The “Genuine Offer” Dialogue – Closing

Characters 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.

Begin dialogue text…

ISP: Well, how can we possibly deliver the gospel to everyone if this is true?

SDP: Because it is commanded of us.

ISP: When preaching the gospel, we proclaim the good news. We tell sinners that Christ came, died, and rose again for sinners. We tell them that God loved the world so much that he sent his only begotten Son that whosoever should believe on Him shall not perish!

That is really good news!

We tell men that they are in need of a Savior, that they have broken God’s law, and that God is pleased to grant this day an opportunity to be saved.

We call sinners most urgently, in all sincerity, and indiscriminately.

We do not call sinners indiscriminately and proclaim salvation upon set conditions that may not apply to certain men. We state quite clearly that all men have sinned and a suitable sacrifice for all sinners has been accomplished.

We do not have to worry if one man is elect and one man is not. The message is the same—good news!

We do not need to hide behind any argument or device that would indicate we can invite all men to salvation based upon the idea that we do not know who is elect and who is not. It makes no difference! God invites all!

Should it be argued that there is a real difference between that which we are commanded to preach and God’s contrary will—i.e., He doesn’t really want all men saved—then we are preaching not the gospel of God, but a perversion of it. We would then be telling some men that God has called them when he hasn’t, that God has proclaimed good news when he hasn’t, and that there is a genuine offer of redemption when there isn’t!

Too many times, Calvinists, almost without thinking, hide behind the idea that because they do not know who the elect are, they are therefore free to preach to all.

This is totally at odds with the Scripture.

1. We are ambassadors. It is not our gospel; it is God’s.
2. It is not we who are calling these sinners to repent; it is God in us doing it.
3. Jesus preached the gospel to all men and he knew who would believe and who wouldn’t. It did not change or alter his message.

SDP: I thoroughly repudiate this unsubstantiated idea that God cannot command (preach to all men) what he does not desire (all men be saved). If this were true, then it would be impossible to even sin. If God’s commands and desires are completely congruent then there could be no sin, for he would not allow it. This argument is terribly flawed.

I’d like to address your three points directly, however, because they adequately summarize your objections.

1) God commands all men to believe, but only desires the belief of his elect. This is the gospel; therefore, we command all men to repent and believe on Jesus Christ, as this is their duty to God.

2) If you mean inwardly, yes. Does any Calvinist truly deny that? I defy someone to proclaim to me that his delivery of the gospel converted the sinner. If you mean outwardly then the point is irrelevant. We have already discussed the difference between God’s decretive and preceptive will and that the two are not congruent.

3) Precisely. And what was Jesus’s message?

And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. (John 6:39)

The Father has not given the Son all men, but:

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. (John 6:40)

And how does one see the Son?

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

And where does faith come from?

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. (Eph. 2:8)

This is the gospel that Jesus preached and the one that we should preach.

ISP: You say you repudiate the idea that God cannot command what he does not desire. So we have men preaching, being sent by God to preach God’s message of love and forgiveness, while all the time God doesn’t desire it!

Your view is terribly flawed! Do you mean to say God commands sin!?

SDP: Are you not a Calvinist and yet you do not understand the difference between God’s commandments and God’s desires? Do you mean to instruct other Christians when you do not know even this basic principle of theology? Do you know so little of the Scriptures to misunderstand those that speak of God doing all that he wills?

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (Rom. 7:7)

Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. (Rom. 5:20)

Paul tells us quite clearly that the law entered so that the sin might abound, for where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. God commanded obedience to the law, but desired that sin exist, so that his grace might be made known in Christ. God is just in commanding obedience to the law, for the law is given by God and deemed righteous in his sight. If God’s commandments were synonymous with his desires, then all men would obey the law. But this is not the case. We are all law-breakers.

ISP: God commands perfection; therefore God desires it. Yet the decree of God does not permit it!

SDP: This does not follow, my friend. Command is an entirely separate term and sense than desire is. Unless you can establish (which you cannot) that God’s commandments and desires are the same, this argument is invalid. The reason you cannot establish that the two coincide is because God commands that we obey the law, but we do not. If God desired that we obey the law, then we would, for whatever God desires happens.

ISP: Some desires are unfulfilled to give way to a desire that is fulfilled. God was pleased that David desired to build the temple. It pleased God; yet, the Lord, for higher reasons, had David’s son, Solomon, build it.

