(The following copyrighted article is taken from the Calvin Theological Journal, April, 2000-a publication of Calvin Theological Seminary, 3233 Burton Street, S.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546. It is reproduced with permission and can not be copied without permission of the staff of the Calvin Theological Journal. We express our appreciation for their willingness to have us copy the article and publish it here. May it help to clarify and to resolve some of the problems which arose back in 1924.)
The year 1999 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary
of the "three points of Kalamazoo," promulgated by the
synod of the Christian Reformed Church, convened in Kalamazoo
in the summer of 1994. The synod affirmed common grace, and condemned
the teachings of two Christian Reformed ministers, Herman Hoeksema
and Henry Danhof, who rejected the newly popular concept of common
grace. The two ministers also denied that God demonstrates any
grace or favor toward the reprobate, or that salvation is in any
sense offered to the reprobate in the universal call of the gospel.1 The
synod's decision and the surrounding debate over common grace
resulted in the most significant ecclesiastical schism that the
Christian Reformed Church has yet endured in its history.2
The synod's three points contended that there is
a certain grace or favor God shows to his creatures in general,
both elect and reprobate; that the Holy Spirit restrains sin in
individuals and in society; and that unregenerate persons, while
unable to do any saving good, can indeed perform acts of civic
good.3 Thus far, these three statements
are easily defensible from the standpoint of the history of Reformed
theology, exegesis, and confessions. But the latter part of the
first point introduces a concept of the general or universal offer
of the gospel (algemeene aanbieding des Evangelies), and it is
here that the matter becomes much less clear. The first point
Concerning the first point, regarding the favorable disposition of God with respect to mankind in general, and not only to the elect, synod declares that according to the Scripture and the confessions it is certain that, besides the saving grace of God, shown only to the elect unto eternal life, there is a certain kind of favor or grace of God that he shows to his creatures in general. This is evidenced by the aforementioned Scripture texts and from the Canons of Dort II, 5 and III/IV, 8 and 9, where the confession deals with the general offer of the Gospel; while it is evident from the aforementioned declarations of Reformed writers from the most flourishing period of Reformed theology that our Reformed fathers of old have advocated this opinion.4
The latter half of this point not only affirms a general offer of the gospel, but also adduces this universal offer as evidence for God's common grace to all humanity. The report of the synodical advisory committee on common grace makes this matter more specific. The report argues that God is graciously inclined toward the godless and unrighteous, which naturally includes the reprobate.5 Putting aside the questionable nature of this conclusion itself for the moment,6 the proof that the synod produces for the first point includes the assertion that there are biblical texts that indicate that "God comes to all with a well-meant offer of salvation."7 The synodical committee cites Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11, which indicate that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, and that he would prefer that Israel would repent of its sins and live. The report continues by claiming that the Canons of Dort (II, 5; III/IV, 8-9) deal with the "general offer of the gospel."8 These evidences are followed by the "declarations of Reformed writers from the most flourishing period of Reformed theology," namely, two passages from Calvin's Institutes and one from Peter van Mastricht's Theoretico-Practica Theologia. These passages lend weight to the concept of a general grace of God shown to all, but they do not demonstrate the existence of the doctrine of the well-meant offer in the early history of Reformed theology. 9
The proof adduced for the first of the Kalamazoo
points is problematic. In the first place, Reformed theology has
generally been reticent to connect any common or universal grace
with the process of salvation, particularly since the Remonstrant
party, the Arminians, conceived of common grace as a factor that
made all individuals capable of responding to the gospel call.10
The first point, however, considers the universality of the call
of the gospel to be evidence for the existence of common grace.
More significant, however, is the introduction of
the concept of the universal, well-meant offer of salvation. A
historical examination of the issue will demonstrate that at this
point the synod introduced a quite debatable doctrine into the
church, and in doing so misinterpreted the confessions and prominent
Reformed theologians. The result was that the ministers Hoeksema
and Danhof were condemned, in part, for defending the proper interpretation
of the Reformed confessions. Even if one considers their sweeping
rejection of common grace to be dubious and extreme, their repudiation
of the well-meant offer is much more defensible from a historical
and confessional perspective. A further result was that the Christian
Reformed Church was left with a doctrine that is of doubtful logical
coherence, given the soteriological framework confessed in the
Canons of Dort, and that does not find support among leading theological
figures of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The cause
of this unfortunate state of affairs, moreover, appears to be
a lamentable lack of careful historical and theological study
of the issue by the 1924 synod and its defenders, as well as extreme
and uncharitable recriminations on both sides.
The Three Points In All Parts Reformed--so claimed
Louis Berkhof's pamphlet defending the 1924 synodical decision.11
Berkhof was professor of dogmatics at the Christian Reformed seminary,
advisor to the synodical committee on common grace, and a highly
skilled synthesizer of the Reformed faith.12
Thus it is surprising to discover that his defense of the well-meant
offer of the gospel is not only marked by imprecision and misunderstanding
in his use of the important theological terms, but it is also
lacking in its historical-confessional basis.
It is an unfortunate fact that Berkhof demonstrates
very little familiarity with the actual views of Hoeksema and
Danhof, and he frequently mischaracterizes their position. He
accuses the ministers of preaching only to the elect, and ridicules
them for attempting something that only Christ himself could do
(since only he knows who the elect are), and that he in fact did
not do.13 Berkhof, moreover, bases these
accusations on hearsay, rather than on the published writings
of the two ministers. At one point Berkhof writes: "According
to reports, one of their number, in a recent speech, presented
the following depiction of the matter: If a teacher addresses
a crowd of a thousand people, God only speaks to a certain number
of them, and calls them by name, and this divine speaking must
indeed be the offer of the gospel that comes only to the elect."14
There are numerous historical and logical errors
in both the synodical report and Berkhof's defense of the well-meant
offer. The most glaring logical jump is that which the synod and
Berkhof make from the concept of call to that of offer.
In the synodical material and in Berkhof's defense of the
three points, these two terms are used synonymously and interchangeably.
Berkhof states that "this calling of the gospel, or this
offer of salvation, is, according to the synod, universal."15
The position of Hoeksema and Danhof, however, was precisely that
the nature of the call was not that of an offer, particularly
in the modern sense of the term. To use call and offer interchangeably,
therefore, begs the question.
The synod's first point cites as evidence certain
passages from the Canons of Dort "which deal with the universal
offer of the gospel." But in fact, these passages speak of
no such thing. Canon II.5 speaks of the mandate to proclaim the
gospel to all, including its promises and obligations, to all
persons without discrimination. But this refers to the command
to preach the gospel to all nations, and really has no bearing
on whether this activity, known as the external call, constitutes
an offer on God's part to all who hear it. Berkhof, moreover,
is very imprecise in his description of the offer. Sometimes he
asserts that it is the preacher who is offering salvation through
his preaching: elsewhere he claims that God himself is the one
who offers salvation to all.16 The matter
is further confused by the interchangeability of the phrases "offer
of salvation" and "offer of the gospel" in the
1924 synodical report and the writings of its defenders.
The second passage from Dort is III/IV.8, where the
Canons declare that those who are called through the gospel are
called seriously (serio vocantur). "For seriously and most
genuinely God makes known in his Word what is pleasing to him:
that those who are called should come to him. Seriously he also
promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come
to him and believe."17 The synod,
and Berkhof, read the phrase serio vocanturas an obvious
indication that God genuinely offers salvation to all who hear
the gospel, including the reprobate--those whom he has decreed
to leave in their state of rebellion and to withhold from them
"saving faith and the grace of conversion."18
Again, the synod and Berkhof assume that call and offer are synonymous.
In addition, Berkhof notes that the "Remonstrants
contended that from the Reformed perspective there could be no
well-meant call, because a person's salvation was made completely
dependent upon the sovereign operation of God's grace."19
He rightly observes that Canons III/IV.8 are a direct response
to one of the Remonstrant objections to the Reformed doctrine
of predestination. This was the thesis of the Remonstrant party:
Whomever God calls to salvation, he calls seriously ( serio vocat), that is, with a sincere and completely unhypocritical intention and will to save; nor do we assent to the opinion of those who hold that God calls certain ones externally whom he does not will to call internally, that is, as truly converted, even before the grace of calling has been rejected.20
What Berkhof assumes, but does not demonstrate, is
that Dort has the same understanding of what it takes for a call
to be serious as the Remonstrants did. It is quite clear, however,
that Dort does not share that view. Dort picks up the Remonstrant
language of a serious call but does not accept their requirements
for such a call, namely, that God must sincerely intend and will
to save anyone who receives that call. If the delegates of the
Synod of Dort had intended to do so, they certainly would not
have stopped with the serious call but would have included the
intention and will to save. In fact, Dort rejects the idea that
God wills or intends to save all, as should be clear from Canons
I.6 and 15. What the Canons actually do in this article is explain
how the call can really be serious when, in fact, God does not
intend or will the salvation of the reprobate!
Canons III/IV.8 consists of three parts. First, this
article affirms that those who are called by the preaching of
the gospel are in fact called seriously. This affirmation is followed
by a twofold explanation of how this can be the case. This twofold
explanation corresponds to a distinction in our understanding
of the will of God, a distinction that, as we shall see, is quite
common in the Reformed tradition. This is the distinction between
God's decretive will or will of the decree (voluntas decreti)
and his preceptive will or will of the precept (voluntas praecepti).
This distinction is also referred to, with slight variations in
emphasis, as that between the will of good pleasure and the will
of complacency (eudokia and euarestia), the will of good pleasure
and the will of the sign (voluntas beneplaciti and signi), and
the secret and revealed will of God (voluntas arcana and revelata).21
The decretive will and its variants refer to God's
eternal counsel: what he has decreed will actually occur, either
by causing it himself or allowing his creatures to do so. The
preceptive will and its variants refer to the rules and duties
that God prescribes and reveals to humanity. The will of the decree
always comes to pass, while the preceptive will is frequently
disobeyed. Thus God commanded Pharaoh to release his people; this
was his duty, and reflects the divine voluntas praecepti.
But God's decretive will was to allow Pharaoh to follow his own
evil inclinations and resist God's command. In this sense, God
both wills and does not will that Pharaoh should let his people
go. In the Reformed tradition, however, it is the decretive will
that is the "ultimate, effective will of God."22
The general call of the gospel is serious because
it corresponds to this twofold distinction. First of all, God
seriously makes known his revealed will for all creatures, his
voluntas praecepti: "seriously and most genuinely
God makes known in his Word what is pleasing to him: that those
who are called should come to him." The call is serious in
that it truly reveals what the duty of sinful humanity is, namely,
repentance and faith in God. This first part of the explanation
of the serio vocantur does not imply any will or intention
to save on God's part; it only reveals the obligation of sinners.
