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