Saturday, December 13, 2008

Helm on Calvin and the Calvinists

In light of the concerted efforts of both Arminians and Quasi-Amyraldians to drive a wedge between Calvin and the Calvinists, I was pleased to read the linked article (link) by Paul Helm, who explains some of the flaws in at least one similar attempt to divide the doctrines of Dordt from those of Calvin.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Want More on the Atonement?

The εξο της παρεμβολης blog has provided a somewhat lengthy excerpt from Robert Raymond's New Systematic Theology (link). He makes many good arguments, and frankly many that do not seem to have any answer in the Universal Atonement world.


Clarification on the Tri-Partite Division of the Law

I have received a few comments from readers on my previous post on the three-fold division of the law given by Moses (link).

A first comment comes from Stephen Garrett, who asked:
Where is your scriptural support for dividing the law into those three categories of moral, ceremonial, and civil?
Are we under the lawgiver Moses or the lawgiver Christ? The Old Covenant or the New? Or, perhaps a little of both?
Is the sabbath law moral, ceremonial, or civil? How much of the Sabbath laws are binding on Christians of the New Covenant?
Is there a command in the New Testament to observe Sabbath or a condemnation for doing so?
(minor changes for spelling/formatting)I answer:
The three categories are useful bins, as it were, among which the various laws given by Moses can be organized. Many more sub-bins could be created. For example, within the bin of "moral law" there are two sub-bins: "first table" and "second table," and then within those bins, the bins of "first commandment," "second commandment," etc. It's mostly a matter of helpful organization of what the Old Testament provides. If someone wanted to use other labels for these categories, we wouldn't object. If someone wanted to try to understand the Bible without these categories, we think they would have more difficulty, but we wouldn't insist that making these distinctions is a core tenet of orthodoxy.
We are not living in Old Testament Israel. The Nation of Israel was destroyed around A.D. 70 by the Romans. Their civil laws consequently are not binding on us. We are not under Moses in that sense. Recall that Jesus himself told his disciples that the scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses' seat and consequently were to be obeyed. There was not necessarily a tension, therefore, between being obedient to the civil laws of Moses and being a follower (disciple) of Christ. Nevertheless, as I already said, the nation of Israel was destroyed as such, and even if the civil laws of Moses should apply to the modern nation-state of Israel (something I don't want to get into), most of us don't live there and consequently are not under those civil laws.
Christ was not an earthly king. As he said, "My kingdom is not of this world...." (John 18:36). Thus, Christ did not provide a new civil law or usher in a Christian nation-state. Accordingly, with respect to the civil law, there is no "updated" form.
With respect to the moral law, Christ republished the Mosaic law both by identifying as the greatest commandment to love God and as the second commandment to love one's neighbor. Additionally, we find each of the other ten commandments republished in the New Testament, confirming their continued applicability.
With respect to the ceremonial law, Christ fulfilled the law, and on his death "the
the veil of the temple was rent in the midst." (Luke 23:45) Those shadows are gone, since we now have the reality. Accordingly, it is not only not required that we sacrifice animals, it would be an act of impiety for us to do so, since it would suggest that we do not understand that we have a better sacrifice: Christ the Lamb of God.
So, the dichotomy of "Moses the Lawgiver vs. Christ the Lawgiver," doesn't seem proper.
The law of the sabbath (one day in seven to be a day of rest and worship) is not, strictly speaking, a Mosaic provision. It was republished by Moses, but it was a Creation ordinance, like marriage. It does point forward, but it points forward to heaven. It is part of the ten commandments and properly considered "moral," for that reason. It is a blessing, something "made for man." (Mark 2:27) Christ did not come to take away that blessing. The other sabbaths would appear to be mostly civil, relating to land use and slavery. I would love to get into those issues in more detail some other time.
Hopefully, these responses answer Mr. Garrett's questions.
I had written in another (but related) post, "The prohibition on garments of mixed fibres was a ceremonial law pointing to separation and physical purity. It was fulfilled in Christ, who was free from impurities."
Mr. Gene Bridges responded: "Actually, this would, as I recall, be a concrete instance of the moral law. Wearing clothes of two fibers would have been, in that society, a signal one believed in sympathetic magic. It's on the same level as the prohibition of boiling a kid in it's mother's milk." The main problem with this analysis is that one could say the same thing about the dietary laws, since a number of the Canaanite nations evidently used unclean animals (such as the pig) in their sacrificial systems.
Recall that the New Testament approach is still not to participate in the pagan religions (whether by drinking blood or eating things sacrificed to idols - see Acts 15:20 and 29) although when purchasing food, no investigation was required (1 Corinthians 10:25).

