Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Common grace


Grano1 said:

I posted a comment this morning somewhere on here about narrowing my focus down to one troubling question, due to time constraints. Don't know if and where that post showed up, but here's my question: At one point in our discussion I asked Steve if God loved Todd, the 'blasphemer,' and wanted him to be saved. As far as I can see, he never answered. But someone writing as 'Shining and Burning Light' had this response:

"God hates sinners who remain in their sins. He does have a general love for all men in that He provided a Savior and has offered that Savior to everyone. He also provides for the needs of sinner and saint alike as He causes the rain to fall on the wicked as well as the righteous. However, He has a special love for Christians. He doesn't love all men with the same love that He has for His people who are in covenant with Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, if a blasphemer doesn't come to Christ, does God love him? Obviously not with that special redemptive love that leads to salvation. Should you align yourself with an unrepentant blasphemer over and against a Christian brother with whom you disagree about theological matters? Sounds fishy to me, anyway...."

First of all, I aligned myself with Todd only in the sense that I found his questions non-frivolous. I did not know his history with the blog and was considering the particular questions on that post only.

I still would like to hear from Steve -- does God love Todd? Does He want him to repent and be saved?
Above, Shining... says God hates unrepentant sinners who remain in their sins. What if he is predestined to repent tomorrow and be saved? Does that mean God didn't love him today? Isn't God's love toward the unbeliever what prompts Him to save him? "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners," right? "For God so loved the world..." right?

But if I follow this logic it implies that God hates what we would consider his "enemies." Yet Christ commands us to love OUR enemies. Isn't God expecting us to do something he himself won't do? Didn't Christ die for us while we were at enmity with him?

So again I ask...what about it, Steve? Does God love Todd and want him to be saved?


A couple of preliminary comments:

1.The combox at T-blog has a way of turning into an informal discussion board. And that’s fine with me. I think that’s a healthy development.

But by that same token, I’m not bound by anyone’s formulation, and no one is bound by mine.

2.To my knowledge, none of the historic Reformed confessions address this issue, so there’s no official answer to your question.

I believe that this issue got started with Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace.

Kuyper, in turn, had a deep influence on the CRC.

Herman Hoeksema took issue with Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace (back in the 20s).

He lost his battle with the CRC, and formed a breakaway denomination.

At a later date (in the 40s), this issue, along with some others, resurfaced in the Clark Controversy, when Gordan Clark’s application for ordination in the OPC was challenged.

The majority report, written by John Murray and Ned Stonehouse, carried the day.

On this view, the universal offer of the gospel implied a well-meant offer, according to which God loves the reprobate and desires their salvation.

The minority report, representing the viewpoint of Gordon Clark, William Young, and others, took issue with this inference.

So you can find contemporary Calvinists on both sides of this issue.

3. As to my own general position:

On the one hand, I agree with Kuyper and disagree with Hoeksema regarding the reality of common grace.

On the other hand, I also agree with William Young that the universal offer does not imply a well-meant offer—at least in the way that Murray construes it.

To me, an offer is sincere as long as it is true. If anyone complies with the terms of the promise, God will make good on his promise.

While I affirm common grace, common grace is, in my opinion, for the benefit of the elect rather than the reprobate.

In a common field, God must send his sun and rain on the wheat and tares alike in order to send his sun and rain on the wheat in particular.

So God often blesses the reprobate for the sake of the elect.

4.With respect to Todd, if Todd is one of the elect, then God loves him and desires his salvation. Indeed, if Todd is one of the elect, then God will regenerate Todd at some future date.

But if Todd is a reprobate, then God does not love him or desire his salvation.

And since Todd doesn’t believe in God, there’s no reason why he should find this offensive.

5.I do not impute to God an unrequited desire.

This world is exactly what God wants it to be. If God didn’t like it, he was in a position to make another world entirely to his liking.

There’s nothing to hinder God from having the world he wants, down to the very last detail.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that God approves of everything that occurs considered in isolation to his overall purpose.

And his motives are very different from the motives of the sinner.

6.There is, of course, a sense in which repentance is good, and God approves of whatever is good.

But some goods are greater than others. And some goods are incompatible with other goods.

For example, there is more than one woman who would make a good wife for me, which doesn’t mean that I should marry more than one woman!

7.We are to love our enemies for the duration of the church age. There is, however, such a thing as hell.

The injunctions in the Sermon on the Mount do not address the final state.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Obviously Grano misunderstood my comments. I made a second comment on that thread which qualified what you posted from my first comment,
    "In regard to what I said above, Todd has heard the gospel. He's not here as an ignorant bystander who happened to wander in. He has rejected Christ. By all means, continue to share the gospel with him. Perhaps he will see his need of Christ and be saved."

    Grano, if God has predestined that Todd should repent and come to Christ, obviously God loves Todd with that special redemptive love I mentioned. However, the evidence up to this point is to the contrary since Todd has rejected Christ and mocks Christianity. Would to God that Todd would have a change of heart about the gospel. The fact that God sent His Son into the world to save sinners is a clear demonstration of the fact that God loves His enemies, but they don't stay enemies if God loves them....

    I agree with the substance of your post Steve. I didn't want anyone to conclude, based on the partial quotation of my comments, that I deny common grace or the free offer of the gospel to all men. I'm a convinced "high" Calvinist.....thanks