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THE SLOUGHINGS OF PHILOSOPHY AND
THE SPLENDOUR OF THE WORD OF GOD
To be completed in Ch. 9
this occasion, it is our privilege to consider a question about John Wesley
in a context of what is sometimes called 'the Reformed Faith',
and sometimes other things; and hence of predestination.
As it is our long-time desire to bring an irenic BECAUSE scriptural peace into this often disputed area, some of the material involved is reproduced below. It is changed as seems necessary to preserve anonymity for the questionier, and used to secure help for others.
I THE QUESTION
I am curious about some of the comments on WWWW !!
We have corresponded in the past, would you now be so kind to clarify a couple of points for me ??
At http://www.webwitness.org.au/mcontrib3.html you refer to John Wesley as a "notable evangelist" whose "primary thrust" was "the love of God" .
I was hoping for you to clarify for me if you think this loving "god" of John Wesley is the God of the Bible. Below are some quotes from The Works of John Wesley (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI (1996). I've also included what I perceive to be your position.
We have received it as a maxim, that "a man is to do nothing in order to justification." Nothing can be more false. Whoever desires to find favor with God, should "cease from evil, and learn to do well." (Vol 8: p337)
Robert you say:
So long as you think that the slightest addition of yours will 'produce salvation' or effect deliverance in the affairs of life and of God its maker, then you are not 'using it right'. It is fake, fraud and will end if continue, in fiasco. [http://www.webwitness.org.au/barbsabalm5.html#p19]
Robert was Wesley a fake? A fraud? Does his doctrine end in fiasco?
"What! Can the blood of Christ burn in hell? . I answer, ... If the oracles of God are true, one who was purchased by the blood of Christ may go thither. For he that was sanctified by the blood of Christ was purchased by the blood of Christ. But one who was sanctified by the blood of Christ may nevertheless go to hell; may fall under that fiery indignation which shall for ever devour the adversaries. (ibid, Vol 10: p297)
Robert you say:
A: Any 'god' you make is a word, or possibly a psychic fragment, a mental spawn, dependent on you;
Robert is Wesley's "christ" a psychic fragment? Is his "jesus" a mental spawn?
I look forward to hearing from you!
The reader of this Chapter should now note that most personal references, exhortations and blessings have been omitted as tending to identify the questioner, which it is our intention to avoid. Hence this may appear bald; but it not that, merely that it has had a close hair-cut!
II INTRODUCTION TO THE ANSWER
Thank you for your words, which did not reach me till recently because of a holiday absence. In reply, this is preliminary, and I look forward to the next step, traced below.
This letter, then, is merely an introduction, and to give you the call to do some reading. Very soon, I shall DV plan to place its completion so that it is available to you also. While I have written it, it does not seem wise to present it till you are better prepared. When you have read all, it will be good to hear from you again, if you wish it.
At first blush at least, your words sound as if you are in some seminary which is helping you to be simplistic. Do not be too concerned at this, as it has been stock in trade, albeit involuntarily one likes to think, for many for long; and it does not decrease as the Age begins to bow out. Perhaps you will wish to step into these things, and do the work concerned thoroughly ?
There is always, as I found when in my American sojourn this tension between the superbly orthodox, who tend to deem all Arminians non-Christians, and the more moderate brethren who have learned to leave the judgment to God, and deal with issues as they arrive. Judging is not my forte, as I am forbidden to do it in Matthew 7 and bear in mind I Cor. 4:1ff.. I do deal with the works of the dead with some care, their doctrine subjected to scripture; though with the living if necessary with some vigour II Timothy 4:2ff.), for in the latter case, the issuance can be more decisive more readily, since the reaction and response can be probed.
If I recall, there was some interchange at Westminster on this topic of Arminianism among some, the most strenuous of the superb demanding a refusal of the name Christian to any of that ilk (and they vary), and some mediating thrust being urged such that, though Arminians are wrong in several facets, such as the 5 points of Calvin include, they are not en bloc available for summary exclusion from the kingdom by any mortal fiat. My own position has always tended to stop short of playing God with their souls, but NOT to stop short of dealing severely with their errors, which I cordially and utterly detest, just as I detest the opposite excesses which some, like fighting cock-sparrows so often indulge in, both protagonist and antagonist, short-sighted and scripturally incomplete, in consigning these or those, or the Wesleys in particular to their own special hells. This is not to say that nothing can be done at the personal level; merely that one first needs a divinely scrupulous reticence.
