For a while after the Synod of 1964 it seemed as though the various Christian Reformed journals were intending to keep silence about what has come to be known as the “Dekker Case.” And, for the most part, this silence has been maintained. The two official papers of the Christian Reformed Church have not editorially dealt with the matter. Torch and Trumpethas made a couple of editorial references to the matter; and just recently it has called in help from Prof. John Murray, of Westminster Seminary, who, however, really offers nothing but the traditional presentation of the so-called “common-grace benefits” which accrue to mankind in general from the death of Christ. As far as I can recall, Prof. Dekker himself has written nothing further on the matter since Synod decided to study the doctrine of limited, atonement in the light of Scripture and the creeds. However, beginning with the October issue of 1964, the Reformed Journal has kept up a steady barrage of articles by Dr. James Daane (Assistant Editor of Christianity Today) and by Dr. Harry Boer (Principal and Teacher of the Theological College of Northern Nigeria). In general, both of these men plainly agree with Professor Dekker. Moreover, they are both “rather frank in their discussion of the case, Dr. Daane especially being frank to the point of being outspoken. Daane usually states his thoughts rather bluntly, which is an advantage especially in a discussion of this kind. It also seems that Daane cannot resist taking pot-shots at our Protestant Reformed Churches and at what he imagines is our theology. And it is partly because of Daane’s blunt criticism of our churches and partly because his articles belong, generally speaking, to the Dekker Case, that the editorial columns of the Standard Bearer will reflect on Daane’s defense of and elaboration upon Dekker’s position. For the time being, at least, I will leave the writings of Harry Boer to the Rev. C. Hanko, who is currently commenting on Boer’s position in “The Lord Gave the Word.”
Meanwhile, I agree with Torch and Trumpet’scomment that Prof. Dekker owes further explanation to his readers, and I had expected that by this time he would have continued to set forth his views. It is well to remember, too, that while Daane agrees fundamentally with Dekker, we do not know whether Dekker goes along with Daane’s position in every respect; and unless Prof. Dekker “comes out of his corner” and, speaks for himself, he is certainly going to be classified in the popular mind as agreeing with Daane’s, theology. It would, therefore have been more beneficial and less complicated if the Reformed Journal had continued to present Dekker’s views, rather than the views of men who for the most part agree with Dekker. As matters stand now, we know that Daane is in Dekker’s corner; but is Dekker in Daane’s corner completely? Will Dekker assume responsibility for all of Daane’s position? Perhaps we shall hear again from Prof. Dekker before long.
One thing, however, is certain: Dr. Daane’s “theologizings” bear no resemblance to Reformed theology, either in method or in content. And his caricature of Protestant Reformed theology and preaching is exactly that,—a caricature; and resemblance between it and. the true image of our theology and preaching is strictly coincidental. I fear that Dr. Daane is so obsessed with his notions about the “addressability” of the gospel that he loses the Reformed perspective in regard to almost everything connected with the gospel.
As far as Dr. Daane’s approach and method are concerned, there is something fundamentally wrong. Daane himself would probably call what he does “theologizing.” I prefer to call it philosophizing.
What characterizes his method?
In the first place, Daane, as has everyone thus far who has entered the discussion, tries to proceed historically and to view the present position of Dekker in its connection with 1924 and the Three Points. In fact, he really devotes a large part of two articles to the relation between 1924 and 1964. In this he is correct: we have repeatedly stressed that the basic problem in this entire issue is that of 1924, particularly, though not exclusively, the First Point.
