The Less Worthy Bits of Puritanism

Maybe I am not philosophically inclined. Maybe I am too American and hence of a pragmatic frame of mind. Maybe I like cats too much. But if I owned a gun I would reach for it whenever theologians and pastors enter into realms speculative.

One of the areas of study I teach most prone to speculation is the way that theologians and philosophers relied on faculty psychology as if the will, motivation, choice, and affections are as easy to spot as the genitalia of an unborn child through a sonogram, or as if Sigmund Freud’s popularity owed to the ease of curing psychological woes.

Here’s an example of the murky realm surrounding faculty psychology upon which Puritans spilled so much ink:

Edwards’s psychology assimilated affections and will, motive and choice. The will (choice) was as the greatest apparent good (motive). Motive was choice or volition. Action followed choice, in appropriate circumstances, because God as the efficient cause, although human motive or volition might occasion action. (Bruce Kuklick, Churchmen and Philosophers, 100)

But get this. Not everyone agreed with Edwards, like Nathaniel Taylor:

Taylor’s psychology differed. For him, motives were distinct from choice or volition, and volition caused action. Taylor’s psychology was tripartite, consisting of the affections, will, and understanding; Edwards’s was dual, consisting of the affections (emotions/will) and understanding. (Kuklick, 100)

Is anyone willing to stake salvation on any of these — wait for it — speculations? Or is this plain as day?

But for Puritans, such speculations were part and parcel of the self-reflection that secured assurance of salvation:

Religious experience — in particular, conversion — involved a process which engaged all the faculties of the soul, but which was most deeply rooted in the affections. And the experience, whether in conversion or in the worship that followed, was one in which the believer acted, and was not just acted upon, in virtually every phase. . . . In the early stages of the process of conversion the Holy Spirit drew the chose to Christ, given that the man affected had been elected to receive what [Richard] Mather called the grace of faith (a phrase with Thomistic implications). Mather agreed with most Puritan divines that a man who had been consigned to Hell might experience the same feelings that gripped a saint in the first steps of conversion. . . . At this point the sinner becomes aware of his helplessness; and emptied of his pride he is ready for the knowledge of Christ, a knowledge that the law cannot convey. Comprehending this knowledge is the responsibility of reason, or understanding, but not exclusively so if the whole soul is to be renewed. . . . The knowledge must “affect” them in such a way that they approve and love it. At this point with all the faculties deeply informed, and moved, the grace of faith is infused by the Lord into the soul. (Robert Middlekauff, The Mathers, 64-65)

And your scriptural text is?

I understand the great debt that modern day psychology owes to Puritan speculations about the inner gears of the soul. But is that where Reformed Protestants with the Puritan fetish really want the legacy of Puritanism to go? Can John Piper generate enough earnestness to make any of this comprehensible?

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74 thoughts on “The Less Worthy Bits of Puritanism

  1. Reading many of the Puritans in comparison with Reformers leaves the impression that they tended to focus too much on the human mechanisms rather than the divine gift of faith. Hence the notorious uncertainty of salvation some of them had. Who can be certain of his own inner workings?

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  2. Is it now politically incorrect to say that the WCF is more “puritan” than the Heidelberg Catechism?

    http://www.medwardpowell.com/2015/09/john-calvins-view-of-assurance-of-faith/

    Matt Powewll–“The Westminster position is to say that it can be true faith to believe that Jesus Christ saves sinners, but be unsure that He has saved me. That is to say, it’s teaching that one can have true faith with no personal trust of Jesus.”

    HC 21. What is true faith?
    True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

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  3. maybe your category ‘are they on their meds’ is apropos,…. since one who says, actually believing it makes perfect sense and worthy of continuous ponder: “the wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit; after that, work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (John 3:8; Phil 2:12-13),…. is probably thought by many (most?) to be under the influence

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  4. You’ll probably get told that Edwards wasn’t a Puritan, because he was an American Theologian/Philosopher.

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  5. markmcculley says: “Is it now politically incorrect to say that the WCF is more “puritan” than the Heidelberg Catechism?”

    GW: One can make the case that the WCF’s and the Heidelberg Catechism’s positions on saving faith are compatible with each other, though with slightly different emphases. For example, in commenting on the Heidelberg’s position of faith as “hearty trust” and firm certainty of forgiveness of sins, Berkhof in his Systematic Theology comments: “This certainty implies that it belongs in some measure to the essence of faith. It is explicitly stated, however, that believers frequently have to struggle with carnal doubts, so that they are not always sensible of the assurance of faith. The Westminster Confession, speaking of the full assurance of faith, asserts that this does not so belong to the essence of faith that a true believer may not have to wait for it a long time. This has given some Presbyterian theologians occasion to deny that personal assurance belongs to the essence of faith. Yet the Confession does not say this, and there are reasons to think that it did not intend to teach this.” (pp. 507-508)

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  6. In my opinion the best and most helpful emphasis of Puritanism was its push to “purify” the church of the remnants of Romish doctrines and ceremonies, and thus the further reformation of the church’s doctrine and worship according to the Scriptures. The worst and most unhelpful aspects of Puritanism are the hyper-subjectivism and speculative “faculty psychology” mentioned in this article. Seems to me that the latter was the inevitable fruit of a deficient view of the ministry of the word and sacraments (and in particular, a deficient, Zwinglian-leaning sacramentology) — and thus a de-emphasis on the objective, outside-of-me redemptive work of Christ — which led to a hyper-individualistic concept of faith and to subjective mysticism.

    When the real presence of Christ in word and sacrament is denied or downplayed, mysticism and subjectivism come along to take its place. (I’m speaking, of course, of the Real Presence of Christ in the classical Calvinist, not the Lutheran or Romanist, sense.)

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  7. We can’t think of Hodge as the authoritative commentator on the WCF, because Hodge writes different (opposite) things. He’s not the only commentator to do that.

    Charles Hodge, from his Systematic Theology, part 3, chapter 16—-“To make assurance of personal salvation essential to faith, is contrary to Scripture and to the experience of God’s people.

    Hodge—We may examine our hearts with all the microscopic care prescribed by President ] Edwards in his work on The Religious Affections,and never be satisfied that we have eliminated every ground of misgiving and doubt. The grounds of assurance are not so much within, as without us.

    mark mcculley.—Even the non-elect are commanded to believe the gospel Believing the gospel is NOT believing that “God has grace for me” or that “God has grace for everybody” The promise of the gospel is that as many as believe the gospel will be justified, so that anybody who says I believe the promise but I don’t believe that there is grace for me….is not yet believing the promise

    The logic of “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin” is not that Christ died for every sinner, and that every sinner had an “opportunity” to be saved, if they accepted “the offer”. No. The logic rather is that now and always there has been only sacrifice that really takes away sin, and that’s the sacrifice of Christ. The ceremonies of the old economies pointed to this one sacrifice of Christ. Now that Christ has come, not only in promise, but in fulfillment, STILL there remains one (and only one) sacrifice for sins.

    Put it this way— for every sinner, for any sinner, there is only one sacrifice that can take away sins, and it’s Christ’s expiatory and propitiatory death. This does not at all mean that Christ has died for every sinner. It means every sinner needs Christ’s death. But only the sins of the elect the Father has imputed to the Son, and the Son has only made reconciliation for those sins. Christ’s death is not enough for every sinner, because it was never intended for every sinner. But the point is—Christ’s death is the righteousness we need, and if you don’t trust Christ, then there can be no justification for you.

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  8. Don’t worry, Christian philosophers writing in Dutch are much easier to understand. From one of Dooyeweerd’s interpreters: “In both the anticipations and retrocipations Dooyeweerd distinguishes between the direct and the indirect, depending on whether or not the analogy is with the meaning-nucleus of an aspect which immediately precedes or follows. A feeling for logic and sense of justice are meaning-moments in the sensitive aspect because they are qualified by feeling, the meaning nucleus of the sensitive aspect. The first is a direct, the second is a direct anticipation. Sensory feeling is a meaning-moment in the psychic aspect, referring directly back to the meaning-nucleus of the biotic aspect. Faith life, however, is a pistic analogy which refers back to the biotic indirectly.” (Kalsbeek, “Contours of a Christian Philosophy” pg 106).

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  9. Mark Mcculley: “The promise of the gospel is that as many as believe the gospel will be justified, so that anybody who says I believe the promise but I don’t believe that there is grace for me….is not yet believing the promise”

    GW: Agreed that the gospel promises that as many as believe the gospel will be justified. But what is the good news which is to be believed unto justification? The good news that Christ offers free and full forgiveness through the gospel word and symbols. To believe this gospel is to believe that Christ is promising forgiveness to me, personally and truly. Faith believes this promise. But, of course, all of this implies the free offer of the gospel.

    This free offer does not entail universal atonement, of course, for Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect. However, it does imply that Christ’s death is sufficient for all (even though efficient & effectual only for the elect), and thus its benefits may be offered to all, and all who hear may be sincerely invited to come to Christ, resting in His atonement for the forgiveness of their sins.

    The logical end of denying the free offer of the gospel (as is done in hyper-calvinism) is that it directs the eyes of faith away from the proper Object of faith — namely, the Lord Jesus Christ who freely offers His forgiveness to unworthy sinners like you and me — to the exercise of faith itself. In other words, instead of “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” it becomes “believe that you believe the gospel and you will be justified”. The warrant for faith shifts from an extraspective focus on the outside-of-me redeeming work of Christ who offers His grace to me in the gospel to an inward, introspective focus on the strength or genuineness of my own faith (i.e., “Is the faith I find in my heart really really really a true saving faith, borne of regeneration and rooted in the electing purpose of God?”). It also turns the gospel promise into a new law, for instead of the main focus being on the good news of the Christ who comes to me in the gospel with His grace, it puts the focus on my response to that good news. Thus the gospel call becomes a new law, a new “do this and you shall live”.

    If I cannot know that Christ genuinely, seriously offers His grace to me in the gospel, then I have no warrant from God to believe that He is willing and ready to save me until such time as I can discern within my own soul the evidences of election. But, then again, how can I know that I am correctly interpreting these inward evidences of election and regeneration apart from true faith to begin with? It’s a vicious circle (a vicious circle fueled by hyper-calvinism and introspective hyper-puritanism and pietistic revivalistic mysticism).

