I’ve been reading my fair share of Herman Hoeksema these days. Mainly because I’ve heard many disparaging things about him. I’ve learned that when such things are said about men It is wise to read or listen to their own words. What I have found is not at all how his detractors paint him. I find a great man of God, a brilliant person, careful exegete, passionate herald of the Gospel and a very fine theologian. I can even say such things as I may disagree with some of his views. The man has answered his critics on a theological, exegetical and, much to their chagrin, on a logical level.
The accusations of the man are all over the map. He is a “hyper” Calvinist, “rationalist” and a dispassionate preacher of the Gospel or so they say. He is indeed a high Calvinist which is not synonymous with “hyper.” And he rightly understands the use of logic and doesn’t allow for “paradoxes” when there need not be one; his book Whosoever Will (which were radio messages later compiled into a book) puts the charge that his rejection of the “well-meant offer” leads to apathy in the preaching of the Gospel to rest.
Before I get to quoting Hoeksema I wish to offer some of my own thoughts on the subject. When proponents of the “well-meant offer” or the “sincere” offer of the Gospel identify their doctrine as such, it is to “poison the well.” That is to say they are implying and accusing those who disagree with their understanding, that God really and genuinely desires to save those He has determined within Himself to not save, of somehow being disingenuous or insincere when it is said, “And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Re 22:17). Of course God is sincere. No one denies that. It is simply not the issue. The issue concerns the ones who are “thirsty” and “desire” the water of life. Advocates of the “well-meant offer” would have us believe that God “genuinely,” “sincerely” “desires” the salvation of the reprobate. That they are included in the “whosoever” and therefore God’s “offer” must include His genuine desire for their salvation, even though He has withheld His saving grace from them. To put it another way, they would have us believe that God sincerely desired the salvation of Pharaoh even though it is written, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth”(Ro 9:17). We find such a position both un-biblical and illogical. We heartily believe that God genuinely desires and sincerely promises and will fulfill to the “whosoever wills” (of the KJV vernacular) that they may indeed drink of the Water of Life freely and be completely satisfied in Christ. What we do not believe is that the reprobate desire Christ. We do not believe Pharaoh thirsted or hungered for righteousness. Again, to put it a different way, we believe that the Pharisee and tax collector of Luke 18 demonstrate this best:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 18:9–14).
It was not the Pharisee that desired the Water of Life but the tax collector, that simply hung His head and begged for mercy, that did. The “whosoever will” was the latter not the former.
A second observation is that the same verses used by proponents of the “well-meant offer” are used by Arminians and Amyraldians that insist Christ died for every single human being that has ever lived yet many of these same individuals are perishing in hell for the sins that Christ, according to them, paid for. Their reasoning is similar- that for God’s “offer” of Christ to be real and genuine then there must be a potential satisfaction for sins for everyone. So we have proponents of the “well-meant offer” standing before those that reject it, accusing them of denying God’s sincerity in the proclamation of the Gospel. While right behind them are the Arminians and Amyraldians standing and accusing them of the very same thing- an insincere offer of salvation. If God has only grants life to some by His unconditional election how is it any more sincere to offer the reprobate such hope and teach that God sincerely wants them to come to Him, the Arminian argues. The Amyldarian comes from a slightly different angle and accuses the “well-meant offer” advocates that believe in particular redemption (limited atonement) of an insincere “offer” as well. They maintain that if Christ did not die for every single individual and atonement must be made for every sinner that has ever lived or the “well-meant offer” is a farce. They further argue that the “paradox” defense of the “well-meant” offer proponents is no better than their very own “paradox,” that Christ died for all even though some were not unconditionally elected to salvation. The irony here is that they are all using the very same foundation- the same passages of Scripture.
Hoeksema brings out another helpful point:
For it is more especially about the reprobate and their salvation that the complainants are concerned. Strange though it may seem, paradoxical though it may sound, they want to leave room for the salvation of the reprobate. For the sake of clarity, therefore, we can safely leave the elect out of our discussion. That God sincerely seeks after their salvation is not a matter of controversy. To drag them into the discussion of the question simply confuses things. The question concerns the attitude of God with respect to the reprobate. We may limit the controversy to this question to this question: What must the preacher of the Gospel say of God’s intention with respect to the reprobate? And these, too, may be called by different names, such as, the impenitent, the wicked, the unbelievers, etc.
The answer to the question defines the difference between Dr. Clark and the complainants sharply and precisely.
The complainants answer: The preacher must say that God sincerely seeks the salvation of the reprobate through the preaching of the Gospel.
Dr. Clark answers: That is not true; the preacher may never say that in the name of God. And in light of Scripture, he should say: God seeks his own glory and justification in preparing the reprobate for their just damnation even through the preaching of the Gospel.*
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them” (Jn 12:37–40).
Soli Deo Gloria!
* Herman Hoeksema, The Clark Van Til Controversy (Unicoi, TN.: Trinity Foundation, 2005), p. 48