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Monday, September 11, 2006

Does God Desire the Salvation of All?


A topic of much discussion among Calvinists is whether God desires the salvation of the reprobate. Popularized in recent times by John Piper, it would seem that most Calvinists indeed take the position that God desires the salvation of the reprobate while choosing not to act on such desires because of a greater desire to glorify Himself through the reprobation of some.

What does it mean that God desires the salvation of the reprobate? Are we to believe that God desires the reprobate to regenerate himself and grant himself union with Christ? Isn't it Jesus who saves? Isn't salvation of God after all? At best, one might dare to argue that God desires that He Himself would regenerate the reprobate unto union with Christ and salvation. Consequently, the question that should be considered in this regard is not whether God desires the reprobate to turn and live but whether God Himself desires to turn the reprobate so he can live. Cast in that light - is it reasonable to think that the Holy Spirit desires to turn the reprobate toward himself when the Father did not choose the reprobate in Christ? Moreover, Christ did not die for the reprobate, let alone does he pray that the efficacy of the cross would be applied to the reprobate. Consequently, it is not available for the Holy Spirit to unite the reprobate to the finished work of Christ! Does God desire what is not available to Him? Does God desire that the Godhead work at cross purposes? Does God desire contradictions after all?

It's one thing to say that God has a priority of opposing desires. It's quite another thing to say God desires what He simply cannot do due to what he has done. In a word, not only can God not save the reprobate. 2000 years ago He acted in time sealing that inability. For God to desire the salvation of the reprobate is to say that God - today - desires that Jesus would have died for the reprobate 2000 years ago. What can God desire on this regard other than the past be different? Does God live with any sense of regret?

Ron

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33 comments:

Tim H said...

See John Murray, "The Free Offer of the Gospel," which was presented to the 15th GA of the OPC, reprinted in Works, vol. 4, pp. 113ff.

The conclusions, starting on p. 131, state in part:

"(2) ...God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfilment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realization of what he has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which he has not been pleased to decree. This is indeed mysterious, and why he has not brought to pass, in the exercise of his omnipotent power and grace, what is his ardent pleasure lies hid in the sovereign counsel of his will...

"(4) ...Such grace is necessarily a manifestation of love or lovingkindness in the heart of God...The love or lovingkindness that lies back of that offer is not anything less; it is the will to that salvation. .."

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Yup, the OPC really nodded off on that one. Must have been one of those "apparent contradictions!"

Ron

MarkC said...

"Does God desire what is not available to Him? Does God desire that the Godhead work at cross purposes? Does God desire contradictions after all?"

What is certain is that He has decreed that there be confused 21st century Calvinists who think he does!!

Peace

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

LOL!

razzendahcuben said...

"It's one thing to say that God has a priority of opposing desires."

How do you know that this is not what John Piper believes? This seems to be what he believes, along with John Hendryx, RC Sproul, etc.

Also, what do you think of this statement John Hendryx of monergism.com:

We must not rely purely on our autonomous reason or logic to draw important theological conclusions. Instead, we reason within the framework of the God's Self-revelation (the Scriptures), which alone should be our guide. ... God has a decretive will that is different from his revealed will with regard to our salvation.

Hendryx would say that God's revealed will is a desire for all men to be saved, but His decretive will is what actually comes to pass.

I guess this is what Piper holds to also, but based on what I've read it seems like they ultimately call the "two wills" two desires instead, with neither contradicting the other because they both operate in different ways:

So we find that God allows things to happen that He would prefer not to happen.

This is the position of RC Sproul, too, apparently. So I'm not sure where you are finding disagreement.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"How do you know that this is not what John Piper believes?"

Because of the plain meaning of words.

"Also, what do you think of this statement John Hendryx of monergism.com:
We must not rely purely on our autonomous reason or logic to draw important theological conclusions."


Autonomous reason? First off, does John Hendryx have an epistemology that can eveny justify logic? In any case, such rhetoric is a prelude to "let us check logic at the door and affirm contradiction."

"Instead, we reason within the framework of the God's Self-revelation (the Scriptures), which alone should be our guide. ... God has a decretive will that is different from his revealed will with regard to our salvation."

Here comes the confusion...

"Hendryx would say that God's revealed will is a desire for all men to be saved, but His decretive will is what actually comes to pass."

God's "will" includes is his determination to damn some. Whereas his revealed precept is that all are required to repent. Watch carefully now. The equivocation comes when one refers to God's precepts of God as His "will." Once that is done, it is assumed that the preceptive will is an actual will of desire! In other words, to call precepts a "will" is only one step away from assuming that God desires (i.e. "wills") that his precepts be obeyed.

"So we find that God allows things to happen that He would prefer not to happen."

