Irrational Baptists

rbsBefore busying himself with chasing after every new philosophical fad and having his ears tickled by so-called “Reformed Epistemology” while trying to resurrect the Romanish fantasy of natural theology, Michael Sudduth asked the question, Are Baptists Rational? His answer back in 1993 was a resounding “No.”  Sudduth wrote:

The rejection or disparagement of logic, then, whether it be by the religious irrationalist, the orthodox Reformed theologian, or a Calvinistic Baptist, is manifestly unscriptural. God is a God of truth, wisdom, and knowledge. Man was created in his image, endowed with an a priori reason by which he can think God’s thoughts after him. God’s revelation is rational because it is the revelation of the divine mind. Man can understand that revelation because he was created in the divine image. The Biblical writers reason, they construct arguments, they think in terms of the laws of logic. The Bible is, therefore, a rational revelation from God to man. Christian theology, because it is based upon that revelation, is inherently rational.

The suggestion of this concluding chapter is a basic one. If theologians would reconsider the relationship between God and logic, that belief in the former entails a commitment to the latter, the intellect will be restored to its rightful place in theology. The primacy of reason will thwart the forces of irrationalism in general and misology in particular. Theology will be, as Augustine once said, ”de divinitate rationem sive sermonem,’” rational discussion respecting the Deity.

The theological defense of logic is an argument quite easy to follow. Since theology implies Scripture, and Scripture implies logic, it follows that theology implies logic. Or, in other terms: to reject logic is to reject truth, and to reject truth is to reject God; therefore, misology is the rejection of God.

In the beginning was the Logic,

and the Logic was with God,

and the Logic was God.

– John 1:1

Sadly, the misology that Sudduth attributed to those calling themselves Reformed Baptists, which ends, and by good and necessary consequence, with the rejection of God, persists today.   Back in January of this year, someone posting on my blog’s comment box with the tag “deangonzales” took issue with something I wrote in a piece entitled, “The Sincere Insanity of the Well Meant Offer.” In defending the absurd notion of insoluble paradoxes in Scripture, which are in every sense indistinguishable from contradictions, and, frankly, if truly insoluble are really just contradictions despite all the feigned pious prattle by Vantilians about there not being any contradictions for God, “deangonzales” wrote:

Having read this post and the subsequent comments, I wonder how the line of thought that finds paradox (defined as an apparent not real contradiction) as “insane” would escape the same dilemma when trying to (1) affirm that God is not the author of evil while, simultaneously, (2) affirming that God plans, controls, and employs evil to accomplish his purposes. If God has written the script for creation history and inserted evil into that script, how can one avoid the seemingly logical conclusion that God is in fact the “author of evil”?

Admittedly, an interesting problem, but one that was a bit afield of my piece and already answered effectively by Gordon Clark back in 1932 in a piece entitled, “Determinism and Responsiblity,” which was later reprinted in Trinity Review  in 1991.  So, rather reinvent the wheel, I referred “Dean” to Clark along with recommending Robert Reymond’s discussion of the problem of evil in his systematic theology (which nicely expands on Clark’s solution).  Well, six months later “deangonzales” is back linking a piece he wrote defending the incoherence of the so-called Well Meant Offer entitled: “God Makes A Wish That Each and Every Sinner Might be Saved.”

Needless to say I was a little surprised to find out that the man I thought was “Dean Gonzales” was actually Dr. Bob Gonzales, Dean of Reformed Baptist Seminary in South Carolina.  Rather than just another misologist and paradox monger in blogosphere, clearly here is a man who is genuinely responsible for shaping the minds of men while purportedly training them for Gospel ministry.  I say purportedly because if “God Makes A Wish” is at all representative of the kind of training men receive at Reformed Baptist Seminary, it doesn’t bode well for anything approximating Gospel ministry coming out of RBS.   Paul said; “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.”  Similarly, if the message of salvation is presented in an incoherent and contradictory manner then how can the words being preached be rightly understood?

Has it never entered the confused minds of these paradox mongers that if Scripture really does consist of a series of impenetrable mysteries and insufferable paradoxes, even as they touch upon God’s glorious plan of salvation, then they give every reason for unbelievers to reject the Gospel message as just so much nonsense?  And, since it seems that it is only those calling themselves “Calvinists” who persist in presenting and trying to justify their incoherent and irrational so-called “plan of salvation” where God is said to both desire and not desire the salvation of all, can there be any mystery why Calvinism remains the minority report relegated to the backwaters of the ersatz-Evangelical world?

After all, if the message of grace includes antinomies, contradictions and so-called paradoxes impenetrable by human minds, then we can concluded that at least some of the Gospel message is false, or, at the very least, not to be trusted.  Consequently, it would be better if such preachers were left preaching “into the air.”   Instead these men persist in teaching nonsense all in the name of Christ.

Which brings us back to the Dean of RBS, Dr. Bob Gonzales. First, consider the title of his piece; “God Makes A Wish That Each and Every Sinner Might be Saved.”  This image alone is disturbing.  Dr. Gonzales paints a picture for us of the Sovereign Lord God of heaven and earth shutting His eyes while making a wish and blowing out the candles on His celestial birthday cake, hoping against hope that His divine and holy birthday wish might come true.  Think I’m being unfair?  Well, in case anyone could possibly miss it, Gonzales includes with his article a nice picture of candles burning atop a birthday cake.  Is this the picture of God we get from Scripture? Concerning the God of Scripture didn’t the prophet Daniel say:  “And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’” And, didn’t the prophet Amos say: “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” Does God really wish for something to come true, knowing full well that it not only might not come true, but in the case of the salvation of all, most certainly will not come true and for no other reason than God wills it?

I found it deeply troubling that the Dean of a supposedly “conservative” and even “Calvinistic” Christian seminary would even attempt to paint such a nauseating and anemic picture of such an impotent and emasculated God blowing out some candles while making a wish. Frankly, I can hardly imagine such a disrespectful and  blasphemous analogy being  drawn of the Almighty God coming from a completely apostate and liberal seminary.  I have to wonder if the board of RBS approves of such a shameful portrayal of the Lord God Almighty?  My guess is they do.

Unfortunately, the content of Dr. Gonzales’ blog piece lives up to its title and fails before it even begins. On the plus side, Gonzales provides another excellent example of the illogic of the Well Meant Offer crowd. Gonzales begins:

The Lord expressly desired that Adam and Eve refrain from eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:16-17), yet he ordained their Fall (Gen. 3:1-6).

However, notice that Genesis 2:16-17 is written in the imperative mood:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”

From this Gonzales concludes that “The Lord expressly desired that Adam and Eve refrain from eating the forbidden fruit.”  The problem is one cannot infer anything in the indicative mood from something written in the imperative. Fittingly, Martin Luther ridiculed Erasmus for making this same elementary logical blunder only concerning the false idea of a free will:

Even grammarians and schoolboys on street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood than what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by words in the indicative. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning…? [The Bondage of the Will, 159]

It is particularly troubling when the Dean of the Reformed Baptist Seminary has failed to learn as much as “schoolboys on street corners.”  For the same reason that it would be impossible to infer a libertarian free will  from any of God’s commands, it’s similarly impossible to infer a desire or longing on the part of God from the command to Adam not to eat from a particular tree.  That’s because imperatives or commands are neither true nor false.

In a brief discussion on propositions, Dr. Elihu Carranza (who wrote the workbook for Gordon Clark’s, Logic) rightly observes that propositions are alone “the premises and conclusions of arguments” simply because only propositions can be either true or false.  He goes on to note that commands, questions (with the exception of rhetorical questions which are intended as propositions) and exhortations “are neither true nor false.” So, how Gonzales thinks he can infer a desire or anything else from a command is indeed a mystery?  Even more paradoxical, Dr. Gonzales in a comment to me agrees with Dr. Carranza:

We don’t need the logician to tell us that imperative command, “Do this,” or prohibition, “Don’t do this,” are in themselves neither intrinsically true or false. We already know that.

Well, if Gonzales already knew that, one would think he would not be trying to foolishly ram commands, which he admits are neither true or false, as true premises in arguments. If a premise is neither true nor false then it follows that you cannot infer anything true from them. Luther was right!

Further, is it even true that “The Lord expressly desired that Adam and Eve refrain from eating the forbidden fruit”?  Now, since Gonzales admits that God ordained the Fall, one would think that if it was God’s desires that Adam and Eve not fall, then they would not have fallen.  But God clearly desired another outcome and even provides the reason as to why in Genesis 3:22a: “Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil….”  That hardly sounds like a lament.  Which makes sense, since God works all things, and not just some things, for His own glory, including Adams fall into sin along with all of his natural decedents.  For man to be like Christ he had to be translated from a state of innocency into a state of knowing good from evil. Adam had to fall in the economy of God’s providence so that Christ, and not Adam, would be “the first born of many brothers.”  Consequently, while Satan lied in Genesis 3:4, he didn’t lie in verse 3:5 when he said;  “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  As Dr. W. Gary Crampton observes

a Biblical theodicy maintains, as the Westminster Confession of Faith (3:5; 5:1) says, that all that God decrees and  providentially brings to pass are “all to the praise of His glorious grace… [It is] to His own glory.” Robert Reymond correctly states that “the consentient view of all Scripture is that God’s supralapsarian purpose in creating the world is that He would be glorified (Isaiah 43:7, 21; Ephesians 1:6-14) through the glorification of His Son, as the ‘first-born among many brothers’ (Romans 8:29), and the Lord of His church (Philippians 2:11; Colossians 1:18). Creation’s raison d’être then is to serve the redemptive ends of God.”

Hence, it is logically consistent that the Fall of mankind had to occur if God is to be ultimately glorified through the glorification of His Son. That is, God’s foreordination of the Fall, and His providentially bringing it to pass, are necessary. He has purposed it for His own glory. The apostle Paul speaks to this in Romans 5:12-19. There we read that Adam and Christ are federal heads of two covenantal arrangements. It is necessary to postulate that if Adam had successfully passed his probation in the Garden (that is, the covenant of works), he would have been confirmed by God in positive righteousness. He would have passed from the state of being posse pecarre (possible to sin) to the state of non posse pecarre (not possible to sin). Adam’s righteousness, then, would have been imputed to all of his descendants (that is, the entire human race). And all mankind would have gratefully looked to him, not Christ, as Savior. For all eternity, God would then share His glory with His creature: Adam. Ironically, the obedience of Adam would have led to idolatry. Therefore, that alternative world is logically impossible. Only the actual world, in which the Fall of man occurred, is logically possible and redounds to the glory of God alone. Had Adam obeyed, Jesus Christ would have been denied His role as “the first-born among many brothers” and the Lord of His church. And the Father would not receive the glory for His work through the Son. It seems, then, that this supralapsarianism view of the purpose of creation is in agreement with a number of the Puritans who referred to the Genesis 3 event as “the fortunate Fall.” [A Biblical Theodicy]

Consequently, it is not true that “The Lord expressly desired that Adam and Eve refrain from eating the forbidden fruit.” This conclusion is contrary to a Biblical theodicy, it is contrary to logic, it is contrary to sound hermeneutics, and it is contrary to the analogy of faith.  It is simply impossible to infer a desire on the part of God for any outcome other than the one God has ordained.  The God of Scripture is not double minded and is not eternally forlorn left wanting for any outcome that He has not already determined and for His own glory.

Undeterred, Gonzales continues to build on the  illogic of trying to infer something in the indicative from something written in the imperative, by asserting:

And God sincerely yearns that each and every sinner might turn from his sinful autonomy, embrace his Creator as Lord and Savior, and enjoy God’s saving blessing, even though God has not in fact chosen to bring to fruition the salvation of each and every sinner. In other words, while God fulfills all his decreed wishes, he has chosen not to fulfil every one of his prescriptive or revealed wishes.

This mysterious and paradoxical reality is underscored in a text like Deuteronomy 5:29.

While we’ll look closer at Deuteronomy 5:29 in a moment, the first thing to notice is this supposed universal desire for the salvation of all has taken Dr. Gonzales into that dark incoherent Vantilian hallway of “mystery and paradox.”  Just so there is no mistaking his meaning, in a footnote Gonzales explains that by paradox he means; “that which seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a truth.”  Notice, he does not mean by paradox something that might appear at first to be self-contradictory or absurd but on closer inspection proves to be no contradiction at all.  He means that the self-contradictory notions he is advancing, i.e., that God desires and “yearns” for the salvation of all, while decreeing to save only some, are both true.  He explains this by trotting out the worn out and thoroughly refuted notion that while God fulfills all of his “decreed wishes” or desires, He has another category of desires, His “preceptive desires,” some or most of which remain forever unfulfilled.

An example of this Vantilian song and dance might be when Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Here, we are told,  Jesus is expressing a “preceptive” wish, yearning and desire that “every sinner might turn from his sinful autonomy, embrace his Creator as Lord and Savior, and enjoy God’s saving blessing.”  Yet, this same Jesus says in Matthew:

I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Notice, Jesus praises the Father for not revealing the truth of who He is to the “wise and intelligent.”   In addition, He said that no one knows the Father except those “whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  Needless to say it is painfully self-contradictory to say that God desires that “every sinner might turn from his sinful autonomy, embrace his Creator as Lord and Savior, and enjoy God’s saving blessing” while at the same time we see Jesus praising the Father for hiding the truth of Jesus effectively keeping many, if not most, from turning to Jesus so that they might be saved.  If it was Jesus’ desire that all might turn and embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior, one would think He would want to reveal the truth of His Father to all men.  Clearly, God’s “preceptive will” is at cross purposes with His “decretive will.”  Dr. Gonzales evidently thinks the God of Scripture is double minded, self-contradictory and as confused as he is.  It should be evident by now why it is always wrong to try and infer something in the indicative from something written in the imperative, even the imperative to “repent and believe in the gospel.”

Not surprisingly, and to justify advancing such patent nonsense while imputing irrationality to the Godhead, Gonzales appeals in another footnote to C. Van Til and even John Frame’s atrocious piece of illogic, “The Problem of Theological Paradox,” for support (for my response to Frame,  see “The Evisceration of the Christian Faith”).    Gonzales even goes one step further by asserting that “mystery and paradox “ is the “nature of biblical truth.”  There can be no question that Gonzales has learned his lessons well from the above mentioned paradox mongers and irrationalists.  What else can you expect from someone who believes it is the nature of biblical truth to be “mysterious and paradoxical.” While alarming in itself, this explains why he is not at all concerned that his position concerning God’s imagined universal desire for the salvation of all ends in “mystery and paradox.”

More importantly, the supposed distinction between God’s so-called “preceptive” and “decretive” desires is distinction without meaning.  If it were true that God desires and does not desire the same thing in two different senses, then the senses of the word these men assert would resolve any paradox. Yet, in spite of all their linguists gymnastics and prattle about God’s so-called “preceptive desires” the paradox of God’s imagined yearning for the salvation of the non-elect remains unresolved.  Again, a paradox for Gonzales is not that which on closer inspection turns out to be no contradiction at all, but  “that which seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a truth.”  While it would be a contradiction to say  that God desires to save and not to save all men, what makes this a “paradox” in the minds of these men is that both sides of this contradiction are both true. How they are both true they can’t explain, but they assure us this is indeed the case. I suspect Gonzales follows his mentor John Frame on this point who asserts “this is where faith comes in.” Consequently, the imagined distinction between God’s “decretive” and “preceptive” desires is just a smoke screens to fool the poor suckers in the pew (or, rather,  in the seminary classroom) that what these men are advancing is not the brazen contradiction it so clearly is.  Sophistry by any other name….

Consequently, when stripped of its meaningless rhetoric, Gonzales is left with a God who both desires and does not desire the same thing at the same time and in the same sense. He is right about one thing, this is without question “self-contradictory and absurd.”  Simply adding the words “decretive” “preceptive” as predicates to the word “desire” ought to fool no one.  Sadly, and I suppose this is not true for the poor souls who have to answer to Gonzales in order to get their degrees,  many take the bait.

Make no mistake, to adopt the hermeneutic being advanced by men like dean Gonzales requires the abandonment of the analogy of faith and the Confessional belief that the Scriptures present to the mind a “consent of all the parts” (WCF 1.5).  There is no middle ground.  Gonzales clearly  recognizes this and is more than willing to toss the analogy of faith and the “consent of all the parts,” what the Westminster Divines considered one of the central evidences as to the truthfulness of Scripture, overboard.  Gonzales writes:

Heterodoxy often results when men overemphasize one truth to the neglect or denial of another. We fear that some of our Calvinist friends suppress the clear teachings of certain texts that don’t seem to fit with their understanding of biblical doctrines like God’s sovereignty, transcendence, and immutability. In defense of rejecting the clear meaning of a text in favor of an implausible reading, they will appeal to “the analogy of Scripture.” But as Sam Waldron aptly cautions,

“There is but one step between the responsible interpretation of the Bible which believing in its theological unity, refuses to so interpret any text as to transgress that unity; and on the other hand, the dogmatic interpretation of the Bible which assuming its system to be biblical, refuses to allow the Bible to speak. This latter method gags the Bible under the pretense of the analogy of faith (emphasis his).”

Our duty is to believe and preach whatever God reveals in His inspired Word whether or not our puny mind can trace out all the connections. Hence, a Calvinist may ex animo adhere to and teach both to God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation and also to God’s free and well-meant offer of the gospel to all men indiscriminately because both doctrines are taught in Scripture.

Gonzales begins his assault on the linchpin of Reformed and Biblical hermeneutics by asserting, “Heterodoxy often results when men overemphasize one truth to the neglect or denial of another.”  No argument here, but note carefully that it is precisely the belief that the Scriptures present to the mind a consent of all the parts, the analogy of faith, that Gonzales and Waldron claim results in the “neglect or denial” of Biblical truth.  Waldron asserts that there is a “step between the responsible interpretation of the Bible which believing in its theological unity, refuses to so interpret any text as to transgress that unity; and on the other hand, the dogmatic interpretation of the Bible which assuming its system to be biblical, refuses to allow the Bible to speak.”  These men are unambiguous in their attack on Scripture and maintain that the analogy of faith “gags the Bible,” and, as a result, ends up favoring “an implausible reading” of Scripture instead of the “correct” and “responsible” one.

If the men at RBS had any allegiance to the truth of Scripture they would tie Gonzales to a rail and send him packing.  Unbelievably, and as we’ve just seen, Gonzales and Waldron assert that the analogy of faith, the belief that all biblical teaching logically cohere in all that it teaches is a “pretense” that “gags the Bible.”  The only gagging that should be done is by Christians who still understand what truth is.  Contrary to Gonzales and Waldron the nature of biblical truth is not “mystery and paradox,” but rather truth is evidenced by the logical harmony of propositions. This is what is meant by the idea that within Scripture there is a “consent of all the parts” (WCF 1.5)  and that the meaning of Scripture is “not manifold, but one” (WCF 1.9).  That’s because truth, by definition, is non-contradictory and no two truths can ever contradict each other.  This is also why one valid inference from true premises cannot contradict any other true proposition.

If a presumed interpretation or inferred conclusion contradicts Biblical teaching, the interpretation or inference must be either incorrect or  invalid. Biblical teaching is non-contradictory. But Gonzales and Waldron assures us that the truths of Scripture will require us to, and at various points,  abandon the analogy of the faith. They don’t realize that to abandon the logical unity of Scripture at one point necessarily implies abandoning it at all points. That’s because if the Scriptures contradict themselves at any one point then we can know that at least some of what the Bible teaches must be, and not may be, false.  All the pious drivel about “mystery and paradox” is nothing but more meaningless smoke and mirrors masking the authoritarian agenda of these paradox mongers.  The analogy of faith is the governing principle that assures us that our interpretation of Scripture is sound.  If this principle is abandoned then the interpretative playing field is wide open and virtually any interpretation of Scripture is permissible, and if one objects, any disagreement can be chalked up as just another example of “mystery and paradox.”  Rather than the analogy of faith resulting in heterodoxy and an abandonment of Biblical truth, it is its safeguard.

Which brings us to the centerpiece of Gonzales’ belief in God’s universal desire for the salvation of all: Deuteronomy 5:29.   In this verse we see God speaking to the people of Israel in the optative mood expressing the desire that they would fear Him and keep His commandments:

‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

From this verse Gonzales rightly notes:

This is the same bunch of Israelites who would never enter Canaan because of unbelief. “With most of them,” the apostle Paul remarks, “God was not pleased for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1 Cor. 10:5). So most of these people were reprobates and are probably now suffering in hell. Whatever devotion and commitment they expressed at the foot of Mount Sinai was superficial and short-lived.

Of course, their shallow response didn’t pull the wool over God’s eyes. God knew their professed devotion was only skin-deep. Accordingly, God immediately qualifies his commendation of their initial response with a striking expression that highlights both the spurious quality of their devotion and also God’s wish that it were otherwise….

All well and good, however from this Gonzales concludes: “This passage teaches us that God passionately wishes the good of those who never experience that good.”  Well, that doesn’t follow. As Matthew Winzer notes in his masterful review and refutation of John Murray’s, “The Free Offer of the Gospel,”

the optative mood, while it may be restricted to a simple desire or wish, oftentimes carries the connotation of longing after, and that in a mournful way when it is an unfulfilled longing, as the comment on Ps. 81:13 indicates. Hence, the texts beckon the reader to understand the expressions as God speaking after the manner of men. As David Dickson has qualified, the lamenting of God for His people’s misery “is not to be taken so, as if there were in God any passion or perturbation, or miserable lamentation: but this speech is to be conceived, as other like speeches in Scripture, which are borrowed from the affections of men, and are framed to move some holy affection in men, suitable to that affection from which the Lord taketh the similitude.”  Such expressions, then, are intended to instruct the hearers as to what their passion ought to be, not to indicate that God is characterised by such passions Himself.

Interestingly Winzer cites an Old English translation of a sermon given by John Calvin on Deuteronomy dealing with the very verse in question:

God therefore to make the people perceive how hard a matter it is to keepe the lawe, sayeth here, I would fayne it were so… True it is that here God speaketh after the maner of men: for he needeth no more but wish things done, all things are in his hand.” And a little later on the same text, “And why then doth he pretend to wish it in this text? It is bicause he speaketh after the maner of men, as he doeth in many other places. And (as I said afore) it is to the ende that when there is any mention made of walking in obedience to Godward, we should understand that it cannot bee done without hardnesse, and that our wits should be wakened to apply our selves earnestly to that studie.

Not surprisingly, the great Puritan giant, John Owen, shares Calvin’s interpretation:

[I]n all these expostulations there is no mention of any ransom given or atonement made for them that perish… but they are all about temporal mercies, with the outward means of grace…. [T]here are no such expostulations here expressed, nor can any be found holding out the purposes and intention of God in Christ towards them that perish. Secondly, … all these places urged … are spoken to and of those that enjoyed the means of grace, who … were a very small portion of all men; so that from what is said to them nothing can be concluded of the mind and purpose of God towards all others…. Fifthly, that desires and wishing should properly be ascribed unto God is exceedingly opposite to his all-sufficiency and the perfection of his nature; they are no more in him than he hath eyes, ears, and hands.” [As cited by Garrett Johnson in “The Myth of Common Grace”]

And, that great Reformed Baptist theologian, John Gill (the one grossly maligned and libeled by the paradox mongers as a “Hyper-Calvinist”) similarly writes:

Not that there is properly speaking such volitions and wishes in God; but…the Scripture speaks after the language of the children of men; and may be considered as upbraiding them with want of such an heart, and with weakness to do what they had promised; and, at most, as approving of those things they spoke of as grateful to him, and profitable to them: the words may be rendered, “who will give that they had such an heart”; not to me, but to them, as Aben Ezra notes; they cannot give it to themselves, nor can any creature give it to them; none but God can, and therefore they ought to have prayed to him to give them an heart to hearken and do; agreeably to which is the Arabic version,“it is to be wished by them, that such an heart would continue with them;”which they by their language signified was in them: that they would fear me; which is not naturally in the heart of man, is a gift of God, a part of the covenant of grace, is implanted in regeneration, and is no inconsiderable branch of it; it is opposed to pride, and is consistent with faith and joy, and is increased by views of the grace and goodness of God, and is a distinguishing character of a good man….that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever; for the fear of God, and the keeping of his commandments, issue in the good of men, in their own good, their inward peace, and spiritual welfare; in the good of others, their neighbors, servants, and children, by way of example and instruction; and even in the public peace and prosperity of a nation in which they dwell: not that these things are meritorious of eternal life, but are what are approved of by the Lord, and are grateful to him; which is the chief view in the expression of the text. [ Commentary on Deuteronomy]

Not surprisingly, Gonzales believes Gill, along with the others mentioned above, are just “plain wrong.”  He complains that “The text cannot, according to these interpreters, denote a fervent longing for the salvation of the non-elect….”  Well, of course the verse cannot denote a longing, fervent or otherwise, for the salvation of the non-elect for the simple reason that the verse has nothing to do with salvation and doesn’t have the salvation of the elect or even the non-elect in view.  As Gill notes:

After all, these words do not express God’s desire of their eternal salvation, but only of their temporal good and welfare, and that of their posterity; for their eternal salvation was not to be obtained by works of righteousness done by them, by their fear or worship of God, or by their constant universal obedience to his commands. They were saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, even as we. Their fear of God, and obedience to his will, issued indeed in their temporal prosperity, and on this account were strictly enjoined them; that so they might live, and it be well with them, and they prolong their days in the land they were going to possess, as appears from verse 33; and with a view to this, God so ardently desired these things in them, and to be done by them. [Lord God of Truth sec.1.3]

In spite of the fact that “eternal salvation was not to be obtained by works of righteousness,”and that the all the saints, both under the Old and New dispensations, are saved “by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, even as we,” (something one would have thought that even the dean of a Reformed Baptist Seminary might know), Gonzales exclaims: “Clearly, Deuteronomy 5:29 DOES teach that God desires the salvation of reprobates.”  Needless to say, advancing a glaring contradiction in his soteriology is the least of Gonzales’ problems.  He believes in salvation by works as well.

By simply ignoring the temporal nature of Deuteronomy 5:29,  Gonzales’ confusion grows even deeper. He says that the above interpretations all fail because of the mistaken belief that “(1) genuine emotions cannot be predicated of God, and (2) unfulfilled desires are logically inconsistent with God’s sovereignty and perfect blessedness.”

Admittedly, unfulfilled desires are “logically inconsistent with God’s sovereignty and perfect blessedness.”  As the minority report adopted by the OPC correctly notes (which is a brilliant rejoinder to Murray’s irrational defense of God’s so-called universal desire for the salvation of the reprobate):

Desire suggests a want or lack in the one who desires which can be fulfilled only by the gratifying of the desire. This is incompatible with the self-sufficiency of God. Desire is something weaker than the firm determination of the will. No such weak wishing can properly be ascribed to God whose will is firmly fixed and fixes all things. God has not a will that can be frustrated as well as one that cannot be…The particular passages of Scripture alleged to support frustratable desires no more prove desire as an emotion or passion in God than the assertion “it repented God…” etc. proves a real change of his mind, or that God actually desired to know that the wickedness of Sodom was as it had been represented to him.

Yet, in contrast Gonzales maintains:

[A]ccording to the plain meaning of the text…God is not said merely to approve of human devotion and consequent felicity in the abstract. Rather, he is said to desire a concrete objective ardently, and that concrete objective is nothing less than that those identified in the text.

OK, now which of the above commentators said that God merely approves of human devotion and felicity in the abstract?  Well, none of course. What they did say is that temporal blessings, not for all men universally distributed, but only those who make up God’s chosen nation, Israel, is conditioned on the basis of human devotion and felicity to God’s commandments. Perhaps Dr. Gonzales needs to go back a chapter and read Deuteronomy 4:40:

So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.

Seeing that Gonzales’ interpretation of 5:29 necessarily implies salvation by works, perhaps he thinks 4:40 has salvation and eternal blessedness of the reprobate in mind too?

Finally, Gonzales claims the Reformed exegesis of Deuteronomy 5:29 fails because “a proper understanding of God’s transcendence, sovereignty, and immutability does not preclude the attribution of genuine emotions to God.”  Gonzales claims that human emotions are the analog of divine emotions:

[D]ivine emotivity is the Archetype of human emotivity, which is the ectype. Human emotions were not designed by God in order to cloud or confuse our understanding of what God is like. Rather, they were purposely designed to provide us with some analogy of the way in which God, as a moral being, evaluates and inwardly responds to good or evil.

