20 August, 2016

FAQ - Isn’t God kind and good to all men? What about all the good things in this world? Is not all this kindness “undeserved,” “unmerited,” and always “forfeited”? Are they not blessings?


Q. 1. Does God do good to all men?”

[We] agree wholeheartedly that God gives the gifts of this natural life to all. All men have in common the whole of natural life as it develops out of creation. We do not deny that these gifts of natural life are good. Who would deny that God does good? Who would deny that God always does what is good? Therefore, everything that comes from God is also good. The heathen receive from God good rain and good fruitful times, good food and good gladness. There is no difference whatever in that regard.

The question is whether God also gave “grace” to the heathen. That is exactly what we deny and Scripture never teaches. If at the moment when the murderer lifts his arm to strike the victim, God did not give him good strength, that cruel arm would at that very moment drop lamely. God therefore also does good in that instance, for He gives good strength. But who will still say that God gives him “grace”?  When God gives to the Greek artistic skills, and He gives him the good marble, and the Greek then makes an idol, who would dare to assert that God gave “grace” along with the skill and the marble? When God gives to the Roman the sword and natural jurisprudence, and that Roman stands before Jesus and says, “You are innocent, but I crucify you,” who calls that “grace”? And when God gives to the world a glad heart to wild pleasure and revelries, who will say that “grace” is hidden in that gladness of the world? Therefore, let it be said again: grace is not in things, but in the good favor of God, who works blessing in and through the means. The things are always common in this world, but grace is never common. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “Sin and Grace,” pp. 248-250)

##################################################

Q. 2. “Are not the temporal benefits enjoyed the reprobate (e.g. earthly pleasures, fruitful wombs, rain and sunshine on their crops, joy and laughter, long abundant and peaceful lives etc.) tokens or proofs of God’s love? Are they not blessings, graces, mercies and favours upon them?”

This was Asaph’s mistake, and it is the mistake of many. In "the sanctuary of God" (Ps. 73:17), Asaph came to understand that "the prosperity of the wicked" (v. 3)—their health (v. 4), food (v. 7), riches (v. 12)—was "surely" God’s setting them "in slippery places" before He casts "them down into destruction" (v. 18). God gave them good things in His providence, but He "despised" them (20) for their wickedness (v. 8). . . Solomon, the wisest of men, declared, "The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked" (Prov. 3:33). All the good things in his house—wife, children, possessions, food etc.—come not with God’s love but with His curse. (Rev. Angus Stewart)


[The implicit assumption of the theory of common grace] is that the giving of good gifts to someone (or something) implies God's love for them. However, this is patently unbiblical, as the Scriptures often identify God’s reason for giving good gifts to the reprobate wicked, not that He loves them, but that He purposes righteously to destroy them (e.g., Ps. 73:3-28; 92:7-9). More generally, the Scriptures explicitly state that “no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them,” that is, all the good things which God gives to every man (Eccles. 9:1). (Dr. Manuel Kuhs, British Reformed Journal, Issue 59)

[If] the temporal benefits enjoyed by the reprobate argue God’s love to them, what do the temporal deficits endured by the elect argue? The logical conclusion would be God’s hatred towards them. Yet, nobody would be prepared to concede such a conclusion. Why, then, should the argument from temporal benefit to divine love be embraced? (Rev. Matthew Winzer, “Murray on the Free Offer,” in The Blue Banner, vol. 9, #10-12, p. 11, n. 29)

Something that all advocates of common grace miss is that God’s grace is not in things but in His disposition behind the things that He gives (Ecc. 9:1-2). God’s providence is universal, not particular. God upholds and governs even the wicked by His hand. God supplies even the wicked with the good gifts of this creation. Often, the reprobate wicked enjoy more of God’s creation and for a longer time than do His often beleaguered children. But those good things are not in themselves grace. God can give rain, sunshine, food and clothing graciously or in His wrath (Num. 11:33). If God has a benevolent disposition of good will toward a creature, in which He desires to bless that creature, we call that good will “grace.” But God might also have a disposition of wrath against a creature, in which He desires to curse that creature. Never can we call such a disposition “grace” (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”).