Doesn't God choose according to his stongest inclination at the moment of choice? Or are we to believe that God truly "prefers" X yet somehow Y occurs against his will instead? I'm sorry to report that your Arminianism is creeping in again, which allows you to say things like God "allows" things to happen. Eternal truth propostions about future creaturely choices can only be grounded in God's determination, which undermines your view that such truths are not determined but "allowed." Your view of God's decree presupposes the autonomy of man, libertarian free will and a decree that is contingent upon things outside the sole determination of God.

I would suggest that you wrestle with my posts on free will and future tense truth propositions.

Regards,

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

The equivocation comes when one refers to God's precepts of God as His "will." Once that is done, it is assumed that the preceptive will is an actual will of desire!

OK, so 1 Tim. 2:4 isn't a will, just a desire. But God has greater desires, which is why everyone isn't saved. Got it.

In other words, to call precepts a "will" is only one step away from assuming that God desires (i.e. "wills") that his precepts be obeyed.

I'm assuming you meant "that His precepts be obeyed by Himself"?

Doesn't God choose according to his stongest inclination at the moment of choice? Or are we to believe that God truly "prefers" X yet somehow Y occurs against his will instead? I'm sorry to report that your Arminianism is creeping in again, which allows you to say things like God "allows" things to happen.

Actually, I was quoting John Hendryx...

I agree with everything you've written on future tense truth propositions.

Because of the plain meaning of words.

Since 1 Tim. 2:4 clearly says "all", you would agree that God desires ALL men to be saved---as opposed to Piper who thinks that "all" refers to all social classes?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

OK, so 1 Tim. 2:4 isn't a will, just a desire.

No, it's neither. The "will" in that passage is speaking about what God "will" bring to pass. It's neither a precept nor a desire. However, since he "will" bring to pass the salvation of all men, then of course he desires the salvation of all men. Notwithstanding, the word "will" is not referring to God's desire but rather God's desire is presupposed since what God will bring to pass is what he desires to bring to pass.

The only question now to ask is whether the passage teaches universalism, which is that God will bring to pass the salvation of every single person. The passage does not teach that God will do that, but rather it teaches that God will bring to pass the salvation of all classes of people, such as kings.

"I'm assuming you meant "that His precepts be obeyed by Himself"?"

No. God's precepts are what He requires of every single man, which is not always accompanied by a desire for His precepts to be obeyed. After all, didn't God desire that Jesus be put to death by the sins of morally responsible agents?

"Since 1 Tim. 2:4 clearly says "all", you would agree that God desires ALL men to be saved---as opposed to Piper who thinks that "all" refers to all social classes?"

Piper is correct on that one, as was Owens before him! :)

Ron

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Ron, my apologies for posting a reply to such an old article. I discovered it while doing research for a series I am writing which is actually quite unrelated; but I felt compelled to comment.

Do you still hold to this view that God does not, in any way, desire the salvation of the reprobate? If so, may I ask you a few questions, in all seriousness, and without meaning any offense?

Firstly, do you desire the salvation of all people? Do you desire the salvation of your non-Christian colleagues or friends or acquaintances? Surely you do? I know I do. I would rather see them all accept Christ for the forgiveness of their sins than see them hard-heartedly reject him and remain under God's wrath forever.

Secondly, assuming that you, like myself, really do desire the salvation of all people, do you think that this desire is wrong? What I mean is, is this desire a benevolent and good desire, or a wicked and sinful one? Again, surely you agree that it is benevolent and good; that it is not born out of humanism, but out of biblical love—for we are indeed to love everyone, and desire what is best for them?

Thirdly, then, and here I mean no offense—but do you believe that you are more benevolent, more loving than God? Do you desire the salvation of all people more than God does? Do you love sinners more than he does? Surely you do not think that.

I do believe that God desires the salvation of all people; even the reprobate. I also believe that the redemption bought by Christ was sufficient, though not efficacious, for all people, in congruence with this desire. I have not always held this view. Until I investigated the issue in depth I actually would have agreed with your post above (this is not to say that you haven't investigated the issue in depth; merely that in my case I came to the opposite conclusion). It is not contradictory for God to have multiple intentions as regards the wicked. It is not contradictory for him to desire their salvation out of love, yet have a greater desire for their reprobation in order to glorify himself. Certainly, historically, Reformed theologians have generally not thought so.

I think your position is derived logically, out of an understandable desire to avoid any inconsistency in God's character; but your presupposition that God's desires must evidence such simplicity is rather like Occam's Razor—a reasonable hypothesis, but one which must be tested against reality. I don't think you can adequately account for passages like Ezekiel 33:11, or simply for God's nature as love, if you presuppose such a rigorous and uncompromising view of his desires. And neither need you do so, since multiple intentions, while "messy", are not self-contradictory. I am not affirming an irrational position; merely a more complex one.