Not only does Gonzales view God as making wishes for things He knows will never come to pass, He evidently feels bad about it too.  Combine that with the contradictory notion of the so-called Well Meant Offer and we see that the Sovereign and  immutable God of the universe is forever frustrated (after all, frustration can properly be categorized as an emotion), forever longing for the salvation of the reprobate, which by His determinative and sovereign decree  He knows will never come to pass as He casts them eternally into Hell for their sin. Can a more confused, distorted, and grotesque picture of the God of Scripture be imagined?  But that is the consequence of adopting contorted and confused theology of Reformed Baptists like Bob Gonzales.

Thankfully, there is an alternative.  Among the many other attributes of God,  the Westminster Confession describes God as “a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions.”  Consequently, if by “passions” the Confession writers  mean “emotions,” then God doesn’t have them.

As we have seen, Michael Sudduth was correct, “to reject logic is to reject truth, and to reject truth is to reject God; therefore, misology is the rejection of God.”

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126 Comments on “Irrational Baptists”

  1. Roberto G Says:

    Oh, my! So many issues and doctrines intertwined here. As a fellow believer of the reformed baptist variety, I must side with John Gill and Robert Reymond. The issue of the well-meant offer, if I am not mistaken, is part of the broader doctrine of common grace. Personally, because I take a minimalist approach to common grace, I must reject the well-meant offer.
    Biblically and logically, once you rightly perceive grace as solely saving, what room is left to speak of grace as anything else? Furthermore, in most explanations of the well-meant offer, I’ve noticed a patently false premise either assumed or actually stated: that an “offer” of forgiveness for salvation is made to all. History and providence, however, contradict such an assertion. And there are many examples in Scripture where God stops or prevents his messengers from preaching to residents of certain places.
    The way I see the reformed baptist educational situation is this: many men in the past received their seminary education at WTS in Phili and passed on its teachings on these subjects to the people they pastored. Over time, more people were persuaded on reformed baptist distinctives, along with these sub-biblical views of common grace and the well-meant offer. The association of churches decided to start an official educational center and they did with the help of WTS in the West. That is where the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies is located. Other educational centers, like the Reformed Baptist Seminary, were and will be established to meet the need for distinctively reformed baptist ministry preparation. Unfortunately, rb’s will take in much of what the broader reformed churches accept and teach on these issues.
    However, If I am not mistaken, a prominent rb does not take the well-meant offer view. James White does not, but I may be wrong.
    These are my 2 cents…

  2. brandon Says:

    Thank you Sean for writing this, and all your other posts. Your language here is very strong and at times to took me aback. But when I re-read your statements, the gravity of the error sunk in. This is not a peripherial issue that we can disagree on. This is central and we must work towards unity on it. I think one of the most important sentences in your post is:

    The analogy of faith is the governing principle that assures us that our interpretation of Scripture is sound.

    That is the import of this issue. If Bob is correct, then we have no basis for discerning whether our theology is in error or not.

    I found Sam Waldron’s comments particularly troubling. I have benefitted much from him, especially in his fight against New Covenant Theology. I don’t know the full context of Waldron’s comments because it says the quote was taken from an unpublished paper. If Waldron is in fact saying what Gonzales claims, then Waldron has failed to heed his own warning.

    Sometime within the last year, he taught on the nature and extent of the atonement, arguing for particular redemption and against universal atonement. It can be heard here: http://lifeway.edgeboss.net/download/lifeway/corp/waldron_the_atonement_design_nature_and_extent_lo.mp3

    Towards the end, the issue of the well-meant offer came up. First off, he misinterpreted what the Canons of Dordt say on the issue. This same type of misunderstanding is evidenced by Gonzales above when he implies those of us who reject his view do not believe the gospel should be preached to all men indiscriminately. I solidly affirm that the gospel must be preached to all men. But what is the gospel? Is the gospel “Jesus loves you and wants to save you”? Or is the gospel “If you repent and believe, you will be saved”? I don’t understand how such basic, basic issues can be so poorly misunderstood.

    But Sam goes on to make the following statements:

    36:18 “The free offer means, and means for me, that I tell people that God loves them and wants them to be saved, if they will repent.”

    37:21 But, “The offer of the gospel does not require us to tell men that Christ died for them.”

    Why not in light of 1 Tim 2:6, Heb 2:9, John 3:16, 2 Cor 5:14-15, 1 Tim 4:10, John 1:29, Titus 2:11, 1 John 2:2? Bob and Sam warn us that we must not allow our dogmatic system of theology to override the “plain meaning of the text” or the “clear meaning of a text.”

    37:54 “We may be used to preaching like that… but if the gospel was indeed necessarily to be preached that way, then particular redemption would be in direct contradiction with the free offer, no question about it.”

    Sam rejects the “plain” and “clear” meaning of numerous texts because doing so would contradict his system of theology. It sounds to me like Sam is guilty of gagging the Bible.

    But if we are to follow the logic of their view, then I think that we Christians must all repent. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. And because of this we left the Church of Rome. But clearly the Church of Rome is correct as well, according to the plain and clear meaning of Scripture, which says a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

    It is clear that we have gagged the Bible and have rejected the truth in favor of our system of theology. Luther was in sin when he stood before the Diet of Worms and said he would not submit to Rome because they so often contradicted themselves. He said he would not repent unless he was shown with Scripture and plain reason. We Christians must condemn Luther and repent of our separation from Rome on the basis of “plain reason.” We must join hands with Rome because the only thing separating us is contradictory views of salvation.

  3. brandon Says:

    I wrote that last part sarcastically… but I didn’t realize until just now that it is not sarcastic at all. It is exactly what you have been laboring against with Federal Vision.

  4. brandon Says:

    I also just have to point out that the linked TF article on Baptists fails to point out that the LBC affirms NC, just using different language. Rather than “deduced by good and necessary consequence” (a phrase commonly used to defend paedo-baptism), the baptists opted for “necessarily contained” (LBC 1.6).

  5. Michael Sudduth Says:

    Brandon,

    I discuss the LBC clause in the monograph from which the article was lifted. I had no say in what parts of the monograph were published in the Trinity Review.

    Michael

  6. Roger Mann Says:

    God Makes A Wish That Each and Every Sinner Might be Saved

    If this irrational god would only create a magical “genie bottle” to rub, he’d have “three” wishes to ardently desire: That Each and Every Sinner Might be Saved; That Each and Every Sinner Might be Saved and Damned; and That Each and Every Sinner Might be Damned. Then all the bases would be covered! How’s that for paradox!?

  7. Gus Gianello Says:

    Dear Sean,

    Thanks for the article. Has anyone noted that this is Open Theism? The progression is not just Supralapsarian Calvinism, to Amylrauldianism, to Arminianism, to Universal Salvation. It is also from the Calvinist God who is only rational, non-contradictory and emotionless, to the God of Open Theism who is NOT sovereign, can only wish, and saves everybody. A case in point is Clark Pinnock. It is also, sadly a journey into darkness that a friend of mine took. Arminianism or even just the “free offer” implies a frustrated God. A frustrated God implies a God who is not sovereign. Mr. Gonzales is well on his way to being a heretic, that any true Baptist would burn at the stake. (Those who know Baptist history, will note my occult humour.) At the very least his leadership ought to be terminated, the charge being heresy. God must be very sad. (Sarcasm)

    Gus Gianello

  8. Ben Maas Says:

    Mr. Gerety,

    Thank you for writing this article. I have a few things I’d like to say:

    (1) A few months ago I agreed with Dr. Gonzales on divine emotivity and made some clarifications regarding the consistency between God’s absolute sovereignty and self-willed emotions. Long story short, Dr. Gonzales asked me how my view against the well-meant offer meshed with my view against divine impassibility, and after pondering it I realized they were inconsistent and changed my view on the latter. If I believe everything occurs exactly as God desires, then it doesn’t make sense to say He’s sad about anything, for He’d have nothing to be sad about. This change in beliefs made me glad when I compared it to older Reformed theologians.

    (2) Although I agree with you in many, many respects, Mr. Gerety, I must reinforce that kindness of language, especially for Reformed brethren, is paramount in discussions like these. It is terribly difficult to persuade people of the correct position when you label them with names they would not describe themselves as. It is perfectly fair to tell someone that his beliefs result in a contradiction and therefore should be rejected (e.g., “if you were consistent, you’d have to be a misologist”), but it is not permissible to call someone a misologist as if they are aware they hate logic and yet continue to do so. The Lord has had to discipline me sharply in order to give me more charity in speech (and I still need help!), but I just cannot stress to you the inordinate importance of having charity in language towards people who are wrong. This does not entail “tolerance” of wrong ideas in any sense of the term; it does however entail a truly loving, graceful, and well-meant rebuke which nearly always precludes name-calling. Plus, you’d be amazed at how many more people will agree with you once the language is a bit more salted.

    Dr. Gonzales and everyone else who believes in the well-meant offer do not think they are advocating contradiction. They believe they are advocating a truth which appears contradictory but upon further reflection is not (I’ll expound on this later in (4)). Of course, I believe their further reflection came to a false conclusion, but these people are not self-conscious misologists; therefore calling them that as if they are is never conducive towards a resolution of the problem.

    (3) Please be careful when making broad sweeps against Van Tillians as irrationalists. I have utmost respect for Clark and his advocacy for logical consistency and clear, concise thought, yet I reject Scripturalism and embrace Van Tillianism. Obviously, I do not embrace every word of Van Til as if it were gospel, but I still follow his general epistemology. This includes a belief in the analogical relationship between God and man — which has been terribly phrased by Van Til and consequently misunderstood by Clarkians.

    As a side note, I don’t know if you’re associated enough with the Trinity Foundation to be one of the essay-readers for the upcoming essay contest, but if you happen to be one of the readers who sees my essay you will see my attempt to explicate how a Clarkian commitment to logic and rationality, when conjoined with a Van Tillian epistemology, is optimal. (If not, whenever I finish it I can email it to you if you’d like.) I honestly think the two sides have talked past each other for so long, and it breaks my heart.

    (4) Although I disagree with Dr. Gonzales and co. on affirming the well-meant offer, I nonetheless believe that you have misunderstood their position on paradox and contradiction. Dr. Gonzales believes that God’s having desires contrary to His decree is weird, but he does not find it contradictory. He uses Jesus’s example of asking God to let the cup pass from Him to show how it is possible to have conflicting desires without being schizophrenic or double-minded. And he then goes on to differentiate between preceptive and decretive desires in order to absolve the would-be contradiction by changing the “respect” of the propositions (cf. that propositions are contradictory when they declare opposites…in the same RESPECT). Although I believe his distinctions are mistaken, I nonetheless have to recognize that Dr. Gonzales is attempting to show how the contradiction is resolved — he does not believe that contradictions are acceptable at all. Thus it would be more prudent to kindly show him his mistake than to act as if he likes contradictions.

    (5) Regarding Sam Waldron’s quote, neither he nor Dr. Gonzales believe that the analogy of faith “gags the Bible.” Waldron is cautioning basically against getting one doctrine by an unlawful means (e.g. free will from alleged “experience,” or some doctrine from an inconclusive passage) and then using that doctrine to preclude other doctrines that are perspicuously taught in the Bible. Waldron is warning against a misapplication of the analogy of faith that takes non-biblical doctrines and uses those as a basis to deny Biblical doctrines. I would say that Dr. Gonzales is in fact violating this warning — for he is not applying the analogy of faith correctly — but I think it goes too far to say that they believe that the analogy of faith per se is what gags the Bible.

    (6) There is a sense in which propositions can be derived from imperatives. For example: (a) My mother told me to make my bed. (b) When my mother tells me to do something, she is expressing a desire for the action commanded to be carried out. (c) Therefore, my mother is desiring that I make my bed. What this underscores is that _human_ commands often imply _human_ desire (since humans do not foreordain reactions to commands), stressing that God speaks anthropomorphically in such passages as Deut. 5:29.

    (7) Dr. Gonzales does not believe in salvation by works. From his interpretation of Deut. 5:29 that God sincerely desired the temporal prosperity of Israel, he (wrongly, IMO) deduced that God wanted their prosperity in all things, including salvation. That is how it appeared he was saying it, at least. Regardless, we should make sure to be extremely cautious and charitable when thinking that the dean of a Reformed seminary is somehow a full-fledged legalist. It is not necessary to assume he is infallible and free from error, but we must ensure, when we think we have stumbled across some grave heresy, that we have properly understood all that the man said.

    (8) I obtained your book “Not Reformed at All” a while ago and I look forward to reading it. 🙂

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ben

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    (1) Hi Ben. You should be glad. What these men are advancing is an historic novelty.

    (2) Their hatred and distrust of logic is everywhere present. Logic, in their view, must be curbed. Consequently, I do consider these men misologists and it is a name that accurately describes their position and for the reasons I’ve explained. Besides, proper name calling is not sinful, for if it were Jesus would be guilty of sin for the many epithets he used against the religious leaders in his own day who would similarly twist the Scriptures. Further, you say, “Dr. Gonzales and everyone else who believes in the well-meant offer do not think they are advocating contradiction.” I never said they did. They believe that the contradictions they see in Scripture are not real and are only “apparent” which is why they call them “paradoxes.” Like you, and in my own way, I tried my best to disabuse them of such a dangerous notion. Make no mistake, they believe the abandonment of reason at any given point is a sign of Christian maturity, humility and piety. For example, before launching into a frontal assault on the analogy of faith, Gonzales writes:

    So it is that God genuinely and earnestly desires the salvation of all men (cf. John 3:16) though he only decrees the salvation of some. This is what Jesus taught when he declared, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). These two truths may at first glance seem inconsistent to us. But there they are, side-by-side. Mystery indeed! But sacred mystery with which we must not tamper! What practical lessons can we draw from this biblical paradox?

    Besides erring in his exegesis of John 3:16, Gonzales continues by insisting that the external call of the Gospel is further evidence of God’s desire for the salvation of all men. He even admits that his exegesis of these verses results in an absurdity. It’s not that “at first glance” what he’s teaching may “seem to be inconsistent to us,” it is inconsistent to us. He not only admits this but even exclaims that this glaring contradiction is a “sacred mystery with which we must not tamper!”

    (3) Vantilians, with very few exceptions, are irrationalists. In the many years I’ve been interacting with Vantilians I have only met one who rejects Van Til’s analogous view of truth and belief that logic must be curbed in their belief that the Scriptures contain any number of “insoluble paradoxes” which, at lest for the human existent, are simply contradictions to which we must bow in some sick notion of Christian piety.

    Further, as you continue your studies I am optimistic you will come to see that the Clark/Van Til controversy was a watershed that highlights two mutually exclusive views of God, truth, and Scripture, and, hence, two different trajectories in theological development without any middle ground. So, and perhaps thankfully, I am not one of those judging essay submissions to the Foundation’s Christian Worldview Essay Contest. 😉

    (4) See (2). If it were true that the imagined distinction of God’s “preceptive and decretive desires” absolve “the would-be contradiction,” then their position would not end in “mystery and paradox” for the simple reason that any apparent contradiction entailed in their position would be resolved. The fact that God’s so-called “preceptive desire” for the salvation of all results in a glaring inconsistency when compared “side by side” with election and is a so-called “sacred mystery” which cannot be “tampered with,” only demonstrates that theirs is a distinction without meaning.

    Someone less charitable than me might think these men are being intentionally deceitful. FWIW I don’t think that’s the case and agree that Gonzales doesn’t think his position is contradictory, but I can’t be responsible for what he thinks.

    (5) If Gonzales is in fact “violating” Waldron’s warning and taking him out of context and falsely employing the quote to support his own unambiguous and open assault on the analogy of faith as the governing principle of Biblical interpretation, then perhaps Waldron should contact Gonzales and set him straight. Not being familiar with either man I can only assume that the Dean of the Seminary where Waldron teaches has a better grasp on what his professors are teaching than I do.

    (6) I don’t disagree that human commands often underlie the desire that others do as we command, but your minor premise cannot be ascribed to God and for the reasons you state and which is why God speaking the opative mood is rightly considered an anthropomorphism. I mean, this is all Calvinism 101 something one would have hoped even the dean of a purportedly “Reformed” seminary would know.

    (7) I was just tracing out where Gonzales’ handling of the verse necessarily leads. Dr. Gonzales may not believe in salvation by works, but his interpretation of Deut. 5:29 requires it. There is no question that his soteriology is confused, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is too. However, perhaps you can see where the abandonment of the belief that Scriptures present to the mind of men the consent of all the parts leads. After all, the Federal Vision’s doctrine of salvation by faith and works didn’t spring up in a vacuum.

    (8) I hope you enjoy the book. Doug Wilson said it was “atrocious.” Still my favorite review. 🙂

    Blessings –

  10. Rescued from Romanism Says:

    Sean,

    Your attack on Bob Gonzales was hateful.

    But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (Gal 5:15)

    Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous (1Peter 3:8)

    A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (Joh 13:34)

    Is it not a wonderful mystery that God would be pleased to save sinners like you?

    May the Lord bless your work for Him.

  11. deangonzales Says:

    I’d like to thank Sean for considering my post important enough to critique. I’m also that he included the links so that his readers can read my post. Hopefully, they’ll read all the footnotes and all my comments where I clarify and expand on my arguments. By reading the footnotes and my comments, many questions (accusations?) Sean makes in his critique will be addressed.

    While I don’t mind being critiqued and certainly don’t claim to have impeccable logic, I find Sean’s criticisms shamefully imbalanced, misinformed, and short on brotherly kindness. Of course, I don’t mind the fact that he feels quite zealous to protect the logical coherence of God’s revelation (a conviction I share), and I’m not totally opposed to his use of satire and sarcasm (I’ve used it sometimes). But it seems to me he’s placed quite a negative and, in my estimation, distorted spin on my position, drawing a number of false conclusions.

    For example, Sean portrays me and my position as if I’m advocating “irrationalism” in the fullest sense of that term. He calls me a “misologist,” i.e., hater of reason, when in fact I employ rational argumentation throughout my post, footnotes, and comments (note my use of “if … then,” “because of” “therefore,” “consequently,” “accordingly,” etc.). Once again, I don’t claim that my reasoning is flawless and welcome any of you to interact with my on my blog. It’s called Tabletalk because I welcome healthy discussion (even disagreement). But I don’t think I deserve the epithet “irrationalist” or “misologist.”

    Consider, for example, that fact that I challenged the logical coherence of the minority report’s logical caveat against the majority report. I made Sean aware of my caveat before he posted this critique and asked him to address it (which, for some reason, he didn’t do). The minority report reasons as follows:

    Desire suggests a want or lack in the one who desires which can be fulfilled only by the gratifying of the desire. This is incompatible with the self-sufficiency of God. Desire is something weaker than the firm determination of the will. No such weak wishing can properly be ascribed to God whose will is firmly fixed and fixes all things.

    Now let’s arrange their argument in the form of a syllogism:

    Major premise: “Desire suggests a want or lack in the one who desires which can be fulfilled only by the gratifying of the desire.”
    Minor premise: “This is incompatible with the self-sufficiency of God.”
    Conclusion: Therefore, “No such weak wishing can properly be ascribed to God …”

    Why should the logical syllogism above confine itself with “weak wishing”? It would seem that the all-sufficient God who needs nothing could not, according to the logic above, desire anything. He’s perfectly sufficient and does not need a world or human beings or a fall or the cross, etc. Consistency of logic would seem to demand that God couldn’t desire anything except himself. Yet God created the world because He freely desired to create the world and all therein. That fact doesn’t seem to fit well with the minority report’s logic. For that reason, I question the first premise. In the realm of human experience, “desire” may suggest a “lack” in the one who desires which can be fulfilled only by the gratifying of the desire. But desire doesn’t suggest such a “want” or “lack” in the experience of all-sufficient deity. God desires, whether less strongly or more strongly certain objectives outside himself, simply because he is free to so without any constraint. For this reason, I do not find the minority report’s logic cogent. I may be incorrect, but it would be helpful if someone would graciously point out where I’m mistaken.

    Sean not only accuses me of irrationalism but crass irreverence. In particular, Sean complains about the picture of a birthday cake with candles that appears on my post. He writes,

    This image alone is disturbing. Dr. Gonzales paints a picture for us of the Sovereign Lord God of heaven and earth shutting His eyes while making a wish and blowing out the candles on His celestial birthday cake, hoping against hope that His divine and holy birthday wish might come true.

    When Sean expressed his disturbance with this picture in another context, I assured him that the picture was only intended, like most analogies, to convey one point–the idea of expressing a wish. I pointed out to Sean that when Moses pictures God as a “Rock,” we’re not so dull as to think Moses is describing God as dense. When Calvin describes God as a nurse lisping “goo-goo, gah-gahs,” were not so juvenile as to attribute feminine gender and irrationality to God. I might add that when Sean portrays the Bible as “God’s Hammer,” I’m not tempted to impute sacrilege to Sean for reducing the Holy Scriptures to a common hand-tool. Accordingly, when I display a picture of a birthday cake with candles, most reader will recall the idea of “expressing a wish,” which is precisely what God does in Deuteronomy 5:29. But not one reader of my post has been so brutish as to make a univocal comparison between God expressing a wish and a human child expressing a wish. But lest the reader of my post infer too many points of correspondence between the picture and God and, consequently, bring God down to the level of a child, I begin the post with these important words of qualification:

    When you and I make a wish, we can’t be certain it will come true. But when God makes a wish, he has both the power and prerogative to effect its fulfillment. “Our God is in the heavens,” declares the psalmist, “he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3).

    Sean also inferred from my interpretation of Deuteronomy 5:29 that “Dr. Gonzales] believes in salvation by works.” I found this “good and necessary consequence” quite remarkable, especially since the seminary of which I am academic dean affirms,

    We believe that salvation always has been and always will be through faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone. We believe that this central message of Scripture has been most clearly and accurately expounded in the Reformed Confessions of Faith

    When Ben Maas challenged that (uncharitable) inference, Sean justified his accusation by asserting, “I was just tracing out where Gonzales’ handling of the verse necessarily leads. Dr. Gonzales may not believe in salvation by works, but his interpretation of Deut. 5:29 requires it.” So here Sean equivocates. One minute he says, “Gonzales believes in salvation by works,” and the next, “Gonzales may not … but his interpretation of Deut. 5:29 requires it.” I wonder why Sean didn’t have the brotherly courteous to ask me first before making the accusation. If he had, I would have pointed out that Matthew Henry’s soteriological reading of Deuteronomy 5:29, which I quoted, corresponded with mine. I also would have pointed him to footnote #4, which reads,

    Expositors like John Gill seem to reject Henry’s application of this text to salvation of sinners. Writes Gill, “These words do not express God’s desire of [the Israelites’] eternal salvation, but only of their temporal good and welfare, and that of their posterity; for their eternal salvation was not to be obtained by works of righteousness done by them, but their fear or worship of God, or by their constant universal obedience to his commands. They were saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, even as we. Their fear of God, and obedience to his will issued indeed in their temporal prosperity …” (For the Cause of God and Truth (reprint, Sovereign Grace Book Club, n.d.), sec. III, 4 [p. 5]. I agree with Gill that all men are saved by grace apart from works, I also agree that the blessing in view in the text had more immediate reference to their temporal prosperity in the Land of Canaan. Nevertheless, I also hold that God intended the people of the Old Covenant to look beyond its types and shadows of the Old Covenant to the eternal realities represented by such. Hence, their was both a temporal rest and an eternal rest (Heb. 4:1-10) envisioned in the blessing. In this way, the Mosaic covenant was not merely an administration of law but a “covenant of the promise” (Eph. 2:12). Moreover, “the fear” God desired from the Israelites in the text is nothing less than a “circumcised heart,” that is, regeneration and conversion. This God commanded of them (Deut. 10:16). But ultimately, it was an inward work only God’s grace could produce (Deut. 30:6; Jer. 32:39-40; Ezek. 36:26). Accordingly, since what God desires from the Israelites is ultimately regeneration and conversion and since such a heart-change is both the evidence of justifying faith and also a condition for eternal life (John 3:3, 5, 7; Heb. 12:14), I see no reason to confine the purview of this text to mere outward obedience and temporal prosperity. Strangely, in another place where Gill comments on this text, he seems to acknowledge that the “fear of God” in view is regeneration and conversion, and he locates the scope of the text within the scope of the covenant of grace: “that they would fear me; which is not naturally in the heart of man, is a gift of God, a part of the covenant of grace, is implanted in regeneration, and is no inconsiderable branch of it” (emphasis added).An Exposition of the Old Testament (William Hill Collingridge, 1852), 718. And though John Calvin, like Gill, interprets God’s wish anthropopathically (see below), he, nevertheless, did not limit the purview of the passage to the Israelites’ temporal blessing but applies the passage to his congregants as follows: “And so it is a very profitable warning for us when we see in this text how God wills that we should do the things that he commands us to the intent it might go well with us. Whereby we see that if we receive the doctrine with humility and desire to obey it, the end thereof cannot bee but happy so as we shall be sure of our salvation…. On the other side, let us rejoice inasmuch as we see how he procures our salvation and intends the furtherance thereof, as oft as his word is preached unto us” (emphasis added). Sermons on Deuteronomy (facsimile edition), trans. Arthur Golding (reprint, Banner of Truth, 1987), 261. [Note: Since I’m citing from a facsimile edition translated in 1583, I took liberty to update the spelling and punctuation for the modern reader.]

    So, like Matthew Henry, John Calvin, and John Gill (in his commentary), I believe that the scope of this passage is not limited to outward obedience or temporal promises but as a part in “the covenant of grace,” assumes “regeneration,” and alludes ultimately to what the Promised Land prefigured, namely, soteriological blessing. Perhaps it would be helpful for others on this discussion to know that I sought to refute the serious error (found in the NPP) that conflates faith and obedience in justification in my dissertation. I’m not certain whether any of this will persuade Sean to apologize for his invalid inference and misrepresentations of my beliefs.

    There are other important issues I suggested Sean should address before writing this post. But he failed to address a number of these issues, which makes me wonder whether he was really interested in a rational and gentlemanly debate or whether he was just interested in winning an argument and painting his opponent in the absolutely worst light.

    For instance, he represents Calvin’s and Gill’s view of divine emotivity and anthropopathisms as if they represent a monolithic Reformed consensus. “This is all Calvinism 101,” Sean tells Ben, “something one would have hoped even the dean of a purportedly “Reformed” seminary would know.”

    In response, let me point out first that the “anthropopathic” hermeneutic has been employed by Jewish Rabbis, the Early Church Fathers, and the Medieval Schoolmen long before Calvin or the Reformed stepped on the scene. So it is not a distinctively “Reformed” or “Calvinist” hermeneutic. Second, every Reformed interpreter (myself included) agrees that there is discorrespondence between divine and human emotivity. The real question in debate is “How much discorrespondence is there?” I demonstrate in my essay “There Is No Pain, You Are Misreading”: Is God “Comfortably Numb”? that not all Reformed scholars have agreed. There is, in other words, a considerable Reformed dissent from the approach that posits such a huge discorrespondence between divine and human emotivity so as to render God incapable of inward feeling vis-à-vis his creation. Charles Hodge, James Petrigru Boyce, Benjamin Warfield, and others think some older Reformed divines went too far in pressing discorrespondence. Robert Reymond, for example, has this to say about the question of divine emotivity as it relates to the WCF’s assertion, “God is … without body, parts, or passions” (II, 1):

    Whenever divine impassibility is interpreted to mean that God is impervious to human pain or incapable of empathizing with human grief it must be roundly denounced and rejected. When the Confession of Faith declares that God is “without body, parts, or passions” it should be interpreted to mean that God has no bodily passions such as hunger or the human drive for sexual fulfillment (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 179).

    Of course, I’m aware (sadly) that Reymond doesn’t accept Murray’s (and my) interpretation of Deuteronomy 5:29 or the well-meant offer. But his general view of divine emotivity corresponds nicely with mine. Like Reymond, I affirm that God does not have human body, parts, or passions. Conversely, I also affirm, with Reymond, that God enters time and space and that within the matrix of human history God is able to respond emotively to states of affairs and events without threat to his transcendence, sovereignty, or immutability.

