Examining Accuracy of JC Ryle Quote On "Conditional Saving Faith"

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by psycheives, Jan 10, 2017.

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  1. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    JC Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Mt 13:53-58:
    "The last thing which we ought to notice in these verses is the ruinous nature of unbelief. The chapter ends with the fearful words, "He didn't do many miraculous works there, because of their unbelief."

    Behold in this single word the secret of the everlasting ruin of multitudes of souls! They perish forever, because they will not believe. There is nothing beside in earth or heaven that prevents their salvation. Their sins, however many, might all be forgiven. The Father's love is ready to receive them. The blood of Christ is ready to cleanse them. The power of the Spirit is ready to renew them. But a great barrier interposes--they will not believe. "You will not come unto me," says Jesus, "that you might have life." (John 5:40.) May we all be on our guard against this accursed sin. It is the old root-sin, which caused the fall of man. Cut down in the true child of God by the power of the Spirit, it is ever ready to bud and sprout again. There are three great enemies against which God's children should daily pray--pride, worldliness, and unbelief. Of these three, none is greater than unbelief."​

    Will you guys please take some time to consider carefully and then comment on the accuracy of JC Ryle's quote below? The way he speaks of belief as being the condition for salvation makes me uncomfortable and "smells like Amyraldianism/Arminianism" to me. I acknowledge there is a common way in which Calvinists speak of "conditional faith" but Ryle's words seem to cross the line into "losing saving faith" (especially the last sentence). Please consider the following questions:
    1. Is it true that “There is nothing beside [unbelief] that prevents their salvation”?
    2. Is it true that “The Father's love is ready to receive them. The blood of Christ is ready to cleanse them. The power of the Spirit is ready to renew them. But a great barrier interposes--they will not believe.”
    3. Is Jesus’ saying "You will not come unto me… that you might have life." (John 5:40) the same as saying “God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are ready to receive, cleanse and renew you but only your unbelief prevents this?”
    4. Is it true “May we all be on our guard against this accursed sin. It is the old root-sin, which caused the fall of man. Cut down in the true child of God by the power of the Spirit, it is ever ready to bud and sprout again.
    IMPORTANTLY: Please state if you are pro-Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel (WMO); anti-Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel; or aren't familiar with the debate when you reply.
     
  2. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Do you know that J. C. Ryle was (at least at one point) a 4-pointer? Also, his comments are not a carefully thought out statement in systematic theology, but expository thoughts. Perhaps it might be better to look at his more overtly doctrinal writings for a clearer picture of what he believed on these points.
     
  3. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    Okay, this his helpful and makes more sense of the quote now. I did not know he was a 4-pointer. I just thought the quote above sounds like something that would be written by an Amyraldian.
     
  4. psycheives

    psycheives Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm Anti-WMO.

    Here are my thoughts on the questions:

    1) Is it true that “There is nothing beside [unbelief] that prevents their salvation”?
    I think there is a way a Calvinist could sort of affirm this. If we focus and emphasize unbelief in the context of the gospel message: "whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Then we could also say "whoever does not belief shall perish." However, it seems to extend this to a broader context and say "nothing besides unbelief" prevents salvation would not be accurate. No, our sin natures (we are totally depraved) and all the sins that have not been forgiven (our sinful lives) also separate us from God.

    2) Is it true that “The Father's love is ready to receive them. The blood of Christ is ready to cleanse them. The power of the Spirit is ready to renew them. But a great barrier interposes--they will not believe.”
    This seems extremely contrary to Calvinism to me. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not just sitting there waiting for totally depraved dead sinners to get up and belief. One must first be born again by the Spirit. This statement seems contrary to the Calvinist "order of salvation."

    3) Is Jesus’ saying "You will not come unto me… that you might have life." (John 5:40) the same as saying “God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are ready to receive, cleanse and renew you but only your unbelief prevents this?”
    These are two very different things. "You will not come to me that you might have life" is very true. Humans are dead in their sins and totally depraved. No, they will not come to Christ, unless he draws them by the Spirit. God saves. He doesn't wait for spiritually dead man to believe.

    4) Is it true “May we all be on our guard against this accursed sin. It is the old root-sin, which caused the fall of man. Cut down in the true child of God by the power of the Spirit, it is ever ready to bud and sprout again.”
    I understand Ryle to say that we must guard against unbelief because even though the Spirit wiped away unbelief and gave us saving faith, unbelief is always ready to sprout up again. This seems very contrary to Calvinistic beliefs on saving faith and contrary to perseverance of the saints.
     
