Skip to content

Herman Hoeksema on what constitutes a true “offer”

April 15, 2008

Here is an interesting snippet. I have a long-standing and almost thorough disagreement with Herman Hoeksema and the PRC; Recall I used to be a member of the EPC (Australia) which has a “less than sister church” relationship with the PRC of America.

This book by de Jong was very helpful when I first read it.  What de Jong notes here is that Hoeksema correctly identifies the basic elements of an offer, if the offer is to be sincere etc.

De Jong:

Hoeksema has always maintained that there are four indispensable elements which constitute the idea of offer. First of all, the term contains the idea of an honest and sincere desire on the part of the offerer to give something. Without such an earnest will and desire on the part of him who makes the offer, the offer would not be honest or upright. Second, there is included in the idea of offer the fact that the offerer possesses that which he extends to some person(s). In the event of acceptation the offerer must be in a position to impart that which is offered. Third, the offerer reveals by his offer the desire that it be accepted. This means that God “de ernstige begeerte openbaart, dat alle menschen zullen zalig worden, ieder, hoofd voor haofd on ziel voar ziel.”  Four, the one who offers something does so either unconditionally, or upon the condition that he is aware that the recipients of the offer are able to fulfill the condition. This would imply that God knows that all men are able to accept the offer of grace. If anyone of these elements is eliminated from the concept, the idea of offer is no longer retained. It is apparent that so conceived the idea of a gospel offer would deny such Biblical truths as unconditional election, limited atonement, total depravity and irresistible grace.

A.C. de Jong, The Well-Meant Gospel Offer: The Views of H. Hoeksema and K Schilder, (Franeker: T. Wever, 1954), 43.  [C.f., de Jong on the offer.]

There is a lot here one can unpack. Assertion one is self-evidently true. Imagine I offer a person a ride from after church. My desire is to bless them and be a blessing to them. In other words, my offer has to be  well-meant.  My motives must be benevolent. However, if that is not the case, my motives are out of line with my revealed intention. I am being double-minded. I am being insincere and hypocritical.  The second assertion is intuitively true too. I offer this man a ride home, but have no means to take him home. The third assumption is intuitively true too. I offer this person a ride home but secretly I wish they don’t accept my invitation. That again is hypocrisy.  And the last is intuitively too. Here we have to get into the distinction between natural and moral ability of course. As the writer says, and as Paul repeats, in order to take up my offer, the man does not have to ascend to heaven or to the depths, that is perform some insurmountable task in order to benefit from my offer. Of course, Hoeksema expressed condemned a conditional offer or a conditional promise to all.

Hoeksema was a genius (I’ve been reading his works for over a decade now, even though I strongly disagree with him). He spotted the core elements of many issues.  The problem is, his solutions were skewy.  Hoeksema saw what an “offer” entailed. So did John Gill. Gill rejected the “offer” for much the same reasons as did Hoeksema. Today, some wish to use the language of “offer” but smuggle in the theology of Gill and Hoeksema. Indeed, many are rather Gillite Calvinists with a Gillite theology, but using the language of traditional Reformed theology. How postmodern is that? They speak of affirming the offer, but deny its essential constituent elements. For as Heoksema realized, if you deny one of the four elements, there can be no sincere offer, let alone a well-meant one. And being a hypercalvinist, he argued that there are, indeed, grounds for denying these critical elements: God does not love all, there is no atonement for all in any sense, and men do not have the ability to respond, according to him.

If anyone wants to read the best response to Gillite hypercalvinism, Andrew Fuller’s, “The Gospel Worthy of all Acceptation,” is the best read. Fuller completely dismantles the hypercalvinism of men like Gill and Brine.

David

Advertisements
21 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2008 8:07 pm

    David, it’s always interesting to see how various theologians respond to man’s natural tendency to select elements a system which are most important to him, and then deduce what the rest of the system must be from those elements; instead of looking to the system itself. Hoeksema seems to favor the free offer, and then deduce that election and its corollaries must be false. Gill seems to favor election, and then deduce that the free offer must be false.

    What do these men do with what Scripture actually teaches in Isaiah 55:1 and Ephesians 2:5?

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  2. Flynn permalink
    April 15, 2008 8:40 pm

    Bnonn,

    I may have confused you. Hoeksema was a hypercalvinist. He denied the free offer on the alleged grounds that it denied election, atonement and implied free will. They are essentially the same arguments Gill used.

    Hoeksema is an interesting man. He was very astute at getting to the root of the dialectic. But sadly, he lacked faith. He could not rest with mystery. His intellect forced him to flatten out the tension, by denying one side of the premise (inverse to the Arminians of course).

