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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Monday, June 06, 2016

The Irrationalism of R. Scott Clark: The Anachronism of the Well Meant Offer


"....so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation."   Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, Article 17.

The theologians in the Cornelius Van Til camp are continually asserting outright contradictions as their methodology. R. Scott Clark, a noted church history and history of theology professor at Westminster Seminary, California, is no exception to this practice. Van Til taught that all Scripture is "apparently" contradictory and therefore rejected the logical system of Scripture that is deduced from Scripture. (See Westminster Confession of Faith 1:6).

The following quote shows that Scott Clark thinks that Caspar Olevianus taught conditional election rather than unconditional election and that the deciding factor in salvation is "meeting the condition" of faith:

"Both Klaas Schilder (1890-1952) and Herman Hoeksema and more recently David Engelsma and Randy Blacketer have argued that when Dort and our theologians said, “offero” they only meant, “to present” or “to demand.” There is weighty evidence to the contrary however. For example, Caspar Olevianus (1536–87) used this term and its cognates frequently to mean “to offer with intention that the offer should be fulfilled if the recipients meet the condition of trust in Christ.” In his massive 1579 commentary on Romans and in his final commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, De substantia foederis gratuiti inter Deum et electos (1585) he used it frequently this way (e.g. “oblatum beneficium”) just as Dort later used it."  

R. Scott Clark, The Reformed Tradition On The Free Or Well-Meant Offer Of The Gospel.

Unfortunately, "oblatum beneficium" just means "offering benefits." So it does not prove anything other than that Scott Clark has an agenda to promote irrationalism and outright contradictions. The term "oblatum beneficium" is Latin and since Clark does not give us any reference I suppose he is just expecting us to take him at his word. Furthermore, he does not give the quote in full context.  The "presenting" of the benefits of Christ given to the elect does not entail that these benefits are offered to the reprobate.  The message is for all who will receive it but not everyone will be enabled to receive the benefits of Christ through the instrument of faith.  To "offer" something to someone who is unable to accept the offer is an empty offer!


"De substantia foederis gratuiti inter Deum et electos" is Latin for "On the substance of the covenant of grace between God and the elect,..." Again, Scott Clark is simply making authoritative announcements here as if his own opinion has the imprimatur of some Reformed magisterium somewhere. But who is its pope? Clark openly admits that there is solid exegesis on the side of the classical Calvinists, yet he insists that he is right because he is right. But when the starting point for a theological position is the axiom that "all Scripture is apparently contradictory" and that Scripture is not univocally the very words of God but is only an analogical reflection of what God "might" have said, then it logically follows that irrationalism is the result.

Unfortunately, Scott Clark's knowledge of church history is lacking in at least one respect.  In the controversy over the sacraments, John Calvin tried to hammer out a compromise between the Zwinglians and the Lutherans.  He in fact convinced Phillip Melanchthon, Luther's successor, to accept a compromise position where the sacrament was said to represent Christ as in "presenting" or "exhibiting" Christ to the believer in the communion elements.

The compromise position reached between the Reformed and the Melanchthonian Lutherans was expressed as:


"Concerning the Lord’s Supper, they teach that with bread and wine are truly exhibited the body and blood of Christ to those who eat in the Lord's Supper."
[Disapproval of dissenting views is omitted.]

It is to this revised edition of the document, and to its still living author, that Calvin confidently appealed.

"In regard to the Confession of Augsburg," he says in his Last Admonition to Westphal, "my answer is, that, as it was published at Ratisbon (1541), it does not contain a word contrary to our doctrine.969 If there is any ambiguity in its meaning, there cannot be a more competent interpreter than its author, to whom, as his due, all pious and learned men will readily pay this honor.

Phillip Schaff:  The Westphal Controversy.

In short, just because someone takes communion does not mean that they are taking the genuine body and blood of Christ presented or exhibited or represented by the communion elements.  In the same way, presenting the Gospel message to unbelievers does not entail that we tell them that God desires to save everyone.  That is to confuse the decrees of God with the general call.  Why warn people not to take communion if everyone who takes communion is a worthy participant?  The fact is genuine faith is required to receive communion or the benefits of the sacrament.  Presbyterians do not practice open communion for good reason.

Furthermore the word offero in Latin does not mean what Scott Clark says it means for the simple reason that it has nothing to do with conditions of acceptance but rather with presenting the Gospel message or the general call of the Gospel to the general audience composed of both the elect and the reprobate.  Scott Clark then proceeds to conflate the general call with God's unrequited desire to save the reprobate.  The real issue then is not the general call but the Van Tilian propensity to conflate Arminianism with Calvinism to impose "apparent" contradictions on their unknowable view of God, which apparent contradictions are actual contradictions!

