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Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by BayouHuguenot, Jan 21, 2019.

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  1. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Rebranding doesn't charge our concern. Although I would disagree with many other things about this thread, this is the most concerning thing I've heard as it is classically hyper-Calvinism with an added adjective. It was always saving faith that duty-faith encompassed. Do you need quotes?

    If Christ merited faith for us, he merited it through the law. If he merited faith through the law that man is under, saving faith is man's duty, unless Christ kept a different law than fallen man was obligated to keep.
  2. Herald

    Herald Administrator Staff Member

    Charles Spurgeon spoke these words in a sermon he preached on May 8, 1864:

    "Brethren, if it be so that God cannot lie, then it must be the natural duty of all his creatures to believe him. I cannot resist that conclusion. It seems to me to be as clear as noonday, that it is every man's duty to believe truth, and that if God must speak and act truth, and truth only, it is the duty of all intelligent creatures to believe him. Here is “Duty-faith” again, which some are railing at, but how they can get away from it, and yet believe that God cannot lie, I cannot understand. If it be not my duty to believe in God, then it is no sin for me to call God a liar. Will anyone subscribe to that—that God is a liar? I think not; and if to think God to be a liar would be a most atrocious piece of blasphemy, then it can only be so on the ground that it is the natural and incumbent duty of every creature understanding the truthfulness of God to believe in God. If God has set forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the propitiation for sin, and has told me to trust Christ, it is my duty to trust Christ, because God cannot lie; and though my sinful heart will never believe in Christ as a matter of duty but only through the work of the Holy Spirit, yet faith does not cease to be a duty; and whenever I am unbelieving and have doubts concerning God, however moral my outward life may be, I am living in daily sin; I am perpetrating a sin against the first principles of morality. If I doubt God, as far as I am able I rob him of his honour, and stab him in the vital point of his glory; I am, in fact, living an open traitor and a sworn rebel against God, upon whom I heap the daily insult of daring to doubt him."

    Paul said these words to the men of Athens in Acts 17:30, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,". We should not confuse the duty (command) to believe with the ability to believe. All men are commanded to believe. It is their duty before their Creator. We know only the Elect will believe but to determine who belongs to that group is well beyond our paygrade. In fact, to even dwell upon that question does not profit us. The fact that all men everywhere should repent provides one of the strongest reasons to proclaim the Gospel to whoever will listen.
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  3. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    @Pergamum and @timfost, I am curious- do you guys hold to limited atonement, as classically defined, or no?
  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes. I believe in the L in TULIP.

    There is a universal call and invitation, and a definite atonement.

    "In asserting, as he does repeatedly, the legitimacy of a universal, indiscriminate offer of salvation to any and to all, Calvin, they urge, presupposes a universal atonement as the logical necessary foundation for such a call.

    To this we reply in acknowledging readily that Calvin does indeed assert the propriety of, yea, the divine mandate for an indiscriminate call to salvation addressed to any and all human beings that may be reached by language. We furthermore believe that Calvin was right in line with Scripture, and that those who would restrict the call to the elect are mistaken. But the proposition that the prerequisite for an indiscriminate call is a universal provision, which is the base of the whole argument, appears to us palpably and demonstrably false. Most of the well-meant offers and invitations, human as well as divine, are not grounded in coextensive provision! All that is really requisite for a well-meant offer is that, if the terms of the offer be complied with, that which was offered will in fact be delivered. This is precisely what occurs with the gospel (John 6:37), but no one fulfills the terms except those whom the Father draws (John 6:44, 65). Whether or or not God has made a provision for those who do not come has nothing to do with the sincerity of the offer. No solid argument can therefore be built in favor of universal atonement on this basis."

    (Roger Nicole, John Calvin’s View of the Extent of the Atonement, Westminster Theological Journal 47 (1985) 213-214. Available online at A Puritan’s Mind.)
  5. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Again, I think there is some sense in which the Westminster Standards themselves acknowledge a degree of grace being provided to those who will ultimately rebel against it.:detective: I am resolved to keep it as simply as expressed below as most of this thread seems to be a display of individual preference when it comes to certain lingo. Call all men to repent sincerely and trust the Holy Spirit to effectually call his elect.