    But it is system driven, a hierarchy of allegedly deductive inferences.

    The Isaiah text is tricky. Hoeksema invented this kernal-husk hermeneutic: so the sound of the spoken words could go out to a man, but the intent is only to another. So God could say to a group of men, I call you to salvation, but the intent is only spoken to the elect. The invitations are only to the elect, even tho they may be spoken to a mixed crowd. The PRC deny that there are any conditional offers or invitations or promises to anyone. I am not sure what you mean by citing Eph 2:5.

    Scope out the material from de Jong in the link I inserted.

    Thanks and take care,
    David

  3. April 16, 2008 9:23 am

    That’s an interesting quote from De Jong. Who brought that to your attention? :)

  4. April 16, 2008 10:29 pm

    Thanks David; I had thought Hoeksema was a hypercalvinist, but yeah, you confused me and I went with it (: I mentioned Eph 2:5 because of said confusion; ie, how would someone trying to deny election deal with said text? Since I misunderstood, it’s a moot point.

    I’ll check out the de Jong link when I get a moment.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  5. Flynn permalink
    April 16, 2008 11:53 pm

    G’day Bnonn,

    Thanks for the feedback. I have tightened the wording up a little to make it explicit.

    Whats happening with your blog, btw.

    Thanks and take care,
    your friend,
    David

  6. April 22, 2008 6:22 pm

    Hi David, regarding my blog: myself and Jason Kumar have started work on an apologetics ministry called ‘Thinking Matters’, which is largely focused around a monthly journal with a peripheral blog, and some study groups around New Zealand also planned. Since I’ve been thinking about migrating my blog to WordPress for a while, and since we have now got our own hosting at http://thinkingmatters.org.nz, I decided to shift my blog over there so as to keep things all together. I hope you like the new look; I’m still working on developing a header image using a phoenix motif. Let me know if you have any problems with it, or any suggestions. There was a problem with posting comments for a short while due to a coding error on my part, but that is now fixed.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  7. April 22, 2008 6:25 pm

    Incidentally, David, I was going to email you about a discussion regarding the extent of the atonement which is taking place over on Triablogue , but your Bellsouth email address no longer works? Drop me a line with your new email address if you’re interested.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  8. Flynn permalink
    April 23, 2008 10:21 am

    Hey Bnonn,

    I have changed my C&C blogroll to reflect your the new blog. Can you let me know if I have the right link.

    For the stuff over there at the other blog. There are a few things.

    1) Some of us simply don’t operate in that tradition. From my knowledge it was Cunningham who first tried to ground the warrant to believe barely in the command of God. Okay… Even Owen and Turretin grounded the offer in the sufficiency of the atonement. Cunningham is by himself here. The idea that the command alone is all and the the only grounds is reductionism in my opinion.

    2) What is more, contra-Cunningham, there is more to the offer than a bare command. Whats interesting is that from some recent quarters, we saw the language that the offer is more than a bare offer but ‘contains command.’ (To this we never disagreed.) Now is it the case that the picture has flipped so that its just a bare command? Have some of these proponents flipped to the other way.

    3) With that said, the offer contains commands AND invitations. As soon as we factor in the wider range of biblical data, some of these other questions become relevant. And with commands and invitations (conditional) promises are attached and proffered (overtured).

    4) With that, the command expresses the will of God. The will grounds the command. Some hypercalvinists say that the will for the command is simply God’s desire to obligate men by way of command. Or, they may say, God desires compliance to the command, but not that the commandee come and be saved, or more simply, be saved. Thats irrational and logic-chopping. I just reject that. Its not mainstream Calvinism.

    5) Calvin, Turretin and all the Reformed speak of a conditional offer. Now, if all there is a command (as exhaustive of the thing we might call “the offer”?) then we now cant have a conditional command, can we?

    6) the Offer is an overture, a proffer, and invitation, says (Owen and everyone else). The offer is a hearty invitation, says the Sum of Saving Knowledge. As soon as you operate in this tradition, issues of divine sincerity and warrant arise.

    7) In classic Calvinism, the offer contained its own warrant, for in it is the will of God that God loves you and the death of Christ is for you. We have seen that in Calvin, Musculus, Zwingli and now explicitly in Taffin.

    8 ) Humanly thinking, as soon as you factor in doctrines like election and reprobation, or limited expiation, its very human to be concerned about warrant to believe. One cannot simply assert that such questions arise from a sinful heart-motive. Its very human to wonder, given such and such, does God really sincerely seek my salvation. If one responds to that by saying that all you have to resolve that is the bare command, then you have a rather barren Calvinism, and a calvinism which itself is not reflective of historical Calvinism or Scripture. And so it can only result in denying our basic humanity as genuine image bearers.

