November 14, 2004 Q & A

"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.



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