“For egalitarians there is no place in the mind or heart of God for distinctive loves.”

September 4, 2012

A Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 2G

David L. Allen

Matthew Barrett and Thomas Nettles, eds. Whomever He Wills: a Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012), 401 pgs.

 

3. The Universal Impact of Definite Atonement.

Schrock’s final section addresses three vital subjects in the discussion: 1) the universal love of God, 2) the universal language of Scripture, and 3) the universal offer of the gospel (105-18).

Unfortunately, problems abound in this section as well. Schrock states that I equate God’s love with his universal will to save all people. I do indeed. In fact, so does Reformed orthodoxy. Though I disagree with the notion of God’s two wills (decretal and revealed), this concept is well known in Reformed orthodoxy. In God’s so called “revealed will,” God’s love is indeed a universal saving love (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9, et. al.). Schrock makes another error when he states, “for egalitarians there is no place in the mind or heart of God for distinctive loves.” Since he has already lumped all who reject limited atonement into the egalitarian basket, Schrock’s statement is untrue and misrepresents the beliefs of many of his fellow moderate Calvinists since they do indeed distinguish degrees in God’s love. His statement is even untrue for many non-Calvinists who do the same.

What Schrock writes on pages 108-09 is especially troubling to my spirit. Christians are not saved “because of some insipid universal love; it is because in His grace, God set His love on you before the foundation of the world.” (108). It is the first part of this statement that is so troubling to me. “Insipid universal love”? My heart sinks just reading it. Place that comment alongside John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Schrock then continues, Christ “does not throw the pearls of His sacrificial love at those from whom He does not expect, yes even engender, a return of love” (109). Pause and reflect on that statement. With echoes from Jesus’ statement “Do not cast your pearls before swine” Schrock applies the analogy to the non-elect. From these non-elect, Jesus neither “expects” a love response nor, in good Calvinist fashion, does He “engender” such a response within them. Schrock notes that Christ pursues His bride so that she “can experience the fullness of His love” (Ibid.). He then states: “This is far different from saying that God loves all, unconditionally, without exception” (Ibid.). Sadly, it certainly is. To top it all off, Schrock makes a direct statement to anyone who is an unbeliever: “Maybe today, you are reading this but don’t know Christ: let all the kindnesses that God has given you – your gifts, joys, family, children, your very own life – and the promise of everlasting love lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4); trust in His Son and then you can experience the personal love of which Paul speaks” (Ibid.).

For all the hue and cry made over the use and misuse of altar calls by some Calvinists, may I be permitted to reciprocate here and express my deepest concern about this statement in the sharpest of language. Such a message to the unsaved is bereft of the love of God and is virtually bankrupt. Look at it. Is it only the “kindness” of God that is designed to lead us to repentance? Is it only the “promise” of some vague everlasting love offered to the unsaved? This is not only bad theology, it is bad Reformed theology. It borders on, if it is not outright, hyper-Calvinism.

It reduces the gospel message to bare statements about facts and conditional statements, in which God’s own compassion and willingness that the unsaved be converted is entirely absent from the appeal. Can Schrock not even find it within himself to say to the unsaved “Jesus loves you!” or desires them all to be saved? The love of Christ for the unsaved has been shorn of its passion, and in its place comes an insipid, even embarrassing appeal to the unsaved. God may love you; you will only know for sure if you believe. I’ll bet Schrock was not converted under the preaching and teaching of such a limp expression of God’s love for him. This portion of Schrock’s chapter is disappointing beyond words, and illustrates why the discussion of this issue in the Southern Baptist Convention is so vital at this time. I hope this is not the direction we are headed. This is one of the reasons why I concluded my chapter in Whosoever with the statement: “Should the Southern Baptist Convention move toward ‘five-point’ Calvinism, such a move would be away from and not toward the gospel” (107). Limited atonement brings with it other errors into the church, both theological and practical. I believe Schrock’s brand of Calvinism is seriously problematic on the question of the love of God and the extent of the atonement.