It was interesting, then, to notice this tension among the very orthodox in America, some gung-ho, guns blazing, some seeking moderation in judgment on persons. For my part, I prefer not to consider Wesley not of God in view of many fruits, and especially in view of his incandescent confrontation with the Calvinist Whitefield, in which was no little merit. One finds that there are few perfect. Some of the utterances of Wesley, here and there, need compilation and thought. He is not the best at being consistent. Of that more anon, next time.
Of course when it comes to doctrine, I do not think I have been roundly condemned by many for so long, while I have been insisting on scriptural doctrine and not, my friend, tradition, such as the use of the name Calvinist, or Apollos for one’s position, or Wesley … or Luther might betoken: in order to be lenient or severe. I have striven to be scripturally accurate at all costs in all situations, in doctrine for many decades, even in the midst of so many theologically illiterate passions against my insistence on scriptural purity.
No, I do not regard Wesley as not of God because his errors were opposite to that vast and horrendous error of Calvin (NOT one of his five points, which have merit), with which I deal at some length on our site. Each of these was significantly astray, Wesley in system, Calvin in the treatment of the love of God. I like to point out this great merit in Wesley’s work, and this great defect in that of Calvin; as well as the great defect in Arminianism, together with the considerable substance in much of Calvinism. Nor is Wesley's tendency to push out practical points without due cogitation in his work the same as a consistent or even final position; a point to which we must look in applying scripture finally to this point.
It is good to take an overall view and to consider the things in their settings, which historically sometimes vary, as for that matter, did Augustine (Predestination and Freewill Section II). Each of the first pair noted made in the respect noted, a vast contribution to Christendom; yet, in the defect area, a grievous injection of pathology.
These things are given space and shortly I shall show some places on our site for this purpose.
It would now therefore be good for you to read various points on the Webwitness site in order to become more aware of what we are discussing, and these follow.
The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch. 4,
SMR Appendix B,
Repent or Perish Ch. 1, especially *1,
The Pitter Patter of Prophetic Feet Ch. 8, *1A,
Great Execrations, Great Enervations, Greater Grace Chs. 7 and 9,
Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 11, also Ch. 2 in two areas.
Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Ch. 6,
Spiritual Refreshings ... Ch. 9,
Predestination and Freewill Sections 1-111
Member Notes 22-23,
Questions and Answers Ch. 7 in two places marked.
Remember there are four volumes on such issues in our site, but this is a start.
When you have apprised yourself of these, at least to the point of some conversance, and realised to the full, as I hope will occur and as may already be the case, that all wisdom did not cease to flow to the understanding of doctrine in the Church, after Calvin’s advent, or with his conception of the system, or fail in other confines on Wesley’s arrival in this arena (this is a caveat and not per se a contention), then it would be time to discuss your particular questions, which seem to be of the type or to range in its purlieus: Wesley erred seriously, and hence is not a notable evangelist or salient exponent of the love of God.
Yes, then we can look in some depth at the actualities of the case on the basis of evidence; and in terms of scripture only, see what is the precise reply to your questions. Traditions can now as in Christ's own day (Mark 7:7ff.) play havoc with truth in slipping souls.
Fear of being called this or that (one remembers one Stated Clerk in Synod reflecting that some other body might regard 'us' as a pack of Arminians, on proceeding to recommend a course) - fear instead of thought and fidelity can bend the supple ill-advisedly. It is important to give oneself freely to these things and not to be diverted by flesh or philosophy, constrained only by the word of God.
There is much work in increasing understanding required, for the church to move from its needless involvement very often in such feverish flux, towards far more unity in those faithful to the word of God. There is much work in increasing understanding required, for the church to move from its needless involvement very often, in such feverish flux. To work towards this great end of unity because of understanding and understanding because of the word of God and this because of faith: I look forward in the grace of God as I have for many years. If in any way this conversation will help to such an end, I am delighted.
