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At the conclusion of my previous editorial on this subject, I called attention to the fact that to a certain extent Dr. Vander Goot’s analysis of the Christian Reformed position with respect to higher criticism is a breath of fresh air. This is true, I said, because of his reference to the “Mind of Common Grace” and because of his making a connection between higher criticism and common grace and between the Janssen Case of 1922 and the Common Grace decisions of 1924. Dr. Vander Goot’s position seems to be that especially the promotion of higher criticism in the Christian Reformed Church is due to the dominance of the “Mind of Common Grace.”

Last time I stated that there are several aspects of Dr. Vander Goot’s address which deserve a more detailed analysis. With this analysis I now proceed.

In the first place, I cannot understand the reference to an immigrant mentality which is repeatedly mentioned in this connection. Vander Goot makes this immigrant mentality a motivation. “As immigrants, we continue to crave acceptance by and participation in the mainline culture that surrounds us.” And again, “The Mind of Common Grace . . . out of the desperate immigrant desire to be accepted. . . .” Now, for one thing, it seems to me that in the course of several generations since 1847, or even since 1900, it is time to stop this continued reference to our being immigrants. Or, put in different words, all Americans (except, perhaps, the American Indians) are immigrants; and we Dutchmen are only a part of the stew in the melting-pot called America. Besides, it seems to me rather difficult to ascribe the dominance of the Mind of Common Grace to being immigrants. If this is true, then how do you explain developments in the Netherlands, where the so-called Mind of Common Grace has dominated the churches to an ever greater extent than in our country? Surely, there was no immigrant mentality in the Netherlands! And yet it was there that the theory of common grace had its father and its greatest champion, Abraham Kuyper.

In the second place, it is a mistake to confine the so-called Mind of Common Grace to “the top,” to “the CRC leadership,” to “the establishment.” For one thing, it seems to me that even at “the top” there is very little conscious and explicit reasoning from “common grace,” though the influence of the theory is admittedly present. But more than this, the influence of the theory of common grace has permeated the entire denomination and virtually every aspect of its life, while there is little or nothing left of a “Mind of the Antithesis” any longer. It would not be difficult to demonstrate this. Nor is this difficult to understand. For if the students for the ministry and also those students, for example, who are trained to be teachers in the schools throughout the denomination come under the influence of this “Mind of Common Grace” at “the top,” what else can be expected but that the whole denomination must come under the dominance of that mind?

In the third place, I could wish that Dr. Vander Goot had explained what he understands by the term “mind” and by his references to the “mind of common grace” and the “mind of the antithesis.” Does he mean by “mind” the same thing as Dr. Henry Stob means in his essays on this subject? Does he mean that various “minds” can and should co-exist in the church? Does he mean that one or another mindshould eventually dominate, or that none should dominate? These things are not clearly defined in his address. Yet, as we shall see presently, he apparently thinks it possible that the “Mind of Common Grace” and the “Mind of the Antithesis” can somehow co-exist.

In the fourth place, while there was indeed a clear connection between the Janssen Case and the Common Grace Case, between 1922 and 1924, both historically and as to principle, it is hardly correct to say that the “Mind of the Antithesis” won a battle over higher criticism in the CRC in 1922. It is indeed true that the “Mind of Common Grace”—if such you would call it—gained the victory over the “Mind of the Antithesis” (better stated: over the two outstanding champions of the antithesis, Danhof and Hoeksema) in 1924. But it is hardly correct to say that the “Mind of the Antithesis” triumphed in the Janssen Case in 1922. Why not? For the simple reason that the issue of common grace versus the antithesis was not allowed to become an issue in 1922. Dr. Janssen tried to make common grace an issue in his articles inThe Banner in answer to the Rev. Herman Hoeksema after the Synod of 1920, when the four professors failed in their attempt to have Janssen condemned. And it is certainly correct to say that the underlying principle of Dr. Janssen’s position was that of common grace. But the fact remains that in the Janssen Case the issue of higher criticism was decided without the underlying issue of common grace so much as entering in. In other words, the case was decided without deciding the issue. The late Herman Hoeksema wrote rather extensively on this subject in his History of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America some fifty years ago. Permit me to quote a few enlightening paragraphs:

In the light of subsequent history it is a patent fact that the alignment of the pro- and con- factions in the Janssen case was not purely determined by its deepest underlying principle, but rather by secondary and superficial considerations of agreement and disagreement.

The fact that the four professors (Berkhof, Volbeda, Heyns, and Ten Hoor, HCH) could unite with the pro-Janssen faction in their action against the three ministers that were deposed in 1924-25, plainly reveals that, apart from superficial differences, there was a fundamental agreement in principle. There was in the Janssen controversy an underlying principle which, had it not been violently and intentionally forced to the background, would have paralyzed every effort of the four professors to combat Doctor Janssen’s views and would have aligned them from the beginning with the pro-Janssen faction against the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema.

This underlying principle is the theory of common grace!

On this fundamental principle all agreed, except the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema!

It is deplorable that Doctor Janssen in his defense tried to prove that also the four professors and others of his leading opponents denied the theory of common grace. For, in the first place, this was untrue [except, perhaps, in the case of Doctor Volbeda). But in the second place, it would have been more fruitful for a proper discussion had he proceeded from the correct assumption that his opponents, except the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, do accept the theory of common grace, (emphasis added) and that, therefore, they must also in deepest principle agree with him in regard to his views on revelation, inspiration, canonicity, the miracles and related subjects, even though, due to a lack of consistency on their part, they differed with him in ultimate conclusions.

In the light of subsequent history it was evidently a mistake on the part of the Reverends H. Danhof and H. Hoeksema, that they cooperated with the four professors in the Janssen controversy, rather than to oppose his views separately and from their own standpoint; that, for practical reasons, they allowed the deepest principles involved to be pushed into the background and the controversy to be confined to surface questions and differences.

Elsewhere in the same discussion, the Rev. Hoeksema calls attention to two significant facts which are related to the above: 1) Prof. Louis Berkhof was the chief author of the Three Points in 1924. 2) After 1922 the pro- and con- Janssen factions united not only in opposition to the Revs. Danhof and Hoeksema, but in permanent peace and positive cooperation. While all the supporters of the deposed Dr. Janssen remained within the fold of the CRC and some were even appointed to professorships in the Seminary, there was no more controversy.

Finally, I must call attention to the fact that Dr. Vander Goot appears to me to revert to the impossible position which the Synod of 1924 attempted, namely, to maintain both common grace and the antithesis. After adopting the Three Points, the Synod of 1924 adopted a “Testimony,” in which it attempted to maintain the spiritual, ethical antithesis—a testimony which, by the way, was never sent to the churches, but only published in the Acts. Dr. Vander Goot seems to take the same inconsistent position. For he does not advise separation; nor does he advise trying to reverse the Three Points or to obliterate the “Mind of Common Grace” in the CRC. His proposed solution to the dominance of the “Mind of Common Grace” is “to think in terms of alternative institutions.” And he believes that this will be the trend of the future in the CRC. But his great failure—and the failure of the Reformed Fellowship to this date—is that he fails to see that the inevitable result of the doctrine of common grace is the obliteration of the distinction between the church and the world, between light and darkness, between Christ and Belial, between righteousness and unrighteousness. The “Mind of Common Grace” and the “Mind of the Antithesis” are diametrical opposites. They cannot co-exist! And the attempt to have them co-exist will inevitably result in the dominance of the “Mind of Common Grace” and in synthesis, rather than antithesis.