Apr 30, 2008

Dagg On Regeneration

"We know, from the Holy Scriptures, that God employs his truth in the regeneration of the soul. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." Love to God necessarily implies knowledge of God, and this knowledge it is the province of truth to impart. But knowledge is not always connected with love. The devils know, but do not love; and wicked men delight not to retain the knowledge of God, because their knowledge of him is not connected with love. The mere presentation of the truth to the mind, is not all that is needed, in producing love to God in the heart. What accompanying influence the Holy Spirit uses, to render the word effectual, we cannot explain: but Paul refers to it, when he says, "Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost." --"but in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power."

"The term regeneration is sometimes used in a comprehensive sense, as including the whole formation of the Christian character. At other times it is used for the first production of divine love in the heart. In the latter sense, the work is instantaneous. There is a moment known only to God, when the first holy affection exists in the soul. Truth may enter gradually, and may excite strong affections in the mind, and may for a time increase the hatred of God which naturally reigns in the heart. So Paul says, "Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence." But, in his own time and manner, God, the Holy Spirit, makes the word effectual in producing a new affection in the soul: and, when the first movement of love to God exists, the first throb of spiritual life commences."

"Faith is necessary to the Christian character; and must therefore precede regeneration, when this is understood in its widest sense. Even in the restricted sense, in which it denotes the beginning of the spiritual life, faith, in the sense in which James uses the term, may precede. But a faith which exists before the beginning of spiritual life, cannot be a living faith. Yet some have maintained that faith produces love. This opinion is of sufficient importance to demand a careful consideration."

"This divine operation, which is additional to the motive power of truth, proceeds from what has been called the direct influence of the Spirit. Truth, as contained in the Holy Scriptures, is a revelation from the Holy Spirit; and as men's words, whether spoken or written, have an influence on the minds of other men, so the words of the Holy Spirit have an influence on the minds of all who read the Bible, or hear the gospel preached. In this indirect way, the Holy Spirit operates on men's minds, as the author of a book operates on all who read his work. But this indirect influence is by means of truth as a motive power; and no mere motive, operating on the sinner's heart, can induce him to love God for his own sake. While self-love rules in the mind, all motives derive their power from their relation to the ruling principle; and cannot, therefore, establish a higher principle of action. This change, by which true love to God is produced, results from the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, accompanying his word, and making it effectual. It was this direct influence which rendered the word so effectual on the day of Pentecost, which opened Lydia's heart, so that she attended to the things that were spoken by Paul;--which gave the increase when Paul planted, and Apollos watered,--and which has ever brought the word to the heart, in demonstration of the Spirit, and with power."

"The doctrine of the Holy Spirit's direct influence, is a fundamental truth of the gospel dispensation. That Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and completed the great work for which he assumed our nature, is a truth that lies at the foundation of Christianity. The gospel reveals to us the Spirit as well as the Son. When about to leave the world, Jesus promised another comforter, who should dwell with his disciples for ever. The Holy Spirit, as God, had always been in the world: but he was now to be present by a peculiar manifestation and operation. This manifestation and operation attended the ministry of the Word on the day of Pentecost, and the gospel has always been the sword of the Spirit, the instrument with which he operates in the fulfilment of his office for which he has come into the world, in answer to the prayer of Christ."

"It belongs to the Holy Spirit, in the economy of grace, to produce divine life in the soul, as he brooded over the face of the waters, at creation, reducing the chaotic mass to order, and filling it with life. He is pleased to work with means; and he employs the truth as his instrument of operation. This instrument he wields at his pleasure, and he renders it effectual by his divine power: "My word shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." By the ordinary providence of God, the Bible operates in the world, and influences the minds of men: but this providence equally existed in the former dispensation, in which the oracles of God were possessed by the Israelites, but held by them in unrighteousness. An influence above the ordinary providence of God is needed, to the regeneration of the soul. The coming of Christ into the world, and the coming and abiding of the Holy Spirit, belong to a dispensation which is above the ordinary providence of God. Into this new economy we are ushered, when we are translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. Here we recognise both the Son and the Spirit, as specially given of God. It is contrary to the faith of the gospel to regard Christ and his redeeming work, as things of God's ordinary providence; and it is equally contrary to faith to consider the Spirit and his work in the heart as merely natural influence of the truth on the heart."



"Reformed" are "Old Regulars"?

The following is a citation from chapter 57 of my book on the Hardshells. I cite it now to repeat my assertion regarding the Hardshells. The first major view of the Hardshell founding fathers was one that saw a three step (stage) model to the "new birth." I also dealt with this paradigm in other chapters also, in chapter 52, entitled "The Beebe-Trott Model" and in chapters 54-56 on "Conviction of Sin" and in chapter 51, titled "Regenerated and Converted?"

I doubt that very few, if any, Hardshell knows this about their history. Hardshells typically imagine that what they believe and practice today is identical with that of the first Hardshells of two hundred years ago. I wonder how the general Hardshell denomination will react as the historical facts become known? What will they say when presented with all the evidence that shows that their forefathers believed in this three stage model?

Before I give the citation I am talking about, let me cite these words from Elder David Montgomery, the site editor for one of the leading web sources for Primitive Baptist material.

"So far as we know, there has never been a book compiled, giving the essential facts of the Baptist separation in 1832. Such a work, if ever completed, would reveal that one certain man, more than any other, was instrumental in clarifying the issues, which resulted in the division; that man was Gilbert Beebe. With limited space in one quarterly, we can give only a few highlights of this minister’s life and the cause in which his life labors played such a great part.

Those who identify themselves today with the Old School Baptists ought to have some knowledge of the cause for their origin. History shows, even in this short sketch, that the real issues in any given moment are soon forgotten, and those who follow after are ignorant of the original issues. If the few who do have some historical knowledge, it is usually in the letter only. They can and do parrot certain phrases and words which were used in the early controversies, but the understanding of what was involved is limited indeed, if not even perverted.

It is not possible to acquire the same “faith” of our fathers by merely reading their biographies or their sermons and statements of belief."


I am glad to be able to post Elder Montgomery's "confession" so that I can put it in my book. I have already shown, to some degree, how the Hardshells have written erroneous "histories" about themselves, and I still have chapters planned where I demonstrate this even further.

Here is part of the citation from chapter 57:

"Old Regular Baptists have had several divisions through the years. In the 1960's a debate started over when everlasting (eternal) life began, many Old Regular Baptist hold the same views as the Primitive Baptist (some historians consider the Old Regular Baptist a branch of the Primitive Baptist, that held to a stricter order but more liberal in doctrine, allowing for different views on the atonement)."

"While the doctrine of some Old Regular Baptist would be in harmony with the majority of Primitive Baptist today, others among the Regulars hold to a more modified Calvinism, this difference led to the light is life split that took place in the Union Association. This division soon spread to other associations brought on by requests sent to them from the Union Association, resulting in the isolation of the Mud River Association, and the formation of the Bethel Association, other associations like the New Salem, chose not to divide over this issue, often churches and associations and even Elders are distinguished by which side of this debate they are on, those that hold to the doctrine that an individual is first begotten or quickened into life at the start of their travail, are called the "hard shell side" of Old Regular Baptist or the Old School, [this appears to be the original view of the first Regular Baptist in America] those who hold that life starts at the end of their travail (repentance) are called the "soft shell side". Today the debate is still among the Old Regular Baptist along with when one receives faith, men and women's dress, the receiving of divorced members, the doctrinal differences over hope and knowledge."

"Conversion experiences may be a lengthy "process," beginning with an awakening to sin, through a period of conviction and travail of the soul, to repentance and belief."

(From Wikipedia)

I also want to repeat now what I have said in recent writings about the "Reformed Baptist" and some "Founder's Friendly" churches in regard to their promotion of the idea that men are first regenerated and then believe and repent. Their view is nothing other than the original view of the Hardshells and the view of today's "Old Regular Baptists."