SDP: What pleased God was David’s obedient heart, not the building of the temple (Ps. 40:6-8; 51:16, 17). It is our faith that pleases God, not our works (Heb. 11:6, Acts 17:25, Prv. 21:4). We are convinced of this, being Calvinists. Nevertheless, God did desire that the temple be built and Solomon did indeed build the temple, as God desired. So, your example does not show contradictory desires in God at all. In fact, it does not even show a hierarchy of desires.

At this point, I feel the issue has been addressed sufficiently. Your arguments have been thoroughly refuted. Rather than continue rehashing what has already been said, I will leave you to reconsider your soteriology: orthodox Calvinism or heterodox hypo-Calvinism.

The “Genuine Offer” Dialogue – Cross-Examination

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.

…Begin dialogue text…

SDP originally wrote:

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.

ISP: True, yet it is begging a question. Can men logically cry to God for faith? (I know that the reprobate morally cannot, but physically he can.)

SDP: I’m sorry, but you do not understand what “begging the question” means. To beg the question is to make a circular argument, i.e. to reuse your conclusion in your premises. That is not at all what I am doing.

Additionally, that the reprobate can “physically” cry for faith is irrelevant, for (1) it is not of faith (Mt. 7:21 and Heb. 11:6) and (2) even if he would, the Lord would not hear him (Ps. 18:41), and (3) the preaching of the gospel to the reprobate serves to harden their hearts (Jn. 12:37:41). In fact, let’s take a look at that passage.

But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. (Jn. 12:37:41)

Look at what is written in vv. 39, 40: “Therefore they could not believe because . . . [God] hath blinded their eyes and hardened their heart.” I just don’t see how this passage can be fit into your impression of the gospel. Isaiah (Esaias) clearly testifies that the reprobate is not given the means by which to hear and believe, rather, their hearts are hardened by the gospel message. Now, if God really desires the reprobate convert, why would he “blind their eyes and harden their heart”? It hardly seems to me that God’s perceptive will is that the reprobate be saved. We certainly know that it is not in his decretive will that they be saved.

SDP originally wrote:

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.

ISP: Not necessarily, for it is based upon an assumption that there are not multitudes of desires in God!

SDP: The only way this objection holds is if God can have contradictory desires, viz. that God can desire the reprobate be saved and desire that the reprobate not be saved. If you wish to make this argument, then all I can ask is how Job 23:13, Ps. 115:3; 135:6, Eph. 1:11 can all be true if God both does something he desires and does not do the same thing he desires. That is an impossibility.

God cannot have created the earth and not created the earth.

ISP: If a man is going to choose between chopping his right hand off and his wife being put to death, he will, if he loves her, have his right hand cut off. Are we to assume the man wanted his right hand cut off? Yes and no!

SDP: This does not apply to God. God is omnipotent and can do all he pleases. Your argument assumes that the man is unable to both keep his hand and save his wife. These are not limitations that God suffers under.

SDP originally wrote:

The first three premises are universally agreed to by all Calvinists.

ISP: If that were true, all Calvinists would deny the “well meant offer of the Gospel”; it is only a small minority who do.

SDP: To restate, the first three premises are:

1) Faith is required for salvation.
2) Regeneration is required for faith.
3) God does all that he desires.

So, you’re saying that only small minority of Calvinists believe these propositions? I simply must have your definition of Calvinist then, because I have never met a Calvinist that disagreed with any of these statements.

SDP originally wrote:

We see then that the conclusions follow inexorably from the premises.

ISP: I disagree. You are saying that logic determines doctrine. Revelation does that, and revelation may take years, synods, arguments, heated debates, even wars, before men agree. Consider the Trinity!

SDP: Do you not understand how integrated logic is into everything? Do you not understand that in order to even communicate requires logic? The fundamental law of contradiction assumes that A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same sense. This literally means that true cannot also be false. If that were true, we could not know truth. If dog also meant cat, then whenever someone said “dog,” you would not know if he were referring to a dog or a cat. Do you see how fundamental logic is in everything? Without logic, we could not even understand revelation. Without logic, we could not formulate doctrine. It is not superior to revelation; it works in conjunction with it. Just as the Holy Spirit illuminates the word to us when we read it, we use logic to understand things.

You also make some very peculiar assertions concerning “revelation.” Revelation, insofar as it is applicable to us, is Scripture. Revelation does not require “years, synods, arguments, heated debates, even wars.” Revelation is inerrant and infallible because it is the word of God. Men may not concur as to what revelation means without the things you have enumerated, but that means nothing as far as revelation is concerned.

