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An analysis of the heresy of Hyper-Calvinism in the error of Eternal Justification

Hyper-Calvinism. Eternal Justification. These terms and concepts are totally foreign to those who are not in the know in these sects. Yet for those who have embraced the doctrines of grace, the danger of falling into these sects through following those who have historically succumbed to some form of rationalism is present.

The term "Hyper-Calvinism" does not endear itself to the ear. Literally, it means "above-Calvin" or "extreme or beyond Calvin". It has been used and abused to refer to those who are somehow "higher" in their Calvinism than others who similar call themselves Calvinists. As such the term is a slippery term to define. The Neo-Amyraldians Tony Byrne and David Ponter for example routinely castigate all who refuse to impute irrationality to God as "hyper-Calvinists"[1], attacking both Dr. James R. White[2] and Dr. Robert Reymond[3] in the process. In my rebuttal to the errors of Neo-Amyraldism[4], I have seek to portray the biblical teachings on the issue pertaining to God's will and His plan of salvation in history, and refute the fallacy of proof-texting Byrne and Ponter utilize to establish their aberrant system of doctrine.

Despite the fact that the term has been frequently abused, there is a sense in which the term applies to those who are historically called Hyper-Calvinists. Hyper-Calvinism therefore can be defined as believing in any one of these[5]:

The Anglican theologian Peter Toon in his book The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity, 1689-1745[6], did a historical analysis of the issue of Hyper-Calvinism. While it certainly posits some form of the "Calvin versus the Calvinists" theory, on the whole it is instructive in what it reveals. One could see very well that the error of Hyper-Calvinism did not spring up overnight, but rather was a step by step rationalistic (as opposed to rational) reaction to the Arminianizing tendencies prevalent in that day.

One early belief that contributed to the creation of full-fledged Hyper-Calvinism as relayed by Toon was the embrace of Eternal Justification. By itself, Eternal Justification as understood technically is an oddity and a misleading misnomer for it confuses categories which should be kept distinct from each other. But due to its name and nature, the embrace of it and others forms of "doctrinal antinomianism" would create a lethal dose which reaped the fruit of full fledged Hyper-Calvinism in due time.

In this short article, I would like to focus on the error of Eternal Justification, and briefly show it for the serious error that it is.

What is Eternal Justification?

The doctrine of Eternal Justification is the theory that the Elect are justified before God from eternity. For adherents to this doctrine, the decree to justify the elect is from eternity, and so therefore from eternity the elect of God are considered as being justified, and this fact they term Eternal Justification. This is distinguished from the Justification that occurs in time which is by faith. Eternal Justification adherents typically believe in a two-fold justification, one active and objective which is by God from eternity, and the other passive and subjective which happens by faith[7]. As stated by Gill[8].

Justification is an act of God's grace, flowing from his sovereign good will and pleasure; the elect of God are said to be "justified by his grace"; and as if that expression was not strong enough to set forth the freeness of it, the word "freely" is added elsewhere; "Being justified freely by his grace", #Tit 3:7 Ro 3:24. Justification is by many divines distinguished into active and passive. Active justification is the act of God; it is God that justifies. Passive justification is the act of God, terminating on the conscience of a believer, commonly called a transient act, passing upon an external object. It is not of this I shall now treat, but of the former; which is an act internal and eternal, taken up in the divine mind from eternity, and is an immanent, abiding one in it; it is, as Dr. Ames expresses it, "a sentence conceived in the divine mind, by the decree of justifying."

There are therefore two kinds of justification being discussed: a "justification from eternity" which is an "immanent" (internal and eternal) act of God and a "justification by faith" which is a "transient" (acting externally in time) act. As Gills continues,

Now, as before observed, as God's will to elect, is the election of his people, so his will to justify them, is the justification of them; as it is an immanent act in God, it is an act of his grace towards them, is wholly without them, entirely resides in the divine mind, and lies in his estimating, accounting, and constituting them righteous, through the righteousness of his Son; and, as such, did not first commence in time, but from eternity[9].

