David H. J. Gay. Brachus 2008. Obtainable from Amazon Books. £10 per copy. Bulk prices available. No easy read.
David Gay promises ‘no easy read’ in this supplement to his The Gospel Offer is Free: A Reply to George M. Ella’s The Free Offer and The Call of the Gospel. It is basically a collection of notes, quotes and sources in tiny print covering a hundred pages more than Gay’s initial work. ‘If this gets too involved’ Gay advises, “omit the copious footnotes”. But where is the main text to which they are all appended? It is scattered higgledy-piggledy throughout the notes. You might find half a sentence somewhere followed by eight pages of notes before two more sentences appear only to delve into pages of notes again. Indeed, the book is so carelessly thrown together that Gay recommends a second reading to sort his jumbled thoughts out!! Gay’s ‘copious footnotes’ are even more frustrating regarding their superfluous bulk and lack of a coherent demonstration of Gay’s position. The many repetitions grate ad nauseam though Gay either apologises before repeating them again or explains their necessity. Gay says his over-voluminous notes do not prove anything but are merely for ‘support’ and relevant only ‘in principle’. However, he handles most of his ‘supporters’ like Davenant (puerile, mistaken, weak), Calvin (shuddering, audacious), Edwards (between Amyraldism and Owenism), Owen (did not take his own medicine), the AV (poor), Whitefield (questionable expressions) and Fuller (does not plead with sinners as he ought) so roughly that their support is nullified and Gay’s ‘principles’ non-evident. Gay claims to have made minor alterations only. The results prove otherwise. Indeed, when dealing with my work, he tells his readers not to check the sources but accept his version. In the books, he cuts out essential information I give, claiming it is not there; accuses me of saying what I never said and adds to and alters supposed quotes to suit his own taste. Gay calls the latter method ‘glossing’ and finds it Scriptural. So he ‘glosses’ avidly in both books. My arguments are cut and pasted until they are quite falsified. Go-it-alone Gay rejects any sincere criticism as ‘intemperate’, ‘silly’, nasty’, ‘stooping’, ‘abusive’ and ‘spilt ink’. My documented claims concerning what free-offer-duty-faith men in general preach are rejected with force in both books although in PR, Gay makes my criticism his own against the same ideologies. Yet Gay still defends the misleading terminology passionately for himself. Even where Gay and I agree, he still maintains that he is right and I am wrong. He calls his method ‘skirmishing’, i. e. ‘unpremeditated fighting.’ I accept Gay’s elucidation but such methods jeopardise objective debate.[1. GO, pp. 5-13 and, PR, p. 12. Ignoring my repeated testimony, Gay insists that I merely command sinners to repent but not to believe; GO p. 14; PR, pp. 17-18, 218; Vgl. FO, p. 66 with GO, p. ix; GO, p. 64 ff.; GO, p. 17 and passim.]
The Foreword, Introduction and Preamble
The ‘book’ starts off with Michael Haykin claiming that Fuller did not ‘cool the passion’ for evangelism though his opponents ‘cut its nerve’. This differs greatly from Haykin’s insistence hitherto that Fuller’s teaching fostered a mighty upsurge in evangelism. Is Haykin at last realising that whereas Fullerite churches stagnated, decreased and became Liberal, those orthodox churches which rejected Fuller’s ‘gangrene’ grew in numbers, several by hundreds and some by thousands? In this book, Haykin gives Fuller a low profile and Gay radically criticises Fuller. Protests from New Focus/Go-Publications have certainly contributed to this welcome U-turn.
In his Introduction, Gay defines evangelism’s contents as 1. Particular redemption, i. e. Christ dying to redeem the elect only. 2. The free offer, or “to invite and command all sinners to trust Christ telling them that it is their duty, and promising them salvation if they do.” Now my complaint is that Gay, though privately a Christian, publicly preaches paganism. His philosophy is anti-Trinitarian and based on a polytheistic duty-faith mysticism. Because I demonstrate this, Gay avenges himself with the cry of Hyper-Calvinist and, with the Banner of Truth’s blind support, argues that I do not preach the gospel (either?). The question is what is the gospel? Gay presents five conflicting theories or ‘supreme paradoxes’: the gospel of God’s decrees; the gospel of God’s desires or delight; the gospel of God’s secrets; the gospel of God’s revelation and the gospel of God’s Son. These are represented by five different wills in Gay’s multi-headed Olympian Tribunal.