    Moreover, I find that those Reformed divines who employ the hermeneutic of “anthropopathism” are not always completely consistent in their applications. When God wishes for the obedience and blessing of those who never experience such blessing (Deut. 5:29), John Gill takes great pains to urge the reader not to interpret the statement literally but “after the manner of men.” God’s “wish” is reduced to a kind of non-emotive approbation of obedience in the abstract or, in the case of Calvin, a kind of indicative rebuke against superficial devotion. However, when John Gill comes to David’s great sin, which God decreed but which God also censured, he writes,

    But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord…. the murder of her husband, which he was accessory to, as well as the death of many others, and the marriage of her under such circumstances, were all displeasing to God, and of such an heinous nature, that his pure eyes could not look upon with approbation (John Gill, An Exposition of the Old Testament, en loc.)

    Where’s the anthropopathic qualifier Gill found so necessary to insert in Deuteronomy 5:29?! After all, did David do exactly as God decretively desired? Why then does Gill feel at liberty to describe God as “displeased” when according to Gill’s system God must in reality feel nothing but pleasure towards all that happens? Or does Gill expect his readers to interpret his own comments anthropopathically too?

    Calvin also equivocates. On the one hand, he wants to relegate God’s grief in Genesis 6:6 to a mere accommodation and render it void of any genuine emotive content. On the other hand, he wants the text to highlight (really not figuratively) “God’s hatred and detestation of sin” and to serve as a warning to his readers: “unless we wish to provoke God, and to put him to grief, let us learn to abhor and to flee from sin.” Wait a minute, Dr. Calvin. You just said that God couldn’t really feel anger or grief. Yet, after cautioning your readers against predicating any genuine emotivity to God, you turn around and insist that through such “figures of speech” we’re supposed to ascribe “hatred” and “detestation” to God—both of which are emotive in nature! Moreover, you want you readers to flee from sin lest they “provoke” God and “put him to grief.” I thought you just told us that God is untouchable? If God is only happy, how can he hate, detest, be provoked, and put to grief? Can’t have it both ways. For these reasons, I agree with Charles Hodge who asserts that emotivity is an essential part of a moral being. A God who is apathetic towards sin—whether in the abstract or whether considered in terms of concrete particulars—cannot also be holy, just, good, and true.

    After reading Sean’s post (and presumably mine), one of his readers even charges me with teaching Open Theism! I found that quite amazingly naïve and seriously mistaken. And yet, to demonstrate my willingness to be accountable, let me encourage anyone on this discussion list who still suspects I’m guilty of Open Theism, Romanism, or Arminianism after reading through my posts on the well-meant offer and divine emotivity (with all the footnotes and comments) to contact the board members of my seminary immediately and urgently. If you really care about the truth, the souls of the students in our seminary, and my own eternal welfare, then play the man and context any or all of the board members. You’ll find the contact information on the seminary website. Or, if you simply have questions that need clarification, feel free to post those questions under the appropriate posts on the seminary blog. I’ll do my best to clarify any ambiguity or correct any misstatement.

    The best part of Sean’s post is the lengthy comment left by Ben Maas. Ben debated my position on the well-meant offer on the RBS Tabletalk forum. Like Sean, Ben does not find all of my arguments persuasive. Unlike Sean, Ben understands my position and does not misrepresent me. I guess Sean and I can agree on one thing. As Sean put it in a brief comment left on my blog (linking to this post): “Praise God that there are men like Ben Maas.” Sean’s thankful that Ben doesn’t bow the knee to an irrational God. I join Sean in his. Yet I’m also thankful that a guy like Ben Maas has not condescended to Sean’s level of argumentation, which, in my humble estimation, is neither the best display of logic nor of Christian charity.

    In the love of Christ,
    Bob Gonzales

  12. Roberto G Says:

    As I wrote previously, so many issues and doctrines intertwined here. What stands out to me in discussions like these is the language employed, both to defend or refute a belief. I’m not referring to the charitable or uncharitable language we use about eachother. I’m referring to the words, phrases, and meanings we use to advance a belief. When it concerns terms used of God and of us, a definition of some sort would be good and true if it did not contradict other revealed info. Hence, the necessary dilineation of “discorrespondence” between divine and human qualities. In the history of theology, some teachers have done so better than others. We can evaluate their success by whether what they define or propose is conceptually clear, logically coheres with other truths, and is applicable across the board.
    Gordon Clark took emotion and the attributes of God seriously and wrestled with defining the term emotion. While others, including psychologists and theologians, assumed or were surprisingly uncritical about a definition of emotion, Clark concluded that whatever emotion is for humans, such applications to God are made at the expense of the unity of His attributes.
    Divine emotivity is an issue that naturally comes up when discussing the well meant offer. I, for one, am quite comfortable in rejecting the “well meant offer” teaching and know that the price for doing so is most certainly not irrationality.

  13. deangonzales Says:

    Roberto,

    Your comment about the need to define what we intend by words is well taken. I also agree in the importance of distinguishing levels or discorrespondence when talking about psychological categories predicated of God. The Bible ascribes to God mental, volitional, and emotional categories to God. You seem to suggest that Dr. Clark saw little if any correspondence between human and divine emotivity. In other words, he placed all the emphasis on discorrespondence and saw little analogy, if any at all. Does Gordon Clark apply a similar hermeneutic of (nearly?) absolute discorrespondence when discussing mental and volitional categories predicated of God? In other words, does he find “anthroponouisms” and “anthropothelemisms” in Scripture?

    Bob Gonzales

  14. Roger Mann Says:

    Bob Gonzales wrote,

    It would seem that the all-sufficient God who needs nothing could not, according to the logic above, desire anything. He’s perfectly sufficient and does not need a world or human beings or a fall or the cross, etc. Consistency of logic would seem to demand that God couldn’t desire anything except himself. Yet God created the world because He freely desired to create the world and all therein. That fact doesn’t seem to fit well with the minority report’s logic. For that reason, I question the first premise.

    Consistency of logic either demands a conclusion or it doesn’t — it cannot merely “seem” to demand a conclusion. But the reason it “seems” this way to you is because you’re equivocating on the word “desire.”

    The Minority Report is clearly arguing against “desire” as a frustratable “passion” or fluctuating “emotion” in God:

    “…the term desire is employed after the manner of men and is not to be understood literally as implying an emotion in God…”

    “The particular passages of Scripture alleged to support frustratable desires no more prove desire as an emotion or passion in God than the assertion ‘it repented God…’ etc. proves a real change of his mind, or that God actually desired to know that the wickedness of Sodom was as it had been represented to him.”

    Thus, the Report is not arguing against God’s legitimate volitional or decretive will as exercised in the act of Creation, as you are suggesting above. Obviously God created the world because He “freely desired” (i.e., voluntarily willed/decreed) to create the world and all therein. That point is not in dispute. The question at hand is whether God has frustratable “desires” in the sense of unfulfilled “wants” or “wishes” that are in direct conflict with His voluntary will of decree? The Report, in accordance with Scripture, gives an emphatic No.

    The only other sense in which the Report uses the word “desire” is in reference to God’s will of approbation, complacency, or moral liking. This, too, is in accordance with Scripture:

    “Does God desire the salvation of the reprobate, or is the object of his desire not rather the connection between the compliance of sinners with the terms of the gospel offer and their salvation? The Ezekiel passages make express the divine approbation of the connection between repentance and salvation.”

    God’s “desire” in this sense is always fulfilled in His sovereign call of the elect to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  15. deangonzales Says:

    Here’s a slightly fuller rejoinder to Mr. Gerety’s article:

    Gerety’s Hammer Misses the Mark: A Rejoinder to Sean Gerety’s “Irrational Baptists”

    Bob Gonzales

  16. Roberto G Says:

    Dr. Gonzales, although I cannot claim to be an authority on Clark (or much of anything else!), I think it would be accurate to say that Clark saw little if any correspondence between what most people consider human emotivity and the divine emotivity ascribed to God throughout the Bible. Off the top of my head, I do not think he handled the other categories, mental and volitional, in the same way as the emotive. This possibly may have been the case, in part, because he saw no unhappy logical consequences in affirming more of a correspondence between those two qualities in us and God than he deemed to do with emotions. Also, he probably would have found it easier to define mind and will versus a definition of emotion.

  17. Ben Maas Says:

    Dear Mr. Gerety,

    (2) Proper name-calling is not sinful, but then again, that is a tautology. 🙂 The question obviously is whether or not name-calling is permitted in this case. We must be very careful applying Jesus’s actions of personally denouncing the Pharisees to our own situations. First, He was omniscient, and second, the Pharisees were [i]devils[/i] (not literally, but in terms of their great wickedness). The Pharisees were one of the few people to have been assured of their reprobation during their life (i.e. by committing the unforgivable sin); they were intensely evil. They were sons of the devil.

    Now, does an omniscient Theanthropos’s perfect name-calling of the desperately corrupt Pharisees warrant a human’s name-calling of fellow Christians? Of fellow [i]Reformed[/i] Christians? Mr. Gerety, I am pleading with you, please treat those who disagree with you more charitably. I agree with you that God does not feel emotions or desire in any way the salvation of reprobates, but I wouldn’t get closer to convincing my opponent in a debate, nor would I get closer to convincing any spectators, by saying that my opponent is a misologist who bows down to the altar of a paradox. Now, surely, you do provide excellent arguments for high Calvinism and for impassiblity — it’s not as if you’re only name-calling — but name-calling nonetheless doesn’t help; I would even argue that it makes matters worse.

    (3) As for Van Til, I’ll just ask you one question: do you believe that Van Til believed we can have only an analogy of the truth?

    (6) I was just making the point that imperatives can, in one sense, yield indicative conclusions. This is the case because if statement “i” is an imperative, then the (indicative) proposition ” ‘i’ was stated” can be used in a syllogism.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ben

    ———-

    Dr. Gonzales,

    Thank you for your kind words directed towards me, both in your post on this blog and in all your posts on Tabletalk.

    Blessings,
    Ben

  18. Roger Mann Says:

    Here’s a little bit of what Clark says about “emotions” or “passions” in God:

    “What is meant by saying that God has no passions? Is the word passion used in its contemporary romantic sense, or does it have a broader meaning? Is an emotion a passion? If it is, shall we say that God has no emotions? Do we ordinarily consider it a compliment when we call a man emotional? Can we trust a person who has violent ups and downs? Is it not unwise to act on the spur of the moment? Would then an emotional God be dependable? How could God have emotions, if he is immutable?… The way in which these questions are answered throws light on whether God is emotional or immutable and dependable. Consider Augustus Toplady. This great Anglican Calvinist, author of Rock of Ages, approves of Bradwardine (Complete Works, pp. 106, 107, London 1869) who said, ‘God is not irascible and appeasable, liable to emotions of joy and sorrow, or in any respect passive.’ Later on p. 687 Toplady adds in his own words, ‘When love is predicated of God, we do not mean that he is possessed of it as a passion or affection. In us it is such [sometimes?]; but if, considered in that sense, it should be ascribed to the Deity, it would be utterly subversive of the simplicity, perfection, and independency of his being. Love, therefore, when attributed to him signifies, (1) his eternal benevolence, i.e., his everlasting will, purpose, and determination to deliver, bless, and save his people.’” (What Do Presbyterians Believe, p. 29-30)

    Which emphasizes two questions Mr. Gonzales should answer: How could God have emotions (i.e., passions or affections), if he is immutable? How would such a notion not be “utterly subversive of the simplicity, perfection, and independency of his being?

  19. deangonzales Says:

    Roberto and Roger,

    Thank you for your helpful clarifications about the minority position and Dr. Clark’s teaching on the subject of the emotions, mind and will. I tried to address Roger’s counter remark regarding the logical argument of the minority report in footnote #1 in my rejoinder to Sean. Regarding Roger’s two questions, (1) How could God have emotions (i.e., passions or affections), if he is immutable? and (2) How would such a notion not be “utterly subversive of the simplicity, perfection, and independency of his being? I address these questions in my essay, “There Is No Pain, You Are Misreading”: Is God “Comfortably Numb”? You’ll find that I do agree with some of the discorrespondence between human and divine emotivity highlighted by Dr. Clark. My position is, however, more nuanced. Feel free to interact with that essay if you’d like.

    Thanks again for the helpful responses.

    Sincerely,
    Bob Gonzales

  20. Sean Gerety Says:

    While it seems Dr. Gonzales wants me to continue to chase him down some more rabbit trails, I have no desire (and one that I will fulfill by God’s grace) of getting drawn into an all out debate concerning the lunacy of the so-called Well Meant Offer. And, I certainly don’t have the time to untwine the trail of God’s supposed emotions.

    I will however take some time to clear up a few items where Dr. Gonzales’ believes I have falsely accused and mischaracterized him.

    First, he claims to share my conviction that we ought to be “zealous to protect the logical coherence of God’s revelation.” He assures me that this is why he doesn’t deserve the epithet “irrationalist” or “misologist” and that I’m being unfair or worse. If this were only true. However, in addition to the examples and reasons already provided in my piece, in a footnote to “God Makes a Wish,” and one I can only assume Gonzales believes justifies his attack on the very principle he claims to be zealous for, i.e., the analogy of faith and the idea that in Scripture there is a “consent of ALL (and not just some) of the parts,” he cites the following portion of Spurgeon’s discussion on 1 Timothy 2:4:

    C. H. Spurgeon also warns against this danger [of gaging “the Bible under the pretense of the analogy of faith”] when he writes, “My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God…. God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression. So runs the text, and so we must read it.” [?]

    First, here is the Spurgeon quote in full:

    My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God. I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent? But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture. God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression. So runs the text, and so we must read it, “God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

    Notice carefully, Spurgeon’s exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:4 results in a contradiction and renders his theology inconsistent. Yet, like Dr. Gonzales, Spurgeon considers it an act of piety to allow this contradiction to stand because he believes he is being faithful to Scripture. The tragedy is that it is his errant understanding of this verse that has lead him into asserting this inconsistency.

    In the past, perhaps this along with the rest of the WMO confusion could be just chalked up as a stupid error in exegesis, along with being a major concession to Arminianism. However, it wasn’t until C. Van Til that the belief in Biblical paradox was given its corrupting philosophic and epistemic justification. I believe had it not been for Van Til and his followers Spurgeon’s error would have been recognized and dismissed simply as an exegetical and, frankly, stupid error. Today, affirming “mystery and paradox” is considered the height of Christian humility and spirituality.

    By contrast, the principle of the analogy of faith is based, in part, on the belief that His Word is perfect (1 Cor. 13:10, James 1:25), non-contradictory in all that it teaches (John 10:35, Acts 15:15), and does not present to the mind assorted antinomies, and insoluble paradoxes (1 John 2:21). It was maintained that any apparent contradiction must be due to the failure of the exegete to properly divide God’s Word. Further, such “inconsistencies” ought to function not as fetishes for worship as we are called to commit intellectual suicide as we bow to some warped idea of the Creator/creature distinction, but as warning flags telling the interpreter to go back and recheck his premises. Concerning the interpretation of Scripture the WCF 1.9 states:

    The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, (which is not manifold, but one,) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

    One would think that if the meaning of Scripture is “not manifold, but one,” that the glaring “inconsistencies” advanced by Spurgeon and Gonzales is a sure sign that they have failed to grasp the “true and full sense” of Scripture as it relates to the imagined desire on the part of God for the salvation of all.

    Besides, I thought Dr. Gonzales said he shared my conviction and zeal for the analogy of faith?

    But, notice how Spurgeon ended up in this position:

    What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I trow not. You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text. “All men,” say they,—”that is, some men”: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said “some men” if he had meant some men. “All men,” say they; “that is, some of all sorts of men”: as if the Lord could not have said “all sorts of men” if he had meant that. The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written “all men,” and unquestionably he means all men.

    Spurgeon admits that he breaks with “our older Calvinistic friends” who have quite properly interpreted this verse as pertaining to all strata of men and not all men in general. What he fails to say is that those older Calvinistic friends include Calvin himself who said concerning this verse:

    Hence we see the childish folly of those who represent this passage to be opposed to predestination. “If God” say they, “wishes all men indiscriminately to be saved, it is false that some are predestined by his eternal purpose to salvation, and others to perdition.” They might have had some ground for saying this, if Paul were speaking here about individual men; although even then we should not have wanted the means of replying to their argument; for, although the: will of God ought not to be judged from his secret decrees, when he reveals them to us by outward signs, yet it does not therefore follow that he has not determined with himself what he intends to do as to every individual man.

    But I say nothing on that subject, because it has nothing to do with this passage; for the Apostle simply means, that there is no people and no rank in the world that is excluded from salvation; because God wishes that the gospel should be proclaimed to all without exception.

    Not surprisingly, Calvin affirms precisely what Spurgeon denies. Worse, Spurgeon ADMITS his exegesis of this verse is inconsistent with the rest of his theology, which, I assume, he believes is also derived from Scripture. Therefore, it follows that if Spurgeon is right, not only is Calvin wrong, but the Scriptures do not cohere and the analogy of faith is lost. Had he stuck with Calvin and the older Calvinists he would have avoided such a glaring contradiction in his own theology and would have remained true to Scripture. This is what it means to be zealous of the analogy of faith.

    Further, despite his seemingly pious willingness to surrender consistency in order to be true to God’s Word, he instead, and perhaps unwittingly, imputes irrationality to God and His Word. Notice, he claims that it was not his own sloppiness and failure to rightly understand this verse that lead him to embrace this very apparent contradiction, but rather he blames the Spirit for leading him into inconsistency. Rather than an inconsistency in their theology providing a clue for Spurgeon and Gonzales that they need to go back and recheck their premises, they would rather embrace nonsense and encourage others to do so as well. If that is not irrationalism and misology I don’t know what is.

    Second, Dr. Gonzales complains that I falsely accuse him of “crass irreverence” wrongly assuming that his little picture of a birthday cake with candles is what put me off. He assures me “that the picture was only intended, like most analogies, to convey one point–the idea of expressing a wish.” Well, his assurance aside, perhaps Dr. Gonzales should reread my piece. I wasn’t offended by his little picture of a cake and candles, but precisely with the one idea he was advancing by his analogy that the Sovereign Lord God of the universe makes a wish for the very thing we know He has not decreed and that is the salvation of all men universally distributed. God does not desire the salvation of the reprobate and Jesus Christ did not die for them. Christ died for those given to Him by the Father and those alone and not one of them will be lost.

    Third, Dr. Gonzales contends that I was being “uncharitable” (or worse) in suggesting that his exegesis of Deuteronomy 5:29 necessarily implies salvation by works. He claims I equivocate by saying “Gonzales believes in salvation by works” and the next, “Gonzales may not … but his interpretation of Deut. 5:29 requires it.” There is no equivocation simply because I can accept that he has not come to the correct exegesis and has not followed this verse to its logical conclusion. It was even my hope that he might see where the belief that “Deuteronomy 5:29 DOES teach that God desires the salvation of reprobates” leads and repent of it. Unfortunately, he continues to try and defend his interpretation stressing:

    I believe that the scope of this passage is not limited to outward obedience or temporal promises but as a part in “the covenant of grace,” assumes “regeneration,” and alludes ultimately to what the Promised Land prefigured, namely, soteriological blessing.

    Besides Gill providing a parallel verse that one would hope would persuade Dr. Gonzales of his error (Deut. 5:33 “You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess”), I also provided another parallel verse (Deut. 4:40) that again confirms the temporal nature of 5:29.

    Dr. Gonzales hangs his argument on the notion that “‘the fear’ God desired from the Israelites in the text is nothing less than a ‘circumcised heart,’ that is, regeneration and conversion. This God commanded of them (Deut. 10:16).” Besides the logical inability of trying to infer anything from a command, including the command given in the Deut. 10:16, one would think Deut. 5:33 is a better indicator as to the meaning of 5:29. However, and while he certainly has a long way to go to demonstrate his exegesis of the verse, I can see how perhaps Dr. Gonzales might read eternal salvific blessings into 5:29 and conclude that the verse teaches God’s desire for the salvation of the reprobate. But, and this is being kind, it is quite a stretch.

    Consequently, if Gill is correct in his exegesis of 5:29, and I have no reason to believe he is not, and Dr. Gonzales maintains that “Deuteronomy 5:29 DOES teach that God desires the salvation of reprobates,” then it follows that salvation is by works.

  21. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ben:

    (2) I get your point and I think I was being careful. Or, at least I was trying to be. Trust me, I looked for any evidence that might suggest I was wrong, but I couldn’t find any. As you can see above, even going back over the footnotes again, this time concerning Spurgeon who Dr. Gonzales brought to his defense, changed nothing. It only confirmed what I had been saying.

    Besides, while I might not persuade many or even most that “high Calvinism” is just plain vanilla Calvinism and that what men are asking them to swallow are deadly and novel corruptions, those like Brandon above who might at first be “taken aback” not only by what I said but how I said it, nonetheless “get it” and very much in the way I intended it. I want people to see that what’s at stake in this debate goes to the heart of the Christian faith and the truth of Scripture. That’s enough for me.

    Look at it this way, the opposition has gotten considerable mileage falsely labeling men like James White, Arthur Pink, Gordon Clark, John Robbins, and countless others as Hyper-Calvinists, rationalists or worse, I don’t see why a truthful epithet here and there couldn’t have some benefit?

    Are men really that soft?

    (3) That’s a difficult question since Van Til rejected the idea that there is any univocal point of contact between God’s thoughts and man’s and that truth is by nature analogous. I realize that Bahnsen tried to advance the idea that the analogy Van Til spoke of had to do more with the HOW of knowing rather than the WHAT (Lane Keister attempted to make the same case on his Greenbaggins blog not long ago), but I don’t buy it. It doesn’t even remotely jibe with history or the testimonies of either Clark or Van Til. There is a reason Van Til saw Clark as such a threat to his position within the OPC, which is why he and his associates worked so hard to get rid of Clark. OTOH, Van Til did say many contradictory things so he’s a lot harder to pin down at times than is Clark. Clark is pretty much what you read is what you get.

    (6) I’m sorry if I didn’t spend more time on (6) than I should have. I will think on it more. Not right now though. It’s late 😉

  22. Ben Maas Says:

    Mr. Gerety,

    (2) It is possible to be boldly proclaiming the truth and speaking of the great importance of a doctrine without resorting to name-calling. The fact that what is now called high Calvinism is really the only consistent form of Calvinism (with which I agree), and that you see this as crucially important, does not entail name-calling.

    And of course this isn’t about men being soft. This is about _behaving_ like a man, proclaiming the truth boldly and in love — not tolerating any type of error, but also not treating other Christians contemptibly. It is difficult.

    (3) As for Van Til, even if it were true that he personally believed that man knows only an analogy of the truth…if his followers (righteously) deny such a view as nonsensical, then what do Clarkians have to critique? If Van Tillians are always defending Van Til personally by saying that he never held such a view, then it is clear that Van Tillians reject that view. And if Van Tillians reject that view, then why do Clarkians continue to critique it? It’s dead! Whether or not Van Til held it, it’s dead! For what reason do Clarkians continue to employ the “irrationalist” and “paradox monger” cards, then, for followers of Van Til? I understand why that may be reserved for low Calvinists (although I think it too pejorative), but Van Til’s hallmark is his epistemology. If, therefore, Van Tillians do not believe that man knows only an analogy of the truth, then I see no other reason why Clarkians continue to critique Van Tillians, except perhaps to attempt to deface his name. And if that is true, then clearly the ninth commandment is being broken; if false, then I would like to know for what reason.

    I wish you the best, Mr. Gerety. I have much respect for your work.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ben

  23. Sean Gerety Says:

    (2) I think there is a substantial difference when church leaders (or even those who perceive themselves to be church leaders) continue against all sound reason to impute nonsense to God and undermine the truth of God’s Word, than when some poor soul is just regurgitating the rank incoherence he’s been taught. Particularly in the case of the former, I do find that worthy of scorn as I would hope all Christian men would. Sadly, that’s not the case, but then those men have their own blogs where they can get together and pretend to be perfect “Christian Gentleman.”

    (3) As for Van Til, even if it were true that he personally believed that man knows only an analogy of the truth…if his followers (righteously) deny such a view as nonsensical, then what do Clarkians have to critique?

    As I’ve said, I’ve only met one self-described Vantilian in my lifetime who rejects Van Til’s view of truth and Scripture. He’s an anomaly and my only criticism of him is that he doesn’t believe that Van Til’s epistemology is central to his apologetics. He believes Van Ti’s epistemic “distinctive” are the anomaly in the Vantilian system.

    So this one guy aside, we’ve got a lot left to critique.

    If Van Tillians are always defending Van Til personally by saying that he never held such a view, then it is clear that Van Tillians reject that view.

    I don’t see how this follows? Admittedly, some may be embarrassed by what Van Til wrote and want to downplay it, while others are interested in rewriting history in order to save Van Til’s epistemology from the trash heap through dishonestly distorting the record. A good example of this latter group can be found here, here, and here.

    But, make no mistake, even those who downplay Van Til’s anti-Christian views for public consumption continue to turn to their mentor in order to justify their own theological “dissonance.” And, why not? Vantilianism converts ordinary pastors, professors and even deans of seminaries into a new priestly class who alone can peer into the Biblical stew of apparent contradictions, antinomies, tensions, analogies, and insoluble paradoxes and demand assent to their contradictory view of truth on the basis of nothing more than their own authority.

    By contrast Clark said, and what became the manifesto of the Trinity Foundation,

    “when the plough man and the garage attendant know the Bible as well as the theologian does, and know it better than some contemporary theologians, then the desired awakening shall have already occurred.”

    Whether or not Van Til held it, it’s dead!

    Well, as anyone can see even in Reformed Baptist circles it’s very much alive.

    For what reason do Clarkians continue to employ the “irrationalist” and “paradox monger” cards, then, for followers of Van Til? I understand why that may be reserved for low Calvinists (although I think it too pejorative), but Van Til’s hallmark is his epistemology.

    And the hallmark of that epistemology is an analogous view of truth and a paradoxical view of Scripture. Besides, I don’t speak for other Clarkians or Scripturalists. I really don’t care what others call these men, but they should call them something. After all, it’s a religion all its own. If you think I’m overstating it, Google THEOparadox or check out the link provided by Dr. Gonzales to the site for support of his views. Here is a man who very much grasps and understands the Vantilian doctrine of biblical paradox. Irreconcilable paradoxes in Scripture are this man’s objects of worship and are the points of contact, at least in his mind, where I suppose man encounters the eternal infinite God. He very much lives out Van Til’s command to “embrace with passion” the apparently contradictory complete with the blind belief that for God there are no contradictions. FWIW I find this sick and disturbing.

    If, therefore, Van Tillians do not believe that man knows only an analogy of the truth, then I see no other reason why Clarkians continue to critique Van Tillians, except perhaps to attempt to deface his name. And if that is true, then clearly the ninth commandment is being broken; if false, then I would like to know for what reason.

    I think I’ve answered that.

  24. Sean Gerety Says:

    BTW Ben, I see Dr. Gonzales approvingly posted a piece by Amyrauldian David “One Note” Ponter calling John Gill “the head of hypercalvinism.”

    Needless to say, I think your uneasiness with name calling, even as it relates to other Christians, is a bit unbalanced and a little one sided.

  25. Roger Mann Says:

    Dr. Gonzales,

    With all due respect, the two articles you pointed me to do not answer the questions I raised, but rather further confuse the central issues involved. For example, in footnote #1 of your Rejoinder to Sean, you begin by saying:

    Some might suggest that the minority report is only referring to “unfulfilled desires” in the major premise. I would respond, first, by noting that’s not what the report says.

    However, as I pointed out in my previous comment, the context of the minority report makes it quite clear that it is referring to unfulfilled desires within God. It is unnecessary to explicitly state what is unambiguously implied by the context. You then went on to say:

    I reject the notion that either unfulfilled or fulfilled desires of necessity implies a need, want, or lack when predicated of God.

    But an unfulfilled desire indeed implies a “want” or “lack” when predicated of God, regardless of how one tries to spin it. Your argument is that God ardently desires the salvation of the reprobate, an end which He has eternally and immutably decreed will never come to pass. Therefore it necessarily follows that God is eternally “wanting” or “lacking” that which He ardently desires — the salvation of the reprobate. You’re free to “reject” this necessary consequence if you’d like — but then you can no longer claim to have a rational argument.