Regards,
Bnonn

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

It is fallacious to argue that God must desire what I am to desire. For instance, I desire to have relations with my life; God doesn't. He desires that I do. In the like manner, God desires that I desire the salvation of the reprobate, which does not logically imply that He must desire the same. Moreover, God's desire is that I desire that Mr. Jones be saved - *IF* it is God's will. Accordingly, my desire is to be in submission to God's plan as well as its precepts. Peter even gets rebuked by Jesus for not desiring God's decree of sin. Jesus called Peter "Satan" for not desiring that his Lord be crucified, which was sin to do.

Your post was long on assertions but you offered no interaction with the conflict that is before you. What does it mean that God desires the reprobate to be saved when the Father didn't choose him in Christ; the Son did not die for him; and the Holy Spirit doesn't try to convert him? For God to desire the salvation of the reprobate would mean that God desires that He would have acted differently in the past.

Please, argue something. You might begin by affirming or denying TULIP.

Blessings,

Ron

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Ron, thanks for your reply. I'm sorry that you found my argument unclear; permit me to rephrase.

I agree that it may be fallacious to argue that God must desire the same things that we desire. That is why I couched my argument as I did, by demonstrating that the sort of desire under question is not a purely human desire like the desire you have for your wife, but rather is equivalent between man and God. It is a desire directly related to agape, which we know we "inherit" from God himself. My argument is simply that we are by no means more loving than God, who is love (agape; 1 John 4:8). (To be fair, this is not actually my argument, but a development of Spurgeon's, and I think you dismiss it too readily.)

The fact that we love sinners, and consequently desire them to be saved does not imply that we do not love God more, and consequently have a greater desire that he be glorified. It is, in fact, possible to love sinners and to rejoice in God's righteous judgment and punishment of them, because the latter is greatly more valuable.

Conversely, your example of Peter being rebuked by Jesus for not desiring God's decree of sin serves to illustrate the same point. Does Got not hate evil? And does anyone who hates evil not desire that evil never occur? And yet it was his desire that the greatest evil possible be perpetrated on Jesus. Surely this implies that God desires evil? But does that not result in a contradiction, since God hates evil? I imagine you recognize it does not, because God desired the salvation of his elect and the glorification of his power more than he desired to not have Christ suffer.

I think we both recognize that there is a complexity of intentions within God. Denying that he loves the reprobate does nothing to change that, since a complexity of intentions is necessary for even a coherent theodicy. God hates evil, and loves good; therefore he desires not-evil, and good. Yet the world is largely evil, and not-good. Why? Because the greatest desire of God is for the greatest good, which is his own glorification; and this is only logically possible with evil. Despite that he hates evil, he ordains it in order to achieve this greater end. Does this mean that we have contradicted the previous statement that God desires not-evil? After all, he does not ordain that which he does not desire (that would be absurd); and he has ordained evil. So he must desire evil. Yet we know he desires not-evil. Does this entail a contradiction? No, and we both recognize that. He desires evil in a different sense than he desires not-evil; that is, he does not desire both at the same time and in the same way, so the law of contradiction is not broken. Otherwise, using your example of Peter above, we could formulate the following contradiction:

1. God hates those who love evil (Ps 5:5; 11:5; Lev 20:23; Pr 6:16-19; Hos 9:15 etc).
2. But God hates those who hate evil (Mark 8:31-33).
3. Therefore, (1) or (2) must be false.

Given this, I cannot see that it is unreasonable for me to say that God loves the reprobate, in the sense that because he is good, because he is love, it is his very nature to do so—even though he is not going to make that love efficacious. If you think a contradiction is entailed here, please show me how. I do not deny that God also hates evildoers. What I am saying is that he loves them and he hates them at the same time, but in a different sense. It is his nature as good and loving God to love them. It is his nature as holy and wrathful God to hate them. The two inclinations are not contradictory.

Now you ask about God desiring the reprobate to be saved when the Father did not choose them in Christ, the Son did not die for them, and the Holy Spirit does not convert them. But surely I was clear in my original post, and here also, that one may desire something that one nonetheless does not bring about? I desire to eat a lot of chocolate, but my greater desire to not die of heart disease prevents me. Does this mean I regret not eating lots of chocolate? No; because my desire for chocolate does not exist in a vacuum, but within the context of my larger desire to be healthy. So God may desire the salvation of the reprobate because he loves them, but desire more their damnation because he wishes to glorify himself. Does this mean he regrets not having saved them? No.

