At this point in our discussion of the world-wide erosion of the doctrine of sovereign predestination, we are viewing the situation in South Africa. When we broke off the discussion in the September 15 issue, we were calling attention to the views of Dr. A. Konig of the University of South Africa. We had begun to show how he attempts to do away with the doctrine of reprobation. He is right in line with all the present-day deniers of this doctrine, who attempt to reduce it simply to a judicial act of God whereby He rejects those who reject Him.
Before we proceed with our discussion, I must call attention to the fact that this reconstruction of the doctrine of predestination by allegedly Reformed theologians everywhere is indeed a rather amazing phenomenon. I cannot escape the impression that these mid-twentieth century theologians are rather cocky and smart-alecky, first of all. Some of them even seem to go out of their way to make shocking statements. But even apart from their language and style, would it not be an amazing fact if suddenly in this twentieth century theologians gain new insights into the doctrine of predestination which are in flat contradiction to the insights of the theologians of Dordrecht, of Beza, of Calvin, of Gottschalk, of Augustine? The insights are not truly new, of course; they are only old heresies in a somewhat new garb. But they are new and contradictory insights for men who are supposed to stand and who claim to stand in the Reformed tradition and in the line of the theologians mentioned above. Our twentieth century, of course, is characterized by a know-it-all attitude; and it claims for itself the honor of a knowledge explosion in almost every field of learning. And it seems that this spirit has pervaded the halls of theological learning also. But already this phenomenon should put us on our guard. It would be strange indeed if all the predestinarian theologians of past centuries were theological nincompoops, and if the upstarts of the twentieth century with their new insights were right. This alone should fill us with a healthy skepticism when we study what they have to say.
But the matter is even more serious. After all, it is not merely a question of whether you evaluate Calvin as a theologian more highly than some contemporary theologian. And it is not merely a question of standing in traditions of men or disagreeing with those traditions. We believe that the Spirit of Christ was given to the church in order to lead her into all the truth. Did the Holy Spirit fail to lead the church in the past? Or did He mislead the church in the past? Or has the truth into which He leads the church changed? It is especially from this point of view that one must be extremely cautious about alleged new insights and must carefully test them.
This leads me to call attention to another rather amazing phenomenon. These—so I would call them—reconstructionist Reformed theologians often try to leave an overwhelming impression of being Scriptural; they seem to cite much Scriptural evidence in support of their views. To be sure, this is characteristic of heretics. A heretic must, in order to succeed, leave the impression of being Biblical. But in their presentation of this Scriptural evidence they do not hesitate to reconstruct Scripture in a most blatant and preposterous way. Sometimes it almost seems that they are trying to bluff their readers and their students by their very radical use (misuse) of the Scriptures. A little calm analysis by any Reformed believer with only a cursory knowledge of Scripture will frequently enable him to expose the fallacy of the view presented. Of this I hope to furnish some examples in our subsequent discussion.
We may begin with the quotation made at the conclusion of our previous article. In this paragraph Dr. Konig refers very disparagingly to what he terms the particularistic misconception of the Old Testament. In this connection he writes: “The particularistic view of the ‘Old Testament is supported by yet another misconception, viz. that election implies rejection.” Dr. Konig, you see, does not want this. He does not want double predestination, election and rejection. This, for him, is a misconception.
Now, in the first place, I would point out that these theologians who want an election which does not imply rejection are asking you to believe an impossibility. Even apart from the question of what Scripture teaches, this is sheer nonsense. An election which does not imply rejection? How is that possible? Election means “to choose out, to choose from.” If there are 100 men, and I choose 50 of those 100, are not the other 50 rejected? You can phrase it as you wish: they are not chosen, they are non-elect (infralapsarian language), they are passed by (more infra-). The fact remains that the choosing out of the 50 implies the non-choosing, passing by, rejection of the remaining 50. The same is true of God’s election: it necessarily implies the rejection (nonelection, passing by) of all whom He does not choose. The only alternative to this, it seems to me, is universal election.
But lest I be accused of mere rationalistic argumentation, let me point out that this is the plain teaching of Scripture. First of all, in general, is it not plain from the history of the old dispensation that the gentiles were indeed excluded? Was not Israel theonly people of the Lord? Were not all the nations, for example, who stemmed from Japheth excluded from the work of God’s grace until the time of the new dispensation? And were not the Canaanites rejected and displaced by God’s people? And even among the generations of Shem, was not Abraham singled out—to the exclusion of all the rest? And to Abraham was not God’s Word: “In Isaac shall thy seed be called?” In the second place, does not the express testimony of Scripture contradict this notion? Did not God say through Amos, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth?” Or speaking of distinction (Konig deprecates this as “favoritism”), how aboutDeuteronomy 7:6: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” And if the English text is not clear enough here, let it be noted that the Hebrew term (min) very definitely means “from, in separation from.” Or to cite a specific instance of rejection in distinction from election, think of Malachi 1:2-4: “I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever.”
