Janus Alive and Well: Dr. R. Scott Clark and the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel

Dr. R. Scott Clark is a professor of theological and church history at Westminster Seminary California and is viewed by many as the standard bearer of Reformed confessionalism.  Besides being a recognized opponent of the Federal Vision and New Perspectives theology, Clark is also a devoted follower of the late Cornelius Van Til, and, not surprisingly, is an unapologetic defender of logical paradox in Scripture.  Along these lines Clark repeatedly challenged me to read his contribution to the festschrift for Robert Strimple, The Pattern of Sound Doctrine where he defends the so-called “well meant” or “free offer” of the Gospel.  Clark complained on his website; “do the opponents of the Free Offer ever read anything but their own in-house stuff?”1  Well, I certainly do, but I was hard pressed to believe Clark could bring anything new to the table not already covered by men like John Murray or Cornelius Van Til, not to mention John Frame, David Bahnsen, David Byron, James Anderson, along with a whole host of other lesser defenders of biblical paradox.

So I purchased the Strimple festschrift.  Surprisingly in his piece, “Janus, The Well Meant Offer of the Gospel, and Westminster Theology,” Clark does not even try to distance himself from the title “Janus” given to defenders of the “well meant offer” by the late Herman Hoeksema.  According to Hoeksema:

Janus was a Roman idol, distinguished by the remarkable feature of having two faces and looking in two opposite directions. And in this respect there is a marked similarity between old Janus and the first point [of the “Three Points of Common Grace” adopted by the Christian Reformed Church in 1924]. The latter is also two-faced and casts wistful looks in opposite directions. And the same may be asserted of the attempts at explanation of the first point that are offered by the leaders of the Christian Reformed Churches. Only, while the two faces of old heathen Janus bore a perfect resemblance to each other, the Janus of 1924 has the distinction of showing two totally different faces. One of his faces reminds you of Augustine, Calvin, Gomarus; but the other shows the unmistakable features of Pelagius, Arminius, Episcopius. And your troubles begin when you would inquire of this two-faced oracle, what may be the exact meaning of the first point. For, then this modern Janus begins to revolve, alternately showing you one face and the other, till you hardly know whether you are dealing with Calvin or Arminius. 2

For Hoeksema those who defend of the “well meant offer” are two-faced in that they seek to maintain conflicting aspects of two contradictory and mutually exclusive systems of salvation.  While at times “well meant offer” defenders appear to be Calvinistic in their belief in God’s sovereign election and particular atonement, they also maintain a belief in the universal desire of God for the salvation of those God predestined to perdition; the reprobate.  It is this combination of particularism and pluralism, or simply Calvinism and Arminianism, that make up the two faces of Janus.

Oddly, in addition to not distancing himself from Hoeksema’s charge, Clark does not even define what is meant by the well meant offer, sometimes called the “free offer,” until his concluding paragraphs and along the way seems to confuse it with the general call of the Gospel. I don’t know if this was intentional, but reading the piece some might conclude that opponents of the well meant offer are also opposed to the free and promiscuous preaching of the Gospel offer and this is simply false.

Therefore, to ensure that there can be no confusion, and in the words of John Murray, the well-meant offer is the belief that God “expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things [i.e., the salvation of the reprobate] which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass.”3  Or, more simply, the well-meant offer has to do with God’s imagined favorable disposition toward the reprobate, since both sides agree that God sincerely desires the salvation of all the elect and accomplishes this very thing throughout history and through the “foolishness of the Gospel.” As Paul said in Romans, “the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Consequently, both sides of the well-meant offer divide (with the exception of those rightly called “hyper-Calvinists,” most notably “hardshell” or Primitive Baptists) believe that the Gospel should be preached universally to all men without distinction and that all who come under its preaching have a responsibility and a duty to repent and believe.

Well, to my surprise Clark does bring something new to the table and rests his belief in the contradictory truths of the well meant offer, along with his belief in a whole host of other logical paradoxes that he says are laced throughout Scripture, on what he claims is the traditional Reformed understanding of the archetype/ectype distinction dating back to Calvin and Luther.  Clark writes:

…the reason the well-meant offer has not been more persuasive is that its critics have not understood or sympathized with the fundamental assumption on which the doctrine…was premised: the distinction between theology as God knows it (theologia archetypa) and theology as it is revealed to and done by us (theologia ectypa).4

Clark’s main argument is that since theology as God knows it (theologia archetypa) differs from theology as we know and do it (theologia ectypa) we should expect to find any number of impenetrable paradoxes in Scripture and in our subsequent theology.

What should be noted is that Clark firmly rests his understanding of the archetype/ectype distinction primarily in the area epistemology (the study of knowledge) as opposed to being or ontology (the study of being) .  This is important, because the distinction Clark draws, and the one he claims is central to the traditional Reformed understanding, is not merely a difference in the mode or process (or, simply, the “how” of God’s knowing), but rather it is rooted in the propositions known; the objects of knowledge themselves.  Clark makes the error common to virtually all Van Tilians in that he conflates epistemology with ontology and ends up confusing the two.  This makes sense since Van Til also extends his understanding of the Creator/creature distinction well beyond the limits of ontology and into the realm of epistemology.

Commenting on the well known illustration Van Til used for his students in order to picture his understanding of the Creator/creature distinction where he would draw a large circle above a smaller one connected by two vertical lines, Dr. E. Calvin Beisner observers:

What are we supposed to think the two circles represent? Knowledge content (that is, truths known), or knowledge mode (that is, the processes by which truths are known)? If the latter, then an overlap of the circles would indeed seem to imply a denial of the Creator/creature distinction. But if the former, it would not, at least not in the judgment of Reformed theologians who don’t subscribe to Van Til’s idiosyncratic development of that distinction.

It is clear why overlap or intersection would deny the archetypal/ectypal (and hence the Creator/creature) distinction if what the circles represent is ontology, but it is not clear that it would do so if what the circles represent is epistemology, for then it must be asked whether, in epistemology, they represent truths known or the process (mode, manner, way) by which truths are known. If the latter, then the overlap would indeed jeopardize the Creator/creature distinction, since only God knows all things by knowing Himself, and hence the assertion that the creature knows things by the same mode God does would imply that the creature is God. But if the former — if the circles represent truths known (the content, not the mode, of knowledge) — then the overlap would not jeopardize the distinction, and indeed the lack of overlap would imply precisely the skepticism [Gordon] Clark said Van Til’s language implied, and that indeed some of Van Til’s language at least colorably could be understood to imply (e.g., Van Til’s denial that God’s knowledge and man’s “coincide at any single point”).5

Besides claiming that critics of the well-meant offer “have not understood or sympathized” with the archetype/ectype distinction, it is important to recognize that Clark is not simply referring to the fact that God’s knowledge is intuitive, immediate and exhaustive whereas ours is derivative, successive and limited.  Nor is he simply enforcing the idea that God is omniscient and His knowledge is therefore immutable and comprehensive in every detail and implication, whereas ours is only partial and subject to error and revision.  Rather, for Clark the archetype/ectype distinction provides a complete break between the content of God’s knowledge and knowledge possible to man. Clark argues:

According to [Gordon] Clark, there is no evidence in Scripture that a proposition is qualitatively different for us from what it is for God.  Whereas Deuteronomy 29:29 has traditionally been used in Reformed dogmatics as a proof the archetypal/ectypal distinction, of the necessity of analogical knowledge of and speech about God, Clark understood it to teach only that certain things are hidden solely because they are unrevealed, not because finitum capax infiniti.6

Of course, there is nothing in Deuteronomy 29:29 that suggests or implies that all of our knowledge about God, even as He has revealed Himself in the propositions of Scripture, is analogical.  Clark simply begs the question. The verse simply states that there are secret things that belong to God alone, whereas “the things revealed” belong to us and our children so “that we may observe all the words of this law.” Concerning this verse Calvin writes:

We see how he urges the people to study the teaching of the law only on the ground of a heavenly decree, because it pleased God to publish it; and how he held the same people within these bounds for this reason alone: that it is not lawful for mortal men to intrude upon the secrets of God. [Institutes 3.21.3]

Nowhere does Calvin claim that what “pleased God to publish” is somehow the analogue of what God knows within Himself.  Instead, Calvin argues that “it is not lawful for mortal men to intrude upon the secrets of God,” thereby limiting or binding men to those things and those things alone ,which God has revealed.  Whereas, according to Clark even the propositions God has revealed in Scripture mean something different for God than they do for man. In Scripture man has only the ectype or analogue of the divine propositions that are forever hidden in the mind of God.  This is hardly a credible exegesis of Deuteronomy 29:29, much less a credible description of the biblical Creator/creature distinction.

To further support his understanding of the archetype/ectype distinction Clark wrote on his blog:

…confessional Calvinism teaches what it does not because of some rationalist a priori about the way things “must be” or on the basis that “we all know that….” Rather, we teach and hold what we do because we believe it is taught in God’s Word. I wasn’t raised a confessional Calvinist. I was raised a Unitarian Universalist. I know this movement from the inside. Those folks are the rationalists. They are those who begin with the a priori about what can and can’t be about the way things work and it is they who make deductions from their premise and it is they who impute their way of thinking to us. This is nothing other than projection. We don’t operate like that. Our faith is full of mystery of paradoxes to wit, the holy Trinity, the two natures and one person of Christ, divine sovereignty and human responsibility (who has flattened out that one but the anti-predestinarians?), the free offer, the true presence of Christ in the Supper, and means of grace (the Spirit operates through the foolishness of Gospel preaching) and that’s the short list.7

While I’d love to see Clark’s long list of “mystery of paradoxes” that he says litter the Christian faith, the first thing to notice is that he believes it was “anti-predestinarians” who “flattened out” or rather harmonized the paradox of divine sovereignty and human responsibility at the bar of human reason.  Of course, that would make Gordon Clark, Robert Reymond, John Calvin, Arthur Pink and others who have either attempted to or have successfully harmonized divine sovereignty and human responsibility anti-predestinarians. That is just silly.

Notice too, Clark could easily add to his short list (although I’m sure he would rather not) the contradictory doctrines of justification by faith alone and justification by faith and works. After all the Scriptures in places do appear to teach both.  Didn’t James say that a man is “justified by works, and not by faith alone,” whereas Paul maintained “that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law”?  Why isn’t this just another “mystery of paradox” that Christians must embrace in accordance with the archetype/ectype distinction?  Frankly, if the Scriptures didn’t seem to affirm this particular “apparent contradiction” there would hardly be any debate between Protestants and Roman church/state.

Moving things closer to home, what makes the paradoxes inherent in the Federal Vision’s doctrine of justification where a person is said to be justified by faith alone and by faith plus works of obedience (all non-meritorious of course), different from those found on Clark’s short list?  Federal Visionists, who are virtually all Van Tilians, also claim to teach what they do because they believe it is taught in God’s Word and appeal to Reformed tradition in order to justify their contradictory view of justification.  They claim that drawing clear and logical distinctions between belief and works is “Hellenistic” (see for example Doug Wilson’s Reformed Is Not Enough), which is just another way of accusing their opponents of being “rationalists” (how many times have Van Tilians — or Van Til himself — accused Gordon Clark or other Scripturalists of being a “rationalist” for simply trying to harmonize seemingly disparate biblical truths).  Couldn’t Federal Visionists also appeal to the archetype/ectype distinction in order to support their contradictory doctrine of justification? Couldn’t they simply say that what appears contradictory to us in the ectype (theology as it is revealed to and done by us) is somehow resolved in the divine archetype (theology as God knows it)?

Besides, anyone who has waded through the articles and books by Federal Visionists will see their doctrine of justification is just as contradictory and their language just as ambiguous and misleading as any well-meant offer defender discussing the imagined two wills of God.  Frankly, I do not see any epistemological reason whereby Clark can oppose any of the Federal Visionists now disturbing the church other than by some fortuitous aberration in his own philosophic a priori; what some might call a blessed inconsistency or just another in Clark’s long list of “mystery of paradoxes.”

What is also mysterious is why Clark doesn’t see the nexus between his own philosophy of Scripture (the “underlying premise” governing his acceptance of the presumed logical paradoxes of Scripture including the well-meant offer) and the Federal Vision?  After all, John Frame argued in his defense of Van Til that the doctrine of justification is “just as paradoxical” and impenetrable as any of those included in Clark’s short list.8  Clark seems positively blinded by his own parochial reading of Reformed history to the point where he cannot even see how dangerous and debilitating his own underlying a priori has been in the battle over the Federal Vision and New Perspectives. Even if some are not willing to go as far as Van Til who said “All teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory,”9 most would agree with Clark that at least some of the teachings of Scripture are apparently contradictory and must forever remain that way out of fear of being charged with the sin of “rationalism.”10

In fact, many Van Tilian opponents of the Federal Vision are simply willing to accept Federal Visionists as their confused “brothers in Christ” while chalking up their deadly doctrines to just another in the long line of “mystery of paradoxes.” How often have we heard it said that the Federal Visionists are simply “not as clear as they should be” in their articulation of the central doctrines of the Christian faith, even justification by faith alone. This explains why.

Interestingly, Clark tells us at the outset that he was predisposed to accept the logical incoherence of the well-meant offer from his early days in the Reformed faith. Coming from a Unitarian Universalist background perhaps it is understandable why he would believe that God has a universal desire for the salvation of all men. Clark writes:

It seemed impossible to me, a naive student, that confessional Reformed folk should not embrace the doctrine of the well-meant offer, but as influential as it has been among some of us, it has not found universal acceptance in either contemporary Reformed theory or our practice.11

By contrast, when I first came to the Reformed faith after years of wandering the vast ersatz-Evangelical wasteland as a card-carrying Arminian, I could not fathom how any clear thinking Calvinist could possibly embrace Van Til’s belief in biblical paradox, not to mention the contradictory doctrine of the well-meant offer advanced by John Murray (a position adopted as the majority position in the OPC following on the heels of the Clark/Van Til controversy and is just one of the many doctrinal aberrations resulting from Van Til’s “fundamental assumption” concerning divine revelation).  Not surprisingly, Murray in his defense of the well-meant offer inhabits the same exegetical landscape as the Arminian, the only exception being is that the Arminian has the distinct advantage of not contradicting the rest of his theology simply because he premises salvation on the sovereignty of man rather than on the sovereignty of God.  According to the Arminian God can be said to sincerely desire the salvation of all men simply because believing the Gospel is premised on the free and undetermined will of man.  To the Arminian God is just a helpless and impotent observer longing for the fruition of something that He knows will never come to pass.

Those maintaining the Reformed and biblical doctrine of salvation, one premised on God’s absolute sovereign will and good pleasure, have no such luxury.12 According to the Reformed faith and in accordance with Scripture, salvation is all of God and man is just the undeserving and even unwilling recipient of God’s free and unmerited grace.  As Paul says in Romans 3, “there are none that seek after God” and in Romans 8, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”  And, as John tells us in his Gospel; “But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).  Hence, to say that God desires the salvation of those God has determined not to save is irrational.  If God desired to save the reprobate then the reprobate would be saved.  The God of Scripture, as opposed to the feeble god of the Arminian, does all His good pleasure in heaven and on earth “and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”  This is why Robert Reymond said John Murray’s exegesis in defense of the well-meant offer “imputes irrationality” to God.13

Needless to say, I quickly learned that Murray’s doctrine of the well-meant offer was widely embraced on exegetical grounds complete with the implicit contradiction his interpretations entailed.  Further, I learned that the mainstream of Reformed thought believed that the Scriptures contain any number of logical paradoxes impervious to logical harmonization at the bar of human reason. I just couldn’t imagine how such otherwise bright and godly men could be so stupid as to buy into Van Til’s lie that while the supposed apparent contradictions of Scripture must remain for us, contradictions that we are told come from even the faithful and accurate reading of Scripture, we are to have faith that there are no contradictions for God. Or, embrace the impious foolishness of Van Tilian apologist David Byron who disparages God’s complete and perfect Word claiming, “God doesn’t reveal enough to us for us to see how some of the teachings of Scripture cohere . . . . ”14  Or, the similar nonsense coming from Reformed Theological Seminary professor James Anderson who claims the apparent contradictions in his doctrinal formulations “aren’t real” but are the result of “unarticulated equivocation among key terms involved in the claims [of Scripture].”15

Unlike Clark, who has clearly never completely divorced himself from the universalism of his earlier Unitarianism, when I first came to the Reformed faith one of the initial difficulties I had was reconciling the so-called “Arminian verses” of Scripture with the idea of God’s sovereignty in salvation along with limited or particular atonement. Verses like 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:32, 33:11 and others were particular problematic. And, since I was convinced by the sheer weight of Scripture (and as a result of first wrestling with Gordon Clark’s masterpiece Predestination) that God’s eternal decree governs all things including the seemingly mundane actions and thoughts of men, returning to the errant belief in my own free will was not an option.  Consequently, if these verses and others like them could not be harmonized with the rest of my newly discovered Reformed faith and in light of Scripture, I was willing to toss my Bible into the nearest trash can, admit that the Scriptures are the intellectual equivalent of Rune Stones, and confess that the entire Christian faith is an impenetrable pile of irrational rubbish. I didn’t need Gordon Clark to tell me that if the doctrines of Scripture contradicted themselves in one place they were untrustworthy in every place and that Christianity is a farce.

Thankfully, and by God’s grace, what I learned from reading the likes of Calvin, Luther, Owen, Edwards, Pink, (Gordon) Clark, Boettner, Reymond, Hoeksema and others is that there are no “Arminian verses” in Scripture. For example, 1 Timothy 2:4 is a reference to all classes or strata of men and not all men universally considered.  2 Peter 3:9 is in reference to all of God’s elect and not all men in general. The verses in Ezekiel (18:23, 32; 33:11), while perhaps a little more difficult, could also be interpreted so as to do no violence to the rest of the Reformed system of faith.  For example, some Reformed commentators argue that these passages provide a temporal reference to the nation of Israel, and, per Gordon Clark, “indicate that God has no pleasure in the death of Israel” and not all men in general.16   Others like Turretin argue that these verses refer to “God’s will as commanding, not to the will of his good pleasure….”17 Calvin takes a similar approach in his commentary of Ezekiel 18:23:

Since, therefore, repentance is a kind of second creation, it follows that it is not in man’s power; and if it is equally in God’s power to convert men as well as to create them, it follows that the reprobate are not converted, because God does not wish their conversion; for if he wished it he could do it: and hence it appears that he does not wish it.  But again they argue foolishly, since God does not wish all to be converted, he is himself deceptive, and nothing can be certainly stated concerning his paternal benevolence. But this knot is easily untied; for he does not leave us in suspense when he says, that he wishes all to be saved. Why so? for if no one repents without finding God propitious, then this sentence is filled up. But we must remark that God puts on a twofold character: for he here wishes to be taken at his word. As I have already said, the Prophet does not here dispute with subtlety about his incomprehensible plans, but wishes to keep our attention close to God’s word. Now, what are the contents of this word? The law, the prophets, and the gospel. Now all are called to repentance, and the hope of salvation is promised them when they repent. This is true, since God rejects no returning sinner: he pardons all without exception: meanwhile, this will of God which he sets forth in his word does not prevent him from decreeing before the world was created what he would do with every individual: and as I have now said, the Prophet only shows here, that when we have been converted we need not doubt that God immediately meets us and shows himself propitious. [644, emphasis added]

Calvin interprets this passage in terms of a general call while at the same time harmonizing it with particular election, and, by implication, limited atonement.  Notice, nowhere does Calvin argue that God earnestly desires the salvation of those he has determined from eternity not to save; i.e., those whom God predestined would not “repent and live.”  Notice too, Calvin’s logic is impeccable when he argues: “it follows that the reprobate are not converted, because God does not wish their conversion; for if he wished it he could do it: and hence it appears that he does not wish it.” And, as should be obvious, if God does not wish a person’s conversion, He does not desire it. Further, even if no one repents and lives it would not affect the meaning of the verse in the slightest.

First, the verse teaches us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, which makes sense even if one thinks in terms of a human judge.  A judge may in accordance with the rule of law justly sentence a murderer to death, but unless he is a sadist, it would be extremely odd for a judge to take pleasure in handing down the death sentence. God is not a sadist.

Second, the verse merely tells us what we ought to do (repent and live), not what we can do as we ought or even what God will do or desires to do.  That’s because nothing can be inferred in the indicative from something written in the imperative, or what Turretin calls “God’s will of commanding.”  As Dr. Elihu Carranza observes propositions alone “are the premises and conclusions of arguments” simply because only propositions (which are the meanings of declarative sentences) can be either true or false.  Commands, like the one found in Ezekiel 18:23 & 32 (“Therefore, repent and live”), questions (with the exception of rhetorical questions which are intended as propositions), and exhortations “are neither true nor false.”18  How well-meant offer advocates think they can infer anything from a command, much less God’s universal desire for the salvation of all, is indeed a mystery.  Consequently, the verse does not tell us is that God desires the salvation of the reprobate. Like the Arminians before them, well-meant offer advocates are guilty of reading too much into these verses.

More importantly, notice that Calvin’s exegesis does not end in an impenetrable paradox, but rather he tells us the “knot” that some see in the verse “is easily untied” and creates no tension, no conflict, no “mystery of paradoxes” with the rest of Scripture.  That’s because unlike many today, Calvin was a theologian faithful to preserving the harmony of Scripture and was interested in resolving and answering, not maintaining and promoting, the so-called “apparent contradictions” of Scripture. This was, after all, the hallmark of all the great Reformed theologians — something one would have thought even a professor of theological and church history would have recognized.  However, and in no small part thanks to Van Til, most Reformed theologians today are no longer interested in untying the “knots” of Scripture, but instead seek to maintain them in a perverted sense of Christian piety even imagining that their failure to harmonize their own contradictory doctrines is to think in submission to Scripture and is even a sign of their faithfulness to the Reformed tradition.

Another reason I find the exegetical position of well-meant offer advocates so offensive is that they simply ignore the centrality of the cross. God always views all of his chosen and adopted children from Adam onward through the prism of Christ’s shed blood on the cross.  It is only on basis of Christ’s finished and propitiatory cross work that God’s promised mercy expressed throughout the Scriptures to his fallen creatures find their intended recipients; those particular individuals given to the Son by the Father and those alone. The Gospel always comes, whether expressed in the Old or New Testaments, and in passages like those found in Ezekiel, as the sweet smell of life to those who are being saved.  But, to those who are perishing, the Gospel comes as the rancid smell of death and both aromas, sweet and foul, are pleasing to God.  This is true whether the Gospel is preached to all men everywhere or is limited geographically to the confines of that small speck of a country, Israel.

Consider the following from Calvin’s commentary on 2 Corinthians 2:15,16:

Here we have a remarkable passage, by which we are taught, that, whatever may be the issue of our preaching, it is, notwithstanding, well pleasing to God, if the Gospel is preached, and our service will be acceptable to him; and also, that it does not detract in any degree from the dignity of the Gospel, that it does not do good to all; for God is glorified even in this, that the Gospel becomes an occasion of ruin to the wicked, nay, it must turn out so. If, however, this is a sweet odor to God, it ought to be so to us also, or in other words, it does not become us to be offended, if the preaching of the Gospel is not salutary to all; but on the contrary, let us reckon, that it is quite enough, if it advance the glory of God by bringing just condemnation upon the wicked. If, however, the heralds of the Gospel are in bad odor in the world, because their success does not in all respects come up to their desires, they have this choice consolation, that they waft to God the perfume of a sweet fragrance, and what is to the world an offensive smell, is a sweet odor to God and angels.

