The subject of this essay concerns the inroads
made by the doctrine of universal Divine benevolence in respect
to the plan of redemption in Presbyterian Churches throughout
the English speaking world and in Reformed Churches generally.
It is expressed in a system of doctrine known as modified Calvinism,
which in its latest form is qualified as being modern; that is,
modern modified Calvinism.
The essay has as its immediate background
a controversy which has existed between this Church and the Presbyterian
Church of Eastern Australia (known also as Free Church) since
1963. A closer history of the matter is given in the Vindication
published by our Presbytery on the 12th February 1965. From the
outset this controversy has concerned the following two forms
of modified Calvinism, which are inseparable in respect to their
- The doctrine of the book of the Marrow
Of Modern Divinity as explained hereafter under the heading,
"A History Of Modified Calvinism."
- That in the free offer of the gospel, God
desires the salvation of all men, even the reprobate, as proposed
by the Professors Murray and Stonehouse in their booklet, The
Free Offer of the Gospel.
Both are condemned in our Church: the first,
because the Book of the Marrow was condemned by the 1720 and
1722 Acts of the Assembly of the Church of Scotland which are
embraced by virtue of the constitution of our Church, and the
second, because its series of inherent ambiguities and contradictions
are contrary to the principle of interpretation of Scripture.
The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia
(Free Church) at its 1971 Synod published a paper in justification
of the doctrine identified in this essay as modern modified Calvinism,
and has thereby made it an officially received doctrine in that
While the basic principles of modified Calvinism,
old and modern, are explained in this essay, this treatment is
not claimed to be an exhaustive or an exclusive one. It is acknowledged
that a controversy of similar nature preceded this one, under
the heading of 'common grace' within the Christian Reformed Church
in the United States. That controversy lead to the establishment
in 1924 of the Protestant Reformed Churches in that country.
Modern modified Calvinism is identified herein
as a system of doctrine, rather than as an intrusion of the principles
of Arminianism in the Reformed Churches. Like Arminianism, it
is a system of doctrine in its own right. Both are forms of doctrine
which derive from the principle of self salvation (autosoterism)
and universalism. Autosoterism, which assumes that man has ability
in total or in part to save himself, in the history of doctrine,
goes hand in hand with the universalism that God loves all men,
even the reprobate, and desires to save them. In the discussion
of this essay, modified Calvinism is not treated as a controversy
within the Calvinistic system. Rather the controversy is one
between two different and opposing systems of theology. For this
reason the essay is presented under the heading, "Universalism
and the Reformed Churches: A Defence of Calvin's Calvinism."
This essay, therefore, has four basic purposes,
- To trace the development of modified Calvinism
as it was found in the Schools of Davenant and Amyraut from the
early part of the seventeenth century to its present modern modified
- To demonstrate that modern modified Calvinism
is a system which is based on a concept of the nature of God
other than that which belongs to Calvin's Calvinism, and is completely
destructive of his system, which has been the bulwark of the
Reformed Churches, the foundation of their Confessional Standards,
and the source of their dynamic for over four hundred years.
- To show that modern modified Calvinism, when
brought into a Reformed Church constitutes an addition to her
doctrinal standards and the principles of the Word of God.
- To set forth the consequences of modern modified
Calvinism in the doctrine of the Church and the society in which
The Apostle Paul, in his farewell message
to the Church at Ephesus, gave warning in the following terms,
"I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves
enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves
shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples
after them." (Acts 20:29,30). The Church has not been free
of this danger in any age and in this no less than in any other.
Since the beginning of the seventeenth century,
universalism, in the form of modified Calvinism, has been the
"Trojan Horse," which from within, has brought about
the decline and fall of the great Churches which arose out of
In England, Scotland, Canada, the United States
and Australia, all those Churches, apart from a few small remnants,
now embrace the liberal theology which denies the absolute authority
and inerrancy of Scripture. The first step which led down the
broad pathway to that from true religion, was taken when the
pulpits and courts of those Churches modified the Calvinism of
their Confessional Standards by allowing the principle of universalism
that God desires the salvation of all men. Modified Calvinism
first became official in those Churches, when their courts passed
a declaratory act, which allowed doctrines which were less precise
and softened the particularism of the Calvinism of their original
standards. It is also to be regretted, that even most of the
remnants of those Churches are now also subject to the same modifying
principles of universalism.
The root problem in the failure of the once
reformed churches is not liberalism or Arminianism, but modified
Calvinism. It is modified Calvinism which leads the church into
Arminianism and then to liberalism.
It may well be asked, how can this be so?
The process has been a gradual one which has extended from a
period of twenty years to one or two generations or more. Both
modern modified Calvinists and Arminians are identified in that
they accept the notion that God desires the salvation of all
men, and preach a gospel which is divorced from the true nature
of the law, which is given to bring sinners to Christ. The former
seldom offends the latter by their preaching. Rather, as a public
witness, instead of defending the Word of God on the basis of
the Calvinism of the Confessional Standards, which were once
the foundation of their Churches, modern modified Calvinists
prefer to join forces with Arminians in an unrealistic confrontation
with liberalism and Roman Catholicism. In this way the distinctions
between Calvinism and Arminianism are done away with.
The next stage of the process is that the
emphasis of the pulpit passes to that in which God's benevolence,
being held to be universal, is made the greatest and most important
of His attributes, to the exclusion of His justice and wrath
against the wicked. Love, not the fear of God, is made the beginning
of wisdom. The totality of the fall, election, predestination
and reprobation become unpopular and discredited doctrines.
When the Church moves to that point, it is
not long before the justice and wrath of God are said to belong
to the God of the Old Testament and not the New Testament. To
the logic of the natural mind the Scriptures which speak of the
attribute of God's justice are inconsistent with the idea of
an all loving God. The natural man has then come to the place
of liberal theology. He then assumes that Scripture is but a
record of man's searching after God, and so he develops his critical
theories, which entirely dispose of the true nature of the authority
and inspiration of Scripture. This has been the process in the
history of the Church in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,
during which time, modified Calvinism led to Arminianism and
liberalism as surely as night has followed day. Thus the root
cause of the failure of once Reformed Churches, is not Arminianism
or liberalism, but modified Calvinism.
There can only be a revival of true religion
in our day when first, the concepts of modern modified Calvinism
are overthrown in those Churches which claim to be Reformed.
Then and only then, will the Reformed Churches have returned
to the Calvinism of their original standards, and be in the position
to deal with the doctrinal and philosophical errors of our age,
including Arminianism and liberalism. Then will Calvin's Calvinism
and the purity of the Church and her doctrine be restored.
A History of Modified Calvinism
The churches of the Reformation arose within
national boundaries and generally adopted their own confessional
standards or those to which they had contributed. For example,
the Dutch Church adopted the Belgic Confession and the Canons
of Dordt; the Swiss Church, the Helvetic Confession and the Scottish
Church, the Westminster Confession. These Confessions each declared
the fundamental doctrines of the Word of God which had been systematised
and taught in Geneva by the great reformer John Calvin. As long
as they remained true to the Word of God, the courts of those
Churches were diligent in the defence of their Confessions and
would not allow any principle which modified Calvin's system.
As the children of Israel grew tired of God's
provision of manna in the wilderness, so the Church in times
of decline, has grown tired of God's truth and preferred a doctrine
more comfortable to the natural mind of man. In that state of
mind, men conclude that they have a natural ability to please
God and so believe that they can contribute to their salvation,
or that they possess something that is desirable to God and deserving
of His love and favour.
Every modification of Calvin's system of theology
has taken place under the notion that God desires the salvation
of all men. This notion lay at the root of the system of Arminius
who was Professor of Theology at Leyden in Holland in 1603. His
five points of doctrine in opposition to Calvinism were condemned
by the Synod of Dordt in 1618-19.
In England the notion of a universal desire
in God for salvation of all men was also the root principle of
the Davenant School at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
This school taught that there is in the redemption purchased
by Christ, an absolute intention for the elect and a conditional
intention for the reprobate in case they do believe. It was the
forerunner of the system of Moses Amyraut on the Continent, who
better systematised the same principles under a doctrine of hypothetical
In 1645 an obscure writer, Edward Fisher,
wrote the first part of a book called The Marrow of Modern
Divinity and its second part, which appears to be an attempt
to correct the antinomianism of the first in 1649. Though it
bore the imprimatur of Puritan license, little more is known
of the origin of the book, other than it carried the recommendatory
letters of Caryl, Burroughes and Strong who were members of the
Westminster Assembly (1643-1649), and was also supported by Arrowsmith,
Sprigge, Prittie and others, all of whom were of the Davenant
School persuasion. The terms of the book are in every respect
consistent with the theology of that school.
The following sentences are a sample of its
- "Christ hath taken upon Him the sins
of all men."
- Of Christ, "The Father hath made a deed
of gift and grant unto all mankind."
- "Whatsoever Christ did for the redemption
of mankind, He did it for you."
- "Go and tell every man without exception,
that here is good news for him, Christ is dead for him."
In the Westminster Assembly (1645-49) the
particularistic divines, led by the Scottish Commissioners, Rutherford
and Gillespie, debated the question of limited atonement on the
22nd October 1645 with a strong body of Davenant divines, nine
of whom are recorded by name in the minutes which record the
debate in the Assembly. Both parties were agreed that the atonement
contains an absolute intention for the elect only, but were not
agreed that the atonement contained a conditional intention for
the reprobate. (See Appendix: The Five Points Of Amyraldianism.)
The minutes reveal that the debate was entirely
amicable. This attitude of the Assembly to the Davenant School
was confirmed later in the same year on 4th December, when the
Assembly defended the reputation of Moses Amyraut against the
complaints of one Andrew Rivett.
While the Assembly did not include in its
formularies any statement which entered the opinions of the Davenant
School, it did not include any which specifically excluded them.
It is clear that the Davenant School divines accepted the final
formularies of the Assembly without protest, believing that their
doctrines, while not included, were not excluded, and expecting
that they would pass into the law of the Church by Act of Parliament.
The record shows that English Presbyterianism
from its inception was broad in its doctrine of redemption. Not
only were the doctrines of Arrowsmith and Calamy allowed, but
also those of Richard Baxter went unchallenged. It may be said
that the School of Davenant in England, was a basic reason why
Calvinism did not take permanent root in England, in the same
way that the School of Amyraut contributed to the decline in
the theology of the Huguenot Church in France.
History provides ample evidence, that when
a Church modifies her Calvinism, she loses her conviction and
hold of the truth.
In spite of the 28 years of the persecuting
and killing times which began with the restoration of Charles
II to the English throne, and in spite of the weaknesses imposed
on the Scottish Church by the Revolution Settlement in 1689/90,
and the disturbed political situation which ensued during the
first part of the eighteenth century in Scotland, the Scottish
Church maintained a fully particularistic doctrinal position.
This however, was disturbed during the second decade of that
century when certain of her ministers, Hog, Boston, Erskine and
others brought into their pulpits the doctrine of the Marrow
of Modern Divinity, which, about seventy years before, had
received wide support among the Davenant School divines.
The Calvinism of the Church was preserved,
when the General Assembly, in its Acts of 1720 and 1722, condemned
the book of the Marrow on several grounds, one of which
was that its terms advocated a universality of redemption as
to purchase. The Acts were a declaration of the doctrine of the
Church as it was held at the time.
From the day of their enactment to the present,
these Acts have been assailed by every shade of theological opinion,
from liberal to evangelical fundamentalism, either on the ground
that the Westminster Confession and Catechisms do not specifically
condemn the doctrine of the book of the Marrow, or on
the specious ground, that the terms of that book do not teach
a universality of redemption as to purchase. Of the many references
in Free Church literature which support the Marrow, the
most extensive is given in John McLeod's Scottish Theology
in which he oversimplifies the controversy by treating it as
one involving a misunderstanding about the meaning of terms.
The whole difference between the positions
of the Church of Scotland and the Westminster Assembly in this
matter, relative to the formularies of the later, as we have
already shown, was that the Westminster Assembly on the one hand,
did not specifically exclude a conditional intention in the redemption
purchased by Christ, whereas, the Church of Scotland on the other
hand, in its application of the formularies, excluded it.
Unless this difference is understood, the
proper significance of the Acts of the Church of Scotland Assembly
in 1720 and 1722 cannot be realised.
It is significant that the assembly of the
Church of Scotland relied on these Acts when it deposed John
MacLeod Campbell in 1831 for preaching doctrines similar to the
Amyraldian system. MacLeod Campbell's defence was largely comprised
of an attempt to prove the 1720 and 1722 Acts invalid by virtue
of the fact that they had not been subjected of the Barrier Act
of 1697 which requires:
That before any General Assembly of this Church
shall pass any acts which are binding rules and constitutions
to the Church, the same acts be first proposed as overtures to
the Assembly, and being by them passed as such, be remitted to
the consideration of the several Presbyteries of this Church,
and their opinions and consent be reported by their Commissioners
to the next General Assembly following, who may then pass the
same in Acts, if the more general opinion of the Church thus
had agreed hereunto.
