Monday, October 30, 2017

Free Offer Of The Gospel

Q. What is effectual calling?

A. Effectual calling is the work of God's Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

Canons of Dort 2.5:

Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

The free offer of the gospel (abbreviated “free offer”) has meant different things at different times. From a confessional standpoint, it can only mean that God sincerely offers salvation to all who repent and believe. The meaning is at best narrow. The confessions do not speak in terms of God’s desire for all men to be saved; they merely teach that God promises the gift of everlasting life to all who would turn from self to Christ. This promise of life through faith is sincere. It is a genuine offer. If you believe, you will be saved. This gospel is to go out to all men everywhere.

Arminians are often quick to point out that the free offer is inconsistent with Calvinism. They reason that if the offer of the gospel is sincere and to go out to all people without exception, then God must desire the salvation of all people without exception. Otherwise, they say, the offer isn’t sincere. How can God desire the salvation of all men without exception if God as the ultimate decider of man’s salvation chooses to pass over some? In other words, Arminians reason that unless God desires to save all men, which they observe does not comport with Calvinism, the free offer of life through faith is insincere when given to the reprobate. Their axiom is that a sincere gospel offer implies a sincere desire to see the offer accepted, a well-meant offer. More on that in a moment.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), representative of possibly most Calvinists today on the matter of the free offer, under the leadership of John Murray and Ned Stonehouse, adopted as a majority position the Arminian view that God desires the salvation of all men. While still holding fast to the Reformed view of predestination, the OPC affirmed the view that that the free offer cannot adequately be disassociated from a divine desire of salvation for all men without exception. In other words, such Calvinists assert that the genuineness of the gospel offer presupposes God's desire that all embrace Christ.

Subsequently, the free offer has taken on the additional meaning of a well-meant offer, or desire, that the reprobate turn and be saved. Accordingly, a major difference between Arminians and such Calvinists as these is on the question of consistency. Arminians find the free offer inconsistent with unconditional election, whereas these sorts of Calvinists (who hold to an expanded view of “free offer”) do not.

Back to first principles. What makes an offer genuine or sincere?

Can we judge whether an offer is genuine or sincere simply based on whether it is true or not? If God intends to keep his promise, then isn't the offer genuine? With respect to the gospel, if one meets the condition of faith, he will one day enter the joy of Lord. Isn't that enough to make the offer of salvation sincere? 

What was introduced in this discussion is what we might call the “well meant” offer of the gospel, that when God sincerely promises life on the condition of faith, the genuineness of the promise is predicated upon a sincere desire to see all men meet the condition. An indiscriminate call supposedly implies a desire for salvific fulfillment. Yet does a desire to keep one’s promise suggest an additional desire to see all meet the condition upon which the promise is based? Or does a sincere free offer merely require that the promise is truthful?

Well-meant offer; genuine offer; free offer; universal offer... (i.e. any offer!) now somehow implies the same thing – God desires all men without exception to exercise faith in Christ and be saved. 

Let’s do some basic theology…

What does it mean that God desires the salvation of the reprobate? Are we to believe that God desires the reprobate to do something he cannot do, namely regenerate himself and grant himself union with Christ? Or, is that to check our Calvinism at the door? Isn't it Jesus who saves? Isn't salvation of God after all? At best, if we are to remain consistent with our Calvinism, then wouldn't it follow that to argue for a well-meant offer of the gospel we'd have to posit that God desires that he himself would regenerate the reprobate unto union with Christ and salvation? Simply stated, since Calvinism affirms total depravity, wouldn't it stand to reason from a Calvinistic perspective that if God desires someone's salvation, God must desire that he save that person?

Accordingly, the question that should be considered in this regard is either (a) "Does God desire the reprobate to turn himself and live?" Or (b), "Does God desire that he himself turn the reprobate so that he can live?" Given that man is blind and deaf to spiritual things and cannot do anything to atone for his sins, how are we not strictly dealing with the theological plausibility of (b), that God desires to turn the reprobate contrary to what he has already decreed? If TULIP  is true, then (a) is a non-starter lest God desires what is impossible to occur.

Now then, is it reasonable to think that the Holy Spirit desires to turn the reprobate Godward when the Father, in eternity, did not choose the reprobate in Christ? Moreover, if Christ did not die for the reprobate and does not pray that the efficacy of the cross would be applied to the reprobate, then in what sense does God desire the reprobate’s salvation? Does God desire that for which Christ does not pray? Does the Trinity desire that persons of the Godhead work at cross purposes? Does God desire true contradictions after all? Or is this a matter of mystery? Does God have multiple wills, let alone multiple wills that are at cross-purposes? Or is this a matter of two truths that we should accept by faith? Apparent contradiction or true contradiction?

