Characters appearing in this section:
ISP: Infralapsarian Single-Predestinarian
Argues that the gospel is genuinely offered to all.
SDP: Supralapsarian Double-Predestinarian
Argues that the gospel is genuinely offered to the elect only.
PPD: Party Privy to the Debate
Offers a couple of thoughts at the beginning of the section.
…Begin dialogue text…
ISP: God is reluctant to judge.
SDP: I’ve never read in the Scriptures that God is reluctant to judge. In fact, that is precisely what the reprobate has been made for: judgment.
PPD: Perhaps ISP has this in mind? “Or do you despise the riches of His kindness, and the forbearance and the long-suffering, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).
ISP: Yes, brother, that is a very relevant text. The hyper-Calvinist will say the good things—riches of His Kindness—God grants to the reprobate are not really good, they are only a means to damn men more!
God is after blood, God only made some men to smash them, no other reason is offered, and the declaration of God’s longsuffering in Romans 9 is overlooked, or denied any real meaning.
SDP: Perhaps ISP would appeal to Romans 2:4, but this would just be another excellent example of coercing an interpretation out of the text. This verse says nothing of God’s reluctance to judge. It does not even say that God wants all men to repent. It says that God’s kindness, forbearance, and long-suffering ought to lead men to repentance. God’s love and kindness toward men ought to cause (that is, morally obligates) them to repent. Remember that the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is Scripture (WCF 1:9). Conferring with Acts 2:38 helps us to understand that Paul is talking about a moral mandate in Romans 2:4. This mandate comes from God’s commandment that all must repent and believe in Christ. But, as we have already covered, God’s commandments and desires are not always the same.
PPD: Hmm, I agree with you. Man ought to repent but nevertheless our job does not only consist of “hellfire-preaching”:
That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:19-21)
Of course, this news is only for the elect—but we do not know which are the elect—only God knows; so, we have to preach this to everyone we meet.
I also agree that nowadays one hears too little about damnation and hell and a good presentation of the gospel must include the message of eternal damnation (no question about that), but one must be careful not to become unbalanced, either. We must keep on the middle of the road.
ISP: And just why would God press a moral obligation if he were not showing kindness? And if he were to show kindness, he would show it for a reason. You have the reason spelled out for you in the text. To lead them to repentance, not condemnation—they are already condemned!
It is just that type of concept—that God makes men to damn them—that gives Calvinists such a bad name; and rightly so—it is warped!
For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth, To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not. (Lam. 3:31-36)
When some Calvinists have finished rationalizing the faith into, “God only loves the elect and he hates everyone else,” they may be happy with worshipping a God who is so uncompassionate and hard-hearted toward their fellow man to shout up praises for a gospel of love. It is not so with me.
God is love, and God is slow to anger and reluctant to afflict or grieve the children of men.
SDP: Who ever said he is not showing kindness? I’m sorry but this just does not follow. Because the moral obligation to repent comes after God’s showing forth of kindness, you assume that this is the reason that God shows kindness. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
God shows kindness because it is in his nature to do so. God is love. Love is volitional, one that is acted upon. God makes his love known by showing forth kindness. As our Lord says in Matthew’s Gospel:
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Mt. 5:45-48)
Moreover, Paul writes:
What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. (Rom. 9:22, 23)
And what is God’s disposition toward those he has afore prepared for destruction?
Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man. (Ps. 5:6)
The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. (Ps. 11:5)
Is it even true that the Lord hears the cries of the wicked? No, he does not:
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not. (Ps. 18:41)
Let’s look at a couple more verses that speak on who Christ’s sacrifice was intended for, thus giving us an idea of God’s purpose for the gospel.
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:17)
What does the author of Hebrews mean for “the people”? Does he mean all people? Surely not. For then all would be reconciled to God. Matthew clarifies for us:
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1:21, emphasis added)
We know that Christ’s people are all those the Father shall give to him (Jn. 6:37), i.e. the elect. Moreover, faith in Christ Jesus secures him as our personal High Priest before the Father.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. (Eph. 2:8)
The wicked do not have the gift of faith. It is the gift of God and it is denied to the reprobate.
Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. (Jn. 6:65b)
Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. (Jn 8:42, 43)
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Mt. 7:21)
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (Jn. 6:40)
I do not know how much clearer it can be. The Scriptures teach that Christ’s work on the cross is intended solely for the elect. If Christ only died for the elect, then how in the world can one say that God nevertheless desires the repentance of the reprobate? The Scriptures also teach that God’s purpose for the reprobate is judgment and destruction (Prv. 16:4). He has constructed both vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy (Rom. 9:22, 23).
I am just at a complete loss as to why any one would not accept this. It certainly does nothing to protect the character of God (as if God needed our theological formulations for his character to be guarded). If anything, it involves God in a deceptive and disingenuous offer of salvation to those that are incapable of even hearing the gospel. Let us read the account of Ezekiel in the valley of bones:
Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest. (Eze. 37:3b)
In v. 3, God asks and Ezekiel answers that bones cannot live. Who are the bones? The unregenerate. The dead spirit of unregenerate man is clear in Scripture.
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen. 2:17)
For the wages of sin is death. . . . And you . . . were dead in trespasses and sins. (Rom. 6:23a, Eph. 2:1)
What is required for them to live?
Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. (Eze. 37:5)
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. (Jn. 6:63)
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Titus 3:5)
Of special note is 1 Cor. 2:14, wherein the apostle Paul even says that the natural man cannot even receive the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned (cf. Jn. 3:3; 8:43). Without the washing of regeneration and the rebirth into the kingdom of God, the reprobate cannot even hear the spiritual call of the gospel. He is spiritually dead! The dead neither hear nor respond.
How then can God genuinely offer salvation to corpses? They are already dead! Does he desperately hope the dead man will repent even though he is naught but bones and dust? How can dry bones do anything even approaching repentance?
Do you understand my difficulty with your position? What appeal can you possibly make in light of these scriptural evidences? What argument can you bring forth that will harmonize your doctrine with the biblical doctrine of the gospel?
I would also like to go back to the passage you quoted from Lamentations. Don’t stop reading at v. 36. “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” (Lam. 3:37-39). Let’s not forget this verse, either: “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prv. 16:4). Or this one: “And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory” (Rev. 16:9).
It is true that “God is slow to anger,” but that doesn’t mean God is desirous that all be saved.
The problem with your position is you have neither scriptural support nor logical support for your arguments. All you have is how you feel about God. You feel that God is loving toward all men, doubtless based on those passages that talk about the infinite love of God, but you have made inferences where there is no justification for them. God does not desire the repentance of the reprobate, else he would effect it. To argue otherwise is to argue that God is duplicitous, desperately desiring the reprobate to repent, but denying them the regeneration that would enable it.
There is just simply no basis for this belief.
ISP: We have been through this before, and I have shown you that God desires you to be perfect, for God commands it. Should you say God commands what He doesn’t desire, it is you, not me who makes God act with duplicity!
Hyper-Calvinists confuse the results of God’s interactions with His intentions.
Do you need a long list of Reformed Christians throughout history that openly supported the genuine offer? All the Puritans did. Do you need me to begin quoting the Reformers to show you how far you have drifted? If so, just say the word!
By the way, thank you, PPD, for quoting that passage from Corinthians. Too often the hyper-Calvinist has been content to hide behind an idea that it is okay to preach the gospel to all because we don’t know who the reprobates are—a subtle ploy to still allow God room to make men to set them on fire!
But your text shows it is God calling the sinner to repent, the preacher is merely a useful tool (which is the essence of Calvinism)!
SDP: Ho, ho! You suppose that quoting Reformers out of context so that their words support your view will enable you to weasel your way out of providing biblical evidence and arguments for your position? I think not! I too have plenty of quotes from some of the same Reformers that you would use against me—John Calvin included! The fault lies with you in disharmonizing their teaching from the Bible. You cannot provide evidence from the Scriptures to support your view, so you appeal to out of context quotes from Reformers hoping to make your point that way.
