Gaining a Fuller Understanding / David Allen, Ph.D.

April 24, 2014

Responding to Dr. Michael Haykin*

by Dr. David L. Allen
Dean of the School of Theology
Professor of Preaching
Director of the Center for Expository Preaching
George W. Truett Chair of Pastoral Ministry
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

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I have enjoyed reading Dr. Caner’s 3 part series on “Historical Southern Baptist Soteriology” at SBCToday and Dr. Haykin’s brief response which is posted at Andrewfullercenter.org. Both have helped me to understand the issues better.

Since I, too, have written on Fuller’s shift in his position on the extent of the atonement,1 I would like to make a few important points concerning what Dr. Haykin is claiming concerning Dr. Caner’s section on Fuller in Part Two of his post with respect to the extent of the atonement.

First, Caner is not suggesting that Fuller somehow cannot be considered to be a Calvinist. It is clear Fuller was Calvinistic and Caner knows this quite well. His point is that Fuller shifted on some of his viewpoints concerning Calvinistic soteriology, notably on the question of the extent of the atonement.**

Second, the concept of “Particular Redemption” (Limited Atonement) needs to be carefully explained. At its heart, Particular Redemption means that Christ only died for, substituted for, the sins of the elect on the cross. This was Fuller’s original position in the first edition of his Gospel Worthy. However, as Morden, Caner, and I, among others, have pointed out, Fuller shifted from this position after his debates with the General Baptist Dan Taylor. Hence, in the 1801 2nd edition of Gospel Worthy, Fuller revised the section on Particular Redemption to reflect that he now believed Christ substituted for the sins of all the world, not just the elect. I own both of these works and have compared them carefully. The section on particular redemption in the 1st edition is almost completely rewritten in the 2nd edition.2 All references to particular redemption in the sense that Christ suffered only for the sins of the elect are excised by Fuller. This marks a significant shift.

Third, additional proof of Fuller’s shift on the extent of the atonement can be found in his Reply to Philanthropos, where he admitted he had been mistaken about the terms “ransom” and “propitiation” being applied only to those who were among the elect. Now these terms were “applicable to all mankind in general . . . ,” an admission which clearly shows Fuller had abandoned limited substitution/atonement.3

Fourth, Fuller became convinced that there could be no grounds for the universal offer of the gospel apart from a universal satisfaction (provision) for sins. This is the position that all moderate Calvinists and non-Calvinists have been pressing on their high-Calvinist brothers for centuries. If limited atonement is true, there is no provision at all for the non-elect in the death of Christ. Fuller felt the brunt of this argument and could not answer it. He later confessed in 1803: “I tried to answer my opponent . . . but I could not. I found not merely his reasonings, but the Scriptures themselves, standing in my way.”4

Fifth, as a Calvinist, Fuller’s concept of redemption was still “particular” in the sense that the particularity was now located not in the extent of the atonement, but in the design and application of the atonement. As a Calvinist, Fuller believed the elect were determined in the elective purpose of God in eternity past. Thus, for Fuller, it was only God’s intent that the elect be saved. Many Calvinists and non-Calvinists become confused at this point when they don’t distinguish notions of intent and extent in discussions of the nature of the atonement.

Sixth, Haykin is partially correct that the situation with Fuller is “far more complex than a simple adoption of ‘general atonement.’” Haykin notes how Morden interprets Fuller’s view of Christ’s death as “being unlimited in provision, but by design limited in its application, which is the classic view of the Synod of Dort: sufficient for all, but efficacious for the elect.” Notice several things about this statement.

1)  Haykin does not state any disagreement with Morden’s interpretation of Fuller’s view. If he does not disagree with Morden, then he cannot disagree with Caner on this point, since Caner is merely affirming Morden’s interpretation. Either Caner, Morden, and I are correct on this specific point, or we are not. Either Christ’s death is an unlimited provision for all sins, or it is not.

2) Haykin’s point about Dort needs refinement. The Dortian delegates vigorously debated the question of the extent of the atonement such that the final canon on this point was written with enough ambiguity that all delegates could sign: those who believed in a limited provision for sin in Christ’s death and those like Davenant and the English delegation who believed in an unlimited provision for sin in Christ’s death.

3) Haykin refers to the classic view of Dort as sufficient for all, but efficacious for the elect. But again, nuance is needed here. The delegates debated the meaning of “sufficiency” in the Lombardian formula. Some understood “sufficiency” to mean it was sufficient only in its value, such that, had God intended for the atonement to be a provision for the sins of all, it could have been. Others interpreted “sufficiency” to mean an actual sufficiency, such that the atonement actually was a provision for the sins of all people (unlimited in its extent.)

Seventh, this theological issue is of immense importance for evangelism and preaching. The death of Christ for the sins of all people and not just the elect becomes the ground for the indiscriminate preaching of the gospel to the whole world. The reason is simple: How can an atonement be offered to the whole world, some of whom are non-elect in a Calvinist soteriology, when there is nothing to offer them? No atonement exists for the non-elect. If someone is not “saveable,” neither is he “offerable.”

Eighth, thus, Caner has not “misread” Fuller on this issue.


[1] See David L. Allen, “Preaching for a Great Commission Resurgence” in Great Commission Resurgence (Nashville, B&H Academic, 2010), 291-296.
[2] See Gospel Worthy, 1st ed., 132–39 and Gospel Worthy, in Fuller’s Works, II, 373–75.
[3] See Reply to Philanthropos, in Fuller’s Works, II, 496, and 550.
[4] Six Letters to Dr. Ryland Respecting the Controversy with the Rev. A. Booth, in Fuller’s Works, II, 709–10.

===================================================================
* Dr. Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at SBTS.

**Of significant import to this article’s topic is a 3-part post from Dr. Allen titled:
“On the Insufficiency of the Notion of Sufficiency Among Some Calvinists, parts 1-3”
part 1
http://bit.ly/1jQsNiD
part 2
http://bit.ly/QzpCmY
part 3
http://bit.ly/1igGvss

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Tim Rogers

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for engaging Dr. Haykin’s response to Dr. Caner. After reading Dr. Haykin I really did not see Dr. Hayden engage anything Dr. Emir addressed. It seem the only thing Dr. Haykin said was that Dr. Caner “misread” Fuller.

