The texts Murray cites to prove that God sincerely desires the repentance of the reprobate are rather straightforward. Indeed, the issues are more or less settled by whether or not one acknowledges the reality of common grace. If God’s desires or pleasures can only be exhaustively identical to His decrees, then such statements as, “‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Eze 33.11; cf. 18.23, 32), can only be rationalized away for the sake of alleged theological consistency. Thus, John Gerstner insists that Murray (and Stonehouse) must be wrong:
We certainly agree that if God says that He desired what He did not desire we would have to agree with God. Since we know that God does not desire what God does not desire, for this is evident on every page of Scripture, as well as in the logical nature of God and man, we know this exegesis is in error, must be in error, cannot but be in error. . . But where is it’s error? It must be that Murray and Stonehouse are taking God literally where He desires to be taken anthropomorphically. . .[Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), p. 128.]
There are a couple things to say of Gerstner here: In the first place, it is rather hard to see any difference between saying that passages like Ezekiel 33.11 are meant “to be taken anthropomorphically” and saying that such passages are not true. What good is a verbal affirmation of Scriptural infallibility if any passage therein can be so easily done away with? Anthropomorphisms, whatever else one might say about them, are supposed to communicate truth; but Gerstner leaves this passage without admitting that it contains any message for us whatsoever. He only goes on for more than a page on how it does not mean, cannot mean, must not mean what it says.
(For a much better and more Scripture-honoring approach to the Ezekiel passages, see John Pipers discussion of “Does God Have Pleasure in the Death of the Wicked?” in The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1991), p. 61ff. Especially helpful is his citation of Deuteronomy 28.63 (p. 65). Unlike Gerstner, Piper actually gives us Biblical reasons to nuance what we might think Ezekiel is telling us.)
Secondly, as we will see below, Murray does not present a contradiction. What Gerstner insists is a contradiction, Murray insists is not one. Thus, Gerstner is begging the question throughout his critique. He never argues that a contradiction exists but only quotes one portion of Murray’s essay which sets forth what appears to be contradictory. He then asserts that the apparent contradiction is real and concludes that Murray’s position must be wrong.
Other passages Murray cites are, in addition to passages used to prove common grace, Deuteronomy 5.29; 32.29; Psalm 81.13ff; Isaiah 48.18; Matthew 23.37; Luke 13.34; Isaiah 45.22; and 2 Peter 3.9. A detailed defense of these passages would be redundant, since all the counterarguments I can find involve heavy-handed special pleading which presupposes that passages teaching a genuine offer of the Gospel would contradict other passages. What is manifestly lacking, as in the case of Gerstner, is proof that such a formal contradiction is present between the doctrine of reprobation and the genuine offer. It is simply asserted.
(Indeed, Hoeksema, does not hesitate to accuse Murray, Van Til and others of being “purely Arminian. And their irrationalism is only an attempt to camouflage their real position” “The Text of the Complaint”-A Critique (no pub, n.d.), p. 26. [I believe this booklet of mimeographed sheets has been published by the Trinity Foundation as The Clark-Van Til Debate.] Observers of the current scene will be quite familiar with the strategy of compensating for inadequate argumentation by accusing one’s opponent of deceptions.)