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The Black List – Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel
A Note by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon
Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel
by David J. Engelsma
Reformed Free Publishing Association, Grandville, MI: 1980.
216 Pages, Paperback.
David Engelsma is part of a small denomination called the Protestant Reformed Church. Their numbers and effectiveness seem to be settled within their denominational lines. Though they deny their hyper-Calvinistic tendencies, Englesma’s book seems to me to be a hallmark of their defense.
There is not a great deal of technical or exegetical work documented in the book. And, in this short notation on the work, I don’t intended on interacting with the book. After reading it, and interacting with Dr. Engelsma, at the time this was written, we will continue to agree to disagree.
I will say the following: Engelsma deals much with his denomination and the problems they had in their split with the Christian Reformed Church (but a split nonetheless right and true since the CRC has apostasized in many ways). Englesma’s book is a reflection of that split, more than it is dealing with a Biblical text.
What is the reason he wrote the book? To free himself and his denomination of Hypercalvinism biblically and historically. In my opinion, this fails. The only historical figures that agree with the PRC and Englesma’s position are the advocates surrounding John Gill – and at that point only in some manner (these historical figures being Hyper-Calvinist Baptists).
Engelsma quotes sections of Turretin, which is always refreshing to read, but does not quote everything Turretin said or stated on the views he is attempting to propagate. I would have enjoyed seeing him quote Turretin’s use of the love of God for all men. Engelsma is not fair with many of his quotes since he selectively cites them to prove his own points. You can look those up on your own and draw your own conclusions on the matter. I think Turretin would have vehemently disagreed with the way Engelsma quotes him.
Engelsma thinks he is fair with Calvin – but then he out rightly disagrees with Calvin, seemingly to imply that Calvin did not really spend so much time on the subject of the love of God and His bounty to all men, both reprobate and elect. This is certainly not fair to the Institutes, nor even of Calvin’s work Calvin’s Calvinism. Calvin emphatically states that God loves all men in a certain sense, and the Scripture passages to prove this are “innumerable.” (See Calvin’s Calvinism which is an extraordinarily great work.) Calvin spent a great deal of time surrounding “God’s Fatherly Love” for all men, but we see Engelsma spending very little time on that subject (and rightly so, for if he did, he would be denying what he was writing and what he says Calvin stood for.) Engelsma disagrees with Calvin, as well as Turretin on the same subject. The PRC’s position is that God only loves the elect and only hates the wicked. What do they do with the elect’s pre-regenerate state where we are all “children of wrath” like the others? Engelsma’s unbalanced emphasis on reprobation is clearly evident in his book, where the Biblical evidence leans more heavily to the call of all men to repent and believe the Gospel, which is what the position of the 1647 WCF states.
The Westminster Confession defines the offer, and God’s purpose in the offer, in this way:
Man by his fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, (of works) the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the Covenant of Grace: whereby He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved; and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life His holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe. (W.C.F. VII, 3).
How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
The Grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provided and offereth to sinners a Mediator and life and salvation by Him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in Him, and promiseth and giveth His Holy Spirit to all His elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation. (L.C. 32)
Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ hath purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel. (L.C. 59).
Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer. (S.C. 20).
(See Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 4:12; John 6:37-40; John 17:3; Acts 16:31; Acts 2:38; Gal 2:16-20; Rom. 1:16-17; Rom. 4:5; Acts 13:38-39; Acts 13:48; 2 Pet. 3:9; Matt. 11:28-30; Mark 1:14-15; Acts 17:30; Rev. 22:17; Ezek. 33:11; Isa. 1:18; Luke 13:34.
The denial of common bounty to all men, and the forcefulness of the assertion that God only hates the reprobate are Hypercalvinist ideologies stemming back from the time of John Gill and his mentor John Hussey. Could the PRC be better termed “Husseites?” I think that Engelsma, in trying to protect his view and his denomination from Hypercalvinism, simply admits to it by their position and the content of this book.
Take time to read it yourself, those he quotes in context, and make your own determines if he is favorably citing Calvin, Turretin and others. I would say he fails at his attempt and could not in good conscience recommend the work.