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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

    I really thought that the Dabney would help clarify, not muddy the waters. I don't have the time or desire to get to the bottom of this whole debate, since many other presuppositions seem necessary to come to the conclusions we've come to.

    For the sake of focus, allow me one question that I think is at the heart of the issue:

    If God does whatever He pleases, is He ever displeased?
  2. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable


    You have stated that my logic is getting in the way of "clear biblical doctrine." I would like to understand exactly what is this "clear biblical doctrine" to which you refer. I can appreciate that you have some issues with time demands, but I think I am due some answer to the charge you have laid at my feet so that I might be able to correct whatever errors are at work.

    What is your own answer to the question about displeasure now being asked? It would be helpful to interact with your views, versus being questioned and awaiting responses to my answers.

    For that matter, I cannot provide an answer unless I understand what you are actually trying to communicate. I would rather not spend the time to try and cover all possible alternatives. Are you asking if God is ever displeased with Himself? Or, perhaps is God ever displeased with His creatures? Maybe you mean to ask does God experience a feeling we know as displeasure or disappointment?
  3. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Since scripture says God is displeased many times, the clear and simple answer is "yes."

    This is where I think your logic is complicating simple biblical doctrines. If scripture says a thing displeased God, He can be displeased with something.

    This works. We could add the question, "can God be grieved?"

    You said previously:

    "When speaking of the "desire" of God found in abundance in Scripture as voluntas signi, we must limit this to God's revealed (preceptive) will—obligations to the thing in and of itself. For events and futurition found in Scripture as voluntas beneplaciti, we speak of the "desire" of God as limited to God's decretive will."

    The bolded portion does not account for all biblical data (e.g. Ezek. 18:32). Because of this, I believe your premise is flawed.

    Does this help clarify?
  4. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable


    Scripture speaks of God in many ways that are accommodations to our finitude. The simple answer to such statements is not often bare literalism.

    Hence my call for more specificity in your question. Apparently, my "logic" is serving a purpose to draw out exactly what you are intending or advocating.

    The passage in question, upon which you cast my reasoning as faulty, has the prophet speaking to the wicked about God's sincere offer of life if they will turn from their evil.

    Unless we are going to venture into Arminian or other anti-Reformed appeals to this passage, we maintain that God's taking no pleasure in the death of the wicked who turn from their evil ways is not a statement that applies to each and every wicked man. For the whole counsel of Scripture (see below for example) must be brought to bear here. Instead, it is a statement made only to those who turn from their wicked ways such that they may live.

    God, as our moral governor, takes no pleasure in the misery of His creatures when considered simply as creatures [image bearers]. Governing protects life, keeps and maintains peace, securing the honor of government. When something that threatens these things is introduced, the consequence is punishment.

    Juxtaposed against these matters we find in Scripture, for example, Psalm 135, clear examples of God's pleasure in the rendering of His righteous judgment upon wicked men. Therein God's pleasure arises from His governance in protecting life and keeping the peace upon His righteous grounds. By the demonstrative execution of said judgment upon the wicked, God vindicates His honor as He executes His holy, wise, and righteous purposes.

    With this, I am going to leave off this back and forth with you, Tim. I think we are struggling to get to the root of what apparently has set us at odds with one another and prefer to not belabor the matter until things are made more plain herein.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2019
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    You give a half-admission here when you write:

    "God, as our moral governor, takes no pleasure in the misery of His creatures when considered simply as creatures."

    Amen, but I would also add that God takes no pleasure in the misery of His creatures because they are men made after His image whom He loves...
  6. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Right you are. I was going to add [image bearers] in brackets after the word "creatures," but in my haste I forgot to do so. Correction made.
  7. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    That sounds like a plan. I believe that the careful categories you've just described detract from the clear reading of the text. It makes the passage seem cryptic. I also find it disappointing that it's so difficult to admit that God is displeased.

    I'll leave it at that. Thanks for discussing!
  8. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Just for clarification: a) God takes no pleasure in the misery of creatures as His image bearers. b) All men are image bearers. c) Some men are reprobate. Conclusion: God takes takes no pleasure the misery of a person as an image bearer, but pleasure in the misery of the same person as a reprobate? Confused...
  9. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    No pleasure in the misery of His creatures - in the concrete case.

    Pleased to meet out punishment for His own glory upon the creature that does not turn- in the abstract case.

