John 3:16 and God's Love for the World

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Travis Fentiman, Jul 4, 2014.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    Matt, yes. There begins to be so much to respond to in one thread, that one can't possibly respond to all, which is the reason for the delay.

    There is a lot of convoluted distinctions regarding the differences between Arminianism, Amyraldianism and Hypothetical-Conditional Universalism, but to keep it simple:

    Arminians/Amyraldians/H.U.'s, etc, posit a certain general atonement at the level of God's eternal decrees that is frustrated by man (the creature) and never fulfilled. Thus there are effectual saving purposes in God that are never effected. This is bad.

    The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel, as historically presented by the vast majority of reformed history, holds to limited atonement for the elect alone in God's eternal decrees which is always effectual and irresistible, and also a revealed saving purpose in God's revealed will that gospel hearers (including the reprobate) should come to Him. This revealed will, as demonstrated by the numerous historic reformed quotes I have put up, especially Rutherford, is not intended to be effected, and so is not frustrated in that sense, because God never intended to effect it.

    The difference is whether the saving purpose of God is at the level of decree (Arminians, etc) or in His revealed will (Calvin, the reformed, puritans, etc.).

    Winzer denies that God has any saving purpose in His revealed will beyond that to the elect, and unfortunately we don't know who those are, so the unconverted Gospel hearer can never know if God wills that he should come to Him.

    Winzer also is trying in various ways to force the Sincere Free Offer into the level of decree to make it Arminian. He's making a valiant attempt, but one that I, and most of reformed history, finds to be unpersuasive.

    Hope this is helpful.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
  2. Matthew1344

    Matthew1344 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks Travis, it was very helpful.
  3. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman


    I am not a Collinges scholar, but going off of this passage, I do believe your claim that he is asserting a universal redemption in a certain sense is mistaken.

    In verse 4 he posits the grounds of the universal will that God desires all men to come to Him in the Preceptive/revealed will. If he asserted a universal redemption in any sense, he would not have seen the dilemma that he directly addresses: the seeming discontinuity between God's preceptive will and his decretive will. He simply would have posited the grounds for the universal revealed will in his supposed universal decretive will. But he doesn't do that, and he in fact asserts that the decretive will is always effectual and particular.

    In his commentary in verse six, due to his previous comments and argumentation, I take "This our Saviour has done for us." and other such first-person-plural language to be speaking of believers.

    You seem to have no problem with his next comment: "We must distinguish between the sufficiency of his ransom and the efficacy of it;"

    When he says "He paid a ransom worthy to obtain the salvation of all men," this is true on limited atonement. His atonement is meritoriously sufficient to obtain the salvation of all men, if God had decreed such. Due to this, the atonement is morally worthy for the revealed purpose to obtain the salvation of all men. That is, all men, due to the worth of the atonement and its inherent value, should be morally compelled to receive it.

    "and has done whatever was requisite to reconcile God, and make men capable of salvation;" It is true that Amyraldians talk about a conditional atonement making men "salvable", but that is not necessary to impute here. It is also the case that Limited Atonement provides the necessary preconditions to make all men salvable. That is, without an atonement at all, men are in no way salvable. An infinitely meritorious atonement, offered to all, though it is limited in its secret intention, also makes men salvable. And there is no reason to suggest that Collinges means anything more than this.

    Your historical interpretations, it appears, are doing exactly what you (rightly) accuse Amyraldians and others of doing (on a different thread): "There has been a tendency in historical research to identify any "universal reference" with a denial of particular redemption."

    You believe all the salvific intentions revealed in the Bible only ultimately refer to the elect, and so in order to buttress your view you have to make sure your historical sources are saying that as well. When you come to persons that make universal references, such as Collinges, you, apparently, are quick to categorize them as holding to Universal Redemption in some sense because they disagree with your view.

    However, Collinges and others, are saying things that are completely compatible with Limited Atonement, the Sincere Free Offer, and denying any form of Universal redemption, and there is in fact no warrant that there statements imply universal redemption. Thus you are doing in historical research what you accuse others of doing.