    WLC # 68:
    Q. 68. Are the elect only effectually called?
    A. All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their willful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.
  6. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    I believe the "grace offered to them" above refers to the grace of God as given through the Word and sacrament, that which the Divines referred to when they used "common operations of the Spirit" in relation to the general call, distinguished from the effectual call.

    So yes, the reprobate participates in this outward grace, and we can call this "common grace" as it is certainly common to all participating in the hearing of the Word and/or administration of the sacraments.

    See Durham's Christ Crucified or "Concerning the Nature and Differences of Saving and Common Grace," in his Commentary on Revelation.
  7. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I ask because using the language of God's "desire," or "longing," for the reprobate to be saved- using that language in pressing on any individual that God loves them, longs for them to be saved, etc.; is inconsistent with a definite atonement purchased, settled, by the blood of Christ; the recipients of whom are known only to God. Appeals by God in Scripture to men to be saved ("why will ye die?") and verses that speak of his appeals to return to him are limited to God's covenant people; you will find none that are addressed to heathen nations or to any individual. God is not fervently desiring the salvation of one for whom his Son's blood, by virtue of covenant, was not efficacious.
  8. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

  9. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    I have been troubled by this issue for a long time. But I keep coming back to this. God does not elect all, yet he desires all to be saved? Christ was not given for all, but God desires the salvation of all? How can those things be reconciled? It's possible it is simply beyond me, but I don't see any such thing in the Scriptures, and I know that God's mind is not divided.

    The arguments of the other side seem to me to be quite insufficient to resolve the apparent contradiction.
  10. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Thank you for clarifying, Tim, and in general for bringing more light than heat to the discussion. Yes, the distinction of beneplacitum and signi does tend to roll revealed/preceptive into one, though when one wishes to speak about God's decree more broadly than with reference to election/reprobation I think it's helpful to distinguish a little bit more narrowly.

    I certainly appreciate your concern not to argue over words; if we are saying the same thing in substance, the exact language is not worth arguing about. In technical matters, it is helpful to speed communication if there's an agreed definition and consistent usage of technical language. You raise some important issues, but this thread is once again spiraling out of control, so it might not be possible to continue the discussion in a helpful way at this time. But in case we can continue, or should we take it up again later, I'd appreciate your input on a couple of questions.

    What is the basis of our distinctions about the will of God? As I understand it, it is not because we are positing multiple wills or sorts of will in God, but we are distinguishing based on the content willed or the situation pertaining to that willed content. In other words, I distinguish what God wills to effect from what God wills to command because they have two different objects, not because there are two different wills. In the same way, I distinguish revealed and concealed, not with reference to a diversity in God's will, but with regard to what we may know of it. As Richard Muller has said:
    Secondly, when you speak of God's pleasure (and to some degree also of desire), sometimes that seems to be used in the technical sense of beneplacitum/ευδοκια, i.e., what God has actually determined to be done, Ephesians 1:11. Sometimes it seems to speak in the sense of what is pleasing to God in terms of moral approbation/ευαρηστια. Are you moving back and forth between the two for a reason, or do you see them as indistinguishable (or am I misreading your intention by attributing technical terminology when you were speaking more popularly)?
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    You rationalize, but even then you have a problem, because not all within God's Covenant people in the OT were saved. If you apply Ezekiel 33:11 only to them...well, not even all of them were saved. Thus God pleads and appeals to some who are not atoned for, even under your definition.

    W.G.T. Shedd writes the following:

    “The universal offer of the benefits of Christ’s atonement springs out of God’s will of complacency, Ezek. 33:11…. God may properly call upon the non-elect to do a thing that God delights in, simply because He does delight in it. The divine desire is not altered by the divine decree of preterition.”

    (Shedd's Dogmatic Theology, II, page 484).
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Puritanboard's Matthew McMahon also says the following:

    "V. Coextensive Provision

    People often say that in order to have a well-meant offer there must be a provision coextensive with the needs or the desires of the people reached by the offer. This is precisely what appears to be asserted in connection with the scope of the work of Christ when opponents of definite atonement say, “In order that God may offer salvation to everyone in fairness, it is necessary that Christ should have absorbed the guilt of everyone and thus by his redemptive work secured salvation or at least salvability for everyone.”

