27 November, 2016


The Condemnation of Modern Modified Calvinism in the Law of the Church

The Vindication published by the Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia under the date of 12/2/1965, gave a full account of the matter under this heading. This is now repeated together with other relevant factors brought forward in this essay.

1. We have seen how the Westminster Confession is a positive statement of doctrine which teaches that only the elect are effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but does not, in any of its statements, specifically exclude a conditional intention in the atonement for the reprobate. We have also seen that the Church of Scotland in taking an absolute position in respect to the atonement, in the Acts of its General Assembly of 1720 and 1722, in which it condemned the book of The Marrow, declared the doctrine of universal redemption as to purchase to be contrary to Scripture, the Westminster Confession and the Larger Catechism.

2. Since the constitution of our Church embraces the Church of Scotland Acts of 1720 and 1722, the book of The Marrow and its terms are condemned in our Church.

3. The Marrowmen of Scotland reinterpreted the terms of the book of The Marrow in an attempt to bring the theology of that book and its terms within the Church of Scotland, but in so doing subjected their theology to ambiguity and contradiction.

4. Modern modified Calvinists who have embraced the doctrine of the Marrowmen, have extended the ambiguities and contradictions of that system, in their proclamation of a universal loving-kindness in God, and the notion that God, in the free offer of the Gospel, desires the salvation of all men. This has been systematised in their doctrine of the complexity of God’s will in which one department of the Divine mind is said to respect His preceptive will, but at the same time is contrary to its other department, which respects His decretive will.

5. In the pamphlet issued by the Literature Committee of our Presbytery, it was shown that the Westminster Confession positively teaches that the disposition of God toward the reprobate is one of everlasting hatred and wrath, and does not at any point teach that God desires the salvation of all men.

6. In spite of the two facts, a) that the Westminster Confession teaches that the disposition of God toward the reprobate is one of hatred and wrath, and b) that there is no statement in the Confession which teaches that God loves the reprobate and desires their salvation; the Report of the 1971 Free Church Synod, pages 24 & 27, makes the incongruous statement that our Presbytery has engaged in “an attempt to impose a doctrinal position on the Church which is not laid down in the Confessional Standards of the Church and does not take sufficient account of certain clear statements of Scripture and Reformed interpretation of them.”

7. It is because the Westminster Standards make positive statements only on this matter and do not directly deny a universal benevolence in God, that our Presbytery has maintained from the outset, that the doctrines of The Marrow and of modern modified Calvinism cannot be condemned by simple or direct appeal to those Standards, but must be condemned by an Act of the highest court of the Church.

This was declared in the Vindication published by our Presbytery under the date of 13th February 1965, relative portions of which we now quote.

Page 10 of the Vindication:

Difference of opinion has arisen as to the procedure by which the controversy may be resolved. The supporters of the controverted propositions maintain that they are allowed by the scope of interpretation, which it is claimed, is inherent in the Westminster Confession. We, however, maintain that an interpretation of the Confession cannot be used to maintain the controverted doctrine, without allowing two diametrically opposed systems of theology to ever disturb the peace of the Church, and so we insist that the controversy cannot be resolved otherwise than by a declaratory act of the Church.

In other words, because the controverted doctrine is not declared or refuted in the Westminster Standards, being a gross error, it must first be shown to be contrary to Scripture and then condemned by a declaratory act of the Church, in this case by the principle of interpretation of Scripture.

Page 28 of the Vindication:

The following are the ambiguities contained in the doctrine of the Marrowmen and our present opponents.

1. Christ having taken upon Himself the sins of all men, and being a deed of gift and grant unto all mankind, is not a universal benefit or purchase of the death of Christ, therefore,

2. the said deed of gift and grant to all mankind is effective only to the elect, i.e., an infallible redemption gifted to all secures only a portion of its objects.

3. A deed of gift and grant to all is only an offer.

These ambiguities are embraced by the proponents of the doctrine presently controverted, with the addition of several others, namely, that: The Omniscient and Omnipotent Being of God,

1. earnestly longs for, and desires the salvation of those whom He has for the praise of His glorious justice made reprobate, having made them the objects of his eternal displeasure and wrath,

2. does not inwardly call by His Spirit all those whom He earnestly longs and desires to save,

3. has a desire and longing which is at variance to His will as an efficient cause to the doing of all His good pleasure,

4. has a will to the realisation of that which He has not decretively willed, and a pleasure toward that which He has not been pleased to decree.

Pages 29, 30, and 31 of the Vindication:

“Chapter 5. Conclusion, The application of the Act of 1720, and the rule of interpretation of Scripture to the present controversy.”

As we have demonstrated, the resolving of the present controversy cannot rest on an interpretation of the Confessional Standards, but must first rest on the definition of the extent and intent of redemption as to purchase clearly given to those standards in the Act of 1720 … The Act of 1720 condemns certain propositions of the book of The Marrow as advocating a universality of redemption as to purchase, which as we have demonstrated, the Assembly accurately condemned in the actual meaning of their terms … These propositions belong to the same school of doctrine as that of Davenant and Amyraut, which asserted an absolute intention for the elect, and a conditional intention for the reprobate in case they do believe.

The Act did not condemn those propositions under meanings which were attached to them by the Marrowmen. So that we are now faced with propositions using terms and expressions which have a double meaning, i.e., one which is condemned under the Act of 1720, and the other which is seemingly orthodox, attached by the Marrowmen, on which they and our present opponent have rested their claims to orthodoxy within the Church.

The Vindication then stated the terms under which the doctrine of modern modified Calvinism is condemned in our Church. It reads as follows:

The position as it stands is this:

The terms which are used by our opponents from The Marrow are directly condemned by the Act of 1720, because in fact, they advocate a universality of redemption as to purchase.

The ambiguous use of those terms as listed, Nos. 1­3 (page 52 herein) are condemned by the principle of interpretation of Scripture as stated in the Westminster Confession chapter 1, para. 9. Nos. 4­7 (page 52 herein) are condemned for the same reason. Since the ambiguous use of terms is the vehicle upon which the notion that God longs for and desires the salvation of all men in the free offer of the Gospel is entirely entered, such notion is also condemned.

It is clear from the foregoing that our Presbytery has not, as falsely alleged by the Free Church Synod Report, page 23, ever rested its condemnation of the doctrines of modern modified Calvinism, which includes the whole system of doctrine which derives from a notion of universal benevolence in God, directly on the 1720 Act of the Assembly of the Church of Scotland, or by direct appeal to the Confession.

It is equally clear that our Presbytery has rested on the 1720 Act only for condemnation of the terms of the book of The Marrow and the doctrine of universality of redemption as to purchase. Quite apart from that Act, our Presbytery has declared the use of the ambiguities of the Marrowmen and modern modified Calvinists, which are the vehicle on which the notion that God desires the salvation of all men is entered, to be contrary to the principle of interpretation of Scripture as set out in the Westminster Confession.

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