Well, you certainly do make a point that way, but not the one you want to make. The point you make is that you cannot form a biblical argument in support of your position; therefore, you can do nothing but appeal to tradition and previous authors. I rest my case on the infallible foundation of Holy Writ. On what is yours based?
Many people misunderstand my intentions when I bring up this subject. They infer that I am somehow saying that we shouldn’t preach to all people. This could not be further from the truth. My position is that only the elect will hear and believe in the gospel. This is nothing more than biblical truth. The reason I have entered into this dialogue is that hypo-Calvinists such as ISP continue to advance an unscriptural view of God’s disposition toward the reprobate. This is not motivated out of a desire to be biblical, but out of a desire to water down the gospel and make it more palatable to those who hate the gospel in the first place. God does not desire the reprobate to repent and believe because he has denied him the regenerating work that would enable him to do so.
Now, we are not God and we have no idea who is elect. We do not even know if we are elect because to know so we would have to be privy to God’s hidden decree of election, which we are not. (Nevertheless, we can have assurance of our election, but this is different.) For this reason, we are called to spread the Gospel indiscriminately and I believe and obey this command with my whole heart. Never would I deign to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ because I suspected someone was reprobate.
This is a far cry from holding the position that God is seeking the repentance of all men, though. God is at work in the world reconciling the elect to himself, not all men. We should be honest to the teaching of the gospel, not hiding essential truths, or worse, inventing false doctrines that portray God as Janus-faced.
You show a fundamental lack of understanding regarding the doctrine of the gospel. You call yourself reformed and are yet unfamiliar with the outward call of the gospel over against the inward call of the gospel?
Observe, the outward call:
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)
As opposed to the inward call:
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (Jn. 3:3b)
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life. . . . (Jn. 6:40)
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. (Jn. 8:43)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (Jn. 10:27)
Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man . . . can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 12:3)
According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Titus 3:5b)
The outward call is that wherein we proclaim the work of Christ. The inward call is that spiritual breath through which God regenerates the man, endows him with the gift of faith, and calls him to repentance and trust in Christ.
ISP: We have been through this before. You are just repeating yourself. Of course I know there is a difference between the outward call and the inward call, but you have continually failed to grasp that the outward call comes from God! It is not the preacher alone that calls all men to repent and be reconciled to God; it is God himself!
Your logic is that of the Arminian. He says God cannot call all to repent if he grants it only to the elect. You say God does call all, but not really God, it is the preacher. What you have done with your philosophy is build a gap between what we preach and what God wants to say!
The same goes for the warped view that God cannot be sincere if he doesn’t regenerate the reprobate. Classic Arminian faulty logic. And yes, I oppose it. And God willing, I will continue to oppose it!
You said, “That is true, but that doesn’t mean that God is desirous that all be saved.” Here we have a case where we can be desirous to have our friends and family saved, we can do good, love them, pray for them to be saved, and yet be totally out of step with God’s desire!
I wondered years ago how I was meant to behave toward men in general, and the concept (which I am in no way new to) that God only desires the elect to be saved, and the gospel is only for the elect, (yes you can talk till the cows come home about you believe in preaching to all men , it doesn’t make any sense), that God has no desire, goodwill, love, compassion toward any unless he regenerates them is post hoc.
Are not all men commanded by God to repent? Why would God command and promise eternal life to all men if He didn’t have any desire to save them? Why would Noah be sent to preach for 100 years if God had no desire to save anyone except for Noah and his family? Your view doesn’t make sense, it is illogical and anti-scriptural.
The idea that we should weep over sinners is incongruous with worshipping a God who made them to set them alight!
I reject every attempt at making God out to be mean spirited, and I consider it as much perhaps more heresy than even the Arminians to say God only makes the reprobate to damn him.
I wonder what spirit you are of?
Meet the High Calvinist in scripture, the ones who always will quote God’s anger against reprobates, not his compassion for them!