    Shorter Catechism Q & A 86:
    Q. 86. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
    A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.”

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  10. Calvin—-1 Timothy 2:. 4 was long ago brought forth by the Pelagians,and handled against us with all their might. . . . I have nevertheless extorted from Pighius this much: that no one but a man deprived of his common judgment can believe that salvation was ordained by the secret counsel of God equally and indiscriminately for all men. The true meaning of Paul in this passage now under consideration is clear. The apostle is exhorting that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings and all that are in authority. Who does not see that the apostle here is speaking of orders of men rather than of individuals? …But Paul teaches us (they say ) that God would have all men to be saved. It follows, therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should reply that God wills all men to be saved on His part, or as far as He is concerned, seeing that salvation is, nevertheless, left to the will of each individual; I, in return, ask him why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? Why has God suffered so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death? ”

    Mark McCulley—Since the Reformed Confessions deny universal atonement, since Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect, there is no point in pretending that Christ’s death is enough for all sinners. Not all the sins of all sinners were imputed by God to Christ, and that truth is not to be hidden (for only the elders) but is to be proclaimed openly to all who hear the gospel. It is not at all necessary to tell any sinner that Christ did enough for him in order to command that sinner to believe the gospel. Many folks who don’t want to forgive other sinners justify their lack of forgiveness by “offering” to forgive (on their conditions).

    The logical end of saying that “Christ is dead for you” is that it directs the eyes of faith away from the only true Lord Jesus Christ who died only for the elect and shifts the focus to a false Christ whose “sufficient” atonement is not ultimately enough to save any sinner. To tell every sinner that Christ has done enough for each individual is to say that what Christ has done is not enough. Many “Reformed” presentations of the gospel do a very bad job of explaining the connection between Christ’s death and the gift of faith to the elect. Perhaps this is because many Reformed people don’t want to talk about election, but only about a kind of “covenant” which is not governed by election.

    Most Reformed folks seem to think that all we need to say is that regeneration is before faith, and that faith is a gift of God. But even Arminians don’t think they make faith a work, and even Arminians say that faith is a gift of God, even when they put faith before regeneration. The Reformed folks who want to act as if Christ’s death was enough also for the non-elect never get around to saying that Christ’s death purchased regeneration and faith for all for whom Christ died. If Christ’s sacrificial death was a propitiation “sufficient for all sinners”, then there will be no wrath against any sinner. On the other hand, if Christ’s death is not enough to take away wrath from every sinner, then what is it enough for? Is the gospel now a law, so that Christ’s death is only enough to condemn sinners?

    It’s not enough to say that faith is necessary. It’s not enough to say that regeneration before faith means that regeneration will inevitably result in puritans who don’t sin so much. We need to see that the object of faith is not only Christ but His death for the imputed sins of specific sinners. Romans 9:11— “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of ELECTION would continue, not because of works but because of His call.” Where the “sufficient for everybody” attempts to leave out the “for the elect alone” and talk about the gospel without talking about election, the attention turns away from what Christ did and turns toward what the Holy Spirit might now do—– “not because of works but because of faith alone”.

    Andrew Fuller (and Jonathan Edwards and the Marrow) have moved God’s imputation of sins to Christ into the present and put all the focus on the Holy Spirit, so that the “application” of Christ’s death has become the basic “atonement”. Some have maintained that the Marrow Men were concerned with a conditional grace caused by hyper-Calvinism. Christ, so it was said, was being separated from His benefits in the preaching. The church could not offer the benefits of Christ to all because they were only for the elect, and the church had to know who were the elect before these benefits could be offered them. But those who were elect could be known as elect only by the manifestation of election in their lives. Thus Christ’s benefits hinged on this manifestation of election in a holy life. The unidentified “hyper” person makes salvation conditional on puritan works that prove election.

    I do not deny that such puritans exist, but I don’t know very many of them. Most of the puritans I know sound just like Arminians when they are doing evangelism, because they tell all sinners that “Christ is dead for them” and that everything depends on faith alone, but the next morning they are looking for puritan works to give evidence that the sinners really “accepted the offer”.

    Accusing those of who repudiate the offer ( Christ is dead for you) as teaching conditions, is not only ironic but false. The General Assembly (against whom the Marrow party reacted) never taught a conditional salvation. The Assembly did maintain that the promises of the gospel were only for the elect — that is true. But most of them correctly believed that the gospel had to be publicly and indiscriminately proclaimed along with the command to repent and believe in Christ. The idea of “discerning your election and regeneration” before you believe is not inherent in being against the “universal sufficient death” sales job.

    Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

    The non-elect unbeliever does not have a warrant to believe in Jesus Christ. He does not have the ability. But neither does he have the right. Faith in Jesus Christ is a privilege, a right earned for the elect by the death of Jesus. “Warrant” implies right. The non-elect hearer of the gospel has the DUTY to believe in Jesus (the true Jesus, not the one who died for everybody) , but the non-elect hearer lacks both the ability and the right to believe the gospel.

    http://reformedpresbyterianveritasdocuments.blogspot.com/2009/01/free-offer-of-gospel-dr-william-young.html#more

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  11. GW—Faith shifts from an extra-spective focus on the outside-of-me redeeming work of Christ who offers His grace to me in the gospel to an inward, introspective focus on the strength or genuineness of my own faith (i.e., “Is the faith I find in my heart really really really a true saving faith, borne of regeneration and rooted in the electing purpose of God?”). It also turns the gospel promise into a new law, for instead of the main focus being on the good news of the Christ who comes to me in the gospel with His grace, it puts the focus on my response to that good news. Thus the gospel call becomes a new law, a new “do this and you shall live”.

    mark mcculley—-There are alternatives to the puritan “practical syllogism”. One is my answer above, which is to focus on God’s election (not out faith) and on Christ’s death having purchased faith in the true gospel. Another alternative to conditioning salvation on the sinner is to condition salvation on attendance at the means of grace, in the context of either Augustinian or Reformed or Lutheran notions of the “real presence”.

    Paul Helm discusses Calvin’s treatment of the nature of perseverance— true faith, the faith which continues to the end, persevering faith, is assured faith. (III.2.11) ‘However feeble and slender the faith of the elect may be, yet as the Spirit of God is to them a sure earnest and seal of their adoption, the impression once engraved can never be effaced from their hearts, whereas the light which glimmers in the reprobate is afterward quenched.’

    Helm— It is not only that Calvin features assurance and Augustine doesn’t. Calvin’s understanding of assurance is that it is a distinctive impression made known to the believer through introspection, self-knowledge, which tells him that however weak his faith may be it can never be extinguished. Augustine never mentions assurance as far as I can see, but uniformly refers to ‘piety’ as the sign of perseverance, indeed as what perseverance is. The prominence that Calvin gives to assurance as an interior impression suggests that Calvin reckons that the believer knows that he will endure to the end, because he presently is favored with an infallible sign of his adoption as a child of God. By contrast the use of the language of ‘perseverance‘ by Augustine suggests a linear progression, a walk, a race, a fight, a climb. Then the answer to the question of personal belief is grounded on the fact that the Lord continually makes the person to stand. That is, the Lord enables him to press on as a Christian, to have ‘pious thoughts’ which produce faith which works by love. (Gift of Perseverance, ch.20) . This continuation of the believer’s ‘standing’ is expressed by Augustine in terms of obedience, virtue, and continued communion with visible church. In Helm’s view Augustine’s emphasis, rather than Calvin’s on assurance, makes much more sense of Scripture’s warning passages.

    http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-temporary-christian-calvin.html

    Mark Mcculley— I oppose Augustinian ideas of assurance as a gradual addition to faith. But I also oppose the Lutheran idea of a daily perpetual return to one’s water baptism. Either we are justified or we are not. Once we are justified, we are justified. We are not justified against every day. There is no “future aspect of justification” which depends on the future puritan works resulting from “union with the presence of Christ.” Bad teaching on justification undermines assurance. Bad teaching on assurance wants to undermine assurance, because it loves the “sincere morality” of Wesley and the Arminians more than it loves the glory of God revealed in the gospel.

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  12. Mark Mcculley: “The non-elect unbeliever does not have a warrant to believe in Jesus Christ. He does not have the ability. But neither does he have the right. Faith in Jesus Christ is a privilege, a right earned for the elect by the death of Jesus. “Warrant” implies right. The non-elect hearer of the gospel has the DUTY to believe in Jesus (the true Jesus, not the one who died for everybody) , but the non-elect hearer lacks both the ability and the right to believe the gospel.”

    GW: I wholly affirm that faith is a sovereign gift of God, purchased by Christ only for the elect, and granted to them alone. I agree that the non-elect will not and cannot come to Christ in saving faith. The problem is that none of us can know whether the presently-unconverted sinner we are presenting the gospel to is elect or reprobate. That is God’s business, not ours. From a human perspective the elect and the reprobate are nameless, faceless individuals, for while we can have an infallible assurance of our own election in Christ if we be believers, we cannot have such an infallible assurance about the election or reprobation of another. To us they are simply sinners who need a Savior, and we should approach them as such. It is the church’s responsibility to present Christ as the all-sufficient Savior indiscriminantly to all sinners.

    By the term “warrant” I don’t mean “right” (for none of us has the “right” to salvation, which is a gift of grace alone). Rather, I mean something like “basis” or “grounds” for believing the gospel (which, after all, means “good news”). But how is the gospel genuine “good news” to a presently-unconverted sinner who may or may not be one of the elect if Christ and His benefits are in not in some sense genuinely “offered” or presented to him? And why should he believe that the good news applies to him if he can’t know that it applies to him unless he is among the elect, which is something he can’t know until he is first granted the grace of saving faith to begin with?

