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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bill Johnston's Anti-Calvinist Remarks

In a post dated July 3 2006 in the Conversations In Calvinism blog, J. Matthew Cleary offered an example of what he referred to as "anti-Calvinism," which can be described as an antagonistic attitude or spirit of animosity toward Calvinism. There is certainly no denying this phenomenon; Dave Hunt, D. A. Waite, Ergun Caner, David Cloud and their ilk provide ample evidence of this egregious enmity in their published works, both online and in print, never mind the abundance of evidence provided by laymen on relevant message boards and such. I have certainly encountered it myself, any time I dare utter a word about the extent of man's sinful condition, the doctrines of grace or, especially, the nature and extent of Christ's atoning work on the cross. "The single most shameful fact in this," Cleary rightly comments, "is that the typical anti-Calvinist is a professing Christian" who, despite their profession of Christ, "will drop every standard of holiness, civility, and honesty" when addressing their fellow brothers in Christ. It is curious (although historically consistent) that the gospel of Christ and its related subjects arouse such heated tensions and create such sharp divisions. Yet Christ foretold that this should happen.

Nevertheless, the point of this brief article is an offering of what my response might have been toward some of the remarks reportedly made by one Bill Johnston. (I am responding to select remarks, not all of them. Cleary's response to Johnston was quite adequate and I would direct visitors there.)
No, you chose to believe God is unjust by providing salvation for some, but not for others. You've been lied to, pal!
It would seem Johnston feels that God is unjust if he provides salvation for some but not for others. You know, he is nearly right. But he seems to have it precisely backwards. God is not unjust because he provides salvation for some but not others. More accurately, God is unjust by providing salvation for some... period. If the whole world is fallen and enslaved to sin, and if therefore God would be just in condemning the whole world for its manifest sin, then the fact that God saves anyone at all is unjust! And this unjustice has a name: it is called mercy. Indeed we choose to believe that God is unspeakably merciful by providing salvation for some, when no one at all deserves it. To get what we deserve is just; ergo, our condemnation is a result of God being just. To get what we don't deserve is mercy; ergo, our salvation is a result of God being merciful—incredibly, awesomely, unutterably merciful.

It should be further noted that the gospel message is not—and has never been—that salvation is something that God makes possible. The mercy of God, to his glorious praise, is revealed in this: that salvation is something that God makes actual. To put the matter succinctly: God does not offer salvation; He saves. Period. Jesus said, "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day." And elsewhere he says, "For you granted [your Son] authority over all people, that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him." And again Jesus says, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand."
But, I don't suppose you guys witness to anyone, since you don't know who is chosen and who isn't, right?
Cleary's response was adequate, a response I can only echo: We witness to everyone precisely because we do not know who is chosen and who isn't. But more than this, we witness to everyone because it is the Father's will and we love to do the will of the Father. The fact that we can serve as instruments in God's purposes and stewards of his blessings is at once both deeply humbling and incredibly exciting. We do it because it is the will of the Father. We do it because we love to, and we love to because we love him. We do it because the gospel of Christ is good news, the best news in the whole world, news which enflames our hearts with overflowing love and joy and we just cannot keep quiet about it. We do it out of profound love for God and Jesus Christ our Savior. The message of the gospel is our deepest conviction and greatest vocation.
That's always funny to me! Are there any in your group that have been chosen to go to hell?
I do not know who Johnston is referring to here by the term "your group." If this term refers to the elect, then his comment is nonsensical and blasphemous: it maligns God's most holy name to accuse him of being contradictory, to say that he would choose for salvation those he chose for damnation. Johnston forgets himself here; the character of God is most holy ground, upon which Johnston recklessly treads with shameful irreverence. Unless this term refers to Calvinists, in which case I would echo the statement Jerry Bridges once made: "There are thousands of professing Christians who think they have been justified, who think their sins are forgiven and that they are on their way to heaven, who show no evidence of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in their lives." This is just as true for Presbyterians as it is for Methodists, just as true for Reformed Baptists as it is for Roman Catholics. Not all Calvinists are necessarily of the elect. Nor are all the elect necessarily Calvinists; there very well may be some atheists who are of the elect but, obviously, not yet regenerate. Is it possible that some self-professed Calvinists could find themselves condemned to the fires of hell? Certainly, just as some self-professed Baptists could, or those of any other sect.