According to Calvin the universal proclamation of the Gospel “is not salutary” or beneficial to all and this too is pleasing to God.  Further, even in those cases where the preaching of the Gospel does not result in the salvation of those who come under it, and consequently “does not in all respects come up to” the desires or expectations of the one proclaiming God’s message of mercy and reconciliation, the preacher is to be greatly consoled knowing that his faithful preaching, even to the condemnation and judgment of his listeners, is still a sweet fragrance to God.  And, if a pleasing and sweet fragrance to God, how could God possibly desire that which would be displeasing to Him?  Hence it follows that God does not desire the salvation of all men through the universal preaching of the Gospel, for if He did He could not also be pleased when the Gospel comes to those who are perishing as the stench of judgment and death.  While I am confident this simple logic will be lost on most well-meant offer advocates (as must all applications of logic that threatens the illogic of their doctrinal formulations and which they attack as sinful expressions of “rationalism”), this also explains why they are wrong when they insist their doctrine is necessary for evangelism and missions.  As should be clear from Calvin above, their understanding of the role of the preacher and the purpose of missions is different from God’s.

Ironically, and in spite of Calvin’s clear teaching above, Clark also appeals to Calvin in support of his understanding of the archetype/ectype distinction:

According to Calvin, religion is either true or false.  That which is according to the Bible is true; that which is not according to the Bible is false. We only know what God has willed to reveal to us, and all revelation is necessarily accommodated to our weakness: it is “baby talk.”  Despite the fact that all revelation is necessarily accommodated and analogical, it is nevertheless true that the theology that conforms to Holy Scripture is also true.19

While I certainly agree what is according to the Bible is true and what is not is false, and that God’s revelation is accommodated to His creatures, after all the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture requires it, Clark begs the question when he asserts that for Calvin “all revelation is necessarily…analogical.”  The reference Clark cites from Calvin’s Institutes simply does not support his claim.  That’s because when Calvin speaks about God “lisping” or condescending to our creaturely limitations through “baby talk,” he is referring to the anthropomorphic language in Scripture where God is said to have things like eyes, ears, hands, and even repenting.  Calvin writes concerning in the passage Clark only references:

The Anthropomorphites, also, who imagined a corporeal God from the fact that Scripture often ascribes to him a mouth, ears, eyes, hands, and feet, are easily refuted. For who even of slight intelligence does not understand that, as nurses commonly do with infants, God is wont in a measure to “lisp” in speaking to us? Thus such forms of speaking do not so much express clearly what God is like as accommodate the knowledge of him to our slight capacity. To do this he must descend far beneath his loftiness.  [Institutes: 1.13.1]

Matthew Winzer in his review of John Murray’s defense of the so-called “well-meant offer” argues in much the same way:

It is the covenantal nature of these speeches which required the adoption (ad extra) of human thoughts and affections on the part of God in condescension to His people. In the covenant, God identifies Himself and His cause with the welfare and cause of His people. The enemies of His people become His enemies, the successes of His people become His successes, and the failures of His people become His failures, as the language of Deut. 32:27 signifies. The Almighty power of God becomes conditioned on the people’s obedience or disobedience. At the building of the tabernacle, and later of the temple, His omnipresence becomes confined to the place where He puts His Name. Even His knowledge is sometimes represented as being limited to this special relationship which He has established with His people, and He is portrayed as repenting and changing His mind when He discovers that His people have acted in this or that way.

Such language does not reflect upon the nature of God, but only indicates the nature of the covenant relation with which God condescends to act in accord. Given the unchangeable and unconditional perfection of the Almighty, it is obvious that these types of Scriptural references are to be understood as His condescension to the weakness of man’s capacity, as when the apostle spoke after the manner of men because of the infirmity of his hearers’ flesh, Rom. 6:19. Thus, when God represents Himself as repenting, or of being unable to do anything more to procure the people’s obedience, or expresses a desire  for that which is contrary to His purpose, the language is to be understood anthropopathically, not literally. 20

Consequently, where Calvin and Winzer limit God’s “lisping” or “baby talk” to places where God condescend to man’s weakness and limitation through the use of anthropomorphic language, Clark’s reduces all of God’s self-revelation to an anthropomorphism.  Winzer provides another good example of an opponent of the well-meant offer who understands and accepts the historic Reformed archetype/ectype distinction while rejecting Clark’s understanding and application of it.  Echoing one of Clark’s earlier thoughts, Clark’s mishandling of the archetype/ectype distinction makes me wonder if the proponents of the so-called “well-meant offer” ever read anything but their own in-house stuff?

Clark also misapplies the archetype/ectype distinction in his discussion of Luther’s Bondage of the Will.  Clark writes:

Luther’s entire argument with Erasmus…was grounded in this distinction.  God as he is in se, is hidden to us.  We only know God has he as reveled himself to us (erga nos)….Against Erasmus’s rationalism and in the midst of explaining the distinction between law and gospel in Ezekiel 18:23, 32, Luther developed the Scotist distinction between God in se and erga nos in dramatic and definite way for Protestant theology.  He wrote:

“For he is here speaking of the preached and offered mercy of God, not that hidden awful will of God whereby he ordains by his own counsel which and what sort of persons he wills to be recipients and partakers of his preached and offered mercy…we have to argue in one way about God or the will of God as preached, revealed, offered and worshiped, and in another way about god as he is not preached, not revealed not offered, not worshiped.  To the extent, therefore, that God hides himself and wills to be unknown to us.  It is no business of ours….”21

What opponent of the well-meant offer would take issue with Luther’s statement above?  All agree that God’s mercy is held forth in the preaching of the Gospel and throughout Scripture. All agree that all who are heavy laden will find rest should they turn from their sins and turn to Christ. All agree that many are called, but few are chosen.  Luther is interpreting these verses in Ezekiel the same way Calvin does above and in terms of the general call of the Gospel.  Luther writes:

I desire not the death of a sinner, is concerned only to proclaim and offer to the world the mercy of God.  None receive it with joy and gratitude but those who are distressed and troubled at death, those in whom the law has already completed its work, that is, given knowledge of sin.  Those that have not yet experienced the work of the law, who do not recognize their sin and have no sense of death, scorn the mercy promised by that word.22

While we may not know who God “wills to be recipients and partakers of his preached and offered mercy,” the imperative of the Gospel remains the same for all to repent and believe for the promised mercy of God is assured to all who do and without reservation.  Besides, if all that was meant by the archetype/ectype distinction is that there a difference between God’s revealed and secret will then Clark’s point is trivial.  Known to God alone are all His elect and that should never stop a preacher from proclaiming the Gospel message to all men without distinction or exception.  However, it doesn’t follow from this that God desires the salvation of the reprobate even though the preaching of the Gospel.  As Luther argues:

For this also must be noted: that as the voice of the law is brought to bear only upon those who neither feel nor know their sins, as Paul says in Romans 3 (“By the law is the knowledge of sin” [v. 20]), so the word of grace comes only to those who are distressed by a sense of sin and tempted to despair”[emphasis added].23

Advocates of the well-meant offer need to take an elementary course in logic.  Nowhere in Luther’s entire discussion of Ezekiel 18:23,32, not to mention Zechariah 1:3 and Jeremiah 15:19 also covered in the section his Bondage of the Will that Clark cites, does he support the idea that God  “expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass.”  And, while Luther demonstrates that “‘free-will’ is not proved from any of the other words of mercy or promise or comfort, so neither is it proved by this: ‘I desire not the death of a sinner,’”24  the exact same can be said of the belief that in God there is an unfulfilled desire for the salvation of the reprobate.  The reason is simple, since you cannot infer an “is” from an “ought,” you cannot infer the notion that God is desirous for the salvation of the reprobate from His command that all ought to turn and live. As Luther argues elsewhere:

Even grammarians and schoolboy at street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood that what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by verbs 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?25

This same question needs to be asked of well-meant offer advocates who make the exact same error as Erasmus only in a slightly different direction.  To put the problem another way, if Luther’s use of the archetype/ectype distinction justifies the contradictory notion of the well-meant offer as Clark maintains, then it also justifies Erasmus’ defense of free will.

Now, the one person apart from modern irrationalists like C. Van Til who may in fact support Clark’s understanding of the archetype/ectype distinction, is found in his brief discussion of Franciscus Junius (the elder), but even here this isn’t clear. Clark notes that Junius

distinguishes between “true theology” and “false theology.” The latter is that which does not come from God and does not confirm to his accommodated self-revelation…. He distinguishes theology into two types, archetypal theology, that is, theology as God knows it in himself, and ectypal theology as he reveals it to creatures.  Theologia archetypa is the “divine understanding (sapientia) of divine matters, such things we adore but do not investigate.26

It would seem that the distinction being drawn is between speculative theology which “does not come from God and does not confirm to his…self-revelation,” and that which does.  Consequently,  speculations concerning God’s secret will, for example why God chose to save one sinner and not another, is to attempt to plumb the depths of archetypal theology quite apart from what God has revealed or made known to us through “ectypal theology.”   As Luther says above: “It is no business of ours.”  Obviously, there are things that God does for his own inscrutable reasons that He has seen fit not to reveal to his creatures and it would seem Junius’ point is that all such speculations amount to “false theology.”  So far, so good.  However, Clark infers from this:

Indeed, Junius was careful to stress that this is not even a definition, since it is impossible for humans to define divine knowledge.  Rather it is an analogical account of it.27

The problem here is that “accommodated self-revelation” is not the equivalent of an “analogical revelation,” but for Clark it is.  More importantly, if Clark is correct and for Junius the archetype/ectype distinction is such that it is impossible for humans to even define divine knowledge, then why call it knowledge?  If theology as God knows it differs from theology as we know it, to the point where even the word knowledge cannot even be defined as it is applied to God, then how can even sound theology done by man (theologia ectypa) also be called knowledge?  Clark is guilty of equivocation.  Besides, if all of Scripture were analogous and there were no univocal, unambiguous and shared meaning between the truths God has reveled to us in Scripture and truths as He knows them within himself, even as he condescends to us, then not only would it be meaningless to say God knows and man knows, but knowledge of anything at all would be impossible.  As Gordon Clark observed long ago, if there is no univocal point of contact between God’s knowledge and knowledge possible to man, and all of God’s revelation is analogical, then it follows man could not even know the univocal truth that all revelation is analogical.

Finally, it is not at all clear from Clark’s contribution to the Strimple festschrift that he even understands the archetype/ectype distinction as it has been understood throughout Reformed history, simply because, and at least in light of the citations he provides from Calvin, Luther and others, there is nothing in these early expressions of the archetype/ectype distinction that is at all at odds with the views of Gordon Clark, Herman Hoeksema, or other opponents of the so-called “well-meant offer.”  Instead, there appears to be a significant a priori shift in how the archetype/ectype distinction has been understood throughout Reformed history and how modern Reformed theologians from Cornelius Van Til to John Murray to R. Scott Clark and beyond have understood it. In virtually all of Clark’s discussion of the archetype/ectype distinction, with the possible exception of Junius,28 Reformed theologians clearly had something entirely different in mind from what we find expressed in Van Til’s Creator/creature distinction and his complete denial of any univocal point of contact between God’s thoughts and man’s even as we find them revealed in Scripture. Clark is reading Reformed history though Van Tilian lenses.

Consequently, Clark has failed to support his claim that the “underlying assumption” governing the well-meant offer, along with a whole host of other irreconcilable paradoxes he tells us are found throughout Scripture, has a long history in Reformed theology specifically as it relates to the archetype/ectype distinction. Clark’s understanding of the archetype/ectype distinction is an historic novelty.

 


2. “A Triple Breach in the Foundation of Reformed Truth,” http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_76.html

4. R. Scott Clark, “Janus, The Well Meant Offer of the Gospel, and Westminster Theology,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine, David VanDrunen, ed. (P&R Publishing Co., 2004) p. 152.

5. From an unpublished work  “Critical Comments on John Muether’s (April 9, 2009) ‘Robert Reymond and Cornelius Van Til: Some Reflections,'” by E. Calvin Beisner.  Used by permission.

6. Ibid, 152,153

7.heidelblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/28/hyper-calvinism-rationalism/

9. Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, 142

10.Rationalism properly understood is sinful since it places unaided human reason above God’s self-revelation.  However, harmonizing the apparent contradictions of Scripture at the bar of human reason is not rationalism. It is the faithful recognition that God’s revelation is rational and that truth, by definition, is non-contradictory.

11.R. Scott Clark, “Janus, The Well Meant Offer of the Gospel, and Westminster Theology,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine, David VanDrunen, ed. (P&R Publishing Co., 2004) p. 150.

12. In another odd twist Clark claims that the Divines at Dort were objecting to the “rationalism” of the Remonstrants who sought to resolve the general call of the Gospel with election through an appeal to free will.  However, those meeting in Dordrecht were not opposing “rationalism” at all; they were opposing the Remonstrants’ departure from the clear teaching of Scripture and their introduction of the foreign and heretical element of a libertarian “free will” into God’s comprehensive plan of salvation. Similarly, the Divines believed the general call could be satisfactorily harmonized with the rest of Scripture.  If anything, the 5 points that came out of their deliberations are the epitome of logical harmonization as each of the 5 heads logically implies the other.  As one particularly nasty Arminian I once came across said, the 5 points at Dort make Calvinism a “domino religion” in that if any one of these five pillars is removed the whole structure collapses.  This is one time an Arminian happened to be correct.

13. Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology, (Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998). Fn. #25, pp. 692-693.

15. James Anderson, Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of Its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007)., p. 222.

16.As cited by Garrett Johnson in “The Myth of Common Grace” which also provides a nice summary of how Reformed men have historically understood the so-called “Arminian” passages of Scripture in contrast to Murray;  www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/055a-TheMythofCommonGrace.pdf

17.Ibid

18. Dr. Elihu Carranza is also the author of the companion workbook to Gordon Clark’s Logic; http://www.logic-classroom.info/intro.htm

19. R. Scott Clark, “Janus, The Well Meant Offer of the Gospel, and Westminster Theology,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine, David VanDrunen, ed. (P&R Publishing Co., 2004) p. 157.

21.  R. Scott Clark, “Janus, The Well Meant Offer of the Gospel, and Westminster Theology,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine, David VanDrunen, ed. (P&R Publishing Co., 2004) p. 155.

22. Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston, trans.(Baker Book House Company, 1994), p. 169.

23. Ibid, 168

24. Ibid, 167

25. Ibid, 159.

26. R. Scot Clark, “Janus, The Well Meant Offer of the Gospel, and Westminster Theology,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine, David VanDrunen, ed. (P&R Publishing Co., 2004) pp 157, 158

27. Ibid, 158

28. The only published work I could find of Franciscus Junius’ major work, Opera Theologica, is in Latin and I can’t read Latin. Besides, Junius is hardly a major figure in Reformed history so it is certainly suspect when Clark claims his understanding of the archetype/ectype distinction, one that informs not just ontology but epistemology as well, has the long tradition in Reformed theology.

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180 Comments on “Janus Alive and Well: Dr. R. Scott Clark and the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Pickin’ @ nits: As you rightly relate in much of this piece, R. Scott’s name has two t’s. I note it’s misspelled “Scot” repeatedly in at least five footnotes.

    I never wanted to have to pay to read R.S. Clark’s piece in the Strimple festschrift, having enjoyed the treatments of the subject by G. Johnson (mentioned above), as well as Hoeksema’s _The Clark – Van Til Debate_ prior to my attending seminary.

    Further, RSC referred me to the John Murray booklet, published by the Banner of Truth Trust. (The same, I assume, that you reference above at the OPC website.)

    I knew Scott Clark only superficially at WSC, when he was first hired in the late 1990s, and I was studying for the M.A. I never had him as a teacher.

    He is bright, very well read, and can be funny. But he suffers from that Van Tilian charley horse!

    Interestingly, a seach for “Janus” @ the WSC site turns up this quote:

    One such follower of Arminius was the preacher Janus Uytenbogaert (1557-1644), who drafted a set of Arminius’ followers’ beliefs, in what he called the “Remonstrance,” in 1610. The result of Arminius’ teaching came to be called the “Five Points of the Remonstrance.”

    http://wscal.edu/about-wsc/welcome-to-wsc/doctrinal-standards/canons-of-dort/
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

  2. Sean Gerety Says:

    Thanks Hugh. Please, pick all the nits you want. The dangers of cutting and pasting is that it can compound a simple overlooked error.

  3. Hugh McCann Says:

    Scott Clark has blocked some of us posting at his Heidelblog, but I hope he still sees & interacts with your article.

    Being Janusian, the old WTS/ WSC guard can have their Arminian cake and gobble it like hungry Calvinists.

    The old Dortians would’ve barfed at their shenanigans.

    Another important (tangential?) essay is G.A. Chan’s “Five Points” at Trinity Foundation, the source for sanity.

  4. David Reece Says:

    It really is amazing that people like R.S. Clark don’t take G.H. Clark’s Scripturalism more seriously. I could understand the rejection of Clark in favor of Van Til more easily if Van Til weren’t totally insane.

  5. Steve M Says:

    Sean

    Great article!

    I think Hoeksema had it right. I do think it is appropriate that every Vantilian should sign up for two Facebook accounts.

  6. Sean Gerety Says:

    While he barred people from commenting on his his blog a while ago (after saying that he finds “Clarkians irritating”)it would seem he just deleted his blog. I get this when I go to his site:

    heidelblog.wordpress.com is no longer available.

    The authors have deleted this blog.

    I did save a cached version of his post and remarks that I reference in the article.

  7. LJ Says:

    Paraphrasing Thomas Pain: THE WELL MEANT OFFER, like Hell, is not easily overcome.
    Clark, an ape of Van Til, propagates what some have called “hypo-Calvinism.” This bastardization of Calvinism is entreanched in the OPC.

  8. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,
    More typos:

    “theologia achretypa”

    “thing,s”

    “VanDruden”
    (3x in footnotes)

  9. ray kikkert Says:

    S.Clark got into some hot water with the URC over his take on psalters and hymns and what should or should not be used in reformed congregational worship.

    I think it is the better part of wisdom that Clark has got out of the blog business and hopefully focuses on being a solid reformed professor … instead of being a looney tune, busybody professor teaching irrational, illogical, and God dishonoring doctrines and wives fables. I also hope some sense of sanity will make him reject writing other books advocating such dung.

    I hope he concentrates on being a solid reformed professor … till now … he has sucked big time in his calling and because of what he has aligned himself too … young sem students are heading off to the ministry with what he is teaching them … that is dangerous.

    It is time for Prof. Clark to smarten up and live and teach a real zeal for the Lord … instead of for the praise of men.

  10. Hugh McCann Says:

    This is a bit disingenuous: “divine sovereignty and human responsibility (who has flattened out that one but the anti-predestinarians?)…”

    The Arminians don’t “flatten out” this seeming conundrum, they change the 2nd term to “human free will,” thus conflicting God’s will and man’s.

    This too do the Well-Meant* Offerers, who have their semi-sovereign, schizophrenic Janus wanting to both elect some to eternal life, while desiring all to be saved. Some “desiring god,” this!

    * Well-meant or ill-conceived?

  11. Hugh McCann Says:

    LJ ~ Yeouch! But what do you really think? 😉

    Ray K ~ Hopefully so. RSC prolly got too involved (i.e. distracted by the multitude of topics online).

    Sean ~ Let’s pray that Scott will do what the Reformers did: Go back to Scripture, not the traditions of men, for his doctrine.

  12. Sean Gerety Says:

    Thanks Hugh. Just more proof that I am in need of a good editor. 🙂

    Also, and FWIW, my interest was really not in the WMO so much, which I think is completely defenseless biblically and confessionally, it is really with this lower and upper story view of truth where things may appear contradictory to us, but the mere assertion that for God there is no contradiction is suppose to overcome all objections. Hardly. The implicit skepticism in Van Til’s theory, something which GHC routinely exposed throughout his career, is so utterly crippling to the Christian faith that irrational doctrines like the WMO is the least of the dangers of espousing Scott Clark’s view.

    Plus, it gave me an opportunity to share the above excellent quote by Dr. Beisner from his unpublished piece,”Critical Comments on John Muether’s (April 9, 2009) ‘Robert Reymond and Cornelius Van Til: Some Reflections'” – a piece which Muether attempted to squelch and with some success. As I recall, Meuther was so miffed by the appearance of the piece on Facebook that he even “unfriended” Beisner. LOL 🙂

  13. Hugh McCann Says:

    No problem ~ We’re here to help!

    No doubt the lower/ ectypal/ phenomenal vs the upper/ archetypal/ noumenal are a struggle & a trap for theologians…

    As for Dr Beisner, that IS sadly funny that the the penetrating scholar was defriended by the petulant historian!

    As Cunha & Elliot have pointed out, the OPC (and her sisters, the PCA & URC) seem constitutionally incapable of internal analysis or self-criticism.

    And of course, we rationalistic, miscreant, cro-magnon Clarkians need not apply!

    I am working on getting my paradox-masseur license!

  14. Hugh McCann Says:

    On the death of der heidelblog:

    From FaceBook*:

    “An Apology to the Consistory of Oceanside URC
    In submission to my fathers and brothers on consistory of the Oceanside United Reformed Church I hereby apologize for the following errors and sins: For accusing our consistory, along with other UR…”
    [dated 4/22/2011]

    ~In a multitude of words there wanteth not sin, but he that refraineth his lips [& keyboard] is wise.~

    {* To which I do not subscribe}

  15. lawyertheologian Says:

    My understanding is that the OPC has distanced itself from Murray and his well-meant/free offer of the gospel.

    The gospel is not an offer at all.

  16. Sean Gerety Says:

    Really, where and when? Last I checked it was still the majority report in the OPC, at least according to their website. Maybe you are misinformed?

  17. Hugh McCann Says:

    SG’s note #3 above appears to indicate that Murray’s offer is alive & well in the OPC.

    http://www.opc.org/GA/free_offer.html

    I note this there, too:

    Minority Report on the Free Offer of the Gospel

    On the free offer of the gospel, the undersigned find themselves unable to concur with the report of the committee for the following two reasons:

    1. It is not clear that the exegesis and the conclusions drawn have been conclusively substantiated.
    2. The standpoint of the report goes beyond the expressions adopted by the Reformed churches in the past, and if it should become the viewpoint of our church, might result in the erection of barriers between our church and certain other Calvinistic groups.

    What has been the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel? It is not the fact that “God freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation through Jesus Christ” (Conf. of Faith, Chapt. on God’s Covenant with Man). It is not the gospel offer as God’s revealed Word that is in dispute, but the element within the Divine will that prompts and grounds the offer. Nor is it even in dispute that God desires the salvation of sinners and proclaims to sinners, viewed simply as such, his desire for their salvation. The point or rather points in dispute appear to be the following:

    1. Whether the term “desire” is employed after the manner of man or whether it is to be understood literally as implying an emotion in God.

    2. Whether God desires the repentance and salvation of the reprobate sinner qua reprobate or whether God’s desire refers to the connection between the repentance and the salvation of sinners, qua sinners.