Since the Assembly in its Acts of 1720 and
1722 had not altered the doctrine of the Church, but had simply
declared it, as it was then held, there was no case to pass on
to Presbyteries, in terms of the Barrier Act. The submission
of MacLeod Campbell thus failed. Had he been successful in this,
Amyraldianism could not have been excluded under the Constitutional
Standards of the Church of Scotland by such means.
The Westminster Confession, chapter 3, sections
6 and 8, and the larger Catechism No. 59, which are relative
to this controversy, are positive statements of the Scripture
doctrine concerning the application of the redemption purchased
by Christ. In no sense do they have a negative reference.
Chapter 3 section 6, Of God's eternal Decree
in part reads as follows:
Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen
in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto
faith in Christ by His (the) Spirit working in due season; are
adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto
salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually
called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect
These statements from the Westminster formularies
are exclusive if taken 'a priori' in the absolute sense that
redemption has no other reference than to the elect. William
Cunningham in his Historical Theology takes this position,
and we agree. However, unless the courts of the Church declare
that position, there is no authority which is particularistic
apart from private opinion.
In view of the debate in the Assembly, the
manner in which the formularies were applied in England, the
argument of the Schools of Davenant and Amyraut, and the ambiguous
system of modified Calvinism since the beginning of the eighteenth
century, the question of application of the Westminster formularies
to the doctrine of universal redemption as to purchase, and the
terms of the Marrow can only be decided by a Declaratory
Act of the Church. Herein lies the proper application of the
Acts of the Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1720 and 1722.
The Marrowmen, like their modern counterparts,
attempted to hold to the particularism of Calvinism and at the
same time preach the gospel in the universalistic terms of the
Marrow. They therefore reinterpreted the terms of the
book from that of its original context within the School of Davenant,
and declared against the obvious, that it did not have reference
to universal redemption. Boston took upon himself such an exercise,
when under an assumed name, to hide his identity, he issued an
edited version in 1726.
The doctrinal manifesto of the Associate Presbytery
of the Seceders from the Church of Scotland in 1742 stated the
following impossible contradictions:
- "No such doctrine as universal redemption
as to purchase is taught in the Marrow."
- "That God the Father His making
a deed of gift and grant unto all mankind...does not infer a
universal redemption as to purchase."
The Marrow theology is thus committed
to the following ambiguities:
- "Christ has taken upon Him the sins
of all men," and being a "deed of gift and grant unto
all mankind," is not a universal purchase of the death of
Christ, therefore it logically follows that,
- He said deed of gift and grant of Christ
to all mankind is effective only to the elect, ie., an infallible
redemption gifted to all secures only a portion of its objects.
- A deed of gift and grant to all is only an
offer. In other words, Christ is gifted to all, without that
He died for them.
- Since the gift of Christ to all is not a
benefit purchased by the atonement, the substance of the free
offer of the gospel, does not consist of Christ as redeemer,
but only as a friend.
Thus it was the Marrowmen in the first half
of the eighteenth century who first injected into the stream
of Scottish theology the ambiguous and contradictory system which
has been the subtle vehicle or Trojan horse which for two hundred
and fifty years has worked to the downfall of the Calvinism of
Presbyterian and Reformed Churches throughout the world.
Modern modified Calvinism is but a refinement
of the same system. Like the Marrowmen, as demonstrated hereafter,
it presents the gospel in universalistic terms. It does so by
introducing a system of interpretation of Scripture which brings
in a doctrine of divine precepts and decrees, which not only
perpetuates the errors of the Marrow, but extends the
ambiguities and contradictions of that system.
As previously intimated, modern modified Calvinism
is now the received doctrine of most Presbyterian and Reformed
Churches which represent them selves as holding to the doctrines
of the Calvinistic Reformation. Its position is clearly stated
by Louis Berkhof in his Systematic Theology, also in the
booklet by Professors Murray and Stonehouse, The Free Offer
of the Gospel which was first published by the Orthodox Presbyterian
Church of America in 1948.
Lest we be misunderstood when we deny the
universality of the love of God, let it be clearly understood,
that we are not controverting the fact that God is good to all,
for, "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and unjust" (Matt. 5:45). Rather,
we are concerned with refuting the doctrine which teaches that
God's goodness in sending temporal blessings upon all, is indicative
of His love and long-suffering in redemption toward the nonelect,
and a desire in Him that they might be saved. We maintain that
the gospel is given for the purpose of separating the elect from
the reprobate, and in the providence of God, in the case of the
latter who hear it, for their greater condemnation.
Modern Modified Calvinism: Its
Ambiguities And Contradictions
The center and core of the Calvinistic system
is that the sole purpose and end of creation, the fall of angels
and men, and the plan of redemption is the glory of God and the
manifestation of His perfections. This teaching of the Scripture
is expressed in the terms of our Confession:
Chapter 3: Of God's Eternal Decree.
Section 3. By the decree of God, for the
manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated
unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting
Section 4. These angels and men, thus predestinated
and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed;
and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be
either increased or diminished.
The natural man has always refused to receive
unconditionally the teaching of Scripture, that all mankind is
wholly alienated from God, except for those chosen in Christ
from the foundation of the world. With him is identified the
evangelical fundamentalist who modifies the teaching of Scripture
in either or both the following ways by teaching that:
- All men are possessed of a natural ability,
and are able to please God and contribute to their own salvation.
- All men are the objects of God's love and
favour to the extent that He desires their salvation.
It is the second of these teachings which
is openly taken by those who are classified herein as 'modern
modified Calvinists.' It cannot be denied that the notion that
God desires the salvation of all men is a modification and softening
of the statement of the Confession quote above, or that the designation,
'modern modified Calvinist' is applicable.
Modern modified Calvinists attempt to justify
their position by claiming on the one hand, that they hold the
particularistic terms of the standards of their Church and the
Reformation, while on the other, they modify and soften the terms
of those standards by bringing in the notion that God desires
the salvation of all men in the free offer of the gospel.
Two things motivate modern modified Calvinists.
First, the desire to adhere to the traditions of their Church
and the Reformation, hence their attachment to their Confessional
standards, while modifying them under that which constitutes
their second motive, namely, the naturalistic concept under which
they present the gospel.
The outworking of their system is seen in
the following list of ambiguities and contradictions to which
their theology is committed:
- God desires the salvation of all men, but
has Himself ordained that the nonelect shall perish.
- Though God desires to save all, He does not
grant to all the gifts of faith and repentance by which they
must be saved.
- The nature of God's love is changeable. In
life He loves the nonelect, even though He has made them
the objects of His everlasting displeasure and wrath. In death,
God's love to the nonelect ceases, and only His wrath remains.
- God does not inwardly call by His Spirit
all those He earnestly desires to save and so He had a desire
which is at variance to His will as an efficient cause to the
doing of all His good pleasure.
- 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.
Modern modified Calvinists attempt to hide
the fact of the contradictions and ambiguities of their system
behind the mystery of Divine Sovereignty. Any attempt at exposure
of their falsity is immediately said to be an unwarranted intrusion
into the secret counsels of the Divine Mind.
The Problems Of Modern Modified
Calvinism In The Defence And Propagation Of The Faith.
The immediate problems raised by this system
- In the first place its proponents present
themselves as the true representatives and exponents of the Reformed
faith, whereas in truth, they represent it in a state of error
- In the second place it produces a preaching
which cannot, because of its contradictions and ambiguities,
logically uphold the principles of the Reformed faith, but rather
destroys them. In place of the principles of faith, it concentrates
on preaching up the fruits of reform in terms of attitudes, feelings
and dispositions toward Christ. In this regard it is most deceptive
to the hearer because its terminology concerning the fruits of
the Spirit is Reformed, but divorced from the principles of the
Word of God which are given to produce them. As discussed later,
it separates the law from the gospel and holds out a Christ who
belongs to every man.
- In the third place there is the matter of
the effect of the doctrine on man's behaviour. Many good men
have unwittingly embraced this system not knowing whence it would
lead them. Others may have wilfully pursued it. Since "Man
looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the
heart" (I Sam. 61:7), we can but judge the system and its
fruits, and leave the judgment of persons and their motives to
God. It is never the less a scriptural principle concerning man,
"As he thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7).
This is borne out in the trends in the moral behaviour of modern
man, which are a direct result of the permissive philosophies
under which he lives. If by the grace of God, man is brought
to adhere with singleness of purpose to the moral law of God,
then he will be upright before God and man. In religion, man's
behaviour is a reflection of his concept of the God he worships.
If he adopts a concept which ascribes duplicity to the mind of
God, his system of doctrine will also be contradictory and ambiguous.
If then he lives by that doctrine, it would seem to be inevitable
that such a man will be contradictory and ambiguous in his behaviour
towards his fellows and before his God. "A double minded
man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1: 8). Modern modified
Calvinism cannot, therefore, contribute to the solution of the
problems of our age, it can only add to their confusion.
- In the fourth place, modern modified Calvinism
robs the Calvinistic and Reformed faith of its defenses, because
it has no logical answer to the schools of Arminius, Davenant,
and Amyraut. This is because the universalistic interpretation
of Scripture texts on which that system rests is coincident with
those systems. While the modern modified Calvinist generally
attempts to divorce his universalism from the implications of
universal redemption as to purchase, the Arminian in that area
of his theology, has an apparent consistency. The Arminian, having
assumed that God loves all men and desires their salvation, concludes
that Christ has purchased a redemption for all men. In the face
of the illogical position of modern modified Calvinism in respect
to the atonement and the other contradictions and ambiguities
which belong to that system, Arminianism and any other form of
autosoterism (self salvation) must go unchallenged.
Modern modified Calvinists appeal to Scripture
on the basis of a universalistic interpretation of the following
and such like texts. Their authority for this interpretation
in turn, rests largely on a misinterpretation or misreading of
Calvin's commentary on Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 18:23: Have I any pleasure at all
that the wicked should die, saith the Lord God and not that he
should return from his ways and live?
Ezekiel 18: 32: For I have no pleasure in
the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, Wherefore turn
yourselves and live ye.
Ezekiel 33:11: As I live saith the Lord, I
have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked
turn from his way and live.
I Tim. 2:4 God our Saviour, "Who will
have all men to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth.
2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning
His promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering
to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should
come to repentance.
Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
thou that killest the prophets...how oft would I have gathered
thy children, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her
wings, and ye would not!
Modern modified Calvinists give a meaning
of double connotation to the Ezekiel texts. That is, the same
words are taken particularistically in one sense and universally
in another. In the first place the Ezekiel texts are said to
be addressed in particular to the House of Israel, "For
why will ye die, O House of Israel?" (Ezek. 18:31). In the
second place, their reference to the death of the wicked and
their repentance is said to refer to a desire in God for the
salvation of all men.
I Timothy 2:4 is said to refer to a desire
in God that all men should be saved. The long-suffering of God
and unwillingness that any should perish mentioned in 2 Peter
3:9 are also referred to all men. The lament of Christ over Jerusalem,
Matt. 23:37 and Luke 13:34, is also said to be indicative of
our Lord's desire that all men should be saved.
We, however, exclude the universalistic application
of these texts by interpreting them within the terms of the covenant
of redemption and grace, which is given exclusively for the redemption
of the Church. As we shall shortly discuss, John Calvin gives
each of these texts an exclusive and particularistic interpretation
on the basis that God's will is simple. This, in fact, is the
foundation of Calvin's system of theology.
In brief, the proper and Calvinistic interpretation
of the above texts to which we adhere is as follows:
The Ezekiel texts are addressed exclusively
to the House of Israel. The first part of the text, I Timothy
2:4 is to be interpreted by the second. Knowledge of the truth
is a gift of God, and can therefore refer only to the elect.
2 Peter 3:9 belongs to those to whom the first epistle of Peter
is addressed, namely, "the elect according to the foreknowledge
of God" (I Peter 1:2). Thus the long-suffering of God to
usward, and His unwillingness that any should perish belongs
to those of the same address, ie., "to them that have obtained
like precious faith with us" (2 Peter 2:17).
The incident of our Lord's weeping over Jerusalem
recorded in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34 is given to demonstrate
His true humanity in that, "in all things it behoved Him
to be made like unto his brethren" (Hebrews 2:17). The Lord
Jesus took upon Himself the nature of man, in order that He might
fulfil the terms of the Covenant of Redemption made in the Trinity
from all eternity. It was in His human nature that He brought
those fallen in Adam, but given Him by the Father, into relationship
with Himself as sons and daughters of God; made them His brethren
and heirs with Himself in His Father's kingdom. In that nature
while on earth, He perfectly fulfilled the moral law and its
demands on behalf of the elect. It was His divine nature which
made the works of His human nature to be of infinite worth. Furthermore,
all the works of Jesus in the human nature were the works of
the person of the Son of God as Mediator.