    In reference to God’s supposed fluctuating “emotions” or “passions,” in your article There Is No Pain you wrote:

    In other words, God really responds emotively to events that transpire within creation and redemptive history. One might say that God is “impassible” from the perspective of his transcendence and “passible” from the perspective of his immanence.

    Unfortunately, while at first glance this distinction appears to resolve the problem, it actually results in a blatant contradiction. For no matter what “perspective” we attempt to look at it from, such a position posits two contradictory attributes (“impassibility” and “passibility”) within the very being of God ad infra. God either has fluctuating “passions” within His being or He does not. You can’t have it both ways! You also wrote:

    All of these emotional responses [i.e., “grief, sorrow, anger, pleasure, love, hatred, jealousy, joy and peace”] are perfectly consistent with his unchanging “being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”

    But of course these so-called “emotional responses” experienced by God are not “perfectly consistent” with His immutable being. Once we assert that God has fluctuating “passions” within His being ad infra, we can no longer maintain that God is unchanging or immutable — for the very essence of fluctuating “emotions” or “passions” is the mutability or change of one’s feelings!

    To be charitable, you may not be a misologist (hater of reason), but you are definitely making a number of logical blunders, and the position you are maintaining is logically inconsistent.

  26. Roger Mann Says:

    Here’s some pertinent comments that Vincent Cheung makes regarding so-called Complex Motives in God:

    Scripture teaches that God decrees what he desires – that is, his “good pleasure” – and what he desires, he decrees and makes certain [which, of course, excludes any supposed unfulfilled desires within God — RM]. Dabney tries to preserve the “sincere offer” by asserting that there are complex motives in God, so that although God might genuinely desire the salvation of the non-elect from one perspective, another stronger motive or reason in him overrides such a desire, and this is why he has not chosen to save the non-elect. It seems to Dabney that this explanation preserves both his belief in divine election of only some for salvation, and God’s genuine desire to save everyone in one sense. However, even if we accept what Dabney says about complex motives in God, at the point of the divine decree of only some for salvation and then at the point of the preaching of the gospel, the stronger motive to select only some for salvation has already overridden the genuine desire to save all (that is, assuming that this desire exists at all), so that neither the divine decree nor the preaching of the gospel any longer expresses or allows for any desire in God to save all. In other words, even if God’s motives are complex, the decree and the preaching are not complex, but the decree and the preaching are precisely what we are talking about. Therefore, even if Dabney is right about complex motives in God, it is irrelevant to our discussion.

    The only other option that I can see for those who maintain an unfulfilled “desire” in God for the salvation of the reprobate, is to reject the Reformed order of decrees and to accept an Amyraldian order of decrees — which can then be disproved on other Scriptural grounds.

  27. Rescued from Romanism Says:

    Sean and all,

    Thank you for an enlivening discussion. It is important that we contend for the faith but, in so doing, we must avoid inciting wrath. “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (Jam 1:20)

    Sean, thank you for standing for the Lord. I believe that if the Lord is not willing that anyone in the whole universe should perish, then everyone will be saved, a patently false notion which neither you nor Bob Gonzales holds. Therefore the only correct way of interpreting a verse like 2 Peter 3:9 (“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”) is that the verse is speaking about the elect, those mentioned in the “to us-ward”. This is not a popular viewpoint, especially in a day when any form of discrimination is viewed as narrow and hateful. But, on the other hand, what of the concept of “all the world” in Mark 16:15: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Could someone (mistakenly maybe) connect this to the idea of a “well meant offer”? If they could, should you or I be kind to that person and gently attempt to dissuade him/her of that notion? Or should we interpret ignorance on the part of any so-called brother as a sign of his/her spiritually darkened mental state?

    Thanks, brothers, for realizing that we are being watched by a multitude of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) and for paying careful attention to the following passage: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. (Col 3:12-14)

    I wept as I wrote that passage; let’s be kind, even to those whom we think are outside the faith.

  28. Ben Maas Says:

    Mr. Gerety,

    (3) As I’ve said, I’ve only met one self-described Vantilian in my lifetime who rejects Van Til’s view of truth and Scripture.

    What is Van Til’s view of truth?

    I don’t see how this follows?

    If Van Tillians are desperately trying to revise history to save Van Til’s name from being associated with a view of truth that the Van Tillians find reprehensible, then it would show that they find it reprehensible as well. Otherwise they would not be so desperately trying to separate Van Til with the view of the truth.

    Sincerely,
    Ben Maas

  29. deangonzales Says:

    Roger Mann,

    Thanks for pointing out some ambiguity in the statement of my footnote. At one point I referred to “fulfilled desire” when I really mean not-yet-fulfilled decretive desire. In any case, I’ve tried to reword the footnote to make better sense. Here is how I would construct the syllogism:

    Major premise: Scripture predicates desires of God that are actuated in history (because decreed) and also desires of God that are not actuated in history (because not decreed).

    Minor premise: Scripture portrays God as independent of creation and as completely self-sufficient.

    Conclusion: Desire predicated of God, whether determined (decretive) or non-determined (preceptive), cannot suggest a want or lack in the one who desires which can be fulfilled only by the gratifying of the desire since God is by nature independent or self-sufficient.

    Regarding your questions regarding my construal of divine emotivity, perhaps I can understand you concern better by asking you two questions: first, does God’s work of creation include any ad intra volitional movement or motion in God? second, does God’s work of providence include any ad intra volitional movement or motion in God?

    Thanks for your helpful critiques, which are forcing me to think through my position more carefully.

    Your servant,
    Bob Gonzales

  30. deangonzales Says:

    Sean’s censure above needs to be qualified. He complaines that I let David Ponter, whom he accuses of Amyraldianism, to post on my comments.

    (1) I don’t have any proof that David is an Amyraldian and am not sure I fully understand Amyraut’s position on the atonement.

    (2) There’s no rule on my blog precluding Amyraldians from posting.

    (3) Anyone who reads the comments on my blog will find that I myself do not presently have a firm opinion of Dr. Gill. Moreover, I pointed out that Spurgeon’s reference to Gill was overall laudatory, and he seemed more concerned with the abuses of Gill’s followers.

    See comment #10.

    Bob Gonzales

  31. Sean Gerety Says:

    What is Van Til’s view of truth?

    I thought we covered this? For Van Til truth is analogous and there is no univocal point of contact between God’s thoughts and man’s.

    I don’t see how this follows?

    If Van Tillians are desperately trying to revise history to save Van Til’s name from being associated with a view of truth that the Van Tillians find reprehensible, then it would show that they find it reprehensible as well.

    I was asking the question rhetorically. There are many reasons why Vantilians would want to revise history and not because they view his epistemology as “reprehensible.”

  32. Ben Maas Says:

    For Van Til truth is analogous and there is no univocal point of contact between God’s thoughts and man’s.

    What exactly do you mean when you say there is no point of contact between their thoughts? Are you referring to the propositional content (e.g. if God possesses A, man cannot possess A because he is a creature)? Or are you referring to something else?

    There are many reasons why Vantilians would want to revise history and not because they view his epistemology as “reprehensible.”

    But surely if they are desperate to correct/clarify the specific issue of Van Til’s alleged “analogical view of truth,” then it would be because they reject such a view, correct? For instance, Bahnsen in Van Til’s Apologetic says specifically that Van Til did not believe in an analogy of the truth and attempted to correct/clarify Van Til’s view? Would it not be evident that Van Til finds such a view to be absolutely stupid?

    It seems to me as if Van Tillians are sometimes identified by their association with paradox and then criticized for Van Til’s alleged view of truth as analogous, which is an absolutely ridiculous view. (Besides, I would say this criticism of Van Tillianism emerges mostly because of the two sides’ understanding “paradox” differently.)

  33. Ben Maas Says:

    Sorry, typo above: “Would it not be evident that [Bahnsen] finds such a view to be absolutely stupid?”

  34. qeqesha Says:

    Ben Mass,
    “Your arguments But surely if they are desperate to correct/clarify the specific issue of Van Til’s alleged “analogical view of truth,” then it would be because they reject such a view, correct? For instance, Bahnsen in Van Til’s Apologetic says specifically that Van Til did not believe in an analogy of the truth and attempted to correct/clarify Van Til’s view? Would it not be evident that Van Til finds such a view to be absolutely stupid?”

    van Til’s view of the Bible is contained in material penned by van Til. It is NOT something Sean Gerety made up! I consider Bahnsen’s denial scholarly irresponsible and utterely reprehensible, and unworthy of christian integrity. Christianity is not tribalism or gangsterism. One does not defend their friends or pet theologians at the expense of the truth! That is not christianity at all but something else! van Til and his friends at Westminster Seminary tried to run Gordon Clark out of church for his views on the “incomprehensibility of God” and other matters. Clark was accused of “rationalism” etc etc for refusing to bow down to “paradox” and “incomprehensibility”! A van Tilian, Manata, recently called Gordon Clark a drug pusher for his views on truth! What a fine gentleman!

    The devastating effects of the van Tillian view of the Bible are everywhere evident in reformed circles both in some departures from orthodoxy and the incapability of some to combat deception! Is this what you wish for the bride of Christ, that it be tossed about without a sure anchor for its faith?

    Your pleas are unbiblical and ungodly pleas for a false peace and compromise with lies and falsehood. You are a false witness and your sugar coated pleas do not emanate from the Spirit of Truth. They are Satanic deception!

    Denson

  35. deangonzales Says:

    Sean has made much of the Spurgeon quote I provided in a footnote in order to insist that I’m irrational and that my exegesis of Deuteronomy 5:29 of necessity requires “salvation by works.”

    (1) Mishandling the Spurgeon citation

    The citation from Spurgeon comes from his sermon on 1 Timothy 2:4. He, like some other Calvinist writers, does not believe the “all” in this context is confined to an abstract category, i.e., “all sorts of men,” but is rather inclusive of fallen humanity. With that understanding in view, he writes,

    My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God…. God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression. So runs the text, and so we must read it.

    The reader should note a few things about Spurgeon’s comment in order to interpret it properly and to avoid false inferrences:

    First, Spurgeon is pitting the teaching of Scripture against “[his] own doctrinal views.” Hence, he’s admitting the possibility that his system of doctrine may be fallible.

    Second, when Spurgeon places the “inspiration of Scripture” above “orthodoxy,” he doesn’t mean genuine orthodoxy but only what might be perceived as orthodox to himself or to others. In other words, orthodoxy in the context of the quote is more or less equivalent to “my own doctrinal views” (or those of others).

    Third, to affirm that one’s own doctrinal views should be subordinate to the authority of inspired Scripture is not an indication that one affirms irrationalism. It is, rather, an indication that one reverences the word of God, recognizes the fallibility of the human interpreter, and his upholding the principle of sola Scriptura.

    Fourth, Spurgeon himself, like the rest of us, will sometimes use the analogy of faith in order to adopt a less plausible reading of a text when he believes that a particular doctrinal position is so overwhelmingly clear that it mandates adopting the less plausible reading. So it would not be correct to assert that Spurgeon was opposed in principle to using clearer passages and well-established doctrines to guide in the interpretation of less-clear passages.

    Fifth, I’m certain that Spurgeon, like the rest of us, is not infallible in his application of the principle stated above. No doubt there are times when he should have adopted the less plausible reading of a text rather than its prima facie reading. Perhaps his exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:4 is a case in point.

    Sixth, the fact that someone might be inconsistent in the application of a principle doesn’t invalidate the principle. Solomon, for example, censured fornication and warned of its terrible consequences. Yet he didn’t always follow his own advice. Similarly, upholding the primacy of Scripture, acknowledging the fallibility of theologians, and warning against the potential danger of abusing the analogy of faith is not invalidated simply because Spurgeon or anyone else (including myself) might at times be inconsistent.

    (2) The soteriological implications of Deuteronomy 5:29

    First, despite the fact that I demonstrated that Matthew Henry, John Calvin, and even Gill in his commentary drew connections with the “blessing” identified in Deuteronomy 5:29 and “the covenant of grace” and “salvation” doesn’t hinder Sean from his insistence that my exegesis of necessity entails salvation by works. If he is correct, then Gill is guilty of being an “irrationalist” since he speaks out of both sides of his mouth. Moreover, Calvin and Henry are irrational for affirming salvation by grace in Christ through faith elsewhere in abundance in their writings but here apparently muddying the waters with Roman Catholic theology.

    Second, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). I take this to mean that eternal life is contingent on regeneration and the new birth,” which, of course, is a work of God (monergism). We are also hold that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). So eternal life is also contingent on sanctification. But this is not the same as claiming that regeneration and/or sanctification are the conditions for the legal blessing of justification. Justification is by faith alone, and the faith that justifies is both (1) a gift of God and (2) naked or passive in its role. In other words, though true faith produces works, it is not working faith that justifies but simple receiving faith that justifies. Such faith is one of the fruits of regeneration. But regeneration is in no sense the instrument of justification. Faith in its passive role is the alone instrument of justification.

    Whether or not these clarifications satisfy Sean or whether he will continue insisting that I affirm irrationalism and advocate, by my exegesis of Deuteronomy 5:29, salvation by works remains to be seen. One thing I have come to see. Sean claims a commitment to the principle of “good and necessary consequence,” that is, the legitimacy of proper inference. I don’t doubt his sincerity. But I have come to seriously question his ability to employ that tool of reason. Indeed, one glaring weakness in many of Sean’s arguments and harangues is his penchant for drawing bad and unnecessary inferences when dealing with his opponents. I don’t claim to be perfect and am sure I’ve made this mistake at times. Just wish Sean could be humble enough to admit that he sometimes makes mistakes and draws unwarranted inferences.

    Respectfully yours,
    Bob Gonzales

  36. Ben Maas Says:

    Denson,

    (1) Given that Van Til’s language was ambiguous (surely “thought content” can be seen as either the actual propositions in one’s mind or the process of knowing them, right?), and that Bahnsen was a close friend and student of Van Til’s, I would say it’s dubious, or at least it’s not very obvious, that Van Til believed that man knows only an analogy of the truth.

    By the way, I was not insinuating that Mr. Gerety was making anything up. I believe he is mistaken in his interpretation, but not culpably mistaken (given Van Til’s ambiguity).

    (2) Even if Van Tillians are engaging in this disgusting habit of revisionism in order to protect friends…who cares? If the heresy is removed, then let them be. Protect Clark’s name, for sure, but it seems unnecessary to go out of one’s way in order to bring down Van Til’s name — in regards to the analogous view of truth — even if his name is being brought down to a truthful level.

    (3) I have not once asked for paradox to be made part of Christian doctrine. I reject paradox. I actually agree with Mr. Gerety on many points of doctrine, and my main disagreement with him was regarding language. In fact, I didn’t even ask him to stop talking about the wrongness of paradox! Honestly, how can this be seen as a “compromise with lies and falsehood”? Moreover, how does this warrant accusations of false witness and Satanic deception?

    All I asked for was more winsome demeanors in discussing and rebuking false doctrines. If that is a grievous sin, then I apologize to everyone and I will publicly repent of it. But otherwise I have no reason to see I did anything wrong. Really, brother, please be more charitable in your reading of me.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ben

  37. Sean Gerety Says:

    What exactly do you mean when you say there is no point of contact between their thoughts? Are you referring to the propositional content (e.g. if God possesses A, man cannot possess A because he is a creature)? Or are you referring to something else?

    That is exactly what I’m talking about. Van Til said:

    Accordingly, the fact that man is given more and ever more revelation of God does not tend to reduce the incomprehensibility of God. For man any new revelational propositions will enrich in meaning nay previously given revelational proposition. But even this enrichment does not imply that there is any coincidence, that is, identity of content between what God has in his mind and what man has in his mind. If there is no identity of content in the first proposition that God gives to man there can be no identity of content attained by means of any number of additional propositions of revelation that God gives to man. [as quoted by Bahnsen in Van Til’s Apologetic: Reading & Analysis, 248]

    But surely if they are desperate to correct/clarify the specific issue of Van Til’s alleged “analogical view of truth,” then it would be because they reject such a view, correct?

    I don’t know where you think this desperation is or where it can be found? I don’t know of any? Can you cite anything that might demonstrate where any well known Vantilian rejects Van Til’s doctrine of truth? I can understand why some would want to whitewash history and try to reduce the force of Van Til’s views since they are so patently absurd, but I can’t think of any well-known Vantilian who rejects his view. After all, Van Til’s doctrine of incomprehensibility touched on above was the cornerstone of his sinful attack against Clark and the focal point in his attempt to defrock Clark.

    Van Til said:

    When the Christian restates the content of Scriptural revelation in the form of a “system,” such a system is based upon and therefore analogous to the “existential system” that God himself possesses. Being based upon God’s revelation it is on the one hand, fully true and, on the other hand, at no point identical with the content of the divine mind.. [Introduction to B. B. Warfield]

    What this means, and as Paul Elliot explains, is that “the Scriptures contain a system of “truth” that is “at no point identical with” but somehow resembles the unknowable truth in God’s mind. The statements of Scripture are not God’s truth itself.”

    And, if there can be any doubt, Van Til said in his Intro to Systematic Theology:

    The “system” [notice the quotes] thus produced as, e.g., it finds expression in the Reformed confessions of faith, pretends to be an analogical system. At no point does such a system pretend to state, point for point, the identical content of the original system of the mind of God. If there were any point at which such a Christian system would claim to be exhaustively reproductive of the mind of God it would have to claim to be reproductive of the whole mind of God. To claim for the Christian system identity with the divine system at any point is to break the relationship of dependence of human knowledge on the divine will. And when this dependence is broken man’s knowledge is thought of as self-sufficient.

    Yet, and not a little ironically, officers in the Presbyterian bodies like the PCA are required to take a vow that they “sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures….” And, since, Paul said that in Scripture we have “the mind of Christ,” it would follow that to “receive and adopt” the WCF as containing the “system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures” that they are adopting the same system as revealed by the mind of God.

    Not so say C. Van Til. Incomprehensibility according to Van Til means there can be “no point of contact,” no coincidence between the divine mind, even as God has revealed himself in the propositions of Scripture, and the mind of man. God’s knowledge is not only *quantitatively” different from knowledge possible to man even through the illuminating work of the Spirit pressing the truths of Scripture onto the minds of God’s children, but there is also a *qualitative* difference between the thoughts God thinks and those which man thinks, both now and in heaven. To maintain any univocal point of contact between the mind of God and man according to Van Til is to adopt the epistemology of the Romanist, the Arminian, and the unbeliever. This is precisely why he launched his failed attack against Clark. Of course, when Van Til and the rest of his associates including Murray, Stonehouse and Kuiper, continued to disrupt the peace of the Church by similarly attacking Clark’s supporters like Floyd Hamilton (one of the authors of the Minority Report to Murray’s defense of the so-called Well Meant Offer), Clark and these other men left the OPC. This may have been a strategic mistake on Clark’s part and Dr. Robbins said that Clark regretted leaving and not continuing to fight these men within the OPC. Of course, Clark didn’t altogether abandon the fight when he left the OPC, but it did free him up to pursue other avenues of theology. So in my view it was a mixed bag.

    For instance, Bahnsen in Van Til’s Apologetic says specifically that Van Til did not believe in an analogy of the truth and attempted to correct/clarify Van Til’s view? Would it not be evident that Van Til finds such a view to be absolutely stupid?

    Where? Where does Bahsen say this? The only thing I could find is one footnote (#205) where he claims Van Til really didn’t mean what he just said. If Bahsen thought Van Til’s doctrine of analogy was “stupid” he should have *refuted it,* not attempt to excuse it. Plus, if what he says in that footnote was even remotely true, then Van Til had absolutely no reason to attack Clark and continue to besmirch him as a “rationalist” and worse throughout his career. FWIW I suspect Bahsen saw that Van Til’s doctrine of incomprehensibility leads to abject skepticism and perhaps was attempting to soften the blow for his readers. I have no idea, but I know of nowhere where Bahnsen repudiated and rejected Van Til’s view concerning analogy?

    It seems to me as if Van Tillians are sometimes identified by their association with paradox and then criticized for Van Til’s alleged view of truth as analogous, which is an absolutely ridiculous view. (Besides, I would say this criticism of Van Tillianism emerges mostly because of the two sides’ understanding “paradox” differently.)

    Yes. Of course we are understanding paradox differently. Clark maintained that paradoxes in Scripture are “charley horses of the mind that only can be assuaged by vigorous mental message” and that the role of the theologian to explain through the careful handling of Scripture how the truths of Scripture logically cohere. Whereas, Van Til and his followers like Dr. Gonzales maintain that a paradox is when both sides of any seeming biblical contradiction are both true, like saying God desires the salvation of all while simultaneously only desiring the salvation of some. A paradox is not something that can or even should be resolved and both sides of such obvious apparent contradictions should not be harmonized. This would be impious and the “sin of rationalism.”

    You’ll note that Dr. Gonzales in his defense of the WMO, and to explain what he means by the idea of “mystery and paradox” where his doctrine resides, cites John Frame, “The Problem of Theological Paradox,” that was later published as, “Van Til, The Theologian.” Well, Frame makes it clear what is meant by paradox as well. He agrees with Dr. Gonzales and says this is “where faith comes in.” While the truths of Scripture remain contradictions for us, we are to have faith that for God there are no contradictions. This is what these men mean by paradox. It’s a paradox not because any two truths can be harmonized at the bar of human reason, but because we are to just believe that they are harmonized in the Godhead. Of course, they can’t know this, but that is their argument. Again, I would refer you to my discussion of the Vantilian idea of biblical paradox in, “The Evisceration of the Christian Faith.”

    Anyway, I know you think that there has to be a middle ground between Clark and Van Til, which is why I have tried to take the time to show you there is none. Concerning truth and Scripture the positions taken by these men are mutually exclusive. This is no paradox (in the normal English use of the word). The epistemic position taken by Van Til and Clark contradict each other and do so completely. It is simply impossible that both can be right. One must, and not may, be wrong. The only other option to take, which many do, is that the epistemologies of both these men are contraies in which case they are both wrong and neither position is biblical. In which case there is always evidentialism.

    Blessings.

  38. Sean Gerety Says:

    Dr. Gonzales writes:

    to affirm that one’s own doctrinal views should be subordinate to the authority of inspired Scripture is not an indication that one affirms irrationalism. It is, rather, an indication that one reverences the word of God, recognizes the fallibility of the human interpreter, and his upholding the principle of sola Scriptura.

    As I’ve said, I will not be drawn into a debate over God’s imagined unfulfilled “desire” for the salvation of all, especially when Scripture everywhere refutes this idea, including 1 Timothy 2:4. I just want to say that I consider the above complete and utter hogwash.

    The principle of sola Scriptura as expressed in the WCF and central to what the Confession writers called the “infallible rule of interpretation,” is that the meaning of Scripture is not manifold or many, but one. Therefore, when some Baptists, even one as beloved and admired as Spurgeon, advances an interpretation that overthrows the logical unity of Scripture it must be rejected.

    Further, if it were even remotely true that Spurgeon was maintaining “the fallibility of the human interpreter” then he would be maintaining his own ignorance concerning 1 Tim 2:4. Instead, he insists, while diving headlong into incoherence and nonsense, that “The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written “all men,” and unquestionably he means all men.” Well, of course he does, just not in the sense Spurgeon maintains. As a result he ADMITS that his interpretation contradicts the rest of Biblical teaching concerning the particularist extent of the Atonement and the doctrine of election, yet he attributes the illogic of his interpretation to the Holy Ghost!

    Consequently, to adopt Spurgeon’s interpretation of 1 Tim 2:4 is not the affirmation of sola Scriptura as Dr. Gonzales wrongly contends, it is its rejection. My assessment that Dr. Gonzales is an irrationalist stands.

  39. Ben Maas Says:

    Mr. Gerety,

    (1) Did Bahnsen have any footnotes or commentary on that quote of Van Til? If I remember correctly from that passage, according to Bahnsen, Van Til was referring to the process (the “how) of learning that first proposition. That is, if we don’t know one proposition in the same way God knows it, then we will not know any in the same way God knows it. God creates propositions whereas we discover them.

    In fact, Van Til’s phraseology in your quote from his Introduction to Systematic Theology — using such words as “system” and “reproducing the mind of God” — would seem to indicate a “how” rather than a “that.” If nothing else, the “that” interpretation is not obvious. (The fact that Van Til is using the same word as those taken in PCA vows does not necessitate that the meaning of “system” be the same thing in their different contexts. Everything should be read in its proper context.)

    (2) Can you cite anything that might demonstrate where any well known Vantilian rejects Van Til’s doctrine of truth?

    I cannot. But neither have I seen the analogical view of truth espoused. I have heard analogy used in various ways, but never have I heard that man knows an analogy of the truth, or that, propositionally speaking, man’s mind has no point of contact with God’s mind. (As I said earlier, that’s so obviously wrong that no thinking person will espouse it.)

    (3) Clark should not have been attacked for his views. That was wrong and reprehensible. But I still think that Van Til’s epistemology, sans an analogical view of truth (if he held it) and paradox, is correct. If nothing else, this should not be seen as a terrible “irrationalist” stance of mine, warranting denouncement (if that is what you had in mind); I can answer questions about it if you think it still entails skepticism.

    (4) Where? Where does Bahsen say this? The only thing I could find is one footnote (#205) where he claims Van Til really didn’t mean what he just said. If Bahsen thought Van Til’s doctrine of analogy was “stupid” he should have *refuted it,* not attempt to excuse it.

    I do not have my book with me, but I promise I will paste and cite the section from Van Til’s Apologetic on this blog later tonight.

    (5) Plus, if what he says in that footnote was even remotely true, then Van Til had absolutely no reason to attack Clark and continue to besmirch him as a “rationalist” and worse throughout his career.

    While there may be more that I don’t know, I presume that one reason Van Til attacked Clark is because he thought Clark valued so-called “human logic” over what Van Til thought was a clear teaching of Scripture, viz. the well-meant offer. I can also guess that Clark’s rejection of empirical knowledge might have had something to do with it.

    (6) Yes. Of course we are understanding paradox differently. Clark maintained that paradoxes in Scripture are “charley horses of the mind that only can be assuaged by vigorous mental message” and that the role of the theologian to explain through the careful handling of Scripture how the truths of Scripture logically cohere. Whereas, Van Til and his followers like Dr. Gonzales maintain that a paradox is when both sides of any seeming biblical contradiction are both true, like saying God desires the salvation of all while simultaneously only desiring the salvation of some.

    No, I would say even this involves a bit of talking past each other. Even though I am fairly certain that Van Til believed in irreconcilable paradoxes (which cannot be conceptually distinguished from actual contradictions), I doubt Dr. Gonzales does. He has clearly attempted to formulate his position in such a way that a contradiction does not result — showing at least that he does not believe/i> that irreconcilable paradoxes are legitimate, in which he cases he departs from Van Til’s erroneous view. (He mentioned sacred views with which “we must not tamper,” but that was not concerning irreconcilable paradoxes as you see him arguing for a logically consistent explanation for the well-meant offer. Of course, I believe this entire process is misguided, as I believe the well-meant offer cannot possibly have an explanation. But that doesn’t change the fact that Dr. Gonzales implicitly repudiated the notion of irreconcilable paradox.

    Clarkians (rightly) criticize the notion of paradoxes that man cannot resolve by the best utilization of logic, and (some) Van Tillians (rightly) defend the notion of paradoxes as prima facie problems which upon further consideration are no problems at all. Examples of the latter would be foreordination and responsibility and the Trinity. They are not contradictory (and are therefore not paradoxes on the definition that is criticized by Clarkians), yet they still sound pretty weird and prima facie unacceptable (and are therefore paradoxes on the definition that is defended by some Van Tillians).

    For the record, I love Clark’s “definition” of paradox. 🙂

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ben

  40. Sean Gerety Says:

    (1) Hi Ben. Yes, the footnote I cited is in reference to the quote I also cited from Bahnsen’s book. I’m sorry that I didn’t make that clear. The quote from Van Til is dealing the “identity of content between what God has in his mind and what man has in his mind,” and not the HOW God and man both know. I mean, of course the way God *knows* differs from the way man knows. This is trivial. God is omniscient and His thoughts are forever and immediately before Him, whereas for man thoughts pass through our minds and we can never grasp all that God knows for the simple fact that we are not omniscient nor ever will be. Clark made this clear in his Answer to the complaint filed by Van Til, but Van Til completely rejected it. Besides, Van Til had ample opportunity throughout his long career to set the record straight and that he agreed with Clark all along, but never did. Consequently, I don’t put a lot of weight on one footnote from Bahnsen when he too viciously attack Clark throughout his career and for much the same reasons as did his mentor, C. Van Til.