In other words, because God is eternal and so timeless, his decree of election is the same as his electing of his people, as his decree of justification is the justification of them. God being immutable cannot change and thus his immanent decree originating from Himself cannot change either. According to this reasoning therefore, since God decreed to justify His people from eternity; it is an act of God and thus active; this decree must be immanent and therefore eternal. God being timeless therefore means that His decree must equate to the actions being "done" in God's perspective.

The theory of Eternal Justification therefore seeks to preserve the fact that God is the one who only saves. Eschewing Arminianism as heresy, it seeks to remove all forms and semblances of human co-operation in salvation, thus making the entirety of salvation absolutely of God as the only active agent and sinners as passive recipients. At least that is its noble goal.

A Critical Analysis of Eternal Justification

Despite these noble goals, the theory of Eternal Justification fails upon critical analysis. The theory depends on one main pillar to support it: A theory of Eternity as eternal timelessness. By attempting to remove all semblances of synergism real and perceived, it veered to the extreme of what Toon called "doctrinal antinomianism"[10]. Also, it fails the test of biblical and logical consistency, which we shall look at later. But first, let us look at certain foundational issues.

A Word of Caution:
Scripture, Systematic Theology and Philosophy

Systematic Theology is the systematizing of biblical truth taught in Scripture ordered according to biblical categories, or at least that is the ideal it seeks. Philosophy in the service of theology functions to fill gaps of our understanding; of truths that are not explicitly taught in Scripture. For Christians who believe in the supreme authority of Scripture therefore, Systematic Theology and in fact all forms of true theology are infallible and absolutely true. Philosophical argumentation no matter how logical it may seem must not override the teachings of Scripture. If contradictions seem to appear between the teachings of Scripture, the problem is not with Scripture but with our understanding of it, which must be in error.

Philosophy in service to theology therefore implies that before systematizing and philosophizing starts, the teachings of Scripture concerning that subject should be present beforehand and these plain teachings cannot be contradicted in the reasoning process that follows. We must therefore look at the totality of Scripture before we attempt to systematize them. While logical consistency is a virtue and indeed is a must in theology, such must take place only when all the data is in on the subject, otherwise errors would very likely occur. If at any one time, our reasoning process should yield a conclusion which contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture, then either our reasoning process is invalid, or unbiblical premises have been smuggled into the reasoning process.

In evaluating the teaching of Eternal Justification, we must always keep this in mind. No inference of doctrine (of which Eternal Justification is one) can ever contradict the plain teachings of Scripture in this regard. If contradictions are seen, we should question our reasoning and not throw out a plain teaching of Scripture because 'it does not conform to our ideas of what Scripture teach'.

In this light also, the biblical doctrine of predestination is and always must be a deduction from Scripture, never something that is used to norm the interpretations of Scripture. Systematic Theology of any kind proceeds by the systematizing of doctrine from disparate truths obtained from the texts of Scripture, never from utilizing any one particular set of Christian truth (i.e. predestination) and using that set of truths to norm all other interpretations in the rest of Scripture.

Usage of key theological words

The term "justification" in theology has acquired a special meaning. In history especially from the time of the Protestant Reformation, the term "justification" has taken on special significance as the doctrine upon which having a right view of is essential for orthodoxy. The material principle of the Reformation was Justification by Faith alone (Sola Gratia sola fide), in which justification is defined in Strong's Dictionary as "equity". Justification therefore has always to do with being right before God, whether through infusion as the Roman Catholics teach, or by imputation as the Scriptures teach.

With the Bible using it in this manner, and tradition following the Scripture thus, the term "justification" or its derivative must always have something to do with the concept of being made right before God. Also, since the Scriptures only use it to refer to the process or event by which a man is right before God whereas previously he wasn't, the term must be used in such a manner also.