Scripture reveals no other relationship whatever
between the human nature of Christ in heaven and man on earth,
other than that which is established by His work of intercession
in that nature on behalf of the elect. The fact that God is good
to all has nothing to do with the humanity of Christ, rather
it is a work of the Divine nature which does not lament over
them who will not repent. The texts Matt. 23:37 and Luke 13:34,
therefore, give no indication of a desire in God for the salvation
of all men.
If it is held that there is a desire in the
glorified human nature of Christ for the salvation of the nonelect,
then it must also be held that there is a contradiction in His
work of intercession, ie., He intercedes for some whom He loves
and not for others. In His prayer of John 17:9, the Lord Jesus
interceded, "I pray not for the world, but for them which
Thou hast given me."
Modern modified Calvinism ascribes a universal
love of God which it incorrectly assumes from the texts quoted
above, to the personality of God through the human nature of
Christ. This, in effect, is a subtle compounding of the works
of the two natures of Christ, ie., the desires and passions of
Christ's human nature are ascribed as the works of His divine
nature. The proof of this false compound is shown in the duplicity
in which God is said to love and hate the nonelect at the
Universalism has no place within the Covenant
of Redemption and Grace.
The bulwark of our position is found in the
theology of the Covenant of Redemption and Grace, which comprehends
the whole of God's dealings with mankind since his original fall
into sin. We hold that all that is contained in the administration
and dispensation of that Covenant is a purchase of the death
of Christ, and that God's providence within that Covenant is
both temporal concerning all men and spiritual in respect to
the separation of the elect from the reprobate. We acknowledge
that God in His providence, in which He governs all His creatures
and all their actions, bestows temporal blessings on all men,
restrains evil in the world and promotes good.
This temporal framework and dispensation of
God's providential government has the purpose and end that the
elect may be redeemed from the mass of fallen mankind. The goodness
toward the nonelect does not mean that He bears toward them
a favourable disposition, rather they are vessels of wrath fitted
for destruction. If the long-suffering of God is referred to
the nonelect, it becomes a long-suffering to no purpose.
The books of the Old and New Testament Scriptures
constitute the Book of the Covenant. All Scripture therefore
has reference only to the Covenant of Redemption and Grace, and
from start to finish must be interpreted particularistically
within its terms. The reprobate have no place in the covenant
dispensation apart from their temporary enjoyment in this life
of temporal blessings, and hereafter, everlasting condemnation.
Since God made the covenant of Grace with Christ as the Mediator
and with the elect in Him, none are loved outside of Christ.
It serves no purpose whatever to assume that there is a love
for the non-elect who are outside of Christ.
If Scripture is properly interpreted within
the terms of the Covenant of Redemption and Grace, there is no
reference to a universal love of God. Once that reference is
admitted, the Reformed theology of the covenant is given over
to ambiguity and contradiction.
The False Appeal Of Modern Modified
Calvinism To The Theology Of John Calvin.
To this point we have discovered that modern
modified Calvinism has its historical origins in the so called
evangelicalism of the Marrow, which was originally promoted
by the Davenant School divines. We have also referred to its
system of interpretation of certain texts of Scripture. We now
turn to study the manner in which that system attempts to take
on an apparent authority by a misinterpretation of Calvin's commentary
on the Book of Ezekiel.
Let us treat this section under the following
- An outline of the case.
- The writings which support the modern modified
- The misrepresentation of Calvin's commentary
on Ezekiel 18:23 refuted from his Institutes.
a) Calvin's refutation of a duplicity of wills
in God. (The first question answered).
b) The meaning of the word "wishes"
or "wills" relative to God's preceptive and decretive
c) Calvin's treatment of Ezekiel 18:23 in
his Institutes. (The second question answered).
d) Calvin's doctrine of Ezekiel 18:23 further
confirmed by his treatment of I Tim. 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 in his
- Calvin's doctrine that God's purpose in sending
the Gospel is to harden the hearts of the reprobate.
- Calvin's refutation of the notion that there
is an inconsistency between God's eternal election and the free
offer of the Gospel to all men.
- The intrusion of modern modified Calvinism
into the secret counsels of God's will.
An Outline Of The Case.
Modern modified Calvinists work from the assumption
that Calvin allows that there is a sensible and reasonable will
in God which He wishes the salvation of all men. They affirm
that Calvin is inconsistent when he declares that God's will
is simple and undivided, because he also teaches that God's decretive
will is that by which He ordains only a certain number to salvation.
In other words, if God wishes all to be saved and at the same
time devotes the reprobate to eternal destruction, to them God's
will cannot be simple. They accept the position that God's will
is complex, but attempt to avoid the contradiction of having
two contrary wills in God by ascribing God's eternal election
and predestination to His decretive will, and His supposed desire
for the salvation of all men, to His preceptive will. In other
words, they ascribe a duplicity of sensible and reasonable wills
to God, one decretive and the other preceptive, and then try
to keep them separate.
Having made the assumption of two sensible
and reasonable wills in God, one decretive and the other preceptive,
the contradiction which inevitably lies between precept and decree
within the Divine mind is then denied, because it is said
to be a mystery which lies hidden in the sovereign counsel of
It is by this facility of a complexity or
duplicity in God, that modern modified Calvinists hold their
system of double connotation. Then Scripture is interpreted to
teach that God has elected only a certain number to eternal life,
and at the same time in the free offer of the gospel, desires
the salvation of all men.
It is through the notion of two separate sensible
and reasonable wills in God, which is the foundation of their
system, that they claim to hold to the Reformed Standards, and
at the same time, base their preaching of the gospel on a universal
love of God. It is by this duplicity which they imagine they
find in an inconsistency in Calvin that they interpret certain
Scriptures as having a double connotation, eg., Ezekiel 18:23,
32, and 33:11, and others universally, eg., I Timothy 2:4, 2
Peter 3:9, and Matthew 23:37. In other words, like every sectary,
they bring a system to the Scripture in order to interpret it,
rather than interpreting Scripture with Scripture.
Over and against this system lies the central
principle of Calvin's doctrine of the absolute sovereignty and
providence of God, which teaches that the will of God is simple
and undivided. It is about that principle that Calvin builds
his whole system of theology, and on it he rests his defence.
Because modern modified Calvinism does not
allow that God's will is simple, but builds its own system on
a notion of complexity concerning God's will, it involves the
removal of the central principle of Calvin's Calvinism, and therefore
constitutes the overthrow of his system.
The Writings Which Seem To Support
The Modern Modified Calvinist Position.
Professor Murray is regarded by modern modified
Calvinists as a leading modern authority concerning their position.
In his book, Calvin on Scripture and Divine Sovereignty,
he refers to Calvin's commentary on Ezekiel 18:23 in the following
Calvin was engaged before his work was arrested
by the hand of death...in his exposition of the prophecy of Ezekiel.
His work ended with Ezekiel 20:24. He did not even complete his
exposition of the chapter. At Ezekiel 18:23, in dealing with
the discrepancy between God's will to the salvation of all and
the election of God by which He predestinates only a fixed number
to salvation, he says: If anyone again objects this
is making God act with duplicity, the answer is ready, that God
always wishes the same thing, though by different ways, and in
a manner inscrutable to us. Although, therefore, God's will is
simple, yet great variety is involved in it, as far as our senses
are concerned. Besides, it is not surprising that our eyes should
be blinded by intense light, so that we cannot certainly judge
how God wishes all to be saved, and yet has devoted all the reprobate
to eternal destruction, and wishes them to perish. While we look
now through a glass darkly, we should be content with the measure
of our own intelligence. (Calvin's statement is italicised).
It is at this point that Professor Murray
in his book makes his major departure from Calvin's theology
when he writes, "The present writer is not persuaded that
we may speak of God's will as 'simple' after the pattern of Calvin's
statement. There is the undeniable fact that, in regard to sin,
God decretively wills what He preceptively does not will. There
is the contradiction. We must maintain that it is perfectly consistent
with God's perfection that this contradiction should obtain.
But, it does not appear to be any resolution to say that God's
will is 'simple'."
Professor Murray has noted in the same place
that: "It is more probable that the Latin verb 'velle',
translated on three occasions above by the English term 'wishes'
should rather be rendered 'wills'." Although that would
make our task much easier, in order to be the more convincing,
let us retain the word "wishes" in lieu of the word
"wills" in the context of our explanation.
From a superficial reading of the above quotation
from Calvin's commentary, it would appear that Calvin's doctrine
is that God desires the salvation of all men and at the same
time ordains that the reprobate shall perish.
If such is the case, then Professor Murray
has revealed an inconsistency in Calvin's theological system
when he disagrees with Calvin's statement that the will of God
Two leading questions must therefore be answered,
if the apparent position of Calvin is to be distinguished from
the real. These are:
- Does Calvin effectively deny that there is
a duplicity of wills in God?
- What does Calvin mean by the words, 'God
wishes all to be saved' does he apply them universally,
so that it may be assumed that there is a desire of wish in God
for the salvation of all men?
Before proceeding to answer these questions,
let us complete the discussion of the writings which support
the modern modified Calvinist position.
The departure from Calvin's theology becomes
clearer when we consider the study by the Rev. Professors Murray
and Stonehouse which was presented as a report of a committee
to the fifteenth General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian
Church of America in 1948. In the introduction to the study they
It would appear that the real point in dispute
in connection with the free offer of the gospel is whether it
can properly be said that God desires the salvation of all men.
It should have been apparent that the aforesaid
committee, in predicating such 'desire' of God, was not dealing
with the decretive will of God; it was dealing with the free
offer of the gospel to all without distinction and that surely
respects, not the decretive will of God, but the revealed will.
There is not ground for the supposition that the expression was
intended to refer to God's decretive will.
It must be admitted that if the expression
were intended to apply to the decretive will of God, then there
would be, at least, implicit contradiction. For to say that God
desires the salvation of the reprobate and apply the former to
the same thing as the latter, namely, the decretive will, would
be contradiction; it would amount to averring of the same thing,
viewed from the same aspect, God wills and God does not will.
Again, the expression, 'God desires', in the
formula that crystallises the crux of the question, is intended
to notify not at all the 'seeming' attitude of God, but a real
attitude, a real disposition of loving-kindness inherent in the
free offer to all, in other words, a pleasure or delight in God,
contemplating the blessed result to be achieved by compliance
with the overture proffered and the invitation given.
Let us restate, in other words, the real matter
in dispute. It is, whether in the Reformed doctrine of redemption,
the desire and pleasure of God concerns only the salvation of
the elect whom He has chosen in Christ from the foundation of
the world, or, whether it also refers to the nonelect whom
God has made the objects of His everlasting displeasure and wrath.
There are three important facts to notice
from the above quotations.
Professors have posited in God a sensible and reasonable will
concerning His precepts for the salvation of all men. If any
should object that the Professors have not used the words, 'sensible
and reasonable', then that which they have written is meaningless.
Further more, if there is a sensible and reasonable desire in
God which respects His preceptive will that all men shall be
saved, such desire is internal to the mind of God. It would be
contrary to Scripture and to reason to suppose that there is
a desire in God which is without sensibility and reason, and
which does not belong to His internal mind. The Professors have
put the matter beyond doubt in the following quotation from their
The expression 'God desires' in the formula
that crystallises the crux of the question, is intended to notify
not at all the 'seeming' attitude of God but a real attitude,
a real disposition of loving-kindness inherent in the free offer
to all, in other words, a pleasure or delight in God, contemplating
the blessed result to be achieved by compliance with the overture
proffered and the invitation given.
there is a sensible and reasonable desire in God for the salvation
of all men, and that desire is internal to His mind, then unless
there are two minds in God, that desire must belong to the same
mind which executes His eternal decrees.
Professors have attempted to avoid the obvious contradiction
which must exist if the desire of God for the salvation of all
men has reference to God's decretive will, by referring that
desire to His preceptive will. In other words, the Professors
believe that by confining the desire of God for the salvation
of all men to His preceptive will, that it does not involve a
contradiction with God's decretive will by which He purposes
to save only some. Now as we have clearly pointed out, a desire
in God for the salvation of all men must belong to the same mind
which executes His decrees. The Professors, therefore, have failed
to avoid the internal contradiction in God. Rather, they have
by positing a desire in God's preceptive will, created it.
If a duplicity is implied, it matters not,
in this case, if it is held that there are two minds in God or
only one. If it is proposed that God desires the salvation of
all men, and at the same time purposes to save only some, there
must be a contradiction in the Divine Mind.