    Calvin on the prophet's declaration only to the sinner that turns:
    Now, if the genuine meaning of the prophet is inquired into, it will be found that he only means to give the hope of pardon to them who repent. The sum is, that God is undoubtedly ready to pardon whenever the sinner turns. Therefore, he does not will his death, in so far as he wills repentance. But experience shows that this will, for the repentance of those whom he invites to himself, is not such as to make him touch all their hearts. Still, it cannot be said that he acts deceitfully; for though the external word only renders those who hear it, and do not obey it, inexcusable, it is still truly regarded as an evidence of the grace by which he reconciles men to himself. Let us therefore hold the doctrine of the prophet, that God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner; that the godly may feel confident that whenever they repent God is ready to pardon them; and that the wicked may feel that their guilt is doubled, when they respond not to the great mercy and condescension of God. The mercy of God, therefore, will ever be ready to meet the penitent; but all the prophets, and apostles, and Ezekiel himself, clearly tell us who they are to whom repentance is given.
    Thomas Manton in the section "Application", item 5, sub-item 2 at the bottom of the page:
    Merely as it is the destruction of the creature, so God doth not any way approve of it, though, as a just punishment, he delighteth in it. If you look to God’s approbation or delight, your accepting grace more suiteth with it than your refusal​
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I like this lovely quote:

    "If you look to God’s approbation or delight, your accepting grace more suiteth with it than your refusal."
  11. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I note that in the passage in question, Ezekiel 18:32, God is speaking to his covenant people. It’s been my observation that appeals like this from God are always to his church, see also 2 Corinthians 5:20. To Ninevah he simply said, 30 days and Ninevah will be destroyed. There was no appeal in the same manner. What are your thoughts on this aspect, Patrick? One of the main practical concerns for this issue is what is said to unbelievers in preaching and evangelization. Isn’t there a difference between what’s said to straying covenant individuals and churches, and what is said to individuals and crowds outside the visible church?
  12. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    This will be my last post on the subject in this thread. Thank you all for discussing.

    From Calvin's commentary on Ezek. 18:23 with some comments between in relation to this thread:

    It has been stated in this thread that these calls are to God's covenant people. Calvin uses this OT passage to talk about how the witness of this doctrine through all ages and includes the heathen. For Calvin, this doctrine is not just for the covenant people of God.

    Notice the God's wish is not for repentance alone ("what men ought to do") but for the salvation offered through the means of faith and repentance. This thread has separated the desire for obedience from the desire to save. Such separation is unnatural and forced.

    Calvin didn't add artificial categories and separate desired repentance from desired salvation. He reconciled these things in the infinite God.

    Calvin was content to withhold judgment on how to reconcile God's wish for all to be saved with reprobation, a sentiment I wish many of my PB brethren were able to admit without forcing Scripture into the confines of human logic.


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  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    As I have said before, as a Presbyterian you don't believe that even 100% of the covenant people were saved, and so your objection still finally fails.
  14. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    All that God covenanted were saved.
  15. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    This is not true by your own church's belief. If the children of believers are counted as covenant members and if any are lost then that means some of God's covenant members are lost.
  16. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Not all are Israel is something our reformed churches recognize.
  17. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    It doesn’t fail. Yes, there are reprobates among the people under covenant with God, in both OT and NT. Yet in the Bible God, who knows all things, still appeals to those covenant people as a whole (see the OT, Galatians and Corinthians), and only to his covenant people as a whole, as those who are his own. The reason is that all those under the administration of covenant with God who are straying bear a particular obligation to return to him and be reconciled and he speaks to them accordingly, sometimes with warnings and threatenings, sometimes tenderly as a shepherd to straying sheep. He has been their God, and they have been his people, not by their choosing but by his.

    As far as I can see, in the Bible it’s only to those under the administration of the church that God speaks in the tender terms under discussion, including reassurances of his love; I think the well-meant position is taking God’s fervent language in those certain texts and applying it to those outside the covenant.

    I think there’s other good language the Bible gives evangelists to use when speaking to those outside the covenant. Texts that speak of his greatness, his holiness and power, the work of Christ on the cross and all it offers to sinners. “We preach Christ crucified.” The message of the gospel. The elect will hear this and be called, though the message’s address is to sinners in general. They need to be convicted of their sins and hear that there’s mercy in Christ for sinners who repent- language about God’s love for them, in particular, etc is not what they need to hear. They do need mercy- they need to be cut to the heart and ask what must I do to be saved? The reprobate upon hearing these things will be further hardened. What grace or help to them is it to hear God loves them? A claim at which they scoff. But that’s not the main issue- the main issue is that we should fear and tremble to speak to them out of accord with God’s word.

    I just want God to be most honored and glorified in evangelism. I know that this will also bear the most fruit. I realize that the well meant offer as defined by John Murray seems to be the prevailing view now, so it’s obviously going to be a topic of discussion for a great while.