Furthermore, you speak of the Father choosing, Christ dying, and the Spirit converting; but these are actions associated with the elect. Yet God does love the reprobate, though he especially loves the elect; Christ did die sufficiently for the reprobate, though efficaciously only for the elect; and the Holy Spirit does call and convict the reprobate (John 16:8-11), though he converts only the elect. I know you interpret 1 Tim 2:4 as referring to all kinds of people; but in light of Ezekiel 33:11 and 18:32 this is not nearly as congruent with the grammar as simply interpreting it as God desiring all people to be saved—and making this desire efficacious especially for those who believe (1 Tim 4:10). Indeed, whether or not you interpret 1 Tim 2:4 as actually meaning what it says seems irrelevant, since Ezekiel so plainly states that God has "no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live" (33:11; and this is repeated in 18:23 and 18:32). In other words, God has pleasure in the repentance of the wicked, but not in their death. Put another way, God desires that the wicked be saved, and does not desire that they perish. How would you interpret these passages in order to make them congruent with a God who has no love whatsoever for the reprobate, and no desire at all for their salvation? (It isn't possible to suggest that these statements are directed only to the elect, since they are explicitly directed to all Israel.) But if God desires the salvation of the reprobate in the way Ezekiel describes, then your belief that this contradicts his actions in not saving them must be false.

Similarly, how are we to preach the gospel of grace to the reprobate, and command their repentance, if God does not in any sense desire peace with them, nor make it available in Christ? That is, how can we preach that the gospel is an invitation to "everyone" (Is 55), if there is no provision in it for everyone? And how can those who reject it be punished for so doing, when the redemption we preach was never made for them in any sense, and so was never available for them to procure? It is not simply that they rejected it of their own sinfulness, but rather that it was never theirs to reject at all.

As regards TULIP, I have little regard for acrostics which overly simplify a complex set of inter-related doctrines. I affirm total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the preservation of the saints; yet I deny that the atonement was limited in sufficiency to the elect, but rather in efficaciousness. The word "limited" by itself is inadequate to define the distinction between your position and my own. In any case, I hope you find this response more fruitful than my previous one.

In Christ,
Bnonn

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

"I agree that it *may* be fallacious to argue that God must desire the same things that we desire. That is why I couched my argument as I did, by demonstrating that the sort of desire under question is not a purely human desire like the desire you have for your wife, but rather is equivalent between man and God. It is a desire directly related to agape, which we know we "inherit" from God himself.

Your argument is fallacious; it’s not that it “may be” fallacious. Now you’re going further by begging the question. You assume by definition that God has this desire inherent within himself to save reprobates, which if true should not contradict his desire to damn them!

My argument is simply that we are by no means more loving than God, who is love (agape; 1 John 4:8). (To be fair, this is not actually my argument, but a development of Spurgeon's, and I think you dismiss it too readily.)

Again, you’ve completely ignored the contradiction that I’ve exposed and instead proceeded to assert, not argue, your position. You may not have it both ways; God desires his decree, which includes the particulars of his decree, which included damning reprobates. Consequently, God desires their damnation; yet you say He desires the contrary. This is for x to be true and false in the same way at the same time.

The fact that we love sinners, and consequently desire them to be saved does not imply that we do not love God more, and consequently have a greater desire that he be glorified.

Our desire for x to be saved – if it is a godly desire – is a desire that x be saved if and only if it is God’s desire for x to be saved. Our desire, in other words, is in submission to God’s decree, if it is a godly desire.

“Does Got not hate evil? And does anyone who hates evil not desire that evil never occur?

No, God wants evil to occur, which is why he decreed evil!

“…And yet it was his desire that the greatest evil possible be perpetrated on Jesus. Surely this implies that God desires evil? But does that not result in a contradiction, since God hates evil?

You’re left w/ a contradiction and you’re equivocating. You first speak of evil as an abstract noun and then speak of evil in terms of evil that God actually decrees. God desires the evil that he determines, which is not some abstract notion of evil.

After all, he does not ordain that which he does not desire (that would be absurd); and he has ordained evil. So he must desire evil. Yet we know he desires not-evil. Does this entail a contradiction? No, and we both recognize that. He desires evil in a different sense than he desires not-evil; that is, he does not desire both at the same time and in the same way, so the law of contradiction is not broken.

You have not told us why the law of contradiction is not broken. You’ve merely asserted that you are not contradicting yourself. What you have failed to do is tell us in what way God does not desire the evil that occurs.

1. God hates those who love evil (Ps 5:5; 11:5; Lev 20:23; Pr 6:16-19; Hos 9:15 etc).
2. But God hates those who hate evil (Mark 8:31-33).
3. Therefore, (1) or (2) must be false.


1 is true; 2 is false. One’s hatred of evil is not in and of itself a sufficient condition for God’s love or disdain of such a posture. Yet hating God’s determination is a sufficient condition for God’s displeasure.

What I am saying is that he loves them and he hates them at the same time, but in a different sense. It is his nature as good and loving God to love them. It is his nature as holy and wrathful God to hate them. The two inclinations are not contradictory.

You keep asserting that you are not contradicting yourself but you have yet to tease out in what sense God hates and loves the same person.