The Professors have not, comprehended within
their theology the fact that a desire in God, whether it be made
to belong to His decretive will or His preceptive will, is a
state or act of the Divine Mind. If it held that the Divine Mind
is rational, then all the desires of God must be consistent with
His purposes and decrees. The non-fulfilment of desire in God
implies that there is an internal contradiction or want of blessedness
in the ever blessed God. The Scripture teaches that God will
fulfil all His good pleasure. God in the human sense does not
desire or want of anything, but decrees all things according
to the pleasure of His own will.
The obscurity and confusion of the modern
modified Calvinist system, in the understanding of many, stems
from the fact that the idea persists that the desire of God,
which He is said to have for the salvation of all men is external
to Himself, because it is posited in His preceptive will. The
basic error, in this respect, is simply the positing in the mind
of God a desire concerning His precepts. God's preceptive will
which is given for man's rule of duty, is in no way declarative
of what God desires or what He intends to do. To say that God
desires the salvation of those whom He does not purpose to save,
by granting them the gifts of repentance and faith, is to make
God insincere and a monster in the worst sense. The free offer
of Christ in the gospel, which God's ministers are commanded
to preach unto all men, is not a declaration of whom He desires
to save, any more than it is one concerning the particular individuals
whom He purposes to redeem.
The Misrepresentation Of Calvin's
Position Refuted From His Institutes.
In "the Epistle to the reader" at
the beginning of his Institutes, Calvin instructs that his commentaries
are to be interpreted in the light of the summary of religion
which he has given in all its parts in the Institutes. This injunction
is completely ignored by modern modified Calvinists.
As already shown, the point at which Professor
Murray and other modern modified Calvinists have misinterpreted
Calvin is in his commentary on Ezekiel 18:23. "Have I any
pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God:
and not that he should return from his ways and live."
Having demonstrated the fact that modern modified
Calvinism has established a duplicity of will in the mind of
God, as necessary to their system whereby they give a double
meaning to Scripture, but have failed to avoid the contradictions
created thereby, let us consider how the theology of Calvin's
Institutes is in total refutation of such a system.
To this end we now answer the two questions,
which are raised on page 23 herein, in the light of Calvin's
The answers to these questions are interdependent.
If Calvin does not effectively deny that there is a duplicity
or complexity of wills in God, to which the first question refers,
then a desire in God for the salvation of all men cannot be excluded.
Such a desire in God, to which the second question refers, implies
a duplicity of wills in God.
The validity of this essay stands or falls
by the answers given to these questions. If Calvin satisfactorily
refutes the notion of duplicity of wills in God, there cannot
be a double connotation given to the interpretation of Scripture,
by which it is held, that God desires or wishes the salvation
of all men, and at the same time, has decreed to the certain
and everlasting destruction of the reprobate. If, however, Calvin
does not give satisfactory answers, then modern modified Calvinism
has won the day. God does desire the salvation of all men, under
which circumstance there can be no logical answer to the doctrines
of universalism, while the theological system as put forward
by John Calvin in his Institutes, has no relevant application
in the Church of our day.
Calvin's Refutation Of A Duplicity
Of Wills In God. (The First Question Answered).
The answer to the first question, 'does Calvin
effectively deny that there is a duplicity of wills in God,'
is given in Book 1, chapter 18, section 3. Here Calvin establishes
his doctrine of the simplicity of God's will in the face of those
who object against him: "If nothing happens without the
will of God, He must have two contrary wills, decreeing by a
secret counsel what he has openly forbidden in His law."
In giving answer, Calvin cites cases in which
God accomplishes His will when men act contrary to His precepts,
eg., "The sons of Eli hearkened not unto the voice of their
father, because the Lord would slay them" (I Samuel 2:25).
He then writes:
The gospel, by the mouth of Luke, declares,
that Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired 'to do whatsoever thy
hand and thy counsel determined before to be done' (Acts 4:28).
And in truth, if Christ was 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
presence of not willing [decretively] what He wills [preceptively],
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 [preceptively] and wills not [decretively] the very same
thing." In this we have the teaching of Scripture, in which
we cannot understand how God decretively willed the death of
His own Son for our redemption, when He had already preceptively
willed, "Thou shalt not kill or bear false witness.
Calvin here gives no hint of duplicity in
the mind of God, rather as he has stated, within God Himself,
His will is one and undivided. In dealing with another objection
of similar content in Section 4 of the same chapter, he writes,
"They perversely confound the command of God with His secret
will, though it appears by an infinite number of examples, that
there is a great distance and diversity between them" (from
footnote, French translation).
It is interesting to note, that both Calvin
and his opponents both rejected the notion of duplicity in God.
His opponents accused him that his system promoted that position,
and he ably refuted them.
In setting Calvin's position on the simplicity
of God's will over and against that of modern modified Calvinists,
it is important to understand that they actually take the position
which Calvin's objectors raised against him. On the one hand
modern modified Calvinists say that nothing happens without the
will of God, on the other as we have seen, they propose a duality
of wills in the mind of God, the contradiction of which they
cannot avoid, when they refer a desire in Him for the salvation
of the nonelect to His preceptive will at the same time
as they ascribe to His decretive will His ordination of their
Remember, Professor Murray has written that
he "is not persuaded that we may speak of God's will as
'simple' after the pattern of Calvin's statement," and the
Professors together have written, "We should not entertain...any
prejudice against the notion that God desires or has pleasure
in the accomplishment of what He does not decretively will."
Professor Murray has also written:
There is the undeniable fact that, in regard
to sin, God decretively wills what He preceptively does not will.
There is the contradiction. He must maintain that it is perfectly
consistent with God's perfection that this contradiction should
obtain. But it does not appear to be any resolution to say that
God's will is 'simple'.
That there is often an outward contradiction
between God's precepts and His decrees, we do not deny, but,
as we have clearly demonstrated, the Professors have made the
contradiction internal to the mind of God, not only in regard
to sin, but to the supposition of a desire in God for the salvation
of all men.
The Meaning Of "Wishes"
Or "Wills" Relative To The Preceptive And Decretive
In the second part of Calvin's statement in
his commentary on Ezekiel 18:23 (quoted previously), as translated
from the Latin, he in effect writes, "We cannot certainly
judge how God...wishes them (the reprobate) to perish."
Since the text of Ezekiel 18:23 specifically
declares that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked,
it is obvious that Calvin does not place desire in the word which
is translated "wishes."
The English word "wishes" by dictionary
definition means to desire, to long for, to desire eagerly or
ardently (Webster). Its use in the translation of Calvin from
the Latin is therefore unreliable, and as Professor Murray has
noted, should be translated "wills." In respect to
the second part of Calvin's statement it is totally incorrect.
Used in the sense God wishes, it would say contrary to Scripture,
that God desires or longs for the death of the wicked.
Our next task is to show that the word "wishes"
or "wills" has nothing to do with a desire which modern
modified Calvinists posit in God's preceptive will. To this end
we must consider the use of the word ''will" as it differs
in its application in respect to God's preceptive will and His
In respect to God's decrees the word "will"
means that by which God "foreordains whatsoever comes to
pass" (Shorter Catechism No. 7). In respect to God's precepts
it refers to that which the Scriptures principally teach, namely,
"what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God
requires of man" (Shorter Catechism No. 3).
By definition in the Westminster Shorter Catechism,
God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence
(Shorter Catechism No. 8). "God's works of providence are
His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing
all His creatures and all their actions" (Shorter Catechism
The essential difference between God's preceptive
will and His decretive will is that the former comprises man's
rule of duty, and the latter concerns God's purposes in all things
whatsoever come to pass in time and eternity. God's decretive
will therefore, embraces all the actions of men and angels, good
and bad. Since God has declared in His Word, "My counsel
shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 46:10),
all God's desire, pleasure and purpose in respect to His preceptive
will, including its fulfilment and nonfulfilment, is contained
in His decretive will.
In other words, God's preceptive will is not
active, but is a rule of duty. All the activity of the Divine
Mind concerning His precepts belongs to God's decretive
will. The crux of the whole matter is Calvin's doctrine that
the will of God is simple.
The confusion of modern modified Calvinism
stems from the positing by that system of the activity of desire
in God's preceptive will, which is then said not to have respect
to God's decretive will. The positing of the activity of desire
in God for the salvation of the reprobate in God's preceptive
will separate from the activity by which He ordains them to destruction
in His decretive will, does nothing but create duplicity and
contradiction in the mind of God.
Since God's satisfaction and not His pleasure
is in the death of the reprobate, there can be no ground for
the modern modified Calvinist notion that God desires their salvation.
In other words, the fact of God's satisfaction in the death of
the reprobate is quite contrary to the idea that He desires their
To recapitulate the above argument, the decretive
will of God concerns all things, whatsoever, that come to pass,
including the actions of men and angels in the fulfilment or
nonfulfilment of His preceptive will. Thus all the desire,
pleasure and purposes of God concern only God's decretive will.
The placing of desire in God for the fulfilment
of His preceptive will, which in the purposes of His decretive
will is not fulfilled, therefore creates a false duplicity in
the mind of God.
The decretive will of God includes the satisfaction
of His justice in the death of the wicked, but not His pleasure,
which is in His own glory and perfections. Since God's decretive
will concerns all the activity of the Divine mind, it involves
a contradiction therein to say that God has satisfied His justice
in ordaining the death of the reprobate and at the same time
desires their salvation.
Calvin's Treatment Of Ezekiel
18:25 In His Institutes. (The second question answered).
An answer to the second question, "What
does Calvin mean by the words, 'God wishes all to be saved,'
does he apply them universally?" is found in Book 3, chapter
24, sections 15 and 16 of his Institutes.
In the previous Section No. 14 of his Institutes,
Calvin has given two reasons as to why the reprobate perish.
(1) The refusal of the reprobate to obey the
Word of God when manifested to them, will be properly ascribed
to the malice and depravity of their hearts, provided it be at
the same time added,
(2) that they were adjudged to this depravity,
because they were raised up by the just but inscrutable judgment
of God, to show forth His glory by their condemnation.
Opponents of Calvin have always objected to
his doctrine that the reprobate perish through God's ordination.
In the next two Sections Nos. 15 and 16, Calvin shows that the
objection is based on a false application of such texts as Ezekiel
18:23, I Timothy 2:4, and 2 Peter 3:9. It is the same false application
which modern modified Calvinists use to support their doctrine
that God desires the salvation of all men. The following is Calvin's
refutation of the notion that the Ezekiel text has such a universal
Since an objection is often found on a few
passages of Scripture, in which God seems to deny that the wicked
perish through His ordination, except in so far as they spontaneously
bring death upon themselves in opposition to his warning; let
us briefly explain these passages, and demonstrate that they
are not averse to the above view.
One of the passages adduced is, 'Have I any
pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God;
and not that he should return from his ways and live' (Ezekiel
If we are to extend this to the whole human
race, why are not the very many whose minds might be more easily
bent to obey urged to repentance, rather than those who by His
invitations become daily more and more hardened? Our Lord declares
that the preaching of the gospel and miracles would have produced
more fruit among the people of Nineveh and Sodom than in Judea
How comes it, then, that if God would have
all to be saved, he does not open a door of repentance for the
wretched, who would more readily have received grace?
Hence we may see that the passage is violently
wrested, if the will of God, which the prophet mentions is opposed
to His eternal counsel, by which He separated the elect from
Now if the genuine meaning of the prophet
is inquired into, it will be found that he only means to give
hope of pardon to them who repent. The sum is, that God is undoubtedly
ready to pardon whenever the sinner repents. Therefore, He does
not will his death, in so far as He wills repentance. But experience
shows that this will, for the repentance of those whom He invites
to Himself, is not such as to make Him touch all their hearts.
Still, it cannot be said that He acts deceitfully;
for though the external word only renders those who hear it and
do not obey it, inexcusable, it is truly regarded as an evidence
of the grace which He reconciles men to Himself.
Let us therefore hold the doctrine of the
prophet, that God has no pleasure in the death of the sinner:
that the godly may feel confident that whenever they repent God
is ready to pardon them; and that the wicked may feel that their
guilt is doubled, when they respond not to the great mercy and
condescension of God. The mercy of God therefore, will ever be
ready to meet the penitent; but all the prophets, and apostles,
and Ezekiel himself, clearly tell us who they are to whom repentance
In the above quotation Calvin refers to the
fact that our Lord upbraided the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida
and Capernaum for their unbelief and told them that if the mighty
works that had been done in them, had been done in Tyre, Sidon,
and Sodom, the latter cities would have repented. From this Calvin
shows that God has declared that in His providence there are
those who, if they had heard the gospel would have more readily
repented than those who on hearing it, daily grow more hardened
In the light of this, Calvin has asked the
question: "If we are to extend the Ezekiel test to the whole
human race, why does God send the gospel to those whose hearts
are more hardened by the hearing of it, and not to those who
would be more easily persuaded to receive it?"