And for a final rebuttal, has it not been the case that I have been citing verse after verse after verse? The biblical data I have been appealing to are far more numerous than those you have been referring to. You have made a couple of token citations to support your claims, but the inferences you have made have been shown to be invalid. Moreover, I simply never said logic determines doctrine. I have always appealed first and foremost to Scripture. You have not even interjected an alternative interpretation of the verses provided, and for good reason, you cannot. They are so abundantly clear that they ought to be received outright. Why do you refuse to do so?

ISP: Your argument, clever as it is, is based upon presuppositions.

1. That God has only one desire.
2. That men who do not have faith cannot call upon God for it.
3. That doctrine is acceptable by the measure of logic, instead of revelation by faith.

SDP:

1) The problem with arguing that God has contrary or contradictory desires has been addressed above. I will also comment that what you are proposing results in the formal fallacy of equivocation. Whenever you use a word in more than one sense, you commit a formal fallacy of ambiguity. My argument only speaks of one desire—God’s desire concerning the salvation of the reprobate. So your protest that I am not taking into account that God can have multiple desires is actually fallacious. I am not talking about any of those.

2) It has already been demonstrated that natural man cannot call upon God for faith. Additionally, and more to the point, even if the reprobates did, they would not be heard (Ps. 18:41).

3) Logic does not contradict or contravene revelation in anyway. Logic is a tool by which we are able to come to the true meaning of the Scriptures. That is why I believe what I believe. The logical consequence of what the Scripture says is that the salvation is not offered to the reprobate. Without logic, you cannot properly understand revelation, and without revelation, you cannot properly understand logic (its purpose and utility).

ISP: Are you familiar with the Rev. Samuel Rutherford’s work, The Will of God and the Gospel Offer?

SDP: I can’t say I am.

ISP: In it, Rutherford shows that there is a desire in God for all to repent and for none to perish. He further clearly shows clearly that this desire is not the same type of desire that you have assumed I have been speaking of. If it were God’s absolute desire to save all mankind then he would certainly do it! And on this point, I believe we both agree.

SDP: On that point, yes.

ISP: Yet, should it be said that because God has no absolute desire to save every man, he has no desire to save every man? No! That is simply false.

The desire that God has—that all should be saved—is a complacent desire, but nevertheless, is unfeigned—a desire of approval. He desires that men would repent and not suffer for their sin. This is pleasing to God.

As I attempted to show by my illustration of the man losing his arm to save his wife, he desired to keep his arm (considered from a desire of complacency and approval), but he also desired to lose his arm (considered from a desire of action). These are both desires, but not in the same sense.

SDP: Allow me to demonstrate the logic of your argument here:

Premise #1) God does not desire all men be saved.
Premise #2) God does desire all men be saved.
Conclusion) Therefore, God does not desire all men be saved and he desires all men be saved.

How do you expect me to respond to this? How is this not completely and totally contradictory?

You are continuing to equivocate on “desire.” You try to show that God can have different salvific desires. This is illogical. The sense is desire of salvific status—God’s desire regarding the state of the soul of the person. The sense, the end of which I am speaking, is the eternal state of the person’s soul. You cannot equivocate on this. There isn’t even a way to conceptualize how God could desire the reprobate’s soul to be eternally saved and be eternally damned. That is a flat-out contradiction. It is irreconcilable.

What is happening here is you are introducing ambiguity into your understanding of desire by assuming that God wants every man to come to him and repent on his own (complacent desire), but that he is not going to regenerate them, thus allowing them to succeed (I’ll call this effective desire).

The problem with this position is that only one of these desires leads to salvation, i.e. effective desire. Complacent desire does not lead to salvation, so it is fallacious to say that God complacently desires the reprobate be saved. His only desire to salvation is his effective desire. Moreover, it is contradictory to the Scripture that says, “He does all he desires,” to say that he has a complacent, impotent desire of some kind. If God does all he desires then that includes his complacent desires, too. You haven’t avoided the problem at all, just demonstrated increasing confusion on your part.

I think the main problem is you are confusing the theological concepts of God’s decretive will and his preceptive will. I believe you think that the different sense in which we understand God’s will necessarily infers that God’s desires follow a similar pattern. There is no scriptural support for this, however. It is written, “He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” It is not written, “He hath done whatsoever he hath commanded.” God’s commands are included in the preceptive will of God. The term “preceptive will” means God’s will according to his precepts, which are the law and the gospel. The preceptive will of God is what the psalmist wrote about in the 119th Psalm: “Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently” (v. 4). We must also keep in mind that our human perceptions of the will of God are different from the true character of his will. We perceive—and this is extremely important because our humans perceptions are flawed, especially when it comes to God—that God has willed that we should keep his commands. But it is also written, “Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Is. 14:24). We then perceive that we have a contradiction: for God “wills” that we keep his commandments, but we often do not. But the Scripture does not lie. We then come to understand that he does not necessarily will (decretive will: his eternal purpose) what he commands. No, in fact, he frequently uses evil (which he hates and commands us not to do) for his own purposes.

Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee. (1 Kn. 22:23)

What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (Job 2:10)

The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (Prv. 16:4)

Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? (Lam. 3:38)

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. (Rom. 9:17)

We see that what God commands, what he requires of men, is not necessarily what he wills should happen. That is, what God commands is not necessarily what he has purposed to happen. God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree, but Adam did it anyway. Should we say that God did not intend for that to happen? Surely not:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Rom. 5:12)

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Rom. 3:19)

Paul says here that God’s purpose was that Adam should break the commandment. He perceives that many will find this objectionable.

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? (Rom. 9:19, 20)

Having resolved the apparent problem concerning how we understand God’s will as presented in Scripture, we can then come to his desires. The Scripture says, “He hath done whatsoever he pleased.” We can thus identify God’s pleasure with his purpose. As surely as he has purposed, so shall it be done. We can thus conclude that he has done all things for his good pleasure, and this is precisely what Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians. God “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph. 1:5). And it is in Christ “whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11).

So, again, the problem with your lose arm/save wife illustration is that it is non-applicable to God, for “he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” He has purposed to save the elect and punish the reprobate. Thus it has be decreed, thus it shall be done.

ISP: You have such a limited view of desire that you quote one passage (Job) to the utter expense of all others!

You cannot even see a complacent desire in God for the reprobate—just sheer hatred!

I wonder what spirit this is?

Your view of God is more anti-Christian than the Arminian’s!

Just ask around those who are Reformed about God making men merely to damn them! And then you say you feel for these men. I fail to see why!!!

SDP: I can see my work here is done.

The “Genuine Offer” Dialogue – Arguments

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.

The “Genuine Offer” Dialogue – Opening

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.

…Begin dialogue text…

ISP: Of course the gospel is a genuine offer to all men. There are only two Calvinistic Creeds or churches I know of that deny the genuine offer of the gospel to all men indiscriminately. All the others accept it, as far as I know.

SDP: It doesn’t make any sense to say that the gospel is genuinely offered to those who have not been gifted with faith. In the first part, you and I both readily acknowledge that natural man is a spiritual corpse and has no spiritual faculties whatsoever. And because the words of life are spiritual in nature, the unregenerate do not hear them (1 Cor. 2:14). More than not being a genuine offer, the reprobate never even hears the gospel call. He hears only condemnation.

In the second part, because God has willed that the reprobates should be left to their evil devices, if he were to genuinely offer the gospel to them and desire that they accept it, he would be caught in a dichotomy. In the one hand, he is pleased that they should be left to their wickedness. In the other hand, he is pleased to offer them the gospel that they should receive it. This is contradictory. Either God is desirous that they believe in his Son—and thus makes this effectual (regeneration)—or he does not desire that they believe—and thus makes that effectual (reprobation).

ISP: But we command all men by the authority of God to repent and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and they are promised (offered) that if they obey the truth they will never perish!

SDP: That’s right, but only the regenerate will ever (inwardly) hear that message.

ISP: Certainly the gospel is much more than presenting facts to the lost. It is calling upon them to act.

SDP: No, the gospel is the good news that Christ has given his life a ransom for the elect. The gospel—the gospel of Jesus Christ—is not a call to act: it is a proclamation of Christ’s action. [Readers are encouraged to read the February article entitled, On Saving Faith.]

John H. Gerstner had an excellent illustration of the distinction between the inward call and the outward call.

If everyone is assembled in church and the pastor calls out, “License number such-and-such has its lights on,” then that message is useless to all but one person in the congregation. While everyone hears the outward call of the announcement, everyone except the person to whom the car belongs knows the announcement is not for them. Such is how the gospel sounds to the ears of the unregenerate. They hear its outward offer of hope and mercy, but inwardly only hear condemnation and judgment, and for this reason, they despise it and know it is not extended to them. And they are correct. Until they are reborn through the efficacious work of the Holy Spirit, the gospel is useless to them and they will never accept it.

ISP: I don’t agree. The offer is free. God is quite able to make good on all his promises. The reason that the reprobate doesn’t respond to the good news is his own depravity. He hates God.

This is where we really do need to seek clarity. Sinners do hear the gospel. Okay, they don’t hear with the mind of Christ, they hear with the mind of Adam—but they hear! And what is more, they don’t like what they hear!

