Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Murray contra Murray

Bob Gonzales draws attention to an apparent contradiction in the views of Murray and Stonehouse regarding the free offer:

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1959 and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of America in 1981 adopted chapters 34 and 35 of the 1903 revision. Chapter 35, touches on the doctrine of common grace and affirms God’s sincere offer of the gospel to all men. The first two paragraphs are particularly relevant:
I. God in infinite and perfect love, having provided in the covenant of grace, through the mediation and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, as way of life and salvation, sufficient for and adapted to the whole lost race of man, doth freely offer this salvation to all men in the gospel.
II. In the gospel God declares his love for the world and his desire that all men should be saved; reveals fully and clearly the only way of salvation; promises eternal life to all who truly repent and believe in Christ; invites and commands all to embrace the offered mercy; and by his Spirit accompanying the word pleads with men to accept his gracious invitation.7

  1. I’m aware of the fact that Ned Stonehouse and John Murray wrote an article in 1937 criticizing this addition. One can read Stonehouse and Murray’s reasoning here. I honestly can’t understand why Murray would reject this particular doctrinal formula in light of his own view of the free offer that he would later articulate in 1948. Perhaps he changed his mind. Or perhaps the some of the baggage that came accompanied the 1903 revision like, for instance, the accompanying “Declaratory Statement” and unqualified affirmation of the salvation of all infants colored Murray’s view of the agenda that was behind the entire 1903 revision.

Here's the relevant section:

The Love of God
Chapter XXXV purports to express more fully than has been done elsewhere in the Confession the doctrine of the church on the subject “Of the Love of God and Missions.” From the standpoint of the Reformed Faith the objections are principally three:
(1) There is a studied omission of the electing love of God, and therefore of the distinction between the love of God that is unto salvation and the general benevolence of God that is unto all but is not of itself saving. Such an omission is fatal. It is impossible to give creedal statement to the Reformed doctrine of the love of God without explicit enunciation of the particular love of God. This objection gathers all the more strength when it is remembered that the topic is not only “the Love of God” but “the Love of God and Missions,” in other words, the love of God as it is directly related to the missionary work of the church.
It is true that the missionary who has an intelligent love of the gospel and zeal for the salvation of men does not forget the benevolence that God exhibits to all, nor does he fail to impress upon men the witness it bears to the goodness of God. But the chief message of the missionary, the message that pre-eminently constrains him to preach to the lost, is the message of that love that sent the Son of God into the world, the love that is electing and effectively redemptive. This revision, then, omits what a Reformed consciousness in the performance of its paramount duty precisely demands.
(2) But not only is definition of the particular love of God studiously omitted. When the extent of God’s love is mentioned it is expressly universalized. In Section I the love of God is described as infinite and perfect love and in Section II it is said that “in the Gospel God declares His love for the world.” There is, of course, a scriptural sense in which God’s love for the world is declared in the gospel. But in the context in which this is stated in this section it is calculated to teach a doctrine of God’s love entirely different from and at variance with, Scripture teaching and Reformed standards.
(3) In Section II there is careful omission of any mention of the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit. The reply might be given that this phase of truth is sufficiently expressed in the preceding chapter and in the Confession elsewhere. This reply is not an answer to the objection. Why is the reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in Section II left on the plane of merely suasive influence? Why, we peremptorily ask, in a creedal statement that purports to set forth the official teaching of a Reformed Church on the subject of the love of God and missions should there be omission of the very thing that alone offers any real encouragement to the missionary, namely, the love of God coming to expression in the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit?
In brief, the objection to this chapter is that it is not Reformed, indeed, that there is nothing distinctly Reformed in it. The subject treated of lies close to the very heart of the Reformed Faith. How possibly can a formulation so destitute of Reformed truth on so vital a subject be defended in Reformed Confession? There is. no defense.

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