the Word of God
by Herman Hanko & Mark Hoeksema
History of the Free Offer
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Does the eternal, unchangeable, all-powerful, and sovereign
God really have a temporal, changeable and weak
desire to save those whom He has unconditionally reprobated
(Rom. 9:22), for whom the Son did not die (John 12:31) and
whom the Holy Spirit will not regenerate, sanctify or glorify
Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Roman Catholicism,
Lutheranism, Anabaptism, Arminianism, Amyraldianism and
Marrowism say yes to the well-meant offer of the gospel. The
biblical, Augustinian, Reformed and creedal position is no!
Emeritus professor of church history, Herman Hanko,
guides us through fascinating doctrinal controversies in the
early, Reformation and modern eras of the church, taking us
to North Africa, Switzerland, France, England, Scotland, the
Netherlands and America, and emphasizing the teaching of the
great theologians, such as Augustine and John Calvin, on
God’s particular grace, which is always irresistible and
never fails or is frustrated.
In dealing with the historical perspective of God's
absolutely sovereign grace versus the well-meant offer, this
book fills a gap in the literature, and does so in a way
that is warm and easily understood.
For an excerpt of this book in Spanish, click here.
1) Augustine, The
Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love,
ed. Henry Paolucci, trans. J. F. Shaw (Chicago, IL: Henry
Regnery Co., 1961). Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in North
Africa was undoubtedly the greatest theologian of the early
church. Toward the end of his eventful life, he wrote a
handbook for a Roman called Laurentius, summarizing the
Christian faith around the three theological virtues (faith,
hope and love) and the Apostles' Creed.
This work, which has been very popular in the church's
history, contains a lengthy section (xciv-cvii) on eternal
election and reprobation, and God's omnipotence and
immutability, which sharply opposes the free offer and its
misinterpretation of I Timothy 2:4 and Matthew 23:37, in the
light of Scripture (esp. Ps. 115:3; 135:6; Rom. 9).
2) 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).
In 520, Fulgentius of
Ruspe (468-533) wrote a synodal letter, in the name of his
fifteen fellow North African bishops (who were banished by
the Vandals to Sardinia), opposing the well-meant-offer
views of the Semi-Pelagian monks in Constantinople.
Gumerlock's fascinating book traces the development of
Fulgentius' views through several stages until he confessed
the full Augustinian position and embraced the
predestinarian understanding of Matthew 23:37, I Timothy 2:4
and II Peter 3:9.
3) 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). Saxon monk and
missionary to Croatia and Bulgaria, Gottschalk of Orbais
(c.808-c.867) was even more forceful and antithetical than
Augustine on Christ's particular atonement and God's
effectual saving desire, occasioning the biggest theological
controversy of the ninth century, involving several
councils, the leading churchmen of Western Europe and even
the successors of Emperor Charlemagne: his son and
grandsons. For his stand for the truth, confessor Gottschalk
was excommunicated, brutally flogged on two occasions and
placed under house arrest, dying after twenty years in
captivity. This recent book contains many excellent writings
of Gottschalk never before published in English.
4) John Calvin,
Calvin's Calvinism (Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2009). This superb publication
contains the French Reformer's fullest and most detailed
treatment of God's eternal predestination over against
several Roman Catholic theologians, who argue that God
desires to convert everybody, appealing to the usual texts,
especially I Timothy 2:4, on which Calvin (1509-1564)
faithfully follows the Augustinian exegesis. Part one of
God's Eternal Predestination and Secret Providence
or the Consensus Genevensis (1552), its longest section, was sent forth with the consent
of Geneva's Venerable Company of Pastors.
5) Jonathan Rainbow,
Will of God and the Cross: An Historical and Theological
Study of John Calvin's Doctrine of Limited Redemption
(Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 1990). In this powerful
work, Rainbow convincingly demonstrates that Calvin stands
in the line of Augustine of Hippo, Fulgentius of Ruspe,
Gottschalk of Orbais and others, including the Strasbourg
Reformer Martin Bucer (1491-1551), on Christ's particular
atonement and God's saving will towards His elect alone.
6) John Knox, On
Predestination, in Answer to the Cavillations by an
Anabaptist (1560), in The Works of John
David Laing (USA: Banner, 2014), vol. 5, pp. 7-468.
In his longest and most
profound theological work, John Knox (c.1514-1572)
establishes the absolute sovereignty of God from Scripture,
with frequent appeals to Augustine (including his Enchiridion),
Calvin (including his Consensus Genevensis)
and Theodore Beza (1519-1605). When his English Anabaptist
opponent argued from the four frequently cited texts (see
below) for a desire of God to save the reprobate, Scotland's
greatest Reformer successfully refuted him on all of them.
7) Pierre du Moulin,
Anatomie of Arminianism (London: T. S. for Nathaniel
Newbery, 1620). Du Moulin (1568–1658) was one of the four
representatives delegated by the French Reformed Church to
the great Synod of Dordt (1618-1619) but was forbidden to go
by King Louis XIII under pain of death. In writing against
the doctrines of the Arminians, du Moulin strongly opposed
their notion that God wishes to save everyone.
