Banned by the
Rev. Angus Stewart
Earlier this year, the BRF
placed paid ads in several British evangelical newspapers
for both the 2016 BRF Conference and the
British Reformed Journal (BRJ).
The Evangelical Times (ET)
accepted our money and carried the ad for the conference but
later refused the ad for the
BRJ, after asking for a recent copy of it and
The Five Points of Calvinism , a BRF book.
Below is a copy of the
e-mail sent by Rev. Angus Stewart (BRF Chairman) to Roger
Fay (Senior Editor of the ET)
on 11 April, 2016. Minor improvements have been made,
especially in order for publication in a journal, such as
moving website urls from the body of the e-mail to the
footnotes of the article and adding fuller bibliographical
I am disappointed and sad
to hear that the Evangelical Times
will not even accept a paid ad from the British Reformed
Fellowship (BRF). I was also surprised because our previous
correspondence was positive and cordial.
Given as the chief reason by the ET
is that we do not believe that the (all-wise, righteous,
eternal, unchangeable and omnipotent) Triune God earnestly
desires (but fails) to save those whom He has reprobated
(which, in our day, is commonly referred to as the
well-meant or free offer). Yet our position is that of the
Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675) which states,
The same Holy Scriptures
testify that the counsel and the will of God do not change,
but stand immovable, and God in the heavens does whatsoever
he will (Ps. 115:3; Isa. 46:10); for God is infinitely
removed from all that human imperfection which characterizes
inefficacious affections and desires, rashness, repentance,
and change of purpose (Canon VI).
At this rate, others who
also could not pay for advertisements in the
ET would include Augustine, the greatest of the church fathers;
Fulgentius of Ruspe, the leading African theologian in the
sixth century, and all fifteen African bishops for whom he
Gottschalk of Orbais, the double-predestinarian and
particular-redemptionist, ninth-century, Saxon monk who was
imprisoned for nineteen years for his faith (and those who
agreed with him at the time and since);
John Knox, the great Scottish Reformer;
Pierre Du Moulin, the seventeenth-century Huguenot
the authors and subscribers to the 1649 Geneva Theses;
the authors and subscribers to the Formula Consensus Helvetica
(1675), etc. Hendrik De Cock, Abraham Kuyper, A. W. Pink,
Gordon H. Clark, John Gerstner, John Robbins, William Young,
John Bolt, Randy Blacketer, Robert L. Reymond, Matthew
Winzer, and Richard Bacon— to mention just a few significant
theologians (outside of our circles) in the last couple of
centuries—also clearly and indisputably oppose an
ineffectual desire in God to save the reprobate.
If you check out this
webpage, you will see the same theological and biblical
concerns/issues/problems that we have regarding a failed
wish of God to save the reprobate in the exegesis of many
divines of I Timothy 2:4, which has historically been at the
heart of this debate.
We have similar listings of quotes on the other key verses:
II Peter 3:9, Matthew 23:37 and Ezekiel 33:11.
The calibre of the men on these webpages is formidable,
including Peter Martyr Vermigli, John Calvin, Jerome
Zanchius, William Perkins, Theodore Beza, John Owen, Francis
Turretin, etc., besides the theologians I have already
You write, “I need to make
clear that ET does disagree strongly with Arminianism and Amyraldianism.”
But does the ET also ask all organizations which they think may express
Arminian or Amyraldian views to send copies of their
periodicals or books? Does it then read their literature and
forbid them from paid ads and the Events Diary, as the
ET did with us, if it finds Arminian or Amyraldian views in
All the peculiar points of
Arminianism are rejected in the Reformed creeds (e.g., the
Westminster Confession and the Canons of Dordt)
and there are Reformed creeds specifically written to oppose
Amyraldianism (the Geneva Theses and the Formula Consensus
Helvetica, which both teach our view), besides other creeds which, to
say the least, sit ill with Amyraldianism. Whereas the
Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, Arminians, Amyraldians, Lutherans
and Roman Catholics clearly teach—and the Lutherans, Roman
Catholics and Arminians have this in their creedal
formulations—a resistible grace, that God earnestly wants to
save every individual person (including the reprobate), the
Reformed creeds do not teach this and at least two
explicitly oppose it (the Geneva Theses and the
Formula Consensus Helvetica).
