Friday, September 02, 2011

What's a well-meant offer?

Discussion of the “well-meant” offer frequently suffers from two key equivocations. To begin with, “sincere” and “well-meant are being used synonymously, even though they are not, in fact, synonymous.

Secondly, “well-meant” has more than one sense, and while the differing senses are all synonymous with “well-meant,” they are not synonymous with each other.

Since David Ponter likes to use the OEC in this context, let’s quote the relevant entries:

Well-meaning: Disposition to do what is right; good intentions.

Having, or actuated by, good intentions; animated by a kindly purpose or friendly disposition.

Well-meant: Rightly, honestly, or kindly intended; said or done with good intentions.

Sincere: Containing no element of dissimulation or deception; not feigned or pretended; real, true.

Characterized by the absence of all dissimulation or pretense; honest, straightforward.

1) It should be clear from this that “sincere” and “well-meant are not interchangeable terms. So what, precisely, does affirmation or denial of the “sincere/well-meant” offer entail?

For instance, there’s such a thing as a well-intended deception. Take the textbook case of lying to the authorities about the fact that you’re hiding Jews. That’s deceptive, but it’s done with good intentions. Even if you think that’s wrong (I don’t), it’s still done with the best of intentions.

2) If we define the gospel offer as a conditional offer, then when God offers the gospel to the unredeemed, that involves no element of deception. That’s an honest offer. For anyone who accepts the offer will receive what was promised. A true offer.

3) Or suppose, for the sake of argument, we accept Bnonn’s reformulation, according to which the gospel offer is an imperative rather than a counterfactual. (At least I think that’s what he means.)

Ironically, commands can’t be true or false. Commands aren’t propositions, in the usual sense. They don’t assert something to be the case. Rather, that’s a type of perlocutionary or performative discourse. On that definition, it would be impossible for the gospel offer to be feigned or dishonest.

4) Mind you, it seems to be that Bnonn is erecting a false dichotomy. Isn’t the gospel offer more like a conditional imperative?

At a simplistic level, you could say the gospel offer amounts to a bare command like “Repent of your sins!” “Believe in Christ!”

But the command includes a consequence for performance or nonperformance.

So I really don’t see much difference between:

i) Do this and that will result


ii) If you do this, then that will result

Or, more fully:

Do x and y will result

Don’t do x and z will result

If you do x, y will result

But if you don’t do x, then z will result

Yet whichever formulation we favor, it’s not insincere.

5) What about the different senses of “well-meant” (and verbal variants thereof).

a) Right/good intention

b) Honest intention

c) Kind/friendly intention

These are not interchangeable concepts.

i) For instance, a kind or friendly intention is consistent with a dishonest intention. Suppose we spare someone’s feelings by telling a white lie. We lie just to be nice.

Right now I’m not discussing the ethics of that practice; just pointing out that these are not antithetical intentions.

Likewise, right or good intentions are consistent with unkind or unfriendly intentions. Suppose a police sharpshooter kills a schoolyard sniper. That’s not very kind or friendly to the sniper.

But the sharpshooter is motivated by a justifiable concern to protect the lives of the innocent.

6) So when Ponter says limited atonement renders the gospel offer insincere or ill-meant, what, exactly, does he have in mind?

Likewise, when he says denial of the well-meant offer is a type of hypercalvinism, what, exactly does he have in mind?

And I’m asking the question in reference to the OEC, since he himself made that a frame of reference in this discussion.

I’m also asking the question in relation to how I’ve compared and contrasted “sincerity” and “well-meaning,” as well as different senses of “well-meaning/meant.”

7) Of course, it’s possible for the “well-meant” offer to be a technical term that doesn’t correspond to ordinary usage. However, Ponter explicitly said he was using “normal standard English usage,” and he also referenced the OED.

8) For instance, if I say God’s attitude toward the reprobate is unfriendly or unkind, that’s still consistent with right or good intentions. And that’s still consistent with a true offer.


  1. I know I am dense and thinking is a struggle for me so would you post Bible verses that are indeed a "well-meant offer" of the Gospel, the power of God?

    I just can't think of one or more verses that are clearly well meant offers.

    I believe the Gospel, that reveals the Righteousness that the Elect receives as a gift, comes by proclamation and not by a well-meant offer.


  2. Discussion of the “well-meant” offer frequently suffers from two key equivocations. To begin with, “sincere” and “well-meant are being used synonymously, even though they are not, in fact, synonymous.

    OHHHHHHH!!! How true!