    (2) I didn’t think so. 😉

    (3) I still think that Van Til’s epistemology, sans an analogical view of truth (if he held it) and paradox, is correct.

    I have no idea what could possibly be left? An analogous view of truth and a paradoxically confused Scripture is foundational to his entire epistemology.

    (4) I’ll be waiting 🙂

    (5) You’re right and the WMO did factor in, but was really a tertiary issue along with Clark’s unrelenting anti-empiricism. The entire debate hinged on Van Til’s view of incomprehensibility.

    (6) I don’t think we’re talking past each other at all and I’m at a loss to see where Dr. Gonzales differs from VT on this score, which makes sense, since he cites VT, John Frame, James Anderson – even the poor confused soul over at THEOparadox – and others in defense of his own view of paradox. He shares their view otherwise he would repudiate these men and not summons them to his defense. I don’t even think Dr. Gonzales is *that* irrational as to cite these men for support only because he *really* disagrees with them.

    Further, you say Gonzales “mentioned sacred views with which “we must not tamper,” but that was not concerning irreconcilable paradoxes…,” but indeed it was. I have no idea what kind of blinders you are wearing Ben, but concerning the imagined desire on the part of God for the salvation of all, Gonzales says, “These two truths [God desires and does not desire the salvation of all] may at first glance seem inconsistent to us. But there they are, side-by-side. Mystery indeed! But sacred mystery with which we must not tamper!” If you think he’s arguing for “a logically consistent explanation for the well-meant offer,” then you must have read a different blog. I will admit that he wants to advance the “appearance” of logical consistency, even distorts the idea of God’s deretive and perceptive wills beyond all semblance in the process, but that doesn’t mean that logical consistency is his goal. After all, he just told us again in his defense of Spurgeon above that his idea of sola Scriptura requires that the teaching of Scripture remains logically *inconsistent.*

    For the record, I love Clark’s “definition” of paradox.

    I do too.

  41. Ben Maas Says:

    Mr. Gerety,

    (1) The “identity of content” is exactly what I am saying can be referring to the “how.” However, I will reserve this section for later tonight when I can get a hold of the book.

    I mean, of course the way God *knows* differs from the way man knows. This is trivial. God is omniscient and His thoughts are forever and immediately before Him, whereas for man thoughts pass through our minds and we can never grasp all that God knows for the simple fact that we are not omniscient nor ever will be.

    I remember that the footnote that I am thinking of in Bahnsen’s book (which I will cite later tonight) made this exact point. That man knows differently from God (and therefore his knowledge is analogical) should be noncontroversial.

    Clark made this clear in his Answer to the complaint filed by Van Til, but Van Til completely rejected it.

    This is an extremely good point if true. Do you know where/how I can read the Complaint and Answer?

    (2) I should have mentioned Bahnsen. He says explicitly in Van Til’s Apologetic that man knows the truth, “not an analogy of the truth.” He mentions this in Chapter 4, “The Epistemological Side of Apologetics,” as a parenthetical statement and then gives some commentary in the footnotes.

    (3) Van Til’s epistemological “picture” of thinking God’s thoughts after Him is useful IMHO to combat other epistemologies’ pictures (e.g. Locke’s as a tabula rase).

    (6) I would say Dr. Gonzales agrees in part with those men, and therefore he would cite them. But he doesn’t go as far as Van Til does in saying that there exist irreconcilable paradoxes for man that are not contradictions for God (as if logic is different for the two).

    Further, you say Gonzales “mentioned sacred views with which “we must not tamper,” but that was not concerning irreconcilable paradoxes…,” but indeed it was.

    My apologies, I should have said that was not concerning what Dr. Gonzales thought to be irreconcilable paradoxes. Throughout his OP and comments on the “God Makes a Wish” page, he tries to show how his view isn’t contradictory. He goes to lengths to show why it is logically consistent. Of course, I disagree with him and think it’s still inconsistent, but nonetheless it still follows that he does not think contradictions or irreconcilable paradoxes are permissible.

    He argues that God desires one intrinsic good (universalism) but overrides this desire by effecting a desire for a greater good. Again, I think this argument is false, but it is yet clear that Dr. Gonzales is attempting to avoid contradiction. It would be the same as if I said that predestination and responsibility should not be tampered with (e.g. by presupposing free will) before I proceeded to show how they are in fact logically consistent. I do not believe that they are contradictory in the least, but I realize that prima facie they conflict in the eyes of those not as knowledgeable of the subject. (This is an example of a paradox per some Van Tillians’ usage but not a paradox per Clarkians’ usage.)

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ben

  42. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ben, you can find the text of the complaint in The Clark/Van Til Controversy by Herman Hoeksema:

    http://www.trinitylectures.org/product_info.php?products_id=67

    CORRECTION: it doesn’t have the text of the complaint in its entirety all in once shot. My mistake.

  43. Ben Maas Says:

    Thank you!

  44. Roger Mann Says:

    Dr. Gonzales,

    I’m in the process of formulating a response to your last post addressed to me, and answering the two questions you asked. But I just finished working a 16 hour shift (12:00 am — 4:00 pm) and have to be back in by midnight, so I probably won’t be able to finish it until sometime tomorrow or early Saturday. I didn’t want you to think I was blowing you off or dodging your questions.

    Roger

  45. Ben Maas Says:

    Alright, here w’go.

    In Van Til’s Apologetic, on p. 226, n. 150, Bahnsen begins to warn in misunderstanding what can be meant by the term “knowledge”:

    Difficulty arises when we fail to be requisitely analytical and overlook the different senses in which the English word “knowledge” can be used. It can be used for what is known (to share knowledge is to know the same object–say, the rose in the garden or the laws of physics). The word “knowledge” can mean the methods or criteria of knowing; to say of two persons that “their knowledge is the same” can indicate that they go about gaining knowledge in the same way. The word can also signify the actual act of knowing as a personal event; in this sense my knowledge (act of knowing) is not identical with your knowledge (act of knowing), just as my driving a car cannot be identical with your driving a car (since we are different “actors”). Other distinctions could be discussed. However, the reason for this reminder about the multiple uses of the word “knowledge” is that some critics of Van Til, even those who are philosophically trained, create problems by falling into careless equivocation. For example, Ronald Nash writes: “I once asked Van Til if, when some human being knows that 1+1=2, that human being’s knowledge is identical with God’s knowledge. The question, I thought, was innocent enough. Van Til’s only answer was to […] declare that the question was improper in the sense that it had no answer.” […] My best guess is that Nash wanted to know if what God and man know is “identical”–to which the answer is (too) obviously yes.

    (Italics his, bold mine)

    From p. 226 (the quotes are from Van Til’s Introduction to Systematic Theology, pp. 172, 165):

    Not only is there “a difference between God’s manner of knowing and man’s manner of knowing,” but God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge “coincide at no point in the sense that in his awareness of [the] meaning of anything, in his mental grasp or understanding of anything, man is at each point dependent upon a prior act of unchangeable understanding and revelation on the part of God.”

    (all modifications are Bahnsen’s)

    Note here that Van Til himself says in the quotation from page 165 of his Introduction to Systematic Theology that man’s and God’s knowledge coincide at no point in the sense that man is always completely dependent on God (not in the sense of propositional objects of knowledge). In fact, Bahnsen ensures that this is not misunderstood in n. 151 on pp. 226-227:

    Given the tremendous philosophical and linguistic confusion (on all side) that has swirled around this debate, it is important to notice that Van Til speaks of “no coincidence” in the “act” of understanding or knowing–not in the meaning, referent, or truth of any proposition known to both God and man. To say that the Creator’s act of knowing does not coincide with the creature’s act of knowing should be noncontroversial.

    (bold mine) That is the part I mentioned above, which you said was “trivial” and Bahnsen said was “noncontroversial.”

    Also, on p. 227, Bahnsen includes a citation from Van Til’s Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 184. It reads (this is entirely Van Til speaking):

    “Man could not have the same thought content in his mind that God has in his mind unless he were himself divine. Man can never experience the experience of God.

    (italics Bahnsen’s) Note that Van Til states the difference in thought content and immediately explains himself by saying that this is a different experience. VT himself says that it is not a difference regarding the objects of knowledge.

    Bahnsen on pp. 228-229 says, “What man knows is literally the truth (not an analogy of truth)–the same truth known by God” (emphasis his). He then links the end of the parenthetical phrase to footnote 129, where he explains,

    In the 1940s dispute, the Clarkian opponents of Van Til seriously misconstrued what he taught. The “Answer” to the “Complaint” (against Clark’s views and ordination) charged the Van Tillians with holding that “man can grasp only an analogy of the truth itself.” Van Til did not teach that what we know is only an analogy of God (or truth about Him), much less that univocal predication regarding God must be rejected, but rather that we know God (as well as His creation) analogously to His knowing Himself (and His creation). Gordon Clark again portrayed Van Til as holding that propositions have a different meaning (equivocation) for God and man […] Clark acknowledged that his negative characterizations of Van Til’s position were contrary to what Van Til himself said, but he reasoned that the way Van Til expressed certain things implied those characterizations–in which case Van Til must have been “retracting” his affirmations of man’s knowledge of the very truth in God’s mind. In other words, Clark thought that Van Til was confused.

    Lastly, Bahnsen offers some insight into why Clark was opposed in the ’40s debacle (p. 231, n. 168):

    During the Clark-Van Til debate, the concern of those opposing Clark was that his description and explanation of God’s incomprehensibility minimized the difference between God’s thinking and man’s, not taking sufficient accounts of His status as Creator or its implications in the realm of knowing. […] While differing with Aristotle’s theology and epistemology, Clark nevertheless found his phrase “thought thinking thought” to be a “helpful” description of God. However, it is one thing to hold that logic is a reflection of God’s thinking, but a debasement of His person to assert an identity, as Clark does. “God and logic are one and the same first principle” (p. 58) [Bahnsen here cites Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark, ed. Nash]. Likewise, in the dispute of the 1940s, Clark underplayed the “qualitative” transcendence of God’s thoughts.

    Now, I looked a bit into the text of the “Complaint,” and what I saw was utter crap (I unfortunately did not get to read the part regarding incomprehensibility). Clark should not have been defrocked for his belief that determinism and responsibility are reconcilable nor for his denial of the well-meant offer. That was absolutely wrong and sinful of the Van Tillians to do that.

    Plus, I have a feeling that in this most recent quote from Van Til’s Apologetic that Bahnsen may have quoted Clark out of context. It may have been that Clark was referring to the objection “Don’t you have to presuppose logic as your axiom and not Scripture?” to which Clark may have responded that, since logic is presupposed in Scripture, “God and logic are one and the same first principle.” But that is a guess of mine, and it might be that he identifies logic with God; regardless, the entire point of the last blockquote was to help in understanding the intent of the “Complaint.”

    -Ben

  46. Ben Maas Says:

    Just realized that italics don’t show up in quotes. Shoulda known that. Oh well.

  47. Sean Gerety Says:

    or truth of any proposition known to both God and man. To say that the Creator’s act of knowing does not coincide with the creature’s act of knowing should be noncontroversial.

    It should be “noncontroversial” but time and again, and in spite of Bahnsen’s incredible spin, Van Til insists there is no coincidence in the *meaning* of anything known by man and God. Even per the quote you cited, Van Til said what God knows and what man can know “coincide at no point in the sense that in his awareness of [the] meaning of anything, in his mental grasp or understanding of anything.” Now, how this is can be restricted to the way God knows A and man knows A Bahnsen doesn’t say. As I’ve said, this is just spin.

    “Man could not have the same thought content in his mind that God has in his mind unless he were himself divine. Man can never experience the experience of God.

    (italics Bahnsen’s) Note that Van Til states the difference in thought content and immediately explains himself by saying that this is a different experience. VT himself says that it is not a difference regarding the objects of knowledge.

    If “thought content” is not the “objects of knowledge” then I confess I have no idea what else knowledge could be? Van Til could not be any clearer, and for him that is a rare occurrence: man cannot have the “same thought content in his mind” unless he were God. Yet, instead of refuting this as epistemological, antichristian, neo-orthodox, and dangerous nonsense, Bahnsen simply asserts that what Van Til just said is not what he meant. Again, how is this not just simple dishonesty?

    Van Til did not teach that what we know is only an analogy of God (or truth about Him), much less that univocal predication regarding God must be rejected, but rather that we know God (as well as His creation) analogously to His knowing Himself (and His creation). Gordon Clark again portrayed Van Til as holding that propositions have a different meaning (equivocation) for God and man […] Clark acknowledged that his negative characterizations of Van Til’s position were contrary to what Van Til himself said,

    This is a great example of why the Clark – Van Til controversy continues today. I forgot about the above (it was a long time ago when I read Bahnsen’s tome). And, again, Bahnsen only asserts everyone else except him has understood Van Til correctly. Where’s the demonstration? There is none, because even per the quotes you’ve reproduced here Van Til *did* teach that man and God do not and cannot have the same thought content in mind at any point.

    As it relates to Van Til’s doctrine of Scripture, Van Til said; “Our knowledge is analogical and therefore must be paradoxical” and “all teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.” Van Til’s rejection of *any* univocal point of contact between the thoughts in God’s mind and in ours is the basis by which he concludes that all of Scripture is apparently contradictory. And, make no mistake, even the doctrine of justification by faith alone is riddled with apparent contradiction in the mind of Van Til and his followers, which is why the question of the WMO is important. As I’ve said before in this thread, if it was not for the philosophy of Van Til the nonsense of the WMO would have been just viewed as a stupid repetition of the Arminian error in exegesis we all have heard for years, and perhaps even once believed.

    Here is a rather long analysis of Bahnsen’s spin:

    http://logosandreason.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/when-black-becomes-white-on-some-footnotes-of-greg-l-bahnsen/

    Now, I looked a bit into the text of the “Complaint,” and what I saw was utter crap (I unfortunately did not get to read the part regarding incomprehensibility). Clark should not have been defrocked

    Clark wasn’t defrocked. The court concluded that there was no basis for the complaint and VT and the WTS faction were supposedly “disciplined”; a discipline which they also sinfully ignored. John Robbins explains:

    The WTS faction disrupted the peace and purity of the OPC for years; it maintained its campaign of misrepresentation and innuendo against Dr. Clark; and it feared that if the Seminary were to be supervised by the Church it would lose its autonomy. It was this vicious campaign that led to Dr. Clark’s departure from the OPC. Today the anti-Clark-pro-Van Til climate is so heavy in the OPC that a minister who expressed his preference for Clark and doubt about Van Til would face the same sort of campaign that drove Dr. Clark and his defenders from the denomination in 1948.

    In his New Horizons essay, OPC Historian Muether said that the WTS faction was defending “Reformed ecclesiology.” Hardly. The WTS faction opposed Reformed ecclesiology and defended the independent, parachurch status of Westminster Seminary, which was its power base in controlling the OPC.

    …Dr. Clark’s leaving the OPC was not due to his failure to prevail in the Clark-Van Til controversy, for he did prevail. His ordination was upheld by the OPC General Assembly. Dr. Clark and his defenders left the OPC because the WTS faction, controlling the committee with jurisdiction over the matter, almost immediately after they had been defeated in the Clark case, refused to approve Floyd Hamilton’s call to teach in a Korean Presbyterian seminary. Hamilton was a veteran missionary to Korea, but because he had agreed with Dr. Clark and not Van Til, the WTS faction used its clout in committee to thwart his call to Korea. This action indicated that the WTS faction, despite its “apology” to the Church for its sinful behavior in the Clark case, was incorrigible, and intended to disrupt the peace of the Church for another four years, if necessary. Dr. Clark’s defenders thought their time and energy were better spent in proclaiming the Gospel than in fighting stubborn academics who postured as the sole defenders of the Reformed faith, opposed a “sound, aggressive denomination,” and congratulated themselves on their “purity,” a “purity” that has driven the denomination to the brink of apostasy. Years later Dr. Clark told me that he would have preferred to stay in the OPC, defeat the Westminster faculty again, and restore the OPC to the ideals it had when J. Gresham Machen was alive. Obviously he could not do that alone, so when those who had defended him left the OPC, Dr. Clark left as well. Because of the divisive actions of the WTS faction, one-third of the denomination walked out the door, including the OPC’s largest congregation. That left the Van Tilians in control of the denomination, and they have been modifying it and history ever since. It is safe to say that had Machen lived, the Westminster faculty would not have sought to defrock Dr. Clark, and the OPC might have remained on a Biblical course for much longer than it did. As it is, the denomination is again confronted by a Seminary faculty that teaches error, this time on the doctrine of salvation, and their students and protegés are defending that error and their teachers from Church discipline. [Can the OPC be Saved]

  48. Ben Maas Says:

    (1) Mr. Gerety, in that first quotation of Van Til, you forgot to add the second half. You only quoted a fragment. Van Til said that God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge “coincide at no point in the sense that in his awareness of [the] meaning of anything, in his mental grasp or understanding of anything, man is at each point dependent upon a prior act of unchangeable understanding and revelation on the part of God.” You included the prepositional phrases but left out the actual subject and predicate of the sentence where Van Til explained himself.

    This misquoting of Van Til, though I would say it is unintentional, is what leads to misunderstandings of his statements.

    (2) You said, “If ‘thought content’ is not the ‘objects of knowledge’ then I confess I have no idea what else knowledge could be?” Van Til’s answer (in the next sentence) was that man’s and God’s experiences are entirely different.

    If you think “content” can mean nothing other than the propositional referents, then I would ask that you imagine the “content” of machinery, including all its moving parts. Likewise, man’s cognitive machinery (his “thought content”) at no point coincides with God. Man’s mind is metaphysically different from God’s and his way of learning and knowing things is likewise different.

    For the record, I agree that “thought content” more likely refers to the referents of thought. But nonetheless, if Van Til explains himself as meaning the experiences of man and God, and it is not outrageous to say that “thought content” refers to experiences, then we should go with the author’s self-interpretation.

    (3) In an article I read a while ago on Van Tillianism, the author said that Van Til’s statement that every teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory was because Van Til believed that the Trinity was the solution to the philosophical one-and-many problem. Seeing as any kind of predication (e.g. “David was king of Israel”) involves particulars and universals, and seeing as Van Til believed that the paradoxical doctrine of the Trinity solves the problem of whether particularity or universality is ultimate, he said that every teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory. (I’m not too keen on this interpretation of Van Til.)

    I believe Van Til says that because he wants to stress how Scripture is not open to logical critique — open to understanding or deduction, but not critique (which he inconsistently applied to the well-meant offer). Whatever the reason is, though, it is far from proved that the reason for the statement is Van Til’s supposed belief that man knows only an analogy of the truth.

    (4) I should have said “attempted to be defrocked,” my apologies. I am aware that Clark (righteously) was not kicked out at that time.

    Thank you for the excerpt from Robbins’s book. I own that and have read it, and I am convinced that Clark was thoroughly mistreated. I wish he had stayed in the OPC and duked it out, defeating the well-meant offer crowd.

    However, I remain in my stance that I do not think Van Til believed in an analogical view of truth (which is the main thing I was trying to prove), and although he may have had other dangerous beliefs regarding the use of logic (where I side with Clark), I nonetheless have much respect for Van Til’s epistemology and apologetic. I guess what I’m trying to show here is that I don’t have to either completely agree with Van Til or with Clark. I follow Clark in his unwavering allegiance to rationality, wherein he virtuously seeks to follow the mind of God, yet I follow Van Til in his general philosophy and epistemology, which I think wonderfully avoids skepticism and crushes unbelief.

    Even if Van Til believed in an analogical view of truth, I still would stick with his apologetic (i.e. after rejecting that view of truth). I think it rules.

    Ben

  49. brandon Says:

    Keep digging Ben. I asked Bob to email you a quote from him from a previous exchange we had on the same topic in which he states his belief that man’s knowledge is analogical to God’s knowledge. That should clear up the confusion.

    And btw, Van Til’s apologetic does not rule. Crampton does a great job of showing why http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=128
    And James White’s recent debate with Dan Barker does a great job on demonstrating why it does not rule.

  50. Ben Maas Says:

    Hi Brandon,

    (1) Dr. Gonzales told me how he viewed the qualitative difference in knowledge, and, honestly, I don’t know how to distinguish it from a vast quantitative view.

    Bahnsen mentions in Van Til’s Apologetic that God knows propositions more deeply than man does, just as we would understand a Coke bottle better in our culture than some aboriginal tribe would when they were first confronted by the Coke bottle. But this doesn’t mean that the aboriginal tribe is false as far as their limited knowledge of the bottle goes, nor does it mean that what they know about the bottle is not shared by those with a greater knowledge of the bottle.

    So, I guess you could say that God’s knowledge, taken in toto, is qualitatively different from man’s, while in part they are the same. But that is only to say that a vast quantitative difference exists.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “that should clear up the confusion.” Do you mean that you think Dr. Gonzales’s view would demonstrate that Van Til believed in an analogical view of truth? I’m sorry, I just don’t follow. (Apparently my confusion remains. 🙂 )

    (2) I am familiar with that review of Crampton’s, and I disagree with his conclusions, the general conclusions that Clarkians have come to regarding Van Tillianism. However, I am not sure a full-fledged response of mine on as a comment here would be optimal. Would you be in interested in an email exchange?

    Lastly, do you know how I may get a hold of James White’s recent debate?

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ben

  51. Sean Gerety Says:

    (1) I realize I only quoted a fragment, but the fragment was following Van Til’s “but….” Van Til said: “Not only is there “a difference between God’s manner of knowing and man’s manner of knowing, but ….” Then he explains that the manner of knowing directly effects the WHAT that is known and explains why the thought content between God and man will not and cannot coincide. I don’t think anyone could possibly misunderstand what Van Til is saying since he repeated this very idea elsewhere and in numerous books and articles.

    The point I was making, contra Bahnsen, is that Van Til’s doctrine of analogy necessarily applies to both the WHAT and the HOW of knowing. It’s only the WHAT that really applies to Clark. This is why for Van Til and his followers, as opposed to Clark and his, there is both a qualitative and a quantitative difference between the thoughts known to God and to man. I don’t even for a second believe that Bahnsen could misunderstand what Van Til was saying, that why I think his analysis is bogus.

    (2) Again, that is pure spin. If Van Til meant, as you following Bahnsen suggest, that “thought content” is referring to the “cognitive machinery” then one would think there would only be a qualitative and not the qualitative difference in the objects known. Further it is not true that there is no coincidence in the “cognitive machinery” for man is made in God’s image which is Logic, so there is coincidence otherwise communication between God and man would be impossible.

    So, regardless how you want to slice or spin it, Van Til was wrong.

    For the record, I agree that “thought content” more likely refers to the referents of thought.

    Of course he did, since he repeated this same idea numerous times and he certainly had ample time and reason to correct the record and clarify himself if — and this is the big IF — his critics were so blatantly misunderstanding him as Bahnsen maintains. So, I have no reason whatsoever to believe that Van Til meant anything other than that there is no univocal point of contact between the thoughts in God’s mind and those in man’s simply because that is what he said.

    I think Bahnsen is being, at best, and this is being charitable, disingenuous.

    (3) In an article I read a while ago on Van Tillianism, the author said that Van Til’s statement that every teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory was because Van Til believed that the Trinity was the solution to the philosophical one-and-many problem. Seeing as any kind of predication (e.g. “David was king of Israel”) involves particulars and universals, and seeing as Van Til believed that the paradoxical doctrine of the Trinity solves the problem of whether particularity or universality is ultimate, he said that every teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory. (I’m not too keen on this interpretation of Van Til.)

    Who knows? Of course, since Van Til’s doctrine of the Trinity is both contradictory and heretical perhaps this Vantilian is correct. More reason to jettison Van Til.

    (4) However, I remain in my stance that I do not think Van Til believed in an analogical view of truth (which is the main thing I was trying to prove)

    Can’t blame you for trying. 😉

    yet I follow Van Til in his general philosophy and epistemology, which I think wonderfully avoids skepticism and crushes unbelief.

    That’s not the case if his idea of analogy extends to both the HOW and the WHAT of knowledge. I just don’t know how else to explain, much less justify, his zeal for Biblical paradox apart from an analogous view of truth? What other justification could he possible have for maintaining the logical *incoherence* of the truths of Scripture as it touches on any number of central doctrines from the Trinity to God’s plan of salvation.

    Even if Van Til believed in an analogical view of truth, I still would stick with his apologetic (i.e. after rejecting that view of truth). I think it rules.

    There is no “even if,” but if you want to stick with a man who undermines both the truthfulness and systematic unity of Scripture, go ahead. You have a lot of company. However, since most Vantilians that I know of who are engaged in apologetics have long since abandoned the transcendental argument as a giant case of question begging, I’m hard pressed to see what’s left? Is it just that you have an affinity for Dutch names?

  52. Ben Maas Says:

    (1) Mr. Gerety, if you quote only a fragment of someone’s statement when they specifically explain themselves immediately afterward, then at least make note of that. Also, please keep in mind that there are different ways in which the “how” is different (Bahnsen explains this in his book). God knows everything intuitively, and man discursively; God creates facts, and man discovers them; God knows independently, and man dependently; etc. Therefore, when Van Til says that the “how” is different in some way, it’s not as if he cannot say it’s different in another way.

    However, that being said, I still would say he’s referring to the exact same aspect of the “how” in this particular statement. Notice what Van Til says: “not only is there a difference, but there is no point of contact.” He is not making a distinction between different aspects of “how”; he is remarking that God’s way of knowing (knowledge) is qualitatively different from man’s. There is not merely a quantitative difference in their manner knowing, but a qualitative difference (no point of contact).

    If nothing else, this should evince that it is not so perspicuously clear that Van Til believed in truth as analogous.

    (2) I agree. The problem arises when Van Tillians note that God’s more in-depth knowledge of all facts entails a qualitative difference in knowledge. (See what I said to Brandon above regarding the Coke bottle.) It is an inconsistent belief in the quantitative difference between God’s and man’s knowledge, not an outright belief in the qualitative difference — because, again, an outright belief in the qualitative difference is simply outrageous. No Van Tillian would actually say that God’s fuller knowledge of a proposition entails man’s non-knowledge of it, just man’s less full knowledge. This is, of course, quantitative, but for whatever reasons Van Tillians call it qualitative, which is a mistake.

    And, regardless of what Van Til believed, Bahnsen clearly rejects the analogical view of truth and still espouses a Van Tillian apologetic. So even if Van Til were a raving heretic, the legacy that Bahnsen thought he left is nonetheless legitimate as far as I see it. (I suppose that to convince you of this I would have to explain my entire apologetical approach, which would probably require critiquing the review of Van Til’s Apologetic linked by Brandon a few posts up.)

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ben

  53. Ben Maas Says:

    I want to make a correction regarding (2). I think I understand a bit better the typical Van Tillian statement that man’s knowledge is qualitatively different. Since God’s understanding of every proposition we know is so much fuller and richer than ours (because he understands it in the context of every other proposition), there will be some things that He can understand that we cannot, for instance, how the Trinity makes sense. We know that the Trinity is not a contradiction (because the one-term and three-term are not the same thing), but it is still difficult to comprehend. Van Tillians believe that due to God’s fuller understanding of everything (which I would deem a quantitative difference), there are some issues that we as humans will not be able to resolve, such as the Trinity and determinism/responsibility (though I believe the latter makes perfect sense). We will not be able to resolve these ever; there are certain limitations due to our finitude such that we will not be able to have a “full enough” view of the universe to comprehend the Trinity.

    Since there are some we cannot resolve by virtue of being finite, due to our vastly quantitative knowledge-deficiency that we will not be able to overcome, it can be spoken of as a qualitative difference because we will never be able to resolve them as finite beings. And I would say that is what Van Tillians mean when they say that God’s and man’s knowledge are qualitatively different.

    Of course, this does not allow for the Van Tillian notion of paradox, for things that are above the reasoning capabilities of any human does not permit doctrines that go against reason. But I thought this would help to understand their position a little more.