Critical Analysis

Hermeneutical principles

The first flaw with the theory of Eternal Justification lies in its nomenclature. As stated, the word "justification" has a a certain conceptual meaning derived from Scripture and as exposited throughout Church history. Gill's splitting of justification into two different things and events is foreign to Scripture whereby justification is treated only as one. While by itself such splitting may not be wrong for the purpose of understanding biblical truth, in this case it is an error because the splitting does in fact introduces a division in the doctrine of justification which is not taught anywhere in Scripture. Rather, this division is made fiat ex nihilo for the sole reason of protecting the Sovereign Grace of God according to their thinking, as if God's Word is not sufficient for the task. Therefore, the decree to justify remains the decree to justify, not justification itself. It is in error therefore to say that just because justification is certain in God's eyes therefore justification is eternal, for the conceptual meaning of justification precludes it being used to describe a decree that justifies. If anyone wants to use the term "justification" therefore and make it eternal, that teaching must mean (according to the settled biblical definition of "justification") that the elect sinner even before regeneration and faith is already made right before God, only that he doesn't yet realize it.

The second major flaw with the theory of Eternal Justification is the way it is argued from Scripture. As seen in Gill's article, too much of it is philosophy without any consideration of what the Scripture actually teaches. In a bid to be "more gracious than God" so to speak, the hermeneutical framework has shifted from Scripture to "Sovereign Grace". This can be shown in the split between active and passive justification, which as it has been said such a division cannot be found either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture.

Unregenerate saints in the hands of a gracious God? No "common wrath"?

The issue of the elect under the wrath of God is a thorny issue for those who believe in the error of Eternal Justification. For if the elect are eternally justified, then it does indeed sound strange (indeed nonsensical) that justified believers can ever be under the wrath of God. High Calvinists like the Scottish Covenantal theologian Samuel Rutherford, in order to preserve the idea that the elect before regeneration are under the wrath of God as stated explicitly in Scripture, invented the category of "Law wrath" and "Evangelical wrath", stating that the elect are formally under evangelical wrath though materially under law-strokes and law-wrath[11]. While we may or may not disagree with his understanding on the topic, the issue here is that Calvinists have always realized that Scripture plainly teaches that the elect before conversion are under the wrath of God, and thus attempts must be made to expound and systematize it when contradictions are perceived between it and other doctrines like that of God loving the elect even before the foundation of the world (i.e. Ps. 103:17, Eph. 1:4-5). Reformed Christians therefore do not jettison certain biblical doctrines just because it does not fit into our "framework", but instead struggle to come to a harmonization of ALL of Scripture.

Sadly to say, some professed believers have gone to the extreme of trying to make Scripture conformed to their beliefs, instead of the other way round. Such rationalism based upon a supposed framework of "absolute predestination" has caused the founder of the heretical group Predestinarian network[12] Brandan Kraft to even reject the book of James as canonical[13], contrary to the consensus of the Reformed and Protestant creeds and confessions of faith[14]. In the handling of the issue of the elect being under wrath, the entire teaching is categorically rejected as being contradictory to the love of God for His elect. Instead of struggling to harmonize Scripture, Kraft and his followers throw out those they cannot reinterpret (i.e. James), and re-interpret texts such as Eph. 2:1-4 in order to deny the teaching that the elect were under any sort of wrath at all prior to regeneration.

So, were the elect ever under the wrath of God? In Eph. 2:1-4 it is stated:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (Eph. 2:1-4)

In context:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2: 1-13)

Eph. 2:1-3 states that we, referring to believers, were at one time "children of wrath" and walked in the same ways of disobedience like the rest of mankind. Verse 4 introduces the power of the Gospel by stating what God has done ("But God"). While we were still wretched sinners under His wrath, God who loves us has decided to save us through His grace (v. 5) and give us all the benefits of salvation (v. 6). Verses 8-10 inform us that our salvation is purely of grace through faith not of works, and so salvation is of God from beginning to end.

So while God's love for the elect is truly from "eternity", yet the context of Eph. 2 has to do with events in time. We can already see in verse 7 through the phrase "the coming ages" that the idea of time is prominent in the entire passage. As if the grammar of the verses was not clear enough, verses 11-13 clearly speak about changes in time ("at that time" cf v. 12). So once we were _____ ("separated from Christ", "having no hope and God in the world" etc), but now we are ____ ("have been brought near by the blood of Christ" etc). The entire passage is therefore pregnant with the concept of happenings in time, and tells us the state of the elect before and after our conversion.