As to the question when you are ready to complete the second section of this letter, having read or at least given some conscientious survey of the material listed above: the next step depends chiefly on how speedily or otherwise you consider what is put before you above.
In the meantime, multiplying words would be inconsequential before you have thought sufficiently and considered adequately some of the pillars of the situation. Then however following step 2, much profit may lie in discussion.
On the topic of the love of God, Wesley had much to contribute evangelically and scripturally. In implications in many aspects, he failed, and on occasion it would seem, absurdly. Yet in the discussion of the love of God as such, he was far better; just as Calvin re system was in the 5 points excellent, but in implications and considerations touching these things, failed to meet the scripture. All this appears in the above references on our site, and in the Lord and His grace, I have maintained it without any difficulty since I wrote it in my MA thesis for Melbourne University on 1964, 40 years ago. It has of course been substantially developed, but not changed.
The historically blazing affair between Whitefield in particular and Wesley, who varied between intimate fellowship and separation, abhorrence and amiability, moving out and moving together, being incisive and being fraternal, confrontational and co-operative, it is a strange conflict, so unnecessary as I show in my PQ, The Predestination Quaternion, the four volume set dealing with these and similar issues in depth and at length.
It is primarily necessary as Spurgeon* so rightly urged, to do justice to all the features of scripture in these areas, and not to specialise to the point of sanctified error. (This is treated initially in particular in Section 2 of Predestination and Freewill.) His sermon on Jacob and Esau is very interesting in this connection.
Actually, as one of the fruits of my own broader labours in this field, I have been at pains to seek to bring together the scriptural virtues of both the emphases of these two theologians, Wesley and Calvin, avoiding their errors, and in order to do so, reverting to ALL the scriptures on the points in view; and finding that then some things follow. There is always a payload for prospering in truth, when the scripture is given full dimension in understanding rather than being a source for conflict merely, or a site for mutual missiles.
That quite simply is one of its myriads of verifications, for when a thing is true, authentic and genuine, when moreover it has the wisdom of God behind it, then subject it as you will, test and ply, seek and try, it merely provides that unremitting power and undimmable light which is its birthright. God in placing the Bible, His written word into history, has given it no competition, while making it available to every trial. Let us however return to our thought on mutual missiles, and dealing with a source for conflict where this word is treated but partially and not as sole base or basis, whatever might be the intention.
One is this, that instead of the futile over-emphasis on one feature (say love without its systematic implications), or another (say sovereignty without containing the merely philosophic thrust by scriptural insight and constraint), we take all as it comes. This done, as shown in the references given you, one finds it comes in perfect harmony.
That is the case for as the word of God says of itself, it is not writhed but all clear to the one who understands (Proverbs 8:8). God is not on record as giving contradictory stuff, or incomprehensible mouthings; but to the opposite effect. Indeed, the first relevant thing here to understand is this, that wise is he who keeps the commandments and the word of God, and does not depart one iota from it, allowing it to constrain every thought. That is the scrupulosity of Him who gives it, that must be reflected in the same in the one who reads and applies it; that is how it works; that is how Christ designated it also (Matthew 5:17-20). Just as the word of God written is infallible, so it is comprehensive in wisdom, and when treated as it is and not to secure some ulterior or extraneous motive, it rewards greatly. Such is the consistent testimony of Psalm 119, for example,
At one time, I found a scripture which contradicting what I was thinking and AT ONCE dumped my thought, and followed the word of God instead. After all, HE is the one who knows! It has been productive of the most delightful uncovering of the marvellous harmony of scripture, and of amazing apologetic results flowing from this, which of course verifies the word of God all over again. It is always a good thing to be delighted in the word of God, instead of becoming damp in camps.
Thus the biblical teaching in this field, ample, deep and true, is then usable in biblical Christian Apologetics, which is my field, to show that only Christianity meets the case in the area of freedom, liberty, necessity and sovereignty, responsibility and love of God as nothing else, secular or religious does. This is shown in detail in some of the references above noted. It needs to be read, realised, pondered and considered; and then the waste of time which has occurred so often for so many centuries can be curtailed somewhat, and the actual issues discussed, not the traditional contrapuntal substitutes too frequently found in meowing Paul-Apollos strident duets (that is, as if the word of Paul prohibiting such idle partisanship in I Cor. 3, were ignored, and they were set at odds by carnal loyalties).
