Monday, August 13, 2007

Garrett on Calvinism in the Alabama Baptist, Pt. 2

In his article entitled, "Calvinism: What does it mean?," Dr. Garrett makes the following comment on hyper-Calvinism:
A third meaning, no longer in common use, takes Calvinism to be the professed teaching of certain 18th-century English Congregationalists and Particular Baptists, a group believing that only the "elect" could be saved. These teachings we now properly label "Hyper-Calvinism." Five distinctive teachings of Hyper-Calvinism can be identified:

- God's decree from eternity to elect some human beings for salvation and reprobate (or eternally damn) others as being logically the first of God's decrees (a teaching known as supralapsarianism);

- an eternal covenant among the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the redemption of elect humans through the Son (covenant of redemption);

- the eternal justification of the elect without the requisite faith on the part of the elect in history (eternal justification);

- the discouragement of the preacher's "offering of grace" indiscriminately to his hearers (no offers of grace) and

- Christians as not obligated to obey the moral law of the Old Testament (antinomianism).
Before offering my own thoughts I want to point you to other responses that are worth reading. Michael Haykin has responded to Dr. Garrett in his typical, irenic and careful way, taking exception to Dr. Garrett at several points. Timmy Brister, in his typical, balanced and comprehensive way, has already posted 4 of his multi-part responses with more to come (1, 2, 3, 4). Both of these men are worth reading.

To call these five points "distinctive" teachings of hyper-Calvinism suggests that those who hold to any of them are advocating, at least partially, hyper-Calvinism. While that case can be made for the last three of those teachings, it cannot be made for the first two. The first two of Garrett's points are held by many Calvinists who are decidedly against the deadly error or hyperism. John Bunyan was a supralapsarian and the Philadelpia Baptist Confession of Faith recognizes a covenant of redemption, stating that the covenant of grace "is founded in that eternal covenant transaction that was between the Father and the Son about the redemption of the elect" (chapter 7, para. 3).

While nearly all hyper-Calvinists affirm the covenant of redemption and are supralapsarian, not all who hold those points of theology are hyper-Calvinistic. Had Garrett limited his "distinctive" teachings to the last three on his list, I would have no reason to take exception.

In an excellent article on hyper-Calvinism, Phil Johnson provides this helpful definition by Peter Toon:
1. [Hyper-Calvinism] is a system of theology framed to exalt the honour and glory of God and does so by acutely minimizing the moral and spiritual responsibility of sinners . . . It emphasizes irresistible grace to such an extent that there appears to be no real need to evangelize; furthermore, Christ may be offered only to the elect. . . .
2. It is that school of supralapsarian 'five-point' Calvinism which so stresses the sovereignty of God by over-emphasizing the secret over the revealed will of God and eternity over time, that it minimizes the responsibility of sinners, notably with respect to the denial of the use of the word "offer" in relation to the preaching of the gospel; thus it undermines the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly in the Lord Jesus with the assurance that Christ actually died for them; and it encourages introspection in the search to know whether or not one is elect. [Peter Toon, "Hyper-Calvinism," New Dictionary of Theology (Leicester: IVP, 1988), 324.]
I find this definition far less problematic than Dr. Garrett's "five distinctive teachings" approach.

Dr. Garrett makes the following claim later in this article:
Total depravity may not have been a key difference between the men of Dort and the Remonstrates. The interpretation of faith and repentance by Dort as gifts from God and by the Remonstrates as human duties may have been a leading difference, for the third article in the Remonstrant confession of faith refers to "saving faith."
Evangelical Calvinism does not believe that the claim that repentance and faith are gifts of grace and the claim that they are universal duties are mutually exclusive. The Bible teaches both. At Mars Hill Paul said, "God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent" (Acts 17:30). Repentance is clearly a duty required. But it is also the gift of God. As Peter puts it, ""He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31; cf. Acts 11:18).

It is also the duty of people to believe the Gospel. Paul and Silas commanded the Philippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 16:31; cf. Matthew 11:28). But faith is also the gift of God. As Paul puts it, "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake , not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Philippians 1:29).

The Canons of Dort recognize that faith and repentance are obligations. They state, "By this ministry [preaching of the Gospel] people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified" (1.3). Further, those who do not believe are to be blamed for the cause lies in them and "not at all in God" (1.5). As the New Hampshire Confession puts it, "We believe that Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God" (8).

Indeed, it is at just this point where the real biblical strength of evangelical Calvinism is seen most clearly. It willingly integrates those teachings of the Bible that tend to make the rational mind think they cannot be believed at the same time; ie. that faith is both a gift and a duty, or that man is both depraved and responsible. The Bible teaches both. True Calvinism recognizes this and affirms both.

27 comments:

YnottonY said...

Hi Tom,

You stated that John Bunyan was a supralapsarian. I have seen that stated in some secondary sources as well. Do you know where I might go in Bunyan's own writings to verify that? Or, what secondary sources do you think persuasively argue that he was?

I don't know either way, but I would like to check it out, especially since I have read differing opinions on that. I wonder if some people (not you) conclude that he was supralapsarian because he believed God's decree of election and reprobation was prior to the HISTORICAL fall in Genesis (which all Calvinists believe), rather than being logically prior to the DECREE to permit the fall (which is where they differ with infralapsarians). Investigating the primary sources to see what is said in context would be helpful. I own the 3 volume 1977 Baker edition of his works, so I would be able to check it out in book form, as well as online. Any recommendations?

Thanks,
Tony

YnottonY said...

Here are two more definitions or descriptions (in addition to Toon's--whose work on the subject is online HERE) by Dr. Curt Daniel and Iain Murray.

Curt Daniel, in his doctoral dissertation on Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill, gives his definition as:

"Hyper-Calvinism is that school of Supralapsarian "Five Point" Calvinism which so stresses the sovereignty of God by over-emphasizing the secret over the revealed will and eternity over time, that it minimizes the responsibility of Man, notably with respect to the denial of the word "offer" in relation to the preaching of the Gospel of a finished and limited atonement, thus undermining the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly with the assurance that the Lord Jesus Christ died for them, with the result that presumption is overly warned of, introspection is overly encouraged, and a view of sanctification akin to doctrinal Antinomianism is often approached. This (definition) could be summarized even further: it is the rejection of the word "offer" in connection with evangelism for supposedly Calvinistic reasons."