Eph. 2:3 therefore does in fact teaches that the elect prior to regeneration and faith are under the [actual] wrath of God. It is of course true that the elect are always loved by God, but one truth of Scripture cannot be set in opposition to another truth equally taught in Scripture. It is furthermore not a contradiction for love and wrath to be present at the same time towards the same person. After all, parents always love their children yet are angry at their children when they do something wrong.

An example from the Scriptures whereby God's wrath was evidently on one of the elect can be seen in the case of King Manasseh (2 Ki. 21:1-18; 2 Chron. 33:1-20). We know from Scripture that King Manasseh was under the wrath of God for his gross wickedness (2 Ki. 21:6). Yet at the end of his wicked life, Manasseh repented of his sins (2 Chron. 33:13,19) and thus believed in God.

The biblical teaching of "common wrath" — that the elect prior to regeneration and faith are the same as the reprobates as being under the wrath of God, expressively contradicts the teaching of Eternal Justification. It is no wonder then that advocates of Eternal Justification often deny the very notion of "common wrath", instead stating that the elect though "by nature children of wrath" yet were never ever under actual wrath due to Christ's atonement which was done "from the foundation" of the world, citing a questionable variant reading of Rev. 13:8 as proof[15].

The crux of the issue: Eternal Timelessness versus Everlasting time

The key idea behind the rationalism of Eternal Justification can be found in their idea of time and eternity. As Gill wrote, "Now, as before observed, as God's will to elect, is the election of his people, so his will to justify them, is the justification of them;..."[16]. Behind the rationalistic argument of the decree of justification being "immanent" is the idea that God is timeless and therefore any "immanent" decree must be likewise timeless. While previous theologians are content not to peer into such mystery, and therefore are blessedly inconsistent, Gill brought the philosophical theory of eternal timelessness into the matter of God's decrees which resulted in the idea of "justification from eternity" or Eternal Justification. Later hyper-Calvinists like Brandan Kraft in the present time brought all of these into full blossom to create the rancid heresy of full-fledged Hyper-Calvinism.

What exactly then are the options in our interpretation of "eternity"? Eternity can either be described as "timelessness" or "everlasting". "Timelessness" means that God literally has no sense of time in his being. Time therefore is created by God of which He Himself is outside its flow. "Everlasting" however means that God does have a sense of time as time proceeds out of God, yet God is not bounded by time in any sense.

To put it another way, "timelessness" implies a total absence of sequences, while "everlasting" allows for ideas of sequences. In the former, all things by God must needs be all present at the same "time" since time does not exist, whereby in the latter, things can be stacked by God in a sequential manner and executed accordingly.

Which position is more consistent with the biblical data? Dr. Robert Reymond is greatly of help here in his discussion of time and eternity as follows:

... it is a non sequitur to conclude from the fact of God's omniscience that God has no idea of succession, that is, that relative to his own existence he has no knowledge of a past, present, and future applicable to his own existence. This is to confuse the notion of the succession of ideas, which is surely not true of God if one means by this notion that God learns new facts, with the notion of the idea of succession which I submit God surely has. Robert Lewis Dabney observes:

If ... the divine consciousness of its existence has no relation to successive duration, I think it unproved, and incapable of proof to us. Is not the whole plausibility of the notion hence; that divines ... infer: Since all God's thoughts are ever equally present with Him, he can have no succession of His consciousnesses; and so, no relation to successive time. But the analysis is false and would not prove the conclusion as to God, if correct. ... In all the acts and changes of creatures, the relation of succession is actual and true. Now, although God's knowledge of these as it is subjective to Him, is unsuccessive [I take him to mean here that God does not first learn about them as the creature thinks and acts these changes — author], yet it [his knowledge] is doubtless correct, i.e. true to the objective facts. But these [the objective facts] have actual succession. So that the idea of successive duration must be in God's thinking. Has He not all the ideas which we have; and infinitely more? But if God in thinking the objective, ever thinks successive duration, can we be sure that His own consciousness of His own subsistence is unrelated to succession in time?

