Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Gospel and its proclamation (part 5): Common salvific grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel?

[continued from here, here, here and here]

When one embraces either Amyraldism or neo-Amyraldism, one necessarily embraces a 'two wills of God' theory. God is thus desiring that all Man to be saved. Depending on how one wants to go about describing that particular 'will' of God for all Man to be saved, one could very likely embrace a type of 'common grace' which I would termed 'commn salvific grace' whereby God has a favorable and gracious deposition towards all Man, as opposed to 'common providential grace' or to put it simply, providence, which is how at least some reformed folks think common grace refers to[1]. Such benevolence of God expresses itself in for example sunshine and rain for all Man, regardless of their obedience to Him (Mt. 5:45), and also in things like the restraint of the total depravity of sinner on this earth etc and thus show forth the gracious character of God towards His Creation. However, this is not the idea of 'common grace' which Amyraldians and neo-Amyraldians refer to when speaking of 'common grace'. For such people, common grace actually refers to a favorable and gracious operation of the Holy Spirit which includes a desire for the salvation of all Man, somehow[2], and which sounds exactly like the Arminian 'universal prevenient grace'[3] except that it does not play a part in the Ordo Salutis whereas universal preveient grace does. So far, Pastor John Piper has not taken his neo-Amyraldism to its logical conclusion and embraced the next logical step of common salvific grace, as far as I know, which is good.

The idea of common salvific grace is thus the next logical step in Amyraldism and is a step towards the Arminan position. Next, it then logically follows from this that, if it be true that God sincerely desire the salvation of all Man (in some fashion or another; whether it be through the one-will of God in Arminianism or the two-wills of God in Amyraldianism), then the Gospel is be preached likewise (the so-called 'free offer of the Gospel') . Consequently, if the theory of common salvific grace is proven to be unbiblical, then the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' is also wrong and it would be wrong to tell anyone in a Gospel presentation that God desires their salvation.

So now we have two theories to evaluate: the theory of common salvific grace and the 'Free Offer of the Gospel'. If both of these theories are shown to be unbiblical, which I will prove that they are, then it is wrong that God desires the salvation of all Man, and we should not be telling people that God desires the salvation of all Man or its corollary that God offers salvation to you freely (and it is up to the person to accept or not).

With regards to the theory of Common salvific grace, the prooftexts used to support this theory are mainly the same prooftexts that Arminians use to attempt to prove their doctrine of universal atonement, and thus subject to the same refutation. Texts which speak of God blessing unbelievers (i.e. God placing the Egyptians under Joseph's rule (Gen. 41: 52-57), protecting and blessing Hagar and Ismael (Gen. 21:8-21)), cannot in any way prove this theory, as these blessings DO not speak of any form of salvific grace whatsoever. Therefore, the consistent Amyraldians would slip into a weak form of Arminianism as they resort to the same type of arguments Arminians use and the same prooftexts supposedly referring to 'all man', 'the world' etc being somehow the intent of God's salvific love and grace[4]. In fact, this sort of cryto-Arminianism would in the end ruin those who propose it. For the reason that the proponents are generally bright and logical and would thus bring their position to its logical conclusion, and if not their successors would do so, the Amyraldians and/or cryto-Arminians would soon either throw away their Amyraldian novelties, or slip further into embracing the Arminian heresy, and from there move on towards rank heresy in Semi-Pelagianism.

The related theory of the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' may sound confusing to some. First of all, let it be clear what the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' is NOT. It is NOT the idea that the Gospel is to be preached promisciously to all. It is NOT the idea that God promises that IF anyone repents, they would be saved. It is NOT the idea that we can preach the Gospel in such a way that we implore people to repent of their sins and turn to Christ. All these are NOT what the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' teaches. Granted, the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' does agree with all these, but the key point of the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' is that God favorably desires the salvation of all Man, and the Gospel is to be preached in such a way that the sinner must be told that God wants you to be saved. The first part of the Free Offer of the Gospel, that of Common salvific grace, is erronous, of which we have seen earlier, and the second part must therefore of necessity be wrong also. After all, if it be wrong that God desires the salvation of all Man, then how can we tell others that God desires their salvation, since it would then be a lie if the person is not of the elect?

Just to show that I am not misrepresenting the doctrine, here is the definition of the Free Offer of the Gospel' by the neo-Amryaldian John Murray[5]:

... [the] disposition of lovingkindness on the part of God pointing to the salvation to be gained through compliance with the overtures of gospel grace. In other words, the gospel is not simply an offer or invitation but also implies that God delights that those to whom the offer comes would enjoy what is offered in all its fullness.

In his forward, R. Scott Clark lambasted traditional Calvinists by derogatorily referring to them as 'hyper-Calvinists' and call them rationalists because they (Herman Hoeksema, Gordon Clark, John Gertsner etc.) reject this doctrine he embraces as they have found it wanting both scripturally and logically. Notwithstanding this, the truth is that this doctrine is based on a flawed, abberational doctrine (common salvific grace) which is a step toward Arminianism and Pelagianism and therefore also abberational.

