Saturday, January 17, 2009


An Exposure of "The Free Offer of The Gospel" by Professor Murray and Stonehouse as an Amyraldian Modification of the Doctrine of Decrees.

An Outline of the Principles Involved

Let it be first appreciated that sincere and good men do grievously err concerning the truth, even men of great talent, ability and learning, yet we do not malign them nor intend disrespect in opposing them, nor ought we to shrink from the exposure and shunning of their errors.

The Scripture has exhorted us that, "ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Such is the warrant and purpose of this exposure, which is to demonstrate the difference between orthodox Calvinism, and that which is accurately termed modified or moderated Calvinism. During the last one hundred and fifty years it has also been called modern Calvinism, even by some of its proponents.

Modified or moderated Calvinism as the term implies seeks to modify the terms of the Calvinism of the Reformers and Puritans, while at the same time attempting to maintain itself, until exposed, within the ranks of those who subscribe to the orthodox confessions of the Church, such as the Westminster Confession. Of this the article of Professors Murray and Stonehouse is a classic example. Its root principle is so plain that it is liable to be overlooked in all the controversy and debate which arises from it. It is simply the assertion that there are two desires and wills in God. The following is a clear statement made by the Professors, "We have found that God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfilment of certain things which He has not decreed in His inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realisation of what He has not decretively willed, a pleasure towards that which He has not been pleased to decree." No one can deny, not even the Professors, what this is a clear statement that there is a duplicity of desire and will in God. In the same paragraph the Professors write, "We should not entertain, however, any prejudice against the notion that God desires or has pleasure in the accomplishment of what he does not decretively will." By the device of running to a mystery, they cling to the former and advance their doctrine on a duplicity of desire and will in God.

Now we admit that there are many instances in which the will of God because of our weakness appears to be manifold (several). To us there is an apparent contradiction or paradox. In this case it is that God preceptively makes a free offer to all in the gospel, while according to His eternal purpose He has not desired or decreed to save all. The Professors, by assuming that an offer to all is an offer to save all, have unwarrantable deepened the contradiction to say that God desires and wills to save all, while He desires and wills to save only some. It is to be noted that God has never offered to save all, for in His providence the gospel has never been preached to all. Though systematic theology deals with and recognises paradoxes in Scripture, it does not build upon them. It is therefore an even greater folly to build a doctrine on a paradox which is stretched beyond its limits. The Calvinist must remain true in his preaching to the doctrine of decrees on which his system is built. When he preaches the doctrine of election, or according to any of its allied doctrine, he does not preach that God desires ad wills to save all. The ascribing of an actual desire and will to God in His precepts does nothing but make them internal to the mind of god, and create a duplicity in His desire, purpose, will and decree.

Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion clearly refutes the idea of a duplicity of wills in God as a basis for doctrine, so does John Owen whom we quote as follows,

"We must exactly distinguish between man's duty and God's purpose, there being no connection between them. The purpose and decree of God is not the rule of our duty; neither is the performance of our duty in doing what we are commanded any declaration of what is God's purpose to do, or His decree that it should be done. Especially is this to be seen and considered in the duty of the ministers of the gospel, in the dispensing of the word, in exhortations, invitations, precepts, and threatenings, committed unto them; all which are perpetual declarative's of our duty, and do manifest the approbation of the thing exhorted and invited to, with the truth of the connection between one thing and another, but not of the counsel and purpose of God, in respect of individual persons, in the ministry of the word ... They command and invite all to repent and believe; but they do not know in particular on whom God will bestow repentance unto salvation, nor in whom He will effect the work of faith with power. And when they make proffers and tenders in the name of God to all, they do not say to all, "It is the purpose and intention of God that ye should believe" (who gave them any such power?) but, that it is His command, which makes it their duty to do what is required of them; and they do not declare His mind, what Himself in particular will do. The external offer is such as from which every man may conclude his own duty; none, God's purpose, which yet may be known upon the performance of his duty. Their objection, then, is vain, who affirm that God hath given Christ for all to whom He offers Christ in the preaching of the Gospel; for his offer in the preaching of the gospel is not declarative to any in particular, neither of what God hath done nor of what He will do in reference to him, but of what he ought to do, if he would be approved of God and obtain the good things promised," (Death of Death, Book 4, Chapt. 1, para 3)."

In chapter 2 of the same book of that treatise, Owen at length disproves absolutely that there is contained in the sending of Christ into the world any notion whatever of a natural affection and propensity in God for the good of the creature, lost under sin, in general. Such good he ascribes three ends, 1) the salvation of the elect, 2) the greater condemnation of the reprobate, and 3) the manifestation of His own glory by way of mercy tempered with justice. Whence then this desire and will in God to save all in the free offer of the gospel?