    I say all that with trepidation because I don’t want to have a conversation let alone a spat with those on the other side of the fence. It is rarely pleasant and its best to just work on the positive presentation of the classic and mainstream position.

    For some links tho:

    TurretinL conditiona offer: Turretin on the Free Offer and Common Grace

    Zancius on the definition of the Gospel:The gospell, what it is

    Musculus on the same: So Christian men may also most rightly call the memory of the Lord’s death. This by the way of the name of the Gospel, in what sense it was used of men heretofore. But as concerning Christian men, this name is so passed over unto them, that it is become unto them most frequent and common, and of good right also most proper and peculiar for nothing in all the world, from the beginning therefore unto the end, befell mankind thereof unto the same which began to be told and preached in every place through the whole world under the name of Christ. That is, that mankind is redeemed by the death of the only begotten Son of God, & that the forgiveness of all men’s sins and life everlasting, is ready for all them that do believe in

    See also Calvin on John 3:16: This, he says, is the proper look of faith, to be fixed on Christ, in whom it beholds the breast of God filled with love: this is a firm and enduring support, to rely on the death of Christ as the only pledge of that love. The word only-begotten is emphatic, to magnify the fervor of the love of God towards us. For as men are not easily convinced that God loves them, in order to remove all doubt, he has expressly stated that we are so very dear to God that, on our account, he did not even spare his only-begotten Son. Since, therefore, God has most abundantly testified his love towards us, whoever is not satisfied with this testimony, and still remains in doubt, offers a high insult to Christ, as if he had been an ordinary man given up at random to death…

    David: See how Calvin portrays God as desirous of removing all doubt about his motives. And remember, for Calvin the us is part of the whole human race, which makes up the world of 3:16.

    Taffin says it so well: We should remember that this revelation of God’s will in the gospel consists of four parts. First, in Jesus Christ alone there is complete and perfect salvation; second, we receive this salvation by believing in him; third, when this gospel is preached to us, God reveals that he will make us participants in this salvation in Christ Jesus; and fourth, he commands that we believe the many testimonies of his good will, which he gives for the sake of our salvation. Now, the problem with believing lies in the last two parts. It lies in believing them with confidence, even though in reality they are firm and sure. “Behold,” says the apostle John, (’this is God’s testimony namely that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:ll). He says not only that this life is in his Son but also that he gives us this life and that the gospel testifies to this. Immediately before this verse he declared, “Anyone who does not believe God makes him a liar” (1 John 5:l0). Thus, he has shown us enough to let us know that God wants us to believe him.

    Taffin rejects the claim that the “offer” is just a proclamation of a bare conditional truth statement.

    And on it goes. Bnonn, they wont believe us, they wont even believe the men we cite. We operate in different traditions.

    Anyway, I post these remarks with a friendly intent. I have no desire for controversy with some of the others. Its gotten to the point where it is becoming less and less productive.

    Take care,
    David

  9. April 23, 2008 5:14 pm

    David, thanks for that; I’ll take it all under consideration. Also yes, that new link is right, but I’ve sort of dropped the tagline; so you might just want to call it “Dominic Bnonn Tennant”.

    Thanks again.

    Bnonn

  10. Flynn permalink
    April 23, 2008 7:13 pm

    I might add, those who claim to operate within the Scottish tradition and yet claim all we have is the command as our warrant etc, should go and read the Sum of Saving Knowlege, it has whole articles dedicated to the warrants to believe. :-)

    I really dont think those recent comments from others are reflective of either the classic or Protestant Scholastic wings of the Reformed tradition.

    David

  11. August 3, 2008 8:16 pm

    Tahnks for posting

  12. Flynn permalink*
    August 8, 2008 10:12 am

    Hey there,

    No worries and thanks. Feel free to drop by and you can visit
    Calvin and Calvinism

    David

  13. Eric Sigward permalink
    May 22, 2010 5:37 pm

    (God) commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
    32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
    The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) (Ac 17:30–34). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

  14. Flynn permalink*
    June 3, 2010 10:12 am

    Hey Eric,

    May I ask how your comment impacts the original post?

    Thanks,
    David

  15. David B. McWilliams permalink
    July 3, 2010 9:52 am

    I continue to read Hoeksema with great profit as well. My crtiticisms are found in my doctoral dissertion: Herman Hoeksema’s Theological Method.

  16. Christian (real name) permalink
    July 22, 2010 1:21 am

    How is it that when God is not the author of confusion, his professing people confuse? I find your article confusing, as to your inference or conclusion, and secondly, you make the point for Hoeksema while claiming to disagree. Even some of your readers took the wrong side of which you claimed to stand. By readers, I mean many beyond the responses here.