In any event, while there may have been an underlying moral reason for the various separation-related customs, those customs are not themselves moral laws. Keep in mind that, in the first context, the prohibition on mixed-fiber garments was together with a prohibition on making mules and co-mingling crops (Leviticus 19:19) and in the second context was together with not co-mingling seeds in vineyard planting, plowing with an ox and an ass, and making fringes in the four quarters of one's garment (Deuteronomy 22:9-12). This supports the point I had made that these customs relate to the image of separation from impurity.

Recall as well as the mixed-plowing prohibition being used by Paul as an illustration of improper partnership between Christian and non-Christian.

Mr. Bridges continued: "The most severe penalty would, indeed, have been death for the impenitent. There isn't, IMO, as concrete a separation between uses of the law as many think." (minor spelling change) I don't see anything in the Mosaic law permitting death for someone who, for example, stubbornly refuses to stop wearing mixed-fiber clothes. I'm open to being corrected, but so far I haven't seen it.

Hopefully this addresses Brother Bridges' concerns. Next, we have a comment from Nick:
I am [Roman] Catholic, but I think the key problem in discussions with Protestants is that we don't understand each other when it comes to 'faith versus works of the law' (Rom 3:28).
You said the Judaizers looked to impose some/all of the ceremonial law, but I think that is inaccurate.
They pushed circumcision because circumcision was formally subscribing to embrace the whole Mosaic Covenant, not just ceremonial parts (Gal 5:3).
Thus, when Paul said we are saved apart from works of the Law he meant the whole Mosaic Law, not just ceremonial.
I think this issue hits at the heart of the Protestant-[Roman] Catholic dispute, because it clarifies why Paul was arguing for justification apart from the Law. From my reading and discussions with Protestants, they basically propose an 'either/or' message for Paul in the form of: 'Either you obey the whole Mosaic Law or you trust Jesus did it for you.'
This is where the "Righteousness of Christ" comes in, and I think where the Protestant side has it seriously wrong and foreign to Paul's thought process. The issue for Paul was that the Mosaic Covenant cannot save, while only the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit can and does. This makes the notion of imputation and the "righteousness of Christ" non sequitur in Paul's teaching.
I'd like to see your thoughts on this issue, because I think once these issues are clarified the [Roman] Catholic position will agree with the Biblical evidence.
p.s. are you the Tur8in guy from AOmin?
(minor spelling and formatting change; the "Roman" in brackets is, of course, my own insertion) I answer:
Last things first, yes, I am the same Tur8inFan from the Team Apologian blog at Alpha and Omega Ministries (link).
Nick said, "I think the key problem in discussions with Protestants is that we don't understand each other when it comes to 'faith versus works of the law' (Rom 3:28)." This can occur. Of course, it is important to distinguish between some sort of broad category like "Protestants," and focus on the Reformed position here, because "Protestants" has become more of a basket for non-Roman Catholic than anything else.
The Reformed position is that it is not anything that man does that saves man. This seems to be the point of Paul in Romans 3:28.

After all, Paul declares, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." This conclusion is the conclusion to the fact that boasting is excluded (Romans 3:27) by the law of faith. Rather than working for our salvation, we trust in the finished work of Christ.

This is where we part ways from the Roman and Arminian views of salvation. We hold that by faith we trust in the work of another: Christ. Thus, we view "works of the law" as broadly corresponding to all activity undertaken by men to please God.

Nick wrote, "You said the Judaizers looked to impose some/all of the ceremonial law, but I think that is inaccurate. They pushed circumcision because circumcision was formally subscribing to embrace the whole Mosaic Covenant, not just ceremonial parts (Gal 5:3)." I don't see anything to suggest that they also wanted to impose the civil law. One would have to check to be sure, but I think the diaspora Jews did not attempt to enforce the full scope of the civil laws of Moses on their host communities (and how could they, being a minority?). I doubt the Judaizers would have exceeded the diaspora Jews in that regarded. Obviously, the Palestinian Jews continued to live under the civil laws of Moses (in a somewhat modified form in view of the Roman laws) until around 70 A.D. (in Jerusalem). Circumcision was a token of the ceremonial parts of the law.