  54. brandon Says:

    Ben, you need to stop trying to change other people’s thoughts to fit with yours. I don’t know if Bob sent you the email he said he would, or if he just summarized it. I would send it to you but it is part of a private list and he did not give me permission to share it.

    In that email, he was extremely explicit in saying that
    1) he denies univocality and believes man’s knowledge is analogical to God’s

    2) that the difference is more than quantitative. I cited several passages about God’s unfathomableness that I believe refers to quantitative difference. Bob warned me against twisting Scripture to fit my presuppositions and explicitly stated that the difference was more than quantitative. He said it was qualitative in the sense that God thinks supra-logically while man can only think logically.

    Please just let people mean what they say.

    As for apologetics: I don’t want to defer this thread either. You can get White’s debate at aomin.org in his store. You should also listen to his podcast pre and post debate. I will write about it on my blog if I ever get time to. (hopefully soon)

  55. brandon Says:

    We know that the Trinity is not a contradiction (because the one-term and three-term are not the same thing), but it is still difficult to comprehend.

    Have you studied Van Til’s view of the Trinity? He denies that it is one in one sense and three in a different sense.

  56. Ben Maas Says:

    Brandon,

    I would say it is a false charge that I am making others’ thoughts to fit with mine. I just laid out what I think is an accurate rendition of Dr. Gonzales’s view in my most recent post (the clarification on (2)). If you think that Dr. Gonzales is explicitly holding what you term a univocal view of knowledge, then ask him this simple question, “If God knows that 1+1=2, then can man know that proposition in any sense?” If he truly believes that man knows only an analogy of the truth, then he will answer no; if his view is more nuanced than that, then you need to understand what he saying rather than assume that all Van Tillians blindly believe that man knows only an analogy of the truth. Please do not draw hasty conclusions, but attempt to understand an opponent’s position fully before assuming that any possible denial of univocity=skepticism.

    As for White’s debate, I am unfamiliar with his style of apologetics. Are you saying that White was a Van Tillian and his debate failed? And do you not wish to discuss Van Tillian apologetics in any form, not even via email? I vehemently disagree with Crampton’s review of Bahnsen’s book and wouldn’t mind telling you why I think he’s wrong.

    And yes, I do understand Van Til’s view of the Trinity. I have seen that many people jump on the “one Person and three Persons” statement and assume he means the exact same thing when he says that. But obviously he means them in different senses, because it’s so obvious that not doing so is a blatant contradiction. When Van Til says that God is one Person in one sense and three in another sense, he is stressing how hard it is for us to wrap our minds around it, not positing a contradiction in the Godhead.

    Besides, it’s not as if giving an empty term of “substance” or “essence” regarding God’s oneness is that much more suitable. Van Til is simply being honest about the fact that the Trinity is hard to tackle. It’s not a big deal, but some people believe he is a heretic because he used the word Person to describe God’s oneness, even though he used it in a different sense.

  57. Ben Maas Says:

    And yes, Dr. Gonzales sent me the actual email, not just a summarization.

  58. Sean Gerety Says:

    It’s not a big deal, but some people believe he is a heretic because he used the word Person to describe God’s oneness, even though he used it in a different sense.

    It is a big deal. Care to define the different senses of the word person that Van Til used to avoid this contradiction?

    This should be interesting since VT said:

    We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person…. We must maintain that God is numerically one, He is one person…. We speak of God as a person; yet we speak also of three persons in the Godhead…. God is a one-conscious being, and yet he is also a tri-conscious being…. [T]he work ascribed to any of the persons is the work of one absolute person…. We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person…. [W]e must therefore hold that God’s being presents an absolute numerical identity. And even within the ontological Trinity we must maintain that God is numerically one. He is one person.

  59. Ben Maas Says:

    To answer your question, think of how you speak of God’s activity. When you say that God does not desire the salvation of the reprobate, do you mean this in the sense of one or three? Etc.

    Also, I would reply: do you care to define “essence,” or whatever term you care to use to express God’s oneness?

  60. Sean Gerety Says:

    I don’t think of God as one person so I have no idea how you are defining the word “person” so that when someone says God is one person and three persons that the sense of the word “person” avoids a contradiction.

    FWIW I don’t believe Van Til wanted to avoid a contradiction. Van Til said: “inasmuch as we say that God is one in essence and three in person. We therefore claim that we have not asserted unity and trinity of exactly the same thing. Yet this is not the whole truth of the matter. We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person…we must therefore hold that God’s being presents an absolute numerical identity. And even within the ontological Trinity we must maintain that God is numerically one. He is one person.”

    So, if he is using the word person in a different sense when speaking of God as one person and three persons, I still have no idea how he’s defining the word person in each case? FWIW I don’t know if he defined the word “person” at all, but it seems to me above that he was not interested in avoiding a contradictory formulation at all; he was asserting it. Besides, when pressed he could just say that the contradiction is only “apparent” and “not real.” When we say God is one person and three persons we are confessing our own finiteness as we stand before the Creator/creature distinction, etc., etc., yada yada.

    As far as defining essence, that really is not on the table now is it. 🙂 You’re the one who said Van Til used the word person in two different senses and I want to know what these different senses are? So far you have not defined person in two different senses or even in one sense. Also, let’s also be clear, I’m not asking you what are the different senses of person Van Til *might* have in mind, but rather what he did have in mind.

    OTOH I understand why you would want to bow out since I don’t believe Van Til provided any solution. IMO I have given you an impossible task.

    FWIW Frame in Van Til the Theologian said:

    With regard to the doctrine of the Trinity, Van Til denies that the paradox of the three and one can be resolved by the formula “one in essence and three in person.” Rather, “We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person.”55 Van Til’s doctrine, then, can be expressed “One person, three persons” — an apparent contradiction. This is a very bold theological move. Theologians are generally most reluctant to express the paradoxicality of this doctrine so blatantly…In other words, Scripture leaves us with an “apparent contradiction” here. God is one, and God is three. And Van Til’s view gives us an important warning not to go beyond Scripture in this matter.

    Notice a pattern here? We’re to embrace contradictory nonsense because not doing so risks going “beyond Scripture.” Sound familiar? 🙂

  61. Ben Maas Says:

    Defining “essence” absolutely is on the table. My entire point is that it is extremely difficult (perhaps impossible) to define the oneness aspect. And, seeing as we often speak of God as a single Person — e.g., your saying “God works all things, and not just some things, for His own glory” in the OP — it is not that weird to say that there is a sense in which He is one person.

    See, when people are confronted by the Trinity, they often think, “Oh, there’s no contradiction, there’s three Persons and one essence.” Yeah, well what does that mean? “That’s not my problem, just don’t use the word person!”

    Do you see what’s going on? Van Til is pointing out just how difficult the Trinity is to grasp. And we would be saying the exact same things when we use the word “God” to signify one person, e.g. “God works everything according to His will”; “God loves me”; “God is good.” We use singular pronouns and descriptors. We speak of God as if He is a single person. Why? Because there is some sense that He is a single person. I don’t know exactly how to define it, but I know that it exists.

    Essentially, the orthodox definition of the Trinity asserts that the oneness aspect and the threeness aspect are not the same thing (because otherwise there’d be a contradiction). Van Til does the same thing, except reminding us that making this distinction between two different words does not somehow comprehend it. So when people deem him a heretic because he doesn’t use the right word — while during this they have no idea what they mean by the right word — then something is afoot.

  62. Sean Gerety Says:

    Defining “essence” absolutely is on the table.

    Uh, no Ben. It’s not. The issue isn’t whether or not “essence” or “substance” or some Greek derivative is the best way to define God’s oneness, but saying God is three persons of one substance advances no contradiction at all.

    “God works all things, and not just some things, for His own glory” in the OP — it is not that weird to say that there is a sense in which He is one person.

    It is weird if as a matter of doctrine you’re saying God is both one person and three persons. Well, it’s worse than weird.

    See, when people are confronted by the Trinity, they often think, “Oh, there’s no contradiction, there’s three Persons and one essence.” Yeah, well what does that mean? “That’s not my problem, just don’t use the word person!”

    I haven’t said “essence” is the best word to describe God’s oneness, but if God is not one in one sense and three in another sense then the Trinity is contradictory. All the rubbish about “apparent contradiction” is just that, rubbish. I am at a loss as to why you can’t admit that? If Van Til is right the heart of the Christian faith is nonsense, and that is apparent to everyone except the self-deluded Vantilian I suppose.

    Do you see what’s going on? Van Til is pointing out just how difficult the Trinity is to grasp.

    Besides the point. You said he used the word person in two different senses avoiding a contradiction, but so far, and not surprisingly, you’re coming up empty.

    I don’t know exactly how to define it, but I know that it exists.

    Ignorance is not a crime. Spouting contradictory nonsense is a different story.

    Essentially, the orthodox definition of the Trinity asserts that the oneness aspect and the threeness aspect are not the same thing (because otherwise there’d be a contradiction). Van Til does the same thing, except reminding us that making this distinction between two different words does not somehow comprehend it.

    If you mean comprehend in the sense of to exhaust the Trinity, I don’t see how that’s necessary or required. However, to formulate the Trinity as both one and three in the same sense is nonsense. And to insist that others accept it is ludicrous.

    So when people deem him a heretic because he doesn’t use the right word — while during this they have no idea what they mean by the right word — then something is afoot.

    To say that God is one and three in the same sense is heresy. That is not to say that the traditional formulation can’t be greatly improved upon (see Clark’s The Trinity and Joel Parkinson’s The Intellectual Triunity of God), but don’t kid yourself, Van Til’s doctrine was as heretical as it was nonsensical and openly contradictory.

    Anyway, I’ll let it drop. I’m happy enough to see that you are still questioning Vantilianism and in many respects have separated yourself from it to a significant degree. Praise be to God.

  63. brandon Says:

    Ben, I’m open to discussing apologetics, just not here and not now as I’m quite swamped at the moment and I don’t want to deter the thread. If you want to watch the feed for my blog you can see when I post about White’s debate and we can talk about it then http://contrast2.wordpress.com

    White is mildly Van Tillian. As a consistent Calvinist he rejects evidentialism. But he’s only familiar with Van Til’s presuppositionalism, not Clark’s. In short, he had a debate with an atheist. The thesis was “The Triune God of Scripture Lives.” He tried to employ TAG, and he did a great job of showing that Dan Barker was wrong, but the thesis was not “Dan Barker is Right.” White lost because he tried to argue that the triune God of Scripture lives by using TAG, which does not work.

  64. Ben Maas Says:

    Mr. Gerety,

    You are correct. Van Til was simply wrong on the Trinity. He should have been more willing to explain the sense of “person” in which he said that God is one person, but he was seemingly content with using them in the same sense, which is a grave error of his. He thought that something could appear a contradiction to humans (God is both A and ~A in the same sense at the same time) without being an actual contradiction. But that is frankly false, as you have pointed out.

    However, certainly you can agree that there is some sense in which God is one person. Obviously, this is not the same sense of person as relating to His threeness (contra Van Til), but there is still some sense. Otherwise it’d be foolish to talk about God singularly.

    And, most importantly, as I was trying to point out at the beginning of this entire exchange, Dr. Gonzales’s view of paradox was not such a one that a blatant contradiction was permissible, such as Van Til’s on the Trinity. He continually attempted to resolve the contradiction while he maintained that the two aspects of the issue seemed odd juxtaposed and prima facie conflicting (hence calling it “paradox”). We agree that he did not do so successfully, but I think it’s safe to say that Dr. Gonzales did not accept the same type of “apparent contradictions” (indistinguishable from real ones) that Van Til did.

    Otherwise, thank you for correcting me.

    —–

    Brandon,

    It seems that your criticism’s of Van Tillian presuppositionalism would be the same as Crampton’s (i.e. one can’t prove one’s own presupposition by inductively disproving every possible alternative, etc.). If you get enough time to discuss this, I would be glad to go over Crampton’s article and whatever personal qualms you might have with Van Tillianism. Thank you for the exchange.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ben

  65. Roger Mann Says:

    Dr. Gonzales wrote,

    Major premise: Scripture predicates desires of God that are actuated in history (because decreed) and also desires of God that are not actuated in history (because not decreed).

    Minor premise: Scripture portrays God as independent of creation and as completely self-sufficient.

    Conclusion: Desire predicated of God, whether determined (decretive) or non-determined (preceptive), cannot suggest a want or lack in the one who desires which can be fulfilled only by the gratifying of the desire since God is by nature independent or self-sufficient.

    Even if your major premise about God having non-decreed/non-actualized desires was correct (which I deny), the conclusion you draw from this is invalid.

    Of course God is self-sufficient and completely independent of His creation (minor premise). That point is not in dispute. And of course everything that God desires He freely desires — i.e., there’s nothing which compels Him to be inclined one way or the other. But all of that is beside the point. No one is suggesting that God is compelled to desire one thing over another because of an antecedent “lack” or “want” arising from an insufficiency in His being or dependency upon His creation. That appears to be the unarticulated assumption in your argument. But that is not what the Minority Report is referring to. Its argument is simply that a “desire” in the sense of an ineffectual wish implies a “lack” or “want” relative to the end that God has eternally and immutably determined will never come to pass. In other words, if God earnestly desires the salvation of the reprobate, an end which He has eternally and immutably decreed will never come to pass, then it necessarily follows that He is eternally “wanting” or “lacking” that which He earnestly desires — the salvation of the reprobate. In such a fictitious scenario, God “lacks” or “wants” that which He freely desires to be accomplished; He doesn’t “lack” or “want” due to an antecedent insufficiency in His being or dependency upon His creation. As I said before, you’re free to “reject” this necessary consequence if you’d like — but then you can no longer claim to have a rational argument.

    But the notion of a frustratable “desire” in God creates far more serious errors that the mere “lack” or “want” of His desired end being accomplished. First, an ineffectual “wish” or “desire” for the salvation of the non-elect blatantly contradicts God’s decree of reprobation. It has God earnestly desiring to save and condemn the reprobate at the same time. It’s no escape to say that God only desires the salvation of the non-elect “preceptively” (in contrast to “decretively”), for this so-called “desire” still amounts to a volitional quality within the very nature of God Himself — a volitional quality that results in a division of God’s one will and destroys the simplicity of His being.

    In contrast, the unity of God’s will is found in the fact that the preceptive will reveals that God delights in the salvation of repentant sinners, while God’s decretive will has sovereignly determined which sinners in particular God is pleased to grant repentance. The preceptive will can be called God’s will only in a metaphorical sense. The preceptive will is not God within Himself (ad infra) “willing” as a rule for His own actions, but what God “wills” to reveal outside Himself (ad extra) as the rule for the creature’s actions. There is a clear difference between the two. The preceptive will terminates outside God’s essence as that which He actively wills, or decrees, to require of man, while the decretive will abides within Himself as His living will in regard to His own actions. The preceptive will therefore, falls as a proposition of God’s decretive will with respect to what man is required to do. In this way the preceptive will is rightly said to be an aspect of God’s all wise providence in respect to man.

    Second, an ineffectual “wish” or “desire” for the salvation of the reprobate blatantly contradicts the doctrine of limited atonement. How can God desire the salvation of the reprobate when they were never given to Christ, their sins were not imputed to Christ, and Christ was not offered as their substitutionary sacrifice? On what ground would their sins be forgiven? There is none! There’s no legal basis for God to have any so-called “desire” for the salvation of the reprobate. How many more clear doctrines of Scripture does this false teaching have to contradict before its advocates will acknowledge that it is an irrational and unbiblical belief?

    Regarding your questions regarding my construal of divine emotivity, perhaps I can understand you concern better by asking you two questions: first, does God’s work of creation include any ad intra volitional movement or motion in God? second, does God’s work of providence include any ad intra volitional movement or motion in God?

    If by “volition” and “movement” you mean God’s “act of willing,” then of course God’s work of creation and providence includes “volitional movement or motion.” But I fail to see how this relates to the objections I raised regarding your view of fluctuating “emotions” in God. My position in no way calls into question volitional motives, inclinations, or willing within the being of God ad infra.

  66. O.G Says:

    Brandon, since you talked about person, can you care to define it?

  67. Roger Mann Says:

    The first sentence of the third paragraph in my last post should have the word “than” rather than “that”:

    But the notion of a frustratable “desire” in God creates far more serious errors than the mere “lack” or “want” of His desired end being accomplished.

  68. deangonzales Says:

    Roger writes:
    But the notion of a
    frustratable “desire” in God creates far more serious errors than the mere “lack” or “want” of His desired end being accomplished.

    Bob replies:
    The concept of “frustration” presupposes the thwarting of one being’s will by another. God did not chose to convert all those of whom he spoke in Deuteronomy 5:29 or those of whom he spoke in Ezekiel 33:11. He chose to leave them to die in their sins in order to pursue a higher objective. Ergo: God’s decretive will was not nor ever can be frustrated.

    God’s preceptive will or, as Calvin calls it, “wish,” can be violated for the simply reason that God has chosen to allow it to be so. God has the prerogative and freedom to pursue whatever state of affairs he perceives is in his best interests even though other states of affairs may have intrinsic value.

    Roger writes:
    If by “volition” and “movement” you mean God’s “act of willing,” then of course God’s work of creation and providence includes “volitional movement or motion.” But I fail to see how this relates to the objections I raised regarding your view of
    fluctuating “emotions” in God. My position in no way calls into question volitional motives, inclinations, or willing within the being of God ad infra.

    Bob replies:
    Volitional movement or motion ad intra does not violate God’s immutability because such movement and motion are in accord with God’s immutable purpose and ethical nature. Similarly, affectional movement or motion ad intra does not violate God’s immutability because such movement and motion are in accord with God’s immutable purpose and ethical nature. See Bruce A. Ware, God’s Greater Glory: The Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith (Crossway, 2004), 144-55.

    Have a great Lord’s Day!

  69. Sean Gerety Says:

    God’s preceptive will or, as Calvin calls it, “wish,” can be violated for the simply reason that God has chosen to allow it to be so.

    Give it a rest already. Calvin cannot be twisted as a supporter of your position any more than he was the Amyraldian the Ponterites littering your blog contend.

    Aside from Ray Blacketer http://www.prca.org/articles/ctjblack.html which you clearly have not read, you should at least read Roger Nicole.

    Stop prattling around and get your head out of the sand.

  70. deangonzales Says:

    Does God Want Sinners to Comply with His Law and His Gospel?

    My head’s not in the sand. But I am going to put it on a pillow. Have a good night!

  71. Chris Duncan Says:

    In view of the mention of Spurgeon and his take on 1 Timothy 2:4, I thought this would be quite relevant:

    http://www.outsidethecamp.org/spurgeonswallows.htm

  72. deangonzales Says:

    “Outside the Camp.” Ad hom with a vengeance! My comments above on Mr. Spurgeon’s quote suffice. I like to stay within the realm of biblical theology and good reason.

  73. Sean Gerety Says:

    While I think my comments above on Mr. Spurgeon’s quote more than suffice, I couldn’t agree with you more about OTC. The Carpenterants are almost as bad as the Ponterites, with the one exception that there are only 2 Carpetnerants and I’m pretty sure one of those is Marc’s dog.

  74. Chris Duncan Says:

    Ironically, Dr. Gonzo would probably say that the comparison Sean made between “Carpenterants” and “Ponterites” puts Sean “outside the camp” and without the realm of good reason. Atta boy, Sean! Unlike Sean, the “Ponterites” and the “Carpenterites” are honest about what men like Calvin actually believed:

    http://www.outsidethecamp.org/norefcal.htm

    What is funny–and I doubt it would surprise Dr. Gonzo (or even David Ponter) in the least–is that Sean has been compared to Marc Carpenter more than once in the way he converses with people. But the difference is that Marc backs up the strong biblical language with some actual backbone. Words and terms that should only describe self-righteous unbelievers are carefully and deliberately employed.

    In stark contrast, Sean just likes to describe people he considers true Christians with words that the Apostles, Prophets, and Jesus Himself reserved only for non-Christians. Thus, for Sean, it’s all billows of bombastic bluster with no backbone.

    Sean will not hesitate to quote Galatians 1:8-9 and apply it to someone you (Gonzo) would deem “a dear Christian brother.” You see the language he employs against Ponter and yourself. Perhaps many who have been at the receiving end of his barrage of blather would rather he just judge them as unbelievers. One would think they would grow tired of this little irksome squeaking dog, who has no actual bite and just kick him to the curb with “the left foot of fellowship.” As King Crimson says: “It’s allll talk.”

    For Dr. Gonzo: When you state, “ad hom with a vengeance!” are you keeping in mind the distinction between abusive ad hominem and ad hominem arguments?

  75. tartanarmy Says:

    Sean, ya know your preaching truth when the Ponterites and now the Carpenterants are against you!

    Pink was called all kinds of things from so called “Hypers, Calvinists and Arminians, so he must have been doing something right!

    Being no stranger to Marc and Ponter, I have some experience in these matters.

    Btw, are you the same Sean who used to post a long time ago at “A Better Country” and sometimes at “the dialog Box”?

    Blessings
    Mark

  76. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Mark. I don’t think I’m the same Sean as those sites don’t sound familiar.

    I made the mistake of trying to reason with Ponter back in ’98 or ’99. Ever notice how when you demonstrate that he’s taken someone completely out of context and utterly misconstrued what it is they’re teaching, he just supplies another citation that he blindly asserts supports his Amyraldianism? Like Carpenter, talking to Ponter is like spitting into the wind. I just am amazed that anyone takes the man seriously.

  77. Roger Mann Says:

    Dr. Gonzales wrote,

    The concept of “frustration” presupposes the thwarting of one being’s will by another.

    No it doesn’t…at least not in the context in which I was using it. For a desire to be “frustrated” simply means that it is “without effect” or “ineffectual.” I clearly defined this term when I said that it was a “lack” or “want” of God’s “desired end being accomplished.” I further defined it as “an ineffectual ‘wish’ or ‘desire.’” So I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

    God did not chose to convert all those of whom he spoke in Deuteronomy 5:29 or those of whom he spoke in Ezekiel 33:11. He chose to leave them to die in their sins in order to pursue a higher objective. Ergo: God’s decretive will was not nor ever can be frustrated.

    Correct. Which is why a volitional quality such as “desire” cannot be attributed to God’s preceptive will. As Vincent Cheung points out:

    “Scripture teaches that God decrees what he desires – that is, his ‘good pleasure’ – and what he desires, he decrees and makes certain.”

    The reason God “chooses” not to convert people is because He does not “desire” to convert them — rather He “desires” to harden them in their sin and condemn them for all eternity:

    “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things [regarding the outward “call” of the gospel] from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.” — Matthew 11:25-26

    “Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’” — John 12:39-40

    “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens… What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…” — Romans 9:18, 22

    “Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.’” — Romans 11:7-8

    God’s preceptive will or, as Calvin calls it, “wish,” can be violated for the simply reason that God has chosen to allow it to be so. God has the prerogative and freedom to pursue whatever state of affairs he perceives is in his best interests even though other states of affairs may have intrinsic value.

    Correct once again. Which is why a volitional quality such as a “desire” or “wish” cannot be attributed to God’s preceptive will (Calvin was either confused here or simply used a poor choice of words). God’s preceptive will can be violated for the simple reason that (to use your words) “God has chosen [i.e., decretively] to allow it to be so.” Why? Because He “desired” it to be so! It is God’s decretive will that determines His “desires.” As I said in my last post:

    “It’s no escape to say that God only desires the salvation of the non-elect ‘preceptively’ (in contrast to ‘decretively’), for this so-called ‘desire’ still amounts to a volitional quality within the very nature of God Himself — a volitional quality that results in a division of God’s one will and destroys the simplicity of His being.”

    Positing a volitional quality such as “desire” to God’s preceptive will creates a blatant contradiction with the “desire” of His decretive will — both of which emanate from within the very nature of God’s being ad infra. Thus you wind up with an irrational or schizophrenic God! Is stubbornly maintaining the “well-meant-offer” really worth this type of blasphemy?

    Volitional movement or motion ad intra does not violate God’s immutability because such movement and motion are in accord with God’s immutable purpose and ethical nature. Similarly, affectional movement or motion ad intra does not violate God’s immutability because such movement and motion are in accord with God’s immutable purpose and ethical nature.

    You’re simply confused here. Volitional movement or motion (defined as God’s “act of willing”) does not violate God’s immutability because God’s will is eternally “fixed” and “certain” — it is not “mutable” or “changeable.” Affectional movement or motion does indeed violate God’s immutability because the very essence of fluctuating “emotions” or “affections” is the “mutability” or “change” of one’s feelings! This is truly elementary stuff. As I concluded in an earlier post:

    “To be charitable, you may not be a misologist (a ‘hater of reason’), but you are definitely making a number of logical blunders, and the position you are maintaining is logically inconsistent.”

  78. deangonzales Says:

    Roger writes:
    a volitional quality such as a “desire” or “wish” cannot be attributed to God’s preceptive will (Calvin was either confused here or simply used a poor choice of words).

    Bob replies:
    Roger, I’ve already been down this road before. But if you missed the discussion above, I’ll repeat myself. The Scriptures repeatedly speak of God’s preceptive will not only in terms of “command” but also in terms of “desire,” and not just desire for some Platonic idea but for historical concrete states of affairs considered intrinsically. I’ve already belabored this point elsewhere. If you’re interested, read the following:

    Comment 8

    Comment 15

    Comment 18

    Comment 24

    Comment 28

    Comment 33

    Comment 40

    Furthermore, please note the following post with examples of Reformed divines (not just Calvin) defining God’s preceptive will in terms of “wish” or “desire”:

    John Calvin (1509-1564):

    What I have said of the precepts, abundantly suffices to confound your blasphemies. For though God gives no pretended commands, but seriously declares what he wishes and approves [Latin: vult et probat.]; yet it is in one way, that he wills the obedience of his elect whom he efficaciously bends to compliance; and in another that of the reprobate whom he warns by the external word, but does not see good to draw to himself. Contumacy and depravity are equally natural to all, so that none is ready and willing to assume the yoke (emphasis added). John Calvin, Secret Providence, trans., by James Lillie, Article 7, John Calvin’s reply.

    Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583):

    There are four classes of things concerning which men give commandment. These are, first, divine precepts, which God desires, that men should propose unto themselves for their observance, not, however, in their own name, but by the authority of God himself, as being the ministers and messengers, and not the authors of these precepts (emphasis added). Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans., G. W. Willard (Phillpsburg N.J.: P&R, 1994), 519-520.

    Amandus Polandus (1561-1610):

    “It is called voluntas signi, because it signifies what is pleasing to God, what belongs to our duty, what He wishes to be done or omitted by us, etc.” These “signa voluntatis, from which it is known what God wills”, are “precept, prohibition, permission, counsel, and the fulfilment of predictions” (emphasis added). Cited in Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), 85.

    Abrahamus Heidanus (1597-1678):

    Strictly speaking there is but a single will of God called beneplaciti, whereby God determines by Himself what He wills to do in and concerning the creature. The second is but the sign and indication by which He shows what He wishes creatures to do. But He does not wish them to make His beneplacitum universal; but only the things which He reveals to them, Dt. 29. 29 (emphasis added). Cited in Heirnich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), 87.

    François Turretini (1623-1687):

    It is one thing to will reprobates to come (i.e., to command them to come and to desire it); another to will they should not come (i.e., to nill the giving them the power to come). God can in calling them will the former and yet not the latter without any contrariety because the former respects only the will of precept, while the latter respects the will of decree…. The invitation to the wedding proposed in the parable (Mt. 22:1-14) teaches that the king wills (i.e., commands and desires) the invited to come and that this is their duty; but not that the king intends or has decreed that they should really come. (emphasis added). Turretin, Francis, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994) 2:507-509.

    Hermann Venema (1697-1787):

    God wishes his laws to be obeyed, and therefore wishes also his creatures to be incited in every way to the keeping of them. This purpose is greatly served by the prospect of rewards. But justice loves and demands these rewards. Hermann Venema, Institutes of Theology, trans., by Alex W. Brown, (Andover: W.F. Draper Brothers, 1853), 172.

    William Cunningham (1805-1861):

    Many of the events that take place,–such as the sinful actions of men,–are opposed to, or inconsistent with, His will as revealed in His law, which is an undoubted indication of what He wished or desired that men should do. William Cunningham, Historical Theology (Banner of Truth, 1994), 2:452.