What really hits home for me in Dr.Haykin’s critic of Dr. Caner is his seemingly position that Fuller never abandoned “particular atonement” but employed “governmental language” of Jonathan Edwards. So, we are to understand that Fuller engaged in “double-speak”. Does Dr. Haykin really believe this strengthens his position? One does not abandon one’s thinking just use different language to make it more palatable to those who read you.

I especially appreciate your last point.

Ron F. Hale

Dr. Allen … Recently I read the fine work of Bart D. Box entitled The Atonement in the Thought of Andrew Fuller. His work agrees with you (and Dr. Caner) and the points that you are making in your great paper that Fuller matured and modified his understanding of the atonement and a significant evolution took place over the course of his ministry—especially when you compare the GWAA (1785) with his GWAA (1801). We find in Fuller … how he learned to maintain both sides of divine sovereignty and human responsibility and how Fuller’s later writings expressed his theology of the cross in significantly different terms. This difference provided a “breakthrough” and the theological foundation for a missions movement. With your work joining the works of Dr. Caner–I do see a “Fuller” understanding of this great Baptist leader!

    Jason Sampler

    Ron,

    I commend you for reading Bart’s dissertation. It is a very good work, one of the best dissertations that I recall reading. And while his conclusion is that Fuller’s atonement underwent a shift (which no one is arguing against), the implication your post leaves the reader (or at least me) is that you understand Bart to believe Caner understands Fuller better than Haykin. If that was not your intent, then please forgive my error. If it was your intent, then let me please point out that such an implication couldn’t be further from the truth. I know this for many reasons: 1. I have known the author of that dissertation for 14 years and we shared many Ph.D. seminars together. This relationship gives me (what I would argue) greater insight into authorial intent than a casual reader. 2. I assisted in the editing process of that dissertation multiple times before it went to publication. Therefore, I read it 2-3 times, with a careful eye to content, argumentation, grammar, and meaning. In none of those readings did I ever get the inference that Bart would have sided with Caner’s interpretation. Even texting with him even this morning no such intent was conveyed. 3. If memory serves me correctly, Haykin was Bart’s 3d dissertation committee member. To suppose that Haykin, or any faculty member for that matter, would approve a dissertation that he found to contain content error(s) is inconceivable.

      Ron F. Hale

      Jason,
      Thank you for your response to my comment concerning Dr. Allen’s fine article. Also, I will agree with you that Dr. Box wrote a great dissertation (as I earlier noted) and I am happy to have read it and studied it. My comment alluded to Drs. Allen and Caner. Somehow you have zeroed in only on Dr. Caner in your reply to me. From reading all three men mentioned—it is my assumption that they would agree that Andrew Fuller made a significant shift in his ministry from high Calvinism to a moderate Calvinism. It is also my assumption that all three men (Allen, Box, and Caner) would see that Fuller came to believe that it was the duty of all sinners to believe the Gospel. Last, that Fuller came to believe that Gospel preachers should make every effort to offer the Gospel to all people. However, I am open for correction.

      Since this thread pertains to Dr. Allen’s response to Dr. Haykin, I would also be interested in your assessment of Dr. Allen’s key points. Blessings!

Rick Patrick

Dr. Allen,

Thank you for helping me grasp a “Fuller” understanding of these issues. Your statement, “Many Calvinists and non-Calvinists become confused at this point when they don’t distinguish notions of intent and extent in discussions of the nature of the atonement.” Because these concepts are so confusing, using the four words “intent, extent, sufficient and efficient” in a properly worded sentence or paragraph would be very helpful to me. How close is the following?

Since God desires the salvation of all, we can say that He (1) *extends* the atonement to cover the sins of all, (2) *intends* the atonement to cover the sins of all, while knowing that He will not see His true desire fulfilled since this atonement will be freely rejected by many, (3) offers an atonement *sufficient* to provide for the sins of all, and (4) offers an atonement *efficient* in actually providing for the sins of all, while knowing that His efficient sacrifice will nevertheless be freely rejected by many.

In other words, the sacrifice itself, the atonement of Christ itself, is still efficient as long as it truly pays for every man’s sin. For the lost person, the atonement of Christ itself is perfectly efficient. The reason it is not *salvific* in that man’s life is not due to an inefficient atonement by Christ but rather an inefficient acceptance by man.

    Robert

    Hello Rick,

    I appreciated your attempt at giving a statement that included the four terms. However I disagree with the wording that you give, which was:

    “Since God desires the salvation of all, we can say that He (1) *extends* the atonement to cover the sins of all, (2) *intends* the atonement to cover the sins of all, while knowing that He will not see His true desire fulfilled since this atonement will be freely rejected by many, (3) offers an atonement *sufficient* to provide for the sins of all, and (4) offers an atonement *efficient* in actually providing for the sins of all, while knowing that His efficient sacrifice will nevertheless be freely rejected by many.”

    I am always thinking of the atonement in line with its two elements (the provisional element which speaks of how it was given for all: and the applicational element which speaks of how it is only applied to believers).

    Your (1) is correct as it is true because the provisional element of the atonement *is* universal (i.e. it is “extended” for all)
    .
    (2) is mistaken because in God’s plan God intends that the atonement only covers the sin of those who have faith (it does not cover the sins of unbelievers). Recall that God’s plan is an atonement that is provided for all but applied only to believers.
    It is not applied to all or universalism would be true.

    You bring in the idea that some will reject the atonement of Christ. But this rejection does not go to God’s planning (he plans to provide it for all and at the same time plans to apply it only to believers).

    Compare this with the snake on the pole story which Jesus himself cited as parallel to his atonement on the cross. That snake on the pole was provided as a way of deliverance for all of the Israelites: yet at the same time, it only delivered those who looked up at it in faith. God designed it that way, so that while it was provided for all of them, it would only deliver those who had faith. Likewise, the cross of Jesus was provided as a way of deliverance for all and yet at the same time it only delivers those who respond with faith. It appears that God designed these events so that while they could deliver everyone: in fact they deliver only those who have faith. Those who do not have faith were not delivered by looking up at the pole and are not delivered by looking up at Jesus on the cross.

    (3) is correct, the cross is sufficient for all.