It is clear from Calvin's answer, that he
does not refer the text to the whole human race. In effect he
has replied: If it is said that God desires or would have all
men to be saved, the Ezekiel text is violently wrested because
such a notion makes the will which the prophet mentions, namely
God's pleasure that the wicked should repent, opposed to the
eternal counsel by which He has separated the elect from the
He goes on to say among other things, that
the genuine meaning of the text is that God has given it to give
hope of pardon to those who repent. Since God is ready to pardon
the sinner whenever he repents, He does not therefore will his
death, insofar as He wills repentance, because it is
clear, that all the prophets and Ezekiel teach that He gives
repentance only to the elect.
Under the previous heading 1 of this essay,
it is shown that:
- the desire and pleasure of God concerning
the fulfilment or nonfulfilment of His preceptive will belongs
to His decretive will,
- the word "wishes" or "wills"
in both parts of Calvin's statement also belongs to the decretive
will of God,
- the words "God wishes" are totally
incorrect when used in respect to the death of the wicked, but
nevertheless, God wills their death when He ordains that the
The text of Ezekiel therefore does not speak
of God's wish in respect to the wicked generally, but of God's
pleasure in their repentance, which in the context of other Scripture
can only refer to those who are loved of the Father and chosen
The modern modified Calvinist's appeal to
Ezekiel 18:23 rests on the subtlety, that because God has no
pleasure in the death of the wicked, He must also desire the
salvation of all men. From this they further compound their error
with a doctrine which posits a desire in God for the salvation
of all men which respects not His decretive will but His preceptive
will, with its consequent implication of duplicity in the mind
of God. The second branch of the Ezekiel text, however, indicates
that God's pleasure is in those who turn from their wicked ways
and live. That God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked
is indeed universal in respect to all those fallen in Adam, and
even the fallen angels. That, however, is the limit of that part
of the expression in respect to those, who in the doctrine,
Of God's eternal Decree, chapter 3 of the Westminster Confession
are ordained "to the praise of His glorious justice."
As previously noted, Calvin has instructed
that his Commentaries are to be understood in the light of his
Institutes. From these as shown above it is clear that when Calvin
uses the expression, "God wishes or wills all to be saved"
in his commentary on Ezekiel 18:23, he means it only in respect
of those to whom God gives repentance, namely the elect.
This brings again to the fore the central
principle of Calvin's theology, that the will of God is simple
and undivided, as opposed to that of modern modified Calvinism
which teaches that God's will is complex.
Calvin's Doctrine In Ezekiel
18:23 Further Confirmed By His Treatment Of I Timothy 2:4 And
2 Peter 3:9 In His Institutes.
In I Timothy 2:4 we read: "God our saviour;
who will have all men to be saved," and in 2 Peter 3:9:
"The Lord is...not willing that any should perish."
From these portions of the texts, modern modified
Calvinists take further warrant for their notion that God desires
the salvation of all men. It is relevant to add, that if God
who is omnipotent, will have all men to be saved, and is not
willing that any should perish in the universalistic sense, then
we are committed to a doctrine of universal redemption. Calvin,
however, does not allow such a notion, because he interprets
the first branch of the sentence of both verses by their second
branches which read,
I Timothy 2:4: "and come unto a knowledge
of the truth", and 2 Peter 3:9: "but that all should
come to repentance."
Calvin clearly teaches that the mode by which
God will have all men to be saved, and the means by which He
is not willing that any should perish are knowledge of the truth
and repentance, both of which are gifts which God bestows on
the elect only. In respect to I Timothy 2:4, he writes, "the
mode in which God thus wills is plain from the context; for Paul
connects two things, a will to be saved, and to come to a knowledge
of the truth." He goes on to tell us, that when:
God will have all men to be saved...He assuredly
means nothing more than that the way of salvation was not shut
against any order of men... He who selects those whom He is to
visit in mercy does not impart it to all. But since it clearly
appears that He is there speaking not of individuals, but of
orders of men, let us have done with longer discussion... If
this is true, that if He were not disposed to receive those who
implore His mercy, it could not have been said, "Turn ye
unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith
the Lord of Hosts" (Zech. 1:3); but I hold that no man approaches
God unless previously influenced from above. And if repentance
were placed at the will of man, Paul would not say, "If
God peradventure will give them repentance" (2 Tim. 2:25).
Nay, did not God at the very time when He is verbally exhorting
all to repentance, influence the elect by the secret movement
of His Spirit, Jeremiah would not say, "Turn thou me, and
I shall be turned; for thou are the Lord my God. Surely after
that I was turned I repented" (Jer. 31:18).
It is clear from Calvin's treatment of the
above texts, within the context of his doctrine of the simplicity
of God's will, that he does not apply them universally, nor does
he in any sense allow that there is a desire in God for the salvation
of all men.
Calvin's Doctrine That God's
Purpose In Sending The Gospel Is To Harden The Hearts Of The
In Book 3, chapter 24, Section 13 of his Institutes,
Calvin refers to several cases in which God purposes by the preaching
of His Word, to send upon the reprobate an even greater blindness.
For example in Isaiah 6:9,10, we read where
the Lord tells the prophet, "Go, and tells people, Hear
ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive
not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy,
and shut their eyes lest they see with their eyes, and hear with
their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and
be healed." Calvin comments:
Here He directs His voice to them, but it
is that they may turn a deaf ear; He kindles a light, but it
is that they might become more blind; He produces a doctrine,
but it is that they may become more stupid; He employs a remedy,
but it is that they may not be cured. And John referring to this
prophecy, declares that the Jews could not believe the doctrine
of Christ, because this curse from God lay upon them (John 12:37,43).
The doctrine that God's purpose in sending
the Gospel to the reprobate is to harden their hearts in order
that they may not believe and be saved, is a complete refutation
of the notion of modern modified Calvinists that God desires
the salvation of all men.
Calvin's Refutation Of The Notion
That There Is An Inconsistency Between God's Eternal Election
And The Free Offer Of The Gospel To All Men.
In his comments on Calvin's treatment of Ezekiel
18:23, Professor Murray makes the point, "there is the undeniable
fact that, in regard to sin, God decretively wills what He preceptively
does not will. There is the contradiction. We must maintain that
it is perfectly consistent with God's perfection that this contradiction
We acknowledge that there is an apparent contradiction
due to the weakness of man's senses, between man's transgression
of the moral law and God's providence in which He governs all
His creatures and all their actions. This is not denied but supported
Professor Murray, however, has used this apparent
contradiction to justify another which his system creates when
it states that God desires the salvation of those whom He has
foreordained to eternal destruction.
We have shown that modern modified Calvinists
have posited a sensible and reasonable desire in God for the
salvation of the reprobate, which belongs to the same mind as
executes His decrees. Also, that they cannot avoid the inherent
contradiction of their system, that God loves and desires the
salvation of those whom He has made the objects of His everlasting
displeasure and wrath. There is, therefore, in their system a
contradiction or inconsistency between God's eternal election
and their concept of the free offer of the gospel to all men
in which God is said to desire the salvation of all men. This
Calvin refutes in Section 17 of the same book and chapter of
his Institutes as follows:
Let us now see whether there be any inconsistency
between the two things viz. that God, by an eternal decree,
fixed the number of those whom he is pleased to embrace in love,
and on whom he is pleased to display his wrath, and that he offers
salvation indiscriminately to all.
I hold that they are perfectly consistent,
for all that is meant by the promise is, just that his mercy
is offered to all who desire and implore it, and this none do,
save those whom he has enlightened. Moreover, he enlightens those
whom he has predestinated to salvation. Thus the truth of the
promises remains firm and unshaken, so that it cannot be said
there is any disagreement between the eternal election of God
and the testimony of his grace which he offers to believers.
But why does he mention all men? Namely, that the consciences
of the righteous may rest the more secure when they understand
that there is no difference between sinners, provided they have
faith, and that the ungodly may not be able to allege that they
have not an asylum to which they may betake themselves from the
bondage of sin, while they ungratefully reject the offer which
is made to them. Therefore, since by the Gospel the mercy of
God is offered to both, it is faith, in other words, the illumination
of God, which distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked;
the former feeling the efficacy of the Gospel, the latter obtaining
no benefit from it. Illumination itself has eternal election
for its rule.
The Intrusion Of Modern Modified
Calvinism Into The Secret Counsels Of God's Will And Its Law
Modern modified Calvinists charge those who
deny that God has a favourable disposition towards the reprobate
with an unwarranted intrusion into the secret counsels of God's
will. The charge, however, is an attempt to provide a screen
against the proper examination of their system of exegesis.
Within their concept of the secret counsels
of God's will, modern modified Calvinists attempt to equate the
wrath and curse which God has declared against the reprobate
with that of His fatherly displeasure under which the elect may
fall by their sins, having made this equation, they then assume
that because God loves the elect and exercises His fatherly displeasure
concerning them when they fall into sin, that He must also love
the reprobate. In other words, if God can be said to exercise
both love and wrath toward the elect, He must also have a love
for the reprobate.
If they who are the objects of God's redeeming
love can also in some sense of the word be regarded as the objects
of His wrath, why should it be impossible that they who are the
objects of His wrath should also in some sense share His divine
Let us now investigate the fallacy of this
In the first place it must be stated that
there are not two kinds of wrath in God concerning sin, one for
the elect, and one for the reprobate. The text of Romans 1:18,
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men," is true both of
the elect and reprobate. There is nevertheless a total difference
between God's disposition towards the elect and reprobate. While
God's anger is perfect, and this emotion is expressed in God's
disposition toward elect and reprobate; that disposition is conditioned
absolutely by the factors of God's electing, predestinating love
and Christ's death.
On the death of Christ rests the judicial
removal of the wrath of God against the elect for their sins.
Since the atonement has reference to particular sins and not
sins in general, it is not a reservoir or storehouse of forgiveness,
It therefore creates no difficulty to hold that God has expressed
His displeasure against His people for their sins. This is clearly
the position of Scripture as seen in the following quotation
from Calvin's Institutes Book 3, chapter 4, section 32:
David says, 'O Lord, rebuke me not in thine
anger, neither chasten me in thine hot displeasure,' (Psalm 6:1).
There is nothing inconsistent with this in its being repeatedly
said, that the Lord is angry with His saints when He chastens
them for their sins, (Psalm 38:7). In like manner, in Isaiah:
"In that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee
though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and
thou comfortest me" (Isaiah 12:1). Likewise in Habakkuk,
"In wrath remember mercy" (Hab. 3:2), and Micah, "I
will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against
him" (Micah 7:9).
Two things determine the disposition of God
toward the elect. Firstly, He has chosen and loved them out of
His mere good pleasure from all eternity, and secondly, He has
sent His only Son into the world that He through His own perfect
righteousness and death would reconcile them unto Himself.
Two things determine God's disposition toward
the reprobate. One; the fact of His wrath against all unrighteousness
and ungodliness of men, and two; the fact that He has by an act
of His will ordained them to be the objects of His everlasting
displeasure and wrath. Though they may taste of the temporal
blessings which God bestows upon them in their earthly life,
they are, as the Scripture teaches, given the Gospel for the
reason as Calvin comments on Isaiah 6:9,10. "He directs
his voice to them, but it is that they may turn a deaf ear; he
kindles a light, but it is that they may become more stupid;
he employs a remedy, but it is that they may not be cured."
From this it should be clear that God's disposition toward the
reprobate is such that they have no part whatever in the purposes
of God in the free offer of the Gospel except for the greater
hardening of their hearts.
Modern modified Calvinists have in effect
adopted the so called law of opposites, which assumes that there
is a love hate relationship in God concerning the same object.
Their notion, that because God has in some sense expressed a
wrath against the elect, He must also love the reprobate because
He loves the elect, is entirely gratuitous. It is without warrant
in any part of the Scripture and constitutes an addition thereto.
There is no equation in any sense whatever between God's disposition
of wrath toward the reprobate and that of His fatherly disposition
toward the elect. Since the wrath of God in the case of the latter
is entirely conditioned by God's eternal electing love and Christ's
death, it can never be said, in any sense, that any are loved
outside of Christ.
Modern modified Calvinism intrudes into the
secret counsels of God's will on two counts:
- By false interpretation of Scripture it misinterprets
the mind of God so teaching that which Scripture does not teach.
- It attempts to define the inner workings
of the divine mind when it says that there is unfulfilled desire
in God's mind for the salvation of all men which respects His
preceptive or revealed will, but which is contrary to His decretive
will. By so doing they have created a duplicity in the divine
Calvin does not profess knowledge concerning
the internal mystery of divine sovereignty. Where there is an
apparent contradiction between God's precepts and His decretive
will he teaches that it is because it cannot be understood by
the weak finite mind of man. It is the inability of men to understand
the simplicity of God's will though it appears to have "great
variety as far as our senses are concerned" which in Calvin's
theology constitutes the mystery of the sovereign counsel of
This is not as modern modified Calvinists
would have it. To them there is an actual complexity or duplicity
within the divine mind as contained in the second count (2) above.
