17 April, 2016

A Response to an Argument from God’s Attitude of Wrath towards the Pre-Conversion Elect

…and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2:3 KJV). 

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Matthew 3:7 KJV). 

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come (I Thessalonians 1:10 KJV).

The Argument in Question:

Despite all arguments concerning the Scripture doctrines of the Omnipotence, Simplicity, and Unchangeableness of God, it is asserted by defenders of the teaching that God desires all to be saved that because God evidently holds simultaneously two mutually incompatible attitudes to the Elect prior to their conversion (i.e. the eternal decree to save, and the damning wrath unto judgment for their sins), so, likewise, they argue, He is able to hold simultaneously two mutually incompatible attitudes toward the reprobate (i.e. the decree to leave them in their sins unto final damnation, and also an ardent desire to save them from their sins). It is argued that if God sincerely holds a damning wrath over the Elect in their pre-conversion state and that this is compatible with Him simultaneously setting them as the objects of His saving love, then, they argue, it would follow, as a corollary that He can likewise exercise sincerely a desire to save the reprobate co-extensively with His eternal decree to predestine them to destruction. Any abrogation of the force of the word sincerely in the case of the reprobate here would also necessitate logically a consonant abrogation of its force with respect to the sincerity of the wrath of God over the Elect prior to their conversion.



British Reformed Journal

(The following is taken from the British Reformed Journal, Issue No. 10, April-June 1995, pp. 4–8)

If, as these theologians assert, God’s wrath over the pre-conversion elect is a sincere threat of ultimate damnation, then two things follow. First, there is then an evident will or purpose in God, i.e., to damn, which, in the case of the elect, is never fulfilled, because of course, God saves His elect from that damnation. Secondly, this indicates that there exists in God two parallel and incompatible purposes with respect to the elect, one, an eternal purpose unto the just damnation of the elect for their sins, and the other an equally eternal purpose to redeem them. This, it is then alleged, establishes that in God two mutually and simultaneously incompatible decrees and attitudes can co-exist, and that unfulfilled purpose or intent is also to be found within the Divine person. [It is asserted that if] this is so with respect to the elect, then it is perfectly compatible with there being a similar phenomenon with regard to the reprobate, or non-elect, that is, that God can and does hold with regard to them two mutually simultaneous and incompatible purposes—the decree to leave them in their sins unto damnation, and the sincere desire to save them from this consequence, this latter purpose being, in the case of the non-elect, a sincere desire or purpose which remains unfulfilled, or frustrated, even as the sincere purpose to damn the pre-conversion elect was also unfulfilled.

All this, it is claimed, indicates a salient proof of their notion of the “free offer” of the gospel as being a sincere expression of God’s desire to save the non-elect. Leaving aside the deleterious consequences of this kind of reasoning on the Biblical doctrine of God in His Unity, Simplicity, and Omnipotence, it is eye-opening to make a close inspection of the logic contained in this line of argument. At the outset, it is necessary to point out that it is based on an entirely false and unbiblical view of the matters in hand. A false scenario has been drawn by proponents of this view, and their deductions follow, ipso facto and inexorably. But following as they do from a false scenario, ipso facto and inexorably their deductions are wrong. One ought to consider here, the following criticism of their arguments, given by Hugh Williams, thus:

They leave out of their picture the most important feature of Biblical revelation and Christian Theology, that is, the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in His Three-fold Office whereby He effectuates the Redemption of God’s elect through His Atonement. It has to be said that, on occasion, some Reformed theologians in discussing the decretive purposes of God, lose connection with the work of our Saviour, and tend to hold the doctrines of the decrees and of God’s nature and purpose in abstract from Christ. The result can be such as exemplified in the false scenario put forth here. The fact is, that biblically speaking, God’s wrath against the pre-conversion elect is absolutely and indubitably as sincere and as damning as the wrath He holds over the non-elect. There is NO difference whatsoever. To the elect as well as to the non-elect comes the Scriptural warning “…flee from the wrath to come…” (Matt. 3:7), and St. Paul can write to the Thessalonians about “...even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (I Thess. 1:10). But it is utterly false, and contrary to Scripture, to assert that this just, sincere, and damning wrath of God is unfulfilled and/or frustrated with regard to the elect, and that concerning them an important aspect of God’s purposes is left unfulfilled. Scripture indubitably teaches that God’s wrath over the elect HAS BEEN FULFILLED, that His righteous anger over them has been satisfied, and not in any way frustrated. His wrath on the elect was poured out on Christ, who in His estate of humiliation fully bore and suffered the just anger and retribution due to the elect for their sins. And thus the Scriptures teach:

Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes we are healed. (I Peter 2:24)

But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. (Rom. 4:25)

One could multiply such Scriptures almost endlessly, e.g., I Thess. 5:9 and 10; Col. 1:14–22; Matt. 26:28; Titus 2:14; I Cor. 15:3; Heb. 9:12–27: Christ’s humiliation consisted in His being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, THE WRATH OF GOD, and the cursed death of the cross, in being buried, and in continuing under the power of death for a time.

Thus it is indubitably manifest that God’s purpose of wrath over the pre-conversion elect, far from being unfulfilled, has been fulfilled, and that in a manner that could not be more excellent. At the same time as He procured this satisfaction for His justice and wrath, God’s eternal decree to save the elect is effectuated, whereby they undergo an ontological transition out from the estate of sin and misery and into an estate of salvation, being metamorphosed into new creatures in Christ in the process, and this by the sovereign application of the Holy Spirit’s energies. Thus St. Paul is inspired to speak of how “the righteousness of God without the law is…” and how God, through the work of Christ declares “…at this time His righteousness: that HE MIGHT BE JUST, AND THE JUSTIFIER OF HIM WHICH BELIEVETH ON JESUS.” (Rom. 3: vv. 20 through 26)

Hence there is also, no question of God holding, with regard to the elect, two mutually simultaneous contradictory attitudes or purposes. His purpose to damn is appropriate to the pre-conversion elect, but His purpose to elect unto life is appropriate to Christ, and all those IN CHRIST, for the Scriptures do not say “according as He hath chosen us before the foundation of the world,” but rather, “according as He hath chosen us IN HIM before the foundation of the world…” (Eph. 1:4). Outside of Christ there is no election, only damnation.

The corollary of this is that the assertion that there exists in God a temporally expressed desire to save the non-elect immediately collapses, as it would require the positing of an unfulfilled purpose or desire in the Divine personality, now no longer backed by a similar parallel phenomenon registered vis a vis the elect. With it collapses the notion of God holding two mutually simultaneous contradictory purposes with regard to the non-elect, i.e., the decree to damn, and the purpose or desire to save. For this too, is now seen to have no parallel backing from God’s dealings with His elect. And with this too, the whole charade of “common grace” disintegrates, collapsing like the pack of cards in “Alice in Wonderland,” depending, as it does, like the “Free Offer” fantasy, on the blasphemous notion of there being “double-track” psychology in a God who suffers perpetually the pangs of frustration from unfulfilled but “sincere” purposes and desires.

One might desire to do X, and simultaneously to desire to do NOT X. But one cannot SINCERELY desire to do X, and simultaneously SINCERELY desire to do NOT X. And to ascribe such logical acrobatics to the Almighty is sheer blasphemy, and effectively reduces Him to the level of being a crook, a downright fraud.8

One is left therefore, with the conclusion that only those who hold that God does not will the salvation of the reprobate at all, are in keeping with the teaching of the Westminster Standards.


8. Personal correspondence from editor of British Reformed Journal.



More to come! (DV)

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