And it’s not contradictory at all. Consider the point that you have this day had multiple desires, each in turn taking priority. To the outsider, he could quite easily mistake your choice of food this day as a “hatred” for some other choice, but he could be drawing conclusions wrongly.

You said, “Either God is desirous that they believe in his Son and thus makes this effectual (regeneration) or he does not desire that they believe and thus makes that effectual (reprobation),” but this is a false disjunction. It’s not “either-or”; it’s “both-and.” You also commented, “Arguing that God both desires that reprobates be condemned and that they accept the Gospel amounts to a contradiction.” But it’s not a contradiction—it’s a paradox! We don’t quite understand it, but we don’t have to. We know that God understands it and that’s all that matters!

SDP: If you affirm the contradiction that God wants all men to be saved, and wants the reprobate to not be saved, then do you also believe that Christ’s sacrifice atones for the sins of all who believe in him and does not atone for the sins of some who believe in him? If not, then why do you believe the former, but not the latter? Both are utterly contradictory and completely impossible.

By the way, a paradox is an apparent contradiction that is actually not a contradiction. Unless you can show how this is non-contradictory, it is completely baseless to label this a paradox. You can’t even know if it’s a paradox unless you know it really isn’t contradictory.

But I’d like to bring the discussion a little closer to the point. Consider this verse:

But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. (Ps. 115:3)

According to the psalmist, whatever God pleases, he does. If God desired the salvation of the reprobate, he would do it. As the reprobate is not saved, it follows that God does not desire it. How is that in any way unclear?

ISP: Does God desire you to be perfect?

SDP: God commands perfection of us because his divine justice demands it. God cannot justify wicked deeds. Nonetheless, I am made perfect in Christ, and wholly justified before the Father.

Indeed, Christ commanded that I be perfect even as my heavenly Father is perfect. Yet, the Lord is still pleased (desirous) that I should, on occasion, fall, that his infinite grace and mercy should be more greatly known through my inability to maintain an infallible walk; and that I should increasingly depend on him (cf. 2 Cor. 12:7-9 where Paul thrice asked God to remove the thorn from his side, but his request was denied by God).

Perfection is a requirement under God’s moral law. God’s law is still in effect, which is why Jesus told us to be perfect as his Father is perfect.

ISP: So you agree that God desires your perfection while at the same time he has not willed it.

SDP: No, you weren’t listening. I said God commands perfection. I didn’t say he desired it.

ISP: Is it not plain that also what God commands, he desires, for, otherwise, he would not desire to command it?

What I am getting at is that when God calls the reprobate to repent and promises him eternal life if he will only believe on his Son, then that must be a genuine, sincere, “authentic,” and loving gesture.

The reason the reprobate is in so much trouble is that he has spurned God’s love, he has resisted his Spirit (known as the Spirit of Grace), he has outraged the Spirit of Grace, he has in some sense “trodden underfoot the Son of God,” he has grieved the Holy Spirit, and he has spurned God’s love in Christ.

It is God who makes an appeal to him through the mouth of the believer, and he hates us because he hates God.

To break the law (sin) is punishable by death, but to reject and despise love is punishable by everlasting suffering.

Consider Noah, a preacher of righteousness. For over a hundred years, he preached repentance and saw not one conversion. Was God sincere in telling them to repent? Did it grieve God’s heart when they refused, even though God withheld from them the gift of repentance?

Next, consider the case of Jonah, a man who knew all about God’s covenant love, yet God spends months showing Jonah that even those outside of the covenant are immensely important to him. Did Jonah learn that God’s love, grace, and concerns don’t remain solely for the elect?

Now consider three cases of heartbreak.

1. God the Father heart-broken over stubborn Israel (Hosea 11:8).
2. God the Son heart-broken over lost Jerusalem (Luke 19:41).
3. Paul the Apostle heart-broken over reprobate Jews (Romans 9).

Are these cases (there are more) not indicative of real love? Do we not see from God a real desire (delight) that men repent and be spared death?

Maybe a better way of wording this would be to say God has three aspects to his will:

1. God decreed only the elect will be saved.
2. God’s will of desire is that the reprobates fall.
3. God’s inward desires (emotions corresponding with relationships) are to bless not to kill.

God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He may have pleasure in executing justice, but mercy is far more desirable to God than judgment; hence, God is longsuffering toward the vessels of wrath.

