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The Gospel and its proclamation
by Daniel Chew

The Gospel is the message of salvation; the Good News that is to be proclaimed to every creature under heaven. It proclaims to all the way of salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16), such that all who hear and obey the message will be saved; and apart from it no one can ever be saved (Rom. 10:14-17). Therefore, it is imperative that we get the Gospel message correct, as a wrong 'gospel' would damn others instead of saving them (Gal. 1:6-9).

So what exactly is the Gospel? In its broad sense, the Gospel is the entirety of Scripture, because ALL of Scripture is Good News and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting an training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16 -NIV). However, the Gospel most definitely have a narrower and more popular sense, in that it demarcates the basics of the faith that is to be proclaimed and believed in order for people to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. It is this sense which is prevalent in the NT Scriptures, whether it be distilled into a one-sentence message of 'Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2:38); 'if you confess with your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved' (Rom. 10:9), or into proto-creeds as can be seen in 1 Cor. 15:3-8. Thus, we can see that the Gospel consists of propositional truth statements that are to be understood and believed in (not merely paying lip service), which results in the salvation of all who will do so. Such biblical passages definitely seems minimalistic; with the Gospel proclamation being reduced to one statement or a collection of statements. Or is that so?

What then does the Gospel consists of? The Gospel proclamation as found in Scripture is actually very simple and can be succinctly stated as: calling on all Man to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Lk. 24:47; Acts 20:21). Together with the other passages we have looked at earlier, this seems to suggest that the Gospel message is very simple and easy, and it is. However, Man, due to sin and our own creaturely limitations, complicate matters. God intended the Gospel to be simple, but then it is only able to be effective in communicating its message if it is understood, which mankind fail to do so due to our own sinful, creaturely nature. Our hearts are darkened (Rom. 1:21) due to the rebellion of our depraved nature against God, and we have became blind to spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14) and without understanding (Is. 6:9-10; Eph. 4:18). Therefore, when given a simple Gospel presentation, rebel Man cannot understand it, and if they do, they would attempt to distort it. It is precisely because of this that the context of the various passages and the entire Bible itself is employed for the sake of the Gospel; that the meaning of the simple Gospel message can be made abundantly plain and clear (perspicuous); such that all Man would be able to understand it and be without excuse as to their rejection of the message.

This suggest, therefore, that the Gospel message is a simple message which must be understood in the way of how God wants it to be understood. In other words, the Gospel message is the simple message of repentance of sins and belief in Christ as Lord and Savior; according to the definitions of the terms and concepts as dictated in Scripture. For example, what is 'sin'? Sin must be understood in the biblical sense of rebellion and crime against God which Man commit against God by breaking His holy Law and thus incurring wrath and punishment. Any other definition like being just 'wrong choices which prove that we are human' would constitute a denial of the Gospel message, even though the word 'sin' may be used. This goes for the other words like 'Jesus Christ', which must be understood as being the name of the Second person of the Trinity which was incarnated on Earth by being born of the virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, and suffered and died on the Cross for our sins etc, and definitely NOT the New Age 'Jesus Christ'.

Now, such an exercise of the definition of words used could theoretically go on ad infinitum ad nauseum, leading to a semantic 'turtles all the way down' infinite regression scenario (which seems to be the rage within Emerging church circles, I may add). However, the Bible does not lend itself to such skepticism, as God has created Man in His own image (Gen. 1:27) and has even written the work of His Law on the hearts of all Man (Rom. 2:14-15), and has also revealed Himself to them through the work of Creation in what is known as General Revelation, thus Man are all born with a recognition of God but reject Him anyway. Part of the image of God that Man has is the capacity to communicate, and therefore there would not be an infinite regression scenario whereby Man could never understand anything of the Gospel at all, though our sinfulness do mar our understanding. It is because of this General Revelation that the Gospel proclamation, and all communication, is possible. With sufficient clarification, the Gospel could be communicated and understood, and the amount of clarification needed for the Gospel message to be successfully communicated would vary between different persons.