Secondly, the Canons go into the voluntas decreti: "Seriously
he also promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all
who come to him and believe." The call is a promise of salvation
for all who do repent and believe, namely, the elect.
Neither the 1924 synod nor Berkhof's pamphlet mention
this crucial distinction. Later, in his Systematic Theology,
Berkhof does bring this distinction into his discussion of
the well-meant offer. Again, he uncritically equates the serious
call of Canons III/IV.8 with the well-meant offer affirmed by
the 1924 synod.23 He affirms that God "earnestly
desires" that the sinner will accept the offer. Berkhof lists
two objections to the "bonafideoffer of salvation.'
The first has to do with the veracity of God:
It is said that, according to this doctrine, He offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to those for whom He has not intended these gifts. It need not be denied that there is a real difficulty at this point, but this is the difficulty with which we are always confronted, when we seek to harmonize the decre-tive and preceptive will of God, a difficulty which even the objectors cannot solve and often simply ignore.24
The point of the precept-decree distinction, however,
is to clarify how God can command one thing and will the actual
occurrence of the opposite! The "difficulty" only arises
when one confuses the two, as is the case with the doctrine of
the well-meant offer. The objectors have no difficulty to solve;
nor are they ignorant of this basic distinction that is operative
in the Canons and in major theologians of the Reformation and
Continuing his answer to this objection, Berkhof
reminds his readers that the promise of the gospel is conditional,
and that "the righteousness of Christ, though not intended
for all, is yet sufficient for all."25
Does Berkhof really want to base the well-meant offer on the sufficiency
of Christ's atonement? The sufficiency of the atonement only
refers to the value or merit of Christ's death, and thus it is
theoretical in nature. Had God decreed to save all sinners, the
death of Christ would have been more than sufficient to atone
for their sins. Berkhof's argument, apparently, is that because
Christ's death could have covered the sins of all, therefore
salvation can actually be offered to all, including the reprobate.
The coherence of this argument is quite questionable: How can
that which is not actually acquired or intended for the
reprobate be offered to them with the desire that they accept
it? In other words, how can Christ be offered to the reprobate,
when in fact he has not been offered for them?
This argument based on the sufficiency of Christ's
death, moreover, dates back to the sixteenth century, but it was
not the Reformed who employed it. John Calvin rightly calls it
"a great absurdity" that "has no weight for me."
The question, he says, "is not what the power or virtue of
Christ is, nor what efficacy it has in itself, but who those are
to whom he gives himself to be enjoyed.' The answer to this question
is not all humanity in general, but only those whom God designs
to be a partaker in Christ.26 Calvin accepts
the distinction between the sufficiency and efficacy of Christ's
death,27 but he does not believe that this
distinction can be employed to teach that God desires or intends
salvation, or makes salvation available, for all persons indiscriminately.
The 1924 synod also adduces the next article from
the Canons (III/IV.9) to support the concept of a well-meant offer
of salvation, although neither the synodical report nor Berkhofs
defense of the three points offers an interpretation of this article
that would bolster their cause. This is somewhat ironic, since
this is the only place where the term offer arises in the
English text of the canons: "The fact that many who are called
through the ministry of the gospel do not come and are not brought
to conversion must not be blamed on the gospel, nor on Christ,
who is offered through the gospel, nor on God, who calls them
through the gospel and even bestows various gifts on them, but
on the people themselves who are called... "28
The important phrase in the original Latin is Christo
per evangelium oblato. The word oblato is a participial
form of the Latin word offero, frequently translated with
its English cognate, offer. But this is not the primary
meaning of the Latin verb. Rather, its most basic meanings include:
to put in a person's path, to cause to be encountered; to show,
reveal, exhibit; to present as something to be taken note of,
to bring or force to someone's attention.29
Thus, to interpret this article as teaching that all persons who
hear the gospel are confronted with Christ, or that they encounter
Christ in the gospel, is at least as plausible as the assertion
that such persons are offered Christ and salvation through
Christ in the preaching of the gospel. Set in the context of the
broader teachings of the Canons and the writings of major Reformed
theologians from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the
former interpretation appears to be much more plausible than the
The 1924 synod, as well as Berkhof's defense of the
well-meant offer, claim the support of theologians from the most
flourishing period (bloeitijd) of Reformed theology. The
synod cites two passages from Calvin's Institutes and one
from van Mastricht. These passages pertain to the question of
whether God demonstrates some kind of favor of grace to all persons
in general, but they do not touch on the well-meant offer.30
Berkhof, however, cites van Mastricht, Herman Witsius, and Wilhelmus
à Brakel in support of the well-meant offer.31
Van Mastricht teaches three kinds of grace: universal,
common, and particular. Universal grace pertains to the natural
gifts that God gives to his creatures in his providential care.
There is also a common grace by which God bestows moral gifts
to all persons without distinction between the elect and reprobate.
Also included here, according to van Mastricht, are those gifts
that are manifested in those who only appear to assent to salvation.
To this category belongs the external call, as well as that form
of internal call in which persons receive a temporary illumination
and exhibit these gifts for a time. 32
It is not entirely clear whether the external call itself is a
manifestation of common grace; he may be referring to the gifts
(bona) associated with the external call.
In any case, what van Mastricht does not say
is that the external call represents God's intention to save the
reprobate. In fact, he writes in his chapter on calling that the
universal end of external calling is to oblige all persons
to come to God. The principal end is the salvation of the elect;
and the accidental end, the intention with respect to the reprobate,
is to silence them, to take away all their excuses, and to add
more weight to their condemnation.33
Berkhof also cites Witsius' work on the covenants, where Witsius states that Christ's satisfaction and covenantal sponsorship have been "an occasion of much good even to the reprobate." It is because of Christ's death "that the gospel is preached to every creature, that gross idolatry is abolished in many parts of the world, that hellish impiety is much restrained by the discipline of the word of God, so that they obtain at times many and excellent--though not saving--gifts of the Holy Spirit, that they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 2:20). 34
Berkhof, however, does not proceed to cite what Witsius
further says about the calling of the reprobate. God does not
call them "with the purpose and design of saving them..,
but for the purpose of demonstrating his patience toward the vessels
of wrath."35 Reconciliation and peace
with God are not offered to the reprobate, because they are "perpetual
enemies to God, on whom the wrath of God abides."36 Witsius says that
2 Timothy 2:4 (God "wants all men to be
saved and come to a knowledge of the truth") does not mean
"all and every one in particular, but the elect of whatever
nation and condition."37 It does not
pertain to "his will concerning every man in particular,
because he will have unbelievers condemned.' It is not God's will
that all should come to the knowledge of the truth because he
hardens those whom he wills to harden. God cannot will the salvation
of the reprobate, since "it would be unworthy of the divine
majesty to imagine that there is an incomplete, unresolved, and
ineffectual volition in God."38 Witsius
emphatically does not teach a well-meant offer of the gospel.
There are two passages that Berkhof cites from à
Brakel. In the first, à Brakel states that to common grace
"belongs all the good which God bestows upon all who are
called, by giving them the Word the means unto repentance and
salvation .... In addition to this, God generally gives illumination,
historical faith, convictions, and inner persuasion to almost
become a Christian."39 In the other
passage, à Brakel states that the external call comes to
all who hear the gospel and not just the elect. Again, however,
Berkhof fails to distinguish between call and offer. The fact
that the reprobate are presented with the means of salvation and
even receive certain gifts associated with the external call does
not imply, for à Brakel, that God offers them salvation
and intends them to receive it.
Berkhof could have cited this passage: "since many reject the gospel, it is necessarily offered (aangeboden) to them, for whatever is not offered cannot be rejected."40 Even so, this passage does not support the concept of a well-meant offer of salvation; for à Brakel has in mind a presentation of the gospel message, as evidenced by his citation of Acts 13:46: We had to speak the Word of God to you first. Since you reject it. Moreover, the next question that à Brakel poses is whether, in calling the sinner to Christ, God intends the salvation of all--a question that he answers with a definite no. "God's objective in calling the nonelect is to proclaim and acquaint people with the way of salvation, to command persons to enter this way .... It is also God's purpose to convict persons of their wickedness in his refusal to come upon such a friendly invitation." He concludes that it is "neither God's purpose and objective to give them his Holy Spirit, nor to save them." 41
À Brakel proceeds to demonstrate how God is
really sincere in his calling, even though he does not intend
the salvation of the reprobate. God calls all to salvation, and
he intends to give salvation to all who believe. But faith and
repentance are divine gifts that he only bestows to those whom
he wills to save. God leaves the rest to themselves; these are
unwilling, and, by their own fault, unable to fulfill the condition
of faith. Because God has foreknowledge of this, and since he
has decreed not to give them faith, "he therefore also cannot
have their salvation in view."42 God
does not act deceitfully, however, since he sincerely obligates
them and sincerely reveals the conditions of salvation to them.
His main end is their condemnation. Nor could à Brakel
be any clearer when he says, "He did not purpose to save
them."43 It should be quite clear
that à Brakel does not believe that the external call of
God constitutes an offer of salvation to the reprobate.
The defense of the well-meant offer of salvation
was taken up in the next generation by Anthony Hoekema, professor
of systematic theology at Calvin Seminary from 1958 to 1978. His
study of soteriology, Saved by Grace, was published a year after
his death in 1988. Hoekema's defense of the well-meant offer is
largely dependant on the arguments of Berkhof and AC. De Jong.
In his chapter on "The Gospel Call," Hoekema identifies
three parts of the external call: (1) a presentation of the facts
of the gospel and of the way of salvation; (2) an invitation to
come to Christ in repentance and faith; and (3) a promise of forgiveness
and salvation, conditional upon repentance and faith.44
Hoekema then defends the well-meant offer over against the position
of the Protestant Reformed Churches. He declares that the Christian
Reformed Church, "in contrast to Hoeksema, and in agreement
with the majority of Reformed theologians, affirms that God does
seriously desire the salvation of all to whom the gospel comes."45
The preaching of the gospel is "a well-meant offer of salvation,
not just on the part of the preacher, but on God's part as well,
to all who hear it, and... God seriously and earnestly desires
the salvation of all to whom the gospel call comes."46
Hoekema begins his analysis of the issue by reminding
his readers that "Hoeksema's theology is dominated by the
overruling causality of the double decree of election and reprobation."47
This characterization is based on the conclusions of two critics
of Hoeksema's views: AC. DeJong and, indirectly, GC. Berkouwer.