Nick wrote, "Thus, when Paul said we are saved apart from works of the Law he meant the whole Mosaic Law, not just ceremonial." It's even broader than that, I think. He meant not just by obedience to the Mosaic law itself, but by any obedience. Obedience is not what saves. Recall that it is not that there was a defect in the law of Moses. If any law could have saved, it was that law.

Nick wrote, "I think this issue hits at the heart of the Protestant-[Roman] Catholic dispute, because it clarifies why Paul was arguing for justification apart from the Law. From my reading and discussions with Protestants, they basically propose an 'either/or' message for Paul in the form of: 'Either you obey the whole Mosaic Law or you trust Jesus did it for you.'" Perhaps an even more important clarification should be made here. There are various types and forms of "Protestant." I certainly don't speak for them all. I am Reformed. The Reformed alternatives are either you perfectly obey the moral law of God, or you trust in Christ to save you by his righteousness. Since one cannot perfectly obey the moral law of God, one must trust in Christ to save one.

That is Paul's point: either one must perfectly obey God's law, thereby seizing the Covenant of Works by his own acts, or one must trust in the Perfect Mediator of the New Covenant, and him alone, for salvation.

Nick wrote: "This is where the "Righteousness of Christ" comes in, and I think where the Protestant side has it seriously wrong and foreign to Paul's thought process. The issue for Paul was that the Mosaic Covenant cannot save, while only the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit can and does. This makes the notion of imputation and the "righteousness of Christ" non sequitur in Paul's teaching." The issue of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ is clear in Paul's teaching. For example:

Romans 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

And elsewhere:

Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a blessing.

Psalm 51:11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

The Holy Spirit's indwelling is a token or promise of blessings to come:

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

Ephesians 1:13-14
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Notice that word "earnest." That is sort of the downpayment or bond on the inheritance of glory to come. The Holy Spirit is also consequently referred to an official stamp or seal, testifying to the same purpose:

2 Corinthians 1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

And evidence of the Spirit can be seen in the fruit that Spirit brings forth in our lives:

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Ephesians 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

Nick concluded, "I'd like to see your thoughts on this issue, because I think once these issues are clarified the [Roman] Catholic position will agree with the Biblical evidence." Actually, the Biblical evidence is rather one-sided in favor of the Reformed position. There is a genetic reason for this: the Reformed doctrines were derived from Scripture, whereas the Roman Catholic position was not. The Roman Catholic approach to theology has not been exegesis, leading to some serious concerns particularly beginning at the start of the 20th century regarding the relationship between exegesis and dogma. Even now, there is still work being done to try to harmonize the work (in Catholicism) of theologians and exegetes. As you may or may not know, in Catholicism, the theologians role is to find support for doctrines of the church in the sources of revelation. In contrast, the exegete (and theologian in Reformed theology) begins with Scripture and derives doctrine therefrom.

That's why the Reformed churches have the Biblical edge.


150 Comments to be Moderated and 140 Draft Posts

That is the current state of affairs. For the last half of December, it is my goal to reduce the numbers above. It would be lovely if I could push both to zero, but I'd settle for cutting the numbers both down to double-digits.

Thanks to my readers for providing me with so much for food for thought!

(And please don't stop submitting comments)


Phillip Johnson and Amyraldianism

Phillip Johnson has an article (to which Trey Austin thoughtfully directed me) in which he provides a fairly helpful and quick guide to some distinctions among Evangelical views of the order of decrees, ranging from Supralapsarianism to Arminianism.

In the section on what Johnson prefers to call Amyraldism (as opposed to Amyraldianism), Johnson states: "Puritan Richard Baxter embraced this view, or one very nearly like it. He seems to have been the only major Puritan leader who was not a thoroughgoing Calvinist. Some would dispute whether Baxter was a true Amyraldian. (See, e.g. George Smeaton, The Apostles' Doctrine of the Atonement [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1991 reprint], Appendix, 542.) But Baxter seemed to regard himself as Amyraldian." (emphases omitted)

He also cautions: “But Amyraldism probably should not be equated with all brands of so-called "four-point Calvinism." In my own experience, most self-styled four-pointers are unable to articulate any coherent explanation of how the atonement can be universal but election unconditional. So I wouldn't glorify their position by labeling it Amyraldism. (Would that they were as committed to the doctrine of divine sovereignty as Moise Amyraut! Most who call themselves four-pointers are actually crypto-Arminians.)”