Psalm 37 shows that the prosperity of the wicked is illusory; they only seem to be favoured by God. In reality, God is cursing them even in their prosperity. We quote some texts so that the reader might get a flavour of the Psalm. “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb” (vv. 1-2). “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him that prospereth in his way …” (v. 7). “For evildoers shall be cut off … For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be …” (vv. 9-10). “But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away” (v. 20). “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found” (vv. 35-36). Notice the temptations to which we are exposed by the seeming prosperity of the wicked: envy and fretting oneself to do evil. A Christian who believes that God is blessing the wicked with “common grace” will be tempted to leave the path of obedience and to walk with the wicked, so that he might enjoy more of God’s “common grace” also. That is exactly why Psalm 37 and 73 were written—that we might not fret ourselves to do evil! (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”).

If [a person] desires to prove common grace, he needs to prove that, when God gives good gifts to the wicked, this is evidence of His favour upon them, which favour then ends at death, when He casts the same wicked, whom He supposedly favoured in time, into everlasting destruction. However, this creates other problems, for how can God’s grace, mercy or love be temporary, especially when Psalm 136 declares twenty-six times that “his mercy endureth for ever”? [The theory of common grace] confuses God’s providence, which is common, with God’s grace, which is not common (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”).

##################################################

Q. 3. “If temporal benefits are not tokens of love, mercy, kindness etc. toward the reprobate, what do we call this seeming ‘kindness’ to the wicked? After all, He feeds them, sustains them, and even gives them His revelation (both special and general). What is this if this isn’t grace?”

They are simply good gifts which show God's goodness and leave man inexcusable. (Rev. Angus Stewart)

The good gifts of providence that he gives to the wicked, are meant as a testimony to them that He is a good God, full of kindness and love, and therefore one worthy to be worshipped and before whom they should repent were they in their right mind, and that if they were to do so they would experience His loving fellowship as sweet. (Prof Herman C. Hanko)

[The] ungodly are indeed the recipients of the good gifts of God, not as evidence of His grace, but according to His providence. To be sure, unless the ungodly receive all the gifts of God, they could never sin, and they could never increase their guilt and fill up the measure of iniquity and become ripe for destruction. These very gifts constitute, as it were, the capital wherewith they sin and develop in ungodliness. We must understand, therefore, that these things are a means both for God, who sovereignly executes His purpose, and for the wicked, who act as responsible, moral agents. The wicked employ God’s gifts knowingly and wilfully in the service of sin and corruption; thus they are responsible and harden their hearts unto their own destruction. God uses these same means according to His sovereign counsel and in His wrath over the ungodly, thus fitting them as vessels of wrath unto destruction. Thus the greater gifts and talents, the more means the wicked have wherewith to sin and to develop in sin, and the more swiftly they run to destruction. (Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema)

An act of God toward a human can be good in the sense that the act itself or the gift itself is pleasing to the sinner and advantageous to his earthly life—health, financial prosperity, earthly power—without being a gracious act of God toward the sinner to whom the good is given. If God bestows the good in His wrath and with the purpose to render the sinner guilty of ingratitude and with the purpose to harden him for eternal destruction, the good thing is not gracious on God's part, but the expression of His just wrath and the agent of His will to harden and destroy the sinner. One of the clearest revelations of the difference between a good thing and grace is Psalm 73. God lavishes the ungodly with good things in order that they slide into perdition. If all the good things that God bestows on the reprobate wicked in this life are grace, my petition is, “God, spare me Thy grace.” (Prof. David J. Engelsma)

##################################################

Q. 4. “Why can’t we call the good things in this world that the wicked receive ‘grace’ or ‘favor’?”

This question is best answered by Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema in the following link:

##################################################

Q. 5. “Why can’t we say that God both blesses and curses, or curses and blesses the same individual?”

Proverbs 3:33 teaches, “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.” God does not curse those upon whom He is gracious; and God does not bless those whom He curses. Blessing and cursing are mutually exclusive: “For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off” (Ps. 37:22). On the Last Day, Christ will declare that His elect sheep are blessed (both in time and into eternity), while the reprobate goats are cursed (both in time and into eternity) (Matt. 25:34, 41, 46). (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”)