SDP: There was so much wrong with all that, I’m not quite sure where to begin. It is not at all clear—obviously false, in fact—that God desires what he commands. Consider the existence of sin. If God neither commands nor desires the existence of sin then why does it exist? Now, I readily acknowledge God does not command sin. God commands us to be perfect—would that were enabled to be so. But if God does not desire sin to exist, how does it exist? Are you saying God did not desire the king of Assyria to descend on Israel (in Isaiah)? If he did not desire it then why did Isaiah write,

The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. (Is. 14:24)

Does not Paul also tell us he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11)? The psalmist tells us, “He hath done whatsoever he pleased” (Ps. 115:3; 135:6). Is it not blatantly obvious that what God commands is not necessarily what he desires and vice versa? Unless, of course, you are willing to say he commands sin (!).

Getting to the latter part of what you wrote, if mercy is more desirable to God than justice, then why doesn’t he save everyone? That simply makes no sense when so many passages that talk about God fulfilling all he pleases say the exact opposite. To call it a “mystery” is a simply a cop out. Even more, it is dishonest. I have offered a simple, sound explanation of the problem. To reject this out of hand and simply argue from ignorance (argue from a non-provable position) is a highly fallacious argument.

Maybe I am wrong. I will be the first to admit it. Perhaps there is some logical explanation for it that I am missing. It could be that it is yet hidden from me. If that is true, I pray the Lord rebuke and chastise me for my lack of understanding. Yet, until such time should come, I see no reason whatsoever to maintain otherwise.

ISP: That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, though. You’re relying too much on logic. If we see two seemingly opposing ideas in the Scriptures sometimes all we can do is accept them, and bow and worship.

SDP: You might do that, but I certainly do not. God has revealed these things to us to be understood, not to confuse us. Were God to reveal what “seems” to be a contradiction, then it is not really a contradiction, it only appears that way at first. As God is not the author of confusion, it follows that there is a rational explanation for why these things appear contradictory and why they are not. I seek out that explanation to the glory of God, whereas others refuse to do so. Thus, they maintain their contradictory views and encourage others to do so as well.

ISP: Take the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Both are taught in the Scriptures (sometimes in the very same verse!), yet, there are those who cannot hang onto what is written because their minds cannot reconcile two seemingly opposing thoughts; so, they hack and hew the text to make it fit, thus either denying God is sovereign, or denying man is responsible.

SDP: There is no problem with God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, though. There is no contradiction; there is no mystery. God is sovereign and he holds man responsible for his actions. That’s all there is to it. Any protests against this arrangement are protests against God’s sovereignty and are thus null and void.

ISP: You said you believe in preaching the gospel to all, so you cannot distinguish between the elect and the reprobates, and neither should you. The gospel message is exactly the same message to both elect and reprobate: “Repent, believe the good news, obey the calling of God and you will be saved.”

Now just how do you get to a point when you deny it is a sincere offer of salvation when the message doesn’t change? Do you think God is acting with duplicity that the Lord is only interested in salvation for the elect?

Jesus wept over sinners, Paul wept over sinners, and Jesus loved the rich young ruler who walked away from Him!

Sure, I can give you Scripture upon Scripture that show God has been disappointed by sinners, but what is the point, you will only deny that they have any real meaning—“They are just anthropopathisms,” etc.

By the way, Arminians make the same stand on rationalism that Neo-Calvinists make. They see it as impossible to have a gospel call to men dead in trespasses and sins who are totally depraved and have lost their free-will to come to God, and they therefore deny what they see as a massive contradiction. Your argument is the same; it is just coming from the other end!

SDP: The gospel message only reaches the ears of the regenerate:

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)

Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. (Jn. 8:43)

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)

The words of our Lord and the Apostle quite clearly show that the reprobate never hears the gospel message. If God intended it to reach their ears, he would remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Eze. 11:19; 36:26), by which they might receive the words of life.

In fact, my position is that God’s work is made even more coherent in the understanding that the gospel is not for the reprobate. The gospel is spread to men by men; therefore, God does not engage in an act of duplicity because he never offers salvation to the reprobate. That he requires us to preach it to all men is nothing more than a righteous requirement of us, and one required by the fact that we cannot know his elect. Because we are incapable of discerning who will receive the gospel or not, we must deliver it to all, so that those that are elect will have the circumstances by which they might come to faith in Christ. But the Scriptures never say the gospel is extended to the reprobate.

I think a better argument could be made that God acts in duplicity if we say that the gospel is a sincere offer to all, but that God wills some should receive it and some should reject it. If God sincerely wishes all men to be saved, but predestines them to hell, then that would be quite deceptive. The “genuine offer” position is the duplicitous position.