    I am open to being corrected on what I’ve said about God’s language of reconciliation being limited to those under the administration of his covenant. But please offer corrections from the Bible to back up what you say.

    Again: the Scriptures tell evangelists what to say to those outside the administration of the church. All these things must be ascertained through the study of Scripture according to the analogy of faith as pertains to evangelism; not necessarily through proof texts, not necessarily through the opinions of good men.
  18. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So you posit a free offer only for His covenant people?

    "God, who knows all things, still appeals to those covenant people as a whole (see the OT, Galatians and Corinthians), and only to his covenant people as a whole, as those who are his own."

    And yet a great many of those are lost.

    Then you write of: "God’s language of reconciliation being limited to those under the administration of his covenant." And yet in Acts we have Paul announcing to Gentiles that God commands all men everywhere to repent. This doesn't seem right.
  19. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    George Gillespie's contribution to the Westminster Assembly's debate over hypothetical universalism may be of interest to those wrestling with the issues raised in this discussion. Edmund Calamy and others adopted a different position, though I could probably do with updating that post to include all of Calamy's contributions. (Samuel Rutherford also contributed to this debate as well.) If the divines at the Synod of Dort and the Westminster Assembly could not see eye-to-eye on these issues, we should not be surprised if Reformed people continue to debate them today.
  20. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    See the thread below, and especially:

    In addition to the quote provided above, Rehnman also notes in the cited paper:

    “An intention or a conscious goal is that which an agent aims to accomplish and the means are that which is used for attaining the intention. When the agent acts according to its nature, then the end of the action and the end of the agent is one and the same. But when the means are not fitted for the intentional end, then a distinction must be inferred between the end of the action and the end of the agent; between the intention and the intender. Now, the doctrine of divine simplicity implies that in God intention and Intender—act and Agent—cannot be other than one and the same. In humans intention and intender—acts and agents—may not be one and the same. In God the means for attaining the salvation of the elect are not, indeed cannot, be disproportionate to that end. There cannot be conditions—conditional redemption—to God. For according to the doctrine of divine simplicity, each thing is related to God, but God is not (reciprocally) related to anything. Yet, universalism anthropomorphically pictures God as using means that are not proportionate to the end and assumes that there is one intention in some salvific act and another intention in some other salvific act. Particularism upholds the doctrine of simplicity and consistently maintains the otherness of God in intending to save humans in Christ. Every salvific action of God is particular in intention, since in God intention and Intender cannot be other than one and the same.”​
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  21. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    I have seen the thread before. Remember that I oppose both hypothetical universalism and the well-meant offer as theological positions. However, I do not allow (or try not to allow) my own theological views to prejudice my analysis of historical facts.

    In my opinion as a trained historian, the attempt to argue that the Westminster Standards were designed to exclude either hypothetical universalism or the WMO is fraught with enormous problems. Both the make-up of the Assembly itself and the wider historical and theological context in which it operated render the likelihood of this assertion being true highly improbable. My friend Dr Jonathan Moore, who wrote about John Preston and English Hypothetical Universalism, is also of the same opinion.
  22. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    BTW, this is an EXCELLENT book. It is well written, informative and objective. I have it on my shelf. :)
  23. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes, though if I am going to be hyper-critical I did not fully agree with the notion that EHU represented a softening of Reformed theology. Rather, it would appear to be more accurate to argue that it was a softer form of Reformed theology from that of strict particularism, but that both streams existed within the Reformed tradition from the beginning. I thought that the author's own views got in the way a bit at this point, but perhaps that is just because I know them too well. ;) Still, I thought that Richard Muller's conclusion in his review, which was very positive on the whole, was correct.
  24. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    @timfost here is a review of the book, which I posted on Goodreads recently:

    This monograph is a well-written and carefully researched study into the hypothetical universalism of John Preston. I will lay my cards on the table at the beginning and admit that the author is a friend of mine and that I agree with him (in substance, if not semantics) on the issues of hypothetical universalism and the well-meant offer, as I am a strict particularist in the mould of William Perkins, John Owen, and Francis Turretin.

    To cut a long story short, Jonathan Moore's thesis is that Preston was a theologian in the same mould as James Ussher and John Davenant in that while adhering to Reformed soteriology in opposition to Arminian notion that the death of Christ was not efficient for the salvation of the elect as it merely made salvation possible, Preston also maintained that the atonement was, in some sense, made for all men so that if they repented and believed the gospel Christ's death would be sufficient to save them. This view needs to be carefully distinguished from the more radical opinions of the Amyraldians, and especially the Amyraldian concept of the order of the divine decrees, which essentially results in God having two wills.