##################################################

Q. 6. “All gospel preaching is in any case not merited and always forfeited.”

If the preaching is not grace for the reprobate, but indeed a savor of death unto death, and that according to God’s intent, as the Scriptures plainly teach, then it is not proper to speak in this connection of gospel preaching as undeserved and forfeited. In that terminology is already implied that it is grace for the reprobate when he hears the gospel. This is certainly not the case. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “A Power of God Unto Salvation,” pp. 69-70)


##################################################

Q. 7. “Does God rejoice with the ungodly in their prosperity?”

Psalm 73 is God’s own answer to this question. As regards the “prosperity of the wicked” (v. 3), by His giving the wicked many good things and in their enjoyment of a comfortable earthly life, God sets them “in slippery places.” He casts them “down into destruction,” so that they are “brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors” (vv. 18-19). No empathy of shared joy here!


God has no joy in the pleasures of the ungodly. He has no joy in their life at all. Their life angers Him, for they live apart from Him, and in enmity against Him. All their pleasures are sinful pleasures, for whether they eat or drink, work or play, marry or divorce, they do nothing to the glory of God. What joy can God have in sin?

God has no “feeling” of delight in the things that most please and gladden the ungodly. As far as He is concerned, they have no business rejoicing in those things. “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jer. 9:23-24).

God has no joy in the reconciling of two unbelievers, for their reconciliation dares to oppose peace apart from God in Jesus Christ. God has no joy in the “repentance” of one whose repentance does not include, indeed is not rooted in, sorrow of heart that he has sinned against the good God. God has no joy in a non-Christian’s forgiveness of her adulterer husband, for she “forgives” without reference to the sole ground and source of forgiveness, namely the grace of God in the atonement of the cross. God has no joy in the loving marriage of two secularists, for they do not thankfully receive the great good of marriage from God its maker, nor live in it according to His will, nor devote it to His praise.


We opponents of common grace have this against the theory, that it is a spiritual soporific to the ungodly in their decent, comfortable, pleasurable, brief lives in the world. It is as if the preachers of common grace run along the banks of the lovely river on which the ungodly are drifting—ever more swiftly!—in their fine vessels, enjoying themselves to the fullest, with the preachers shouting to the ungodly, “God loves you! He rejoices in your joy of floating comfortably down the river! He has a gracious purpose with your blessed river cruise! And around the next bend are the dreadful falls that will plunge these ungodly into eternal perdition.


I wonder whether, since the defenders of common grace would not listen to the testimony of the Protestant Reformed Churches, God will not have the damned convince them of the error of common grace. On the day of judgment, before the condemned depart to their place, they will turn to those who taught and defended common grace, and say, “Why did you go out of your way to leave the impression with us that all was well with us in the very favor of God? Why did you not warn us, sharply and incessantly, that God’s wrath lay on our prosperity, that He was angry with our joy, and that His curse was in our house, so long as we remained unconverted to Him, to whom all life ought to have been lived? Why did you Calvinists not teach us what your own Heidelberg Catechism plainly asserts in Lord’s Day 50, namely, that God’s good gifts are one thing and His blessing quite another, that people can have the gifts without the blessing, and that the gifts without the blessing do not profit?” (Prof. David J. Engelsma, “Common Grace Revisited,” pp. 45-47)

##########################################

Q. 8. “The term ‘Common Grace’ refers to the fact that, in this life, God treats all men, whether elect or not, far better than they deserve. He sends sunshine and rain upon both the wicked and the godly. It is called “common” because these blessings are given to elect and non-elect alike. It is called “grace” because these blessings are undeserved ... Although God allows men to be afflicted with disease or injury, yet He often sends healing to them, that they may regain their health. Many of those who mourn are eventually comforted. Many of those who witness the horrors of war are protected from its devastation and are preserved to see the return of peace. How many of the unsaved can give accounts of how they were saved from fire, drowning, windstorms or other calamities? In these and countless other ways, God shows kindness to the unsaved every day—a kindness that none of us deserves.”


