Five motives for evangelism and missions found in Scripture
Dr. Tom Ascol’s chapter “Calvinism Foundational For Evangelism and Missions” by David L. Allen
Referring to my comments in Whosoever, Dr. Ascol states, “The fact that our Sovereign has commanded us to preach the gospel is reason enough to do the work of evangelism. David Allen, however, sees things differently” (275). Ascol then quotes me in Whosoever as saying “‘Some Calvinists today are engaged in evangelism for the simple reason that they do not know who the elect are, in addition to Christ’s missionary commands’ and asserts that ‘this motivation is insufficient” (Ibid.). He then writes in the next paragraph, “How that fact diminishes the sufficiency of our Lord’s command to serve as motivation for His disciples is beyond me and exceeds the bounds of Scripture” (275). Here Ascol has misconstrued my words. Here is the quotation in Whosoever as I wrote it, “Some Calvinists today are engaged in evangelism for the simple reason that they do not know who the elect are, in addition to Christ’s missionary commands. While we do not know who the unbelieving elect are, this motivation for evangelism is insufficient” (96). Ascol is attempting to read the antecedent of “this” to be “Christ’s missionary commands.” But the antecedent is “we do not know who the unbelieving elect are.” The sufficiency of Jesus’ command is not what is diminished or insufficient. My point is that the missionary command, while certainly sufficient in and of itself, is not the only motivation Scripture itself asserts should drive our evangelism and missions. Not knowing who the elect are is never a motivation given in Scripture for evangelism and missions.
In other words, even from a Calvinist perspective, it is not our ignorance of God’s secret will but our knowledge of God’s revealed will that should motivate evangelism.
Scripture does, however, present at least five motives for evangelism and missions in addition to the command to evangelize: 1) God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31); 2) God’s desire for the salvation of all men (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9); 3) Christ’s saving love for all men (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21); 4) the fear of the Lord, as Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 5:11, which in context refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ; and 5) as moderate Calvinists and non-Calvinists believe, Jesus’ death for the sins of all men (John 3:16; Romans 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:4-6; 1 John 2:2). Clearly Ascol affirms the first and rejects the final motivation as he adheres to limited atonement. I presume he affirms the middle three since Reformed orthodoxy does so, though no statement in his chapter says as much. In fact, in my observation, it is characteristic of leaders of the Founders organization to make little or no mention of God’s desire for the salvation of all people. Ascol’s quotation of me above gives him abundant opportunity at the very least to affirm what I am saying with respect to God’s desire for the salvation of all people, and more importantly, what the Scripture is saying about it. Although Ascol’s silence here is not proof he does not affirm God’s universal saving will, this appears to be a telling omission.
Dr. Ascol continues to refer to the “Arminian complaint” with respect to limited atonement. The problem here is this is not only an “Arminian” complaint; it is also the complaint of many Calvinists past and present. Ascol states, “Nowhere in the Bible do we find such an evangelistic argument employed. Consequently, one is left wondering what canon of authority Allen is employing in his warnings of Calvinism’s ‘problems for evangelism’” (275). In a footnote to this last statement, Ascol queries “why is such language as ‘Christ died for your sins’ absent from Scripture. Allen’s criticism impresses only those whose consciences are bound by something other than the inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word of God” (275). First, I am somewhat surprised by Dr. Ascol’s unnecessarily disparaging comment concerning those who disagree with him as people whose “consciences are bound by something other than the inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word of God.” Such a statement is unworthy of theological discourse and needs no ink spilt in refutation. Second, it is true that one will not find any overt statement in Scripture such as “Christ died for your sins” in reference to the unsaved. Does this prove that such statements were never used by the apostles or other Christians? I think not. For starters, this is an argument from silence. But more importantly, Scripture actually does overtly say that Paul himself did indeed make this a regular part of his evangelistic preaching according to 1 Corinthians 15:3. I will develop this further shortly.
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