    John L. Dagg (1794–1884):

    Closely allied to the last signification, and perhaps included in it, is that use of the term will, in which it denotes command, requirement. When the person, whose desire or pleasure it is that an action should be performed by another, has authority over that other, the desire expressed assumes the character of precept. The expressed will of a suppliant, is petition; the expressed will of a ruler, is command. What we know that it is the pleasure of God we should do, it is our duty to do, and his pleasure made known to us becomes a law (emphasis added). John L. Dagg, Manual of Theology and Church Order, (Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1982), 100.

    Roger writes:
    Volitional movement or motion (defined as God’s “act of willing”) does not violate God’s immutability because God’s will is eternally “fixed” and “certain” — it is not “mutable” or “changeable.” Affectional movement or motion does indeed violate God’s immutability because the very essence of fluctuating “emotions” or “affections” is the “mutability” or “change” of one’s feelings! This is truly elementary stuff.

    Bob replies:
    God is not eternally sending a flood on the earth. God is not eternally redeeming his people from Egypt. God is not eternally crucifying His Son on the cross. There are concrete, discreet historical events that God providentially enacted at a point in time and which he is not now enacted today. Hence, God willed into actuation yesterday things that he is not willing into actuation today. Movement. Motion. Change–not metaphysical change in God’s being; not ethical change in God’s moral nature. But change nonetheless in the execution of God’s plan. Quite elementary stuff indeed. Additionally, the Bible portrays God not only as acting volitionally to effect historical events but also inwardly to evaluate such historical events. God grieves over sin, is angry at the wicked, hates evil doers, rejoices in the repentance of sinners, loves his people when they love Christ, etc. Everyone one of God’s emotive responses (along with the states of affairs or events that occasion them) are part of God’s own fixed and predetermined plan. So the so-called “fluctuation” of which you speak (which, btw, like “frustate” is a poor choice of words that biases the reader in your favor) is not uncontrolled, unplanned, involuntary fluctuation at all. In this sense, God’s emotions are only analogous not univocal to human emotions (like knowledge). They are real nonetheless.

  79. deangonzales Says:

    Roger,

    I tried to respond but was blocked. Sorry about that.

    Bob G.

  80. Sean Gerety Says:

    Furthermore, please note the following post with examples of Reformed divines (not just Calvin) defining God’s preceptive will in terms of “wish” or “desire”:

    John Calvin (1509-1564):

    What I have said of the precepts, abundantly suffices to confound your blasphemies. For though God gives no pretended commands, but seriously declares what he wishes and approves [Latin: vult et probat.]; yet it is in one way, that he wills the obedience of his elect whom he efficaciously bends to compliance; and in another that of the reprobate whom he warns by the external word, but does not see good to draw to himself. Contumacy and depravity are equally natural to all, so that none is ready and willing to assume the yoke (emphasis added). John Calvin, Secret Providence, trans., by James Lillie, Article 7, John Calvin’s reply.

    Let the above function as the representative example simply because I cannot believe you’ve even read The Secret Providence of God. Did you cull your citations, complete with the dates of Calvin and the rest, from David Ponter? That would make sense and explain why you left off what immediately followed, since what follows REFUTES the very notion that God desires the salvation of all:

    To some God promises the spirit of obedience; others are left to their own depravity. For however you may prate, the new heart is not promised indiscriminately to all; but peculiarly to the elect, that they may walk in God’s precepts. Good critic, what think you of this? When God invites the whole crowd to himself, and withholds knowingly, and willingly his Spirit from the greater part, while he draws the few by his secret influence to obey, must he on that account be condemned as guilty of falsehood?

    Notice, Calvin takes no exception to the idea advanced that “the new heart is not promised indiscriminately to all,” but he attacks his critic for the assumption that because of this God is “guilty of falsehood.” This is precisely the same prattle advanced by the Sincere Offer crowd. Like Calvin’s critic, they assume that unless God sincerely promises or desires the new heart be given indiscriminately to all, then somehow God is guilty of a falsehood, of being insincere, if he doesn’t in some sense desire what He is pleased not to bring about.

    Calvin is arguing against Bob.

    Actually, the entire book, when not cherry picked out of all semblance, is a complete refutation of the idea of the so-called Well Meant Offer and God’s imagined desire for the salvation of all. Here is just one example that is also a great refutation of Spurgeon’s sloppy exegesis above concerning 1 Timothy 2:4:

    Your hacknied quotation from Paul, that God would have all men saved, I have, in my judgment, elsewhere sufficiently shown, lends no countenance your error. For it is more certain than certainty itself, that Paul is not there speaking of individuals, but refers to orders and classes of employments, he had been enjoining prayers, in behalf of kings and other governors, and all who exercised the office of magistrate. But inasmuch as all who then bore the sword, were the professed enemies of the church, it might seem absurd that the church should pray for their salvation. To obviate the difficulty Paul extends the grace of God even to them.

    There is perhaps more color in the words of Peter, that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;” if, however, there be any ambiguity in the former clause, it is removed by the explanation, which is immediately subjoined. Certainly in so far as God would receive all to repentance, he would have no one perish. But in order to be received they must come. Now, the Spirit every where proclaims, that divine grace first comes to men, who till they are drawn remain the willing slaves of carnal contumacy. If you had the smallest judgment remaining, would you not perceive the wide difference between these two that the stony hearts of men, become hearts of flesh, so as to lose all selfcomplacency, and suppliantly entreat for pardon, then, when they are thus changed, that pardon is received. God declares that both those are the gifts of his kindness, the new heart for repentance, and the gracious pardon of the suppliants. Unless God were ready to receive all who truly implore his mercy, he would not say, “return unto me, and I will return unto you.” But if repentance were the effect of the will of man, Paul would not say, “if peradventure God may give them repentance.” Nay, unless the same God, who with his own voice calls all to repentance, drew his elect by the secret influences of his Spirit, Jeremiah would not say, “Turn me, Oh Lord, and I shall be turned; for when thou turnedst me, I repented.”

    If any modesty could be looked for in a dog, this solution should have been familiar to you from my writings, as a thing ten times repeated. But even reject it if you will, you will yet derive no more countenance from Paul, than from Ezekiel. There is no occasion for anxious debate, regarding the mode in which God would have all men saved; for these two things salvation and the knowledge of the truth, are not to be separated. Now answer! If God determined to make known his truth to all, why since the time that the Gospel began to be proclaimed, are there so many nations that his pure truth never reached? Besides, why has he not equally opened the eyes of all, when the interior illumination of the Spirit, vouchsafed but to few, is necessary to faith? This knot also you have to untie. As no one comes to God, except he who is drawn by the secret influence of his Spirit, why are not all indiscriminately drawn, if he is determined that all should be saved? For the discrimination demonstrates, that is some secret way, in which he many from salvation. How it is that the mercy of God reaches to the thousandth generation, you will never perceive while you are blinded by the pride which puffs you up. For there is no promise of such a mercy, as was to utterly the curse, with which the progeny of Adam was overwhelmed; but the mercy promised, was to make its way forever to the unworthy, in spite of all the obstacles which might oppose. Thus God passed by many sons of Abraham when he chose Isaac alone. So when Isaac had begotten twins, the same God determined that his mercy should rest only on Jacob. Yet though God gives proof of his anger against many, still this remains undeniable, that he is inclined to goodness, slow to anger; because in the long suffering with which he tolerates the reprobate, there is no obscure display of his goodness.

    Now observe how your frivolous quibbles entangle yourself while I escape with such ease. That the mercy of God may exceed his anger, you insist that more must be chosen to salvation than destruction; now though I were to grant this, yet God will be unjust to those few, if your calumnies may be believed. If he do not love his offspring you pronounce him worse than a wolf. If then there is but one against whom he exercises his anger, how will he escape the charge of cruelty? Nor may you object, that the causes of anger are in men themselves; because comparing anger with mercy, you contend merely concerning relative extent; as if by choosing more to salvation, God might prove himself merciful. Whereas God commends his love toward us in a totally different way, viz. on the one hand, by pardoning so many, and so various offenses, and on the other by contending with the obstinate malice of men, till it come to its height.

  81. Sean Gerety Says:

    Again, to disabuse any who might be taken in by Dr. Gonzales’ fast-and-loose, or, rather, “Ponteresque” (mis)handling of Calvin, Turretin and others, I recommend you read:

    The Three Points in Most Parts Reformed: A Reexamination of the So-Called Well-Meant Offer of Salvation by Raymond A. Blacketer.
    http://www.prca.org/articles/ctjblack.html

    Blacketer reveals Calvin’s careful handling of the preceptive and decretive will of God against the one sided distortions of the WMO crowd (and the similarly imbalanced lunacy of the Carpenterant nut jobs) lead at one time by Louis Berkof and Anthony Hoekema.

    Also, for those unfamiliar with the history, Blacketer is writing for the Calvin Theological Journal, the official journal of the Christian Reformed Church’s Seminary. The importance is that the CRC split in 1924 when Herman Hoeksema and others were given the left foot of fellowship from the CRC for their rejection of the WMO. Hoeksema and his associates went on to form the Protestant Reformed Church (PRC).

    The importance of the above mentioned article is that it is vindication for those who were booted from the CRC, Hoeksema in particular, for their correct, principled, and Biblical rejection of the WMO as nothing more than a form of Arminianism. And, if you think that’s even a bit harsh, read Brandon’s comments above quoting Sam Waldron saying: “The free offer means, and means for me, that I tell people that God loves them and wants them to be saved, if they will repent.” What incoherent Arminian drivel.

    Not only was the WMO the dividing line between Reformed men and proto-Arminians in the Twenties, it was the same in the 40’s as it is today. To quote Hoeksema in The Clark-Van Til Controversy:

    [The Vantillians argue] the preacher must say that God sincerely seeks the salvation of the reprobate through the preaching of the Gospel. Dr. Clark answers: “That is not true; the preacher may never say that in the name of God. And, in the light of Scripture, he should say: God seeks his own glory and justification in preparing the reprobate for their just damnation even through the preaching of the Gospel.”

    Yet, the incoherent Arminianism of those at RBS permits “Reformed” Baptist preachers to say to all, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” And, while I’m sure Dr. Gonzales will complained that he is now being maligned as an “Arminian,” it follows that if God wills the salvation of all, then the reason some or many are not saved is not found in the will of God. And, if the dividing line between the reprobate and the elect is not found in the will of God, then whose will is left? And, since the WMO crowd advance the idea that rather than God’s will being one, they present a God whose preceptive and decretive wills are at cross purposes, frankly the theology of the Arminian is logically more consistent and preferable, even if equally unbiblical.

  82. deangonzales Says:

    Sean wins again by using the “smoke and mirrors” technique!

    Gonzales never said God promises a new heart to each and every sinner. Only said God desires all fallen men to comply with the terms of the gospel. Of course, the fact that God is the one who actually effects regeneration and gives the gift of repentance and faith doesn’t preclude Scripture writers do exhort sinners to “circumcise the foreskin of their heart” (Deut. 10:16) and to “convert themselves” (Acts 2:40).

    Interestingly, Gonzales also clarified his use of Spurgeon’s citation, making it clear that the abuse against which Spurgeon stands, i.e., a misuse of the analogy of faith (which really turns out to resemble something like the Romanists forcing texts to fit so-called ecclesiastically “received dogma”) has nothing to do with whether or not Calvin agrees with Spurgeon’s exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:4. Moreover, the case for the WMO doesn’t rest on that text.

    No matter. If Sean can send his readers after red-herrings and his readers are not careful to catch the “slight of hand,” Sean wins the game. And he congratulates himself in the process.

    Sean claims to be a Christian rationalist. In reality, he’s very selective in what “reasons” he marshals. When in a jam, unable to refute his opponent, he resorts to the irrational practice of selectively quoting his opponents (making sure to leave out parts of what they say) either to distort their position and to avoid truly answering their position.

    You’d make a great politician, Sean, because you’re good at spin. Your exegetical and theological competence–well, that’s another story.

  83. Roger Mann Says:

    And, since the WMO crowd advance the idea that rather than God’s will being one, they present a God whose preceptive and decretive wills are at cross purposes, frankly the theology of the Arminian is logically more consistent and preferable, even if equally unbiblical.

    Amen!

  84. deangonzales Says:

    Roger, I expected better from you. Hate to see it when good men fall to distinguish a straw man argument from a real argument. Rational? No. Gullible. Yes. And this blog is purportedly stands for rational discourse. Hardly!

  85. Sean Gerety Says:

    Sean wins again by using the “smoke and mirrors” technique!

    I realize that clear reason would seem like smoke and mirrors to someone mired in the Vantilian school of “mystery and paradox.” May God have mercy on you.

    Gonzales never said God promises a new heart to each and every sinner. Only said God desires all fallen men to comply with the terms of the gospel.

    And Gerety never said you said those exact words as quoted by Calvin’s opponents. But I think most readers will agree that the idea of God promising a new heart to each and every sinner is indistinguishable from statements like; “God sincerely yearns that each and every sinner might turn from his sinful autonomy, embrace his Creator as Lord and Savior, and enjoy God’s saving blessing,” or, as one of your Profs said: “I tell people that God loves them and wants them to be saved, if they will repent.” Isn’t the offer of a new heart one of God’s saving blessings? Isn’t a new heart something God promises to give to those He loves? What was that you said about “smoke and mirrors”?

    Of course, the fact that God is the one who actually effects regeneration and gives the gift of repentance and faith doesn’t preclude Scripture writers do exhort sinners to “circumcise the foreskin of their heart” (Deut. 10:16) and to “convert themselves” (Acts 2:40).

    Not surprisingly, in your defense of your idea of a universal desire for the salvation of all, you strangle Acts by failing to consider the previous verse; “even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” But the fact that you even bring up Acts 2:40 in support again demonstrates why the incoherence and imbalance of the WMO undermines and controverts the monergistic scheme of salvation. I realize you folks want to claim to be Reformed, but your position is a rejection of Reformed soteriology and indeed requires the conclusion, assuming any of you actually care about logic, that men “convert themselves.”

    No matter. If Sean can send his readers after red-herrings and his readers are not careful to catch the “slight of hand,” Sean wins the game. And he congratulates himself in the process.

    LOL! I refer readers to the work of a CRC professor writing in a scholarly theological journal of a denomination that formally adopted your so-called “Well Meant Offer” as the official doctrine of their denomination and you call this a “red-herring” and “slight of hand.” That’s a hoot!

    Sean claims to be a Christian rationalist. In reality, he’s very selective in what “reasons” he marshals. When in a jam, unable to refute his opponent, he resorts to the irrational practice of selectively quoting his opponents

    If it were even possible, this is even funnier. You splatter quotes from Reformers you wrongly claim support your doctrine and then when I demonstrate by simply expanding the text YOU carefully left out that clearly refutes you, I’m the one guilty of selective quoting. ROFLOL!

    You’d make a great politician, Sean, because you’re good at spin. Your exegetical and theological competence–well, that’s another story.

    The last refuge for men whose arguments have been exposed as the unbiblical and unReformed; the abusive ad hominem. What’s next, are you going to call me a used car salesman? How about a trial lawyer or even the Chairman of the Fed? LOL 🙂

  86. deangonzales Says:

    It’s been a stimulating experience, Sean. But I’ll sign out, seeing that I have not yet encountered a convincing rational or biblical argument on this site to dissuade me from the clear biblical evidence that God preceptively desires states of affairs he deems in accord with his moral character though he doesn’t actuate every such desire in order to accomplish greater ends.

  87. Roger Mann Says:

    Dr. Gonzales wrote,

    I’ll repeat myself. The Scriptures repeatedly speak of God’s preceptive will not only in terms of “command” but also in terms of “desire,” and not just desire for some Platonic idea but for historical concrete states of affairs considered intrinsically.

    Yes, you are simply “repeating” yourself. Rather than addressing the specific points that I’ve raised (several times now), you have simply re-asserted that God “wishes” or “desires” the reprobate to obey His commands and be saved. Now, how about answering the following points?

    “It’s no escape to say that God only desires the salvation of the non-elect ‘preceptively’ (in contrast to ‘decretively’), for this so-called ‘desire’ still amounts to a volitional quality within the very nature of God Himself — a volitional quality that results in a division of God’s one will and destroys the simplicity of His being.”

    “Positing a volitional quality such as ‘desire’ to God’s preceptive will creates a blatant contradiction with the ‘desire’ of His decretive will — both of which emanate from within the very nature of God’s being ad infra. Thus you wind up with an irrational or schizophrenic God!”

    Furthermore, please note the following post with examples of Reformed divines (not just Calvin) defining God’s preceptive will in terms of “wish” or “desire.”

    Let me be clear. Even if you’re interpreting these Reformed divines correctly, I’d simply say the same thing about them as I said about Calvin — that they are either confused or using a poor choice of words in the citations you provided. However, I don’t believe you are accurately representing their views. For example, Calvin makes it quite clear that God does not have a “double will” — or preceptive and decretive wills that “desire” or “wish” opposite things:

    “But men untaught of God, not understanding these things, allege that we here attribute to God a twofold or double will. Whereas God is so far from being variable, that no shadow of such variableness appertains to Him, even in the most remote degree.” (Calvin’s Calvinism, pp. 99)

    Turretin says essentially the same thing:

    “Although the will in God is only one and most simple, yet because it is occupied differently about various objects it may be apprehended as manifold (not in itself, but on the part the things willed).” (Inst. Elenct., 3.15.1)

    Turretin goes on to make it clear that God’s preceptive will (euarestia, signi, revealed) does not properly include any “volition” in God:

    “[Euarestia] means nothing else than the mere complacency by which God approves anything as just and holy and delights in it; hence it does not properly include any decree or volition in God, but only implies the agreement of the thing with the nature of God; the approval of anything is not forthwith his volition.” (Inst. Elenct., 3.15.11)

    “It [signi] cannot be the conditional will to save each and every individual under that condition because that would testify that he will what in reality he does not will towards those passed by (from whom he withholds the condition).” (Inst. Elenct., 3.15.22)

    “If God by this will [signi] signified that he willed the salvation of all without exception, he would have signified that he willed what he least willed, but when it signifies that the wills the salvation of all believers and penitents, it signifies that he wills that which he really wills.” (Inst. Elenct., 3.15.24)

    Moreover, Turretin flatly denies that any “ineffectual” will or desire can be attributed to God:

    “The second distinction usually brought forward is that of effectual and ineffectual will, which is understood to mean that the effectual will corresponds with the decretive; but that the ineffectual will coincides with the preceptive [which is virtually identical to what Dr. Gonzales is proposing — RM].

    A. Scripture testifies that the counsel of God is immutable and that his will cannot be resisted (Isa. 46:10; Rom. 9:19); if it cannot be resisted, it must accomplish what he intended.

    B. The ineffectual will cannot be attributed to God without convicting him of either of ignorance or of impotence.

    C. Nor ought ineffectual will be attributed to his good pleasure, because that would only prove that God had not seriously willed it, for he who seriously intends anything uses all the means in his power to accomplish it.

    D. The same reasons which teach that there is no antecedent will prove there is no ineffectual will.” (Inst. Elenct., 3.16.15)

    “The passages which attribute a desire or wish to God do not immediately prove any ineffectual will in him.

    A. If referred to the past, these passages mean nothing else than a serious disapproval of committed sins with a strong rebuke to the ingratitude of men and a declaration of the benefits lost and the evils incurred by their sins (Psa. 81:13; Isa. 48:18)

    B. But if they relate to the future, they imply only a serious command supported by promises and threatening.” (Deut. 32:29) (Inst. Elenct., 3.16.17)

    Neither Calvin nor Turretin support your position in the slightest.

    There are concrete, discreet historical events that God providentially enacted at a point in time and which he is not now enacted today. Hence, God willed into actuation yesterday things that he is not willing into actuation today. Movement. Motion. Change–not metaphysical change in God’s being; not ethical change in God’s moral nature. But change nonetheless in the execution of God’s plan. Quite elementary stuff indeed.

    You are more confused than I thought. The only “change” that takes place in the providential “execution of God’s plan” is manifestly ad extra — outside His being. There is no “change” in His eternally fixed will or decree ad infra. God’s will is as immutable as His being! Why am I having to explain this to the dean of a Reformed theological seminary?

    Additionally, the Bible portrays God not only as acting volitionally to effect historical events but also inwardly to evaluate such historical events.

    If God is truly acting “inwardly” (ad infra) with changing “emotions” or “affections,” then you are indeed left with a mutable and passible god — not the immutable and impassible God of Scripture!

    Everyone one of God’s emotive responses (along with the states of affairs or events that occasion them) are part of God’s own fixed and predetermined plan. So the so-called “fluctuation” of which you speak (which, btw, like “frustate” is a poor choice of words that biases the reader in your favor) is not uncontrolled, unplanned, involuntary fluctuation at all.

    Sorry, but that doesn’t fly. Even if it were possible for God to will Himself to be mutable (i.e., to have “changing” or “fluctuating” emotions), you would still be left with a mutable and passible god — not the immutable and impassible God of Scripture! So you have to make up your mind. You can’t have it both ways. God is either mutable or immutable; He is either passible or impassible.

    (btw, I won’t be able to respond to any additional posts for a few days)

  88. Sean Gerety Says:

    I have to say those passages from Turretin shatters the entire WMO deck of cards. Even if the kitchen got a little to hot for Bob, thanks for posting those.

  89. joe Says:

    I must say as a relatively new Christian that my head spins as I try to follow some of these arguments and words but I have a few comments in general.
    Within the space of 10, 20 maybe for some 50 years we will all stand naked before this Risen Christ. And on that Day when the secrets of the heart will be made known it will be both Awesome and horrible. Most of our friends, family and neighbors will be cry for rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the Lamb. All the mighty men of the earth and of the history of the church will bow to this One. Who can be hidden from His wrath on that coming Day? Do I need to be able to understand all of this in order for my soul to be eternally saved? I hate God by birth, I did not learn this so much by paper but by heart. I hated Him. I would have rather perished than have this One to rule over me. He saved me. He sought me out in my sins and saved me. God forbid that I should boast except in the cross. I cast my poor, lost , naked, ruined, helpless, God- hating soul upon Jesus Christ as that One who came for the sick. We can all agree on this much brethren. Knowing the terror of the Lord we can pursuade men. Remember to do all, say all in the light of that coming Day. God bless, Joe

  90. Ben Maas Says:

    Joe,

    False doctrines often have the tendency to lead to apostasy. It takes time, but when the implications of a false doctrine are drawn out, they can turn an orthodox Reformed Christian into a heretic (e.g. Clark Pinnock and his commitment to free will).

    Although our Christian brethren can have false views, we still want to seek out and crush any falsities we may find. God Himself gave us His Word and we should therefore strive for doctrinal purity. Even if doctrinal purity is not what saves (the precious blood of Christ is), it is still paramount that we not misconstrue our Father.

    However, volumes can be told about the manner of obtaining doctrinal purity, aiming for the mind of Christ with the love of Christ, speaking to and correcting other Christian brothers with all of Christ’s humility and meekness, not condescending arrogance.

    Judgment day will be fearful indeed. Imagine what it will be like to bow down directly in the presence of our Creator!

  91. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Bob,
    You said,
    \”God Himself gave us His Word and we should therefore strive for doctrinal purity. Even if doctrinal purity is not what saves (the precious blood of Christ is), it is still paramount that we not misconstrue our Father.\”
    Doctrinal purity is not what saves? Paul anathemised the Jews in Galatia for teaching justification through the law! The Bible condemns false teachers!
    How would one know that the blood of Jesus saves if one did not know the \”pure doctrine\” that teaches us that the blood of Jesus saves? We must not posit a false disjunction between doctrine(propositions) and the historical events of the work of salvation! It is the words, true propositions(pure doctrines) that tell us or inform us on the significance of the events at Calvary. Without those \”pure doctrines\” which you seem to think are only subsidiary, we would not know that Christ was dying for our salvation. The gospel by which we are saved, is \”good news\”. Since we are saved through faith(belief or believing a message), it is obvoius that what we hear is absolutely crucial, and we cannot be saved without the message! Further, the following sampling of scriptural quoations should show how important words(doctrine) are!

    \”But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.\” -Matthew 4:4 Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3.

    \”Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.\” -John 5:24 We are saved by believing what he says!

    \”It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.\” -John 6:63 His word is life!

    But he said, \”On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it.\” – Luke 11:28

    “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flowers fall away: But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” – I Peter 1:24-25

    \”He who rejects me, and doesn\’t receive my sayings, has one who judges him. The word that I spoke, the same will judge him in the last day.\” -John 12:48

    “-making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this.\” –Mark 7:13

    \”To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, \”If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.\” —John 8:31-32
    It is the truth(pure doctrine) that sets us free!

    \”1 Brethren, my heart\’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God\’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
    5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) 7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!\” -Romans 10:1-14

    I hope this helps !

    Denson

  92. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Ben,

    My sincere apologies, Ben! I addressed you as Bob above!

    Denson.

  93. Ben Maas Says:

    Denson,

    I’m not making a false disjunction, but a distinction. I do not doubt that pure doctrines are a fruit of saving faith and that heresy can signify the lack of saving faith, but as you know, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. I am not trying to say that people can be saved without having correct doctrine (although error is obviously permissible to some extent), but I was merely commenting on Joe’s question, “Do I need to be able to understand all of this in order for my soul to be eternally saved?”

    Please don’t make false inferences from what I said. I never stated that I think doctrine is subsidiary; I implied that it does not justify. Believe me, Denson, I’m not one of those people who downplays doctrine. Sorry for not making myself clear.

  94. Sean Gerety Says:

    Joe – just to add a bit to what Ben said above, Jesus didn’t say Yes and No (2 Cor 1:17-19) that’s why when the dean of a purportedly Reformed seminary advances the idea of Biblical paradox, which is nothing more than a contradiction for you and me, they are undermining and attacking the truthfulness of God’s Word.

    FWIW those who have championed Dr. Gonzales theological view of truth and Scripture in Presbyterian circles are the same men who are now denying the finished work of Christ and have supplanted it with a Romanish scheme of salvation based on a combination of faith and works. This is what is known as Federal Vision theology.

    Even worse, those Christian leaders who ought to know better and who are charged with fighting these errors have been crippled, unable to effectively deal with these deadly heresies and the heretics who teach them, simply because they share the same deadly and errant view of truth and Scripture. Since the Federal Vision comes wrapped in just more paradoxical language, affirming and denying the central doctrine of the Christian faith, justification by faith alone, these anemic “protectors” of Christ’s sheep simply excuse these deadly errors and the men who teach them as simply being “ambiguous.” It’s not that they’re antichrists advancing a false gospel, rather they’re brothers in Christ and ministers of the Gospel who can’t seem to articulate the truth of the Gospel clearly. This is the rotten fruit of Vantilianism.

    Now, I don’t think Dean Bob Gonzales is a Federal Visionist, but the anti-Christian philosophy he is advancing will continue to bear fruit, none of it good. That’s why it’s better to try and expose these things early on and nip them in the bud before they have real consequences in the lives of real people. So while this all might seem to be much ado about nothing, I trust you will come to see that there is more to it than just a couple of Christians beating each other about the head. 😉

  95. joe Says:

    1.What do you think of the Erskines, Thomas Boston, Whitfield, Bunyan.

    2. What must be believed in order to be saved from your sins and counted righteous before God.

    I hope you didn’t think that i am against learning by any means, but as i followed the debate I got the sense that there was a cutting spirit among some. So my point was for each to search his own heart. Is it possible to be able to defend the doctrines of grace to a “T” and yet be lost. I think Judas was an example of warning to us. The fact that we will soon stand before Christ should be a caution to us to always make the calling and election sure that we can firmly debate lest we be found with no oil in our lamps and those who know the gospel in word only. Correct with a spirit of gentleness, especially when those in the debate show the same gentleness.
    I was once extremely religious and lost.
    The law came and killed me, that is any hope to be saved apart from free grace in Christ. The Spirit of Christ does not teach us the doctrines of grace to lead to be prideful, cutting, condescending but rather the opposite. I believe John Wesley was a saved man, one who was tireless in his pursuit of Christ and yet was he not of a different persuasion that you? Could you fellowship with him at all? Well i hope this made some sense, i’m not near as fluent as most who have commented but am not far removed from being a drunkard, a fornicator, a fallen, lost wretch of a human but am saved. May my speech be in demonstration of the Spirit of Christ, and in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling,

  96. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Ben,
    “…but I was merely commenting on Joe’s question, ‘Do I need to be able to understand all of this in order for my soul to be eternally saved?’ ”

    Point taken!
    I often wonder why people ask such questions! If you find the exchanges rather heavy going, but you are already a believer, then of course you have the answer! You are already a believer despite the heavy exchanges going past your head! So, what is the question supposed to mean?

