Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Repeated again, because it is important!

Two wills, well meant offer, John Piper and an Arminian thrown in for free!

The following article was written by an Arminian (though he would not personally own that name) one Steve Gregg owner of Narrow Path Ministries. He is quite a passionate and fairly articulate Synergist, who offered a critique of John Piper, regarding his "two wills" in God doctrine.

Why would I bring this to the attention of Calvinists?
Well, not for the main reason most of you would think!

As much as I appreciate and respect John Piper, I am responding here in order to also provide a critique of the way in which he presented his "two wills" doctrine, for I never did like the way in which he presented his argument.

It is no surprise that an Arminian would have problems with it, but what I find fascinating, is when some of what the Arminian says, is actually true!

I will offer my critique soon, but in the meantime, please first read John Pipers article on the "two wills" and then read Steve Gregg's critique of it, and then I shall present my concerns.

Incidentally, I have had conversations online with Steve Gregg in the past at Unchained and his own board, and now James White has decided to review his mountain of audio lectures upon Calvinism. I was one of those that James mentions, when he stated recently that some of his listeners had suggested he review Steve's materials.
The reason I brought him to the attention of James White, was not that Steve was really saying anything "new" regarding the debate, but rather, Steve Gregg seemed to be passionate and willing to debate. James and other Calvinists know too well, that getting an open public moderated discussion upon Calvinism and Arminianism is nigh well impossible, (Think Dave Hunt, Geisler and more recently the Caner Brothers debarkle)

Piper's more complete treatment of this subject can be read at


Steve Gregg writes,

I believe his argument is flawed. Here is my critique:

John Piper's essay, "Are There Two Will in God," written as a chapter for the book, "Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge and Grace," is an attempt to show that the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election can be harmonized with those texts of scripture which seem to teach the "Arminian" idea that God really wants all men to be saved, and none to be lost.

Calvinism teaches that there are secret "decrees" of God which determine the ultimate destiny of every person, and that, before the onset of human history, every person was thus predetermined by God's decree either to be eternally saved or eternally lost. It is a corollary of this teaching, jealously defended, that God's choice in the matter was not affected in any way by the decision that men make, nor of God's foreknowledge of any such decisions. The sovereign grace of God, who could, if He had wished, have chosen to save every person for salvation, instead chose only some ("the elect") for salvation, and either passed-over (as modern Calvinists say) or positively reprobated (as John Calvin taught) those whom He did not desire to save.

The fate of every man, woman and child is said to be determined by these sovereign decrees alone. A man can do nothing to change the destiny that was determined by God for him before he was born. He can simply live out the scripted routine of his existence, experiencing the illusion of free choice, but really just fulfilling the secret will of God for him, whether by his life of piety or his life of reprobation.

The Arminians (and the primitive Christians prior to Augustine) have always felt that this is a misrepresentation both of God's policies and of His desire. They believe that God really desires that every person should be saved and live righteously, and that any failure to do so on the part of a man is owing to that man's will to reject God's will, and not a result of God's willing the man to be reprobate.

The scriptures most often cited to prove that God desires all men to be saved, and that He sent Christ to reconcile the world to Himself are II Pet.3:9/Ezek.33:11/ I John 2:2/I Tim.2:4, 6; 4:10. There are others besides. In fact, every passage in which God complains about man's sin or unbelief bears further biblical testimony that God has not decreed that men should sin or that they should be in unbelief. These passages number in the hundreds in scripture.

The fact that God wants all men to be saved, set in juxtaposition with the fact that not all men end up saved, suggests that there is not only one will in the universe, but at least two. Arminians say that there is the will of God and the will of man-two wills at odds in the universe. Calvinists say the two wills that are at odds are both in God. That is, in one sense, God wishes all men would be saved; in another sense, He really wants millions of people to burn in hell for all eternity. Piper opens his essay with this ambitious statement of purpose:

"My aim in this chapter is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God's will for 'all persons to be saved' (1 Tim. 2:4) and his will to elect unconditionally those who will actually be saved is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion."