    And what is your definition of a hyper-calvinist? I will “offer” my own definition by means of the those who arrogantly accuse some of this label. My offer is simple:
    A hyper-calvinist is one who is Antinomian by default. One who disregards the Mosaic Law. One who denies human responsibility. Those who have erred in believing that God has a two-tracked mind, are the ones who enjoy labeling those who deny this two-track theology as “hypers”. This is not hyper, it doesn’t flee to the desert claiming “mystery”, but holds to the very character a definite God, not a “wish” versus “will” separation. Do you believe that God “wishes” salvation for all, and then through man’s work or lack of, it is thwarted? God does not reach out to drowning people waving their hands in the air. He dives to the depths and breathes life into dead corpses lying on the seabed floor. There is no wishing, and the corpse somehow then rejects it. The corpse cannot even open his eyes, ears, or even enable his voice or hands to believe or move in any direction – he is dead in his sins.

    Is the real problem here the view of original sin? My guess is that it is. Write a blog on original sin, so that I can start there, in trying to figure out why what simple logic tells those who know their God is not telling you (since reason is your base of argument).

  17. Flynn permalink*
    August 3, 2010 1:32 pm

    Hey Christian,

    You say:
    And what is your definition of a hyper-calvinist?

    David: I would define hypercalvinism as a commitment to any 1 or more of the following:

    1) denial of duty faith
    2) denial of the well-meant and free offer
    3) denial of general love, common grace etc.
    4) denial of God’s revealed will and desire for the salvation of all men.

    All these denials can be documented in leading hypers, and the affirmations in classic Calvinists.

    Christian:
    I will “offer” my own definition by means of the those who arrogantly accuse some of this label. My offer is simple:
    A hyper-calvinist is one who is Antinomian by default. One who disregards the Mosaic Law. One who denies human responsibility.

    David: May I ask where you got this definition from? What leading hypercalvinist exponent affirmed anti-nomianism?

    Christian:
    Those who have erred in believing that God has a two-tracked mind, are the ones who enjoy labeling those who deny this two-track theology as “hypers”. This is not hyper, it doesn’t flee to the desert claiming “mystery”, but holds to the very character a definite God, not a “wish” versus “will” separation. Do you believe that God “wishes” salvation for all, and then through man’s work or lack of, it is thwarted?

    David: I believe that God’s will has a twofold aspect, secret and revealed. The revealed expresses a divine desire that all men be saved. So yes. See Calvin on Matt 23:37, 2 Peter 3:9, Psa 81:13, etc.

    Christian: God does not reach out to drowning people waving their hands in the air. He dives to the depths and breathes life into dead corpses lying on the seabed floor.

    David: see Calvin on Isa 65:2 and Roms 10:21.

    Christian: There is no wishing, and the corpse somehow then rejects it. The corpse cannot even open his eyes, ears, or even enable his voice or hands to believe or move in any direction – he is dead in his sins.

    David: Thanks for asserting this. :-)

    Christian: Is the real problem here the view of original sin? My guess is that it is. Write a blog on original sin, so that I can start there, in trying to figure out why what simple logic tells those who know their God is not telling you (since reason is your base of argument).

    David: Well thanks for the advice. I am sure to take under consideration. :-)

    David

  18. Martin permalink
    December 5, 2010 8:20 pm

    The Biblical God is a Sovereign God. “Sovereign” is self -defining. God’s Sovereignty is not required to accomodate the ever-fluctuating emotional status of sinful ceatures. God has decreed that He will work “ALL THINGS” according to the council of “HIS WILL” and that includes His command to all men everywhere to repent, and His perogative to have mercy on whomever He wills. Man’s enslavement to sin does not in the least negate his primary duty to love God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength.

    And by a merciful Divine appointment (Acts 13: 48), a multide of sinful, God hating wretches will be raised to Spiritual life and thus enabled to live toward Godliness in Christ and to His glory.

  19. Manuel Kuhs permalink
    January 21, 2013 3:54 am

    David,

    I would be interested in actually hearing your response/refutation of Hoeksema’s arguments agains the “Free Offer” as summarised by de Jong in the quotation you give.

    Regards,
    Manuel Kuhs

  20. January 22, 2013 8:40 pm

    Hey there,

    Just to let you know, this is a back-up blog. The main one is at CalvinandCalvinism.com.

    I will throw some sorts together.

    Thanks,
    David

  21. January 23, 2013 10:55 pm

    many thanks, I look forward to the reply.

    Blessings,
    Manuel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: