in him that they may be saved” are naturally read as in apposition, explaining the nature of the offer. The promise to give the Holy Spirit to the elect is a promise to the Redeemer – not an element of the offer, but what provides the faith required in it. Larger Catechism (L.C.) 32 makes the same points. L.C.67 speaks of those effectually called as invited and drawn, and concludes with the words “to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed” in the call. L.C.68 definitely speaks of grace offered to non-elect persons. The offer rejected by some to their final ruin can hardly be said to be made in “God’s accepted time” in the Catechism’s evident sense of the time of love in effectual calling. It may be argued that L.C.67 is simply not dealing with the non-elect, the case of whom is the subject of L.C.68.

The very brief expressions in Shorter Catechism 31 and 86 add nothing to the above. What does add to the authentic Confessional doctrine is the 1903 addition of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in its Chapter 35, Of the Love of God and Missions: “In the Gospel God declares His love for the world and His desire that all men should be saved…” The purpose of the 1903 additions to the Confession of the P.C.U.S.A., as was the case with the similar Declaratory Act of the Free Church of Scotland in 1892, was to facilitate union with an Arminianising denomination, which had abandoned explicitly in the former instance and implicitly in the latter, the Calvinistic doctrines of the eternal decree and of particular redemption.

1. The above remark suggests that the ascription of such a desire to God is often not simply a way of expressing the will of command, but is supposed to be something behind the command, a will in-between the command and the decree, a weak though ardent wish that can be frustrated and is frustrated in the case of many. Surely, no Calvinist can desire to ascribe such a desire to the Most High, although the devotees of free will have invented an antecedent will in God distinct from the consequent will of the final decree. If one cares, like John Howe, to speak of a complacential will, and means only that God is pleased whenever His precepts are obeyed, no objection need be raised as long as there is not confusion with the supposed antecedent will under the cover of the word “desire”.

2. No Christian holding the Bible to be free of contradiction can suppose that the Lord literally repents or regrets his own work of creation (Genesis 6:6,7). The same way of speaking after the manner of men applies to God’s desire as expressed in Psalm 81:14. It is a gross abuse of language when, not as homiletical hyperbole, but as a dogmatic formulation, human passions, often called emotions, are ascribed to God. Such a view is in conflict with the Confession of Faith, which declares God to be “a most pure Spirit, … without body, parts, or passions,” based on Acts 14:11,15. The error is intensified when a questionable threefold faculty psychology is misapplied further, by representing God in the image of man, with emotions as well as intellect and will, and then arguing as if an emotional desire caused the will which is revealed in the free offer. Such prying into the secret things along with the obscuring of what has been revealed ought to be eschewed by all who reverently tremble at the Word of God.

3. That the desire is not simply meant as an anthropomorphic mode of emphasizing the revealed will becomes evident when the assertion is made that it is an instance of a deep paradox or antinomy not resolvable by logic. In the fact that God has decreed to save only some, but has commanded the gospel to be proclaimed indiscriminately to all, there is no contradiction, but SIMPLY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD’S DECREE AND GOD’S PRECEPTIVE WILL. to search behind the revealed will in the gospel offer for a divine inclination to save those who have been foreordained to everlasting wrath, can only appear to be ascribing a real contradiction in the will of God.

It has been claimed that the alleged desire is actually revealed in Scripture. Those who fail to find it there have been accused of having their minds made up and ignoring the analogy of Scripture. May it not be retorted that a person with universalistic prejudices comes to the Bible determined to prove that God wants all to be saved and either ignores the passages that teach divine sovereignty in salvation, or explains them away or seeks refuge in Irrationalism? Certainly the whole teaching of the Word is to be listened to, and listening means first the use of reason in understanding what God has said, while the limits of that understanding are recognized. The real question here is whether Scripture actually teaches the universalistic view in texts such as 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 33:11 and Matthew 23:37.

That the Lord is not willing that any should perish, if understood of all men can only be taken of the will of command, and teaches nothing as to a desire or wish. The verb often, as the related noun, signifies, however, the determinate counsel of God. The context also, strongly supports a restriction of “any” and “all” to the elect. The long-suffering of God is to us-ward or to you-ward, i.e., those addressed as beloved in a judgment of charity. Longsuffering is not only toward the reprobate in Romans 9:22 (cf. 2:4), curiously cited to support a love toward salvation directed to such as have been indicated to have been hated (verse 15). That these verses may not legitimately be cited as providing a parallel to 2 Peter 3:9, is clear from the explicit reference to the elect as objects of the divine longsuffering in Luke 18:7. The broader context of 2 Peter 3 confirms the particularist view of the passage. Why does the second coming of Christ seem to be delayed? Because in the longsuffering of God the elect, who sometimes long resist the gospel, must all be made willing in the day of God’s power before they stand before the throne on the great day.