In the meantime, since I realise it may take you some time to ponder these issues of the centuries, even in the coverage noted and selected initially for you, one may say a little in introductory style. Thus I note just a few preliminary points anent your writing to me, though the full answer, for profitability’s sake, and sound edification, should await your writing after you have done this study set before you.
But the point of Wesley the evangelist, stressing the love of God … and your apparent objection ? Perhaps then, since Calvin erred seriously (and he did as the above notes show), he too is not … authentic ? Perhaps everyone who errs is summarily condemned as not Christian ? Perhaps every time someone makes a doctrinal error, he is obviously out ? Perhaps other clarificatory statements such people may make are irrelevant, or growth in grace beside the point ? I think not.
Personally, I prefer to let God answer such questions on the who-is-who side in such cases, though I do agree with you to the extent that some of the things Wesley said are hair-raising and that not in admiration! (and many are marvellous); as is likewise the case with Calvin. You seem to have noted some of the former. Historical perspective will of course need to be taken, and this will be fun as I have a vast two volume affair on these developments in the Arminian-Wesleyan field, which is instructive as to fact. Many were the good points, alas, many errors too. Errors could even be corrected by Wesley, or 'clarified', as DV we shall see.
It is an imperfect church; but
little is more imperfect in it than following someone’s fretted system and not
the Bible, so that one becomes insensitive to what the paragon does not discern,
just because he does not. Moreover it is forbidden in round and strenuous terms
for excellent reasons by Paul (I Cor. 3:3ff.).
It is time to learn, and not to display what can readily become pugnacity as a substitute for strength, or even solace for failure, as when those made wide their phylacteries of thrilling piety, while ignoring the thing itself.
I was not born yesterday my friend, and all these things I have seen especially over the last half century, including John Murray unable to answer the rebuttal of Calvinism on the point of the love of God, when this was presented by the author, in his class – except that if he WERE able, he assuredly did not answer the challenge when it was made or thereafter. There is one very good reason for this remarkable result: the Bible is explicit to the contrary in this point of Calvin, which as noted, you should read about in the above references before discussing, lest tradition and not scripture become the topic. John Murray in this showed far more care than many, who speak without scripture: for there being nothing to say, nothing was said. He could be like that sometimes (Questions and Answers Ch. 7 where marked).
As to tradition, in the end, it is rather unlikely to become profitable. It is better to study the scripture and be thankful for the good, reject the evil as far as the theologians and evangelists are concerned; and having been categorical on the topics from the Bible, to be careful in judgment on the person. This is what I have been at some pains to do with Wesley, and with Calvin, despite profound errors by both, demonstrable from scripture: lest I presume. Their judge is not I! Their various words however can be reviewed as issues are discussed.
It is, as I have pointed out earlier, not the persons who say this and that outside the Bible who are important when truth is the objective, but the ISSUES themselves. These must be seen, addressed and dealt with, help from sources sought when the issues demand the specialised and so on; but it remains the issues themselves which, in the end, must be resolved to the glory of God. I know of none which is not in that situation! He resolves all; His word sticks in nothing, but provides truth. His light resolves all things. It is indeed glorious that His word is neither twisted nor obscure, for He is light! and I glorify Him for it, who is my strength and rock in whose name I speak, for I live by no other name (cf. Philippians 2).
Now as to cases where one must deal with the persons, often it can be mainly at the propositional level, a matter of their doctrines where in error. As necessary, I have sought to correct from the Bible, since it is my duty in my calling. It is then also important to see these things in their setting for each.
Quite naturally, it is my normal code of practice to make these things which have been wrought available, and reply when challenged, within the confines of logical method and relevance, drawing from the scripture and giving reason. It is very open and has been for many years. It only stands because it stands on the word of God, and secondly, because He is alive and committed, who calls. Sometimes my answers to one, taking much time, may help others. It is the issues which are paramount, and generalities can be extracted.
Incidentally, I do note that you seem to think it strange that despite my obvious severance from Arminianism such as that of Wesley, I do not treat him at fraud and so on. You may notice that in the citation you make from my own words (it begins to remind me of Luke 11:52-54, but let us hope for better things from you), it is not ‘he’ but ‘it’ which is deemed fake and fraud. To the extent people dabble in such things they invite disaster; but any erring doctrine at such points is indeed just that, and it is a sickness in the body of Christ.