(source) “Notes on Supralapsarianism & Infralapsarianism”

It is very interesting to me that the same folks Tony Byrne, David Ponter, and some of their associates that have been so anxious to misuse Phillip Johnson’s primer on Hyper-Calvinism are completely unwilling to use his notes on Calvinism.

And, of course, when we see Tony’s chart that he handed out to Dr. Allen for the so-called John 3:16 conference, guess who pops up in the “Moderate/Classical Calvinist” column of the chart:

Amyraut – the very person for whom Amyraldianism is named
Baxter – one of the very few Puritan Amyraldians
Dr. Alan Clifford – The Pastor of the Norwich Reformed Church, which has been holding yearly Amyraldianism conferences for at least three years.

Now, certainly, Tony throws other men into the list, some more or less justifiably. Bunyan, for example, may belong there, but Jonathan Edwards almost certainly does not. Here's some evidence in support of my position on Edwards:

'Tis Absurd to suppose that Christ Died for the salvation of those that he at the same time Certainly knew never would be saved. What Can be meant by that expression of Christ dying for the salvation of any one, but dying with a design that they should be saved by his death. or dying hoping that he they will be saved or at Least being uncertain but that they will be saved by his death. When we say that one Person does a thing for another, that which is Universally Understood by such an expression is that he does it with a design of some benefit to that other Person. 'Tis nonsense to say that Any Person does any thing to the End that Another thing that may be done and 'tis Impossible that he should design Any benefit to Another person that he Certainly knows will have no benefit by it.

'Tis Nonsense to say that Any thing [is done] with a design that Another thing should be done and to that End that it may be Done, at the same time that he has not the Least expectation that that other thing Ever will be done. and much more when he perfectly knows it never will. It matters not in this Controversy whether we suppose an absolute decree or no if we only allow that God knows all things that he knows future things before they Come to Pass as he declares he does in his word and no Christians pretend to deny But if we don’t deny this it implies a plain Contradiction to suppose that Christ died for in a proper sense.

If it Replied that no other is Intended when they say Christ died for all then that by his death all have the offer of salvation so that they may have salvation if they will accept of salvation – without any expectation or design of Christ that they should be saved by his death. if that be all that is Intended they Are Against no body – all that are Called Christians own that By Christ’s death all that live under the Gospel have the offer of salvation.
- Edwards, Jonathan - Sermon on Galatians 2:20


Thursday, December 11, 2008

What John Murray and I believe About the Atonement

Since a few folks have apparently been trying to present John Murray as though he were not a consistent, five-point Calvinist, I thought it would be valuable to provide a quotation from Prof. Murray, on the subject:
The criticism that the doctrine of limited atonement prevents the free offer of the gospel rests upon a profound misapprehension as to what the warrant for preaching the gospel and even of the primary act of faith itself really is. This warrant is not that Christ died for all men but the universal invitation, demand and promise of the gospel united with the perfect sufficiency and suitability of Christ as Saviour and Redeemer. What the ambassador of the gospel demands in Christ’s name is that the lost and helpless sinner commit himself to that all-sufficient Saviour with the plea that in thus receiving and resting upon Christ alone for salvation he will certainly be saved. And what the lost sinner does on the basis of the warrant of faith is to commit himself to that Saviour with the assurance that as he thus trusts he will be saved. What he believes, then, in the first instance is not that he has been saved, but that believing in Christ salvation becomes his. The conviction that Christ died for him, or in other words that he is an object of God’s redeeming love in Christ, is not the primary act of faith. It is often in the consciousness of the believer so closely bound up with the primary act of faith that he may not be able to be conscious of the logical and psychological distinction. But nevertheless the primary act of faith is self-committal to the all-sufficient and suitable Saviour, and the only warrant for that trust is the indiscriminate, full and free offer of grace and salvation in Christ Jesus.
There is more of value in the article, to be sure, such as this:
That the non-elect, those who do not become the actual partakers of salvation and are therefore finally lost, are not included within the scope of the redemption purchased by Christ, we may and must even from that which we have already quoted infer to be the teaching of the Confession. But it is interesting to observe that not only does the Confession imply this; it also expressly states it. "Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only." ( The Confession is using the phrases "redeemed by Christ" and "purchased redemption" synonymously. Here it is said that redemption by Christ or the purchase of redemption is for those who as a matter of fact are saved and for those only. It is exclusive of those who are not called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved. Redemption is defined not only extensively but exclusively.