The next important question is with regards to how many truths are therefore needed to be communicated in order for the Gospel to be understood exactly as the Scriptures meant is to be? This would definitely depends on the audience. For simple folks, the basic message of repenting of sins and believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior would suffice, as their conscience could aid in the understanding process. However, such is not the case for most people who have bought into the philosophy of the world and have therefore suppressed the truth (Rom. 1:18-19) and seared their conscience against the Truth of God. For example, a consistent evolutionist would have already suppress the general revelation given within him/herself regarding the Creation of the world and thus the existence of sins, and therefore cannot understand the Gospel message with regards to sins (which furthermore removes the need for a Savior). Therefore, the Gospel message must include the entire account of the Creation and the Fall in order to 'fill up the gaps' he/she has created through his/her embrace of the evolutionary worldview.

The contents of the Gospel proclamation therefore is a modular one based on the core truth: 'Repentance of sins and belief in Jesus Christ', and explanations which clarify this truth. Typically, most people are not so degenerate as to require detailed understanding of correct doctrine in order to be saved, except for those in cults. What is meant by this is that a typical non-Christian wouldn't be thinking that perhaps the Gospel message is a commitment to a demigod whose name is Jesus Christ, or to Michael the Archangel when he/she hears the Gospel message, unless they are from a cult who teaches that. Occam's razor does apply to our thinking process too, and therefore human beings do not normally multiply ignorance unnecessarily by trying to make a message more complicated than it actually is. The Gospel message thus can normally be communicated and clarified without trying to do the equivalent of giving the unbeliever a crash course in soteriology within the context of a Gospel presentation.

So what are the truths to be included within a Gospel presentation? The truths to be included within such a presentation would be those which most people do not believe in and would be a stumbling block to their coming to faith. It is for this reason that the reality and awfulness of sin MUST of necessity be proclaimed, since Man typically either disregard or downplay sin. With this in mind, the reality of Creation, the Fall, the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ are the key doctrines which must be covered so that the Gospel could be clarified[1]. Other doctrines like that of the Trinity are important too, but they would be important only if the person being witnessed to comes from an anti-Trinitarian cult.

With this in mind, let us look more in-depth into the proclamation of the Gospel.

Do the ends ever justify the means in the proclamation of the Gospel?

The Gospel is be proclaimed for the salvation of sinners, and the message of the Gospel is derived from Scripture. However, what about the method? Do the ends ever justify the means in Gospel proclamation and Evangelism?

The answer is definitely no. God Himself has ordained the means by which we are to evangelize within the texts of Scripture, which is via proclamation of the Gospel in God's Word (Rom. 10:17). Since Man is saved via believing, which requires understanding, any method which does not proclaim the Gospel is definitely wrong. This would definitely rule out so-called 'lifestyle evangelism' (lifestyle pre-evangelism is fine) which does not communicate the Gospel at all and any so-called 'evangelism' activity where the Gospel is not presented; of which the worst is the 'seeker-sensitive circus church' phenomenon whereby unbelievers come to the church to be entertained and the most they ever get to a Gospel message is a pep-talk saying that 'God loves you and thus please accept Him (otherwise He is very lonely)' type of anti-Christian message which you WILL NOT find anywhere in Scripture (more on this later).

Rom. 10:17 thus summarizes the entire method by which Scripture dictates that Evangelism be done, which is through proclaiming the Gospel in words, since spiritual hearing is 'through the Word of Christ'. In the Great Commission in Mt. 28:18-20, teaching was central to making disciples, and the apostles in the narrative of Acts always proclaimed the Gospel through the method of preaching. In 1 Cor. 2:1-5, the Gospel was said to be proclaimed in speech. Through all this, we can see that words is the God-ordained medium for the transmission of the Gospel, not music, drama or whatever else that can be thought of. Therefore, without the sharing of the Gospel in words, there is no evangelism, regardless of the 'atmosphere' of the place or the 'professionalism' of the performers.

Now, as to whether music or other devices could be used to 'supplement' Evangelism, the question to look at is in what ways they are being used. If they are used in such a way that the message is undermined, by drawing attention to them instead of the message, then obviously they are not to be used. Similarly, if they are used as 'enhancers' for the message in order to 'manipulate' people into a more receptive state to make a 'decision' for Christ, then its use is similarly heinous. Since no one can come to God unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6:44), there is nothing anyone can do which ultimately alters a person's destiny and therefore to attempt to do so would tend to create false converts by bringing these people at the most to a point of worldly grief which leads to death (2 Cor. 7:10). Not to mention the fact that it may cause a receptive person to confess Christ before he/she is prepared to do so and in so doing, the person may be discouraged by the promised persecution (2 Tim. 3:12) and perhaps leave the faith hardened against it. We should therefore present the Gospel as it is instead of trying to soft-peddle it to make it more palatable to the masses.