48 Having thus discredited Hoeksema's theological
method from the outset, Hoekema defends the well-meant offer by
citing numerous texts,49 along with excerpts from John Calvin's comments on two of these texts:
Ezekiel 18:23 and
2 Peter 3:9. We will examine Calvin's interpretation of
Ezekiel 18 in detail below. Calvin's comments on
2 Peter 3:9 ("not
wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance")
explain that this passage does not refer to God's secret purpose,
"according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own
ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel."
In the gospel, God "stretches forth his hand without a difference
to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself,
whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world."50
Calvin does not say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate.
In fact, when he cites this passage in the Institutes, he
says that when God "promises that he will give a certain few a heart of stone [
Ezek. 36:26], let him be asked whether he
wants to convert all."51
Hoekema argues that the phrase "ma boulomenos
tinas apolesthai" precludes the possibility of limiting this
passage to the elect. But he fails to nuance the meaning of the
divine will. Calvin obviously relates this passage to God's will
of the precept, or revealed will, which does not relate God's
will regarding the fate of specific individuals. The Leiden
Synopsis makes the following distinction, which could equally
be applied to this passage:
Thus they delude themselves, who extend the grace of God's calling to all, and to every individual. For they not only confuse that love of God for humanity (filanqrwpiva) bywhich he embraces all persons as creatures, with that [love] bywhich he has decreed to receive in grace certain persons from among the common mass of sinful humanity, who were lost in their sin, and that they should follow his beloved Son Jesus Christ; they also rob God--who is bound by none--of any freedom to single out those whom he will from among the rest of his enemies, all equally unworthy of his mercy, in order that he might convey them from a state of guilt to a state of sin.52
Hoekema does recognize that the passages he cites
in defense of the well-meant offer refer to God's revealed will,
but he does not appear to properly discern what that revealed
will entails.53 What it in fact does entail
will become quite clear when we come to Turretin's discussion
of the calling of the reprobate. Hoekema also repeats Berkhof's
argument that the Synod of Dort agreed with the Remonstrants'
contention that God offers salvation to all, but that the synod
nonetheless asserted that this offer was compatible with election
and limited atonement.54 Like Berkhof,
he fails to make a distinction between call and offer.
The solution that Hoekema ultimately proposes is
that We avoid "a rationalistic solution." He mentions
the phenomenon of English hyper-Calvinism, which, "like that
of Herman Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed Churches, denied
the well-meant gospel call."55 This
statement is regrettable for several reasons. First, Hoeksema
and the Protestant Reformed Churches do not deny the serious call
of the gospel; they simply deny that this call should be characterized
as an offer of salvation or represented as God's intention to
impart salvation. Second, the charge of hyper-Calvinism is an
unjustified and uncharitable instance of guilt by association.56
Finally, Hoekema charges that the doctrine of the well-meant offer
"has tremendous significance for missions," implying,
regrettably, that the denial of that doctrine entails a diminishment
of missionary motivation.57
Hoekema asserts that there are two rationalistic
solutions that must be avoided: the Arminian proposal of universal,
sufficient grace, and the ostensibly hyper-Calvinist contention
that the call does not imply God's desire to save the reprobate.
We must continue to hold to both election and the well-meant offer,
"even though we cannot reconcile these two teachings with
our finite minds." We cannot "lock God up in the prison
of human logic."58 Hoekema appeals
to what he calls the "Scriptural paradox," by which
he means that we must believe that apparently incompatible theological
statements are in fact somehow resolved in the mind of God.59
Hoekema appeals to Calvin to justify this method--but
not to Calvin himself. He cites Edward Dowey's neo-orthodox interpretation
of Calvin as a dialectical theologian, a Barthian before Barth.
On this basis, Hoekema contends that Calvin "was willing
to combine doctrines which were clear in themselves but logically
incompatible with each other, since he found them both in the
Bible."60 But this interpretation
of Calvin's methodology is wholly untenable; it cannot be squared
with the way Calvin actually operates, particularly in his theological
treatises. Calvin argues with his opponents by pointing out the
logical inconsistencies in their arguments, and demonstrating
both the biblical faithfulness and the logical coherence
of his own.
Our theological concern, Hoekema concludes, "must
not be to build a rationally coherent system, but to be faithful
to all the teachings of the Bible."61
This sentiment, however, is at odds with the Reformation and pre-Reformation
conviction that God's revelation is not only reasonable, but accessible
to reason, and capable of a coherent systematization. The fact
that not everything is revealed to us, and that our theology is
limited by our human capacities, does not give us permission to
advance an incoherent system of theology. We may not set faith
over against logic or confession over against understanding.62
Berkhof, in his defense of the three points, cites
John Calvin in defense of the doctrine of the well-meant offer. He refers to Calvin's commentary on
Ezekiel 18:23 and 18:32--but
only cites a select portion of Calvin's comments on these texts.63
Calvin affirms that God "calls all equally to repentance,
and promises himself prepared to receive them if they only seriously
repent."64 Calvin even says that there
is a sense in which God wills that all persons should be saved--but
only on the condition that they repent. But how can this be reconciled
with God's election, since God wills to give saving grace only
to the elect?
Calvin answers: "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."65 Here
Calvin shows us his Scholastic side: He is operating with a time-honored
distinction in the will of God, a distinction that for centuries
had allowed exegetes to make sense of God's command to Abraham
to sacrifice Isaac without really intending it to occur, his command
to Pharaoh to release his people while simultaneously hardening
his heart so that he would not do so, and his repentance at Nineveh.
This is the distinction between God's will of the precept and
his will of the decree. The command to repent and the promise
of salvation following upon such repentance belong to the preceptive
will of God. This human duty and conditional promise is proclaimed
indiscriminately to all. The condition can only be fulfilled,
however, when God has decreed to give a person regenerating grace.
This is what Calvin means when he says, "God puts on a twofold
character."66 Ezekiel's intention
in this verse is not to say anything about election and reprobation
but only to show that "when we have been converted we need
not doubt that God immediately meets us and shows himself gracious."67
Later, in his comments on
Ezekiel 18:32, Calvin again
takes up the preceptive will of God:
when God teaches what is right, he does not think of what we are able to do, but only shows us what we ought to do. When, therefore, the power of our free will is estimated by the precepts of God, we make a great mistake, because God exacts from us the strict discharge of our duty, just as if our power of obedience was not defective. We are not absolved from our obligation because we cannot pay it; for God holds us bound to himself, although we are in every way deficient.68
Thus God can demand faith and repentance from sinners,
even though they have rendered themselves incapable of the required
response. Berkhof cites Calvin's comments on this verse, that
God "invites all to repentance and rejects no one,"69
but he does not place it in the context of God's preceptive or
revealed will, which Calvin contrasts with God's will of the decree
or good pleasure. Berkhof, then, presents only one side of Calvin's
Calvin's treatment of
Matthew 23:37 ("O Jerusalem...how
often I have longed to gather your children together.., but you
were not willing") employs the decretive-preceptive distinction
even more explicitly. Hoekema adduces this passage as further
support of the well-meant offer. On this text, however, he does
not claim Calvin's support, and for good reason. Calvin warns
that ''we must define the will of God now under discussion."
The opponents of predestination contend that "nothing agrees
less with God's nature than that he should be of a double will."
But not only do they fail to see that Christ, speaking on behalf
of the Godhead, condescends to the human level by employing an
anthropopathic figure of speech, they also fail to recognize that,
although God's will is one and simple in himself, our perception
of it is manifold. Thus God "strikes dumb our senses until
it is given us to recognize how wonderfully he wills what at the
moment seems to be against his will."70
Calvin's lectures on Ezekiel extend only through
chapter 20; but in his Institutes he does comment significantly on
Ezekiel 33:11, in the context of election and reprobation.
Opponents of these doctrines object that if God really takes no
pleasure in the death of the wicked, then he would make it possible
for all to repent. Calvin responds that "this passage is
violently twisted if the will of God, mentioned by the prophet,
is opposed to his eternal plan, by which he has distinguished
the elect from the reprobate."71
Here again we see the contrast between the will of the precept
and the will of the decree. The prophet's truemeaning, Calvin
continues, "is that he would bring the hope of pardon to
the penitent only. The gist of it is that God is without doubt
ready to forgive, as soon as the sinner is converted. Therefore,
insofar as God wills the sinner's repentance, he does not
will his death."72 The proposition
that God wills the salvation of all must be qualified. According
to his preceptive will, God reveals what is required of persons
if they are to receive forgiveness. But God in his eternal counsel
wills only to bestow the grace required for repentance on the
Calvin then anticipates the charge that would later
be brought by the Remonstrants: If God does not really will the
salvation of all, then his universal call is not sincere. Calvin
admits that God wills the repentance of those whom he calls to
himself "in such a way that he does not touch the hearts
of all." But this does not mean that God acts deceitfully,
"for even though only his outward call renders inexcusable
those who hear it and do not obey, still it is truly considered
evidence of God's grace by which he reconciles persons to himself."73
The universal call is a testimony of God's grace but not his common
grace. It is a testimony of his saving grace that is only operative
in the elect. It is not grace for the reprobate. Calvin teaches
that God hates the reprobate--not as his creatures, but as those
who are bereft of his Spirit and worthy of condemnation.74
The opponents of predestination claim that God extends his grace
to all indiscriminately; but Calvin replies that this is only
true in the sense that God extends his grace to whomever he wills
in his good pleasure, without regard to any merit.75
For the reprobate, moreover, the external call is
a testimony of God's judgment. "That the Lord sends his Word
to many whose blindness he intends to increase cannot indeed be
called into question. For what purpose does he cause so many demands
to be made upon Pharaoh?"As far as the reprobate are concerned,
God "directs his voice to them but in order that they may
become even more deaf; he kindles a light but that they may be
made even more blind; he sets forth doctrine but that they may
grow even more stupid; he employs a remedy but so that they may
not be healed."76 It is clear that
Calvin sees the intention of the external call vis a vis the reprobate
not as an offer of actual salvation but as a sign of his judgment
upon human unbelief. This is even more clear from his discussion
of calling: "There is an universal call, by which God, through
the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even
those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and
the ground of a severer condemnation."77
Surprisingly, neither the synod of 1924, nor Berkhof,
nor Hoekema cite the most relevant of Calvin's works in connection
with the issue of the ostensible well-meant offer: his writings
on election and reprobation. In his 1552 treatise On the Eternal
Predestination of God, directed against the views of Albert
Pighius and Georgius Siculus, Calvin responds to Pighius' claim, based on
1 Timothy 2:4 and
Ezekiel 33:11, that God desires the
salvation of all persons:
Now we reply, that as the language of the prophet here is an exhortation to repentance, it is not at all marvelous in him to declare that God wills all men to be saved. For the mutual relation between these threats and promises shows that such forms of speaking are conditional. In this same manner God declared to the Ninevites, and to the kings of Gerar and Egypt, that he would do that which, in reality, he did not intend to do, for their repentance averted the punishment which he had threatened to inflict upon them ....Just so it is with respect to the conditional promises of God, which invite all men to salvation. They do not positively prove that which God has decreed in his secret counsel, but declare only what God is ready to do to all those who are brought to faith and repentance.78
If the distinction between God's preceptive and decretive
will is not clear enough, Calvin adds that "as a Lawgiver,
he enlightens all men with the external doctrine of conditional
life. In this manner he calls, or invites, all men unto eternal
life."79 This is an indiscriminate
declaration of what is required for a person to receive eternal
life, but it is not an offer of salvation to those whom God has
decreed to leave in their sin.
