“Gereformeerd of Arminiaans?” i.e., Reformed or Arminian? that is the question which the Rev. Idzerd Van Dellen placed at the head of his department in De Wachter of October 19th. It is a question to which the Reverend, in our opinion, could have given a definite answer but did not. True, his article left the impression that he knew where he stood as to being Reformed or Arminian, but he closes his article with almost the same question with which he began, and therefore left the matter hanging in the air as far as his readers were concerned.
Rev. Van Dellen in his own characteristic manner tells of a meeting he attended in the Civic Auditorium in Holland, Michigan, which was sponsored by the Youth for Christ organization in that city. The purpose of the meeting; in which some 2000 people were gathered, was to show a film portraying Billy Graham and the London Crusade. The Reverend does not reflect on the picture he saw, but on the atmosphere he was in while he attended the meeting. More particularly he calls attention to the literature the sponsoring organization passed out, and still more particularly to the chairman of the meeting of whom he wrote, and I translate freely: “He spoke much and particularly for the needs of the Youth for Christ movement. It appeared that he with a friend, who was introduced by him, had purchased for this movement a vacated Episcopal Church. The benches were taken out of the church, and now they needed chairs, besides a piano and utensils for the kitchen. He asked his audience to pray and give for this undertaking. Also he enjoined them respecting the collection which was to be taken to defray expenses, and he asked them to fill envelopes which were to be handed out at the close of the meeting in behalf of the Billy Graham campaign. He laid considerable stress on making a definite choice for Christ. Those who were there to prepared should raise their hands. At the end of the meeting they were expected to come into a room behind the auditorium, where he with others would talk with them. In his talk he used Arminian phraseology. He said with emphasis that it depended on their will, and argued that they must bend their will. Can we as Reformed people go along with the Youth for Christ movement and the Billy Graham Campaign, which are both so Arminianistically colored?”
Come, come, Reverend, we don’t ask such questions when we are Reformed people, do we? Rather, we say boldly what is wrong with these movements, showing forth their corruption, and positively declaring that Israel’s safety lies in her dwelling alone. Surely, it is not a question to be left hanging in the air whether the Reformed may go along with the Arminian. It is decided.
Kuiper Criticizes De Jong’s Book
The Banner of October 15th presents a book review by the Rev. Herman Kuiper on the recent volume produced by the Rev. A.C. De Jong, entitled: The Well-Meant Gospel Offer—The Views of H. Hoeksema and K. Schilder. We have not as yet had time to peruse the book and, therefore, are not in a position to tell whether Kuiper’s review is to the point or not. We do have, however, a few things to say about what Kuiper writes; and the manner in which he criticizes the writing of De Jong.
Dr. Kuiper begins by saying that the book is “an earnest defense of the position taken by the Christian Reformed Synod of 1924 when it declared that God manifests a favorable attitude towards mankind in general in that he in the gospel makes a well-meant offer of salvation to both the elect and the reprobate.”
Further, he states that “the major position of this book is devoted to setting forth and refuting the views of H. Hoeksema, who denies that God ever shows favor to the non-elect and that God offers salvation to men who ultimately perish. The author succeeds admirably in showing that Hoeksema’s extreme supralapsarianism and his ardent desire for a logical system, which leaves no room for apparent contradictions, betray him into adopting conclusions which run counter to the clear teaching of Scripture and the tenets of Reformed theology. Cogent indeed are the proofs offered to indicate that Hoeksema, in his efforts to bolster his position, time and again resorts to exegesis which violently contorts various Scripture passages. In this connection it is especially worthy of note how our author proves from Scripture the untenable character of Hoeksema’s claim that God’s covenant promise is addressed exclusively to the elect children of believing parents.”
Kuiper also notes that De Jong has found a “marked harmony between K. Schilder and H. Hoeksema in that both deny on speculative, extra-biblical grounds that God is favorably inclined towards reprobate sinners.” And he also notes that De Jong believes that Hoeksema is “more consistent in maintaining this position without any reservations.” Schilder evidently contradicts himself when “he also stoutly maintains that the covenant promise is a conditional promise of salvation for all the children of believers.” According to Kuiper, De Jong agrees with Schilder on this last point, but he argues against him and Hoeksema on the matter of a denial of God’s favorable attitude towards the reprobate.
Then Kuiper takes De Jong to task for not always adhering to what he calls “the excellent rule” which both he and De Jong claim was the example of Calvin, namely, to “accept in faith the teachings of Scripture even though these teachings involve apparent contradictions.” He even regards the views of De Jong in some instances as departing. “from the traditional Reformed teaching as set forth by such eminent scholars as Calvin, Bavinck, and Warheld.” Writes Kuiper, “Of course, we agree wholeheartedly with the author when he combats the idea that the two parts of predestination are co-ordinate. God does not find the same pleasure in the destruction of the reprobate that he finds in the salvation of the elect. And neither does God blind and harden the reprobate with the same kind of direct action that he employs in enabling the elect to, believe savingly. Of course, God is not the author of sin and neither does he force anybody to sin against his will. The sinner who disbelieves and disobeys acts as a free agent. He is fully responsible for his wrongdoing and is to be accounted guilty and deserving of punishment. And in man’s final condemnation God surely takes his sin into account. Nevertheless it is the commonly accepted Reformed teaching that both preterition and election find their last cause in God’s sovereign good pleasure. The foreseen faith and obedience of the elect were not the ground of their election. And neither was the foreseen sin of fallen humanity the ultimate ground why God decided to pass some men by with his saving grace. It has seemed good to God, whose ways are past tracing out, to permit sin with an efficacious permission: His providential rule covers in a way that we cannot understand the evil as well as the good . . . . So it does seem hazardous to claim that a sinner does not reject God’s offer of salvation because he was reprobated, but that he is a reprobate because he does not want to believe.”