    Let us imagine an offer appearing in The Boston Sunday Herald Advertiser, issued by Sears, Roebuck and Company, illustrated and highlighted with large print. In it Sears offers a two-cycle Kenmore automatic washer at a cost of $157. Now The Boston Sunday Herald Advertiser is issued with a circulation of some 300,000 copies. Shall I conclude that Sears has gathered within its Boston area 300,000 washing machines of this type in order to make provision for the offers that it has issued, or shall I judge that it is guilty of unethical practice if it has failed to stock this number in its Boston warehouse? Undoubtedly not! Anybody with an ounce of sense knows that companies do not accumulate as many objects as they distribute advertisements. This is perfectly obvious in the case of Sears, Roebuck and Company because on that same page they may offer also some electric dryers, some refrigerators and some color television sets, and to imagine that they store 300,000 of each of these appears utterly ludicrous. We would assume of course that they have a considerable quantity of these since they go to the trouble of advertising them. How many of these they might stock is a matter of internal administration of the company, which is really not subject to the inquiry of the customers. Now of course if these are “come-ons”—that is, sample objects of which they have a very few specimens available and that they use to attract people into their stores, not meaning to sell them at the price stated but intending to use them simply as a lure—then a charge of sharp practice could probably be leveled at the company. But in the present situation there is no evidence whatever that this is the case. All that the customer really has the right to expect is that if he/she appears at any of the stores listed within the time stated and with the appropriate amount of cash he/she will be sold the object advertised at the price stipulated. No coextensiveness of provision applies here at all, and it is difficult to see why one should be prone to insist on coextensiveness in relation to the offer of salvation.

    V. Coextensive Expectation

    Even though the above point may be conceded, and coextensive provision need not be requisite for a well-meant offer, some opponents urge, an offer cannot be held to be sincere unless there is some expectation that it may be favorably answered. This expectation cannot be present if God has elected some of mankind and sent Christ to die for them only.

    We need not spend much time on this objection, which, if at all valid, would be quite as damaging to the Roman Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox, the Lutheran, and the evangelical Arminian as to the Calvinist, since all alike hold that God foreknows all things and would be unable to offer the gospel sincerely to those he knows will refuse.

    Returning for a brief moment to the illustration given under the first point, we may indicate that the firm advertising the washing machine does not at all expect to receive several hundred thousand customers for it as a result of its ad. They probably will be quite satisfied if a hundred or more appear in response to it. If total expectation were necessary for a sincere offer, very few offers could be publicized. We conclude therefore without further discussion that a coextensive expectation is not an essential prerequisite for a sincere offer."

    Therefore, I am not inconsistent for believing in the sincere offer of the gospel and also believing in limited atonement.
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Does the Trinity also appear to be an apparent contradiction? One God; 3 persons. Or the Person of Christ - fully God/fully man? Or even God's sovereignty/man's responsibility? This issue is no different.
  14. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I am not sure this is true in that The Trinity will always be a mystery to us, even in Glory, and the appeals in Ezekiel 33 are referenced to those who repent, and not to those who do not turn.

    Many people simply do not believe God desires His justice to displayed in people.

    I. God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least,by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
  15. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Hi Jeri,

    I believe in "limited atonement" as classically defined according to the Three Forms of Unity.

    Heidelberg 37:

    I mention Heidelberg 37 because the classical definition would be the sufficient/efficient application. Not only was the price paid of infinite value, but Christ died sufficiently for all and efficiently/efficaciously for the elect. Ursinus qualifies:


    Dort also echoes this distinction:

    I'm carefully backing this up with the confessions because I suspect we apply "limited atonement" differently. I want to document that my understanding is confessionally sustainable and is not Amyraldian or Lutheran.

    Furthermore, I affirm with Witsius, Hodge, Cunningham and many others that Christ's death is also the source of common grace. It is the source of the free offer and makes the free offer both true and legitimate.

    I speak for myself. I don't know Perg's particular understanding of "limited atonement." I also am answering your question, not trying to kill this thread. I do not plan on debating these claims on this thread, although I'm sure our views on WMO do proceed, at least in part, out of our understanding of the atonement.

    I hope this helps...
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2019
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I believe the same.