    Here we could talk about the sufficient/efficient distinction. While the cross is sufficient for all, it is only efficient (i.e. only applied to) believers.

    (4) is a little confusing because it is true that it was “efficient” in regards to its provisional element (i.e. it was efficient as a provision for all). But the “efficient” language is not meant in reference to the provisional element of the atonement but to the applicational element of the atonement.
    Another way of talking about it is by means of “possibility versus actuality” language. The cross had the potential to save everyone (if everyone responded in faith all would be saved by it). But with regards to who is actually saved it is only those who do in fact respond in faith. So the cross had the potential to save all (cf. “sufficient for all”) but in actuality only saves those who have faith (cf. “efficient only for some”).

    I believe that some are unduly influenced by Calvinist arguments (especially the owenesque variety) so they feel compelled to speak of the atonement being efficient or “successful” that God does not fail in any regards concerning the atonement. But a simple way to avoid all of this is to keep focused on the fact that the atonement is part of God’s plan of salvation. According to this plan, God provides an atonement that is for all people and capable of saving all people. And yet while it is capable of saving all people, since it is only applied to believers it only does in fact save believers (i.e. so it is only efficient for believers in its application).

    Or put another way, the “sufficiency language” is in reference to the provisional element of the atonement. And the “efficiency language” is in reference to the applicational element of the atonement. So God’s plan in regards to the atonement is successful (in its provisional element it is successful as it is provided for all: in its applicational element it is successful as it is applied only to those whom God intends to save by means of it, believers, those who respond in faith).

    Rick you said towards the end of your post: “For the lost person, the atonement of Christ itself is perfectly efficient.”

    If you spoke in terms of the provisional and applicational elements you would avoid confusing statements like this one. For the lost person in regard to the provisional element, it was provided for them (as it is provided for all). At the same time in regards to the applicational element, it is not efficient for the lost person as it is not applied to them. If it were applied to them they would be saved. As unsaved persons, it is not applied to them. God provided the atonement for all, but He applies it only to those with faith.

    Robert

David L. Allen

Rick,

Let me respond to your question by making 3 major points.

First, I think Robert’s response to you is correct.

Second, here is what I mean by the terms:

1) Extent – this answers the question “For whose sins did Christ die?” There are only two options: 1) for the elect alone (Limited Atonement), 2) for all of humanity.

2) Intent – this answers the question “what was God’s saving purpose in the atonement?” How one answers this question relates to their perspective on election.

High Calvinists believe Christ only intended to save the elect (Limited saving intent.)

Moderate Calvinists, i.e., those who reject a strictly limited atonement, believe God’s saving intent and design in the atonement was dualistic: 1) God sent Christ for the salvation of all humanity so that His death paid the penalty for their sins, 2) Christ died with the special intent and purpose of ultimately securing only the salvation of the elect.

Non-Calvinists believe Christ has an equal intent or will to save all through the death of
Christ.

Two questions are important at this point.

1. Does God desire the salvation of every person?
2. Does God’s desire/intent have a bearing upon the extent of Christ’s atonement?

Orthodox Calvinism teaches that God desires the salvation of every person. Anyone who denies God’s universal saving desire is a hyper-Calvinist. All hyper-Calvinists and high-Calvinists argue that God’s limited saving intent necessarily requires (entails) that Christ provided a satisfaction only for the elect and thus to secure salvation only for the elect.

All moderate Calvinists believe that Christ’s limited saving intent (for the elect only) does not require (entail) that his death be for the sins of the elect only.

All non-Calvinists (those who affirm eternal security) believe that God’s intent in the atonement is that Christ died for all men equally to make salvation possible for all who believe, as well as secure the salvation of those who do believe (the elect).

3) Application – answers the question “to whom and when is the atonement applied to the sinner?” All agree that the atonement is only applied to those who believe. As to when it is applied, there are three possible answers.

1. It is applied in the eternal decree of God. This is the view of many hyper-Calvinists.
2. It is applied at the cross to all the elect at the time of Jesus’ death. This is called “justification at the cross” and is the position of some hyper-Calvinists and some high Calvinists.
3. It is applied at the moment the sinner exercises faith in Christ. This is the biblical view and is held by most high Calvinists, all moderate Calvinists, and all non-Calvinists.

4) Sufficiency –

1. When used by those who affirm limited atonement, it means that the death of Christ “could have been” sufficient or able to atone for all the sins of the world if God had intended for it to do so. However, since they think God did not intend for the death of Christ to satisfy for all, but only for the elect, it is not actually sufficient or able to save any others. This is a sufficiency of value or worth, but not an actual saving sufficiency.

2. When used by moderate Calvinists and non-Calvinists, it means that the death of Christ is of such a nature that it is, in fact, a satisfaction for the sins of all humanity, and hence actually, not hypothetically sufficient. Therefore, if any person perishes, it is not for lack of an atonement for his sins. (See Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:556-57.)

Third, here is how I would word a statement incorporating these terms:

God desires/intends the salvation of all people. Thus, Christ’s atonement is made for the sins of all people in terms of its extent. This atonement is sufficient for the sins of all people since it is actually the case that Christ has substituted for the sins of all people. The atonement itself, however, is only efficient (applied) to those who believe (since God has Himself placed a condition on salvation: repentance and faith).

David L. Allen

    Rick Patrick

    Thank you so much for clarifying the terminology and positions here, and for incorporating these terms in your beautifully worded statement.

    Robert

    Hello Dr. Allen,

    I reread your post and there is a section that the more I think about it, the more I am concerned about what you said here.

    You had stated:

    “:1. Does God desire the salvation of every person?”

    Then you elaborated on this question and wrote:

    “Orthodox Calvinism teaches that God desires the salvation of every person. Anyone who denies God’s universal saving desire is a hyper-Calvinist. All hyper-Calvinists and high-Calvinists argue that God’s limited saving intent necessarily requires (entails) that Christ provided a satisfaction only for the elect and thus to secure salvation only for the elect.”

    Two concerns here.