Regarding the promise of the gift of conversion in
Jeremiah 31:33, Calvin remarks that "a man must be utterly
beside himself to assert that this promise is made to all men
generally and indiscriminately."80 Actual
salvation, then, is not offered to all; but the way of salvation
is proclaimed to all. The proposition that God desires the salvation
of every individual cannot be maintained, Calvin argues, because
not even the external preaching of the word comes to everyone,
let alone the illumination of the Spirit: "Now let Pighius
boast, if he can, that God wills all men to be saved!"81
If God does not intend salvation for all, how can he "offer"
it to all? "No one but a man deprived of his common sense
and common judgment can believe that salvation was ordained by
the secret counsel of God equally and indiscriminately for all
Returning to Pighius' use of
1 Timothy 2:4, where
Paul says that God "wants all men to be saved and come to
a knowledge of the truth," Calvin argues that this passage
does not mean that God wants each and every individual to be saved.
"Who does not see that the apostle is here speaking of orders
of men rather than of individuals? Indeed, that distinction which
commentators here make is not without great reason and point;
that classes of individuals, not individuals of classes, are here
intended by Paul."83
When Calvin turns to the arguments of the monk Georgius
Siculus, he makes a comment that could be construed to support
the 1924 synod's well-meant offer. His opponent claimed that God had made salvation available to all, since, as
1John 2:2 declares,
Christ became a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
Calvin responds that "although reconciliation is offered
unto all men through him [Christ], yet, that the great benefit
belongs particularly to the elect."84 But
clearly Calvin does not mean that reconciliation is offered, in
the modern sense of the term, to all without distinction. Given
what Calvin has already said about God's not intending the salvation
of all who are called, it is doubtful that he here reverses his
course and affirms that God in fact offers reconciliation
to the reprobate, that is, that he holds it out for them to take.
Fortunately, we have Calvin's French version of this treatise,
where he himself translates the phrase in question "la
reconciliation faicte pare luy se presente à tous"--the
reconciliation accomplished by him is presented to all. 85
The reason why Calvin does not think that God intends
or offers salvation to all becomes clear, in an accidental fashion,
from his commentary on that same passage.
Calvin mentions the common dictum that "Christ
suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only
for the elect." He admits that this is true, but he denies that this really applies to
1John 2:2, since John only has the
elect in mind. Calvin adds, however, that "under the word
all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates
those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered
through various parts of the world."86
There is another passage, moreover, in which Calvin
makes it quite clear that he rejects the concept of a universal
atonement. Combating Tilemann Heshusius' doctrine of the physical
presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, Calvin poses the following
rhetorical question: "I should like to know how the wicked
can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them,
and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate
their sins?"87 We might also ask,
how can redemption be offered to those for whom it was neither
intended nor actually obtained? Again, how can Christ be offered
to the reprobate, when in fact he has not been offered
Calvin touches on this matter again in his short
piece, Response to Certain Calumnies and Blasphemies, a
rejection of Sebastian Castellio's objections to Calvin's doctrine
of predestination. Castellio contends that God created the whole
world to be saved, and that he works to draw to himself all who
have gone astray. Calvin admits that this may be true in one sense,
with regard to the doctrine of faith and repentance. This doctrine
is published or declared (proposé) to all in general,
but with a twofold purpose: to draw his elect to faith, and to
render the rest inexcusable.88 God summons
and exhorts all to come to him, but he does not draw all of them
to himself; the promise to do so is only given to a "certain
number," the elect.89
Castellio thinks that God desires the salvation of
every individual because all are called. But Calvin responds that
Castellio does not understand that most basic truth about God's
calling (Calvin calls it the ABCs of the Christian faith): the
distinction between the external and the internal call. The external
call comes "from the mouths of men," while the internal
call is the secret work of God. Moreover, Calvin adds,
1 Timothy 2:4 means that God desires the salvation of all who will come
to a knowledge of the truth, that is, the elect.90
Castellio would do well to profit from "the little book written
by our brother, Mr. Beza." This little book is Beza's Summa
totius Christianismi, which includes his famous table of predestination.
Far from characterizing the external call as an offer of salvation,
Beza writes that God justly hates the reprobate because they are
corrupt.91 As for the reprobate who hear
the external call, Beza explains that
their downfall is much more severe, since he in fact grants them the external preaching, but who, despite being called, are neither willing nor even able to respond, because, they are content in their blindness, and think that they see, and because it is not given to them to embrace and believe the Spirit of truth. Consequently, although their obstinacy is necessary, it is nevertheless voluntary. This is why they refuse to come to the banquet when they are invited; for the word of life is foolishness and an offense to them, and ultimately a lethal odor that leads to death.92
Turning back to Calvin's trouncing of Castellio,
he concludes his brief treatise by once more employing the distinction
between God's preceptive and decretive will. It is true, he says,
that God often uses a form of speech such as "Return to me,
and I will come to you." But the purpose of such language
is to show us what we ought to do, not what we are able
Calvin later expanded his refutation of Castellio's
antipredestinarian views in a treatise on the Secret Providence
of God (1558). Here again, Calvin makes it clear that the proposition in
1 Timothy 2:4, that God desires the salvation of
all persons, must be qualified. "Since no one but he who
is drawn by the secret influence of the Spirit can approach unto
God, how is it that God does not draw all men indiscriminately
to himself, if he really 'wills all men to be saved'?"94
For Calvin, this passage can mean that God wants all kinds, races,
and classes of people to be saved; or it can mean that God wills
that if anyone is to be saved, that person must repent and believe,
and that this preceptive will of God is to be preached indiscriminately
to all. But it does not mean that God earnestly desires the salvation
of all who hear the preaching of the gospel.
Francis Turretin (1623-87), who held the chair of
theology at the Genevan Academy from 1653 until his death, was
a great synthesizer and defender of Reformed orthodoxy.95
He frequently defends and exposits the declarations of the Synod
of Dort in his Institutes ofElenctic Theology His interpretation
of the Canons and his exposition of the Reformed doctrine of the
calling of the reprobate shed a great deal of light on this subject
and demonstrate the coherence of this doctrine. At the same time,
he leaves no room for the well-meant offer of salvation as it
is presented by the 1924 synod and its defenders.
In his discussion of the calling of the reprobate,
Turretin repudiates two assertions: First, that the reprobate
are "called with the design and intention on God's part that
they should become partakers of salvation;" and second, that
it follows from this that "God does not deal seriously with
them, but hypocritically and falsely; or that he can be accused
of some injustice." Turretin states the Reformed position
we do not deny that the reprobate.., are called by God through the gospel; still we do deny that they are called with the intention that they should be made actual partakers of salvation (which God knew would never be the case because in his decree he had ordained otherwise concerning them). Nor ought we on this account to think that God can be charged with hypocrisy or dissimulation, but that he always acts most seriously and sincerely.96
God has both a common and special end in his call.
The common end, that is common to all who receive it, is "the
demonstration of the mode and way of salvation and the promise
of salvation to those who profess the prescribed condition.."97
The special end for the elect is "the actual bestowal of
salvation upon those whom on that account he calls not only imperatively
but also operatively; not only by prescribing duty, but by performing
that very duty, working within us by his Spirit what he externally
commands by his Word."98 For the reprobate,
God's end "is their conviction and inexcusability."99
The question, according to Turretin, is not whether
"God wills to bestow any grace upon reprobates over and above
those who are destitute of this blessing (such as the heathen
and other infidels) but whether he intends to give saving grace
or salvation to them and calls them with this purpose, that they
may really become partakers of it .... "which Turretin denies.
Here Turretin may acknowledge the possibility of some other kind
of grace besides saving grace; the call itself may even be a (temporary)
Turretin proceeds to demonstrate, in six arguments,
how God can deal seriously with the reprobate, even when he does
not intend their salvation.
1. "God cannot in calling intend the salvation
of those whom he reprobated from eternity and from whom he decreed
to withhold faith and other means leading to salvation. Otherwise
he would intend what is contrary to his own will and what he knew
in eternity would never take place, and that it would not take
place because he, who alone can, does not wish to do it. This
everyone sees to be repugnant to the wisdom, goodness, and power
2. "God does not intend faith in the reprobate;
therefore neither does he intend salvation, which cannot be attained
3. "Christ, in calling the reprobate Jews, testifies
that his proposed end was their inexcusability" (ajnapologiva; cf.
