Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shedding crocodile tears for the lost

Tony Byrne says:

N.B. It’s not as though God is only willing and able to offer to those who are willing to receive what is offered. Whether they believe or not has no bearing on God’s willingness and ability to make the offer.

But Tony presumably believes in predestination. Therefore, God is able to make the recipient willing to accept the offer. The fact that God doesn’t make the reprobate receptive means that God is able, but unwilling, to save the unwilling recipient.

So, yes, the unwillingness of the reprobate has every bearing on God’s willingness, or lack thereof. For the unwillingness of the reprobate to accept the offer is the corollary of God’s unwillingness to make the reprobate receptive. Indeed, that’s one effect of reprobation.

Their willingness or unwillingness to receive it only has a bearing upon whether God shall give to them what is already offered. All that hear the gospel are offered by God (even the disobedient), but only those who believe get what is offered.

Tony has it backwards. It’s God’s unwillingness to save the reprobate that results in the unwillingness of the reprobate to accept the offer. God is proactive, not reactive, in this transaction.

It seems to me that the Manata-Hays conception of the gospel “offer” is reductionistic, and only deals with the manner by which the promise can be obtained (the “how”)…

i) Manata and I are responding to Ponter on his own terms. He alleges that the offer of the gospel is insincere unless the scope of the atonement is commensurate with the scope of the offer, viz. a universal offer presumes a universal atonement.

Manata and I are simply pointing out that Ponter’s inference is fallacious. Given the conditional nature of the offer, it is not inconsistent for the scope of the atonement to be narrower than the scope of the offer. So Ponter’s argument is illogical.

There may or may not be more to the offer than the dimension that Manata and I focus on, but that’s a red herring. We focus on that aspect because that’s the aspect which Ponter’s argument turns on.

…not with the benevolent nature of the promiser and what He is extending to all in in His all-inviting hands.

Given predestination, which Tony presumably believes in, God has no intention of saving the reprobate. So Tony’s depiction is misleading.

In the kind of 4-point Calvinism which Tony and Ponter propose, the offer of the gospel is like a lottery in which there’s enough money in the jackpot (due to unlimited atonement) for everyone to win the prize.

But there’s a catch: while the amount of money in the jackpot is unlimited, the number of winning tickets is limited. God didn’t give everyone a winning ticket. If you’re reprobate, there’s no ticket with your name in the hat. God made sure there was more money than tickets.

So that doesn’t seem very benevolent or loving if you ask me. Rather, that seems like taunting the lost by depositing enough money in the jackpot to provide for them without providing them a ticket with the winning number.

Their conception doesn’t deal with the object of what is offered (a loving/wooing God…

I don’t visualize God wooing male sinners. Perhaps Mel White or Vicki Gene Robinson visualize God is wooing them, but that doesn’t ring my bell. Perhaps Tony has been listening to one too many albums by Boy George or Elton John.

…with a prepared Christ able to save all whether they are elect or not), but only with how the object may be obtained (through believing you shall be saved).

In what sense is Christ able to save the reprobate?

The conditional “If you believe you shall be saved” is certainly a part of the gospel offer, but of itself it does not make up the whole of a gospel offer. It has no component of fatherly invitation or calling to something already prepared. Not only that, but it’s not even a command.

Actually, Tony’s 4-point Calvinism is like one of those high school movies in which the most popular student decides to play a cruel prank on the ugly duckling. He’s Mr. Handsome. The star athlete. Drives a Porsche.

He begins flirting with the ugly duckling. Making her think he has a crush on her. Invites her to be his prom date. He’s so successful at “wooing” her that she falls hopelessly in love with him.

Only he plans to stand her up. Dump her at the last minute.

Flynn says:
August 29, 2011 at 9:11 am
Hey Tony,

Sure, I think it comes down to the fact that they want to justify what can only be an insincere offer of forgiveness to the non-elect… And to do this they redefine what it means to offer something, opting for the claim that somehow a declaration of facts constitutes a meaningful offer.

i) Ponter made this statement two days after I posted a response to his post, in which I rang the changes on the nature of an offer. Does Ponter present a counterargument to my analysis? No. He acts as if I hadn’t scrutinized his argument.

Unfortunately, Ponter is now arguing in bad faith. The honest thing for him to do would be to acknowledge my response and interact with my counterargument.

ii) He’s the one who “redefined” the meaning of an “offer.” He gave an idiosyncratic definition. And his definition contradicts his overall position.