    Limited Atonement is not incompatible with the free and sincere offer of the Gospel.
  17. Goodcheer68

    Goodcheer68 Puritan Board Freshman

    The Trinity does not seem to be a contradiction. The 3 and 1 Essence and Persons are two different things. If we were to say that God is one in essence and Three in essence or 1 person and three persons that would appear to be a contradiction.
  18. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    None of them are contradictions. They are examples of theological paradox or samples of where our logic stops and we must rely upon the Word alone.
  19. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I am definitely interested in being rational, which is not the same as rationalizing as you're using the term. You're thinking that the other side rationalizes in order to try to explain what you see as a mystery, similar to the Trinity, in what Scripture says about God's disposition toward the reprobate; which then impacts the language we use about God's wants and desires, both in discussion and in evangelism. But if one sees no mystery or seeming contradiction, this position has nothing to rationalize.

    So to speak to that, here are some thoughts about the problem with the Covenant aspect you mentioned. Our different ideas on covenant possibly come to bear. So, I think you would agree that in evangelizing we must not tell a man or a crowd that Christ died for them. Yet to a church member in good standing or the congregation of a true church, we rightly say that Christ died for him/for them, even though we can't 'know for sure' that the church member or all in the congregation are born again (and some likely are not). It's because in the first scenario the people are not known to be (or maybe they're known not to be) in covenant with God; and in the the second scenario, the people are known to be in covenant (at least the outward administration of it) with God. God has a particular claim on them. Covenant is why God through the prophets appeals ardently to Israel to return to him, even though many individuals were likely not believers- they were in covenant with him and God had a particular claim on them. It's why God through Paul appeals ardently to the Corinthian church to be reconciled to God, even though many were possibly not believers- but they were in covenant with Him and God had a particular claim on them. These instances are where I think your position gets some of the language and concept of God's ardor toward those outside the covenant. (And of course, some of them are predestined to be brought in and enjoy his ardent covenant love forever!)

    I have a busy day and we have probably all exhausted all we have to say several times, so I probably won't interact with the thread anymore. Blessings upon us all as we seek what is pleasing to the Lord and blesses his people.
  20. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Point noted. Thanks!

    I appreciate this.

    I agree with the substance of this. My qualm with the technical language is when we make an artificial distinction in the preceptive will and decretive will by divorcing God's desire from the former in terms of what actually comes to pass. It seems to make God pleased with disobedience, as long as it was decreed. I concur that in a sense, insofar as God desires His decree, He desires a sinful event to occur, but not because He loves the sin but because He brings good from the situation in His infinite wisdom. But the sin itself is hated by God, and He is displeased with it.

    Saying God is in some sense both pleased and displeased with the same event does seem like a contradiction. All I can do is reconcile it to the best of my ability, knowing that it is ultimately resolved in the infinite God. I think it is a dangerous proposition to force God into the confines of human logic when we have difficulty reconciling scripture.

    If we can only properly assign God's pleasure to the things that come to pass, we make God pleased to be angry, pleased to be displeased, to love the things He loves and love the things He hates. When considering the infinite God, human logic will always fall short. Faith embraces His word because it proceeds from the object of our faith. The object of my faith is not my ability to satisfy the objections of those who cry "illogical, contradiction!", but take Him at His word and reconcile to the best of my ability.

    I don't think our position is any less logical than our opposition. At some point, we must realize that we kneel before the Creator in awe and amazement, knowing that any seeming contradiction is resolved in Him.

    "Nay, when we cannot comprehend how God can will that to be done which he forbids us to do, let us call to mind our imbecility, and remember that the light in which he dwells is not without cause termed inaccessible, (1Ti 6:16) because shrouded in darkness." (Calvin)

    I move back and forth because scripture does this. I've already described how some of the distinctions being made are forced. I believe I can speak of God's desire properly regarding his precepts and His decree because scripture does. I make it a point to not get caught up in distinctions that help our logic but don't account for all biblical data. I'm not opposed to logic, but I don't believe that logic solves the problem in a neat package.

    I admit this may put us at an impasse. If so, I'm really ok with that. I respect you greatly and appreciate our interactions here.

    I also realize that my beliefs about the design of Christ's satisfaction play a bigger role in this discussion than is possible to be exhausted on a forum. It may be better to leave the discussion as is and redeem the time.