Curt Daniel, "Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill" (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1983), p. 767.

Iain Murray gives something of a description in The Forgotten Spurgeon:

"Hyper-Calvinism in its attempt to square all truth with God's purpose to save the elect, denies that there is a universal command to repent and believe, and asserts that we have only warrant to invite to Christ those who are conscious of a sense of sin and need. In other words, it is those who have been spiritually quickened to seek a Saviour and not those who are in the death of unbelief and indifference, to whom the exhortations of the Gospel must be addressed. In this way a scheme was devised for restricting the Gospel to those who there is reason to suppose are elect."

The Forgotten Spurgeon (Banner of Truth, 1998), p. 47.

My own definition is much like Phil Johnson's:

Hyper-Calvinism is that school of theology that so emphasizes the sovereign, decretal will of God to the exclusion of the preceptive will, that one or more of these points follows:

1) The universal love of God for all men, as taught by the doctrine of common grace, is denied.

2) The sincere desire of God that all men keep his commandment to believe on Christ (The well-meant offer) is denied.

3) The universal responsibility of men to believe the gospel is denied (duty-faith).

4) The TULIP doctrines are elevated to an essential status, so that those denying any of the points are on that basis lost sinners.

Tom said...

Tony:

Bunyan's graphic depiction of salvation including the order of decrees is the source of my information on his views. I have a framed copy that is not accessible at the moment. I have no idea if it is available online anywhere.

YnottonY said...

Ok. Thanks for the reply, Tom. I will search around and see if I can come up with that graphic. If I happen to find it, I will send it (or a link) your way.

YnottonY said...

Hi Tom,

I found it already. What you appear to be referencing is his "A Map, showing the Order and Causes of Salvation and Damnation." In the table of contents of vol. 3 of his Works (vi.), it says:

"This curious and rare copper-plate engraving, on a large sheet, was published in 1663; soon after the author was first sent to prison, the profits probably assisted in maintaining his family. It is now engraved from an original impression in 1691, at which time the words, "Author of The Pilgrim's Progress," and the publishers names, were added."

I could not actually find the graphic in my volume 3, but it is referred to in the table of contents. Here it is online:

A Map Showing the Order and Causes of Salvation and Damnation
GIF (1mb), PDF (1132k)

The source page is here:

John Bunyan Online (see volume 3)

YnottonY said...

If that is the graphic you are referring to, I can't see anything in it yet that would suggest supralapsarianism. Is that the graphic you're referencing? And if so, where should I look to see what you're saying?

YnottonY said...

According to that chart, it looks like Bunyan is outlining and bifurcating redemptive history (ordo rerum creatarum), and not getting into the order of the eternal decrees (ordo rerum decretarum). Do you have any other sources? It doesn't seem that this chart proves it. He does get into the ordo salutis as the title suggests, but within the framework of redemptive history.

Darby Livingston said...

The closest I find is in "Some Gospel Truths Opened" in Vol. ii, pg. 141 (Banner of Truth, 1999)where Bunyan says, "I shall speak a few words concerning God's fore-ordaining and purposing, that a Christ, a Saviour, should be, and that before the world began. Now God in is own wisdom and counsel, knowing what would come to pass, as if it were already done (Rom. 4:17). He knowing that man would break his commandments, and so throw himself under eternal destruction, did in his own purpose fore-ordain such a thing as the rise of him that should fall, and that by a Saviour,... That is, God seeing that we would transgress, and break his commandment, did before choose some of those that would fall,and give them to him that should afterward purchase them actually, though in the account of God, his blood was shed before the world was (Rev. 13:8)"

He writes more, but that's the closest I could find in perusing his collected works.

orthodox said...

>Indeed, it is at just this point where the real biblical
>strength of evangelical Calvinism is seen most
>clearly. It willingly integrates those teachings of the
>Bible that tend to make the rational mind think they
>cannot be believed at the same time

If it was a strength to integrate in such a fashion, then Calvinists would believe in synergism, that both man and God are involved in the choice. However the "rational mind" of Calvinism cannot accept this.

Darby Livingston said...

"If it was a strength to integrate in such a fashion, then Calvinists would believe in synergism, that both man and God are involved in the choice. However the "rational mind" of Calvinism cannot accept this."

I don't know a Calvinist who doesn't think that both man and God are involved in the choice. It's just a matter of 1) who makes the first choice, and 2) who gets the credit for the choice made. Calvinists can accept any statement of Scripture placed side by side with another text. Arminians cannot. That is why many Arminians resort to prooftexting. Calvinists have an answer for how seemingly conflicting texts fit together. Arminians tend to dismiss texts they find irksome by saying, "What about John 3:16?" and "God desires all to come to repentance." I know this is a generalization. But I think the shoe fits most.

Tom said...

Tony:

Look at Bunyan's Reprobation Asserted.

Blessings,
tom

Tom said...

Orthodox:

Welcome to the discussion. Your assertion is just that. Do you think the Bble teaches synergism, as it is historically defined? If so, where, and how?

Blessings,
tom

A.Schroeder said...

Ynottony:

Are you sure what you quoted from Phil Johnson is the historical idea of a hyper-calvinist? Would everyone else here agree with the 4 points quoted as accurately describing a hyper?

I believe that we must go and preach the gospel to all mankind. Not only are we commanded to do this, but we also do not know the hidden decree of God and who his elect are. I also believe that we are not to live by the decree of God but by the commands of God. I reject antinomianism and do believe that God will be glorified in His wrath against sin, whether suffered for eternity by the sinner, or by Christ for His sheep. HOWEVER, regarding the 4 points:

1) The universal love of God for all men, as taught by the doctrine of common grace, is denied.