The issue is not whether ungodly persons receive good gifts from God, for example, health and riches, but whether these good gifts come to them in a favor of God towards the ungodly and are God’s blessing of them.  Good gifts are not necessarily indicative of God’s favor or grace, nor are they necessarily blessings, that is, gifts that effect the good of those who receive them.  If they are, earthly evils are expressions of God’s wrath and accomplish the harm of those saints who receive them from God. In this case, God was gracious to the rich man of Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus and worked the good of him by the gifts of wealth and ease, whereas God was wrathful to poor, sick Lazarus and effected the hurt of Lazarus. Grace is not in things. Grace is in Jesus Christ. All things work together for good to those who love God. All things work together for evil to those who hate God. Psalm 73 demolishes the assumptions of the advocates of common grace. The afflicted believer of the psalm was sorely troubled by the fact that the ungodly enjoyed many good things belonging to earthly life, whereas he, the believer, suffered lack and trouble. Then in God’s house, where the gospel is proclaimed and where the cross of Christ is set forth as the satisfying of the wrath of the just God against sinners, the psalmist understood that by the good things of earthly life God in fact sets the ungodly on slippery places so that he slides swiftly into the desolation of eternal death, whereas by the afflictions of earthly life He prepares the godly for eternal life and glory. The basic errors of the proponents of common grace is that they identify earthly prosperity with grace and blessing and they explain this life apart from the cross (which testifies that the only removal of wrath is the cross of Christ) and without regard for the eternal state, heaven or hell. (Prof. David J. Engelsma)


##########################################


Q. 9. “So we both agree that God indeed gives good gifts to the reprobate wicked/non-elect in this world. But are they not also completely ‘undeserving’ and ‘unworthy’ of these goof gifts? Have they not forfeited the right to have these wonderful things? Is it not therefore in that sense a ‘grace’?”

Many who believe in “common grace” do so because God in His providence gives good gifts to the reprobate wicked, which they do not deserve. “Every day that a wicked person lives in this world is grace to him, for everything apart from hell is grace,” is the argument of many. We agree wholeheartedly that the reprobate wicked deserve nothing—they do not even deserve to live. However, that is not the same thing as grace. It is important in order to avoid confusion to use words as Scripture uses them. In this case, it is important not to confuse grace with providence. Sometimes, those who believe in “common grace” and those who do not are talking past one another because they do not properly define their terms.
Grace in Scripture is God’s favour. The issue is not whether God gives good things to the wicked, which they do not deserve to have, but what is God’s purpose in so doing and, especially, what is God’s attitude to the wicked to whom He gives such good gifts? If God’s purpose in prolonging the life of the reprobate wicked is to enable them to treasure up wrath against the day of wrath (Rom. 2:5) or to place them on slippery places so that they are cast down into destruction (Ps. 73:18) or that they might be destroyed forever (Ps. 92:7), we cannot call that grace. (Rev. Martyn McGeown, “An Answer to Phil Johnson’s ‘Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’”)

[It is] true that from a certain point of view God’s gifts are always unmerited. Man can never merit with God, nor the creature with the Creator. Even when we have done all that is required of us, we are still unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10). If God gives good gifts to men, these are surely unmerited.
There are those who refer to this unmerited character of God’s gifts when they speak of grace. They mean nothing more than that God gives gifts to men which are totally unmerited by them. We have no objection to this idea in itself, although we noticed in an earlier article that the word “grace” in Scripture means more than the giving of an unmerited gift. It also refers back to an attitude of God. Grace is unmerited favor; and favor is an attitude. The question is: Do the good gifts God gives express His favor towards the wicked? (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 27, no. 2 [April 1994], p. 24)

In most radical modern forms of the common grace theory it is argued that, because God in this life gives good and unmerited gifts to the reprobate wicked, this means that He must have a temporary favour or love for them. But the cause of God giving these things must be sought in the end or purpose God has ordained for them, just as the reason God afflicts and brings evil upon the righteous must be sought in His end purposes for them. In both cases, the way in which God views these two different types of people cannot be understood without specific reference to His final purposes concerning them. Such passages as Proverbs 16:4 and more particular Psalm 73:17, 18, show clearly that, since the end purpose of God towards the reprobate wicked is wrath and destruction, the cause of Him giving them good things is to prepare them for this end, and so cannot be an expression of love. (British Reformed Journal, Issue 9 [January - March 1995], pp. 22-23)

##########################################

Q. 10. “Some hold the term “common grace” to mean nothing more than the providence of God in His daily rule of creation the providential control of rain and sunshine which God is pleased to send upon the earth.”