  21. Goodcheer68

    Goodcheer68 Puritan Board Freshman

    I get that. I was simply trying to point out that the Trinity isn’t even an apparent contradiction like you said it appeared to be.
  22. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Our Confession is quite clear:
    "This their sin God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory." WCF 6.1.

    "The rest of mankind God was pleased ... to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath, for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice." WCF 3.7.

    All that God ordains is for the ultimate and highest end of creation: God's own glory (WLC #12). That God is pleased (and quite jealous) in the glory of Himself is something we must accept and rejoice upon. For it would be unworthy of God to not desire His glory.

    Of course God hates sin, which is contrary to God Himself. But, God is most certainly pleased to ordain and overrule sin for His own glory, not to mention to manifest His justice, wisdom, holiness, goodness, dominion.

    We cannot imply that God paradoxically desires our obligation (what we ought to do) to what He has preceptively commanded, yet does not desire we actually obey what He has commanded given that God has not decreed—the non-violence by God to our will included in said decree—our actual obedience.

    Instead, we must say that God desires obedience ("a thing" pleasing to God in iteself ←review the link once more). For unless it were so, what actual basis exists for God's descriptions of sin? Nevertheless, the actual events of disobedience belongs solely to God (voluntas beneplaciti).

    Distinguishing between what is preceptive and what is decretive in Scripture prevents us from importing upon the preceptive will what properly belongs to the decretive will. This is why we Reformed may rightly claim that man is morally responsible and God sovereignly rules and overrules all things for His own glory.

    When we confuse the preceptive and the decretive in Scripture, we join the anti-Reformed in their claims that man, given the decree of God, is not responsible for his actions, and even that God is somehow incapable of doing anything about man's moral actions.
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  23. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Thank you, Tim, I think at this point you've articulated the strongest argument in favor of your position. Certainly, no one would want to say that God is pleased with disobedience. The fact that "pleasure" can be a little equivocal is one good reason for distinguishing what semantic domain we are in. I think on the whole you acknowledge that: e.g., you don't wish to affirm that God is pleased with the obstinacy of the reprobate in the same way that he is with the humility of the elect. From my point of view, it has sometimes seemed that the reverse acknowledgement is not always made; i.e., that God has done all that pleases him (Psalm 115:3). I am comfortable using the language of what God is pleased with in terms of either ευδοκια or ευαρεηστια/decree or approbation; but of course, I would not like to confuse them in my mind or speech.

    I certainly agree that Scripture speaks of both; it is legitimate to speak of both. The language of technical theology is often more precise than Scripture, because part of its function is drawing out the harmony between different parts of Scripture. This may leave us at an impasse, as you suggest, because while I am open to hearing arguments about a distinction without a difference, I do believe it's part of the responsibility of faithfully apprehending Scripture to distinguish things that differ. If it's possible and legitimate to distinguish between how God is love and how God is angry; between the sort of energizing operative in the means of salvation to the elect and of damnation to the reprobate; then also between how God is pleased with obedience, and how he is pleased with his own decree. The difference in perception over whether something is logic chopping or wisely distinguishing may arise from multiple sources, of course. But I think you will probably acknowledge that there are points where quite fine distinctions and language far more precise than that of Scripture is both legitimate and necessary, even if you don't perceive a need for it at this exact point.

    I also hold you in high esteem. I think you are a credit to your profession of faith, and an asset to your congregation.

    Yes, that is probably a substantial discussion for a different time and perhaps venue!
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2019
  24. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    I have never denied any of this. To be clear, I completely agree.

    I don't have the time to go through all of this, so I'll answer with Dabney who says it better than I can:

    "Scriptures Ascribe To God Pity Towards Lost.