Speaking of soft-peddling the Gospel, to present only half the Good News is definitely wrong, because it would alter the Gospel message in some way or another and thus bring down the curse of God upon that person (Gal. 1:8-9). Another detestable method is the bait-and-switch method of evangelism, whereby something 'attractive' is presented (the bait), and then substituted with the Gospel when the person has took interest in the bait (Assuming that they did indeed go to the Gospel). Such a method would of course end up presenting the Gospel, but then the people who are only interested in the bait you are offering would feel cheated and cause the church to bear reproach. More seriously, it betrays a fundamental distrust in the power of the Gospel in reaching out to those are lost. Practically, such a move often give rise to a very strong temptation to NOT even present the true Gospel to these people after baiting them out of a fear of them leaving the church, and down goes the amount of tithing along with them, thus tempting these churches to compromise the Gospel message.

With the basics of the Gospel and its proclamation covered, let us look into a specific area of the Gospel proclamation — Firstly, is it true and biblical that God loves everyone and earnestly desires their salvation, and secondly, should we present the Gospel to everyone in this manner?

Does God sincerely desire the salvation of all?

Does God honestly desire for all Man to be saved? Is there biblical evidence for or against the idea? Secondly, regardless of the answer, is it biblical to tell everyone that Christ desires your salvation during the Gospel proclamation?

It must be admitted fist of all that the idea of God desiring all men to be saved is not a Reformed idea; it comes from the Arminian tradition. In this article, I would assume the Scriptural fidelity and orthodoxy of Calvinism, which I have proven from the Scriptures elsewhere[2]. Anyway, calvinists of all stripes unanimously affirm that Christ intends to die for only His elect (Definite or Limited Atonement), as a cursory look at the major Reformed creeds like the Canons of the Synod of Dordt, the Westminster Confession of Faith etc shows. Since God intends for the salvation of the elect, and of them only, it seems strange, even contradictory, to say that God intends to save the elect while desiring the salvation of all. The only middle way proposed during the Reformation era which strives to hold on to unconditional election and predestination while postulating universal atonement was Amyraldism, named after the unorthodox French theologian Moses Amyrald. Only in this system, which denies Limited atonement, could a statement be made that God desires the salvation of all but only particularly save the elect. However, it still remains to be seen as of then how one can hold to TULIP[3] while arguing that God desires the salvation of all.

In Amyraldism, the doctrine of Definite or Limited Atonement was denied in favor of universal atonement, while the other four points (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption & Perseverance of the Saints) were kept. This was done by making the intention of Christ's atonement that Christ would make a hypothetical universal atonement for all, but logically after that God decreed to save only the elect as no one could by and of themselves avail of the benefits of the atonement due to the Fall[4]. Now, all of these decrees are not temporal but logical and happen only in the mind of God before the Creation of the world. By using such mental gymnastics, Amyrald could consistently preserve the other 4 points of Calvinism while holding on to universal atonement[5]. Such mental gymnastics would of logical necessity split the will of God into at least two parts, of which one part of God's will would desire the salvation of all Man and Christ's atoning work was made available on their behalf, while the other part would intend somehow for the salvation of the elect who would appropriate the merits of the atonement by faith. This two-wills of God theory could thus be termed the sine qua non of Amyraldism (trying to be Calvinistic but being not quite there). Granted, these two parts of the will do not function at the same level, as one is logically antecedent to the other, but both of them would be present temporally, at the same time, in the mind of God.

Through a sophisticated look at the decrees of God, Moses Amyrald has seemingly made it possible for Christians to accept Calvinism (minus the hard truth 'L') while still embracing Universal atonement. It is only through this supposedly reformed scheme that it would be possible for God to be said to sincerely desire the salvation of all Man.

