16 January, 2017



Chapter One

Proponents of the Well-Meant Offer


The Three Points In All Parts Reformedso claimed Louis Berkhof’s pamphlet defending the 1924 synodical decision.11 Berkhof was professor of dogmatics at the Christian Reformed seminary, advisor to the synodical committee on common grace, and a highly skilled synthesizer of the Reformed faith.12 Thus it is surprising to discover that his defense of the well-meant offer of the gospel is not only marked by imprecision and misunderstanding in his use of the important theological terms, but it is also lacking in its historical-confessional basis.

It is an unfortunate fact that Berkhof demonstrates very little familiarity with the actual views of Hoeksema and Danhof, and he frequently mischaracterizes their position. He accuses the ministers of preaching only to the elect, and ridicules them for attempting something that only Christ himself could do (since only he knows who the elect are), and that he in fact did not do.13 Berkhof, moreover, bases these accusations on hearsay, rather than on the published writings of the two ministers. At one point Berkhof writes: “According to reports, one of their number, in a recent speech, presented the following depiction of the matter: If a teacher addresses a crowd of a thousand people, God only speaks to a certain number of them, and calls them by name, and this divine speaking must indeed be the offer of the gospel that comes only to the elect.”14

There are numerous historical and logical errors in both the synodical report and Berkhof’s defense of the well-meant offer. The most glaring logical jump is that which the synod and Berkhof make from the concept of call to that of offer. In the synodical material and in Berkhof’s defense of the three points, these two terms are used synonymously and interchangeably. Berkhof states that “this calling of the gospel, or this offer of salvation, is, according to the synod, universal.”15 The position of Hoeksema and Danhof, however, was precisely that the nature of the call was not that of an offer, particularly in the modern sense of the term. To use call and offer interchangeably, therefore, begs the question.

The synod’s first point cites as evidence certain passages from the Canons of Dort “which deal with the universal offer of the gospel.” But in fact, these passages speak of no such thing. Canons II:5 speaks of the mandate to proclaim the gospel to all, including its promises and obligations, to all persons without discrimination. But this refers to the command to preach the gospel to all nations, and really has no bearing on whether this activity, known as the external call, constitutes an offer on God’s part to all who hear it. Berkhof, moreover, is very imprecise in his description of the offer. Sometimes he asserts that it is the preacher who is offering salvation through his preaching: elsewhere he claims that God himself is the one who offers salvation to all.16 The matter is further confused by the interchangeability of the phrases “offer of salvation” and “offer of the gospel” in the 1924 synodical report and the writings of its defenders.

The second passage from Dort is III/IV:8, where the Canons declare that those who are called through the gospel are called seriously (serio vocantur). “For seriously and most genuinely God makes known in his Word what is pleasing to him: that those who are called should come to him. Seriously he also promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come to him and believe.”17 The synod, and Berkhof, read the phrase serio vocanturas an obvious indication that God genuinely offers salvation to all who hear the gospel, including the reprobatethose whom he has decreed to leave in their state of rebellion and to withhold from them “saving faith and the grace of conversion.”18 Again, the synod and Berkhof assume that call and offer are synonymous.

In addition, Berkhof notes that the “Remonstrants contended that from the Reformed perspective there could be no well-meant call, because a person’s salvation was made completely dependent upon the sovereign operation of God’s grace.”19 He rightly observes that Canons III/IV:8 are a direct response to one of the Remonstrant objections to the Reformed doctrine of predestination. This was the thesis of the Remonstrant party:

Whomever God calls to salvation, he calls seriously (serio vocat), that is, with a sincere and completely unhypocritical intention and will to save; nor do we assent to the opinion of those who hold that God calls certain ones externally whom he does not will to call internally, that is, as truly converted, even before the grace of calling has been rejected.20

What Berkhof assumes, but does not demonstrate, is that Dort has the same understanding of what it takes for a call to be serious as the Remonstrants did. It is quite clear, however, that Dort does not share that view. Dort picks up the Remonstrant language of a serious call but does not accept their requirements for such a call, namely, that God must sincerely intend and will to save anyone who receives that call. If the delegates of the Synod of Dort had intended to do so, they certainly would not have stopped with the serious call but would have included the intention and will to save. In fact, Dort rejects the idea that God wills or intends to save all, as should be clear from Canons I:6 and 15. What the Canons actually do in this article is explain how the call can really be serious when, in fact, God does not intend or will the salvation of the reprobate!