    Let me ask you this: If we are talking to an unbeliever about the gospel, what do we tell that person? Do we tell him that Christ died only for His elect, that faith in Christ is a gift of God given only to the elect, and that if he is elect he will believe? (All of this is, of course, biblically true, and in the course of a conversation with an unbeliever it may be appropriate to bring up such truths. But it is “good news” only to one who has already through sovereign grace come to believe.) But then would you go on and tell him that he has a duty to believe, while also telling them that he doesn’t actually have the ability to believe (which, of course, he doesn’t if he is currently unregenerate)? If I were a perceptive unbeliever on the receiving end of such a “gospel” presentation, I would want to ask something like this: “You are telling me that I must believe in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. But on what basis should I believe in Him? After all, I may be a reprobate, in which case Christ did not die for the forgiveness of my sins, nor does He in any sense of the word offer me His forgiving grace. So you are telling me I must believe in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. But even if I wanted to how could I unless God were to first give me a special direct revelation of my election? After all, I can’t know that Christ is actually sincerely offering me the forgiveness that you tell me I must trust Christ for, since I may very well be a reprobate for whom Christ did not die, which means that He in no sense offers me forgiveness. Yet it is my “duty” to believe in Him for a forgiveness which He may or may not have purchased for me?”

    Election and limited atonement are vital doctrines that undergird the gospel and strengthen the faith of believers. But unbelievers need to hear the simple law and gospel. In sum: You are a sinner, worthy of condemnation, with no hope of salvation in your will or your works. Christ is the all-sufficient Savior of sinners just like you and me, who died to pay the penalty for sin and rose from the dead so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life. He offers Himself freely to you in the gospel. Trust in Him and His blood alone and you will be saved.

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  13. “The non-elect hearer of the gospel has the DUTY to believe in Jesus (the true Jesus, not the one who died for everybody) , but the non-elect hearer lacks both the ability and the right to believe the gospel.”:

    GW: And on what objective basis does the non-elect have a “duty” to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins, since Jesus died only for the elect (which I affirm) and since (according to you) He in no sense whatsoever offers forgiveness to the non-elect (which I deny)? If I am non-elect, how can I have a “duty” to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins when Jesus in no sense whatsoever really offers me forgiveness of sins in the gospel, and since for me the gospel is not in any sense “good news” but only an instrument to deepen my condemnation? Such a position would imply, by logical implication, that the non-elect have a duty to believe a lie. For, if the non-elect have the duty to trust Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, when in fact there is no sense in which Jesus sincerely offers them forgiveness, then you are saying they are duty-bound by the God of truth to believe a lie.

    Salvation is indeed found in the way of repentance and faith (both of which are gifts of God); but to speak of faith in the gospel with such “duty” language is to turn faith into a work, and to turn the gospel into a law.

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  14. Christ’s atonement of the Christ is “sufficient for all” because it is of infinite value. Being offered by the infinite Son of God Incarnate, it is capable of atoning for an infinite number of sins committed by an infinite number of people.

    Of course, in the sovereign decree of God Christ’s atonement was designed and intended to benefit the elect only. Thus it is of limited design, and only actually redeems the elect (i.e., it is “efficient” or effective only for the elect). Nevertheless, it is because of the infinite worth and all-sufficiency of Christ’s atonement that the church in its evangelistic mission can freely invite sinners indiscriminately to come unto Him for salvation.

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  15. Mark Jones—-I know Boston and his friends did not think the Marrow taught hypothetical universalism. And many scholars try with all their might to avoid the implications of this thought, but I simply cannot see how we can deny that the Marrow teaches hypothetical universalism….Culverwell, whom Fisher quotes in the Marrow in relation to the Fee Offer, held to Hypothetical Universalism (Ussher convinced him). http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/01/the-marrow-part-1.php

    GW—The problem is that none of us can know whether the presently-unconverted sinner we are presenting the gospel to is elect or reprobate.

    m–I certainly agree that we can’t know if a sinner is elect or not before they believe the gospel. A person who has not yet believed the gospel may be elect –if they are elect, they will believe the gospel at some point because Christ by His death has purchased faith for all the elect. But this is not a “problem”. We do not need to tell any person that Christ is “enough for them” in order to preach the truth that Christ was given an elect people and that Christ died only for the sins of these elect. It is the nature of the case that nobody can know if they are elect until they believe the gospel, so your “problem” is attempting to tell the truth of the gospel while leaving out the good news of the efficacy of Christ’s death for all the elect.

    Romans 11: 5, “So too at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. But if it by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would be no more grace.”

    GW–;That is God’s business, not ours. From a human perspective the elect and the reprobate are nameless, faceless individuals, for while we can have an infallible assurance of our own election in Christ if we be believers, we cannot have such an infallible assurance about the election or reprobation of another.

    mark–You are not disagreeing with anything I have written. You seem to be operating under the assumption that talking about God’s revealed glory in election involves speculating about what God has not revealed to us about specific persons. This is why I do not presume that any infants are elect, and I do not tell sinners that Christ is “dead for them”. Christ is no longer dead, and Christ never died for those sinners whose sins were not imputed to Christ.

    GW–To us they are simply sinners who need a Savior, and we should approach them as such. It is the church’s responsibility to present Christ as the all-sufficient Savior indiscriminantly to all sinners.

    mark–I am all for talking about election to any and every sinner (indiscriminately) . You seem to be the one who wants to hush it up, by telling sinners that Christ’s death is enough for everybody. Why keep the truth of election a secret? Will the truth keep some of the elect from believing the gospel? Doesn’t the power of the gospel involve the truly good news of election in Christ as God’s love in Christ?

    GW; By the term “warrant” I don’t mean “right” (for none of us has the “right” to salvation, which is a gift of grace alone). Rather, I mean something like “basis” or “grounds” for believing the gospel (which, after all, means “good news”)

    Mark– I suppose we can use words any way we want. Since “offer” in the Reformed Confession does NOT mean “God loves everybody”, I could use the word “offer” to mean “present the truth of election to everybody”. But since the word has come to mean “sufficient for the non-elect also”, I don’t use the word. There is very little difference between saying that the non-elect have a right to believe the gospel and telling the non-elect that “Christ is dead for you”.

    GW–. But how is the gospel genuine “good news” to a presently-unconverted sinner who may or may not be one of the elect if Christ and His benefits are in not in some sense genuinely “offered” or presented to him?

    mark: This is beginning to look like question-begging. First you stipulate what is a “genuine” offer—it means telling everybody that God loves them and wants to save them and has enough to save them. Then you tell them later it’s not enough. Even though the gospel is not good news to those who never believe it, the gospel is good news to “as many as believe it”. Those who claim to have believed the gospel but also claim not to have assurance of being justified have not yet believed the promise of the gospel that those who believe will be saved. It’s not the preacher or the “real presence” in the sacrament which tells a sinner that they believe or that they are elect or that Christ died for them.

    GW–And why should he believe that the good news applies to him if he can’t know that it applies to him unless he is among the elect, which is something he can’t know until he is first granted the grace of saving faith to begin with?

    mark: And why do you presume that the gospel is good news for every sinner, unless you beg the question? (as does the majority report by Murray/ Stonehouse) Christ’s death does NOT apply to the non-elect. The non-elect will never be placed into Christ’s death. But since we don’t know (and can’t know) that any sinner is non-elect, why should that fact keep any sinner from believing the truth of the gospel? Must we change the gospel in order to make it more attractive to people who don’t like the gospel?

    gw– Let me ask you this: If we are talking to an unbeliever about the gospel, what do we tell that person? Do we tell him that Christ died only for His elect, that faith in Christ is a gift of God given only to the elect, and that if he is elect he will believe? (All of this is, of course, biblically true, and in the course of a conversation with an unbeliever it may be appropriate to bring up such truths. But it is “good news” only to one who has already through sovereign grace come to believe.

    mark—Let me go out on a limb and say I think “we” are going to probably say different things. I am going to tell him the truth, and not keep secret what God has revealed. I am going to tell the sinner the truth not only because I love the truth which gives glory to God in all God’s attributes, not only because I am “macho” or “confrontational” but because I do not believe that the Holy Spirit uses what is false to bring life to sinners dead in their sins. Knowledge of the truth is important because the gospel is God’s power to salvation.

    “The gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved” — 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2.

    The gospel of Christ — is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believes” — Romans 1:16.

    “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed, from the heart, the model of doctrine into which ye were delivered” — Romans 6:17.

    Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings, p 238 “According to fatalism, the word of truth having no influence, is of no use in regeneration, the salutary and important change being produced entirely without it..It is too hastily assumed that the mind is prepared to receive the light of spiritual knowledge before the truth have any influence on it.”

    p 247 “Do the Scriptures lead us to conclude that the mind and the conscience are brought into the new state by an immediate divine energy, without the medium of either the law or the gospel? I think not. It is written: by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

    The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” –John 6:63.

    “In Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” — 1 Corinthians 4:15.

    “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures” — James 1:18.

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  16. Tom Nettles on Andrew Fuller’s notion of “sufficient for all”.—–Error one: it’s tantamount to identifying the doctrine of effectual calling with atonement. What one really means by definite atonement is that the difference is not in the atonement but in the Spirit’s work of calling. A second error is subtle in nature and involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the idea of the sufficiency of the death of Christ arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s death to what he accomplished by his infinite divine nature.”

    Abraham Booth, Divine Justice Essential to the Divine Character, book 3:60 “While cheerfully admitting the sufficiency of Immanuel’s death to have redeemed all mankind, had all the sins of the whole human species been equally imputed to Him, we cannot perceive any solid reason to conclude that his propitiatory sufferings are sufficient for the expiation of sins which Christ did not bear, or for the redemption of sinners whom Christ did not represent. For the substitution of Christ, and the imputation of sins to Christ, are essential to the scriptural doctrine of redemption by our adorable Jesus…”

    Dagg (Manual of Theology, p 330): “Some have maintained that, if the atonement of Christ is not general, no sinner can be under obligation to believe in Christ, until he is assured that he is one of the elect. This implies that no sinner is bound to believe what God says, unless he knows that God designs to save him…”

    GW; But then would you go on and tell him that he has a duty to believe, while also telling them that he doesn’t actually have the ability to believe (which, of course, he doesn’t if he is currently unregenerate)?

    mark: I am not Arminian, so I do not assume that duty depends on ability. Do you? I know only a couple of “hyper-Calvinists”, and both of them agree with the Arminians that responsibility depends on ability. It seems a very strange jump to get from your idea that “Christ’s death is enough for you” to get to a presumption of ability for all sinners. Are you advocating some idea of ‘common” prevenient “grace” that has been purchased for all sinners by Christ’s death? If not, why are you basing duty (to obey the law or to believe the gospel) on ability?

