Objection # 2.
The destruction of the system of Calvinism.
The Doctrine of Decrees.
In their second conclusion, page 14 herein, the Professors write:
"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."
Perhaps a more thorough denial of the doctrine of the Westminster Confession, chapter 3 of "Of God's Eternal Decree" and chapter 5 "Of Providence" could not be written. It is however the logical end of a doctrine which divorces the substance and open offer of the gospel from God's decretive will, (whether in whole or in part) and confines them in His revealed will together with an ardent desire and pleasure toward the salvation of all.
If God ardently desires the salvation of all, and has a pleasure towards that which he has not decretively willed, and neither desire nor pleasure are realised concerning all, another dilemma faces the Professors, if they do not admit to the Amyraldian order of decrees:
1. Did God decree the salvation of some, and leave the rest to their own free wills, thus turning decree, desire and pleasure into injustice. Some needed to have a decree to save them, the rest are damned for not exercising free will. Some are saved because there was no foreseen good in them, and the rest are damned because God foresaw that they possessed some good, namely free will, or ...
2. Consistently therefore such assertions with regard to the relationship of God's decree to His desire and pleasure cannot have any reference to the salvation of any. The offer of the gospel then must be to those who possess free will.
The article in question clearly affirms that in connection with the free offer of the gospel God desires the salvation of all men. God therefore must have designed a means suitable to his desire and pleasure, i.e. the salvation of all.
Thus the second affirmation of Amyraldianism and the governmental theory belongs properly by direct implication to the doctrine of the Professors, i.e. God out of His lovingkindness to all desiring the salvation of all, sent His Son into the world to make the salvation of all men possible. If this is not so, a desire for the salvation of all is an outright contradiction.
The third affirmation of a universal hypothetical decree offering salvation to all men if they believe in Christ, is necessary to the Professors doctrine if it is to retain any semblance of Calvinism at all.
The fourth and fifth affirmations must follow by direct inference and consequence.
With reference to the desire and pleasure of God in the free offer of the gospel, the Scripture asserts, "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy (Romans 9:18), "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10).
We know that God brings to pass those things which appear contrary to that which He would have men do in righteousness, e.g.
"Herod and Pontius Pilot conspired 'to do whatever they hand and counsel determined before to be done' (Acts 4:28). And in truth if Christ were not crucified by the will of God, where is our redemption? Still however, the will of God is not at variance with itself. It undergoes no change. He makes no pretence of not willing what He wills, but while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same thing." (Calvin's Institutes, Book 1, chapt. 18 para 3).
God in commanding all men everywhere to repent, and maintaining demands upon them is thus consistent with his own nature, whilst he is also able to make the wrath of man, by his own ordination to praise him. This however gives no ground for the notion that there is a will or pleasure in God toward that which he has not been pleased to decree. The providence of God is the governing of all his creatures and all the actions of men though God cannot be charged with the sinfulness of those actions.
The notion therefore "that God desires or has pleasure in the accomplishment of what he does not decretively will" is a strange inversion of God's nature, and nothing short of blasphemy.
This system has God grieved to fulfil that which he has decreed, since he has decreed the death of the reprobate, and at the same time it is said he loves them. It is psychologically impossible and indeed would charge God with being an irrational being, having his will and purpose opposed to longing and desire. Tell this strange notion to a rational being and he will conclude that God hates Himself. Thus we have this article thoroughly destroying the doctrine of decrees.
The love of God profaned
The article identifies the grace whereby God does good to all his creatures with His special and saving grace. This does nothing but assert that there are natural affections in God.
In their proof the Professors use Matthew 5:44-48, where we are enjoined to love our enemies in view of the fact that God makes the sun to shine on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and unjust alike. This is adduced by the Professors to mean that this goodness of God to all in temporal things is indicative of a special and saving grace in God in which He earnestly desires the salvation of all men. This is clearly shown in the first conclusion of page 14 of the article, where we read:
"We have found that the grace of God bestowed in his ordinary providence expresses the love of God, and that this love of God is the source of the gifts bestowed upon and enjoyed by the ungodly as well as the godly. We should expect that herein is disclosed to us a principle that applies to all manifestations of divine grace, namely, that the grace bestowed expresses the lovingkindness in the heart of God and that the gifts bestowed are in their respective variety tokens of a correspondent richness or manifoldness in the divine lovingkindness of which they are the expression."
Of this confusion of common grace and special grace as being a natural affection in God, John Owen wrote the following:
"The since the entrance of sin, there is no apprehension - I mean for sinners - of a goodness, love, and kindness in God, as flowing from his natural properties, but upon an account of the interposition of his sovereign will and pleasure. It is most false which by some is said, - that special grace flows from that which they call general grace and special mercy from general mercy. There is a whole nest of mistakes in that conception" (Owen's Works, Vol. IX, page 44).
