R. Scott Clark on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

 

 

Article

“Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology”, in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: Systematic Theology at the Westminster Seminaries; Essays in Honor of Robert B. Strimple, edited by David VanDrunen  Buy  2004

Clark analyzes the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel in light of the historic reformed distinction of archetypal and ectypal knowledge.  Archetypal knowledge is that knowledge which God has of Himself, being infinite, which cannot be communicated to any creature, and relates to his secret will and decrees.  Ectypal knowledge is that knowledge which the creature as a creature has of God, which includes the Sincere Free Offer, and is analogous to, and founded upon, God’s archetypal knowledge.  

“Janus” in the title of the article refers to a two-faced Greek god, which H. Hoeksema antagonistically characterized the Sincere Free Offer with.  Clark responds to this charge.   

 

Quotes 

“Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology”, in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: Systematic Theology at the Westminster Seminaries; Essays in Honor of Robert B. Strimple, edited by David VanDrunen  Buy  2004

p. 169-170, On the meaning of the word “offer” in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s and in the Canons of Dort 

Both Klaas Schilder (1890-1952) and Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965) and more recently David Engelsma and Randy Blacketer have argued that when Dort and our theologians said [in Latin] “offero”  they only meant “to present” or “to demand.”

(Footnote: Herman Hoeksema, The Clark-Van Til Controversy, p. 33-38.  See also R. Blacketer, “The Three Points in Most Parts Reformed: A Reexamination of the So-Called Well-Meant Offer of Salvation,” Calvin Theological Journal 35 (2000), 37-65.  [Caspar] Olevian’s [1536 – 1587] usage [as well-meant] was not unique.  Blacketer errs, in part, by using a modern dictionary of classical Latin to determine the meaning of the word The meaning of offero must be determined by its immediate context and its actual use in Reformed theology.  Blacketer’s essay fails to account for the distinction between archetypal and ectypal theology, which is fundamental to this entire discussion.  Schilder also defined “offer” to mean “to present” or “to demand.”  See also A. C. DeJong, The Well-Meant Offer, 56-58.)

There is weighty evidence to the contrary, however.  For example, Caspar Olevian (1536-87) used this term and its cognates frequently to mean “to offer with intention that the offer should be fulfilled if the recipients meet the condition of trust in Christ.”  In his massive 1579 commentary on Romans and in his final commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, De substantia foederis gratuity inter Deum et electos [Of the Substance of the Covenant of Grace Between God and the Elect] (1585), he used it frequently this way (e.g., “oblatum beneficium [a kind, favorable offer]”), just as Dort later used it.

(Footnote: See In Epistolam…ad Romanos notae [Notes on the Letter to the Romans] (Geneva: 1579), 6, 475; De substantia foederis gratuity inter Deum et electos [Of the Substance of the Covenant of Grace Between God and the Elect] (Geneva, 1585), 2:29; 2:30-31; 2.48)

When our theologians wished to say “present” or “exhibit” or “demand,” they had other verbs (e.g., “exhibeo” or “mando”) with which to do it.  They did not need “offero” to perform the same function.  Rather, when our theologians spoke of the “evangelium oblatum,” that is, “gospel offered” in preaching, they believed that it entailed a well and sincerely meant revealed divine intention that whoever believes should be saved.  As we shall see below, the semantic range of “offero,” as it was used by the orthodox, is closer to “invitation” than “demand.”

There are good reasons arising from the Canons of Dort themselves, however, to reject the proposed reinterpretation of “offero.”  In 2.6 the Canons describe Christ’s sacrifice (hostia) as “oblatae,” “offered” on the cross.  While “presented” is not utterly remote from the sense of the text, “demand” and “exhibit” make little sense here The divines meant to say that Jesus gave Himself and his obedience as a sacrifice for us to the justice of God, in such a way that it was righteously received by God as payment for the sins of all believers, that is, the elect.  This is how the Vulgate and Theodore Beza’s Latin translations of Hebrews 10:18 used the cognate oblation (for the Greek prosphora).

(Footnote: Biblia Sacra Iuxta Vulgatum Versionem, ed. R. Weber et al. (Beuron and Tubingen: Deutche Biblgesellschaft, 1983);  Novum testamentum domini nostril Jesu Christi, ed. Theodore Beza (reprint, London: 1834.)

 

 

p. 171-172, on the Synopsis Purioris Theologiae [Synopsis of a Purer Theology],  Buy  Leiden, 1625

First in Synopsis Purioris Theologiae (Leiden, 1625), a compilation of [52] school disputations by Johannes Polyander (1568-1646), Andreas Rivet (1572-1651), Antonius Walaeus (1573-1639), and Antonius Thysius (1603-65), of whom only Rivet was not delegated to the Synod [of Dort, which had taken place in 1618-9], we find the archetypal/ectypal distinction taught (in Disputatio I, De sacrosancta theologia [Disputation 1, Of Holy Theology]) and from it a corollary, the internal/external distinction in the ordo salutis [order of salvation].

(Footnote: Synopsis Purioris Theologiae, ed. H. Bavinck (Leiden: D. Donner, 1881), 2-3, 294-300.)  

Under Disputatio XXX, De hominum vocatione ad salute [Disputation 30: Of Man’s Calling to Salvation], in Article 21, the Synopsis taught that through the “preaching of the Gospel” (an external operation performed according to ectypal theology) the “good” (bonum) of salvation (Art. 20) is “offered” (offertur), and the Holy Spirit “kindles” (accendit) “genuine knowledge” (serias cogitations) and “pious desire” (pium desiderium) in our hearts.

(Footnote: Ibid., 296.)  

Not surprisingly, the language of the Leiden Synopsis was virtually identical to that of Dort.

 

 

p. 173, on Peter van Mastricht

In the high orthodox period, Herman Witsius (1636-1708) and Peter van Mastricht (1630-1706) used the same categories and language about the relations between the external “common call,” and the efficacious call by the Holy Spirit of the elect through it.  In the latter’s [Mastricht’s] Theoretic-practica theologia [Theoretical-Practical Theology] (1699), in his chapter on “The Love, Grace, Mercy, Longsuffering and Clemency of God,” van Mastricht wrote at length about God’s “universal benevolence and beneficence” toward creatures.

(Footnote: P. van Mastricht, Theoretico-Practica Theologia, edition nova (Utrecht, 1699).  Synod Kalamazoo [of the Christian Reformed Church, 1921], under the first point, appealed to Van Mastricht to support the doctrine of the free offer of the gospel…)

In his chapter on calling, he defended the sincerity and genuineness of the well-meant offer of the gospel.  He made the invitation to trust in Christ of the essence of the call.

(Footnote: P. van Mastricht, Theoretico-Practica Theologia, 2.6.5-6.649.)

 

 

 

Related Pages

The Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel

Historic Reformed Quotes on the Sincere Free Offer of the Gospel