    First, you state in the second line here that hyper-Calvinists/high-Calvinists argue that Christ provided satisfaction *only* for the elect. It is my understanding that the reason they believe this is because God desired to save only the elect therefore the atonement only provides satisfaction for the elect. But if that is true then the first line here is not accurate: “Orthodox Calvinism teaches that God desires the salvation of every person.” High Calvinists are orthodox and if they hold to double predestination then they do not believe that God desires the salvation of every person. Double predestinarians (and this includes Calvin himself, Jonathan Edwards, etc.) believe that God predestined the eternal destinies of *both* the elect and the reprobate. That being so, He did not desire the salvation of every person. Because if He had (and keep in mind they also hold to effectual grace/irresistible grace, the belief that God gives this form of grace to those preselected for salvation, they will with certainty become believers, while effectual grace is withheld from those chosen for reprobation) then they would all have been saved.

    This is why you can find those who advocate universalism (e.g. Thomas Torrance) who combine the Calvinistic concept of effectual grace with the Biblical claim that God desires that all be saved resulting in universalism. For those who hold to effectual grace (and that is not just so-called “hyper-Calvinists”) either God desires the salvation of all and they hold to universalism (again Torrance is the best contemporary example). Or God does not desire the salvation of all and gives effectual grace only to those preselected for salvation/the elect. But if he only desires to save the elect then your statement that: “Orthodox Calvinism teaches that God desires the salvation of every person” is not true. Plenty of orthodox Calvinists including Calvin, Edwards, etc. did not believe that God desires the salvation of every person.

    This can also be seen in those who advocate the “two will theory”. They will say that in God’s revealed will, the Bible, God says He desires the salvation of all. But in his secret or sovereign will, He desires the salvation of only the elect while the reprobate are those He has chosen for damnation. In the two will scheme the sovereign will trumps the revealed will, so if you want to see what God really wants, it is found in His sovereign will. And in that will, He does not desire the salvation of all because if He had, then all would be saved.

    So how does your statement that “Anyone who denies God’s universal saving desire is a hyper-Calvinist” fit with the two will theory and the teachings of Calvin, Edwards, et al who believed that God does not desire the salvation of all people?

    Double predestinarians are quite clear that whom God desires to save He saves (via unconditional election, effectual grace, an “effective limited atonement”). And they are orthodox Calvinists and they don’t believe God desires for all to be saved (this is seen in their double predestination, their limited atonement view and especially in their thinking regarding effectual grace/irresistible grace).

    Second, you appear to be defining hyper Calvinism as those who deny that God desires the salvation of all people. Hyper Calvinism is a term that many Calvinists use to distance themselves from what consistent Calvinism proposes (i.e. double predestination, effectual grace given only to the elect, no plan of salvation for the reprobates/God choosing them for damnation and having no intention of saving them). But consistent Calvinism is not hyper Calvinism (Calvin and Edwards are two very good examples of consistent Calvinism, yet both are double predestinarian, both believed that effectual grace was only given to the elect). Hyper Calvinism is better reserved for those Calvinists who because of their views end up not evangelizing or arguing against evangelism. Calvin and Edwards were consistent Calvinists, believing in double predestination, but they were not against evangelism (e.g. Edwards was involved with evangelism to Indians) they were not hyper Calvinists. Ironically some Calvinists who cannot stomach the implications of their own view (i.e. they deny double predestination) sometimes label those who hold to double predestination as hyper Calvinists (but by that way of thinking, Calvin and Edwards were hyper Calvinists).

    I personally do not like the term hyper Calvinism, I prefer to speak of those who are consistent Calvinists (i.e. who hold double predestination, whose views are very similar to Calvin and Edwards) and those who are not consistent (i.e. they hold to the exhaustive ordination of all events and yet deny double predestination, deny that God only desires to give effectual grace to the preselected elect). For those who are against evangelism, whether Calvinist or not, they are simply disobedient believers rationalizing their lack of evangelism.

    Robert

peterf lumpkins

Dr. Allen,

Your piece is, as I anticipated, powerful.

You write in the next to last paragraph, ‘The death of Christ for the sins of all people and not just the elect becomes the ground for the indiscriminate preaching of the gospel to the whole world. The reason is simple: How can an atonement be offered to the whole world, some of whom are non-elect in a Calvinist soteriology, when there is nothing to offer them? No atonement exists for the non-elect. If someone is not “saveable,” neither is he “offerable.” Granted. However, a standard reply I’ve noted from Reformed brothers who are challenged at this juncture goes something like this:

“But you’ve got to remember that no one knows who the elect people are. Therefore, we are obligated to preach the gospel indiscriminately to all for only God knows the identity of the elect. Even more, Jesus commanded us to preach the gospel to every creature Hence, we must preach the gospel indiscriminately to all peoples of the earth.”

Would you elaborate upon this please?

Lord bless. With that, I am…
Peter

    Robert

    Hello Peter,

    You need to see this “response” for what it is: an attempted rationalization of their view and simultaneously and evasion of the argument via changing the subject.

    The attempted rationalization for the breakdown of their limited atonement thinking is rationalized by pointing out that this should be a nonissue for us as we do not know who is ultimately going to end up elect or reprobate, so we should just evangelize them all. This sounds good as most will agree whether Calvinist or non-Calvinist that we should evangelize the world.

    It sounds good until we carefully examine their theology and find that as Dr. Allen puts it so well: “No atonement exists for the non-elect. If someone is not “saveable,” neither is he “offerable.”

    What this means is that God has no plans whatsoever to save the non-elect.

    He did not choose for them to be saved in eternity (in fact he chose them for reprobation if the Calvinist is consistent with his premise that all is ordained by God).

    It also gets worse, though he could have saved them all (under consistent Calvinism effectual grace is given to a person and they will be saved: thus under this scheme He could give effectual grace to everyone if He had desired for all to be saved): instead he chooses to damn most of them before they were ever born. These “reprobates” were chosen for damnation, no atonement exists for them, they are not saveable (because in God’s total plan for the history of the world they were chosen to be damned) and so nothing of substance is being offered to them in regards to salvation.

    I have sometimes heard Calvinists claim it is not so bad for them as God gives them all sorts of good things during this life as a result of “common grace”. But that minimizes things quite a bit: who cares if you “gain the whole world” if God himself predestined you for damnation and for you to “lose your own soul” and sets all circumstances up in order to ensure what he planned for you, a “reprobate”, comes to pass.

