Accusing Gill of ‘blunders’
Peter Ditzel’s third essay of ‘rebuttals’ on his website takes a most astonishing turn. Not content with aiming his Don Quixote lance at George Melvyn Ella, whom he takes to be a veritable wind mill (pun intentional) he now rides on to combat that great edifice John Gill under the titles John Gill’s Blunder #1 and John Gill’s Blunder #2. Needless to say, it is no difficult task to point out that the blunders are all Ditzel’s. Talk of a midge attacking an elephant! Ditzel mainly strives to outwit Gill on the grounds of logic rather than Scriptural exegesis. Ditzel thus claims, ‘Much of John Gill’s argument for eternal justification (he means justification from eternity, I take it) rests upon a logical blunder.’ This ‘logical blunder’, Ditzel claims, is Gill’s insistence that what God wills, He performs. In practice, this works out by God saying ‘Let there be light’ and there is then light. When God says, ‘I will that Peter Ditzel be saved, Peter Ditzel is saved.’ This is all too simple for Ditzel’s logic so he feels that he must combat the idea.
The weaknesses of human marriage given as an example of the Lamb’s marriage
Thus, citing Gill as arguing: “As God’s will to elect, is the election of his people, so his will to justify them, is the justification of them,” his comment is, ‘We can readily see the invalidity of this statement by talking about a man and a woman and love and marriage. So, we will say this: “As a man’s will to love a woman is the loving of her, so his will to marry her is the marrying of her.” Obviously, there is a problem here. It may be true that a man’s will to love a woman is the loving of her, but it is certainly not true that his will to marry her is the marrying of her. Why? Because marriage is an act that must take place in time.’ After claiming that human marriage must happen in time, Ditzel, obviously very pleased with himself for this piece of outstanding wisdom, believes he has corrected Gill’s ‘blunder’.
Now we see, not only the low level of argumentation that Ditzel has chosen, but also his most faulty logic in comparing an infallible situation with a fallible one. To keep to Ditzel’s picture of a marriage, when a man wills to marry a woman, this cannot possibly be seen as equivalent of his marriage to her as both partners, being fallible, can opt out of the marriage due to the unfaithfulness of either party, or due to a multitude of other reasons. The gentleman cannot marry the lady from eternity. Neither are there. When Jesus chooses a Bride in eternity, He sticks to His choice in time. It is as plain, simple and logical as that. The election of Christ’s Bride is the choosing and keeping of her. So, too, the choosing of this Bride is the justifying of her before God. Ditzel says ‘No’ to this because he believes that the marriage of the Lamb must take place in time, arguing that ‘marriage is an act that must take place in time’, concluding that though a saint is elected in eternity, justification is a mere matter of time. One asks for his ‘logical’ explanation of why election may happen from eternity but not justification and Ditzel answers ‘God’s will to justify a person in time is the justifying of him in time’. Given that God can justify a person when He will, this goes without saying. However, we know that Christ chose His Bride from eternity out of time. Again, Ditzel has no divine logic. He fails to see that God interacts in time from eternity. Ditzel reduces God’s power to an either – or. Either God works in eternity, or He works in time, denying that God works in both.
After dismissing Gill’s logic so illogically, Ditzel at last turns to some of the Scriptural references I have used to explain justification from eternity under the heading, ‘Scriptures cited by Dr. Ella’, saying:
‘Dr. Ella refers to Romans 8:29-33 as if it supports his position. This passage says: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”’
He then concludes that: ‘It is absolutely unwarranted to assume that Romans 8:29-33 applies to God’s elect before they are born. Simply because they are foreknown and predestinated before birth does not mean that they are called, justified, and glorified before birth. These verses simply speak of the infallible connection between God’s foreknowing and predestinating in eternity the elect to be conformed to the image of His Son, His calling and justifying them in time, and His future glorifying of them.’
With this statement Ditzel clearly shows that he has thoroughly ignored Gill’s doctrine of justification which includes justification from eternity, justification in time and justification at glorification. Indeed, as I point out in the articles which Ditzel criticises, God is always justifying His elect. It is not Christian decorum to condemn a man purely on the grounds of ignorance, make-belief and self-aggrandisement. Perhaps Ditzel should take the time to read Gill’s commentary on Romans (8:29-33 on the object of predestination, the justification of man before God in time and in his own conscience and at his glorification. It is strange that Ditzel has missed all this which is a much repeated theme in Gill’s works. Ditzel might wish also to consult pages 52-53 and 68 in my John Gill and Justification from Eternity.