    3. Whether God’s desires are to be views by us as standing unreconciled with his decrees.

    (1) This discussion of emotion is oriented not to the committee’s report (which refrains from assertions concerning desire as emotion), but to the passage in the Complaint (p. 13, col. 2). That the term desire is employed after the manner of men and is not to be understood literally as implying an emotion in God may appear in view of the following Scriptural principles:

    (a) There is frequent employment of anthropopathic language in Scripture, in which grief, anger, jealously, curiosity, and repentance are ascribed to Deity. Such Scripture passages teach that God acts in a manner which we are taught to view as corresponding to the manner of action of human beings moved by such passions. From these Scriptures the presence of such passions in God cannot be inferred.

    (b) Elements in human desire unsuited to the perfection of God can be mentioned. 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.

    (c) 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.

    This position, far from being rationalism, as the Complaint alleges, is in accord with the teaching of the Confession of Faith that God is without parts and passions. The eminent Westminster divine, Samuel Rutherford, says in connection with representations of distress, grief or sorrow in God: “‘Tis a speech borrowed from man for there is no disappointing of the Lord’s will, nor sorrow in him for the not-fulfilling of it” (Christ Dying…, p. 511). In connection with Ps. LXXXI:13, Rutherford remarks, “Which wish, as relating to disobeying Israel, is a figure, or metaphor borrowed from men, but otherwise sheweth how acceptable the duty is to God how obligating to the creature” (ibid, p. 513; note Complaint, p. 13, col. 2).

    (2) That God desires the salvation of the reprobate viewed as reprobate is an absurdity not sanctioned by the language of Scripture nor precedented by the language of Reformed theologians. Two points are here involved:

    (a) 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. Samuel Rutherford, in reference to passages of gospel invitation, speaks of “A vehemence, and a serious and unfeigned ardency of desire, that we do what is our duty; and the concatenation of these two, extremely desired of God, our coming to Christ, and our salvation: This moral connection between faith and salvation, is desired of God with his will of approbation, complacency, and moral liking, without all dissimulation, most unfeignedly. And whereas Arminians say, we make counterfeit, feigned and hypocritical desires in God; they calumniate and cavil egregiously, as their custom is” (ibid, p. 511). Of God revealed will in the gospel offer Rutherford asserts: “it formally is the expression only of the good liking of that moral and duty-conjunction between the obedience of the creature and the reward; but holdeth forth not any intention or decree of God, that any shall obey, or that all shall obey, or that none at all should obey” (ibid, p. 512). To say absolutely, God desires the repentance and salvation of the reprobate is to go beyond the mode of expression. To say God desires the salvation of the penitent sinner, God desires that if any sinner repent, he be saved, is to give expression to the meaning of the Ezekiel and similar passages as understood by Rutherford. The gospel offer, in other words, is conditional or hypothetical and as such it is universal. This leads to a consideration of the second point:

    (b) Does God desire the salvation of the reprobate, or is it the salvation of sinners as sinners which Scripture represents to be the object of the Divine approbation and complacency? Surely it is the latter. Nowhere in the invitations, exhortations, commands, expostulations or offers in Scripture are the reprobate singled out and made the objects of special Divine concern. Sinners without distinction or discrimination are invited in the external call of the Word.

    (3) When God’s free offer of salvation to sinners is understood in these terms, while an amazing and even inscrutable diversity within the Divine will is brought to light, it cannot be said that there is a logical conflict between the gospel and reprobation (Complaint, p. 13, col. 3), or that the two should be permitted to stand unreconciled alongside each other. It is not in accord with Reformed theology to assert or suggest that the Lord’s will is irrational, even to the apprehension of the regenerate man. Rutherford argues against the Arminians that their view of the desires of God “maketh the Lord’s desires irrational, unwise, and frustraneous” (p. 512). The denial of an unreconciled contradiction for our minds between God’s desires and decrees is not to be identified with the denial of mystery in the will and ways of God or with the adoption of rationalism.

    Wm. Young
    Floyd E. Hamilton
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

  18. Michael Stephens Says:

    I’m a bit confused, maybe you can clear this up for me.

    —————————————————–
    From Sean’s Post:
    First, the verse teaches us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, which makes sense even if one thinks in terms of a human judge. A judge may in accordance with the rule of law justly sentence a murderer to death, but unless he is a sadist, it would be extremely odd for a judge to take pleasure in handing down the death sentence. God is not a sadist.
    —————————————————–

    Wouldn’t that seem to contradict 2 Corinthians 2, which you refer to a little later, that the rejection of the Gospel by the reprobate is a sweet aroma?

  19. Hugh McCann Says:

    Michael,
    Saints are the sweet scent, but not to the reprobate.

    2:14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
    15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
    16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
    17 For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. {NKJV}

  20. Sean Gerety Says:

    Good point Michael. Perhaps I need to revise that section a little. I think Herman Hoeksema’s treatment of these passages is helpful where he writes:

    “For He hath no pleasure in the death of His people, even when they have departed from His ways. He will have mercy on them and forgive. Therefore, let them turn, and He will pardon, and they shall live.

    Finally, notice that the Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked that turns and lives. Scripture elsewhere frequently testifies that the Lord does have a holy pleasure in the destruction of the wicked [Prov. 16:4]. For He hates all the workers of iniquity [Ps. 5:5; 11:5], and He shall laugh in their destruction and hold them in derision [Ps. 2:4; 37:13; Prov. 1:26-27]. But the Lord does have pleasure that the wicked turn from their evil way. And when they turn from their wicked way and are wicked no more, He delights in their life, and gives it unto them abundantly by His grace.”

  21. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, fwiw, what I had in mind (and again I probably need to think on it some more and flesh it out) was more along the lines of Turretin and his analogy of an earthly judge:

    When God testifies that ‘he has no pleasure at all in the death of the sinner, but that he should return from his ways, and live’ (Eze.18:23), this does not favour the inefficacious will or the feeble velleity of God because the [Hebrew] word chpts (which occurs there) does not denote desire so much as delight and complacency. Thus God may be said not to delight in the punishment of the wicked inasmuch as it is the destruction of the creature, although he wills it as an exercise of his justice. So he is said to will the repentance of sinners approvingly and preceptively as a thing most pleasing to himself and expressed in his commands, although with respect to all of them he nills it decretively and effectively … Although God protests that ‘he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in his conversion and life’ (Eze. 33:11), it does not follow that from eternity he willed and intended under any condition the conversion and life of each and every man. For besides the fact that conversion cannot be intended under any condition (because it is itself a condition), it is certain that here is treated the will of euarestias and of complacency, not the will of good pleasure (eudokias) (which the verb chpts proves, meaning everywhere to be pleased and to hold as grateful, to imply that God is pleased with the conversion and life of the sinner as a thing grateful to him and agreeing with his perfectly merciful nature, rather than with his destruction, and therefore exacts it from man as a bounden duty to be converted if he desires to live). But although he wills not (i.e., is not pleased with the death of the sinner, as it denotes the destruction of a creature), yet he does not cease to will and intend it as an exercise of his justice and as the occasion of manifesting his glory (Prov. 1:26; 1 Sam. 2:34). Take, for example, a pious magistrate who is not pleased with the death of the guilty, yet does not cease justly to decree their punishment in accordance with the laws. Nor is it the case that if God does not properly intend their repentance and salvation, does he to no purpose say to the reprobate who are invited to repentance, ‘Why will ye die?’ For he rightly shows them by these words what they must do to avoid death and that by their voluntary impenitence, they alone are the cause of their own destruction, not God. For although by the decree of reprobation, he had passed them by and determined not to give them faith, yet no less voluntarily do they sin and so obstinately bring down their own destruction upon themselves” (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, pp. 229-230, 408).

    While Turretin is sometimes used by proponents of the WMO, it should be noted that he was also a very dedicated opponent of the WMO being advanced by the Amyraldians. Anyway, good question. Thanks Michael.

  22. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, since I’m digging around, here is Gill from his Commentary on Ezekiel 18:23:

    Eze 18:23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God,…. Perish by sword, famine, or pestilence, or go into captivity; this, though the Lord’s will and work, yet is his strange work; mercy is his delight. This is to be understood not absolutely; for the Lord does take pleasure in these things, as they fulfil his word, secure the honour of his truth and holiness, and glorify his justice, and especially when they are the means of reclaiming men from the evil of their ways; but comparatively, as follows:

    and not that he should return from his ways, and live? that is, it is more pleasing to God that a man should repent of his sins, and forsake his vicious course of life, and enjoy good things, than to go on in his sins, and bring ruin on himself, here and hereafter.

    And per 18:32:

    For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,…. Which is not to be interpreted simply and absolutely, and with respect to all persons afflicted and punished by him; for he does take delight in the exercise of “judgment” and “righteousness”, and “laughs” at the “calamity” of wicked men, Jer_9:24; but comparatively, as in Hos_5:6. The sense is, that he takes no pleasure in the afflictions, calamities, and captivity of men, which are meant by death here; but rather that they would repent and reform, and live in their own land, and enjoy the good things of it; which shows the mercy and compassion of God to sinners:

    wherefore, he renews his exhortation,

    turn yourselves, and live ye; or, “ye shall live” (r); I take no delight in your present deaths, your captivity; it would be more agreeable to me would you turn from your evil ways to the Lord your God, and behave according to the laws I have given you to walk by, and so live in your own land, in the quiet possession of your goods and estates.

  23. Hugh McCann Says:

    “Finally, notice that the Lord has no pleasure in the death of the wicked that turns and lives… the Lord does have pleasure that the wicked turn from their evil way.”

    Great point, Sean.

    ‘Tis relative to 2 Peter 3:9, too. God doesn’t want ANY [elect folk] to perish, but that ALL [elect folk] WILL be saved, per 1 Tim. 3:4.

  24. LJ Says:

    Hugh wrote: LJ ~ Yeouch! But what do you really think? 😉

    Yeah, I get all flummoxed over Common Grace and the Well Meant Offer. Probably overstate my case. I’m not nearly as up on the NPP/Neo-liberal/legalist stuff as this common grace/well meant offerism stuff.

    Very likely it is because the first Systematic Theology I ever read was Hoeksema’s “Reformed Dogmatics.” And at one time I was leaning toward joining the PRC. And I still believe they have done the best work overall regarding the CG/WMO (common grace/well meant offer) false teachings. I understood and despised the incipient Arminianism in the WMO from early on and have spent more time trying to counteract its influence in churches that anything else.

    LT,
    Sorry to report that several of us called the OPC website monitor (can’t remember his name – who it was) as recently as a year ago and were assured that common grace was the OPC position along with the well meant offer. Yuck!

    I know some are thinking what’s wrong with me that I don’t ditch the OPC over some of these problems. That I’m being disobedient staying in the denomination, etc. Maybe. But I’ve got to go to church SOMEWHERE and the PCA is no better. I’m going to have to side with LT and just be thankful that the Session where we are members is very sound and endorses NEITHER the FV/NPP nor the CG/WMO teachings.

    I really don’t know what else to do. I only recently (three years ago) FINALLY became a Presbyterian! We chose the church, the Session, before the denomination, since it was a known entity to my wife and me (a long history and friendship with the Pastor, etc.). Maybe we should have been more circumspect in our decision-making, but at this point “here I stand, I can do no other.”

    LJ

  25. Hugh McCann Says:

    F.T. said, “Although God protests that ‘he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in his conversion and life’ (Eze. 33:11), it does not follow that from eternity he willed and intended under any condition the conversion and life of each and every man.”

    For those for whom it DOES follow that God eternally wants and intends that everyone to be saved, they must be Universalist (Love Wins?) or Arminian (men frustrate God)

    Dort addresses this nonsense, as the excellent dvd “Amazing Grace” (narrated by Eric Holmberg) adeptly shows. Over 300 ministers were ejected for Arminian sympathies, as I recall. Imagine such a purge in the OPC or URC today!

  26. Hugh McCann Says:

    But will any in the club DENOUNCE either the FV/NPP or the CG/WMO teachings?

    Gaffin (indicative of too many) can say yes to his GA justification report (not endorsing the bad guys), but cannot bring himself to denounce the bad guys!

  27. Sean Gerety Says:

    And, while I’m at it, here is Clark quoted in The Myth of Common Grace by Garret Johnson:

    “Ezekiel 18 presents several difficulties. Verses2, 4, and 20 could in isolation be taken as contradictory of Romans 5:12-21…. Another difficulty, one that occurs in several books of the Bible, including Romans 2:10, 14, 25, occurs in Ezekiel 18:19, 21, 22, 27, 28, 31. These verses, in both books, sound as if some men could merit God’s justification on the basis of their own works of righteousness. But the context in Romans and Galatians and elsewhere teaches justification by faith alone. Now, if these contexts so completely alter the superficial meaning of the verses in question, one must be prepared to alter the Arminian interpretation of verses 23 and 32…. Therefore the contiguous verses in Ezekiel, the context of the book as a whole, and the references in the New Testament indicate that God has no pleasure in the death of Israel….Ezekiel 33 contains similar statements, which must be given the same interpretation.”

  28. Hugh McCann Says:

    “That God desires the salvation of the reprobate viewed as reprobate is an absurdity not sanctioned by the language of Scripture nor precedented by the language of Reformed theologians.”!!!!!!!!

  29. lawyertheologian Says:

    It seems to me that the GA of the OPC hasn’t dealt with the Free Offer of the Gospel issue since 1948, the date of the Majority and Minority Reports.

    My understanding is based on my disussion with Elders and Ministers and others in the congregations of the OPC in my neck of the woods. One idea they clearly stand against: that God is conflicted, desiring one thing and willing another. Also, in reading more recent publications of the OPC, they refer to Murray as an Uncle they are embarrassed with, and I take it such is due to his view of WMO.

  30. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Sean wrote:
    “In fact, many Van Tilian opponents of the Federal Vision are simply willing to accept Federal Visionists as their confused “brothers in Christ” while chalking up their deadly doctrines to just another in the long line of “mystery of paradoxes.” How often have we heard it said that the Federal Visionists are simply “not as clear as they should be” in their articulation of the central doctrines of the Christian faith, even justification by faith alone.”

    Sadly,
    James White would be an example of what Sean Gerety is speaking about here.

    In White’s 4/28/11 broadcast of The Dividing Line, he responds to a caller’s comments about Federal Visionist Douglas Wilson’s heresy by saying:
    “We all have our problems.”

    White also accused Gordon H. Clark’s views of Saving Faith to be both “Arminian and opposed to Lordship Salvation.”

    As one who rejects the heresy of Lordship Salvation, I’m glad Clark published his views on Saving Faith.

  31. lawyertheologian Says:

    In an OPC Q & A in 2004, it was suggested that the PRC is hyper Calvinisitic and stands opposed to most of all the other Reformed churches on the subject of the free offer of the gospel, though it did not articulate its understanding but simply referenced the GA reports of 1948. http://www.opc.org/qa.html?question_id=59

    Lordship Salvation is heresy? If such refers to the teaching opposed to Zane Hodges’ easy believism, then it certainly is not heresy.

  32. Sean Gerety Says:

    Also, in reading more recent publications of the OPC, they refer to Murray as an Uncle they are embarrassed with, and I take it such is due to his view of WMO.

    I’d certainly be interested in see where the OPC refers to Murray as their embarrassing uncle. Given my experience with OPC pastors over the years, nearly all have been staunch WMO proponents. So, can you provide a reference or a link?

  33. LJ Says:

    The whole notion of the Almighty ardently desiring the fulfillment of something contrary to his decreed is ECTOPIC THEOLOGY, i.e., an abortion of theology; untimely born. The minds of some men! What ingenuity! Only a moron or a seminary professor could cook that up. God is as irrational as the mumbling bum pacing the street in circles at the bus stop (Lord forgive the example, though it is no more absurd than is the FOG).

    I have had the distinct displeasure, frustrating beyond almost anything else, trying to show some brethren, steeped in this nonsense, the error of this nonsensical teaching, often to no avail. The ends to which some will go defending it is amazing. The devotion to Murray, Stonehouse, Van Til, and others is little less than creature worship.

  34. Hugh McCann Says:

    My experience under care in the PCA, doing pulpit supply in OPCs in CA & NY was that neither denom was “embarrassed” by Murray.

    He is revered at WSC (a print of his WTS portrait hangs in the library) and I cannot believe WTS doesn’t likewise fondly remember her early systematician.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    This line was priceless, LJ: “the mumbling bum pacing the street in circles at the bus stop.”

    Thanks for the laugh. Very right on!
    Their God is certifiably schizoid.

  35. Hugh McCann Says:

    Janus on Haldol!

  36. lawyertheologian Says:

    Ok, I misspoke regarding any actual writing by the OPC viewing Murray as an embarassment. I recalled reading something that suggested this, but it was by a former PCA minister, T David Gordon, and it was more general to the Reformed Church, and it was in reference to his biblical theology, mainly his monocovenantalism and/or his rejection of the Covenant of Works, not his “Free Offer of the Gospel.”

    “Many families have a dark secret that they prefer not to talk about: the uncle who gets drunk every Thanksgiving and makes passes at the women-folk; the eccentric nephew who can’t hold a job, etc. These family secrets are well known but rarely talked about. The Reformed version of this is John Murray’s biblical theology.”

    By Faith Alone, ed. Gary L. W. Johnson and Guy P. Waters (2007) p.118.

  37. ray kikkert Says:

    The OPC thinking the PRC to be hyper calvinistic … imagine that …but considering what their definition of a hyper calvinist is of late … I will wear the badge.

    I am sure their are OPC holdouts that despise and reject the well meant offer/common grace/fv doctrine though I know of none off hand. I know the Trinity Foundation years back came up with a list of reformed congregations in North America so that one could recommend to family heading to that neck of the woods a faithful congregation to worship with on the Lord’s Day.

    http://www.trinityfoundation.org/churchapproved.php

  38. Monty L. Collier Says:

    LawyerTheologian wrote:
    “Lordship Salvation is heresy? If such refers to the teaching opposed to Zane Hodges’ easy believism, then it certainly is not heresy.”

    Pointing out that Lordship Salvation is heresy does not imply that Zane Hodges’ teaching is Calvinism.
    1) Lordship Salvation is NOT Calvinism.
    2) Arminianism (Zane Hodges’ position) is also NOT Calvinism.

    Here is the standard introduction to Lordship Salvation:
    http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A114_An-Introduction-to-Lordship-Salvation?q=lordship+salvation

    Notice how Lordship Salvation defines the Gospel to be “a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience.”

    The Gospel does NOT demand our obedience.
    The Gospel provides the elect with the perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ alone, received by faith alone.

    Also, among other things, notice how Lordship Salvation’s “3rd Distinction” is blatantly opposed to Biblical Christianity. John Robbins deals with Lordship Salvation in his essay “The Gospel According To John MacArthur.”
    Here is the link to Robbins’ essay:
    http://trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=193

  39. Hugh McCann Says:

    However, Murray DID give us the helpful article on definitive sanctification (in Vol 2 of the Banner of Truth collection of his works, as I recall).

    http://www.the-highway.com/definitive-sanctification_Murray.html

    …and elsewhere.


  40. lawyertheologian, what is this “Zane Hodges’ easy believism” of which you speak?

  41. Sean Gerety Says:

    Would someone please correct me, but as I recall the centerpiece of the “lordship” controversy was the idea that one could have Christ as savior but not as lord. Is the implicit antinomianism not itself heretical, not to mention just plain silly?

  42. Michael Stephens Says:

    JUST TO REVIEW: (sean posted this from the “Myth of Common Grace”

    Therefore the contiguous verses in Ezekiel, the
    context of the book as a whole, and the references in the New Testament indicate that God has no pleasure in the death of Israel….Ezekiel 33 contains similar statements, which must be given the same interpretation.”

    So if I understand the context Ezekiel is dealing with the elect, pre and post salvation…..God is not happy with death of the elect? I assume this is the case since all of Isreal is not Isreal.

  43. Sean Gerety Says:

    While it’s not clear from the Clark quote that that is how he understands the passage, notwithstanding I think you’re correct. Here is Matthew Winzer’s take on the passage that I think is helpful:

    In this context the words of verse 11 need to be understood: “Say unto them, As I live saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” That is, it does not please the Lord to continue punishing the wicked for past sins if he will turn from his wicked ways. Rather, He is pleased to grant life to the turning sinner. Verses 12-13 then reproduce the same reasoning of chapter 18 with regard to the hypothetical case of the righteous turning to wickedness and dying on account of that wickedness. Similarly, verses 14-16 repeat the hypothetical case of the wicked turning to righteousness and living. The importance of this section is the way in which it restates the case of verse 11 with regard to God having no pleasure in the death of the wicked. “When I say to the wicked that he shall surely die, if he turn from his sin… he shall surely live.” The if is conditional, and the case is hypothetical. As God lives, He has no pleasure in the death of that wicked person whom He has condemned to death if that wicked person will turn from his wickedness. The conclusion is only realised when the condition is met. The reformer, John Knox, in his treatise On Predestination, has related this sense of the passage well:

    The minde of the Prophete was to stirre such as had declined from God, to returne unto him by true repentance. And because their iniquities were so many, and offenses so great, that justly they might have despaired of remission, mercie, and grace, therefore doth the Prophet, for the better assurance of those that should repent, affirme, ‘That God deliteth not, neither willeth the death of the wicked.’ But of which wicked? Of him, no doubte, that truely should repent, in his death did not, nor never shall God delyte. But he deliteth to be knowen a God that sheweth mercye, grace, and favour to such as unfeinedly call for the same, how grevous so ever their former offenses have been. [47]

    In this light, the report’s [the OPC majority report re Murray/Stonehous] disjointed exegesis of the Ezekiel passages misses the mark. The statement, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, does admit of a qualification. It is the qualification imposed by the context that the wicked are being hypothetically considered as turning from their wicked ways. It does not apply “to the wicked who actually die in their iniquity.” It applies, hypothetically, to any within the house of Israel who would be of a mind to turn from wickedness and cease from charging God with injustice because of His judgements. Hence, the report’s second consideration also fails to support its conclusion. It is justifiable, then, to limit the reference of these passages to one class of wicked persons. http://www.fpcr.org/blue_banner_articles/murray-free-offer-review.htm

  44. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    Last(?) typo tally:

    ‘…Calvin was a theologian faithful to preserving the harmony of Scripture and was interested resolving and answering…’

    ‘…those particular individuals given to Son by the Father and those alone.’

    ‘…(as must all applications of logic that threatens the illogical of their doctrinal formulations…)’

    And, finally,

    ‘…there is nothing in theses early expressions of the archetype/ectype distinction…’

    Hopefully, that is all!

  45. Monty L. Collier Says:

    Gerety wrote:
    “Would someone please correct me, but as I recall the centerpiece of the “lordship” controversy was the idea that one could have Christ as savior but not as lord. Is the implicit antinomianism not itself heretical, not to mention just plain silly?”

    Sean, there is certainly a lot said about that. According to the Lordship Salvation camp, at least some of Zane Hodge’s group make the silly claim that Jesus could be their Savior, but NOT their Lord.

    I would imagine the one making such a claim would either be oblivious to basic Law / Gospel Distinction, particularly The 3rd Use Of The Law (Christians are under obligation to obey the Law, BUT NOT AS A COVENANT OF WORKS–FOR OUR GOOD WORKS ARE NOT NECESSARY TO SALVATION–CHRIST ALONE DID EVERYTHING THAT WAS NECESSARY FOR OUR SALVATION, but rather our good works are necessary in order to show our gratitude to God for Christ’s vicarious atonement, to demonstrate our faith to others, and to help our fellow man. Hence, our good works are necessary, but not for/to our salvation)

    That being said, the rejection of such Arminianism (Hodge’s group) does not imply that we affirm the claim of Lordship Salvation proponents when they teach the true Gospel is: “Obey the commands of Jesus Christ!”