 

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available

Steve Martin

I’m not one, but if I were a Baptist I would definitely not move towards the Calvinistic doctrines. They are unbiblical and are dictated by ‘reason’.

The doctrine of “free-will” has the same problems. I would jettison that view, as well, and move toward a a doctrine of ‘the will’ that is more in line with how the Scriptures view the human will.

You’ll get a God who loves and died for all, but people who continually reject that message, and a God who out of His sheer grace and mercy gives the gift of faith to those who do hear the gospel.

Why do some hear it (the gospel) and others do not?

That is a question that cannot be answered by us.

Thanks.

    Robin Foster

    Steve

    I believe that is a correct assessment if we try to answer that question. We cannot answer that question and I don’t believe that God wants us to answer that question because then our outreach will be focused more on our ability to win converts by that answer than God being the soul author of salvation. Our only response to God and salvation is to proclaim it to others and let God do His part.

      Steve Martin

      Amen.

      I think you have it exactly right, Mr. Foster.

      Proclaim the law and the gospel and let the Holy Spirit create faith when and where He will.

Robert

Hello Steve,

You wrote:

“I’m not one, but if I were a Baptist I would definitely not move towards the Calvinistic doctrines. They are unbiblical and are dictated by ‘reason’.”

You are correct that calvinistic doctrines are “dictated by reason”. Theological determinists that are calvinists begin with the presupposition/premise/starting point that God has predestined everything from this premise they then infer all of their doctrinal beliefs.

You then wrote:

“The doctrine of “free-will” has the same problems. I would jettison that view, as well, and move toward a a doctrine of ‘the will’ that is more in line with how the Scriptures view the human will.”

You have repeatedly taken shots at free will. In the past I took the time to directly deal with you on this subject and you ignored my comments. Now you bring up your beef with free will yet again.

Free will is much different than unconditional election and other calvinistic doctrines in that all of us have experienced and continue to experience free will as ordinarily understood every day.

Every time we speak we are inescapeably involved in having and making choices (e.g we choose which language we will speak in if we know several, I could be writing in German now if I chose to do so, but I choose to write in English here as it is the shared language here, we choose what words we will use or will not use, we choose what arguments we will use, we choose what illustrations we will use, we choose which bible verses we will refer to, and on and on and on). You can only “jettizon that view” (i.e. the ordinary view of free will that we sometimes have and make our own choices) if you jettizon reality and are in denial of your own daily experienced reality. That is a big reason why people will not give up their belief in free will unless indoctrinated into some version of determinism. The ordinary view of free will is the default position of all of us unless we are indoctrinated away from it.

If you observe professing theological determinists (including both calvinists and Lutherans) carefully you will see they also cannot escape the reality of free will either (you see it in their actions and hear it in their words, they talk to their spouses and children and speak of real genuine choices their spouses and children have JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE!!!).

“You’ll get a God who loves and died for all, but people who continually reject that message, and a God who out of His sheer grace and mercy gives the gift of faith to those who do hear the gospel.”

A God who loves and died for all? Check, that is biblical.

People continually reject that message, or better yet, freely choose to reject that message? Check, we see that both in scripture and in our own daily experience.

A God who out of His sheer grace and mercy (and don’t forget love) provides Jesus as an atonement for all and sends the Holy Spirit to work in people’s hearts to enable (but not necessitate) a freely chosen response to the gospel message and saves those who choose to trust Him alone for salvation? Check.

A theology that claims that God gives the gift of faith only to those preselected to be saved?

No, that is calvinism and Lutheranism. It is those two groups that believe in unconditional election in regards to believers (i.e. that God gives the gift of faith only to those preselected to reveive it). The difference between the two is that while both affirm unconditional election of the elect, the Lutherans deny unconditional election of the damned and affirm unlimited atonement. Lutherans are in fact inconsistent determinists. They will affirm determinism at times and also speak against determinism at other times (but if you look at Luther Himself he was a thoroughgoing determinist who was extremely inconsistent, if he had been consistent with his own comments about the predestination of all events he would have had to affirm unconditional reprobation as well).

