Jared Smith On Various Issues

A Classic Misrepresentation of High-Calvinism

Here is a classic misrepresentation of High-Calvinism, and the misleading assertion that Fuller was the hero who rescued the Particular Baptists from ‘Hyperism’:

“Fuller’s pastorate at Soham, which lasted until 1782 when he moved to pastor the Baptist church in Kettering, Northamptonshire, was a decisive period for the shaping of his theological outlook. It was during his time there that he decisively rejected High Calvinism (i.e., an emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation to an extent which denied the free offer of the gospel and seriously hampered effective evangelism. Fuller said that his predecessor ‘had little or nothing to say to the unconverted.’).”[1]

First, denying the free-offer is not an extreme emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation, it is a consistent application of His sovereignty in salvation.

To “offer”, is to “present or proffer (something) for (someone) to accept or reject as so desired”.[2] An offer of the gospel reduces God to an ineffectual, pathetic beggar, desperately hoping and anxiously waiting for the sinner to believe and repent. However, the Scriptures teach that the sinner is born again “of God” (Jn 1:13)—when He quickens the heart, He doesn’t employ the help of the sinner or the preacher. The essential persuasion of the gospel, is not discovered in the earnestness and passion of the preacher, but rather, in the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. Henceforth, when the sinner is not born again by “the will of the flesh”, why do the Fullerites insist on appealing to the “will of the flesh” by offering the sinner the gospel? When the sinner is not born again by “the will of man”, why do the Fullerites attempt to convert the sinner to the gospel by arguing, pleading and begging the sinner to ‘accept the offer’? Such offers of grace are inconsistent with the gospel (which is according to the power of God unto salvation).

Furthermore, the underlying issue of the free-offer revolves around the subjects of the gracious covenant—are the blessings of salvation exclusive for the elect, or are they potentially available to the non-elect? Calvinists, subscribing to Particular Redemption, rightly believe the blessings are exclusive to the elect; Arminians, subscribing to Universal Redemption, incorrectly believe the blessings are available to the non-elect. Fullerites subscribe to both positions, contradictorily believing the atonement is sufficient for the non-elect (Universal Redemption), but only efficient for the elect (Particular Redemption). The reason Arminians and Fullerites share a common duty-faith message, and both give the free offer of grace, is because they subscribe in one form or another to Universal Redemption. The High-Calvinist maintains that the blessings of salvation secured under the terms and promises of the gracious covenant are exclusive for the elect (sufficient and efficient). And, since the non-elect have absolutely no part in this gracious covenant, they are not responsible to believe what has never been provided for them or promised to them. When the preacher makes an offer of grace to the unregenerate, he is issuing a promise that God has provided salvation for him/her; if the unregenerate sinner turns out to be numbered with the non-elect, then the preacher has issued a false promise; if the preacher has issued a false promise, then he becomes an unfaithful ambassador for Christ.

“But”, argues the free-willer, “By removing the responsibility of the non-elect to believe on Christ to the saving of the soul, the High-Calvinist has made void the sinner’s accountability before God.” No, this is not true. Rather, the High-Calvinist affirms the non-elect’s responsibility and accountability before God. All sinners are responsible to keep the terms and are made subject to the curse of the covenant of works (Law). The non-elect remain under these terms and its curse, and will be held accountable by God on the day of judgement. However, when God regenerates the elect, they are delivered from the terms and curse of the Law, having become partakers (experientially) of the covenant of grace. Whereas they are by nature the “children of wrath”, even as the non-elect, yet they are made the “children of God”, because they belong to Him by electing love, redeeming grace and sanctifying power. The regenerate, being “[no longer] under the law, but under grace”, are now responsible to God according to the rule of the gospel.

Second, a denial of the free-offer doesn’t hamper effective evangelism, it filters ineffective evangelism.

Free offers are invariably intertwined with a duty-faith message (sometimes called ‘decisional-regeneration’). This is a perverted gospel that mass produces false converts. All types of manipulative devices are skillfully used by preachers to persuade sinners to make a profession (decision) of faith. And, even when preachers are careful not to use manipulative devices, the dangers of giving a free offer are still present, for it encourages sinners to ‘accept Christ’, without having been born again.

While Fullerites measure the success of their evangelism by how many converts they can make, High-Calvinists measure the success of their evangelism by how faithful the ambassador of Christ is to the gospel of sovereign grace. High-Calvinists recognize they can only plant and water the gospel seed (and this ‘seed’ must be of the best quality)—it is God that gives the increase. As God does not appeal to the defiled heart of the sinner by begging and pleading he/she turn to Christ, so neither should His ambassadors. Preachers who conduct themselves in this manner are unbecoming of the representatives of the sovereign Jehovah. The herald (‘an official messenger bringing good news’) of the Lord should do precisely that—announce or proclaim the good news of glad tidings (that the TriUne Jehovah has planned, procured and promised salvation for those that He has set apart as the special objects of His love).

Ultimately, the free offer is no longer a free gospel. Once the sinner is required to “accept”, “receive”, “believe” or “repent” in order to be saved, the grace of God has been taxed with a ‘work’ of man. Forthwith, the sinner is made to earn his/her salvation by exercising some type of will power. On the other hand, the High-Calvinist preaches a gospel that is full of the grace of God, and is free from the conditions of a duty-faith message. Indeed, it is the High-Calvinist, as opposed to the Arminian or Fullerite proponent, who preaches the fullest and freest gospel to sinners! And this is the only gospel that saves sinners, for “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

[1] ‘Andrew Fuller: Life and Legacy’ by Michael A G Haykin, Banner of Truth – Banner of Truth: Andrew Fuller
[2] Oxford English Dictionary