    This view has a great advantage in that it reveals and enables us to receive those precious declarations of Scripture which declare the compassion of God towards even lost sinners. The glory of these representations is that they show us God’s benevolence as an infinite attribute, like all His other perfection’s. Even where it is rationally restrained, it exists. The fact that there is a lost order of angels, and that there are persons in our guilty race, who are objects of God’s decree of preterition, does not arise from any stint or failure of this infinite benevolence. It is as infinite, viewed as it qualifies God’s nature only as though He had given expression to it in the salvation of all the devils and lost men. We can now receive, without any abatement, such blessed declarations as Ps. 81:13; Ezek. 18:32; Luke 19:41, 42. We have no occasion for such questionable, and even perilous exegesis, as even Calvin and Turrettin feel themselves constrained to apply to the last. Afraid lest God’s principle of compassion (not purpose of rescue), towards sinners non elect, should find any expression, and thus mar the symmetry of their logic, they say that it was not Messiah the God man and Mediator, who wept over reprobate Jerusalem; but only the humanity of Jesus, our pattern. I ask. Is it competent to a mere humanity to say, "How often would I have gathered your children?" And to pronounce a final doom, "Your house is left unto you desolate?" The Calvinist should have paused, when he found himself wresting these Scriptures from the same point of view adopted by the ultra Arminian. But this is not the first time we have seen "extremes meet." Thus argues the Arminian, " Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has a propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. Therefore, as He declares He had a propension of pity towards contumacious Israel, I conclude that He also had a volition to redeem them, and that He did whatever omnipotence could do against the obstinate contingency of their wills. Here then, I find the bulwark of my doctrine, that even omnipotence cannot certainly determine a free will." And thus argues the ultra Calvinist. "Since God is sovereign and omnipotent, if He has any propension, He indulges it, of course, in volition and action. But if He had willed to convert reprobate Israel, He would infallibly have succeeded. Therefore He never had any propension of pity at all towards them." And so this reasoner sets himself to explain away, by unscrupulous exegesis, the most precious revelations of God’s nature! Should not this fact, that two opposite conclusions are thus drawn from the same premises have suggested error in the premises? And the error of both extremists is just here. It is not true that if God has an active principle looking towards a given object, He will always express it in volition and action. This, as I have shown, is no more true of God than of a righteous and wise man. And as the good man, who was touched with a case of destitution, and yet determined that it was his duty not to use the money he had in giving alms, might consistently express what he truly felt of pity, by a kind word; so God consistently reveals the principle of compassion as to those whom, for wise reasons, He is determined not to save. We know that God’s omnipotence surely accomplishes every purpose of His grace. Hence, we know that He did not purposely design Christ’s sacrifice to effect the redemption of any others than the elect. But we hold it perfectly consistent with this truth, that the expiation of Christ for sin expiation of infinite value and universal fitness should be held forth to the whole world, elect and non elect, as a manifestation of the benevolence of God’s nature. God here exhibits a provision which is so related to the sin of the race, that by it, all those obstacles to every sinner’sreturn to his love, which his guilt and the law presents, are ready to be taken out of the way. But in every sinner, another class of obstacles exists; those, namely, arising out of the sinner’s own depraved will. As to the elect, God takes these obstacles also out of the way, by His omnipotent calling, in pursuance of the covenant of redemption made with, and fulfilled for them by their Mediator. As to the non elect, God has judged it best not to take this class of obstacles out of the way, the men therefore go on to indulge their own will in neglecting or rejecting Christ.

    Objections Solved.

    But it will be objected. If God foreknew that non elect men would do this, and also knew that their neglect of gospel mercy would infal libly aggravate their doom in the end, (all of which I admit), then that gospel was no expression of benevolence to them at all. I reply, first, the offer was a blessing in itself, these sinners felt it so in their serious moments, and surely its nature as a kindness is not reversed by the circumstance that they pervert it; though that be foreseen. Second, God accompanies the offer with hearty entreaties to them not thus to abuse it. Third, His benevolence is cleared in the view of all other beings, though the perverse objects do rob themselves of the permanent benefit. And this introduces the other cavil. That such a dispensation towards non elect sinners is utterly futile, and so, unworthy of God’s wisdom. I reply. It is not futile because it secures actual results both to non elect men, to God and to the saved. To the first, it secures many temporal restraints and blessings in this life, the secular ones of which, at least, the sinner esteems as very solid benefits; and also a sincere offer of eternal life, which he, and not God, disappoints. To God, this dispensation secures great revenue of glory, both for His kindness towards contumacious enemies, and His clear justice in the final punishment. To other holy creatures it brings not only this new revelation of God’s glory, but a new apprehension of the obstinacy and malignity of sin as a spiritual evil.