Canons III/IV:8 consists of three parts. First, this article affirms that those who are called by the preaching of the gospel are in fact called seriously. This affirmation is followed by a twofold explanation of how this can be the case. This twofold explanation corresponds to a distinction in our understanding of the will of God, a distinction that, as we shall see, is quite common in the Reformed tradition. This is the distinction between God’s decretive will or will of the decree (voluntas decreti) and his preceptive will or will of the precept (voluntas praecepti). This distinction is also referred to, with slight variations in emphasis, as that between the will of good pleasure and the will of complacency (eudokia and euarestia), the will of good pleasure and the will of the sign (voluntas beneplaciti and signi), and the secret and revealed will of God (voluntas arcana and revelata).21

The decretive will and its variants refer to God’s eternal counsel: what he has decreed will actually occur, either by causing it himself or allowing his creatures to do so. The preceptive will and its variants refer to the rules and duties that God prescribes and reveals to humanity. The will of the decree always comes to pass, while the preceptive will is frequently disobeyed. Thus God commanded Pharaoh to release his people; this was his duty, and reflects the divine voluntas praecepti. But God’s decretive will was to allow Pharaoh to follow his own evil inclinations and resist God’s command. In this sense, God both wills and does not will that Pharaoh should let his people go. In the Reformed tradition, however, it is the decretive will that is the “ultimate, effective will of God.”22

The general call of the gospel is serious because it corresponds to this twofold distinction. First of all, God seriously makes known his revealed will for all creatures, his voluntas praecepti: “seriously and most genuinely God makes known in his Word what is pleasing to him: that those who are called should come to him.” The call is serious in that it truly reveals what the duty of sinful humanity is, namely, repentance and faith in God. This first part of the explanation of the serio vocantur does not imply any will or intention to save on God’s part; it only reveals the obligation of sinners. Secondly, the Canons go into the voluntas decreti: “Seriously he also promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come to him and believe.” The call is a promise of salvation for all who do repent and believe, namely, the elect.

Neither the 1924 synod nor Berkhof’s pamphlet mention this crucial distinction. Later, in his Systematic Theology, Berkhof does bring this distinction into his discussion of the well-meant offer. Again, he uncritically equates the serious call of Canons III/IV:8 with the well-meant offer affirmed by the 1924 synod.23 He affirms that God “earnestly desires” that the sinner will accept the offer. Berkhof lists two objections to the “bonafide offer of salvation.” The first has to do with the veracity of God:

It is said that, according to this doctrine, He offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life to those for whom He has not intended these gifts. It need not be denied that there is a real difficulty at this point, but this is the difficulty with which we are always confronted, when we seek to harmonize the decretive and preceptive will of God, a difficulty which even the objectors cannot solve and often simply ignore.24

The point of the precept-decree distinction, however, is to clarify how God can command one thing and will the actual occurrence of the opposite! The “difficulty” only arises when one confuses the two, as is the case with the doctrine of the well-meant offer. The objectors have no difficulty to solve; nor are they ignorant of this basic distinction that is operative in the Canons and in major theologians of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods.

Continuing his answer to this objection, Berkhof reminds his readers that the promise of the gospel is conditional, and that “the righteousness of Christ, though not intended for all, is yet sufficient for all.”25 Does Berkhof really want to base the well-meant offer on the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement? The sufficiency of the atonement only refers to the value or merit of Christ’s death, and thus it is theoretical in nature. Had God decreed to save all sinners, the death of Christ would have been more than sufficient to atone for their sins. Berkhof’s argument, apparently, is that because Christ’s death could have covered the sins of all, therefore salvation can actually be offered to all, including the reprobate. The coherence of this argument is quite questionable: How can that which is not actually acquired or intended for the reprobate be offered to them with the desire that they accept it? In other words, how can Christ be offered to the reprobate, when in fact he has not been offered for them?

This argument based on the sufficiency of Christ’s death, moreover, dates back to the sixteenth century, but it was not the Reformed who employed it. John Calvin rightly calls it “a great absurdity” that “has no weight for me.” The question, he says, “is not what the power or virtue of Christ is, nor what efficacy it has in itself, but who those are to whom he gives himself to be enjoyed.” The answer to this question is not all humanity in general, but only those whom God designs to be a partaker in Christ.26 Calvin accepts the distinction between the sufficiency and efficacy of Christ’s death,27 but he does not believe that this distinction can be employed to teach that God desires or intends salvation, or makes salvation available, for all persons indiscriminately.