In connection with his view of predestination, Dr. Konig does not want individual election, but only anational election of Israel, an election of the people of Israel. He insists upon this repeatedly, even to the point that he finally teaches that the same people of Israel who are elected can also be and are rejected! And again, in this connection he makes some points which cause one to rub his eyes in amazement. He writes as follows, p. 13:
In the Old Testament individuals are seldom mentioned as elected. One can find no other names than those of Abraham
and even they can hardly be considered individuals; they are each in their own way representatives of the people.
Sometimes the king of Israel is referred to as elected. Here, too, it is not primarily the person of the king, but his office as ruler of the people of God which earns him the title. Since Israel is God’s elected people, the king of Israel is an elected king
We have already identified the real object of election according to the Old Testament, viz. the people of Israel.
Deut. 7:6ff.; Deut. 14:2; Ps. 105:6, 43; Ps. 106:5; I Chron. 16:13; Isaiah 41:8ff.;Isaiah 43:10, 20ff.; Isaiah 44:1ff.; Isaiah 65:9, 15, 22.No individual election? One could offer extensive Biblical proof. But just off-hand, what about the 7000 whom the Lord tells Elijah He has reserved unto Himself and who have not bowed the knee to Baal? And if the objection is raised that they are not called elect, then let me call attention to the clear word of Romans 11:4, 5: “But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Seven thousand elect mentioned at once!
And what about that national election? And how can any Reformed theologian worthy of the name suggest the possibility of those who are elected being rejected? Does Dr. Konig have no knowledge of the Scriptural truth that “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel?” Does he have no understanding of the truth that God’s election and reprobation cut right across the generations of Israel? Does he not know that the Lord instructed Moses in this truth at the time of his intercession after the sin of the golden calf at Sinai, and taught Moses with respect to the nation of Israel, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whom I will have compassion?”
One of the most blatant attempts to reconstruct Scripture comes when Dr. Konig writes about the purpose of election, introducing this section as follows:
To understand the purpose of Israel’s election correctly it is of utmost importance to note that the Bible does not begin with Israel’s (or Abraham’s) election, [Does anyone teach this? HCH] but the history of Abraham and Israel is preceded by eleven chapters relating God’s creation of heaven and earth, and His continuous involvement from the very beginning with His total creation. The Bible does not begin particularistically with Israel alone, while ignoring all the other peoples, but God deliberately reveals Himself first of all, as the God of the whole world, as the God who created the universe, and who has a claim to (and interest in) all peoples of the earth. In fact, the frost eleven chapters of Genesis relate the history of God’s dealings with all the nations of the earth.
The history of
can be summarized as follows: God creates heaven and earth, man being the crown of His creation
For this reason man is at the centre of creation
Unfortunately man abuses his responsibility; he is not willing to remain a man, he would rather be like God
This is the beginning of the process of man’s estrangement from God, which would become catastrophic and would spread over the whole earth
For this reason God’s judgment cannot stay
but nevertheless God remains faithful to His creation as well as to man
A new generation proceeds from the descendants of Noah
however, they too turn their backs on God. This time He does not punish by water and flood, but causes mankind to spread over the face of the earth and to become estranged
If this is an accurate summary of Genesis 1-11, then Dr. Konig has a different Bible than I have. Notice: 1) There is no mention of the protevangel. 2) There is no reference to the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (election and reprobation!). 3) There is no mention of the fact that the Genesis record clearly traces these two antithetical seeds in the generations of Abel-Seth and of Cain-Lamech. 4) There is no mention of the fact that the reprobate—ungodly in the prediluvian world developed in sin, filled the measure of iniquity, and were destroyed in the Flood, while the church (God’s elect, covenant people) were saved in the ark and by water. 5) There is no hint that after the Flood these same two seeds developed anew out of Noah’s sons. 6) There is no reference to the fact that prophetically the line of Shem is singled out, that prophetically Japheth is to be enlarged and then to dwell in the tents of Shem, and that Ham is cursed in Canaan. What an altogether different picture than that drawn by Dr. Konig!
It was not my intention originally to offer a critique of Dr. Konig’s views, but merely to show how in South Africa also the viper is being clasped to the bosom. And even now I do not present the above as a careful and thorough critique. But I considered it profitable for our readers to have a sample of how theology and the Scriptures are dealt with by these reconstructionist-theologians who scorn the traditional Reformed line.