    In reality most of these historical figures making universals referants did not hold to any kind of universal redemption, but simply were recognizing very carefully God's revealed purpose to save sinners indescriminately, and that is why so many historical figures were saying such things, which is contrary to your view.

    I appreciate your quote from Silversides, though I disagree with it. If one takes a sincere free offer interpretation of verse 4, one can also take a sincere free offer interpretation of verse 6, namely that the sufficient, infinitely valuable atonement is for the revealed purpose for all men to take it. It is available to all, sufficient for all, and in a revealed way designed for creatures as creatures and all creatures, just as it is to be preached to all (Mark 16).
  4. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    Regarding the numerous comments above about God not desiring to punish and yet desiring to punish. Both are Biblical in different senses. We ought not, as Winzer suggested, to flatten as a pancake the one into the other.

    John Trapp on Eze. 18:23

    “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?
    saith the Lord GOD: [and] not that he should return from his ways, and live?”​

    "And not that he should return". Had not I rather pardon than punish? Is not this last my work, my strange work, Isaiah 28:21: "For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act."

    This was the standard puritan interpretation of both Eze. 18 and Isa. 28:21, that judgment (punishing) sin, was something God was loth and reluctant to do, because it was so contrary to His revealed good-will to His creatures.

    To deny this is to make God a monster.
  5. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    Because if God were to bring his judgment and wrath upon the world right now he would be perfectly justified in doing so. Those that are under God's wrath do not 'merit' any sort of delay or patience on God's part. He is patient and long-suffering because he chooses to be so, not because he is forced to hold off from bringing punishment.

    It was a mercy that he did not flood the world immediately but that there were many years between God's command to Noah to build the ark and the actual flood itself. We see throughout Scripture that God is perfectly justified in bringing judgment immediately. Yet he demonstrates his long-suffering and patience by not doing that.
  6. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    You are confusing the terminology, albeit slightly. If the atheist who hears the gospel preached comes up to me and asks if it is God's will for him to repent and believe, I would say that it is God's COMMAND that he repent and believe. Now, if you are using the term 'will' in this instance as a synonym for 'command', then that is fine. But if you mean the term 'will' as in "this is God's desire and he is unsatisfied until it is fulfilled" then I think you go too far.

    This is similar to people asking me if "Jesus died for them". There are many Christians that I know personally who use the apologetic technique of saying "Jesus died for you". Well, Jesus died "for sinners", but if you say to an unconverted person "Jesus died for you", you are essentially using an apologetic technique not used by the apostles. You are quite simply inviting the unbeliever to "do something for Jesus" (repent and believe) because "Jesus did something" for them already (died for them and already paid for their sins).

    From a Reformed perspective I would not use the "Jesus died for you specifically" technique when speaking to a professed unbeliever. In the same way, I would not say "God wills for you to repent and believe". The word 'will' has a large semantic domain, and in our language today it speaks of unfulfilled desires. Telling someone that "God commands everyone everywhere to repent" is an accurate (and Biblical) statement.
  7. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Reflecting on my earlier statements (those that are correct), I'll happily conclude that the ideal world for God is one where there is a certain amount of meaningful suffering, in other words, the exact world that we live in. This truth has just made me see God's sovereignty and wisdom more gloriously than ever before.
  8. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Some important questions,

    Should we distinguish between God's will/desire/good pleasure and His delight/happiness?

    Does God merely do all things according to His delight, OR does God actually do all that delights Him?

    Is it possible that God delights in both A and B, but has a greater delight in A than B, which results in the abandonment of B?
  9. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I would make the historic distinction between archetypal and ecytpal theology. By that I mean that God understands all things in Himself. He has a knowledge and perception of Himself and His acts that only the Creator has. All theology that we have is ectypal. By this is meant that it is theology that is accommodated to creaturely understanding. Calvin speaks of God "lisping" to us as a father would to a child.

    What was noted earlier is the danger of applying antropopathetic understanding from the creature to the Creator. By this is meant that we look at things as the creature would and then apply that to how God would "feel" about something. That is backwards. We don't apply our categories of understanding a thing back to God but try to look at them, as best we can, understanding that the Creator is accomodating certain things to us using analogical language.