The Arminian typically has a problem with the idea that God could 'choose' to send anyone to hell, like Johnston who feels it is repulsive nonsense to say that "God created some people to go to hell," that therefore "it is God's will for some folks to burn forever." What the Arminian doesn't realize is that his own particular view carries the very same conclusion! They usually feel that God, from his transcendent frame of reference, looks upon the human theater and elects for salvation those he knows will believe in Christ. (We shall ignore the inherent problems that plague this view.) What the Arminian often fails to realize is that this means God also knows who will not believe in Christ—and allows for their existence anyway knowing full well that they will end up suffering the fires of hell! As Cleary so poignantly asked, "Can Bill explain why God created men who [he knew] had no hope of salvation?"

Since Johnston has a tendency to characterize Calvinism as an 'elitist' mindset, I'm going to close this article with a question asked by another Arminian regarding that same sentiment. It is hoped that the response I offered to such concerns will obviate any future condescending pejoratives.

- - -
Let's pretend for a moment that I am a Calvinist. If only a few elite are saved (according to my beliefs), isn't it gosh-darn convenient that I'm one of them? If I assume that there is a special elite branch of humanity—God's chosen people—how do I know that I am one of them? Is there some way to know if I am really one of God's chosen, or does joining the denomination known as "Calvinism" presuppose it?
In one sense your questions are rather difficult to address, mostly due to the proliferation of supercilious strawmen, gratuitous invectives, and distorted caricatures regarding the theology of the Protestant Reformation. There is very little in your posts that would be at all recognizable to those who adhere to the theology of the Reformers; I myself can scarcely identify with anything you've described.

First of all, there are no "elite" that are saved. As demonstrated in Scriptures, and affirmed in Reformed theology, all mankind share in the same common misery of sin and death, equally involved in ruin and who by nature are "neither better nor more deserving than others"; wherefore "God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin." There can be no elite when "all men are conceived in sin, and are by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto." (Unlike so many theological views today, Reformed theology continues to reject the heresy of Pelagius; cf. The Canons of the Council of Orange.) Out of this collective population of sinners, God chose to redeem many "to redemption in Christ," determining by the good pleasure of his will "to give [them] to Christ to be saved by Him," who was appointed as their "Mediator and Head . . . and the foundation of salvation," for the praise of the riches of His glorious grace. God's choice "was not founded upon foreseen faith and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality or disposition in man, as the prerequisite, cause, or condition on which it depended"; rather, it was out of God's "mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will." (All quotations were excerpted from The Canons of Dort, the historic document of the Dutch Reformers from which the mnemonic TULIP was eventually derived, and therefore accurately represents the Reformed position on these issues.)

There is, therefore, no "elite" among men recognized in Reformed theology, despite the persistent gross caricatures of its detractors. The only elite is God Most High, who alone is to be praised; those who are redeemed among men are a product of God's choice based upon God's unchangeable purpose, out of God's mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of God's own will. From start to finish, salvation is of God. No facet of salvation—election, faith, justification, sanctification, etc—is a result of any intrinsic quality in man himself; rather, every facet of salvation is founded upon and wrought by the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. There is nothing naturally inherent in man himself that would move God to redeem him, "for all have sinned" and Scriptures are quite clear with respect to how God feels about sin. It is for this reason—a reason we have scarcely examined—that the Son of God had to come into the world to endure and accomplish all that he did. Ergo, there is none among men that are "elite."
Humans have a tendency to create a community where they can proclaim themselves better than everybody else.
To this I could only respond by saying: The only humans that do this are those who try to derive identity and meaning in relation to their peers. The Christian finds his identity and meaning in God, as the imago Dei—God is their source of life in all its dimensions, he is their ultimate source of identity insofar as they are created in God's image and are his children, he is their ultimate point of meaning insofar as the chief and highest end of man is to glorify God. Christians are not concerned about whether they are better than everybody else because God already informs the identity and meaning of their lives, freeing them to live charitably toward their fellow man, loving their neighbour, showing no favouritism, overall taking very seriously their stewardship duties toward the environment, their fellow man, and even their own personal lives.
If I assume that there is a special elite branch of humanity—God's chosen people—how do I know that I am one of them?
I think a responsible study of Scriptures will reveal that a Christian is never concerned about that sort of thing, because a Christian doesn't concern himself with salvation for what he'll get out of it; that is, he's not in it for the rewards. A Christian has a proper view of himself before God: utter and complete humility and a sense of undeservedness that results in deep repentance, profoundly humble thanksgiving, and never-ending praise for the glory of God and the unspeakable richness of his grace and the joy to be found therein. A Christian is fully convinced of God's justice and rendered awe-struck at God's mercy, recognizing that Christ Jesus alone is his refuge and the foundation of his salvation, that of himself he can offer God no worthy thing; that is, a Christian beats his breast and cries out, "Have mercy on me, a sinner!" I have personally said to others that even if I found out that, for some unique reason, I am not going to heaven, I would still continue ministering to others, teaching them about God and salvation, spreading the good news of the gospel, because I am fully convinced of my sin and fully convinced of God's justice. I don't think I deserve a damn thing; no one but Christ alone does. Therefore in Christ alone rests all my hope and all my faith. If I should discover that I will not be going to heaven, I will bow my head and confess to God, "You are wholly just." Am I one of the elect? I'm not concerned about it. My concern is for God's glory, not for any personal gains.