Steve then asked a question:

“Why do some hear it (the gospel) and others do not?
That is a question that cannot be answered by us.”

It may be true that in some cases we do not know why some hear the gospel and others do not. But it is also true that the bible sometimes discusses this very issue (e.g. the parable of the sower provides a few reasons why some reject).

Also consider what the apostle Paul said for example about the first century Jewish people who were unbelievers in Romans 10. Paul does not say they never heard the gospel or that they did not understand it. No, he says they both heard and understood it. But they freely chose to reject it he says because they desired to obtain their own righteousness by their own keeping of the Jewish law rather than obtaining the righteousness of God apart from the law that comes through faith in Christ. Paul never says in Romans 10 that some of the first century Jews did not hear the gospel while others did hear it. No, he says these unbelieving Jews heard it and understood it, they just preferred their own righteouness through the law over the righteousness of God apart from the law. He also says in Romans 11 if these unbelieving Jews repent of their unbelief, and turn to Christ in faith they will be saved, these broken off branches will be restored to the tree.

Robert

    Sam

    Robert the Baptist writes to Steve the Lutheran:

    “You have repeatedly taken shots at free will. In the past I took the time to directly deal with you on this subject and you ignored my comments. Now you bring up your beef with free will yet again.”

    Robert, I’m surprised that you show surprise that the things you wrote would not have changed Steve’s views on Freewill. After all, you have really written nothing on the subject compared to Martin Luther himself. So why would what you say have an impact on a Lutheran? It is quite likely that everything you have ever written on the subject of freewill has been discussed and responded to quite brilliantly in his masterpiece, Bondage of the Will.

Steve Martin

Robert,

We have “free-will” with respect to what we do here on earth. The choices that we make in everyday life. I have free-will in quotes, above, because even those choices are not totally free and there are many factors outside of our control that have influenced our choices, often without our realizing it.

But when it comes to choosing the things of God, the Scriptures make it more than clear that we do not have “free-will”, and that our wills are bound…to sin.

In Romans St. Paul does speak about predestination and election…it’s right there in front of us. So God does of course, in some way choose (elect) whom He will. But we don’t know who or why. We do know that He uses the gospel. And that the gospel is meant for those who hear it. (when I say that I mean those who REALLY hear it – realizing that many listen…but they do not hear).

Here’s the Lutheran doctrine on it:

When we believe, God gets all the credit. 100%.

When we don’t believe, we get all the blame.

We believe this is biblical. It is different from Calvinism which credits God for determining ahead of time that certain people will go to hell (double-predestination). And it is different than “free-will” theology, which states that there is some little spark of goodness in us that is capable of making the correct choice about God…even though St. Paul says that “no one seeks for God”, and even though the gospel of John tells us quite plainly that “we are not born of the will…but of God”. And Jesus also says it many times (to Peter and Nicodemus, for example).

Anywho, I appreciate your comments and questions and enjoy discussing these important issues with you, Robert.

Thanks!

    Robert

    Hello Steve,

    Looks like we are making progress, you openly admit that free will as ordinarily understood by the vast amount of people does in fact exist as you openly acknowledge:

    “We have “free-will” with respect to what we do here on earth. The choices that we make in everyday life. I have free-will in quotes, above, because even those choices are not totally free and there are many factors outside of our control that have influenced our choices, often without our realizing it.”

    I define free will simply as the fact that we sometimes have and make our own choices. Note that I say **sometimes**. From your words you agree with my simple definition here.

