20 August, 2016

FAQ - Questions pertaining to creeds and confessions.


Q. 1. “Does not the word “offer” appear in Calvin, in other Reformed theologians, and in such Reformed creeds as the Canons of Dordt and the Westminster Confession of Faith?”

The word “offer” is used in most of the Reformed creeds and has been used by Calvinists since the Reformation itself. But the question is not, “Did they use it?” so much as, “What did they mean by it?” (British Reformed Journal, Issue 9 [Jan - Mar 1995], p. 25)

The term "offer" has an entirely different connotation today from its original Latin definition. In the Canons, the term "offer" simply means "to present" or "to set forth." The idea is that of Acts 13:46, where Paul and Barnabas addressed the Jews, and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we tum to the Gentiles." To take the simple concept, well understood by the fathers at Dordt, and to add the baggage associated with the idea of a well-meant offer is unwarranted. (Rev. Steven Key, Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, vol. 37, number 2, p. 51)

Although our quarrel with the offer is not a quibbling over words, the word offer should be dropped from the Reformed vocabulary. Not a biblical term, it is so loaded with Arminian connotations today that it is no longer serviceable. Instead of anoffer of the gospel, we should speak of the call of the gospel as the scriptures do. (Prof. David J. Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel [RFPA, 2014], p. 48)

It is true, as we observed in an earlier chapter, that sometimes among Reformed theologians the word "offer" was used in this sense. And when it is used in this sense, we have no quarrel with the idea that is proposed by it. Nevertheless, the idea must be distinguished from what is commonly taught by those who maintain a free offer. The latter teach that through the preaching God expresses His desire, willingness and intention to save all that hear the gospel because it is His revealed will to save all—a will that is rooted in some sense in an atonement which is for all. That through the preaching of the gospel the command to repent of sin and believe comes to all is an entirely different idea. (Prof. Herman C. Hanko, The History of the Free Offer, Chp. 4)

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Q. 2. "Does not Canons of Dordt, Head II, Article 5 say that the promise must be “declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously” thereby teaching a general, conditional promise?"

The article in question states as follows: 


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 (Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, p. 586).


Canons, 2.5 states and teaches a **particular** promise of grace: “whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” The promise applies itself to the believer: “whosoever believeth.” It is **for** the believer. It is **to** the believer. The promise is not for the unbeliever remaining in his unbelief. The promise itself excludes the unbeliever as its object. The particular promise itself implies a warning to those who do not believe: “whosoever believeth not shall perish.”


The general publication of the promise is not the same as the publication of a general promise. Even the average unbeliever understands the distinction. The promise of the lottery that the person turning in the winning number 666 will receive a million dollars, although announced to the entire nation, is a particular promise: to and for the one person with the winning number. It is for no one else. Similarly, God wills, and the Reformed church practices, that the particular promise, “whosoever believes shall be saved,” be published indiscriminately to all and sundry.


(David J. Engelsma, “Protestant Reformed Theological Journal,” April 2014)

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