Since election is necessarily the sole jurisdiction of God, having taken place from eternity, antecedent to creation, who is and is not numbered among the elect is not our concern, for it is neither under our jurisdiction nor under our control. And this abdication of any concern about the identity of the elect is an expression of supreme faith and trust in the mercy, grace, and justice of God. Christians trust God absolutely, they praise him and give all glory to him alone. Christians do not question him, they do not audit his choices as though his purposes are subject to a higher court. And they certainly do not hold his purposes and choices accountable to man. If you want Christ in your life, pursue him with all your heart. If you truly want to follow his Word, then seek after it like a man starving for bread. If you want to be saved, cast yourself at the feet of the Lamb and cry out, "Have mercy on me, a sinner!" Pursue God through Christ Jesus our Savior like there is nothing more important in your life or all of the universe, because there really is nothing more important than that. And trust God's choices, absolutely and completely, never thinking to question his righteousness. Trust him to have made the best decision, for he is God and God is good.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"I contend we are both atheists..."

"I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." (Stephen F. Roberts; link)
Not only the existence of this quote but especially its abundant popularity among atheists is simply additional evidence that the average atheist is compelled more by ill-thought slogans and rhetoric than consistent rationality and critical thinking. (We shall disregard the worst of them, who find themselves compelled by fallacious antitheistic censure and invectives, which results from a complete abdication of reason.)

Stephen Roberts was once an acquaintance of mine; I would not be so presumptuous as to think that we were friends but I can say that we were friendly, and we did enjoy conversing. At the time he was a channel operator in #Atheism on the Dalnet IRC network, a channel in which I had spent considerable time for three or four years. He was known as 'wubwub' then and I, as always, was known as 'Ryft' (my online name for the last sixteen years). I remember Stephen as a good-natured fellow with a fantastic sense of humour who seemed to enjoy debate, as long as it did not go too deep; whenever it did, he was more content to sit back and let the likes of Sastra or KonKan address the finer points. For this reason I cannot fault him too harshly for originating the quote. Even if someone were to examine its merits with Stephen, it is more likely that he would abandon the exercise than pursue it too deeply. Musings and ramblings were his foray, not philosophical precision. If it wasn't fun then he wasn't interested, it seemed. And that is his prerogative.

But I do fault any atheist that embraces this quote while passing himself off as a rational and critical thinker, because this quote simply does not hold up under scrutiny. It is delightful rhetoric as far as it goes, but rhetoric never goes very far in the intellectual arena. When we attempt to apply this proposition to the real world, it soon falls apart.

"I contend that we are both atheists; I simply believe in one god fewer than you." Although this first clause of the proposition per se is nearly acceptable, it nevertheless possesses a minor but obvious difficulty. The one making this statement is an atheist who rejects all gods, and the one to whom he is speaking rejects all gods but one. Please note: How can the latter be referred to as an atheist when he affirms a belief in one God? To affirm a belief in God contradicts the basic definition of 'atheist'. A commitment to sound reason necessitates that this first clause be deemed erroneous and nonsensical for contending that "we are both atheists" when the one to whom it is speaking affirms a belief in at least one God—the person to whom it is speaking is a 'theist', not an 'atheist'.