    Besides being an attempt at rationalizing things: it is also a case of changing the subject. Changing the subject to the fact that Jesus commands us to evangelize the world and to the fact that we do not know who will ultimately be saved and lost, appeals to facts that all acknowledge. But these facts are *not* the subject under discussion, they are instead a changing of the subject. In many instances a standard tactic when losing in a debate is to change the subject. For example, many will turn away from the facts of the case and instead attack the other person. Once the attention is drawn away from the facts which are damaging, people can engage in personal attack which is much easier. You can often tell who has a stronger case because they are the ones who can stick to a subject and have no need to change the subject
    .
    Also take note of Allen’s question: “How can an atonement be offered to the whole world, some of whom are non-elect in a Calvinist soteriology, when there is nothing to offer them?”

    While he does not state it here: Allen’s question presumes to be talking about an offer that is sincere, genuine and something people can actually respond to. If Calvinist theology is true, and double predestination is true, then the offer of salvation to the reprobates is not sincere (God wants them damned, he does not really want them saved); not genuine (because these reprobates cannot respond to the offer) and certainly not something they can respond to. They are not according to consistent Calvinism “saveable.” The offer can only be sincere and genuine and something they can respond to: if they are saveable. But they are not saveable, God never wanted them to be saveable and instead planned for their damnation from eternity.

    Because these things are horrific things for people to know and understand and hear, the Calvinist puts their spin on things by changing the subject to our not knowing who will ultimately be saved or lost and our duty to obey the command to evangelism the world. But changing the subject does not eliminate the problems of this theology. If you want to see how gruesome and false and unbiblical Calvinism is: simply examine their doctrine of “reprobation.” That is the Achilles heel of the system. I have said for a long time that if you shouted out what they believe from the housetops, most Christians as they have always done throughout church history would reject these beliefs about reprobation and the system that leads to it, Calvinism.

    Robert

David L. Allen

Peter,

Thank you for your question.

The Calvinist rejoinder you mention above that we do not know who the elect are is a classic example of totally missing the point. Of course we don’t know who the elect are! It is certainly true that we are to preach the gospel because we are commanded to do so by God in Scripture. But Scripture also teaches that we are to preach the gospel to all people because God loves all people and there is an atonement made for the sins of all people. All people are saveable.

What some Calvinist’s can’t seem to recognize is if they hold to limited atonement, then by their own system, there is no atonement for the non-elect. Hence, every time they preach to someone who is non-elect, even though they don’t know who is and who isn’t, they are offering something to them that does not, in fact, exist. They are offering them the hole of a donut. It doesn’t matter whether they tell people “Christ died for your sins” or not. If they are preaching the gospel and offering the gospel to all people, they are offering something to the non-elect which simply does not exist according to their system.

But it is even more serious than that. According to 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, it is God who is pleading through our preaching for people to be reconciled to Him. The text says this is on the basis of an atonement that covers the sins of all people. So, in actuality, God is offering something to some people, the non-elect, that in fact, does not exist. This impugns the character of God.

The issue is not total depravity. The issue is not election. The issue is the fact that no atonement exists for the non-elect in the limited atonement scheme. This is a major problem biblically, theologically, and practically. It is one of the major reasons why many Calvinists today and in history reject limited atonement. Of course, the main reason they reject it is on exegetical grounds: it’s not taught in Scripture.

    peterf lumpkins

    Dr. Allen,

    Thanks. The way you’ve explained Fuller’s change reminds me of the position I recall from Southern Seminary’s, Bruce Ware. Perhaps Drs Ware and Haykin could have an interesting exchange of their own as to how to read Fuller.

    With that, I am…
    Peter

David L. Allen

Robert,

Thank you for your questions and feedback. I really appreciate it! I have responded by placing my responses in italics interspersed in your comments.
=================================

Hello Dr. Allen,

I reread your post and there is a section that the more I think about it, the more I am concerned about what you said here.

You had stated:

“:1. Does God desire the salvation of every person?”

Then you elaborated on this question and wrote:

“Orthodox Calvinism teaches that God desires the salvation of every person. Anyone who denies God’s universal saving desire is a hyper-Calvinist. All hyper-Calvinists and high-Calvinists argue that God’s limited saving intent necessarily requires (entails) that Christ provided a satisfaction only for the elect and thus to secure salvation only for the elect.”

Two concerns here.

First, you state in the second line here that hyper-Calvinists/high-Calvinists argue that Christ provided satisfaction *only* for the elect. It is my understanding that the reason they believe this is because God desired to save only the elect

Actually, God decreed to save only the elect, as all Calvinists believe, whether moderate, high, or hyper. But Reformed Creeds state that God “desires” to save all, hence he has a universal saving desire that is expressed in the revealed will of God.

therefore the atonement only provides satisfaction for the elect.
True

But if that is true then the first line here is not accurate: “Orthodox Calvinism teaches that God desires the salvation of every person.” High Calvinists are orthodox and if they hold to double predestination then they do not believe that God desires the salvation of every person.
Actually they do – God’s two wills, but like you, I think this is inconsistent and unbiblical

Double predestinarians (and this includes Calvin himself, Jonathan Edwards, etc.) believe that God predestined the eternal destinies of *both* the elect and the reprobate. That being so, He did not desire the salvation of every person.
Again, they claim God does so by virtue of the distinction between the decretal and revealed will.

Because if He had (and keep in mind they also hold to effectual grace/irresistible grace, the belief that God gives this form of grace to those preselected for salvation, they will with certainty become believers, while effectual grace is withheld from those chosen for reprobation) then they would all have been saved.
Again, Calvinism posits the two wills distinction here.

This is why you can find those who advocate universalism (e.g. Thomas Torrance) who combine the Calvinistic concept of effectual grace with the Biblical claim that God desires that all be saved resulting in universalism.
No matter how Torrance tries to explain it, the Scripture is clear that universalism is a false doctrine. Torrance is also buying into some form of determinism here I suspect.

For those who hold to effectual grace (and that is not just so-called “hyper-Calvinists”)
Correct, all Calvinists hold to effectual grace.

either God desires the salvation of all and they hold to universalism (again Torrance is the best contemporary example).
I think Calvinists would say you are creating a false dichotomy here. Torrance is one of only a very few Calvinists who would assert universalism.

