The Marrow Controversy and Tolerant Calvinism Part 2: Tolerant Calvinism or Intolerant Fullerism

Back when I was an Arminian I understood conversion to be that act of God whereby He convinces people by means of a mystical experience to make a decision to surrender themselves completely to His will for their life.   This is how I understood my own conversion.   I had believed God had convinced me to make a decision to surrender myself completely to His will for my life.  How did Christ’s death fit into this?  I believed His death fit in like this — I believed Jesus had died for my sins in order to show me how great God’s love is for me so that I would surrender myself to His will for my life once He convinced me to make that decision.

I am certain were we to ask most people today who profess to be Christian they would for the most part agree with everything I have just said. However, standing now on the other side of all that I now recognize what I had believed for what it was.  It was nothing less than Fullerism.  It was the acceptance of Fuller’s commercial view of the atonement.  I had understood the cross to be a token symbol of God’s love for mankind designed to help convince us to make a decision to surrender ourselves to God’s will for our lives.

Today I am convinced that most tolerant Calvinists are functional Amyraldians who dabble in Fuller’s commercial view.  After all, where else do we hear talk about salvation being an act of surrendering ourselves to the Lord’s will for our lives? We hear it in Lordship Salvation, don’t we. You’re not really saved until you surrender yourself to Christ as Lord of your life.

Now, far be it from me to insist the Bible doesn’t instruct us to surrender ourselves to God’s will for us. Indeed it most certainly does! Pick up your cross and follow Me is not a suggestion, nor is it a command that demands we remain independent of God’s will for us. But is that the gospel? Is the gospel the good news the news that Jesus has made it so that we are now able to surrender ourselves to God’s will for our lives?

The Promises

In the book of Acts, we find the apostles preaching a message which concerned two promises – the promise of the Holy Spirit and the promise of resurrection.

Acts 2:33 . . . and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 26:6-8 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

We are told these two promises were made by God to the fathers (the fathers being the Old Testament saints of faith), and that although the twelve tribes (the physical descendants of the fathers) hoped to attain the promises, the promises were nevertheless reserved instead for those who share in the same faith as the fathers (Romans 4, Galatians 3:7).
This fact is further demonstrated in that neither Ishmael nor Esau inherited the promises, though they were both physical descendants of Abraham and Isaac respectively.

In addition to this, we are further told in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 1:14 that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of the fathers’ inheritance.  Working from the fact that there were two promises made to the fathers – the promise of the Holy Spirit and the promise of resurrection – we can surmise that the receipt of the first promise is the guarantee that the children by faith will receive the second.

According to Galatians 3:13-14, Christ sacrificed His body to God at the cross in order to deliver the two promises to the children of faith.

Galatians 3:13-14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” – so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

What this means then is that Christ did not go to the cross in order to make it so that we would be able to surrender ourselves to God’s will for our lives.  Instead, He went to the cross in order to redeem the children of promise from God’s wrath that stood against them for their sins so that God can legally and justly provide them with the promise of the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of the promise of their resurrection. This is the gospel.  This was the message the apostles preached to both Jews and Gentiles. The problem with Tolerant Calvinists today is that this is not the gospel they are preaching.


Inconsistency. This is what I keep hearing about from some tolerant Calvinists. I agree, we are all inconsistent in some areas of our belief.  For example, I have never yet met a newly converted Christian who was able to give me a consistent definition of the Holy Trinity. In fact, in most cases, what I usually hear is fairly heretical, though I know the person does not intend to be so.

But what I hear from Tolerant Calvinists is something different. I hear Tolerant Calvinists tell me that real actual Arminianism is a heresy, but because most Arminians are inconsistent about their beliefs they are nevertheless saved.

What exactly is that supposed to mean?  Anything? I mean, if we simply accept what it says, that Arminians are Christian because they are inconsistent about Arminianism, then anyone who is inconsistent about anything can be a Christian too, because we have not addressed the fundamental question: do they believe the gospel?

