Pristine Grace

Mystery, Paradox, and the Free Offer of the Gospel
by James Johnson

     Recently, a friend referred me to a blog post written by R. Scott Clark entitled Hyper-Calvinism, Rationalism and Antipredestinarians. Here is the link (http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2008...m-rationalism/ ) Throughout this blog Clark attempts to show how the free offer of the gospel is essential to sound doctrine and correct understand of true Calvinism. Those that hold to the free offer of the gospel basically say that salvation is offered to all men, even the reprobate. In Clark’s blog, he bashes those that reject the free offer of the gospel with weak arguments from every source but scripture. In this article I intend to examine some of the statements from Clark and explain why his view point and belief in the free offer of the Gospel and mystery is incorrect.

     At the very beginning of the post Clark writes, “Believing in predestination and reprobation does not make one a “hyper-Calvinist”. Denying the free-offer of the gospel does.” Clark defines hyper-Calvinism here as all those who deny the free offer of the gospel. According to Clark this is the key view that makes someone a hyper-calvinist. Clark then gives his reason that those denying the free offer are wrong, rationalism and the rejection of mystery:

“Those predestinarians who deny the free offer usually do so because of some form of rationalism, i.e. they’ve set up things so that, unless they can provide a comprehensive explanation of how something works, it can’t be. Thus, because they can’t see how God can both predestine the elect and the reprobate and freely offer salvation to all, they conclude that it cannot be. They reject mystery.” – R. Scott Clark

     Rationalism and the rejection of mystery are given as the reasons why those who deny the free offer of the gospel are wrong. Clark backs up this argument by saying that both Calvin and the Synod of Dort embrace this mystery and thus so should we. By referring to these reformed heavyweights Clark hopes to stifle debate and bring people in line with his view. Mystery then becomes the key argument for the acceptance of the free offer of the gospel doctrine without any clear scripture to back it up. Clark continues this post by exclaiming the mysteries of scripture and showing how we must just accept that we don’t know.

     Clark’s view is very troublesome and it is my view that he is exhorting mysteries and paradoxes because this allows him to continue in the many false teachings that he holds to. Clark says,

“We don’t operate like that. Our faith is full of mystery of paradoxes to wit, the holy Trinity, the two natures and one person of Christ, divine sovereignty and human responsibility (who has flattened out that one but the anti-predestinarians?), the free offer, the true presence of Christ in the Supper, and means of grace (the Spirit operates through the foolishness of Gospel preaching) and that’s the short list.”

     What is amazing to me about this statement is that everything he is mentioning here is not a mystery or paradox but actually revealed to the elect in clarity throughout scripture. The only reason people make mysteries out of things is to support their false beliefs and to get around things they don’t like in scripture. When the truth is proclaimed they reject it and hold to false beliefs through the guise of mystery. When people start to go down the mystery road basically they can start to justify any doctrine they want and propagate heresy.

     Scripture to disprove the doctrine of Mystery

     There is no place in scripture that ever shows that the elect of God are to hold to mystery or paradox. Instead, throughout scripture, again and again we are shown that all mysteries are made known and are revealed to the elect. Of course we don't know all things that God knows, that is impossible, but every doctrine or belief that the elect follow is derived from the knowledge that God has revealed to us in scripture. The elect are never to explain away a doctrine to the realms of mystery and paradox because that will undoubtedly result is false doctrine. Clark refers his readers to an article by John Murray entitled “Free Offer of the Gospel” as the definitive defense of this doctrine. In reading through this article it is clear that Murray goes down the road of mystery and paradox in order to show that God desires that everyone be saved. Murray basically comes to the conclusion that God has two wills that are paradoxical in nature: 1. God’s desired will to save all (Reprobate included) and 2. God’s election of the elect alone and rejection of the reprobate. Just look at Murray’s doublespeak:

“Still further, it is necessary to point out that such "desire" on the part of God for the salvation of all must never be conceived of as desire to such an end apart from the means to that end. It is not desire of their salvation irrespective of repentance and faith. Such would be inconceivable.” – John Murray

     Paradox and mystery reign supreme with Murray and his whole argument for the free offer of the Gospel is based on this premise of contradictory wills within God. It is amazing that such doctrines are promoted and held to. This whole concept makes God doubleminded and unsure. Murray’s justification of the free offer of the gospel is based on this:

“If it is proper to say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate, then he desires such by their repentance. And so it amounts to the same thing to say "God desires their salvation" as to say "He desires their repentance." This is the same as saying that he desires them to comply with the indispensable conditions of salvation. It would be impossible to say the one without implying the other.” – John Murray

     Murray goes on in his paper trying to show from scripture that God desires that salvation of all. He even claims that the free offer bestows grace to all at some level. To go into that subject will go outside of the scope of this blog, but needless to say it is all based on false doctrines and beliefs with are derived directly from the concept and belief in paradox and mystery. The following verses clearly show that the whole concept of mystery and paradox are done away with when Christ came on inaugurated that new covenant.

Eph 1:7 -14 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

     Paul makes it clear in this verse that the “mystery of his will” is being made known to the elect. The mystery that is being talked about in these verses is the gospel, redemption, justification in Christ. There is wisdom and knowledge and not mystery. The reason people claim mystery is because they hold to false doctrines and beliefs. The doctrine of the free offer is claimed as a mystery because it is false. The free offer can’t be shown from scripture so it is said to be a mystery. However all that is spoken of within the new covenant is knowledge, clarity, and insight.

Eph 3:1-10 “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles-- assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

     What great truth is revealed within these verses, mysteries being made known, things being brought to light, mysteries of God once hidden now being shown through the church. Compare this to what Clark and Murray espouse and it will truly boggle the mind. The presuppositions that both Clark and Murray hold to completely warp their view of scripture and because of this they can not see the truth clearly proclaimed. Clark even writes,

“The real question is why opponents of the Free Offer reject out of hand exegetical arguments for the free or well-meant offer? The answer is because they reject the premise on which that exegetical work is done, and the framework within which historic Reformed orthodoxy has read Scripture, namely, that all divine revelation is accommodated to human finitude, and that we humans have only analogical knowledge of God. Because of that fact, we cannot go behind the revelation of God in Scripture to some other a priori truth by which to leverage Scripture and that Scripture reveals God as not willing the death of sinners.” – R. Scott Clark

     To this I say, Of course I reject the framework and what “Reformed Orthodoxy” says. If these disagree with the plain reading of scripture then they must be rejected no matter what famous theologian in the past held to them. If the only reason to hold to the free offer of the gospel and contradictory wills within God is because of the tradition of Reformed Orthodoxy then I am sad to say you are vastly deceived and believe a lie. Beware of when doctrines are held to and believed through the guise of mystery and paradox because more than likely the are false doctrines devised to lead many astray. R. Scott Clark is clearly following a lie.