Monday, October 17, 2011

On common grace and the restraint of sin

Does God prevent the world from becoming more evil? Yes. If not then that would mean the world is as bad as it can be, which is clearly wrong in light of 2 Tim 3:13.
Therefore by His goodness God restrains the reprobate from further and greater wickedness then they would be prone to commit.
See Abimelech in Genesis 20:5.
This means they get a lighter sentence in hell, (every sin has a just retribution against it Heb 2:2, they commit fewer sins, which means a lighter sentence Matt 10:15) which flies in the face of "common grace just serves to increase the reprobates condemnation in hell."

Or, as Jonathan Williams puts it, when God is restraining wickedness is He doing
  1. An unmerited favor that decreases their condemnation, or
  2. A vehicle that brings greater condemnation.
If you say one then the case is settled against against the popular notion that common grace is ultimately bad for the non-elect. If you say two then Hitler receives a lesser condemnation than most of mankind, having not abused restraining grace.


Ryan said...

You do realize that you are quoting a non-Christian supralapsarian, right?

David J. Houston said...

Sorry Phil, I don't see how saying that those who are given more common grace than others and yet remain in their sin will receive a harsher punishment lines up with saying that Hitler will be judged less stringently.

Common grace refers to all kinds of temporal blessings such as safe country to live in, a Christian upbringing, a good physical constitution, intelligence, the opportunity to provide for others, etc. It does not simply refer to the restraining of sin. so Hitler, who was given much power, could still be held more responsible than the majority of people who have never experienced that kind of power.

And besides, we don't know how all of the various facets of common grace are brought together to determine how much each person has received. For all we know, the child who grows up in the church, hearing the gospel preached faithfully and with parents who have struggled to raise him up in the fear and admonition of the Lord who then turns his back on the faith and lives a pretty normal life but with no 'obvious' sins will receive a harsher judgment than Hitler.

Phil said...

If it's unclear then read it again. The hypers assert that there is no such thing as common grace, these temporal benefits exists as a mechanism to increase the punishment of the reprobate in hell.
If that were so then God would not be restraining men from further sin, as it would run counter to His purpose.
And before you assert He was doing it for the sake of the elect consider the verse in Genesis, the fact that there was a reason given for restraining him, and it was not Abraham.
Then consider that has no bearing on the argument. And with that Ryan is wrong twice over. :(

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

1. "hypers assert that there is no such thing as common grace, these temporal benefits exists as a mechanism to increase the punishment of the reprobate in hell."

2. ???

3. "If that were so then God would not be restraining men from further sin, as it would run counter to His purpose."

4. Profit!

David said...

Hey Dom,

You say:

1. "hypers assert that there is no such thing as common grace, these temporal benefits exists as a mechanism to increase the punishment of the reprobate in hell."

...3. "If that were so then God would not be restraining men from further sin, as it would run counter to His purpose."

David: Actually that was what Herman Hoeksema and others of the PRC taught and still teach. They are bound to that conclusion because in Scrpture they see that God does "apparently" speak of doing good things to and for the non-elect. However, given that he has absolutely no favourable disposition towards them at the back of these good things he does to and for them, and given that in no way does he desires their salvation, but, rather, only has an unalloyed desire that they not be saved, and that by their damnation, God is glorified, this led them to the claim that he does [seemingly] good things to and for them with the single purpose of increasing their guilt on the supposition that they've rejected these "good things."

Indeed, in early Hoeksema's writings, eg his book "God's Goodness Always Particular" he speaks as tho the good done to the non-elect is merely phenomenologically good to the human observer, but that in reality they are not "blessings" at all for the non-elect.

Just as a short history lesson. There is classic hypercalvinism of the pure Gillite variety actually affirmed a common love/grace and goodness for all. But this common love/grace, etc, is purely with regard to temporal well-being: food, clothing, etc, and has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with their spiritual well-being.

After Gill, the classic Hypers moved to denying any common love or grace at all.

However, all classic hypers denied any well-meant offer of grace or salvation, any "offer" per se. All denied duty-faith (Skepp, Hussey, Gill, Brine, Rushton, et al).

All classic Hypers denied that God, in any sense, desires the salvation of the non-elect.

At the beginning of the 20thC, Herman Heoksema, revived the Gillite idea (though perhaps without referencing or sourcing his ideas directly in Gill) of the denial of the free and well-meant offer. He also picked up on the denial of any common love or common grace to all men. And behind all that, he denied that God in any sense desires the salvation of the non-elect.

Gordon Clark was influenced by Hoeksema and Gill. Gerstner likewise.

Hope that helps,

David J. Houston said...

I've been reconsidering my position over the last few days and think I've come to a better understanding of common grace. As I stated earlier, I believe that all of the temporal blessings given to the reprobate actually serve to bring a greater condemnation upon them. However, I now see God's restraining of their sin not as a means of bringing a greater condemnation upon them nor as a means of blessing them for their sake but rather for purposes that will benefit the elect in some way. So it's a softer view that still rejects the idea that God favours the reprobate in any particular way.

Mr. Ponter, would you agree that one need not be a hypercalvinist to deny that God desires, in any sense, the salvation of the reprobate?

David said...

If I read you correctly, as asking, is the denial that God desires the salvation of the non-elect, in any sense, a mark of hypercalvinism, then yes.

The explicit and express denial that God by revealed will, in any sense, desires the salvation of the non-elect is one of the marks of hypercalvinism.

However, keep in mind that at the human level, people sometimes express themselves without careful or consistent thought and so at times express things which are in themselves mutually inconsistent. We have to allow for things like that.


