Monday 20 February 2023

Carrickfergus Gospel Mission

Another effort being made in gospel evangelism to reach the lost. Pray that the ancient town Carrickfergus may know the day of its visitation. Jesus is passing by. Today is the day of salvation. 



Tuesday 27 December 2022

10 Objections to Particular Redemption Answered

I came across these objections a while ago. To be honest, they are easily answered. Feed back (as in any article) always appreciated.

If Christ Did Not Die for All Men, Then...

 # FIRST OBJECTION: There never was a possibility that all could be saved and hope was limited only to some:

MY ANSWER TO FIRST OBJECTION:  Assuming here that "all" means "all without exception" (for the word carries two meanings in the Bible) it is true to say that "There was never a possibility that all could be saved..." This is because the Bible never teaches that there is a possibility that all without exception could be saved. The non Calvinist objector here does not see his way to providing any Scriptural proof and this is largely because there is none to provide.  This fact is seen at once from the Old Testament where the saving grace of God was largely limited to those of the Jewish community. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:2) For thousands of years, whole communities in the Gentile nations lived and died in their sins without a missionary and therefore without the possibility that they could be saved, unless God chose to send them a man of His choice to preach the gospel to them. Even today, there still places on this earth totally void of a gospel witness  - unreached tribes in the deepest jungles who have never yet heard the good news.

The second part of the objection is that "...hope was limited only to some" but even the objector himself (as Evangelical) limits the hope of being saved to those who are prepared to actually come and receive Christ as their Saviour. Otherwise, the sinner will remain "without Christ and ... having no hope" (Ephesians 2:12) Hope in the Bible has always been limited to the some.  This is exactly what the Calvinist in his broader description as an Evangelical maintains - no hope outside of Jesus Christ.

# SECOND OBJECTION: Obviously some cannot avoid damnation:

MY ANSWER TO SECOND OBJECTION: Any man who takes it upon himself to reject the gospel cannot avoid damnation. This alone is the where any damnation lies  - in the sinner's self determination to love and cling to his sin. They will not come to Him that they might have life (John 5:40) and therefore they bring damnation upon their own heads, being the author of their own destruction.

# THIRD OBJECTION: We must feel the insincerity of inviting all to be saved:

MY ANSWER TO THIRD OBJECTION: There is no insincerity at all  in inviting all to be saved, something which those who believe in Particular Redemption are wont to do. While we limit the intention of the atonement to what it will be finally seen to deliver i.e. the salvation of the elect , yet we do not limit in any way the intrinsic worth or merit of this atonement. We are happy therefore to run with the maxim that "Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect." saying with John Calvin: "This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools...I allow that what has been said is true..." It was this truth of the infinite worth of the atonement that enabled Spurgeon to say: "I know there are some who think it necessary to their system of theology to limit the merit of the blood of Jesus: if my theological system needed such limitation, I would cast it to the winds. I cannot, I dare not, allow the thought to find lodging in my mind, it seems so near akin to blasphemy." (Autobiography of  Spurgeon) and yet have him also declare: "I may be called Antinomian or Calvinist for preaching a limited atonement; but I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than an universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it. "(4:121) The strength of the free-for-all invitation lies, not in the intention, but in the merit or worth and so the Calvinist can go on evangelising bidding men to look and live and rebuking and warning those who refuse to do so. 

# FOURTH OBJECTION: Unbelief is no longer a sin, especially for those who have no cross to believe on.

MY ANSWER TO FOURTH OBJECTION: The sinner is being asked to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30-31) and the invitation that He extends to sinners. No man is being asked to believe if he is elect, but  he is being simply asked to take the sinner's place and to apply for pardon in accordance with the gospel promise which is for every creature. As McCheyne put it well so long ago: "The question is not, 'Am I elect?' but rather, 'Am I one of the human race?'" (Sermon on Proverbs 8:4) A sinner may read the gospel invitation, especially as it is addressed to the "whosoever" (Romans 10:13) and conclude that such includes him in its scope. This is a wide enough matter and so leaves the sinner without any justifiable feeling of hopelessness.

# FIFTH OBJECTION: It would be a sin for those for whom Christ did not die to believe on Him, because they would be believing a lie, a false hope:

MY ANSWER TO FIFTH OBJECTION: If the gospel invitation was limited to the elect, then these words would be pertinent words, but the free offer of the gospel (which is to be extended to every last sinner) renders the objection null and void.

# SIXTH OBJECTION: Those who preach the gospel to every creature SIN because they preach good tidings to all men when in fact there aren't good tidings for all men in the cross:

MY ANSWER TO SIXTH OBJECTION: This is an unjust charge. It is unjust because the gospel invitation is based on two things [i] The worth of the merit of Christ's work which is infinite and [ii] the commanded width of the invitation which is to the whosoever, as elucidated in the previous answer. This being so, it is no sin to preach the gospel to every creature as commanded in Mark 16:15. No living man has any right to conclude that Christ did not die for Him. If he does so, it will not be in a Calvinistic induced despair, but simply because he views it as another excuse to hold on to his sins.

# SEVENTH OBJECTION: God would be insincere in commanding all men to repent, seeing if they did repent, they'd have no provision in the cross:

MY ANSWER TO SEVENTH OBJECTION: This objection is erroneous again on two accounts. [i] It assumes that repentance is required only to facilitate the reception of Christ. Even if there was no salvation for anyone, we would still be required to repent and forsake our rebellion against God. We would still be required to believe everything which God said. [ii] It assumes that you have men repenting but coming to the Cross and God turning them away. There is no record of anyone coming in repentance and faith to the Cross and being turned away and Calvinists do not believe nor teach that such happens. This is the figment of an over zealous imagination on the part of those who oppose the Doctrines of Grace (or to be more precise) what they perceive those same Doctrines to teach.  Both repentance and faith are saving gifts from God and they are given specifically to His elect so that they will come to the Cross and be saved.

# EIGHTH OBJECTION: Why does He say He's not willing that any should perish?

MY ANSWER TO EIGHTH OBJECTION: God's unwillingness that any should perish stems from that part of His character that is benevolent and loving etc., He is not a cruel despot, taking delight in the sufferings of His creatures for the sheer fun of hearing their screams and anguish. Yet He willingly allowed sin to enter into the world and based salvation on the necessary reception of Christ, when He might have easily avoided the first and thus rendered the second unnecessary. It is sufficient for the sinner to read words like 2 Peter 3:9, look at the invitation of the gospel and conclude that there is hope for him if he will but come and believe etc.,

# NINTH OBJECTION: All for whom He did not die come into the world with the irrevocable sentence of damnation upon them:

MY ANSWER TO NINTH OBJECTION: This is just the first objection rehashed. See the answer given there.

# TENTH OBJECTION:  Why should the Devil do anything, seeing God will hand over to him the largest portion of humanity without his lifting a finger?

MY ANSWER TO TENTH OBJECTION: This objection again lays undue emphasis and weight on God handing over the largest portion of humanity (assuming that the largest portion of humanity will be lost) to the Devil. The sinner effectively hands himself over to the Devil by his constant sinning and rejecting of the overtures of grace. The question also presupposes that if the Devil did nothing then all men would run to the Cross and be saved. This ignores the innate wickedness and depravity of the sinner's heart. The Bible makes it clear that [i] all men will not be saved and that [ii] a certain number will be converted through the preaching of the gospel. Even non Calvinists (of the Old School Evangelicalism) believe this. God had a purpose in creating the Devil in the first place - creating him with the full knowledge that he would turn malignant and create havoc in the world. Yet He wisely decided that this should be the course. In a future day, we will fully understand the whys and the wherefores of these things.

Helpful sermon by CH Spurgeon entitled "Particular Redemption" 

Monday 12 December 2022


It must be said that Ryrie is not my first port of call when it comes to theology. I am more likely to stretch for the systematic theologies of Dabney or any one of a number of Reformed theologians in my study than for Ryrie. But still, he may give another insight into those things where the Reformed men speak with one voice and when to read one is to effectively read them all. This encouraged me to buy the book.

Having said that, with all his Dispensationalism and other no-no stuff (generally speaking) for Reformed Christians, Ryrie does go all Calvinistic on us in some areas. Well, at least on the sovereignty of God and particularly in his affirmation of the doctrine of UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION.

I have been amazed to read the claim that Ryrie had no Calvinistic leanings.  This is not so, as the following evidence proves. Note: No one is claiming here that Ryrie is a five point Calvinist. He argues with the usual arguments against the doctrine of Particular Redemption, but at least on the doctrine of UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION (and think of the often blasphemous abuse which Calvinists take over this doctrine) Ryrie is as thoroughly Calvinistic as any of us. I quote some of what he has written:


"Ultimately God is in control of all things, though He may choose to let certain events happen according to natural laws which He has ordained."

"God has a plan (Acts 15:18) which is all inclusive (Eph. 1.11) which He controls (Ps. 135:6), which includes but does not involve Him in evil (Pro. 16:4) and which is ultimately to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:14)."

"The problem: The sovereignty of God seems to contradict the freedom or actually responsibility of man. But even though it may seem to do so, the perfection of sovereignty is clearly taught in the Scriptures, so it must not be denied because of our inability to reconcile it with freedom or responsibility. Also, if God is sovereign, how can the creation be so filled with evil? Man was created with genuine freedom, but the exercise of that freedom in rebellion against God introduced sin into the human race. Though God was the Designer of the plan, He was in no way involved in the commission of evil either on the part of Satan originally or of Adam subsequently. Even though God hates sin, for reasons not revealed to us, sin is present by His permission. Sin must be within God's eternal plan (or God would not be sovereign) in some way which He is not the author of it (or God could not be holy.)" 


"Direct terminology: 1. Election. Election emphasises God's free choice of individuals to salvation (the election of Christ, Israel or angels are not under consideration here.) When Paul uses the verb, he uses it in the middle voice, indicating that God's choice was made freely and for His own purposes (1 Cor. 1:27-28; Eph. 1:4). Individual Thessalonians were chosen (2 Thess. 2:13); as many were set (previous to their believing) in the group of those who would have eternal life did believe (Acts 13:48); Paul was a chosen instrument (for salvation and service, Acts 9:15, Gal. 1:15)and some individuals names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; 17:8) which must mean some were. Election is unconditional and individual."

2. To predestine is to preplan a destiny. The word prooizo means to mark off beforehand. The death of Christ and its meaning were predestined by God (Acts 4:28; 1 Cor. 2:7) God's elect are predestined to adoption (Eph. 1:5), to an inheritance (v11), and to ultimate conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).

Biblically, predestination is limited to the elect people and assures their present position and future destiny. Theologically, the term has been used to include all things, that is, as a synonym for the total plan of God. From this theological definition, it is an easy step for some forms of Calvinism to use predestination in relation to the destiny of the non elect. Thus there arises a doctrine of double predestination. However, this is a logical assumption, not based on Biblical texts. The Bible is clear that the elect are predestined, but it never suggests that there is a similar decree to elect some to damnation. The Scriptures seem content to leave that matter as a mystery, and so should we." 

3. Foreknowledge. The word proginosko is used (a) of prior, temporal knowledge (Acts 26:5; 2 Pet 3:17); (b) of God's relation to Israel (Rom. 11:2) (c) of Christ's sacrifice (Acts 2:23; 1 Pet 1:20); and (d) of God's people today (Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1:2) 

The debate centres round the question of how much relationship exists in the word 'foreknowledge.' Does it mean merely that God foreknows in the sense of foreseeing without any relationship? Or, as Calvinism holds, does it mean that He related Himself to people before time in some way so that there is a causative connection that makes foreknow practically equivalent to predestine or foreordain? Clearly people are foreknown, not their faith (Rom. 8:28-29) Clearly too, foreknowledge as a mere perception is not the basis of election, for 1 Peter 1:2 includes a decision on God's part. Election is in harmony (kata) with foreknowledge and that foreknowledge included a procedure used in working out the choice. Therefore, there is some relationship and/or decision inherent in the meaning of foreknow. Certainly verse 20 includes those ideas or it would assure nothing about the sacrifice of Christ. Likewise there is decisiveness and certainty in Acts 2:23 and Romans 11:2. An  apocrypha use of the word also includes certainty: 'And Thy judgements are in Thy foreknowledge" (Judith 9:6). To be sure, the word does not say 'elect,' but neither can it be reduced to a neutral concept of perception only. It does include decision that in turn hasto involve an assurance that comes from certainty.

C. Opposite Terminology, By this I mean the ideas involved in retribution and preterition. Retribution means deserved punishment, while preterition is the passing over of those not elected to salvation. Both terms avoid the concept involved in double predestination or reprobation, which means foreordination to damnation. None of these terms appear in the Scripture, though the idea is clearly taught in Romans 9:18,21; 1 Peter 2:8; and Revelation 17:8. Therefore, the Scriptures do contain a doctrine of preterition, though there is not a decree to condemn in the same sense that there is a decree to elect. Obviously the very idea of election has to include the idea of a greater number out of which they were chosen, and those who were not chosen were certainly passed by.

This in no sense implies that God delights in the destiny of the wicked, or that they are driven against their wills, or that the doctrine of election nullifies a 'whosoever will' Gospel, or that any individual can know that he is not elect and thereby try to excuse himself from rejecting Christ. All are accountable to God for their attitude towards Christ."

Mr Ryrie under the heading: III THE DOCTRINE SUMMARIZED goes over the ground thus covered above, reducing it to a number of shorter sentences e.g. Election is individual and not based on foresight etc. An interesting and entirely accurate (and Calvinist) application of the doctrine lies in the statement: "Election Alone Does Not Result In The Salvation Of People" 

The key word is the word "alone" because Mr Ryrie, having correctly taught the unconditional election of individuals unto salvation, assures us in his opening words:

 "To be sure, election assures that those chosen will be saved..." 

Again, the word "alone" is absolutely correct because it took the death of the Christ and the evangelisation of the sinner and the faith of the sinner to bring about the salvation that was thus guaranteed by the sovereign and unconditional election of God. This is all good stuff. This Calvinist i.e. me certainly is being blessed as he prepares this article for your consumption. 

In IV OBJECTIONS TO THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTIONMr Ryrie articulates several Calvinist responses to those hoary old objections that have signally failed over the centuries. He answers the objection that it equates to fatalism, because fatalism is blind chance whereas  election flows from an intelligent, loving Being. Fatalism has no use of means, whereas the decree of God includes the means to its fulfilment and so embraces human responsibility. He comments that Ephesians 1:11 "spotlights all things, not solely ends." 

He also answers the objection that the doctrine of election is inconsistent with human freedom. He does so by reminding man that he is created as a responsible being and ought to do those things consistent with this truth. By illustration, he covers the thought that the day of our death is ordained of God (but we still eat to stay alive) and that God planned to answer our prayers, so we still pray. He then moves into the area of salvation again. Here is naked Calvinism (at least in this fundamental part) comes to the fore. 

"Or again, Does God know who are the elect? Of course, He elected them. Can any of them be lost? no. Then why pray and witness? Because this is how they will be saved. Will any of them fail to believe? No. Why then do they have to believe? Because that is the only way they can be saved, and unless they do believe, they will  not be saved..." 

He continually cautions against asking theoretical and useless questions, urging us instead of to concentrate on doing what is God's will [my note: as revealed in the Scriptures] and to act responsibly.

Another serious objection to the doctrine of election is answered i.e. that it makes God the author of sin.

"I think we must acknowledge that God did construct a plan that included sin, and that it's inclusion did not come as a surprise. Yet we must guard the clear teaching of Scripture that God hates sin (Ps. 5:5), that He is never responsible for our committing sin (James 1:13), and that including sin in His plan does not make it somehow less sinful and us less culpable."  

Stating that Proverbs 16:4 "teaches also that all things are included in God's plan" Mr Ryrie acknowledges some unresolved tensions in the Bible on this matter and rightly urges us to seek a balance. 

Nine pages on, Mr Ryrie draws his observation to a close:

"Finally, face their ramification of all things not being included in one way of another in God's plan. This would mean that there are things outside of His control, and that is a frightening idea." 

The conclusion of the chapter is most interesting here. At least from a Calvinist point of view. Mr Ryries theological work is used in many places where John Calvin's name and views are little less than a "cuss word" (to quote my old friend #Wylie). However, the learned writer evidently knows nothing of such vilification and quotes extensively from Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 1 Chapter 17 paragraph 10 which (to save time and space may be perused here

Having urged the reader to "Listen to these words of John Calvin:" Mr Ryrie urges the further enlightened reader on to an act of devotion, using the words of Paul in Romans 11:33-36:

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
This article proved to be a bit lengthy (Nine pages in the original book ) but I have consciously given a faithful precis of its contents. It must be said, again, that though I radically disagree with Mr Ryrie on some other matters, yet on this matter of UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION and its ramifications, I am in basic agreement.


Tuesday 29 November 2022

Londonderry Mission


Noel Shields and I enjoyed a week long gospel mission in Londonderry FPC, preceded by 5 days of door to door evangelism in the immediate area of the church. The following links are to the Sermon Audio recordings of my messages:

* Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16)

* God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 18:14)

* Bread enough and to spare in the Father's House (Luke 15:17) 

The other mission messages are available on the Londonderry FPC page on Sermon Audio.