We are presently examining the doctrine of the call of the gospel in Reformed theology of the past. We are concerned to discover whether Reformed theology has historically maintained the doctrine of the well-meant offer of the gospel, as is confidently asserted and widely accepted today, so that the denial of the offer must be regarded as conflicting with classic Reformed thought, if not as hyper-Calvinism. In the previous article, we looked at the theology of John Calvin. We now consider Francois Turrettini.
In its classic, developed form, hyper-Calvinism denies that it is the duty of the Church to preach the gospel of salvation to all men and to, call all men to believe on Jesus CIirist. The gospel is to be preached only to the elect, and, only they are to be called to faith. The grounds put forward for this position are the doctrines of election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace, i.e., Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism also denies that it is the duty of every sinner, without exception, to believe on Jesus Christ.
What message does a Reformed preacher bring to the unconverted? Can he call his audience to repentance and faith? Can he call all of them to believe? If he can issue such a call, what is the nature of the call? These are questions that lie at the very heart of the controversy between the Reformed faith and hyper-Calvinism, on the one hand, and the controversy between the Reformed faith and the doctrine of the well-meant offer, on the other hand.
“Hyper Calvinism” is a term of reproach and condemnation. It is the charge that a theological teaching which claims to be Calvinism has, in fact, so exaggerated and distorted Calvinism that it is not genuine Calvinism at all. The body of doctrines described as hyper Calvinism is accused of having gone beyond true Calvinism, so that, although it has a semblance of Calvinism, it is, in reality, a per version of Calvinism. Indeed, the seriousness of the epithet, “hyper Calvinism,” is that it alleges a theological position to be false doctrine.
Those who teach a sincere desire of God to save all always appeal to I Timothy 2:4: “Who (God) will have all men to be saved . . .” Turretin will have no thing of such an interpretation of this text. ” . . .
Although the reprobate “are made partakers of external vocation,” Turretin denies that they are called “with the design and intention on God’s part, that they should become partakers of salvation.” There are two reasons why they are called externally by God in the preaching of the gospel, neither of which is a sincere desire of God that they be saved. The first is that the reprobate “are mingled with the elect,” so that “the Call cannot be addressed to men indiscriminately without the reprobate as well as the elect sharing in it” (p. 385).
It has been our purpose so far in this series of articles to show that denial of the well-meant offer of the gospel is not hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism we have defined as the heresy that denies that God’s external call in the preaching of the gospel goes out to others than the elect and that inevitably results in the restriction and, finally, the loss of lively, promiscuous proclamation of the gospel. We found the essential evil of the well-meant offer to be its doctrine that God is gracious in the preaching of the gospel of Christ to all hearers, not only...
That Biblical, Reformed preaching includes the call to every hearer to repent and believe is plainly and emphatically the teaching of the Canons of Dordt. “. . . the command to repent and believe ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the gospel” (II, 5). There are “many who are called by the gospel (who) do not repent, nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief” (II, 6).
It is widely assumed that the well-meant gospel-offer, or free offer, has strong backing in the Dutch Reformed theologian, Abraham Kuyper. Is not the crucial question in the controversy over the offer, whether grace is common or particular? And did not Kuyper write a massive, three-volume work, De Gemeene Gratie (Common Grace), in which he propounded the view that God has a favorable attitude towards all men and that a power of God works in all men, restraining sin in the unbelieving world and enabling them to do much that is good and beautiful?
Abraham Kuyper wrote the book, Dat De Genade Particulier Is (That Grace is Particular), because many were raising the motto, “Christus pro omnibus(Christ for all),” to a “shibboleth of evangelical truth” .(p. 3). By this “Christ for all” was meant “that Christ, according to the intention and tendency of His self offering, died for all men, head for head and soul for soul” (p. 3). Although the doctrine of universal atonement was on the foreground, Kuyper correctly saw that the real issue was the teaching that grace is common to all men.