16 January, 2017

Chapter Three

Francis Turretin and the Calling of the Reprobate

Francis Turretin (1623-87), who held the chair of theology at the Genevan Academy from 1653 until his death, was a great synthesizer and defender of Reformed orthodoxy.95 He frequently defends and exposits the declarations of the Synod of Dort in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology. His interpretation of the Canons and his exposition of the Reformed doctrine of the calling of the reprobate shed a great deal of light on this subject and demonstrate the coherence of this doctrine. At the same time, he leaves no room for the well-meant offer of salvation as it is presented by the 1924 synod and its defenders.

In his discussion of the calling of the reprobate, Turretin repudiates two assertions: First, that the reprobate are “called with the design and intention on God’s part that they should become partakers of salvation;” and second, that it follows from this that “God does not deal seriously with them, but hypocritically and falsely; or that he can be accused of some injustice.” Turretin states the Reformed position as follows:

We do not deny that the reprobate … are called by God through the gospel; still we do deny that they are called with the intention that they should be made actual partakers of salvation (which God knew would never be the case because in his decree he had ordained otherwise concerning them). Nor ought we on this account to think that God can be charged with hypocrisy or dissimulation, but that he always acts most seriously and sincerely.96

God has both a common and special end in his call. The common end, that is common to all who receive it, is “the demonstration of the mode and way of salvation and the promise of salvation to those who profess the prescribed condition.”97 The special end for the elect is “the actual bestowal of salvation upon those whom on that account he calls not only imperatively but also operatively; not only by prescribing duty, but by performing that very duty, working within us by his Spirit what he externally commands by his Word.”98 For the reprobate, God’s end “is their conviction and inexcusability.”99

The question, according to Turretin, is not whether “God wills to bestow any grace upon reprobates over and above those who are destitute of this blessing (such as the heathen and other infidels) but whether he intends to give saving grace or salvation to them and calls them with this purpose, that they may really become partakers of it ..." which Turretin denies. Here Turretin may acknowledge the possibility of some other kind of grace besides saving grace; the call itself may even be a (temporary) blessing.100

Turretin proceeds to demonstrate, in six arguments, how God can deal seriously with the reprobate, even when he does not intend their salvation.

1. “God cannot in calling intend the salvation of those whom he reprobated from eternity and from whom he decreed to withhold faith and other means leading to salvation. Otherwise he would intend what is contrary to his own will and what he knew in eternity would never take place, and that it would not take place because he, who alone can, does not wish to do it. This everyone sees to be repugnant to the wisdom, goodness, and power of God.”101

2. “God does not intend faith in the reprobate; therefore neither does he intend salvation, which cannot be attained without faith.”102

3. “Christ, in calling the reprobate Jews, testifies that his proposed end was their inexcusability” (ajnapologiva; cf. John 9:39, 15:22).103

4. “Those who are called with the intention of salvation are ‘called according to purpose’ (kata prothesin, Rom. 8:28), the purpose of which is that they love God, be justified, etc.104

5. “Salvation according to the intention of God is promised to none other than those having the prescribed condition ... Since this cannot be said of the reprobate, it equally cannot be said that they are called by God with the intention that they should be saved.”105

6. “It can no more be said that God calls each and every individual with the intention that they should be saved, than that they should be damned. For a conditioned promise includes the opposite threatening, so that every unbeliever will be condemned as every believer is to be saved ... It can no more be concluded that God wills all to be saved for the reason that he promises pardon of sin and salvation to all promiscuously (if they repent), than that he does not will the salvation of all for the reason that he denounces a curse and death upon all (unless they repent and believe).”106

Turretin can use the term offer (oblatio, the nominal form of offero, which can also mean “presentation”107) in explaining how the reprobate are called seriously yet without the intention of salvation; but he does so in a way that is quite incompatible with the claims of the welgemeende aanbod des heils:

Although God does not intend the salvation of reprobate by calling them, still he acts most seriously and sincerely; nor can any hypocrisy or deception be charged against himneither with respect to God himself, because he seriously and most truly shows them the only and most certain way of salvation, seriously exhorts them to follow it and most sincerely promises salvation to all those who do follow it, namely, to those who believe and repent; nor does he only promise, but actually bestows it according to his promise; nor in regard to men, because the offer [or presentation, oblatio] of salvation is not made to them absolutely, but under a condition, and thus it posits nothing unless the condition is fulfilled, which is wanting on the part of man.108

The key to understanding how God can seriously call the reprobate without intending their salvation is the distinction between the will of the decree and that of the precept:

[If] he shows that he wills a thing by the will of precept and yet does not will it by the will of decree, there is no simulation or hypocrisy here, as in prescribing the law to men, he shows that he wills that they should fulfill it by approbation and command, but not immediately as to decree. Now in calling God indeed shows that he wills the salvation of the called by the will of precept and good pleasure (envarestiva), but not by the will of decree. For calling shows what God wills man should do, but not what he himself had decreed to do. It teaches what is pleasing and acceptable to God and in accordance with his own nature, namely, that one should come to him; but not what he himself has determined to do concerning man. It signifies what God is prepared to give believers and penitents, but not what he has actually decreed to give to this or that person.109

It is one thing to will reprobates to come, i.e. to command them to come ... another to will that they should not come, i.e. not to will to give them the power to come. God can in calling them will the former and yet not the latter without any contrariety because the former has to do only with the will of precept, while the latter has to do with the will of the decree For a serious call does not require that there should be an intention and purpose of drawing him, but only that there should be a constant will of commanding duty and bestowing the blessing upon him who performs it, which God most seriously wills.110

Turretin also clarifies the relationship between the will of God in calling and the role of the preacher in proclaiming the gospel. The preacher can proclaim that Christ is the Savior of all who will come to him in faitha truth that even the reprobate can believe.111 Pastors are to “invite all their hearers promiscuously to repentance and faith as the only way of salvation, and, supposing these, to salvation; and they ought to intend nothing else than the gathering of the church or the salvation of the elect.”112 Pastors do not know who will benefit from their preaching. They certainly cannot distinguish between the elect and the reprobate. In charity they may wish the best for all; and they dare not judge any person to be reprobate. At the same time, however, their intention is none other than that of the Lord: they intend only the salvation of the elect, whoever they may be.113

In his discussion of the various distinctions in the will of God, Turretin makes it clear that it is the will of the decree (or good pleasure) that is more properly referred to as the will of God; this is usually what is meant by “the will of God.” The decree of the precept (or complacency) “does not properly include any decree or volition in God, but implies only the agreement of the thing [commanded or prescribed] with the nature of God.” Thus it is “less properly called the will of God.”114 Thus, when we ask whether God wills all to be saved, the answer is, properly speaking, no.


95. On Turretin, see James T. Dennison Jr., “The Life and Career of Francis Turretin,” in Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3:639-58; idem, “The Twilight of Scholasticism: Francis Turretin at the Dawn of the Enlightenment,” in Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment, ed Carl R. Trueman and R. Scott Clark (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999), 244-55.

96. “Nos vero licet non negemus Reprobos ... vocari a Deo per Evangelium; Negamus tamen eo consilio et intentione vocari, ut salutis reipsa fiant participes, quod novit Deus nunquam futurum, quia aliter in Decreto suo de iis constituit. Nec propterea censemus Deum hypocrisis ullius vel simulationis posse insimulari, sed maxime serio et sincere semper agere,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.2; Opera, 2:444.

97. “modi ac viae salutis demonstratio, et promissio salutis iis qui conditionem praescriptam habuerint,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.5; Opera, 2:444.

98. “ad salutis ipsis actualem collationem, quos ideo non modo imperative, sed et operative vocat, non praescribendo duntaxat officium, sed illud ipsum perficiendo, intus per Spiritum operando, quod per Verbum foris praecipit.” Inst. Elenct. 15.2.5; Opera, 2:444.

99. “convictio eorum et inexcusabilitas,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.5; Opera, 2:444.

100. “Non, An Deus gratiam Reprobis aliquam impertiri velit, prae iis qui hoc beneficio destituuntur, quales sunt Ethnici, et alii Infideles? Sed, An gratiam salutarem seu salutem illis dare intendat, eoque consilio eos vocet, ut fiant reapse ejus participes,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.7; Opera, 2:445.

101. “Quia Deus non potest vocando intendere salutem eorum, quos ab aeterno reprobavit, et quibus fidem et alia media ad salutem ducentia denegare decrevit: alias intenderet, quod scit voluntati suae esse contrarium, quodque in aeternum novit nunquam futurum, et non fimtrum, quia ipsi hoc praestere non vult, qui solus potest; quod sapientiae, bonitati et potentiaae Dei repugnare nemo non videt,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.8; Opera, 2:445.

102. “Quia Deus non intendit fidem in Reprobis: Ergo nec salutem, quae sine fide haberi nequit,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.9; Opera, 2:445.

103. “Quia Christus in Vocatione Judaeorum reproborum testatur se finem propositum habere eorum ajapalogivan John 9:39; 15:22,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.10; Opera, 2:445.

104. “Quia qui vocantur cum intentione salutis, vocantur kata; provqesin; quia intentio ista est actus Electionis et effectus proqevsew,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.11; Opera, 2:445.