Thomas Goodwin (1600-1679)
First to the Scripture, then to Ditzel’s further faulty conclusions. Ditzel’s third rebuttal is dated 2009, so the author is obviously referring to my publications before that date, indeed, those of the mid-nineties. Ditzel has, however, not given the source of my comments, perhaps necessary because I had expounded this passage in context some thirty times during that period and cannot check the context to which Ditzel refers. Nor can his readers or those whom he seeks to influence. I remember, however, that one of my first mentions of the verses in relation to Gill was in a long quote from the great Thomas Goodwin, who influenced Gill so much. By the way, Goodwin in his works clearly debunks the bulk of Ditzel’s arguments outlined in his six essays against me. He is well-worth reading. No wonder Ditzel believes my quoting of early 17th century scholars is of no interest to him as he has obviously not read them and is apparently ignorant of their teaching. Ditzel will note that Goodwin describes the doctrine of justification from eternity just as Gill and I do and not at all as Ditzel thinks we do for reasons I cannot imagine. To cut a long story short, Goodwin teaches that we were justified when first elected in Christ ‘from all eternity’. Without searching the web or the university libraries for too long, one will find at least twenty of Goodwin’s contemporaries – all big names – who agreed with him. This is the central teaching of the everlasting covenant. Being an NCT-ite, however, this is exposition which he cannot handle. I would advise Ditzel to re-read my section entitled ‘The eternal covenant with its Surety and its Mediator testifies to justification from eternity’ on page 65 ff. in my book John Gill and Justification from Eternity. This was written in 1997, based on many former articles. Music teachers usually tell their pupils that unless they can play a piece perfectly nine times running, they are in no position to teach others or play before them. Ditzel, who confesses that he knows my writings so well will know that I have commented on Godwin in some forty-five published articles, so Ditzel ought to know by now what Goodwin and those who follow in his steps such as Gill and I believe. As this penny has still to drop into Ditzel’s timing-machine, I advise him to take down Goodwin’s Sermons (I have Vol 8 of the BOT edition before me at the moment) and turn to page 135 and he will find the passage Gill quotes. Ditzel, who has complained that he cannot find my crucial sources, which are mostly to be got as freebies from the web, will be delighted to know that Godwin is well-established there, too. But to relieve Ditzel of work, I shall quote the passage in full. However, Ditzel appears to possess a copy of Gill as he quotes from him at times. Gill quotes Goodwin in Sermons and Tracts, Vo. 2, pp.145-7. Now Ditzel can read the passage another eight times to make sure he has comprehended it.
Under the title ‘Justifying Faith’ Goodwin says:
The first progress or step was at the first covenant-making and striking of the bargain from all eternity. We may say of all spiritual blessings in Christ what is said of Christ, that their ‘goings forth are from everlasting.’ Justified then we were when first elected, though not in our own persons, yet in our Head, as he had our persons then given him, and we came to have a being and interest in him. ‘You are in Christ,’ saith the apostle, and so we had the promise made of all spiritual blessings in him, and he took all the deeds of all in our name; so that in Christ we were ‘blessed with all spiritual blessings,’ Eph. i. 3; as we are blessed with all other, so with this also, that we were justified then in Christ. To this purpose is that place, Rom. viii. 30, where he speaks of all those blessings which are applied to us after redemption, as calling, justification, glorification, as of things already past and done, even then when he did predestinate us: “Whom he hath predestinated, them he hath called, them he hath justified, them he hath glorified.’ He speaks it as in the time past. Neither speaks he thus of these blessings as past simply in regard of that presence, in which all things stand before him from eternity, all things both past, present, and to come, being to him as present. Nor doth he speak it only in regard of a resolution or purpose taken up to call and justify, he ‘calling things that are not as if they were,’ Rom. iv. 17. For thus it may be said of all his other works towards the creatures in common, that he hath created and preserved them from everlasting. But in a more special relation are these blessings decreed said to have been bestowed, because, though they existed not in themselves, yet they existed really in a Head that represented them and us, who was by to answer for them, and to undertake for them, which other creatures could not do; and there was an actual donation and receiving of all these for us (as truly as a feoffee in trust may take lands for one unborn), by virtue of a covenant made with Christ, whereby Christ had all our sins imputed unto him, and so taken off from us, Christ having then covenanted to take all our sins upon him when he took our persons to be his; and God having covenanted not to impute sin unto us, but to look at him for the payment of all, and at us as dis charged. Of this seems that place, 2 Cor. v. 19, evidently to speak, as importing that everlasting transaction, as I have shewn, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them’; i.e., not imputing them then, when he was reconciling us unto himself in Christ. So as then God told Christ, as it were, (for it was a real covenant), that he would look for his debt and satisfaction of him, and that he did let the sinners go free; and so they are in this respect justified from all eternity. And indeed, if the promise of life was then given us (as the apostle Paul speaks, Titus i. 2), then also justification of life, without which we could not come to life. Yet this is but the inchoation, though it be an estating us into the whole tenure of life.’