Or God does not desire the salvation of all and gives effectual grace only to those preselected for salvation/the elect.
Again, I think this is a false dichotomy you are setting up here; at least, I think virtually all Calvinists would say that.

But if he only desires to save the elect
In Orthodox Reformed theology, (as expressed in Reformed Creeds and Confessions) God only decrees to save the elect.

then your statement that: “Orthodox Calvinism teaches that God desires the salvation of every person” is not true.
Again, Reformed confessions (at least most of them as far as I can tell) assert God’s universal saving desire, though you and I think their system creates contradiction at that point.

Plenty of orthodox Calvinists including Calvin, Edwards, etc. did not believe that God desires the salvation of every person.
If that is the case, then on that point they are outside their confessional boundaries.

This can also be seen in those who advocate the “two will theory”. They will say that in God’s revealed will, the Bible, God says He desires the salvation of all. But in his secret or sovereign will, He desires the salvation of only the elect while the reprobate are those He has chosen for damnation. In the two will scheme the sovereign will trumps the revealed will, so if you want to see what God really wants, it is found in His sovereign will.
Agreed

And in that will, He does not desire the salvation of all because if He had, then all would be saved.
I disagree here since you and I both agree that God desires the salvation of all, and yet not all are saved. Hence, it does not follow that God’s desire = God fulfilling His desire. Orthodox Calvinists explain God’s unfulfilled “desire” for the salvation of all by appeal to the decretal will. Non-Calvinists explain God’s unfulfilled “desire” for the salvation of all by appeal to some form of libertarian free will.

So how does your statement that “Anyone who denies God’s universal saving desire is a hyper-Calvinist” fit with the two will theory and the teachings of Calvin, Edwards, et al who believed that God does not desire the salvation of all people?
My attempted explanation is above.

Double predestinarians are quite clear that whom God desires to save He saves (via unconditional election, effectual grace, an “effective limited atonement”). And they are orthodox Calvinists and they don’t believe God desires for all to be saved (this is seen in their double predestination, their limited atonement view and especially in their thinking regarding effectual grace/irresistible grace).
Again, I would appeal to Calvinists’ understanding of God’s “desire” and his “decrees,” even though I don’t agree with them.

Second, you appear to be defining hyper Calvinism as those who deny that God desires the salvation of all people.
That is only one facet of hyper-Calvinism, but it is one, according to Orthodox Calvinism. Granted, extreme Calvinists who rightly fall into the camp of hyper-Calvinism (Engelsma, for example), deny the accusation and call themselves “consistent Calvinsts.

Hyper Calvinism is a term that many Calvinists use to distance themselves from what consistent Calvinism proposes (i.e. double predestination, effectual grace given only to the elect, no plan of salvation for the reprobates/God choosing them for damnation and having no intention of saving them).
That may be so, but that is a misuse of the term in my opinion, since all Calvinists, even moderate Calvinists, affirm the following from your list above: effectual grace; their damnation (either by double predestination or preterition); and no intention of saving them (since God’s salvific intention is only directed to the elect. Moderate Calvinists would disagree with your phrase “no plan of salvation for the reprobates” because they affirm an unlimited atonement as to extent, but believe that reprobates (non-elect) will not be saved because 1) though they possess natural ability to believe, they do not possess moral ability (total depravity) and 2) God withholds effectual grace by not giving them the effectual calling to overcome their moral inability. Actually, it would be more accurate in my opinion if you had said that this charge of hyper-Calvinism comes more from those on our side of the aisle, though again, in my opinion, labeling this “hyper-Calvinism” is a misuse of the term’s meaning, albeit I do think that most items in your list are “extreme” because I think them to be unbiblical. I define “hyper-Calvinism” at the end of my comments below.

But consistent Calvinism is not hyper Calvinism (Calvin and Edwards are two very good examples of consistent Calvinism, yet both are double predestinarian, both believed that effectual grace was only given to the elect).
Correct

Hyper Calvinism is better reserved for those Calvinists who because of their views end up not evangelizing or arguing against evangelism.
Here I would have to nuance what you are saying as well. There is an element of truth to what you are saying. But hyper-Calvinism actually believes in preaching the gospel to all, but offering Christ to none. Read carefully those who are labeled by Orthodox Calvinists as “hyper-Calvinists,” and you will see that is what they are claiming: Preach to all; offer to none. Now you and I think that is totally wrong, but so do most Orthodox Calvinists! When any Calvinist affirms the notion of preaching to all and offering to none, on that specific point, he is a hyper-Calvinist. No Orthodox Calvinist would argue against evangelism. If they do, again, on that point, they are in the “hyper” camp.

Calvin and Edwards were consistent Calvinists, believing in double predestination, but they were not against evangelism (e.g. Edwards was involved with evangelism to Indians) they were not hyper Calvinists.
Exactly my point above!

Ironically some Calvinists who cannot stomach the implications of their own view (i.e. they deny double predestination) sometimes label those who hold to double predestination as hyper Calvinists (but by that way of thinking, Calvin and Edwards were hyper Calvinists).
By that way of thinking, yes.

I personally do not like the term hyper Calvinism, I prefer to speak of those who are consistent Calvinists (i.e. who hold double predestination, whose views are very similar to Calvin and Edwards) and those who are not consistent (i.e. they hold to the exhaustive ordination of all events and yet deny double predestination, deny that God only desires to give effectual grace to the preselected elect).
Understood.

For those who are against evangelism, whether Calvinist or not, they are simply disobedient believers rationalizing their lack of evangelism.
Amen!

Me now Robert. Without going into detail here, Hyper-Calvinism denies the following five things:
1. God’s universal Love
2. Common grace
3. The well-meant Gospel offer
4. Duty faith
5. God’s universal saving will

Some Calvinists will deny only one or two of these five. A denial of any one of these five would place someone, on that particular point, in the camp of hyper-Calvinism. Thus, someone may tend toward hyper-Calvinism on a single issue, but not accurately be labeled a “hyper-Calvinist” in my view. I hope that makes sense.

Blessings!

