R.A. Finlayson on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Finlayson was Professor of Systematic Theology at the Free Church of Scotland College from 1946-66


Able Ministers of the New Testament

“Calvin’s Doctrine of God,” this was a paper read at the Puritan and Reformed Studies Conference, 1964, Reprinted by Tentmaker, p. 16

There is the further difficulty of reconciling the expressions of God’s desire for men with God’s absolute decree concerning man.  It would seem clear that God wills with genuine desire what he does not will by executive purpose. This has led theologians to make use of the two terms, the decretive will and the perceptive will of God, or His secret and revealed will.  For example it is revealed that God would have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, while he has not decreed universal salvation. Commenting on 2 Peter iii. 9, Calvin says:

‘But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many perish?  To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches out His hand, without a difference, to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to Himself, whom he has thus chosen before the foundation of the world’.

Thus it cannot be said that God merely desires the ultimate salvation of all men without also desiring their repentance and faith and sanctification: for as Calvin says that would be ‘to renounce the difference between good and evil’. The position could thus be more clearly put as meaning that God desires all men to be righteous in character and life and to use the means he has appointed to that end. It is in harmony with the revealed will of God that without the use of means appointed by Him the end shall not be attained. As a holy God, the Creator commands all his moral creatures to be holy, and He cannot be conceived as in any way obstructing their pursuit of holiness by His decree.


This quote was compiled by Donald MacLean at the James Durahm Thesis

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