    Regardless of how well meaning the intentions of the Lordship Salvation proponents may be, I must agree with John Robbins when he wrote:

    “For the past few years “lordship salvation” has been a controversial issue. Watching the debate is painful, for neither side can get the story straight. It is like watching a debate between Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses about Christ, or between antinomians and Theonomists about the law of God…

    “One of the principal protagonists of the lordship salvation debate has been John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and a nationally known radio preacher. “Men have always stumbled over the simplicity of salvation,” MacArthur cries, rubbing his bruised knees…

    “MacArthur laments the “debacle in contemporary evangelism,” but being semi-Arminian, and failing to understand and believe the Biblical doctrines of justification by faith alone and the imputed righteousness of Christ, he cannot understand the causes of the debacle, and he advocates a solution that will lead to an even worse situation. Rather than criticizing the pervasive Arminianism of today’s evangelism, an Arminianism that perverts and subverts the Gospel of Jesus, MacArthur attacks justification by faith alone and suggests that works be understood as part of faith. Historically, an emphasis on works has usually been the debate strategy of both the Roman church and Protestant Arminians. It was also the strategy of Paul’s opponents.”
    (The Gospel According To John MacArthur, first three paragraphs)

  46. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    This post of yours (with many of the commentaries referenced in the comments) would make a stellar Trinity Foundation article at least, if not book(let).

    Please pray about it, as God wills!

  47. Hugh McCann Says:

    Following up on Monty’s post, please also see Robbins’ ‘Justification and Judgment’ at Trinity Foundation.

    {BTW: Monty’s posted JR’s lecture on this at YouTube.}

  48. Hugh McCann Says:

    RE: Zane Hodges (1933-2008) & John MacArthur (1939- ):

    ‘Hodges, author of _Absolutely Free!: A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation_ (Zondervan, 1989), wrote in response to John MacArthur’s earlier book, _The Gospel According to Jesus_ (Zondervan, 1988).*

    ‘Hodges believes that MacArthur has added something to faith, thus making salvation to be faith plus works. this charge is very serious. MacArthur had earlier charged that Hodges destroyed the meaning of repentance and saving faith by a thousand qualifications, thus making faith to be something far less than the term means in the new Testament.

    ‘Hodges, wishing to argue for what he believes is the position of the Protestant Reformation and the New Testament, reasons that MacArthur, and other “Lordship” preachers, add to faith, thus making salvation to be by faith plus works. MacArthur attacks Hodges’ position by saying that Hodges separates being saved by faith in Christ from “making Christ one’s Lord” at a later point in the Christian’s life. This means, in MacArthur’s view, that Jesus is “Savior only: for those who do not trust Him later on as Lord. This is where the names used in this present debate actually originate, names like “Lordship Salvation.”

    ‘MacArthur insists that a person must come to Jesus as both Savior and Lord and begin to work out the dynamics of what it means to be under His lordship day by day. The idea of coming to Christ as Savior “only” is untenable, he reasons…’

    From a brief review of 1992’s CHRIST THE LORD** (Mike Horton, ed.) ~ http://www.the-highway.com/br_christthelord.html

    * Reissued & updated in 2008.
    ** Reprinted, 2009.

    {Disclaimer: I have read none of these.}

  49. Sean Gerety Says:

    Of course, the position of the Protestant Reformation was also premised on the complete denial of free will. I think both men have serious problems.

  50. Hugh McCann Says:

    Sean,

    What about Bavinck, Berkhof, or Berkhouwer?

    Does R.S. Clark marshal these in his WMO defense?

    Reformation Heritage Books is reducing Bavinck’s dogmatics 50% (with Gleason’s bio).

  51. Sean Gerety Says:

    There was a passing reference to Bavinck, a few references to Berkhof and I don’t believe there were any re Berkhouwer. FWIW there were a number of references to Van Til too, but I don’t see how any of these men can possibly help Clark’s case?

    For example, I think most are aware that Berkhof was an advocate of common grace and the WMO and was even a member of the committee that drafted the Three Points of Common Grace adopted by the CRC in the 1920s leading up to Hoeksema’s ouster and the foundation of the PRC. And, Bavinck is a man who wrote:

    “…the idea that the believer would be able to understand and comprehend intellectually the revealed mysteries is equally unscriptural. On the contrary, the truth which God has revealed concerning himself in nature and in Scripture far surpasses human conception and comprehension. In that sense Dogmatics is concerned with nothing but mystery.”

    That’s why Clark’s focus was the claim that Creator/creature distinction as popularized by Van Til and central to the Clark/Van Til controversy, has a long pedigree in Reformed history dating back to the Reformers. I think I’ve demonstrated that this claim is simply false and that what Clark defends is really a very modern and very dangerous theory that in fact undermines the entire Reformed faith and that it was Gordon Clark who stood squarely with the Reformers in his opposition to Van Til.

  52. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks Sean.

    WRETCHED, this!: “…the idea that the believer would be able to understand and comprehend intellectually the revealed mysteries is equally unscriptural. On the contrary, the truth which God has revealed concerning himself in nature and in Scripture far surpasses human conception and comprehension. In that sense Dogmatics is concerned with nothing but mystery.”

    We all may as well say nothing, or else babble in unknown tongues… How can one be dogmatic about ANYTHING, given this rationalistic Bavinckian assertion???

    ‘[R.S.] Clark’s focus was the contention that Creator/creature distinction as popularized by Van Til and central to the Clark/Van Til controversy, has a long pedigree in Reformed history dating back to the Reformers. I think I’ve demonstrated that this claim is simply false…’

    Or, at least shown that RSC needs to provide some substantiation for his assertion[s].

    ‘…what Clark defends is really a very modern and very dangerous theory that in fact undermines the entire Reformed faith and that it was Gordon Clark who stood squarely with the Reformers in his opposition to Van Til.’

    One need only read Reformed theological history to know this. Ironic, given WSC’s scholarship and advanced degree programs! The conspiracy to keep the truth hidden under false self-serving assertions is reprehensible.

    But, even where RSC right about Reformers & the WMO or “common” grace, the Scripture *should* trump even them. But confessionalism can become an idol, no?

  53. Sean Gerety Says:

    Or, at least shown that RSC needs to provide some substantiation for his assertion[s].

    I think he’s satisfied that he has substantiated his assertions or he wouldn’t have repeatedly challenged me to read is piece in the first place. As I said above I think Clark is looking at Reformed history through his rose colored Van Tilian glasses. No wonder everything looks fuzzy. 🙂

    But, even where RSC right about Reformers & the WMO or “common” grace, the Scripture *should* trump even them. But confessionalism can become an idol, no?

    If Clark was right than he would have a point. As it is, he doesn’t. I take it for granted that we can and do make idols out of anything.

  54. lawyertheologian Says:

    Monty: Notice how Lordship Salvation defines the Gospel to be “a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience.”

    It’s not a definition, but a description of the gospel. That is, the gospel does call one into a life of discipleship, and of submissive obedience, Matt.28:19, but that does define what the gospel is.

    Monty: The Gospel does NOT demand our obedience.

    That depends what you mean by that. The gospel itself is not a demand at all, but a proclamation of good news. But one who believes the gospel must and will obey God’s/Christ’s commandments.

    Monty: John Robbins deals with Lordship Salvation in his essay “The Gospel According To John MacArthur.”

    I, and probably most here, am/are very familiar with that article. If you read it more carefully, you will see that it is not Lordship Salvation per se that JR disagrees with (he acknowledges/implies MacArthur is more right than Hodges an others) but that MacArthur doesn’t realize that the real issue is not easy believism, that people believe with their mind but do not commit with their whole being, but that people (like Hodges) are not preaching and believing the true gospel. BTW, JR later published MacArthur’s retraction of statements in his book that could be taken as a rejection of imputation and/or justification by faith.

  55. lawyertheologian Says:

    ray: I am sure their are OPC holdouts that despise and reject the well meant offer/common grace/fv doctrine though I know of none off hand.

    Mine deny the WMO but not common grace, except in the sense espoused by Kuyper. Reformed Baptists seem to push the WMO/Free Offer more so than the Reformed denominations, which really bugs me(puts me between a rock and a hard place), viewing Gill, as it were, as the embarrasing hyper calvinist uncle . Recall that Spurgeon was a hypo Calvinist against Gill and others. Spurgeon should be the embarrassing uncle, not Gill. Instead he seems to be today’s Reformed Baptist’s hero.

  56. Monty L. Collier Says:

    lawyertheologian wrote:
    “It’s not a definition, but a description of the gospel. That is, the gospel does call one into a life of discipleship, and of submissive obedience, Matt.28:19, but that does define what the gospel is.”

    This is wrong. Claiming the Gospel is a demand for our obedience is a serious mistake. Remember, Luther himself tells us that before his conversion, he believed the Gospel demanded his obedience. As a result, he was in constant anguish, for Luther knew the Law demands our perfect obedience all the time and condemns the slightest infraction.

    When Luther was converted, he realized that the Gospel does NOT demand our obedience–but that it PROVIDES Christ’s perfect obedience received by faith alone. Luther correctly identified the imputed righteousness of Christ to be passive righteousness–while the righteousness the Law demands is active righteousness. This is why we say that our faith is always passive–never active–when it comes to justification before God. This is also why we say it is ONLY the object of our faith–never the act of faith–that justifies before God.

    Luther correctly writes: “He that teacheth that men are justified before God by the observation of the law, passeth the bounds of the law, and confoundeth these two kinds of righteousness, active and passive” (Commentary On Galatians, Luther’s Declaration, Erasmus Middleton translation).


  57. “[John Robbins] acknowledges/implies MacArthur is more right than Hodges an others”

    False, unless you have some other version of that article…

  58. David Reece Says:

    Monty,

    That’s a good word. The Gospel is not a demand for obedience. It is not defined as such or described as such.

    Patrick T. McWilliams,

    Well played.

  59. Steve M Says:

    LT

    “It’s not a definition, but a description of the gospel.”

    Describe – to give an account or representation of in words
    – to tell the facts, details, or particulars of something verbally or in writing

    Please explain how descibing the Gospel as “a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience” is different from defining it as such. I am not a lawyer, so I must be missing the point. I certainly believe that believers should attempt to follow Christ in submissive obedience (is there any other kind of obedience?), but if this is made an element necessary to justification it becomes an ingredient of faith, because we are justified by faith alone (according to the apostle Paul).

    Regarding what we ought or should do, we should have never sinned in the first place. We certainly ought not to sin after we have been regenerated and given the gift of faith, but making obedience any part of what saves us is a false Gospel. We (those of us who believe the Gospel) have Christ’s perfect obedience imputed to us and nothing less than that will play any role in our justification. Anything less than that is filthy rags in the sight of God.

  60. Jaco Myburgh Says:

    Lordship Salvation proponents hold to a Roman Catholic like view of Justification. They mix Law and Gospel. They don’t seem to know about the 3rd Use Of The Law. A good understanding of Law / Gospel Distinction is needed to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Lordship Salvation and other heretical systems of salvation do not keep the Law separate from the Gospel.


  61. LawyerTheologian said:
    “But one who believes the gospel must and will obey God’s/Christ’s commandments.”

    There are two parts.

    (1) “But one who believes the gospel must…obey..” (LT)

    Scripture is quite clear that we are saved by Christ’s works done FOR US – SOLUS Christus – It says:

    “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10)

    and

    “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John 17:19)

    (2) “But one who believes the gospel…will obey God’s/Christ’s commandments.” (LT)

    Paul said: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I THANK GOD THROUGH CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:22:25)

    If we “will” obey God, as Ephesians 2:10 says:”For we are his workmanship, created IN CHRIST JESUS unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”, will we do so perfectly?

    Our righteousness in not infused, it is IMPUTED to us, so we still have the old sin nature within us. As Christians, when we come up against what Lordship Salvation teaches, we will end up condemning ourselves because by looking to our good works for assurance (conjectural assurance), guilt and shame will follow, of that we can be sure. Yet, Christ still tells us:

    “For if our heart condemn us, GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR HEART, and knoweth all things.” (1 John 3:20)

    You will notice that Christ has done it ALL for us. We are to hold on to the promises of God when we fall short, which we will do all the time. There are NO commands in the gospel of grace. Only propositions, to which the child of God should hold fast. ANYTHING else is folly.

    Lordship Salvation is a deadly heresy. So deadly that the WHOLE of the book of Galatians is written as a warning to the Christian, that to mess with SOLA FIDE is a damnable heresy. It carries with it a curse in Chapter 1:8.

    Finally, Scripture is very clear in this same book of Galatians, when it says:”And the law is NOT OF FAITH….” (3:12a)

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this volatile and severely misunderstood issue. I pray the words of Scripture will be a balm to you LawyerTheologian.

    My love to you in Christ.


  62. Steve M,

    “Please explain how descibing the Gospel as “a call to discipleship, a call to follow Him in submissive obedience” is different from defining it as such. I am not a lawyer, so I must be missing the point. I certainly believe that believers should attempt to follow Christ in submissive obedience (is there any other kind of obedience?”

    Bingo.

    “lawyertheologian”, Hodges is mentioned twice in that article, and both times it’s quite clear that MacArthur was wrong while Hodges was right. Not sure what article you’re referring to.

  63. Denson Dube Says:

    Hugh, LJ

    Hugh: “And of course, we rationalistic, miscreant, cro-magnon Clarkians need not apply!

    I am working on getting my paradox-masseur license!”

    LJ: “the mumbling bum pacing the street in circles at the bus stop.”

    You boys need to watch your language, amen?
    If I die laughing, amen? my boys are coming after you, amen?, and they won’t be laughing, amen? Just so you know, amen? you will pay, amen?

  64. Denson Dube Says:

    Hi Sean,
    While there are still many unaware of the deadly nature of the pious sounding insanity of van Tilian theology, namely
    paradox, embracing with passion the apparent contradictory, the well meant offer, equal ultimacy of the one and the many, archetype/ectype distinction, mere human logic, etc etc, I think enough has been said to help those who would be helped.
    It’s probably time to turn our attention to the positive development and understanding of the word of a sovereign gracious God, the very truth, the actual content of the completed work of redemption at the cross as presented to us in the New Testament.
    Christ is seated on the throne, ruling and reigning even as we speak, after His announcement to His disciples that all power is given to Him in Heaven and on earth. Nothing happens without His command. He disposes of all His creatures according to His pleasure! The Lord is my salvation, whom shall I fear? Let his enemies be scattered (in terror)! Let the weak say I am strong! Two shall chase 10 thousand! Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me! Or just read Romans chapter 8!
    This gives one reason to hate even the appearance of evil, in all its forms — either blatant opposition or subtle pious religious pretense of men devoid of the truth!

  65. lawyertheologian Says:

    I find it incredible the amount of people who don’t get the whole Lordship Salvation issue. It is a label given by those who support, as Sean said, “the idea that one could have Christ as savior but not as lord. Is the implicit antinomianism not itself heretical, not to mention just plain silly?” That is, that one can be a disciple of Christ, be truly saved, and not show any evidence of a changed/sanctified life. One could have “sin in their back pocket” as it were. The Bible instead says that those who are disciples must and will obey Christ commandments. One who continues in their sin has not been born of God. What we seek in the gospel is a deliverance from the power of sin, not just the penalty of sin so that we can go on sinning without fear of punishment. That is the implication of a gospel that says believe in Jesus as your savior only, and not your Lord (He IS the Lord after all).

    This is off the subject of this thread, so maybe Sean would prefer this discussion take place offline, at another blog or through email.

  66. lawyertheologian Says:

    LJ: LT,
    Sorry to report that several of us called the OPC website monitor (can’t remember his name – who it was) as recently as a year ago and were assured that common grace was the OPC position along with the well meant offer. Yuck!

    The OPC doesn’t have an official position on common grace or the WMO (free offer might be construed differently), but common grace seems to be the common view of its ministers. Possibly the WMO is the majority view in the OPC, but again, it is not the view of many/most in the OPC congregations in my neck of the woods.

  67. HUGH McCANN Says:

    Hmmm…

    “.common grace was the OPC position along with the well meant offer. Yuck!”
    INDEED. DOUBLE YUCKS!

    “The OPC doesn’t have an official position on common grace or the WMO (free offer might be construed differently),”
    HOW ARE WMO & FOG DIFFERENT?

    “but common grace seems to be the common view of its ministers.”
    AS WELL AS MAJORITY REPORT @ WSC IN LATE ’90’S.

    “Possibly the WMO is the majority view in the OPC, but again, it is not the view of many/most in the OPC congregations in my neck of the woods.”
    POLL THE TE’s & RE’s, THOUGH.

  68. LJ Says:

    LT: The OPC doesn’t have an official position on common grace or the WMO (free offer might be construed differently), but common grace seems to be the common view of its ministers. Possibly the WMO is the majority view in the OPC, but again, it is not the view of many/most in the OPC congregations in my neck of the woods.

    I think you are correct on both accounts. I’m glad the light is shining in “your neck of the woods.”

    It peeks in now and then here too!

    I have found that the CG (common grace) argument is fraught with ambiguous terminology. Few stop long enough to clarify what, exactly, they are saying. It can be VERY frustrating.

    LJ

  69. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh: AS WELL AS MAJORITY REPORT @ WSC IN LATE ’90′S.

    The WSC = The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Before you invent new abbreviation, please write out what you are referring to in the first instance. I don’t know who/what is the WSC you are referring to.

    LJ: I think you are correct on both accounts. I’m glad the light is shining in “your neck of the woods.”

    It has its problems too in some strange anti-Clarkian thought, and the traditional view of faith, inclduing an idea of accepting/receiving Christ as separate from assenting to the truths of the gospel.

    LJ: I have found that the CG (common grace) argument is fraught with ambiguous terminology. Few stop long enough to clarify what, exactly, they are saying. It can be VERY frustrating.

    Indeed. Often verses and language regarding God allowing people to enjoy comfortable lives and not judging them immediately is put forward without delving deeply into the meaning of “grace,” whether such word is appropriate to describe God’s dealings both with His elect and with the whole human race. But so long as they don’t go beyond this, the error is relatively tame and inconsequential.

  70. HUGH McCANN Says:

    LT,

    Above, WSC = Westminster Seminary in CA. (It was WTSCAL back in my day, but they had to go change it!) Sorry to confuse you.

    “Few stop long enough to clarify what, exactly, they are saying. It can be VERY frustrating.”
    FEW ALSO APPEAR TO KNOW *WHAT* THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT.

    And, as LawTheo indicates, too many are Bible skimmers, not understanding how Scripture alone defines grace.

    Like their Arminian cousins, these hypo-Calvinists twist verses regarding only God’s chosen people to include the whole fallen race!

  71. lawyertheologian Says:

    “Like their Arminian cousins, these hypo-Calvinists twist verses regarding only God’s chosen people to include the whole fallen race!”

    That I haven’t seen. The verses they use do refer to the whole fallen race. For example, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matt.5:45. “For He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” Luke 6:35. “and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17.


  72. Hello all,

    I can see that a few of you are starting to get what the problems are with Lordship Salvation. But rather than spend time going over those problems, I’d rather reiterate what has already been said again and again. The Law/Gospel distinction is quite simple. The law embodies everything that God’s righteous decrees demand of his divine image bearers. Anything that tells you what you must do is law. The Gospel, however, is everything that God promises and gives to his children, and He’s not holding those promises out there as a carrot to get you to follow his law. He doesn’t have to demand that you recognize him as Lord in order to receive those promises because he already IS Lord, and as such holds all the cards in the first place. At that point, in faith, we receive God’s mercy and grace and are adopted as sons and made heirs to his kingdom.

    It always amuses me to see all the arguing over something so simple. All I know is, you are all like fish caught in a net (Jesus’ parable of the kingdom). You didn’t have to “do” anything other than get caught. Or sheep that a shepherd seeks after leaving the rest behind. All you had to “do” was get lost. You’re a coin whom a woman searched and swept the whole house looking for… all you did was, again, get lost.

    But then again, that’s how we Lutherans sound. One sided salvation, worked by Jesus by Grace alone and received through faith alone.

  73. LJ Says:

    LT wrote: Indeed. Often verses and language regarding God allowing people to enjoy comfortable lives and not judging them immediately is put forward without delving deeply into the meaning of “grace,” whether such word is appropriate to describe God’s dealings both with His elect and with the whole human race. But so long as they don’t go beyond this, the error is relatively tame and inconsequential.

    There have been many articles in The Standard Bearer on grace and why it isn’t common. Again, the PRC has in my view done the best work in this area. One may not agree with them in every detail but their work is a MUST READ if you’re interested in this commonly mis-understood teaching.

    If anyone isn’t already aware, just Google up “The Standard Bearer and Common Grace” and you’ll get more reading than you bargained for.

    LJ

  74. Hugh McCann Says:

    LT, Thank you for the quotes! I stand corrected. I erred & precipitously mistyped. Perhaps they don’t wrest “grace” in the verses where the word is found.

    I should have said that, “Like their Arminian cousins, hypo-Calvinists twist the concept of grace (which regards only God’s chosen people) to include the whole fallen race!”

    BUT… w/ regard to Luke 6:35 (“For He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men”), the only ungrateful & evil men to whom God shows himself kind are the elect.

    Like the unrighteous & wicked with whom he’s merciful in Ez. 18 & 33, & those with whom he’s patient in 2 Peter 3:9.

    Oh, and hypo-Calvinists invalidly press Matt. 5:45 into service. It says nothing about rain being a blessing to the reprobate.

    Again, the blessed “unrighteous” are we who by grace are saved through faith alone.

    The reprobate are eternally hated. Rain, bread, etc. only serve to harden and indict them all the more for their unbelief and ingratitude.

    Hypo-Calvinists get Luke 6:35 & Matt. 5:45 (also Acts 14:17?) wrong in the same manner as they do Ez. 18 & 33, 2 Peter 3:9, & 1 Tim. 2:4, which proves their incipient Arminianism.

    Dort would’ve flushed them out (in more ways than one)!

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Also: well, said, Bro. Pancake.

  75. LJ Says:

    Here’s a great place to start regarding CG (common grace):

    http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_89.html

    LJ

  76. LJ Says:

    Hugh wrote: The reprobate are eternally hated. Rain, bread, etc. only serve to harden and indict them all the more for their unbelief and ingratitude.

    And I say “Amen!” Thank God for his mercy to his elect children.

    LJ

  77. Hugh McCann Says:

    I missed this by LT (thanks, LJ):

    ‘Often verses and language regarding God allowing people to enjoy comfortable lives and not judging them immediately is put forward without delving deeply into the meaning of “grace,” whether such word is appropriate to describe God’s dealings both with His elect and with the whole human race. But so long as they don’t go beyond this, the error is relatively tame and inconsequential.’

    “Relatively tame & inconsequential”?! Sure, IF (merely a hypothetical IF) they “don’t go beyond” misusing (‘wrest'[KJV]/ ‘twist'[ESV], 2 Pet. 3:16) the biblical word GRACE.