How anyone could be as far astray as in some points Calvin and Wesley in their systems are, does indeed make one marvel at the mercy of God, and be thankful that while it is one’s duty to condemn false doctrine from the Bible, and avoid puppy-dog tagging from this theologian or that, or his system, it is not one’s duty to exclude such from the kingdom of heaven, or being operatives in it, by condign judgment before its time, rather than waiting for what the day will reveal: as Paul put it in condemning the condemnation of himself (I Corinthians 4).
What each has done must speak in its own terms; as God will speak in His, whom it most concerns, in that day. At times we must condemn by name, but one must be reluctant to rush in where necessity does not dictate, nor seemliness permit. Prudence for truth is as important as boldness for faith, and if only these points were realised well, much controversy would be avoided, much incensed censoriousness kept to later if necessary; and always with attention to ALL the available facts, such practice might well lead to better results. There is so much to rebuke nowadays, that it is all the better to take care! as indeed one should always, of going too far.
You will find a treatment of Wesley in some more detail in the same Section 2 of Predestination and Freewill, and that may enable you a little better to grasp the situation, as will what DV is to be provided in my second reply to you - after this introduction.
Well then, when you have had some time to study the context of these things on our Site, and to look at the list provided, and so are more adequately aware of the issues in their context, it will be time for me to answer your current letter point by point and in detail, rather than rehearsing it all in one, thus creating too much danger of confusion. I shall await with interest your word that you have completed this study, a prelude to my fuller answer. Then it will be time for you to discuss if you still wish to do so; and then you will indeed be encouraged!
Yes, when you have done this, it would be fine, using ONLY THE BIBLE, and GREAT CARE in applying it with exactitude, to look at these issues with you. The land is strewn with odd ‘implications’, which need replacement with what is certain.
A propos of this, it may be of interest to you that something very like what you cite in your last point is what I heard in a very orthodox and very Calvinist church to my utter disgust; for quite simply, going to unbiblical extremes in either direction can lead to ludicrous contradictions. Certainly it was put in other terms, but the centre was not too dissimilar. Yes, it was held that it was NOT ENOUGH to believe that Jesus is the Son of God in order to be saved (despite I John 5).
This horrified me and I had to leave the church after the pastor thundered away and would not reply to the personal challenge later delivered in his study. I condemned the doctrine, but not the pastor, who may vary or awaken.
You get that oddity at times, people talking of the grace of God, the sovereignty of God (as they should), but so failing to see it in the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus, and in the light of all the scripture, that they even make from it some sort of additional thrust. The addition to the scripture can come, and sometimes does come, from either 'camp'.
In the case in point, there seemed to be some sort of construction back of this anti-biblical thrust, contrary to I John 5. it appeared a matter of this kind ... first to have the fruit to show the reality of what only then, would allow you to cite yourself as a Christian.
Ignoring the scriptural
citations on the love of God, they tend to invent a pallid God; though where
their personal faith lies, it is not my business to assign. It is much easier to
exhort, rebuke with all authority, to condemn doctrine, breach fellowship as
required when the rebuke in due course fails, and continue as a servant, under
the Judge of all men, under Him who will make no mistakes at all. Where
essential, one can name, but love is not at all predatory. On separation,
incidentally, see Romans 16:17 and
Separation 1997, if you are interested.
As to the church error just noted, this needs to be said. It was extraordinarily confused of course: for if you should not believe you are certainly a Christian until you show the fruits, then without the faith, you shall not have them; for they depend on faith. Hence it is a vicious and negative circle. The true solution is simply to define ‘faith’ biblically, and hence as inseparable from both life (that of Christ who lives in the believer) and hence in principle from the works which accompany it, as James makes so clear; just as its basis is free of works (except of course, those of Christ!) and its gift is free of merit (except of course, that of Christ as Lord and Saviour!).