Now you ask about God desiring the reprobate to be saved when the Father did not choose them in Christ, the Son did not die for them, and the Holy Spirit does not convert them. But surely I was clear in my original post, and here also, that one may desire something that one nonetheless does not bring about?

The only thing clear is your assertions. What you have yet to do is offer a reconciliation / argument for your contradictions.

I desire to eat a lot of chocolate, but my greater desire to not die of heart disease prevents me. Does this mean I regret not eating lots of chocolate? No; because my desire for chocolate does not exist in a vacuum, but within the context of my larger desire to be healthy. So God may desire the salvation of the reprobate because he loves them, but desire more their damnation because he wishes to glorify himself. Does this mean he regrets not having saved them? No.

You think that God is like you, having regrets. Moreover, you are now introducing “regret” into the discussion which simply confuses the matter. The question is what does it mean for God to desire x and not x, salvation and reprobation, of certain men. What does it mean for God to desire impossibility?! It is impossible for God to save someone for whom Jesus did not die, so what is it for God to desire that which is a logical impossibility? You won’t approach that question with any sort of precision, which tells me either that you are ill prepared or unwilling to deal with your irreconcilable theology. Accordingly, I think I’m done w/ you on this matter.

Cheers,

Ron

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Bnonn posted again but I have chosen not to post it because it was by and large the same rhetoric that advanced no argument. He did make a new assertion though, which I will publish. He said, “Your entire view appears to be predicated on the idea that, since Jesus died only for the elect, God cannot desire the salvation of the reprobate. But that view is, I believe, simply false.

For my statement to be false, then God would have to desire now that Jesus would have died on the cross for the salvation of those He desired not to die for, the goats! For my statement to be false, then the Holy Spirit would have to desire to convert the reprobate. Rather than deal with the salvific intent of the atonement and the Spirit’s monergistic work in conversion, Bnonn introduces a new premise that “Jesus did indeed die for the reprobate in some sense.” Let’s suppose that Jesus died for the reprobate “in some sense” other than their salvation. Whatever “in some sense” means, it does not mean that Jesus died to take away the sins of the reprobate. Consequently, the desire God has with respect to the cross as it pertains to the reprobate would be the desire for that which is contemplated in this “other sense” of the work of the cross. God’s desire with respect to the work of the cross on behalf of the reprobate would be that they receive some blessing or curse that is not salvific(!) in nature. Accordingly, a defense of Bnonn’s thesis is not advanced but rather avoided, again. Bnonn continues in this line of “reasoning” when he writes: “just as the Spirit does indeed work upon them in some sense, despite that they are not converted…” Yes, the Spirit works on reprobates in convicting them of sin, righteousness and judgment. This is what God desires with respect to the Spirit’s work toward the reprobate and, therefore, this is what God the Holy Spirit does - convict the reprobate sinner. Yet what Bnonn is supposed to be arguing is that the Spirit desires to convert, not just “work upon reprobates in some sense.

God must do the saving for men to be saved. Accordingly, for God to desire that someone be saved, God must desire that He save them. For God to save the reprobate, Jesus would have needed to have died for the reprobate and the Holy Spirit would need to convert the reprobate. Accordingly, for God to desire the salvation of the reprobate, He would have to desire that Jesus would have died with a different intention than Jesus had! And, God would have to desire that the Holy Spirit convert those for whom Jesus did not die. God would have to desire that which is impossible, a different design for the atonement. Introducing non-salvific workings of the Spirit and non-salvific intentions of the cross toward the reprobate is obviously irrelevant to the question of whether God desires to save the reprobate. What Bnonn argued is that because God has non-salvific intentions for the reprobate, God therefore desires their salvation! Now obviously when put that way, Bnonn will say NO, that's not what I mean. Yet, that is precisely what he argues. What is often the case is that when one's fallacious reasoning is disected, clarified, and exposed, the conclusions are not recognized by the one who is reasoning fallaciously. The reason this occurs is that the fallacies are usually embedded in ways that are confusing, especially to the one who is reasoning fallaciously.

Ron

Anonymous said...

Reformed Apologist,

You logically display the greatest contradiction that most Christians hold to.

I am requesting that you make your argument even stronger by briefly interpreting these 3 texts that most Christians refer when arguing for God's love of the reprobate: Matthew 5:43ff, Matthew 23:37ff, and Ezekiel 33:11

I admit that I ask mainly for my own benefit as a young seminary student.

Thanks,
dave

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Dave - Welcome. Can you say where you're studying?