    It's no more true to talk about God being "pleased" to do something by thinking of the way a creature is pleased by something any more than it is to speak of God being "grieved" by something in the same way we are. God is impassible. He is not taken aback by any of His decrees. He was not processing the sufferings of Jesus in the garden at the time they were occurring and either taking delight or being overwhelmed by grief as we would as the events unfolded.

    This is the danger in what I'm reading from Travis. He is taking sources who are not casting aside the attributes of God and presenting a God Who is altogether like the creature. I would urge folks to take a closer look at theology of the archetype and ectype as that is central in Reformed hermeneutics. In many cases, it is really what distinguishes Reformed theology from others. Only when one clumsily misunderstands the distinctions that the Reformed writers made in analogical thinking can one ever conceive of God as monstrous. The result of this clumsiness is that the interpreter is filtering language through the lens of assuming that God is altogether like us and our knowledge of time and events is univocal (of the same kind) as God's.
  10. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman


    I appreciate your gentle and meek thoughts (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

    I do believe, though, that archetypal and ecytpal theology is not the issue. Both sides affirm it.

    All the multitudes of historic reformed figures that affirm the Sincere Free Offer also affirm that the language of the central passages in question (Eze. 18, etc.) is anthropopathic. The question is not if they apply univocally to God. They don't. Nor do we assume God is altogether like us. He's not. And, yes, God certainly is impassible.

    But the language does not mean nothing. There is a positive truth in the analogy. The question is, what is that positive truth?

    Nor is God altogether unlike us. While God has a simplicity of will, yet it is also complex. Just, in one sense, as our will is complex, being made in his image.

    The question is whether the sentiment expressed in the anthropopathism is reflective of an aspect of God's will. It is actually pretty staightforward to recognize that it is, and there are no fundamental-defeaters of such an idea, despite Winzer's claims.

    As to God's revealed will being expressed as His "desire", it is language the Holy Ghost has chosen to reflect his will to His creatures in scripture:

    Hos. 6:6

    For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

    Note that the mercy desired in the verse never came to pass.

    "Desire" is also the language that historic reformed theologians have described God's revealed will with, along with "wish" and "pleasure":

    Calvin and Calvinism » Blog Archive » God Desires Compliance to his Will and Commands as Standard Reformed Doctrine

    Hope this is of help.
  11. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman

    As for the other anthropopathisms that others have lumped along with the Sincere Free Offer in this discussion, such as God having a body, being grieved, having hands, etc.:

    Each anthropopathism is unique and must be considered in its own theological context.

    No Sincere Free Offerman ever makes that slide into foolishness, because there are other theological principles that prevent him from doing so.

    To argue a downhill slide is to ignore the principles of the theological system of the Sincere Free Offer and is to tear down a strawman that does not exist.
  12. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor


    Rutherford, Sedgwick, Brown, Cunningham, and Macgregor call your view of an unfulfilled desire in God Arminian. I have simply quoted their view in order to show that what you are peddling is not the historic reformed and puritan view of the sincere and free offer.

    As for your gross misrepresentation of my position, you can account to God for it. I have repeatedly said that the offer is indefinite to sinners as sinners and that the terms of the gospel indicate that God desires the salvation of believers. The offer gives warrant for every hearer to come to Christ for salvation.
  13. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Collinges wrote, "How is it consistent with Christ giving himself a ransom for all, that so many perish in their sins?" He was specifically pointing to the act of giving Himself for the purpose of making a ransom, not the intrinsic worth of the act.

    That you go beyond men like Murray and Silversides should be an argument for you to proceed with more caution and take time to think through the issues a liitle more. Why did they not go the length that you go? It is because they saw that you can take the universalistic language in an Arminian direction.
  14. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Does God's will change? No. According to Travis' canon of interpretation he would have to say that there is a change in God's will expressed by the language of repentance. When God said He could do no more for His vineyard, Travis must take that to mean that there is a real limitation in the power of God.
  15. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The text does not say that God desired it to come to pass. It only says that God desired it as a thing in itself pleasing to Him. Please read the distinction in the quotation provided from Jonathan Edwards.
  16. Travis Fentiman

    Travis Fentiman Puritan Board Freshman


    I am not aware of how I misrepresented Winzer's position, but I am sincerely regretful to all of you and to God that I apparently did so, and caused this offense to a good man, and pray you will forgive me for it. It is not what I would want done to me.