John 9:39, 15:22).103
4. "Those who are called with the intention
of salvation are 'called according to purpose' (kata prothesin,
Rom. 8:28), the purpose of which is that they love God, be justified,
5. "Salvation according to the intention of
God is promised to none other than those having the prescribed
condition .... Since this cannot be said of the reprobate, it
equally cannot be said that they are called by God with the intention
that they should be saved."105
6. "It can no more be said that God calls each
and every individual with the intention that they should be saved,
than that they should be damned. For a conditioned promise includes
the opposite threatening, so that every unbeliever will be condemned
as every believer is to be saved .... It can no more be concluded
that God wills all to be saved for the reason that he promises
pardon of sin and salvation to all promiscuously (if they repent),
than that he does not will the salvation of all for the reason
that he denounces a curse and death upon all (unless they repent
Turretin can use the term offer (oblatio, the
nominal form of offero, which can also mean "presentation"107)
in explaining how the reprobate are called seriously yet without
the intention of salvation; but he does so in a way that is quite
incompatible with the claims of the welgemeende aanbod des
Although God does not intend the salvation of reprobate by calling them, still he acts most seriously and sincerely; nor can any hypocrisy or deception be charged against him--neither with respect to God himself, because he seriously and most truly shows them the only and most certain way of salvation, seriously exhorts them to follow it and most sincerely promises salvation to all those who do follow it, namely, to those who believe and repent; nor does he only promise, but actually bestows it according to his promise; nor in regard to men, because the offer [or presentation, oblatio] of salvation is not made to them absolutely, but under a condition, and thus it posits nothing unless the condition is fulfilled, which is wanting on the part of man.108
The key to understanding how God can seriously call
the reprobate without intending their salvation is the distinction
between the will of the decree and that of the precept:
if he shows that he wills a thing by the will of precept and yet does not will it by the will of decree, there is no simulation or hypocrisy here, as in prescribing the law to men, he shows that he wills that they should fulfill it by approbation and command, but not immediately as to decree. Now in calling God indeed shows that he wills the salvation of the called by the will of precept and good pleasure (envarestiva), but not by the will of decree. For calling shows what God wills man should do, but not what he himself haddecreed to do. It teaches what is pleasing and acceptable to God and in accordance with his own nature, namely, that one should come to him; but not what he himself has determined to do concerning man. It signifies what God is prepared to give believers and penitents, but not what he has actually decreed to give to this or that person.109
It is one thing to will reprobates to come, i.e. to command them to come...another to will that they should not come, i.e. not to will to give them the power to come. God can in calling them will the former and yet not the latter without any contrariety because the former has to do only with the will of precept, while the latter has to do with the will of the decree For a serious call does not require that there should be an intention and purpose of drawing him, but only that there should be a constant will of commanding duty and bestowing the blessing upon him who performs it, which God most seriously wills.110
Turretin also clarifies the relationship between
the will of God in calling and the role of the preacher in proclaiming
the gospel. The preacher can proclaim that Christ is the Savior
of all who will come to him in faith -- a truth that even the
reprobate can believe.111 Pastors are
to "invite all their hearers promiscuously to repentance
and faith as the only way of salvation, and, supposing these,
to salvation; and they ought to intend nothing else than the gathering
of the church or the salvation of the elect."112
Pastors do not know who will benefit from their preaching. They
certainly cannot distinguish between the elect and the reprobate.
In charity they may wish the best for all; and they dare not judge
any person to be reprobate. At the same time, however, their intention
is none other than that of the Lord: they intend only the salvation
of the elect, whoever they may be.113
In his discussion of the various distinctions in
the will of God, Turretin makes it clear that it is the will of
the decree (or good pleasure) that is more properly referred to
as the will of God; this is usually what is meant by "the
will of God." The decree of the precept (or complacency)
"does not properly include any decree or volition in God,
but implies only the agreement of the thing [commanded or prescribed]
with the nature of God." Thus it is "less properly called
the will of God."114 Thus, when we
ask whether God wills all to be saved, the answer is, properly
The substantial error committed by the 1924 synod
was its acceptance of the Arminian definition of the sincere call--a
definition that is clearly rejected by Canons III/IV.8. The acceptance
of the doctrine of common grace, however, by no means entails
acceptance of the well-meant offer, contrary to the contention
of Hoeksema, Danhof, and the Protestant Reformed Churches. There
was, however, an overemphasis on the doctrine of common grace
in the 1920s that was just as extremist as the denial of that
doctrine. Given the fact that the concept of common grace is only
marginal and implicit among Reformed theologians of the sixteenth
century, and only becomes an explicit doctrine later in the seventeenth
century, it is utterly untenable to claim that common grace is
"the fountain head of Reformed thought."115
Extremism on both sides exacerbated the situation unnecessarily,
as did the failure of both sides to carefully consider their opponents'
arguments and to give the issue the proper historical and theological
study that it required.
The concept of a well-meant offer of salvation may
have its origin in the teachings of William Heyns and Jan Karel
van Baalen--an issue that deserves further study.116
Heyns, who taught Practical Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary,
proposed a view of the covenant and of divine grace that was clearly
out of step with the Reformed confessions. Heyns spoke of a subjective
covenant grace that, because it also imparted an intrinsic capacity
(innerlijke vatbaarheid), was sufficient to bring covenant
children to salvation if they made good use of the means of grace.117
Even A. C. DeJong, who defends the well-meant offer, recognizes
that "Heyn's view of an innerlijke vatbaarheid can scarcely
be distinguished from the Remonstrant Limborch's concept of some
sinners as being very receptive to the working of saving grace."118
This fact, combined with the acceptance of the Remonstrant definition
of the serious call, adds weight to the charge that the 1924 synod
added Arminian elements to Reformed soteriology. At the very least,
this charge cannot be dismissed out of hand, even if the charge
is frequently made in the most extreme terms and with a minimum
The 1920s are not the most illustrious period in
the history of the Christian Reformed Church. This was also the
era of the Janssen case, in which Professor Ralph Janssen was
removed from the Seminary faculty on the basis of student notes.
In the 1924 synodical proceedings on common grace, the voices
of charity, reason, and restraint went unheeded. We can only wish
that the substitute motions, which urged further study of the
issue rather than a precipitous judgment of both the issues and
persons involved, had been accepted at the synod of 1924.119
Numerous delegates to the 1924 synod, including those who agreed
with the doctrine of common grace, registered their protests against
the declaration of the synod. Several of these protests argued
that the issue had not received adequate study, and that it was
not in the best interest of the churches to make such a definitive
statement and to condemn the teachings of Revs. Hoeksema and Danhof
at that time.120
There was a rush to judgment in the case of Hoeksema and Danhof that contributed to a serious ecclesiastical schism as well as the introduction of the rather dubious doctrine of the well-meant offer of salvation. Berkhof, and later Hoekema, seem to realize that it is not logically compatible with the doctrines of limited atonement and divine election and reprobation, but they feel compelled to affirm it nonetheless. In so doing, however, they are saying something quite different from what our confessional standards affirm. In the future, the Christian Reformed Church and the Protestant Reformed Churches should strive to amend the errors of the past, and perhaps even obtain a greater degree of charitable respect for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
1 On the views of Hoeksema, Danhof,
and the Protestant Reformed Churches regarding common grace and
the well-meant offer of the gospel, see Herman Hoeksema, A
Triple Breach in the Fonndation of the Reformed Truth: A Critical
Treatise on the "Three Points" Adopted by the Synod
of the Christian Reformed Churches in 1924 (Grand Rapids:
Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1942 [originally published
in Dutch in 1925] ); idem, Een kracht Gods tot zaligheid, of
Genade geen aanbod, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing
Association,  ); idem, God's Goodness Always Particular
(Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1939);
idem, The Protestant Reforned Churches in America: Their Origin,
Early History and Doctrine (Grand Rapids, n.p., 1947); Herman
Hoeksema and Henry Danhof, Van zonde en genade (n.p., 1923);
idem, Niet Doopersch maar Gereformeerd (n.p., );
David J. Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel,
2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association,
2 For historical summaries of the
common grace controversy, see Henry Beets, The Christian Reformed
Church: Its Roots, History, Schools, and Mission Work, A.D. 1857-1946
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1946), 108-9; John Kromminga, The
Christian Reformed Church: A Study in Orthodoxy (Grand Rapids:
Baker, 1949), 82-86; A. C. De Jong, The Well-Meant Gospel Offer:
The Views of H. Hoeksema and K Schilder (Franeker: T. Wever,
1954), 11-16; James D. Bratt, Dutch Calvinism in Modern America:
A History of a Conservative Subculture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
3 See Acta der Synode 1924 (Grand
Rapids: Publishing Committee of the CRC, 1924), art. 132, pp.
14547; hereafter cited as AS 1924. While I have made use
of a translation in progress of the 1924 Acts of Synod by Henry
De Mots, to be published by the Hekman Library Archives of Calvin
College, I am responsible for the final form of citations from
4 AS 1924, art. 132, pp. 145-46.
5 AS 1924, art. 100, p.126.
6 It does not follow from the assertion that God acts favorably toward the godless and unrighteous that God does so toward each and every such person. God graciously makes the godless godly and the unrighteous righteous, but only in the case of the elect. The elect can also be considered godless and unrighteous ante conversionem.
7 "dat God met een welgemeend
aanbod des heils tot allen komt," AS 1924, art. 100,
8 "de algemeene aanbieding
des Evangelies," AS 1924, art. 100, p.127.
9 See AS 1924, art 100, pp. 127-28.
The citations are from Calvin's Institutes, 2.2.16 and
3.14.2, and Peter van Mastricht, Theoretico-practica theologia,
2 vols. (Utrecht: Thomas Appels, 1699), 2.17.15-16; Dutch
translation by Henricus Pontanus, Beschouwende en praktikale
godgeleerdheit (Rotterdam: Hendrik van Pelt, 1749-1753).
10 See, for example, Canons III/IV,
Rejection of Errors V.
11 Louis Berkhof, De driepunten
in aUedeelen gereformeerd (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1925);
hereafter cited as DP
12 See Henry Zwaanstra's chapter
on Louis Berkhof in Dutch Reformed Theology, ed. David E Wells
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 35-53.
13 See DP, 15-16.
15 "Deze roeping des Evangelies,
of dit aanbod des heils is, volgens de Synode, algemeen,"
16 Berkhof insists that it is
the minister's divine duty to "offer the promise of the gospel.
And it is precisely here that we hit upon the general offer of
salvation," DP, 15. But later he says that this doctrine
refers to God's sincere offer, DP, 17-18.
17 Canons of Dort, III/1V.8: "Quotquot
autem per Evangelium vocantur, serio vocantur. Serio enim et verissime
ostendit Deus Verbo suo, quid sibi gratum sit, nimirum ut vocati
ad se veniat. Serio efiam omnibus ad se venientibus et credentibus
requiem animarum et vitam aeternam promittit." Citations
from the Latin text of the Canons are from J. N. Bakhuizen van
den Brink, ed., DeNederlandsche Belijdenisgeschriften (Amsterdam:
Uitgeversmaatschappij Holland, 1940), 248; hereafter cited as
NB; English translations are from Ecumenical Creeds
and Reformed Confessions (Grand Rapids: CRC Publications,
18 Canons of Dort, 1.15.
19 "De Remonstranten beweerden,
namelijk, dat er op Gereformeerd standpunt van een welgemeende
roeping des Evangelie geen sprake kon zijn, omdat de zaligheid
des menschen geheel afhankelijk gemaakt wordt van de vrijmachtige
werking der gnade Gods," DP, 18.