For that last, I mean, for some odd reason, they really do think that had Judas simply believed, he would have been saved. How strange is that. If there was no atonement for him, he can never be saved, no matter what hoops he jumps through.

That’s not how the counterfactual works. If Judas believed, then Judas would be elect. If Judas believed, then Judas would be redeemed. All of the necessary background conditions would be in place. Those whom the Father elects, the Son redeems, and the Spirit renews.

What this all tells me, too, is that they are injecting secret decree aspects into the revealed will realm. They are collapsing the secret will (and all that it comes with) into the revealed, in order to justify or ground the offer of forgiveness.

i) In my detailed response to Ponter, I didn’t introduce predestination into the analysis. I simply discussed the nature of an offer.

ii) But as far as that goes, there’s nothing wrong with considering the offer in relation to election and reprobation. Predestination is a revealed truth. Systematic theology concerns itself with how revealed truths are interrelated.

iii) The conditional nature of the gospel offer isn’t just a point of logic. Rather, that’s how the offer is revealed to us in Scripture. Scripture presents the offer of the gospel in conditional terms. So I don’t have to go around the offer to consider what stands behind the offer (i.e. predestination) to note the conditionality of the offer.

iv) Actually, 4-point Calvinists like Ponter are going behind the offer to interject unlimited atonement. They think that’s what grounds the offer.

Well, if they can go around the offer, if they are free to discuss the ulterior grounds of the offer in relation to the scope of the atonement, then I can discuss the ulterior grounds of the offer in relation to the scope of election.

v) For that matter, Scripture itself traces things back to double predestination (e.g. Jn 9-12; Rom 9-11; 1 Pet 2:6-9). So even if I did introduce the decree into my analysis, that wouldn’t be “interjecting” something into the transaction.

The decree is a revealed decree, not a secret decree. Predestination is a revealed truth.

Tony and Ponter remind me of Democrats who love social programs for the “disadvantaged.” Mind you, Democrats don’t care whether or not the social programs actually help the disadvantaged. Indeed, they fanatically promote social programs that positively harm the disadvantaged. But as long as the programs make Democrats feel good, that’s all matters–not whether the programs actually do any good. It’s the thought that counts.

Tony and Ponter resort to tearjerker rhetoric to attack special redemption, but the sob story only makes sense on the lips of a universalist. Combining a universal atonement with a universal offer which stops fatally short of universal salvation is still a bridge that abruptly ends halfway across the croc-infested river. Half a bridge is no better than no bridge.

Indeed, it holds out false hope to the lost. Given them a glimmer of hope, only to yank it away at the last minute. 


  1. Could it be that you and Manata are among the lost?

  2. That depends on what assumptions we build into your hypothetical.

  3. Steve,

    I believe you've been woefully unfair to Ponter and Byrne. They would not identify themselves as "4-point" Calvinists, and both affirm Particular Redemption as the intent of the atonement. Their issue is with the extent of the expiation made, much in line with R.L. Dabney (not necessarily Amyrault!).

    I suggest you study their positions more carefully, examine the weighty historical sources they reference for support, and then engage in friendly dialogue with them. You will learn some things, even if you don't agree with them in the end, and you will also increase the likelihood of their learning from you.

    On another note, would you mock Jonathan Edwards, who said:

    "Christ is represented in Scripture, as wooing the souls of sinners." ?

    I'm certainly glad He "wooed" me.

    Derek Ashton

  4. i) It would be impolitic for them to call themselves as 4-point Calvinists. At best, they equivocate over the extent of the atonement, and in actual practice they are mounting a frontal assault on unlimited atonement.

    ii) There's nothing friendly about the comments they themselves made.

    (To his credit, Ponter has now posted a serious reply. That's an improvement.)

    iii) Historical theology is secondary. Exegetical theology is primary.

    iv) Moreover, they have made this an issue of logic–the logical relationship between limited atonement and the well-meant offer of the gospel. Quoting what people believed in the past is irrelevant to that question.

    v) As for divine "wooing," this is based, in part, on a traditional misinterpretation of Canticles. The time is past due for evangelicals to drop the Jesus-is-my-boyfriend tradition.

  5. Years ago I became quite frustrated dealing with David Ponter. However, has he changed his tune? His free off rhetoric used to drive me nuts. I fell out of an online relationship with him. But, he has changed his position somewhere along the line hasn't he?