"When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." This is embarrassingly false. In reality, when it is understood why I dismiss all other gods, the error of this clause becomes starkly evident. For example, one reason why I dismiss the god of pantheism as illegitimate is because, by the pantheist's own admission, his god is none other than the world in which we live. The god of pantheism is nothing more than 'nature', which is an entirely appropriate and suitable term already; to replace the term 'nature' with the term 'god' is superfluous and obfuscating outside the scope of sentimentality. Now, will Stephen claim that he rejects the God of Christianity because God is nothing more than 'nature'? I surely hope not, for by that he would commit the straw man fallacy.

But this clause is false on an even larger scale. Why do I reject all other possible gods? Because the Scriptures declare that "there is one God," that "besides [him] there is no god," that all other gods "by nature are not gods," and so forth. My commitment to the truth of Scriptures is ultimately my reason for rejecting all other possible gods. I think we can be quite certain that this is not Stephen's reason for rejecting the God of Christianity. When one understands the reason why I dismiss all other possible gods, we do not thereby find Stephen's reason for rejecting the God of Christianity after all. Both clauses of this proposition are, in reality, nonsense and false.

Linkography:
  • Stephen F. Roberts Home Page - http://www.wildlink.com (accessed 13-Oct-06)

  • The History of 'The Quote' - http://freelink.wildlink.com/quote_history.htm (accessed 13-Oct-06)

Friday, August 18, 2006

It's Both Moral and Evil

A blogger who, at this point, I know only as Aaron, wrote a brief piece about his lack of surprise that it might soon be politically incorrect to refer to Satan as evil, in response to professor Henry Ansgar Kelly's new book Satan: A Biography (Cambridge University Press). "No one is ever really bad," Aaron sardonically retorts. "They are simply 'misunderstood'." Kelly's book as a subject might be interesting in itself but what has me writing here tonight is the comments that attended Aaron's post. Of particular interest was the exchange between myself and an apparent atheist named Mark (who runs a blog that reviews films, and goes by the name 'Cineaste' online).

Satan, Mark insists, is nothing more than a fiction created by Christians, to give them something upon which they can lay blame for all the evil in the world. "Without Satan to blame everything bad on," he remarks, "Christians would have only God left to blame the ills of the world on. Christians can't have that; hence, they put Lucifer in the story. Satan has an important role to play in the Christian mythology." (We will ignore the fact that he conflates Satan and Lucifer, and his poisoning-the-well assertion that Christianity is mythology.) The part that really grabbed my attention, however, was where he said that people have a tendency to "confuse good and evil with morality." He feels that anything you "think of as 'evil', you are confusing [it] with what you think of as immoral." It grabbed Aaron's attention, too, and he said he found it curious that Mark thinks good and evil are not connected with morality. Mark reaffirmed his feeling that they are not connected, and then added his rejection of all supernatural beings. (With contradictory flair, he claims that if you remove man from the picture then 'nature' is all that's left—as though man were not himself a part of nature.)

I simply had to reply, of course. The following is the exchange between myself and Mark (click here).

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Is God Responsible for Creating Evil?

In two independent discussions with atheists Eric and Ryan, they each present what they feel are detrimental arguments against God with the presence of evil in the world. (It should be noted that they address moral evil, which is distinct from natural evil, e.g. earthquakes). I attempt to offer a response which shows that the light of criticism is really not shining quite as brightly as they might have thought.

Eric summarizes his position like this: "If nothing, ever, was without God, then God created evil as well as good. It is only logical. And God is ultimately responsible. This God is the creator and must be accountable. The greatest authority holds the greatest responsibility." Ryan follows the same line of thinking, adding further, "People, for some reason, choose not to believe that God is the creator of evil, finding every excuse in the book to let God off the hook. God is credited with creating everything in creation—except evil."

On the surface this might seem a decent enough argument but it is plagued with a crippling difficulty, and it is found at the point where they each essentially argue that, if God is the sovereign Creator of all things, "then God created evil as well as good." There is, of course, no disagreement between us over the premise that God is the sovereign Creator of all things—as a Christian, I'm going to enthusiastically endorse this premise. However, their argument does ultimately fail, and this failure is due to the fact that, although God is the Creator of all things, good and evil are not themselves 'things' capable of being created. Let's explore why.

'Good' and 'evil' are strictly moral terms. When we say that this thing is good or that thing is evil, we are making a moral pronouncement. And if God is our ultimate ground of moral order—and he is—then these terms become relational descriptions. What this means is, a thing is determined to be 'good' by the degree of its relationship to God's righteous nature, notably expressed prescriptively through his law, and 'evil' becomes a privative term expressing any want of conformity with such (inasmuch as cold is a privative description of heat).