I don't think there is anything "common" about grace, but that's another topic. I deny that God loves both believers and unbelievers in exactly the same way. I believe that to experience true love, one must have the life of Christ in the soul since the love of God is what flows between the Father and the Son. Yes, I do believe that God has mercy on all mankind and loves what He sees of Himself in unbelievers - namely His own image stamped upon them. But this is much different than the way believers share in His love.

2) The sincere desire of God that all men keep his commandment to believe on Christ (The well-meant offer) is denied.

To believe this statement, one must admit that God sincerely desires things that He will not and cannot bring to pass. It is not logically inconsistent to say that God commands people to do something that He does not from the standpoint of His decree desire for them to do. We are to live by His commands not His decrees. But His eternal decree is in accord with His desires and He will always accomplish what He desires. Therefore I simply cannot accept the above statement (I deny it) because it portrays in impotent view of God or at least a view of God where he exalts man's desires above His own.

3) The universal responsibility of men to believe the gospel is denied (duty-faith).

Perhaps I might agree with the intent of this statement, but I still cannot say that man is responsible = "able to respond" though he must stand before God and give an account. God does not give His commands because fallen man is able to keep them. He gives them to show mankind that we are unable to keep them and so need grace. This is true for believers and unbelievers. The reason there are so many pharisees is that people think they have the ability in themselves to keep God's command rather than seeing that they must have grace to do anything pleasing to God. I also do not think we should call it an "offer" of grace. The word offer conotes that the person receiving the offer has the abilit in and of himself to accept or reject the offer, which stands in contradiction to the doctrine of man's deadness in sin -- total depravity. Now is that a hyper-calvinist view?

4) The TULIP doctrines are elevated to an essential status, so that those denying any of the points are on that basis lost sinners.

What does this mean? No, I do not believe a person needs to be able to articulate the tenets of Calvinism or even have any knowledge of the terminology in order to be saved. But I do believe that a person must come to the end of themselves, "despair of themselves" as Martin Luther put it in order to be saved. Such a person will not cling to their own ability or their "part" in salvation because they know experientially that their salvation was entirely a work of grace. I find it hard to believe that someone who really wants to assert (and isn't just confused about terms) that human will of itself had some role to play in salvation can really have experientially come to know what grace really is.

GeneMBridges said...

Ahem,

Just a quick programming note, Darby and Tom. Orthodox is speaking from an Eastern Orthodox point of view, not an Arminian POV.

That said, one can take a look, for example here:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/08/how-to-be-five-point-shrink.html

to see what passes for exegesis and argumentation on his end. This will give you an understanding of what has already been reviewed with him.

Steve and I have already been over this with Orthodox already. If you'll notice, one side argues from exegesis, the other tries to blunt the force of that by invoking another Scripture.

YnottonY said...

Hi Tom,

I will check out Bunyan's Reprobation Asserted more thoroughly, but I would find it odd if he articulated a supralapsarian viewpoint in that work since he clearly argues that Christ suffered for the sins of all mankind in that work. He even grounds the free offer to that universal aspect of Christ's death in Chapter 9. Bunyan says:

"Chapter 9

Whether God would indeed and in truth, that the gospel, with the grace thereof, should be tendered to those that yet he hath bound up under Eternal Reprobation?

To this question I shall answer,

First, In the language of our Lord, 'Go preach the gospel unto every creature' (Mark 16:15); and again, 'Look unto me, and be ye saved; all ye ends of the earth' (Isa 45:22). 'And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely' (Rev 22:17). And the reason is, because Christ died for all, 'tasted death for every man' (2 Cor 5:15; Heb 2:9); is 'the Saviour of the world' (1 John 4:14), and the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

Second, I gather it from those several censures that even every one goeth under, that doth not receive Christ, when offered in the general tenders of the gospel; 'He that believeth not, - shall be damned' (Mark 16:16); 'He that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his son' (1 John 5:10); and, Woe unto thee Capernaum, 'Woe unto thee Chorazin! woe unto thee Bethsaida!' (Matt 11:21) with many other sayings, all which words, with many other of the same nature, carry in them a very great argument to this very purpose; for if those that perish in the days of the gospel, shall have, at least, their damnation heightened, because they have neglected and refused to receive the gospel, it must needs be that the gospel was with all faithfulness to be tendered unto them; the which it could not be, unless the death of Christ did extend itself unto them (John 3:16; Heb 2:3); for the offer of the gospel cannot, with God's allowance, be offered any further than the death of Jesus Christ doth go; because if that be taken away, there is indeed no gospel, nor grace to be extended. Besides, if by every creature, and the like, should be meant only the elect, then are all the persuasions of the gospel to no effect at all; for still the unconverted, who are here condemned for refusing of it, they return it as fast again: I do not know I am elect, and therefore dare not come to Jesus Christ; for if the death of Jesus Christ, and so the general tender of the gospel, concern the elect alone; I, not knowing myself to be one of that number, am at a mighty plunge; nor know I whether is the greater sin, to believe, or to despair: for I say again, if Christ died only for the elect, &c. then, I not knowing myself to be one of that number, dare not believe the gospel, that holds forth his blood to save me; nay, I think with safety may not, until I first do know I am elect of God, and appointed thereunto."

Buynan clearly argues for a view that Christ died for all, and so the gospel can be tendered or offered to all on that basis. If He did not die for all, then the "offer" would be as hollow as offering someone the hollow of a donut. Nothing would be held out to the non-elect as a sufficient remedy for their guilt, if Christ only died for the elect, according to Bunyan's statements above. Just look at how he interprets some of the controversial passages. Frankly, I think he is right in his interpretations and his arguments. He's just arguing for a classical conception of the sufficient for all/efficient for the elect formula, as over against Owen's hypothetical sufficiency (i.e., Christ's death COULD HAVE BEEN sufficient for all, had God so intended). W. G. T. Shedd argues the same thing as Bunyan when he says:

"The universal offer of the gospel is consistent with the divine purpose of predestination because (1) Christ's atonement is [Tony: not "could have been sufficient" as Owen says] a sufficient satisfaction for the sins of all men and (2) God sincerely desires that every man to whom the atonement is offered would trust in it."