In the second place, however, Daane never bases his theological reasonings about the love of God and about grace and about the atonement upon Scripture and the confessions. I fail to find in all his articles any more than a passing, reference to Scripture passages. Daane does not proceed exegetically whatsoever. Nor does he proceed confessionally. Fact is that he first lays down a theology of unlimited atonement, and then he forces this view upon the Canons (Reformed Journal, December, 1964) until he has the Canons of Dordrecht teaching the very error which they were fighting. I intend to go into the material of Daane’s reasonings in due time. I emphasize now that Daane does not proceed confessionally, but bends the confessions to fit his theology. Is it not simply preposterous to maintain that, Canons II teaches unlimited atonement? The Second Head of Doctrine was directed against the Second Point of the Arminians. And what did the Second Point of the Arminians maintain? This:
“That, agreeably thereto, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has ordained for them all by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John 3:16: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ And in the First Epistle of John 2:2 ‘And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.'”
This is Arminianism, i.e., with respect to the death of Christ.
The Canons were fighting this Arminianism in the Second Head of Doctrine.
Proceed as a Reformed theologian from the position of the Canons, instead of forcing your own view upon the Canons, and you would never arrive at the absurd claim that the Canons support unlimited atonement.
In the third place, Daane has a propensity for drawing conclusions and expressing opinions and making bold claims which, are altogether unfounded. He really builds his entire case from the idea that the First Point of 1924 was fundamentally correct in its assertion of a grace of God to all men, but that 1924 did not go far enough. He presses the First Point to the consequence of asserting a saving grace of God to all men. A sample of this is in his discussion in the November issue, p. 14, when he writes: “Yet to this day no one has been able to make clear to anyone that the well-meant offer of salvation is an instance, not of saving, but of a qualitatively different non-saving, common grace.” And as to bold, unproved claims, here are some samples. “The most distinctive and characteristic feature of Protestant Reformed theology is that God hates sinners, or that God loves only the righteous.” (Reformed Journal, January, 1965, p. 9) This is an altogether unproved assertion on Daane’s part, and one which he cannot prove for the simple reason that it is not true. I challenge Daane to prove it! Here is another such statement: “In this theology, love is the perfect bond. between a perfect God, and a perfect man. In this view of the divine love there is no difference, so far as the, perfect bond of love is concerned, between God and man. Gone is the dimension that God is love . . . . . Love is the relationship between these two; it is determined by the equal righteousness of both and, therefore, not by God rather than man.” Daane makes this statement without an iota of proof; and I challenge him to find so much as a shred of evidence for it. Daane either betrays total ignorance of Protestant Reformed theology here, or he is being willfully malicious. The latter I do not like to believe; but if the former is true, then the good doctor ought to study before he breaks out in print. One thing is certain: Daane, who is very critical of the theological methods of others, is setting a poor example in his own “theologizing.”
In the fourth place, Daane fails completely in all his “theologizing” thus far to build carefully formulated concepts on the basis of Scripture and the confessions. This, by the way, has been rather characteristic of the entire Dekker Case. But in one who wants to speak about and reason from the “nature” of the atonement and the “nature” of God’s grace and God’s love, as Daane does, one might expect a few well-formulated definitions and some well-developed concepts. But these are totally lacking. For example, before Daane “theologizes” (philosophizes) about unlimited atonement, he ought to define atonement. He ought to treat Prof. Dekker’s distinction between an efficacious and a non-efficacious atonement, and seriously face the question whether a non-efficacious atonement’ is not a contradiction in terms. Daane should define the grace of God on the basis of Scripture. He should do the same with the love of God. He ought,—especially in view of his preoccupation with the addressability of the gospel,—to define the preaching of the gospel. Then perhaps we could understand Daane’s theology; and then it would also become clearly evident that his theology is not that of our Reformed creeds.
In the fifth place, I am convinced that Dr. Daane absolutely does not want to proceed in all his “theologizing” from the truth of sovereign predestination. This will become evident in later discussion. But this is the root of all the errors in Daane’s philosophizing about an atoning love of God for all men. And this is a fundamental error of method. Where a theologian stands with respect to this doctrine will certainly determine all his thinking with respect to atonement, salvation, and the preaching of the gospel. And to proceed from the truth of sovereign predestination has ever been the tried and true method of Reformed theology. It is the method of the Canons.