The 1924 synod also adduces the next article from the Canons (III/IV:9) to support the concept of a well-meant offer of salvation, although neither the synodical report nor Berkhof’s defense of the three points offers an interpretation of this article that would bolster their cause. This is somewhat ironic, since this is the only place where the term offer arises in the English text of the Canons:

The fact that many who are called through the ministry of the gospel do not come and are not brought to conversion must not be blamed on the gospel, nor on Christ, who is offered through the gospel, nor on God, who calls them through the gospel and even bestows various gifts on them, but on the people themselves who are called ...28

The important phrase in the original Latin is Christo per evangelium oblato. The word oblato is a participial form of the Latin word offero, frequently translated with its English cognate, offer. But this is not the primary meaning of the Latin verb. Rather, its most basic meanings include: to put in a person’s path, to cause to be encountered; to show, reveal, exhibit; to present as something to be taken note of, to bring or force to someone’s attention.29 Thus, to interpret this article as teaching that all persons who hear the gospel are confronted with Christ, or that they encounter Christ in the gospel, is at least as plausible as the assertion that such persons are offered Christ and salvation through Christ in the preaching of the gospel. Set in the context of the broader teachings of the Canons and the writings of major Reformed theologians from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the former interpretation appears to be much more plausible than the latter.

The 1924 synod, as well as Berkhof’s defense of the well-meant offer, claim the support of theologians from the most flourishing period (bloeitijd) of Reformed theology. The synod cites two passages from Calvin’s Institutes and one from van Mastricht. These passages pertain to the question of whether God demonstrates some kind of favor of grace to all persons in general, but they do not touch on the well-meant offer.30 Berkhof, however, cites van Mastricht, Herman Witsius, and Wilhelmus à Brakel in support of the well-meant offer.31

Van Mastricht teaches three kinds of grace: universal, common, and particular. Universal grace pertains to the natural gifts that God gives to his creatures in his providential care. There is also a common grace by which God bestows moral gifts to all persons without distinction between the elect and reprobate. Also included here, according to van Mastricht, are those gifts that are manifested in those who only appear to assent to salvation. To this category belongs the external call, as well as that form of internal call in which persons receive a temporary illumination and exhibit these gifts for a time.32 It is not entirely clear whether the external call itself is a manifestation of common grace; he may be referring to the gifts (bona) associated with the external call.

In any case, what van Mastricht does not say is that the external call represents God’s intention to save the reprobate. In fact, he writes in his chapter on calling that the universal end of external calling is to oblige all persons to come to God. The principal end is the salvation of the elect; and the accidental end, the intention with respect to the reprobate, is to silence them, to take away all their excuses, and to add more weight to their condemnation.33

Berkhof also cites Witsius’ work on the covenants, where Witsius states that Christ’s satisfaction and covenantal sponsorship have been “an occasion of much good even to the reprobate.” It is because of Christ’s death “that the gospel is preached to every creature, that gross idolatry is abolished in many parts of the world, that hellish impiety is much restrained by the discipline of the word of God, so that they obtain at times many and excellentthough not savinggifts of the Holy Spirit, that they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 2:20).34

Berkhof, however, does not proceed to cite what Witsius further says about the calling of the reprobate. God does not call them “with the purpose and design of saving them … but for the purpose of demonstrating his patience toward the vessels of wrath.”35 Reconciliation and peace with God are not offered to the reprobate, because they are “perpetual enemies to God, on whom the wrath of God abides.”36 Witsius says that II Timothy 2:4 (God “wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth”) does not mean “all and every one in particular, but the elect of whatever nation and condition.”37 It does not pertain to “his will concerning every man in particular, because he will have unbelievers condemned.” It is not God’s will that all should come to the knowledge of the truth because he hardens those whom he wills to harden. God cannot will the salvation of the reprobate, since “it would be unworthy of the divine majesty to imagine that there is an incomplete, unresolved, and ineffectual volition in God.”38 Witsius emphatically does not teach a well-meant offer of the gospel.

There are two passages that Berkhof cites from à Brakel. In the first, à Brakel states that to common grace “belongs all the good which God bestows upon all who are called, by giving them the Word the means unto repentance and salvation ... In addition to this, God generally gives illumination, historical faith, convictions, and inner persuasion to almost become a Christian.”39 In the other passage, à Brakel states that the external call comes to all who hear the gospel and not just the elect. Again, however, Berkhof fails to distinguish between call and offer. The fact that the reprobate are presented with the means of salvation and even receive certain gifts associated with the external call does not imply, for à Brakel, that God offers them salvation and intends them to receive it.