We are all inconsistent about some things.  So what? What does this have to do with the question, do you believe the gospel?  Most Arminians today are inconsistent about Arminianism.  Okay, and?  What does this have to do with the question, do you believe the gospel?  Just because they are inconsistent about Arminianism does not grant the assumption that they believe the gospel.  Andrew Fuller was inconsistent about Arminianism.  Are any Tolerant Calvinist willing to conclude that he was a Christian?

At some point we must draw a line. Otherwise, if we simply accept that everyone who is inconsistent about some, or even most Christian doctrine and yet still claims to be a Christian really is a Christian, then we would have to accept Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christians too.  After all, are they not also inconsistent?

Where do we draw the line then? Where do we say so far and no further?  Do today’s Arminians believe Christ went to the cross in order to redeem the children of promise from God’s wrath that stood against them for their sins so that God can legally and justly provide them with the promise of the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of the promise of their resurrection?  No, they do not. They believe instead that Christ died for everyone’s sins at the cross in order to show the world how much He loves everyone so that they will want to surrender their will to God’s will for their life.  If they believe anything at all about propitiation, it is that they believe Christ satisfied God’s anger on behalf of everyone’s sins in order to show the world how much God loves the world so that the world will want to surrender their will to God’s will for their life.

This is not the gospel.  This is Fullerism. Yet today’s Tolerant Calvinists insist people who believe this are brothers in Christ.

Today’s Tolerant Calvinists, though they ascribe to substitutionary atonement, are in fact functional Amyraldians.  That is, they subscribe to definite substitutionary atonement, but in practice they function as men who subscribe to an Amyraldian governmental theory of the atonement.

About David Bishop

Gospel of Grace Church
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8 Responses to The Marrow Controversy and Tolerant Calvinism Part 2: Tolerant Calvinism or Intolerant Fullerism

  1. markmcculley says:

    Mark Jones—According to Ferguson: “Later, however, [Boston] was of a very different mind: ‘I had no great fondness for the doctrine of the conditionality of the covenant of grace’” (p. 67). Boston says also, “I had no great gust for faith’s being called the condition…”

    Mark Jones—“Now, just because Boston held to this view doesn’t make him unorthodox. I own his collected Works. He is a great pastor-theologian. He’s Reformed. But, I believe he was guilty sometimes of poor historical theology, which wasn’t totally his fault due to the lack of resources he had at his disposal.”

  2. markmcculley says:

    Mark Jones on “when calling someone a heretic”—–” I would argue that Pelagianism is a heresy, but Arminianism is not. Pelagianism overthrows several fundamental articles. I would argue that Arminianism is a serious error, but it is not a heresy… should be very careful, indeed – when you hurl around the word “moralist”… on matters that do not rise to the level of soul-damning doctrine. ….We do not need to shrink back from lively, vigorous theological debate. Amyraldianism and closed communion and episcopacy are all errors, in my view. But, these errors are not heresies. A wall exists between my brothers who hold to any one of these views, but the wall is not so high that we cannot “shake hands” as brothers.”

    mark mcculley– in the meanwhile, it can never hurt to use the word “antinomian” when talking to your congregation, because in this day and age those in the covenant need to be reminded that sinners who actually practice sin are “antinomian” and it’s very well possible that many in your congregation will not do the works necessary to stay in covenant and attain final justification.

    I am reminded of the Ian Murray defense of Wesley—it’s not his fault that he was Arminian because it was the fault of the “truly reformed” Antinomians…

  3. markmcculley says:

    Andrew Fuller says that condemnation is a result of unbelief
    But in what sense is a person who has never heard the gospel in unbelief of the gospel? in the sense that the person who never heard is still nevertheless self-righteous?
    Andrew Fuller: Faith is necessary to justification, not as being the ground or basis of justification, nor is justification a reward because of faith as a virtue, but without faith we cannot be united to a living Redeemer….If union with Christ were ‘acquired’ by faith, then such an union would be inconsistent with free justification, but if the necessity of faith merely rises from the nature of things–that is, fitness to unite…and if faith itself is a gift of God, no such consequence follows, because the union-though we be active in it–is in reality created by God.” Gospel Worthy, p 184

  4. markmcculley says:

    Andrew Fuller–who uses or doesn’t use the death of Christ does not change the nature

    As in, who eats or doesn’t eat the banana does not change the nature of the banana

    I agree, at least when it comes to Andrew Fuller’s false view of the nature of the death of Christ

    Since in Andrew Fuller’s view the death is not a judicial payment for the specific sins of specific beneficiaries

    Fuller’s idea that the beneficiaries will be “named later”, according to God’s intent on what to do with Christ’s death

    Andrew Fuller denies the nature of Christ’s death as a propitiation

    We are not the imputers, we don’t “use” the death of Christ

  5. markmcculley says:

    John Cameron– hypothetical universalism— that God wills the salvation of all men, on condition of faith, and that Christ’s death was for all men, on condition of faith.

    Advocates speak of a universal decree in which God was supposed to have given Christ as a Mediator for the whole human race; and of a special decree, in which God, foreseeing that no one would believe in his unaided strength, was supposed to have elected some to receive the gift of faith. This theory said that God gave His Son to die for all men, alike and equally; and at the same time . . . declared that when He gave His son to die, He already fully intended that His death should not avail for all men alike and equally.

    Smeaton — Amyraldianism was a revolt from the position maintained at the Synod of Dort, under the guise of an explanation. It laboured under the defect of supposing a double and a conflicting decree; that is, a general decree, in which He was said to will the salvation of all, and a special decree, in which He was said to will the salvation of the elect. To Christ also it ascribed a twofold and discordant aim, viz. to satisfy for all men, and to satisfy merely for the elect. As a reconciling system, and an incoherent one, it aimed to harmonize the passages of Scripture, which at one time seem to extend Christ’s merits to the world, and at another to limit them to the church; not to mention that God is supposed to be disappointed in His purpose.

  6. markmcculley says:

    In the floor debate on redemption at the Westminster Assembly, Edmund Calamy of the Davenant School attempted to insert Amyraldianism into the Catechism. During the debate, Calamy said,
    “Christ did pay a price for all,-absolute intention for the elect, conditional intention for the reprobate in case they do believe,-that all men should be salvable notwithstanding Adam’s fall] . . . that Jesus Christ did intend, in giving of Christ, and Christ in giving Himself, did intend to put all men in a state of salvation in case they do believe. . . . I argue from the John 3: 16, in which words a ground of God’s intention of giving Christ, God’s love to the world, a philanthropy the world of elect and reprobate, and not of elect only; it cannot be meant of the elect, because whosoever believeth.”

    George Gillespie responded, We cannot understand how there can be such a universal love of God to mankind as is maintained. Those that will say it must needs deny the absolute reprobation; then a love to those whom God hath absolutely reprobated both from salvation and the means of salvation.. Samuel Rutherford responded, The love in the John 3: 16 is restricted to the church. . . . It is an actual saving love, and therefore not a general love.

  7. markmcculley says:

    In a sermon entitled Christ the Savior of the World,Boston –Our Lord Jesus Christ is the official Savior, not of the elect only, but of the world of mankind indefinitely. . . . Any of them all may come to him as Savior, without money or price, and be saved by Him as their own Savior appointed to that office by the Father. . . . If it were not so that Christ is the Savior of the world, He could not warrantably be offered with His salvation to the world indefinitely, but to the elect only. If He were not commissioned to the office of Savior of all men, it would be no more appropriate to call all men to trust Him as Savior any more than He could be offered lawfully to fallen angels. . . . No one could be held guilty for not turning to Christ for salvation, unless there is a sense in which God has appointed Him to be Savior of that guilty one. . . God’s love for humanity has appeared in two eminent instances: First, in securing, by an irresistible decree, the salvation of some of them, and second, in providing a Savior for the whole of the kind. . . . He sent His Son from Heaven with full instructions and ample powers to save you, if you will believe. And is not this love? . . . Know with certainty that if any of you shall perish-and if you go on in your sins ye shall perish-you shall not perish for want of a Savior. . . . You would not trust Him as Savior, even though He had His Father’s commission to be Savior of the world-and your Savior.

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