The mystery of divine sovereignty is made a covering for the
inherent contradictions of their system. When they are confronted
with the contradiction that God does not fulfil His desire for
the salvation of all men in the accomplishment of His purposes,
they say that it is a mystery which lies hidden in the sovereign
counsel of His will.
It should be clear from the above, that it
is modern modified Calvinists who have made an unwarranted intrusion
into the secret counsels of God's will, and by it they hold a
false doctrine concerning God's sovereignty.
The Mystery Of God's Sovereignty,
And Providence And Its Moral Nature.
In Book 1, chapter 18, of his Institutes,
Calvin teaches that the thoughts and actions of all men, including
the wicked, are determined by the secret counsel of God's will.
Scripture reveals that God ordains man's disobedience for His
own glory. He has nevertheless given to man the moral law as
his rule of duty, and will at the last day, have him give an
account of himself thereby. "And truly the Son of man goeth,
as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom He is betrayed!"
We have now to demonstrate that God does not
transgress His own moral law or nature when in His sovereignty
and providence He ordains that wicked men commit evil deeds in
the accomplishment of His purposes. "Jesus of Nazareth,
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge
of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and
slain" (Acts 2:22,23).
Let us illustrate the truth of the matter
from the story of Joseph and his brethren, which is recorded
in the Book of Genesis from the thirty seventh chapter onwards.
It is the teaching of that book that when Joseph's brothers sold
him as a slave into Egypt, they deceived their father and brought
him great sorrow; they meant it for evil, but God meant it for
good, in order to save much people alive.
In this God governed the thoughts and actions
of Joseph's brothers in that they did evil, but He was not the
author of their sin. If bare permission is made to account for
their thoughts and actions, then God is not sovereign, because
He is made dependent on circumstance and second causes. Concerning
the actions of men, elect and reprobate, we must hold with Martin
Luther, that God works in every man according to his nature,
for good or for evil, but is not the author of their sin.
The desire of God is always in His decree
and the end which it achieves. His desire in the wicked actions
of Joseph's brothers was to save much people alive. This did
not involve a desire in God that those men should act contrary
to His own moral nature, any more than He desires or has pleasure
in the death of the wicked.
Scripture teaches, "without me ye can
do nothing" (John 15:5), so that it must follow that God
does not desire that wicked men without grace, obey His precepts.
By His grace, God requires and desires the obedience of those
whom He has effectually called by His Spirit. "For it is
God which worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure"
(Philippians 2:13). When they who are His children grieve His
Spirit by their disobedience, He forgives them their transgressions
in and through the intercession and merits of His Son. The desire
of God concerning the fulfilment of His moral law, is inseparable
from its fulfilment by His grace. If such is not the case, then
He is not the fountain of all goodness.
For God to desire that men shall act outside
His grace in obedience to His precepts, would violate His own
moral order. For God to desire the salvation of men and not grant
them the means of grace, which is essential to save them would
make Him a monster. For men to imagine that they can please God
without grace, makes them Pelagians. The Scripture teaches that
without faith it is impossible to please God, for faith is a
gift of God.
While "God now commandeth all men everywhere
to repent" (Acts 17:30), the wicked are not mocked by their
inability to obey; for they possess no such desire. Rather, "the
natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for
they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because
they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor. 2:14). "Because
the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject
to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). If
wicked men desist from committing evil, it is because God in
His providence governs and restrains them, not because they have
acted out of obedience.
When God desires that men obey Him, He grants
them repentance and faith. To all God's entreaties and promises
there is annexed a condition, which the sinner is commanded to
obey, but only the Spirit of God can accomplish. While God's
entreaties and promises are addressed to all men, they are not
an expression of a desire in Him for universal repentance and
salvation. Rather as Calvin has expressed it:
He only means to give hope of pardon to those
who repent. But experience shows that this (His) will, for the
repentance of those whom He invites to Himself, is not such as
to make Him touch all their hearts. The mercy of God therefore,
will ever be ready to meet the penitent; but all the prophets,
and apostles, and Ezekiel himself, clearly tell us who they are
to whom repentance is given.
The lesson is this; Scripture does not teach,
that God desires that wicked men, without grace, should obey
God's desire, delight and pleasure is in the
redemption purchased by His Son, and in the application of it
to all those whom He has chosen in Him from all eternity, by
the work of His Spirit. In other words, God's desire in repentance,
faith, and redemption concerns the elect only, and does not extend,
as modern modified Calvinist's would have it, to the reprobate.
The mystery of divine sovereignty and providence
may be stated in the following terms:
God, whose will is simple and undivided, without
being the author of sin, ordains according to the secret counsel
of His own will, all things whatsoever come to pass, and while
holding all men and angels both good and evil accountable to
His moral law, works in every man according to his nature, but
is never the author of sin.
If it could be said that God's will is complex,
and He desires the fulfilment of that which He does not decree,
then surely it is implied that unfulfilled desires have rendered
God less than perfectly blessed, and that God could conceivably
desire things that are contrary to His holy will.
Modern Modified Calvinism And
Its Amyraldian Order Of Decrees.
Modern modified Calvinism requires a particular
order of decrees. The decree to make a free offer of the Gospel
with a desire in God for the salvation of all men requires that
the decree of redemption must precede the decree of election.
This is the same order as the Amyraldian order of decrees.
It was out of His mere good pleasure that
God elected some to everlasting life (Shorter Catechism No. 20).
In order, therefore, the decree of election must precede the
decree of redemption.
In the doctrine of modern modified Calvinism,
the decree of redemption could not follow the decree of election,
because a desire in God to save all could not exist. When the
decree of redemption follows that of election, the desire of
God can only have respect to the elect, as is the case in Calvin's
Calvinism. In his system the free offer of the Gospel is a means
to an end, namely, the fulfilment of God's purposes in the separation
of the elect from the reprobate. In modern modified Calvinism,
the free offer has no end, because it is said to contain a desire
in God for the salvation of all men, which is never fulfilled.
Modern modified Calvinism is therefore an
inconsistent form of Amyraldianism. Its identity with that system
may also be seen in the first three of the five points of Amyraldianism
listed in the Appendix.
The Preaching Of The Gospel.
The true basis for the preaching of the Gospel
is stated by William Cunningham in the following terms:
The sole ground or warrant for men's act,
in offering pardon and salvation to their fellowmen, is
the authority and command of God in His Word. We have no other
warrant than this; we need no other; and we should seek or desire
none; but on this ground alone we should consider ourselves not
only warranted, but bound, to proclaim to our fellow men, whatever
be their country, character, or condition, the good news of the
kingdom, and call them to come to Christ that they might be saved.
Three errors at least persist.
1. Some otherwise orthodox divines have based
the free offer to all on the logic, that since Christ's death
was of infinite worth, it is sufficient for all, but efficient
only for the elect. While the idea of sufficiency for all may
be a valid deduction, it has no theological application. If the
preaching of the Gospel is based on the idea, that the atonement
is sufficient for all, but effective only for the elect, there
is the implication that Christ died for all, with an absolute
intention for the elect, and a conditional intention for the
reprobate, as with the Amyraldian system.
2. and 3. There are two kinds of universalists,
those who base the offer of the Gospel on a universal atonement,
and those who, as modern modified Calvinists, attempt to embrace
the orthodox and universalistic positions at the one time, by
basing their offer of the Gospel on a notion of a universal love
of God, and a desire in Him for the salvation of all men.
Let us recapitulate some of the things which
belong to the gospel of modern modified Calvinism.
- Since there is a loving-kindness in God toward
every man, the doctrine of total depravity is overthrown, because
in every man there is something desirable to God.
- Because of that loving-kindness of God toward
every man, Christ is said to belong to every man.
- The basis of the preaching of the gospel
of modern modified Calvinism is comprised of three notions which
have nothing to do with bringing a sinner to Christ. They are:
a) God loves every man.
b) He desires to save every man.
c) Christ belongs to every man.
- Since the proclamation of the gospel in this
system involves telling all men that God loves and desires to
save them, and since the redemption purchased by Christ satisfied
all the demands of the law on behalf of the elect only, the law
is divorced from the preaching of the Gospel.
- Thus the outward call of the Gospel does
not include the preaching of the law, which is the schoolmaster
to bring men to Christ. Since it is assumed that Christ belongs
to every man, sinners are not brought to Christ by showing them
their transgressions, but by an offer of the Gospel which tells
them that Christ is there for the taking. They are thus invited
to receive Christ without conviction of sin, and therefore without
a need of the Great Physician. The love of God, not His fear
is made the beginning of wisdom. In other words, it is a Gospel
which offers Christ to all without conditions.
- Sinners are not, therefore, shown the true
nature of the estate into which they are fallen. It is by the
preaching of God's Word that the Spirit of God convicts of sin
and of righteousness and of judgment to come, without which the
sinner will not turn and be converted.
- The Gospel of modern modified Calvinism consists
of a shallow believism, because it is not rooted in the commandment
and the preaching of the law. It forgets that the whole purpose
of the Gospel is that men may be conformed to the image of Christ
in His human nature. Conformity to Christ is through conformity
to His law, by the preaching of His Word and the work of His
- Since men are not brought to Christ by showing
them their transgressions, the notion of total depravity, a term
often used by modern modified Calvinists, consists mainly in
not maintaining a right attitude or disposition towards Christ.
- Modern modified Calvinism gives much exhortation
to the exercise of the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace,
long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.
It cannot, however, lay the principles by which the Spirit of
God produces these fruits in the heart, because of its ambiguous
and contradictory system of doctrine. Its doctrine of sanctification
is, therefore, a doctrine of works, in other words, an attempt
to imitate Christ.
Calvin's Calvinism is in distinct contradiction
to this system. Firstly, the free offer of the gospel rests on
the commandment of God. Secondly, it is offered on condition
of repentance and faith as set out in the Larger Catechism No.
The grace of God is manifested in the second
covenant in that He freely provideth and offereth a Mediator,
and life and salvation by Him; requiring faith as the condition
to interest them in Him, promiseth and giveth His Holy Spirit
to all His elect, to work in them that faith, with all other
Thus we say that the offer of the Gospel is
made to them which hunger and thirst, "Ho, every one that
thirsteth" etc., "Blessed are they which hunger and
thirst after righteousness."
The gospel of Calvin's Calvinism is based
on the commandment because no sinner will hunger and thirst after
righteousness unless he has seen his lost and undone condition.
That he cannot do until he has had the law of God laid to his
conscience and has learned that "the wrath of God is revealed
from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men"
(Romans 1:18). Without this preparation the gospel is of none
effect, because the mercy of God in Christ is set over and against
sin's penalty. It is by the preaching of these means that the
Holy Spirit is come to convict of sin and of righteousness and
judgment to come, (John 16:7,14). Only when these things are
wrought in the heart of the sinner, in some degree, will he comprehend
the true nature of his fallen estate and flee to Christ. Having
learned that he possesses no righteousness of his own, he will
hunger for the righteousness of Christ. In the gospel call and
invitation he will find that in Christ there is "a well
of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).
Only when the sinner has closed with God's
offer of mercy in Christ, however haltingly, has he a hope and
a right to assume that the wrath of God is removed from him and
that Christ has died for him. "There is therefore now no
condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans
8:1). Nevertheless, he will see in the declarations of God's
wrath against sin and unrighteousness a warning against his committing
of sin and his grieving of the Holy Spirit.
As previously stated, the modern modified
Calvinist concept of the free offer of the gospel affirms that
God, in loving every man, desires to save them, and so offers
Christ on the basis that He belongs to every man. In denying
that this concept implies a universal redemption as to purchase,
it cannot say that all that is offered in the gospel is a purchase
of the death of Christ. It has been said by some, that Christ
is not offered as a Redeemer, but only as a friend.
Calvin's Calvinism teaches that all that was
purchased by the death of Christ is offered to sinners. Thus
the offer of mercy includes the embracing of Jesus Christ and
in Him the partaking of the benefits of justification, adoption,
sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do
accompany or flow from them. (Refer Shorter Catechism No. 29-32).
Justification and peace of conscience are the first things which
the regenerate sinner enjoys. Regeneration is sanctification
commenced in the soul, and by it he is made a child of God. It
is relevant to note that John the Baptist, regenerate from his
mother's womb was the greatest prophet of repentance in preparation
for the ministry of the Lord Jesus in the world and in the hearts
Calvin has shown that there is no inconsistency
between the fact "that God by an eternal decree, fixed the
number of those whom He is pleased to embrace in love, and on
whom He is pleased to display His wrath," and the fact "that
He offers salvation indiscriminately to all" upon certain
conditions. He says, "I hold that they are perfectly consistent,
for all that is meant by the promise is, just that His mercy
is offered to all who desire and implore it, and this none do,
save those whom He has enlightened." This offer, though
it is made upon conditions of repentance and faith, is wholly
free and without price, because it is God who also gives repentance
When the offer according to the Scripture
is made outwardly to them that hunger and thirst, it is in its
inward effect, a calling out of those who receive the effectual
operation of God's Spirit. It also fulfils God's purpose in separating
the elect from the reprobate. Those who refuse the offer and
call are not mocked, for they have no such desires. There can
therefore be no question of insincerity on the part of God, if
there is not in Him a desire for the salvation of all men.