This last Kuiper claims De Jong teaches in his book. He quotes instances in the book where De Jong makes statements like these: “The rejection of the covenant promise by some covenant members is fully, completely caused by their wicked unbelief.” “Those who persistently reject do so because they want to reject and not because they were passed by and left by God in their sinful misery. The decree of preterition is not the cause of unbelief and impiety.” “It is a serious inaccuracy to say that God offers salvation to sinners who are already elect and reprobate since God in gospel preaching confronts sinners who are en route to their eternal destinies.” “No one disbelieves because he is a reprobate. He is a reprobate because he does not want to believe.” Kuiper says these statements “can hardly be squared with his teaching that God sovereignly and unfailingly effectuates his world plan in the course of history.” And again, Kuiper says in connection with the statement, ‘that a sinner does not reject God’s offer of salvation because he was reprobated, but that he is a reprobate because he does not want to believe,’ “This seems to make God’s decree dependent on man’s response in contradiction of the Bible teaching on God’s absolute sovereignty.”
Kuiper then inserts in his article two paragraphs which will be interesting to our readers and which I will quote in full.
“On set purpose we refrain from discussing. De Jong’s teaching on mediate regeneration and on the character of the covenant promise as being both conditional and unconditional. We only wish to add that the author has made his task overly difficult by following the example of some European theologians who, in seeking to meet the objections of Barth and Brunner to the traditional Reformed view of predestination, try to make the relation between the decree of reprobation and the sincerity of God’s offer of salvation to the non-elect intellectually perspicuous. He could have answered conclusively Hoeksema’s and Schilder’s denial of a favorable attitude of God by giving a proper exegesis of such texts as Isaiah 55:1-6; Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11; Matthew 11:28, 23:37; and II Peter 3:9 as well as of I Timothy 2:4. Instead of doing this, he has presented various considerations which seem to alleviate the sharp contradiction between the teaching of Scripture on God’s decree of reprobation and on the well-meant gospel offer.
“Calvin followed a different method. Instead of trying to reconcile these truths, Calvin declared that it is impossible for man to explain how these truths find their unity in the mind of God. According to Calvin our eyes are blinded by intense light, when we seek to understand the will of God so that we cannot with certainty say how God wishes all men to be saved and yet has devoted all the reprobate to everlasting perdition and wishes them to perish. Since the days of Calvin no theologian has improved upon this statement. The keenest mind must bow humbly before the absolute authority of God’s Word and accept without gainsaying the paradoxes inherent in the teaching of Scripture.”
It would be unfair of me to criticize the book of the Rev. De Jong without first having read it. Hence it would also be unfair for me to agree with the criticism Dr. Kuiper offers on it, though I have a suspicion that Kuiper gives a correct criticism when he says that De Jong departs from the “traditional Reformed teaching as set forth by such eminent scholars as Calvin, etc.” He would not dare to cite the quotations he did were they not literally found in the book, unless he quotes like another preacher I know who has been severely criticized for his unethical quotings in Concordia. It is difficult to believe that Kuiper would do this. But be that as it may, I refrain from commenting on De Jong’s departure from the traditional and only make a remark or two about Kuiper’s criticism.
In the first place, we notice that Kuiper does not like De Jong’s method of treating Hoeksema’s doctrine re the preaching of the gospel and its intention. He apparently does not like to have Hoeksema’s presentation investigated. Rather he would simply ignore it by quoting a few texts of Scripture, and then, instead of exegeting the passages himself, he scolds De Jong for not exegeting them, which texts he claims if properly exegeted should suffice to throw overboard all that Hoekesma has written to sustain his views. But Kuiper is a Doctor, and when one gets a title he probably doesn’t need to do any exegeting for the reading public. He needs only to quote a few texts and all is plain, because the Doctor said so. This doesn’t sink in with me, Doctor.
In the second place, there is another thought Kuiper expresses in criticism of De Jong’s book that I do not like. He has the privilege, of course, of lying down by Calvin and other eminent Reformed theologians and resting implicitly on what they said. But I deny him the right to say that either De Jong or any other theologian ought to do the same. Especially is this true with respect to the matter Kuiper is talking about. He claims that there are irreconcilable paradoxes apparent contradictions in Scripture which Calvin and others believed we should leave alone or rather accept without investigating. One of these paradoxes is that God reprobates sovereignly on the one hand, while at the same time he offers sincerely salvation to the reprobate in the preaching of the gospel on the other. Kuiper accepts both, though in his own mind they are plain contradictions. But when one is a Doctor perhaps his mind is broader and bigger to enable him to carry contradictions in it. I am not a doctor, and perhaps my mind is too small to comprehend contradictions. At any rate, I would rather be accused of being too logical, than too foolish for words.