Even a basic dictionary definition does not confirm Scott Clark's assertion that the Latin word offero means only to offer:

Offero:  Irregular verb.  1.  Bestow.  2. Cause.  3. Offer.  4. Present.

Even Scott Clark would not say that God actually bestows or causes the reprobate to accept the benefits "offered".  So that leaves us between offer as in a contingency or offer as a presentation of the Gospel message formulated properly as a general call rather than as a particular call to the reprobate as in telling unbelievers that "Christ died for you."  There is no way to say that God loves an unbeliever or that Christ died for them since they have as yet not been regenerated!  Only a regenerated person will believe and only believers have the Gospel promise that "Christ died for you!"

On the contrary, as the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark continually pointed out, God has only one will.  God's decretive will to reprobation is not contingent or conditional.  There are no contingencies in God's eternally unchanging will.  (Deuteronomy 29:29; Romans 9:11-13; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).  Scott Clark wants to do theology from below and take a semi-Arminian view of things.  However, it is very clear that even though we do not know who is reprobate and elect, God does know and He knows because He predetermined it.  To take our ignorance and then imply that God doesn't know either is to take a position of eternal skepticism, which in turn destroys the Christianity defined by the Bible.

In short, the Van Tilians are doing exactly what they accuse the Clarkian Scripturalists of doing.  They are confusing the creature with the Creator.  Their argument is that since man cannot know anything God knows, we ought to present the Gospel just as the Arminians do:  "Jesus died for you."  But is it true that Jesus died for everyone without exception?  No.  And to preach the Gospel as the Arminians preach it is essentially to confuse the creature with the Creator.  Since we have contingent knowledge of who will be saved and who will not be saved, the Van Tilians pry into the secret accesses of God mind to impose on God an outright contradiction, namely that God contradicts Himself and sincerely desires to save the reprobate even though He has decreed not to do so.  In short, the Van Tilians want God's decrees to be actually contingent on the human level since we cannot know God's decrees.  (Deuteronomy 29:29).  For all practical purposes, then, God's decrees become a contingency or a possibility rather than eternally unchanging decrees.

Another way the semi-Arminians and the Van Tilians wiggle out of the unchanging decrees of God is that they say God is not without feelings or compassions.  (See:  Does God Have Emotions?)    They adopt anthropopathic views of God even though both the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion both outright reject anthropopathisms.  (See Article 1 of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and Chapter 3 of the WCF).  Ironically, no one accepts anthropomorphisms.  God does not literally have hands, feet or a nose.  Yet they insist that God genuinely has human emotions and loves the elect.  But in the Bible the word for love always is a volition and not an emotion.  The reason God loves the elect is that He ordains them to eternal life and the reason God hates the reprobate is that He ordains them to hell.  (Romans 9:11-13).  The Westminster Confession of Faith makes this very clear:

  3.      By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels (1 Tim. 5:21, Matt. 25:41) are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death. (Rom. 9:22–23, Eph. 1:5–6, Prov. 16:4)
  4.      These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. (2 Tim. 2:19, John 13:18)

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).  See also:  Westminster Confession of Faith.
I do not need to know whom God has reprobated and whom God has elected to know that God does not desire to save the reprobate.  I know that because the Bible says so and so does the Westminster Confession and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion:


XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
PREDESTINATION to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.
    As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feeling in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.
    Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.
Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, Article 17
The Van Tilians are continually confusing the human nature of Christ with His divine nature and their insistence that God has emotions is just another example of this.  Jesus Christ was fully human and had a genuine human personality and soul.  He therefore experienced human emotions just as we do.  But it does not follow that because Jesus Christ had emotions in His human soul that God the Father therefore in some sense suffered on the cross with the man, Jesus Christ.  God cannot suffer and therefore neither the Father nor the eternal Logos suffered on the cross.  It was the man, Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross.  God cannot die.  But the man, Jesus Christ, died.  The irrationalists don't see contradictions as a problem.  But the honest theologian must deal with these contradictions and take them into consideration with the logical system of theology revealed in the Bible.  God does not breathe out contradictions, antinomies, or irrational statements.  So the fact that Jesus Christ was both God and man means that we must not mix or confuse the two natures of Christ nor must we separate them.  The human nature of Christ has a genuine human soul and is therefore a human "person" and the divine nature has a genuine divine Person, the eternal Logos, who is fully united with the human nature and human person, the man Jesus Christ.  (John 1:1-3; 1:14; 1:18).

In preaching the Gospel we must be careful not to present the Arminian gospel but we must preach  and teach what the Scriptures clearly teach:  predestination.  The third most important doctrine in the Reformed theological system is predestination.  (See: Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 3).

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