About The Three Points
We were discussing the passages from the Confessions, particularly from the Canons of Dordrecht on which the Synod of 1924 attempted to base the doctrine of the First Point.
It referred, for this purpose to Canons I, 5, which we have already discussed. But it also mentioned III, IV, 8, 9.
We will first of all quote III, IV, 8. It reads as follows:
“As many as’ are called by the gospel, are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly declared in his Word, what will be acceptable to him; namely, that all who are called should comply with the invitation. (This last clause is a corruption of the text. In the Latin original we read: ut vocati ad se veniant, i.e. that the called should come unto him. The Dutch translation has correctly: dat de geroepenen tot hem komen.) He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life, and rest, to as many as shall come to him, and believe on him.”
It strikes us again that the composers of this First Point confuse the so-called “common grace” with the general, saving grace as taught by the Arminians. For the article quoted above speaks about the preaching of the gospel. And to be sure, our fathers never thought of making that preaching of the gospel “common grace” still less “general grace.” To teach this would have been a contradiction of all the rest of the Canons which emphatically teach that saving grace is particular and is only for the elect. It is true that they speak of an external calling through the preaching of the gospel, and this external call of the gospel comes to all to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel. But this external calling is by no means grace for all. On the contrary, they teach “that others who are called by the gospel, and obey the call, and are converted, is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for grace and conversions, as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed, who as he has chosen his own from eternity in Christ, so he confers upon them faith and repentance,” etc. Canons III, V, 10.
Here the Canons teach: 1. That not all receive grace even through the preaching of the gospel. There is no “common” or general grace in and through that preaching. 2. That this grace through the preaching of the gospel comes only from God and that it is only for the elect.
The same truth is expressed in Art. 11 of the same Canons: “But when God accomplishes his good pleasure in the elect, or works in them true conversion, he not only causes. the gospel to be externally preached to them, and powerfully illuminates their minds by his Holy Spirit, that they may rightly understand the things of the Spirit of God; but by the efficacy of the same regenerating Spirit, pervades the inmost recesses of the man” etc. Canons III, IV, 11.
From all this it ought to be very plain that the Canons do not and cannot teach that the preaching of the gospel is grace for all that hear it.
In III, IV, 8 to which the Synod of 1924 referred in support of the First Point especially three things are taught:
1. That the preaching of the gospel and its call are unfeigned. God does not “make believe” but is serious, when He calls men to repent and believe. Even though He would not give to any of those that hear the preaching of the gospel the grace of faith, He would still hold men responsible and the call to believe would still be unfeigned.
2. That it is acceptable to Him that those that are called should come unto Him. To refuse to come is, therefore, a grievous sin even though no man can dome unto Christ unless the Father draw him and give unto him the true and saving faith.
3. That He seriously promises life and rest to as many that come to Him. The promise, therefore, is not general but particular; it is not for all that hear the call of the gospel externally, but only for those that believe.
But the question is: what grace do the reprobate wicked or unbelievers receive, who cannot spiritually hear the call of the gospel. The answer is: none whatsoever. The preaching of the gospel is not “common grace” according to this article of the Canons, but it is saving grace only for those that come and believe.
The same truth is taught in III, IV, 9 to which the synod of 1924 also refers in support of the First Point. There we read:
“It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ, offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel, and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the word, refuse to come, and be converted: the fault lies in themselves; some of whom when called, regardless, of their danger, reject the word of life; others, though they receive it, suffer it not to make a lasting impression upon their heart; therefore, their joy, arising only from a temporary faith, soon vanishes, and they fall away; while others choke the seed of the word by perplexing care, and the pleasures of this world, and produce no fruit. This our Savoir teaches in the parable of the sower.”
It is difficult, indeed, to understand how the theory of “common grace” finds support in this article.
In general, the article simply teaches that, not the gospel, nor Christ, nor God, but the unbeliever himself is responsible for his rejection of the gospel. Man is a rational-moral being. God bestows even on the unbeliever various gifts of intellect, understanding, reason and will so that he can certainly understand the gospel when it is proclaimed unto him. Hence, when he rejects the gospel, he does so knowingly and willingly. He refuses to come to Christ, to repent and to believe. He prefers to continue to walk in his own sinful way, the way of rebellion against God. And we may add that he will never and cannot will to do anything else, for he is dead in trespasses and sins, unless God by His Spirit implants into his heart a new life and the principle of regeneration and bestows upon him the gift of saving faith. Nevertheless, he is responsible for his rejection of the gospel.
But what grace, then, does the wicked unbeliever or reprobate receive through the preaching of the gospel? None whatsoever.
The only possible outcome or result is that his heart is hardened. And this surely cannot be called grace.