Unless Gay comes out with a statement that the Triune God is One in will and character and especially One in His willingness to save a people for Himself, I shall continue to affirm that he is a stranger to gospel preaching. Unless Gay practices a gospel invitation which is not based on man’s duties but God’s mercies, I shall count him an enemy to the free gospel of salvation. Unless Gay stops ‘preaching’ that his polytheistic ‘multi-willism’ represents the doctrines of grace, then we must wash our hands of him. He is a danger to the churches and himself. We are to preach repentance and faith, not doubt and despair. Thus Gay also introduces Particular Redemption, the Free Offer and Duty-Faith as paradoxes, which, of course they are, but such contradictions, for him, are necessary for a right understanding of his weird anti-evangelical system. Preachers who sow the winds of doubt will reap the whirlwind of despair. Gay’s pitiful, whirlwind condition is displayed on page 53. After agreeing with Calvin and Clifford that God has two wills (sic), he adds the ‘nub’ of his disagreement with Clifford is which will of God did Christ die under? Did He die under God’s decreed will or did He die under God’s revealed will? Can one imagine a person with such a low view of God in Christ presenting such doubts to sinners as his ‘free offer of the gospel’ and then telling faithful preachers that they are Hyper-Calvinists if they do not accept such outrageous nonsense?
Now Gay comes to his Preamble, arguing that he was ‘remiss’ in condemning Ella’s ‘Hyper-Calvinism’ without mentioning Dr Alan Clifford’s Amyraldism. Gay believes that Clifford and I challenge his theology from different sides with himself as a balanced middle. Now, though I cannot accept Dr Clifford’s view of God, I find Gay’s chaotic deities far worse. His treatment of Clifford is ambivalent, probably because he has no firm basis himself. Gay, however, pays closer attention to Clifford’s Amyraldianism than he does to my alleged Hyper-Calvinism. Nevertheless, though Gay amasses numerous notes, queries and quotes against Clifford, he does not handle this material with any demonstrable competence.
Bishop Davenant v. Amyraldism
Space allows one example. Gay’s main witness for the prosecution against Clifford is Bishop Davenant, justly called ‘The Jewel of the Reformed Churches’. Gay sees Davenant as a Universalist and ‘proto’ Amyraldian feeling that if he can refute Davenant, he has refuted Clifford. However, Gay consulted only one of Davenant’s books, On the Death of Christ, after a tip from Clifford and after completing the bulk of PR, but Davenant is unrecognisable in Gay’s hands. Davenant quotes John 6:39-40 ‘of all which he has given me, I should lose nothing,’ denounces Pelagianism and rejects not affirms the commonly held idea ‘that Christ died for all sufficiently, but for the elect effectually.’ He explains how in terms of salvation, the question is not whether a method is hypothetically sufficient or not but whether God actually accomplishes what He wills to do or not. Davenant claims that God’s will cannot be separated from what God does, using an apt prison illustration:
“Suppose my brother were detained in prison for a debt of a thousand pounds. If I have in my possession so many pounds, I can truly affirm that this money is sufficient to pay the debt of my brother, and to free him from it. But while it is not offered for him, the mere sufficiency of the thing is understood, and estimated only from the value of it, the act of offering that ransom being wanting, without which the aforesaid sufficiency effects nothing. For the same reason, if many persons should be capitally condemned for the crime of high treason, and the king himself, against whom the crime was committed, should agree that he would be reconciled to all for whom his son should think fit to suffer death; now the death of the son, according to the agreement, is appointed to be a sufficient ransom for redeeming all those for whom it should be offered.”
Davenant thus argues that the ransom paid was for the redeemed only. This is not proto-Amyraldism but basic Christianity. Furthermore, the Synod of Dort commissioned Davenant to refute Cameronism-Amyraldism not justify it. So, in his Judgment, Davenant quotes Cameron, Amyrald’s teacher, as saying:
“The gracious and saving will of God towards sinners is to be considered as effectually applying to some persons, of His special mercy, the means of saving grace, according to that saying of the Apostle, He hath mercy on whom He will: or as appointing sufficiently for all. Of His common philanthropy, the means of saving grace, applicable to all for salvation, according to the tenor of the Covenant of grace as the Evangelist has said, God so loved the world, etc. Those whom the Divine Will, or good pleasure embraces under the first description, on them it always confers the means of saving grace in this life, and the end of grace, that is life eternal, or glory in the world to come (Rom. 8:28-29 and Eph. 1:3-5 etc.). Those whom the Divine Will embraces only under the latter description, on them it sometimes confers the means of saving grace, and sometimes does not: but it never confers the end of grace, that is, eternal life.”
Davenant argues that Cameron’s idea in the first clause is legitimate providing he means that God’s sovereign action also determines the will of the sinner. If he does not mean that, he has fallen into Semi-Pelagianism. Concerning the second idea that Christ died with some general intention for all men, Davenant says it is totally confusing, full of ambiguities and a mixture of truths and falsehoods. There are universal benefits of Christ’s death according to the common order of Providence as long as man is in this world but it cannot be said that Christ died for each individual savingly and that none are excluded. If anyone rules out God’s specific intention and special effectual will in saving His elect and leaves salvation to man’s making good use of his own will, this is Semi-Pelagianism indeed and thus Davenant argues ‘Whatever God simply wills, He performs’. Gay cannot argue that what God wills, he performs as he believes the fable that the Father has numerous ‘paradoxical’ wills and that His Son has yet another will. Thus Gay outdoes the Amyraldian two-will teaching, rejects Davenant’s orthodoxy and can, at best, be called a Hyper-Amyraldian.