    I also make a distinction between the capacity for free will and the range of choices that a person has. Every human person has this capacity to have and make our own choices, so everyone has this capacity. We have to have it as God designed us to be that way. On the other hand, our range of choices is limited and may fluctuate. I like to use the example of Donald Trump and me when it comes to purchasing things. He has a much larger range of choices when it comes to buying things than I do. He can buy million dollar buildings, I cannot. We both have free will (meaning we both at times have and make our own choices), but our range of choices is different when it comes to buying things.

    In a similar way, due to the effects of sin, the nonbeliever retains the capacity for free will, but until the Holy Spirit works in a person, they cannot have a faith response to the gospel. So the nonbeliever apart from the work of the Spirit does not have the choice to have faith. The Holy Sprit is the ultimate “game changer” when it comes to human persons.The nonbeliever has a limited range of choices that does not include a faith response to the gospel. UNLESS the Spirit works in that person, then things change and his range of choices changes.

    Apparently Steve you make the same distinction as you grant that people have free will with ordinary choices (“We have “free-will” with respect to what we do here on earth. The choices that we make in everyday life”) but then when it comes to spiritual things people’s range of choices is different:

    “But when it comes to choosing the things of God, the Scriptures make it more than clear that we do not have “free-will”, and that our wills are bound…to sin.”

    A major problem that I have with theological determinsts/calvinists, those who take an extreme position regarding depravity. Is that they conceive it in such a way that the unbeliever is completely incapable of having a faith response under any circumstances. So they then in addition argue that the person must be regenerated first in order to have a faith response to the gospel. Besides not being taught in scripture, this extreme conception of depravity *****leaves out, neglects, minimizes***** the preconversion work of the Spirit. It is true that apart from the Spirit we cannot have faith. But once the Spirit works in someone they are enabled to have a faith response to the gospel.

    “Here’s the Lutheran doctrine on it:

    When we believe, God gets all the credit. 100%.

    When we don’t believe, we get all the blame.”

    I agree with this slogan as it stands. If we believe it is only because the Spirit has enabled us to believe. And our belief/faith is not what saves us, it is the actions of God alone that save us. If a person does not believe, they should get the blame because they have resisted the work of the Spirit. When the Word goes out the Spirit always works in conjunction with it. If a person hears the word, is given understanding of it, given understanding of their spiritual condition, need for Christ, need for repentance, etc. etc. (all things the Spirit reveals ot a person): and then chooses to reject the light they are given. Then they alone bear responsibility for their unbelief.

    “We believe this is biblical. It is different from Calvinism which credits God for determining ahead of time that certain people will go to hell (double-predestination). And it is different than “free-will” theology, which states that there is some little spark of goodness in us that is capable of making the correct choice about God…even though St. Paul says that “no one seeks for God”, and even though the gospel of John tells us quite plainly that “we are not born of the will…but of God”. And Jesus also says it many times (to Peter and Nicodemus, for example).”

    Steve you present what in logic is called a false dilemma here.

    You correctly present calvinism as believing in unconditional election of both the saved and the lost (double predestination).

    But then you present/misrepresent the non-calvinist person who believes in free will as:

    “And it is different than “free-will” theology, which states that there is some little spark of goodness in us that is capable of making the correct choice about God.”

    I will say it again, apart from the work of the Spirit; no one can have a faith response in the gospel.

    It is only when the Spirit works in a person that they are enabled to have faith.

    To use your words, they are only “capable of making the correct choice about God” AFTER THE SPIRIT HAS ENABLED THEM TO DO SO. So it is not like they have what you refer to as “some little spark of goodness” in them. Instead it is only the preconversion work of the Spirit that enables a faith response. I do a lot of evangelism and my confidence is not in human persons, not in some sort of “little spark of goodness in us”. No, my confidence is in the Holy Spirit who can open any heart and soften the hardest hearts.

    Question for you Steve: do you believe that the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit is enough to enable a sinner to have faith response in the gospel?