"By 'love', all our adversaries agree that a natural affection and propensity in God to the good of the creature, lost under sin, in general, which moved him to take some way whereby it might possible be remedied, is intended. We, on the contrary, say that by love here is not meant an inclination or propensity of his nature, but an act of his will (where we conceive his love to be seated), and eternal purpose to do good to man, being the most transcendent and eminent act of God's love to the creature" (John Owen, Death of Death, page 209. Banner of Truth).
If the reader will take the trouble to read John Owen on this subject he will find the conception of the article soundly refuted, for it would leave us in the position that there is no grace of God which is not a saving grace in its desire, object and intent.
With the confusion of common and saving grace, the Professors easily confuse the human and divine natures in Christ.
Concerning the lament of the Lord Jesus over Jerusalem they write, "Jesus says he often wished the occurrence of something which did not come to pass and therefore willed (or wished) the occurrence of that which God had not secretly or decretively willed (Matthew 23:37)." They then assert that this is Christ exercising the office and prerogative which belong to Him as the "God-man Messiah and Saviour" and state, "It is surely, therefore a revelation to us of the divine will as well as the human." Is this not a confusion of the acts of the natures of Christ? In the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ it is essential that the acts of each nature belong to that nature, and are not to be confused as an act of the other, yet are always to be understood as acts of the one Person in whom the two natures do dwell. (Refer John Owen in his The Glory of Christ in the constitution of His Person).
If we accept the doctrine of the Professors, it simply means that Christ is not eternally blessed in His divine nature. If we assert that this is only a temporary state in the divine nature of Christ, we make that nature changeable, and conclude that God is not infinite in all His attributes. If Christ wept and lamented in His divine nature it would mean that He was not sufficient and happy in Himself, and that His happiness is dependent upon the state of the creature.
The false representation that the opinion rests in the difference between Supra and Infra-lapsarianism.
The difference between these two positions revolves around the order of decrees, viz:
Supra-lapsarianism, God decreed to save before He decreed to permit the fall.
Infra-lapsarianism, God decreed to permit the fall before He decreed to save.
We are not concerned here with the relative merits of these two views, rather we shall demonstrate that a desire to save all in a free offer of the gospel is quite foreign to both positions.
"Incomprehensible and immutable is the love of God. For it was not after we were reconciled to Him by the blood of His Son that He began to love us, but He loved us before the foundation of the world ... Our being reconciled by the death of Christ must not be understood as if the Son reconciled us, in order that the Father then hating, might begin to love us, but that we were reconciled to him already, loving, though at enmity with us because of sin."
In other words, Christ did not die to make the Father love us, rather Christ died because the Father loved us.
This however bears no proof to our opponents that God loves all men in or out of Christ in time. Against such a notion we reply:
1. We know not why God loved any at all.
2. There is nothing to indicate that God loved any He did not choose, nor did He ever contemplate the salvation of any outside of Christ, for He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.
3. There is no indication in the Scripture that any whom God loved before the foundation of the world will perish.
4. The objection of our opponents is an innovation which serves to divide a decree to no purpose.
5. The argument is in itself inconsistent with the assertions of the Professors. If it relates to infra or supra-lapsarianism then the free offer of the gospel and the desire contained in it, respects the decretive will. This is denied in the first paragraph of the article.
It is but the mercy of God that we are not consumed already. We have demonstrated that the love of God toward fallen creatures is an act of His will. Hence His love when extended toward fallen creatures cannot be divorced from, but must be comprehended within His decretive will.
Concerning the infra and supra-lapsarian views, there is the following agreement:
1. Both assert that the love and mercy of God toward fallen creatures is wholly a matter of His decretive will, (the Professors deny this).
2. Both agree with Augustine that God did not love His elect because Christ died for them, but rather loved them and chose them in Christ. The death of Christ was not a satisfaction of God's love, but a satisfaction of divine justice.
There is not a vestige of evidence to suggest that a desire in God to save all arises out of the difference between these two positions, but rather the evidence proves that such a notion is foreign to both.
The false notion that a desire to save all in God arises out of the relationship of all men to God as He is their Creator and moral Governor.
Charles Hodge asserts that the universal and indiscriminate call of the gospel necessarily follows from its nature:
"Being a proclamation of the terms on which God is willing to save sinners, and an exhibition of the duty of fallen men in relation to that plan, it of necessity binds all those who are in the condition which the plan contemplates. It is in this respect analogous to the moral law. That law is a revelation of the duties binding all men in virtue of their relation to God as their Creator and moral Governor. It promises the divine favour to the obedient, and threatens wrath to the disobedient. It therefore of necessity applies to all who sustain the relation of rational and moral creatures to God. So also the gospel being a revelation of the relation of fallen men to God as reconciling the world unto Himself, comes to all belonging to the class of fallen men."
To assert that this is a basis for the notion that there is in God a desire to save all, only leads into further error. Athanasius in his treatise on the incarnation, along with other early church fathers established a benevolence in God toward a fallen mankind on the ground that God saw everything that He had make and beheld it as very good. They concluded that God was obliged to look down in pity, and seek a recovery, or otherwise admit defeat to Satan. This view loses sight of the justice of God, and the penalty forewarned and incurred as a result of sin.