Let me give you the "reader's digest" answer:

Concerning Matthew 5:43ff, God is good to all. That God tells us to love our enemies, which is to say lay one's life down for them, does not mean that Jesus must do the same. In fact, a 5-point Calvinist cannot maintain that Jesus would / did die for those who are not elect. Accordingly, the pinnacle of God's love cannot be said to apply to the non-elect. In the final analyses, God is good to all and he can command his servants to love those that he does not desire to save. Moreover, a love for x does not equate with a desire for x to receive y. In other words, even if God loves person-x, it need not mean that he desires the best for person x.

All the Matthew 23 verse suggests is that the fathers were culpable for the withdrawing of the covenant blessings upon the children. I would have done x but YOU wouldn't, is simply a rebuke that communicates "don't blame me."

W/ respect to the Ezek. passage, I recently wrote this to a dear friend who raised the same question: "With respect to God's pleasure and his sovereign determination to damn the wicked, I would say that if we look at the damnation of the wicked as a particular and not part of God's entire plan, then as a particular without any other consideration given to his larger purpose, he finds no pleasure in their damnation. In other words, as an abstract ideal, narrowly considered without any consideration given to the exhaustively comprehensive purpose for the ages, grace and salvation is more pleasing to God than justice and damnation. So, I think the verse is just speaking about which is better, damnation or redemption narrowly considered without any reference to the big picture and all that the big picture entails. However, and as you pointed out, God must take pleasure in what he does, which includes taking pleasure in all the particulars that make up or comprise the unified plan. Accordingly, in some other sense he must take pleasure in the damnation of the wicked. SO, I liken this whole question to the idea of not taking pleasure in going out on a nasty, blistery day; but when I consider that going out on such a day is necessary for me to go to church or to get somewhere I want to be, then in that sense I do desire more to go out and brave the elements than to stay inside in warmth and comfort. Yet as a particular ideal, narrowly considered, staying inside is always better than going out into the cold, etc., but when I take that particular in light of the greater purpose, going out is better. Sound reasonable?"

Yours,

Ron

Anonymous said...

Ron,

Thanks for your quick response! I go to a small seminary in Grand Rapids, MI. It's called the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary. I don't know if you have heard of the PRCA. If you haven't, I have a feeling you may be refreshed by their writing. WWW.PRCA.ORG.

I think your answers are quite logical and sensible. I like how you explained the Ezekiel passage. To add to it, I think there is a comparison here with what God takes pleasure in. The heavenly hosts rejoice when just one sinner repents (Luke 15:7,10), but they do NOT when the wicked perish. Oh, God is glorified as his justice is revealed in the damnation of the wicked, but God does not rejoice in it. That is not his character. The passage is in no way talking about God's will.

I have some questions about your other explanations though. As to the Matthew 5 passage, you say that God loves the wicked but yet does not desire to save them. I think that's logical, but I don't think that is Scriptural. I John 3:16 says that God shows his love to us by laying down his life for us. So how can you say that God loves the reprobate but doesn't lay down his life for them? Also, God hates the reprobate(Rom 9), and so wouldn't it be contradictory to state that God loves and hates them?

I'm not sure I quite understand what you were saying concerning the MT 23 passage. Are you saying that Jesus does NOT mean that he desired to save the children of Jerusalem? I'm pretty sure the text IS speaking about the saving(gathering) of the elect. Doesn't the text seems to say that Jesus WILLED that they be saved but that they WILLED it not and thus are left desolate?

Thanks so much for your help!

dave

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

You said: “As to the Matthew 5 passage, you say that God loves the wicked but yet does not desire to save them. I think that's logical, but I don't think that is Scriptural.

Obviously God loves some of the wicked. He loves the wicked-elect prior to their conversion. With that aside, I think you were saying that I implied that God loves the non-elect, but I didn’t say that, did I? I said: “a love for x does not equate with a desire for x to receive y. In other words, even if God loves person-x, it need not mean that he desires the best for person x.” In other words, granting for an hypothetical-opponent’s position for argument’s sake – i.e. that God “loves” the reprobate (whatever that might mean to someone) – it does not logically follow that God desires that such be saved. For example, one can love someone in a particular way but not desire the best for that person in all things. For instance, logically speaking I can love my neighbor in many ways (either in doing good to them without an associated desire that they prosper [if love is just doing good], or with a sincere desire that they prosper [if love includes more than just doing...]), yet without having a corresponding desire to do for them all that I desire for those whom I love in other more significant ways. Accordingly, I was exposing the common yet subtle equivocation that occurs when people equate the love of bestowing common goodness upon someone with the desire of granting grace to such a one. To take this even further, one can even bestow common goodness with the motive of making one even more culpable. I’m not saying that is God’s motive. I’m simply making the point that it is fallacious to conclude that an objective love of benevolence (i.e. showing objective goodness), or even having a heart-felt desire to grant limited mercy and grace (short of salvation), must be accompanied by a desire to show forth the grace of salvation. One need not be favored in salvation, in other words, in order to be loved - the targeted recipient of good some things, regardless of the desire.