W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003), p. 349.

I will read that entire writing as soon as possible, but, again, I would find it very odd if he argues for supralapsarianism therein.

Thanks again,
Tony

YnottonY said...

a schroeder,

You ask:
"Are you sure what you quoted from Phil Johnson is the historical idea of a hyper-calvinist?"

Actually, read what I posted again. I didn't quote Phil Johnson. Tom Ascol did. Prior to giving my definition of hyper-Calvinism, I said that "My own definition is much like Phil Johnson's." Nevertheless, I know that he would concur with the gist of my definition, even if he may word things differently. He read my Radio Interview on Hyper-Calvinism post and called it "terrific."

You say:
"I believe that we must go and preach the gospel to all mankind."

When discussing the well-meant gospel offer," it doesn't so much concern whether or not YOU, or any evangelist, is willing to go out and "preach the gospel to all mankind." It concerns whether or not God is sincerely or well-meaningly offering Christ to all; that is, does God want all to comply with the gospel commandments? Observe carefully what R. B. Kuiper (President of Calvin College from 1930-33) said:
“When the Reformed theology describes the universal offer of salvation as sincere, it does not merely mean that the human preacher, who obviously cannot distinguish with certainty between the elect and the non-elect, must for that reason issue to all men indescriminately a most sincere offer of eternal life and an equally sincere invitation to accept that offer. It most assuredly means that, but it means incomparably more. The Reformed theology insists that God Himself, who has determined from eternity who are to be saved and who are not, and therefore distinguishes infallibly between the elect whom He designed to save by the death of Christ and the reprobate whom He did not design to save, makes on the ground of the universally suitable and sufficient atonement a most sincere, bona fide, offer of eternal life, not only to the elect but to all men, urgently invites them to life everlasting, and expresses the ardent desire that every person to whom this offer and this invitation come accept the offer and comply with the invitation.”

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

It is ultimately God himself who sincerely offers Christ to all, and that's the key point.

YnottonY said...

a shroeder,

With respect to my first point on hyper-Calvinism, i.e. 1) The universal love of God for all men, as taught by the doctrine of common grace, is denied...

You say:
"I don't think there is anything "common" about grace, but that's another topic."

This doesn't suprise me. The grace of God is "common" in the sense that He is generally gracious to all, but reserves "special" grace for only the elect. By "common," we mean general love, kindness, benevolence, mercy is granted to all in the common bounties of providence. If you want passages which affirm this, then see my post: Common "Grace"?

If you want to see what certain Reformed/Calvinistic men have said historically about grace, then read what Thomas Manton (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Samuel Rutherford (2), William Perkins, John Knox, William Jenkyn (2) have said. I could post Calvin on the subject, but that would take up far too much space, since he so clearly affirms common grace. If you will not heed the teachings of these men, then certainly I can't help you either.

You said:
"I deny that God loves both believers and unbelievers in exactly the same way."

I didn't say that God loves believers and unbelievers in exactly the same way. What I said is that God loves all mankind. We all know that God loves some more than others, which is why we say God loves all mankind, but especially the elect. Whoever denies that God loves the non-elect is a hyper-Calvinist. That was the point. If you affirm that God LOVES the non-elect, then my point does not apply to you. God loves men in different ways and in differing degrees throughout redemptive history, but it is still true that he loves the non-elect, but not as he does the elect.

YnottonY said...

a schroeder,

You said, in response to my second point, i.e. 2) The sincere desire of God that all men keep his commandment to believe on Christ (The well-meant offer) is denied...

"To believe this statement, one must admit that God sincerely desires things that He will not and cannot bring to pass."

No. To believe the statement, one must believe that God wills things that he wills not to bring to pass. So, one must believe that he wills what he does not will at the same time, but in different senses. You're failure is to distinguish between senses of God's will. God wills for us to comply with his commandments, even in those cases where he has determined to leave us in our own sinful inclinations with the result that disobedience takes place. The ultimate example is seen in the cross. God truly wills that men not commit murder, but he nevertheless willed that the soldiers and Jews be left to their own sinful propensions and thus murder his Son.

You said:
"It is not logically inconsistent to say that God commands people to do something that He does not from the standpoint of His decree desire for them to do."

You're thinking that the law of non-contradiction is this:

A cannot be non-A at the same time.

When the law is actually this:

A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same sense.

So, God can will and nill the same thing at the same time, but in different senses, just as God can be both one and three at the same time but in different senses. God chooses, in his wisdom and sovereignty, not to effect some things that he truly wills. This is not a novel opinion. For more on this, just read Prosper, John Howe (2), Francis Turretin, William Perkins, William Cunningham, Thomas Manton, James Durham, Samuel Rutherford, Johannes Wollebius, R. L. Dabney, Charles Hodge, Charles Spurgeon, John Frame, and Donald Westblade. If you will not heed what these men have to say, then certainly you won't hear me either.

You said:
"We are to live by His commands not His decrees."

Of course. No one has asserted otherwise. But the key question is: Does God want us to comply with his commandments when we do not? Answer: YES!

You said:
"But His eternal decree is in accord with His desires and He will always accomplish what He desires."

You're only associating God's desires with his decretal will. I agree that God's decretal will determines whatsoever comes to pass and is always efficacious, but his revealed or preceptive will also indicates what he truly wills, even if He has determined that it shall not be effected.

You said:
"Therefore I simply cannot accept the above statement (I deny it) because it portrays in impotent view of God or at least a view of God where he exalts man's desires above His own."

You cannot accept it because you're only thinking of God's decretal will as the only true will. His commands, according to your conceptions, do not indicate a divine desire for compliance. That's the mistake.

YnottonY said...

a schroeder,

When I get back from work tonight, I will reply to your points regarding my #3 and #4 descriptions of hyperism.

A.Schroeder said...

Actually, read what I posted again. I didn't quote Phil Johnson. Tom Ascol did.

