Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sincere Offer, Election, and Limited Atonement

My friend Paul has posted a response to David Ponter's response to James Anderson's comments on Limited Atonement and the Free Offer. It's a very detailed and worth reading. Allow me to post some shorter thoughts on the topic, namely the objection:
Is the “free offer” of the gospel really “sincere” if Jesus only died for some men and not all? If there is no atonement available for them, the offer seems insincere.
This is a frequent objection, particularly from Amyraldians and Arminians. If you think that the gospel is "Jesus died for you," then this objection makes a lot of sense. If we're supposed to tell people indiscriminately that Christ died for them, but he didn't, that doesn't seem very sincere.

Scriptures, however, don't present the gospel that way. In Scripture, the gospel is expressed in terms of repenting of your sins and believing on (i.e. trusting in) Jesus Christ for salvation. If you trust in Christ and repent of your sins, God will have mercy on you.

There is a world of difference between those two messages. One message makes an unconditional assertion regarding what Christ has done. The other message makes a conditional assertion about what God will do.

Yet, even among those who will grant to us that the gospel is not, "Jesus died for you," some people still don't like the idea of salvation being offered to those for whom God has not made any provision. Indeed, our Amyraldian and Arminian friends sometimes urge on us the idea that such a conditional offer is not "sincere" unless God has made preparations for those people.

The mere absence of enough provision for everyone to be saved, however, doesn't explain this objection. Suppose a company offers to "anyone who is willing to come down here and listen to us explain the benefits of our new tractor," an incentive of "$5, just for coming down and listening to the talk." No one would consider it "insincere" if the company doesn't actually have $5 times the number of people who will hear the offer, so long as they have $5 times the number of people that they think will accept the offer.

So, as long as the provision is sufficient for those who will "accept" the offer, we don't view the offer as insincere. Since, under the Calvinist framework, God has made provision for all who will come to Christ, the offer of the gospel should also be considered to be sincere by this standard.

The intuition behind the objection that remains, however, is that an "offer" doesn't seem sincere, if you have no intention of giving the offered thing to the person to whom you are offering it. For example, when a child offers to share an ice cream cone, it sometimes happens that this is simply an imitation of a parent's offer to share the parent's cone. If the parent were to try to accept the child's offer, the child might greedily refuse to allow the parent to have a bite. So, the child has only offered to share the cone because the child thought the offer would be refused. Such an offer is insincere.

Of course, by this time we are now dealing with the kind of objection that an Amyraldian, or someone like Ponter, cannot consistently make. After all, the problem with the child's offer is not that he doesn't have a cone to share, but that he does not intend to give up the cone. The Amyraldian admits that God does not intend to save the non-elect. Therefore, whether or not a provision is made seems utterly moot.

Nevertheless, for those who insist that God must intend to save, we may still legitimately question the weight of this objection. Isn't it enough that God intends to save everyone who "accepts" the "offer"? The idea that God must intend to save all those whom he knows will refuse seems absurd when expressed that way. Thus, we may conclude that while such an objection may have some limited intuitive appeal, it does not hold up to intellectual scrutiny.

-TurretinFan

33 comments:

Coram Deo said...

The idea that God must all intend to save those whom he knows will refuse seems absurd when expressed that way.

Great article and link, but this is an awkward sentence, TF. Was "all" supposed to be "always"?

In Him,
CD

Turretinfan said...

Sorry for typo. I've moved the "all" to after "save."

Godismyjudge said...

Hey TF,

The idea that God must intend to save all those whom he knows will refuse seems absurd when expressed that way.

There are two seperate issues here, I think. Say I offered ice cream to a dead man. You would have good reason to question my sincerity, even if I had the ice cream.

But if I didn't have the ice cream, it would not be true that if he accepted, he would enjoy ice cream.

God be with you,
Dan

Coram Deo said...

On the contrary, Dan; Christ resurrects dead men so that they can both freely accept and enjoy the ice cream for all eternity - with all the trimmings!

In Christ,
CD

Turretinfan said...

"There are two seperate issues here, I think. Say I offered ice cream to a dead man. You would have good reason to question my sincerity, even if I had the ice cream."

