Ponter vs. The Westminster Confession of Faith

Ponter writes:

One could say, “But such and such later Reformed confession or theologian denies this theology.” To that we would say, “So what? How does citing a man or confession a century or more later, disprove the historical truth that earlier Reformation theologians held to unlimited expiation and redemption? It doesn’t. In terms of proper historical investigation, citing sources from a century later is irrelevant. Such a strategy is just smoke and mirrors.”

(source) Leaving aside Mr. Ponter’s erroneous interpretation of the works of the early reformers for a moment, this is the sort of concession that I knew would have to come from Ponter eventually. As I had pointed out in an earlier post, Ponter’s hypothesis requires one to imagine that Calvin held not simply to an infralapsarian Calvinistic position, but to a full-blown Amyraldian position: one that contradicts all the major Reformed confessions and which consequently is properly placed outside the bounds of “Reformed” theology, whether or not it was held by earlier theologians.
Ponter’s admission may come as a bit of a surprise to some of his supporters, such as those in the PCA, who do not realize that Ponter’s agenda is aimed at placing the Reformers in conflict with the confessions.
Of course, this sort of deflection with respect pre-WCF reformers doesn’t extend past the 17th century. Even a very deceitful person cannot reasonably hope to fool many people into thinking that Charles Hodge taught universal redemption, contrary to the WCF, for example.
And, as has already been pointed out, quoting loosely worded statements by Reformers from before the Arminian controversy is a recipe for confusion, just as it would be improper to try read the “New Perspective on Paul” controversy back onto Calvin and his contemporaries, it is likewise improper to try to read the Arminian/Amyraldian controversies back into the minds of the pre-controversy Reformers.
There are some quotations, and Ponter’s post provides two examples, that taken out of their historical context and placed into ours sound very Arminian or Amyraldian. Ponter’s argument seems to be: “no one made a fuss about these comments at that time, so when Amyraldians make such arguments today, everyone should just accept them as part of the ‘Reformed’ perspective.” Such an argument is the result of shielding one’s eyes from the value that the Arminian/Amyraldian controversy had in developing and working out clearly the Scriptural doctrine of the Atonement. The debates with Romanists for the most part focused elsewhere.
Ponter’s apparent underlying strategy is to amass as many decontextualized quotations as possible from early Reformers, and then argue that despite the Scriptural resolution of the Arminian/Amyraldian controversies (in favor of TULIP, which Ponter so loathes), such positions (the positions contrary to the Reformed confessions) should still be viewed Reformed.

One Response to “Ponter vs. The Westminster Confession of Faith”

  1. natamllc Says:

    Two things I would say to Pointer.One is the fact that the place and time where these things emerged onto the world scene does not account for all the world of humanity, that is, the world and the nations of the world during that time, included far more places and cultures and times and seasons of humanity. To assign so narrow a frame of reference excludes the fact that God in times and seasons is Omnipresent in every culture of the day. Modernity high tech these days has speeded up the ability to know these errors. In fact, one could die never knowing these errors or this debate and do just fine making their way to Heaven on the Gospel alone! I do suppose every one who died in Christ before this emerging controversy and everyone after, ignorant of it, who the Holy Ghost has come too and ignited in them the Truth, the Gospel of the Kingdom, are doing just fine in Truth anyway.Secondly this, and without any comment and parsing, I let the Word speak about how God will deal with the errors alone:::>Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. Rev 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Rev 20:14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. Rev 20:15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

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