    But that’s just it: Don’t they ALL “go beyond” misappropriating a biblical term to mean something it doesn’t (to include people it doesn’t), in their mythological “common grace,” and necessarily move into the WMO-FOG,* decretive & permissive confusion, and promote the schizo god of the Arminians who decrees that which he doesn’t want, and wants what he hasn’t decreed.

    If, as LT indicates, some reformed clergy (even in his OPC) teach the Bible ‘without delving deeply into the meaning of “grace,”’ then they’re certainly not worthy of double honor, and it’s a valid to ask whether they’re able ministers of the new covenant, if they fail such topics as GRACE and ELECTION!

    * Again I ask the house: How do WMO & FOG differ?

  78. Hugh McCann Says:

    Correction for emphasis as much as for clarification:

    But that’s just it: Don’t they ALL “go beyond” misappropriating a biblical term to mean something it doesn’t (to include people it doesn’t), in their mythological “common grace,” and necessarily move into the WMO-FOG, decretive & permissive confusion, and promote the schizo god of the Arminians who decrees that which he doesn’t want, and wants what he hasn’t decreed?

    If, as LT indicates, some reformed clergy (even in his OPC) teach the Bible ‘without delving deeply into the meaning of “grace,”’ then they’re certainly not worthy of double honor, and it’s valid to ask whether they’re able ministers of the new covenant, if they fail such topics as GRACE and ELECTION!

  79. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh:I should have said that, “Like their Arminian cousins, hypo-Calvinists twist the concept of grace (which regards only God’s chosen people) to include the whole fallen race!”

    Agreed, though I’m not sure if it is based on their being hypo Calvinists, just not clear thinkers.

    Hugh: BUT… w/ regard to Luke 6:35 (“For He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men”), the only ungrateful & evil men to whom God shows himself kind are the elect.

    Right on.

    Hugh: Oh, and hypo-Calvinists invalidly press Matt. 5:45 into service. It says nothing about rain being a blessing to the reprobate.

    Exactly. They simply assume that it is; it is in a general sense a good thing, but hardly grace of God when it can lead to the reprobates demise. Besides the thrust of that text is for us not to discriminate in our dealings with others; we should treat all with love and kindness for we don’t know which ungenerate may be an elect.

    Hugh: The reprobate are eternally hated. Rain, bread, etc. only serve to harden and indict them all the more for their unbelief and ingratitude.

    Hypo-Calvinists get Luke 6:35 & Matt. 5:45 (also Acts 14:17?) wrong in the same manner as they do Ez. 18 & 33, 2 Peter 3:9, & 1 Tim. 2:4, which proves their incipient Arminianism.

    Again, I’m right with you bro. Grace is hardly a word in the Bible that can apply equally to God’s dealings with his beloved elect and the reprobates whom He hates.

    LJ, yes, one of the best things going for the PRC is its teachings regarding Common Grace, which was the cause of its forming.

    Hugh, remind me what FOG is.

    The original adherents of CG, I think Abraham Kuyper and others, really went off the track on this one. As my pastor said, “they took the doctrine and drove a truck through it.” It really became an Arminian doctrine. Again, the OPC elders realize that there is a big difference between the grace shown to the elect and the rest of fallen men. They would easily give up the word, if a better word could suffice to explain their doctrine. Maybe simply the beneficence of God. Again, for the most part it is not so serious an error, certainly not heresy.

  80. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hey LT,

    One problem w/ CG is that it doesn’t some solo ~ it comes with attendant other rubbish like the WMO/ FOG (free offer of the gospel), decretal confusion, etc.

    Not heresy? Maybe, but it’s a wrong dividing of the Word of truth, with other bad stuff necessarily connected to it.

    Maybe it’ll soon be time for an OPC offshoot -a la the PRC- to disengage from the mother ship?

    Is Elliott’s ERPC FOGgy, or suffering from well-meant confusion, &/ or divine decretal indecision? Only one congregation is on Trinity Foundation’s church registry. (Grace Church in Hanover, PA.)

  81. LJ Says:

    LT:
    Yeah, if I’m not mistaken, the term FOG (free offer of the gospel) was coined by Mark Carpenter in an article he wrote for the Trinity Review some years back. It’s an entirely appropriate acronym since those promulgating the doctrine are in a fog of their own.

    Hugh wrote: “… if they fail such topics as GRACE and ELECTION!”

    No kidding! And the ones that have failed this particular test are some of the stalwarts of Presbyterianism in the 20th century: Berkhof, Van Til, Murray, Stonehouse, et alii.

    Funny how some things are clear to babes when giants get confused. Compared to these giants I’m just a babe, an ignorant uneducated babe, but I’ll be darned if I don’t completely understand the problems with so-called “common grace” and the nit-witted “well meant offer or FOG.” It’s kinda like, How does someone who is well educated, intelligent, of good character, etc., become a Mormon and, after being one for a while, stay one? Worse, how does a reformed man, a Minister of the Gospel, seminary professor, author of multiple books including Systematic Theologies, who claims to believe sola scriptura, defend over and over some of this stuff? It’s likely that Van Til and his gang all went to their graves unrepentant about the sinful way they treated GHC. They just couldn’t get past the blindness; they couldn’t get out of their own way (as my Dad used to say!).

    I guess all of us have blind spots? But if “pick your spots” is good advice, I’ll stick with the spots I’ve picked thus far.

    LJ

  82. LJ Says:

    BTW, it’s wise to pick you spots, but never, ever, pick you seat (especially in church, tee hee).

    LJ

  83. Steve M Says:

    LT

    You said, “I find it incredible the amount of people who don’t get the whole Lordship Salvation issue.”

    >>I also find it incredible the number of people who don’t properly understand the LS issue. However, I think you are one of them.

  84. Denson Dube Says:

    LJ,
    “Worse, how does a reformed man, a Minister of the Gospel, seminary professor, author of multiple books including Systematic Theologies, who claims to believe sola scriptura, defend over and over some of this stuff?”

    Luke 10:21, In that hour, Jesus rejoiced in spirit and said, “I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them unto babes: even so Father for so it seemed good in thy sight.”

    Romans 9:16, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy”

    Someone, commending James Anderson(a confused Briton) for some van Tilian anti-Clark vitriolic he had written, once said Anderson had shown that Clarkians do not hold the intellectual high ground. I replied that we do not claim any such thing for our selves. In a previous e-mail on this blog,Pat said forming a new denomination over these issues is doing so on the basis of merely “superior understanding”. These sentiments show a fundamental misunderstanding by some as to what is at issue. It is God’s own glory at issue, not how smart we are or think we are. It is God himself vindicating his own word against those that would twist it, to their own and others’ destruction. And it is God himself who has appointed some to honour and some to dishonour again for his own purpose.

  85. LJ Says:

    Denson,
    I guess we could say that the high ground has been held by the Logos from eternity. The light that lighteth every man.
    LJ

  86. lawyertheologian Says:

    Denson, Luke 10:21 and Rom.9:16 refers to election. No one yet has claimed that those who err re WMO/FOG or common grace are not elect, and certainly not Murray and Berhoff. Possibly Van Til but not for this issue. Keep your head about you.

    As to those in the OPC who adhere to the FOG, they don’t seem to be as off as those in the Reformed Baptist camp. These are infralapsarianists which really seems to me to be incipient Arminianism.

  87. Hugh McCann Says:

    LT,

    Perhaps DD was referencing those 2 passages not to imply the non-election of OP ‘heroes,’ but rather, simply God’s not enlightening all men (even all the regenerate) to the same level of understanding and uniformity on all issues.

    I agree with you what those passages are about, but they more fundamentally speak to God sovereingly showing certain things to certain people, and not to other people. Perhaps that’s all 2D was intending…

  88. Hugh McCann Says:

    Certainly we agree that Bavinck & Berkhof, and later Murray, CVT, Stonehouse, et. al. were (& their OP successors are) all wet when it comes to the FOGgy WMO, ‘common’ grace, and divine schizophrenia a la a Janus-like God.

    Just how Arminian they all (each) were, I have neither time nor interest to plow through their articles & sermons to find out, but methinks a concerned and enlightened OPC member should be!

  89. Hugh McCann Says:

    Whatever else these OPC ‘fathers’ did, they seriously distorted the biblical record of God, and denied the perspicuity of Scripture.

    They taught error, false doctrine. They ought to be exposed, ridiculed and/ or denounced by the manifold OP clergy whom you claim disavow the party line.

    CAN YOUR OPC EVEN ATTMEPT TO REFORM ITSELF, Lawyertheologian?!

  90. Hugh McCann Says:

    ~ Can I ever laern how to spelll?! ~

  91. Denson Dube Says:

    Patrick,
    “Denson, Luke 10:21 and Rom.9:16 refers to election. No one yet has claimed that those who err re WMO/FOG or common grace are not elect, and certainly not Murray and Berhoff. Possibly Van Til but not for this issue. Keep your head about you.”
    But is election not predicated on the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignity in determining all things, which was my point in referencing those scriptures? The underlying mortif in election, God’s sovereignty, is what I see as also applying to and explaining why professors and lawyertheologians miss it while baby LJ gets it.
    Keep your head about you.

  92. lawyertheologian Says:

    Denson and Hugh,

    In the sovereignty of God related in the referenced verses, the point is that God keeps things hidden from the reprobate and reveals them to the elect. God doesn’t hide things from regenerate elect, but reveals them to them, mainly referring to the way of salvation. 1 Cor. 2:10,12 Sin and the effects of sin (poor reasoning) keeps the regenerate from understanding the things of God clearly. Yes, God sovereignly determines these things also (the sin and/or poor reasoning of some professors and theologians) but it is stretching these texts to get such from them.

    Also Hugh, I really am not concerned whether the OPC as a denomination reforms itself regarding WMO/FOG and/or CG; I only wish to change individuals and possibly congregations on such things (WMO/FOG hardly comes up in my congregation, and when CG is taught or spoken of, no point of issue or implication is made). I think its traditional definition of faith (and its anti Clarkian thinking)is more of a problem, which leads to much confusion.

  93. Hugh McCann Says:

    Dear Lawyer & Theologian,

    “In the sovereignty of God related in the referenced verses, the point is that God keeps things hidden from the reprobate and reveals them to the elect.”

    >>AGREED. But they more fundamentally speak to God sovereignly showing certain things to certain people, and not to other people. Perhaps that’s all 2D was intending – not to imply the non-election of OP ‘heroes,’ but rather, simply God’s not enlightening all men (even all the regenerate) to the same level of understanding and uniformity on all issues.

    God doesn’t hide things from regenerate elect, but reveals them to them, mainly referring to the way of salvation. 1 Cor. 2:10,12 Sin and the effects of sin (poor reasoning) keeps the regenerate from understanding the things of God clearly. Yes, God sovereignly determines these things also (the sin and/or poor reasoning of some professors and theologians) but it is stretching these texts to get such from them.

    >>OK. But at least we agree on the concept. Maybe, “Right doctrine, wrong texts”?

    Also Hugh, I really am not concerned whether the OPC as a denomination reforms itself regarding WMO/FOG and/or CG;
    >> SOME churchman you are!*

    I only wish to change individuals and possibly congregations on such things (WMO/FOG hardly comes up in my congregation, and when CG is taught or spoken of, no point of issue or implication is made). I think its traditional definition of faith (and its anti Clarkian thinking)is more of a problem, which leads to much confusion.

    >>I’LL GO out on a limb here and guess that most of our readers here believe that ‘CG,’ the WMO/FoG, and confusion over what constitutes saving faith are three parts of a piece. Just a wild guess…

    * Hey! What about encouraging your orthodox Orthodox Presbyterian elders to stand up & proclaim against the insidious errors we’ve been cataloging? No doubt they’re alive and well in your congregation’s presbytery.

  94. lawyertheologian Says:

    I don’t see the connection between CG, the WMO/FoG and what constitutes saving faith.

    My elders wouldn’t see the WMO as such an insidious error. And they agree with the rest of what we are claiming as errors.

  95. Hugh McCann Says:

    “I don’t see the connection between CG, the WMO/FoG and what constitutes saving faith.”
    +Oh; OK.

    “My elders wouldn’t see the WMO as such an insidious error. And they agree with the rest of what we are claiming as errors.”
    +Oh; uh-oh.

    The “Well-Meant Offer” is merely an ill-conceived notion, a lie in other words.

    The “Free Offer of the Gospel” is false doctrine, too.

    Nor does “common grace” exist; it too is a mythological fabrication of ill-tempered minds.

    Tripartite faith is likewise a gross misunderstanding of Scripture.

    Regardless of your session’s supposed rejection of some of these errors (again, do they protest & teach against them?), your denomination exults in them.

    Ignore & deny this at your own peril.

  96. lawyertheologian Says:

    “The “Free Offer of the Gospel” is false doctrine, too.”

    Yes, the gospel is not an offer at all. People are not condemned for rejecting God’s offer of salvation. For God does not hold out an offer of salvation to the non elect/reprobate. I got into such a heated argument with my former pastor and elder over this one.

    My peril? I have to accept whatever my session and/or denomination teaches outside of heresy. And I’m not ignoring or denying anything regarding my session or denomination.

    Yes, sad to say, my denomination (not that I hold to denominationism/presbyterianism) and session exult in some of the errors we’ve mentioned.

  97. Denson Dube Says:

    Pat,
    So you believe God’s absolute sovereignity is a bit of a stretch? Then who or what causes theologians to tuck their heads in their posteriors while wet eared infants understand the nature of logic, truth and grace, other than God’s sovereign purpose in all things, including the number of mosquitoes in the Russian Tundra?

  98. THEOparadox Says:

    We seem to have a well-meant, sincere and “free” sounding invitation/offer in Rev 22:17.
    Balanced with man’s total inability in John 6:44

    We don’t have to deny one to believe the other, do we?

    Seems like it could be a paradox of sorts . . . and fidelity to Scripture would seem to require adherence to both.

    This is an exegetically-driven thought, not meant as a comment on Van Til, G. Clark, or any other philosopher’s views. I’m looking for God’s view – the Biblical view – which seems to lead in the direction of a both/and scenario on this topic.

  99. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hi Theo,

    Add Matthew 11:28ff to the first batch, and John 6:65 to other. We could have dueling verses all day!

    It’s not a paradox, but the first ones are a call from God to sinners to come to Christ.

    The second set explain how one gets there.

    All the elect will (2 Tim. 2:10, 2 Pet. 3:9), and no goats allowed (John 10:15, 25-28)!

  100. Hugh McCann Says:

    Theo:

    See http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/inerrancy-and-justification/

    Great discussion in comments over “paradox.” Start with Sean’s #38.

  101. THEOparadox Says:

    Thanks for the link, Hugh. You may recall we had an “epic” conversation at the Heidelblog awhile back, concerning archetypal vs. ectypal knowledge. Thoroughly enjoyed that iron sharpening discussion.

    Partly as a result of conversations with Sean, I adapted my views on paradox to this: we can objectively say a “paradox” exists anytime there are two or more apparently contradictory statements that can be made with valid Biblical warrant. I would not say they can’t be reconciled, for man’s mind is ingenious and can come up with lots of senses and qualifications and ways to explain. However, I propose no explanation is authoritative unless it is directly derived from Scripture (in other words, if Scripture itself explains the “paradox”, such as we find in Romans 3 where God’s saving love and condemning justice are reconciled via the cross). So, I argue that apparent “paradoxes” in Scripture are not so much inexplicable as they are “not authoritatively explicable.” Another way to say this would be: we must hold onto explanations loosely but the Biblical propositions very tightly. Furthermore, our explanations sometimes do more harm than good (especially if they result in an outright denial of a warranted Biblical proposition). Thus, an apparent “paradox” has value as a teaching tool and a stimulant to deeper study of the Word. At the same time, it promotes humility because I can’t congratulate myself for explaining what God has left unexplained. I can trustingly embrace all of His propositions and try to explain their interrelations logically as best I can.

    Thus, my conversations with Clarkians have not made me a Clarkian (sorry) but a much more logical and open minded Biblical paradoxian.

  102. Hugh McCann Says:

    Theo, Sean addressed some very similar issues at Green-nabbings (above). His #49 is here:

    Jeff writes:

    Sean, so what happens if we are presented with an apparent contradiction that no-one can resolve satisfactorily? Is it OK to call it a paradox then?

    I don’t see why? A paradox is something that appears to be contradictory but on closer inspection turns out to be no contradiction at all. If you can’t resolve what seems to be contradictory wouldn’t the intellectually honest thing to do is admit your own ignorance rather than impute your ignorance to some deficiency in Scripture or by merely asserting that there are no contradictions for God?

    Why is it better to impugn God’s Word by saying things like “the contradictions of Scripture must remain for us but we are to have faith that for God there are no contradictions”?

    Also, how could you possibly know that “no-one can” resolve a seeming paradox satisfactorily? Have you achieved omniscience since I last ran into you?

    (E.g.: How is it possible for the one person of Jesus to encapsulate two distinct natures, without commingling the substances thereof?)

    If the doctrine of the Incarnation is a contradictory as you suggest, that would indicate that perhaps more work needs to be done and in fact has been done. One place you might start is by getting rid of the word substance since it has been historically a word without meaning.

    Seems to me that there’s not much difference between

    “An apparent contradiction that only God can understand”

    AND

    “An apparent contradiction that no human being has been able to understand”

    The latter is an admission of human ignorance attributed to, as Reed says, “the failure of the reader.” The former is an admission that God could not reveal himself intelligibly and without contradiction. I’d say that’s a big difference.

    Besides, how could you possible know there is no paradox, no contradiction, for God? By an appeal to Scripture? Impossible, since the teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory. It seems to me that magic “faith” divorced from logic and Scripture becomes the means by which you can assert there is no paradox for God. For the record, that was John Frame’s argument in defense of Van Til.

    Except for the hope that someone, someday in the future, might be able to figure it out. Until such person appears, we still have a paradox … oops, apparent contradiction.

    The problem is those advocating for logical paradoxes in Scripture are not confessing their ignorance or their failure to resolve these apparent contradictions satisfactorily. If that’s all they were doing it would hardly be an issue. What they’re saying, and have said, is that if they can’t solve a particularly problem in Scripture than no one can and anyone who claims to is guilty of the sin of “rationalism” or worse. Usually worse.

    {End of post #49 from “Inerrancy and Justification” @ Greenbaggins.Wordpress.com, May 12, 2011.}

  103. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thus, my conversations with Clarkians have not made me a Clarkian (sorry) but a much more logical and open minded Biblical paradoxian.

    Then thou are not far from Scripturalism!

    Get a good rational massage, and the paradox-cramping will fade.

  104. THEOparadox Says:

    Hugh, that thread was one of the wildest paradox discussion threads I’ve ever seen.

    Interestingly, my definition of “paradox” means that there can be paradoxes for God (because He can speak two propositions that appear to logically contradict one another and are nonetheless true). Importantly, I define paradox as a feature of language, not of ontology. It’s not that anything true is actually contradictory, but many true statements – by themselves and without further development – do indeed seem contradictory (at least by implication).

    For example, God can truly say:

    A. I save sinners
    B. I condemn sinners

    Similarly:

    A. I love sinners
    B. I hate sinners

    In both cases, there is an appearance if contradiction in language that has clear Biblical warrant, but all four statements represent God’s true thoughts. Of course, He explains both of these “paradoxes” to us in His Word. We can clearly see in what senses he loves and hates, saves and condemns, sinners.

    But He doesn’t explicitly reconcile this:

    1. I am completely sovereign over everything
    2. Human beings are responsible for their choices

    Various theologians and philosophers have explained this “paradox” (remember, I’m using my definition here) in various ways. The difference is that in God’s knowledge the ONLY TRUE explanation is actually known, and His is the only explanation that is authoritatively true and without defect. In our knowledge, explanations that aren’t explicitly Biblical can only be possibly true, and are likely to contain defects and gaps.

    So, for God there are paradoxes (using my definition above) with authoritative explanations (which means no possibility of actual contradiction). For us there are paradoxes with potential explanations, leaving the possibility of apparent contradiction.

    In this sense I might disagree with CVT and G. Clark when they say there are no paradoxes for God. But my disagreement would be more or less semantic because I’m defining the word differently.

    All of this takes us back to archetypal/ectypal knowledge.

    Archetypal Knowledge = objective, verbal paradox + authoritative explanation = no contradiction
    Ectypal Knowledge = objective, verbal paradox + possible explanation = apparent contradiction (on the authoritative level) but still no contradiction in reality (because reality is archetypal)

    Or in some cases:
    Ectypal Knowledge = Objective, verbal paradox + authoritative (Biblical) explanation = no contradiction

    For me, the difference is all in the level of confidence we can place in the explanation or resolution of the Biblical propositions. If God hasn’t revealed an explanation in Scripture, we’re left with only logic. But there can always be more than one logical explanation for an objective, verbal paradox. When advocates of paradox say something cannot be reconciled at the bar of human reason, what they really mean is they are not willing to elevate the bar of human reason to a level of authority that is justified in adding to God’s revelation by way of explanation. A brilliant mind may have the power to resolve something, but that does not give it the authority which resides in God’s Word alone.

    All of this goes back to a belief in Sola Scriptura and the perspicuity, sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture. And the glory of God.

    Thus, by viewing paradox as an objective feature of language we can cut a path that neutralizes the reasonable objections of Clarkians while avoiding the deadly snares of irrationalism.

  105. Steve M Says:

    THEO:
    “Interestingly, my definition of “paradox” means that there can be paradoxes for God (because He can speak two propositions that appear to logically contradict one another and are nonetheless true). Importantly, I define paradox as a feature of language, not of ontology. It’s not that anything true is actually contradictory, but many true statements – by themselves and without further development – do indeed seem contradictory (at least by implication).”

    You lost me. How do you see your definition of paradox to differ from those that have gone before?

  106. Hugh McCann Says:

    These are not contradictory, rightly understood:

    For example, God can truly say:
    A. I save sinners
    B. I condemn sinners
    Similarly:
    A. I love sinners
    B. I hate sinners
    In both cases, there is an appearance if contradiction in language that has clear Biblical warrant, but all four statements represent God’s true thoughts. Of course, He explains both of these “paradoxes” to us in His Word. We can clearly see in what senses he loves and hates, saves and condemns, sinners.

    Of course, he loves and saves some sinners (called in Writ the elect/ righteous/ sheep), and he hates and condemns other sinners (reprobate/ wicked/ goats).

    But He doesn’t explicitly reconcile this:
    1. I am completely sovereign over everything
    2. Human beings are responsible for their choices
    Various theologians and philosophers have explained this “paradox” (remember, I’m using my definition here) in various ways.

    But why confuse a confusing issue even more with your unique definition? What’s wrong with Webster’s?

    The difference is that in God’s knowledge the ONLY TRUE explanation is actually known, and His is the only explanation that is authoritatively true and without defect. In our knowledge, explanations that aren’t explicitly Biblical can only be possibly true, and are likely to contain defects and gaps.

    What think ye of the Westminster’s confession that good & necessary deduction is valid?

    So, for God there are paradoxes (using my definition above) with authoritative explanations (which means no possibility of actual contradiction). For us there are paradoxes with potential explanations, leaving the possibility of apparent contradiction.

    Is that all we get? No truth, merely “potentials and possiblities” (i.e. mystery)?!