Berkhof could have cited this passage: “since many reject the gospel, it is necessarily offered (aangeboden) to them, for whatever is not offered cannot be rejected.”40 Even so, this passage does not support the concept of a well-meant offer of salvation; for à Brakel has in mind a presentation of the gospel message, as evidenced by his citation of Acts 13:46: We had to speak the Word of God to you first. Since you reject it. Moreover, the next question that à Brakel poses is whether, in calling the sinner to Christ, God intends the salvation of alla question that he answers with a definite no. “God’s objective in calling the nonelect is to proclaim and acquaint people with the way of salvation, to command persons to enter this way ... It is also God’s purpose to convict persons of their wickedness in his refusal to come upon such a friendly invitation.” He concludes that it is “neither God’s purpose and objective to give them his Holy Spirit, nor to save them.”41

À Brakel proceeds to demonstrate how God is really sincere in his calling, even though he does not intend the salvation of the reprobate. God calls all to salvation, and he intends to give salvation to all who believe. But faith and repentance are divine gifts that he only bestows to those whom he wills to save. God leaves the rest to themselves; these are unwilling, and, by their own fault, unable to fulfill the condition of faith. Because God has foreknowledge of this, and since he has decreed not to give them faith, “he therefore also cannot have their salvation in view.”42 God does not act deceitfully, however, since he sincerely obligates them and sincerely reveals the conditions of salvation to them. His main end is their condemnation. Nor could à Brakel be any clearer when he says, “He did not purpose to save them.”43 It should be quite clear that à Brakel does not believe that the external call of God constitutes an offer of salvation to the reprobate.

The defense of the well-meant offer of salvation was taken up in the next generation by Anthony Hoekema, professor of systematic theology at Calvin Seminary from 1958 to 1978. His study of soteriology, Saved by Grace, was published a year after his death in 1988. Hoekema’s defense of the well-meant offer is largely dependant on the arguments of Berkhof and A. C. De Jong. In his chapter on “The Gospel Call,” Hoekema identifies three parts of the external call: (1) a presentation of the facts of the gospel and of the way of salvation; (2) an invitation to come to Christ in repentance and faith; and (3) a promise of forgiveness and salvation, conditional upon repentance and faith.44 Hoekema then defends the well-meant offer over against the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches. He declares that the Christian Reformed Church, “in contrast to Hoeksema, and in agreement with the majority of Reformed theologians, affirms that God does seriously desire the salvation of all to whom the gospel comes.”45 The preaching of the gospel is “a well-meant offer of salvation, not just on the part of the preacher, but on God’s part as well, to all who hear it, and ... God seriously and earnestly desires the salvation of all to whom the gospel call comes.”46

Hoekema begins his analysis of the issue by reminding his readers that “Hoeksema’s theology is dominated by the overruling causality of the double decree of election and reprobation.”47 This characterization is based on the conclusions of two critics of Hoeksema’s views: A. C. De Jong and, indirectly, G. C. Berkouwer.48 Having thus discredited Hoeksema’s theological method from the outset, Hoekema defends the well-meant offer by citing numerous texts,49 along with excerpts from John Calvin’s comments on two of these texts: Ezekiel 18:23 and II Peter 3:9. We will examine Calvin’s interpretation of Ezekiel 18 in detail below. Calvin’s comments on II Peter 3:9 (“not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”) explain that this passage does not refer to God’s secret purpose, “according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel.” In the gospel, God “stretches forth his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.”50 Calvin does not say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate. In fact, when he cites this passage in the Institutes, he says that when God “promises that he will give a certain few a heart of stone [Ezek. 36:26], let him be asked whether he wants to convert all.”51

Hoekema argues that the phrase “ma boulomenos tinas apolesthai” precludes the possibility of limiting this passage to the elect. But he fails to nuance the meaning of the divine will. Calvin obviously relates this passage to God’s will of the precept, or revealed will, which does not relate to God’s will regarding the fate of specific individuals. The Leiden Synopsis makes the following distinction, which could equally be applied to this passage:

Thus they delude themselves, who extend the grace of God’s calling to all, and to every individual. For they not only confuse that love of God for humanity (filanqrwpiva) by which he embraces all persons as creatures, with that [love] by which he has decreed to receive in grace certain persons from among the common mass of sinful humanity, who were lost in their sin, and that they should follow his beloved Son Jesus Christ; they also rob Godwho is bound by noneof any freedom to single out those whom he will from among the rest of his enemies, all equally unworthy of his mercy, in order that he might convey them from a state of guilt to a state of sin.52

