If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Jeremiah 7:6-7.
We are interested in only one aspect of this passage from Jeremiah, its conditional character. It is to this conditional structure of the verse that a question sent to us refers: "Are the promises of God always conditional? A brother I am in correspondence with recently wrote to me quoting Jer. 7:6-7 as proof that God makes conditional promises.... [This passage] calls to obedience with attached promises of blessing. The question is, are the promised blessings conditional on obedience?"
In two articles we talked about the character of the promise: what God's promise is; and what is the content of that promise. And we showed that it is impossible to say of that promise that it is conditional when we understand what it truly is.
It is interesting that the Arminians, who troubled the churches in the Netherlands in the latter part of the 15th and early part of the 16th centuries, wanted to make all of salvation conditional. They wanted a conditional promise not only, but they wanted salvation itself, which is, after all, the content of the promise, to be conditional. This was the way in which the Arminians chose to defend their free will doctrine which made salvation dependent upon man's choice.
In the Canons of Dort the fathers at the Synod of Dort condemned any such conditional view of salvation. To quote a few pertinent parts will illustrate this clearly.
The Canons refuse to make election, upon which salvation is founded, conditional: "This election was not founded upon foreseen faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the pre-requisite, cause or condition on which it depended. . ." (I, 10).
The fathers at Dort condemn the errors of those who teach that "The good pleasure and purpose of God, of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election . . . consists in this that he chose out of all possible conditions . . . the act of faith . . . as well as its incomplete obedience as a condition of salvation, and that he would graciously consider this in itself as a complete obedience and count it worthy of the reward of eternal life..." (I, B, 3).
Speaking of the atonement of Christ which the Canons affirm was only for Christ's sheep, the Canons reject the errors of those who teach that "Christ by his satisfaction merited neither salvation itself for anyone, nor faith, whereby this satisfaction of Christ unto salvation is effectually appropriated; but that he merited for the Father only the authority of the perfect will to deal again with man, and to prescribe new conditions that he might desire, obedience to which, however, depended on the free will of man, so that it therefore might have come to pass that either none or all should fulfill these conditions..." (II, B. 3).
Other articles could be quoted, but these are sufficient for our purposes.
The fathers at Dort were frightened at the thought of a conditional salvation in any sense of the word. The simple fact is that the word "condition" is not found in our Reformed creeds at all as part of the positive confession of the truth. It is only found in the negative section of the Canons where the errors of the Arminians are condemned.
This ought to give us pause. The Arminians were the ones who spoke so glibly of conditions. They insisted on the term and, indeed, had to insist on it because it was completely bound up in their theology which made all salvation depend on man's choice of the will. But such error is condemned severely by the fathers of Dort who do not hesitate to say that salvation dependent upon the will of man is the old Pelagian heresy resurrected out of hell.
If there is no room for this term in our confessions, why ought we to insist on using it? At the very least, it is an unconfessional term; and at worst, it carries with it all the connotations of Arminian free-willism.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 6
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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