8) Jonathan Moore,
English Hypothetical Universalism: John Preston and the Softening of
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007). In setting forth the
free-offer theology of John Preston (1587-1628) regarding
the divine decree, the death of Christ and the gospel call,
Moore explains how it was a watering down of the solid
Elizabethan particularism of John Bridges (1536–1618),
William Perkins (1558-1602) and John Dove (1561-1618) in
Puritan England, as well as being contrary to such
continental Reformed worthies as Theodore Beza in Geneva,
and Jacobus Kimedoncius (c.1550-1596) and Jeremias
Bastingius (1551-1595) in Heidelberg.
9) The Geneva
Theses (1649), in James T. Dennison, Jr. (ed.),
Confessions of the 16th and 17th
Centuries in English Translation,
vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014),
pp. 413-422. This binding confession from Calvin's citadel
explicitly and repeatedly rejects the free-offer view of
God's will and love as taught by the Amyraldians, and
opposes their interpretation of Ezekiel 18:21ff. and 33:11,
I Timothy 2:4 and II Peter 3:9. The two pastors and
theological professors who drafted the Geneva Theses
were Antoine Léger (1594-1661) and Théodore Tronchin
(1582-1657), who was a Genevan delegate at the Synod of
Dordt which condemned Arminianism.
10) David J. Engelsma, Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel: An Examination
of the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel
(Jenison, MI: RFPA, 2014). Though this book is mainly a
theological and biblical refutation of the free offer, it
does treat historical aspects of the issue, including, for
example, the English hyper-Calvinists in the eighteenth
century, Dutch secession theologians in the nineteenth
century and developments in twentieth-century North American
churches, especially the Christian Reformed Church and the
Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It also contains chapters on
the sound teaching on the gospel call by John Calvin,
Francis Turretin and Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920).
The Four Main Texts Wrongly Appealed to as if They Taught
the Well-Meant Offer
Besides the authorities from various ages and countries
mentioned above (including Augustine, Fulgentius,
Gottschalk, Calvin, Knox, Beza, Bridges, Kimedoncius,
Bastingius, Perkins, Dove, du Moulin,
the Geneva Theses,
Turretin, Gernler, Heidegger, Kuyper, Rainbow,
Engelsma and Moore), quotes from and about other
theologians, who do not interpret the four main texts urged
by free-offer advocates as if they support a (temporal and
failed) desire of God to save the reprobate, have been
I Timothy 2:4, includes Januarius, Caesarius of Arles,
Students of Cassiodorus (sixth century), an old Irish gloss
(c. 700), Sedulius Scottus, Florus of Lyon, Prudentius of
Troyes, Servatus Lupus, Ratramnus of Corbie, Remigius of
Lyon, Hugh of St. Victor,
Peter Lombard, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus,
Thomas Bradwardine, Gregory of Rimini, John Wycliffe,
Laurenzo Valla, Martin Bucer, Jerome Zanchius, Zacharias
Ursinus, Daniel Tossanus, William Ames, Jacobus Trigland,
Thomas Watson, Herman Witsius, Bernardinus de Moor,
Johann van den Honert, Hendrik de Cock, William
Cunningham, George Smeaton, Lorraine Boettner, John W.
Robbins, Peter Barnes, etc.
Apart from the worthies mentioned in the select bibliography
and in connection with I Timothy 2:4 (above), the text upon
which the free-offer debate has focussed historically,
quotes from other theologians are also given regarding the
three remaining scriptural passages below.
2) Ezekiel 18:23, 32 and 33:11, includes
Wilhelmus à Brakel, James Henley Thornwell, John Kennedy of Dingwall, Herman
Hoeksema, John H. Gerstner, Richard A. Muller, John
Bolt, Christopher J. Connors, Raymond A. Blacketer, Sean
3) Matthew 23:37 and
Luke 13:34, includes Peter Martyr Vermigli, John Owen,
Christopher Ness, Peter Nahuys, John Gill, William Young,
Richard Bacon, W. Gary Crampton, James R. Whyte, Matthew
Winzer, James Gracie, Vincent Cheung, etc.
4) II Peter 3:9,
includes the Venerable Bede, the Geneva Bible (1599),
the Confession of Tarcal (1562) and Torda
(1563), David Dickson, Stephen Charnock, Matthew Henry,
Thomas E. Peck, A. W. Pink, Gordon H. Clark, Robert L.
Reymond, R. C. Sproul, etc.
see Angus Stewart, “The Geneva Theses
(1649): A Recently Uncovered Jewel” (British Reformed Journal
[Spring/Summer, 2015], Issue 62, pp. 27-42), which also
cites three other Genevan confessions against an
unfulfilled divine wish to save everybody, including
Theodore Beza’s Confession (1560) and the Formula
Consensus Helvetica (1675), produced and promoted by
John Henry Heidegger (1633-1698) of Zurich, Lucas
Gernler (1625-1675) of Basel and Francis Turretin
(1623-1687) of Geneva.
For additional on-line materials (audios, videos,
books, articles and quotes) on this subject, see
“Resources on God's Effectual Saving Desire”.