Hoekema does recognize that the passages he cites in defense of the well-meant offer refer to God’s revealed will, but he does not appear to properly discern what that revealed will entails.53 What it in fact does entail will become quite clear when we come to Turretin’s discussion of the calling of the reprobate. Hoekema also repeats Berkhof’s argument that the Synod of Dort agreed with the Remonstrants’ contention that God offers salvation to all, but that the synod nonetheless asserted that this offer was compatible with election and limited atonement.54 Like Berkhof, he fails to make a distinction between call and offer.

The solution that Hoekema ultimately proposes is that we avoid “a rationalistic solution.” He mentions the phenomenon of English hyper-Calvinism, which, “like that of Herman Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed Churches, denied the well-meant gospel call.”55 This statement is regrettable for several reasons. First, Hoeksema and the Protestant Reformed Churches do not deny the serious call of the gospel; they simply deny that this call should be characterized as an offer of salvation or represented as God’s intention to impart salvation. Second, the charge of hyper-Calvinism is an unjustified and uncharitable instance of guilt by association.56 Finally, Hoekema charges that the doctrine of the well-meant offer “has tremendous significance for missions,” implying, regrettably, that the denial of that doctrine entails a diminishment of missionary motivation.57

Hoekema asserts that there are two rationalistic solutions that must be avoided: the Arminian proposal of universal, sufficient grace, and the ostensibly hyper-Calvinist contention that the call does not imply God’s desire to save the reprobate. We must continue to hold to both election and the well-meant offer, “even though we cannot reconcile these two teachings with our finite minds.” We cannot “lock God up in the prison of human logic.”58 Hoekema appeals to what he calls the “Scriptural paradox,” by which he means that we must believe that apparently incompatible theological statements are in fact somehow resolved in the mind of God.59

Hoekema appeals to Calvin to justify this methodbut not to Calvin himself. He cites Edward Dowey’s neo-orthodox interpretation of Calvin as a dialectical theologian, a Barthian before Barth. On this basis, Hoekema contends that Calvin “was willing to combine doctrines which were clear in themselves but logically incompatible with each other, since he found them both in the Bible.”60 But this interpretation of Calvin’s methodology is wholly untenable; it cannot be squared with the way Calvin actually operates, particularly in his theological treatises. Calvin argues with his opponents by pointing out the logical inconsistencies in their arguments, and demonstrating both the biblical faithfulness and the logical coherence of his own.

Our theological concern, Hoekema concludes, “must not be to build a rationally coherent system, but to be faithful to all the teachings of the Bible.”61 This sentiment, however, is at odds with the Reformation and pre-Reformation conviction that God’s revelation is not only reasonable, but accessible to reason, and capable of a coherent systematization. The fact that not everything is revealed to us, and that our theology is limited by our human capacities, does not give us permission to advance an incoherent system of theology. We may not set faith over against logic or confession over against understanding.62


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FOOTNOTES:

11. Louis Berkhof, De Drie Punten in Alle Deelen Gereformeerd (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1925); hereafter cited as DP


12. See Henry Zwaanstra’s chapter on Louis Berkhof in Dutch Reformed Theology, ed. David E Wells (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 35-53.


13. See DP, 15-16.


14. Ibid.


15. “Deze roeping des Evangelies, of dit aanbod des heils is, volgens de Synode, algemeen,” DP, 13.


16. Berkhof insists that it is the minister’s divine duty to “offer the promise of the gospel. And it is precisely here that we hit upon the general offer of salvation,” DP, 15. But later he says that this doctrine refers to God’s sincere offer, DP, 17-18.


17. Canons of Dort, III/IV:8: “Quotquot autem per Evangelium vocantur, serio vocantur. Serio enim et verissime ostendit Deus Verbo suo, quid sibi gratum sit, nimirum ut vocati ad se veniat. Serio efiam omnibus ad se venientibus et credentibus requiem animarum et vitam aeternam promittit.” Citations from the Latin text of the Canons are from J. N. Bakhuizen van den Brink, ed., De Nederlandsche Belijdenisgeschriften (Amsterdam: Uitgeversmaatschappij Holland, 1940), 248; hereafter cited as NB; English translations are from Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions (Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1988).