I concur with Dabney's analysis. Not to do so and to insist that God is timeless, that is to say, that the distinctives of time and hence existence with succession have no reference to him, lies behind much theological mischief. For example, Charles Hodge, who stands in the classical tradition, writes that "with [God] there is no distinction between the present, past and future, but all things are equally and always present to Him. With Him duration is an eternal now," that "to Him there is neither past nor future ... the past and the future are always and equally present to Him [as an eternal now (or present)]," and that "to Him there is neither past nor future, neither before nor after."

But such words seem to go too far, first, in that, if taken literally, they reduce to zero significance the temporal reference in every finite Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek verb form God employed in his revelational description to us of his thoughts, words, and actions, and virtually transform them all into timeless participles.[17]

Time has to do with succession. However, as what Reymond has pointed out, the advocates of timeless eternity confuse the "idea of succession" with the "succession of ideas". The idea of "divine time" therefore has to do with the "idea of succession". God never does learn anything new nor change in any way, yet that does not mean that He does not have an [epistemic] idea of succession in which He knows every single event in successive detail. To make it simpler, God knows everything past, present and future, but these past, present and future events do happen successively in chronology before God.

Reymond continues:

.. as well as the significance of the proposition προ, pro, in "foreknew" (προγινωοσκω, proginosko) and "predestine" (προοριζω, proorizo) in Romans 8:29 and in the expression, "He chose us in him before [προ, pro] the creation of the world" (Eph. 1:3; see also John 17:24). Does not God inform us in these verses that he had a plan (his "eternal purpose") before he created the world? Does this data not mean that before the creation of the world God could have said, indeed, would have had to say as the God of truth if an angel had asked him about the "when" of the world's creation: "I have not yet created the world. Its creation is still in the future"? And does he not now have to say as the God of truth: "I have created the world; its creation is no longer in the future, it is now in the past"? It would certainly seem that the past is past for God, the present is present for God, and the future is future for God as surely as they are for us! And while he certainly and infallibly knows the future because he ordained it, it is still as the future that he knows it. It is odd, to say the least, to argue as does E.L. Mascall that all of God's acts are dipolar, and that a given act at the creature's end is temporal (either past, present or future), while at the Creator's end the same act is timeless. If God's "time-words" to us respecting his plans and actions do not mean for God the same as they mean to us, then for him the creation of the world may not have actually occurred yet, for him Christ's second coming may be a thing of the past, ... In short, if God is timeless and if all of his acts are for him timeless acts, then we can have no true and certain knowledge of anything except pure mathematics.

Third, there seems to be an inherent contradiction in saying that a timeless person lives in the "eternal present" because the referent of the word "present" has significance only in the ordering category which includes past and future as well. Nicholas Wolterstorff points out:

In order for something to be timeless, none of these ordering relationships [past, present, or future[ can be applicable to that being. If a being is truly timeless, it should be impossible for it to exist simultaneously with anything else, or before anything else, or after anything else. Once it is established [or argued, as Hodge does — author] that a being does occupy one of the ordering relations, then that being is clearly temporal.

For these three reasons it would seem that the ascriptions to God of the attributes of timelessness (understood as the absence of a divine consciousness of successive duration with respect to his own existence) cannot be supported from Scripture nor is it self-consistent. At best, it is only an inference (and quite likely a fallacious one) from Scripture. These reasons also suggest that the Christian should be willing to affirm that the ordering relationships (before, now, after) that are normally represented as relationships of time are true for God as well as for man[18].

The idea of a God who is immanent and who works out His decrees in time is completely inimical to the concept of timelessness in God. For these reasons, the biblical view of eternity is "Everlasting", not "Timelessness". The neo-Platonic idea of timeless eternity therefore cannot be predicated of the biblical God. Rather, God in eternity is everlasting — without beginning or end. God knows all things past, present and future, and remains the same throughout all time, yet God does have an idea of succession within Himself, and His decrees and the events that are caused by the decrees have a chronological ordering to them.