Our opponents, who have done away with the
commandment as the basis of the offer and the condition of faith
and repentance, must of necessity conclude that there is an intention
in the offer for the salvation of all. Under their offer they
are saying, "here is Christ, take him," "Go tell
every man Christ is dead for him," so that under their conception
of the offer, God to be sincere, must desire the salvation of
In attempting to preserve the sincerity of
God in their notion of the offer, they have made him to be insincere,
because He, in desiring to save all, does not grant all men the
means of repentance and faith. It is the height of insincerity
to stand on the pier and watch a man drowning, while desiring
that he might be saved, yet not throwing the lifeline which is
held in hand.
An accusation laid by modern modified Calvinists
against those who maintain the true preaching of the gospel,
is the nonsense statement, that they offer the gospel only to
the elect, who before they are effectually called are known only
to God. They also claim that the annexation of a condition to
the free offer is an attempt to measure repentance and faith.
To call men to the exercise of faith and repentance is not to
measure them, but to command them. Faith the size of a mustard
seed cannot be measured, yet it will move mountains. The weakness
of faith is not to be despised either, for our Lord has declared,
"A bruised reed he will not break," but will strengthen
it that it may become as cedar in the courts of our God. The
smoking flax he will not quench, but will blow it into a flame.
The doctrine of the Evangelical Presbyterian
Church of Australia concerning the free offer of the gospel is
fully stated in "The Sum of Saving Knowledge" which
is annexed to the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. That
statement is contrary to the concept of the gospel held by modern
modified Calvinists and was actually rejected by the Marrowmen
for the same reason.
Modern Modified Calvinism And
Modern modified Calvinism begins its destructive
work in reference to Covenant theology in the Old Testament,
because it does not acknowledge that the intent of the Gospel,
except in special individual circumstances, was only to the House
of Israel, and had no reference whatever to the heathen nations.
Until such time as the Lord Jesus "came to His own, and
His own received Him not" (John 1:11), the Gospel was addressed
to the Jew first; afterwards it was addressed to the Gentile.
In the administration of the Gospel in the
Old Testament, Israel as God's Covenant people, represented the
organised visible Church. The need for Ezekiel's prophecy was
that God's people, who bore the sign and seal of the Covenant,
had turned from the promises and obligations of he Covenant to
idolatry. God had overthrown their land and led them into the
captivity of Babylon, and had sent them the prophet Ezekiel to
call the nation, in their calamity, to repentance.
Israel in the New Testament administration
is still the Church. The middle wall of partition has been broken
down, so that there is in Christ no difference between Jew and
Gentile. While the Gospel was addressed to the Jew first in the
Old Testament, it was in the New, addressed to the Gentile at
the last commandment of our Lord, which He gave immediately before
His ascension, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the
gospel to every creature."
The principle of the address of the Book of
Ezekiel, however, has not changed. The address of that book was,
and is, only to the House of Israel, God's covenant people; and
is without content or intent, concerning those who are not in
the plan and purposes of God, numbered among the elect. To derive
from the Book of Ezekiel the notion, that God desires the salvation
of the reprobate, is to propose a doctrine which has nothing
to do with the covenant of redemption and grace. There is nothing
contained in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which does
not have reference to the fulfilment of that Covenant. Both Testaments
in fact, comprise the Book Of The Covenant. The preaching of
the Gospel is simply a display of the Covenant of grace.
Modern modified Calvinism therefore, is destructive
of covenant theology because it introduces an extraScriptural
ground, namely a universal benevolence in God, as a basic reason
for the preaching of the Gospel. It thereby makes covenant theology
only an adjunct, if not redundant, and not the whole ground and
purpose for the preaching of the Gospel.
The Rule Of Interpretation Of
If we are to take our interpretation of Scripture
from the meaning of words and passages, which appear to teach
a universalism, as the Professors Murray and Stonehouse do in
their study "The free offer of the Gospel," we should
also apply the same method to such texts as:
John 3:16: God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son.
I John 2:2: He is the propitiation for our
sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.
By the same method of interpretation, such
texts teach a universal atonement, as indeed some today who claim
to be Calvinists, are now teaching. Their claim to particularism,
like that of the Amyraldians rests on the idea that the atonement
is sufficient for all, and that its effectiveness is in its application.
In other words, Christ died for all men, but the effectiveness
of the atonement is in God's eternal election. This differs little,
if at all, from the doctrine of hypothetical redemption of the
schools of Davenant and Amyraut. Ultimately modern modified Calvinists,
who in their inconsistency do not presently take the position
of universal atonement, must in time logically move to that position.
Tradition, not Calvin's Calvinism, is the only thing preventing
We have seen that the interpretative method
of modern modified Calvinism involves giving to Scripture texts
a double meaning, thus involving its system of theology in a
series of ambiguities and contradictions. Such method of interpretation
does not stand up to examination in the light of the principle
of interpretation of Scripture which is stated in the Westminster
Confession, Chapter 1, Of the Holy Scripture, Section
The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture
is the Scripture itself, and therefore when there is a question
about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not
manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places
that speak more clearly.
"Which is not manifold, but one,"
simply means not with more than one meaning.
Robert Shaw in his exposition of the Westminster
Confession has written concerning the above statement: "No
Scripture can have two or more meanings properly different, and
nowise subordinate one to another, because of the unity of the
truth, and because of the perspicuity (clearness) of the Scripture."
The Position Of The Westminster
The disposition of God toward
The Literature Committee of our Presbytery
during the year 1971, published a pamphlet to show that the Westminster
Confession teaches that the disposition of God toward the nonelect
is one of hatred and wrath. The following is a quotation from
The Westminster Confession of Faith is a declaration
of the main heads of doctrine and principles of the Word of God
to which it is at all times subordinate. Its doctrines and principles
are founded on proof texts from which it is to be interpreted
and understood else the Confession is placed above Scripture
Let us quote from chapter 3 of the Confession,
Of God's Eternal Decree, and take note of the supporting
Section 3: "By the decree of God, for
the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated
unto everlasting life, and others to everlasting death."
The proof texts are found in Romans chapter
9 verses 22 and 23:
What if God willing to show His wrath, and
to make His power known endured with much long-suffering the
vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make
known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which
He had afore prepared unto glory.
The rest of mankind, God was pleased according
to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth
or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign
power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to disfavour
and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice."
Proof texts, Romans chapter 9 verses 17, 18,
21, and 22:
Verse 17 For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh,
Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might
show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout
all the earth. ... Hath not the potter power over the clay, of
the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto
dishonour? What if God willing to show His wrath, and to make
His power known endured with much long-suffering the vessels
of wrath fitted to destruction.
As already indicated, the above Scripture
texts which are quoted in the Westminster Confession give proof
of its doctrine concerning the nonelect. In the context
of Romans chapter 9 from which they are taken, the nature of
God's disposition toward the reprobate is clearly stated. Verse
13 in context speaks of God's hatred. It is also used as a proof
text in Section 7 of the same chapter of the Confession in which
God's purposes concerning the elect are distinguished. Verse
22 speaks directly of His wrath, in that the nonelect are
referred to as "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction."
In the above it has been demonstrated:
- That Scripture clearly defines the disposition
of God toward the nonelect as one of hatred and wrath, and
- That since the same Scriptures are applied
in the Confession as proof of its doctrine, the Confession must
also be interpreted after the same manner. That is, the nonelect,
who are predestined to everlasting death according to the statements
of the Confession, are under God's disposition of hatred and
If the principle of the interpretation of
the Confession by the Scripture is not adhered to, the validity
of the proof texts in the Confession is destroyed. (end of quote).
While the pamphlet accurately stated the doctrine
of the Westminster Confession in respect to the disposition of
God toward the reprobate, it was insufficient to refute the position
of modern modified Calvinists, because of their method of interpreting
Scripture which gives it a double meaning and the so called law
of opposites from which they assume that God also loves that
which He hates.
The Fatherly disposition of God
toward the elect.
The relevant doctrine of the Confession is
stated in chapter 11: Of Justification, sections 4 and
God did, from all eternity, decree to justify
the elect, and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their
sins, and rise again for their justification. Nevertheless, they
are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth in due time apply
Christ unto them.
Justification by definition of the Shorter
Catechism no. 33, "is an act of God's free grace, wherein
He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His
sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and
received by faith alone."
Therefore, justification is not complete until
the imputed righteousness of Christ is received by faith alone.
In other words, it is not complete until the benefits of adoption
and sanctification which are not to be confused with it, but
are never separated from it, are applied in effectual calling
by the Holy Spirit.
God doth continue to forgive the sins of those
that are justified; and although they can never fall from the
state of justification, yet they may by their sins fall under
God's fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance
restored unto them until they humble themselves, confess their
sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.
To the justified all suffering in the providence
of God is the act of a loving Father, which has the purpose of
correcting their faults and improving their graces. This compares
with the sufferings of the reprobate, all of which are but instalments
of the eternal penalty. For this reason we have stated that there
is no equation in any sense between the wrath of God for the
reprobate and His fatherly displeasure which may be expressed
in respect to the elect.
The Addition To The Westminster
Standards By Modern Modified Calvinism.
The Free Church at its 1971 Synod in Sydney
adopted a Report which gives full support to the doctrine that
God loves all men and desires their salvation, and thus made
that doctrine an officially received doctrine in their Church
That Report not only misinterprets the Scripture
and Calvin's exegesis of it; it wrongly quotes the writings of
A. W. Pink in his book The Sovereignty of God, where he
explains the will of God in the same terms as Calvin, when he
defends the principle of the simplicity of God's will, which
the writers of the Report cannot support. The Report overlooks
the fact that A. W. Pink in the eleventh chapter of his book
has written the following:
One of the most popular beliefs of the day
is that God loves everybody, and the very fact that it is so
popular with all classes ought to be enough to arouse the suspicions
of those who are subject to the Word of Truth. God's love toward
all His creatures is the fundamental and favourite tenet of Universalists,
Unitarians, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists,
Russellites, etc. To tell the Christrejecter that God loves
him is to cauterise his conscience, as well as to afford him
a sense of security in his sins. The fact is, that the love of
God, is a truth for saints only, and to present it to the enemies
of God is to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs.
The Free Church Synod Report is such that
it attempts to completely refute the doctrine of Calvin's Calvinism
as defended in this essay. In its summary the Report quotes the
Procurator as saying, "The point at issue is an open one
on which individuals may hold their own views." Such, however,
cannot be the position in the Free Church because the doctrine
that God loves only the elect and desires their salvation only,
is forcefully rejected by the Synod Report. Since the Free Church
Synod has adopted the Report, only one position is possible in
that Church, namely, the one it wrongly upholds.
Sufficient has been brought forward in this
essay to demonstrate beyond all shadow of doubt, that the doctrine
in question is contrary to Scripture and is destructive of Calvin's
Calvinism. It is also clear that the Westminster Standards contain
no statement whatsoever from which it may be assumed, that God
loves the reprobate and desires their salvation.
The Free Church Synod Report of 1971 therefore
constitutes a Declaratory Act of the Church in which it has officially
received and declared a doctrine which is not laid down in the
Westminster Confession or the Shorter and Larger Catechisms.
This is a fact, which, despite all their attempts at denial,
The Condemnation Of Modern Modified
Calvinism In The Law Of The Church.
The Vindication published by the Presbytery
of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia under the
date of 12/2/1965, gave a full account of the matter under this
heading. This is now repeated together with other relevant factors
brought forward in this essay.
- We have seen how the Westminster Confession
is a positive statement of doctrine which teaches that only the
elect are effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified
and saved, but does not, in any of its statements, specifically
exclude a conditional intention in the atonement for the reprobate.
We have also seen that the Church of Scotland in taking an absolute
position in respect to the atonement, in the Acts of its General
Assembly of 1720 and 1722, in which it condemned the book of
The Marrow, declared the doctrine of universal redemption
as to purchase to be contrary to Scripture, the Westminster Confession
and the Larger Catechism.
- Since the constitution of our Church embraces
the Church of Scotland Acts of 1720 and 1722, the book of The
Marrow and its terms are condemned in our Church.
- The Marrowmen of Scotland reinterpreted the
terms of the book of The Marrow in an attempt to bring
the theology of that book and its terms within the Church of
Scotland, but in so doing subjected their theology to ambiguity
- Modern modified Calvinists who have embraced
the doctrine of the Marrowmen, have extended the ambiguities
and contradictions of that system, in their proclamation of a
universal loving-kindness in God, and the notion that God, in
the free offer of the Gospel, desires the salvation of all men.