In Ezekiel 33:11 as in 18:23,32, the rendering “have no pleasure” gives the proper sense, i.e. the Lord is pleased when the wicked repents, and is not pleased when he does not. The text does not assert that the Lord is pleased that the wicked should repent even when he does not. If the latter is given the sense that repentance as such is always approved by God, this truth could imply that God is pleased that the devil should repent. But surely no sober Christian would want to say that God desires the salvation of Satan. The general remark that the non-literal anthropomorphic ascription of desire is unobjectionable in itself applies also to these passages. But the widespread representation of this desire as an intention aiming at the salvation of all renders the expression undesirable, especially when the desire is viewed as an irrational urge. These passages powerfully present the sinner’s DUTY, while they do not treat of his ABILITY to obey or of the Lord’s secret counsels. Nor is there a valid reason for supposing a contradiction implied between the will of decree and what is pleasing to God.

Matthew 23:37 is commonly misquoted as if it read, “how often would I have gathered you … and ye would not.” The text does not make a contrast between the Lord’s will and the wills of those whom he would gather, but between his compassion for Jerusalem’s children and the opposition of their leaders who have been denounced in the preceding passage. The sympathy of the Saviour is the expression of his humanity which he assumed in order that he might become a High Priest that could be touched with a feeling of our infirmities. To draw inferences as to what his divine nature might be in back of this distinctive feature of his sacred humanity is surely unwarrantable speculation into what has not been revealed.

To combine these passages and to add texts like Matthew 5:45 which do not refer to the way of salvation, but common mercies like rain and sunshine, is hardly to present cumulative evidence for a thesis nowhere plainly taught in Scripture, and contrary to Scripture when intended to conflict with the immutability of God’s counsel. The accumulation of a series of zeros, however elaborated, is, after all, only zero.

The desire to avoid extremes in declaring the truth is no doubt commendable, but yielding to the tempting claims of the opposite extreme even in minor matters has proved repeatedly in the history of the Church to be a step in the downward path to apostasy. The rampant evils of Arminianism among Evangelicals and Amyraldianism among Calvinists are only encouraged by adopting and even stressing the pet slogans with which they attack or obscure the doctrines of grace. Strangely, one favorite text of those who have throughout the history of Christianity insisted that God wants all men to be saved is not appealed to at present by Calvinists who use such expressions. Can it be that they realize that to take 1 Timothy 2:4 in a universalistic sense requires understanding verses 5 and 6 to teach a universal atonement, even if the will in 2:4 were taken as simply the will of command? Exegetically, as well as systematically, the thesis of Amyraldian universal grace issues in the assertion of universal redemption.

http://reformedpresbyterianveritasdocuments.blogspot.com/2009/01/free-offer-of-gospel-dr-william-young.html#more

The Gospel for the Right “Sort of People” Who Accept the “Offer”?

March 22, 2014

Matthew Barrett, Salvation by Grace, Presbyterian and Reformed, 2013, p 78.

“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 simply a promise meant only for the elect. The only thing the nonelect receive in hearing this message is condemnation.”

A few responses from Mark McCulley

Throughout Barrett’s book the reference to “historic” or “traditional” Calvinism is used as a code word to mean the “universal sufficiency” view of Andrew Fuller. He wants to equate “old Calvinism” with the contested idea that “God loves everybody, at least enough to WANT TO save them. Barrett does not discuss the writing 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).”

His finite mind is simply not satisfied with any idea that God loves some sinners and does not love other sinners, so he assumes that only other minds perhaps more finite than his own would be satisfied with a rational solution. His view does, you must remember, come along with some Bible texts referenced in parenthesis. But nowhere does either he show 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.

Those 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. God’s law does not depend on the ability of humans to keep it for that law to be legitimate. 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, by making duty depend on God’s supposed desire to save that person. Instead of merely saying that God commands all sinners to believe the gospel, the Andrew Fuller assumption is that God commanding you to believe the gospel, must mean that God wishes (unsuccessfully in many cases) that you would believe the gospel.

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? 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?

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.

If there can be no sin unless God has first somehow loved us and desired our salvation, then this changes everything about how we approach the Bible. Instead of beginning with our plight (before the law), the Andrew Fuller approach begins with good intentions from God, in which God’s love, is supposedly universally sufficient but in the end not enough to be the solution.

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 difference? Are there any elect who will never believe the gospel? Are there any non-elect who will believe the gospel? How can the gospel be good news 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. The gospel is good news for those who believe. The gospel 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.

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). All that talk about “ability” and “sufficiency” 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. Nor do I need to connect that command to some philosophical account of “ability”.

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 propitiation 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.

Those who defend the “offer” justify their version of grace (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!

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.