Saturday, November 08, 2008

Near enough is good enough!

Following up from a previous post here....and a response to Nathan's comment

"I am wondering if you could critique Dr. Roger Nicole’s article? I am simply curious as to what the “near enough” meant in your post. I appreciate you linking it, as I found Nicole’s article extremely helpful."

I very much liked the article, but a few points I put in the “nearly” context are as follows.

Quotes with comments below.

I am trying to be more precise and hope to add something to the “sense” of what he has said, with a view to articulate some clarity, well at least as I see it, but in responding to you, some will take great pleasure in hurling my way, charges of Hyper Calvinism, which I am used to, but saddened by. I am not a Hyper Calvinist and have in fact argued online with real Hyper Calvinists that really are out there.

The only prerequisite Scripture knows is that one should be a member of fallen humanity, and this applies to every man, woman, or child who can at all be reached with the good news of the gospel.”

True as far as it goes, BUT, scripture does place a few prerequisites as far as the sinner is concerned, so in a very real sense, there is a “qualified” scriptural limitation.

But as we do not know who the “elect” are, we certainly preach to all men indiscriminately, but even then, there is a sense in which those who attempt to dishonor the message, are as dogs and not fit to cast our pearls of grace before them, lest we might be destroyed!.

Surely those with open hostility are at the very least “at that moment”, not those seeking, thirsting, heavy laden, repentant etc.

If any man thirst, or all that are heavy laden, or repent and believe for example.

Jesus Himself has plainly said that He did not come to call the “righteous” but sinners to repentance.

He said He was sent precisely and “only” for the lost sheep of the House of Israel etc.

So, I am just adding a sense to what Dr Nicole had stated above, and I am reasonably sure he might agree with what I have added, as he seemed to be really speaking to proclaiming the Gospel from the preaching sense, where as I am looking to relate and include the preaching and the “audience” receiving, as God does all things well and in relation to each act, and hence we know that the “Word” goes out and shall do that which it is supposed to achieve, and never return void, or without purpose.

I hope you are following what I am saying.

These are unmistakable expressions of a universal design in the proclamation of redemption and the calling of men and women to repentance and faith.”

A little ambiguous, but generally a true statement, but there is wiggle room left for confusion, in that some may interpret what he has said, refers not merely to the calling of all kinds of Men and Women from the whole world, but “all”, “each” and “every” man and women etc.

That would be an error. Consistency is the key to avoid confusion, especially upon this issue.

He Himself then goes on to clearly say that the “many” and (hence not all) exposed to the gospel, may in fact remain in darkness and not be effectually called. And of course, the reason for remaining in darkness is first of all to be found in the sinners rebellion as an active, responsible act, but also as a passive decree from God Himself to leave them in their rebellion and sin.

Of course, the doctrine of the “effectual” call is key to a consistent hermeneutic, which I have elsewhere argued is the foundation to understanding the call of the gospel, and being consistent.

it is plain that the extent of the call is greater than that of the appropriate acceptance.”

Again, this is true, but leaves open some room for confusion, but I will make no big issue of it, for it is certainly true that the actual preaching of the Gospel extends beyond who are actually effectually called, but the extension itself, was never to all men without exception, but certainly to “many” as scripture confirms, and the “acceptance” thereof is to be found again in that doctrine we call the effectual call leading to regeneration, which acceptance is itself a gift from God.

When the matter of the scope of the call is brought into relation to the scope and design of the atonement many feel that a difficulty looms on the horizon.”

This is the crux of the matter, and hence why we must try and be precise, which may not be popular, but at least will be clear enough to avoid confusion. The kind of confusion that seems to be rampant these days, and not helped by those who advocate a more universal “expiation” kind of teaching, the same people who read much into older and more robust Calvinist writers.

Some very strong Calvinists, keeping a firm hold on the particularistic elective purpose of God and on the definiteness of the atoning work of Jesus Christ, have concluded that no call can rightly be offered except to the elect. Unfortunately this view, advocated by men of the caliber of Joseph Hussey (1660–1726), John Gill (1697–1771), John Brine (1703–1765) and, in more recent times, Klaas Schilder (1890–1952) and Herman Hoeksema (1886–1925) “

The above statement is popularly stated these days, but is false. These men did not believe that we can only preach to the “elect”. It is a misinterpretation of what they believed.

They affirmed that the gospel is promiscuously preached to “any and all” where there is opportunity, but that the “elect” are called by this self same means. One call, but two purposes in the same call.

Not two calls with two purposes, or anything else. One general call to all, an effectual call to the elect, and the rest left in their rebellion. What they did do however, especially Hussey and Brine, was to emphasis and thereby become imbalanced as to the duty of the unbeliever, where they argued falsely as far as I understand them, but they did preach a universal call, which is here misrepresented above by Nicole.

These men were certainly stronger than where I am, and certainly Hussey and Brine could be argued to teach certain tenants of Hyper Calvinism, but they do not deserve much of the bad press they receive from reformed men these days. Were they imbalanced slightly on some of their views, maybe, but they did preach a universal proclamation of the gospel to all, so we should at least represent them rightly rather than jump on the bandwagon to malign them. They preached a universal call, and that is central to real Calvinism. These men also preached at a time when God was on trial so to speak and man was the measure of all things, much like today.

If you read even Pink, he will tell us plainly that when the balance is lost we must address that balance, and in so doing, we may be perceived to be out of balance ourselves. We need to read men in their contexts to do them justice is my point.

The work of evangelism and of missions within that frame of reference is painfully constricted.”

