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When is an offer not an offer?

August 26, 2011

Link History to this thread:
7. Finally an Answer!
6. Restating the Problem
5. Limited Atonement and the Falsification of the Sincere Offer of the Gospel

4. When is a conversation about an offer of something, not a conversation about an offer of something?
3. When is an offer not an offer?
2.God and Green Spotted Unicorns
1. James Anderson’s Argument for a Sincere Offer Based on a Limited Provision

When is an offer not an offer?

When its merely a statement of material conditionality.

Our claim is: Limited Atonement, as defined by John Owen, et al, precludes a sincere offer of forgiveness to the non-elect.

Our argument is: Because God cannot confer forgiveness of sins to the non-elect, he cannot offer forgiveness of sins to the non-elect.

The standard response from some High Calvinists, and/or Hypercalvinists, is to say the offer is sincere, on the basis of the veracity of a simple statement of fact in the form of a bare statement of material conditionality.

The problem is, this misses the point entirely.

So let me try to clarify the issues and arguments.

Background context:

The Arminian posits three objections against Calvinism:

1. Election makes God insincere.
2. Limited atonement makes God insincere
3. Total depravity makes God insincere.

We are saying to the High Calvinist, your answers to the Arminian on points 1 and 3 are sound and good, but the answer on point 2 needs some work because the you have not properly understood the original objection.

From our experience, the standard High Calvinist response to us has been:

I) Just reassert the original confusion that a statement of fact in the form of a statement of simple material conditionality solves the problem for 2.

II) Then just throw at us 1, and 3, as if they have any bearing, or if they are now all up for grabs as well.

I honestly don’t think some of our opponents are aware of what they are doing. As a friend puts it, “They’ve been thinking about it for too long the wrong way… its now impossible for them to think about in any other way.”


For our part, our conversation is only with those Calvinists in the Spurgeonic or M’Cheyen or John Murray tradition. Our conversation is not with those in the Hypercalvinist tradition which denies the basic distinctions between secret will and revealed will in relation the actuality and sincerity of the well-meant offer. We are talking to those Calvinists who give answer to points 1. and 3. on the terms of traditional evangelical Calvinism, aka (for want of a better expression) the Spurgeon to John Murray type of Calvinism.


1) By limited atonement I define as, only the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ when Christ offered himself as a sacrificial victim 2000 years ago.

2) By High Calvinist, I define as those Calvinists, within the historically broad Reformed community, who assert that only the sins of the elect were imputed to Christ on the cross.

3) A simple statement of material conditionality, stated most elementally is an, “if A, then B” relationship.

For example,

If you walk in the rain, you will get wet.
If you drink the water, you will be refreshed
If you take the medicine, you will be healed.
If you believe, you will be saved.

4) An offer is not a simple statement of fact in the form of a bare statement of material conditionality. An offer is by definition (normal standard English usage) this,

I am willing and able to give you this, if you are willing to receive it.

So for comparison:

Simple statement of fact in the form a bare statement of material conditionality:

If you take this medicine, you will be healed of your disease.

Simple statement of an offer:

I am willing and able to give you this medicine to cure your disease if you are willing to take it.

In the case of an offer of something, one is not just making a bare statement of fact in the form of a simple statement of material conditionality. For in that case, the veracity of the statement of fact is not being called into question at all, which misses the point entirely.

What is being called into question is the veracity of the offer of the thing, not the fact of the thing.


Why is it the case that God, in terms of the High Calvinist schema, cannot confer forgiveness of sins to the non-elect. The answer is, because 2000 years, according to the High Calvinist model of expiation and satisfaction only a limited and fixed number of sins were imputed to Christ.

We also know given the very nature of substitutionary atonement, that the following holds for the High Calvinist’s concept of expiation:

Only those sins imputed to Christ are forgivable.
Only the sins of the elect are imputed to Christ.
Therefore: Only the sins of the elect are forgivable.

If one were to say that the sins of the non-elect are forgivable, then it is the case that they are only forgivable on the terms of some other hypothetical reality, because in this reality, God has, as it were, locked himself into the reality of no forgiveness apart from the death of Christ, etc etc.