  5. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Junior

    Since the non Elect will forever choose to keep on resisting the Holy Spirit, then how can his points on God stands ready to save and accept them if they come to Him, but they will choose never to, as they are found being dead in sins and trespasses?
     
  6. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I am not against the offer being well-meant in the proper sense that God genuinely intends to give salvation to all who believe. The problem with the "universal desire" theory is that it makes God's offer to be less than genuine. By extending the desire to save to "all men" it effectively makes that desire ineffectual and casts doubt on the promise of God to save those who believe.

    Ryle positioned himself with Davenant's hypothetical universalism in his comments on John 3:16. From my perspective that means he has undermined the guilt of unbelief and brought in another cause of damnation.

    In the Calvinist view the promise of God is to save all who believe, and all are invited to faith in order to be saved. The gospel warrants sinners as sinners to believe in Christ for the salvation of their souls. Therefore unbelief, and only unbelief, prevents a sinner from being saved. The sinner's own unbelief is to blame for his damnation.

    In Davenant's view salvation as promised in the gospel to all men is only hypothetical: Christ has died for the sinner's salvation only IF the sinner believes. It is only made real in the event that God gives faith to the elect sinner to enable him to believe. In that case the person is damned not only because of his unbelief, but also because God has not given him the faith which was necessary to make God's promise real. Davenant's view ends up making God responsible for the unbelief and damnation of the non-elect.
     
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  7. JOwen

    JOwen Puritan Board Junior

    Pro Canons of Dort WMO, anti-Murray/Stonehouse WMO.

    John Calvin on John 5:40

    "And ye will not come to me". He again reproaches them that it is nothing but their own malice that hinders them from becoming partakers of the life offered in the Scriptures; for when he says that they will not, he imputes the cause of their ignorance and blindness to wickedness and obstinacy. And, indeed, since he offered himself to them so graciously, they must have been willfully blind; but when they intentionally fled from the light, and even desired to extinguish the sun by the darkness of their unbelief, Christ justly reproves them with greater severity. ​

    Ryle's "might's" and "ready's" in this passage are where the difficulty lies. If it stems from "hypothetical universalism" as brother Winzer suggests (which is probably correct) then the conclusion of a double damnation is indeed very problematic. But with Ryle's words alone, I have no real qualms. If understood, not on the side of Divine sovereignty, but human responsibility, the force is clear, "it is nothing but their own malice that hinders them from becoming partakers of the life offered in the Scriptures".
    Indeed the Father's love is ready to receive any kind of sinner. The blood of Christ is ready to cleans any kind of sinner. As brother Winzer rightly states, sinners as sinners may come to Him, and that of every sort.

    The Canons of Dordt: THIRD AND FOURTH HEADS OF DOCTRINE: Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof.

    Article 9. It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ, offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel, and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the word, refuse to come, and be converted: the fault lies in themselves.​
     
  8. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi,

    I'm pro-WMO and hold a classic sufficient/efficient view of the atonement as detailed by C. Hodge (see this excerpt from his ST at http://graceonlinelibrary.org/refor...ent/for-whom-did-christ-die-by-charles-hodge/).

    As to your points above:

    Yes, otherwise, it would be God preventing them. Election is unconditional, but salvation is always conditioned on faith. If not, the elect would always be saved.

    "O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You shall be ashamed. 'Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.'" (Jer. 17:13, see also John 3:17, Dort, 2nd Head, Article 6)

    Yes. "...among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thes. 2:10).

    "'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.' But you would not..." (Is. 30:15)

    "'And now, because you have done all these works,' says the LORD, 'and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer...'" (Jer. 7:13)

    "O Jerusalem, Jeruusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" (Matt. 23:37)

    Without further explanation, it is difficult to affirm or deny this passage. However, it does resemble Heb. 10:26-31.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
  9. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Sophomore

    Instead of "another cause," could it simply be the second cause?
     
  10. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Sophomore

    Here are some comments from Westminster divine Thomas Valentine on John 5:40:

     
  11. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Either way it makes God a moral cause for the sinner's unbelief and damnation. I suppose if one called it a "second cause" it would bring out the secondary and subordinate place that God has in this scheme of things and make it easier for people to see the erroneous nature of it.
     
  12. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Senior

    I have greatly profited from reading Bishop Ryle's works. He has a keen pastoral insight and he writes in a style that is a pleasure to read. That being said, it is also clear from reading his works that, while he is certainly reformed in many ways, he is not really reformed in the classical Westminster Confession of Faith kind of way. Depending on your perspective, you may or may not find this to be a positive thing.
     
