Corrupting the Word of God, The History of the Well-Meant Offer by Herman Hanko and Mark H. Hoeksema, Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2016, 257 pp.
I generally agree with the views of Herman Hanko and Mark Hoeksema presented in this book. Therefore the only criticism that I have of the book is not of the doctrines presented but merely a minor comment on the style of the writing. While not poorly written, the book is somewhat quote-heavy; both in the quantity of quotes and in the size of the individual quotes. Because of this factor, I found following the flow of the argument difficult in places.
Even so, this is an extremely important book that will be a go-to reference for many years to come. Hanko is fair to the history; admitting when and where the church universal did not hold his view. While showing (conclusively, I believe) that Augustine, Fulgentius, and others definitely oppose what is now called the doctrine of the well-meant offer of the Gospel, Hanko shows that the church through the centuries often deviated from the correct view because of an early and persistent desire to defend a doctrine of free will. Some of the errors of the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians are seen to be repeated by the Arminians, Amyraldians, the Marrowmen, and the theologians of the Christian Reformed Church.
Notable individuals covered who support the well-meant offer include Pelagius, Cassian, Prosper, Faustus, Moises Amyraut, John Davenant, John Cameron, Campegius Vitringa, Herman Venema, R. B. Kuiper, John Murray, Ned Stonehouse, Harold Dekker, Donald Macleod, Iain Murray, David Silversides, and Errol Hulse among others. Wilhelmus a Brakel, Charles Hodge, and A. A. Hodge are seen to be somewhat mixed on the question.
According to Hanko, those clearly opposed to the well-meant offer include Augustine, Fulgentius, Caesarius, Gottschalk, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Turretin, Johannes Wollebius, Pierre du Moulin, John Owen, the official pronouncements of the Church of Scotland in 1720 and 1722, William Cunningham, John Kennedy, Robert Smith, Robert Candlish, Robert Haldane, Herman Hoeksema, Gordon Clark, and David Engelsma among others. While some of these are debatable, in most cases Hanko is clearly right. It must be admitted that the well-meant offer is opposed to the trend of the greatest theologians through the centuries.
While much of the material in this book was already known to me from David Engelsma’s excellent Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, I definitely learned some new things and was greatly benefitted in reading through the history. Hanko expertly connects the dots showing, for example, the impact of English Puritanism on the Dutch Reformed Church and the interaction in America between the followers of the Afscheiding and the Doleantie. His understanding of the history is deep. More importantly, his arguments from Scripture references are persuasive.
This book is a must-read and an important corrective to the widespread hypo-Calvinism in today’s Reformed and Presbyterian churches.