Will the "Reformed" brethren deny that this is their view? Do they put conviction of sin, repentance AFTER "regeneration" or BEFORE it? Do they not say that all the "regenerated" will subsequently be brought to a "full birth," to a "conversion" experience by the gospel? Well, then, my charge stands undisputed! Today's "Reformed Baptists" believe in this model, one created by the apologists for baby regeneration among the Presbyterian Calvinists, even if they will not come forth and acknowledge it! They share the same view as did the first 'Hardshells' and 'Old Regulars' on this "paradigm" on the "new birth."

Apr 29, 2008

Was It Moody Who Said?

Was It Moody Who Said?

That on this side of the gate of heaven are the words "whosoever will" and on the other side are the words "chosen to salvation"?

Whether he said it or not, I think it is the simplest way to present the doctrine of election to unbelievers or to baby or novice disciples.

The doctrine of election ought not to hinder evangelism. What think ye?


Lapsarianism Introduction

The following is one of the best treatises for an "introduction" to a discussion of the decrees of God, and of issues regarding "lapsarianism" and the " will of God."

It is my intention to use this finely written treatise as a starting point for some writings of my own planned for the future.

So I give the entire article here (without the numerous footnotes) for the benefit of any readers here who might be interested.



Senior Associate Dean
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC


“…but he that believeth not shall be damned.”—Mark 16:16b

Embedded in Mark’s account of the Great Commission is the implied expectation that not everyone to whom the Gospel is offered will accept it, an expectation that history has borne out. The question at hand is why this is so. Is God’s salvific will not done or does God not want everyone to be saved?

There seem to be four options. First, universalism—despite present appearances eventually everyone will be saved, either in this life or the next. Second, double predestination—God does not desire nor has he ever desired the salvation of the reprobate. Third, God has two wills— the revealed will and the hidden will. The Scriptures, in passages such as the Great Commission texts, reveal God’s universal salvific will. But God also has a secret will in which, for reasons known only to him, he has decreed to pass by many. And fourth, God indeed has two wills—an
antecedent will and a consequent will. God antecedently desires that all be saved, but he consequently wills that faith is a condition to salvation. Only those who believe will be saved.

The first two options understand God to have only one will while the last two alternatives perceive two wills in God. The fourth position, the antecedent/consequent wills view has been the majority position throughout church history. However, theologians from the Reformed perspective generally have rejected the antecedent/consequent wills position because it seems to give the ultimate decision about salvation to man rather than God. This, they contend, denigrates God’s sovereignty and threatens the gracious nature of salvation while magnifying human choice. This chapter will examine the four options concerning God’s salvific will and shall conclude that the antecedent/consequent wills position has the fewest theological difficulties and is more in keeping with the commands and instructions of the Great Commission. The Great Commission expresses the divine will. The Gospel is to be offered to all; those who believe will be saved.


Those who emphasize the simplicity of God generally argue that there is only one will in God.2 This approach generally requires that God’s nature is understood with one divine attribute as the controlling motif by which all other attributes are interpreted. A theology which sees God’s fundamental essence as love will be much different from a system based on the assumption of the primacy of the divine will.
Whether based on divine love or divine volition, the single will approach has difficulty explaining the rationale behind all components of the Great Commission, namely, that all must hear the Gospel even though all do not believe.


Obviously, affirming the universal salvific will of God poses no difficulties for the one who believes “God is love” (1 John 4:8) sums up the divine essence. However, this approach logically seems to require universalism or something close to it. This appears to be true regardless of one’s position concerning the nature of the human response to the Gospel. In fact, because of how Reformed theologians understand grace to work on the human will, those who affirm God’s genuine love and desire of salvation for all tend to embrace universalism even more readily than their Arminian counterparts.

Some significant Arminian theologians wonder aloud if their theological starting point does not necessitate an eventual arrival at universalism. In his presidential address to the Wesleyan Theological Society, Al Truesdale examines the question as to whether the doctrine of everlasting punishment is compatible with an affirmation that love is “the defining center of God.” Truesdale begins with the claim that love is the “one element of who God is that governs all the rest.” He proceeds with a five-step argument which deduces that the doctrine of eternal damnation is not an option for the consistent Wesleyan and suggests annihilationism or post-mortem salvation as possible alternatives. He concludes by admonishing the reader with a quote from Barth, “On the basis of the eternal will of God we have to think of every human being [emphasis original], even the oddest, most villainous or miserable, as one to whom Jesus Christ is Brother and God is Father.” It is noteworthy that Truesdale builds his argument on the premise that God’s singular will for the salvation of all is the manifestation of God’s simple, undivided essence, which is love.

There are plenty of Arminian theologians who, like Truesdale, affirm God’s universal love and salvific will but do not arrive at his conclusions. And universalism is not found only in Arminianism. Reformed theologians who argue that God’s essential nature of love compels a singular will for the salvation of all also often arrive at universalism. Thomas Talbott serves as a prime example. Where Truesdale attempts to make a positive argument based on the loving nature of God, Talbott takes the negative approach by presenting what he believes are the consequences of denying the premise that God singularly wills the salvation of all.

In a celebrated debate with John Piper that covers a series of articles, Talbott argues that belief in the universal love of God combined with a Reformed understanding of soteriology add up to universalism. He denounces the traditional Reformed doctrine of predestination as “blasphemy” and a “manifestation of human depravity.” According to Talbott, Reformed theology, with its usual distinction between God’s decrees and God’s commands, produces some very unfortunate
consequences for the character of God. God commands us to love our enemies but fails to love his enemies. This would mean that love is not an essential property of God. Reformed soteriology, argues Talbott, presents us with a God who is less loving than many humans and leaves us with the disturbing notion that we might love our children more than God does. Talbott confesses that he finds such a God difficult to love, much less worship. He states,

If there be a single loved one of mine whom God could [emphasis original] redeem but doesn’t—if it should turn out, for instance, that God fails to love my own little daughter—then I can think of no better response than a paraphrase of John Stuart Mill: ‘I will not worship such a God, and if such a God can send me to hell for not so worshiping him, then to hell I will go.’ Of course, this may mean simply that I am not one of the elect, or, if I am one of the elect, that God will someday transform my heart so that I can be just as calloused towards my loved ones as he is. Calloused or not, Talbott considers Calvinism to be sub-Christian. Of those who rejoice in their election, he states, “In this regard their attitude is quite different from that of the Apostle Paul; and in this regard, they illustrate nicely the selfishness built right into the very heart of Calvinistic theology.” In one telling exchange, Talbott challenges Piper by asking him how he would react to the knowledge that God had not elected one of his sons. Piper replies,

But I am not ignorant that God may [emphasis original] not have chosen my sons for his sons. And, though I think I would give my life for their salvation, if they should be lost to me, I would not rail against the Almighty. He is God. I am but a man. The Potter has absolute rights over the clay. Mine is to bow before his unimpeachable character and believe that the Judge of all the earth has ever and always will do right. Though his commitment and candor is impressive, Piper seems to be conceding Talbott’s central point that Reformed theology teaches God might not love our children as much as we do.

Talbott argues that since Reformed theology teaches God has the ability to bring salvation to all by a monergistic work of regeneration but has chosen not to do so, then Calvinism is guilty of a number of sins. First, Reformed theology commits blasphemy—because it attributes demonic qualities to God; second, selfishness—because it teaches us to care about our election more than the election of others; and third, rebellion—because it fails to obey the command to love our neighbors as
ourselves. Talbott concludes that Reformed theology can be rescued only by its adherents combining the traditional doctrines of unconditional election and irresistible grace with an affirmation of divine universal love. The result would be universalism and that suits Talbott fine. Though one is Arminian and the other Calvinist, Truesdale and Talbott make similar arguments. God’s loving nature means he has only one desire toward humanity—the redemption of all. Their conclusions exclude understanding Jesus’ warning in Mark 16:16, “he who does not believe will be condemned,” as referring to eternal punishment.


Reformed theologians such as Louis Berkhof, Herman Hoeksema, and David Engelsma are called decretal theologians because they see the eternal decrees as the starting point for studying the works of God. Like Truesdale and Talbott, decretal theologians affirm a single will in God, but because they see God’s sovereignty as the defining characteristic of God’s being they arrive at very different conclusions from those surveyed in the previous section. Decretal theology teaches that God, in eternity, decreed the salvation of a select and definite number. Those chosen are the elect while those rejected are the reprobate. This approach to studying salvation produces the distinctives of Reformed theology: election and reprobation, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and faith as the evidence of salvation rather than the condition for it.