    Some seem to recoil from the natural view which presents God, like other wise Agents, as planning to gain several ends, one primary and others subordinate, by the same set of actions. They fear that if they admit this, they will be entrapped into an ascription of uncertainty, vacillation and change to God’s purpose. This consequence does not at all follow as to Him. It might follow as to a finite man pursuing alternative purposes. For instance, a general might order his subordinate to make a seeming attack in force on a given point of his enemy’s position. The general might say to himself. "I will make this attack either a feint, (while I make my real attack elsewhere), or, if the enemy seem weak there, my real, main attack." This, of course, implies some uncertainty in his foreknowledge, and if the feint is turned into his main attack, the last purpose must date in his mind from some moment after the feint began. Such doubt and mutation must not be imputed to God. Hence I do not employ the phrase "alternative objects" of His planning; as it might be misunderstood. We "cannot find out the Almighty unto perfection." But it is certain, that He, when acting on finite creatures, and for the instruction of finite minds, may and does pursue, in one train of His dealings, a plurality of ends, of which one is subordinated to another. Thus God consistently makes the same dispensation first a manifestation of the glory of His goodness, and then, when the sinner has perverted it, of the glory of His justice. He is not disappointed, nor does He change His secret purpose. The mutation is in the relation of the creature to His providence. His glory is, that seeing the end from the beginning, He brings good even out of the perverse sinner’s evil."

    (Dabney, Systematic Theology)
  25. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    I agree that technical language is often helpful and necessary when dividing the Scriptures. My qualm is when our technical language doesn't account for all biblical data. I believe Dabney (reply above to AMR) reconciles these "problems."

    Yes, I agree. Thank you for articulating so well. Again, thank you for your thoughtful replies and brotherly encouragements.
  26. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable


    It would take a lengthy separate thread to deal with Dabney's 19th century necessarianism (viewing God in terms of a nature which His will is bound to follow), versus the voluntarist tradition intrinsic in the Reformed's defense of God's sovereignty, simplicity, etc.

    Per the voluntarist position, the atonement is only necessary for salvation because God willed it. God has volitionally willed the faith of all those that would partake of the atonement. Accordingly, in the counsel of God atonement and faith are coupled.

    I am not sure what points you are trying to make or even where you are in dispute with what I have written. I prefer not to tease out your disagreements using Dabney's lengthy discourse, especially given Dabney's cavil about "the questionable, and even perilous exegesis" of Calvin or Turretin. I prefer that you make them plain if you have them.

    But in the interest of moving things along, I will make one or two observations.

    "Hence, we know that He did not purposely design Christ’s sacrifice to effect the redemption of any others than the elect. But we hold it perfectly consistent with this truth, that the expiation of Christ for sin expiation of infinite value and universal fitness should be held forth to the whole world, elect and non elect, as a manifestation of the benevolence of God’s nature. God here exhibits a provision which is so related to the sin of the race, that by it, all those obstacles to every sinner’s return to his love, which his guilt and the law presents, are ready to be taken out of the way. But in every sinner, another class of obstacles exists; those, namely, arising out of the sinner’s own depraved will. As to the elect, God takes these obstacles also out of the way, by His omnipotent calling, in pursuance of the covenant of redemption made with, and fulfilled for them by their Mediator. As to the non elect, God has judged it best not to take this class of obstacles out of the way, the men therefore go on to indulge their own will in neglecting or rejecting Christ."​

    Note Dabney's opening with the benevolence of God, a love of God that is wholly ineffective, given the complacency of "every sinner's return to his love". If I understand Calvinism aright, the benevolence of God is always limited to the elect. Yet, Dabney elsewhere writes "Christ's design in His vicarious work was to effectuate exactly what it does effectuate." Thus, from my quote Dabney above, he apparently has contradicted his own stated presupposition.

    Per Dabney, in contradistinction to Cunningham, redemption is applied to some and not applied to others because of election. This is a post-redemptionist doctrine, rejected by the Reformed as it effectively divides the Godhead, teaching that God the Father says "No!" to God the Son.