Since eternity is better understood as everlasting time and not timelessness, the rationalistic reasoning behind Eternal Justification is seriously undermined. No longer can it be argued that "immanent decrees" exist which due to their timelessness are the things decreed themselves, as Gill had argued with respects to justification. God's decrees are indeed eternal, but the mere decreeing does not their execution make.

The order of the divine decrees contrary to Eternal Justification

If Eternal Justification is indeed true, then how should we then read passages such as Rom. 8:29-30? The Ordo Salutis in these verses clearly state that Calling precedes Justification, and we know that Calling occurs in time, for how can one call someone who has not even exist, unless one really wants to believe in some form of the eternal pre-existence of all souls — an heretical notion indeed. It does not help to say as Gill does that "the order of things in Scripture is frequently inverted"[19], for the context is clearly referring to the execution sequence in the mind of God, and Eternal Justification advocates including Gill make no distinction between the immanent decrees and their execution, of which Justification is stated to be one such "immanent decree". In opposition to John Marcus[20] also, while it is true that the aorist "refers to events as a whole", yet the linkers ("those who ___, he ___", or in Greek "ούς ___ τουτους και ___ ") still exist, and they link the events stated there in sequence. The force of the sentence construction in Rom. 8:30 still stands as stating the execution sequence of God's decrees, despite ingenious methods employed in an attempt to explain it all away.

Baneful effects of Eternal Justification — Hyper-Calvinism

It can be seen in Gill's work on this subject and John Marcus' article in the PRTJ that great care was made to maintain both a "justification from eternity" and a "justification by faith", and thus any objection against Eternal Justification based upon Rom. 8:30 for example in the case of Gill was answered by an appeal to Justification by faith ("justification as a transient act"[21]). This unbiblical creation of two types of justification may very well have kept them from sinking further into full-fledged hyper-Calvinism, which modern Eternal Justification Hyper-Calvinists have fallen into.

In light of eternal justification in the proper sense of the term "justification", the elect of God were never under the wrath of God. Therefore, they cannot be any time under the federal headship of Adam except by potentiality. This implies no spiritual commonality of any kind with the reprobates, potentiality being not actuality is excluded from discussion. Now, Christianity teaches that all humans are all united in the fact that we are all sinners, and it is only because of particular grace that I as a sinner am saved out of my sin and out of the hellfire I justly deserve. Advocates of eternal justification however logically should deny this. With no spiritual commonality between the elect and reprobates in time (constituting a denial of the Imago Dei to some extent), the two groups are as light and darkness. No longer are Christians to be considered as undeserving sinners saved by God's amazing grace, but as saints who happen not to realize that they are already justified, a position which modern advocates do in fact embrace[22].

Since that is so, the error of Antinomianism will rear its ugly head. Eternal Justification advocates will probably not go around deliberately attempting to sin, but neither will they desire to strive for holiness. After all, why should they? Since salvation is all of grace and not of works, then any attempt to be holy (personal piety) may very well be works-righteousness. The most they can embrace is some form of quietism. Such is the sad specter of the Antinomianism bred from Eternal Justification.

In its full blossom, Eternal Justification will lead to full-fledged hyper-Calvinism. Since there is such a clear demarcation between the elect and the reprobates, why bother wasting time preaching to all men? Rather, shouldn't we seek out "sensible sinners" and as such be more efficient in evangelism? Is it any wonder that hyper-Calvinism is seen in the Particular Baptists before the time of William Carey in its resistance to foreign missions?

Conclusion:

The teaching of Eternal Justification is a serious error tending to heresy in the Church. At best, it is a misnomer for the biblical truth of the certainty of the justification of the elect. At worst, it is the road that leads to the heresy of Hyper-Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinist Antinomianism. Its basis is founded on the errant philosophical theory of timelessness which is then processed by rationalistic minds to its guarded form as taught by Gill, which later matured into heresy especially in those without the capacity to maintain the tension in it.