In modern times, Pastor John Piper has embraced just such a view. Due to his reformed leaning convictions, Piper has attempted to incorporate the tenets of Calvinism with such a view of his, thus giving rise to his views concerning the two wills of God[6]. We would look at his arguments for his position soon, but suffice it is to say for now that his view is quintessentially Amyraldian, and the only difference is that somehow he holds to Limited Atonement. This could be probably be due to the fact that, instead of putting God's atoning work as 'sufficient for all', he shifted it to the 'efficient for the elect' part. In other words, whereas in Amyrald's system God desired the salvation of all through making available the partaking of the merits of the Atonement, and then applied to the elect only, Piper's system would mean that God desired the salvation of all, and then intending and giving the merits of the Atonement to the elect. In both systems, the two wills of God are operative, while the intention of the atonement changes from being linked to one will to the other will.

Now, of course, the two views are definitely different, as Piper affirms TULIP while Amyrald denies 'L', making it TUIP, but fundamentally they are the same. Piper's view can therefore be termed pseudo- or neo-Amyraldism (I prefer the latter term) as it is more in line with Amyrald's position than the Calvinist one. That doesn't necessarily makes it wrong of course, but at least it could be identified correctly and not be confused to be that believed by true Calvinists.

Refutation of Amyraldism and neo-Amyraldism

Before analyzing the systems of Amyraldism and neo-Amyraldism, it would be interesting to note Piper's rationale for holding such a view in the first place.

In terms of rationale, Piper is on record in his article for saying that the reason why he postulated that God does indeed desires the salvation of all is primarily because of dissatisfaction with the exegesis of typical Arminian prooftexts offered by Calvinists. This type of thinking is totally unfounded, especially since he offered no exegetical proof at all why the traditional Calvinist understanding of these texts are wrong, and gives perhaps a hint that Piper is reading into Scripture here instead of reading out of Scripture, which I would prove by dismantling his system.

The commonality between the Amyraldian and the neo-Amyraldian system is the belief that God has two wills with different saving desires and intentions. On the surface, this makes God a schizophrenic as these two wills operate against each other in one person. Piper has correctly pointed out, however, that the reality is that there are at least two-fold wills in God which are stated in Scripture[6],[7], and thus the charge does not stick on the surface. However, this charge does stick at a deeper level against both neo-Amyraldism and Amyraldism, as unlike the other examples given of the two wills of God, the two wills of God mention here are both at the same level of God's active willing with regards to soteriology; one part of God's will wills to save all while the other part doesn't will to save all but only the elect. Whereas in the example of Christ's death, God did not actually 'will' that the people obey the Law and thus not put Him to death (He decreed in the Law, but it was a command rather than a will), and thus the paradox can be resolved by stating that it was God's command according to the Law that Jesus would not be crucified, but that it was God's will to put Him to death. The Amyraldian could not resolve the paradox they have created in any logical manner, and therefore their position face a logical impossibility.

Besides being illogical, let us look into the implications of such a view on our view of God and the logical heresies that follow.

The first implication of the 'two wills of God' theory is that God would be forever unhappy and miserable since one of His will is destined to be forever frustrated. As Dr. C. Matthew McMahon says[8],

This would make God sin. He would sin in that He would violate His own mind and omniscience. He would go against that which He knows is true. He would desire the salvation of men which He will never regenerate. This would make God frustrated. He would be the ever-blessed, ever-miserable God.

Another implication would be that this would create a conflict between the will of God the Father and the will of God the Son. This would be a serious problem for classic Amyraldism since in that system, the Atonement was intended by God the Father for all Man. However, Christ's atonement according to His expressed will is only for His sheep and not for the whole world (Mt. 25:33; Jn. 10:15). Amyraldism is therefore a logical absurdity and contradicts Scripture.

With regards to neo-Amyraldism, the latter problem is of course, avoided. However, it still faces the logical coherence problem and the problem created by the implication of such a view on the nature of God Himself, which is enough to invalidate the entire theory already as aberrational.

Now, with regards to Piper's take on the typical Arminian prooftexts, the only thing that seems likely to support his interpretation is that on the passage of Ezekiel 18:23, 32. Although the passage and verses are directed towards Israel which is symbolic of the people of God of all ages, yet the verses cannot be limited to just saying that God does not delight in the death of the wicked within the communion of believers. Since the death of the wicked within the visible communion of believers in that state would mean that these people are not saved in the first place (1 Jn. 2:19; Heb. 12:14), this means that God does not delight in the death of at least certain reprobates, and the word 'anyone' in Ez. 18:32 makes this action of 'not delighting in the death of the wicked' to be applied to an indefinite number. So, I can agree with Piper's exegesis on these two verses[9]. However, to infer from the fact that God does not delight in the death of the wicked to the theory that God desires to save all is an unfounded leap in logic which I totally reject.