    Dabney (and others) seek to introduce something in God between the preceptive and the decretive distinctions. For Dabney, the fulfillment of this "conative power" (will of disposition so-called by others) depends upon the creature. Once we accept any notion of a conditional will in God we are required to limit Scriptural statements plainly declaring that God does according to His will.
  27. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    I haven't studied these issues enough to deal with them now.

    I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at with this, but affecting more than just the salvation of the elect doesn't seem to be out of accord with God's volition, if indeed He willed the atonement to affect other ends in conjuction with the salvation of the elect.

    I simpy don't have time to reply in-depth to all of your objections. I quoted Dabney because, in my mind, he addressed many of the concerns that account for all scripture on the subject in a way that I don't feel your position does.

    I simply don't see the problem here. John 3:16-19 is one of his proof texts for this, and I agree with him. Man was alienated from God and God in turn demonstrated His love thus: calling man again to Himself with the promise of eternal life on the condition of faith and repentance. Not all divine love ends in salvation, just as not all human love ends in marriage.

    Respectfully, I don't think you understand Calvinism aright on this point.

    I don't see the contradiction here. Dabney says himself that "[t]he proof of a proposition does not disprove its converse." His argument in the portion I quoted to you states "Some seem to recoil from the natural view which presents God, like other wise Agents, as planning to gain several ends, one primary and others subordinate, by the same set of actions."

    I don't think you are being very careful here with Dabney's argument. I believe you are imputing a logical order of decrees to Dabney that he argues against. He spends significant time countering the error of Amyraldianism. Amyraldianism teaches that God purposed to redeem all of humanity, but seeing that the race would reject Him purposed to save part of humanity by another decree. You seem to infer that Dabney was operating off of the same principles that he himself clearly opposes. Further, you posit Dabney promoting disunity within the Godhead by the Son wanting to redeem those the Father does not. Does He actually make this argument explicitly?

    I think your argument is what he calls the "ultra Calvinist." It embodies the same error as the "ultra Arminian."

    Patrick, I have learned so much from you and appreciate your time and example in so many ways. You are an outstanding moderator and devout Christian. But in this matter, I cannot concur. I think your logic is getting in the way of clear biblical doctrine.

    I'm not sure there is much use in keeping the conversation going, at least from my end. I have neither the time or desire. Again, I appreciate our interactions. If I am wrong, I pray the Spirit works in me what is lacking in my understanding. I am certainly not beyond error.


  28. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable


    As I have noted earlier, I am attempting to extract something from your response's reliance upon Dabney that signals exactly what you think is in dispute with my replies.

    It is a wee bit unfair to suggest Dabney has reconciled "problems" and just point me to a lengthy quote that actually generates more questions. Perhaps we are talking past one another. Could you please state exactly what is this "clear biblical doctrine" you find me to be unclear about?
  29. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    You wrote: "If I understand Calvinism aright, the benevolence of God is always limited to the elect."

    But the bible and most of the Reformed speak of God's benevolence to all, even the non-Elect. This is God's common grace.

    Do you reject common grace?
  30. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Dabney, in the quote provided above by Tim, to which I responded, begins with God's benevolence (promoting the well-being of another), which is the proper word to use concerning the goodwill of God towards the short-term physical needs of the reprobate.

    But, Dabney then strays too far in his attempt to peek behind the curtain.

    Love is not benevolence, it is much more. The complacency in love—the fact or state of being pleased with a thing or person; tranquil pleasure or satisfaction in something or some one—is actually what Dabney is implying by his "every sinner's return to his love" remark under a section devoted to benevolence.

    If benevolence, as Dabney attempts to define it, includes the obvious complacency he has ascribed to what he calls "benevolence," then Dabney has basically defined a love of God restricted to His elect. (See also, here or here.)

    Dabney contradicts himself in this section and I have noted it and called attention to the fact that complacency cannot be a component of whatever someone is implying when they say God "loves" the reprobate.

    The desire for union and communion that accompanies complacency in love is not offered to the reprobate. The reprobate are denied this nourishment upon which their very person depends. Such a denial by God cannot be viewed as love, rather in biblical terms, it is hatred.

    I agree that God has a benevolence (providential and temporal goodness) for all, elect and non-elect. Some may call that a "common grace," but I avoid the phrase if and until it is made plain what is meant by the phrase.
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