But Ditzel goes on, deepening himself in misunderstandings and misrepresentations, saying:
‘Another Scripture cited by Ella to supposedly support his position is Romans 4:5: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” How this verse can be seen as evidence for eternal justification is a wonder to me. It says that to the person who doesn’t work (who doesn’t try to earn righteousness by works) but instead believes (the Greek here is simply the verb form of the word often translated “faith”) on Him who justifies (or “makes righteous”) the ungodly, his faith (or belief) is counted for righteousness. Does this verse say that God justifies the ungodly by justifying them from eternity? Absolutely not! God justifies the ungodly by counting their faith for righteousness. The faith, of course, is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8), and its object is Jesus Christ our Savior.’
Well, I interpret this not to mean that God justifies sinners because they are godly, having faith, but that He justifies sinners by giving them faith. This might seem like arguing about what came first, the hen or the egg, but I believe that all the Scriptures Ditzel cites in their contexts show that God takes the initiative in salvation and he must confess that the initiative of giving faith comes from God and the sinner’s reception of it cannot be seen as the causal factor of justification. The maxim that the clay cannot ask the potter ‘Why hast thou made me thus? goes for all creation, not just for vessels of dishonour. Thus Gill argues that it is not faith which justifies but God’s act in giving the ungodly chosen ones faith to believe. He does not choose sinners out because of their faith. They do not have faith to believe before it is given. Faith is never the cause of justification but God’s grace-giving faith alone. The sinner is the recipient of faith, not the giver. ‘The just shall live by faith refers to the faith God gives. It appears here that Ditzel is arguing as Fuller’s Conversation on Particular Redemption and Remarks on God Justifying the Ungodly where he argues for a reception with God for exercising duty faith and that Romans 4:5 does not refer to unbelievers made believers but to ‘ungodly believers’! Ditzel doubts that Trail would find any agreement with me but his theology has helped me greatly. He takes Romans 4:5 literally in his Doctrine of Justification Vindicated, p. 320 and says that God justifies the ungodly ‘neither by making him godly before he justified him, nor leaving him ungodly after he hath justified him’. Not all of us can put great truths into so few words.
Ditzel’ dirty automobile
In his argument with me, and to be honest, Ditzel seems to be arguing for me at times but does not realise it, he uses one of his fully inappropriate time-parallels which quite takes the believer’s gaze from the seriousness and truthfulness of the matter. He says, ‘Apparently, if I told Dr. Ella that I washed a dirty car, he would think the car remained dirty after I washed it because I called it a dirty car. But, of course, I wouldn’t say that I washed a clean car, would I? Christ came to save sinners, not the righteous.’ Ditzel appears to be illustrating his point by alleging: ‘When Christ justifies a sinner, Ella would think the sinner unjustified because Christ called him a sinner. But, of course, Christ would not say that He justified a justified person, would he?’ Have you got the point? I have not.