The “Genuine Offer” Dialogue

For some reason or another, I got to thinking about a debate I had with a brother on the Semper Reformanda forum over at Christian Forums. It was over the “genuine,” “sincere,” or “well meant” nature of the gospel. Those who are privy to this debate will know precisely what I am talking about. If you do not then you will probably find the following four posts to be very helpful.

Over the next week or so, I will be posting the dialogue. It is about 25 pages of 12-point font, so there is a substantial amount of material to read. I recommend that you try to read the whole thing, though. If you simply cannot, the opening and closing sections will probably adequately address the topic. A couple of notes on the dialogue are needed.

First, no names are used. Instead, pseudonyms are given to the speakers, who are primarily (99% of the content) ISP and SDP. Now, the abbreviations stand for Infralapsarian Single Predestinarian and Supralapsarian Double Predestinarian, respectively; however, it is not necessarily the case that all “ISPs” and “SDPs” will concur with the positions presented by the two characters in the dialogue. These pseudonyms were chosen to illustrate the common position from which the two sides of the “genuine offer” debate come from, but this is by no means universal.

Second, the majority of this material comes directly from the original debates. It has been edited for grammar and spelling. Some additional content has been added to both characters, so the dialogue is not verbatim. There is probably more than twice as much material as I will be posting that is available. Because I have edited it and adapted it for the blog, I will respect the anonymity of the parties involved. Well, except for myself… let’s see if you can guess which character is me! 😉

Third, while SDP’s arguments are pretty well representative of the strongest and most convincing arguments for the side that he is advocating, it might not be the case that ISP has represented his side as well as possible. If there are any ISPs that read this who think they have something note-worthy to add or a “killer argument” that ISP failed to employ, by all means, let me know. I can very easily make a fifth blog entry with additional arguments for either side.

That about sums it up. I’ll post the opening part of the dialogue tomorrow.

Soli Deo Gloria

Jon

On Saving Faith

Here again, I would speak on matters distinctly theological. In this particular case, the doctrine of saving faith, which is critical to soteriology. My intention with this entry is to provide a personal confession of what I believe saving faith to be within the historic Reformed formulation of assensus, notitia, and fiducia. My intent is not to teach, although I would be delighted if the reader would search the Scriptures to see if these things are so, for I truly believe they are. Instead, my intention is to provide a public profession of my affirmation in the doctrine of sola fide, faith alone. I say now explicitly, I believe that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And I believe that faith is the sole instrument of justification. And I believe that this faith is not of one’s own doing, but is the gift of God, which he gives to whosoever it pleases him. And I believe that we are saved by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone, whose righteousness is imputed to those who are gifted faith by God, by which we are considered clean in his sight. And I explicitly deny that any work of the man plays any contributing role in the act of justification. Justification is the gracious and irresistable work of God alone, who bestows his salvific grace upon his elect, those he has chosen before the foundations of the earth were laid.

Now, the following part of the entry comes from a post I made on the Puritan Board concerning the doctrine of saving faith. The topic was concerning Gordon Clark’s view on the matter, which I briefly address before adding my own thoughts.

Dr. Gordon H. Clark (hereafter, Dr. Clark) most certainly took a more technical approach to his formulation of the doctrine of saving faith, I think. Moreover, he reads knowledge to be the traditional Platonic formulation of justified true belief, which meaning it does not always carry, neither in colloquial use, nor in the writings of the Reformers. As a result, some of Dr. Clark’s objections appear to be objections in definition, not necessarily in content.

Dr. Clark’s definition of knowledge, as I asserted before, appears to be traditional, but he also uses the term loosely, that is, colloquially, attributing knowledge to propositions that his epistemology could in nowise justify as being true. He must have either been inconsistent, or acknowledged that knowledge can have more than one meaning. This latter assumption seems most plausible, as he frequently commented that many English words have four or five meanings, and that one should read “Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary” if he desires to “know” them. Thus, I do not think Dr. Clark would object if I were to attribute a less technical usage of knowledge to the Reformers, as they do not seem to have always (if not rarely) meant justified true belief.

Well, if the Reformers did not mean Platonic knowledge when they discussed notitia, what did they mean? I have come to believe (certainly not “know” ) that the Reformers spoke of what we would call the “justification” of an object of knowledge. That is, the Reformers spoke of the proposition itself. For example, the proposition, “Socrates is mortal.” This is the conclusion of an argument. In this case, the conclusion of a syllogism, which contains the major premise, all men are mortal, and the minor premise, Socrates is a man. Thus, I would argue that notitia is the “raw objective truth”—i.e. true propositions—without concern for the other two elements of faith (assensus and fiducia).