Some decretal theologians hold the choice to save some and damn others to be logically initial and primary. They see the decision to ordain all other events – the Fall, the Atonement, and so on – to be the means by which God accomplishes his first decree to elect and reprobate. This position is called supralapsarianism because it teaches that God decreed a double predestination “before the Fall.” It is worth pointing out that the original Reformers – Zwingli, Luther and Calvin – were all supralapsarian.

Most subsequent decretal theologians have not followed the Reformers down the supralapsarianism path but rather have opted for infralapsarianism. Like the label indicates, this position holds that God first decreed to allow the Fall and then from the fallen race elected those whom he would save. Infralapsarianism attempts to avoid some of the obvious ethical dilemmas inherent in supralapsarianism. In infralapsarianism, God does not damn the reprobate before they fall, but damns them because they are fallen. Nor in this scheme does God actively ordain the damnation of the reprobate. Rather, when God chooses a select number for salvation, he simply passes over the remainder of humanity.

Infralapsarians do not believe the reprobate is ordained for hell; rather, they see the reprobate as omitted from heaven. Infralapsarians hold to a single decree of election, while supralapsarians teach a double decree of election and reprobation. Theologians generally agree that supralapsarianism has fewer logical problems while infralapsarianism has fewer moral ones. But in the end, whether supralapsarian or infralapsarian, decretal theology teaches that God has only one salvific will and that this intent is to save only his chosen.

Decretal theology produces a distinctive set of corollaries. First, such a view of divine sovereignty requires a denial of God’s universal love. Theologians like Hoeksema and Engelsma do not shrink from declaring God’s “eternal hatred” for the reprobate. Engelsma declares,

It is not at all surprising that advocates of the free offer oppose the Reformed doctrine of reprobation, for reprobation is the exact, explicit denial that God loves all men, desires to save all men, and conditionally offers them salvation. Reprobation asserts that God eternally hates some men; has immutably decreed their damnation; and has determined to withhold from them Christ, grace, faith, and salvation.

Second, decretal theology necessitates a reinterpretation of the biblical texts which seem to teach that God loves all humanity and desires the salvation of all. For example, Francis Turretin (1623-1687), a Reformed scholastic and one of the first clear proponents of infralapsarianism, insists that the love expressed in John 3:16 “cannot be universal towards each and everyone, but special towards a few.” It refers “only [to] those chosen out of this world.”

A modern day decretal theologian, James White, takes a similar approach to the other universal texts.18 He understands the “all” in 1 Tim 2:4 to mean that God desires the salvation of “all sorts of men” or “from all classes of men.” Likewise, 2 Pet 3: means that God is not willing that any of us, i.e., the elect, should perish.

If God loves only the elect, desires salvation only for his chosen, and has provided atonement only for the objects of his love, then a third corollary is inevitable: there is no genuine universal offer of the Gospel. David Engelsma devotes an entire book to the thesis that though the Gospel is preached “promiscuously” to all, it is offered only to the elect. In fact, he does not care much for the word “offer” at all. Preaching does not offer the Gospel. Preaching operates as the instrument by which faith is activated in the elect. The reprobate may hear the Gospel, but its message is not for them. Engelsma contends that his position is not hyper-Calvinism, but consistent Calvinism.

Decretal theology has definite effects on how one understands and obeys the Great Commission and there are consequences to such a system on preaching and missions. First, decretal theology historically has had the effect of causing many Reformed pastors to restrict who are candidates to hear the Gospel. In the 17th century many Scottish theologians argued that the Gospel should be presented indiscriminately only to members of the visible church. Many English Baptists in the 18th century told the Good News only to men whose lives gave evidence of divine grace. Following the hyper-Calvinism of Daniel Parker, many American Baptists in the 19th century rejected “duty-faith,” that is, the belief that unbelievers have a duty to repent and believe the Gospel.

Decretal theology led these “hard-shell” or Primitive Baptists to oppose all methods of evangelism, missions, or outreach. Organized evangelistic efforts were seen as “humanly contrived devices” which presumed to do God’s work. Even today, the Gospel Standard (Baptist) Churches reject any responsibility to preach the Gospel to all.

Second, even though most decretal theologians of today have turned away from the restrictive postures of earlier hyper-Calvinists, they still do not see preaching as an appeal intended to persuade. For them, preaching is a proclamation or an announcement which activates faith in the elect. Preaching outwardly instructs all, but the inward call of the Spirit is given only to those God has chosen. Engelsma claims that several things in the typical evangelical sermon will be absent from a true Reformed message:

There are several things that will not be found in Reformed preaching to the unconverted. Reformed preaching will not approach the audience with the declaration: ‘God loves all of you, and Christ died for all of you.’ It will not say to every man: ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.’

Third, as James Daane points out in his examination of the effect of the doctrine of reprobation on preaching, decretal theology eviscerates the Gospel of its meaning. For many hearers, perhaps most, the announcement is that God has decided to remain at war with them and he made this decision in eternity past. The Gospel is supposed to be good news, but according to the doctrine of reprobation, the message is certainly not new and is not necessarily good.

Ultimately, reprobation is an unpreachable teaching. Preaching is proclaiming the truth for the purpose of calling the hearers to respond. Daane points out that this cannot be done with the doctrine of reprobation; it is a message that has no response. The teaching does not apply to the elect and, as for the reprobate, there is no response to the announcement that one is rejected. The doctrine of reprobation declares that there is no saving inward call for the non-elect. No call means no response and it certainly means no preaching. Reprobation can be contemplated, taught, and discussed, but it cannot be preached.

To sum up this section: if God’s will is singular, then either he desires the salvation of all or he does not. As we have seen, starting with the premise of a universal salvific will can launch one into the fantasy of universalism. Positing a denial of any type of universal salvific will can lead one into the slough of reprobation. For these reasons most theologians, Reformed and non-Reformed, have opted instead for a two-will approach.


Most theologians, Reformed or not, have recognized that, in John Piper’s words, “God’s intention is not simple but complex,” or if God’s will is simple, it is “fragmented.” If the sovereign God desires the salvation of all, provides a redemption sufficient for all, but all are not eventually saved yet God’s will is ultimately done, then God’s will displays a complexity that requires understanding it in stages or phases.

Theologians have employed a number of categories to describe God’s two wills: God’s will of precept, command, or permission is often contrasted with his decretal, sovereign, or efficient will. Most positions are variations on one of two paradigms: either the hidden and the revealed wills approach (option three), or the antecedent and consequent wills view (option four). Generally, Reformed theologians opt for the revealed/hidden wills paradigm while non-Reformed theologians take the latter.


In their discussions about divine sovereignty and human responsibility, the Reformers regularly appeal to the hidden/revealed wills position, though Luther embraces the concept much more readily than Calvin. For Luther, the two wills of God are functions of the two ways God relates to his creation. On the one hand, as deus revelatus, God manifests himself to us in Jesus Christ. On the other hand, God as deus absconditus hides from creation and since nothing further can be known about the hidden God then nothing further should be said. The revealed will of God, i.e., Jesus Christ, proclaims the Good News that God graciously is for us. The hidden God, with his sovereign and secret will of election and reprobation, remains terrifyingly inaccessible.

Calvin is less than consistent in his use of the revealed/hidden wills paradigm. In theological works such as his reply to the Catholic controversialist Albert Pighius, Calvin denies a genuine universal offer of the Gospel. He states, “It is a puerile fiction by which Pighius interprets grace to mean that God invites all men to salvation despite their being lost in Adam. For Paul clearly distinguishes the foreknown from the others upon whom God did not please to look.” Calvin denounces the notion that God has two wills as “blasphemy.”

However, Calvin’s commentaries present a different story. In those works, he states that 1 Tim 2:4, 2 Pet 3:9 and Ezek 18:23 plainly teach that God desires the salvation of all humanity. There Calvin appeals to the hidden/revealed wills explanation to reconcile his interpretation of the universal texts with his doctrine of double predestination. On this issue at least, one might be forgiven for wondering if Calvin the theologian ever met Calvin the exegete.