Davenant rejects ‘universal grace’ in salvation as Semi-Pelagianism because universal grace exists in God’s general philanthropy to the world at large only and should not be confused with saving grace. Nor will Davenant accept Cameron’s idea that ‘God, through this universal grace, by an invitation suitable and sufficient in itself, calls all men to repentance,’ arguing like John Gill later, that the ‘experience of time and the contrary event of things’ refute this. ‘For if he speaks of repentance, which remission of sins and eternal life follows, that invitation or calling is not apt or sufficient of itself for such repentance, which does not send the penitent to Christ.’ Davenant is arguing that when God calls His elect to repentance, He gives them the wherewithal to repent by His sovereign will and that ‘an invitation and calling apt and sufficient for saving repentance is not given to all men.’ This teaching destroys the general free offer-Amyraldian position. Davenant also argues that there is no hardness in the human heart which God cannot soften if He will. He wills to soften the hearts of all His elect and does so. The bishop obviously interprets Amyraldians as believing that some men can soften their own hearts. Davenant concludes that the Synod of Dort neither teaches universal grace nor believes that ‘apt and sufficient means of salvation are granted to all men individually upon whom the Gospel hath not shone.’ He allows that there is a general intention or appointment concerning salvation in Christ for those who believe which is in harmony with the fact that ‘the absolute and not to be frustrated intention of God, concerning the gift of faith and eternal life to some persons, is special, and is limited to the elect alone.’ In arguing thus, Davenant gains this reviewer’s ‘Amen’.
How long will the BOT continue to support David Gay?
In succeeding chapters, Gay now distances himself radically from Fuller and free offer Fullerites on the scope of the atonement, arguing that his Particular-Redemption-Free-Offer-Duty-Faith mock-gospel has nothing to do with its extent.[2. Pp. 9, 11,110.] He must say this to justify his own continued use of the terms. As Davenant shows, gospel preaching has everything to do with redemption and modern free offer theology stands or falls with its extent. The question is how long will the BOT support Gay? They have now nothing in common. Gay is bravely cutting back the problems he created in an attempt to come to a working consensus with those he formerly opposed and shaking off the dust of former allies. Where then do I now stand in relation to Gay? Both of us claim to preach the gospel indiscriminately to all men everywhere as the Spirit leads. Both teach that “Christ has redeemed all the elect without exception, and no others.”[3. P. 27.] Gay challenged me to respond to his first book with a volume tackling his peculiarities. I explained in my Brief Response, which Gay uses, that this was pointless as Gay’s methods, doctrines and attitudes left no hope for an objective and fair basis for productive cooperation. However, now we do possibly have a basis for such cooperation, though enormous suspicions remain on both sides. I would thus offer Gay the right hand of fellowship in the matters on which we agree so that we might labour together reaching perhaps further consensus on the matter-of-life-or-death subject of gospel preaching. Gay has already kindly accepted my offer. Skirmishing is bad. Dialogue is good.
George M. Ella is a historian, author and biographer. His writings may be accessed at the online archived, ”Biographia Evangelica”.
George M. Ella, born February 1939 in Yorkshire, England, has lived most of his life on the European Continent. He is a retired Senior Civil Servant formerly employed in teaching, post-graduate teacher-training, chairing examination boards and curricula work. He holds degrees from London, Hull, Uppsala, Essen, Duisburg and Marburg universities with doctorates in English Literature and Theology. Dr. Ella has written regularly since the seventies for a number of magazines and newspapers and published numerous books on Church History, including biographies of William Cowper, William Huntington, James Hervey, John Gill, Augustus Montague Toplady, Isaac McCoy and Henry Bullinger besides works on doctrine and education. He is currently finishing the third volume of his series 'Mountain Movers'; a biography of John Durie; a work on Law and Gospel and further study material for the Martin Bucer Seminar. Dr. Ella is still internationally active as a lecturer and is a Vice-President of the Protestant Reformation Society. He is keenly interested in missionary work and has written on the spread of the Gospel amongst the Same people of Lapland, the people of India and the Native Americans. This present volume follows Dr. Ella's 'The Covenant of Grace and Christian Baptism', also published by the Martin Bucer Seminar. George Ella is married to Erika Ella, nee Fleischman, a former government administrator, and they have two sons Mark (41), Director of a Polytechnic College in Bremerhaven and Robin (39), Leading Senior Physician in a newly-built Geriatric and Psychiatric clinic in Dessau.