My mistake. Please allow me to make a few comments about the points numbered below:

1. With regards to the comment about "common" grace, I was just trying to get at the idea that the meaning and connotations of words can have an affect on one's perception of what is being said. Common can have the connotation of lowly or not worth much, such as people being referred to as "the commoners." I wasn't meaning to deny the sense in which God shows mercy and compassion to unbelievers. Sorry. I just meant that I don't like grace being referred to as "common" in that sense. I would, however, tend to distinguish between the words grace & mercy. Grace being what flows through the life of Christ in the believer and mercy being God's restraint of His wrath out of love. And yes, there is a sense in which God's love is shown to unbelievers, but not at all in the same way that it is manifested in believers. Perhaps this is just being nit-picky and so I won't argue with what you have responded.

2. Whoever denies that God loves the non-elect is a hyper-Calvinist.
Ok, then let me ask you for clarification's sake: what is it about unbelievers that God loves? What is it about believers that God loves? Are they an end or terminal object of God's love? I think the answers to these questions would help determine what is meant by love.

3. one must believe that he wills what he does not will at the same time, but in different senses.
I am familiar with the different uses of the word will, though I'm sure not to the degree that you have studied the writers you list. In my current understanding of the will (from Luther & Edwards), the will is more or less the greatest desire of a person. In fact, I believe Edwards would say that man IS a will. In this sense man can never act against his will because he is always acting or thinking according to his greatest desire. But when I apply this understanding of the will to God, it does not make sense to me how he can have contradictory desires from the standpoint of His decree. When you say that God wills things that he does not bring to pass, you must not be meaning this from a decretive standpoint (as you say). That leaves us with His will of command. But if he wills something by command, it does not necessarily follow that this is His desire, (which I see as a word that can only be used to describe God from a decretive standpoint) or you must then be prepared to say that God does not always act according to His desire. I believe that God's desires are perfect and He always acts according to His every desire and that no desire stands in contradiction to itself.

Where does scripture teach that God desires something that He doesn't accomplish?

God truly wills that men not commit murder, but he nevertheless willed that the soldiers and Jews be left to their own sinful propensions and thus murder his Son.

What do you mean by "truly wills"? I agree that God commands men not to commit murder. However, if ultimately all things are worked for good and all things are from God and to God, and He works all things according to the counsel of His will, then could it be that it was really God's desire that the men commit murder and that he accomplished this desire by leaving the soldiers & Jews to their own sinful propensities? When speaking of "desire" I do not think it right to also say that God desired for them not to murder Christ. I realize this leads to the position that God must desire for sin to happen, though I do not think it leads to calling God the author of sin and I also do not think that this provides justification for any to sin -- that would be in my mind hyper-calvinisim, or attempting to live by the decree of God.

but his revealed or preceptive will also indicates what he truly wills, even if He has determined that it shall not be effected.

What is the ultimate purpose of God's commandments (revealed will)? Do you think it is possible that God can command things that He does not desire to happen? Did God give His commandments in hopes that we would obey them or for some other purpose?


I suppose this could go on forever, but my real question is this: Is what I have written above indicative of a hyper-calvinist view? Is it simply the view of God's will and desire that makes a person a hyper-calvinist, or is it rather the practical outflow and whether a person operates according to decree or command? If the latter, then that is my problem with part of Phil Johnson's distinctions as they are directed at the former. If the former, then I guess I will have to accept the label, though I think you would then find quite a few more "hyper-calvinists" than you think.

YnottonY said...

a schroeder said in response to my third description of hyperism, i.e. 3) The universal responsibility of men to believe the gospel is denied (duty-faith)...

"Perhaps I might agree with the intent of this statement, but I still cannot say that man is responsible = "able to respond" though he must stand before God and give an account."

What you're saying is that man is accountable, but not responsible. Why? Because you want to deny that man is "able to respond." I covered this earlier when I distinguished between moral and constitutional ability. Man is "able to respond" in the sense of constitutional ability (he possesses all the necessary faculties to obey), but he is not "able to respond" in the sense of moral ability (i.e. possessing the moral liberty to want to obey, since he always wants to serve sin with his God-given faculties). What makes the unbelieving man accountable before God is the fact that he is using his God-given faculties sinfully. He is using his "members" to serve uncleanness. Paul, in talking to believers, describes their former unbelieving state this way:

NKJ Romans 6:19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

NKJ Romans 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.

The unregenerate are using their God-given bodies, minds and wills to serve sin, when they should be using those members to serve righteousness. This is why they are "accountable." In the final judgement, Jesus finds fault with them because they refused to feed the hungry, to satisfy the thirsty, to be hospitable to strangers, to give clothes to those without, and to visit some in prison (see Matthew 25:41-46). That is, they possessed the faculties to do such things, but did not do so because they were using their God-given abilities to perpetually serve sin. They did these things because they were morally depraved, and not because they lacked constitutional capacities. Therefore, accountability still presupposes a sense of ability, but not moral ability.

You also said:
"God does not give His commands because fallen man is able to keep them."

As Tom and I pointed out by citing the Synod of Dort and Stephen Charnock, God is not commanding blocks of wood to obey him. He is commanding men who are in the image of God, i.e. creatures who have all the necessary faculties to comply with God's revealed will. So, "able to keep them," need not imply moral ability, as you seem to associate the idea with.

You said:
"He gives them to show mankind that we are unable to keep them and so need grace."

Sure. That is one of the reasons, so long as by "unable to keep them" you mean morally unable, hence the need for grace. Also, we should not say this to negate the point that God also gives his moral commandments to men because they reflect His own Holiness and what He truly wills for them to do, i.e. He wants compliance/obedience.

Schroeder said:
"I also do not think we should call it an "offer" of grace. The word offer connotes that the person receiving the offer has the ability in and of himself to accept or reject the offer, which stands in contradiction to the doctrine of man's deadness in sin -- total depravity. Now is that a hyper-calvinist view?"

Yes, that is a hyper-Calvinistic view. That's one of the things Dr. Curt Daniel mentioned in his definition above. Go here to see all the Reformed/Calvinistic confessions that call the gospel an "offer".