20 Sententia Remonstrantium III/IV.8,
in NB, 286: "Quoscumque Deus vocat ad salutem, serio
vocat, hoc est cum sincera et minime simulata salvandi intentione
ac voluntare; nec eorum assentimur sententiae, qui statuunt Deum
externe quosdam vocare, quos interne vocare, hoc est, vere conversos
nolit etiam ante reiectam vocationis gratiam." English translation
from E Y. DeJong, ed., Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Easays
in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dort, 1618-1619 (Grand
Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, 1968), 226-27.
21 These distinctions in the will
of God as it terminates on created reality (since God's will is
simple and undivided in itself) receive extensive treatment, Francis
Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols., trans.
George M. Giger, ed. J.T. Dennison Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ.: Presbyterian
& Reformed, 1992-1997), 3:15; 3:220-25; hereafter cited as
Inst. Elenct. The translation of the technical terms is
somewhat defective here, however, and must be used with careful
reference to the Latin original, especially visit vis a vis eudokia
and euarestia. Latin citations from Turretin are from Francisci
Turrettini Opera, 4 vols. (Edinburgh:J. D. Lowe, 1847-1848);
English translations are from the Dennison-Giger ed., emended
when necessary, hereafter cited as Opera.
22 See Richard A. Muller, Dictionary
of Greek and Latin Theological Terms.' Drawn Prindpally from Protestant
Scholasticism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), s.v. "voluntas
Dei," and cf. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (1938;
reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 77-78.
23 Berkhof speaks of the "bona
fide character of the external call" that is proven by
numerous Scripture passages and explicitly taught in Canons III/IV.8,
and in the next sentence writes, "Several objections have
been offered to such an idea of a bonafide offer of salvation,"
Systematic Theology, 462.
26 Ne valeat in praesens communis
ilia solutio: Christum sufficienter pro omnibus passum esse, efficaciter
tantum pro electis. Magna illa absurditas.., apud me nihil habet
momenti .... Nec vero qualis sit Christi virtus vel quid per se
valeat, nunc quaeretur, sed quibus se fruendum exhibeat. Quod
si in fide consistit possessio et tides ex spiritu adoptionis
manat, restat, ut in numerum filiorum is duntaxat ascitus sit,
qui futurus est Christi particeps."John Calvin, De aeterna
Dei praedestinatione / De la predestinatione eternelle de Dieu,
from the Opera Omnia denuo recognita . . . series 3,
Scripta Ecdesiastica, vol. 1, ed. W. H. Neuser, trans, text by
O. Fatio (Geneva: Librarie Droz, 1998): 196; hereafter cited as
OO, SE; Cf. the English translation in Calvin's Calvinism, trans.
Henry Cole, 2 vols. in 1 (1856-1857; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
27 See below, note 86.
28 Canons of Dort, III/IV.9: "Quod
multi per Ministerium Evangelii vocati non veninnt et non eonvertuntur,
huins culpa non est in Evangelio, nec in Christo per Evangelium
oblato, nec in Deo per Evangelium vocante et dona etiam varia
iis conferente, sed in vocatis ipsis...," NB, 248.
29 See P. G. W. Glare, ed., Oxford
Latin Dictionary, corrected ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996),
s.v. "offero." It is not until the eighth through tenth
definitions that the sense of the modem English word offer
30 AS 1924, 128-29.
31 DP, 28-29.
32 "Est B. gratia communis,
qua bona moralia dispensat, in homines peculiariter;
sed promiscue electos et reprobos. Cuins generis sunt virtutes
intellectus, ingenium, sapientia, pmdentia Exod. XXXI.3.
atque etiam voluntatis, ethicae Luc. XVIII.11 cuius generis
omnes sunt Gentilium et infidelium virtutes. Quibus connumeranda,
quae ad salutaria, proprius videntur accedere, qualia sunt
quae commemorantur Heb. VI.4,5. Ies. LVIII.2 II Cor. XIII.1 Quo
pertinet vocatio externa, ad participium Christi, per praeconium
verbi Psal. CXLVII.19,20. Matt. XX.16. et interna etiam,
per illuminationem qualemcunque, atque omnia ilia bona,
quae in proskairois" sunt conspicua Matth. XIII.20,21,"
Van Mastricht, Theoretico-practica theologia, 2.17.16.
33 Principalis, electos formare
ad conversionem, fidem, et resipiscentiam, adeoque ad participium
redemptionis .... Accidentalis, reprobis vocatis, os
obstruere, omne effugium adimere.., et eorum condemnationem
aggravare...," Van Mastricht, Theoretico-practica theologia,
34 Occasione sponsionis et satisfactionis
Christi multo bona reprobis quoque obtingere. Hoc enim morti Christi
debent quod Evangelium praedicetur omni creaturae, quod crassa
illa idolatria ex multis mundi partibus abolita sit, quod profana
impietas verbi Divini paedagogia plurimum coerceatur, quod multa
et excellentia quandoque, licet non salutaria, Spiritus Sancti
dona obtineant, quod per agnitionem Domini et servatoris Jesu Christi pollutiones mundi effugerint
2 Pet. 2:20," Herman
Witsius, De Oeconomia Foederum Dei cum hominibus, libri quatuor
(Leeuwarden: Jacob Hagenaar, 1677), 2.9.4. English translation
adapted from The Oeconomy of the Covenants (New York: George
Forman for Lee & Stokes, 1798).
35 Non quidem ex consilio et proposito
salvandi ipsos secundum testamentum, sed ex consilio demonstrandi
longanimitatem suam ergo vasa irae," Witsius, Oec. Foed.,
36 Contra reprobi sunt hostes Dei perpetui, super quos ira Dei manet," Witsius, Oec. Foed., 2.9.7.
37 "Ubi per omnes non
omnes et singulos homines, sed electos cuiuscunque gentis et conditionis
intelligi debere," Witsius, Oec. Foed., 2.9.8.
38 Non autem vult hoc de singulis
hominibus: quia vult non credentes damnari, Joh. 3.36.
Et agnitio veritatis, sive fides, non est omnium, 2 Thes. 3.2, sed electorum,
Tit. 1.1. Neque vult Deus eam esse omnium.
Indurat quem vult, Rom. 9.18. Porro vo1itionem aliquem
incompletam, suspensam, et quae effectum non sortiatur
Deo affingere, Numinis Majestate indignum est. Ps. 115.3,"
Witsius, Oec. Foed. 2.9.8.
39 "Tot deze [gemeene genade]
behoort ook het goed, dat God allen geroepenen doet, hun gevende
het Woord, het middel tot bekeering en zaligheid .... Hierbij
geeft God gemeenlijk verlichting, historisch geloof, overtuigingen,
bewegingen om bijna een Christen te worden." W. à
Brakel, "Logikh Latreia" modernized by JH. Donner,
2d ed., 2 vols. (Leiden: D. Donner, 1893, 1:730; English translation,
The Christian's Reasonable Service, trans.
Bartel Elshout, 4 vols. (Ligonier, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992),
40 "Veelen verstooten het Evangelie,
dies was het hun aangeboden, want dat niet aangeboden wordt, kan
men niet verstooten,' À Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst,
2:719; Eng. trans. 203-4.
41 "Het einde dat God voorheeft
met den niet-uitverkorenen het Evangelie te laten verkondigen,
is, om den mensch den weg tot de zaligheid voor te stellen enbekend
te maken, om den mensch te bevelen dien weg in te slaan .... En
om den mensch te overtuigen, en van zijne boosheid, dat hij op
zulke vriendelijke uitnoodiging niet wil comen... maar God had
daar niet mede voor, God beoogde daarmede niet hun zijnen Heiligen
Geest te geven, en alzoo hen zalig te maken," À Brakel,
Redelijke Godsdienst, 2:721-22; Eng. trans. 205-6, alt.
42 "zoo kan Hij hunne zaligheid
beoogen," À Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst, 2:722-23;
Eng. trans. 207.
43 "Hij beoogde niet hen zalig
te maken," À. Brakel, Reddijke Godsdienst, 2:723;
Eng. trans. 207.
44 Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved
by Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 68-70. In connection
with the third part, Hoekema makes the curious assertion that,
because the sinner cannot fulfill the condition on his or her
own, the sinner "must pray that God will empower him or her
to do so, and give God the praise when he does so" (p. 70).
The Reformed tradition, however, denies that sinners have any
inclination to fulfill these conditions until after the regenerating
and empowering work of the Holy Spirit has already occurred.
45 Hoekema, Saved by Grace,
46 Ibid., 73.
47 Ibid., 72. This common accusation
is typical of GC. Berkouwer's theological method of correlation,
which, to be fair, could in turn be characterized as dominated
by the overruling dialectic of the correlation of mutually exclusive
viewpoints, without the necessity of arriving at a concrete theological
48 Hoekema, Saved by Grace,
72 n. 4. Hoekema bases this characterization on DeJong, Well-Meant
Offer, 42-43. Regrettably, Hoekema provides little evidence
that he has made a careful study of the actual writings of Hoeksema
and other Protestant Reformed authors. His arguments largely repeat
and augment themes from Berkhof and DeJong.
49 "These texts are Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11; Matthew 23:37; 2 Peter 3:9, and 2 Corinthians 5:20, Saved by Grace, 73-77.
50 "Respondeo, non de arcano
Dei consilio hic fieri mentionem quo destinati sunt reprobi in
suum exitium: sed tantum de voluntate quae nobis in evangelio
patefit. Omnibus enim promiscue manum illic porrigit Deus, sed
eos tantum apprehendit ut ad se ducat quos ante conditum mundum
elegit," John Calvin, Ioannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt
omnia, ed. JW. Baum, AE. Cunitz, and E. Reuss, 59 volumes,
Corpus Reformatorum, vols. 29-87 (Braunschweig: Schwetschke, 1863-1900),
55:475-76, hereafter cited as CO; English translations
of Calvin's commentaries are taken, with alteration as necessary,
from the Calvin Translation Society edition (Edinburgh, 1843-1855),
cited as CTS (here, CTS Catholic Epistles, 419-20), and
emended when necessary.