In the “Opinions of the
Remonstrants” (1618), the Arminians advocate what is today
called the free or well-meant offer of the gospel:
Whomever God calls to
salvation, He calls seriously, that is, with a sincere and
completely unhypocritical intention and will to save; nor do
we assent to the opinions of those who hold that God calls
certain ones externally whom He does not will to call
internally, that is, as truly converted, even before the
grace of calling has been rejected.
There is not in God a
secret will which so contradicts the will of the same
revealed in the Word that according to it (that is, the
secret will) He does not will the conversion and salvation
of the greatest part of those whom He seriously calls and
invites by the Word of the Gospel and by His revealed will;
and we do not here, as some say, acknowledge in God a holy
simulation, or a double person.
The BRF holds to the
Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity,
and rejects the Arminian view set forth by them in their
“Opinions” before the Synod of Dordt, yet we are deemed
outside the pale for the ET.
There is something wrong here.
As regards your criticism
of our “tone,” this can be difficult to ascertain and
involves a degree of subjectivity. A few minutes before my
typing this, I received an e-mail from a formerly
unbelieving and liberal pastor in the Czech Republic who
recently finished reading The Five Points of
Calvinism (the book we proposed giving free to new
BRJ subscribers in our paid advertisement in the
ET and which we sent to you in electronic format).
“Great book!” was his evaluation and, unlike the
ET, he had no problem with the “tone.”
I agree with you that God
calls for unity in the truth, and I add that the truth is
antithetical and must be taught antithetically. Both points
are biblical and Reformed. There are disagreements here
among true believers. One man’s complaint about “tone” may
be viewed by another as faithful, antithetical instruction
or scriptural polemics. In our day, and especially given the
spirit of the age in the world and in too much of the
church, I believe that lack of conviction of the truth is a
bigger threat (though this does not, of course, justify
rudeness or nastiness).
Would the following
statements by Reformed worthies opposing the notion that God
desires to save the reprobate be acceptable to the
ET as regards “tone”?
In his longest and most
thorough work that addresses this issue, John Calvin writes
After this, Pighius, like
a wild beast escaped from his cage, rushes forth, bounding
over all fences in his way, uttering such sentiments as
these: “The mercy of God is extended to everyone, for God
wishes all men to be saved; for that end he stands and
knocks at the door of our heart, desiring to enter.
Therefore, those were elected from before the foundation of
the world, by whom he foreknew he should be received. But
God hardens no one, excepting by his forbearance, in the
same manner as too fond parents ruin their children by
Just as if anyone, by such
puerile dreams as these, could escape the force of all those
things that the apostle plainly declares in direct
contradiction to such sentiments.
[1. Argument from election
and reprobation] And just as if it were nothing at all to
his readers when Paul positively asserts that out of the
twins, while they were yet in the womb of their mother, the
one was chosen and the other rejected, without any respect
to the works of either, present or future (the former of
which there could be none), but solely by the good pleasure
of God that calls [Rom 9:10-13].
[2. Argument from the
hardening of the reprobate] As if it were nothing when the
apostle testifies, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of
him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy,” who
hardens whom he will, and has mercy on whom he will [Rom
[3. Argument from the
reprobate being “vessels of wrath”] As if it were nothing
when the same apostle avers that “God sheweth forth his
power in the vessels of wrath” in order that “he might make
known the riches of his grace on the vessels of mercy” [vv.
22, 23]. Paul undeniably here testifies that all those of
Israel who were saved, were saved according to God’s free
election, and that therefore “the election obtained it, and
the rest were blinded” [Rom. 11:7].
What of the “tone” of
William Twisse, the Prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly?
