Monday, February 05, 2007

Are there few that be saved?

Two errors, therefore are to be avoided: First that all men are saved; secondly that only a few are saved. Some Calvinists have represented the number of the reprobated as greater than that of the elect, or equal to it. They found this upon the words of Christ, "Many are called but few are chosen." [Mat.22:14] But this describes the situation at the time when the Lord spake, and not the final result of his redemptive work. Christ himself in the days of his flesh, called many but few responded to the call from his gracious lips. Our Lord's own preaching was not as successful as that of his apostles, and of many of his ministers. This was part of his humiliation and sorrow. But when Christ shall have "seen of the travail of his soul" and been "satisfied" with what he has seen; when the whole course of the gospel shall be complete, and shall be surveyed from beginning to end; it will be found that God's elect, or church, is "a great multitude which no man can number, out of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues," and that their voice is as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, "Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth," Rev. 7:9, 19:6.
W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Volume II, p. 712


David Shedden said...

Thanks for this, Guy. I think my problem with Shedd's thinking in this regard is his optimism about the future, and about many non-believers. His postmillennial optimism demanded that most people would be saved. He somehow thought that all infants who died in infancy would be saved (his liberal students used to mock him about the age of transition from infant to non-infant). And, he believed that godly non-Christians could be saved without hearing the gospel. In other words, although Shedd is well known for his doctrine of endless punishment, relatively few were actually going to suffer that destiny in his view of God's saving grace. With such woolly thinking, can we retain Shedd as a credible Reformed theologian? And, if he is retained, how does he shape our understanding of the gospel? All infants who die in infancy are saved? That's a slippery slope to something called universalism.

Guy Davies said...


I agree with Shedd's conclusion - that the saved will outnumber the lost. But, as you point out, a number of his premises need to be challenged.

1) I believe that "Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit"(Westminster Conf / 1689 Baptist). Does this mean all infants? I don't know.

2) I don't accept that people can be saved apart from believing the gospel apart from elect infants / people with severe learning difficulties. It is interesting to note that B. B. Warfield cited Shedd's words (quoted in my post) with approval in his Are There Few That Be Saved?. But he distanced himself from his "erroneous opinion that men may be saved apart from the gospel."

3) Shedd's teaching on the everlasting punishment of the wicked keeps him from the slippery slope of universalism. In the opening sentence of the quote he regards this option as an "error".

4) I think that Shedd's conclusion still stands, but on other Biblical grounds. Maybe I'll do a post considering BBW's article on this issue.

Thanks for your remarks. Perhaps I should be more careful about posting quotes without further comment or qualification!