18. Canons of Dort, I:15.


19. “De Remonstranten beweerden, namelijk, dat er op Gereformeerd standpunt van een welgemeende roeping des Evangelie geen sprake kon zijn, omdat de zaligheid des menschen geheel afhankelijk gemaakt wordt van de vrijmachtige werking der gnade Gods,” DP, 18.


20. Sententia Remonstrantium III/IV:8, in NB, 286: “Quoscumque Deus vocat ad salutem, serio vocat, hoc est cum sincera et minime simulata salvandi intentione ac voluntare; nec eorum assentimur sententiae, qui statuunt Deum externe quosdam vocare, quos interne vocare, hoc est, vere conversos nolit etiam ante reiectam vocationis gratiam.” English translation from P. Y. De Jong, ed., Crisis in the Reformed Churches: Essays in Commemoration of the Great Synod of Dort, 1618-1619 (Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, 1968), 226-27.


21. These distinctions in the will of God as it terminates on created reality (since God’s will is simple and undivided in itself) receive extensive treatment, Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols., trans. George M. Giger, ed. J. T. Dennison Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992-1997), 3:15; 3:220-25; hereafter cited as Inst. Elenct. The translation of the technical terms is somewhat defective here, however, and must be used with careful reference to the Latin original, especially visit vis a vis “eudokia” and “euarestia.” Latin citations from Turretin are from Francisci Turrettini Opera, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: J. D. Lowe, 1847-1848); English translations are from the Dennison-Giger ed., emended when necessary, hereafter cited as Opera.


22. See Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Greek and Latin Theological Terms Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholasticism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), s.v. “voluntas Dei,” and cf. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (1938; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 77-78.


23. Berkhof speaks of the “bona fide character of the external call” that is proven by numerous Scripture passages and explicitly taught in Canons III/IV:8, and in the next sentence writes, “Several objections have been offered to such an idea of a bonafide offer of salvation,” Systematic Theology, 462.


24. Ibid.


25. Ibid.


26. “Ne valeat in praesens communis ilia solutio: Christum sufficienter pro omnibus passum esse, efficaciter tantum pro electis. Magna illa absurditas … apud me nihil habet momenti ... Nec vero qualis sit Christi virtus vel quid per se valeat, nunc quaeretur, sed quibus se fruendum exhibeat. Quod si in fide consistit possessio et tides ex spiritu adoptionis manat, restat, ut in numerum filiorum is duntaxat ascitus sit, qui futurus est Christi particeps.” John Calvin, De aeterna Dei praedestinatione / De la predestinatione eternelle de Dieu, from the Opera Omnia denuo recognita … series 3, Scripta Ecdesiastica, vol. 1, ed. W. H. Neuser, trans, text by O. Fatio (Geneva: Librarie Droz, 1998): 196; hereafter cited as OO, SE; Cf. the English translation in Calvin’s Calvinism, trans. Henry Cole, 2 vols. in 1 (1856-1857; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), 1:165-66.


27. See below, note 86.


28. Canons of Dort, III/IV:9: “Quod multi per Ministerium Evangelii vocati non veninnt et non eonvertuntur, huins culpa non est in Evangelio, nec in Christo per Evangelium oblato, nec in Deo per Evangelium vocante et dona etiam varia iis conferente, sed in vocatis ipsis …” NB, 248.


29. See P. G. W. Glare, ed., Oxford Latin Dictionary, corrected ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996), s.v. “offero.” It is not until the eighth through tenth definitions that the sense of the modern English word offer comes through.


30. AS 1924, 128-29.


31. DP, 28-29.


32. “Est B. gratia communis, qua bona moralia dispensat, in homines peculiariter; sed promiscue electos et reprobos. Cuins generis sunt virtutes intellectus, ingenium, sapientia, pmdentia Exod. XXXI.3. atque etiam voluntatis, ethicae Luc. XVIII.11 cuius generis omnes sunt Gentilium et infidelium virtutes. Quibus connumeranda, quae ad salutaria, proprius videntur accedere, qualia sunt quae commemorantur Heb. VI.4,5. Ies. LVIII.2 II Cor. XIII.1 Quo pertinet vocatio externa, ad participium Christi, per praeconium verbi Psal. CXLVII.19, 20. Matt. XX.16. et interna etiam, per illuminationem qualemcunque, atque omnia ilia bona, quae in proskairois” sunt conspicua Matth. XIII.20,21,” Van Mastricht, Theoretico-Practica Theologia, 2.17.16.