You said: I John 3:16 says that God shows his love to us by laying down his life for us. So how can you say that God loves the reprobate but doesn't lay down his life for them?

First off, it depends on how one defines love. If love is simply doing “good” then God loves all people. But if love must be associated with a desire to see one saved, then of course God does not love the non-elect. Having said that, your argument immediately above, although it arrives at a true conclusion, is formally fallacious. I show my love for my children by doing x. That doesn’t mean that since I don’t show x to you that I don’t love you. Logically speaking, laying down one’s life may be sufficient to show God's love but the verse does not imply that it’s necessary that love be shown that way. God loves non-fallen angels but that love is not proven by the laying down of Jesus’ life for them. Jesus loves the Father but doesn't die for him, etc. Again, I have no problem with your conclusion, just the way you arrive at it, that’s all.

Also, God hates the reprobate(Rom 9), and so wouldn't it be contradictory to state that God loves and hates them?

It would be contradictory to say that he loves and hates them in the way at the same time, etc. Logically speaking, it could be argued that God loves them to a point but not the point of salvation, but even that seems to need qualification. The point, however, is that God does not desire to do for them that which is past: election, vicarious atonement, etc.

You said: “Are you saying that Jesus does NOT mean that he desired to save the children of Jerusalem?

In what way could he have possibly desired to save them if he didn’t come to die for them? He’s speaking about those who would not come to him and, therefore, he’s not speaking about the elect.

You said: “I'm pretty sure the text IS speaking about the saving (gathering) of the elect. Doesn't the text seems to say that Jesus WILLED that they be saved but that they WILLED it not and thus are left desolate?

If they willed it not, then they can’t be elect.

Blessings, Dave.

Ron

p.s. I'll check out the website. I've heard of the denomination but can't remember much about it.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Oh yes, I'm quite familiar with your denomination - very much so. I read that part of your post too quickly.

Anonymous said...

So it seems to me that you would deny the doctrine of the free-offer of the gospel but accept the doctrine of common grace. Is that correct?

Yes, I've always just equated love or grace with saving grace. It's because my denomination does reject the doctrine of common grace. Thus, I never think of God's love or grace being shown to anyone other than the elect.

That said, I think that the Mt. 5 passage definitely implies a love of God for the reprobate which is non-salvific. My denomination rejects any type of favor of God for the reprobate though. We call it providence instead and correctly claim that God never uses the works of providence for any ultimate benefit. The text definitely uses the word agape there though... I'll have to study that further.

I've been reading some other explanations of the MT23 text, and I have found a different explanation that I think you would find more accurate. It states that those children who Jesus WILLED to gather are the elect people of Jerusalem. Those who WILLED NOT that Jesus would gather those children are not the children themselves. They are Jerusalem. Jerusalem refers to the Pharisees and other leaders of Jerusalem whom Jesus has been addressing in the rest of chapter 5. Those leaders and caretakers of the city WILLED NOT that Jesus would gather their people, but Jesus nevertheless does.

I am interested in your attitude towards the PRCA. I here studying and seeking truth at their seminary, but I know that there are many people who have negative thoughts towards this denomination. I'd be greatly interested in the honests thoughts of an OPC elder.

Thanks again.

p.s. You may have now gotten me addicted to theological blogging. This is the first time I've blogged!

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Dave,

Keep in mind that my thoughts as an OPC elder are not THE thoughts of the OPC. In fact, my high-Calvinism is probably at odds with most OPC elders but I share a common bond with your professors and elders.

I have a great affinity with the denomination with respect to the free-offer (I disagree with Murray and Stonehouse) and as I mentioned I'm a "high-Calvinist." I also agree with the construct of the covenant of grace, that it was established with the elect in Christ alone but that all who are born of professing believers are to be regarded as in Christ and consequently should be baptized.

I am more optimistic with my millenial view and I find more relevance in the OT law as it applies to civil magistrates today. I couldn't disagree more with the eternal-justification view held by men like Mr. Hanko, whom I engaged in point-counter-point a few years back through email when he was in Korea. He called me an Arminian over my disagreement of eternal-justification! I remember asking him if we're already glorified too and that it just hasn't been brought to our conscience! Also, I delight in corporate Hymn singing.

I think the denomination is somewhat sectarian, at least that's how it comes across to me. Mr. Engelsma seems like a wonderful and gracious man. I exchanged emails with him too, once I believe, a few years back.

Blessings,

Ron

Anonymous said...

Ron,

If it's alright to go on to eternal justification on a free-offer blog, would you briefly explain to me how you disagree with Hanko?

Sectarian!!! haha, thanks for your honest answer. You're not the first one I've heard that from. Many of my friends at Grove City College had similar responses. We call plenty of people Arminian. I do pray that the PRCA will grow.

You probably disagree with our view on marriage too, right?