And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” And they went on to another village. (Lk. 9:54-56)
SDP: I know we have been over this before, which is part of the reason why I am so stunned that you are continuing to maintain your position. Nevertheless, because you insist on proliferating an incorrect interpretation of the Scriptures, I must continue to refute you, lest others hear your words, and be deceived.
Your comment concerning the distinction between the inward and outward calls was a little strange to me. So, both the inward and outward calls are delivered by God? An interesting arrangement. You seem to appeal greatly to the works of the Reformers. Which of them wrote to this effect? I have never heard God speak, but I have heard a number of men urge me to heed the call of the gospel. It was not until the Holy Spirit regenerated my heart and inwardly called me to Christ that I heeded that call, however.
Moreover, if both the inward and outward calls are made by God himself, then where does man fit in here? You do violence against God’s ordination of the proclamation of the gospel. If the words are God’s, why does man need to speak at all? More importantly, you violate another foundational Reformed doctrine, namely that there is no new revelation. If it is God that is speaking through the man, then this amounts to new revelation, unless your entire gospel proclamation is nothing more than verbatim restatement of Scripture.
I could not help but laugh at your accusation that “my logic is that of the Arminian.” If anyone is being Arminian here, it is you. I had tried to avoid using language of that persuasion, but you forced my hand. Your insistence that God offers salvation to all necessitates a universal atonement because he absolutely could not offer salvation to those that he still suffers wrath against (cf. Psalm 2). Remember, Christ is the propitiation sacrifice. God’s wrath toward the elect has been appeased. His wrath is still stored up against the reprobate, though. He has foreordained him to judgment and eternal hellfire. He has not even provided him the necessary atonement to forgive his sins.
Let’s go back to this statement:
He [the Arminian] says God cannot call all to repent if he grants it only to the elect. You say God does call all, but not really God, it is the preacher. What you have done with your philosophy is build a gap between what we preach and what God wants to say!
What God wants to say is expressed through the preacher. God has not given the gospel unto the world that it should be sought out independently by men (this is Arminian error). It has been given to men to spread to other men. The preacher is God’s instrument for spreading the gospel. The man, not knowing God’s hidden decree of election, faithfully delivers the good news of Jesus Christ without regard of persons. The Lord, knowing those that are his, regenerates those he has foreordained to belief at the time of the preaching. In this way, God works through our obedience to call his sheep to him. No gap is built here, rather the unity between the work of Christ and the work of men is made complete. For we are disciples of and co-laborers with, Christ, sent forth unto all the nations.
Your arguments have been refuted. You have offered next to nothing by way of counter-argument, but what little you have has been inconsistent, incomplete, or just plain wrong. Until you are prepared to offer something substantive, an argument that isn’t founded upon eisegesis, irrationality, and subjective disposition, then please let me know. Until then, I would appeal to you to stop spreading this doctrine, for I simply cannot cease refuting you. To do so would be disobedient to the word of God.
My last proof will be a simple logical argument using truths that everybody can agree to, including ISP. If I can form valid deductive arguments from these premises, then the conclusions will be inescapable.
Premise #1) If regeneration is required for faith.
Premise #2) If faith is required for salvation.
Conclusion #1) Then all who are saved are regenerated.
Premise #3) If God does all that he desires.
Premise #4) If God desires the reprobate be saved.
Conclusion #2) God will save the reprobate.
Conclusion #1) If all who are saved are regenerated.
Conclusion #2) If God will save the reprobate.
Conclusion #3) Then God will regenerate the reprobate.
So, obviously, if God does not regenerate the reprobate, then God does not desire the salvation of the reprobate.
The first three premises are universally agreed to by all Calvinists:
1) Faith is required for salvation.
2) Regeneration is required for faith.
3) God does all that he desires.
The fourth is ISP’s premise:
4) God desires the reprobate be saved.
We thus see from the argument that ISP’s premise would result in the reprobate being saved. But the Bible says he will not be saved. As a result, ISP’s position results in a logical absurdity. We simply cannot accept this conclusion. It must be the case that God does not desire the salvation of the reprobate because if he did, he would save him.
We see then that the conclusions follow inexorably from the premises. ISP’s position is indefensible.