    In this sense I might disagree with CVT and G. Clark when they say there are no paradoxes for God. But my disagreement would be more or less semantic because I’m defining the word differently.
    All of this takes us back to archetypal/ectypal knowledge.
    Archetypal Knowledge = objective, verbal paradox + authoritative explanation = no contradiction
    Ectypal Knowledge = objective, verbal paradox + possible explanation = apparent contradiction (on the authoritative level) but still no contradiction in reality (because reality is archetypal)
    Or in some cases:
    Ectypal Knowledge = Objective, verbal paradox + authoritative (Biblical) explanation = no contradiction

    Do we ever get objective truth, with an authoritative explanation (sounds like Writ), and with no paradox, & no contradiction (or have you redefined that word, too)?
    Do the ectypes ever get any archetype?

  107. Hugh McCann Says:

    Oops; outsmarted myself with quotes. Hope it’s clear enough.

    Probably not any more unclear than your posts, Theo! 😉

  108. Hugh McCann Says:

    Lemme try again, Sean:

    These are not contradictory, rightly understood:

    For example, God can truly say:
    A. I save sinners
    B. I condemn sinners
    Similarly:
    A. I love sinners
    B. I hate sinners
    In both cases, there is an appearance if contradiction in language that has clear Biblical warrant, but all four statements represent God’s true thoughts. Of course, He explains both of these “paradoxes” to us in His Word. We can clearly see in what senses he loves and hates, saves and condemns, sinners.

    Of course, he loves and saves some sinners (called in Writ the elect/ righteous/ sheep), and he hates and condemns other sinners (reprobate/ wicked/ goats).

    But He doesn’t explicitly reconcile this:
    1. I am completely sovereign over everything
    2. Human beings are responsible for their choices
    Various theologians and philosophers have explained this “paradox” (remember, I’m using my definition here) in various ways.

    But why confuse a confusing issue even more with your unique definition? What’s wrong with Webster’s?

    The difference is that in God’s knowledge the ONLY TRUE explanation is actually known, and His is the only explanation that is authoritatively true and without defect. In our knowledge, explanations that aren’t explicitly Biblical can only be possibly true, and are likely to contain defects and gaps.

    What think ye of the Westminster’s confession that good & necessary deduction is valid?

    So, for God there are paradoxes (using my definition above) with authoritative explanations (which means no possibility of actual contradiction). For us there are paradoxes with potential explanations, leaving the possibility of apparent contradiction.

    Is that all we get? No truth, merely “potentials and possiblities” (i.e. mystery)?!

    All of this takes us back to archetypal/ectypal knowledge.

    Do we ever get objective truth, with an authoritative explanation (sounds like Writ), and with no paradox, & no contradiction (or have you redefined that word, too)? Do the ectypes ever get any archetype?

  109. Derek Ashton Says:

    Steve,

    I’m not so much re-defining paradox as trying to clarify a sometimes confusing term. One of the great arguments against accepting paradox in theology is the idea that it is subjective. What may be a paradox for one is not necessarily a paradox for another, because one believes he has an explanation and the other doesn’t. So I’ve tried to objectify it by totally separating the paradox from its explanation. To achieve this, I have simply said that a paradox exists **in our language** whenever we can state two or more valid, Biblical propositions that, lacking further explanation, have conflicting implications.

    Hence, the examples:
    God loves sinners and hates sinners
    God saves sinners and condemns sinners

    With further development, they are easy enough to reconcile. But from the standpoint of language alone (not philosophy) they appear to be directly or indirectly contradictory. The propositions call for more language to explain how they relate and interrelate. If Scripture doesn’t give that, then based on sola Scriptura and the sufficiency of Scripture we have no **authoritative** (i.e. divinely revealed) resolution. We may yet apply logic and reconcile the propositions, but let’s not confuse that with divine revelation or give it an equal epistemological status.

    So, again, I’m not so much proposing a novel definition as isolating the definition for greater clarity.

    Great question, by the way.

  110. Derek Ashton Says:

    Hugh,

    Looks like you’re as tech savvy as I am with these comment boxes. 🙂

    These are not contradictory, rightly understood

    I agree, but how do we “rightly understand” them? By Scripture alone, or Scripture plus our best theory? In this case, Scripture gives the explanation, but there are other areas where Scripture is, shall we say, “quieter.” Where it is silent, we have no revelation.

    But why confuse a confusing issue even more with your unique definition? What’s wrong with Webster’s?

    Don’t get me started about the limitations of modern dictionaries. See my response to Steve M above for the answer to this. I’m really just limiting the definition sharply to help remove the confusion.

    What think ye of the Westminster’s confession that good & necessary deduction is valid?

    I’m good with the good and necessary deductions. But each step in the deductive chain takes you that much further from the Source, so there is a greater margin of error the further you go (i.e. less Biblical authority as you get further down the deductive chain). But I think Westminster means only the first deduction that is derived directly from the Scripture proposition, right? Not the deduction derived from the deduction.

    Is that all we get? No truth, merely “potentials and possiblities” (i.e. mystery)?!

    On some issues, yes. Remember, I’m referring to areas that are truly mysterious. There are significant aspects of reality that are not spoken of or explained in Scripture, so our knowledge is going to be limited by that. On the other hand, there are LOTS of things that are very, very clear. Also, I’m speaking of the areas in between the clear propositions (especially their interrelation), not the propositions themselves.

    Do we ever get objective truth, with an authoritative explanation (sounds like Writ), and with no paradox, & no contradiction (or have you redefined that word, too)? Do the ectypes ever get any archetype?

    Absolutely, brother. I’ve used the example of Romans 3, where God gives us the paradox and its explanation. As noted above, there are plenty of clear, non-paradoxical propositions in Scripture.

    You and I have written at length about the archetypal/ectypal distinction. Let’s not re-hash that. Suffice it to say I believe the Bible gives us actual content from God’s mind, His actual thoughts in words we can understand. But that doesn’t mean we see it the way He does. We’re trying to.

  111. Hugh McCann Says:

    We may yet apply logic and reconcile the propositions, but let’s not confuse that with divine revelation or give it an equal epistemological status.

    Why not? Isn’t God Logic?

    Ya lost me: …the Bible gives us actual content from God’s mind, His actual thoughts in words we can understand. But that doesn’t mean we see it the way He does. We’re trying to.

    Right – his knowledge is underived, ours all derived. But if we can know the ‘actual content from God’s mind,’ what happens to the tired arche- & ectypal distinctions that RSC is so enamoured of?

  112. Derek Ashton Says:

    Hugh,

    You’re asking why we shouldn’t elevate our interpretive understandings to the level of Scripture? Do I really have to answer that? 🙂 It’s one thing to say God is logical, or even that He personifies logic, but it’s quite another thing to say our application of logic is equal to divine revelation. Surely you agree that Scripture is unique and separate from our attempts to fill in the gaps and harmonize Scripture.

    Arche/Ec – We know the real content of God’s thought like a person watching a video of a friend. It’s a real image of the real person, transmitting the real truth about them, but it’s not the same as having the person right there with you. That’s the difference between ectypal and archetypal. The archetypal is not a different truth or contradictory in content when compared with the ectypal; it’s the same thing, but on a whole other level and with additional dimensions. But we’ve been down this road before, haven’t we?

  113. Steve M Says:

    Dereck, the WCF does not confine Scripture to what is expressly set down as you appear to do.

    WCF:
    “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

    Deduction by “good and necessary consequence” is placed on a par what is expressly set down by the Westminster divines and should not be disparaged.

    Your examples leave out even explicit teachings of Scripture, let alone deductions.

    “Hence, the examples:
    God loves sinners and hates sinners.
    God saves sinners and condemns sinners.”

    Scripture nowhere says that God loves ALL sinners nor that God hates ALL sinners. This would be apparently contradictory. The notion that God loves some sinners (those He has elected to salvation)and God hates other sinners (those whom he has chosen to passs by)is not contradictory at all.

    The supposed paradox passes away from the second example in the same way.

    “God saves sinners and condemns sinners”

    The sinners God saves are a different group from those He condemns. There is nothing paradoxical or apparently contradictory about this at all.

  114. THEOparadox Says:

    Steve,

    I agree that the apparent contradiction disappears when further explanation is added. And I noted from the outset that these particular examples are explained in Scripture. So no disagreements there.

    My larger point was that there are cases where Scripture does not give us so much light, even by “good and necessary consequence” or logical deduction. The example presented was divine sovereignty and human responsibility, which Scripture states, but, to my knowledge does not explain. Jonathan Edwards has an explanation. J.I. Packer has one. Gordon Clark has one. But who has an explanation that is on a par with Scripture?

    As for the WCF, I’ve already expressed my agreement with the “good and necessary consequence” clause. I also agree with WCF when it says the essentials are clearly set down in Scripture. There are plenty of clear propositions. When we are talking about paradoxes, we are simply trying to explain the unrevealed interrelations between the clear propositions. And I’m saying that where Scripture doesn’t explain the interrelation (including by good and necessary consequence), we can’t claim to have **authoritatively** explained the interrelation. We can apply logic and build a bridge from one proposition to the other, but we can’t claim to have **revelation** on that point.

    Packer calls it “antinomy” because both are clearly revealed propositions which create logical tension, and although there must be a satisfactory explanation it is not given in Scripture (or even by good and necessary consequence from Scripture). God doesn’t have to share all of His explanations. It is enough for us to know that He has them.

    In the meantime, we do our best to explain using logic and Scripture.

  115. Sean Gerety Says:

    “But who has an explanation that is on a par with Scripture?”

    I think Packer if I recall did not have any explanation at all. Like you he was a believer in biblical antinomy and unbilical mystery as you note above. Clark has a biblical solution that builds on Calvin’s biblical conception of justice. Through it Clark avoids any implication of a libertarian free will in his definition of responsibility. Men have no free will in the Arminian or libertarian sense, so why people like VT and others would include this into their conception of responsibility and then call it an apparent contradiction is indeed a mystery.


  116. Theo,

    You’re defeated before you’re started. You assume that there are unresolvable apparent contradictions.

    “My larger point was that there are cases where Scripture does not give us so much light, even by “good and necessary consequence” or logical deduction.”

    That is an unjustifiable assertion.

    “The example presented was divine sovereignty and human responsibility, which Scripture states, but, to my knowledge does not explain. Jonathan Edwards has an explanation. J.I. Packer has one. Gordon Clark has one. But who has an explanation that is on a par with Scripture?”

    Clark and many others. If the Scripture teaches these two things (and it does), then its teaching properly understood should not even seem contradictory.

    “Packer calls it “antinomy” because both are clearly revealed propositions which create logical tension, and although there must be a satisfactory explanation it is not given in Scripture (or even by good and necessary consequence from Scripture). God doesn’t have to share all of His explanations. It is enough for us to know that He has them.”

    Again, you’re defeated before you’re started. You are assuming that the Bible presents apparent contradictions without explaining or indicating why they are not. That is contrary to the very nature of Scripture to be clear, revelations of the logical thoughts of God. Rather than assuming that there are apparent contradictory teachings in Scripture, start with assuming that the Scriptures do not contradict, and try to figure out which part of your understanding is an incorrect misunderstanding that contradicts the correct understanding. For example, if God is sovereign, none of men’s acts are independent of God. Otherwise, human responsibility does not even appear to be in “tension” (contradiction) with God’s sovereignty.

  117. Hugh McCann Says:

    It’s one thing to say God is logical, or even that He personifies logic, but it’s quite another thing to say our application of logic is equal to divine revelation. Surely you agree that Scripture is unique and separate from our attempts to fill in the gaps and harmonize Scripture.

    Our logic is only “equal” as it rightly deduces from God’s revelation.

    Arche/Ec – We know the real content of God’s thought like a person watching a video of a friend. It’s a real image of the real person, transmitting the real truth about them, but it’s not the same as having the person right there with you. That’s the difference between ectypal and archetypal. The archetypal is not a different truth or contradictory in content when compared with the ectypal; it’s the same thing, but on a whole other level and with additional dimensions. But we’ve been down this road before, haven’t we?

    I don’t recall our discussion, and now Heidelblog is kaput. I don’t know (and ultimately don’t care) that RSC would agree with your description of the arc/ec types.

    I disagree with the video thing, though we’d both agree that all analogies break down. But just as Christ is the image of the inivisible God, NOT as a video is an image of a man, so we regenerate have the mind of Christ. Arc/ec advocates like RSC don’t speak the way you do, and Van Til said our knowledge and God’s coincide nowhere.

    At least you concede that our knowledge is real and truth.

  118. Hugh McCann Says:

    Derek,

    This from Law-Theo is a good place to start:

    Rather than assuming that there are apparent contradictory teachings in Scripture, start with assuming that the Scriptures do not contradict, and try to figure out which part of your understanding is an incorrect misunderstanding that contradicts the correct understanding. For example, if God is sovereign, none of men’s acts are independent of God. Otherwise, human responsibility does not even appear to be in “tension” (contradiction) with God’s sovereignty.

    This helps too, from G.H. Clark’s “God and Logic”:

    That Logic is the light of men is a proposition that could well introduce the section after next on the relation of logic to man. But the thought that Logic is God will bring us to the conclusion of the present section…

    [Some] systematic theologians are wary of any proposal that would make an abstract principle superior to God…

    The law of contradiction is not to be taken as an axiom prior to or independent of God. The law is God thinking.

    For this reason also the law of contradiction is not subsequent to God. If one should say that logic is dependent on God’s thinking, it is dependent only in the sense that it is the characteristic of God’s thinking…

    As there is no temporal priority, so also there is no logical or analytical priority. Not only was Logic the beginning, but Logic was God. If this unusual translation of John’s Prologue still disturbs someone, he might yet allow that God is his thinking. God is not a passive or potential substratum; he is actuality or activity. This is the philosophical terminology to express the Biblical idea that God is a living God. Hence logic is to be considered as the activity of God’s willing.

    Please see {and post at your site!} http://gospelpedlar.com/articles/God/logic.html

    But, searching for Gordon Clark at your site, I see that you’re pretty well acquainted with him & Robbins, & Crampton (and here, Gerety), all much more able expositors than I. If you won’t hear them, I doubt I can help. May God give you a fine rational massage ASAP.

  119. Derek Ashton Says:

    LawyerTheologian,

    I’m not defeated at all. If I may quote myself, from a comment above:

    “we can objectively say a “paradox” exists anytime there are two or more apparently contradictory statements that can be made with valid Biblical warrant. I would not say they can’t be reconciled, for man’s mind is ingenious and can come up with lots of senses and qualifications and ways to explain.”

    So I’m certainly not assuming “that there are unresolvable apparent contradictions.” Why would you say I am? I have said the opposite.

    I am, however, affirming that there are apparent contradictions in the Bible, leading to a philosophical paradox that is not explained via any direct proposition. The following is just one undeniable example:

    NO ONE IS GOOD EXCEPT GOD ALONE

    Luke 18:18-19 A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”
    Matthew 19:17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is {only} One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
    Mark 10:18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone

    GOOD PERSON #1 – Joseph of Arimathea

    Luke 23:50-52 And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

    GOOD PERSON #2 – Barnabas

    Acts 11:22-24 The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

    These verses clearly present us with an apparent contradiction. Pure, raw logic might lead me to say Joseph and Barnabas are God, but that certainly won’t do, will it? It’s logical, but it’s not true. I searched the Scriptures and developed a better logical explanation, but I’m not going to say my answer is on the level of Scripture just because it is logical. You might have an even better logical explanation than mine. Either way, God might refute us both in the end by explaining it in an even better way – a truly authoritative way that is on a par with Scripture because it is God’s own Word.

    Now, let’s say neither of us could come up with a sufficiently bulletproof, unassailable, logical explanation. Wouldn’t we be justified to say that the explanation is with God and remains unrevealed? Certainly, for He has revealed this proposition: “The secret things belong to the Lord.”

    That’s not to say someone else couldn’t come up with a logical explanation in the meantime.

    So I am saying trust logic. But trust His Word more.

  120. Sean Gerety Says:

    “So I am saying trust logic. But trust His Word more.”

    Are you saying God’s Word is illogical? I thought trusting logic and trusting His word were the same thing.

  121. THEOparadox Says:

    Sean,

    Certainly not. God’s Word is inherently, perfectly logical – though the logic is not always explained. Most Scripture passages are not laid out in the form of a syllogism. I am saying that when we use logic to try to explain what the Bible has not explained (i.e. when we attempt to supply the syllogisms), we should be careful not to elevate our reasoning to the level of Biblical proposition.

    I would guess you don’t agree, and I suspect this is the most critical difference in our approaches. We both believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, logically sound, sufficient, perspicuous, trustworthy, authoritative, etc. But you seem to be more optimistic about the ability of human beings to reason to correct conclusions where Scripture has not directly provided them.

    Can you see why I am insistent that there are paradoxes in Scripture **at the objective level of the language itself?** We have these two Biblical propositions:

    P1 Only God is good
    P2 Some people are good

    That, to me, is decidedly paradoxical (at least on the level of language). Yet not inexplicable (philosphically). Yet still inexplicable **at the authoritative level** because God hasn’t directly explained it. (i.e. while we can say “This is my explanation . . .” we can’t say, “This is God’s explanation . . .”).

    Even if you don’t agree, thanks for considering my proposal.

  122. THEOparadox Says:

    Hugh,

    If you have searched for Gordon Clark on my site, you have seen my cards! I hope you can appreciate my sense of humor.

    If you search for your own name, you will see that I have written something about you, also. My final post from our arch/ec discussion is there as well.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  123. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, D. Though the font is nearly unreadable with that background: silver on grey?

    I doubt that R.S. Clark would agree with our agreement. So either he’s too hard core, or you’re not as Van Tilian as he!

    Too bad all the H’blog pages are gone. 😦


  124. Theo: “Can you see why I am insistent that there are paradoxes in Scripture **at the objective level of the language itself?** We have these two Biblical propositions:

    P1 Only God is good
    P2 Some people are good

    That, to me, is decidedly paradoxical (at least on the level of language). ”

    No one denies that the LANGUAGE appears to present a contradiction. But acknowledging that the Bible cannot and does not contradict itself means that we need to understand correctly the language/words used in each biblical text. But to suggest that the Bible does not explain the differences in meaning is quite absurd. For it would leave us in the dark as to what God is revealing to us; the Bible would not be perspicuous but an unclear message(s) from God.

    Theo: “God’s Word is inherently, perfectly logical – though the logic is not always explained. Most Scripture passages are not laid out in the form of a syllogism. I am saying that when we use logic to try to explain what the Bible has not explained (i.e. when we attempt to supply the syllogisms), we should be careful not to elevate our reasoning to the level of Biblical proposition.

    Logic is not something that is explained, but is the science of necessary inference. When we correctly apply logic, we are thinking as God thinks, so that the conclusions/inferences drawn are equally the mind of God as the explicit statement. Again, this is what the WCF asserts. Validly drawn inferences are equally the Word of God as the explicit statements of Scripture.

    Theo:”These verses clearly present us with an apparent contradiction. Pure, raw logic might lead me to say Joseph and Barnabas are God, but that certainly won’t do, will it? It’s logical, but it’s not true. ”

    You’re mistaken. It’s not logical to conclude that Joseph and Barnabas are God because the texts say that these are good “men”, and thus not God. What you have are the propositions P1 and P2 as you gave above which I quoted. What you need for your logical conclusion is:

    P1. Only God is good.
    P2. Joseph and Barnabas are good (without the word “men”)

    which we do not have. Thus we cannot validly conclude:

    C. Joseph and Barnabas are God (members of the Trinity as it were).

  125. Steve M Says:

    THEOparadox
    You said to Sean: “We both believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, logically sound, sufficient, perspicuous, trustworthy, authoritative, etc. But you seem to be more optimistic about the ability of human beings to reason to correct conclusions where Scripture has not directly provided them.”

    I hope you are not suggesting that God provided Scripture for the purpose of communicating His truth to someone other than humans. I think the idea that he provided us with Scripture in order to communicate His ideas to Himself is preposterous.

    If we as humans use logic to reach conclusions that are valid implications of the clear propositions of Scripture, it will of necessity be human logic. According to your statement this is elevating our reasoning to the level of biblical proposition. This would, of course, be a very arrogant thing to do. It would be much more humble to simply limit our knowledge to what is expressly set down and admit that we should not go beyond that for fear of elevating human reasoning to a point that it should not hold.

    This being the case, kindly show me how to arrive at the doctrine of the Trinity using only what is expressly set down without applying any human reasoning to the Scriptures.

    The Westminster divines were obviously a bit arrogant to proclaim ““The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture”. Really the arrogance of believing “the whole counsel of God” was to be obtained not just by reading what was expressly sent down, but also by deducing the implications of what was expressly set down is quite appalling. They probably did not realize that they were elevating human reasoning to such an unwarranted level.

    Don’t you think it is possible that claiming to know when and when not to apply logic to the exegesis of Scripture is a bit arrogant? Doesn’t it seem obvious that if God provided Scripture as a means of communicating his truth to humans, that he would have foreseen that it was human logic that would be applied to it? Or do you think that God’s purpose in revelation was to make Himself appear to be something he was not. Is it your position that Gods is disingenuous?

  126. ray kikkert Says:

    P1 Only God is good
    P2 Some people are good

    This is not paradox … this is an argument wrongly applied to reject logic and defend an illogical and paradoxial stance.

    God is good and because of the righteousness of Christ … our Father views His chosen elect as good as well. This is not rocket science … the Lord also says that with Israel …He does not see any iniquity in them. Why does the Lord say this? For the same reason … He views them in His Son the Lamb slain before the foundations of the world … the chosen elect… as perfectly righteous … yet they are totally depraved, by nature prone to hate their God and neighbor …yes … but being justified by the righteousness of Christ … they are good, they are without iniquity, they are justified, they are righteous.

    The Lord changes not and because of that , we the elect … sons of Jacob do not perish.

  127. Hugh McCann Says:

    P1 Only God is good
    P2 Some people are good
    P3 No one does good, not even one.

    Obviously not at the same time and in the same relationship.

    One needs to read Scripture with the Spirit’s understanding in order to rightly divide same. Thankfully, we have the mind of Christ and are not in darkness as others.

  128. Hugh McCann Says:

    Steve asked Derek:

    Or do you think that God’s purpose in revelation was to make Himself appear to be something he was not? Is it your position that God is disingenuous?

    He is inscrutable to many: 1 Cor.1:19ff ~ For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” … Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 1 Cor.1:25 ~ For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    1 Cor.2:8f ~ Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

  129. Hugh McCann Says:

    In case you haven’t seen, Sean’s article is posted at the Trinity Review: http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=278

    With footnotes and everything!

    Well, not everything – it’s sadly without the nifty Van Til circles & Janus Clark photo. 😦

  130. Hugh McCann Says:

    Derek,

    If you have searched for Gordon Clark on my site, you have seen my cards!

    Uh, yes sir.

    I hope you can appreciate my sense of humor.

    Little. They’re too like the tired & crabby caricature folks have of Clarkians. Where are your fair & balanced Van Tilian funny papers?


  131. P1 Only God is good
    P2 Some people are good

    Either these props are contradictory and the Bible doesn’t teach both, or one or more of the terms is equivocal (“good” or “is/are” ). As Ray says, some people are good by imputation whereas God is good intrinsically (the “is/are” equivocation). That certainly can fit the texts regarding Joseph and Barnabas, especially Joseph where it says, “a good and righteous man.” The other possibility is that the word “good” as applied to Joseph and Barnabas means “morally honorable” whereas as applied to God means “perfectly pure and right.”