  13. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Junior

    Is he postulating here the 4 point Calvinist thought of Jesus did die for all sinners in a real sense.that any and all could accept Him, but God Himself still had to apply saving grace towards Hs elect to have saving faith?
     
  14. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Junior

    What church tradition was he part of?
     
  15. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Senior

    He was an Anglican bishop in the late 19th century. This was a time when the Church of England was becoming less and less reformed, and while he fought hard against liberalism and the drift back to Rome, he was no doubt still influenced by some of the prevailing theology of his time.
     
  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Bishop Ryle was very practical and pastoral, which can be a great strength and a blessing to the church, but it can also make it difficult to interpret him in terms of theological formulations. At times it sounds like he held simpliciter to the view that Christ died for all men; but as he positioned himself with Davenant it seems that he held to an hypothetical universalism, which taught that Christ died for all men on condition that they believe. This is not four point Calvinism (if there can be such a thing), but is a revision of five point Calvinism so as to accommodate the Arminian view of God's antecedent will for the salvation of all men. The problem is that it turns God's decree to save the elect into a reduction of the work of Christ. They claim that God wills to save all men and sent Christ to save all men but restricted the merits of Christ to an elect number. Christ's blood and righteousness cries out for justification but the hypothetical universalist claims that the Father says "No" to His own dear Son.
     
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  17. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Junior

    Isn't that view to some degree close to the one that holds that Jesus did die for sins of all in a sense, and that any and all could accept Him, but the Lord knows that in a real sense only those whom He grants saving faith to vcanandwill come t Him to get saved? All could be saved, but really only the eect will be?
     
  18. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Senior

    Read John 6.
    Plus a couple days ago James White did his whole Dividing line on that chapter which will no doubt help you if you watch it.
    http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2017/01/10/john-6-roman-catholics/
     
  19. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    That may explain why, from my memory of reading the Expository Thoughts on John's Gospel (10+ years ago), it sounded like the was an Amyraldian. I can see, though, why Hypothetical Universalism may be a more accurate description of his position.
     
  20. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Junior

  21. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    They are so close they could be one and the same view, but the "sense" is explained as being "conditional." From this it derives the name "hypothetical" universalism.
     
  22. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Junior

    Is that view point seen as being an acceptable one within either Reformed or calvinism then, or has it always been seen as being not acceptable?
     
  23. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Some see it as a a different trajectory of reformed thinking (e.g., Richard Muller). Others see it as a softening of reformed theology (e.g., Jonathan Moore). I would say that the viewpoint has been systematised into a concrete position by historical theologians looking back on it and analysing it. There were historical maintainers of the view but it never had the kind of significance that modern scholarship has given it. Moreover, if examined from the perspective of confessional theology, particularly the Scottish theology which maintained a stricter confessional theology, the view must be seen as a softening of reformed theology.
     
  24. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Sophomore

    Rev. Winzer,

    I appreciate that you clarified that English hypothetical universalism is not four point Calvinism. However, I don't think it's fair to history to call hypothetical universalism a revision of five point Calvinism for the following reasons:

    1. Davenant was one of the English deligates to Dort. Dort includes the sufficient/efficient formula under the second head of doctrine. If the "five points of Calvinism" are more accurately termed the "five points of Dort," English hypothetical universalism is not a revision, but simply a strain that was represented in the formulation of the five points, though we can all agree Dort doesn't embrace the entire system of hypothetical universalism, nor does it necessarily condemn it.

    2. Representing hypothetical universalism as a system "to accommodate the Arminian view of God's antecedent will for the salvation of all men" seems unfair. The classical formula of the atonement was that of Lombard and many other "Schoolmen" who maintained that Christ died for all sufficiently. (We should be careful not to read history backwards and force Owen's use of sufficient/efficient into the minds of the scholastics.) Davenant laments in his Dissertation a departure from historic distinctions regarding the atonement by what we now call strict particularlism. To say that one of the delegates to Dort seeking to construct dogma against the Remonstrants was also promoting a Remonstrant accommodation would be counter productive to say the least.

    3. If we accept that the classic sufficient/efficient distinction was the historic backbone doctrine of the atonement, we should view both the unique aspects of strict particularism and hypothetical universalism carefully so that we do not approach understanding a historic document through the lens of later majority views. Though our confessions sought to bring clarity against the views of their enemies, they endeavored not to draw hard lines between friends.
     
  25. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable Staff Member

    @MW

    Tim,

    I may be wrong, but I read Rev. Winzer's use of the personal pronouns to refer to Bishop Ryle alone:

    "Bishop Ryle was very practical and pastoral, which can be a great strength and a blessing to the church, but it can also make it difficult to interpret him in terms of theological formulations. At times it sounds like he held simpliciter to the view that Christ died for all men; but as he positioned himself with Davenant it seems that he held to an hypothetical universalism, which taught that Christ died for all men on condition that they believe."

    I also see a careful nuance above, in that positioning himself (Ryle) with Davenant, Ryle held to an hypothetical universalism. Davenant got wrapped around the axle on teachings of conditional sufficiency, but his views on justification encompassed strict particularism. In other words, Ryle's movement towards Davenant were in one direction only, towards Davenant's views of sufficiency with some sort of conditional intentions for all men, yet Ryle went beyond Davenant. Accordingly, I do not think Rev. Winzer was ascribing hypothetical universalism at all to Davevant.

    Not a few tend to consign all the universal type of references of the men of the old paths to meaning they denied particular atonement. Yet the understanding of those that came before us was often that the atonement was sufficient for all if God had deemed to do so, a hypothetical sufficiency (an intrinsic worth), if you will, and not a hypothetical universalism. Do you see the distinctions?
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2017
  26. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Tim, all of your reasons basically come back to the same idea -- the sufficiency-efficient distinction. I am at a loss to know what relevance this distinction has to the point I have made. You are welcome to make an argument, but in order to make a cogent argument you will have to do something by way of tying your reasons to your opinion and showing how it relates to what I have said.

    There were numerous different theological uses which were made of the sufficiency-efficient distinction in the 17th century, ranging from Pelagian to high Calvinist. The fact it is used by a theologian is no guarantee of orthodoxy or unorthodoxy. What matters is the way in which it has been used.
     
  27. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Junior

    It seems to be the "softening" that some used to try to move to a Universal view on the intent/extnt of the atonement of Christ, correct?
     
  28. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Sophomore

    Patrick, thanks for your note. I see how I may have misinterpreted Rev. Winzer.

    Rev. Winzer, were you separating Ryle's HU from Davenant's? If so, I apologize for my misunderstanding.

    I'm fairly well versed in Davenant's Dissertation, but not in Ryle. I thought that Ryle's HU was being considered more or less equivalent to Davenant's. Again, if I have misread, there is little I would take issue with.

    I may be off here, but it seems that you are applying Owen's application of sufficiency, not Davenant's. Davenant called the Owen conception of sufficiency a "bare" or "mere sufficiency" whereas Davenant avocated an "ordained sufficiency." Below I've quoted a small portion from his Dissertation:

    And:

    Thank you, Patrick, for pointing out what I may have missed in Rev. Winzer's post.

    And Rev. Winzer, thank you for your care in not sticking a 4-point label on all HU, as this mistake does not account for historical diversity in the debate.
     
  29. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Patrick and Tim, My understanding is that Davenant taught hypothetical universalism. Ryle refers to him for the sake of supporting his contention that Christ died for all. Whether Ryle was consistent in this position is not easy to tell; I refer to him as an hypothetical universalist and not a "four point Calvinist" solely because he did position himself with Davenant. I hope that clears up the confusion.

    Although it seems to me to be off topic I take Davenant to have taught an "ordained sufficiency" whereas Owen maintained an "intrinsic sufficiency." As noted previously there were different ways of using the expression "sufficiency." If one wished he could use this term to explain the second article of the Remonstrants. E.g., John Goodwin wrote in his Eirenomaxia, "Our brethren hold and teach, that Christ died sufficiently for all men, without exception. Herein we fully accord with them." Again, I observe that it is not the terminology, but the way it is used, that is of importance.

    But to get back to the point of the thread -- if one reads Davenant it should be obvious that he has introduced non-election as the reason why Christ's benefits are not applied to all men. This means election serves to limit the death of Christ and is added to the sinner's unbelief as a cause of his damnation. This is certainly a deviation from orthodox Calvinism.
     
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  30. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Sophomore

    Rev. Winzer,

    My primary point (which probably wasn't stated as clearly as it could have been) was that since the sufficient/efficient (contrasted to strict particularism and HU) view of the atonement was the Calvinistic view, couldn't we also regard strict particularism as a deviation from orthodox Calvinism?

    With this in mind, consider your statement that said Davenant and Ryle taught a "revision of five point Calvinism so as to accommodate the Arminian view..." It seems to me that a) it was no more a revision than strict particularism, and b) it historically countered (not accommodated) the Remonstrant position at Dort.

    Does that make sense?
     
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