Pristine Grace

Dabney's Bipolar God
by Bob Higby
Dabney's Bipolar God

     The false teachings of Robert Lewis Dabney on the doctrine of God have become almost the universal rule of doctrine in the massive number of churches professing the Calvinist name. Dabney proposes more extensively than any other theologian that God is not worthy of worship if his wisdom is in perfect harmony with his desire to show mercy. Thus we have a multitude of souls today professing Calvinism who affirm that they CANNOT and WILL NOT worship a God whose sovereign will AND DESIRE is unitary. They dogmatically claim that the God whom WE worship is like unto the devil. 

Here are a few brief excerpts from Dabney’s Discussions, Volume One in the chapter "God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy":

Do all the solemn and tender entreaties of God to sinners express no more, as to the non-elect, than a purpose in God, uncompassionate and merely rectoral, to acquit himself of his legislative function towards them? (NO and we do not believe or teach this). To speak after the manner of men, have all these apparently touching appeals after all no heart in them? We cannot but deem it as unfortunate logic which constrains a man to this view of them. How much more simple and satisfactory to take them for just what they express?–evidences of a true compassion, which yet is restrained, in the case of the unknown class, the non-elect, by consistent and holy reasons, from taking the form of a volition to regenerate . . . The plain Christian mind will ever stumble on this fatal question, how can a truthful and consistent God have two opposite wills about the same object? It is far more scriptural, and, as we trust has been shown, far more logical to say, that an immutable and sovereign God never had but one will, one purpose, or volition, as to this lost man; as a faithful God would never publish any other volition than the one he entertained; but that it was entirely consistent for God to be compassionate where he never purposed nor promised to to save, because this sincere compassion was restrained within the limits God announced by his own wisdom.

Some better solution must be found, then, of this wondrous and blessed paradox, of omnipotent love lamenting those whom yet it did not save . . . The plain and obvious meaning of the history gives us the best solution; that God does have compassion for the reprobate, but not express volition to save them, because his infinite wisdom regulates his whole will and guides and harmonizes (not suppresses) all its active principles.

Does he [God] not glorify his justice by punishing the evil, after he has overruled it for good? It is, then, but the application of this method when God makes the sincere offer of mercy through Christ to a Judas{why not Satan too?}first glorify his infinite love and placability, and then, when it is slighted, as was permissively decreed, {Dabney here totally denies his ‘one will of God’ affirmed earlier, promoting more paradox theology} illustrate the stubbornness of Judas’s sin as a deadly voluntary evil, and also God’s clear justice in destroying him. This is just what God says he does under the gospel . . . Thus, we can take all the gospel declarations concerning Christ’s sacrifice to mean just what they express, and we are relieved from the necessity of all tortuous exegesis.

     Some online passages from Dabney further revealing his impassioned commitment to Common Grace & 4 ½ point Calvinism can be found at the following link to Phil Johnson’s website:

     The arguments of Dabney are a subtle re-affirmation of the old proposition of Anselm that God owes his actions to a ‘higher principle’ of eternal law, justice, and wisdom. Therefore he is unable to do what he really wants to (save all men) but sincerely offers salvation nonetheless. In this view, God is required by this higher principle to obey and honor the eternal law against his own desire and will; forever mourning over the wicked whom he was forced to send to eternal torture in spite of his desire to show mercy. God does not accomplish all of his pleasure and all things (i.e., reprobation) were certainly not created for his pleasure! But out of his infinite love, Christ suffered the tortures of the cross to purchase a split second of temporal (earthly) mercy to those otherwise condemned by eternal law to a certain sentence of endless misery.

     Until this false doctrine of a bipolar God is renounced and condemned, we can be sure that there will be no new reformation.