Too Much Election?
It was while I was working in Hull, Iowa, a few weeks ago that I received another issue of Poortwake, a little Dutch paper that is sent to me regularly from the Netherlands by a Young Ladies’ Organization (Liberated). I read an article in it at the time, which to me, was very striking and on which I thought to comment. But because I was busy I laid it aside. However, after perusing the article again, I thought it well to call attention to it even though it may be a little late. The article appeared in the September 4th issue, on pages 168, 169. The name of the author is not given, but I surmise that it is Mr. K. Van Spronsen who visited among us a few years ago. I will not translate the entire article but merely give the gist of it, and then make my comments.
He reminds his young people that the time for vacation is ended, and that they must get busy again with their studies in matters that concern Reformed truth. He calls attention to the fact that there are many great problems that arise which force themselves also upon youth for solution. Among these are the deplorable separations in the Church which are taking place today.
He suggests that his young people may also have read of the separation which took place in the Protestant Reformed Church in America. Concerning this he says that whoever takes cognizance of the back ground of the differences that have arisen in these Churches, understands also something of their tragedy. Rev. Hoeksema, so he continues, in 1924 and since that time, has in faithfulness to the Scriptures fought his fight against an imposing Arminianism in America which had also gained ground even in Reformed Churches. Against this Arminianism, and correctly so, Hoeksema had raised up that central part of our Confession, namely, election.
But now look at the further developments! That part of our Confession he has dogmatized so one-sidedly in his preaching and doctrine that the requirement and promise of the covenant of grace, of which Scripture is full, no longer receive their proper emphasis. The result—the unfortunate thing that has happened—separation!
He then asks: Doesn’t this perhaps have something to say to us? And he answers: Maybe it does.
He reminds his young people that they (the Liberated) also have a struggle, though it is from an entirely different point of view. He realizes that in their peculiar struggle that glorious part of our Confession, election, may find itself too much in the back ground. He says, and I translate as literally as possible, “We hear so little talk about it, and we read so little of it.” And he concludes “It is a human characteristic to fall into one-sidedness. What took place in Grand Rapids surely has something to say to us. The Five Articles against the Remonstrants, let them not become dead capital among us.”
Well, well! That is something! Hoeksema was the only one who fought Arminianism in this country. And Hoeksema did this by always maintaining the glorious doctrine of election, which according to the writer of the above mentioned article the Fathers call “the heart of the Church.” But the poor fellow went off the beam with this doctrine. He preached and taught it so much that he became one-sided. In fact he became so one-sided that in respect to the requirement and promise of the covenant of grace, well—these simply don’t exist anymore. Too much election! Well, well! That is something! You really have to read the Dutch papers to find out what goes on in America.
One wonders where the man got his information. Was it the Standard Bearer, perhaps? If it was, I would like to know the volume and the page. Or did one of our schismatic ministers tell him this story? One wonders when he reads stories like this. We suggest that the young ladies, who were advised to study the problem of “separations,” that they do not slick this story up, but do a little investigating on their own.
But notice what an admission this author makes. He tells his young people in no uncertain terms with their doctrijie (Liberated) they are liable to lose e- lection if they don’t watch out. In fact, so he tells us, they have already lost it. No one speaks of it anymore, and no one writes about it anymore. The only place you can find it is in the Canons of Dordt, the Five Articles against the Remonstrants. Verily “the heart of the Church” has fallen into the dust! I would like to remind our readers that we Protestant Reformed people can surely learn something from the liberated. We learn this, that as soon as you monkey around with that conditional business, you are on the road to losing everything. And this is going to be the experience of all those who have separated from us to embrace their conditional doctrine.
What Kind of Grace is “Common” Grace?
This is the question Dr. M. J. Wyngarden of Calvin College attempts to answer in the latest issue of Torch and Trumpet.
He writes: “This question is generally asked by those who deny or doubt that there is a certain grace or favor of God in addition to saving grace. They are not convinced that there is some kind of favor of God, and that there is a sincere offer of salvation also to those who do not accept that offer. They take this stand because the reprobate do not receive the power needed to accept this offer. The question can be asked, which grace, what kind of grace do they then receive?”
Dr. Wyngarden then attempts to show what kind of grace the reprobate receives by quoting from Calvin’s commentary on the prophecy of.
Space will not allow that I quote the professor at length. But he says that “according to John Calvin, these verses speak of the reprobate, reprobate who stand over against the poor of the flock that waited on the prophet, and acknowledged that the words which he spoke were the word of God.”
When we read this we became interested to know whether or not John Calvin actually taught this. So we took our commentary of Calvin on Zechariah and began to check the quotations the professor made. And we were astonished to learn the method the professor uses when he makes quotations, a method one uses when he wants to make another say what he wants him to say. Let me quote a little more to show what I mean.
Here is what Wyngarden quotes further from Calvin: “But he (the prophet) says further, that the poor of the flock perceived this: and thus he shows, that while the body of the people followed the way to ruin, a few derived benefit from God’s scourges; and thus it never happens, that God chastizes without some advantage. Though then the reprobate (italics mine, M.J.W.) obstinately resist God, and hesitate not to tread under foot his judgments, and, as far as they are able, render them void, there are yet some few who receive benefit, and acknowledge God’s hand so as to humble themselves and repent.”
And now follows a quotation to which I especially call attention to show up Wyngarden’s method. What follows appears all in one paragraph in Wyngarden’s article, which means that he intended that the reader concludes that this was exactly as he read it in Calvin’s commentary. “For the paternal care of God had been most basely and most shamefully repudiated, as well as the kind favor which he had manifested toward the people. (I found this on page 312 of the commentary, M.S.) They had thrust from them the kindness of God, and in a manner carried on war forwardly with God, so as to prevent any access to His favor. (This I found on page 313, far removed from that which he had just quoted above, M.S.) That Zechariah now speaks in his own person, and then introduces God as the speaker, makes no difference…(Wyngarden left out the words: “as we said yesterday”—that is indicated by the series of dots. M.S.) as to the main subject; for his object is to set forth how shamefully the Jews had abused the favor of God, and how unjustly they had despised it. (Italics mine, M.J.W.)” (This I found on p. 324 of the commentary M.S.)
Wonderful way to quote, don’t you think? Reminds me of someone else I know who likes to quote that way. You can make any writer or commentator say anything you want to when you use this method. And there can bo no doubt that is what Wyngarden attempted to do. He wanted Calvin to teach Wyngarden’s pet doctrine of “Common Grace.”
But is that what Calvin teaches in his commentary on the passage referred to in Zechariah? I think not. As I understand Calvin, all he purposes to teach is that God had manifested his favor to Israel, particularly Judah, looked at as a people constituted of both elect and reprobate. The majority in the latter group. And in order that God may save his people and at the same time destroy the reprobate, he causes the prophet to come before them all with the two staves, Beauty and Bands, which are the word of God. This word of God the poor recognizes as the power of God unto salvation, while the reprobate are hardened thereby unto their destruction.
Surely the people see God’s favor to His people in Christ. This is true also today under the gospel. God shows it to them. But is God therefore gracious to the reprobate? Nonsense! Let Wyngarden exegete the entire chapter for himself and he will see this if he has eyes to see. And if he writes again, let him do his quoting fairly, not deceptively. Torch and Trumpet should refuse articles of this kind. It destroys the very purpose for which the periodical was brought into being.