I actually think it is perceptive of you to notice that the word "offer" connotes some sense of ability in the possible recipient, but it does NOT mean they have this ability "in and of himself." We can do nothing "in and of ourselves," for in God we (every human being) live, move and have our being. We have God-given faculties and he keeps us in existence to be able to excersize these faculties. I am saying that "offers" presuppose constitutional abilities as our existence is sustained by God, so that it is not "in and of ourselves." Moreover, man's "deadness in sin," or "total depravity," does not mean that we have lost the image of God. I already cited passages to prove that point.

As I stated above, I think it is right to say that offers presuppose a sense of ability in the potential recipient. The very fact that they can hear the proposal assumes that. The unregenerate still have ears, minds and wills. For the sake of others reading this, let me mention a few other things that "offers" presuppose when speaking about God, an omnibenevolent being. Offers presuppose:

1) Constitutional ability, but not moral ability. That point has already been expounded above.

2) A willingness in God to grant what is offered. If God makes an If/Then proposal, then that indicates a willingness to grant what is proposed. Either the gospel is well-meant or it is ill-meant. It is certainly not non-meant. Since God loves all mankind, albeit unequally, he does wish their well-being (i.e., he does not delight in the death of the sinner), hence the willingness to grant Christ as a remedy to heal man's miserable and/or sinful condition.

3) That the gospel is conditional. An "offer" is a conditional proposal. Suppose I said to you, "if you email me and ask, I will buy you the book of your choosing." That would be a conditional offer, but not that your "emailing me and asking me" somehow merited the book. The term "condition" need not have meritorious connotations, but it can have that meaning at times, hence the Calvinistic term "unconditional election." We do not merit, earn or do anything virtuous to bring about God's choice of us as over against others. With that said, the term "condition" can have an instrumental sense. The bleeding woman who reached out to touch Jesus used her hand to touch him. Her hand was the instrumental cause of her healing, but not a meritorious cause, even though it was a virtuous act. Saving faith is a virtuous act and an instrumental condition like that. Some hyper-Calvinists can only think of conditionality in the meritorious sense, so they erroneously reject the evangelical covenant as being an "offer." For more on this point of instrumental conditionality, see John Flavel's Reply to Baptist Hyper-Calvinism. Robert Shaw also covers various senses of conditionality in his Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith concerning justification, but he is reluctant to speak of "conditions" because of the potential misunderstanding it might cause, i.e. some taking it only in a meritorious sense.

4) Offers presuppose the reality of the thing offered. It would be asinine to offer the hollow of a donut to a person. Literally nothing is held out for their taking. If a well-meaning/honest doctor heartily offers a remedy to a sick person, then it means he has prepared something for them to take. He holds up a bottle of medicine and says, "come and drink this, and you will get better." There must be an adequate, suitable, sufficient and applicable remedy held out for them to take, whether they come or not. Coming does not create the reality of the bottle. The bottle is aleady there for the taking, whether it's accepted or rejected. The life and death of Christ is that adequate, suitable, sufficient and applicable remedy for the sin of the whole human race, hence the freeness of God's gospel offer. God is not like a stingy man who invites the whole neighborhood over for dinner when he only has a single chicken leg in the refrigerator. The great King has already prepared a great feast in the body and blood of Christ. Therefore he bids men to "taste and see that the Lord is good." Our God is exceedingly generous in Christ, and so sound Calvinistic theologians have said that His death is sufficient for the salvation of a thousand worlds besides this one.

God's gospel "offer" at least presupposes these 4 things, and different people reject one or more of the points for various reasons. It sounds to me like you, a. Schroeder, would reject #'s 1, 2, and 4 for sure, and probably #3 as well. Others that I speak with openly reject #4, but secretly have problems with #2 as well. But, for ministry reasons and/or friendship associations, they keep silent about it. If they openly spoke out against #2, their latent hyperism would be manifest. Just so they know, I see you ;-)

YnottonY said...

For others reading these comments, Dr. Ascol is on record saying this:

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

Note carefully what is being said:

1) God desires the salvation of all mankind.

The universal SAVING will of God is wholeheartedly affirmed, even speaking of it as a "desire" in God, according to his "revealed" will. So, it's not merely the case that God passively delights in sinners repenting, but he is actively seeking compliance to gospel commandments, which is why he warns and pleads with those who are perishing. That is a vital point and it is classical Calvinism.

2) God purposes to save the elect.

Dr. Ascol is using "purpose" to speak to the efficacious or "decretal" dimension of God's will, which can nevertheless be distinguished from what he "desires" in "revealed" will.

3) God has one will with distinct dimensions.

Given the distinctions, one can say that God both wills and does not will the same thing, but in different senses. Therefore, God does desire/wish or will the salvation of all, even though he has purposed that it shall not come to pass in the case of the non-elect.

4) A failure to make this distinction is a failure to carefully read the bible.

So, while it is true that Reformed/Calvinistic men have historically made the distinction, it's ultimately grounded in the bible itself. It's as old as Deuteronomy 29:29:

NKJ Deuteronomy 29:29 "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

YnottonY said...

In response to my fourth point on hyperism, i.e. 4) The TULIP doctrines are elevated to an essential status, so that those denying any of the points are on that basis lost sinners...

You ask:
"What does this mean?"

It means that there are some hyper-Calvinists out there who think that so called "three" and "four point" Calvinists are lost. Why? Because they equate the gospel with the believing the TULIP doctrines. A repudiation of one or more of the points just shows that one is unregenerate, according to their views.

You say:
"No, I do not believe a person needs to be able to articulate the tenets of Calvinism or even have any knowledge of the terminology in order to be saved."