    GW–If I were a perceptive unbeliever on the receiving end of such a “gospel” presentation, I would want to ask something like this: “You are telling me that I must believe in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. But on what basis should I believe in Him? After all, I may be a reprobate, in which case Christ did not die for the forgiveness of my sins, nor does He in any sense of the word offer me His forgiving grace.

    mark: Unbelievers tend not to be epistemologically self-conscious as they could be, but I can see nothing but good in presenting the truth that our salvation is not in our hands. Christ’s death has NOT now declared God’s desire to save everybody or that Christ has done enough to save everybody. To teach those two ideas as gospel may very well be what sinners want to hear, but those two ideas are not the truth and they are not what any sinner needs to hear. And again, you beg the question about “the sense of the word offer”. I have already agreed not to use the word, but I do not agree that “universal objective sufficiency” is the meaning of the word offer.

    GW– So you are telling me I must believe in Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. But even if I wanted to how could I unless God were to first give me a special direct revelation of my election?

    mark: How do you breathe without knowing when you will stop breathing and die? We agree that we don’t who is elect before they believe. I don’t know it. and you don’t know it. I guess you think you can solve the “problem” by not talking about election at all. But your telling sinners that “Christ’s death is enough for you” is not the truth and it also does not change the equation. Because at the end of the day, despite your assurances and your silence about election, it’s going to come out that Christ’s death which you say is enough is not enough and then it’s going to look like it all comes down to the sinner or what God does in the sinner.

    The gospel is not a special revelation about who is elect. The gospel is what God effectually reveals to the elect in such a way that they believe the gospel about Christ’s death for the elect. The logic of “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin” is not that Christ died for every sinner, and that every sinner had an “opportunity” to be saved, if they accepted “the offer”. No. The logic rather is that now and always there has been only sacrifice that really takes away sin, and that’s the sacrifice of Christ’s death.

    GW–; After all, I can’t know that Christ is actually sincerely offering me the forgiveness that you tell me I must trust Christ for, since I may very well be a reprobate for whom Christ did not die, which means that He in no sense offers me forgiveness. Yet it is my “duty” to believe in Him for a forgiveness which He may or may not have purchased for me?”

    mark—when preachers have said a thing, true or false, maybe they don’t need to say it again. “Actually sincerely offering” and “in no sense offers” is only more begging of the question. It does not advance the argument in any way. Your time might be better used by reading the OPC minority report. Have you ever met or read a “Reformed” person who denied the “Christ is dead for you” idea?

    GW–: Election and limited atonement are vital doctrines that undergird the gospel and strengthen the faith of believers. But unbelievers need to hear the simple law and gospel.

    mark: The Arminian gospel turns out to never be that simple. Hypothetical universalism is not simple either. “Christ died for everybody” is a complex falsehood, very commonly believed. It’s not like most people have not already heard that lie.

    GW: . Christ is the all-sufficient Savior of sinners just like you and me, who died to pay the penalty for sin and rose from the dead so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life.

    mark: It’s a shifty way of not talking about election. Romans 9:11— “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing good or bad-in order that God’s purpose of ELECTION would continue, not because of works but because of His call.” Unlike some tricky Reformed clergy who say “His covenant people” (where the idea is covenant is not governed by election, and the word election is not used), you go for “sinners like you and me”. But Christ’s death does not save non-elect sinners nor was Christ’s death intended to save (or condemn) non-elect sinners. Christ did not simply bear “sin” in a collective general “more or less, depending on what sinners decide” sense that Arminians assume.

    Christ’s death was not simply “representative” but a substitution, and all for whom He died will be saved. It’s so weird that you, on one hand, want a detailed Reformed creed which teaches so many wonderful truths about who Christ is, but then, on the other hand, want a “least common denominator” any Jesus will do, when it comes to the gospel. Or so you suggest. But at the end of the day, it sounds to me like you not only think “the enough for everybody” gospel is true and enough, but you DO NOT want to talk to us sinners about what God has revealed about election. it’s as if you think our talking about Christ actually one day saving all for whom He died will get in the way of God’s effectual call.

    Herman Bavinck, Sin and Salvation, volume 3, Reformed Dogmatics, 2006, p 469—-”The center of gravity has been shifted from Christ and located in the Christian. Faith (not the atonement) has become the reconciliation with God.”

    Jonathan Gibson, From Heaven, p 358—-“Election and the Atonement do not operate on separate theological tracks. What God has joined together, let no theologian separate. Affirming union with Christ before the moment of redemption accomplished counters any disjunction between the effect of Christ’s death and the effect of His resurrection. (Those who put union later) sound as if Christ’s death might lead to the death of some sinners, but not also to their resurrection. … if one, then the other. if death with, then resurrection with.”

    The “problem” to which those who misuse the Lombard formula (sufficiency/efficiency appeal is in fact solved by the biblical proclamation that every one who believes on the Christ who saves by His death will be forgiven and pass from death to life. . This proclamation is not grounded in Christ’s having died sufficiently for all humans. This proclamation is based on Christ’s having died sufficiently and efficiently for all the elect, no matter how enormous their iniquity. And that sufficient and efficient death has purchased faith for all the Father gave the Son.

    http://theblog.founders.org/fuller-and-the-atonement-part-1-it-is-enough-that-jesus-died/

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  17. MM: “We do not need to tell any person that Christ is “enough for them” in order to preach the truth that Christ was given an elect people and that Christ died only for the sins of these elect.”

    GW: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that you understand a believing the gospel to mean believing the proposition that Christ effectually died for the elect. Which proposition is, of course, true. But such belief is merely an historical faith, which even the unregenerate are capable of, and which even the demons affirm. True saving faith is not merely an assent to a set of propositions, but a personal trust that receives and rests upon Christ alone as He is presented in the gospel. It is a personal trust that Christ is merciful to me, as He promises to be in the gospel. But, it seems to me, in your proposal for presenting the gospel the unbeliever with whom you are sharing it can only have warrant to believe it and thus rest upon Christ if he is convinced of his own election.

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  18. Mark, just to (hopefully) clear up a few of your misconceptions about my position:

    (1) When I have opportunity to share the gospel with non-believers I do not make it a practice of telling them that “Christ died for YOU.” Like I said above, I do affirm that the atonement was designed to benefit the elect, and the elect alone. Nor do I say “Christ is dead for you.” I do not want to misrepresent or deny the truth of Christ’s effectual atonement in my presentations of the gospel, which would dishonor my Lord. Instead, what I will say is something along the lines of “Christ is an all-sufficient Savior for sinners just like you and me. Believe on Him and you will be saved.” As Paul and Silas said to the Philippian jailer in response to his question “What must I do to be saved?”: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and YOU will be saved…” (emphasis added; note the “YOU”, which implies that Christ in some sense is being offered to him personally; Paul and Silas did not say “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…IF you are one of the elect…otherwise, sorry, we have nothing to say to you…”). More on this below.

    (2) I am not saying that it is never appropriate to speak about election and predestination with unbelievers. The truth of Divine election is an important revealed truth which makes up part of the whole counsel of God, and which undergirds the gospel. Thus it may certainly be part of our conversations with unbelievers. But I don’t make election the center of the gospel, for the gospel is not centered on God’s sovereign decree as such, but on the Person and Work of Christ for the salvation of sinners. My point in expressing a certain hesitation is that I would be cautious about HOW I spoke about election to an unbeliever, lest by a careless presentation of this biblical truth I unwittingly become a means of driving them either to despair or debauchery. My concern here is that which is expressed in the Westminster Confession: “The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence an care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.” (WCF 3.8)

    (3) I am somewhat familiar with the literature of those who deny the free offer of the gospel. I have read David Engelsma’s book “Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel” (Reformed Free Publishing) and am somewhat familiar with Protestant Reformed writings. I just don’t find their case biblically or logically convincing anymore.

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  19. My position on the free offer and all-sufficiency of Christ’s atonement is well stated by A.A. Hodge in his “Outlines of Theology” (Banner of Truth):

    “In the general offers of the gospel God exhibits a salvation sufficient for and exactly adapted to all, and sincerely offered to every one without exception, and he unfolds all the motives of duty, hope, fear, etc., which ought to induce every one to accept it, solemnly promising that whosoever comes in no wise shall be cast out. Nothing but a sinful unwillingness can prevent any one who hears the gospel from receiving and enjoying it.

    “The gospel is for all, election is a special grace in addition to that offer. The non-elect may come if they will. The elect will come. The decree of election puts no barrier before men preventing them from accepting the gospel offer. Any man, elect or non-elect, will be saved if he accepts. The non-elect are left to act as they are freely determined by their own hearts.

    “There is just as great an apparent difficulty in reconciling God’s certain foreknowledge of the final impenitence of the great majority of those to whom he offers and upon whom he presses, by every argument, his love with the fact of that offer; especially when we reflect that he foresees that his offers will certainly increase their guilt and misery.” (p. 229)

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  20. GW: —Believing the proposition that Christ effectually died for the elect. Which proposition is, of course, true. But such belief is merely an historical faith, which even the unregenerate are capable of, and which even the demons affirm

    mark: Believing that “Christ’s death is sufficient for you and every sinner” is also a proposition which even the unregenerate can and do believe. Your point about regeneration being needed to believe the gospel is true, but it does not answer the question about what is gospel and what is not gospel. You grant the truth of the proposition about Christ’s death for the imputed sins of the elect. I deny the truth of the proposition about Christ’s death being enough for the non-elect

    GW— saving faith is not merely an assent to a set of propositions, but a personal trust that receives and rests upon Christ alone as He is presented in the gospel.

    mark–The promise of the gospel is that as many as who believe the gospel will be saved. The gospel does not tell any sinner that Christ died for them. The gospel does not tell any sinner that the sinner is elect. So unless you want me to agree that some of the points of Arminianism are part of the gospel, I don’t see how we disagree about God’s promise. We agree that God does not save apart from the gospel.