People so often in theology go from one extreme to the other, assigning implications like Autumn leaves, falling always, but not stuck to the structure itself; not stopping where that structure is, in this case in the Bible, very much at all. On the other hand, sometimes people grow confused and if too bitterly smitten, contend the more while some hope had formerly seemed to remain of their arousal. Cases vary greatly.
As I have often put it: You are saved without faith, but not without works; and faith works. This topic is dealt with in some detail in The Shadow of a Mighty Rock Ch. 7 at pp. 520-532.
The assault on ‘easy-believism’ in the church case just noted, thus though austerely orthodox in the eyes of some of the perfect, can become nothing less than an assault on free justification by faith without works. Thus if the works must be seen before the faith can be asserted, then it is no free gift, but assignable only after a working which convinces the fruit-inspectors of the incipient faith, which having worked before it is assignable as there, supposedly does what it cannot do being absent.
If you do not 'believe' until told so, then works to convince cannot come! If however you DO believe before told so, then the works come of themselves, not to justify, but mere expression of fact, like oranges on an orange tree, unlikely to be found on a grape vine. I believed therefore I spoke remains true and applicable (II Corinthians 4:13); and the thought of knowing Christ as Lord and Saviour and not saying this to be the case is like falling in love and getting married, and yet withholding this fact.
On such an erroneous framework, work comes before faith, in principle, and is its pre-condition in implication. That is part of the confusion.
It is that same fateful PLUS! Don’t by faith without works by grace in repentance imagine you know the Lord and are His; oh no! That seems to be the line in such errors. There is something MORE, as with the gnostics. There is no theology on earth which can live in and for itself, and the better known they become, the more adventitious they are likely to be.
Do this and that to show it, and then know it! As if you could know the Lord and not know it; or knowing Him, not have eternal life (John 17)! After all, He SAYS it (cf. John 10:9,27-28). Some prefer an unscriptural notion concerning the nature and scope of the love of God, and so enter various needless problems, and incite them!
That sort of fruit to faith process, is the plus that should always be negatived, whether from this –ism or that. It is a free and sovereign gift of the loving God who IS love; and it depends on neither work nor merit in the recipient. On this, and the danger of confusion here also, see on Calvin in the same Section II of the Predestination and Freewill. There is also the X-factor analysis to consider (see Predestination and Freewill - PF, pp. 82ff, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch. 4, pp. 57ff. Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 11, The Power of Christ's Resurrection and the Fellowship of His Sufferings Ch. 1, PF 28-42, 116-148, incl. pp. 121ff.).
Alas, as soon as you move from any part of scripture, you are in danger of making human barriers to protect your 'system'. The answer is to have no omissions, no additions, no pride, no partisanship, nothing but Christ and His word, as by His Spirit He lives in you. Then His word supports itself and does so most abundantly, uniquely and gloriously indeed. It leaves all behind, all philosophy, all sententious theologising, though one can spend time showing how wonderful it is (cf. I Peter 3:15, II Corinthians 10:5).
Here the mastery of the Messiah becomes so deliciously evident; for if you study the Gospels, you find that with His humility, compassion, plain kindness, love and empathy there is never absent a mastery which is the Lord's though set on the Cross, though reviled, though assailed in word and assaulted with buffetings and tearings. His word is like that too. In this it is wholly contrary to the wanderings either of baseless philosophy or drifting theologising.
Such is the case with the sort of error we have to consider.
Slithery and self-contradictory is such a position, not following the word of God. Instead, it tends tangentially to follow this or that without rightly dividing the word of God, and using all of it: thus misdirected, it proceeds from ‘corner-itis’, the practice of disobeying the scripture so that you follow some ‘name’, and glory in its righteousness, forgetting only one thing, that it is not that of Christ (cf. Psalm 71, Galatians 6:14), and in particular that of His Cross.
Far would one be from daring to characterise the one guilty of this doctrinal misdemeanour as non-Christian or making a new Christ; nevertheless, despite the lack of what one might surmise as active rebellion, which is like witchcraft, the case involved separation of fellowship. Whatever the motive, however seemingly pure, the word of God cannot be treated like this, while one sits in concert; nor can the speaker be deemed a heretic worshipping a fragment because he has become confused, zeal outrunning knowledge and partisan precepts the word of God. Grave it is, but not in the camp of ardently and consciously constructing new Gods. Even a child, forgetting her mother's kindness for a moment, is not looking to a different mother.