Say you instead offered it over the loudspeaker at a funeral home. Now this lack of sincerity is gone, even though some will not respond. What makes the offer seem intuitively insincere is the fact that it is individual and particular. However, the gospel call is general. Therefore, this seems to be more like the funeral home.

"But if I didn't have the ice cream, it would not be true that if he accepted, he would enjoy ice cream."

This situation does not arise, because if he accepts, God has the ice cream (so to speak).

-TurretinFan

ChaferDTS said...

The important fact that must be remembered is Jesus did not die for the purpose of saving everyone nor did he die to obtain salvation for all humanity. The gospel is to be preached indiscriminately to the lost. The Gospel is what the Holy Spirit uses to effectually call the elect out of the mass of unsaved humanity. The intended application of the value of the work of Jesus is limited to the elect since they alone shall be saved.

ChaferDTS said...

The apostle Paul clearly stated what the Gospel message is. I would pray that Arminians would get a better understanding of it.

1 Cor. 15:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Randall van der Sterren said...

"If you think that the gospel is "Jesus died for you," then this objection makes a lot of sense."

Well, that's where things get complicated. The Marrow of Modern Divinity said:

"Go and tell every man without exception, that here is good news for him; Christ is dead for him; and if he will take him, and accept of his righteousness, he shall have him."
http://books.google.com/books?id=4RE-AAAAcAAJ&pg=PA110

People have argued over this for three centuries.

Mark | hereiblog said...

The way Curt Daniel explains Amyraut's position on Christ's death doesn't not help Ponter's argument either. On page 108 of The History and Theology of Calvinism he states,"Thus, said Amyraut, the provision for salvation was universal but the application was particular. He considered this the true meaning of the old formula, "Christ died sufficiently for all but efficiently only for the elect." Amyraldianism taught an ideal universalism and a real particularism. This universalism was only hypothetical, not actual. Only the elect will be saved, because election is particular and not based on foreseen faith. Amyraut also taught the doctrine of reprobation."

In light of this one might say - Is the “free offer” of the gospel really “sincere” if Jesus only died hypothetically for some and elects to whom His death is applied? If the atonement available for the reprobate is only hypothetical while being applied particularly to the elect, the offer seems insincere.

mlculwell said...

You are making this double particular. When the particular election is in Christ. That is particular... You make it worse by saying God put you on a saved list against your will.

Again this is because the Calvinist has God cowering in fear over you over throwing him by your will.

mlculwell said...

Limited atonement is correct only in the sense that "limited" are to those in Christ. Not to those only on a preset saved list that are put inot Christ against their will.

Not a prohibition preset by a God cowering in fear over man's "sovereign will". Which is what you have to make it as an argument.

Godismyjudge said...

TF,

I am not sure how you can say the gospel is general rather than individual. Paul's conversation with the Philippians jailor seems like an obvious counter example. if you are saying it's individual with respect to the elect, and the non-elect just happen to be around when it's being presented, well, I think that grants my point.

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

Coram Deo,

Except when He doesn't, right? In which case it's like offering ice cream to the dead.

God be with you,
Dan

Turretinfan said...

"I am not sure how you can say the gospel is general rather than individual."

I'm surprised this is difficult to understand. Perhaps you can just think it over some more.

"Paul's conversation with the Philippians jailor seems like an obvious counter example."

Paul is not God. Paul (and we) can sincerely offer the gospel to individual people, at least because Paul does not know (nor do we) whether they are of the elect. The fact that the person might be reprobate does not make our offer any less sincere.

"if you are saying it's individual with respect to the elect, and the non-elect just happen to be around when it's being presented, well, I think that grants my point."

No. That's not what I'm saying.

-TurretinFan

natamllc said...

TF: "...The intuition behind the objection that remains, however, is that an "offer" doesn't seem sincere, if you have no intention of giving the offered thing to the person to whom you are offering it."

I want to go to an entirely different reality that I hope makes something clear here?

Who knows? Here goes.

First off, if we were using the intuition correctly we would quickly realize something about "all" objections.

Consider this from Genesis 1:

Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Gen 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Gen 1:3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
Gen 1:4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.
Gen 1:5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.


There is no offer of Salvation being made in those Words. There is the reality of "objections", though. I say those "objections" are synonymous with that "darkness". Darkness is the source of the objections.