Today, John Piper argues for the hidden/revealed wills paradigm. He departs from many of his Reformed colleagues when he accepts those texts such as 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9; John 3:16; and Ezek 18:23 actually are expressing a desire on God’s part for the salvation of all humanity. He recognizes that traditional Reformed exegesis of these verses convince only the already persuaded.

Piper argues that God genuinely wills the salvation of all, but this desire is trumped by the even greater desire to be glorified. In order for his grace to receive the fullest expression of glory, it is necessary that he also display his righteous wrath against sin. The full glory of his grace is properly perceived only when seen alongside his holy judgments. Some have been selected by God to be trophies of grace while others are chosen to be examples of his just damnation. Why God selects certain ones for salvation while consigning others to perdition is a mystery hidden in the secret counsels of God.

There are at least six serious problems with the hidden/revealed version of the two wills explanation. First, as Carson points out, too often theologians use the hidden will to negate the revealed will. Luther certainly seems to do this. In his discussion of Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, Luther’s answer is to appeal to God’s hidden will.

Here, God Incarnate says: ‘I would, and thou wouldst not.’ God Incarnate, I repeat, was sent for this purpose, to will, say, do, suffer, and offer to all men, all that is necessary for salvation; albeit He offends many who, being abandoned or hardened by God’s secret will of Majesty, do not receive Him thus willing, speaking, doing and offering.

Luther points us to the revealed God in Christ but then promptly nullifies the Savior’s message by appealing to the hidden God.

By definition a hidden will is unknown, so how can one speak about it? How can we use something unknown as a theological foundation? Who has the right to declare the revealed will is not God’s ultimate will and base this assertion on something admittedly unknowable? Who dares to nullify God’s Word? If the hidden will does exist, then could it be hidden because God does not want us to engage with it?

A second problem with the hidden/revealed wills paradigm is just as serious as the first. Christ manifests the revealed will of God, but the revealed will is not always done because it is supplanted by God’s secret will which lies hidden in the Father. This leads to the disturbing conclusion that Jesus does not present God as he really is. In his discussion of the two wills in God, Luther makes this very clear:

Now, God in His own nature and majesty is to be left alone; in this regard, we have nothing to do with Him, nor does He wish us to deal with Him. We have to do with Him as clothed and displayed in His Word, by which He presents Himself to us. In the hidden/revealed wills scenario, Christ no longer reveals the Father.

The second problem leads naturally to a third one. Luther describes the secret will of God as “dreadful” and then urges his reader to look to Christ alone. But as Barth points out, one cannot teach the hidden will of God and then tell people not to think about it. Exhortations to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain only heighten suspicions and concerns. The difficulty the hidden/revealed wills paradigm presents to pastoral ministry is well documented. If our election resides in the
hidden purpose, then what assurance does the revealed Christ offer us. Barth concludes that to look past Jesus is to look into the unknown.

A fourth problem with the hidden/revealed wills solution is that it seems to make the preacher appear to be hypocritical. Engelsma highlights this problem when he scolds the Reformed pastor who preaches the revealed will while quietly adhering to a hidden will. You can now preach to all men that God loves them with a redemptive love and that Christ died for them to save them from their sins, but at the same time you must whisper to yourself, ‘But He will actually save only some of you and He will not save others of you according to His own sovereign will.’ What you whisper to yourself makes the message of universal love, universal atonement, and a universal desire to save, which you proclaim loudly, a fraud.

If what we whisper to ourselves makes what we proclaim a fraud, then indeed we are guilty of dissimilation.

Worse yet, the hidden/revealed wills approach appears to make God out to be hypocritical, which is a fifth problem. God universally offers a salvation that he has no intention for all to receive. Reformed soteriology teaches that the Gospel is offered to all, but efficacious grace is given only to the elect. The limits of salvation are set by the sovereign and secret choice of God. Numerous times—through the prophets, the Savior, and the apostles—God publicly reveals a desire for Israel’s salvation while secretly seeing to it they will not repent. Calvin, citing
Augustine, states that since we do not know who is elect and who is reprobate we should desire the salvation of all. Shank retorts, “But why? If this be not God’s desire, why should it be Calvin’s? Why does Calvin wish to be more gracious than God?”

Which brings us to a sixth and fundamental objection to the hidden/revealed wills paradigm: it fails to face the very problems it was intended to address. It avoids the very dilemma decretal theology creates. Peterson, in his defense of the Reformed position on God’s two wills states, “God does not save all sinners, for ultimately he does not intend to save all of them. The gift of faith is necessary for salvation, yet for reasons beyond our ken, the gift of faith has not been given to all.”

But then he concludes, “While God commands all to repent and takes no delight in the death of the sinner, all are not saved because it is not God’s intention to give his redeeming grace to all.” I must be candid and confess that to me the last quote makes no sense.

Let us remember that there is no disagreement about human responsibility. Augustinians, Calvinists, Arminians, and all other orthodox Christians agree that the lost are lost because of their own sin. But that is not the question at hand. The question is not, “Why are the lost lost?” but “Why aren’t the lost saved?” The nasty, awful, “deep, dark, dirty, little secret” of Calvinism is that it teaches there is one and only one answer to the second question, and it is that God does not want them saved. Other theological systems may have similar problems but
Reformed theology has the distinction of making this difficulty the foundational cornerstone for its understanding of salvation.


Throughout church history both the Eastern and Western Churches have taught that God desires the salvation of all, but he requires the response of faith on the part of the hearer. This antecedent/consequent wills approach sees no conflict between the two wills of God. God antecedently wills all to be saved. But for those who refuse to repent and believe, he consequently wills that they should be condemned. In this way God is understood to be like a just judge who desires all to live but who reluctantly orders the execution of a murderer. The antecedent and consequent desires are different but they are not in conflict.

The antecedent/consequent wills position seems to be the clear teaching of Scripture. God antecedently “so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” that consequently “whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Christ antecedently orders the Gospel preached “to every creature,” but he consequently decrees that “he that believeth not shall be damned.” The antecedent/consequent wills paradigm fits very nicely with the Great Commission.

Oden lists four characteristics of the antecedent will of God. First, it is universal. Salvation is desired for all, provided for all, and offered to all. This unconditional omni-benevolent attitude is truly antecedent in that it is directed to all humanity prior to its acceptance or rejection. Second, the antecedent will is impartial. Christ died for the sins of the whole world. Universal love logically requires unlimited atonement. Third, God’s will to save all is sincere. There is no hidden will; no secret decree of reprobation. And fourth, the antecedent will is an ordinate will. It is impossible for God’s desire to remain impotent or unfulfilled.
The antecedent will to save all is the basis of his actions to provide the means of grace to sinners through Christ.

God’s consequent will possesses three components. First, it is consistent with the qualities with which he has endowed his creatures. Humans are fallen, but they are still in the image of God, nonetheless. God’s grace is not coercive and can be refused. When the hearer encounters the Gospel, he is graciously enabled by the Spirit to respond freely. The hearer’s decision to accept or reject the Gospel is genuinely, terrifyingly his. Admittedly, why some reject the Gospel is a mystery. But in the antecedent/consequent paradigm, the mystery of iniquity resides
in man rather than God.

The second aspect of God’s consequent will follows from the first. If God wills that salvation is consequent to our choice, then this will is conditional. Third, the consequent will is just. God’s granting of salvation to those who believe is perfectly consistent with his holy nature because of the propitiatory work of Christ (Rom 3:21-26). His damning of all who will not believe fully accords with his righteousness. God’s antecedent will is perfectly gracious; his consequent will is perfectly just.

Generally, Reformed theologians find the antecedent/consequent wills approach unacceptable. They give a number of objections of which three figure most prominently. First, the antecedent/consequent wills paradigm seems to make God’s decision contingent upon man’s choice. They contend that this approach subtly puts man on God’s throne. Berkouwer argues that a salvation that depends upon a decision from man makes God “powerless” and “waiting.” Robert Shank replies that God may be waiting, but he is not powerless. In fact, the imagery of God waiting is a rich theme found throughout the Bible (Isa 1:18-20, for example). The antecedent/consequent wills approach understands God to be the sovereign Initiator and gracious Completer of redemption. If man is to choose between heaven and hell, it is because the Lord of Creation has placed the choice before him.