From all this, we have refuted both Amyraldism and neo-Amyraldism according to logic and Scripture. We will look now more into detail into the theories derived from it; 'Common Salvific Grace' and the 'Free Offer of the Gospel'.

Common salvific grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel?

When one embraces either Amyraldism or neo-Amyraldism, one necessarily embraces a 'two wills of God' theory. God is thus desirous that all Man to be saved. Depending on how one wants to go about describing that particular 'will' of God for all Man to be saved, one could very likely embrace a type of 'common grace' which I would termed 'common salvific grace' whereby God has a favorable and gracious deposition towards all Man, as opposed to 'common providential grace' or to put it simply, providence, which is how at least some reformed folks think common grace refers to[10]. Such benevolence of God expresses itself in for example sunshine and rain for all Man, regardless of their obedience to Him (Mt. 5:45), and also in things like the restraint of the total depravity of sinner on this earth etc and thus show forth the gracious character of God towards His Creation. However, this is not the idea of 'common grace' which Amyraldians and neo-Amyraldians refer to when speaking of 'common grace'. For such people, common grace actually refers to a favorable and gracious operation of the Holy Spirit which includes a desire for the salvation of all Man, somehow[11], and which sounds exactly like the Arminian 'universal prevenient grace'[12] except that it does not play a part in the Ordo Salutis whereas universal prevenient grace does. So far, Pastor John Piper has not taken his neo-Amyraldism to its logical conclusion and embraced the next logical step of common salvific grace, as far as I know, which is good.

The idea of common salvific grace is thus the next logical step in Amyraldism and is a step towards the Arminian position. Next, it then logically follows from this that, if it be true that God sincerely desire the salvation of all Man (in some fashion or another; whether it be through the one-will of God in Arminianism or the two-wills of God in Amyraldism), then the Gospel is be preached likewise (the so-called 'free offer of the Gospel'). Consequently, if the theory of common salvific grace is proven to be unbiblical, then the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' is also wrong and it would be wrong to tell anyone in a Gospel presentation that God desires their salvation.

So now we have two theories to evaluate: the theory of common salvific grace and the 'Free Offer of the Gospel'. If both of these theories are shown to be unbiblical, which I will prove that they are, then it is wrong that God desires the salvation of all Man, and we should not be telling people that God desires the salvation of all Man or its corollary that God offers salvation to you freely (and it is up to the person to accept or not).

With regards to the theory of Common salvific grace, the prooftexts used to support this theory are mainly the same prooftexts that Arminians use to attempt to prove their doctrine of universal atonement, and thus subject to the same refutation. Texts which speak of God blessing unbelievers (i.e. God placing the Egyptians under Joseph's rule (Gen. 41: 52-57), protecting and blessing Hagar and Ishmael (Gen. 21:8-21)), cannot in any way prove this theory, as these blessings DO not speak of any form of salvific grace whatsoever. Therefore, the consistent Amyraldians would slip into a weak form of Arminianism as they resort to the same type of arguments Arminians use and the same prooftexts supposedly referring to 'all man', 'the world' etc being somehow the intent of God's salvific love and grace[13]. In fact, this sort of cryto-Arminianism would in the end ruin those who propose it. For the reason that the proponents are generally bright and logical and would thus bring their position to its logical conclusion, and if not their successors would do so, the Amyraldians and/or cryto-Arminians would soon either throw away their Amyraldian novelties, or slip further into embracing the Arminian heresy, and from there move on towards rank heresy in Semi-Pelagianism.