This has been systematised in their doctrine of the complexity
of God's will in which one department of the Divine mind is said
to respect His preceptive will, but at the same time is contrary
to its other department, which respects His decretive will.
- In the pamphlet issued by the Literature
Committee of our Presbytery, it was shown that the Westminster
Confession positively teaches that the disposition of God toward
the reprobate is one of everlasting hatred and wrath, and does
not at any point teach that God desires the salvation of all
- In spite of the two facts, a) that the Westminster
Confession teaches that the disposition of God toward the reprobate
is one of hatred and wrath, and b) that there is no statement
in the Confession which teaches that God loves the reprobate
and desires their salvation; the Report of the 1971 Free Church
Synod, pages 24 & 27, makes the incongruous statement that
our Presbytery has engaged in "an attempt to impose a doctrinal
position on the Church which is not laid down in the Confessional
Standards of the Church and does not take sufficient account
of certain clear statements of Scripture and Reformed interpretation
- It is because the Westminster Standards make
positive statements only on this matter and do not directly deny
a universal benevolence in God, that our Presbytery has maintained
from the outset, that the doctrines of the Marrow and
of modern modified Calvinism cannot be condemned by simple or
direct appeal to those Standards, but must be condemned by an
Act of the highest court of the Church.
This was declared in the Vindication
published by our Presbytery under the date of 13th February 1965,
relative portions of which we now quote.
Difference of opinion has arisen as to the
procedure by which the controversy may be resolved. The supporters
of the controverted propositions maintain that they are allowed
by the scope of interpretation, which it is claimed, is inherent
in the Westminster Confession. We, however, maintain that an
interpretation of the Confession cannot be used to maintain the
controverted doctrine, without allowing two diametrically opposed
systems of theology to ever disturb the peace of the Church,
and so we insist that the controversy cannot be resolved otherwise
than by a declaratory act of the Church.
In other words, because the controverted doctrine
is not declared or refuted in the Westminster Standards, being
a gross error, it must first be shown to be contrary to Scripture
and then condemned by a declaratory act of the Church, in this
case by the principle of interpretation of Scripture.
The following are the ambiguities contained
in the doctrine of the Marrowmen and our present opponents.
1. Christ having taken upon Himself the sins
of all men, and being a deed of gift and grant unto all mankind,
is not a universal benefit or purchase of the death of Christ,
2. the said deed of gift and grant to all
mankind is effective only to the elect, ie., an infallible redemption
gifted to all secures only a portion of its objects.
3. A deed of gift and grant to all is only
These ambiguities are embraced by the proponents
of the doctrine presently controverted, with the addition of
several others, namely, that: The Omniscient and Omnipotent Being
1. earnestly longs for, and desires the salvation
of those whom He has for the praise of His glorious justice made
reprobate, having made them the objects of his eternal displeasure
2. does not inwardly call by His Spirit all
those whom He earnestly longs and desires to save,
3. has a desire and longing which is at variance
to His will as an efficient cause to the doing of all His good
4. has a will to the realisation of that which
He has not decretively willed, and a pleasure toward that which
He has not been pleased to decree.
"Chapter 5. Conclusion, The application
of the Act of 1720, and the rule of interpretation of Scripture
to the present controversy."
As we have demonstrated, the resolving of
the present controversy cannot rest on an interpretation of the
Confessional Standards, but must first rest on the definition
of the extent and intent of redemption as to purchase clearly
given to those standards in the Act of 1720....The Act of 1720
condemns certain propositions of the Book of the Marrow as advocating
a universality of redemption as to purchase, which as we have
demonstrated, the Assembly accurately condemned in the actual
meaning of their terms....These propositions belong to the same
school of doctrine as that of Davenant and Amyraut, which asserted
an absolute intention for the elect, and a conditional intention
for the reprobate in case they do believe.
The Act did not condemn those propositions
under meanings which were attached to them by the Marrowmen.
So that we are now faced with propositions using terms and expressions
which have a double meaning, ie., one which is condemned under
the Act of 1720, and the other which is seemingly orthodox, attached
by the Marrowmen, on which they and our present opponent have
rested their claims to orthodoxy within the Church.
The Vindication then stated the terms under
which the doctrine of modern modified Calvinism is condemned
in our Church. It reads as follows:
The position as it stands is this:
The terms which are used by our opponents
from the Marrow are directly condemned by the Act of 1720, because
in fact, they advocate a universality of redemption as to purchase.
The ambiguous use of those terms as listed,
Nos. 13 (page 52 herein) are condemned by the principle
of interpretation of Scripture as stated in the Westminster Confession
chapter 1, para. 9, Nos. 47 (page 52 herein) are condemned
for the same reason. Since the ambiguous use of terms is the
vehicle upon which the notion that God longs for and desires
the salvation of all men in the free offer of the Gospel is entirely
entered, such notion is also condemned."
It is clear from the foregoing that our Presbytery
has not, as falsely alleged by the Free Church Synod Report,
page 23, ever rested its condemnation of the doctrines of modern
modified Calvinism, which includes the whole system of doctrine
which derives from a notion of universal benevolence in God,
directly on the 1720 Act of the Assembly of the Church of Scotland,
or by direct appeal to the Confession.
It is equally clear that our Presbytery has
rested on the 1720 Act only for condemnation of the terms of
the Book of the Marrow and the doctrine of universality of redemption
as to purchase. Quite apart from that Act, our Presbytery has
declared the use of the ambiguities of the Marrowmen and modern
modified Calvinists, which are the vehicle on which the notion
that God desires the salvation of all men is entered, to be contrary
to the principle of interpretation of Scripture as set out in
the Westminster Confession.
The Relative Positions Within
The Free Church And The Evangelical Presbyterian Church Of Australia.
By its adoption of the Report, the Free Church
Synod of 1971, being the highest court of that Church, has in
effect made a Declaratory statement binding that Church to the
doctrine of universal benevolence in God, and to the position
that the particularistic doctrines held by the Evangelical Presbyterian
Church are invalid and to be rejected. Every Minister and Elder
of the Free Church must, therefore, consider his position relative
to his vows in respect to the government and doctrine of his
Church. He is bound to oppose the position taken by Calvin's
Calvinism. He must embrace and support the doctrine, that God
loves that which He hates and desires the salvation of those
whom He does not purpose to redeem, together with all the ambiguities
and inconsistencies of that system. It is relevant to ask the
question, how the Free Church Synod can affirm that "the
point at issue is an open one on which individuals may have their
own views," and at the same time outrightly reject and virtually
outlaw the doctrine held by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church?
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, conversely,
has declared against the system which has been embraced by the
Free Church. Every Minister and Elder of that Church is therefore
bound to oppose the doctrines of universal benevolence in favour
of the particularistic doctrines of Calvin's Calvinism, in the
light of which the Westminster Confession must logically be held.
Only then is the Westminster Confession properly subordinate
to Scripture, because it represents an interpretation of Scripture
according to its own internal principle, that Scripture must
be interpreted with Scripture and not according to the philosophies
and traditions of men. As long as the Evangelical Presbyterian
Church remains true to Scripture, Calvin's Calvinism, and the
Reformation, it must remain opposed to the position declared
by the Free Church at its 1971 Synod.
The Free Church Synod in the conclusions of
its 1971 Report, page 27, has attempted to relegate the doctrinal
differences which are involved in the system which is identified
as modern modified Calvinism, as being of minor importance. On
the contrary, that system is perhaps the most deceptive of all
the errors which have ever assailed the doctrine of the Reformed
Churches, because it is a completely ambiguous system. On the
one hand it has the appearance of accepting the formularies and
standards of the Reformed Church, while on the other, it demolishes
them. This it accomplishes through veiling or obscuring its ambiguities
in a false mystery concerning Divine Sovereignty.
In conclusion let us now recapitulate the
main points which have been brought forward in this essay.
The Practical Issues Of Modern
By its deceptions it creates the following
problems in the defence, propagation, and application of the
- It represents itself as the true Reformed
faith, whereas in fact, those who embrace it are in a state of
error and decline.
- It cannot uphold the principles of the Reformed
faith because of its ambiguous contradictory system of theology.
- Its effect on good men who unwittingly embrace
its system as a code of life is that they are liable to become
like the doctrine itself in their relationships before God and
with their fellow men. "As a man thinketh in his heart so
is he" (Proverbs 23:7).
- Its ambiguous and contradictory system robs
the Reformed faith of its defenses against other doctrines of
self salvation because it has itself adopted the common principle
of a universal benevolence in God.
The Overthrow Of Calvin's Calvinism
As Set Forth In His Institutes And Commentaries.
We have seen how modern modified Calvinism
constitutes the overthrow of Calvin's Calvinism on the following
- It rejects the central principle of Calvin's
theology that the will of God is simple.
- It proposes that the will of God is complex
by placing within the divine mind a desire concerning His precepts,
which is contrary to His purposes and decrees.
- It proposes that its system does not imply
a contradiction in God because His desire to save all respects
only His preceptive will and not His decretive will. Such proposal
fails to comprehend that a desire in God, whether it respects
His preceptive will or His decretive will involves a state or
act of the divine mind. The proposal is therefore a nonsense
statement, unless it is acknowledged there are two minds or there
is duplicity in God; which is contrary to Calvin's system.
- It turns the mystery of divine sovereignty
concerning the apparent contradiction between God's precepts
and decrees, into an internal conflict between desires and purposes
within the divine mind. Calvin, however, simply accepts the apparent
contradiction between the precepts of God's Word and His decretive
will, as being a mystery which cannot be understood or comprehended
by the weak finite mind of man.
- It gives a double meaning to certain texts,
as listed on page 13 herein, oneof which says that God desires
the salvation or repentance of all men; whereas Calvin clearly
refers those texts only to the elect without giving them a universal
reference. It also proposes a law of opposites in which God is
said to love and hate the one object at the one time.
- It intrudes into the secret counsels of God's
will on two counts:
a) By false interpretation of Scripture it
misinterprets the mind of God, so teaching that which Scripture
does not teach.
b) It attempts to define the inner workings
of the divine mind, when it says that there is an unfulfilled
desire in God's mind for the salvation of all men which respects
His preceptive or revealed will; but which is contrary to His
- It actually takes the position which Calvin's
objectors raise against him, the substance of which is, on the
one hand it is said, "Nothing happens without the will of
God," on the other, "He must have two contrary wills,
decreeing by a secret counsel what He has openly forbidden in
His law." This is the same as saying, "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."
- It implies that God desires that man shall
obey Him without grace in spite of such Scriptures which teach,
"Without me ye can do nothing," and "Without faith
it is impossible to please Him" (Heb. 11:6).
It is God's requirement that all men, regenerate
and unregenerate, obey His moral law. God's command is man's
rule of duty. If, however, the natural man is allowed to think
that God desires that he obey His law without grace, he will
either never consider himself bound by the moral law, or imagine
that he can please God and merit His favour by his own efforts
without grace. It is the function of the moral law and the gospel
to show sinners their total inability in this respect, that they
may cast themselves on the mercy of God.
Since the theology of the Westminster formularies
and other standards of the Reformed Churches is founded on Calvin's
system of theology, we may now draw the following two conclusions
concerning modern modified Calvinism.
- Because of the four practical issues in which
it fails, and the eight points enumerated above at which it overthrows
Calvin's Calvinism and therefore the Confessional Standards of
the Reformed Churches, it must be considered to be destructive
of the true preaching of the Word of God.
- Where it has been made or allowed to be a
received doctrine by the highest court of a Church, it is also
destructive of the discipline of the Church, because the courts
of such a Church cannot deal with it or other doctrines of like
kind, as a heresy. The Church then becomes the medium for the
propagation of error rather than truth. All that then remains
is a fundamentalism which claims Scripture as the Word of God,
but which is without the principles of Calvin's Calvinism and
the doctrinal standards of the Reformation. It is only a matter
of time, thereafter, when even the so called fundamentalism gives
way to the theology of liberalism and unbelief.
Let us therefore learn the lesson of history,
that modified Calvinism is the tool of the enemy, who from within,
brings about the downfall of a Reformed Church. In its modern
form it constitutes a great hindrance to the propagation of the
truth. Nothing reacts to Calvin's Calvinism like modern modified
Calvinism. Until those who would propagate the truth of God in
our age, recognise it for what it is, all other heresies and
the lawlessness of our time will go virtually unchallenged.
The Five Points Of Amyraldianism.
- The motive impelling God to redeem men was
benevolence, or love to men in general.
- From this motive He sent His Son to make
the salvation of all men possible.
- God in virtue of a universal hypothetical
decree, offers salvation to all men if they believe in Christ.
- All men have a natural ability to repent
and believe the Gospel.
- But as this natural ability was counteracted
by a moral inability, God determined to give His efficacious
grace to a certain number of the human race, and thus secure