The second objection to the antecedent/consequent wills approach is that it seems to smack of the notion of merit. If all hearers are equally enabled by grace to receive the Gospel, and one person accepts the Message while another person rejects it, then does not this mean that in some way the first person is more virtuous than the second? This is a difficult objection, but two points should be kept in mind. First, this objection seems to see faith as some sort of work while the Bible consistently contrasts faith from works (Rom 3:21-4:8). Faith, by its very nature, is the opposite of works because it is an admission of a complete lack of merit or ability. The beggar incurs no merit when he opens his hands to receive a free gift. Second, the mystery is not why some believe, but why all do not believe. This again points to the mystery of evil. There is no merit in accepting the Gospel but there is culpability in rejecting it.

A third objection made by Reformed theologians is that the antecedent/consequent wills paradigm gives “pride of place” to human freewill over God’s glory. John Piper argues that the hidden/revealed view and the antecedent/consequent view are basically the same except for one important difference. Both views contend that God genuinely desires the salvation of all, both views hold that this desire is superceded by an even greater will, but the two views disagree on what that greater will is. Piper states that the hidden/revealed position sees the greater will to be a desire to glorify himself while the antecedent/consequent position understands the greater will to be to give the freedom of self determination to humans. Piper concludes that the hidden/revealed paradigm does greater justice to the glory of God.

However, in their response to Piper, Walls and Dongell emphasize that proponents of the antecedent/consequent wills position do not affirm a graciously enabled human ability of self-determination for its own sake. Rather, the concern is to portray faithfully God’s character. God holds the unbeliever accountable because they have not believed the gospel. Those condemned by God are justly condemned because receiving Christ was a choice genuinely available. Adhering to a doctrine of human self-determination is not an end in of itself. Upholding the integrity of God’s character is. Rather than failing to magnify God’s glory, the antecedent/consequent wills position glorifies God by maintaining that his dealings are just and consistent with his holy nature. If the greatest way for humans to bring glory to God is to choose him freely, then the antecedent/consequent wills view best fulfills this goal.

Interestingly, Piper uses the just judge analogy to make his case for the hidden/revealed wills scenario.61 He gives the specific instance of when George Washington was faced with the difficult dilemma of having one of his favorite officers guilty of a capital crime. Despite his affection for the young man, Washington gave the order for his execution. Piper’s illustration actually is an example of the antecedent/consequent wills paradigm, because according to the hidden/revealed wills model, Washington secretly wills the crime of the officer and inclines the young man’s will to commit the deed.


This article has considered the four options concerning God’s salvific will: God has one will that all are saved, God has one will that certain ones are saved, God has two wills—one hidden and the other revealed, and God has two wills—an antecedent will for the salvation of all and a consequent will that faith is the condition to salvation. None of the four positions is without difficulties. However, the antecedent/consequent wills paradigm seems to have the fewest theological problems and be closest to the testimony of Scripture.

The Great Commission is the expression of the divine will. His desire is that the whole world hear the Good News so that those who receive the Gospel might be saved.


Thoughts on Lapsarianism

19 Mar 2006 ("Apologetics Journal")

A.W. Pink & Supralapsarianism

A. W. Pink was one of the ablest Baptist theologians of the 20th century. He wrote numerous books on Christian doctrine. I am happy to say that I endorse most of what this precious brother wrote and preached. If one will read and study Pink, he will grow exceedingly in his understanding of Holy Scripture. In fact, Pink wrote most of his books in segments, through his paper, "Studies in the Scriptures." He was very well read.

I am happy that Pink takes the supralapsarian position on the decrees of God. He presents a few arguments in favor of this position. I will be posting citations from his book, "Election and Justification," (Baker Books, 1974 copyright).

First, from the first section, on Election, and from the chapter, "Its Nature,"

Pink wrote:

(underlinings are mine, SS)

"The choice of God's is an ABSOLUTE ONE, being entirely gratuitous, depending on nothing whatever outside of Himself. God elected the ones He did simply because He chose to do so: from no good, merit, or attraction in the creature, and from no foreseen merit or attraction to BE in the creature. God is absolutely self-sufficient, and therefore He never goes outside of Himself to find a reason for any thing that He does. He cannot be swayed by the works of His own hand. No, He is the One who sways them, as He alone is the One who gave them existence. "In Him we live, and are moved (Greek), and have our being." It was, then, simply out of the spontaneous goodness of His own volition that God singled out from the mass of those He purposed to create a people who should show forth His praises for all eternity, to the glory of His sovereign grace forever and ever.

The choice of God's is an UNCHANGEABLE one. Necessarily so, for it is not founded upon anything in the creature, or grounded upon anything outside of Himself. It is before everything, even before His "foreknowledge." God does not decree because he foreknows, but He foreknows because He has infallibly and irrevocably fixed it--otherwise He would merely guess it. But since He foreknows it, then He does not guess--it is certain; and if certain, then He must have fixed it." (page 64)

Pink says further:

"Second, God's act of election is MADE IN CHRIST: "according as he hath chosen us in him" (Eph. 1:4). Election does not find men in Christ, but PUTS them there." (ibid)

And again, he says, succinctly:

"Though, while all fell in Adam, yet all did not fall alike. The non-elect fell so as to be damned, they being left to perish in their sins, because they had no relation to Christ--He was not related to them as the Mediator of union with God." (pages 64,65)

Here is good testimony from this beloved man on the issue of the fall (or lapse).

"Third, this act of God was irrespective of and ANTERIOR TO ANY FORESIGHT OF THE ENTRANCE OF SIN. We have somewhat anticipated this branch of our subject, yet as it is one upon which very few today are clear (amen! SS), and one we deem of considerable importance (amen! SS), we propose to give it separate consideration (as I also intend to do, SS). The particular point which we are now to ponder is, as to whether His people were viewed by God, in His act of election, as fallen or unfallen; as in the corrupt mass through their defection in Adam, or in the pure mass of creaturehood, as to be created. Those who took the former view are know as Sublapsarians (or Infralapsarians, SS); those who took the latter as Supralapsarians, and in the past this question was debated considerably between high and low Calvinists. This writer unhesitatingly (after prolonged study) takes the Supralapsarian position, though he is well aware that few indeed will be ready to follow him." (pages 65,66)

Well, I am happy to say I have followed brother Pink. I too did not come to this conclusion hastily or haphazardly, but after long study and prayerful meditation. It is, to say the least, a minority opinion among Calvinists and the one most hated by both low Calvinists and Arminians.

Pink writes further (in answer to the question as why so few Christians and Bible students are willing to accept the supralapsarian position, in spite of the fact that it is clearly stated and defended in Holy Scripture):

"Sin having drawn a veil over the greatest of all the divine mysteries of grace--that of the divine incarnation alone excepted--renders our present task the more difficult." (page 66)

We Supralapsarians are indeed in a difficult position on this all important topic. Men have a natural, albeit depraved and corrupt, opposition and resistance to the awful doctrine of God's utter and absolute sovereignty.

Pink writes further:

"It is much easier for us to apprehend our misery, and our redemption from it--by the incarnation, obedience, and sacrifice of the Son of God--than it is for us to conceive of the ORIGINAL glory, excellency, purity, and difnity of the Church of Christ, as the eternal object of God's thoughts, counsels, and purpose. Nevertheless, if we adhere closely to the Holy Scriptures (amen, SS), it is evident (to the writer, at least) that God's people had a super-creation and spiritual union with Christ before ever they had a creature and natural union with Adam; that they were blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 1:3), before they fell in Adam and became subject to all the evils of the curse." (ibid)

Under an entry called "Hodge and Infralapsarianism" in my Apologetics Journal, I have this citation from Hodge (I am including a couple of my own comments upon it also).

Infralapsarians, like Hodge, agree that the whole debate comes down to the truthfulness of one simple proposition. Is the creation a means unto redemption?

