Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Is desire a precondition of a well-meant offer?

According to David Ponter, a precondition of a well-meant offer is that the offeror wants the offeree to accept the offer. Absent desire on the part of the offeror, it’s not a bona fide offer.

On the face of it, this stipulation is far from obvious. Suppose I’m in high school. There’s an obnoxious student in my PE class. I don’t like him. Nobody likes him. He goes out of his way to be disagreeable.

Even though I can’t stand him, I feel a duty to befriend him. I invite him to my house after school. I’m secretly hoping he will refuse the offer. I don’t want him to accept the offer. I only make the offer out of a grudging sense of sheer, onerous duty.

However, if he takes me up on the offer, I’ll honor the offer.

So did I make a bona fide offer or not? 


  1. Ponter keeps moving the goalposts.

    He's virtually Lucy of Peanuts fame, continually pulling the football away just as Charlie Brown attempts to kick it.

    In Christ,

  2. Isn't the offer stated in your analogy actually a lie, because it's not a truthful one, with the advantage on the part of the one making the offer that the recipient of the offer does not realize it is insincere? The offeror cannot actually honor the offer, because the offer is not just appearance (which can be fulfilled) but also intention (which admittedly is not by the offeror). I would have to say in the sense of simple appearances and honoring agreements, a bona fide offer can be said to be made, but if you include the actual emotions and sincerity behind it, then it cannot be. [Edited for typo.]

  3. This gets to the heart of my last point on your previous post. Your opponent might be confusing (i) a desire of the offeror to see his offer accepted with (ii) the sincerity of the offer.

    Regarding contingent offers, which this post of yours doesn't imply (not that it needed to be implied): if your offer to the disagreeable student were contingent upon his repentance, then not only could your offer be sincere, you'd also *desire* to see him take you up on it for to do so would imply a change of heart of which you'd find most agreeable. Of course, that does not address the question of whether God desires the non-elect to repent, for that would require that he grant what he doesn't desire to be granted. Of course there is a place for priority of desire, another matter altogether.

  4. Byron,

    No, the offer is not a lie. The offeror intends to honor the offer despite the fact that he doesn't want to offeree to accept the offer.

    Therefore, it's fallacious of Ponter to make the desire of an offeror a sine qua non of a genuine offer.

  5. OK, I see the distinction (I think), but in what sense is the offer really sincere when reaction to it is simply mechanical responsiveness in nature, and not true emotional assent? This is not simply a scenario of two machines interacting with one another, if X then Y, but all about the heart attitude as well, is it not? I thought in Calvinism, God purposes to love the objects of His election and bring them to eventual salvation? The analogy offered does not exactly seem to replicate that in my (perhaps faulty) understanding. It seems that this post argues that external agreement to honor verbal commitment is enough, but I think it is not.

  6. I guess what I'm asking is this: on what basis is desire to fulfill a stated verbal agreement not a requirement of it being a sincere offer? I don't get that part. It's rather like saying, "If the pastor will agree to preach sermon X I want preached, then I will show him support for the rest of the year on anything else he might preach, by saying 'Amen!' and 'Preach it!'". Sure, that could be done externally. But in what sense is it really sincere unless there is full emotional assent to it as well?

  7. "So did I make a bona fide offer or not?"

    You made a good offer. And may I say an excellent offer.

    The Church needs to make more offers like this. I need to. May our sovereign Lord help us to. Amen and amen.

  8. Byron,

    I'm not drawing a theological analogy. I'm merely demonstrating the ad hoc character of Ponter's definition.

  9. This is not an example of a "sincere" offer.

    It also has nothing to do with "anti-Calvinism," so, out of curiosity, why would you tag the post that way?

    May I suggest "Moderate Calvinism" as a more historically accurate and charitable label for Ponter's views?

  10. Derek, it seems that way to me. Do you have an authoritative book on what counts as a "sincere offer", or necessary and sufficient conditions, so that we can demarcate sincere from insincere offers?

  11. THEOparadox said...

    "This is not an example of a 'sincere' offer."

    Another one of Derek's naked assertions.

    As for the label, It's no more or less charitable than Ponter's frequent polemical resort to the "hypercalvinist" label. But since you're a teamplayer, you always turn a blind eye whenever your own team commits a foul.

  12. Steve,

    1) Show me where Ponter has ever referred to you or a position you hold as "hyper Calvinism". I have found him to be very guarded and careful in the application of this term.
    2) Even if he had called you a hyper, do you really think it helps your cause to repeat a glaring error with every post?

  13. Paul,

    You asked: Do you have an authoritative book on what counts as a "sincere offer", or necessary and sufficient conditions, so that we can demarcate sincere from insincere offers?

    I would suggest two courses.

    1. Check the major English dictionary definitions of "sincere" to get a firm understanding of the etymology, modern meanings, and the range of possible meanings historically.
    2. Read those Calvinists who have affirmed the "sincere" or "well meant" offer of the Gospel and see how they use the term. Murray and Stonehouse might be a good place to start.

    You'll find quite a lot of the second on Ponter's "Calvin and Calvinism" site. People Steve would dub "Anti-Calvinists." You know, people who framed the Canons of Dort, the WCF.

    I would also suggest as a third point an assumed essential that doesn't seem to get much attention in these discussions:

    3. Examine the Scriptures to see whether these things be so. Does the revealed will of God include a "sincere offer" of salvation made by God to the reprobate?

    If you do all of these things, it will not surprise me when you come back and write a blog post agreeing with Ponter. You might even present what you consider to be better arguments. I look forward to that.

    Derek the cotton-candy-rhetoric-no-argument-preacher-of-niceness

    PS - if you have any other ad homs, feel free to add them. It is sure to do wonders for your credibility.