Evil (or sin) is not some 'thing' that can be created; it describes a relationship between things but is not itself a thing, it's not any sort of entity itself. It is strictly a term which describes a privative relationship (i.e. consisting in the absence of something), whether it's a privation from an original state of righteousness in communion with God (a condition of being which we call "original sin") or a privation from God's holy law (acts of commission or omission which we call "actual sin"). Both original sin and actual sin discuss what is ultimately a relational privation of some form; in the scope of Christian theology, sin/evil is described in only these two forms. Therefore, to insist in the face of all this that sin/evil is itself a thing capable of being created is to construct a strawman argument—which is a form of faulty reasoning that regretfully fails the test of relevancy.

That these terms are relational descriptions is never escaped, for even if one's ground of moral order is something other than God, goodness or evilness is still determined by the degree of its relationship to that foundation. That is, no matter what one's worldview is, good and evil are not in themselves things capable of being created. Again, they describe a relationship between things but are not themselves things.

As far as God being held accountable, he isn't. If accountable means "liable to account for one's actions"—and it does—then God is not held accountable, for since he alone is the embodiment of Holiness, the supreme Law-giver and the sovereign Judge, there is no one to whom he must give an account. There is, by definition, no one above God to whom he is subject. We are God's creation—indeed, the whole of the universe is—so it is we who are subject to him. I suppose an atheist might object and insist that it is actually man who created God, but that would be a pretty silly objection: you see, a fictional character is even less liable to account for his actions, so the atheist would hardly make his case this way. That is the rich irony: whether by Christian or atheist philosophy, in either worldview there is none to whom God is liable to account for his actions.

I will submit, with ease, that God is the First Cause of evil's existence, in virtue of creating beings capable of relational privation through their natural free agency. This does not make God the author of evil, however. The distinct difference is that he is the author of beings who are capable of evil, but it is they who are the authors of evil in virtue of creating a breach between themselves and God Most Holy.

This put Ryan into quite a state: "First you submit with ease that God is the First Cause of evil's existance," he said, "then you point out that God cannot create evil. Then you say God is not accountable for anything that God does. Then you try to change and confuse the definition of evil into a non-existent relational term. You are talking in circles."

There is a lot to respond to, right there, so let's tackle it one at a time.

First of all, I submit easily enough that "God is the First Cause of evil's existence" only insofar as (1) all things are ultimately traced back to him as the sovereign First Cause, and (2) he created beings capable of relational privation (sin/evil), through endowing them with free agency. Given God's nature as eternal, sovereign, omniscient and so forth, he knew exactly what he was doing when he created those beings; ergo, he had a purpose in it. Sin/evil is a relational privation brought about by creatures whose actions create a breach between them and God and his law. Put as simply as possible, (1) God created man; (2) man fell; (3) this condition of being, and all actual transgressions which proceed from it, are both identified as sin (original and actual). In this way man is the author of sin, not God. God is the author of man. But since God already knew what would happen with this creation he was about to produce, he is the ultimate First Cause.

Secondly, I never pointed out "that God cannot create evil." I pointed out something completely different, which was that evil "is not some thing that can be created." This is a rather important distinction we must carefully note. You see, if we say that God cannot create a thing then we have said something about God, but if we say that evil cannot be created then we have said something about evil.

Third, it is unfortunate for Ryan's argument but Christianity has described sin/evil as a relational privation for millennia. That is, I've neither changed nor confused anything. Although it's possible that Ryan might be experiencing some confusion, the fact is I've presented a definition that is consistent with historical Christian theology. It is possible for me to cite thousands of years' worth of historical evidence to demonstrate this, but I'm not sure people would want to slog through that. Sin/evil has been described for thousands of years as "a privation from an original state of righteousness in communion with God (a condition of being which we call 'original sin') or a privation from God's holy law (acts of commission or omission which we call 'actual sin')."

Fourth, as the readers can see, I'm actually not talking in circles at all.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Self-Immolation of Dawson Bethrick

I found a new toy.

That toy is Dawson Bethrick and, along with whatever other pursuits he enjoys, he maintains the Bahnsen Burner blog (a reference to the late Greg Bahnsen, Reformed Christian apologist), which serves as his platform from which he goes about "incinerating presuppositionalism"—at least that is how he describes his blog. Judging by the posts I had read, it seems he's still looking for a match.