Twisse is very pointed in his question:
Can you perswade your self
that ever the world will bee brought about to beleeve, or
any intelligent or sober man amongst them, that God desires
the repentance and life of them, whom hee hath determined
from everlasting to deprive of those helps without which no
man can repent and bee saved?
What about the “tone” of
John Owen, possibly Britain’s greatest theologian? He writes
of as unfulfilled divine desire as “extreme madness” and a
“vain and fruitless flourish.”
Now, if this be not
extreme madness, to assign a will unto God of doing that
which himself knows and orders that it shall never be done,
of granting a thing upon a condition which without his help
cannot be fulfilled, and which help he purposed not to
grant, let all judge. Is this any thing but to delude poor
creatures? ... Were not this the assigning such a will and
purpose to Jesus Christ:— “... That is, I do will that that
shall be done which I do not only know shall never be done,
but that it cannot be done, because I will not do that
without which it can never be accomplished”? No, whether
such a will and purpose as this beseem the wisdom and
goodness of our Saviour, let the reader judge. In brief; an
intention of doing good unto any one upon the performance of
such a condition as the intender knows is absolutely above
the strength of him of whom it is required,—especially if he
know that it can no way be done but by his concurrence, and
he is resolved not to yield that assistance which is
necessary to the actual accomplishment of it,—is a vain
It might also be
worthwhile to point out that we have been (and are) called
by many in the UK, repeatedly and over many years, “not
Reformed” and “hyper-Calvinists,” under the recent
redefinition of hyper-Calvinist. I would guess that you have
heard this too, Roger. Yet we reject, and write and preach
against, the heresy of the hyper-Calvinists who oppose duty
repentance and duty faith, and who insist on preaching the
gospel promises and commands only to “sensible sinners,” for
we preach the gospel to as many as we can reach and we wish
we could reach more.
We do not care for the accusations or the “tone” of our
critics, but we refute the accusations and do not bother
with the hurtful tone. I find it ironic that our tone is
used as a justification of banning us from placing paid
advertisements in the ET
whereas we are called worse by our critics (and, at least in
our opinion, falsely) and with a worse tone. Now A. W. Pink
is even being called a hyper-Calvinist in some circles, as
are the “hyper-Calvinistic” Geneva Theses
and John Owen!
Perhaps it might help in
explaining our position if I add that (1) we, for our part,
are called to, and do, desire the salvation of our
neighbours (Acts 26:29; Rom. 9:1-3; 10:1); and (2) we
declare that God commands and approves of repentance and
faith (for they accord with His holiness) but He does not
inefficaciously desire these things in the reprobate (for
that would contradict His omnipotence and perfect
blessedness). Thus we believe (1) God’s will of command
(what He tells us man must do, i.e., repent, believe and
obey Him) indicates behaviour He approves of, is pleased
with and delights in, as the infinitely just, righteous and
holy Lord; and (2) God’s will of decree (His eternal,
all-embracing purpose, including election, reprobation and
everything which comes to pass) expresses what He desires,
wishes and wants (and always affects for His own glory), as
the timeless, unchangeable, omnipotent, all-wise and
perfectly simple Jehovah. This article, “Does God
Really Desire to Save the Reprobate?” fairly concisely states our
main concerns in this area.
I can appreciate your
sentiment: “I am sure, like me, you would not want to get
into unfruitful correspondence.” You may be relieved to
know, Roger, that I have no intention to write further to
you on this. I have only taken the time to write as much as
I have done because I would like to set forth to some
tolerably complete degree our position, for I believe we
have been unfairly maligned in many circles and that few of
our critics appreciate the support we have in the historic
Reformed and Christian tradition, theologically and
exegetically, as even Richard A. Muller, probably the
world’s leading authority in the history of Reformed
A lot of people have written us off and trotted out the
stock mischaracterizations of us, without knowing or being
given a proper presentation of what we believe.
If you want a short
listing of the three most important articles that I have
mentioned above, I would say that they are, Roger:
“Quotes on I Timothy 2:4”
“Geneva Theses (1649): A Recently Uncovered Jewel”
“Does God Really Desire to Save the Reprobate?”