How so?

Well, apply these verses to those verses:

1Jn 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
1Jn 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.


Where does the origin of "all" objections come from in this present created heavens and earth that God created in the beginning? Objections come from darkness because He is "Light" and there is no darkness in Him at all!

I believe it is absolutely correct what you proffered, TF, here, when you wrote this:

"... In Scripture, the gospel is expressed in terms of repenting of your sins and believing on (i.e. trusting in) Jesus Christ for salvation. If you trust in Christ and repent of your sins, God will have mercy on you."

The Gospel is a "proclamation" not an offer. I ask you, is there any offers found in the following Words?

1Co 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
1Co 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
1Co 15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

...

1Ch 16:35 Say also: "Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.
1Ch 16:36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!" Then all the people said, "Amen!" and praised the LORD.


Who will hear the message in those verses?

These will:

1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1Pe 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
See also Ephesians 1:1-14.

Godismyjudge said...

Could Christ have made the same statements to the jailor that Paul did?

God be with you,
Dan

Turretinfan said...

Yes, at least for the obvious reason that the jailor was of the elect.

Godismyjudge said...

Then the gospel is individual, not just general.

God be with you,
Dan

Turretinfan said...

And the proof for your assertion is what?

Godismyjudge said...

Paul was talking to one person about his salvation.

God be with you,
Dan

Godismyjudge said...

Just like in my ice cream example, I am taling to one dead person, offering him ice cream.

God be with you,
Dan

zog said...

"Could Christ have made the same statements to the jailor that Paul did?"

Yes, and an example would be the rich young ruler.

Turretinfan said...

Of course, Paul didn't say "Christ died for you," but let's leave that aside for a second.

That's the presentation of the gospel by preachers. The presentation of the gospel can be individual, group, or broadcast. But the gospel itself is universal.

Saying that this universal offer is "individual" based on the fact that it is sometimes delivered to individuals seems to be just as unfounded as saying that a mass mailer is "individual." There's nothing "individual" about the gospel message. There can be something individual about its delivery.

- TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

RvdS: without getting into lengthy side discussion, there's a reason that there are such lengthy footnotes in that part of the book.

Strong Tower said...

If I make an offer knowing you will not accept it, is that insincere?

It seems that those who think that actual provision must be made for there to be sincerity suffer from the same dilemma the can't accept in the alternative.

The reality is that if I know that you will not accept the offer, I do not need to make provision, but even if I did, there would be no need for it, so either the provision or the offer was insincere if it takes provision of that which I know will be rejected to be sincere. Did God in sincerity provide what he knew would be rejected. Is that at all honest?

Now, if I didn't make provision, and knew in truth that some wouldn't accept it even if I did, and I offered it knowing that they would reject it, and so didn't make provision, at least there is consistent honesty in the transaction. That is the most sincere. I can offer it to all without providing for all because I know that not all will accept it. What could be more truthful, honest, and more sincere?

When we offer the gospel, we know that it might be rejected. In knowing that we are not insincere, even though we have not offered anything in reality to those who will not believe and recieve. For the provision by definition was for those who would believe and receive, and not for those who would not. Yet, we make the offer not knowing if the provision was made for all who are presented the Gospel in its offer, or only some of them.

TF is right to point out that God does know who will reject the provision. And He is under no obligation to be insincere by providing it with the full knowledge that it is no provision at all for some. We on the other hand are not God. We have, in the apostle's word been given only what we have been given and that is to make the offer leaving the sincerity of the provision to the One who knows whether or not provision had to be made for the ones who would hear the message.

Godismyjudge said...

TF,

The presentation of the gospel can be individual, group, or broadcast. But the gospel itself is universal.

That's what I am talking about. It's not like I am saying the ice cream has to have the dead man's engraved on it. The free offer of the gospel to the non-elect, is like me offering ice cream to a dead man. Obviously it's insincere.

Your analogy changes the subject. Micah Coate said there would be days like this. :-)

God be with you,
Dan

Turretinfan said...

"The free offer of the gospel to the non-elect, is like me offering ice cream to a dead man. Obviously it's insincere. "

It's only like that if (a) it is individually offered to them (b) by someone who knows they are not elect.