The related theory of the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' may sound confusing to some. First of all, let it be clear what the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' is NOT. It is NOT the idea that the Gospel is to be preached promiscuously to all. It is NOT the idea that God promises that IF anyone repents, they would be saved. It is NOT the idea that we can preach the Gospel in such a way that we implore people to repent of their sins and turn to Christ. All these are NOT what the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' teaches. Granted, the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' does agree with all these, but the key point of the 'Free Offer of the Gospel' is that God favorably desires the salvation of all Man, and the Gospel is to be preached in such a way that the sinner must be told that God wants you to be saved. The first part of the Free Offer of the Gospel, that of Common salvific grace, is erroneous, of which we have seen earlier, and the second part must therefore of necessity be wrong also. After all, if it be wrong that God desires the salvation of all Man, then how can we tell others that God desires their salvation, since it would then be a lie if the person is not of the elect?

Just to show that I am not misrepresenting the doctrine, here is the definition of the Free Offer of the Gospel' by the neo-Amryaldian John Murray[14]:

... [the] disposition of lovingkindness on the part of God pointing to the salvation to be gained through compliance with the overtures of gospel grace. In other words, the gospel is not simply an offer or invitation but also implies that God delights that those to whom the offer comes would enjoy what is offered in all its fullness.

In his forward, R. Scott Clark lambasted traditional Calvinists by derogatorily referring to them as 'hyper-Calvinists' and call them rationalists because they (Herman Hoeksema, Gordon Clark, John Gertsner etc.) reject this doctrine he embraces, as they have found it wanting both scripturally and logically. Notwithstanding this, the truth is that this doctrine is based on a flawed, aberrational. doctrine (common salvific grace) which is a step toward Arminianism and Pelagianism and therefore also aberrational.

To round off the refutation of Common salvific grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel, let us look at a quote from the Prince of Puritans, Rev. Dr. John Owen, which was used against the ideas of Amyrald and could be applied similarly to these 'modern' ideas[15]:

First, God doth not proffer life to all upon the condition of faith, passing by a great part of mankind without any such proffer made to them at all.

Secondly, If by God's proffer they understand His command and promise, who told them that these things were declarative of His will and purpose or intention? ... I thought always that God's commands and promises had revealed our duty, and not His purposes; what God would have us to do, and not what to do. His promises, indeed, ... indefinitely proposed, they reveal no other intention of God but what we before discovered, which concerns things, not persons, ...

... If He [God] intend it, why is it, then, not accomplished? doth He fail of His purpose? (p. 200, Italics original, Bold added)

Also,

If we take the command to believe, with the promise of life upon so doing, for an offer of mercy, there is an eternal truth in it; which is, that God will assuredly bestow life and salvation upon all believers, ... and not at all of God's intention towards the particular soul to whom the proffer is made. (p. 272)

In the first passage, Own clearly states his opposition to the idea of any form of Common salvific grace, as he contends that God's will is different from his commands and promises (against the two wills of God), and that God does not proffer or intend salvation for all Man. Owen then shoots a rhetorical question regarding whether if God intends it, then why it is not accomplished, and thus destroy whatever is left of the unbiblical theory of Common salvific grace. In the second passage, Owen first affirms the 'sincere promise of the Gospel', that God promises to all Man that ALL who repent and believe will have eternal life, and then in the later part denies the Free offer of the Gospel, as he denies that this promise does not say anything at all of whether God intends anything towards 'the particular soul to whom the proffer is made'.

We can thus see that the modern day crypto-Arminians and neo-Amyraldians contradict the Scriptures, and they furthermore go against at least the Prince of Puritans, John Owen. It is my further contention that they contradict all the Reformers and Reformed Creeds and Confessions before them, which can be seen if one learns how to distinguish between the two doctrines of the 'Sincere promise of the Gospel' and the 'Free offer of the Gospel', of which the former is affirmed while the latter is denied. The inability of these people to distinguish between the two lead to them thinking that the witness of the historic Reformed community is on their side, when it is actually not.

We will next look at the baneful effects the embrace of such theories have on Evangelism.

Baneful effects of Amyraldism and cryto-Arminianism on Evangelism

When one embraces neo-Amyraldian, Amyraldian or even cryto-Arminian soteriological views, which expresses itself logically in the theories of 'Common salvific grace' and the 'Free Offer of the Gospel', this would then translate into various practices in Evangelism which would compromise the message of the Gospel.