When then you have studied the areas noted, and confirmed that this is the case,
it will be my pleasure, Lord willing, to address your questions in more detail,
and to proceed systematically. This is the introduction. If you do not like excursions of this biblical kind, so be it; if you do, I am seeking to provide for you, as enabled by the Lord.
I shall look forward to this, and trust in the end, such a conscientious procedure will prove very profitable in the presence of that Lord who is full of grace and truth, wonderfully liberal in kindness and unvarying in reliability. I have had this year another rather advanced student who has been diligent and conscientious and it is good to see this as students grow, developing in the word of God and spiritual stature.
With anticipation that you may choose to study these things and soon we may aptly proceed:
In Christ, our Judge and Saviour,
Robert E. Donaldson
For World Wide Web Witness
Spurgeon, this may be of interest, and forms part of this letter.
It is taken from Predestination and Freewill, and extended.
Spurgeon next ponders the text: "Jacob have I loved; Esau have I hated." The context states that before the birth and irrespective of the works of either, their divine destiny was dispensed. Thrusting aside two hermeneutic infertilities is a preliminary. He rejects the effort to equate "hated" with "loved less". If "hate" is a somewhat strong translation, it is nearer the original than is the amendment: and use what word you will, Esau was not directed? blessed or treated with divine affection. Nor is the pinch of predestination escaped by equating "Esau" with a tribe. First, the context is concentrated on individual considerations; furthermore, is not a nation composed of individuals? Even if it were not so, this selective type of principle is not the less operative because vaster in scope. Let us face it, he says, there was a decisive divine difference in approach portrayed as predestination.
That word! Its mention is like the tang of doom to the Arminian who reacts with flashing eye. But is this response consistent for him? Surely such a man would assert that his own salvation depended on an effusion of divine grace. that it was grace which brought him in; that he will glory in that; that he could not reach it and but for this grace, he would have remained blind.
Wait! says Spurgeon. If it was the superabundance of divine grace which drew you, how is it that that unconverted man is not also so drawn? Are you sure that you do not intend that you were simply sharper than he? Never! comes the swift responses he has not as yet received so gracious an effusion as I was blessed to obtain. Spurgeon is implacable: If he never does, is he not therefore separated from you by a decisive difference in divine approach and by nothing else? And is this not precisely what I called predestination? Thus we agree but you are less happy to consider these consequences of your own emphasis.
As here indicated, Spurgeon wishes to clarify thinking, to establish principles but he has no intention of carrying them to the further point where there is a gratuitous addition to Scripture, or a collision with it. In this respect, he asserts, much harm is done by considering positive and negative predestination as determined by the one principle. The procedure is mistaken. The two types of apportionment of destiny should be seen to be governed by two appropriate principles.
With the (positive) election of grace, it is this:
The sinner in debt to God with his life, can expect short of grace
to pay with the condign consignment of that life beyond the presence of God.
A rifling (not selfdependent but yet selfdirective) renegade,
his is just exclusion.
But God will have mercy; delights in it; shows it;
the man is swamped in grace, restored by forgiveness,
penalty is lifted and life is restored.
The principle is one of grace: pure, unmerited, unsearchable, unattainable, but bestowed.
We have no problem: divine discretion engenders delightsome bounty in this positive case.
A new principle applies in the case of negative election: it is justice, a pure justice not to be confused with the vindictiveness, spite or bitter ebullitions of parting personalities, retaliatory after injury rather than pursuant of equity. The will of the reprobate wanted what it got, with respect to God: that is, none of Him. Is not preference as well as justice catered for? for he has got what he wanted. Who shall complain?
These are two principles: grace and justice each appropriate to its subject, and neither to be applied to the subject matter of the other. Where now is controversy ?
But the truthloving Spurgeon does not ignore a possible appearance of inconsistency. We may divide; but have we conquered? Would it not appear that the electing God has declined to pour out a necessary and efficacious grace upon some men like Esau; and does not this abstention raise the anomalous thought that He specifically created some souls with the purpose of damning them!
