As already indicated, to his semi-repudiation in behalf of the Reformed Journal’s editorial staff Dr. James Daane adds to his article something for which he alone takes responsibility. We quote this section of his article in full:
Protestant Reformed theology has its own version of universalism. It came to expression in the October 15th issue of the Standard Bearer in an article written by one of its writers, a minister in the Protestant Reformed Church, entitled, “The Perfect Beginning.” In it we are told that God made a perfect Adam because he made Adam fallible. Adam was ‘Very good,” because “the first Adam must fall . . . lose his righteousness so that through the cross of the Last Adam God might display His perfect righteousness.” So, “the beginning was perfect.” But not only the beginning: “so is every step of the way from that moment of the beginning onward through all time.” Not only creation as it came from the hand of God, but the fall, and every sinful moment that issues from the fall is also “very good,” and indeed “perfect.” Hence says the writer, “Of the cross God also said, as He looked down from heaven, ‘Behold it is very good.’ Of the fall of man He said the same thing.”
This, too, is a kind of universalism, one which has sin at its core. It makes sin “very good,” and “perfect” because sin makes possible, as the author of this article says, the realization of God’s purpose of uniting all things in Christ.
Ellwood’s “universalism” is an overextension of the grace of God, a version of “the triumph of grace.” It is, therefore, at worst heretical, heresy by definition being a distortion of a Christian truth. But Protestant Reformed theology, as this article clearly demonstrates, makes sin, indeed every moment of history, “perfect” and is, therefore, a universalism more demonic than heretical. It makes the fall as perfect as God’s creation, for each is said to be equally useful to “God’s purpose of uniting all things in Christ.” The clue to Ellwood’s universalism lies in God’s grace; the clue to Protestant Reformed theology’s universalism lies in sin. If one had to choose, it were better to choose Ellwood’s kind of universalism than that of Protestant Reformed theology, for God is on the side of grace, and with his whole being in creation and redemption and every moment of history against sin.
This raises an interesting question that has long fascinated me. Why is it that in conservative Reformed churches heretical expressions about God’s love and grace bring forth immediate response and sharp criticism, but worse than heretical expressions about God in terms of sin evoke only silence, no matter how often and how loudly proclaimed as Reformed orthodoxy. The answer to this question would be a moment of revelation.
It is not my purpose in this article to defend the beautiful and sound and clear article of the Rev. Heys to which Daane refers to these paragraphs, If Rev. Heys feels inclined to write in detail on Daane’s criticism, the columns of the Standard Bearer are open to him, as he well knows. I believe, however, that the Journal owes Rev. Heys a genuine apology for this unethical attack.
Nevertheless, a few remarks of a general nature are in order.
In the first place, Dr. Daane ought very earnestly to examine his ethics. I am referring to the totally unethical manner in which he deliberately distorts the article in question by misquoting. For one thing, Daane yanks a few sentences and parts of sentences completely out of the context of a carefully written article in order to make that article say exactly what it does not say. For another thing, Daane, at the end of the first paragraph quoted above, presents as a complete sentence from the article what is only part of the sentence without indicating in any way that he omitted an-entire clause. Just compare the two. Daane writes: “Hence says the writer, ‘Of the cross God also said, as He looked down from heaven, Behold it is very good. Of the fall of man He said the same thing.” But the Rev. Heys wrote: “Of the cross God also said, as He looked down from heaven, ‘Behold it is very good.’ Of the fall of man He said the same thing with a view to the higher glory that man will have in that universal kingdom of Christ.” There is a vast difference between the statements, as anyone can see. This kind of misquotation characterizes all of what Daane writes here. This is unethical. It is dishonest. I wish I could say that I believe that Daane doesn’t know better. But he is a man of better than average intelligence; and therefore I can only come to the conclusion that Daane isdeliberately dishonest in his treatment of the article in question.
In the second place, this is all the more wicked because Daane proposes to present the God of Protestant Reformed theology as a dreadfully immoral monstrosity, who delights in sin. Although Daane does not use the expression, the Thrust of his wicked attack is the same as that of those who have frequently attacked Reformed theology with the charge that it makes God the author of sin. Now all this is terribly wicked! Daane knows very well that even in the very article which he criticizes God is presented as an awful and irreprehensible Judge of sin and the sinner. Daane, I say, knows this because it is stated in the very paragraph from which he misquotes. Two sentences later we read: “So often His judgment will be, ‘Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity!'” To misquote Rev. Heys is unethical. But to misquote in order to present the God of Reformed theology as an immoral monster is terribly wicked!
To this he adds the sin of calling this theology “more demonic than heretical.” Now I confess that I do not fully understand the disjunction between “demonic” and “heretical.” To me, heresy is of the devil—even as all lying and slander is the proper work of the devil. But Daane evidently sees some kind of disjunction between the two; and evidently, to him, to be demonic is to be something worse than heretical. Well, let that be. The point is that he calls the beautiful conception of God which is embodied in our Reformed (not only Protestant Reformed) theology devilish!
I sincerely wish that Daane would repent of this dreadfully sinful attack.
In the third place,—and this makes matters worse—this kind of attack from Daane’s pen is becoming habitual. He cannot leave Protestant Reformed theology alone. And when he’ attacks it, he always attacks it on this central point of the absolute sovereignty of God, especially of God’s counsel, and more particularly in relation to sin. Not long ago we had an exchange about the doctrine of reprobation in the Canons. I recall, too, that when he was supposed to be reviewingTherefore Have I Spoken,, he devoted by far the larger part of his article not to a review of the book, but to a critique of Herman Hoeksema’s theology; And again, he concentrated on this same fundamental issue. More over, everytime Daane gets on this subject he bases his criticism on his own distorted presentation of Protestant Reformed theology, his own caricature of it, just as in the present instance. In the article under discussion, Daane knows very well that he has to stretch a point or two to connect his vitriolic attack with the subject of universalism. He understands theological language too well to imagine that what he is writing about in connection with Protestant Reformed theology can be classified under the dogmatic name universalism. But Daane cannot stand the thought of Reformed particular grace. He cannot stand the true concept of a sovereign God. Especially can he not stand the Reformed doctrine of sovereign reprobation, which is inseparably connected with the truth of sovereign, particular grace. And so, too, he cannot stand the thought that God’s sovereignty means that the event of the fall and the fact of sin have a subservient place in God’s eternal and sovereign decree. This is the reason why even when he has to concede error on the part of the Journal, he cannot do so without venting his spite against the theology of one who calls attention to that error. This is why, after all, he would choose universalism to Protestant Reformed theology, if faced by the choice. The reason is that he is at heart a universalist himself.
It will indeed be “a moment of revelation” when Daane learns to understand and acknowledge this.
In conclusion, I will make Dr. Daane an offer. Let us debate these matters in print. Here are the conditions: 1) The debate will take place on the basis of Scripture and the Reformed confessions. 2) Both sides of the debate will be carried in full in both the Reformed Journal and the Standard Bearer.
How about it, Dr. Daane?