    Robert

Robert

Hello Dr. Allen,

You wrote:

“What Schrock writes on pages 108-09 is especially troubling to my spirit. Christians are not saved “because of some insipid universal love; it is because in His grace, God set His love on you before the foundation of the world.” (108). It is the first part of this statement that is so troubling to me. “Insipid universal love”? My heart sinks just reading it. Place that comment alongside John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.””

That summarizes a major problem with calvin-***ism*** very well.

Because of commitment to a man made deterministic theological system, professing Christians end up attacking the love and character of God.

I expect non-Christian cultists to mis-interpret, reinterpret and attack the truth, but it seems worse and more grievesome coming from those who profess to be His people!
That statement “because of some insipid universal love” actually outright ridicules God and one of the most precious bible verses that we have.

It is this kind of thing that ought motivate people to oppose calvin-ism.

I used to do a lot of work with non-Christian cultists, even knew the late Walter Martin. I expect attacks of the truth and scripture from them, when it comes “from the inside”, it reminds me of why I sometimes characterize calvinism as like a Trojan horse within the walls of the church. The non-Christian cults are obviously opposing the truth, but when a professing Christian does it the error is much more subtle and devastating.

Dr. Allen you also wrote:

“Schrock then continues, Christ “does not throw the pearls of His sacrificial love at those from whom He does not expect, yes even engender, a return of love” (109). Pause and reflect on that statement. With echoes from Jesus’ statement “Do not cast your pearls before swine” Schrock applies the analogy to the non-elect. From these non-elect, Jesus neither “expects” a love response nor, in good Calvinist fashion, does He “engender” such a response within them.”

Believe it or not, the casting pearls before swine comment is also a favorite among non-Christian cultists. They view their false teaching and writings as the pearl, while true Christians are seen as those who are the pigs!

And calvinists do the same thing: their deterministic system become the “pearl” in their minds while non-Calvinists become the pigs who reject the “truth of calvinism.”

It is interesting that Schrock makes the reprobates the pigs in his thinking. In context properly interpreted, Jesus was speaking to his disciples about the gospel. It is the gospel that is the pearl, and it is places and people who have heard the gospel and then rejected it, that are the pigs. But according to Jesus you knew precisely who the “pigs” were (i.e. those who heard the gospel and rejected it). Jesus’ point to his disciples is made in another place were they were told that they were to dust the feet off and go to another place to preach the gospel. So the pattern was this: preach the gospel to all people (because God desires the salvation of all and out of His love sent Jesus to die for all). If they then reject the gospel, don’t keep pushing it at them, as they will only become angry and turn on you like a pig with the pearl.

Schrock writes as if the nonbelievers are pigs ****before they even hear and reject**** the message.

That is not at all what Jesus was saying. People become pigs only when they reject the gospel. One has to really wonder about someone like Schrock when it comes to evangelism because he believes those chosen for damnation are pigs before you ever speak to them! This way of thinking is really twisted and unbiblical. And yet it is completely to be expected from those who reject the truth of scripture preferring instead allegiance to their deterministic theology.

Schrock’s misinterpretation of the passage also leads to an interesting question: if the pigs are the reprobates, to whom we should not be casting the pearl of the gospel, how will we know that people are reprobates/pigs BEFORE WE HAVE EVEN SEEN THEIR RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL?????

And furthermore: how will we know not to be casting our pearls before them if we don’t know who is and who is not a reprobate?????

In the bible you know the pigs only after they have rejected the gospel message.

In the thinking of Schrock most of the human race are already pigs before they even hear the gospel.

How twisted does it get?

Robert

Sam

Mr. Allen,

Do you not think that God had a “distinctive love” for Israel in the Old Testament which was above and beyond that of the Gentiles?

David L. Allen

Sam,

I would say yes, that is true. Particularly with respect to his choice of the nation to be his special instrument to the world. I’m not sure how much we should infer from this when it comes to individuals. It is difficult to extrapolate the distinctions in human love and then project that on God since he is so far above and beyond us. But I am not opposed to the point; I just think we should be careful here.

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available