An example of such a distortion of the Gospel message could be seen in the evangelistic video at the center of the 'Just stop and think' controversy, where the statements that 'Despite all you have done, God still loves you', 'Regardless of anything you have done in your life, God still wants to love you', '...the God of the universe is proposing to you right now: I want to forgive you, I want to spend eternity with you', 'God is begging you; it's almost like He is on a knee begging you', 'The God of the universe is crazy about you and screaming out for your attention' are made. Central to all of this is the theory of the Free Offer of the Gospel, taken to its extreme of course. After all, only if you believe that God has some sort of favorable disposition towards all Man and sincerely desires their salvation can you make such statements which appeal to Man at Man's level. Instead of proclaiming the holiness of God and commanding their repentance, the Gospel message has been reduced to an anthropocentric message based upon the supposed love and grace that God has for all Man.

Now, of course, embracing the ideas of Common salvific grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel does not necessarily translate into such a distortion of the Gospel message (which is still a mild distortion compared to others which come from a purely Arminian, Semi-Pelagian or Pelagian perspective). However, that is its logical consequence. Due to the contradictory nature of the theories of Common salvific grace and the Free Offer of the Gospel with the Doctrines of Grace, the Amyraldian and neo-Amyraldian position can only be maintained by celebrating irrationality and deprecating logic, which is what people like Dr. Cornelius Van Till has done when discussing such matters[16]. However, as history has shown, compromise begets more compromise and heresy, and as such, the Gospel message would tend towards more and more distortion. Also, it is this tendency towards greater and greater corruption of the Gospel message that should be of grave concern, even more so than the slight distortion as seen in that video.

In conclusion, the embrace of Amyraldism, neo-Amyraldism, or crypto-Arminianism would cause a distortion of the Gospel message along the lines of shifting the focus of the Gospel from the theocentric God's command for repentance to the anthropocentric need for Man to respond to the love for God. Of course, it is granted that repentance may be also present in the Gospel message of the Amyraldians, but the emphasis has shifted from God's command to Man's response and an unbiblical emphasis on and exaggeration of the love of God towards all Man, to the extent that God's special love for His elect could even be used of all Man in general, as can be seen in that 'Just Stop and Think' video. This, thus, is the baneful effect of Amyraldism on the presentation of the Gospel. If not halted, the downgrade of the Gospel message would continue as later generations would be more consistent with their theology and would tend to move towards the embrace of Arminian error, with the corresponding decline in the message of the Gospel.

We would now look more in detail into the proper way in which we should proclaim the Gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Finale

We have seen that the Gospel is to be proclaimed in words, especially through the medium of preaching, and we have also seen the wrong way of sharing the Gospel message by the Amyraldians, neo-Amyraldians and the crypto-Arminians. So how exactly are we to proclaim the Gospel?

First of all, the proclamation of the Gospel must contain the Gospel, which includes elements such as the sinfulness of Man, the wrath of God against sin, the death of Christ on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead, the command to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, and the consequences of doing so and of NOT doing so. We are to, like the apostle Peter, implore others to turn to Christ (Acts 2:40) and plead with them regarding their salvation from the coming judgment of God. The sincere promise of the Gospel, that ALL who turn to Christ will be saved, must be made known.

Note the difference between such a presentation and the presentation which the Amyraldians would give if they are consistent with their theology. Nowhere in the Gospel presentation should we tell others that God loves them, or that God loves them despite everything which they have done, which the Bible does not do so anyway. Our exhortation to sinners is along the lines of 'Repent and save yourselves', not 'God loves you and please accept Him'. The basis of our exhortation is thus also different: we should implore others based upon the fact that they are in danger of hellfire, rather than the 'fact' that God wants them to turn to Him. The former puts God in charge, and pleads for Man to escape hellfire, whereas the latter puts Man in charge as it elevates human autonomy to accept God or not, even in the decision to escape hellfire.

The reason why this is so important in the Gospel presentation is that only the sick would need a doctor (Mt. 9:12; Mk. 2:17; Lk. 5:31). Unless and until we expose the sinfulness of Man, no one would see their need of a Savior to save them from their sins. If we just present Jesus as anything less than a Savior from the utter wickedness of our sins, then we diminish the message of the Gospel. If Man is made to believe that they can somehow help themselves, even in being given the choice to decide to accept Christ or not, then they have not seen the gravity of their own sins and thus the Gospel message is compromised. Only when they know that they are helpless and doomed before the wrath of an Almighty God would they realize the awfulness of their sin and cry out to God for mercy.