Quite frankly, the TULIP is not the gospel. The five points of Calvinism are doctrines that expand on the logical implications of the gospel in other areas of theology, such as in pneumatology and anthropology. It may be that some truly regenerate people can not only lack the capacity to articulate the doctrines, but they may reject them in their confusion. Many godly men throughout church history have not been "five point Calvinists." Just look at what Whitefield and Spurgeon said of Wesley. That's the point. Are such men who deny the points confused? Of course I think that. I am a Calvinist. We should also realize that there were significant differences of opinion on what "limited atonement" means at the Synod of Dort itself. Gomarus, a supralapsarian, challenged Martinius, a moderate Calvinist, to a duel. Gomarus was prepared to kill the man (Incidentally, todays Gomarians are still battling against the Martinians :-). So, even those men that came together and concurred enough to produce the Canons of Dort differed on the points, and some would have accused Davenant and Martinius (two moderate Calvinists) of denying one or more of the points.

You said:
"But I do believe that a person must come to the end of themselves, "despair of themselves" as Martin Luther put it in order to be saved. Such a person will not cling to their own ability or their "part" in salvation because they know experientially that their salvation was entirely a work of grace."

I understand what you mean. Truly coming to Christ consists in self-loathing and a denial of one's own sufficiency to save themselves. However, it is still true that we have something to do in our "salvation." We must believe. Saving faith is our act and a virtuous act at that, but it does not constitute a meritorious act that causes justification. Christ's obedience alone grounds the legal basis of our justification, but through faith we enter into Him and are imputed with His righteousness. We are passive in the act of regeneration, but we are active in our conversion. God regenerates us (His act alone) and justifies us (His act alone), but he justifies us through the instrumentality of faith on the grounds of Christ's obedience. Some people make too much of our acts and thus overemphasize human responsiblity to the negation of God's sovereign prerogatives. Christians are still effected by the noetic influences of sin (sins effect on the mind). Peter denied that he knew Christ, but later repented. Which is worse? Denying that one knows Christ, or denying one of the five points of Calvinism? The answer is clear to me. Peter even acted contrary to the gospel when he sat with the Jews instead of the Gentiles, as if they were on different legal standings before God. David and Moses could commit horrible acts of murder. The truly regenerate can and do commit horrible acts of sin, and they can be very confused doctrinally.

After saying these things, I want to assure you that I do hold that some doctrines are essential, and therefore will not be repudiated by the truly regenerate. It's just that I do not classify the TULIP doctrines as being essential. Are the related to essential things? Of course. All truth is interrelated, but some truths are more important than others when it comes to our justification before God.

You said:
"I find it hard to believe that someone who really wants to assert (and isn't just confused about terms) that human will of itself had some role to play in salvation can really have experientially come to know what grace really is."

The human will does play some role in salvation (i.e. conversion), i.e. an instrumental role. Saving faith is our act, and it is required in order to be justified. My quotes by Spurgeon and Flavel in another thread underline that point. It's just that the act of faith is not the meritorious ground of our justification, and neither is any other act of evangelical obedience. I do, however, understand your point. It is hard to see how any truly regenerate person could think that they must add their obedience to the seamless robe of Christ's rightousness in order to be justified before God. If they think that, they should have some doubts about whether or not they are really saved. Non-Calvinists or Arminians do not think that they are doing that, unlike Roman Catholics. However inconsistent, Arminians do not maintain that their "free will" merits their justification. Calvinists argue that their views entail a works salvation, if they were consistent. It's absurd to think that God chose us based on some foreseen act of evangelical obedience. Such a notion entails ground for boasting, and we know that there will be no such boasting in heaven.

p.s. A Schroeder, May I ask what sovereign grace teachers you are listening to or reading on a regular basis? Who would you say, besides Christ and the bible, is the most influential in your theological development in soteriology? Just curious.

YnottonY said...

a schroeder,

I may attempt to reply what you wrote last night and leave it at that. I know you will have alot more to say and to ask once you see what I have posted and argued. If you reply again, I will read your posts, but probably will not interact further. It's just that it is too time consuming and lengthy to do so here, but not that I don't think you're asking and bringing up important questions. In fact, I appreciate the orderly way you are laying out your points and discussing these issues.

I hope you will continue to ponder all that I have said above and visit the links I worked hard to post. May God assist you in your studies and richly bless you in Christ,

Tony

A.Schroeder said...

Ynottony:

Thanks for your lengthy responses. It has been helpful to at least ponder these things and try to learn & grow. It does seem that we are to some degree trying to get at different issues and so perhaps not really understanding what the other is saying. However, I still think this has been useful. I'll try to keep this response brief (note: I failed) so that we can sort of wrap up the discussion.

With regards to responsibility and the word "offer", I think I understand to some degree all the distinctions and qualifications you are making, though my concern is that these can tend to confuse issues for people rather than bringing clarity and light to the truth of man's deadness and inability (moral as you distinguish it). I understand what you have written isn't novel, but in a day where most who call themselves Arminians are more along the lines of semi-Pelagians, what are they hearing when we say God gives a "free offer of grace?" Perhaps those words can be properly understood when given a proper framework and making enough distinctions, but the point I was (not very successfully) trying to get at is that most people will understand that to mean something more along the lines of "God did his part, now it's up to you to accept His offer," which is really what most people believe today. If we are to stand in contradiction to that view, in my opinion it is not helpful to use terms that can be agreed with by that view.

The very fact that they can hear the proposal assumes that.

But this statement is a denial of verses like Matt 11:15 - "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" and also I Cor. 2:11-14. Natural man CANNOT hear the gospel until God regenerates their heart. Outward dispositions and frames and instruments through which God works, but they give no inherent ability.

Offers presuppose the reality of the thing offered.

Unless one is pre-supposing the wrong motivation in the offer.

Therefore, God does desire/wish or will the salvation of all

But where does scripture teach this when taking the context into account and so determining if the "all" means all people individually, all types or classes of people, etc.?

Quite frankly, the TULIP is not the gospel.

I'll try to be careful here, but I hear others say in comments on this blog and other places (Spurgeon included, I think) that Calvinism IS the gospel. Then I hear you and some others say that it isn't the gospel, or is just some secondary issue. So which is it? There are articles like this in the SBC life that might be more in line with this second view. Certainly I would agree that people do not even need to know what the word Calvinism is or even know the terms. But if Calvinism is in essence a description of the gospel, then to deny things like total depravity in practice & experience (rather than intellectually) is really to deny the gospel. (Note: I'm not saying that a self-professed 3 or 4-pointer is therefore not saved, but am saying that we need to get to the root of what people really believe by experience and practice. Just because someone says that they were saved by grace alone doesn't necessarily mean that they really believe it).