If the scriptures say it is, then, as Hodge admits, the supralapsarian scheme is correct. He then sees the debate centering around one chief passage, Ephesians 3:10. He said:

"The only passage of the Bible which appears to teach explicitly that creation is a means for the execution of the purpose of predestination is Eph. iii. 9, 10. There, according to some it is said that God created all things in order that (hina) his manifold wisdom might be known through the Church. If this be the relation between the several clauses of these verses the Apostle does teach that the universe was created in order that through redeemed men (the Church) the glory of God should be revealed to all rational creatures. In this sense and in this case creation is declared to be a means to redemption; and therefore the purpose to redeem must precede the purpose to create. Such, however, is not the logical connection of the clauses in this passage. Paul does not say that God created all things in order that. He is not speaking of the design of creation, but of the design of the gospel and of his own call to the apostleship. To me, he says, is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to enlighten all men in the knowledge of the mystery (of redemption, i. e., the gospel) in order that by the Church should be made known the manifold wisdom of God. Such is the natural connection of the passage, and such is the interpretation adopted by modern commentators entirely irrespective of the bearing of the passage on the supralapsarian controversy."

So, if we can show that the hina clause of Eph. 3:10 connects with "who created all things by Jesus Christ," then the issue is settled. So, we will deal with that passage at length.

Hodge states, in his Ephesian commentary, that the phrase "who created all things by Jesus Christ," does not connect with the hina clause, "to the intent."

If it, however, has no connection, as do the other parts of the sentence, as Hodge admits, then why does Paul add this phrase, at this point in his long complex sentence? What does Hodge and the infralapsarians say?

Hodge says it is really just a word of praise uttered with no connection with the sentence proper. He compares it to other times when a Bible writer, seemingly, in the midst of teaching a great truth, will immediately utter some word of praise, but which does not add anything essential to the thing being taught in the sentence.

It is as if I am talking about some great thing God is doing and suddenly say, "God be praised," and which, as Hodge says, could be removed from the sentence and nothing be changed as to the idea being conveyed." (paraphrased)

Is this what Paul is doing here in Ephesians 3:10 when he says, "who created all things by Jesus Christ to the intent..?"

Hodge and others make a serious blunder in interpretation by not seeing how what Paul says is not unconnected with the idea of his whole sentence. They err in not seeing that it is not an either or question, restricting the hina clause ("to the intent") to either the ministry of Paul or to creation but not to both.

But, it clearly is true of both! What Hodge says about the hina clause referring to all that God was doing through Paul and his preaching is true. It was all for the purpose of carrying out the work of redemption, which is a creation, all to reveal the wisdom of God in the whole scheme of creation, the fall, and redemption.

It seems to me that the flow of thought, leading up to the pivotal verse, verse 10, is like this:

"God made me, brought me into this world, made me a Christian and an apostle, revealed to me the gospel, sent and enabled me to preach it to thousands, yea, created my life, mission, and all my circumstances for this purpose (the same reason and purpose he has created all things), that by the working of redemption, in the body of the elect, or church, the heavenly principalities and powers might know the manifold wisdom of God (his glorious attributes of saving love, mercy, grace, justice, and wrath)."

Or, to put it more simply, Paul is saying, not only has God created me to the intent of showing, in the plan of redemption, his manifold wisdom, but he has created all things for the same end.

12 Feb 2006 - Eph. 3:10 Created To Redeem

"If we make the good of the creature the ultimate object of all God's works, then we subordinate God to the creature, and endless confusion and unavoidable error are the consequence."

"It is characteristic of the Bible that it places God first, and the good of the creation second." (Hodge Sys. Theology)

This is a very important point to address, especially as it relates to theodicy and the problem of evil. I agree with what Hodge says (on this single point) and will be elaborating upon it, the Lord willing, in the near future.

13 Feb 2006 - Creature Good

See other notes and writings on various topics in my "Apologetics" Journal.

On Imminency

I have not had opportunity to complete my transcribing of my debate with Pat Donahue (see in my link on "Homilies and Debates") nor writings on "The Second Coming" and against a "pre-trib rapture" view. The book on The Hardshells and on "My Daily Bread" have taken trememdous amounts of time and energy. I do hope I can complete these two books in the next few months and get on with the book on "The Second Coming of Jesus" and other books that I desperately want to write before I leave this world.

I want to write an book showing the error of commentators in believing the "weak brothers" in Corinthians and in Romans are "Christians" rather than Pagans. I have yet to find a single commentator who recognized the truth about who are the "strong" versus the "weak" "brothers" of those chapters. All that I have read say these two terms describe two kinds of Christians, rather than, as I believe, describes the Christian and the non-Christian Pagan.

I also want to write a book titled "Old Wine in New Bottles" with the intent of showing how the New Testament church has incorporated elements of the law and old covenant into the new covenant, thus putting old wine in new bottles.

Other books too! Pray for me that the Lord is in this matter and that these books will be completed and of benefit to others, to insiders as well as outsiders.

In any case I am posting some of my writings on "Imminency" here in the "Gadfly" so that I might act the part and pester some about this issue.

I think MacArthur is wrong on this point! I also think it is wrong for those who believe in "imminency" to charge those of us who do not believe in it, with "looking" for "signs" and for AntiChrist, rather than for Christ. Serious charge! Others will say that those who don't believe in "imminency" are not as "holy" as those who do. Again, serious charge!

The following, together with some other articles, are in my other blog titled "Second Coming" (see link).

Any comments would be interesting to read.

God bless


I do not believe in "imminency" as the Pre-Trib school does. I think the following is "strong meat" for them.


I. Peter, you will be put to death for your faith.

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” (Jn 21:18,19).

So Jesus prophesied St. Peter’s death in old age, his martyrdom.

How could Peter then expect the Lord to come "at any minute" to "rapture" him during his life?

II. "Paul, you must testify for me at Rome and there be put to death."

"Paul Purposes To Go To Jerusalem and Then To Rome. Satan Counterattacks at Ephesus (19.21-20.1).

Paul’s purpose to go to Jerusalem in spite of warnings raises an interesting question. If the Spirit was giving him warnings, why did he proceed? In answering this question we need to recognise that part of Luke’s purpose here may well be in order to give encouragement to those facing persecution by stressing Paul’s steadfastness of purpose in the face of known adversity.

The section commences in 19.21 where we are told that ‘‘Paul purposed in the Spirit --- to go to Jerusalem’’ and that ‘‘it was necessary for him to see Rome’’, and we will soon learn that he was determined if at all possible to reach Jerusalem in time for Pentecost (20.16). On the way there he tells the Ephesians that he is going up to Jerusalem ‘‘bound in the Spirit’’ so that bonds await him in Jerusalem (20.23) and that he does not know what future awaits him, but that he is ready for martyrdom, twice telling them that they will see his face no more (20.25, 38). This latter makes it clear that he is already aware of what his future will be and is convinced that it is of the Holy Spirit. In the light of what follows we have thus to assume that God has in some way spoken to him, and indicated that his going there is of His will. This then gives positive meaning to the statement, ‘‘The will of the Lord be done’’ (21.14).

At Tyre he is again warned by some who receive a message through the Spirit and say that ‘‘he should not set foot in Jerusalem’’ (21.4). Reaching Caesarea the prophet Agabus comes from Jerusalem and indicates that he will be bound in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles, so that all plead with him not to go to Jerusalem (21.10-12), at which he declares that he is ready to die for Christ.

Unless we are to see Paul as totally disobedient we must see the purpose of these revelations as in order to demonstrate Paul’s faithfulness in the face of coming martyrdom, rather than as an indication that the Spirit was actually seeking to dissuade him from going. This may be seen as confirmed by the fact that once he is in chains the Lord appears to him and tells him to be of good cheer, because as he has testified in Jerusalem, so he will in Rome (23.11). There is no rebuke and thus the Lord is clearly content with the situation. This would serve to confirm that ‘‘purposed in spirit’’ in 19.21 should be translated ‘‘purposed in the Spirit.’’ Paul, Luke informs us, is following a course determined by the Lord. 19.21 ‘‘Now after these things were ended (were fulfilled), Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, ““After I have been there, it is necessary also for me to see Rome.”” ’’

‘‘After these things were fulfilled’’ probably refers to the whole section from 12.25- 19.20. He has ministered throughout Asia Minor, Macedonia and Greece. Now all that remains for him is to testify in Jerusalem and in Rome.