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Mr. Hanko believes that justification in the believer's life is no new justification at all but simply an eternal justification coming to his consciousness. Accordingly, Mr. Hanko cannot maintain that one is justified by being baptized into the finished work of Christ and risen in him with the gift of faith. The application of redemption becomes superfluous where pardon and imputation is concerned. In fact, redemption-accomplished seems a bit superfluous too since all is wrapped up in the decree. How about the incarnation? Needn't that have occured?

As for marriage and divorce, I forgot but that's another view to which they hold that I find very harmful to the cause of Christ.

I'm not inclined to debate these issues at this time, not that you were wanting to. :)

Grace and Peace,

Ron

razzendahcuben said...

Hi Ron,

You deny that God desires the salvation of all because it seems strange to you that God would desire that which is unavailable to Him. So I am understanding your argument as follows:

1. If God desires X then He can cause X
2. God cannot cause X
3. God does not desire X

I am wondering how you know the first premise is true.

Regarding your rejection of the "free offer" I am also curious if this is your argument:

1. If God offers the gospel to all men then all men can repent
2. All men cannot repent
3. God does not offer the gospel to all men

If this is not your argument then I would like to know your argument.

I have some other questions but we'll start there. Thanks.

Ronald W. Di Giacomo said...

Hi Ron,

You deny that God desires the salvation of all because it seems strange to you that God would desire that which is unavailable to Him. So I am understanding your argument as follows:

1. If God desires X then He can cause X
2. God cannot cause X
3. God does not desire X

I am wondering how you know the first premise is true.


Hey Brother Keith,

That’s an interesting question but my actual argument looks more like this:

It is logically impossible for those that Jesus did not die for to be saved
God does not desire that which is logically impossible
God does not desire for those that Jesus did not die for to be saved

I know 1 from Scripture. I know 2 because God is logical. I know three follows from two because the form of the argument is valid.

Regarding your rejection of the "free offer" I am also curious if this is your argument:

1. If God offers the gospel to all men then all men can repent
2. All men cannot repent
3. God does not offer the gospel to all men


The “free offer” means so many things to so many people so I avoid the term.

The gospel isn’t offered, it’s declared. The gospel is Jesus died and rose again, etc. The “invitation” is not an “invitation” but an objective command. We must define the terms very specifically or we’ll talk by each other.

I don’t have a ton of time these days, but feel free to follow-up with questions. If they seem too complex I’ll ring you up!

Ron

Child_Of_Wisdom said...

I would say God has a priority of Opposing desires but one overall will. The texts that speak of God wanting all to be saved are however taken out of context to support this. I think the fact that we are made in the image of God and that the holy spirit gives us compassion for all men; Jesus'compassion seemed to have extend beyond the elect; and God says love thy enemies as he does. I believe God must have a universal love for all men but a much greater eternal love for the glory of Christ and his church which makes his love for the reprobate pale to insignificance in comparison. The difference between his love for the elect and his love for the reprobate is so magnificent that to our minds it appears as hate beyond our comprehension. We simply do not have the same degrees of love God has.

Anonymous said...

You don't think in some way God wants(or wills) all men do the right thing? You don't think he has a permissive will or does he just give ethical commands? Does he in some sense love everyone or does he only have love for the elect?
I think warrant might exist for thinking God has a permissive will because text like
1 Thessalonians 4 "2. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.
3. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:"

Reformed Apologist said...

Interact with post.

Anonymous said...

We see in some sense it may be God's will that man follows his commandments and one of his commands being to believe the Gospel. Scripture seems to affirm those things.

Reformed Apologist said...

Does God have unfulfilled desires? If you say "in some sense," please elaborate what that sense might be.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking in the sense that God wills or desires we abstain from sin, but Christians do still commit sins.

Reformed Apologist said...

So God has unfulfilled desires. He desires that things turn out differently than He has determined. Yet that would mean that what he decreed was not according to His greatest desire. But for Him to have decreed it, it must have been His greatest desire lest He chose according to a lesser desire, a contradiction.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't mean that God doesn't choose according to his strongest desire. He decreed his greatest desire, but his lesser desires are for men to follow his commands.

Reformed Apologist said...

You're thinking as though man can muster up obedience. We need to untangle that notion first.

Man can follow any command if and only if God effects obedience in man to do so. Accordingly, when God desires that man obey, He must desire that He sovereignly effect man's willing and doing of God's good pleasure. In those instances that man doesn't obey, God's greatest desire is that He Himself not effect such obedience in man. With that metaphysical consideration in view, what does it mean that God desires not to effect obedience while having a "lesser desire" to do so? I've dealt with this point in the post as it relates to the harmonious operations of the Trinity. You've not interacted. You've simply repeated your thesis.

If you wish to post a phone number I won't publish it and will phone you.