    Winzer has made his position very clear numerous times, and if you desire to know it, please read his remarks, not my understanding of his remarks.

    I would also commend to your reading all the writers and books that Winzer has recommended as well.

    I am not sure there is much purpose left in this thread for my comments, so I am bowing out.

    God bless you all.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2014
  17. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    We'll call it done.
  18. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I suppose since I have "super-powers" here I don't want to let the thread close without making an observation about this.

    I spent some time last evening reflecting on this topic a bit and it reminded me of a young man that James White debated on the Unbelievable radio program who was not debating the Free Offer but, instead, had abandoned the Reformed faith. His problem? If we cannot find any human analogy by which the Reformed understanding of election and reprobation is just then it is monstrous. Consequently, he rejected Reformed theology as monstrous.

    I bring this up not to accuse Travis of going that far and I don't want to appear heavy handed here but I am concerned about the same line of reasoning. It is not, in fact, "pretty straightforward" to know exactly God's perspective on things based on verses that use anthropopathetic language. Open theists quote verses about God repenting to point out how straightforward the language is. Ectypal theology gives us, the creature, enough to understand and trust but it is still on another "plane" of knowledge. It is not really just an "analogy" because sometimes analogies on our level actually serve to give us a pretty full appreciation of how it is another person is thinking.

    I would thus simply caution readers to be careful about how it is we apprehend certain truths. From a creaturely perspective it is OK to think of God's pleasure toward us as far as we can grasp it but we start getting into trouble if we push things too far. For example, Christ uses an analogy of a widow with an unjust judge to speak about how we ought to pray consistently. Some go too far and imagine a God who is changed by our prayers. From my own perspective, I've found that it's always best to simply obey the principle and not try to speculate too much about how precisely God "feels" about something. My problem with firm dogmatism about the sincere free offer of the Gospel is some language that speak in ways that cross that ectypal boundary. It's perfectly fine to say that God desires that the wicked should repent (because that's an article of Revelation). To start to talk about the precise emotional feeling that God has, in time, toward a paticular reprobate person. That's theology of the archetype. It goes beyond what is revealed into speculation.

    Do I need any more than the command of God to earnestly plead with sinners to repent? Do I need any more than the Promise of God to pray for my children every evening that they would lay hold of Christ and that His Spirit would move in their hearts? Why do I need to speculate about how God feels, exactly, toward them and grasp at things too high for me? In fact, I'm commanded not to even try - Deut 29:29.

    I would simply urge the same readers to read the whole on these matters. The issues are nuanced because the issues are difficult. On the one hand these writers cited will very much affirm the creaturely injunction to lay hold of Christ or even that God desires that the wicked repent. But, you see, this is where the Reformed and other theologies (I believe are not Biblical) part ways because the Reformed then respect that there are things we leave to the hidden counsel of God. How often will you read an Arminian say: "Well, God desires that so this other aspect of what God desires cannot be true." The reason why it's happening is that their theology does not respect the archetypal/ectypal distinction. They cannot conceive of a knowledge of God that is not the same as our own. They cannot conceive that our knowledge is, at best, a "lisping" of what God knows. Yes, it's true but true only as far as we can understand it. Thus, it is true that I pray for the conversion of my children and it is true that the decree to save them is already established. I don't know the answer (nor am I permitted to speculate) about whether God has elected anyone but I pray because I'm commanded to and I desire to on my creaturely plane. I cannot help but pray for the one's I love and can't help of thinking of God as hearing my prayers and not once do I try to think as God and reckon it doesn't matter because His decision is made up.

    I hope this helps to clear any misunderstanding because it's not always easy to read one portion of an entire corpus of work from men like Rutherford and assume that just because (like all of us) he's committed to the principle that God desires the repentance of the wicked that it also means that He has, IN HIMSELF, some "desire" that He has not decreed to be fulfilled. It bakes the noodle but is worth serious contemplation and not throwing out accusations of hyper-calvinism at the ready.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page