Not only can God not save the reprobate whom he did not elect in Christ; 2000 years ago didn't God act in time sealing that inability by securing salvation only for the elect? If so, then does it not follow that for God to desire the salvation of the reprobate, we should be willing to say that God, today, desires that Jesus would have died for the reprobate 2000 years ago? Or is there a third way of living looking at this? Does God live with a sense of regret or un-fulfillment? 

The OPC is quick to point out that they are not advocating a position entailing God both desiring and not desiring his decree. Fine, but then what does it mean for God to desire that men act contrary to his decree? Can God desire his decree while also desiring men to act in such a way that would thwart it? Moreover, aside from the question of whether God desires that man act contrary to God's decree, what does it mean for God to desire that he himself act contrary to how he decreed he would act? (Of course, I know no Calvinist who affirms the well-meant offer of the gospel who would also say that God desires that he elected more unto salvation, or anything like that. Yet if man cannot turn himself, as Calvinism clearly affirms, then isn't the implication of a well-meant offer that God desires to save those he has determined not to save?)

Indeed, God delights in his elect turning to Christ, but does such delight require that he also desires all men to turn to Christ, especially given that he has not seen fit to save all men?

Calling such a contra-Murray view a form of hyper-Calvinism or rationalistic appears insupportable until shown otherwise.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

New Blog

Theological Fireside Chats was created for the young men at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Once per month it will be updated with the topic for the following month's discussion group.The kickoff for this fellowship was Friday night, September 15. 14 young bucks attended. Our next meeting is scheduled for one week from today: Friday night, October 20th. 

The comments box is closed. It is used for footnotes as well as summaries of all past discussions. 

Take a peak and please pray for fruitful discussion and warm fellowship.


Proverbs 24:17-18New King James Version (NKJV)

17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
18 Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him,
And He turn away His wrath from him.

God is more concerned with our attitude than with his temporal dealings with the unjust. If we want God's preceptive will to be carried out on earth as it is in heaven, we should not gloat lest we provoke God to withdrawal his justice in order that his higher priority obtains, ridding us of gloating in this instance.


1. Our greatest desire should be that God's glory be on display. In this case, his just anger, which implies his temporal retribution. Our participation in that endeavor is something other than gloating, whatever that might look like.

2. We become culpable of God's justice not being meted out on earth. (That has serious implications in the political realm when parties gloat over the moral failings of their enemies.)

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My first (and probably last) abortion discussion on Facebook

I had an enlightening exchange on Facebook last night with a liberal. There’s no thread to produce because this person deleted it after their non-arguments for abortion were exposed as arbitrary and inconsistent. I pointed out only a sampling of informal fallacies - one false disjunction, one red herring, an argument from silence, all in a very brief discussion. Question begging abounded. There were also isolated instances of equivocation and ad hominem. (This is not intended to be a praise of my refutations. Far from it. It merely serves to highlight what is typical of liberals. It's not that liberals aren't intelligent. It's just that liberal ideologies are rationally indefensible.)
They deleted the posts in stages. Once I noticed what was happening I posted that I can understand why the record had been deleted given the bad showing on behalf of an unargued pro-abortion position. They strikingly responded with “showing?” as if no exchange had taken place.
Some of the highlights and observations.
The discussion did not begin with abortion. It began by my pointing out that when one is unwilling to acknowledge the faults of their own party affiliation, a tension can ensue. Rather than live in tension, those disagreements can be rationalized away by minimalizing them. Even worse, one can eventually surrender to the void and end up embracing those positions they otherwise wouldn’t so to relieve the uncomfortable tension that comes with covertly disagreeing with one's own peers. (Peer pressure isn’t something just for teens. For adults, too, resistance can give way to non-resistance. Non-resistance to embracing.)
Assuming this high school friend was still Roman Catholic (Catholic upbringing with devout mother), I simply wrote “the unborn?” (I wanted to see if they'd voice what I hoped would be a disagreement with a fundamental position of the Democratic Party.) Their coy response was that they didn’t mix religion with politics. Well, I was happy to change gears into a religious discussion, but instead I pointed out that abortion is a political matter as well as a religious matter; abortion is fair game in either arena. It was said since abortion was law it wasn’t political. Really? Then why during presidential debates do moderators ask questions pertaining to Roe v. Wade? Why do nominees to the Court suffer under congressional scrutiny on this matter? Obviously, this person’s stated reason for not wanting to discuss the matter was disingenuous.