Is not this, counters Spurgeon, to libel the Lord? It is contrary to the principles which God reveals of His character: and it is mere inference. Can we infer in these supernal regions which directly move upon the divine personality? he asks. Do we not recall the dangers of shallow doctors of limited mind but unlimited "understanding" whose shallowness brings, through a misleading sophistication, not triumph but defeat! No. Just as God's word, in promise form, staggered even faith to believe it, when Abraham heard it seem to surpass normal providence in promising him a child at his great age, so here God's word in the form of doctrine seems to surpass logic in its propositions.
With our premises of the greatness of His excellence above us, we may consistently postulate that in some such way this apparent deficiency43* (not after all an express statement) may be filled up, and the difficulty overcome with a like power in the regions of understanding. But for the present, let us adhere to what we know and pursue it.
(End of quotation.)
Spurgeon rightly regards it as blasphemy to attribute the withholding of saving grace from a man as an initiative for which God in sovereign simplicity of action and desire, is responsible. In the sermon on Jacob and Esau, he declares this (colour added).
Why does God hate any man ? I defy anyone to give any answer but this, because that man deserves it; no reply but that can ever be true. There are some who answer, divine sovereignty; but I challenge them to look that doctrine in the face. Do you believe that God created man and arbitrarily, sovereignly - it is the same thing - created that man, with no other intention, than that of damning him ? Made him, and yet, for no other reason than that of destroying him for ever ? Well, if you can believe it, I pity you, that is all I can say: you deserve pity, that you should think so meanly of God, whose mercy endureth for ever. You are quite right when you say the reason why God loved man, is because God does do so; there is no reason in the man. But do not give the same answer as to why God hates a man. If God deal with any man severely, it is because that man deserves all he gets. In hell there will not be a solitary soul that will say to God, O Lord, thou hast created me worse than I deserve! But every lost spirit will be made to feel that he has got his deserts, that his destruction lies at his own door and not at the door of God, that God had nothing to do with his condemnation, except as the Judge concerns the criminal, but the himself brought damnation upon his own head, as the result of his own evil works. Justice is that which damns a man; it is mercy, it is free grace that saves; sovereignty holds the scale of love; it is justice holds the other scale. Who can put that into the hand of sovereignty ? That were to libel God and to dishonour him ... My soul revolts at the idea of a doctrine that lays the blood of man's soul at God's door. I cannot conceive how any human mind, at least any Christian mind, can hold any such blasphemy as that.. . Salvation is of God ... if you perish, at your own hands must your blood be required.
The concept of simple sovereign damnation Spurgeon rejects in terms aptly summed as being a hideous caricature, as 'blasphemy', in terms of mean-minded and so forth. Man when reprobate is entirely responsible for his own damnation in a way which is therefore not a mirror-image of the fact that God is entirely responsible for his salvation.
Spurgeon, as shown in Predestination and Freewill, while going well in making this distinction and emphasis, well indeed, does not go far enough. It is shown there as in other of the reference chapters given above, that in fact the LOVE of God is towards all, even to the point of wishing them to be saved, but not to the point of requiring it by force. Love has restraint, and no meaning when it is merely contrived. He knows what He is doing in predestinative mode as well as in historical appeal, whether through Christ Himself or the prophets. While the human will is decisively not operative in this as shown in the above work, and clear from scripture, it is decidedly relevant (cf. SMR Appendix B).
It is thus responsible, even though because of its pathology it was dysfunctional to the point at issue; for God is able to know the heart of a man beyond sin, beyond all things, in reality, and to comprehend where love is apt and where it would be a perverted intrusion masquerading as love, when love it is not.
These things are expounded at length within the references given. They are continually seen in the scriptures where the appalled grief of God and the intensively yearning love are conjoined with consequential and condign punishment, alone apt where love is reviled, remedy is disregarded as in the infinite and pre-temporal knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:4, II Chronicles 36, Ezekiel 33:11, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, John 3:16, Luke 19:42ff., Isaiah 48:18ff., and see Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Supplement 6).
III TO THE ANSWER
Consideration of Love and
Grace in Wesley
and something of Whitefield's Reply
to Illustrate the Power of Partisan Combat
and its Vulnerability to Perilous Vanities,
in the Relevant Arena of Predestination;
and of the Answer Available in Biblical Terms
For this see the next Chapter.