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Question and Answer

"Common Grace" and "Well-Intended Offer"


Could you answer these questions please?

Does the OPC officially adopt the doctrine of Common Grace (as explained by the CRC Synod of 1924)?

Does the OPC officially adopt the "well intended offer" (God desires to save all who hear the external call)?

Does the OPC officially embrace presuppositional apologetics (Van Til) over against the classical apologetics (Sproul, Hodge)?


The answer to each of these questions—with the word "officially" in them—is "no."

First, our confessional standards do not use the term "Common Grace" (nor do they include the 1924 statement of the Christian Reformed Church or CRC), and the concept of Common Grace does not appear to be present in our standards either. This means that, since our confessional standards define what we are committed to in terms of church discipline and what we expect ministers to preach, someone who does not embrace a common grace view can be approved and received. But the vast majority of our ministers and teachers hold to a doctrine of common grace (ordinarily that espoused in the writings primarily of John Murray and Cornelius Van Til rather than Abraham Kuyper and the CRC).

Second, in 1948 the 15th General Assembly adopted the following motion with regard to a report submitted to it, entitled "The Free Offer of the Gospel":

that the report of the Committee and the minority report on the "Free Offer of the Gospel" be sent down to the presbyteries and sessions for earnest study.

You can find that report—including both majority report and minority report—on the OPC Web site here. This comment appears at the head of such General Assembly reports:

Note: General Assembly reports (whether from a committee or its minority) are thoughtful treatises but they do not have the force of constitutional documents—the Westminster Standards or the Book of Church Order. They should not be construed as the official position of the OPC.

The report in question, often taken as setting forth "the well-intended offer of the gospel" both a majority report (by (Arthur Kuschke and Professors John Murray and Ned Stonehouse) and a minority report (by William Young and Floyd Hamilton, questioning some of the exegesis and conclusions of the majority).

Third, though I believe that a presuppositional approach to apologetics is most consistent with the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Van Til's views are not officially enshrined in our constitution. A number of OPC ministers whom I know personally espouse the views of John Gerstner and R. C. Sproul or Francis Schaeffer rather than Cornelius Van Til. So not being committed to Van Til's approach has not necessarily been a bar to passing exams for licensure, ordination, or reception. I would say, however, that it is the majority view by far, and Candidates and Credentials Committees in the presbyteries probably would encourage candidates to give further serious consideration to their apologetic views if they are evidentialists rather than presuppositionalists.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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