The spring issue of the PRT Journal contains a thorough review of a new book with a subject of great interest to the Protestant Reformed Churches: the free offer of the gospel. The book is Sam Waldron's The Crux of the Free Offer of the Gospel (Free Grace Press, 2019). The reviewer is PRC theologian and former professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament Studies, David J. Engelsma.
Engelsma expresses gratitude that the PRC position is at least mentioned in the book, though its arguments are not answered and it is once again misidentified as hyper-Calvinistic. But at the outset the reviewer gets to the heart of the debate, as Waldron himself states:
"Waldron’s main point throughout the book is that if God has commanded something, He must also desire it. Therefore, since God commands all who hear the preaching of the gospel to repent and believe, He must desire the salvation of all hearers of the gospel. For Waldron, therefore, God’s will of command is synonymous with His desire.
"To answer Waldron’s argument we need to define our terms, beginning with God’s will.
"I define God’s will as follows: God’s will is the sovereign determination of His infinite mind concerning all things. First, God has determined that the creature exists. “Thou hast created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). Second, God has determined which creatures exist and how they relate to one another: “[God hath] determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). Third, God has determined the end of all creatures so that they serve Him and His glory: “The purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11).
"God’s will, which is the sovereign determination of His infinite mind, is not like our wills. We, too, since we are rational, moral creatures, have wills. We determine things for ourselves and for other creatures. Nevertheless, our will, unlike God’s will, is not sovereign and perfectly free, for it is the will of a creature, because our will is subject to God’s will, which is the sovereign determination of God’s infinite mind concerning us and concerning our lives. Paul explained to the philosophers of Athens: “[God hath] determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
"Take a concrete example. God determined that the Greek philosopher Socrates should be born in Athens c. 470 BC (historians do not know the day of his birth, but God knew and determined it with exactitude) and would spend his life in Greece. God also determined that Socrates would die in 399 BC of hemlock poisoning administered by his own hand at the command of the authorities of Athens. Crucially, God also determined that Socrates would never hear or believe the gospel of Christ, but would perish everlastingly in hell for his sins, as a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction (Rom. 9:22). God did not purpose the salvation of Socrates; God did not decree the salvation of Socrates; and God did not will the salvation of Socrates. In other words, Socrates was reprobate.
"God never acts involuntarily, but always purposefully. God never acts reluctantly, but what God does, He does willingly. God never acts under compulsion, for no one compels Him to act contrary to His will and no one compels Him to will something or not to will something else. God is sovereign and free to will or not to will according to His own determination and good pleasure. In other words, God is God."
To keep reading, follow this link to Prof. Engelsma's review article.