    As a young Christian, I lapped up knowledge like a hungry puppy!

    God gave us 66 books which take a life time to even scratch the surface! He obviously intended us to learn something out of these books! There can be no true biblical piety without knowledge of the Bible!

    The Bible says, “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen,” (2 Pet. 3:17-18).
    Can one obey this scriptural injunction by being lazy and ignorant?

    Denson

  97. qeqesha Says:

    Hi Joe,
    “I hope you didn’t think that i am against learning by any means,..”
    Well, if you ask ” ..do I have to know all this ..” suggests you would rather be ignorant or that a state of ignorance would be prefarable. To me that is not Chritian piety at all!
    “..but as i followed the debate I got the sense that there was a cutting spirit among some. So my point was for each to search his own heart. Is it possible to be able to defend the doctrines of grace to a “T” and yet be lost. I think Judas was an example of warning to us.”
    Joe, do you even ever read the New Testament? Here is a sampling:
    Mathew 3:7 John the Baptist, who had spent some time in the desert(wilderness) knew something about snakes and the religious establishment reminded him of those slithery poisonous desert creepy crawlies … and he let everybody know! ‘But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” ‘
    Mathew 23:13-33 Jesus had a word for the religious establishment of his day, and obviously taking a page from his cousin John the Baptist, he said to them, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
    Please Joe read all of it! I suppose you will cringe! The Bible says the common people heared Jesus gladly!

    Paul did not like scripture twisters one bit! He warned the Philippian church: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.” Phil 3:2 Was Jesus and Paul guilty of a “cutting spirit” to you?

    Yes, we do have a lesson to learn from Judas Iscariot. The Bible tells us that Judas did not believe! Judas did NOT defend orthodoxy to the “T”, he just never believed it! The guy never took Christ seriously! God in His providence kept Judas in the company of Christ’s disciples so that he would betray Jesus in the end and thus through His death purchase our salvation! And thus we see God’s sovereign control and direction of all events to fulfill His purposes!

    “The fact that we will soon stand before Christ should be a caution to us to always make the calling and election sure that we can firmly debate lest we be found with no oil in our lamps and those who know the gospel in word only.” Yes indeed, we must always be ready. He is coming soon! That is why we cannot timidly stand by playing meek and mild while little jackals and hyenas scatter the flock that Christ purchased with his precious blood! As the Bible says, quit you like a man, suit up for battle! The oil in our lamps is the truth — certainly not ignorance and false beliefs or some mystical fuzzy warm feeling!

    I don’t know any other way of knowing the gospel other than “in word only”! The gospel is good news, and news are in words only, unless you are thinking of TV, and there is no TV Bible! The whole Bible is made up of words and the only possible way of knowing anything of the Bible is from those words! It would seem it is those who know the gospel in word only who are biblical christians!
    “The Spirit of Christ does not teach us the doctrines of grace to lead to be prideful, cutting, condescending but rather the opposite.”
    That is true, neither does he give us a spirit of ignorance, or an effeminate and timid spirit. Wolves are not gentleman, and you will not get them off the sheep’s trail by playing nice and stroking their mane!

    “I believe John Wesley was a saved man, one who was tireless in his pursuit of Christ and yet was he not of a different persuasion that you? Could you fellowship with him at all?”
    Good for you! Obvioulsy I would not “fellowship with him” since fellowship means sharing in the same beliefs or being of the same mind. This is the biblical meaning of fellowship. It does not mean just hanging out with someone. I would propbably not hangout with Wesley since I hardly ever hang out with people are diagree with! As you note, we are of different persuasion! As the word of God says, “How can two walk together unless they be agreed!” and I think Wesley would concur!!

    “May my speech be in demonstration of the Spirit of Christ, and in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling,” Yes indeed! And this is the spirit of truth and not lies and compromise! As Paul says, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men,” {2 Cor 5:11a RSV}

    Denson


  98. […] Below are the snippets from Turretin that Mr Gerety produces here: […]

  99. Sean Gerety Says:

    Just a little word of warning concerning the above pingback. First, the man linked Roger Mann’s citations of Turretin to me. I suppose “Roger Mann” looks pretty similar to “Sean Gerety.” ;-P

    Second, you’ll notice his reply simply regurgitates the putrid drivel from David Ponter’s “Calvin Wasn’t A Calvinist” website. You’ll also notice that littered all over his blog are note from “Flynn,” who is just David Ponter. And, as anyone knows who has wasted valuable time exposing the endless errors and the mishandling of countless Reformed writers by David Ponter, be prepared to waste valuable time. But if you’re interested in hitting two birds with one stone, YNUTTY, Tony Byrne, the man now infamous for slandering James White as a “hyper-Calvinist,” hangs out there as well.

  100. Rescued from Romanism Says:

    Sean,

    Having read the posts on this site and on Bob Gonzales’ site since June 8, I have come to the conclusion that the manner in which you, Sean, have vilified your opponents is out of character for a follower of Christ.

  101. Bob Suden Says:

    RfromR,

    Just what exactly did you find vilifying – as opposed to edifying – in Sean’s last post?

  102. qeqesha Says:

    Rescued from Romanism,
    Which Christ are you referring too?
    The one in the Bible said: Matthew 23:13-33

    verse 13 “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”
    verse 14 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.”
    verse 15 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”
    verse 16 “Woe unto you, ye blind guides,…”
    verse 17 “Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?”
    verse 19 “Ye fools and blind:…”
    verse 23 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…”
    verse 24 “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”
    verse 25 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.”
    verse 26 “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
    verse 27 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”
    verse 28 — “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
    verse 33 — “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”

    And one of his followers, the Apostle Paul said: Phil 3:2
    “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”

    And so according to you ” ..the manner in which Christ and Paul, have vilified their opponents is out of character for a follower of Christ.”

    Denson

  103. Ben Maas Says:

    I think it’s quite obvious that a rebuke of demonic Pharisees by an omniscient God-man does not imply the permissibility of such a rebuke by one Reformed Christian to another. RfR is making a good point.

  104. Jonathan Says:

    Gimme a break. If Sean is such a bad Christian why don’t you people with hurt feelings file charges against Sean with the Elders of his church.

  105. Roger Mann Says:

    In the above “pingback” regarding my quotations of Turretin, David wrote:

    The problem is, we have two sets of statements from Turretin.
    On the one hand he says, the revealed contains no volition or unfulfilled desire. On the other he says that God desires compliance to his commands by will revealed… The resolution is simple, really. For God, ad intra, the revealed will has no volition. However, the revealed will, as considered ad extra, shows us what God wishes us to do.

    If the revealed will shows us what God “desires” or “wishes” us to do, then it clearly expresses an ineffectual volition within God’s being ad infra — for a “desire” or “wish” is manifestly an internal act of one’s mind or will. So this so-called “simple” resolution is just more incoherent nonsense.

    In reality, the revealed will only expresses God’s “will” or “command” for what man ought to do. It is wholly an expression of God’s will ad extra — that is, outside His being. It expresses nothing about an ineffectual “desire” or “wish” for what God wants us to do ad infra.

    It is a flat contradiction to say that God volitionally “desires” and “wills” to save all, while He volitionally “desires” and “wills” to save only some. The ascribing of a volitional desire and will to God in His precepts does nothing but make them internal to the mind of God (ad infra), and creates a duplicity of desire and will in God — plain and simple.

    By the way, I didn’t realize that my earlier quotations were from an “Outline” of Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology. It was an honest mistake on my part. I certainly didn’t intend to “misrepresent Turretin, and mislead modern readers” as David seemed to imply. While I’m no expert on Turretin, it appears that he contradicted himself at times. I’ll withhold judgment until I do more research on the matter.

  106. Ben Maas Says:

    Jonathan,

    It is not as if I’m typing these responses with Kleenexes in hand and barely perceiving the computer screen through the tears.

    And I am surprised at your justification of someone’s behavior. What if I spoke about how great murder was, and this offended some people (rightly so)? Would you tell others to give you a break and take it up with my elders, or should it be more plainly evident that I am doing something wrong?

    Likewise with scornful, mocking language directed towards Christian brethren. There are times for mock and scorn; with this I agree. But it does not follow that we can use them towards other brothers in Christ.

  107. Sean Gerety Says:

    Let’s see, I’ve called Gonzales an irrationalist, a misologist, and a paradox monger. All accurate descriptions so far as I can tell. Yet, according to Joe and Rescued I’m lost and an antichrist and Ben seems content at this point to just whine. Yet, Gonzales has derided me claiming after pages of argument against his incoherent and contradictory doctrine, a doctrine that imputes irrationality to God, that he has “not yet encountered a convincing rational or biblical argument,” that I’m “good at spin,” “would make a great politican,” attacked me as a “exegetical and theological” incompetent, he said I claim to be “a Christian rationalist” when I have made no such claim, and the list goes on.

    Perhaps in the mind of some the Dean of a supposedly Reformed Baptist seminary is above criticism, but it seems to me that some of you need to grow a spine. Gonzales said on his blog that if he is “teaching or promoting heresy” he deserves “to be treated firmly and frankly.” I think that is exactly how I’ve treated him and for that very reason; he is promoting heresy and not just the heresy of the WMO. The entire epistemic infrastructure that underlies his doctrine and formalized by C. Van Til is heretical. It is a philosophy that undermines the truth of Scripture, does violence to the analogy of faith, and controverts what the Westminster Divines called the “infallible rule of interpreting Scripture” which is Scripture itself and whose meaning is one, and obliterates the idea of a “consent of all the parts.”

    Dr. Gonzales further claimed the analogy of faith can be abused and was abused by the Calvinsts who consistently interpreted 1 Timothy 2:4 in contrast to the “responsible” and “plain reading” of Scripture advanced by Spurgeon that does violence to the very analogy of faith Dr. Gonzales feigns to uphold.

    Long and short, if you gentlemen want to continue to complain about my tone or that I’m not a Christian or worse, take it somewhere else.

  108. Ben Maas Says:

    Sean,

    If you think I’m whining, well…I don’t really know what to say. It’s easy to brush off others’ words when you declare them to be whiners.

    Second, there is no way you believe Dr. Gonzales is teaching heresy, unless you believe he is en route to hell presently. In retrospect, if you did believe that he was really unregenerate, I guess your scathing remarks earlier would make more sense.

    The WMO, God’s emotivity, etc. are not heresies. They are false, and they may lead to heresies, but there’s no way they’re heresies. Let’s not be bombastic.

  109. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ben, what exactly do you think the word heresy means?

  110. Ben Maas Says:

    Heresy would be a doctrine that one, by virtue of holding, shows that he is not regenerate; i.e., a non-damnable heresy is a contradiction.

    Lesser errors are under the label of heterodoxy.

  111. Sean Gerety Says:

    At least in my dictionary and also in my thesaurus a synonym for heterodox is heretic. If it’s any help, I certainly don’t share your narrow definition. For example a Baptist might think that infant baptism is heretical and for a Baptist I would say it is, which is why I’m not a Baptist. I contend that the WMO and the philosophy of paradox as it has been applied to Scripture is contrary to the Westminster Standards and contrary to Scripture. Of course, if secondary standards or creeds are contrary to Scripture then it might be that fidelity to Scripture would be, ironically, heretical if one were to place creed or confession above Scripture, which many do (interestingly, I’m reading James Anderson’s book in defense of biblical paradox and that is exactly what he does).

  112. Ben Maas Says:

    Oh, okay, thank you for explaining yourself. Your other statements regarding heresy now make more sense.

  113. qeqesha Says:

    Ben,
    If Pharisees are blind fools and hypocrites, to what you call the God-man, to us, they may be dear brethren? The legalistic Jews may be dogs to Paul but to us they are precious brethren? If God calls someone a dog, do you dare think they are not? In other words God is just being unfair, vilifying his opponents? You do not make sense to me at all! The Apostle John says do not even say goodbye to some of these people!

    2 Timothy 3:16-18 (King James Version)

    16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

    17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

    Denson

  114. Ben Maas Says:

    Denson,

    That’s not what I was saying at all. I think we should use mock and scorn against Pharisaical demons. My point is that this doesn’t allow us to use the same language against Christian brothers.

    I did not argue that Pharisees are Christian brothers.

  115. Sean Gerety Says:

    My point is that this doesn’t allow us to use the same language against Christian brothers.

    Perhaps not the same language, but I’m curious where you get this universal prohibition from?

    For example, the Galatian Christians who would even entertain the false teaching of the Judaizers (much like those who call the FV teachers “brothers”), Paul derides them wondering, among other things, if they are bewitched and rhetorically asks; “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Paul treats these men as if they were unbelievers as if his toiling among them had been in vain. Similarly, he compares the believers at Corinth to worldlings and mocks them as babes unable to digest solid food because of their bickering and party spirit:

    And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able,for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

    In 1 Corinthians 15:36 Paul calls (presumably) believers in the Corinthian church “fools” for denying the resurrection after providing a scathing reductio ad absurdum exposing the folly of their false doctrine.

    In 1 Timothy 5 Paul instructs that younger windows not be provided aid as it encourages them to be idle “gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.” Was Paul sinning by calling young widows in seeming need of assistance “gossips and busybodies”?

    The list could be multiplied, but, again, despite some of the complaints, I haven’t treated Dr. Gonzales as an unbeliever, just as a seriously misguided and confused one who is in a position of power and influence guiding men under him into like minded and dangerous nonsense. I’ve treated Dr. Gonzales the way I think he should be treated biblically, like a man who ought to know better. Besides, and not that I care, it amazes me that you and others would be so upset that I would mock the nonsense Dr. Gonzales has advanced, but you take not the slightest umbrage at his repeated mockery of me?

    So, again, I think you men need to find your backbone or find another forum.

  116. Ben Maas Says:

    If you think Dr. Gonzales is adding works to the Gospel or denying a bodily resurrection, have at him. But he’s not doing that.

    Paul’s calling some widows “gossips and busybodies” was not a pejorative term but simply calling them what they are. It would be equivalent to my saying, “I think you are wrong.” Does the fact that correction is Biblical entail that pejorative correction is? If I’m allowed to say charitably, “I think you are mistaken,” does it follow that I can permissibly say, “Has it ever entered your confused mind that you are dead wrong? You are dumber than a schoolboy!”

    It doesn’t have to do merely with a few specific words, but the general tone of your writing (which, by the way, separates your writing from Dr. Gonzales’s, although he has not been innocent in everything he said). I would suggest you examine yourself, as I have been forced to do often, and not try to brush aside any criticism as whining or due to a lack of backbone. (Would I even be confronting you on this if I had no backbone?)

  117. Sean Gerety Says:

    This is my last note to you in this regard.

    I do appreciate that after long last you now admit that in your view Dr. Gonzales “has not been innocent in everything he said.” Well, why aren’t you on his blog incessantly trying to make him see his sin even if you think I’m a generally more loathsome?

    FWIW I don’t think Dr. Gonzales has sinned against me and I honestly think the “general tone” argument is a straw man. Tone is more often than not in the ear of the beholder. Further, I don’t consider my disagreement with Gonzales academic and I don’t think he is simply “mistaken.” He is wrong.

    Ben, I’m sorry you’re still unsatisfied, however I hope that you will honor my request and move on.

  118. Ben Maas Says:

    I will. God bless, Sean.

  119. theoparadox Says:

    All,

    Somewhere in this thread, Sean encouraged readers to check out my site and made some disparaging remarks about it. Now I know why I’ve been getting so much traffic. Thanks for the backhanded compliment, Sean.

    First, to clarify:

    I am not, have never been, and probably never will be, a Baptist.

    Second, here’s what readers should know about me:

    I am a simple, Calvinistic Christian with a relentless commitment to the absolute authority, complete inerrancy and full sufficiency of the Bible. Coupled with this (and flowing from it), I affirm the total, pervasive depravity of fallen human beings – including some significant intellectual limitations. Biblically, I find no evidence to suggest that man’s mental faculties are on a par with God’s. Logically, pervasive depravity would imply that our mental faculties are seriously messed up.

    That’s pretty much it. I do not love paradoxes, though I do appreciate what we can learn by studying them. And it’s not a worship of paradox that drives me. It’s a tremendous awe of the glorious wonders of the God Who saves sinners. That, to me, is a supreme paradox. I can explain it with words, but I still don’t understand it (in other words, deeply, at the heart level, I’m still saying “God, WHY? WHY would you choose me?).

    I embrace paradoxes in order to solve them, if possible. When they can’t be solved without breaking Scripture, I leave them unsolved and confess the weakness of all human thought. I affirm the existence of Biblical paradoxes in a spirit of intellectual honesty – because any thinking Christian will encounter, and have to work through, apparent contradictions in the Scriptures. On philosophical matters, where there is no revelation from God, I choose to leave all arguments at the level of theory, and refuse to go beyond what is written, and I stake my soul on the Word of God alone. Wherever there are unknowns, there can be the appearance of contradiction without the reality of contradiction. That much should be logically obvious, without need of defense. So, unless we think God has exhaustively revealed Himself, apparent (not real) contradiction is a possibility that should be considered. One ought to say “I don’t know” more often than one does – especially if one maintains Scripture is the most reliable epistemic source in the universe. So I will not acceept any person’s explanation-of-Scripture as being of equal weight with Scripture. Rather, I assign varying degrees of Scriptural warrant to any explanation offered. The more Scripturally grounded an explanation is, the more likely it is true. But I will not make man’s thoughts equivalent to God’s Word. I also refuse to take anything away from the Word of God. There are plenty of ways to twist Scripture in order to create an apparent coherence that will suit man’s mind, but I reject all degradations of God’s Word. Man is deceived and stupid – and even Christians are coming out of the fog created by their sin – so it’s ludicrous to say that we can reconcile everything in our tiny, cluttered brains. Man’s mind trying to grapple with God’s thoughts is like a guy on a child’s tricycle competing at the Daytona Speedway. He’s there, and he’s participating, but he’s missing a few gears. He can take a try at the high sides, but he’s liable to tip.

    So, what’s left? Only this: a tireless effort to rationally explain the coherence of Scripture, but NEVER at the expense of Scripture. I believe and trust the whole Bible, but I distrust man’s mind. I trust in Christ, not my understanding of Christ. I cling to the Word, not my theological system. I make my boast in the cross, not man’s ability to make sense of the cross. God’s Word is true, all men are liears. Period.

    I post this for the purposes of clarification and as a response to the slanderous accusations made against me here. Clarkian brothers, feel free to lambaste my unflinching commitment to the sufficiency of the Word of God, but I won’t write anything more on this thread.

    Good day to all,
    Derek Ashton

  120. Sean Gerety Says:

    I find no evidence to suggest that man’s mental faculties are on a par with God’s. Logically, pervasive depravity would imply that our mental faculties are seriously messed up.

    First, I certainly don’t recommend your site, although it certainly provides substantial anecdotal evidence for many of my arguments against Biblical paradox as defined by you, Gonzales, Frame, Van Til and others. Second, total depravity does and will result in errors in logic. However, this isn’t a problem with logic, but rather our use of logic. As Dr. Robbins noted:

    Logic – God’s and man’s – is unaffected by sin, just as arithmetic is. Man’s thinking is affected by sin, so we make mistakes in both logic and arithmetic. But our sin consists precisely in violating the rules of logic and arithmetic, which are the rules of God’s own thinking.

    As I see it, the error of men like you is that your errors in logic are things which you end up imputing to Scripture and you raise the antinomies that are formed in your own mind as a result of your illogic and flawed interpretation of various passages of Scripture to a religious act of worship. For example, Frame explains that bowing before these so-called “apparent contradictions” of Scripture is to think “in submission” to Scripture. This is perverse.

    Further, you say on your blog, “Man’s logic is not always God’s logic.” Again, this is without any biblical warrant and is simply incorrect. A is A and Not non-A for God and man who is the image of God. There are not two separate “logics” one for God and one for man. If that were the case coming to a knowledge of the truth would be impossible.

    I embrace paradoxes in order to solve them, if possible. When they can’t be solved without breaking Scripture, I leave them unsolved and confess the weakness of all human thought.

    Untrue. Anyone reading your blog will see that you revel in confusion. What breaks Scripture is to assert, as you have done, that correctly interpreting Scripture result in insoluble paradoxes, which for us are nothing more that contradictions. For example, in the case of the WMO as advanced by you and others God is said to both desire and not desire the salvation of all men. This is a contradiction. You write: “This contradiction exists only in the mind of man and in the logic of man, not in God Himself, nor in His perfect Word.” If this principle were only practiced in your theology. However, and as we’ve seen in the example provided by Spurgeon above, when confronted with a passage like 1 Timothy 2:4 that seemingly speaks of God’s desire for the salvation of all men universally considered, rather than embracing the traditional Reformed interpretation of this verse limiting the word “all” to all strata or classes of men, Gonzales following the shoddy exegesis of Spurgeon instead adopts an interpretation that BREAKS the unity of Scripture. This you approve of. Rather than recognizing this as an error and rechecking your premises, you folks chalk up incoherence as evidence of God’s “incomprehensibility” and maintain the Scriptures do not cohere because our logic is not God’s logic, we’re finite creatures, and any number of other exceptions except the obvious — that you are simply wrong.

    I affirm the existence of Biblical paradoxes in a spirit of intellectual honesty – because any thinking Christian will encounter, and have to work through, apparent contradictions in the Scriptures.

    Interestingly, Scripture makes no such claims about itself. Nowhere do we find in Scripture the idea being taught that God’s Word will not logically cohere and that Scripture contains “apparent contradictions” that cannot be resolved at the bar of human reason. Instead, we see Jesus refuting the Pharisees for advancing their own Biblical paradoxes asserting in answer to their errors “the Scriptures cannot be broken.” Of course, the Reformed faith too rests on the same principle that in Scripture there is a consent of ALL – and not just some – of the parts. And, the cornerstone of what the Westminster divines called the “infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture” is Scripture itself and when there is a question as to the full sense of any passage we are to look elsewhere in Scripture that “speak more clearly.” The reason for this is because this INFALLIBLE principle of interpretation rests on the idea that the meaning of Scripture “is not manifold but one.”

    Now, if you were just asserting that when you come to passages like 1 Timothy 2:4 that you just don’t know how it fits with the rest of Scripture specifically limited atonement and election and were pleading ignorance, then I don’t think anyone here would fault you. But that is not what you and the men you follow, men like James Anderson (whose book on paradox I just read and it is simply appalling), Van Til and others, are claiming. You’re not claiming ignorance at all, you’re saying that harmonization of everything from the truth of the Trinity to the Incarnation to man’s responsibility in light of God’s sovereignty, to any number of other so-called antinomies in Scripture, necessarily defy harmonization at the bar of human reason. This is not humility as you would have other believe. This is arrogance.

    So, what’s left? Only this: a tireless effort to rationally explain the coherence of Scripture, but NEVER at the expense of Scripture.

    This is complete anti-Christian drivel. Contra Anderson, Frame, Van Til, Gonzales, you and others the Westminster Confession affirms, echoing Scripture itself, that truth is characterized by the logical and harmonious relationship of propositions, not by “apparent contradictions,” antinomies, or insoluble and inscrutable paradoxes. Were the Confession writers wrong when they claimed a “consent of all the parts” as one of the evidences for the truth of Scripture? If we are to believe you it would seem so. Your argument seems to be that necessary inferences from Scripture are permissible, except when one deduction contradicts another. But if you understood what truth is, you would know that it is non-contradictory, and one valid inference from true premises cannot contradict any other true proposition. If an inferred conclusion contradicts Biblical teaching, the inference must be invalid. Biblical teaching is non-contradictory. But the method you advance assures us in advance that valid inferences from Scripture will eventually force us to deny other Biblical teaching. Could a rejection of the Confessional affirmations that all the parts of Scripture “consent” together, that is, logically cohere, and all valid inferences from Scripture are Scripture, be any clearer?

    I post this for the purposes of clarification and as a response to the slanderous accusations made against me here. Clarkian brothers, feel free to lambaste my unflinching commitment to the sufficiency of the Word of God, but I won’t write anything more on this thread.

    Hogwash. No one has slandered you. Anyone can go to your blog and see that what I have said about you is spot on. If you were as “unflinching” in your commitment to the sufficiency of God’s Word as you pretend, you would reject the notion of paradox you are so tragically wed to.

  121. Theologian Says:

    Charles Hodge says:

    “Augustinians have no need to wrest the Scriptures. They are under no necessity of departing from their fundamental principle that it is the duty of the theologian to subordinate his theories to the Bible, and teach not what seems to him to be true or reasonable, but simply what the Bible teaches.”

    Systematic Theology, 2:558-9.

  122. Jim Says:

    Do you oppose antinomies like Christ being fully God and fully human where the human is not God and the God is not human? I don’t suppose that assuming a person is a collection of propositions will alleviate the challenges in comprehending the relation of God and man in the God-man. It just introduces another layer of absurdity which must be clear away before we can come back to the starting point.

    Might it be possible to have a little humility to suppose that there are things beyond our ability to comprehend, which naturally arise from the consideration of infinites?

    After all, it is easy to propose conundrums relating to transcendental relations which we cannot resolve. It is pure hubris to suppose that the finite human mind is capable of comprehending all things.

    Don’t you see the difference between the coherence of God’s word and the demonstrable coherence of God’s word? Must one be able to dot every i and cross ever t before he will believe?

  123. Sean Gerety Says:

    Do you oppose antinomies like Christ being fully God and fully human where the human is not God and the God is not human? I don’t suppose that assuming a person is a collection of propositions will alleviate the challenges in comprehending the relation of God and man in the God-man. It just introduces another layer of absurdity which must be clear away before we can come back to the starting point.

    Yes, I do oppose antinomies like Christ being fully God and fully human because it’s not an antinomy. In addition, I do think properly defining “person” as a collection of propositions does alleviate the challenges and alleged contradictions assumed to be inherent in the Incarnation. I suggest you pick up both Clark’s monograph on the Incarnation and Thomas Morris’ The Logic of God Incarnate.

    You might also be interested in my review of James Anderson’s Paradox in Christian Theology :

    https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/choosing-paradox-part-one/

    https://godshammer.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/choosing-paradox-part-two/

    Might it be possible to have a little humility to suppose that there are things beyond our ability to comprehend, which naturally arise from the consideration of infinites?

    Let me ask, in the minds of some the doctrine of justification by belief alone and justification by belief plus works are both taught in Scripture and present to the mind an insoluable contradiction along with being central to the Christian/Romanist divide. What would you say to someone if they asked if it might it be possible to have a little humility to suppose that there are things beyond our ability to comprehend? Should we chalk up differences in soteriology to just another biblical antinomy? If not, why not? By what method do you decide the one is beyond comprehesion and the other isn’t?

    After all, it is easy to propose conundrums relating to transcendental relations which we cannot resolve. It is pure hubris to suppose that the finite human mind is capable of comprehending all things.

    There is no shame in ignorance, but it’s hardly a virtue either. However, I think the hubris lies in those who claim the Scriptures contain irreconcilable contradictions that are beyond all human understanding. Actually that’s hubris claiming omniscience. There are many things we don’t know, but if God has revealed Himself in His Word than I think we have a duty to try and understand His revelation to the best of our abilities. If the Incarnation is as fundamentally and apparently unresolvable as you suggest then why even study it? And if it is, then what other doctrines should we ignore while feigning to substitute piety for ignorance?

    Don’t you see the difference between the coherence of God’s word and the demonstrable coherence of God’s word? Must one be able to dot every i and cross ever t before he will believe?

    Where I say one must be able to dot every i and cross every t before believing? “Wherefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” Maybe add the Incarnation to that list. 🙂

  124. Steve M Says:

    Sean
    I have not read this post before. I would like to thank you for bringing it to my attention. It is extremely worthwhile reading. Very well done!

  125. hughmc5 Says:

    Dear Dr Bob G.

    READ

    MORE

    GILL

  126. hughmc5 Says:

    Some want to claim Spurgeon as a Calvinist: http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?41

    Seems he was all things to all men. Pick your quotes, I guess.


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