After a bit of back-and-forth this person simply volunteered they were “comfy” with their pro-abortion position. Assuming they disagreed with other types of murder, I asked what conditions necessary for murder are not met by abortion. Crickets.
They immediately changed the subject, impugning hypocrisy to those who are pro-life yet don’t support social programs for the born. This person called these sorts "not pro-life but anti-abortion." (Implication being, if they were pro-life they’d care about the born too.)
Note the equivocation. Pro-life has a distinct meaning that pertains to the question of whether abortion entails taking innocent life. It does not pertain to one’s concern for the quality of life after birth. One might dare consider granting a revision to the label “pro-life” if persuasive statistics could be offered that would suggest pro-lifers are in favor of assisted suicide or genocide. But even then, all that might show is that pro-life people are inconsistent on the matter of sanctity of life. It would not prove a pro-life position is wrong.  
When I suggested that it is happily consistent to be pro-life while believing that giving toward social concerns should primarily be left up to individuals and ecclesiastical organizations, I was met with the insufficiency of those means. So, for this person, it’s fair to conclude that people who are traditionally considered pro-life and, also, give large sums of money to the poor are not truly pro-life but rather just anti-abortion. To be pro-life, one must not only be concerned for the poor, they must also agree with the insufficiency of giving toward those causes through other means other than government mediation. Only a big government liberal can be pro-life. False premises lead to silly conclusions, like that one.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trump, grammar, partisanship and hypocrisy....

""I will tell you," Trump told Hannity, "you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem, you cannot do that.""

I must believe the President doesn't mean "cannot," proven by the fact that people often do. So, at best, he either means "may not" or "should not." If the former, then he's at odds with Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989), which concludes that flag burning is "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment.*

Yet if all the POTUS means is "should not," then I'm fine with him holding to that opinion, which I share strongly, as long as he realizes that people *can* commit incendiary acts, even under the protection of the law. They can and they may.

What possibly amuses me most in all this chatter, maybe aside from the partisan imprecision I sometimes (sometimes often?) find with Sean Hannity, is that such extreme forms of protest are typically found only among *extreme* liberals; yet mainstream media refuses to admit that such behavior is at least a bit outside the norm, let alone completely out of step with what America stands for in principle. How did such truthfulness become only a conservative virtue? Or is it situational? If conservative athletes took a knee during the previous eight years, would it have been the protesting athletes or Obama's policies that would have received the blame by conservatives? There's good reason to think the latter. Yet should being right on an issue afford sympathy toward those who'd protest in objectionable ways? I should say not. As Michael Corleone aptly stated to the infamous senator from Nevada, "We're both of the same hypocrisy..." Until either side admits hypocrisy applies at least minimally to their own dealings, good luck.

What's at play here is both parties and the networks won't give an inch on the political field. Their fear is the moral equivalency factor. I won't acknowledge my wrong doing in fear that you won't acknowledge yours and yours is much worse! The moral equivalency factor gives way to "justifying" eclipsing of truth and telling outright lies in order to win an argument. Bias reporting is now somehow justified as long as the other side is behaving more unseemly than we. (No doubt, the ungodly are more comfortable among liberals. There isn't a moral equivalency between the parties, but that's not the point. Read on...)

Christians are governed by a radically different standard. A standard that often calls us to give up yardage in this world. A standard that requires us to acknowledge guilt, regardless of how little we think it compares to that of our opponents.

At the very least, all conservatives are to be about Rule of Law, but too often Rule of Law doesn't enter into the discussion when it undermines the point we'd like to make. Expedience trumps integrity. (Apropos Rule of Law - disrespecting our country is legal, whether we like it or not. Yet the Right is conspicuously silent on the constitutional rights of these juvenile knee-takers. Just like the Left refuses to acknowledge the inappropriateness of such outrageous behavior.)

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is much is permitted in this great country of ours under the rubric of "freedom of speech." For instance, we have this "American" idea that even blasphemy should be legal lest we become like a Muslim state. Where did that come from? False dilemma, obviously, but our schools don't teach critical thinking. Maybe that's where it comes from? No, bad reasoning is an ethical matter more than one of aptitude or education. Intelligent people can appear quite foolish when on the wrong side of an issue. Stephen Hawking.

Well, I'd say states' rights got swallowed up by the Federal Government long ago. I'd also say Texas pretty much had it right on this issue of flag desecration back in '89. (Though their criminal appeals court did rule contrary to the states' original ruling and subsequent appeal, as did the SCOTUS.)

Given the perpetual erosion of states' rights, maybe we can at least uphold NFL owners' rights? While I'm hoping, maybe players might one day consider taking a knee in church on Sunday - before heading off to work, of course. *sigh*

Truth may and can triumph over party. And, it most certainly should.

(*Antonin Scalia was in the 5-4 majority. Yet interestingly enough, what ended up being a defining moment in legalizing U.S. defiance took place during the 1984 Republican National Convention due to "disagreement" over certain Reagan policies. Be careful whom you appoint I guess. Oh well... If only man-on-the-street Jesse Watters could've interviewed the communist activist that night in '89 on the depth and breadth of his ideology.)

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