[While] one may perhaps quarrel with the use of the term “grace” in this connection, no one will quarrel with the idea. That God’s providence is His power by which He controls all that happens in all creation is a truth written large on every page of Scripture and imbedded firmly in all Reformed and Presbyterian creeds. (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, PRTJ, April 1992)

##########################################

Q. 11. “What is the main objection to the idea that God loves all men?”

Negatively, the theory that God loves all men is, of course, in plain contradiction to the teaching of the Scripture (e.g., Ps. 5:5, Ps. 11:5, Mal. 1:3, Rom. 9:13). Positively, the Scriptures confirm that God loves only His people. An example of this can be seen in the doctrine of election. Why are some chosen to life and some not? Simply because God only loved some, and thus only chose some. Thus “foreknowledge” in Romans 8:29 is equivalent to “forelove” and is the ground of our predestination to glorification. This loving choice of God involves two elementsaetiology (the study of original causes) and teleology (the study of purposeful ends). The cause of our election and salvation is found in the love of God to us. But this electing love also shapes our final destiny and end both as far as this life is concerned (Eph. 2:10) and ultimately in that which is to come (Rom. 8:29). (British Reformed Journal, Issue 9 [Jan – Mar 1995], p. 22)

##########################################

Q. 12. “Can we not distinguish between man as righteous or wicked and man as a creature or God’s workmanship?”

That is an abstraction which is nowhere found in Scripture (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “The Standard Bearer,” Vol. 37, Issue 11).

##########################################

Q. 13. “In the Bible, and in experience, we clearly see that God’s dealings with wicked men in this world are that He nevertheless still treats them ‘as men.’ Is this not said to be gracious?”

How else could God deal with men but as men? Surely, He could not deal with men as animals, or as devils, or as stocks and blocks? Does God not always deal with each of His creatures according to the nature which He Himself gave that creature? Or I could ask the question: is God, then, also gracious to the reprobate in hell? Also there, remember, He continues to deal with men as men, that is, He causes them as men to suffer the everlasting torments of hell-fire. But is this perhaps gracious? (Prof. Homer C. Hoeksema, “The Standard Bearer,” vol. 50, issue 9 [Feb. 1974])

##########################################

Q. 14. “But what about when wicked men become successful and prosperous in life? Is not this a gracious blessing of God and something that they do not deserve?”

[It] is very essential that we clearly distinguish between “success” and “blessing.”

Not infrequently the two are confused, and what is mere “success” is considered blessing. When a man prospers in the world, when he enlarges his place, gains in influence and power, increases his substance and possesses many temporal things, it is by no means uncommon that men call him blessed, or that he even considers himself blessed. Yet, if nothing else can be said of such a man, he is merely successful. If with all his success he is a wicked man, he does, indeed, have a reward, but his reward is, nevertheless, no blessing, but a curse to him. Blessing is the word of God’s favour and grace upon us and to us; success is no proof of the grace of God at all, may consist of slippery places upon which He places us in order to cast us down into destruction. God’s blessing is upon His people; it is never upon the wicked, however successful and prosperous they may be. God’s blessing is based upon the righteousness which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; success has no ground of righteousness and leaves a man under the wrath and curse of God. Blessing means that God causes all things to work together for our eternal good, that we may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; success is limited to the things of this present time and hemmed in on all sides by death and destruction.

That is why we speak of a curse-reward.

As long as we consider the things of this present life, the success and progress, the advancement and the prosperity of the wicked well-doer, as blessings of God upon him, gifts of His grace which the Most High bestows upon him in order that he should enjoy them for a time; as long as we separate the things of this present time from their eternal purpose and end, we shall never understand that even the reward of the wicked well-doer is a curse. But as soon as we see all things in their true light and relation, this becomes very clear. For, when the wicked well-doer is successful, increases his wealth, enlarges his place, gains in power and influence, he merely enhances his obligation to serve God. For, the things of this present time are God’s capital, entrusted to us, placing us under the obligation to serve and glorify the Most High with it all. But the wicked cannot and will not employ all things in His service. To him the things of this present time are means to satisfy the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And, therefore, the more he increases his substance and position, the greater sinner he becomes, the more he aggravates his judgment, the severer will be his eternal punishment. (Rev. Herman Hoeksema, “The Curse-Reward of the Wicked Well-Doer”)


No comments:

Post a Comment