    GW—It seems to me, in your proposal for presenting the gospel the unbeliever with whom you are sharing it can only have warrant to believe it and thus rest upon Christ if he is convinced of his own election.

    mark—Read anything I have written in this thread or anywhere else that says I think people can know they are elect before they believe the gospel. I have explicitly denied this several times above, and yet for some reason you need to continue to misrepresent my position in order to advance your idea that a sinner only has a reason to believe the gospel if that sinner is told that Christ’s death is enough for him. I do not agree that Christ’s death is enough for the non-elect. Since Christ’s death will not save the non-elect, I see no point to adding that false proposition into the mix while keeping the good news of election a secret.

    You seem to think that sinners have a right to object—“I won’t accept any rescue except a rescue on my terms. If there’s not enough room on the boat for everyone, I am not getting in the boat.” In your scheme, you don’t talk about election in the gospel. Not only has election become “fine-print” bad news, but the meaning of election has been changed to mean that God has given all sinners the ability to accept the universal atonement and also that God has given some the will to actually accept the atonement which is enough for everyone (except for those who don’t accept it)

    GW–I do not make it a practice of telling them that “Christ died for YOU.

    mark—No, you say that “Christ died for sinners like you”, which is true but which leaves out election because you think if you speak of election then you are telling the sinner to find out if they are elect before they believe. Since you think that, you can’t talk about election. And then you think you have to add that “Christ is God and therefore Christ does nothing by measure and therefore Christ’s death is infinite enough for all sinners.” This ignores the truth that Christ did not heal all who were sick and Christ did not die for all sinners.

    GW—The gospel is not centered on God’s sovereign decree as such, but on the Person and Work of Christ for the salvation of sinners.

    mark–both the justice and the sovereignty of God are revealed in the Gospel. If Christ’s death is enough to save all sinners, but not all sinners are saved, then God is neither just nor sovereign. The work of Christ is not only sovereign and effectual, but also just and right because Christ’s death satisfies the demand of the law for all the sins God has imputed to Christ. if that design and intent for Christ’s death is not the gospel, then there will be a much more complicated (and false) gospel.

    AA Hodge—The non-elect are left to act as they are freely determined by their own hearts.There is just as great an apparent difficulty in reconciling God’s certain foreknowledge of the final impenitence of the great majority of those to whom he offers and upon whom he presses, by every argument, his love with the fact of that offer; especially when we reflect that he foresees that his offers will certainly increase their guilt and misery.” (p. 229)

    mark—This argument from Hodge does not accurately represent John Calvin’s view or even the view of many other infralapsarians. God is sovereign over the will of all sinners, and “foreknowledge” should not be reduced to prescience. Hodge seems to assume that his notion of “offer based on infinite intrinsic sufficiency” is “fact”, and ends up making the gospel something which does not save the non-elect but which “increases their guilt”. But we are all born already condemned, and not all sin is against grace. The gospel is not the law, and the false proposition of “enough for you but not enough to save if you don’t is not the gospel.

    William Lane Craig, In Pinnock, the Grace of god and the Will of Man, p 157—-“God desires and has given sufficient grace for all people to be saved. If some believe and others do not, it is not because some received prevenient grace and some did not. The efficacy of God’s grace is UP TO US, because every person is moved by God in a measure sufficient for salvation.”

    John Wesley, Working Out Our Own Salvation—“Allowing that all persons are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing that there is no man in a state of nature only. There is no man, unless he has quenched the Holy Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace he has.”

    Paul Helm—“We may note that one thing that the Amyraldian proposal does is to weaken connection between the plight of the race in the fall of Adam. For now the responsibility of each of the non-elect comes simply from hearing and not receiving the message of grace.”

    http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2015/04/amyraut-one-more-time.html

    When God effectually called me by the gospel, God taught me to fear Him so that I knew that only Christ’s death could satisfy the law for me (without anything from me). I did not demand to know that there was room in the boat for everybody before I trusted Christ to save me. I knew I needed life. I knew my only hope was God’s election. The false gospel of ‘grace enough for you” does not teach the heart what the law demands.

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  21. DGH—-Not everyone agreed with Edwards— Nathaniel Taylor’s psychology differed. For him, motives were distinct from choice or volition, and volition caused action. Taylor’s psychology was tripartite, consisting of the affections, will, and understanding; Edwards’s was dual, consisting of the affections (emotions/will) and understanding.

    DGH—Is anyone willing to stake salvation on any of these puritan speculations?

    mark mcculley Did you ever notice that the same puritans who hate the “commercial metaphor” for Christ’s death, are the very same ones who most insist on the speculation that Christ’s death is “infinite and sufficient” and therefore there’s no need to talk about election in the gospel. These purtians are also often the very same people who say that “sanctification increases” and God’s love and grace goes up the more we obey, The same people who never have a good word to say about Tobias Crisp never have a bad word about John Wesley or Andrew Fuller or puritans like Richard Baxter. .

    Mark Jones—“Divine grace is not MERELY God’s goodness to the elect in the era of redemptive history. … Divine grace is a perfection of God’s nature, and thus a characteristic of how he relates to FINITEcreatures, even apart from sin. In the garden, the grace of God was upon Adam; in the “wilderness,” the grace of God is upon his Son, the second Adam. God’s graciousness may be summarized simply as what he is in and of himself.”

    http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2015/04/can-humans-merit-before-god-2.php

    According to the Marrow theology, in the preaching of the gospel God in Jesus Christ, “God moved with nothing but his free love to mankind lost, hath made a deed of gift and grant unto them all, that whosoever shall believe in this his Son, shall not perish, but have eternal life” . As confusing as the language is, the phrase, “deed of gift and grant,” intends to teach God’s would-be love to all humans who hear the preaching on the condition that they believe.

    Contrast this confusing statement concerning the extent of the atoning death of Christ with the clear language of the Canons of Dordt— For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father. (2.8).

    Christ died once for time, back then, over there, not here, not now but in the past.. Christ is alive, having risen from the dead. In order to introduce into Reformed churches the doctrine of universal atonement, the Marrow men resorted to linguistic subterfuge: “Christ is dead for you.” The Canons of Dordt make plain that the “offer” does not mean a gracious effort on God’s part to save all who hear, in view of a love of God for all hearers and with the desire to save them all. Head one of the Canons confesses the non-election of some humans . Head two confesses that Christ died for the elect alone, according to God’s lasting love for them. Heads three and four confess that the saving call of the gospel, that which has its source in God’s election, is for some hearers of the gospel, not for all without exception.

    Head two of the Canons teaches that Christ “purchased” for the elect, not only forgiveness and eternal life, but also faith itself (Canons 2.8). Faith in Jesus Christ is a privilege, a right earned for the elect by the death of Jesus. “ If God in the gospel lovingly offers salvation to all humans on the basis of Christ’s death for everyone, Christ is not the whole savior. The sinner himself, by his acceptance of the offered Christ, is instrumental in his own salvation. Christ is no longer the savior because what God the Holy Spirit does to make the sinner accept Christ is the more fundamental part of salvation.

    According to the puritan Thomas Boston. the offer is not a gift to effectually save anybody, but merely a way to make Jesus available. Boston uses the example of the gift of money to a poor man: “Even as when one presents a piece of gold to a poor man saying, ‘Take it, it is yours’; the offer makes the piece REALLY HERE IN A SENSE nevertheless, while the poor man does not accept it, it is not HIS IN POSSESSION nor hath he the benefit of it; but, on the contrary, must starve for it all, and that so much the more miserably, that he hath slighted the offer and refused the gift”

    And thus the gospel is converted into law, an instrument of condemnation under the pretense of glad tidings to sinners Christ never knew or died for.

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  22. Mark, regrettably I think we are both doing quite a bit of talking past each other. For my part I do apologize for comments where I have either misunderstood or misrepresented your position. Be assured that I recognize your commendable zeal to uphold the the graciousness of grace and the perfection of Christ’s redeeming work (which, believe it or not, I also desire to uphold). Contrary to (what I believe to be) your misunderstanding of my position, I do not propose putting salvation into the hands of man in Arminian fashion, nor do I deny that faith is a sovereign gift of God purchased for the elect and given exclusively to them, nor does my position entail demanding of God that we sinners get to come to Him on our own term rather than his (since I believe that God’s effectual calling comes to the elect through the general call, a call from God Himself which entails the free offer).

    Back in 2013 I wrote a blog article on “The Warrant for Faith”. Rather than me re-hashing my position in voluminously-worded comments, I will just refer you to that article, if you are interested: http://lakeopc.net/2013/the-warrant-for-faith/

    In that article I quoted from a section in John Murray’s book “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” in which he deals with this matter of the warrant for faith. I will leave you with his comments, with which I agree:

    “When Christ is presented to lost men in the proclamation of the gospel, it is as Savior he is presented, as one who ever continues to be the embodiment of the salvation he has once for all accomplished. It is not the possibility of salvation that is offered to lost men but the Savior himself and therefore salvation full and perfect. There is no imperfection in the salvation offered and there is no restriction to its overture – it is full, free, and unrestricted. And this is the warrant of faith…And it is of paramount concern to know that Christ is presented to all without distinction to the end that they may entrust themselves to him for salvation. The gospel offer is not restricted to the elect or even to those for whom Christ died. And the warrant of faith is not the conviction that we are elect or that we are among those for whom, strictly speaking, Christ died but the fact that Christ, in the glory of his person, in the perfection of his finished work, and in the efficacy of his exalted activity as King and Savior, is presented to us in the full, free, and unrestricted overture of the gospel. It is not as persons convinced of our election nor as persons convinced that we are the special objects of God’s love that we commit ourselves to him but as lost sinners. We entrust ourselves to him not because we believe we have been saved but as lost sinners in order that we may be saved. It is to us in our lost condition that the warrant of faith is given and the warrant is not restricted or circumscribed in any way. In the warrant of faith the rich mercy of God is proffered to the lost and the promise of grace is certified by the veracity and faithfulness of God. This is the ground upon which a lost sinner may commit himself to Christ in full confidence that he will be saved. And no sinner to whom the gospel comes is excluded from the divine warrant for such confidence.” (pp. 109-110, emphasis added)”

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  23. “Some of a hyper-Calvinist leaning object to belief in the free offer of the gospel because they think it contradicts the biblical and reformed doctrine of unconditional election and its’ opposite, sovereign reprobation, as well as contradicting the doctrine of “limited atonement.” “But how can God in the gospel genuinely and sincerely offer Christ to those whom He has not elected to salvation? How can the benefits of Christ’s redeeming work be genuinely offered in the gospel to those for whom Christ did not die?” First, we must remember that, while Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect, nevertheless His atonement is of infinite value; and thus its redemptive efficacy may be genuinely offered to all who hear the gospel. Secondly, we must acknowledge that there is a level of mystery here. The Bible reveals many things that may, at least on the surface, seem to be contradictory truths (though ultimately they are not real contradictions; God’s Word, properly interpreted, contains no genuine contradictions). For example, the Bible teaches that there is only one God, but this one God exists eternally in three Persons. The Bible teaches that God is absolutely sovereign; but the same Bible also teaches that man is completely morally responsible. Just as God’s oneness and threeness may seem to be contradictory (but in reality they aren’t); and just as Divine sovereignty and human responsibility may seem to be contradictory (but in reality they aren’t); in the same way the Reformed doctrine of “limited atonement” and the belief in “the free offer of the gospel” may seem to be incompatible and contradictory; but in reality they aren’t. Let us beware of the danger of bringing a rationalistic mindset into this issue. All we need to know is this: Christ died only for the elect, but at the same time in the gospel God genuinely offers Christ and His saving benefits to all who hear it. There is mystery here, to be sure, but no real contradiction.”

    Source: http://lakeopc.net/2013/the-warrant-for-faith/

    Of related interest: http://lakeopc.net/2015/the-idol-of-rationalism/

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  24. Another comment I made in the “Warrant for Faith” blog article: “Some of a hyper-Calvinist leaning object to belief in the free offer of the gospel because they think it contradicts the biblical and reformed doctrine of unconditional election and its’ opposite, sovereign reprobation, as well as contradicting the doctrine of “limited atonement.” “But how can God in the gospel genuinely and sincerely offer Christ to those whom He has not elected to salvation? How can the benefits of Christ’s redeeming work be genuinely offered in the gospel to those for whom Christ did not die?” First, we must remember that, while Christ died for the purpose of saving only the elect, nevertheless His atonement is of infinite value; and thus its redemptive efficacy may be genuinely offered to all who hear the gospel. Secondly, we must acknowledge that there is a level of mystery here. The Bible reveals many things that may, at least on the surface, seem to be contradictory truths (though ultimately they are not real contradictions; God’s Word, properly interpreted, contains no genuine contradictions). For example, the Bible teaches that there is only one God, but this one God exists eternally in three Persons. The Bible teaches that God is absolutely sovereign; but the same Bible also teaches that man is completely morally responsible. Just as God’s oneness and threeness may seem to be contradictory (but in reality they aren’t); and just as Divine sovereignty and human responsibility may seem to be contradictory (but in reality they aren’t); in the same way the Reformed doctrine of “limited atonement” and the belief in “the free offer of the gospel” may seem to be incompatible and contradictory; but in reality they aren’t. Let us beware of the danger of bringing a rationalistic mindset into this issue. All we need to know is this: Christ died only for the elect, but at the same time in the gospel God genuinely offers Christ and His saving benefits to all who hear it. There is mystery here, to be sure, but no real contradiction.”

    Of related interest: http://lakeopc.net/2015/the-idol-of-rationalism/

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  25. Geoff says: “we must acknowledge that there is a level of mystery here. The Bible reveals many things that may, at least on the surface, seem to be contradictory truths (though ultimately they are not real contradictions; God’s Word, properly interpreted, contains no genuine contradictions).”
    If I may be so crass as to stick my nose in here only for a moment. I have never had this particular key discussion with McMArk, but if he is like his buddies, he is not going to grant you this at ll. Clark’s contemporary crew consider “paradox “to be practically blasphemous. As a fellow Van Tillian, I’m on your side.

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  26. The entire realm highlighted here of Edwardian philosophy and the detailed speculation about the order of will, speculation and choice makes me think if the folks who writes literally volumes about this stuff ever pull back and wonder how far removed from the real world they are. Like their Puritan counterparts who sweated over fine distinctions, I guess the Edwardians find their intellectual discussions perhaps stimulating and gratifying, even piety inducing. But as I see the actual world around me going to hell’s punishment, I would like to know if these learned men displaying their philosophical prowess ever stop to think if their finely honed speculations and even Gospel understanding would ever make one blind bit of sense to real world people like those I see in the BBC’s Scrappers? Such Scrappers type common folk like those found in Lancashire’s Bolton (types who also inhabit much of the planet) are not admittedly those the philosophers, present day Puritans and spiritual intelligentsia may want to rub shoulders with, but it is a shame such time and effort is put into their wordy intellectual ivory towers by the latter while the real world of folks like those in Scrappers is neatly by passed them.

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  27. Paul makes a worthwhile point. Whatever doesn’t equip us to faithfully reach the lost and strengthen the body is a waste of God’s time at very best. I will say though Paul that much of what is being discussed here will profoundly influence one’s approach to ministry. In other words, the fact that the laity may not even know the names of the tools and instruments, doesn’t mean that the tool and instruments won’t help them.

    Also, how one views the nature of sin’s effect on knowledge will govern how they approach the lost. As has been touched on above.

    On the other hand Presbyterians can engage in a fair bit of useless speculation for the sake of it. I’ve been guilty too on occasion. I am fairly convinced for instance that while the attribute is a true one, the details of God’s “impassibility” are both incomprehensible to us and not very useful to pursue. Try this. Have a discussion on the definition, indeed the possibility itself, of an entity (or is it) that we call “nothing.” It’s a blast. Try it with friends sometime.

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  28. Greg,
    Thanks for your constructive comments. It would be easy to be an inverted snob towards the learned, and indeed as you say much here in OL is thought provoking. I have had my thinking on issues like theonomy greatly helped by the books mentioned here in OL, leading for example to my sneaking suspicions of political warriors like Palin and carpet bomb Cruz being confirmed. How different it is in comparison to the anodyne world of most theological web sites. Wouldn’t life be dull without OL? Cheers for all the effort that goes into this site; it’s the best, by far.

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  29. Has Greg The Terrible become an unwitting apologist for oldlife.org 😀
    I appreciate your kind words Paul. My point is that precise persnickety theology is needed more today than at any other time in the last 1500 years. There are more, and more varied and more subtle attacks upon the word of God and the narrow saving gospel than there has ever been on this Continent for certain.

    Especially those in leadership should strive for scriptural accuracy in as much surgical detail as is wise and possible both from God’s special revelation in His written word, and His general revelation in the creation, ourselves included, but with scripture always as final authority. We need that.

    What we don’t need, is to find ourselves insolently probing beyond that which the Lord has intended for us to understand. Where that line is, is not always easy to discern, but it should be clear to us at some point when it’s been crossed. Unfortunately this is not always the case and at the far end, large 14 volume collections of utterly useless mental masturbation are now the focus of entire departments in institutes of what used to be Christian higher learning. For example.

    Your heart to see actual life that justifies all this theologizing is a good thing and I hope ya never lose it. This site is a blinking neon object lesson. I’m all for the often excellent theologizing. The trouble is, for the folks around here, it doesn’t amount to much else. I’d really love to see that change.

    ===================================================================
    Geoff and McMark, I am sincerely sorry if I have derailed your, in my view, very worthwhile conversation. It was only a quick observation from somebody who has spent a fair amount of time under assault from Dr. Clark’s guys. I was looking forward to quietly watching you proceed.

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  30. Paul (UK): “It would be easy to be an inverted snob towards the learned, and indeed as you say much here in OL is thought provoking.”

    GW: If I may invert myself a bit into this conversation, it seems to me that we would all do well to recognize that God gives different gifts, interests and personalities to His people. We believers are all members of the Body of Christ, but different members have different functions. That’s a fact that should be recognized and celebrated, not something that should create friction.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is this: It is easy for the intellectual types to look down their noses at the more practically-inclined, simple believer; just as it is easy for the more practically-minded believer to dismiss their more intellectually-inclined brethren as elitist intellectual snobs and theology geeks. But both need each other to balance each other out. And thus both should respect and value each other for the various gifts and perspective of the other, and not to put down the other for being different. If we all share “one Lord, one faith, one hope, one baptism”, then let us celebrate our diversity within the commonality of our common faith. (And, of course, I’m not using the term “diversity” here in the squishy, politically-correct contemporary sense of that term, but in the biblical sense of the unity and diversity the Spirit has wrought within the Body of Christ.)

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  31. GTT: “Geoff and McMark, I am sincerely sorry if I have derailed your, in my view, very worthwhile conversation. It was only a quick observation from somebody who has spent a fair amount of time under assault from Dr. Clark’s guys.”

    GW: I don’t think you de-railed anything. I just think Mark and myself have said about all that can be said to one another at this point on the topic in question. (Though it wouldn’t surprise me if McMark decides to show up again on this comment thread with another installment of the voluminous quotes and lengthy commentary for which he is well-known on OL; so I could be wrong about this.) Both of us seem to be pretty entrenched in our respective views at this point in time, and I for one do not have the time nor the energy nor the passion to pursue the matter further.

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  32. Dr. Hart says: “Greg, no problem. I’ll make it official. You’re not an apologist for OL.”
    This much needed clarification will go a long way toward avoiding any future misunderstanding Darryl lol.

    I’m not a hater either though. That’s not the point.
    =====================================================
    Geoff says: ” I don’t think you de-railed anything.”
    Well then, I actually feel better.

    With the exception of an elderly Anglican priest I know in Ireland named DARBY (an Anglican dispensationalist 😀 ), who I think has read every work of theology ever published in the history of this planet, at least the ones that are not brand new, McMark may be the most well read guy I’ve personally encountered. Regrettably, this is not helping him with some areas he needs help in.

    Drop in over there McMark. “Father” Robert will keep up with ya. Trust me. He’ll keep up with ANYbody.

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  33. Greg, it would be interesting to know how an Anglican dispensationalist priest would handle Article VII of the Church of England’s Articles of Religion, which reads in part: “Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises.” (The “old Fathers” being the patriarchs of the Old Testament.) Of course, not that C of E or Anglican clergy in general today strictly subscribe to their own Articles of Religion; nor am I denying that moderate dispensationalists recognize believers before Christ were saved by faith in the coming Messiah; but the earliest Anglican divines were clearly Reformed and covenantal in their leanings, and this, I believe, is evident in the Articles.

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  34. Ask HIM . He will have no problem happily giving you the full scoop and will be glad for the company. Seriously. He’s a very outgoing and personable ol boy. Quite conservative in the main. He ain’t doin the whole gay thing at all, for instance.

    He knows every creed, catechism and confession that ever existed and speaks regularly and affectionately of the 39 articles. He will definitely die on the hill of the doctrines of grace, though he has a rather eclectic approach to theology overall too. I’ll leave you to your own further assessment. I bet you’d like him.

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  35. I would add to my comments above in support of the infinite value and all-sufficiency of Christ’s atonement and the free offer of the gospel the following statements from the Canons of Dort, in the Second Head of Doctrine (“Of the Death of Christ and the Redemption of Men Thereby”):

    Article 3: “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction of sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”

    Article 4: “This death derives its infinite value and dignity from these considerations because the person who submitted to it was not only really man and perfectly holy, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute Him a Savior for us; and because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin.

    Article 5: “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified, shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.”

    Article 6: “And whereas many who are called by the gospel do not repent nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief, this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly imputed to themselves.”

    From the Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine:

    Article 8: “As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly declared in His Word what will be acceptable to Him; namely, that all who are called, should comply with the invitation. He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life and rest to as many as shall come to Him and believe on Him.”

    Article 9: “It is not the fault of the gospel nor of Christ, offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the Word refuse to come and be converted. That fault lies in themselves…”

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  36. In this the discussion of the sufficiency and efficiency of the Atonement and Death of Christ, which is a nice scholastic aspect, John Calvin is a good read, for He Christ “did not ascend to Heaven in a private capacity to dwell there alone, but rather that it might be the common inheritance of all the godly, and that in this way the Head might be united to His members.” (Comm. on John 14: 2, C.O. 52: 234). But indeed I myself believe Calvin believed and taught that the Atonement was always quite sufficient to save innumerable amounts of souls & sinners, but of course the efficiency or better the efficaciousness and effect was and is toward the Elect alone! So in some sense the Death of Christ is a general Atonement or Satisfaction for Sin, from both the depth, value and profundity of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ Himself! “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1: 29). And as Paul’s Colossians: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything HE might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Col. 1:13-20, NIV 2011) And of course this includes the New Creation! To God be the glory in Christ Jesus our Lord!

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  37. Our brother Hart visited my wee blog this A.M., and I have his blog on my blogrolls! But a great and grand subject here!

    Btw, I am NOT a so-called “classic” dispensationalist, but a more “eclectic” one, and more towards the PD, or Progressive Dispensationalist! Surely as Paul wrote, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to the Jew first, and also to the Greek/Gentile.” (Romans 1: 16 ; see too Romans 9: 1-5, with of course chapter 11: 25-29). And see too, 1 Cor. 10: 32.

    Let me also recommend W H Griffith Thomas’s fine book: The Principles Of Theology, An Introduction To The Thirty-Nine Articles, (547 pages ; First Edition 1939, and many reprints out there.) Btw too, Griffith Thomas was one of the very early men within the beginning of Dallas Theological Seminary. But he was always a “lite” dispensationalist. And was at Wycliffe College in Toronto, in his time, teaching Systematic Theology.

    Semper Fi! 🙂

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  38. No problem, age is just a number and state of mind! Though I am surely of the old school generation, a conservative Brit, even living in the USA these days (actually since about 2008). But we have a home still in greater London, where my oldest son (26 lives). Had him at 40. He too is a conservative and teaches military history at the private college. My youngest son is a medic in the Royal Army Infantry.

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  39. irishanglican: “Let me also recommend W H Griffith Thomas’s fine book: The Principles Of Theology, An Introduction To The Thirty-Nine Articles, (547 pages ; First Edition 1939, and many reprints out there.)”

    GW: Just ordered this volume not too long ago. As one raised in the Episcopal Church but now a dyed-in-the-wool confessional Presbyterian, I still have a love and esteem for the Articles of Religion (and also for the unobjectionable aspects of the liturgy contained in the Book of Common Prayer), most of which could be wholeheartedly affirmed even by the staunchest of Presbyterians. I look forward to learning more from it especially about the history of the Articles. In looking through it, I think it could also be commended as a good resource for confessional Presbyterians and Reformed who have an interest in Anglican-Presbyterian dialogue. (It even has an introduction by J.I. Packer, arguably one of the most profound Reformed Anglican thinkers of our time.)

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  40. @Greg: I believe myself there will be no return from THIS “Apostasy”! And I base this partly again on Modern Israel, and the people and weapons aimed against her! Not to mention this age of modernity & postmodernity! Surely the depth of 2 Timothy 3: 5 is opening before us! And note verse 7… “Ever learning, and NEVER able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Actually is literally: “Always learning and never to a knowledge of truth!”

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  41. @GW: My copy is 1963 hardback, London, with the Preface by Griffith Thomas himself, and the Forward by the late Rev. Canon Dyson Hague, D.D., who called it “almost an Anglican Encyclopaedia”! Hague was also at the Wycliffe College,Toronto.

    Btw, I must press old Archbishop Ussher’s: The Irish Articles,1615, as the nine Articles at Lambeth, 20 November, 1595! But yes, always the BCP, 1662 for me! 😉

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  42. And you thought the Puritans were complicated. Say hello to Jesuitical:

    We first encounter this dilemma when we learn the difference between mortal and venial sin. While it requires grave matter for a sin to be mortal, not all sins involving grave matter are in fact mortal. Instead, two interior aspects also affect the gravity of sin. First, the sinner must be aware of the grave nature of his decision to sin; second, the sinner must choose the sin with the full consent of his will. In ordinary human lives, a large number of circumstances mitigate the guilt incurred when we sin, so that sins which are objectively gravely evil may in fact be venial for any given sinner.

    We see in this another example of the mercy of God: The less spiritually mature and well-formed we are, the more often our sins are venial rather than mortal—owing to the very blindness and compulsion which we have not yet overcome through spiritual growth. We are dealing here with a Gospel principle: To whom much is given, from him much is expected. (Of course, we also recall that complete stagnation is unacceptable. The one who has been given little can fall into the danger of losing the little he has.)

    If only God had applied this casuistry to Adam.

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  43. Sounds like a pretty narrow needle to thread…who could possibly ever fall into a mortal sin? And here I thought the path to destruction was wide – thus the need for that good news that someone has kept the law on our behalf.

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  44. SDB and Darryl,

    Ah, but don’t you see the brilliance of the RC system: You really never know if you are in a mortal sin or not. You can’t ever be sure that you haven’t committed one. So, better to go to a priest (who may have a different understanding of mortal sin than the other priest down the street) and get that infusion of grace in penance and hop back on the sacramental treadmill. Hey, you’ll never know if you’ve done enough to merit final justification, but the odds you will get there are slightly better than us separated brethren. Pay, pray, obey, and maybe you’ll be saved. Who are you to judge yourself?

    Develop an exceedingly complex harmartiology that provides no assurance and you keep people bound to priest and pope. Then, when irregular situations develop, change pastoral application of dogma (wink, wink), so that you keep people in (remember success=1 billion professing members) even when your hamartiology (which supposedly hasn’t changed) would have kept them out just ten years ago. Don’t draw sharp boundaries and keep everyone guessing about their salvation except for the fact that you better tip your hat to the Vatican at least nominally or you are toast. Unless of course you don’t do so in a formal way, in which case you might be separated. Or something.

    Sounds like a Reformation happened over a lot of this…

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  45. DG quote: We are dealing here with a Gospel principle: To whom much is given, from him much is expected.

    ‘course for believers, Jesus says “ he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment (Jesus took all the punishment), but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24) (and there also is a bema reward ceremony to look forward to)

    but for unbelievers, it appears there are degrees of punishment in hell:
    Luke 12 45 But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47 And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.

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  46. Darryl,

    Good find on that article by Mirius. I liked this part: “The first conclusion to be drawn is that any quarrel with Pope Francis on this point is not a quarrel over doctrine, but a quarrel over discipline. We are arguing not moral principles, but spiritual prudence. We are considering the question of which pastoral strategy, which type of ecclesiastical discipline, will bear the greatest fruit in our contemporary situation, when marriage and family life are under overwhelming assault. Because the question is prudential, let me state clearly that I have no patience at all with those who say, in effect, that this is the last straw, that the Church has gone astray, and that they are leaving. Yes, I have had emails to this effect already, so I wish to be frank: This is sheer stupidity; worse, it is a dramatic failure in Faith.”

    How about you?

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  47. Clete,

    We are considering the question of which pastoral strategy, which type of ecclesiastical discipline, will bear the greatest fruit in our contemporary situation, when marriage and family life are under overwhelming assault.

    Let me translate:

    Nobody in the pews is listening to us regarding living as brothers and sisters if you get remarried after divorce with no annulment. On top of that, everybody outside the church thinks we’re mean, and plenty of people within the church agree. We don’t want to be mean, and we don’t want to lose members. So, let’s keep the dogma on paper but change its application. That way, most of the people on both sides will be relatively content and we’ll get to keep the fruit of 1 billion nominal members.

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  48. Robert,

    “when marriage and family life are under overwhelming assault.”

    I think you need to get your money back from your linguistics tutor.
    Redefining marriage and family life is not protecting against the assault, it’s capitulating to it. That’s why SSM advocates don’t like AL – odd that would happen if AL’s intent was to “stop being mean”.

    That’s why AL calls divorce an evil and lauds those who are divorced and not remarried to partake of the eucharist, while being much more cautious with those in “irregular” situations:

    “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.”

    “I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur…. A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people themselves.”

    “Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others”

    “Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits”

    “they can provide occasions for pastoral care with a view to the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage”

    “In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them, something which is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    “Given that for the same law there is no graduality (cf. FC, 34), this discernment can never prescind from the demands of truth and charity of the Gospel proposed by the Church. For this to happen, the necessary conditions of humility, confidence, love for the Church and her teaching, in the sincere search for God’s will and the desire to achieve a more perfect response to it, must be secured.”