Now, this argument itself is purely logical and intellectual. But unless one believes the premises are true, one cannot believe the conclusion. For instance, if I denied the minor premise (Socrates is a man), the conclusion does not possibly follow. I am left with a bare major premise: all men are mortal. In denying the particular, I have eliminated the possibility of the conclusion following. That is, I do not assent to the minor premise. I do not agree that they are correct. Since I do not assent to the truth of the premises, I cannot possibly trust that the conclusion is correct.

At this point, I think you might know what I am going to propose next, viz. that fiducia is trust in the conclusion. I am also sure that the more astute readers will immediately object that assent and trust here are identical in meaning, for the major and minor premises are themselves conclusions of previous arguments, the whole of knowledge regressing to a beginning. That is quite true and I applaud those who come to this conclusion unaided. I would like to give what I believe is a genuine distinction, though.

Earlier, I suggested that assensus is assent to the premises. Now, for those salvific propositions, this assent is directed at the Scriptures. That is, the object of belief (assent) is the inspired word of God. But it is one thing to assent to the fact that the Bible says one thing or another. It is quite something else to believe the proposition is true. I would therefore submit that saving faith is indeed tripartite and has these three characteristics. (Note that this list is generalized and that qualifications follow.)

1) Assensus – Believing the Bible teaches salvific propositions.
2) Notitia – Cognition of the propositions (understanding them).
3) Fiducia – Trusting (believing) the propositions are true for oneself.

Thus, in this formulation, assensus and fiducia have different objects or different propositions in view. Assensus is trust in the axiom (Scripture), whereas fiducia is trust in the theorem (the salvific proposition). Assensus is trust in the foundation or premises of the proposition, and fiducia is trust in the conclusion, the proposition itself. A demonstration seems in order.

It is written: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). By declaring “it is written,” I assent that this proposition is biblical. Secondly, I understand it. If it were written in another language besides English (and if I did not already have Romans 10:13 memorized), I would not understand the proposition. Thirdly, I trust the proposition is true. More definitely, I believe it applies to me. With these three elements, I can construct a valid syllogism, which is a particularized salvific proposition:

1) All who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
2) I call upon the name of the Lord.
C) Therefore, I shall be saved.

I believe that in this syllogism all three characteristics of the traditional tripartite definition of faith are embodied.

To give some further illustrations—

For many so-called “agnostics,” assensus and notitia apply. They believe the Bible teaches that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be save and they understand the proposition (narrowly speaking) perfectly. But they do not necessarily believe it is true; at least, not for them. For cults and heresies, they may certainly have notitia, but deny that it is biblical, thus, logically negating the possibility of fiducia. For certain irrational definitions of faith (especially Kierkegaard), notita and fiducia are true, but there is no assensus. That is, Kierkegaard believed we must understand and believe the Bible teaches contradiction. Thus, they deny assent to the premises of the Bible. An irrational faith would deny the Bible teaches justification by faith alone because James says we are not justified by faith alone. The irrationalist asserts this is a contradiction that must be believed, even more that it must be a contradiction that is believed. Kierkegaard wrote explicitly that if it were not contradictory then no faith would be required.

Now, in any of the former examples it might be said that I have equivocated. That might be the case. That is the danger of examples. I hope my gracious readers (and you must be gracious for having read this far) will understand the attempt to illustrate the argument, even if it was not done so well. Interestingly enough, this three-part formulation appears to me to be nearly identical with the Platonic definition of knowledge as justified (notitia) true (assensus) belief (fiducia). In any case, I am convinced that saving faith is entirely intellectual, any other sort of extra-propositional volition being extraneous to the sole instrument of justification (faith), thus adding to the transaction something that cannot possibly be justifying.

Granted, the material just presented will probably come across as much more technical than anything the Reformers wrote on the matter. I am willing to accept that charge, but would ask the reader to compare the content of what I have said above with what the Reformers wrote. I believe that while the technical attribution of the three elements of faith given previously are more strictly logical and perhaps philosophical than the Reformers gave, I would suggest that they are faithful to the doctrine of saving faith, especially as Scripture has it. One cannot possibly be a Christian if he denies the content of the Bible (assensus), if he does not understand the content of the Bible (notitia), or if he does not trust in the content of the Bible (fiducia).

Most importantly, the five points of orthodox Calvinism necessarily infer all that must be understood regarding salvation. If one understands that depraved man is unwilling to have faith in God, then God must choose him, regenerate him, justify him, and cause him to persevere. The condition of man and the righteousness of God demand monergistic salvation. That means salvation is solely the work of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

Jon