David L. Allen

    Robert

    Hello Dr. Allen,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. It seems to me that for the most part we agree. I believe that my frustration comes from the Calvinist game playing that results from advocacy of the two will theory. By means of the two will theory, outright contradictions can be rationalized away and even justified.

    You noted that:

    “Again, they claim God does so by virtue of the distinction between the decretal and revealed will.”

    So according to the “revealed will” (i.e. what is expressed in the Bible and for all to see) God desires the salvation of all people.

    But according to the “decretal will” (i.e. the total plan that God conceived before He created the world, the plan that is known to Him alone, the plan that determines what will come to pass as actual history): God desires the salvation of the elect and the damnation of the “reprobates.”

    These two wills contradict each other, and yet by maintaining the reality and validity of both, the Calvinist can maintain that God desires the salvation of all (and even state this in a creed for example or in sermon) and simultaneously maintain that God decided before He created the world who would be saved and who would be lost and their destinies are set and fixed before they ever exist on this earth.

    The key premise at the heart of the “decretal will” is the belief that God decrees not just events such as the crucifixion of Jesus, but *every* event that comprises history. I talked about if one holds that premise then there is two ways to go in regards to the biblical statements that God desires the salvation of all. One way is to argue as Calvinists do is to minimize the Biblical statement via the “decretal will” (i.e. God says He desires the salvation of all in the revealed will, but in His sovereign will He decrees the damnation of reprobates). Another way, the way folks such as Torrance argue is to take both effectual grace (which always involves determinism) and the Biblical statements as true (without reference to a decretal will) so you end up combining determinism with the Biblical statements about God desiring the salvation of all resulting in universalism:

    “No matter how Torrance tries to explain it, the Scripture is clear that universalism is a false doctrine. Torrance is also buying into some form of determinism here I suspect.”

    Torrance “buys into” determinism in the sense that He takes the Calvinist concept of effectual grace and simply universalizes it (i.e. Torrance argues that God gives effectual grace to all, and so all will be saved).

    “In Orthodox Reformed theology, (as expressed in Reformed Creeds and Confessions) God only decrees to save the elect.”

    And this again points out the *contradiction* between the “decretal will” and the “sovereign will” (the decretal will = “God only decrees to save the elect”; the revealed will = God desires to save all people).

    “Again, Reformed confessions (at least most of them as far as I can tell) assert God’s universal saving desire, though you and I think their system creates contradiction at that point.”

    Right we agree on this critical point.

    You also seem to agree with what I said about the nature of the two will theory, I had written: “This can also be seen in those who advocate the “two will theory”. They will say that in God’s revealed will, the Bible, God says He desires the salvation of all. But in his secret or sovereign will, He desires the salvation of only the elect while the reprobate are those He has chosen for damnation. In the two will scheme the sovereign will trumps the revealed will, so if you want to see what God really wants, it is found in His sovereign will.”

    You responded:

    “Agreed “

    You wrote:

    “I disagree here since you and I both agree that God desires the salvation of all, and yet not all are saved. Hence, it does not follow that God’s desire = God fulfilling His desire. Orthodox Calvinists explain God’s unfulfilled “desire” for the salvation of all by appeal to the decretal will. Non-Calvinists explain God’s unfulfilled “desire” for the salvation of all by appeal to some form of libertarian free will.”

    I think here we have a major disagreement between us and Calvinists. For the Calvinist, when thinking of the decretal will, whatever God wills always takes place, always comes to pass. For us we would say that when God purposes something, that will come to pass, but we do not believe that God purposes nor decrees all events. In logic we speak of all, some or none. When it comes to God “decreeing” or purposing events: the Calvinist says He purposes *all* events. The atheist says since God does not exist, *no* events are purposed by God. We say that God purposes some events.

    It is frustrating to see what I call the “some to all” fallacy being committed by Calvinists. Calvinists will argue that the crucifixion of Jesus involved God decreeing an event that involved human evil choices. And they are correct. God via His foreknowledge knew that the response to the incarnation would be the crucifixion of Jesus by evil men. God used these evil choices as part of His plan for salvation. So this means that *some* events involve God preplanning and using evil choices to accomplish a good purpose. But you cannot then argue as Calvinists do (that this means that God does this with every evil event, with every sin, so God decrees them all in exactly the same way he decreed the evil choices involved in the crucifixion). We cannot establish a universal conclusion based upon particular cases (no matter how many we may come up with). And since non-Calvinists do not maintain that God decrees all events: we can argue that God neither desires nor decrees every evil and sin to take place (thus helping in our explanations regarding the “problem of evil” and avoiding making God the author of sin, as follows from Calvinism’s claim that he decrees all events).

    I will write a separate post regarding the subject of hyper Calvinism.

    Robert

Robert

My problem with the term “hyper-calvinism” is that it is what a former professor of mine likes to call “weasel” words (i.e. words that mean different things to different people and even have differing meaning in differing contexts). Hence while it is often used as a pejorative term it is almost useless in my opinion.

Dr. Allen you wrote:

“That is only one facet of hyper-Calvinism, but it is one, according to Orthodox Calvinism. Granted, extreme Calvinists who rightly fall into the camp of hyper-Calvinism (Engelsma, for example), deny the accusation and call themselves “consistent Calvinists.” “

Extreme Calvinists according to what standard?

I sometimes point out to Calvinists that if you hold to Calvinism and the belief that God ordains all events then certain things follow necessarily and logically (e.g. that you must hold to double predestination, God actively chooses both who will be saved and who will be lose). They then respond: but I don’t hold to double predestination, that is what hyper Calvinists believe . . .” To which one can show by means of quotes that this is precisely what famous Calvinists such as John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards held to. So sometimes the term hyper Calvinist is used by Calvinists as a pejorative for those who hold to double predestination. Other times the term is used by some for Calvinists who do not evangelize or minimize evangelism.

This is why I wrote in my earlier post, that I speak in terms of “consistent calvnists” versus “inconsistent Calvinists”:

“When I speak of “consistent calvinists” I mean those consistent with the premise that God has decreed all events. If He has done so, free will as ordinarily understood cannot and does not exist, there is a total plan in which God desired for every evil and sin to occur exactly as it does, double predestination is true, the reprobates have no opportunity to be saved and it is impossible for them in this history to be saved, etc.”