    Dr Moore's understanding of theology and even of New Testament Greek grammar means that he avoids mistakes that other historians could easily fall into. For instance, he argues from the Greek N.T., the Geneva Bible, and the Authorised Version that Preston's statement that "Christ is dead for you" is substantially the same thing as saying "Christ died for you", though it would be tempting for modern readers to attempt to go down this route in explaining away Preston's hypothetical universalism.

    Significantly, Dr Moore sees the hypothetical universalism of Preston, Ussher, and Davenant as a softening of Reformed theology. He does so in the intellectual context of seeing William Perkins as representative of the high-water-mark of Elizabethan particularism, with Preston softening the strict particularist emphases of Perkins and other notable contemporaries (including some prominent bishops of the Church of England).

    I think that this argument is a weak point in the author's thesis, not so much because it is fundamentally wrong but because it reflects the author's own suppositions that his branch of Reformed theology is the gold-standard by which all else is to be measured against. I am also not convinced that he has done adequate justice to the possibility of the existence of hypothetical universalism within the English Reformed Church and among the Continental Reformed both at and subsequent to the Reformation. As a result, the author tends to treat hypothetical universalism as an embarrassing uncle at a party rather than as another legitimate branch of Reformed orthodoxy alongside his own.

    Furthermore, it would also have helped had the author acknowledged more clearly that the hypothetical universalists adhered to particular redemption as per the Canons of Dort, while also recognising Christ's death had a universal reference, rather than calling them universal redemptionists. These caveats aside, the book is an important contribution to Reformed history and is well worth your time in reading.
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  25. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior


    Thanks for sharing. It has been a few years since I read the book and I'm sure I've forgotten some of the main points. The idea of softening is interesting. It seems that the predominant view (16th century) was a classic sufficient/efficient in the vein of Lombard. In the context of EHU and strict particularism (SP), sufficient/efficient would be the middle ground. Perhaps my impressions are historically inaccurate (please correct if so!), but it seems that SP was further developed in reaction to the Arminian debate, while EHU was developed in reaction to SP. At any rate, the softening seems to have been real, though not for the sole purpose of being more palatable for the non-Reformed, though it perhaps had this effect.

    I would also hesitate to lump Davenant in with Preston too closely. In my reading, Davenant seems a little closer to classic sufficient/efficient than does Preston. (I'd be happy to have your input on this subject as I do not consider myself any kind of scholar on the issue.) Certainly Amyraldianism is a differant animal.

    Thanks for your input on the history and most of all for your honest reading of these historical debates. I really do appreciate your balanced approach to this discussion.


  26. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I used to dislike the "sufficient/efficient" view, but now I see it is Scriptural.


    Concerning hypothetical universalism, how do you define it? I notice that Question 37 of the Heidelberg has lanugage often used by the hypothetical universalists. I prefer the Heidelberg over the Westminster. It is like a song or poem compared to a dry academic thesis.

    "LORD'S DAY 15
    Q&A 37
    Q. What do you understand by the word "suffered"?
    A. That during his whole life on earth, but especially at the end, Christ sustained in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race."

    If you admit universal aspects of the particular atonement, are you then a hypothetical universalist, or is there more?

    p.s. maybe this needs to be another thread.
  27. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    While I have not read that much of John Davenant himself (and much of his writing is buried in Latin), from what I have seen in the secondary literature there do seem to be some subtle differences between his views and John Preston's. Perhaps Davenant would have hesitated to say that "Christ is dead for you" in the manner that Preston did?

    I recently read the modern translation of Moise Amyraut's A Brief Treatise of Predestination, which went much further than EHU both with respect to the order of the decrees and with Amyraut's assertion that Christ died equally for all men (the French Reformed Synod advised him to drop that terminology).
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  28. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    In the past I did not like it either, but if Christ's atonement is of infinite value I do not see how we can avoid it. The Canons of Dort recognised that it was biblical and I see no good reason to dissent from that conclusion.

    From what I know about the subject (and I am no expert), the short answer to your question as to what constitutes HU would be "yes." While I have not read much on the subject, I suspect that SPers who hold to the 3FU would argue that Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 15 should be understood in terms of the sufficiency-efficiency distinction. I cannot remember what Zacharias Ursinus's Commentary has to say on this point.
  29. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Free Offer: A Divided Divided Discussion

  30. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Junior

    Could you please let me know the book info on this? I've had trouble finding these writings in English.

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