  132. THEOparadox Says:

    LawyerTheologian, Steve, Ray and Hugh:

    You each bring up some good points. Unfortunately, I am preparing to take my family on a camping trip and won’t immediately be able to interact with the many interesting points you have made.

    For now, I’ll quickly answer a few of Steve’s questions.

    Steve said: “I hope you are not suggesting that God provided Scripture for the purpose of communicating His truth to someone other than humans.”

    No, that’s not a thought that has ever entered my mind. It does get one thinking . . . but probably not in the right direction.

    Steve: “I think the idea that he provided us with Scripture in order to communicate His ideas to Himself is preposterous.”

    I am inclined to agree! Sounds too much like Process Theology.

    Steve: This being the case, kindly show me how to arrive at the doctrine of the Trinity using only what is expressly set down without applying any human reasoning to the Scriptures.

    What a GREAT SUGGESTION. The Trinity is the perfect doctrine for demonstrating what I am getting at. We have these clear Biblical propositions:

    P1 There is one God
    P2 The Father is God
    P3 The Son is God
    P4 The Spirit is God
    P5 The Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons

    That’s Biblical Trinitarianism in 5 easy propositions, right? However, 2, 3, and 4 together appear to contradict with 1. The apparent contradiction is only exacerbated by 5, which serves to prevent modalism as a potential explanation. 1 prevents tri-theism. 2-5 alone would lead to tri-theism, while 1-4 alone would lead to modalism. But all 5 are clear Biblical propositions (each demonstrable from multiple passages). And it’s a beautiful doctrine that comes directly from Scripture.

    The beauty of the Trinity doctrine is that it is the result of taking the Biblical propositions at face value, and refusing to alter them to remove any apparent contradiction they create. The doctrine of the Trinity does not have to be explained to be accepted. Rather, theologians throughout the centuries have found it to be one of the most difficult of all doctrines to try to explain using logic. Various theologians have logically explained it various ways. Yet even the inimitable Jonathan Edwards, after writing his own excellent explanation of the Trinity, said this:

    “But I don’t pretend fully to explain how these things are and I am sensible a hundred other objections may be made and puzzling doubts and questions raised that I can’t solve. I am far from pretending to explaining the Trinity so as to render it no longer a mystery. I think it to be the highest and deepest of all divine mysteries still, notwithstanding anything that I have said or conceived about it. I don’t intend to explain the Trinity. But Scripture with reason may lead to say something further of it than has been wont to be said, tho there are still left many things pertaining to it incomprehensible.”

    His sober recognition of the limits of reason is a wonderful example to us. He’s not saying Scripture isn’t perspicuous. He’s not saying it’s illogical. He’s not saying it’s contradictory. He is only saying human ability to reason to correct conclusions – to see things as God sees them – is limited. Unfortunately, he and Gordon Clark and CVT weren’t able to have a discussion or debate about this. I guess it’s left up to us. 🙂

    And I think Edwards would have run circles around them both, though all three were clearly geniuses in their own way!

    Ray, your resolution of the goodness question is very similar to what I arrived at. And Hugh, you have hit the nail on the head regarding apparently contradictory propositions being true in different senses.

    There’s much more to discuss, but this will have to be my last comment until next week. I hope to pick it up again then if time permits.

    Thanks all for a stimulating discussion!

  133. THEOparadox Says:

    [okay, one more quick comment]

    Hugh,

    I have grown to understand some of the reasons my Clarkian friends sometimes get worked up about certain topics. There’s a lot of history, a lot of disagreement, a lot of misunderstanding, etc. between Clarkians and Van Tillians.

    For the record, I’m not Clarkian or Van Tillian, but probably somewhere in between and leaning a little more toward Van Til. But I have definitely become a better thinker through interaction with Clarkians. You included, my brother.


  134. We have these clear Biblical propositions:

    P1 There is one God
    P2 The Father is God
    P3 The Son is God
    P4 The Spirit is God
    P5 The Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons

    Not quite so clear. The Bible doesn’t teach P2-P4 in the sense of “is’ meaning “equals.” That is, God is not identified as Father, Son or Spirit (which would amount to a modalism, or simply different terms identifying the one God), but as Father, Son and (Holy) Spirit. Thus the apparent contradiction disappears. Note also that this doesn’t contradict P1 since one God does not imply one person (as Van Til erroneously thought).

    Theo: “He is only saying human ability to reason to correct conclusions – to see things as God sees them – is limited.”

    That would seem to say what Van Til said, that how we view a statement differs from how God views the same statement, that God applies a super or supra logic to a statement that we cannot, and thus He arrives at conclusions (inferences) that we are not able to arrive at. This is utter nonsense and destructive to Christianity. Logic is logic. It is how God thinks and we in thinking His thoughts after him. We may apply logic incorrectly or fail to apply it, but there is no super or supra logic that God has that we do not have.


  135. Hugh McCann said:

    “Little. They’re too like the tired & crabby caricature folks have of Clarkians. Where are your fair & balanced Van Tilian funny papers?”

    That cracked me up BIG TIME.

    Then, a bit later, I see THEOParadox write:

    “For the record, I’m not Clarkian or Van Tillian, but probably somewhere in between and leaning a little more toward Van Til. But I have definitely become a better thinker through interaction with Clarkians. You included, my brother.”

    ROFLOL – If you are somewhere in between Gordon H Clark and Cornelius VanTil, then, I’m afraid, as the old adage says, you are either between a rock and a hard place, or between the devil and the deep blue sea.

    Why would the good witness and testimony of an acknowledged brother not allow you to take a far closer look at Clark’s logic, more than VanTil’s paradoxes – umm, especially seeing as they are all irreconcilable, to boot?

    “Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?” – (Job 15:2)

    and

    “Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” – (Job 21:14)

    To Hugh McCann:

    It is seldom that I come onto a Gerety blog where you are commenting, that I don’t have a good chortle. What is it the Bible says,,,,”A merry heart doeth good like a medicine….

    My love to you in Christ.

  136. Steve M Says:

    THEOparadox

    None of the propostions you list as P1-P5 are explicitly set down in Scripture. They are either restatements of what you believe to be the meaning of a particular or several Scripture passages or they are conclusions you have drawn by applying logic Scripture passages. Give me a passage that explicitly states that the Holy Spirit is a person. Give me a passage that explicitly states that The Son is God. Remember to refrain from the use of logic.

  137. Steve M Says:

    For the record, I’m neither a Clear or Fuzzy thinker, but probably somewhere in between and leaning a little more toward Fuzziness. But I have definitely become a better thinker through interaction with Clear thinkers. Thank you whoever you are. I am not quite sure.

  138. Steve M Says:

    Hugh, I think the passages you quoted above regarding my questions to Derek make a point my (rhetorical) question misses. God’s purpose in revelation differs between the elect and the non-elect. Good point.

    In neither purpose is God disingenuous and both serve to exhibit His glory.

  139. Denson Dube Says:

    Theoparadox,
    If truth is only God’s mind, His thinking, God surely understands himself(comprehensibility of God to Himself) and is never puzzled about His own thoughts(not paradoxical in His mind). Paradox, like, the so-called ‘incomprehensibility’ of God are men centered views of God and His Word(speculative man centered theology). Shouldn’t what we believe be what God thinks and says about Himself and not what we think/speculate about Him?
    Further, God is certainly not infinite to Himself, since that would make Him ignorant of a lot about Himself.

  140. Hugh McCann Says:

    Hey, DD, per

    Paradox, like, the so-called ‘incomprehensibility’ of God are men centered views of God and His Word(speculative man centered theology).

    How about “impenetrability”? In a universe with agreed-upon terms, I agree with you. But the theological/ paradoxical world can define at will and by whim:

    ‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.

    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

    ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

    ‘Would you tell me please,’ said Alice, ‘what that means?’

    ‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

    ‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

    ‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’

    ‘Oh!’ said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

  141. THEOparadox Says:

    Steve said: “If we as humans use logic to reach conclusions that are valid implications of the clear propositions of Scripture, it will of necessity be human logic. According to your statement this is elevating our reasoning to the level of biblical proposition.”

    I have only said we should trust our reasoning less than Scripture when we are trying to explain cases of apparent contradiction (at the level of language) in a set of clear Biblical propositions. Of course we will use logic to discern what those clear propositions are. It would be more than absurd to say otherwise. Even then, however, we must be guided by the Holy Spirit in order to correctly identify the propositions. But there is a huge difference between merely identifying propositions and explaining their relationship to one another.

    Steve said: “This would, of course, be a very arrogant thing to do. It would be much more humble to simply limit our knowledge to what is expressly set down and admit that we should not go beyond that for fear of elevating human reasoning to a point that it should not hold.”

    It is not fear, but wisdom, which leads one to refrain from elevating the authority of his own reasoning to that of God’s unique Word, in matters where God has not spoken or where He has not exhaustively revealed the interrelations of propositions. Calvin repeatedly warned against speculating into the unrevealed, which perhaps ought to be the 6th point of Calvinism (or maybe the first!).

    Steve: “Really the arrogance of believing “the whole counsel of God” was to be obtained not just by reading what was expressly sent down, but also by deducing the implications of what was expressly set down is quite appalling. They probably did not realize that they were elevating human reasoning to such an unwarranted level.”

    It seems you have misread the Creed, the Bible, and me on this point.

    Steve: “Don’t you think it is possible that claiming to know when and when not to apply logic to the exegesis of Scripture is a bit arrogant?”

    No, I think it was humility that led Paul to advise the Corinthians “not to go beyond what is written.” And in the humility God provides by His grace, I reaffirm that instruction. Again, however, I’m not talking about abandoning logic as the engine of hermeneutics.

    Steve: “Doesn’t it seem obvious that if God provided Scripture as a means of communicating his truth to humans, that he would have foreseen that it was human logic that would be applied to it?”

    Certainly, but this does not mean God has told us every detail of everything he knows, or even given us the tools and faculties to reach it. What if one of the things He communicates is the inadequacy of human reasoning and the need for believers to trust His revelation more than their own thoughts? Did Job ever “figure out” why he suffered? Or did he trust God in spite of not knowing, and thus glorify Him more? I recall God asking a lot of questions Job couldn’t answer, and never explaining the answers to them. Was God being unclear? No, He was clearly revealing the fact that no man can “reason” authoritatively into the unrevealed. God seems to agree with my basic point, wouldn’t you say? So now you know where I got it from.

    Steve: “Or do you think that God’s purpose in revelation was to make Himself appear to be something he was not.”

    No, He presents Himself as transcendently wise and understanding, incomprehensible, and far above our puny intellects. And that is exactly what He is. It is perfectly consistent with His character and nature and all that He has revealed of Himself.

    Steve: “None of the propostions you list as P1-P5 are explicitly set down in Scripture. They are either restatements of what you believe to be the meaning of a particular or several Scripture passages or they are conclusions you have drawn by applying logic Scripture passages.”

    I’m not sure why you are discouraging the use of logic as a hermeneutical tool. I have said logic is lower than Scripture, but I have not proposed we abandon logic. Logic must always guide hermeneutics.

    Steve: “Give me a passage that explicitly states that the Holy Spirit is a person.”

    Romans 8:16 is the classic passage for this. Reference any Reformed systematic theology text for further discussion of this clear Biblical proposition.

    Steve: “Give me a passage that explicitly states that The Son is God.”

    Colossians 2:8-9 would be a good starting place. Any Reformed systematic theology will provide several passages proving the deity of Christ.

    Steve: “Remember to refrain from the use of logic.”

    You apparently misunderstand my stance. I have affirmed that what is explicitly set down in Scripture – and what can be deduced directly from it (by “good and necessary consequence”) – is authoritatively true (i.e., it is the Word of God in propositional form). The very act of reading requires the use of reason and logic by the reader (thus our Lord advised: “Let the reader understand”). I do not disparage this primary use of logic in any way since it is clear that we depend on it for even the simplest understanding of language. However, when the interrelations between the directly deduced propositions are not given in Scripture, and we reason beyond Scripture and its direct deductions (speculating into matters unrevealed in an effort to understand the interrelations), we should trust our reasoning and our apparently logical conclusions less than we trust Scripture itself and the propositions directly deduced from it. We should consider our speculations as possibly true, but not as ***authoritatively*** true. In other words, there is a big difference between using logic to discern the basic propositions of Scripture (i.e. to receive revelation) and using it to explain what God has not explained (i.e. to expand revelation). The Reformers called this “Sola Scriptura.”

    Steve: “For the record, I’m neither a Clear or Fuzzy thinker, but probably somewhere in between and leaning a little more toward Fuzziness. But I have definitely become a better thinker through interaction with Clear thinkers. Thank you whoever you are. I am not quite sure.”

    Very funny. See Proverbs 3:7, 12:15, 26:12. You believe you are a Clear thinker, yet you don’t think Scripture perspicuously teaches the deity of Christ? The major heretics in the history of our faith used logic relentlessly, believed reason was on their side, and thought they had a very Clear reading of Scripture.

  142. THEOparadox Says:

    LawTheo said: “Not quite so clear. The Bible doesn’t teach P2-P4 in the sense of “is’ meaning “equals.” That is, God is not identified as Father, Son or Spirit (which would amount to a modalism, or simply different terms identifying the one God), but as Father, Son and (Holy) Spirit. Thus the apparent contradiction disappears. Note also that this doesn’t contradict P1 since one God does not imply one person (as Van Til erroneously thought).”

    If each “person” of the Trinity is a distinct entity, and each is full deity, but there is only one God, there is no way to escape the fact that Trinitarian language is inherently paradoxical. One must diminish the distinctions (=modalism) or the full deity of each “person” (which you seem to be leaning toward) or the divine unity (=polytheism) in order to reconcile the statements. I side with Jonathan Edwards’ view that the Trinity the most mysterious of all doctrines.

    LawTheo: “That would seem to say what Van Til said, that how we view a statement differs from how God views the same statement, that God applies a super or supra logic to a statement that we cannot, and thus He arrives at conclusions (inferences) that we are not able to arrive at. This is utter nonsense and destructive to Christianity.”

    How is Christianity destroyed by saying God has more logical tools in His toolbox than we do? Is He not greater than we are in every conceivable way? Or is he greater in every way except His ability to reason?

    LawTheo: “Logic is logic. It is how God thinks and we in thinking His thoughts after him. We may apply logic incorrectly or fail to apply it, but there is no super or supra logic that God has that we do not have.”

    I’d like to know where Scripture teaches that God has no logical tools beyond those He has shared with us. There is ample reason in Scripture to affirm the opposite. For example, He said His thoughts and ways are high above ours, as much as the heavens are above the earth. It’s a vast universe out there in the “heavens” . . . and we only see as much of it as He wants us to see. An astronaut who has gone out into space still can’t say he comprehends the universe because he’s only tasted a little tiny bit of it. He’s been ***to*** it, but he hasn’t been ***through*** it. Similarly, we can KNOW God’s thoughts truly, but we can’t know them exhaustively or comprehensively.

  143. THEOparadox Says:

    Denson said: “If truth is only God’s mind, His thinking, God surely understands himself (comprehensibility of God to Himself) and is never puzzled about His own thoughts(not paradoxical in His mind).”

    Agreed. It would be absurd (and probably blasphemous) to say otherwise. But you are speaking of paradox as something irreconcilable, whereas I have defined paradox as existing in language only. My primary assertion is that God alone has the authority to explain the paradoxical language He uses. We can try, but no reconciliation we create can be taken as equivalent to God’s explanation. Similar or analogical, perhaps, but not exhaustively equivalent to His knowledge.

    Denson: “Paradox, like, the so-called ‘incomprehensibility’ of God are men centered views of God and His Word (speculative man centered theology).”

    This is just an assertion, where is the argument? If it’s true, we should remove the following from the Bible: Ps 131:1, Ps 145:3, Isa 40:28, Rom 11:33-36, Eph 3:8 because those are all man-centered verses. Let’s call the publishers and demand they edit the Bible to our liking.

    Denson: “Shouldn’t what we believe be what God thinks and says about Himself and not what we think/speculate about Him?”

    It sounds like you’re making exactly the same point I am. I maintain Scripture is the highest authority we have, and where Scripture presents but does not exhaustively explain a paradox (which I’ve defined as ***language*** that is valid yet apparently contradictory), we should never elevate our own speculations – no matter how logical they are – to the same level as Scripture.

    I would think all Clarkians would agree on this. There is apparently contradictory ***language*** in Scripture (see examples above). The apparent contradictions can be explained authoritatively to the extent that the Bible explains them (including by direct deductions from Scripture, i.e. good and necessary consequence). Beyond that, we are left with speculation and should not elevate it to the authoritative level of Scripture.

    So we can all admit there are Biblical paradoxes, and even say they can be explained, but at the same time limit our ultimate epistemological authority to Scripture alone.

    Thus Scripture is our only authority, we don’t embrace contradiction, we do embrace paradoxical language when it is grounded in Scripture, we do try to explain it when it occurs, we don’t get too ruffled if we can’t explain it (yet), we remain open to the possibility of a better (i.e. more logical and more Biblical) explanation, we uphold the sufficiency and perspicuity of Scripture, and we refrain from exalting ourselves in the process. Seems like a win/win to me.

  144. lawyertheologian Says:

    Theo: “If each “person” of the Trinity is a distinct entity, and each is full deity, but there is only one God, there is no way to escape the fact that Trinitarian language is inherently paradoxical. One must diminish the distinctions (=modalism) or the full deity of each “person” (which you seem to be leaning toward) or the divine unity (=polytheism) in order to reconcile the statements. I side with Jonathan Edwards’ view that the Trinity the most mysterious of all doctrines.”

    You are misunderstanding the Trinity. You assume that God is an entity/person and at the same time He is three entities/persons, as did Van Til. But this is not what the Scriptures indicate. Again, God is three entities/persons, the Father, Son and (Holy) Spirit. Each entity/person HAS/THINKS thoughts of Deitiy. And that is what makes them part of the Godhead/Trinity. But what makes them PERSONS, as with any person, is the unique thoughts each one thinks. If you can’t get this, try reading Clark’s “The Trinity.”

    Theo: “How is Christianity destroyed by saying God has more logical tools in His toolbox than we do? Is He not greater than we are in every conceivable way? Or is he greater in every way except His ability to reason?”

    Christianity is destroyed by thinking that there is more to understanding a statement than what we can logically infer, because then we are not knowing the truth of the statement, we are not actualy/fully knowing what God thinks regarding the proposition.

    Theo: “I’d like to know where Scripture teaches that God has no logical tools beyond those He has shared with us. There is ample reason in Scripture to affirm the opposite. For example, He said His thoughts and ways are high above ours, as much as the heavens are above the earth. It’s a vast universe out there in the “heavens” . . . and we only see as much of it as He wants us to see. An astronaut who has gone out into space still can’t say he comprehends the universe because he’s only tasted a little tiny bit of it. He’s been ***to*** it, but he hasn’t been ***through*** it. Similarly, we can KNOW God’s thoughts truly, but we can’t know them exhaustively or comprehensively.

    This is absurd. You can’t claim that there can be more to logic than what Scripture indicates. As for God’s thoughts being higher than ours, that has to do with content, not with how thinks about His thoughts. Again, we can know eexactly what He thinks if He chooses to reveal it to us. And the Scriptures are just that. Again, your Van Tillian disctinction between knowing God’s thoughts truly verses exhaustively or comprehensively makes no sense.. A thought known is a thought understood. Granted one might not see the inference(s) that can be drawn from the thought, that is, the proposition. But there is absolutlely no basis for thinking that logic is limitless, that is, that logic or ssome use of logic might exist in the mind of God that allows Him to infer what we can’t infer. Logic is logic. It is what makes language possible. It is how all thinking beings think. It is what makes us to be in the image of God.

  145. lawyertheologian Says:

    Theo, it might be helpful for you to think of Deity as WHAT God is and the three Persons as WHO God is.

  146. THEOparadox Says:

    Steve said: “Don’t you think it is possible that claiming to know when and when not to apply logic to the exegesis of Scripture is a bit arrogant?”

    In my earlier response to Steve, I forgot to mention that I have never said we should not apply logic in the process of exegesis. Illogical exegesis is no exegesis at all, so the only possible way to do exegesis is logically. What I have said is that we should trust our explanations of the unrevealed interrelations between apparently contradictory propositions less than the clear propositions of Scripture themselves and deductions derived directly from those propositions.

    I agree with Steve’s contention that anyone claiming to know when and when not to apply logic to the exegesis of Scripture is exercising a form of arrogance.

  147. THEOparadox Says:

    Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I do indeed consider Clarkians my brothers (and sisters) in Christ, and take their arguments seriously. My studies have explored both Clark and Van Til, and I see them both as right on some issues, wrong on others. We need to move beyond the polarization of the Clark/Van Til controversy and look at the real Biblical issues from a Biblical perspective that is not colored by bad history. You are right – Hugh has a great sense of humor.


  148. Hallo THEOParadox,

    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I never miss a post written by Hugh McCann.

    Cornelius van Till said: “We embrace with passion, the apparently contradictory.” (Common Grace and the Gospel – page 9)

    Van Til is well known for his scribblings on irreconcilable paradox.. To paraphrase the man, he said that there are teachings in the Bible that are so contradictory that they cannot be reconciled.

    If this is so, then what kind of God are we worshipping? Is He an evil, capricious monster that does what he wills, willy nilly, without a thought for His creation?

    How do we reconcile THIS God, for instance: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

    …with THIS God: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

    Then along came Jesus Christ, who said: “Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.” (Luke 18:19)

    What do you think Cornelius van Til would have had to say about all of that that? The man was, what I call, an eeny, meeny, miney, moe theologian. Let’s just take this god as he comes and hopefully he will smile on us all. We can’t understand him.

    Yet, Scripture says: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16)

    The Bible sets forth a very definite picture of God. He is to be feared, yet for we who have the mind of Christ, that fear turns to awe. It is a holy awe that encapsulates the proper fear of God. Isaiah saw God and said:

    “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

    This IS the God of the Bible. Scripture teaches that God is one being, three persons, equal in power and glory.

    Van Til teaches that God is one person = three persons, saying that the persons of the Godhead are mutually exhaustive of one another. This is Van Til’s modalism that was condemned by the Augsburg confession, Article 10

    If we can’t get the Doctrines of God right, what hope do we have of getting the rest of it right? The Bible is not a book of confusion. It is the mind of God perfectly revealed to we who are blessed by the Father with the mind of Christ.

    THEOparadox, I would exhort you to take your leanings off the works of Cornelius Van Til. He said: “ALL teaching of Scripture is apparently contradictory.” (Common Grace and Witness Bearing, page 22)

    The Lord God of the Scriptures, through Paul the Apostle, wrote:

    “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:32-33)

    Take care.
    My love to you in Christ.

  149. Sean Gerety Says:

    Elizabeth, excellent post. Well done. 🙂

  150. Steve M Says:

    Sean, I agree: Well done Elizabeth.

  151. Denson Dube Says:

    Theoparadox,
    “It would be absurd (and probably blasphemous) to say otherwise.”
    I wish you had stopped right here!
    Theoparardox: “But you are speaking of paradox as something irreconcilable, whereas I have defined paradox as existing in language only.”
    But, does this not ignore the good use van Til, Karl Barth, James Anderson and others have put paradox to, who all unabashadly espouse ‘logical paradox’, precisely what you call ‘something irreconcilable’? What they mean by paradox is not a linguistic device to keep us from dosing off to sleep! In any case, the often quoted cases as reasons for belief in the myth of paradox are difficult concepts, or difficult passages in scripture. But one can only jump into the logical paradox bandwagon at the mere appearance of difficulty by reason of either shear arrogance(What I do not understand cannot be understood.) or sinful intellectual indolence, masquerading as humility.