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  49. Robert,

    Here is another article from The Week that is highly quotable here

    Many conservatives are revealing themselves as cowards, too. They hope that because the pope’s document seems so confused and self-contradictory, because it hides its innovations under a ton of verbiage, and buried within footnotes, and because it is merely an exhortation and not a more lofty encyclical, that they can embrace what is good in the document, and pass over the rest. “It could have been worse,” they are telling themselves. “It cites the Church’s teaching against contraception, at least.”

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  50. Indeed we can only press scholastic method so far! But, Reformed Scholasticism is helpful, as long as it keeps to the mystery and decision or judgment of Holy Scripture! And so-called venial verses mortal sin, can only really be expressed in any biblicism, looking at the sin against the Holy Spirit! See btw 1 John 3: 6 thru 24, etc.(noting too 1 John 5: 16-19, etc.). Always the issue is one “born of God” (regeneration, life in God!)

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  51. Clete,

    That’s why SSM advocates don’t like AL – odd that would happen if AL’s intent was to “stop being mean”.

    There’s already a discipline process in place for “irregular” situations: get an annulment. So again, what’s the point of the document. To tell us again that divorce is bad? But we already have “the unbroken tradition” telling us that.

    It’s an exercise in obfuscation in order to wink at what is already happening. Yeah, SSM for now is off the table. But of course those in irregular situations can have good things about their relationships. Sounds familiar. Rome’s trying to catch up with mainline Protestantism, you just move slower because you’re more tied to traditionalist cultures.

    From the get-go, Francis’ intent has been to “stop being mean.” Don’t be so rigid with the canon law. Who’s to judge? Let them Lutherans come to communion if they want to. This is what liberals do.

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  52. Robert,

    “Yeah, SSM for now is off the table.”

    There it is, the chicken little sidestepping done every time the church isn’t destroyed to anti-catholic disappointment. 3 years ago here – “The synods and pope are totally going to do away with everything, you kool-aid fools! Francis and Kasper are bffs. Just watch!”. Now – “oh, well dogma didn’t change but whatever – it’s coming – just watch!” You’ll forgive if I take this latest round of prognostications with a grain of salt.

    “So again, what’s the point of the document.”

    To reiterate church teaching (sorry folks, SSM is still prohibited, adultery is still sinful, and divorced and cohabitation couples don’t get a free pass to the eucharist) and encourage greater pastoral involvement and discernment in messy situations and encourage more humility and compassion amongst the spiritually prideful.

    “But of course those in irregular situations can have good things about their relationships.”

    Well yeah. This is odd to you? I guess children born out of wedlock are worthless in your eyes.

    “Rome’s trying to catch up with mainline Protestantism”

    That would be the mainline working for SSM, giving a shrug to divorce as no big deal, not caring about contraception, and the like right? Odd that AL works against those if it’s trying to catch up.

    “Let them Lutherans come to communion if they want to. This is what liberals do.”

    Is Zrim liberal now?

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  53. James Young, if you like Mirius, you’ll surely like Michael Sean Winters:

    …some of the responses have been remarkably negative.

    Cardinal Raymond Burke wrote an article for the National Catholic Register in which he writes:

    In other words, the Holy Father is proposing what he personally believes is the will of Christ for His Church, but he does not intend to impose his point of view, nor to condemn those who insist on what he calls “a more rigorous pastoral care.” The personal, that is, non-magisterial, nature of the document is also evident in the fact that the references cited are principally the final report of the 2015 session of the Synod of Bishops, and the addresses and homilies of Pope Francis himself. There is no consistent effort to relate the text, in general, or these citations to the magisterium, the Fathers of the Church and other proven authors.

    Earlier, he claims that Pope Francis himself indicated that Amoris Laetitia is not an exercise of the magisterium, citing paragraph 3 of the document. It is obvious that Cardinal Burke wants to downplay the significance of this document, but I read paragraph 3 and it only says that the magisterium can’t solve all problems, not that the document is not an exercise in the magisterium. And, so far from this text being merely an expression of what Pope Francis “personally” believes, the fact that the pope stuck so closely to the conclusions of an overwhelming consensus on the world’s bishops gathered in the synod lends the text even greater magisterial weight, not less. Funny, I do not recall Burke and others making the case that Familiaris Consortio was not an exercise in the papal magisterium, even though that text, too, was the result of a synod.

    The National Catholic Register also published a very strange article by Fr. Raymond De Souza in which he analyzes Amoris Laetitia in terms more suitable for realpolitik analysis of great power diplomacy. “The same Pope Francis who threw open the Synod of Bishops to a protracted and divisive debate found himself restrained by that same synodal process in the end,” he writes. I did not find the debate, really a discussion, unnecessarily “protracted.” After so many years in which synods ceased to function as real arenas for discussion, I suppose there was some pent up need to discuss matters. Nor was the debate divisive. There were differences of theological approach, to be sure, as there have been throughout the history of the Church. But, as noted above, the synod achieved overwhelming consensus on each and every paragraph of the final Relatio last year. But, “divisive” suggests that the pope was working against his primary mission, which is to guarantee the unity of the Church. It is a loaded word. I am sure De Souza and his ilk thought there was really nothing to discuss. They had all the answers. So, to them, the two year process was protracted and divisive. To the rest of the world, it was kind of refreshing.

    And, I would like to know from Fr. De Souza when he interviewed Pope Francis and found out that the pope felt “restrained” by the process. From everything I have read about what the pope has said publicly, he found the process liberating, constructive, important, indeed I think the case could be made that Pope Francis is committed to the process, and to whatever outcomes that process yields, mindful that the ecclesiology of Vatican II was, insofar as it applied to the Synod of Bishops, frustrated in recent decades. If Father knows differently, he should explain his sources and, seeing as he is speaking in sweeping claims about how the pope felt, I would hope one of those sources is Pope Francis himself. I am guessing that is not the case.

    I would also note that the National Catholic Register is owned by the Eternal Word Television Network. In the past two weeks, many, many bishops have fallen all over themselves praising this “apostolate.” Care to rethink that praise? It should be obvious to anyone who watches that network or reads their newspaper that they are opposed to Pope Francis. After the publication of these two reactions to the Holy Father’s apostolic exhortation, it takes a willful disregard for the truth to believe otherwise.

    The worst response came from Professor Ed Peters, who teaches canon law at Sacred Heart Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit and who is also a consultor to the Apostolic Signatura. I encourage all to read his post in its entirety. Before delving into his particular brand of canonical commentary, he opines, “one must recall that Francis is not a systematic thinker. While that fact neither explains nor excuses the various writing flaws in Amoris, it does help to contextualize them. Readers who are put off by more-than-occasional resort to platitudes, caricatures of competing points of view, and self-quotation simply have to accept that this is how Francis communicates.” Where to begin? MUST one recall, or even assert, that Pope Francis is not a systematic thinker? Might it not be the case that Pope Francis understands, what Peters does not, that systematic thinking has proven lousy at conveying the Gospel to the people of God? And the rest of the commentary is so condescending, I have to say that if I were a bishop, and I think we can all be glad that I am not, and I had a seminarian at the seminary where Peters teaches, I would be on the phone with the rector first thing in the morning to inform him I was removing my students so they would not be poisoned by this snide, hateful man.

    Peters does not reserve his nastiness for the Supreme Pontiff. While Pope Francis calls upon the Church to be more welcoming and compassionate towards those in irregular marriages, such as those who have been divorced and remarried civilly, Peters refers to such unions as “objectively adulterous post-divorce pseudo-marriages.” How is that for welcoming? Really, if a seminarian is being taught this, is it any wonder that some turn out to be “little monsters.”

    There have been other bad pieces. George Weigel at National Review claims that Cardinal Kasper lost, reducing the discernment the bishops engaged into the the kind of commentary more appropriate to a basketball game. Clare Chretien, at the Federalist, laments that Pope Francis is probably heterodox and is definitely part of the Church’s “identity crisis.” (Why is the Federalist interested in this subject at all?) Poor Ross Douthat at the New York Times has decided that having been a Catholic all of ten minutes, he is now in a position to decide upon the pope’s orthodoxy. Please.

    The Holy Father warned against those who take the teaching of the Church and throw it like a stone at other people’s lives. Indeed. This morning, Archbishop Christophe Pierre was named as the new nuncio to the U.S. and we all wish him a big “bienvenue.” He has his work cut out for him.

    It must feel odd being one of those conservatives who defends dogma joining hands with those who don’t have a dogmatic care in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  54. Cletus van Damme says: … love for the Church and her teaching…

    haven’t you forgotten Someone ?

    1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we LOVE GOD and observe His commandments. 3 For this is the LOVE OF GOD, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (and Rev 2:4)

    Liked by 1 person

  55. Clete,

    To reiterate church teaching (sorry folks, SSM is still prohibited, adultery is still sinful, and divorced and cohabitation couples don’t get a free pass to the eucharist)

    Not a free pass. Now a go-to-confession-and-who-cares-about-annulment-if-the-priest-you-like-says-go-for-it pass.

    And nothing has changed.

    and encourage greater pastoral involvement and discernment in messy situations and encourage more humility and compassion amongst the spiritually prideful.

    Discernment? So previously the bishops wouldn’t give an annulment to divorced and remarried couples, but now they can discern that it is okay if the person seems contrite enough?

    And now the practical question—if the priests doling out the Eucharist before didn’t ask about their parishioners marital status, and in the vast majority of cases they didn’t, they’re going to now? I’ve been to mass. I’ve known cohabitating RCs. Nobody, not even the priest, cares. Come to the altar and you’ll get the Eucharist.

    Like

  56. Darryl,

    This jumped out at me:

    In other words, the Holy Father is proposing what he personally believes is the will of Christ for His Church, but he does not intend to impose his point of view, nor to condemn those who insist on what he calls “a more rigorous pastoral care.” The personal, that is, non-magisterial, nature of the document is also evident in the fact that the references cited are principally the final report of the 2015 session of the Synod of Bishops, and the addresses and homilies of Pope Francis himself. There is no consistent effort to relate the text, in general, or these citations to the magisterium, the Fathers of the Church and other proven authors.

    So if Burke is right, what’s the point. Is the papacy just a medieval version of Ann Landers?

    Like

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