If we may recapitulate then, the teaching of the Confession can be summed up in these three propositions. (1) Redemption is purchased for the elect. (2) Redemption is applied to all for whom it is purchased. (3) Redemption is not purchased for those who finally perish, for the non-elect.

Atonement is defined therefore in the Confession in terms of sacrifice, reconciliation, redemption, satisfaction to divine justice, discharge of debt, and states clearly that atonement thus defined is for those whom God hath predestinated to life, namely the elect. They are saved because Christ by his redemptive work secured their salvation. The finally lost are not within the embrace of that salvation secured, and therefore they are not within the embrace of that salvation secured, and therefore they are not within the embrace of that which secures it, namely the redemption wrought by Christ. It is just here that the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism may be most plainly stated. Did Christ die and offer Himself a sacrifice to God to make the salvation of all men possible, or did He offer Himself a sacrifice to God to secure infallibly the salvation of His people? Arminians profess the former and deny the latter; our Standards in accordance, as we believe, with Holy Scripture teach the latter.



So You Want to Root Out Calvinism?

Here's a video that humorously (or at least that is the intent) illustrates a number classic errors that are frequently used by opponents of Calvinism.

There is some nice marching music in the background, but no verbal material in the audio - so if you need to turn off the audio, you won't miss any of the substance. I obviously don't endorse the use of a purported image of Christ in the video.

Hat tip to JM of the Puritanboard for pointing this video out to me (link).


Acorn Located!

You know that saying that even a blind squirrel eventually finds a nut? After two documented failures (one) (two), Mr. Matthew Bellisario has finally done it! He has located a "Protestant" service with some inappropriate material (in this case a mime show - link to Bellisario's post) Mr. Bellisario finds this sort of thing absurd, and states: "By the way, if this nonsense, or anything like it is going on in any Catholic Church, it is equally absurd! I pray no bishop would allow such foolishness."

Naturally, similar nonsense can be found in Catholicism (as evidenced by this passion mime from "St. Luke's Catholic Church"):

You're thinking, "But maybe the YouTube video has just been mislabeled?" No, the web page for St. Luke's currently advertises that Good Friday 2009 will include "Stations [of the Cross] in Mime" (link). So, it seems safe to say that the labels for the video are correct. And Mr. Bellisario is right (did I just say that?), it is absurd in both cases.

What Mr. Bellisario doesn't explain is why this miming is not proper worship of God. It's "absurd" to him, but it mostly seems as though he can only express its supposed absurdity as a matter of taste: and a lot of people will actually find the performance at the "Protestant" church to be musically and artistically superior to the performance at "St. Luke's" above. They are not equally absurd because of similar artistic value.

Why then are such forms of worship improper and absurd? There is an answer: the Second Commandment: "Thou shalt not make unto they any graven image ... ." The Second Commandment forbids explicitly the worship of God by images, and using this metonymy forbids worshiping God in any way not appointed in his Word.

The worship of God must be regulated by the Word of God, not the creativity of man. We must worship God as he desires to be worshiped, not as we desire to worship him. We are supposed to go to church to meet with God, not to be entertained. I know I will step on a lot of toes by pointing this out, but there is no Biblical sanction for the worshiping of God by the use of drama, for miming, or the like in Scripture. There is no call in Scripture to burn candles as an act of worship. There is no call in Scripture to ring bells as an act of worship. There is no call in Scripture to use icons or other images in worship. There is no call in Scripture to offer prayers to anyone but God.

Mr. Bellisario (though I am picking on him a bit - particularly with the blind squirrel analogy) is not alone, which is the greater pity. Most "Protestants" today do not seem to understand that the one authorized representation of our Lord Jesus Christ is the bread and cup in the Lord's supper. Few "Protestants" openly employ images of God in their worship, but there are certainly numerous "Protestant" churches that are nearly as guilty as the papists in innovating new elements into their worship, whether it be miming or other performance art.

It is only with the Reformed doctrine of the Regulative Principle of Worship as an outgrowth of the Reformed doctrine of Sola Scriptura, that we can explain why the very beautiful performance provided by Mr. Bellisario's example video is not proper in God's sight, and why it would be inappropriate for a Christian elder to permit such activity. God has not asked for us to mime in worship to him. If you or your church does this, on what grounds do those who offer such worship hope to have it accepted? For those in Catholicism, what makes you think that saying the "Hail Mary" is pleasing to God? For those in Eastern Orthodoxy, what makes you think that lighting a candle in front of an icon, whether of Jesus, Mary, or anyone else, is pleasing to God?