You responded:

“That may be so, but that is a misuse of the term in my opinion, since all Calvinists, even moderate Calvinists, affirm the following from your list above: effectual grace; their damnation (either by double predestination or preterition); and no intention of saving them (since God’s salvific intention is only directed to the elect. Moderate Calvinists would disagree with your phrase “no plan of salvation for the reprobates” because they affirm an unlimited atonement as to extent, but believe that reprobates (non-elect) will not be saved because 1) though they possess natural ability to believe, they do not possess moral ability (total depravity) and 2) God withholds effectual grace by not giving them the effectual calling to overcome their moral inability.”

What you are referring to as “moderate calvinists” are inconsistent Calvinists. They are inconsistent with the premise that God decrees all things (because if he does decree all things, all of his decrees are active and that means he actively decrees both who will be saved and who will be lost, but Moderates who advocate unlimited atonement do not want to believe that God actively decrees all events, including who will be lost, they reject double predestination and instead speak of God merely “passing over the reprobates”). In my experience it is also these so-called “moderate calvinists” who will attack those who hold to double predestination and limited atonement as hyper Calvinists!

“Actually, it would be more accurate in my opinion if you had said that this charge of hyper-Calvinism comes more from those on our side of the aisle, though again, in my opinion, labeling this “hyper-Calvinism” is a misuse of the term’s meaning, albeit I do think that most items in your list are “extreme” because I think them to be unbiblical. I define “hyper-Calvinism” at the end of my comments below.” “

These things *are* extreme to non-Calvinists like us who find them to be unbiblical and wrong. But to a consistent Calvinist, like Calvin or Edwards they are not extreme at all, instead they all follow from the fact that God decrees all events. They are “extreme” to “moderate Calvinists” because moderate Calvinists are often inconsistent Calvinists.

I had also suggested that; “Hyper Calvinism is better reserved for those Calvinists who because of their views end up not evangelizing or arguing against evangelism.”

You responded:

“Here I would have to nuance what you are saying as well. There is an element of truth to what you are saying. But hyper-Calvinism actually believes in preaching the gospel to all, but offering Christ to none. Read carefully those who are labeled by Orthodox Calvinists as “hyper-Calvinists,” and you will see that is what they are claiming: Preach to all; offer to none. Now you and I think that is totally wrong, but so do most Orthodox Calvinists! When any Calvinist affirms the notion of preaching to all and offering to none, on that specific point, he is a hyper-Calvinist. No Orthodox Calvinist would argue against evangelism. If they do, again, on that point, they are in the “hyper” camp.”

Actually this claim “Preach to all: offer to none” (if the none is the non-elect) is consistent with consistent Calvinism. If God decrees all then He also decrees that those who are not elect cannot take advantage of the gospel offer (they suffer from depravity which God decreed, the depravity follows from the fall of Adam and Eve yet another event that God decreed: God decreed not to give these non-elect folks effectual grace, and God did not plan salvation for them but planned damnation for them, etc.).

I believe that some well-meaning Calvinists cannot stomach the logical implications of consistent Calvinism so they pick and choose the parts they want to believe and talk about (so they are quite happy with unconditional election of the elect believing themselves to be elect; at the same time they reject double predestination and say this comes from those hyper Calvinists; they want to claim that God loves all people, though if their Calvinism is true then what God does to the reprobates is the most hateful thing that can be done to a human person, etc. etc.). Ronnie Rodgers calls these contradictions, “tensions” they struggle with.

Dr. Allen you ended with your proposed definition of hyper-Calvinism:

“Without going into detail here, Hyper-Calvinism denies the following five things:
1. God’s universal Love
2. Common grace
3. The well-meant Gospel offer
4. Duty faith
5. God’s universal saving will
Some Calvinists will deny only one or two of these five. A denial of any one of these five would place someone, on that particular point, in the camp of hyper-Calvinism. Thus, someone may tend toward hyper-Calvinism on a single issue, but not accurately be labeled a “hyper-Calvinist” in my view. I hope that makes sense.”

And again we come back to the two will theory. These five elements become problematic when someone holds to the two will theory. They can say element 3 is true in the revealed will of God (i.e. the offer is genuine as seen in the Bible). But if the sovereign will exists, then the offer to reprobates is not genuine or sincere. They can say that element 5 is true in the revealed will of God, but in the sovereign will God does not desire to save universally; he desires to save only the elect and to damn the non-elect.

Just one last thing regarding the two-will theory. An analogy would be to imagine a part of Italy that is completely controlled by the Mafia. Nothing happens there that the Mafia does not want to happen (that is the “sovereign will” of the Mafia there). But say the towns also have a local newspaper, also operated by the Mafia. In the newspaper there are articles against extortion, drug sales, prostitution, money laundering, etc. etc. These articles tell the people not to do these things, that they are wrong, tell them to do the right thing instead (that is the “revealed will” of the Mafia there). This newspaper also tells us that the members of the Mafia have impeccably good character and are utterly trustworthy in everything they say (and they hate evil and sin and see themselves as absolutely holy). In this situation the two wills both exist and yet someone from outside would see them contradicting each other. Could you really trust the word of the newspaper on something as being what the Mafia really desires or wants? Or would you look at whatever is actually happening there as the “will of the Mafia?” Could we really trust the character of these Mafia people? Just as I cannot trust the Mafia newspaper I also cannot trust the Bible to be telling us the truth if the sovereign will exists. Because like that local Mafia newspaper the Bible tells us certain things are wrong, certain things are right. But if God decrees it all and controls it all to ensure the sovereign will is always done, then He decrees the very things he tells us in the Bible are wrong, the very things he tells us not to do and to avoid.

Robert

The Revd Dr Alan C. Clifford

Dear Dr Allen,

Persuaded as I am that the standard Owenite dogma of limited atonement is a major error, I commend Dr Allen’s lucid position as eminently biblical.

I am currently critiquing the recently-published tome ‘From Heaven He Came’ (Crossway, 2013). As an initial salvo, I refer your readers to my statement ‘Defining Definite Atonement’ on the Norwich Reformed Church website.

Warm Gospel greetings to one and all,

Dr Alan C. Clifford
Pastor, Norwich Reformed Church (UK)

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