John Marcus in the PRTJ[23] argued against the charge of abuse hurled at the teaching of Eternal Justification by hinting that any doctrine like the doctrine of election can be abused. While that is true, the problems with Eternal Justification are found in the very teaching itself. Already, the term "Eternal Justification" in its more orthodox form is using the term "justification" in a decidedly unbiblical and non standard way, thus promoting its "abuse". Since the Scriptures do not teach more than one form of "justification" as necessary for the guarded form of the teaching, the potential for heresy is build into the terms utilized, not to mention the concepts of timelessness too. In every aspect, "Eternal Justification" is not just able to be abused, but most decidedly is promoting its own unguarded heretical form.

In conclusion therefore, Eternal Justification and the very terminology itself is to be rejected. Its most orthodox form has brought about nothing but trouble in those who are do not play the same game of scholastic obfuscation. We should therefore abandon all forms of "Eternal Justification", and just maintain that God's decree of justification is certain and true. Amen.

Appendix: Is Justifcation objective?

In Gill's book in the section defending Eternal Justification, the idea of justification being an objective reality was taught and defended, especially seen in the following sentence:

Christ engaged as a Surety for all his people from eternity, had their sins imputed to him, and for which he made himself responsible; in the fullness of time he made satisfaction for them by his sufferings and death, and at his resurrection was acquitted and discharged: now as he suffered and died, not as a private, but as a public person, so he rose again, and was justified as such, even as the representative of his people; hence when he rose, they rose with him; and when he was justified, they were justified in him; for he was "delivered for their offences, and was raised again for their justification" #Ro 4:25 1Ti 3:16 [24]

By being termed "objective" in the Eternal Justification sense, justification is considered as something that occurs by God's decree. In this case, the idea is taken to mean that justification has been *done* at the time of Christ's sacrifice. Alongside Rom. 8:33, the three proof-texts are used to support the teaching that justification is objective. But is it?

We can immediately discount 1 Tim. 3:16 as a valid proof-text since it is used of Christ, and is therefore better translated as "vindication" in the ESV. Rom. 4:25 states that our "justification" is something bought by Christ, while Rom. 8:33 merely states that God is the one who makes us just [by imputation]. So if by "objective", we say that we are already justified at the "time" of Christ's atonement (which in Eternal Justification advocates is stated as being "before the foundation of the world" based upon a questionable interpretation of Rev. 13:8), then the proof-texts do not actually support it. Rather, Rom. 4:25 merely states that our justification is bought by Christ, not that it is already actualized NOW.

Christ therefore has bought our justification by meriting for us righteousness and being the propitiation for our sins on our behalf. The merits of Christ are thus ready to be applied to the elect, but actual application only happens through the instrument of faith. In the sense that justification for the elect has been procured and will unfailingly be applied to them, we can say that justification is objective, but no further.

The sentence above in Gill's work therefore can be interpreted in a biblical sense. The elect can be considered justified in Christ through our union with Him, and it is in this federal sense that justification is objective. Such may indeed be the interpretation of [Herman] Witsius and [Thomas?] Goodwind among others of which Gills claims their support in the embrace of this sentence.

So is justification objective? In the Eternal Justification sense, no. But in the federal sense, yes. This justification is however merely the certainty of the actual application and not the actual application itself. In a bid to be biblical, let us continue to refer to the "objective" part of justification as the merits of justification rather than justification itself, so that the word will continue to be used to refer to the actual point of salvation in believers, a point which may not always be dramatic or able to be pinpointed to the exact timing but yet nonetheless important in its passing. Amen.


References:

[1] Tony Byrne (http://theologicalmeditations.blogspot.com/) and David Ponter (http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2006/12/who-is-david-ponter.html) believe that a denial of the "Well-meant Offer" is a sign of "Hyper-Calvinism"

[2] Tony Byrne, James White's Denial of God's Universal Saving Will. Available online at http://theologicalmeditations.blogspot.com/2008/04/james-whites-denial-of-gods-universal.html. Accessed on May 4th 2010

[3]Tony Byrne, Robert Reymond's Denial of God's Universal Saving Will. Available online at http://theologicalmeditations.blogspot.com/2008/11/robert-reymonds-denial-of-gods.html . Accessed on May 4th 2010