Ditzel goes on to argue that I have ignored verses 7-9 in the chapter which state that ‘God commendeth his love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’, and that we ‘are justified by His blood.’ Rather than ignore these verses, I have given them central importance in most of my expositions of justification and in defending Gill from false charges, I have quoted him at length on these verses. Happily, Gill looks at the verses from all aspects, giving an all-round exegesis whereas Ditzel picks out but one aspect which he uses to rule out and nullify all the others. Then he has the cheek to say I ignore these verses. As I cannot expect Ditzel to look up what either I or Gill says on these verses, I give Gill in full, hoping that Ditzel will do Gill the honour of reading him without condemning him though ignorant of what he says. Should Ditzel not have Gill’s commentaries at hand, the following is available for free on the net taken from Gill’s commentary. I must add that most of my articles on justification were and are available on the net, so there is no excuse for Ditzel’s condemning me without having read me:
‘Much more then being now justified by his blood,…. The apostle here argues from justification by Christ to salvation by him, there being a certain and inseparable connection between these two; whoever is justified shall be saved; and speaks of justification “as being now by his blood”. Justification in God’s mind from eternity proceeded upon the suretyship engagements of Christ to be performed in time; the Old Testament saints were justified of God with a view to the blood of the Lamb which was to be shed; this blood was “now” shed, and an application of justification by it was “now” made to the persons spoken of; which is the reason of this way of speaking. The blood of Christ intends his death, as appears from the context, and shows it to be a violent death; death by the effusion of blood. There is an emphasis upon it, “his blood”; not the blood of bulls and goats, nor of a mere innocent creature, but of Christ the Son of God; which is therefore efficacious to all the purposes for which it was shed, and particularly justification. This being ascribed to it, shows the concern Christ had in it, his blood is here put for the whole matter of justification; the shedding of that being the finishing part of it; and that our justification before God proceeds upon the foot of a satisfaction made to the law and justice of God: hence such as are interested in it, shall be saved from wrath through him: not from wrath, as a corruption in their own hearts, which oftentimes breaks forth; nor as appearing among the people of God one towards another, which is sometimes very bitter; or as in their avowed enemies, the effects of which they often feel; nor from the wrath of devils, which is as the roaring of a lion; but from the wrath of God, from a sense and apprehension of it in their own consciences, which the law works; from which justification by the blood of Christ frees them; though under first awakenings they feel it, and sometimes, under afflictive dispensations of Providence, are ready to fear it: and also from the infliction of vindictive wrath or punishment for sin; for though they are as deserving of it as others, yet as they are not appointed to it, so they are entirely delivered from it, through Christ’s sustaining it in their room and stead: wherefore they are secure from it both in this life, and in the world to come.’
Should Ditzel wish to know what I really believe on the subject, he might consult Chapter Two of my book on John Gill and Justification from Eternity entitled ‘The Eternal God is thy Refuge’ and the many other references to Romans 5 in this book and my other essays, many of which are on my website.
Ditzel always fails to give a comprehensive exposition of Scripture
Rather than discussing all the aspects of these verses as does Gill, Ditzel fixes on one word ‘nun’. The emphasis in these verses, Ditzel declares, is on the ‘now’ in time. However, Christ’s vicarious sacrifice and His work in keeping the covenant was not only exercised from eternity in the fullness of time but at a time which, in Ditzel’s view of the Atonement (which is certainly not mine) was two thousand years ago. However, those who believe Scripture know that Christ’s sacrifice was efficacious for all time and eternity. We need not be time-contemporaries of the incarnated Christ to experience the outcome of His salvation. Yet Ditzel emphasises that the Greek says that we are justified ‘nun’, which he takes to mean ‘at this moment’. He is, of course, wrong. The Greek tells us that because we are justified by His blood, we shall be saved. ‘Nun’ in Greek can mean ‘at this moment’ which would not help us much here if our justification were only momentary, but it also means ‘because’ or ‘as matters stand’ or ‘forthwith’. The Germans also use the word ‘nun’ with these varied meanings as do most other languages. The AV combination of ‘then’ with ‘now’ in Romans 5:9 tells us that because we are justified by Christ’s blood we shall be saved from wrath’. This refers to all the elect, past, present and future, with God carrying out His intended plan from eternity. It does not refer merely to those who are being justified at this minute. This is impossible as Paul wrote two thousand years ago. His word was not prophetic directed to our present day only but referred to the justified in all times. Here again, Ditzel’s mistake is in referring only to what Christ has accomplished in post-NT times and not what Christ has accomplished in all time and eternity.