However, it is still true that we have something to do in our "salvation." We must believe. Saving faith is our act and a virtuous act at that, but it does not constitute a meritorious act that causes justification.

Try to read the above sentence again from an Arminian or Semi-Pelagian standpoint. I am not denying that the will is involved, but am saying that it is not involved in any causal way. God causes the will to change and gives life to the will. When I read sentences like this, they just come across as contradictions - "it's our act, but it's not our act".

Who would you say, besides Christ and the bible, is the most influential in your theological development in soteriology?

Again, I do not consider myself well-read or very knowledgeable and realize I have much to learn about how to speak with clarity and many things to understand. Most immediately, I would have to say Martin Luther and his Bondage of the Will. He seems to destroy Erasums' position, which really seems to be the underlying position of most self-professed Arminians today. He also says things along the lines of people needing to experientially see the bondage of their will in sin in order to be saved (i.e. some kind of understanding of total depravity is necessary). Probably directly and indirectly, Jonathan Edwards has also been very influential (directly by reading sermons, indirectly be learning from others who have read him MUCH more than I have). Also, A.W. Pink's Sovereingty of God and Attributes of God I would say had a large influence, though I know Pink can tend to be a little harsher in things -- part of that I think is that he is somewhat of a more modern writer and so wrote in a day were words and their meanings were perhaps a little different than the way they were understood in the Puritan days. There are also quite a few good books & tracts from International Outreach dealing with the nature of conversion, self-deception, etc.

I have also recently been reading a series of articles on the Spurgeon Baptist Association blog starting here. They are actually a response to the SBC Life article above, but the writer is I think dealing with some of these issues as well.

A.Schroeder said...

Tony,

I just wanted to add briefly after considering this some more that I would agree with some of the distinctions you are making and perhaps I'm not being clear enough.

My contentions really come from a view that all love both originates and terminates in God Himself. God is not an idolater and there is no source of love other than God. This is also seen in 1 John 4:7-8. Jonathan Edwards' picture of this was the Holy Spirit being the love that flowed between the Father & the Son. So I do believe that God loves unbelievers and believers, but not as a terminal end. In unbelievers he loves His image that He sees in them. In believers He loves Christ who abides in them as well as His image stamped upon them. That's my contention with the usage of the term "common grace". If grace is the life of Christ in the believer, then in what way is there grace in unbelievers? I'm not denying that God has some sort of love for unbelievers and that His mercies are upon them, but just wouldn't put it that way.

With the other terms like "responsibility" and "free offer" my contention is that to an Arminian, these words can mean something different than to a Calvinist. It seems that we are so quick to assume what people mean simply because they use the right terms. But what is the real underlying belief? Where is the heart? If we are dealing with people's souls we want to help them see what they are really trusting in even if they say all the right things. Just because someone calls themself a Christian, we do not automatically assume they are converted. Likewise, just because someone says they believe in justification by faith alone through grace alone, we shouldn't automatically assume that they are only trusting in Christ and not some ability of their own.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

GeneMBridges said...

He's just arguing for a classical conception of the sufficient for all/efficient for the elect formula, as over against Owen's hypothetical sufficiency (i.e., Christ's death COULD HAVE BEEN sufficient for all, had God so intended).

Then he's an Amyraldian, but Amyraldianism is the one arguing for hypothetical sufficiency here, for it is the Amyraldian that argues for the foedus hypotheticum, such that the full value of the atonement secured for all men in that covenant is imputed to the elect.

The problem with Bunyan is that he can equally be construed as referring to sufficiency such that the atonement is fit for any sinner, in which case, according to him sufficiency underwrites the "offer."

And another is that some of his theological opponents would construe Bunyan as holding to limited atonement and then appeal to these verses as teaching an atonement that extended to all. How does that make sense if Bunyan agreed with them over these issues?

And in Vindication, he writes things like this: "there is an end put to the law for righteousness by Jesus for all the elect of God, Christ having once fulfilled it for them," and then refrains from extending this to all humanity, which is why his opponents construed him as a limited redemptionist.

In the works that I've seen on Bunyan that discuss his interlocutions and debates, I've also seen him called an infralapsarian. But the order of decrees between Infras and Amyraldians varies.

It seems to me that there is some truth to what you say and what they said and what other writers about him today say insofar as Bunyan's thought changed over time. The question to answer would be "How?" so that one could trace the historic development of that thought.

It's not enough to simply make pronouncements about what he believed, as if he didn't ever say other things. We should not expect a theologian to not change his views over time. Many often do.

Tony: not "could have been sufficient" as Owen says]

This is your tendentious assertion, but not what Owen actually says. He argues that it IS sufficient but is limited by the intention. It's intention is fixed (sufficiency); it's extension is limited (efficiency).

Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins of all and every man in the world. The sufficiency of His sacrifice hath a two-fold rise: First, the dignity of the person that did offer and was offered. Secondly, the greatness of the pain He endured by which He was able to bear and did undergo the whole curse of the law and wrath of God due to sin. And this sets out the innate, real, true worth and value of the blood shedding of Jesus Christ. This is its own true internal perfection and sufficiency. That it should be applied unto any, made a price for them, and become beneficial to them according to the worth that is in it, is external to it, doth not arise from it, but merely depends on the intention and will of God. It was in itself of infinite value and sufficiency to have been made a price to have bought and purchased all and every man in the world.


I will read that entire writing as soon as possible, but, again, I would find it very odd if he argues for supralapsarianism therein.

The key is in understanding the way that men are construed in relation to the decree, and it is on this point that it is difficult to tell what he's saying, as he talks about men without regard to having sinned or not sinned. If that's so, it would seem to refer to them as upright in Adam. In other words, if they are construed as men and not as sinners, that is supralapsarian. The key is not in the order of decrees but the way in which men are construed as fallen or unfallen.