Grace is never common but always particular. It is freely bestowed on whomsoever God wills to bestow it, i.e., on the elect only.
Evolution, Long Periods, or Days
On the fourth day God created sun, moon, and stars by the word of His power. The account of this we have in Gen. 1:14-19: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so, And God made the two great lights; the greater light to rule by day, and the lesser light to rule by night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”
In the narrative of creation as we discussed it thus far, there is nothing that is contrary to any reasonable interpretation of the origin of the universe, provided we believe in and start with .God. For those that do not start with God, on the other hand, it is quite impossible to explain the origin of the world. They can never reach “the beginning” mentioned in Gen. 1:1. The difference between the believer and the unbelieving evolutionist is not that the latter offers a reasonable interpretation of the origin of the universe, while the former believes, contrary to all reason and experience, in nonsense and foolishness; but that the Christian proceeds from God and from the faith that He in infinite wisdom formed all things according to His sovereign will, while the latter alleges to proceed from nothing and attempts to show how all things developed from nothing, which is not only extremely unreasonable but also absolutely impossible.
It is reasonable, as far as the origin of the world is concerned, to start with the almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth; it is unreasonable and also impossible to start with nothing. It is reasonable to believe in the various creative acts performed by God in six successive days, limited by evening and morning, according to which God called into being all things and every separate creature; it is contrary to all reason and also in conflict with all reality and experience to maintain that the various creatures, however widely apart they may be, evolved from one-another. It is reasonable to believe that God first called into being the raw material of the universe, the Chaos, that from that chaos He first separated the light by the word of His power; then separated from that chaos the firmament, the world-ether, in which all the heavenly bodies float and move, and caused the dry land to appear; that from it, by the word of His power, He separated the various plants each producing seed and fruit after its kind. But it is extremely unreasonable to maintain that all these separate creatures came into existence through a long process of development, and that, too, out of nothing. And thus it is quite reasonable to believe that the whole kosmos and all the various creatures came into existence immediately, the moment God spoke, in six successive days of twenty-four hours, while it is unreasonable to maintain that God spoke for millions and billions of years before the creatures came into existence.
It stands to reason that there are many things, also in the narrative of creation that we cannot fully understand. We can expect this in view of the infinitude of the divine and the finitude of the human mind. But there is nothing in the account of creation inGen. 1 that cannot be conceived: all is in harmony with reality and full of wisdom.
On the fourth day God created the heavenly luminaries, sun, moon, and stars. The wisdom of the world objects that the account in Gen. 1 cannot be true. So-called scientists have many objections. They object that Gen. 1 makes the earth the center of the universe which cannot be true. They call attention to the fact that the creation narrative makes the distinction between day and night before the creation of the sun which is absurd. They object, too, because it puts the creation of the world of vegetation prior to the heavenly bodies, which is, according to them impossible. Besides the account in Gen. 1 presents the matter in such a way the innumerable large worlds are called into existence in one day while six entire days are devoted to our little earth, which is absurd.
What about these objections?
It is true that Gen. 1 presents the universe as geocentric, earth-centered. Well, I would say that this is true, not locally, but certainly as to its significance. For not only did God create the highest creature, man, on the earth, but He also sent His only begotten Son into our earthly world and into our flesh. And He is the Lord of our entire universe. In Him all things will ultimately be united. From this point of view, therefore, the universe is certainly geocentric.
As to the second objection, namely that of the priority of day and night before the heavenly luminaries were created, we answer that on the first day light was created and must have been concentrated somewhere so that night and day or, as the text has it, evening-morning, did follow each other before the sun was created. And as to the priority of the world of vegetation even before the sun was called into being, we answer that the world of plants thrived in the light which God had created on the first day. In regard to the objection that all the heavenly bodies were created in one day while six days are devoted to the creation and formation of the earth, this is somewhat the same as the objection that is concerned with the fact that the earth is geocentric, but we wish to add that all material of the heavenly luminaries was created in the beginning. Besides, they had already been separated into definite bodies on the second day, when God created the firmament, and these different bodies became luminaries when, on the fourth day, God caused the light which He had created on the first day to be concentrated in these different bodies.
For the rest, we do not want to concentrate our attention on the different luminaries which God created on the fourth day. All the heavenly bodies, sun, moon, the planets, and all the stars were created on that day. Their purpose, according to the text is: “to divide the day from the light.” Besides, they must be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years. Then, too, the text has it that they rule the day and the night. Our purpose is to point out once more, that also the fourth day is not a long period but a day of twenty-four hours. And this the text proved abundantly. First by the fact God saidand by that Word of God heavenly bodies came into being immediately. Then, too, by the emphasis placed upon the division of day and night in the entire, text. And, finally, by the closing statement of the passage: “And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.”