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

John Gill and Hyper-Calvinism (?)

One oft-repeated charge against the great theologian, John Gill, has been that is a "hyper-Calvinist." Leading the way amongst the crowd of folks levying such a charge would seem to be Dr. Curt Daniel, whose 900 page doctoral thesis was titled "Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill." I was pleased to see that at least one person has found the time to provide a detailed review of the thesis (link). It seems to me that the most valuable part of the book review is found in a few short paragraphs:
By failing to make this fundamental distinction, Daniel labels all who deny the "offer" as hyper-Calvinists, regardless what specific doctrine of the offer they have in mind. The result is that those whose rejection of the "offer" consists of a denial of universal love dependent on the will of the sinner are tarred with Daniel's broad brush of hyper-Calvinism, even though they preach to all and call all to believe in Jesus Christ.

The second fault is gross. Daniel argues that genuine Calvinism is the doctrine of a saving love of God and a death of Jesus Christ for all without exception. On this basis, the proper "offer" is, in fact, the "bold declaration" to all who hear the gospel, "God loves you, Christ died for you, and now God pleads with you to believe so that you may be saved" (p. 459). Accompanying this offer is "a sufficient common grace" that enables all to accept the offer, if only they will (pp. 161, 162).

It is Daniel's basic thesis that hyper-Calvinism began to develop when, after Calvin, the Reformed faith adopted limited atonement. This jeopardized the offer. What is necessary for the warding off of hyper-Calvinism is the embrace of universal atonement. This involves repudiating the decree of reprobation.

This is the remedy for hyper-Calvinism! This exotic mixture of Arminianism and Amyraldianism, Daniel calls, with a kind of fetching modesty, "Low Calvinism." It is, indeed, low - very low. It is abased and debased "Calvinism." The glory of salvation in this gospel belongs to the sinner. Using his "sufficient common grace" rightly, he not only saves himself by accepting the offer but also makes the death of Christ atoning and the love of God successful.
Nevertheless, I encourage the reader to check out the entirety of the book review for himself.

Undoubtedly, Gill made errors - but to label Gill a Hyper-Calvinist is really quite imbalanced and inappropriate. I submit as evidence this commentary by John Gill on Matthew 11:28:
Mat 11:28 - Come unto me,.... Christ having signified, that the knowledge of God, and the mysteries of grace, are only to be come at through him; and that he has all things relating to the peace, comfort, happiness, and salvation of men in his hands, kindly invites and encourages souls to come unto him for the same: by which is meant, not a local coming, or a coming to hear him preach; for so his hearers, to whom he more immediately directed his speech, were come already; and many of them did, as multitudes may, and do, in this sense, come to Christ, who never knew him, nor receive any spiritual benefit by him: nor is it a bare coming under the ordinances of Christ, submission to baptism, or an attendance at the Lord's supper, the latter of which was not yet instituted; and both may be performed by men, who are not yet come to Christ: but it is to be understood of believing in Christ, the going of the soul to him, in the exercise of grace on him, of desire after him, love to him, faith and hope in him: believing in Christ, and coming to him, are terms synonymous, Joh_6:35. Those who come to Christ aright, come as sinners, to a full, suitable, able, and willing Saviour; venture their souls upon him, and trust in him for righteousness, life, and salvation, which they are encouraged to do, by this kind invitation; which shows his willingness to save, and his readiness to give relief to distressed minds. The persons invited, are not "all" the individuals of mankind, but with a restriction,

all ye that labour, and are heavy laden; meaning, not these who are labouring in the service of sin and Satan, are laden with iniquity, and insensible of it: these are not weary of sin, nor burdened with it; not do they want or desire any rest for their souls; but such who groan, being burdened with the guilt of sin upon their consciences, and are pressed down with the unsupportable yoke of the law, and the load of human traditions; and have been labouring till they are weary, in order to obtain peace of conscience, and rest for their souls, by the observance of these things, but in vain. These are encouraged to come to him, lay down their burdens at his feet, look to, and lay hold by faith on his person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; when they should enjoy that true spiritual consolation, which could never be attained to by the works of the law.