It is to be noted that into the preceptive will, the Professors place both will and desire. This desire they assert is not a seeming attitude of God, but contains a real attitude, a real disposition of lovingkindness. In this lovingkindness there is a true and high sense of benevolence in the heart of God. They however avoid ascribing the nature of an absolute decree to this so called preceptive will, because as they admit it would imply an implicit contradiction. Nevertheless it is a will, with a heart which contains, desire, lovingkindness and benevolence to every fallen son of Adam. The attempt to avoid the nature of a decree cannot with such content be carried, for the moment that the love of God is inoperative, it becomes decretive. No one will claim that the love of God is inoperative, because it caused Him to send His Son into the world, and caused Him to make an offer of salvation to all in the gospel.

Where there is a will and desire, lovingkindness and benevolence which is translated into action, there is purpose and decree. Wherever there is operation and action, there must be purpose and decree. Operation and action without purpose and decree belong only to those who have lost their reason.

The linking of the passion of desire in God with the preceptive will is false, and complicates the issue. God does not desire, long for or wish the accomplishment of anything, because He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Calvin demonstrates that where God does speak to us in the Scripture of Himself in terms of human affections, He does so in order to accommodate himself to our weakness. This in no way indicates a duplicity of will and desire in God, so Calvin invites his objectors, "But why do they not attend to the many passages in which God clothes himself with human affections, and descends beneath His proper majesty?" The advocates of an earnest desire and will in God for the salvation of all do nothing to assist their case by placing it in an external aspect, namely the preceptive or revealed will. Immediately desire and will with lovingkindness and benevolence are ascribed to it, so it becomes internal to the mind of God, with the direct implication of purpose and decree.

Conversely, if the will of God proposed by the Professors does not contain purpose and decree, it cannot be operative. If it is not operative, it cannot contain a real attitude and disposition of lovingkindness in which there is a true and high sense of benevolence. If this be so, then the desire to save all, said to be contained in this will, can have no reference whatever to the operation and action of God, in making a free offer to all in the gospel. The argument that there is no purpose or decree in a will which earnestly desires to save all, is not only ludicrous, but redundant to the argument.

Now if the advocates of this duplicity of desire and will in God, hold also to a doctrine of decrees, the only order of decrees suitable is that which places the decree of redemption before the decree of election, which is according to the Amyraldian system. Remember that in their system, on the one hand, God desires and wills to save all, while on the other, He finally desires and wills to save only some. Arminians are more consistent in their attempt to rest one side of the paradox on man's free will. Thus we see that this notion of duplicity in God is the root and ground of Amyraldianism. The manner in which the doctrine of the Professors' article necessarily follows the Amyraldian system is demonstrated in the exposure hereafter.

No statement of doctrine which is not according to principle can be held to be rational, (i.e., a thinking logical statement). Now if we grant that all of the statements of the Marrow-men are rational, we must conclude that for some of them at least, the principle of duplicity underlay their system. This is clearly shown in the following statement which Louis Berkhof makes concerning them in his Systematic Theology, page 394. (Banner of Truth) Berkhof appears to admit the same thing on page 462,

"The Marrow-men of Scotland were perfectly orthodox in maintaining that Christ die for the purpose of saving only the elect, though some of them used expressions which also pointed to a more general reference of the atonement. They said that Christ did not die for all men, but that He is dead, that is available for all. God's giving love, which is universal, lead Him to make a deed of gift and grant to all men; and this is the foundation for the universal offer of salvation. His electing love, however, which is special, results in the salvation of the elect only."

In the light of a duplicity of desire and will in God, it would indeed be difficult to prevent the doctrine of these Marrow-men running to Amyraldianism. It appears that they did at least pave the way, for the Amyraldians who later arose from their ranks.

It is the belief of the writer of this exposure, that a notion of duplicity of desire and will in God must inevitably lead to atheism. How else could men arise as they did in the Free Church of Scotland, who embrace the rationalism and scepticism which all but destroyed the Scottish Church in the latter part of the last century.

To hold to this notion of duplicity in God, under the conception that there is a will and desire in God for the salvation of all in the free offer of the gospel, is to make all doctrine and preaching to be double-minded in its revelation of God. Everything that is taught and held is ever on shifting sand; nothing can ever be clear cut or definite. One day, God is depicted as having one desire and will, the next He is said to have another. Many errors cannot be exposed or dealt with because they are either akin to, or are but the other side of the same doctrine. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." The result of the notion of duplicity can only produce men like to its own principle, for a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Double-mindedness is one of the great sins of our age. It would indeed be a terrible thing if we allowed the notion herein exposed to overthrow the very doctrines and standards which we hold dear. Such will be the inevitable end if the warning intended here is not heeded.

John Owen sums up our argument against the doctrine of the Professors on pages 209 and 210 of Banner of Truth printing of his treatise The Death of Death. He asserts that there is no natural affection, inclination, and propensity in God to the good of the creature lost under sin in general, but that all love on the part of God is an act of His will. It is therefore purposeful and decretive. "So that, without impairing of the infinite blessedness of the ever-blessed God, no natural affection unto anything never to be accomplished can be ascribed unto Him, such as this general love to all is supposed to be."

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