What is more, there is no forgiveness apart from that death of Christ which happened 2000 years ago, which is now a fixed and accomplished moment in this space-time continuum. It is impossible that since that point, more sin could be imputed to Christ, thereby, supposedly making more sin forgivable.1

Now the problem should be really obvious.

According to the High Calvinist view of limited atonement, God cannot, because of his own self-commitments to this current state of affairs, confer forgiveness to the non-elect. The possibility of forgiveness has already been inexorably fixed and delimited. If he cannot confer forgiveness to the non-elect, he cannot offer to confer forgiveness to the non-elect. If he did, that would be a lie.

Any response that swaps out the actual meaning of “offer,” and in injects in its place a simple statement of fact expressed as a simple statement of material conditionality has missed the point. You have stopped talking to us and have now begun addressing your own theological reflection.

To close.

It’s is just case of, “if you don’t see it, you don’t see it.” If you don’t get it, that’s sort of okay, because you just don’t get it yet. That is, that you may not yet be sensitive to the problem’s core, that’s okay. Perhaps later it may become clear to you. However, until you address the core problem, the conversation is essentially over.



1Likewise, it is impossible that some imputed sin become unimputed.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2011 7:45 am

    David wrote:

    “An offer is by definition (normal standard English usage) this,

    I am willing and able to give you this, if you are willing to receive it.”

    I. Since some are missing(?) the point, and confusing 1) the offer given with 2) the giving of the thing offered, it may be better to put it this way:

    A sincerely given gospel offer by God is not less than this:

    I am both willing and able (i.e. prepared) to give you this (eternal life in Christ), and you shall get it if you are willing to receive it. Or, to keep your words with a little addition in brackets, it would be this:

    “I am willing and able to give you this, [and you shall get it,] if you are willing to receive it.”

    It’s not less than an invitation to obtain what is promised, and what is promised shall be granted if some condition(s) is(are) met.

    N.B. It’s not as though God is only willing and able to offer to those who are willing to receive what is offered. Whether they believe or not has no bearing on God’s willingness and ability to make the offer. Their willingness or unwillingness to receive it only has a bearing upon whether God shall give to them what is already offered. All that hear the gospel are offered by God (even the disobedient), but only those who believe get what is offered

    II. Also, to announce some *mere* conditional statement (“if you believe, you shall be saved”) is not only devoid of the loving-*invitation* component, it is not even a *command* to go to the *prepared*-to-save Christ. The Divinely and Kingly given gospel offer (as with the great feast parable) is not less than a benevolent invitation plus a promise plus a command to fulfill a condition in order to obtain what is promised and already prepared to be given to all that hear the call. Maurice Roberts gets at these essential components when he wrote in the Banner of Truth as follows:

    “The Free Offer may be defined like this:

    It is the invitation given by God to all sinners to believe in Jesus Christ, with the promise added that if they do so believe they will at once receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life…”Implied in the concept of this Free Offer are the following ideas. The Offer made is for all who hear it, whether they be elect or not. The Offer is not to be restricted or modified by the preacher in his presentation. The Offer is an expression of love and grace on God’s part towards sinful, unbelieving men. The Offer is sincere on God’s part, and it is genuinely and well meant. The Offer is addressed to sinners as they are and requires of them repentance and faith.” Maurice Roberts, “The Free Offer of the Gospel,” Banner of Truth 503-504 (August-September 2005), 39.

    It seems to me that the Manata-Hays conception of the gospel “offer” is reductionistic, and only deals with the manner by which the promise can be obtained (the “how”), not with the benevolent nature of the promiser and what He is extending to all in in His all-inviting hands. Their conception doesn’t deal with the object of what is offered (a loving/wooing God with a prepared Christ able to save all whether they are elect or not), but only with how the object may be obtained (through believing you shall be saved).

    The conditional “If you believe you shall be saved” is certainly a part of the gospel offer, but of itself it does not make up the whole of a gospel offer. It has no component of fatherly invitation or calling to something already prepared. Not only that, but it’s not even a command.

  2. Flynn permalink*
    August 29, 2011 9:11 am

    Hey Tony,

    Sure, I think it comes down to the fact that they want to justify what can only be an insincere offer of forgiveness to the non-elect. They want to justify an offer of something which they acknowledge God knows he cannot cannot confer… and that’s even if the offeree was to believe.