[4] Daniel H. Chew, Interpretation of Bunyan's Quote and a Brief Response to Tony Byrne's Neo-Amyraldism. Available online at http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/ddd_chc82/theology/NeoAmyraldismRefutation1.pdf. Accessed on May 4th 2010

[5] James Galyon, The Heinous Error of Hyper-Calvinism. Blog post found at http://drjamesgalyon.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/the-heinous-error-of-hyper-calvinism/. Accessed on May 4th 2010

[6] Peter Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity, 1689-1745 (London, UK: The Olive Tree, 1967). Available online at http://www.anglicanbooksrevitalized.us/Peter_Toons_Books_Online/History/hypercal1.htm. Accessed on May 4th 2010

[7] John Gill, A Body of Divinity, Book II, Chapter V, Section II. Accessed on Online Bible Millennium Edition (Florence, KY, USA: Answer In Genesis)

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Toon, The Emergence of Hyper-Calvinism in English Nonconformity, 1689-1745, 1.1.6. See especially footnote 34, where it is stated:

In A Succinct and Seasonable Discourse on the occasions of mental errors (1691), John Flavell gave a list of ten antinomian errors. They were: 1. Justification is an immanent and eternal act of God. 2. Justification by faith is but a manifestation of what God has already done. 3. It is wrong for Christians to examine themselves to see whether they are in the faith. 4. As all sin has been pardoned, confession of sin is not necessary. 5. God never sees sin in believers. 6. At no time does God ever punish the elect. 7. On the Cross Christ became as sinful as we are, and now the elect are as righteous as He is. 8. Christians should not worry about sin in their lives for these can do them no harm. 9. The New Covenant has no conditions, not even faith. 10. Christians are not to rely on signs and marks of grace in their lives as helps to an assurance of salvation. There is a similar criticism of antinomianism in Samuel Rutherford, A Survey of the ... Antichrist (1648).

[11] Samuel Rutherford, The Covenant of Life Opened (C. Matthew Mcmahon ed.; Originally printed 1654; New Lenox, IL, USA: Puritan Publications, 2005), pp. 39-41

[12] Predestinarian Network (http://www.predestinarian.net/)

[13] View Profile: Brandan Kraft - Predestinarian Network, http://www.predestinarian.net/members/1-Brandan-Kraft . As accessed on May 4th 2010

[14] See Belgic Confession of Faith Article 4 & Westminster Confession of Faith/ Savoy Declaration/ 2nd London Baptist Confession (1689) Chapter 1 Paragraph 2.

[15] Brandan Kraft, God's Will to Justify His People IS the Justification of Them, Blog post dated March 12th 2010, http://www.predestinarian.net/entries/549-God-s-Will-to-Justify-His-People-IS-the-Justification-of-Them. As accessed on May 4th 2010.

[16] Gill, A Body of Divinity, II:V:II

[17] Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith 2nd Ed. (Nashville, TN, USA: Thomas Nelson, 1999), pp. 173-174

[18] Reymond, pp. 175-176.

[19] Gill, II:V:II:7d

[20] John Marcus, The Doctrine of Eternal Justification in Light of the Westminster Tradition (2), PRTJ April 2005, 38:2. Available online at http://www.prca.org/prtj/apr2005.htm#The Doctrine of Eternal Justification in Light of the Westminster Tradition (2). As accessed on May 4th 2010.

[21] Gill, II:V:II:7d

[22] Eg. View Profile: Brandan Kraft - Predestinarian Network.

When Adam and Eve sinned, what really happened?
It was revealed to Adam that he was a sinner and needed the righteousness of Christ which demonstrated the eventual regeneration of every elect individual

(Bold added)

Notice that the only change in the Fall was mental and cognitive revelation of sin.

As stated by Matt Powell, for these Eternal Justification advocates:

Conversion is simply becoming aware of our status as saints. Adam didn't change when he fell, believers don't change when they are saved

(Matt Powell, Eternal Justification and Antinomianism, http://wheatchaff.blogspot.com/2010/03/eternal-justification-and-antinomianism.html. As accessed on May 4th 2010)

[23] Marcus

[24] Gill, II:V:II: 5