I have been surprised to see how many readers seem to think that he accomplished this goal. He does make about as good a case as can be made for such a doomed postulate, but he does so by tricking the mind of the inattentive reader (I don't suggest that John Piper intends to "trick" anybody. I am sure that he is very convinced of the validity of the case he makes, but Calvinists have in many ways allowed themselves to be "tricked" by a faulty logic which they would never accept if used by their theological opponents. It manifests the phenomenon of how intense desire to believe a thing to be true will lead a man to accept uncritically the flimsiest case in its defense).

Like any good polemicist, Piper begins by explaining the perceived problem and presenting a few of the scriptures that support the objections to his view. He presents the conundrum: God wills that all men would be saved (it's scriptural); but God has willed to damn a large percentage of men who He could as easily have saved (it's Calvinism). There must, then, be two wills in God that are contrary to each other.

The bottom line in Piper's argument is that a rational being may indeed will a thing at a certain level, but choose not to implement that thing out of deference to a higher purpose. I may want to sit around today and play my guitar, but there is work to be done, so I type. On one hand, I want to relax and play music, but some things are more important to me than that, so I really don't want to relax as much as I want to accomplish something that precludes my relaxation. Two wills. It's that simple. Or is it?

What if I were capable of doing both? If I could play the guitar and type at the same time, without sacrificing the quality of either activity, but I chose not to play the guitar? Could it really be argued, in such a case, that I truly wanted to play? The only reason that I don't do everything I want to do is that I can't do some things without sacrificing other things that I want even more. To say that God wants to save all men, and could do so, but chooses not to do so suggests that there is a higher compelling interest that God has in mind which would be compromised by His saving everyone. Piper acknowledges this, but says that the Arminians are in essentially the same position as are the Calvinists, in this respect:

"…God wills not to save all, even though he is willing to save all, because there is something else that he wills more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all. This is the solution that I as a Calvinist affirm along with Arminians…"

Piper says that the Arminians view man's free will as that higher priority, which God refuses to compromise, while Calvinists identify that highest priority as "the manifestation of the full range of God's glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Corinthians 1:29)."

This line plays well for Calvinists, but non-Calvinists do not think that God derives more benefit or glory from His judging the wicked than He would derive from saving them (nor do we believe that the Calvinist explanation is the only one that preserves man's humilty and God's glory in salvation). Given the choice between showing mercy and judging sin, on an even playing field, God would prefer showing mercy every time (Ezekiel 33:11). In God's list of priorities, mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).

Let's face it, Calvinism has always presented a God of a different character than that which Arminianism and primitive Christianity embraced. The God revealed in Christ must judge sin, when it is persisted in, but is really like a father longing for the restoration of his estranged children. If a single sinner repents, God and His angels rejoice. Calvinism's God, on the other hand, rejoices to cast the children who disappoint Him into flames of eternal torment.

This is how He chooses to glorify Himself, even though He could as easily have saved them all with the same sovereign grace that He exercised toward the relatively few whom He actually chooses to save. Though He is said to be the perfection of fatherhood, Calvinism's God is not like any loving father known among men. Even evil fathers, Jesus said, delight to give good things to their children. This is not in contrast to the way God is. It is a dim reflection of that greater compassion in God. "How much more shall your Father who is in heaven…"

The non-Calvinist view does not believe that consigning billions of people, made in God's image, to eternal damnation was ever "Plan A" with God. The eternal fire was "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41)-not for men. The only reason that men ever go there, against God's stated will, is that (dare I say it?) God cannot prevent them!

Yes, I said it. There are some things that God cannot do. The Bible says so.

For example, He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). If He tells a sinner that he is capable of repenting and doing good (Gen.4:7), but in fact that man was predestined by the good pleasure of God to be irredeemably evil and to go to hell, then God is lying, because He isn't telling the truth. If God says that He had desired to save the lost, but was unable to do so because they "were not willing" (Matt.23:37), but in fact the reason they never came to Him was because He had secretly decreed that they should not and could not, then, again, He is lying. This is impossible for God to do.

Another thing God cannot do is deny Himself (2 Tim.2:13). He cannot violate His own character and values. Arminians believe that God's decision to make man in His own image was not very unlike the decision of a human couple to start a family, rather than simply to breed Labrador retrievers. The dogs will never turn on their masters, but most people think that children hold more potential and can be much more satisfying, in the long run.

It is in the nature of children to be morally free and responsible, though the good parent attempts to educate, civilize and influence a child's will through proper nuture. No parent wants to see a child go astray, but every couple, in choosing to bring a human being into their home (rather than a puppy), knows that it is in the nature of free moral beings to make choices and to live with the consequences. Many parents have known the grief of their children's rebellion, but have been unable to control the will of another independent human soul. God apparently knew this frustration as well:

"I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not consider…What more could have been done…that I have not done? " (Isa.1:2-3; 5:4).

We might think that God should have been satisfied with oxen and donkeys, who know their master and give no cause of heartache-but, then, He wouldn't have any children at all, would He? I think that the teaching of scripture about this matter is that God's highest priority in creation was that He have children, not pets; a family, not a menagerie.

He was under no external compulsion to create people, but He sovereignly chose to do so. He really desired that every one of His children be saved and in relationship with Him, but He wanted them to have that relationship with Him upon a different basis than that of the birds and the bunnies He had already created-all of whom relate to Him just as He wished they would, but without much depth or intimacy.

To have real people means having real choices, which animals don't have. It means taking the risk of being disappointed. But if it was God's choice to create such beings, who can fault him? The point is, once such beings are in existence, they make their own choices. That is what they were made to do. Does God wish for them only to make right choices? Of course He does. But it is in the nature of the case that one free will can only wish that another free will should do a certain thing. It is not possible to dictate and determine what another free being will choose.

In God's case, as sovereign judge of a universe that contains free and responsible agents, He is not at liberty to save those who refuse to be saved, and must, of necessity, punish those whose choices incur righteous judgment. Thus, no one ultimately wins against the sovereign God, though the scriptures bear abundant testimony that many truly disappoint Him.

In the course of making his case, John Piper drifts into a lengthy, and irrelevant, discourse that gives the inattentive reader the impression that the case for his basic point is supported by a wide range of examples and arguments. Piper shows that the crucifixion of Christ, which was the will of God, involved the sinful acts of many participants-Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, et al-who were doing things that God says are not His will for men to do. The same is true of Joseph's brothers accomplishing God's will through their selling Joseph into slavery.

Also God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart, and the hearts of other wicked men, as an act of judgment against them, resulted in those hardened sinners performing sinful acts that God elsewhere declares to be contrary to His will. These examples are given to demonstrate that God "in one sense" wills righteousness, but "in another sense" wills evil. Strange as this may seem, Piper tells us, "God's emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend."

This may be true, but there is nothing very complex or mysterious about the cases Piper gives. Those who killed Jesus and those who betrayed Joseph were already very evil men, by their own choices. God permitted them to carry out their evil designs, just as He allows all men to choose sin, if they insist. God was not obligated to allow them to carry out their evil purposes. He prevented them from doing so on many previous occasions. But, when allowing them to do what they wished proved to be expedient for God's purposes, Jesus was "delivered [into their hands] according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). There is nothing complex about this. It is the simple principle, as enunciated by Napoleon Bonaparte: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

There is nothing here that says that God put it in the hearts of these men to choose the evil of their ways, nor that these particular men were predestined to be evil. If they had been better men, God could easily have delivered Jesus (and Joseph) into the hands of other evil characters. There have always been plenty around.

Then there are the cases of God's hardening Pharaoh's (and certain other people's) heart, of His giving the unbelieving Jews "a spirit of stupor" (Rom.11) and of His giving certain people up to reprobation (Rom.1).

The hardening of the heart of a man so as to prevent him from repenting-and the turning of a man over to the bondage of his own sinful choices-is simply God's way of saying, "You have exercised your freedom of choice very poorly hitherto, and you are now under my judgment for your sins. Your judgment will be a moral blindness amounting to the suspension of your opportunity to repent." It is God's prerogative to judge a man however He sees fit, and to exploit that judgment for the higher good of His kingdom. There is nothing complex or mysterious in this fact.

What Calvinists fail to recognize is that the whole enterprise of God hardening the hearts of certain sinners, so as to prevent their repentance, implies that, had He not taken this special action, they might have repented. Yet Calvinists believe that it takes special election and action on God's part to make a man repent. If their doctrine were true, God would never have to do anything special to keep a man from repenting. Calvinists would embarrass themselves less by concealing this phenomenon of God's hardening certain men's hearts in scripture, rather than continually bringing it up to their own undoing.

In fact, Piper's bottom line is very simple and unrelated to the lengthy case He makes for God making use of sinners to accomplish certain important purposes (e.g., the crucifixion of Christ and the transporting of Joseph to Egypt in order to save his family from famine). His real position is that there are some priorities in the mind of God (as in all rational beings) which cause Him to sacrifice certain desires for others-and that the damnation of certain men was so essential to His highest goals, that He had to predestine certain persons, as yet unborn, to that fate, in order to guarantee that He would be glorified in this manner, while He still loved them and wished they had been saved.

What he fails to show is that there is any scriptural support for the notion that God's highest desire (or His desire at any level, for that matter) was to create any human beings strictly for the purpose of their damnation, to whom He would never grant the genuine opportunity for salvation, because it pleases Him just to know that He is glorified in their eternal torment.

He thinks Arminians are wrong because they appeal to man's "free will" as the factor that overturns God's desire for all to be saved. Yet, "free will," Piper asserts, is not a concept found in the Bible. In commenting on 1 Timothy 2:4, Piper writes:

"There is no mention here of free will. Nor is there mention of sovereign, prevenient, efficacious grace. If all we had was this text we could only guess what restrains God from saving all. When free will is found in this verse it is a philosophical, metaphysical assumption not an exegetical conclusion."

While the term "free will" (like the term "Trinity") is not found in scripture, it is everywhere illustrated in scripture as well as history and personal experience. The Calvinistic terms "decrees of election" and "decrees of reprobation," on the other hand, are neither found in scripture, nor illustrated there.

If reason be sought why certain things-like the salvation of all men-are declared to be "the will of God" in scripture, but those things do not come to pass, Piper is correct in recognizing the involvement of "two wills" at odds with each other. His mistake is in seeing both of these wills as being "in God," rather than recognizing there is the divine will and the will of man. Is man's will, then, greater than God's? Only to the degree that "God wills" it to be.

Tartan's views regarding all of this.

First of all, let me state this at the outset, and in doing so, be quite clear about the matter concerning "two wills" in God.
It is right and legitimate to understand God willing in different ways. It is valid to understand God having certain ways of making known His will in scripture.
As Piper rightly points out in his article, many reformed Theologians have made note of God willing in a "Preceptive" sense, and also in a "Decretive" sense. Precept and Decree.
I believe Piper should have emphasised together with reformed Theologians, the primacy of God in having "One will", but also having different ways of understanding this "One will".

I mention this because in the past, reformed writers were very careful to uphold that God essentially has "one" will, and therefore He is not a confusing God or a being with conflicting wills etc.
I believe Piper could have been much stronger in this simple fact,
Therefore I affirm that God does not have "two wills" per say but rather, He has "one" will, that can be at times understood in different ways, namely by Precept and Decree.

Just briefly, "precept" has to do with law and commands, therefore when God expresses Himself in a way that demands obedience from us, then this is called God's "preceptive" will.
This aspect of God's will can and often is thwarted by sinful humanity. God demands His "precepts/laws" and man often does not comply.
God's "decretive" will has been called His "Sovereign/secret" will, or His will whereby God's will is "always" done. Whether it be the sinful actions of humanity or the dropping of a sparrow to the ground. Everything that happens in the Universe has been "decreed" to happen, and does so with a "purpose" known only to God in an ultimate sense, and as an encouragement to all whom love Him and trust in Him, knowing that "all things" are working for those who love Christ, and are the called according to His purpose.

Now let me get to the heart of the matter, and exactly where I disagree with Piper.
In trying to maintain this "two wills" teaching, he compromises certain passages of scripture in order to make his case. He does not seem to fully realise, that he is giving away ground here to those who embrace a synergistic system of theology, a concession he does not have to give, and in the process, he opens up the doors to the whole "well meant offer" debate, that is pretty much embraced today by most evangelicals.

Now I realise he is attempting to put all interpretations of these passages (II Pet.3:9/Ezek.33:11/ I John 2:2/I Tim.2:4, 6; 4:10.) on the table for evaluation, and I even get the feeling that he himself holds to a more robust Calvinist understanding of these passages, but what he actually achieves is a confusion where there never was one.

For me, it is better to stand on your interpretation and defend it with reference to the analogy of faith, rather than concede some ground for the sake of appearing somehow balanced.

He is quite right to point out the violence done by Arminians to these passages, but then he goes on to appease them, and in my opinion, give up ground to not only the issue of God's sovereign will, but opens a door to a culture already more than willing to embrace paradox, contradiction and irrationalism.

The "two wills" teaching is now being used to teach that God wants everyone to be saved, and yet God only intends to save His elect.
If you listen to "two wills" teachers, you will hear them speaking in contradictions. It is a sad thing for a Calvinist like me, to hear other Calvinists doing this, and doing it unapologetically.

The fatal flaw in their understanding, relates to their comprehending this supposed "two wills" teaching and a faulty understanding of "Law" and "Grace" as revealed in scripture.
The older theologians were much more succinct when discussing these matters.
That is why the reformed creeds say such things as,

"There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions (emphasis mine), immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will,"
The Westminster Confession Ch 2 Of God, and of the Holy Trinity/ London Baptist Confession 1689.

The Nicene Creed if written later would have said, not only "one God", "one Lord", "one baptism" but would have said "One immutable will too! if faced with today's "two wills" theory!" but I digress..

It has been suggested, that people like me merely collapse the "decretive" will into the "preceptive" will, and thereby do damage to the sincere desires found in God, for all to be saved.

I find this allegation quite objectionable on many grounds. By the same logic, the Doctrine of Limited atonement could be viewed as a teaching that collapses the genuine "free offer" into insincerity in God, or the doctrine of election into this same dangerous possibility. It is ridiculous.

First of all. It is quite right to speak of God as the "Offended" party, within His rights to command obedience to His law, and therefore, in that sense, He expects or demands this "compliance" from humanity.
It is at this point, that the "two wills" theory is put forward in order to make the argument, that what God actually commands, equates exactly to what God Himself desires to see happen in all men without exception, meaning precisely that God desires that all be saved

Now, I am not going to discuss the Arminian interpretations for the passages mentioned above, but deal with what many Calvinists are currently teaching in regards to the "two wills" teaching.

Act 17:30 "Truly, then, God overlooking the times of ignorance, now He strictly commands all men everywhere to repent"

The popular inference drawn from this passage, with minimal balance from other scriptures, is meant to teach that what God commands = what God desires to see happen.
It is as if the word "command" and "desire" are synonyms.

Now bear in mind the "big idea" behind the view that teaches that God "wants all men" to be saved, is their understanding of these passages, and dare I say it, the complete lack of balance with reference to other passages that are quite clear and address the Divine intention in the atonement.
Such as the High Priestly prayer prior to the crucifixion, where Jesus prays,
"I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours." Joh 17:9

Does this passage speak to the idea that God desires for all men to be saved? In any sense?
As it is written, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Rom 9:13

Surely, these passages have something to do with the subject matter pertaining to this "two wills" teaching?

Is it not much more Biblical to teach that in the matter of salvation, rather than declaring that God wants everyone to be saved, is it not scriptural to teach what scripture plainly states, such as

For He said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Rom 9:15
Together with,
"Therefore He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will, He hardens." Rom 9:18

Today, it is a given, that if you challenge the "two wills" teaching or the "well meant offer" doctrine, you are an unbalanced and myopic Hyper Calvinist. So be it, and yet one does not have to negate the "free offer of the gospel" in order to reject what the modern proponents are teaching.

As a Calvinist, I hold to the promise of salvation in the gospel, preached universally to all where the gospel is sent, with the condition being "repentance and faith". I affirm that we can and must "plead" with sinners to repent and believe the gospel.

I affirm that man has a duty to obey everything that God commands, and that includes repentance and faith in Christ for salvation.
The fact man has "no ability" to do so, is neither here nor there, and as I am not arguing with Arminians, I shall say no more upon "responsibility does not imply ability".

The point is, one can be a balanced Calvinist and affirm the "free offer" without having to embrace the paradoxical theology connected with the "two wills" theory and or the "well meant offer" controversy.

In the same way that the "free offer" does not imply "ability" from man, the command to repent and believe does not imply that God "desires" the salvation of all men. It is imported into scripture.

In fact, the Bible teaches quite clearly that the "free offer" of the gospel is "One call" that goes out to whomever hears it. Upon this proclamation, there is the promise of salvation for all who will repent.

Calvinist Theologians have been careful here to explain this "one call" having a "two-fold" purpose.
It is sometimes called the "General call, which "includes" the Special or Inward call to the elect"
One call, two purposes.

I am arguing that behind that "One call", there is a God with "One will", and that will is always accomplished, just as His "decretive" will is always done.
(For many are called, but few chosen. Mat 22:14) and (to the one we are the savor of death to death, and to the other we are the savor of life to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2Co 2:16)

What the "two wills" teaching does is introduce a kind of conflation within the Godhead.
It is as if God is both willing to save everyone and only the elect at the same time. It is contradiction, not paradox or even mystery. It is straight out contradiction, and I assure everyone that God is not confused, nor does He desire the salvation of everyone, as these teachers have us believe.

I have provided the basis above for the call of the gospel, and there is no "two wills" there to be found as scripture affirms.
Two-fold aspect regarding the "One" general call, yes, but "two wills", absolutely not.

Just for the record. It was not Calvinism that steered many Calvinists in this direction, but actually men who held loosely to the "L" in the five points of Calvinism. It was ever the ambition of the Arminian together with the Amerauldians and others to link the "free offer" with the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Others within the reformed movement went further and embraced not only a "well meant offer" to all men without exception, but tied it all in with "Common grace" and the atonement.
Probably without doubt, it was the respected Dutch Theologian Abraham Kuyper who spearheaded the modern "common grace" movement that enamoured the likes of John Murray, Ned Stonehouse and Van Til, however, I believe Kuyper's own warning was not heeded. He had said that some men might run with his teachings upon grace, to such an extreme, and end up doing damage to the atonement and evangelism/preaching. I believe that has happened in our day and particularly the last century.

I only have to think of the recent attempt to reach out to the Mormon Church by Fuller Theological Seminary President Richard J. Mouw. A man who embraces the modern "common grace" argument to an extreme. If we want to throw the "Hyper" name around, then one can make the argument, that these Calvinists that are pushing "Common grace", "well meant offer" and universal "expiation" are the "Hyper" Calvinists. It seems to me, that the real "Hypers" are laughing at all of this, and Calvinists are becoming more and more confused about these matters.

There also seems to be a kind of fear out there in Calvinist circles, that if we do not teach this modern well meant offer, with this "two wills" import, we shall be ridiculed, shunned and shamed.
I personally have been on the receiving end of this mood, and it ain't pretty as they say.
Nonetheless, often it seems like a witch hunt!
The prevailing mood runs like this. Who are the so called Calvinists that dare question the wisdom of the many? Let us shut them out, quiet them, ridicule them at any cost. We are repeatedly told that
the world needs to hear that God is desiring that all who hear the gospel be saved. That is the message we must have for a dying world. Unless we present the gospel in that way, we are merely giving out "information" rather than offering Christ to all men.

I have had conversations with these Calvinists, who have ridiculed everything that I have just said, and then turned right around and have said "more or less" what I did say, just changing the sentence slightly, in order to make some huge difference, and yet I wonder if they even heard what I said!
What they heard originally was that I challenged certain aspects of "well meant offer" and challenged the "two wills" teaching and that I challenged the "Universal expiation" teaching and that I challenged the "Common grace linked with the Atonement" idea, and kaboom!, all ears are suddenly deaf to what I then say from that point on.

In conclusion, I just want to say precisely what I do affirm and reject.

1/ I affirm Common grace as historically defined, but back away from the type that Richard J. Mouw embraces. I do not strictly link the atonement with Common grace, but I do believe there are temporal benefits for the Non Elect, that are by-products of those who are the called.
Having saved sinners in the culture is a benefit to the culture, and has a positive effect for all men without exception.
Generally, common grace is that kindness or benevolence of God the Creator, bestowed upon the unworthy, things like rain and sunshine, family and health, and even life and all of its legitimate pleasures, without immediate punishment for rebellion, are all elements of common grace.
Together with God restraining evil in the society, common grace is certainly biblical.

2/ I affirm the theological construction regarding "two wills" as a tool that helps us understand the Preceptive and Decretive will, and that it is not an artificial distinction demanded by Calvinistic theology. Knowing what God's will is with regards to the "well meant offer", depends upon exegesis of scripture, and not upon the theory that God actually has two wills pertaining to salvation.