51 Calvin, Institutes,
3.24.16: "Sane conversio in Dei manu est; an velit omnes
convertere, inter-rogetur ipse: dum paucis quibusdam se daturum
promittit cor carneum, aliis cor lapideum relinquendo." Latin
citations of the Institutes are from Ioannis
Calvini Opera Selecta, 5 vols., ed. Peter Barth and Wilhelm
Niesel (Munich: Christian Kaiser, 1926-52), 4:429, hereafter cited
52 "Hallucinantur ergo qui
gratiam Dei vocantis ad omnes et singulos homines extendunt. Nam
praeterquam quod illam Dei philanthroopian, qua Deus omnes
homines ut suas creaturas complectitur, cum ista confundunt, qua
certos aliquos ex communi hominum peccatorum suo vitio pereuntium
turba in gratiam suscipere, atque in Filio dilectionis suae Jesu
Christo prosequi decrevit; Deum nemini obstrictum omni spoliant
libertate, ex perduellibus misericordia sua pariter indignis,
quos vult, ab aliis segregandi, ut eos ex statu reatus, in statum
gratiae transferat," Synopsis Purioris Theologiae,
ed. Herman Bavinck, 6th ed. (Leiden: D. Donner, 1881), 30.27.
53 Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 76.
54 Ibid., 77-78.
55 Ibid., 78.
56 David J. Engelsma persuasively
puts this charge to rest in his Hyper-Calvinism.
57 Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 79.
58 Ibid., 79.
59 Ibid., 6. Hoekema discusses "the
concept of paradox" on pp. 5-7.
60 Ibid., 6. Hoekema repeats AC.
DeJong's argument almost verbatim, including the reference to
Dowey, without crediting DeJong; cf. The Well-Meant Offer,
61 Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 79.
62 "This is the problem in
DeJong's Well-Meant Offer. DeJong, following Berkouwer,
employs an existentialistic methodology of correlation that is
hostile to the concept of a coherent theological system. Thus
he can argue that Calvin speaks "from the viewpoint of faith
and not in terms of logical objectivity" (p. 112). Divine
sovereignty and human responsibility "is confessed and not
explained, for if it could be explained it would no longer be
confessed" (p. 99). Like Berkouwer, he argues that the concept
of causality is qualitatively different when applied to God than
it is when predicated of creatures (p. 98). This assertion is
not biblically based, but founded in the Kantian distinction,
and insuperable divide, between the noumenal and phenomenal realms--a
distinction that renders the reliability of God's revelation suspect.
While De Jong criticizes Hoeksema's methodology in terms of its
ostensible "competitive polarity motif," his own methodology
also constitutes the imposition of an extra-biblical conceptual
construct, namely, the dialectical "both/and' of the correlation
motif. One could easily argue that the "either/or" motif
is in fact more dominant in Scripture. We should be wary of the
fact that Berkouwer's methodology ultimately led him to reject
the historical intention of the Canons of Dort I.6; see his "Vragen
rondom de Belijdenis," Gereformeerd Theologisch Tijdschrift
63, no. 1 (1963): 141. For an insightful analysis and critique
of Berkouwer's methodology, see Hendrikus Berkhof, "De Method
van Berkouwers Theologie," in Ex Auditu Verbi, Festschrift
for GC. Berkouwer, ed. R. Schippers et al. (Kampen: Kok, 1965),
63 Berkhof, DP, 21-23.
64 Calvin, Comm.
Ezek. 18:23: "Tenemus
itaque nunc Deum nolle mortem peccatoris, quia omnes indifferenter
ad poenitentiam vocat, et promittit se paratum fore ad eos recipiendos,
modo serio resipiscant," CO, 40:445; CTS Ezekiel,
65 "Si quis iterum excipiat,
Deum hoc modo fieri duplicem, responsio in promptu est, Deum semper
idem velle, sed diversis modis, et quidem nobis incognitis. Quanquam
itaque simplex est Dei voluntas, varietas quidem est illic implicita,
quantum attinet ad sensum nostrum," CO, 40:445-46;
CTS Ezekiel, 2:247.
66 Sed notandum est, Deum duplicem personam induere," CO, 40:446; CTS
67 "Ubi conversi fuerint homines,
minime dubitandum esse, quin Deus statim illis occurrat et ostendat se illis propitium," CO, 40:446; CTS
68 "Deus enim quum docet quid
rectum sit non reputat quod nos ipsi possimus, sed tantum ostendit
quid debeamus. Quum ergo aestimatur facultas liberi arbitrii ex
Dei praeceptis, id fit nimis perperam, quia etiam si nos vis et
facultas deficiat, Dens tamen merito a nobis exigit quod debe-mus,"
CO, 40:457; CTS Ezekiel 2:263.
69 Calvin, Comm.
Ezek. 18:32, CTS
Ezekiel 2:266; Berkhof, DP, 22.
70 Calvin, Institutes, 3.24.17, OS, 4:430-31. Calvin's commentary on
Matt. 23:37 employs
the same arguments; see CTS Harmony of the Gospels, 3:108-9.
71 Calvin, Institutes, 3.24.15:
"Hinc videmus violenter torqueri locum, si Dei voluntas,
cuius mem-init Propheta, opponitur aeterno eius consilio, quo
electos discrevit a reprobis," OS), 4:427. Translations
from the Institutes are from the McNeill-Battles edition,
2 vols. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), emended when necessary.
72 "Nunc si quaeritur genuinus
Prophetae sensus, tantum spem veniae resipiscentibus facere vult.
Atque haec summa est, non esse dubitandum quin Deus paratus sit
ignoscere, simulac conversus fuerit peccator. Ergo eius mortem
non vult, quatenus vult poenitentiam," Calvin, Institutes,
3.24.15; OS, 4:427.
73 Calvin, Institutes, 3.24.15:
"quia etsi vox externa tantum inexcusabiles reddit qui eam
audiunt, neque obsequuntur, vere tamen censetur testimonium gratiae
Dei quo sibi reconciliat homines," OS, 4:427-28.
74 Calvin, Institutes, 3.24.17:
"doceo, reprobos Deo exosos esse," OS, 4:431.
75 Calvin, Institutes, 3.24.17;
76 Calvin, Institutes, 3.24.13:
"Istud quidem in quaestionem trahi non potest, multis verbum
suum Dominum mittere, quorum caecitatem magis velit aggravari.
Quorsum enim tot mandata deferri iubet ad Pharaonem?... Ecce,
vocem ad eos dirigit, sed ut magis obsurdescant: lucem accendit,
sed ut reddantur caeciores: doctrinam profert, sed qua magis obstupescant:
remedium adhibet, sed ne sanentur," OS, 4:424-25.
77 Calvin, Institutes,
3.24.8: "Estenim universalis vocatio, qua per externam verbi
praedicationem omnes pariter ad se invitat Deus: etiam quibus
eam in morris odorem, et gravioris condemnationis materiam proponit,"
78 Calvin, De aeterna Dei praedestinatione, OO,
SE, 112-13; Calvin's Calvinism, 1:99, alt.
79 "tamquam legislator omnes
externa vitae doctrina illuminet, ad vitam omnes priore modo vocet:
hoc autem altero, quos walt, adducat, tamquam pater regenerans
spiritu filios duntaxat suos," OO, SE, 1:112; Calvin's
80 "Desipiet enim, si quis
dicat generaliter hoc omnibus promitti," OO, SE, 1:114;
Calvin's Calvinism, 1:100.
81" Nunc iactet Pighius Deum
omnes velle salvos fieri, quum ne externa quidem doctrinae
praedi-catio, quae tamen spiritus illuminatione longe inferior
est, omnibus sit communis," OO, SE, 1:118; Calvin's
82 "Ne quis nisi sensu et iudicio
privatus credat arcano Dei consilio statutam aequaliter omnibus
salutem esse," OO, SE, 1:118; Calvin's Calvinism,
83 "Quis non videt ordinum
hic fieri mentionem potius quam singulorum hominum? Nec vero ratione
caret trita illa distinctio: Non singulos generum, sed genera
singulorum notari," OO, SE, 1:118-20. Cole translates
genus here as nation; I have emended this to class, although
nation is a possible translation; cf. Calvin's Calvinism,
84 "Unde colligimus, quanvis
per ipsum offeratur omnibus reconciliato, peculiare tamen esse
electis beneficium, ut in vitae societatem colligantur,' OO,
SE, 1:196; Calvin's Calvinism, 1:166.
85 OO, SE, 1:197; cf. the
introduction to this volume, 24, where O. Fatio argues that the
French translation of the treatise is from Calvin's hand.
86 Calvin, Comm.
I John 2:2: "Ergo
sub omnibus, reprobos non comprehendit: sed eos designat qui simul
credituri erant, et qui per varias mundi plagas dispersi erant,"
CO, 55:310; CTS Catholic Epistles, 173.
87 "Et qnando tam mordicus verbis adhaeret,
scire velim quomodo Christi carnem edant impii, pro quibus non
est crucifixa, et quomodo sanguinem bibant, qui
expiandis eorum peccatis non est effusns," Clear Explanation
of Sound Doctrine concerning the True Partaking of the Flesh and
Blood of Christ in the Holy Supper (1561), CO, 9:484;
English translation in Calvin: Theological Treatises, ed.
J.K.S. Reid (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1954), 285.
88 "[Castellio argues] que
Dieu a creé tout le monde pour estre sauve, allegue qu'il
tasche de reduire à foy ses esleus Response d certaines
calomnies et Blasphemes ...." CO, 58:199.
89 "Dieu convie et exhorte
tous ceux qui sont desbauchez à retourner au bon chemin.
Mais non pas que de faict il les amene tous a soy par la vertu
de son Esprit. Ce qu'il ne promet qu'à certain nombre,"
90 "Enquoy il [Castellio] monstre
que iamals il n'a appris l' ABC des Chrestiens, veu qu'il ne sait
distinguer entre la predication exterieure, qui se fait par la
bouche des hommes, et la vocation secrette de Dieu, pax laquelle
il touche les coeurs au dedans... Et quand il est dit au second
chapitre de la premiere à Timothee, que Dieu veut que tous
soient sauvez, la solution est adioustee quant et quant, qu'ils
venient à la cognoissance de verité," CO,
91 The phrase is "Dominus qui
reprobos merito, quatenus corrupti sunt, execratur," in Beza's
Summa totius Christianismi...in Tractationum Theologicarum
(Geneva: Eusthathius Vignon, 1582), 190.
92 "Quorundam vero gravior
etiam est casus, eorum videlicet quos externa quidem praedica-tione
dignatur, sed qui vocati nec volunt nec etiam possum respondere,
quoniam ita sibi in sua caecitate placent ut dicant se videre:
quibus etiam non datum est veritatis Spiritum amplecti, et credere.
Itaque quamvis necessaria, tamen spontanea est ipsorum pertinacia:
unde sit ut ad convivium invitati venire recusent, adeo ut verbum
vitae sit illis stultitia et offendiculum, denique odor lethalis
ad mortem," Tractationum Theologicarum, 191-92.