(a) doesn't apply to God's Word (the Bible) and (b) doesn't apply to us his servants

So, the analogy doesn't fit.

My opinion of Micah Coate is pretty low based on the limited portions of his book reviewed by Dr. White. It would be pretty low based just on the title of the book. Perhaps he's not the best person to bring up.

-TurretinFan

Nick said...

Sorry for entering this so late. Something is insincere if it is offered without any intention or possibility of actually fulfilling it, regardless of whether the offer is accepted. So if you offer someone $1 trillion for doing X, but don't actually have or wont actually give $1 trillion, then that's an insincere offer (whether or not the offer is accepted).

In the case of the Gospel, it most assuredly includes the component "Christ died for your sins," else you're preaching or accepting a Gospel that has no reference to Christ's death in relation to your sins. Sure it can be said the Gospel is more than "Christ died for your sins," but it certainly includes that 'minor detail'.

So the reprobate is truly in a bind, because he is being commanded to believe Jesus died for him, when in reality Jesus did not. Failure to believe "Jesus died for you when He really didn't" results in hell, which is a strange punishment: damnation for refusing to believe an objective lie.

Further compounding this problem is the fact that Christ's death for the elect alone is an accomplished fact, it's not a matter of having extra or limited 'stuff' to subsequently dispense upon belief. This is where the dilemma of Eternal Justification manifests itself too, for if Jesus took the wrath a given elect deserves, the elect never can be under God's Wrath even prior to belief.

Ryan Somerville said...

"In the case of the Gospel, it most assuredly includes the component "Christ died for your sins," "

It includes the component that Christ died for sins, the "your" is extraneous to the Gospel. Unless, of course, the "your" is one of the elect :).

Nick said...

So what you're proposing is: "Repent and believe that Christ died for the sins of the elect."

If so, that results in the scenario of asking a reprobate to believe Jesus died to save other people (except themselves). But the object of faith is no longer that of a Savior and His actions towards you, but rather a doctrinal proposition that has no reference to themself. Alternately, when it comes time for the elect to "believe Jesus died for other people," its that 'factoid' that saves him, not the direct Mediation of a Savior and application of His death.

This gets especially problematic when faith is seen as an "empty hand," i.e. the "instrument" which appropriates Christ's Righteousness. The reprobate by definition cannot use faith in that manner, which is the same 'insincere offer' charge except moved from "Gospel" to the act of believing.

Ryan Somerville said...

No, that's your distortion in order to facilitate your rebuttal. What I'm proposing is exactly what I said. Christ died for the sins of those that repent and believe. This certainly has reference to the one to whom the gospel is being proclaimed:believer, or unbeliever. Your argument is invalid.

turretinfan said...

Nick: The gospel is not "believe that Jesus died for your sins," per se, rather it is "believe on Jesus - trust in Him - cast yourself upon him - take up your cross and follow him."

Natamllc said...

And of course, no one would do that without an invitation by way of the proclamation and the anointing of the Holy Spirit with it. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I heard a lot about the Gospel long before I came alive or was made alive with Christ.

I for one was a rebel. I was unruly, ungodly and pathetic to myself and my family and neighbor. There is presently one part of me, my flesh, that still is all of the above. What a wonderful day it was when reading the Scriptures the Light went on inside my being. Looking back at that experience and then on reading the Scriptures has helped me understand that no one on their own volition believes Jesus died for their sins. No one would know the Son unless it was revealed to them.

I clearly have met people, after my own personal enlightenment to Truth who were just like me before my own personal enlightenment and actively thereafter began calling upon the Name of the Lord.

Without the preacher, without the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and without God's foreordained and predetermined Grace, no one hears the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom even when hearing it or reading it in Scripture.

Because God did not consult with any of His creation before creating these present heavens and earth, it is His business how His legal scheme unfolded and applies to all creatures who are part of it, His creation. Whether fallen angels or man, we are because of His First cause. Christ's death accomplished a legal peace between Himself, Our Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit, the Elect Angels and the Elect, Called and Chosen Faithful, those people of Adam's race who "believe" on Jesus, "trust" in Him, casting all of our cares upon him so as to take up the realities of the Cross by the Sanctification Power of the Holy Spirit to actively follow Him!