As suggested above ‘‘he purposed in the Spirit’’ must probably be seen as indicating the inner compulsion of the Spirit. It is by the Spirit’s impulsion that he now goes forward. And this interpretation is supported by the ‘‘it is necessary’’ which regularly indicates the divine compulsion. Yet even if we took it to mean ‘‘purposed in (his own) spirit’’ our conclusion must be little different, for our knowledge of Paul is such as to recognise that he would only have this purpose if he believed it to be of God. Prior to his visit, however, it was his intention first to visit the European churches that he had founded in Macedonia and Achaia.

19.22 ‘‘And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.’’


So, both Peter and Paul were destined to die martyrs and were aware of this years before their deaths for Christ. Could they have expected the Lord to come then in their life times? No.

“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:4-11)

The question I ask is this: If the second coming of Christ is to be viewed as immediately imminent, was this true for the apostles, the very first Christians, or did it only become imminent sometime after the death of the apostles? If later, what event signaled that the second coming was now imminent?

Obviously, Peter did not expect the “rapture” to occur before he died. Obviously, neither did Paul. If we look at the conversation in Acts 1, we observe that the apostles are interested in knowing if and when the Lord will “restore the kingdom to Israel.” After Jesus ascends, two angels testify of his second coming, doubtless the time when he will “restore the kingdom.” But, does he tell them to expect that restoration and coming to be now imminent? No. He rather tells them to go wait at Jerusalem and that these things will then take place, before his return and the restoration of the sovereignty to Israel.

1. You all will receive power, the promise of the Father, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

2. You all will become witnesses to me “unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

It is thus clear that they could not expect their Lord’s return, nor the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning “restoration,” until the above things are fulfilled. This also is in agreement with the prior teachings of Jesus who said:

“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” (Matt. 10:22,23)

Clearly he prophesied that the gospel would be fully preached in all the cities of Israel before his return.

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14)

How could it be said that the apostles, while they were, together with the early church, carrying out this commission, expected Christ to come before this witness to all the nations had been made?

Besides the prophecies of our Lord about the death of Peter and Paul (and the other apostles too, it seems -- see Matt. 24:9 where Christ says to the apostles, "they will kill you."), and the things enumerated in Acts 1:4-11, things which Christ prophesied must also first come to pass before his return from heaven and the time when he "restores the kingdom (sovereignty) to Israel," I will now offer other prophecies that also must first come to pass before the coming of the Lord.

The Olivet Discourse & Imminency

Many of these other events, which are ordained to precede the return of our Lord, are enumerated and detailed in the "Olivet Discourse."

In that sermon it is very clear that

1. The Destruction of Jerusalem would occur before his second coming.

2. The dispersion of the Jews would follow that destruction and take place before his return to earth to reign.

3. The "gospel of the kingdom" would be "preached in all the world" before his return.

4. The "trodding down of Jerusalem by the Gentiles" will occur before the Lord comes again.

5. The "great tribulation" too would occur before the "elect are gathered from the four corners of the earth."

6. The "setting up" of the "Abomination of Desolation" in the temple of God, of which Daniel prophesied, would also occur before the coming of the Lord.

I will look more closely at this discourse later.

From other prophecies of Christ and his apostles, we also learn that these things too must first occur before the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1. The Coming of Elijah the prophet. Said Jesus: "Elias truly shall (yet future) first come, and restore all things."

2. The Coming of Anti-Christ. Said Paul: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (the day of our "gathering together unto him," the day of the "Lord's coming/parousia," the "day of Christ") shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition..."

Note too that the Lord "destroys" Anti-Christ by "the appearing of his presence" -- "brightness of his coming." (KJV) How could he "destroy" Anti-Christ at his parousia if Anti-Christ be not then here?

Our "gathering together unto him," the "rapture" or "catching away" of the saints, clearly follows the "apostasia" and the apocalypse of Anti-Christ.

Clearly there are two "apocalypses" in this chapter, two "comings." There is the apocalypse (revelation) of Christ and his parousia (coming), and then there is the apocalypse and parousia of Anti-Christ.

Clearly Christ is revealed, undergoes his apocalypse, after the Anti-Christ is revealed, or undergoes his apocalypse. Christ comes after Anti-Christ comes.

3. The "reproving the world of sin" by the Holy Ghost. (John 16:8)

4. The "drawing all men" after the resurrection through the preaching of the gospel. (John 12:32)

5. The "regathering" of the nation of Israel. (I will elaborate on this later)

6. The coming of the "falling away" ("apostasia") mentioned in the verses refferred to above in II Thess. chpt. 2.

7. The completion of the canon of scripture with the writing of the Book of Revelation by the Apostle John. (More too on this later)

The Inter-Advent Period to be a Long Time

Here are scriptures that speak of the inter-advent period as being one of a long period of time, viewed from the human perspective.

1. "Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time." (Luke 20:9)

2. "After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them." (Matt. 25:19)

The Prophetic History of the Seven Churches of Asia

The Seven Churches of Asia, in Revelation chapters two and three, are clearly a prophetic portrait of the general drift of the church from the time of the dictating of the letters by Christ to John until his return from heaven. Both Pre-Trib and Post-Trib Premillenialists generally agree on this. In fact, I have never known a Pre-Trib advocate who did not believe that the order of these seven churches were ordained to give us such a prophetic picture of the fate of the church in the inter-advent period.

It is even argued by the leading Pre-Trib Premillenialists, men like J.A. Seiss (author of the famed book "The Apocalypse," a very good book generally), that the statement, "things which must occur after these things," means "after the church age," after the church has gone through these seven stages. This is a gross inconsistency, a glaring contradiction, for it destroys the whole idea of Pre-Trib views on "imminency."

I ask: How could the coming of Christ have been "imminent" before the church has gone through these seven stages? Could the coming of Christ have come in the Ephesian church period? Could those living in the Ephesian period expect the coming of the Lord? Clearly "the legs of the lame are not equal" here.

"Looking" and "waiting" for Christ or Anti-Christ & Signs?

It is argued by those who advocate "imminency" and a "pre-trib rapture" that those who believe in a post-trib coming of Christ, and who deny "imminency" (as it is taught by the pre-tribbers), are not looking for Christ, but are only looking for signs, for the apostacy, looking for Anti-Christ himself. Now, that is a strong charge indeed! Some so despise those of us who deny their views so vehemently that they make it a "test of fellowship" and think that those who deny the pre-trib rapture view are less holy! Again, serious charges and accusations!

Are these charges and accusations true? Are they who refuse Christian fellowship over the matter acting in the Spirit of Christ when they do so?

Comparing the Comings of Christ with regard to Imminency

Consider the argumentation of those, like John MacArthur, who spout the charges and promotes the views of the pre-trib advocates, mentioned above, in regard to those words of exhortation, in both testaments, for believers to "look for" (or "watch for"), to "wait for" (or "be patient for"), to "expect," the "coming of the Lord."

Did Eve expect the coming of the "seed of the woman"? Yes. Did she expect it to occur immediately and imminently? Yes, for when Cain was born, she exclaimed, "I have gotten a man from the Lord," doubtless believing Cain to be the fulfillment of the promise. She was wrong. The coming of the "seed of the woman" was not to come imminently.

Were they therefore not able to "look for," or "wait for" or "expect" the coming of that "seed"?

Consider too that in the time just prior to the Lord's incarnation, people in Israel were, like Simeon, "waiting for the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25), that is, for the coming of the Messiah. They were all "looking" for the coming of Jesus. "And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" (Matt. 11:3)

But, were they also not "looking for" his forerunner to come first according to the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi? Just as kings, when visiting another land, in ancient times, sent before them emissaries to prepare for their arrival, so would Christ in both his comings. Did those people not "look for" the king simply because they too "looked for" the coming of his forerunners?