  14. The title of this posts asks if desire is a precondition of a "well-meant" offer.

    There are three possibilities for an offer: 1) A well-meant offer, 2) an ill-meant offer and 3) a sham offer.

    1) A Well-Meant Offer: In this kind of offer, the offeror is one who is well-disposed (hence "well-meant") or well-intentioned toward the offeree. Something good is presented by the offeror to the offeree, and since the other person's well-being is in view (i.e. a loving motive), there is a desire for compliance. In this scenario, a desire for compliance is a precondition.

    2) An Ill-Meant Offer: In this kind of offer, the offeror is not well-disposed to the offeree, but still presents something they have for acceptance or rejection. This is the kind of scenario presented with the PE kids in Hays' analogy above. The offeror in fact has a home in which to invite the offeree, but doesn't really want him to come. You'll notice also this crucial point in Hay's analogy: it is a deceptive or pretentious offer since the one kid (the offeror) wants the other (the offeree) to believe he wants him over for company, but he really does not. Is this how the Bible depicts God in His gospel offers to the non-elect? Pretentious and ill-meant?

    3) Sham Offers: In this kind of alleged "offer," not only is there not a well-intentioned offeror, but the offeror does not have that which he says he wants to give to the other person. It's like a kid offering to sell another kid some gum he says is in his pocket (but really isn't there) in order to steal money from another. A crucial thing to note here is that the "offeror" (it's not really an "offer" at all) is not only lying, but he doesn't even have that which he says he has to give. Suppose the kid in Hays' PE analogy doesn't even have a home in which to invite the other kid, and yet he invites him anyway, ill-intentioned and unable to give that which is "offered." That would constitute a sham offer.

    Hays asked if "desire is a precondition for a well-meant offer." The answer is yes. Then Hays gives an analogy that does not correspond to a well-meant/well-intentioned offer in order to answer "no" to the question in the title. What he has presented in the analogy is an ill-meant offer, not a well-meant offer, as I have described above. Is desire a precondition for an ill-meant offer? Of course not, but that's not what the title of the post is asking.

    At least two things are necessary for a "well-meant"/"well-intentioned"/"loving"/"gracious" offer: 1) some good thing you have for the taking (it's actually applicable to the offeree) coupled with 2) a desire for compliance to the condition(s). There's nothing in Hays' post that disproves this fact.

    Keep in mind that this conversation about the nature of well-meant offers is coming up because we're dealing with God's indiscriminate gospel offers. Do Christians want to describe God's "gracious offers" (that's Reformed Confessional language) as well-meant (as described above) to all? Well-meant to the elect but ill-meant to the non-elect? Or a sham offer to the non-elect?

    It seems that Steve Hays not only thinks God is ill-meant in his offers to the non-elect, but one wonders how he escapes the charge that he depicts the "offer" to the non-elect as a sham offer. He has yet to tell us what God is offering to the non-elect (i.e. the non-died-for). So, we ask, "What is God offering to the non-died-for?"

  15. The analogy is also problematic if we apply it to God's gospel offer. It would depict God's offers of salvation to the elect alone as done out of a cheerful heart, but God offers salvation to the non-elect only as an onerous burden springing from bare duty. Actually, before we are saved, we are all obnoxious in God's sight. And yet, notwithstanding that, he well-meaningly offers us salvation.

  16. "What is God offering to the non-died-for?"-Tony

    Salvation, and yet God knows from all eternity those whom He has chosen from all sinners, and lets face it Tony, we should all be the non-elect, shouldn't we? I know I should be judged and condemned by our Holy Lord's wrath for ever to hell. But He chose to have mercy on me. Why is that? Why did He choose you Tony?

    God is way too merciful, and way too kind for sinners like us.
    His mercy makes no sense really. Only that this great love and forgiveness of His brings exceeding glory to our Savior and our Abba Father, is meaningful.

    Hope that helps.

    And there are some mysteries with God, don't forget.

    Can you explain how God always was? Please write an explaination of that truth for me if you can. I would love to read that. Thanks.

  17. Derek,

    sin·cere   [sin-seer] Show IPA
    adjective, -cer·er, -cer·est.
    free of deceit, hypocrisy, or falseness; earnest: a sincere apology.
    genuine; real: a sincere effort to improve; a sincere friend.

    This is all consistent with particular redemption. So, your authoritative def. lets me off the hook.

  18. Of course, as I've pointed out, the term 'desire' is multiply ambiguous. So Byrne's post is multiply ambiguous and doesn't, I'm afraid, move us any closer to resolution.

  19. Paul,

    You said: "This is all consistent with particular redemption."

    I don't think that helps any. In my observation, most moderates prefer the term Particular Redemption. It is typically the 3rd point in their 5-point Calvinism, taking the spot where High Calvinists usually place Limited Atonement. For moderates the question is not whether a sincere offer is consistent with Particular Redemption, but whether or not a sincere offer (as defined by the English language, explicated by Calvinists historically, and presented in the Scriptures) is at odds with Limited Atonement (i.e., an atonement that, once made, is not sufficient to save all people).

    When using this method, it is very important to use all three resources together and not just one of them in isolation: English language, Historical Theology, Biblical Exegesis. Also, this is just a short list of essentials, not an exhaustive panoply.

    Please don't take what I am saying as argument or assertion. Consider this a friendly sharing of knowledge derived from study. As you interact with moderates, I think you'll find it useful to keep these distinctions clear in your own mind.

    Steve seems to think you already knew everything in my initial reply. But since you asked the question to me directly, I thought it polite to answer and not assume too much about your knowledge or methodology. I had to wonder (in response to Steve), if Paul knew all of this already, why did he ask the question? So I'm just assuming your question was sincere and answering accordingly.