And I will give you rest; spiritual rest here, peace of conscience, ease of mind, tranquillity of soul, through an application of pardoning grace, a view of free justification by the righteousness of Christ, and full atonement of sin by his sacrifice; and eternal rest hereafter, in Abraham's bosom, in the arms of Jesus, in perfect and uninterrupted communion with Father, Son, and Spirit. The Jews say (y), that מנוחת תורה, "the law is rest"; and so explain Gen_49:15 of it: but a truly sensible sinner enjoys no rest, but in Christ; it is like Noah's dove, which could find no rest for the soles of its feet, until it returned to the ark; and they themselves expect perfect rest in the days of the Messiah, and call his world מנוחה, rest (z).

(y) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 39. 3. (z) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 150. 2.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Real Varieties of Calvinism

Can there be real, recognizable varieties of Calvinism? My previous post may have suggested that there could not be such recognizable varieties. That's not the case. There are several ways in which Calvinism could be divided. For example, with respect to the salvation of infants who die in infancy, there are four Calvinist views, namely that all, some, or none such infants are saved, the fourth position being that because Scripture does not tell us, we simply don't know. Dordt adopted an apparent position of "some," namely such children of believing parents. Others, out of a great tenderness of heart, have suggested that all infants (regardless of their parents) who die in infancy are saved.

Another way in which a taxonomy of Calvinism has been proposed is with respect to the logical (not temporal) order of decrees. The following chart may help, in which in addition to the two Calvinist positions, I've also included the Arminian and classical Amyraldian positions:

Permission of FallPermission of FallPermission of FallElection of Some to Glory
Death of ChristDeath of ChristElection of Some to MercyPermission of Fall
Universal Prevenient GraceElection of Some to Moral AbilityDeath of ChristDeath of Christ
Predestination of Those who Make Good use of GraceHoly Spirit to Work Moral Ability in ElectHoly Spirit to Save the ElectHoly Spirit to Save the Elect
Sanctification of the PredestinedSanctification of the ElectSanctification of the ElectSanctification of the Elect
(For Warfield's more detailed chart, click here)

It should be noted that there are Calvinists in both the "Infra" and "Supra" lapsarian camps. The descriptions Infra-Lapsarian and Supra-Lapsarian refer to the relation of the decree of Election to the decree of the fall (the "lapse" in "lapsarian"). Infra-Lapsarians believe that God elected some fallen men to Salvation/Mercy (infra = after), whereas Supra-Lapsarians believe that God elected men first to Glory (supra = before), and then decreed the fall as a means to that end. Of course, both camps are discussing the logical order, not the temporal order. There have been notable reformers in both camps.

Turretin was a notable Infra-Lapsarian. Twisse, on the other hand, was a notable Supra-Lapsarian. The Synod of Dordt seems to have favored the infra view, while the Westminster Assembly seems to have favored the supra view, while neither council addressed the issue as such in so many words (i.e.neither body specifically stated that God first in the logical order decreed the fall, or first in the logical order decreed to bring some men to glory).

It's generally held in Calvinist circles that both views (infra and supra) are within the bounds of orthodoxy, although, of course, both views cannot be correct. Some people wishing to include Amyraldians as Calvinists have proposed a three-fold division of Calvinism, with Supra being "high," Infra being "moderate," and classical Amyraldianism being "low." There are a number of problems with this view, the greatest being that the classical Amyraldian position has a fundamental error with respect to the atonement, namely that it makes the atonement, with respect to the decrees, indefinite. This error is not present in a "lesser degree" in the infra view and likewise is not mirrored by an excessively definite (is such a thing even possible?) view of the atonement in the supra view. In short, the problem can be expressed as their being no single variable that permits scaling across the three groups.

Instead, the attempted justification for the scaling lies in the fact that the decree of election is earliest in the logical order in the supra view, then the infra, then the Amyraldian, and logically latest (among evangelical groups) in the Arminian view. This justification seems rather artificial, but at least is not totally arbitrary. In any event, though it would tend to provide a way of categorizing people that does not rely simply on buzz-words.

It should be noted that there are a number of Calvinists who don't take a particularly emphatic (or explicit) view with respect to the order of decrees. Thus, for example, Dr. White has mentioned that he has a "modified supralapsarian" position, but I haven't seen a detailed explanation of what means by that (link to source) (I should note that the link itself is a good example of Dr. White distinguishing his own position from hyper-Calvinism long before the recent slander-fest on that topic -- see also this further discussion). The reason for such lack of discussion is that this issue, whether the decree to permit the fall precedes or follows the decree of election, is a relatively minor point. It is not something that would require men to divide fellowship, at least that is my position.