The “Well-Meant Offer” Subterfuge: A Cogent Review of Engelsma’s Polemic, “Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel”

April 5, 2018

 

This is an excerpt from Sonny’s book, “High Calvinism: A Consistent Approach to Defend and Declare God’s Sovereignty.” To get a copy of this book, click here.

 

 

Contentious disputes will arise when men interpose on the Gospel of sovereign and particular grace. Arminians are the proverbial contemnors of God’s free and particular grace. They rely on their delirious and inveterate conceits to obtrude upon God. And the gospel they affirm is a universal love of God—a real disposition of grace and saving love that is inherent in God for all mankind—including the reprobate. The Arminian “Christus pro omnibus” [Christ for all] is no gospel at all. That is because it is an ineffectual heresy that cannot, and will not ever save anyone.

 

            Similarly, there are professing Calvinists that will propound the notion that God loves all and earnestly desires their salvation, to include those that He has decreed for hell. This “well-meant offer” notion will be cogently defined in this essay. For men to affirm the Reformed doctrine of election while simultaneously embracing anti-Reformed doctrine is contradictory. Not only is the well-meant offer notion a bastardization of the Christian faith, it is also the ill-begotten progeny of Arminianism that no Reformed Christian should ever condone.

 

I. Professor Engelsma’s Warning

 

            To combat the subterfuge of the well-meant offer, Professor David Engelsma[1] published three editions of “Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel.” In this work, Engelsma carefully juxtaposes the particular grace of God with the well-meant offer and the “gemene gratie” [common grace] myth that God dispenses love and grace to all—including the reprobate. And he also refutes the calumnious and scurrilous charges of “hyper-Calvinism” that has been alleged against the Protestant Reformed Church which will be discussed later:  

 

The truth defended in this book is sovereign, particular grace in the preaching of the gospel. The book contends that this truth is fundamental to the theology of the Reformed faith in its entirety, that is, to scripture’s gospel of salvation by grace alone and to the authoritative confession of the gospel by the Reformed creed, the Canons of Dort… The heresy that the book exposes and condemns is the teaching that the promiscuous preaching of the gospel with its unrestricted call to all hearers to repent and believe is, in fact, the saving grace of God to all who hear the preaching, reprobate ungodly as well as the elect. It is the false doctrine of universal, impotent, saving grace with its comitant error that the efficacy of the saving grace of God in the preaching, and therefore the salvation of sinner, depend not on the grace of God made effectual by the Holy Spirit, but on the acceptance of an offered salvation by the sinner himself.[2]

 

It is the purpose of this book to show that the rejection of the well-meant offer by the Protestant Reformed Churches is not hyper-Calvinism. This rejection involves no restriction of the promiscuous, lively, urgent preaching of the gospel. It entails no hesitation to call everyone in the preacher’s audience to repentance and faith. It originates in no determination to weaken the responsibility of man before the face of the sovereign God.[3]

 

II. Defining the Well-Meant Offer

 

            For a careful examination into Engelsma’s work, careful explication needs to be given in defining the well-meant offer. This will help to avoid any extraneous charge that this essay is dishonest. Professing Calvinists who affirm the well-meant offer must be supplied with evidence that their hermeneutic borrows from the Arminian worldview. The evidence supplied must be a proverbial example that defines the well-meant offer that many professing Calvinists affirm today. A notable example would be the doctoral study from John Murray and Ned. B Stonehouse that was adopted by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC):

 

We found that God reveals himself as not taking pleasure in or desiring the death of those who die but rather as taking pleasure in or desiring the repentance and life of the wicked. This will of God to repentance and salvation is universalized and reveals to us, therefore, that there is in God a benevolent lovingkindness towards the repentance and salvation of even those whom he has not decreed to save. This pleasure, will, desire is expressed in the universal call to repentance.

 

The full and free offer of the gospel is a grace bestowed upon all. Such grace is necessarily a manifestation of love or lovingkindness in the heart of God. And this lovingkindness is revealed to be of a character or kind that is correspondent with the grace bestowed. The grace offered is nothing less than salvation in its richness and fullness. The love or lovingkindness that lies back of that offer is not anything less; it is the will to that salvation. In other words, it is Christ in all the glory of his person and in all the perfection of his finished work whom God offers in the gospel. The loving and benevolent will that is the source of that offer and that grounds its veracity and reality is the will to the possession of Christ and the enjoyment of the salvation that resides in him.[4]

 

            Based on Stonehouse and Murray’s gross imposition that the OPC has adopted, God has a loving-kindness and grace within himself, which is a manifestation of His universal love for not only the elect, but also for those that He desires and wills to save that are not His elect. Not only is this absurd, it is also contradicting.

 

 

 

 

[1] Professor David Engelsma received his theological education from the Protestant Reformed Seminary. During that time, he studied under Herman Hoeksema. He also received a Th.M. from Calvin Theological Seminary. In 1988, he was appointed as professor of Dogmatics and OT studies by the Protestant Reformed Seminary, and held that position until 2008. He is the author of several book that have been published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association: "Marriage, the Mystery of Christ and the Church"; "Hyper-Calvinism & the Call of the Gospel: An Examination of the 'Well-Meant Offer' of the Gospel"; "Better to Marry: Sex and Marriage in I Corinthians 6 & 7", and "Reformed Education: the Christian School as Demand of the Covenant", and many more.

 

[2] Engelsma, David J. Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel. 3rd ed., Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2014, pg. xv. It is important to note that Professor David Engelsma published 3 editions of this book which he first started in 1980. The first edition was published in 1980, the second edition was published in 1994, and the third edition was published in 2014. In the foreword, Engelsma provides a preface to each edition.

 

[3] Ibid., pg. 7.

 

[4] Presented to the Fifteenth (1948) General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, emphasis added. For a clear refutation of Murray and Stonehouse’s study, read Herman Hoeksema’s work, “The O.P.C. and the Free Offer: A Critique of the Murray—Stonehouse Pamphlet: The Free Offer of the Gospel. This was part of a series of fourteen editorials that first appeared in the Standard Bearer magazine between the years 1973-74. Herman Hoeksema was a Professor of OT& Dogmatics at the Protestant Reformed Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI.

 

 

 

 

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