105. “Quia non aliis promittitur salus ex intentione Dei, quam conditionem praescriptam haben-tibus ... Quod cum de reprobis dici nequeat, dici non potest pariter eos a Deo vocari ea intentione ut salventur,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.11; Opera, 2:446.

106. “Quia non magis potest dici Deum omnes et singulos vocare ea intentione, ut salventur, quam ut damnentur; siquidem promissio conditionata includit comminationem oppositam, ut omnis incredulus damnetur, ut omnes credens salvandus est ... Non magis concludi potest Deum velle onmes servari, eo quod omnibus promiscue promittat remissionem peccatorum et salutem si resipiscant, quam Deum nolle quemquam servari, eo quod omnibus denunciet maledictionem et mortem, nisi resipuerint et convertantur,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.12; Opera, 2:446.

107. See the Oxford Latin Dictionary, s.v. “oblation”: “the offering of something, tender, presentation.”

108. “Quamvis Deus non intendat salutem Reproborum eos vocando, maxime tamen serio et sincere agit, nec ulla hypocrisis et simulationis labes illi adspergi potest: Nec respectu Dei ipsius, quia serio et verissime ostendit illis unicam et certissimam viam ad salutem, serio hortatur eos ad illam sequendam, et sincerissime promittit illis omnibus qui eam secuti fuerint, credentibus scilicet et poenitentibus, salutem; nec promittit tantum, sed reipsa confert juxta promissionem; Nec quoad homines, quia oblatio salutis non fit illis absolute, sed sub conditione, atque adeo nihil ponit nisi posita conditione, quae deficit ex parte hominum,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.12; Opera, 2:446, emphasis added.

109. “Si prae se fert velle aliquid voluntate praecepti, nec velit tamen volutante Decreti, nulla hic est simulatio vel hypocrisis: Ut praecipiendo Legem hominibus prae se fert velle ut eam impleant quoad approbationem et mandatum, sed non statim quoad Decretum. Jam in vocatione prae se fert quidem Deus velle salutem Vocatorum voluntate praecepti et enjarestiva, sed non Voluntate Decreti. Nam vocatio ostendit quidem quid Deus velit jubere hominem ut faciat, non vero quid decreverit ipse facere; docet quid Deo gratum sit et acceptnm, et conveniens naturae suae nimir: ut Vocati adse veniant; sed non quid ipse de homine facere constituerit: significat quid Deus paratus sit dare credentibus et poenitentibus, sed non quid actu decreverit dare huic vel illi,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.15; Opera, 2:446.

110. “Alius est velle venire Reprobos, id. praecipere ipsis, ut veniant, et hoc gratum habere; Ailud velle non yenire, id. nolle dare illis vires veniendi. Dells potest vocando ipsos velle prius, nec velle tamen posterius, absque ulla contrarietate; quia illud respicit tantum voluntatem praecepti, istud vero voluntatem Decreti ... Nam ad seriam Vocationem non requiritur, ut sit intentio et consilium eum adducendi, sed tantum ut sit voluntas constans praecipiendi officium, et beneficium illud facienti conferendi, quod Deus vult maxime serio,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.16; Opera, 2:446-47.

111. Inst. Elenct., 15.2.19; Opera, 2:447.

112. “In eo quod tenentur ex ordine Dei omnes auditores suos promiscue invitare ad resipiscen-tiam et ad fidem, tanquam unicam salutis viam, et his positis ad salutem; et quod non aliud intendere debent, quam collectionem Ecclesiae, seu salutem Electorum,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.22; Opera, 2:448. The English. translation is incomplete here, leaving out “and, supposing these, to salvation”; see vol. 2:509.

113. “Ministri ... nesciunt quorum saluti cessurum sit ministerium suum, non valentes distinguere inter Electos et Reprobos, bene ominantes ex charitate de omnibus, nec audentes judicare de eujusquam reprobatione. Ideo promiscue et indiscriminatim omnes Vocatos alloquuntur etiam ex ordine Dei, non aliorum tamen salutem intenendo, quam Electorum ad instar Dei,” Inst. Elenct., 15.2.22; Opera, 2:448.

114. “Euvarestivan contradistincte ad eujdokivan, ctv in hoc argumento nihil aliud notat quam meram complacentiam, qua Deus rem aliquam ut justam et sanctam probat et ea delectatur, eamque propterea vult praecipere Creaturae ut justissimum ejus officium: Unde non includit proprie decretum vel volitionem aliquam in Deo, sed tantum importat rei convenientiam cure Dei natura, juxta quam non potest non amare quod sanctitati ipsius est consentaneum: Nam approbatio rei alicujus non continuo est ejus volitio; nec si aliquid probo, idcirco statim id volo. Ideo minus pro-prie dicitur ista voluntas Dei,” Inst. Elenct., 3.15.11, Opera, 1:201.

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