His post "Can Reformed Christians Count?" (07-JUN-05) seems to be a fairly typical demonstration of the integrity of his arguments, and one I wanted to succinctly post a response to before heading to bed. Bethrick remarks that Reformed Christians
tell us that their one god is actually three in number. Then they say we're wrong when we point out that this belief of theirs amounts to a species of polytheism. So we ask: Do you worship one, or do you worship three? Typically, instead of clear answers, we get bad attitude, as if we were supposed to accept their tangled convolutions on their say so.
Yes we say that you are wrong on the charge of polytheism, and for a very good reason! If polytheism is defined as belief in and worship of a multiplicity of gods—and it is—then the charge is precisely false, for Christians believe in and worship God alone, who is one. Christianity does not teach that the one God "is actually three in number," if by that you mean three Gods. "Do you worship one, or do you worship three?" Bethrick wants to ask. There is only one response possible to this intellectually dishonest equivocation: "Do we worship one what, or three what?" Do we worship one God? Yes. Do we worship three Gods? No. Is God a person? No, God is three persons—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I suspect Bethrick's confusion stems from the idea that "God" implies "a person," yet such an idea fails to correspond with what Christianity affirms and proclaims. He might be tempted to accuse Christianity of affirming a logical contradiction on this point, but that would be the case if and only if Christianity affirmed God is a person and, at the same time and in the same sense, three persons. But this is not what Christianity affirms. And I should like to counter that if Bethrick persists in framing his response according to the idea that God is a person, despite an awareness that Christianity teaches that God is not a person but rather three persons, then his argument commits the Straw Man fallacy and is therefore bereft of both validity and intellectual integrity.

Friday, November 04, 2005

David Heddle and the Salvation "Offer"

David Heddle (http://helives.blogspot.com) in a recent post was wrestling with the idea of hyper-Calvinism in the context of evangelism, with a personal interest in one particular "flavor" of hyper-Calvinism of which he has been accused: "the denial that the gospel is a 'sincere' offer of salvation made to all persons." He was wondering if it's possible to understand and articulate God's offer of salvation as authentically sincere. Specifically, he wants to know "whether God Himself makes a sincere offer of salvation to everyone." He received a variety of comments in response to this and it made me think, How would I respond?

I believe my answer would have been, "No, he doesn't." And I say this because I am convinced that God doesn't offer salvation to all in the first place, much less sincerely. He doesn't offer salvation to all persons; rather, he efficaciously saves his sheep. I don't particularly favour the practice of describing salvation as an "offer," mostly because it seems to suggest that Christ's atoning work only made salvation 'possible' and is therefore accessibly 'offered' to all, that the will of the sinner is the ultimate sine qua non of his salvation, that God's grace is only penultimate. It smacks of Arminianism (with its roots buried firmly in semi-Pelagianism). Since Christ died for all men without exception, the 'offer' of salvation goes out 'sincerely' to all persons and they should 'make a decision for Christ' and grab hold of that.

It's not that salvation is offered to all. This, I feel, is incorrect. Rather, it's that the gospel is proclaimed to all—and that quite sincerely! With passion, conviction, and boldness, we proclaim sincerely the good news of reconciliation for all who believe. We scatter the seed indiscriminately, but whether it takes solid root and grows is up to God and his most wise and righteous purposes (1 Cor 3:6-7; Act 13:48; 16:14). "I lay down my life," Jesus said, not for all persons but "for the sheep." There are some, like those Jews to whom he was speaking, who do not believe because they are not his sheep (Joh 10:26), nor do they hear the message of Christ because they do not belong to God (Joh 8:47). "All that the Father gives me will come to me," Jesus proclaimed. He came to do the will of the Father, which is "that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day" because the Father "granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him" (Joh 6:37-39; 17:2).

Salvation is not offered to all, sincerely or otherwise. However, the gospel of peace is indeed proclaimed to all, and very sincerely. The gospel is about salvation but is not itself salvation. 'Salvation' is a multi-faceted rubric of which the gospel is a part; other facets are sanctification, justification, regeneration, election, etc. Salvation is God's jurisdiction alone. Proclaiming the gospel, with sincerity to all persons, is our jurisdiction. It is in fact our great commission. And great joy.