    For that last, I mean, for some odd reason, they really do think that had Judas simply believed, he would have been saved. How strange is that. If there was no atonement for him, he can never be saved, no matter what hoops he jumps through.

    And to do this they redefine what it means to offer something, opting for the claim that somehow a declaration of facts constitutes a meaningful offer.

    What this all tells me, too, is that they are injecting secret decree aspects into the revealed will realm. They are collapsing the secret will (and all that it comes with) into the revealed, in order to justify or ground the offer of forgiveness.

    I wonder if they are aware of what they are doing. I have my doubts.


  3. Flynn permalink*
    August 29, 2011 9:17 am

    I just remembered something too, your comment reminded me of it. Was it not Iain Murray who pointed out in his Spurgeon versus Hypercalvinism, that Hypercalvinism reduces the Gospel offer to a bare declaration and statement of facts? Can you recall where that was?

    That was what I had come to, independently, years ago in my old church back in Australia.


  4. August 29, 2011 12:07 pm

    I vaguely recall a source that talks about reducing the gospel to a bare declaration of facts, but I don’t see the source, yet. I looked at all the highlighted words in hyper-Calvinism tagged posts (including those by Iain Murray) and didn’t see it.

  5. August 30, 2011 5:24 am

    I found these in Murray’s book:

    Hyper-Calvinists asserted the facts of the gospel, they taught that eternal life is the gift of God, bestowed solely on account of the work of Jesus Christ, and they upheld the supernaturalism of grace.” Iain Murray, Spurgeon V. Hyper-Calvinism (Banner of Truth, 2000), 67.


    Gospel preaching for Hyper-Calvinists means a declaration of the facts of the gospel but nothing should be said by way of encouraging individuals to believe that the promises of Christ are made to them particularly until there is evidence that the Spirit of God has begun a saving work in their hearts, convicting them and making them ‘sensible’ of their need.” Ibid., 69.

    I seem to recall more about this, perhaps in the BOT journal, or maybe by Erroll Hulse somewhere. I’ll keep it in mind in the future.

  6. Flynn permalink*
    August 30, 2011 8:53 am

    Hey Tony, that’s right. If all the gospel amounts to, or can be reduced to is a bare statement of fact expressed as a conditional statement, then that here is no sense of “for” in the conditional statement.

    For example a doctor says to patient, “if you take this medicine you will be healed.” At no point as he communicated that the medicine is “for” the patient, in any sense. If one reduces the gospel offer to an alleged statement of fact expressed as a conditional statement, then one has bought into Hypercalvinist categories. The Gospel “offer” say the Hoeksemians is only “presentation” of facts and claims about Christ, and that’s all. I think I also recall others reacting to this same Hypercalvinist idea; De Jong, and I wonder if Silversides gets into it at all.

    The gospel offer has further been debased. Any true Banner of Truth Calvinist or Piper type of Calvinist out should be horrified by what is being claimed as a gospel “offer.”


  7. August 30, 2011 10:53 am

    Hays has responded. Above
    I said:

    “Their conception doesn’t deal with the object of what is offered (a loving/wooing God…”

    Hays scornfully replied:

    “I don’t visualize God wooing male sinners. Perhaps Mel White or Vicki Gene Robinson visualize God is wooing them, but that doesn’t ring my bell. Perhaps Tony has been listening to one too many albums by Boy George or Elton John.”

    Actually, I get it from reading the Puritans. Thomas Cartwright, Stephen Charnock, Jonathan Edwards (2), John Flavel (1, 2, 3, 4), Oliver Heywood, Thomas Manton (2, 3), Edward Reynolds, George Swinnock, Nathaniel Vincent and Edward Polhill all use the language.

  8. August 30, 2011 2:18 pm

    You can add Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Gouge, William Greenhill, Thomas Sheppard, Richard Sibbes, Ralph Erskine, Joseph Alleine, Samuel Rutherford, William Fenner, Andrew Gray, and Isaac Ambrose to the list of Puritans who use the wooing metaphor in the context of God’s gospel offers. It’s all readily seen in Google Books.


  1. Limited Reading for an Unlimited Atonementist « Fides, Ratio, et Mysterium

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