That was an unnecessary statement, and a very subjective one at that. Many of the movements associated with the men mentioned above were evangelistic, or at least paved the way for evangelism down the track. Maybe not crusade type status, but certainly faithful and Church centered, rather than following much of the modern methods of separation of Church and Missionary!

I guess I am not a big fan of subjective statements alluding to concluded negative objections.

If there is one comfort in the presence of such a phenomenon it is that people of that ilk usually fail to reproduce themselves and therefore they do not threaten for a very long time the integrity of the gospel. “

That reads to me quite nasty actually, and I think such subjective opinion spoils what Nicole has to say in this article. An otherwise excellent article apart from some of these kinds of statements. It also fails to keep one eye upon the bigger picture of God's providence and how He works through history, culture and certain contexts that were prevalent during particular times. Particular men for particular times and all that rightly entails.

It is oh so easy for us today to look back and cast glib judgments!

Arminians and other non Calvinists love this kind of rhetoric and it is a shame. Plus it then flows into the general Calvinist arena and good men are smeared with a very broad and inaccurate brush.

Which leads to the popular accusation of Hyper Calvinism, so often bandied about unjustly.

Much of what passes as “Hyper Calvinism” these days is simply a genuine robust Calvinism. The labels are being changed thanks to those who hold loosely to the five points, and certainly by those who hold to 4 points and most definitely by those who reject the five points.

If it be asked in what terms the offer of the gospel must be presented and whether it is appropriate prior to any response on the part of sinners to say to them “God loves you with redemptive love” and “Jesus Christ died for your sins,” the answer to the query must be that these forms of language are not strictly legitimate unless there is some assurance that the people involved are in fact among the elect. It is better to say “God in his unfathomable mercy has been pleased to love sinners such as you and me, and he invites you to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. If you do so, you will find that the work of Christ avails for you, and you will be saved.””

I wholeheartedly agree with what Nicole says above, except I would say that God has a plan to save some sinners whom He certainly and everlastingly loves, and He is calling out this people for Himself. I do not want to be loose with the objects of God's love, but have no problem telling sinners that God's own attribute of love within Himself, shows kindness to all of creation, but especially the elect. I also affirm that all who shall repent shall be certainly saved, and would call all men to repentance as opportunity to preach and teach arises.

I would even go as far as telling sinners that God does not “actively” keep people away from salvation, and in that sense all kinds of people are outwardly called by the gospel.

That is why Spurgeon is sometimes smeared by REAL Hyper Calvinists, as they do not appreciate the distinction between passive and active double predestination and hence they err in making God active and equally at work in reprobation as well as regeneration, which Scripture does not teach.

In conclusion, the article is really good and I very much appreciate it. My differences are not so much in substance, but rather with some needed clarity at certain points of subjectivity.

It is a tough subject for sure.

The best point in the article was the Sears illustration and how that related to the category he called “VI. Utmost Assistance” , and the best line was the following point, “It may be noted in any case that the disability under which sinners labor is not forcibly produced by direct action of God but is self-induced so that they, rather than God, are rightly charged with their own plight, dramatically revealed in their obduracy in the presence of the gospel call. We conclude here again that utmost assistance is not an essential prerequisite for a sincere offer. “

Tied in with my comments above and in light of Nicole's comments above regarding Hyper Calvinism, it seems that those who advocate “Universal” offers and “Universal expiation” etc make the same errors that Hypers make, namely that command does not equate to ability, and hence, ideas about “sincerity” are misplaced and misunderstood.



Ps, I know that some modern scholarship argues that the men you mention were Hyper Calvinists, but I reject a lot of modern scholarship. If modern scholarship is your thing, then perhaps read Dr Nettles who wrote to defend Gill, read Tom Nettles By His Grace and For His Glory, pages 73-107, for a thorough and balanced discussion of this issue of Gill. or read Paul Helm who rescues Calvin from the popular Calvinists who embrace universal expiation and sub Calvinism.

In the years after Dr. Gill’s death there arose a great controversy between the followers of Gill and the followers of Andrew Fuller. Neither man would have endorsed such. There is no doubt that Fuller called Baptists to a more balanced presentation of the doctrines of Grace. But Gill also foresaw the disastrous slide of General (Arminian) Baptists into denials of the Trinity and of gospel redemption.

Did Gill fail to preach the gospel to sinners as some have asserted?

Why not from his own mouth and heart:

"Souls sensible to sin and danger, and who are crying out, What shall we do to be saved? you are to observe, and point out Christ the tree to live to them; and say, as some of the cherubs did to one in such circumstances, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, Acts 16:31. Your work is to lead men, under a sense of sin and guilt, to the blood of Christ, shed for many for the remission of sin, and this name you are to preach the forgiveness to them."

Interesting link


Nathan W. Bingham said...

@Mark: Thanks for your thorough response. Like Nicole's original article, it was very helpful.

Tartanarmy said...

Your welcome brother.

I just started reading all the hoopla regarding James White being called Hyper and pitted against Phil Johnson, amazing eh?

And it seems by old foe Tony Byrne has been mixed up in the mess also, which does not surprise me one bit as the man is a dishonest stirrer with no shame, and is ever ready to attack real Calvinists, and he and the Ponterites never seem to be found in the heat of the battle, do they?

I might post about it all when I have read more about what has been transpiring regarding this Arminian/Palagian/Heretical conference....whilst James White is of course busy defending the faith over the other side of the atlantic, acting like a Hyper Calvinist, right? Yeah right!

It makes me sick in my stomach reading such smear tactics by these professing Christians.

Ok, rant over, but please forgive me, as these issues are freshly upon my mind..IE, Just been reading about it all in the last 30 minutes or so.