Errol Hulse and his magazine, Reformation Today, represent a type of Baptist who claim to be Calvinistic and who sometimes call themselves Reformed Baptist. We have always claimed that the namesReformed and Baptist are a contradiction in terms. And Mr. Hulse and his colleagues are an illustration of this contradiction. 

A recent issue of Reformation Today, No. 76, confirms this contention. In the first place, there is a lengthy article by Mr. Hulse himself on “The Love of God for All Mankind.” In this article, which promises to be part of a new book by Mr. Hulse to replace his The Free Offer of the Gospel, the writer goes to extremes to which, in my opinion, he has not gone before. For example, he now refers to the common grace which was supposed to be the basis of the “free offer” as a “benevolent love” of God for all men; and he explains a passage such as John 3:16 as referring to this alleged benevolent love. All in all, his writings remind one strongly of the position taken by Prof. Harold Dekker in the 1960s with respect to a redemptive love of God for all men, though Hulse still wants to distinguish two loves of God. Besides, in his lengthy article on this subject Hulse thoroughly confuses what in our own history we referred to as the “common grace” aspect of the First Point of 1924 and the “general grace” aspect of it. To offer a critique of Mr. Hulse’s article in this issue, however, would take up more space than is available in this issue. Perhaps we shall give attention to this subject later. 

In the same issue of Reformation Today there is an article by a Dr. Bill Downing entitled “Some Practical Implications of ‘Limited Atonement.'” Mr. Hulse refers to this article in an editorial and says, “There is no contradiction between the teaching of Bill Downing and the article on the benevolent love of God.” He makes no effort to prove his contention, however. And it seems to me that the advocates of this alleged benevolent love of God and of its concomitant doctrine of the so-called “free offer” have a very real problem in this connection, a problem to which we shall point a bit later. It would almost seem as though Mr. Hulse sensed this problem when he penned the statement quoted above. 

Mr. Downing approaches the problem in his article, though rather obliquely. In his article Mr. Downing is certainly less explicit on the doctrine of definite atonement than are the Canons of Dordt. However, I will not criticize this. After explaining the doctrine, distinguishing it from universalism and from Arminianism, and presenting briefly its Scriptural foundation, he writes as follows:

We move on to consider three areas of practical truth. The first of these we pose in the form of a question: What relationship does the extent of the atonement have to the free offer of the Gospel? We reply that a so-called ‘limited atonement’ brings no restriction to bear upon the free offer of the Gospel! None whatsoever! This objection does not stem from Scripture or even Scriptural reasoning, but rather from an unscriptural message. It assumed on the inconsistent universalist scheme that our Lord died for all equally and without exception and therefore part of the Gospel message must be, ‘Christ died for your sins.’ But the message that our Lord died for all the sins of all men and that such a death must motivate them to make their religious decision we simply do not find in the Word of God! Never in Scripture is it stated-even in the inspired preaching of the Apostles, which should be our measure and model for preaching-do we discover such a declaration! Such preaching actually cheapens the precious blood of our Lord! It makes His suffering and death of little value!! It puts the centrality of the Gospel, which in reality is the power of God unto salvation, in the realm of mere potential and impotency! Indeed, if carefully thought through, such preaching must restrict the full, free declaration of our Lord’s work for sinners!. . . .

I said earlier that Dr. Downing approaches the real problem obliquely in this paragraph. It is evident that he does so from the viewpoint of a possible Arminian argument, namely, that limited atonement constitutes arestriction on the offer of the gospel. Over against this, Dr. Downing insists that he does not want the doctrine of universal atonement and that he does not want to preach a message that Christ died for all the sins of all men, that this is not according to Scripture and not according to the example of the preaching of the Apostles. 

We agree. 

Nevertheless, Dr. Downing does not approach the real problem that is involved here, nor does he seem to see that very real problem. That problem is not one posed by the Arminian, but a problem which any Reformed man must raise and must face with respect to the so-called “free offer” in relation to the truth of particular atonement. The problem is this-and I will put it very bluntly: how can God offer to all men that which He does not have and which He Himself has not provided? For if the atonement of Christ is particular, and it is; and if that particular atonement means that Christ, and that, too, according to the sovereign purpose of God, has purchased for the elect, and for them only, all the blessings of salvation; and that is precisely what it means; then God has all the blessings of salvation only for the elect. How then can God nevertheless offer salvation to all men? 

Bear in mind that this is indeed the question. The question is not: how can men, preachers, offer salvation to all? But how can God, and that, too, well-meaningly and in what Mr. Hulse calls “benevolent love,” offer salvation to all men when He has salvation only for the elect? 

Let no one say that this objection does not stem from Scripture or from Scriptural reasoning. There could be no more Scriptural question than this. For at bottom this is a question concerning God Himself. It is a question concerning the veracity of God Who cannot lie! 

And since God cannot and does not lie or dissimulate in the preaching of the gospel, there are only two conceivable solutions to this problem: 

1) God can and does offer salvation to all men because Christ by His death actually obtained salvation for all men. This is the Arminian solution, to which the doctrine of the offer inevitably leads. 

2) God does not and cannot offer salvation to all men, for the Gospel is that Christ died and merited the blessings of salvation for the elect, and for them only. This is the Scriptural and Reformed solution. 

This is, of course, not by any means the only problem which the proponents of the “free offer” must face. But it is a significant one.