David J. Houston said...

My question was whether the denial that God desires, in any sense, the salvation of the reprobate is sufficient to qualify one as a hypercalvinist. I have John Owen in mind as I ask the question.

I'm thankful that you take into consideration the fact that people are often much better christians than they are logicians and that we should not always assume that the person who disagrees with our particular theological views is an unbeliever. I hope some of your followers will follow suit.

Phil said...

Heh. Signing me up against my consent for the punishment Paul metes out in 1 Cor 1 huh? That's pretty unkind!

Dave works from a completely different frame of thought than I do although his access to a lot of source material I find fascinating and helpful.

Let me ask you this David (H), in what way are the elect really benefited from having God restrain the sin of the reprobate? I mean it's a great step from saying 'no common grace' but I'm not sure it holds up either because
1. That's not the reason God gave for restraining sin in Gen 20.
2. It paints God as sort of reluctant to hand out blessings, when the Sermon on the Mount paints Him as otherwise. "Well I can't really bless my children without it accidentally helping the other guys, which isn't what I really wanted, but I guess that's okay." To me the sermon on the mount speaks, the death on the cross (asking for their forgiveness!) speaks to an astonishing love that does not begrudge the reprobate blessings.

And lastly, you rag on me as thinking that hypers are not Christians, but don't they deny the necessity of faith? And isn't the denial of faith the mark of a non-believer, non-Christian? We can give a lot of leeway because people are fallible, but when they are unwilling to repent, hostile, and angry, (another sign of a non-Christian) the evidence kinda starts to mount.

Phil said...

And while I still have the floor, I think it's more helpful to speak of David less as my leader and more as my master, as one day I intend to kill him with lightning from my fingers, take an apprentice of my own, and kill other people who favor the colors blue or green.

And I'll admit that I'm somewhat less charitable to hypers then some others may be, because I was pretty well abused by them when I was trying to learn from them. When I first came out of Arminianism I didn't know what to make of a lot of verses, so I went looking for help. They treated me not as a weaker brother but as an enemy. And it always leaves me wondering what kind of group is so ready to stomp and crush someone seeking the truth? Not that every person who holds those views is wrong (I did, briefly) but the one who continues to hold them is.
It's like Catholicism in that way. And I think you wouldn't disagree with me on that yes?

David J. Houston said...

In answer to your objections:

(1) The reason for God’s restraining Abimelech’s sin is pretty obvious unless you don’t think that stopping a man from sleeping with Abraham’s wife is a blessing to Abraham. For this reason I don’t think it works well as a counter-example. But, to answer your question, in principle the restraining of sin creates a suitable environment in order to show the riches of divine kindness to the elect.

(2) God is never reluctant to hand out blessings because each of his purposes achieves its goal and he does nothing out of accordance with his character. I assume that you’re referring to Matthew 5:43-48? If so, then I’ve already stated that these temporal blessings serve the purpose of bringing greater judgment upon the reprobate according to the principle that those who are blessed with more in this life are held more responsible in the next. Also, I don’t know where you get ‘Christ died for all’ from ‘God sends the rain upon all’. That’s a pretty big leap.

You keep speaking about the necessity of faith but I’m not quite sure what you mean. Do you mean that hypercalvinists don’t believe that a person must have faith to be saved? Most people don’t. Some babies and severely handicapped persons are commonly believed to be saved apart from faith. But perhaps you are only referring to able minded people, in which case I don’t know who you have in mind when you make this accusation. I certainly think that it is possible for God to do this according to his absolute power but I don’t think that he will do this because of what he has revealed in the Scriptures.

As for unwillingness to repent are you thinking of anyone in particular? Steve and Paul perhaps? If so, then I think you're off base. Neither of them feel that they have done anything wrong so it would be disingenuous for them to apologize and impossible for them to repent.

Concerning you're murderous fantasies about David Ponter... I don’t see why you'd target Ponter and the colours blue and green when Samuel L. Jackson is still around. I mean, purple is just dumb. DUMB.

The last paragraph actually helps me to understand where you’re coming from so thank you. I’m sorry that you were mistreated. However, there are jerks in every theological camp so I wouldn’t make that the discriminating factor for detecting who is in the faith or not. Look at the Corinthians… they were a mess! I mean, who sleeps with there stepmom?! Ewwwww! And yet Paul calls them brothers. Crazy!

David said...

Hey DavidH

You say:

"I hope some of your followers will follow suit."

Who do you think we are exactly?

What followers? I don't have any followers. At most there are two of us who actively research this topic on a sustained basis, and that is Tony and myself. Even then we have different emphases.

All of us are from different backgrounds who have come together for common interests, and yet with lots of diversity, different denominations, different countries, and different levels of engagement upon the topic.

We do not meet regularly: we do not even meet at all. We don't wear uniforms, heck, we don't even model caps and shirts like some of our opponents do. ;-) There is no central internet cite, no regular conference calls. The C&C yahoo cite has more folk who oppose moderate classic Calvinism than are for it.

That's just funny. I really have to wonder who you think we are?

Dont believe you own parties propaganda about us, DavidH. :-)


David J. Houston said...

I was referring to Phil and anyone else who might throw all of us ‘high’ Calvinists in the ‘not saved’ category so you're universalizing the statement beyond what I intended.

And you might at least consider a secret handshake. It builds comradery.

Phil said...

A secret handshake! Why didn't I think of that!

Hey Dave. What do you think of that latest post? It got Ryan to drop me as a facebook friend.