93 "Vray est que Dieu use souvent
de ce propos, Retournez à moy, et ie viendray à
vous: reals c'est pour monstrer quel est nostre devoir, non pas
quelle est nostre faculte," CO, 58:206.
94 "Hic etiam tibi solvendus
est nodus: Quum nemo nisi arcano spiritus instinctu tractus ad
Deum accedat, cur non promiscue trahat omnes, si vult eos salvos
fieri," CO, 9:293; Calvin's Calvinism, 2:277.
Cole adds this parenthetical explanatory phrase: "in the
common meaning of the expression."
95 On Turretin, see James T. Dennison
Jr., "The Life and Career of Francis Turretin," in Institutes
of Elenctic Theology, 3:639-58; idem, "The Twilight of
Scholasticism: Francis Turretin at the Dawn of the Enlightenment,"
in Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment, ed
Carl R. Trueman and R. Scott Clark (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999),
96 "Nos vero licet non negemus
Reprobos... vocari a Deo per Evangelium; Negamus tamen eo consilio
et intentione vocari, ut salutis reipsa fiant participes, quod
novit Deus nunquam futurum, quia aliter in Decreto suo de iis
constituit. Nec propterea censemus Deum hypocrisis ullius vel
simulationis posse insimulari, sed maxime serio et sincere semper
agere," Inst. Elenct., 15.2.2; Opera, 2:444.
97 "modi ac viae salutis demonstratio,
et promissio salutis iis qui conditionem praescriptam habuerint,"
Inst. Elenct., 15.2.5; Opera, 2:444.
98 "ad salutis ipsis actualem
collationem, quos ideo non modo imperative, sed et operative vocat,
non praescribendo duntaxat officium, sed illud ipsum perficiendo,
intus per Spiritum operando, quod per Verbum foris praecipit,"
Inst. Elenct. 15.2.5; Opera, 2:444.
99 "convictio eorum et inexcusabilitas,"
Inst. Elenct., 15.2.5; Opera, 2:444.
100 "Non, An Deus gratiam
Reprobis aliquam impertiri velit, prae iis qui hoc beneficio destituuntur,
quales sunt Ethnici, et alii Infideles? Sed, An gratiam salutarem
seu salutem illis dare intendat, eoque consilio eos vocet, ut
fiant reapse ejus participes," Inst. Elenct., 15.2.7;
101 "Quia Deus non potest
vocando intendere salutem eorum, quos ab aeterno reprobavit, et
quibus fidem et alia media ad salutem ducentia denegare decrevit:
alias intenderet, quod scit voluntati suae esse contrarium, quodque
in aeternum novit nunquam futurum, et non fimtrum, quia ipsi hoc
praestere non vult, qui solus potest; quod sapientiae, bonitati
et potentiaae Dei repugnare nemo non videt," Inst. Elenct.,
15.2.8; Opera, 2:445.
102 " Quia Deus non intendit
fidem in Reprobis: Ergo nec salutem, quae sine fide haberi nequit,"
Inst. Elenct., 15.2.9; Opera, 2:445.
103 "Quia Christus in Vocatione
Judaeorum reproborum testatur se finem propositum habere eorum ajapalogivan
John 9:39; 15:22," Inst. Elenct., 15.2.10;
104 "Quia qui vocantur cum
intentione salutis, vocantur kata; provqesin; quia intentio ista
est actus Electionis et effectus proqevsew"," Inst.
Elenct., 15.2.11; Opera, 2:445.
105 "Quia non aliis promittitur
salus ex intentione Dei, quam conditionem praescriptam haben-tibus...
Quod cum de reprobis dici nequeat, dici non potest pariter eos
a Deo vocari ea intentione ut salventur," Inst. Elenct.,
15.2.11; Opera, 2:446.
106 "Quia non magis potest
dici Deum omnes et singulos vocare ea intentione, ut salventur,
quam ut damnentur; siquidem promissio conditionata includit comminationem
oppositam, ut omnis incredulus damnetur, ut omnes credens salvandus
est.... Non magis concludi potest Deum velle onmes servari, eo
quod omnibus promiscue promittat remissionem peccatorum et salutem
si resipiscant, quam Deum nolle quemquam servari, eo quod omnibus
denunciet maledictionem et mortem, nisi resipuerint et convertantur,"
Inst. Elenct., 15.2.12; Opera, 2:446.
l07 See the Oxford Latin Dictionary,
s.v. "oblatio": "the offering of something,
108 "Quamvis Deus non intendat
salutem Reproborum eos vocando, maxime tamen serio et sincere
agit, nec ulla hypocrisis et simulationis labes illi adspergi
potest: Nec respectu Dei ipsius, quia serio et verissime ostendit
illis unicam et certissimam viam ad salutem, serio hortatur eos
ad illam sequendam, et sincerissime promittit illis omnibus qui
eam secuti fuerint, credentibus scilicet et poenitentibus, salutem;
nec promittit tantum, sed reipsa confert juxta promissionem; Nec
quoad homines, quia oblatio salutis non fit illis absolute, sed
sub conditione, atque adeo nihil ponit nisi posita conditione,
quae deficit ex parte hominum," Inst. Elenct., 15.2.12;
Opera, 2:446, emphasis added.
l09 "Si prae se fert velle aliquid
voluntate praecepti, nec velit tamen volutante Decreti, nulla
hic est simulatio vel hypocrisis: Ut praecipiendo Legem hominibus
prae se fert velle ut eam impleant quoad approbationem et mandatum,
sed non statim quoad Decretum. Jam in vocatione prae se fert quidem
Deus velle salutem Vocatorum voluntate praecepti et enjarestiva",
sed non Voluntate Decreti. Nam vocatio ostendit quidem quid Deus
velit jubere hominem ut faciat, non vero quid decreverit ipse
facere; docet quid Deo gratum sit et acceptnm, et conveniens naturae
suae nimir: ut Vocati adse veniant; sed non quid ipse de homine
facere constituerit: significat quid Deus paratus sit dare credentibus
et poenitentibus, sed non quid actu decreverit dare huic vel illi,"
Inst. Elenct., 15.2.15; Opera, 2:446.
110 "Alius est velle venire
Reprobos, id. praecipere ipsis, ut veniant, et hoc gratum habere;
Ailud velle non yenire, id. nolle dare illis vires veniendi.
Dells potest vocando ipsos velle prius, nec velle tamen posterius,
absque ulla contrarietate; quia illud respicit tantum voluntatem
praecepti, istud vero voluntatem Decreti... Nam ad seriam Vocationem
non requiritur, ut sit intentio et consilium eum adducendi, sed
tantum ut sit voluntas constans praecipiendi officium, et beneficium
illud facienti conferendi, quod Deus vult maxime serio,"
Inst. Elenct., 15.2.16; Opera, 2:446-47.
111 lnst. Elenct., 15.2.19;
112 "In eo quod tenentur ex
ordine Dei omnes auditores suos promiscue invitare ad resipiscen-tiam
et ad fidem, tanquam unicam salutis viam, et his positis ad salutem;
et quod non aliud intendere debent, quam collectionem Ecclesiae,
seu salutem Electorum," Inst. Elenct., 15.2.22; Opera,
2:448. The English. translation is incomplete here, leaving out
"and, supposing these, to salvation"; see vol. 2:509.
113 "Ministri...nesciunt quorum
saluti cessurum sit ministerium suum, non valentes distinguere
inter Electos et Reprobos, bene ominantes ex charitate de omnibus,
nec audentes judicare de eujusquam reprobatione. Ideo promiscue
et indiscriminatim omnes Vocatos alloquuntur etiam ex ordine Dei,
non aliorum tamen salutem intenendo, quam Electorum ad instar
Dei," Inst. Elenct., 15.2.22; Opera, 2:448.
114 "Euvarestivan contradistincte
ad eujdokivan, ctv in hoc argumento nihil aliud notat quam meram
complacentiam, qua Deus rem aliquam ut justam et sanctam probat
et ea delectatur, eamque propterea vult praecipere Creaturae ut
justissimum ejus officium: Unde non includit proprie decretum
vel volitionem aliquam in Deo, sed tantum importat rei convenientiam
cure Dei natura, juxta quam non potest non amare quod sanctitati
ipsius est consentaneum: Nam approbatio rei alicujus non continuo
est ejus volitio; nec si aliquid probo, idcirco statim id volo.
Ideo minus pro-prie dicitur ista voluntas Dei," Inst.
Elenct., 3.15.11, Opera, 1:201.
115 As asserted by Henry J. Van
Andel, "Common Grace and the Creative Idea," Religion
and Culture 6 (December 1924): 101, cited in Bratt, Dutch
Calvinism in Modern America, 265 n. 20.
116 On van Baalen's involvement
in the common grace controversy see the discussion in Bratt, Dutch
Calvinism in Modern America, 110-13. Van Baalen's defense
of both the well-meant offer and common grace appear in two publications:
De Loochening der Gemeene Gratie; Gereformed of Doopersch?
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans- Sevensma, 1922) and Nieuwigheid
en Dwaling: De Loochening der Gemeene Gratie (Grand Rapids:
117 See W. Heyns, Handboek voor
de Catechetiek (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans-Sevensma, n.d.), 144-46.
On the well-meant offer, see idem, Gereformeerde Geloofsleer
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans-Sevensma, 1916), §§ 213, 316-23,
348; English translation, Manual of Reformed Doctrine (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans-Sevensma, 1926).
l18 AC. DeJong, Well-Meant Offer,
119 One substitute motion reads:
That synod, having considered the advice of the pre-advisory
committee with regard to the protests against the conception of
the Brothers Danhof and Hoeksema, which have been submitted to
synod, it now be decided to "step down" from the matter
of common grace, with the earnest admonition that a thorough study
be made of this matter, and that this be done in the spirit of
brotherly love and mutual appreciation of contrary views.
In order that this thorough study be carried out,
it be decided by synod to appoint a committee representing all
sides, in which Revs. Danhof and Hoeksema will have a voice and
that this committee will serve the next synod with clarification
and enlightenment concerning this very important question.
In conclusion, that synod declare that the protesters
(whose good intentions in submitting their protests are appreciated)
be satisfied with this decision and should rest in this decision,
in light of the fact that it is the judgment of synod that the
time is not yet ripe to make a precise declaration concerning
this question which has been placed before synod by the protesters.
(AS 1924, art 124, pp. 143-44, rejected in art. 129, p.
120 See AS 1924, art. 149, pp. 192-99.
Last modified: 30-Jun-2000