33. “Principalis, electos formare ad conversionem, fidem, et resipiscentiam, adeoque ad participium redemptionis .... Accidentalis, reprobis vocatis, os obstruere, omne effugium adimere … et eorum condemnationem aggravare ...” Van Mastricht, Theoretico-Practica Theologia, 6.2.16.


34. “Occasione sponsionis et satisfactionis Christi multo bona reprobis quoque obtingere. Hoc enim morti Christi debent quod Evangelium praedicetur omni creaturae, quod crassa illa idolatria ex multis mundi partibus abolita sit, quod profana impietas verbi Divini paedagogia plurimum coerceatur, quod multa et excellentia quandoque, licet non salutaria, Spiritus Sancti dona obtineant, quod per agnitionem Domini et servatoris Jesu Christi pollutiones mundi effugerint II Pet. 2:20,” Herman Witsius, De Oeconomia Foederum Dei cum hominibus, libri quatuor (Leeuwarden: Jacob Hagenaar, 1677), 2.9.4. English translation adapted from The Economy of the Covenants (New York: George Forman for Lee & Stokes, 1798).


35. “Non quidem ex consilio et proposito salvandi ipsos secundum testamentum, sed ex consilio demonstrandi longanimitatem suam ergo vasa irae,” Witsius, Oec. Foed., 2.9.4.


36. “Contra reprobi sunt hostes Dei perpetui, super quos ira Dei manet,” Witsius, Oec. Foed., 2.9.7.


37. “Ubi per omnes non omnes et singulos homines, sed electos cuiuscunque gentis et conditionis intelligi debere,” Witsius, Oec. Foed., 2.9.8.


38. “Non autem vult hoc de singulis hominibus: quia vult non credentes damnari, Joh. 3.36. Et agnitio veritatis, sive fides, non est omnium, 2 Thes. 3.2, sed electorum, Tit. 1.1. Neque vult Deus eam esse omnium. Indurat quem vult, Rom. 9.18. Porro vo1itionem aliquem incompletam, suspensam, et quae effectum non sortiatur Deo affingere, Numinis Majestate indignum est. Ps. 115.3,” Witsius, Oec. Foed. 2.9.8.


39. “Tot deze [gemeene genade] behoort ook het goed, dat God allen geroepenen doet, hun gevende het Woord, het middel tot bekeering en zaligheid ... Hierbij geeft God gemeenlijk verlichting, historisch geloof, overtuigingen, bewegingen om bijna een Christen te worden.” W. à Brakel, “Logikh Latreia” modernized by J. H. Donner, 2d ed., 2 vols. (Leiden: D. Donner, 1893, 1:730; English translation, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout, 4 vols. (Ligonier, Pa.: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992), 2:215.


40. “Veelen verstooten het Evangelie, dies was het hun aangeboden, want dat niet aangeboden wordt, kan men niet verstooten,” À Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst, 2:719; Eng. trans. 203-4.


41. “Het einde dat God voorheeft met den niet-uitverkorenen het Evangelie te laten verkondigen, is, om den mensch den weg tot de zaligheid voor te stellen enbekend te maken, om den mensch te bevelen dien weg in te slaan ... En om den mensch te overtuigen, en van zijne boosheid, dat hij op zulke vriendelijke uitnoodiging niet wil comen ... maar God had daar niet mede voor, God beoogde daarmede niet hun zijnen Heiligen Geest te geven, en alzoo hen zalig te maken,” À Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst, 2:721-22; Eng. trans. 205-6, alt.


42. “zoo kan Hij hunne zaligheid beoogen,” À Brakel, Redelijke Godsdienst, 2:722-23; Eng. trans. 207.


43. “Hij beoogde niet hen zalig te maken,” À. Brakel, Reddijke Godsdienst, 2:723; Eng. trans. 207.


44. Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 68-70. In connection with the third part, Hoekema makes the curious assertion that, because the sinner cannot fulfill the condition on his or her own, the sinner “must pray that God will empower him or her to do so, and give God the praise when he does so” (p. 70). The Reformed tradition, however, denies that sinners have any inclination to fulfill these conditions until after the regenerating and empowering work of the Holy Spirit has already occurred.


45. Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 72.


46. Ibid., 73.


47. Ibid., 72. This common accusation is typical of G. C. Berkouwer’s theological method of correlation, which, to be fair, could in turn be characterized as dominated by the overruling dialectic of the correlation of mutually exclusive viewpoints, without the necessity of arriving at a concrete theological conclusion.


48. Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 72, n. 4. Hoekema bases this characterization on De Jong, Well-Meant Offer, 42-43. Regrettably, Hoekema provides little evidence that he has made a careful study of the actual writings of Hoeksema and other Protestant Reformed authors. His arguments largely repeat and augment themes from Berkhof and De Jong.


49. “These texts are Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11; Matthew 23:37; II Peter 3:9, and II Corinthians 5:20, Saved by Grace, 73-77.


50. “Respondeo, non de arcano Dei consilio hic fieri mentionem quo destinati sunt reprobi in suum exitium: sed tantum de voluntate quae nobis in evangelio patefit. Omnibus enim promiscue manum illic porrigit Deus, sed eos tantum apprehendit ut ad se ducat quos ante conditum mundum elegit,” John Calvin, Ioannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia, ed. JW. Baum, AE. Cunitz, and E. Reuss, 59 volumes, Corpus Reformatorum, vols. 29-87 (Braunschweig: Schwetschke, 1863-1900), 55:475-76, hereafter cited as CO; English translations of Calvin’s commentaries are taken, with alteration as necessary, from the Calvin Translation Society edition (Edinburgh, 1843-1855), cited as CTS (here, CTS Catholic Epistles, 419-20), and emended when necessary.


51. Calvin, Institutes, 3.24.16: “Sane conversio in Dei manu est; an velit omnes convertere, inter-rogetur ipse: dum paucis quibusdam se daturum promittit cor carneum, aliis cor lapideum relinquendo.” Latin citations of the Institutes are from Ioannis Calvini Opera Selecta, 5 vols., ed. Peter Barth and Wilhelm Niesel (Munich: Christian Kaiser, 1926-52), 4:429, hereafter cited as OS.


52. “Hallucinantur ergo qui gratiam Dei vocantis ad omnes et singulos homines extendunt. Nam praeterquam quod illam Dei philanthroopian, qua Deus omnes homines ut suas creaturas complectitur, cum ista confundunt, qua certos aliquos ex communi hominum peccatorum suo vitio pereuntium turba in gratiam suscipere, atque in Filio dilectionis suae Jesu Christo prosequi decrevit; Deum nemini obstrictum omni spoliant libertate, ex perduellibus misericordia sua pariter indignis, quos vult, ab aliis segregandi, ut eos ex statu reatus, in statum gratiae transferat,” Synopsis Purioris Theologiae, ed. Herman Bavinck, 6th ed. (Leiden: D. Donner, 1881), 30.27.


53. Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 76.


54. Ibid., 77-78.


55. Ibid., 78.


56. David J. Engelsma persuasively puts this charge to rest in his Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel.


57. Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 79.


58. Ibid., 79.


59. Ibid., 6. Hoekema discusses “the concept of paradox” on pp. 5-7.


60. Ibid., 6. Hoekema repeats A. C. De Jong’s argument almost verbatim, including the reference to Dowey, without crediting De Jong; cf. The Well-Meant Offer, 123-27.


61. Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 79.


62. “This is the problem in De Jong’s Well-Meant Offer. De Jong, following Berkouwer, employs an existentialistic methodology of correlation that is hostile to the concept of a coherent theological system. Thus he can argue that Calvin speaks “from the viewpoint of faith and not in terms of logical objectivity” (p. 112). Divine sovereignty and human responsibility “is confessed and not explained, for if it could be explained it would no longer be confessed” (p. 99). Like Berkouwer, he argues that the concept of causality is qualitatively different when applied to God than it is when predicated of creatures (p. 98). This assertion is not biblically based, but founded in the Kantian distinction, and insuperable divide, between the noumenal and phenomenal realmsa distinction that renders the reliability of God’s revelation suspect. While De Jong criticizes Hoeksema’s methodology in terms of its ostensible “competitive polarity motif,” his own methodology also constitutes the imposition of an extra-biblical conceptual construct, namely, the dialectical “both/and” of the correlation motif. One could easily argue that the “either/or” motif is in fact more dominant in Scripture. We should be wary of the fact that Berkouwer’s methodology ultimately led him to reject the historical intention of the Canons of Dort I:6; see his “Vragen rondom de Belijdenis,” Gereformeerd Theologisch Tijdschrift 63, no. 1 (1963): 141. For an insightful analysis and critique of Berkouwer’s methodology, see Hendrikus Berkhof, “De Method van Berkouwers Theologie,” in Ex Auditu Verbi, Festschrift for G. C. Berkouwer, ed. R. Schippers et al. (Kampen: Kok, 1965), 37-55.


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