Where I disagree with Piper, is where he states the "two wills" in the following way,

"The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation. They are an effort to say Yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say Yes to the universal, saving will of 1 Timothy 2:4 and Yes to the individual unconditional election of Romans 9:6-23."

3/ I reject any "well meant offer" that presumes that God is desiring for all to be saved to whom the gospel is preached. Men say God desires all men to be saved, I say that is not true.

This issue confuses God being pleased when sinners repent, or that He gets no pleasure from the death of the wicked (Eze 33:11) with the false conclusion that God is sincerely desiring for all men to be saved.
(it is true that God has no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but scripture also affirms that God is pleased at their destruction, so to use these passages to come to the conclusion that God desires for all men without exception to be saved is eisogesis at best and contradiction at worst."

To illustrate a practical example, if a person wants to know if God wants to save him, we can certainly assure the person, that God rejoices over every sinner that repents and trusts in the Son, who has come to save His people from their sins, and that God does not take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked, but assuredly, He will punish the wicked who remain in unbelief.

Such an example not only gives hope to the sinner, but proclaims the freedom of God in salvation.
It is a faithful proclamation, rather than an anthropocentric one.

3/ I affirm what has been called "the free offer of the gospel", that is, the indiscriminate preaching of the gospel to all that will hear it, and I affirm that upon the condition of repentance and faith, whosoever believes shall be saved.
I affirm that this obedience (which results from grace) pleases God and the Holy Angels.
The word "offer" meaning "proclamation", as the gospel itself is not an offer per say, but actually a command! (2Th 1:8, 1Pe_4:17. )

I affirm that God shall show mercy to whomever He shall show mercy, and therefore I reject that God desires the salvation of all men without exception.
(Rom 9:15, Rom 9:18, Joh 17:9, Mat 9:13, Mar 2:17, Luk 5:32.)

I affirm that God has "one call" with a twofold aspect to it (general and effectual), and therefore it would be a contradiction to say that this "One call" has a desire for all without exception to be saved and yet the same call is the very means to draw His elect people. (Mat 22:14)
God is not irrational, nor does He have conflicting desires within the Godhead.
Scripture proclaims that God gets "all" of His desires.

(Isa 46:10) "declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past things which were not done, saying, My purpose shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure;"
(Daniel 4:35) "all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; and he does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What doest thou?'".
(Job 42:2) "I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted". "
(Psalm 115:3)Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases".

Much more could be said and countless more scriptures given in order to uphold my argument presented here. I give this brief written piece to generate discussion. For light rather than heat.
For reason rather than irrationalism. For God's glory rather than mans post modern felt needs.
As Pilate said long ago, "What I have written, I have written." Joh 19:22

Tartanarmy April 2007.


Richard Mouw said...

These are very helpful thoughts about a tension in my Calvinist theology that I struggle with every day--between a seemingly declared divine desire to save all and what I take to be a clear biblical affirmation of particular election.

Whether or not I personally have gone wild on the notion of common grace, we do need to be a bit careful not simply to take that notion as a "modern" invention. I keep going back to Calvin himself, who says that we must
"let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it where it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God… Those men whom Scripture [I Cor. 2: 14] calls 'natural men' were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled of its true good."
This, he insists, is meant to illustrate the ways in which our implanted rational natures are, for all human beings, a "peculiar grace."
(Institutes, II, 2, 15)

Tartanarmy said...

Greetings Dr Mouw, I have responded at the link below. Thanks.

jude3dude said...


We are dealing with this exact controversy at our church now. There are several of us that are full Calvinists (5 pointers – not Hypers). It is amazing that even though there are two sided to the controversy, it is only our motives that are in question. It is also amazing the blindness and resistance to the clearly expressed word of God. Can Paul be any clearer in Romans 9?
I used to think that people that held to this position were just defending God by saying that “He loves all men and desires that they be saved.” After thinking about it, I now believe that they are actually defending themselves. Perhaps they are tired of defending a truly free God that has the right to show mercy to whomever He wills? Perhaps they are ashamed of the gospel and the God Who commands obedience to that gospel? I am not ashamed of my God. Whatever He does is righteous and just. His arm is never too short to accomplish His will. He alone has the right to do with His creation as He wills. To God alone be the glory!