To round off the refutation of Common salvific grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel, let us look at a quote from the Prince of Puritans, Rev. Dr. John Owen, which was used against the ideas of Amyrald and could be applied equally to these ideas[6]:

First, God doth not proffer life to all upon the condition of faith, passsing by a great part of manking without any such proffer made to them at all.

Secondly, If by God's proffer they understand His command and promise, who told them that these things were declarative of His will and purpse or intention? ... I thought always that God's commands and promises had revealed our duty, and not His purposes; what God would have us to do, and not what to do. His promises, indeed, ... indefinitely proposed, they reveal no other intention of God but what we before discovered, which concerns things, not persons, ...

... If He [God] intend it, why is it, then, not accomplished? doth He fail of His purpose? (p. 200, Italics original, Bold added)


If we take the command to believe, with the promise of life upon so doing, for an offer of mercy, there is an eternal truth in it; which is, that God will assuredly bestow life and salvation upon all believers, ... and not at all of God's intention towards the particular soul to whom the proffer is made. (p. 272)

In the first passage, Own clearly states his opposition to the idea of any form of Common salvific grace, as he contends that God's will is different from his commands and promises (against the two wills of God), and that God does not proffer or intend salvation for all Man. Owen then shoots a rhetorical question regarding whether if God intends it, then why it is not accomplished, and thus destroy whatever is left of the unbiblical theory of Common salvific grace. In the second passage, Owen first affirms the 'sincere promise of the Gospel', that God promises to all Man that ALL who repent and believe will have eternal life, and then in the later part denies the Free offer of the Gospel, as he denies that this promise does not say anthing at all of whether God intends anything towards 'the particular soul to whom the proffer is made'.

We can thus see that the modern day crypto-Arminians and neo-Amyraldians contradict the Scriptures, and they furthermore go against at least the Prince of Puritans, John Owen. It is my further contention that they contradict all the Reformers and Reformed Creeds and Confessions before them, which can be seen if one learns how to distinguish between the two doctrines of the 'Sincere promise of the Gospel' and the 'Free offer of the Gospel', of which the former is affirmed while the latter is denied. The inability of these people to distinguish between the two lead to them thinking that the witness of the historic Reformed community is on their side, when it is actually not.

In the next post, we will look at the baneful effects the embrace of such theories have on Evangelism.

[to be continued]


[1] This is the view taken by theologians such as Loius Berkhof in his article Common Grace (http://www.mbrem.com/calvinism/commongrace.htm)

[2] This view of common salvific grace is taken by the group of complainants led by Dr. Cornelius Van Till against the ordination of Gordon H. Clark in the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) during the 1940s. Taken from Garrett P. Johnson, The Myths of Common Grace, The Trinity Review , Mar/Apr 1987. (http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=28)

[3] "Universal Preveninent Grace", Entry on Theopedia (http://www.theopedia.com/Universal_prevenient_grace)

[4] As an example, see John Murray's exegesis of 2 Peter 3:9 in his essay The Free Offer of the Gospel, found at http://public.csusm.edu/public/guests/rsclark/Offer.html . Note well that his "exegesis" is no different fundamentally from that of the Arminians.

[5] John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse, The Free Offer of the Gospel (found at http://public.csusm.edu/public/guests/rsclark/Offer.html)

[6] John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1999.


Robert said...

Hi Daniel,

It might be useful to interact a little bit with the essay:

"Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology,” in David VanDrunen, ed., The Pattern of Sound Words: A Festschrift for Robert B. Strimple (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004).

ddd said...

Hello Robert,

sorry that I need to ask this: Is there any other way of reading the essay without buying the book? My budget is sort of tight at the moment...

Jenson said...

Hi Daniel,

I can think of many more books for you to interact, but will not do so.

A well meaning Christian brother once told me - "Buy as many good books as you can, before you get married!"

I took his advice.

ddd said...

Hello Jenson,

eh.... Are wives somehow expensive to maintain? ;) (JK!) Anyway, thanks for the advice, and perhaps I will get some of the books that are recommanded, after I start earning of course.

Jenson said...

It is not just the cost of maintaining a family (wife +/- children), but also the time that is necessary to read books. Which is why I have always recommended buying and reading good books. Time and money are just not enough, when one buys/reads unprofitable books.

I am "republishing" (privately with Lulu) Dr. Peter Masters old "The Preacher's Library 1979" which is like Spurgeon's Commenting and Commentaries. If you like I can forward you the PDF version of it.

ddd said...

Hello Jenson,

I wouldn't mind receiving the pdf. Oh, btw, I am reading the 3 volume series entitled Holy Scrpiture: The Ground and Pillar of our Faith by Webster and King now. Rather weighty though.

vincit omnia veritas said...

Hi Jenson,

Would you be so kind as to send me a copy of that pdf from lulu too?


Jenson said...

Hi Vincent,

No problem.