I would be gratified if
you would read them.
I also appreciate and
share your desire, Roger: “May the Lord lead us all into
greater light and unity in Christ.” This is truly the wish
of all God’s people. But I am sad that we are deemed to be
outside the pale for paid ads in the ET.
I believe that Augustine, Fulgentius, Gottschalk, Vermigli,
Knox, Beza, Zanchius, Turretin, the Geneva Theses,
etc., are right but now their views are excluded as
unacceptable by the ET.
Many in our day are unwilling to oppose Arminianism and
Amyraldianism, so it is good that you and the BRF at least
appear to agree on this. The problem is that a desire of God
to save everybody is crucial to the Arminians (see the
“Opinions of the Remonstrants”) and the Amyraldians (see the
Reformed opposition to them in this regard especially in the
and this is frequently where they start in their arguments.
This is also the case with Rome, as is evident by its
repeated appeal to a desire of God to save the reprobate in
the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
along with its frequent use of the usual “proof texts,” such
as I Timothy 2:4 and II Peter 3:9.
Moreover, after Augustine,
widespread acceptance of a desire of God to save everybody
led the way to, and/or went hand-in-hand with, the rejection
of reprobation and the acceptance of universal atonement by
most in the Western church and so into medieval semi-Pelagianism.
The same pattern (with regional variation, according to the
spirit of the age) is evident in Switzerland with the
revocation of the Geneva Theses and the Formula Consensus
Helvetica, much of Scottish and American Presbyterianism in the decades
around the beginning of the twentieth century, and later in
the Christian Reformed Church in N. America, etc.
There are all sorts of
warnings going forth in the religious world in our day
against the God who is really and absolutely sovereign,
whose wishes and desires are always carried out (Ps. 115:3;
135:6). The Augustinian tradition—yet few even admit that is
what it is and that we hold his views!—is branded as
hyper-Calvinism, while Arminianism is insufficiently opposed
and even tolerated in many churches (which tragically, in
time, leads further into liberalism). How many churches in
our land have already gone that way in the last few
centuries and are going that way today?
I conclude by adding,
Roger, that I recognize that the ET
has the (creaturely) authority to include and exclude
people, groups and views from its paper as it sees fit (cf.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Angus Stewart
James T. Dennison, Jr. (ed.), Reformed Confessions
of the 16th and 17th
Centuries in English Translation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books,
2014), p. 522.
Francis X. Gumerlock, Fulgentius of Ruspe on
the Saving Will of God: The Development of a
Sixth-Century African Bishop’s Interpretation of I
Timothy 2:4 During the Semi-Pelagian Controversy
(Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2009).
Victor Genke and Francis X. Gumerlock (eds. & trans.),
Gottschalk and a Medieval Predestination Controversy: Texts Translated
From the Latin (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2010).
Peter Y. De Jong (ed.), Crisis in the Reformed
Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformed Fellowship Inc., 1968), pp.
Herman Hanko and David J. Engelsma,
The Five Points of Calvinism (USA: British Reformed Fellowship, 2008).
(Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2009), pp. 139-140.
William Twisse, A Treatise of Mr.
Cotton’s, Clearing certaine Doubts concerning
Predestination, Together with an Examination Thereof
(London: Printed by J. D. for Andrew Crook, 1646), p.
John Owen, The Death of Death
(Great Britain: Banner, 1989), pp. 129, 130.
E.g., Martin Foord states, “John Owen’s doctrine of God
and free gospel offer tends thus toward the so-called
‘hyper-Calvinism’” (“John Owen’s Gospel Offer:
Well-Meant or Not?” in Kelly M. Kapic and Mark Jones
[eds.], The Ashgate Research
Companion to John Owen’s Theology
[Abingdon-on-Thames, England: Routledge, repr. 2015], p. 295).
E.g., Richard A. Muller,
Calvin and the Reformed Tradition
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker 2012), pp. 107-125.
Similarly, the BRF has the right to publish as an “open
letter” our defence of the Augustinian position on the
absolute sovereignty of God over against the policy of