    Denson: “Paradox, like, the so-called ‘incomprehensibility’ of God are men centered views of God and His Word (speculative man centered theology).”

    Theoparadox: “This is just an assertion, where is the argument? If it’s true, we should remove the following from the Bible: Ps 131:1, Ps 145:3, Isa 40:28, Rom 11:33-36, Eph 3:8 because those are all man-centered verses. Let’s call the publishers and demand they edit the Bible to our liking.”

    The Bible is the inspired word of God. I Timothy 3:16-17 ” 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, throughly furnished unto all good works” This includes the passages you refer to above. There is a difference between God inspiring man to say something about man and man saying something about God without scriptural warrant.

    Denson: “Shouldn’t what we believe be what God thinks and says about Himself and not what we think/speculate about Him?”

    Theoparadox: “It sounds like you’re making exactly the same point I am. I maintain Scripture is the highest authority we have, and where Scripture presents but does not exhaustively explain a paradox (which I’ve defined as ***language*** that is valid yet apparently contradictory), we should never elevate our own speculations – no matter how logical they are – to the same level as Scripture.”
    No we are not. Your “paradox” is unscriptural. It is the inventions of your own sinful mind. As sinners, we are stupid enough as it is. Difficulties abound in other subjects too … dark matter, dark energy, particle-wave duality, the origin of oil etc etc. But these are not logical paradoxes, just difficult things for us to understand.

  152. Hugh McCann Says:

    Elizabeth Ann,

    I’m in with Sean & Steve: Not only wonderful insights, but incredible discernment and taste, too. Particularly in your second sentence!

    Seriously, thanks for the encouragement and your charitable clarity in replying to our dear Derek!

    Hugh


  153. Dear Sean, Steve and Hugh,

    Thank you very much for your words. 🙂

    The Lord God certainly did put much stock – if you will – in HIS words “…thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (138:2)

    From what I have been taught, and have read regarding Van Til and those who insist on following his writings, is echoed in Scripture, which says: “They encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them?”(Psalm 64:5)

    Hugh, regarding the incredible discernment and taste – you may thank my Mom for that. She really did say the darndest things.

    May God bless you all to the fullest measure of his grace, as is befitting those who love God, who are loved of Him and are called according to HIS purpose.

    My love to you in Christ.


  154. Correction:

    “The Lord God certainly did put much stock – if you will – in HIS words: “…thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (Psalm 138:2)

  155. Steve M Says:

    THEOparadox: “You apparently misunderstand my stance. I have affirmed that what is explicitly set down in Scripture – and what can be deduced directly from it (by “good and necessary consequence”) – is authoritatively true (i.e., it is the Word of God in propositional form). The very act of reading requires the use of reason and logic by the reader (thus our Lord advised: “Let the reader understand”). I do not disparage this primary use of logic in any way since it is clear that we depend on it for even the simplest understanding of language.
    However, when the interrelations between the directly deduced propositions are not given in Scripture, and we reason beyond Scripture and its direct deductions (speculating into matters unrevealed in an effort to understand the interrelations), we should trust our reasoning and our apparently logical conclusions less than we trust Scripture itself and the propositions directly deduced from it.
    We should consider our speculations as possibly true, but not as ***authoritatively*** true. In other words, there is a big difference between using logic to discern the basic propositions of Scripture (i.e. to receive revelation) and using it to explain what God has not explained (i.e. to expand revelation). The Reformers called this “Sola Scriptura.”

    Me: You are correct that I don’t understand your position, but it is because it appears unintelligible. Please explain what you mean by “directly deduced” and “primary use of logic”. Are you contending that we should make no deductions that extend beyond one step? The apostle Paul certainly made arguments (i.e. logical deductions) that were quite extended having many steps. Are you suggesting that we should not follow his example?

    Please give me an example of an interrelation between two propositions directly deduced from Scripture from which we should refrain making other deductions. If these “direct” deductions are authoritatively true (as you so state), why is it that they cannot form the basis of further deductions provided our logic is valid (i.e. deduced by good and necessary consequence)?

    You said: “we should trust our reasoning and our apparently logical conclusions less than we trust Scripture itself and the propositions directly deduced from it.” Before this you said “ The very act of reading requires the use of reason and logic by the reader” Don’t we have to read Scripture in order to trust it? And we must use logic in order to read it? Now you mention “apparently logical conclusions”. But if we have apparent contradictions that we can’t distinguish from real contradictions and apparent logic that we can’t distinguish from valid logic, how can we read Scripture at all? I mean how can we trust the logic we are using to read it?

    Your position is very confused. I believe that you and other Van Tilians or semi-Van Tilians (as you claim to be) resist applying logic to the Scriptures only when the conclusions you would draw are not to your liking. This is not at all what the Reformers called Sola Scriptura.

  156. Hugh McCann Says:

    Touche, Steve.

    As always, your posts are edifying, concise, and clarifying.

  157. THEOparadox Says:

    Steve said: “I believe that you and other Van Tilians or semi-Van Tilians (as you claim to be) resist applying logic to the Scriptures only when the conclusions you would draw are not to your liking.”

    I have never claimed to be a “semi-Vantillian” (any more than I would call myself a “semi-Clarkian”).

    You continue to mischaracterize my position as somehow “resisting” the application of logic. What I have actually said is that we can, should and must use logic – but without placing undue trust in the way we have applied it using our fallible human minds.

    To make this very, very clear and in summary: my position boils down to embracing the following hierarchy of epistemological authority:

    1. Explicit propositions of Scripture (trust these completely and objectively)
    2. Implicit propositions reasonably deduced from Scripture (trust these strongly, but be willing to re-examine the exegesis and adapt propositions if necessary)
    3. Logical theories concerning matters not revealed propositionally in Scripture (trust the propositions themselves more than the theories that attempt to harmonize them)

    The details of my position is set forth extensively and clearly in the posts above, with examples and reasoning provided. I have proven (and you have agreed) that there is paradoxical language in Scripture. I commend you on this admission. Then I proposed a way to handle it, and it is a way that takes Clarkian thought into account. If you read with an open mind and are willing to examine your presuppositions, you may find my proposal to be useful.

    If not, well, keep on quoting Clarkian mantras and exalting the power of logic. But please, by all means, remain open to the fact that there may be more to the Free Offer of he Gospel and God’s love for the reprobate than your mind has currently been able to deduce. It would be a pity to be wrong about these things and at the same time be unwilling to consider any alternatives.

    One reason I like to read Sean’s blog is to try to identify any holes in my reasoning. Up to this point, our discussion has not revealed any. But I do thank you for interacting and to some degree not reinforcing the “tired & crabby caricature folks have of Clarkians.”

  158. Hugh McCann Says:

    Derek,

    Are you open to the possibility that there may be considerably less to the Free Offer of the Gospel than you’ve been taught, and much more to God’s eternal, unchanging hatred for the reprobate than your mind has currently been able to deduce? It would be a pity to be wrong about these things and at the same time be unwilling to consider any alternatives.

  159. THEOparadox Says:

    Hugh,

    One reason I like to read Sean’s blog is to try to identify any holes in my reasoning.

    My view of the Free Offer is derived first from Scripture. Then, it is reinforced by some of the greatest Reformed thinkers in history (Calvin and Edwards being primary). I am open to exegetical and philosphical rebuttals, but I have never found one that is convincing.

    Derek

  160. Hugh McCann Says:

    Derek,

    If Calvin and Edwards wrote that God decreed reprobation while desiring the salvation of those same reprobate, please produce their quotes.

    Taking Ezekiel 18 & 33, or 2 Peter 3:9 to mean that God does not want the reprobate to go to eternal conscious punishment is to suffer confusion.

    There are some within OT & NT covenant communities whom God has desired & decreed to save: his elect. These sinners he does not want destroyed. Of these, he is unwilling that any should perish; he has chosen that all these would come to repentance; these he foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies, glorifies.

    But the reprobate he most definitely does not want to see in heaven. These he laughs at as he sees their day approaching. These he hardens and hates.

  161. Hugh McCann Says:

    Derek,

    Here are a whole slew of Edwards’s quotes on God wanting all men to be saved:
    http://theologicalmeditations.blogspot.com/search/label/Jonathan%20Edwards
    This site is a treasure trove of Free Offer stuff!

    A sad example: The holiness and happiness of the creature, absolutely considered, are things that he loves. These things are infinitely more agreeable to his nature than to ours. There is all in God that belongs to our desire of the holiness and happiness of unconverted men and reprobates, excepting what implies imperfection…

    And there is nothing wanting in God, in order to his having such desires and such lamentings, but imperfection; and nothing is in the way of his having them, but infinite perfection; and therefore it properly, naturally, and necessarily came to pass, that when God, in the manner of existence, came down from his infinite perfection, and accommodated himself to our nature and manner, by being made man, as he was, in the person of Jesus Christ, he really desired the conversion and salvation of reprobates, and lamented their obstinacy and misery; as when he beheld the city Jerusalem, and wept over it, saying, “O Jerusalem,” &c. In the like manner, when he comes down from his infinite perfection, though not in the manner of being, but in the manner of manifestation, and accommodates himself to our nature and manner, in the manner of expression, it is equally natural and proper that he should express himself as though he desired the conversion and salvation of reprobates, and lamented their obstinacy and misery.

  162. Steve M Says:

    Me: “For the record, I’m neither a Clear or Fuzzy thinker, but probably somewhere in between and leaning a little more toward Fuzziness. But I have definitely become a better thinker through interaction with Clear thinkers. Thank you whoever you are. I am not quite sure.”

    THEOparadox: Very funny. See Proverbs 3:7, 12:15, 26:12. You believe you are a Clear thinker, yet you don’t think Scripture perspicuously teaches the deity of Christ? The major heretics in the history of our faith used logic relentlessly, believed reason was on their side, and thought they had a very Clear reading of Scripture.

    Me:
    THEO, I am glad you appreciate my sense of humor, but I don’t know that I am such a clear thinker. I do, however, believe in trying to be one. I believe that Gordon Clark and John Robbins were exceptionally clear thinkers and that it is possible to distinguish between clear thinkers like these two and fuzzy thinkers like Van Til and his followers. It is my opinion that Van Til advocates fuzzy thinking.
    The three Proverbs you present seem to imply that you think relying upon certain rules of logic to ascertain the meaning of Scripture is to be wise in ones own eyes. I have interacted with Jehovah’s Witnesses that take the same position. I have corresponded with the Watchtower Society regarding their view of logic. It bears a certain similarity to Van Til’s. Both, in my opinion, proffer the existence of two separate truths (God’s truth and Man’s truth) and two separate logics (God’s logic and Man’s logic) and never the twain shall meet.
    The problem with the “major heretics in the history of our faith” was not that they “used logic relentlessly”, but rather that they used it fallaciously. It is valid logic applied to the Word of God that exposes heresy for what it is.
    On the one hand you say, “The very act of reading requires the use of reason and logic by the reader”. Now you say that the problem with these heretics was that they “believed reason was on their side, and thought they had a very Clear reading of Scripture.” I think it is scriptural to attribute heretical beliefs to a hatred for the truth. You seem to attribute them to being too logical. Again I think you are confused.

  163. Hugh McCann Says:

    Derek et.al.,

    THE Calvin quote blog, apparently:

    http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?p=230

  164. Hugh McCann Says:

    In my post of June 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm, I should have included 1 Timothy 2:4 and 1 John 2:2.

    The former speaks of God’s redeeming all kinds of folks, the second (like Acts 4:12), of Christ being the only propitiator, the only way, a la John 14:6.

  165. Steve M Says:

    I am now thoroughly convinced that Calvin was not a Calvinist.


  166. Steve M: You mean /hyper/ Calvinist 😉

  167. Steve M Says:

    Chris, thanks, I didn’t know I meant that.

  168. Hugh McCann Says:

    Steve (& whomever else),

    A nice little booklet replying to Iain Murray is “Calvin vs. Hyper-Spurgeonism,” free online at http://www.pristinegrace.org/media.php?id=312 (oops, nasty hyper-Calvinists!).

    There, on 1 Tim. 2:3f, Calvin saith, …we must mark that Saint Paul speaks not here of every particular man, but of all sorts, and of all people… Therefore Saint Paul’s meaning is not that God will save every particular man, but he says that the promises which were given to one only people, are now stretched out through all the world.

    Calvin cranked out a great deal of material and hadn’t the time to think through all the ramifications & implications as later saints can.

    He can be quoted favorably and enlisted in their causes by “hypers,” “hupos,” “infras,” “supras,” and others.

    Maybe he’s just all things to all men? 😉

  169. Hugh McCann Says:

    Chris & Steve,

    It appears the great French Reformer was not a Calvinist, much less a hyper-Calvinist!

  170. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh: “Calvin cranked out a great deal of material and hadn’t the time to think through all the ramifications & implications as later saints can.

    He can be quoted favorably and enlisted in their causes by “hypers,” “hupos,” “infras,” “supras,” and others.”

    Sure, if you merely take a cursory look at what he wrote. Calvin clearly espoused double predestination (predestination of the elect and non elect–reprobation). Commenting on Romans 9:11 he says, “It is indeed true, that the proximate cause of reprobation is the curse we all inherit from Adam; yet, that we may learn to acquiesce in the bare and simple good pleasure of God, Paul withdraws us from this view, until he has established this doctrine, – That God has a sufficient just reason for electing and for reprobating, in his own will.” Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol.XIX, p.350. This is a far cry from Spurgeon’s hypo Calvinistic statements: “If he be lost, damnation is all of man; but, if he be saved, still salvation is all of God.” Damnation is the result of justice, not of arbitrary predestination.”

  171. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, Pat.

    In the interest of thoroughness:

    http://calvinandcalvinism.com

  172. lawyertheologian Says:

    BTW Sean, thanks to you and the Trinity Foundation for exposing R. Scott Clarks archetypal/ectypal distinction as Van Tilian.

  173. lawyertheologian Says:

    Both he and Van Til claimed their understanding of that distinction is the long standing Reformed view, which, similar to Van Til’s take on God’s incomprehensibility is simply not true.

  174. lawyertheologian Says:

    Hugh, how is linking to a blog on Calvin a matter of being thorough? I would think that linking to Calvin’s actual writings would be thorough.

  175. Hugh McCann Says:

    Because the guy appears to have culled most if not all of Calvin {& others} on the hot-button topics:
    See under
    “Categories”
    1 John 2:2
    1 Timothy 2:4-6…
    2 Peter 3:9
    Calvin and 1 John 2:2
    Conditional Decree/Conditional Will
    Diversity at Dort
    Divine Hatred
    Divine Permission of Sin
    Divine Providence…
    For Whom did Christ Die?
    God is Good God is Gracious: Common and Special Grace
    God is Longsuffering
    God is Love: Electing and Non-Electing Love
    God is Merciful
    God who Covenants
    God who Ordains
    God’s Will for the Salvation of All Men…
    Pre-20th Century Historiography on Calvin on the Extent of the Atonement
    Reformed Confessions and the Extent of the Atonement…
    Sufficient for All, Efficient for the Elect
    The Death of Christ and the Purchase of Faith
    The Well-Meant Offer

  176. Hugh McCann Says:

    http://calvinandcalvinism.com/?page_id=6
    explains the site: “dedicated to sustaining an elenchus [‘refutation of an argument by proving the contrary of its conclusion, esp. syllogistically’] for Classic and Moderate Calvinism.
    “…focused on documenting the original expressions of moderate Reformation soteriology from the 16th century, the 17th century and beyond.”
    ______________
    And if you want Calvin, have we got Calvin:
    http://www.ccel.org/index/author/C


  177. R. S. Clark deleted his blog but it is now back up at Heidelblog.net. I am guessing–just guessing mind you–that he deleted his blog because of a controversy over disparaging comments he made about his denomination on the blog. Don’t you know that dissent is not allowed in Presbyterian denominations, including Dutch Reformed denominations.

  178. Bob S Says:

    No, dissent is allowed. The issue is the manner in which it is manifests itself is the issue.
    He apologized for saying some stuff which he should have brought up to and through the court, if there was a problem. For all anybody knows that might be going on right now.
    Check out GI Williamson’s What I Learned from My Dutch Reformed Brothers. There’s a process for ecclesiastical dissent. Hint. It’s not called the internet.

  179. Hugh McCann Says:

    “What Elements Are Implied in the Idea of an Offer?”
    Herman Hoeksema

    What, if we do not play with words, is the idea of an offer? What are the various elements implied in that term?

    In the first place, there is certainly implied the earnest and sincere desire, on the part of him who offers, to bestow something upon a certain person or persons. If there is an offer of grace on God’s part to all men, then this implies, if it means anything at all, that there is in God the earnest will and desire to bestow grace on all men. If this is not the case, if the defenders of this doctrine deny this, then the offer is simply not sincere and honourable. But the defenders of this theory even emphasize this point when they add that this offer is well-meant.

    In the second place, the concept offer also includes, if it is to mean anything, that he who makes the offer actually possesses that which he offers, that it is available, so that in case the offer is accepted, it can also be granted. Anyone who offers something which he does not possess is branded a dishonourable bluff among men. If therefore the general offer of grace and salvation is to mean anything, if one does not play with words when he uses that term, then there must be grace and salvation for all men.

    In the third place, there is implied in an offer the idea that that which is offered is recommended to another. He who offers manifests his earnest desire that that which is offered shall be accepted; and for that reason he highly commends it. With a view to our subject, this implies that God manifests the earnest desire that all men shall be saved—everyone, head for head and soul for soul. For in the presentation of such a general offer it is precisely emphasized that this well-meant offer exactly does not pertain only to the elect, but to all men who come under the preaching of the Gospel. And not carefully, the doctrine is not that the Gospel must be preached to all men by the preacher, but that God Himself offers His grace to all men and thereby manifests the earnest desire that it shall be accepted by all.

    In the fourth place, the idea of such a general and well-meant offer of grace and salvation implies that the one who offers either makes the offer unconditionally or upon a condition of which he knows that those to whom the offer comes are able to fulfil it. If I set a delicious meal before someone who is bound hand and foot, offer that meal to him and express my earnest desire that he may do justice to that meal, then I mock him. Applied to our subject, the well-meant offer of grace and salvation implies that God knows that all men can accept it. Unless you are playing with words, you shall have to concede this.
    Everyone will have to concede that all these elements are implied in the idea of an offer.

    Do not say now that we again want to comprehend things, that we are putting reason on the foreground. For such bogey-men have no effect on us. We are not engaged in trying to harmonise one thing with another before our rational understanding. We are simply discussing the ordinary meaning of the words which are used by those who speak of a general offer of grace. When we use words, then those words have meaning. We cannot simply inject into them a meaning as it pleases us or as it may best suit us. And without any danger of contradiction we can indeed establish that all that we have written above is indeed included in the notion of an offer.

    None of the four elements mentioned can be eliminated. If you nevertheless exclude one of them, you have no offer left. We say this the more freely because the entire term “well-meant and general offer of grace” never occurs in Holy Scripture. It is a term of human invention. And in the paragraphs above we have done nothing else than to analyze the term in order to understand what we are discussing.

    Now thus understood, the entire notion of a general, well-meant offer of grace militates at every point against the biblical, Reformed conception of God’s grace.

    For as far as the first point is concerned, the Reformed doctrine is not that there is with God the earnest will and desire to bestow grace upon all men; but grace is particular according to God’s decree and intention. God does not will in any single sense of the word that all men, head for head and soul for soul, shall be saved. He wills to bestow grace upon the elect, and upon none other. This is the clear scriptural, Reformed doctrine. And not only has He determined to bestow grace only upon some; He has also determined to bestow no grace on others. There is therefore also a determinate will in God to bestow no grace upon some men. And with this, the first essential element of a general offer is already ruled out and simply made impossible. You cannot be Reformed and speak of a general offer of grace on God’s part.

    With respect to the second point, namely, that he who makes an offer must possess that which he offers, the Reformed doctrine is that Christ has not made satisfaction for all men, that the satisfaction of Christ is particular, pertains only to the elect, that grace for all men was never merited by Christ, and that therefore it simply does not exist. With this, according to Reformed standards, the second essential element of such a general offer of grace and salvation falls away. Everyone shall have to concede that I cannot offer what I do not possess. Every Reformed person will concede that there is in Christ no grace for all men. And every rational person will also grant that either the Reformed position or that of a general offer of grace and salvation must fall.

    As far as the third point is concerned, namely, that he who offers must clearly manifest that what he offers is sincerely intended for all to whom it is offered, it is the Reformed doctrine that this is precisely not the case. No Reformed preacher may ever say that God has intended grace for everyone. But herewith the third essential element also falls away. God simply does not offer grace to all, i.e., He Himself teaches us most clearly that He wills to bestow grace only on the elect. Also in this respect the one view literally militates against the other.

    Finally, it is the Reformed doctrine, in contrast with the fourth point which we mentioned as an essential element of every offer, that no natural man can accept grace in Christ, that grace is precisely not a matter of offer and acceptance whatsoever, but of the irresistible operation of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, if one presents things as though grace in Christ is an unconditional offer on God’s part to sinful man, then this conflicts with the Reformed position: for there is no man who would by nature be willing to accept God’s grace. And if you propose that salvation in Christ is an earnest offer of grace on condition of faith, then this is equally not in harmony with the Reformed position: for no one is in a position to fulfil that condition.

    In one word, it is Reformed to say that there is no one among men who even possesses in himself the very least of that whereby he would be able to accept an offered salvation. But with this position also the possibility of an offer falls away absolutely. For what sense does it have to speak of an offer of something to men of whom one is certain that they cannot accept that which is offered?

    It is plain, therefore, that at every point the idea of a general, well-meant offer of grace and salvation militates against the Reformed truth. The one is simply a denial of the other.

    The two exclude one another.

    For that reason we said that we consider the idea dangerous.

    It is misleading. Therefore it is even more dangerous that plain and simply Arminianism.

    For they want to holy to the view of a general, well-meant offer of grace, but also be called Reformed.

    And in order to do this they have to accomplish the juggling act of maintaining two mutually exclusive ideas and forcing these upon faith. And if then one points out that this cannot be, that you can never demand this of a reasonable faith, then they tell you that this belongs to the mysteries and that you may not try to penetrate further into this. As if we make ourselves guilty of spiritual intrusion when we ask that they make plain to us how it can be true that God offers something which He does not want to bestow, that He wills that which He does not will (“will” taken here in the same sense both times), that black is white, that yes is no, or, according to the presentation of the “double-track” philosophy of VanBaalen, how can a train run at the same time on two sets of rails in two opposite directions.

    But it finally comes down to this, that men consider Reformed what is purely Remonstrant, and delude the congregation into thinking that they are proclaiming the Reformed truth while they nevertheless do nothing else than proclaim and strongly defend Arminianism.

    (Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation Or Grace Not An Offer,” [RFPA, 1932], pp. 1-3)

    [See http://www.cprf.co.uk/effectualdesireresources.htm for more information.] Thanks to David Hutchings on Facebook, for this!


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