According to the arguments of the pre-trib advocates, the Old Testament saints, at the time of Christ's first coming, were NOT "looking for" the coming of Christ since they were "looking for" his forerunner! How is that for "logic"?

Just as Old Testament saints could "look" and "wait" for the coming of Christ, yet believe there were "signs" and events to precede it, then so can we. So, this "argument" is vain and useless.

The Birth Of Children & The Coming of Christ

It is very clear that in many passages, relative to the second coming of Christ, that it is compared to the birth of a child. Let us note these passages of scripture.

1. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." (John 16: 20-22)

2. "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." (I Thess. 5:3)

3. "And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." (Rev. 12:2)

4. "These are the beginning of sorrows (as in child birth)." (Matt. 24:8)

When a woman is pregnant with child, she is "looking for," "waiting for," and "expecting" the birth of her child. Does this require that she believe the birth of the child is continually "imminent"? No. Also, to argue that her looking, waiting, watching, and expecting the coming of her child into the world implies that she is doing this with the belief that it is contiuously "imminent" and with the belief that nothing must come first before the birth and coming of the child, is ludicrous.

Even in the ninth month of a normal pregnancy, when the birth is even more imminent than before, when the mother is intensely "looking for" the birth of her child, does this exclude her from "looking for" the signs of that birth, the things that will "precede" it, like her birth pangs? According to the "logic" of the pre-trib advocates, she could not be "looking for" the birth of her child and be "looking for" the birth pains at the same time. This however is clearly not tenable.

So, I have shown how the argumentation and logic used by the pre-trib advocates, that says "looking for" signs and events to precede the coming of the Lord is incompatible with the idea of "looking for" the coming itself, is false; the saints "looking for" the first coming and the case of a mother "looking for" the birth of her child show how it to be false.

The only instance I know where birth pains are prophesied to occur after birth, is this passage.

"Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." (Isa. 66:7,8)

I will not enter into a discussion of that here, but believe that at least one fulfillment of it occurred when the nation Israel gave birth to the Messiah and later suffered the travails of the destruction of her capital and temple and the dispersion of her people(in A.D. 70 and after).

I will conclude my look at this issue of "imminencey" in a third concluding article, the Lord willing, in the near future.

John MacArthur wrote:

“The NT is consistent in its anticipation that the return of Christ might occur at any moment.”


“From the very earliest days of the church, the apostles and first-generation Christians nurtured an earnest expectation and fervent hope that Christ might suddenly return at any time to gather His church to heaven.”


“The writer of Hebrews cited the imminent return of Christ as a reason to remain faithful:

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:25


Is MacArthur right on this verse, that it promotes “imminency” and denies that there are any signs or events that must precede the arrival of “that day”?

First, let us notice two key words in the passage.

Approaching” is from eggizo and means to “draw near to,” to “join one thing to another” (Strong)

“See” is from blepoo and means to “understand” to “discern mentally” or to “perceive” (Strong)

How do we, in every day life, see the day approaching”? Is it not by looking at a clock, or by looking at the “connection” of a present event (or sign) with either a most recent one or with an impending one? Do I not see the day of my death approaching by seeing the signs of it?

The Psalmist said:

“We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.” (Psalm 74:9)

Here it seems that the Psalmist is at odds with the thinking of MacArthur and the Pre-Tribbers in how they “see the day approaching,” or to “see” anything “approaching,” for that matter.

This passage is interesting in that it mentions key words like “see” and “signs” and “how long,” all relevant to the matter at hand. We do not often “see” “how long” because we do not “see our signs”!

Why then do Pre-Trib advocates and believers in “imminence” say that this “seeing the day approaching” is not to be looking for any event that precedes that day? Is that true in every day life?

How do I come to understand that the night, or next day, is “drawing near”? Is it not because we see “time slip away” by its connected events?

Pre-Trib folks should quit using such argumentation on such verses as Hebrew 10:25.

"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, UNTIL he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door." (James 5:7-9)

Does James teach the idea that the Christians, to whom he is writing, were to be expecting the "imminent" return of the Lord and of their "rapture" unto him? Some think so. It is a verse often cited, by "Pre-Trib" advocates, in an attempt to prove "imminency."

MacArthur cited it for that purpose, although he did not prove how the verse proved "imminency," thinking simply by highlighting the words "coming of the Lord is at hand" (wherein he assumes the typical Pre-Trib argument that "at hand" = "imminency," which it does not), and "the judge stands before the door" (where again these words are supposed to prove "imminency," again which they do not), proved it. He ought to have highlighted other things mentioned in the verse too that disprove "imminence."

But, the "waiting," and "patient waiting," and the implied "watching for" or "looking for" the "harvest" ("for the precious fruit of the earth"), by the farmer-planter, the sower, is not always "imminent" for such between the time sowing has been done and reaping is "expected." The farmer is always looking for "milestones," "sign-posts," "landmarks along the road," so to speak.

Two "sign-posts" are even mentioned in this passage, the "early rain" and the "latter rain." So, we as Christians, "look for," "watch for," "hope for," "long for," "expect," "observe the day approaching," JUST AS THE FARMER! As he looks for signs of the coming harvest, so do we. Where is the "imminent" and the "any moment" harvest here? I don't see it.

"The Judge stands before the door" (James 5:9), as if about to enter the courtroom, and then sit down to judgment business.

I do not know all about "legal procedure" among the ancient Roman world, to which James no doubt alludes, in this word of warning, but I am sure that it was not all that different from our own. It is after all the basis of Western legal code and procedure. So, what does it mean, in legal procedure, for the judge to "stand before the door"?

It seems likely that the "door" alluded to is that which leads from the private chambers of the judge to the scene of trial, the "courtroom" proper, where (presumably) the jury, witnessess, accusers, prosecution, and defendants are already waiting.

Yes, the words do imply some sort of "imminence," some idea of "immediacy," and the idea that the entrance of the judge is now very near. But, does this mean that no one is looking for any event that would signal that entrance?

I can imagine myself seated in the courtroom, waiting and anticipating the the arrival and entrance of the judge; am I not looking for any sign?

I imagine people are "looking for" the first initial opening of that door (which always precedes the going through the door!), for the doorkeeper to move towards the door, for him to place his hand on the knob, and begin to open it, and to hear some court announcer say, "all rise"!

It would be foolish to argue that those, in the courtroom, who are anxiously anticipating the entrance of the judge, through the door, are not really "looking for" the judge himself because they are "looking for" these little "signs" preceding his entrance! Absurd! Bad "logic"!

Apr 28, 2008

Calvinism Definitions

Dear Brother Tom:

"I don't like associating supralapsarianism with the term "Hyper Calvinism." This is confusing. I wrote this in my second chapter in my book "The Hardshell Baptist Cult" (still in progress):

"In my studies in theology and its history, including systems commonly and traditionally known as Calvinism and Arminianism, I accept these definitions regarding variants of Calvinism.

High Calvinism - the belief in absolute predestination of all things, the belief that everything that exists or comes to pass does so due to the will and decree of God. High Calvinists are often known as supralapsarians, and some supralapsarians are Hyper Calvinists, but not all. I am a supralapsarian Calvinist, like other great Baptists theologians, as John Gill and A.W. Pink, and I believe in the proclamation of the gospel to all men and that Christ invites, yea, commands all men to receive him and to acknowledge him and his salvation.

Low Calvinism - the belief in either conditional or limited predestination or the absolute predestination of some things only, certainly not of all things. Low Calvinists are always infralapsarians.

Hyper (or Hybrid) Calvinism - The belief that God works independently of human means in the saving of sinners, the belief that regeneration precedes faith in Christ, that faith in Christ or conversion to the Christian religion are not necessary for regeneration. Hardshells have a sect that are High Calvinists (Absoluters) and a sect that are Low Calvinists. But, they all are Hyper Calvinists. "I think we must be careful to distinguish between "Hyper" and "High" Calvinism.

In Christ,


I am really surprised after posting this as a comment in the latest entry in the "Founder's blog" of Tom Ascol that I did not get anyone to offer a comment about it. I am curious about why.