Ditzel goes on to argue:
‘Another Scripture Ella uses is Ephesians 1:4: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” Certainly, He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world. Ella says, “Full salvation was established in God then before time was, in eternity.” Yes, our salvation was assured from eternity because of God’s choosing us. But this is not the same as saying, as Ella seems to be implying, that our salvation was completed in eternity. This verse does not say that God justified us before the foundation of the world.’
Again, Ditzel is separating eternity from time as if there were no interactivity on God’s part between the two. He is also still thinking that eternity is past time. My response to this is to say that as the Bible says we are placed in Christ before the foundation of the world, i.e. in eternity, and God’s electing factor is placing us in Christ in eternity, the corollary of this is that our justification is from eternity. However, the difference between my reasoning and Ditzel’s is that he excludes what happens in history from what is established in eternity whereas I see God’s eternal will being activated in time. Ditzel will not see that what God wills from eternity, he exercises directly in time. Again, Ditzel is believing that time lags behind a finished, past eternity, though he says himself that eternity is an ever present ‘now’.
Gill’s alleged second blunder
Now we come to Ditzel’s further accusation of a supposed Gillite blunder under his heading John Gill’s blunder #2. He continues:
‘Ella then cites Gill as saying, “If there is an eternal election of persons in Christ, there must be an eternal acceptance and justification of them in Him. Since, as He always was the Beloved Son of His Father, in whom He is ever well pleased, so He has always graciously accepted of and is well pleased with all His elect in Him.” This statement presents a serious problem. Gill is here dogmatic about a conclusion he has drawn, but that is never stated in Scripture. He might be entitled to be dogmatic if the conclusion were inescapable or, at least, nearly so. But it is not.’
This is an astonishing statement for one who professes to be Reformed and cannot accept Arminianism. He is arguing that God’s election of His people is no guarantee that God will keep His word. Ditzel now strives to account for his surprising statement logically. He admits that the believer is eternally elected in Christ but says there is no proof that ‘there must be an eternal acceptance and justification of them in Him.’ How wonderful it is to read the Scripture Ditzel has quoted and immediately forgotten, putting Ditzel right on this momentous truth ‘According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us into the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved’. Ditzel has probably overlooked the purport of Scripture here because he was busy working out one of his ‘logical’ parables to explain away Scripture. He thus comments:
‘To test the validity of this argument, let’s put it into a syllogism, with the unproven statement in the first premise:
Premise x: If there is an eternal acceptance and justification of persons, it is because there is an eternal election of these persons in Christ.
Premise y: There is an eternal election of persons in Christ (stated in Scripture so this is true). Therefore there must be an eternal acceptance and justification of the elect.
This is a classic case of what is called asserting the consequent. It is a logical fallacy. It might be easier to see if we put it in more ordinary terms.
Premise x: If I have dogs in my house, it is because I have given them to my son. Premise y: I have given dogs to my son. Therefore, I must have dogs in my house.
Do you see how this is invalid? I may have given dogs to my son to be kept outside.
But, you say, God’s elect are not intended to be “kept outside.” They are intended to be justified and accepted. Yes, that is true. But intentions are not end results. I may choose (or elect) dogs for my son, but say that they cannot come into the house until he cleans them up, treats them for fleas and ticks, and trains them. The dogs are elect from the time I choose them, but they cannot come into the house until my son completes these events in time. Likewise, God’s elect are elect from eternity. But they are not justified until His Son completes His work and God gives them faith in the completed work of His Son. Gill’s assertion is fallacious.’
This is how Ditzel misunderstands not only Gill but Ephesians 1:4-13. Of course, Gill and the Scriptures do not put forward the fact that we are acceptable before the Lord as the first premise in a syllogism, making it truly a ‘silly-gism’, as is Ditzel’s, but it is the conclusion the Scriptures make from the fact that we have been predestined and elected and adopted and been given all God’s blessings of salvation, thus making us acceptable to the Beloved. Halleluja and Amen! Thus Ditzel’s doggie dogged doggerel is fictive nonsense.
I hope to, God willing) be able to answer the remaining three flights of fancy from Ditzel’s pen concerning his ‘rebuttals’ before much time is passed.