The Gospel presentation must be one of urgency also. Since the Gospel is the only things that saved, then we should show urgency in bringing the message to dying sinners. God wants His people saved (2 Peter. 3:9), and we are the instruments (Mt. 28:18-20) that He uses to accomplish His mission of saving all His lost sheep (Mt. 18:10-14). Yes, their salvation ultimately does not depend on ourselves, since Christ has already said that all that the Father has given to Him would come to Him (Jn. 6:37) and would not be cast out (Jn. 6:37), but that doesn't mean that we can be disobedient to God's commands. Furthermore, we should all the more go out and evangelize since we have the confidence that all of God's people WILL respond to the Gospel sooner or later, unlike the synergists who have no assurance that their proclamation of the Gospel would save anyone.

Last of all, the Gospel presentation should be passionate. If you don't even believe in the Gospel, or show no sign of really believing it, how can you share it with others?

In conclusion, the Gospel message is to be proclaimed in such a way that the glory and holiness of God is lifted up, and the sinfulness of Man is exposed. Only then will the grace of God towards sinners shine and people would eagerly turn to Jesus Christ, if they are convicted of their sins. We should present the Gospel urgently too, knowing that time is short and we should do so with the passion of truly believing this truth of the Gospel. Such a Gospel presentation would be one that honors God, and would thus be blessed and used of God mightily in the salvation of His people and the condemnation of the reprobates (2 Cor. 2:16a).


References:

[1] For a reasonable Gospel presentation, check this out.

[2] For proof from Scripture, see my articles here and here.

[3] TULIP stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the Saints, the 5 points of Calvinism

[4] Notes on supralapsarianism and infralasarianism (http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/sup_infr.htm)

[5] Of course, this creates other problems in terms of consistency in theology, but at least all seems well within the narrow scope of TULIP.

[6] Are there two wills in God? (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1995/1580_Are_There_Two_Wills_in_God/)

[7] I wouldn't use the term "will"' to describe things like "God's moral will", as I think it is not proper terminology, but I do agree and subscribe with the meaning and intent of the terms used.

[8] Hypothetical Universalism (http://www.apuritansmind.com/PuritanWorship/Amyraut%20Universalism.htm).
Although this article is a good resource, it is my opinion after reading though it that there are a few errors in it. Amyraldism does NOT believe in all man having a equal chance to 'become Sons of the living God', at least not in the manner understood by Semi-Pelgianism or Arminianism, contrary to what McMahon thinks it believes. Another thing to take note is that McMahon tend towards hyper-Calvinistic thought patterns in his disregard of the sufficiency of the Atonement for all who would believe (Particularism), which is deduced from Scripture passages such as Jn. 3:16 whereby the atoning sacrifice of Christ is said to be effective for an indefinite number 'all', 'the world'.

[9] I DO agree that God ultimately delights in the destruction of the reprobates due to their sins, and Piper does too, and such delight also occurs on this earth (1 Sam. 2:22-25). What I believe regarding this issue is that God does not delight in the death of the wicked when viewing them as humans, but God delights in the destruction of the wicked when viewing them as depraved rebel sinners.

[10] This is the view taken by theologians such as Loius Berkhof in his article Common Grace (http://www.mbrem.com/calvinism/commongrace.htm)

[11] This view of common salvific grace is taken by the group of complainants led by Dr. Cornelius Van Till against the ordination of Gordon H. Clark in the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) during the 1940s. Taken from Garrett P. Johnson, The Myths of Common Grace, The Trinity Review , Mar/Apr 1987. (http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=28)

[12] "Universal Prevenient Grace", Entry on Theopedia (http://www.theopedia.com/Universal_prevenient_grace), Correct as of 2nd July 2007

[13] As an example, see John Murray's exegesis of 2 Peter 3:9 in his essay The Free Offer of the Gospel (found at http://public.csusm.edu/public/guests/rsclark/Offer.html). Note well that his "exegesis" is no different fundamentally from that of the Arminians.

[14] John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse, The Free Offer of the Gospel (found at http://public.csusm.edu/public/guests/rsclark/Offer.html)

[15] John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1999

[16] W. Gary Crampton, Cornelius Van Till: An Analysis of his Thought, The Trinity Review, July 1996. (http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=167)