Dr. Daane’s Madness Against Election

In The Banner, April 7, 1978, Dr. James Daane writes the first of a promised two articles on “The Logic of Election.” In this article he joins forces, as might be expected, with Dr. Harry Boer against the Reformed doctrine of reprobation. Boer, as you know, has filed a gravamen against the Canons and their claim that the doctrine of sovereign reprobation is the express testimony of sacred Scripture. Daane has long denied the doctrine of sovereign reprobation, and he does so expressly in his The Freedom of God; but he never had the honesty to file a gravamen. Nor, we may add, has the Christian Reformed Church had the honesty to discipline Daane and others who deny reprobation. 

After some undeserved plaudits for Boer’s gravamen, which I think is one of the poorest attempts at exegesis to come under my eyes in a long time, Daane explains that it is his purpose in his article to attack “the role that logic has played in support of reprobation.” He refers first to a statement of Louis Berkhof that “The doctrine of reprobation follows naturally from the logic of election. The decree of election inevitably implies the decree of reprobation. . . . If He (God) has chosen or elected some, then He has by that very fact rejected others.” Daane admits that this is good logic. He criticizes it, however, because, he claims, it is the logic of number. But, so Daane claims, the logic of election is not the logic of number. 

But suddenly Daane reverts to form: he switches from Berkhof and launches an attack on Herman Hoeksema and his doctrine of predestination. I say: Daane reverts to form. For seldom, if ever, does he get on the subject of divine predestination without specifically attacking Herman Hoeksema. In his The Freedom of God he singles out Hoeksema as the most consistent representative of decretal theology. And in many past articles he has done the same thing. Daane seems to have a kind of “hang-up” about Hoeksema; it is a kind of paranoid tendency. It is a certain madness. Only, I fear, the problem is not psychological, but spiritual. Consider the facts: 

1) There is not a reason in the world for Daane to write about Hoeksema in this connection. After all, Daane is writing about a Christian Reformed problem, the problem of Boer’s gravamen. I can understand, then, that Daane, in championing Boer’s cause, would inveigh against Louis Berkhof, who was for many years the dogmatician of the CRC. But why Hoeksema? After all, Hoeksema was repudiated and cast out by the Christian Reformed Church, and that, too, over doctrinal issues which directly involved the doctrine of election and reprobation. Besides, Hoeksema was not one to base his doctrine of reprobation on the mere logic of numbers, as Daane calls it. He based it on the testimony of Scripture. Indeed, he conceded the validity of the clearly logical argument that if only some certain persons out of the whole human race are elect, the rest are non-elect, or reprobate. But he conceded this only as a “good and necessary consequence,” based upon the testimony of Scripture. In other words, he always let Scripture rule his logic, not vice versa. 

2) Daane imputes to Hoeksema all kinds of things which Hoeksema never taught and which Daane cannot prove that Hoeksema taught even by implication. I used to grant the possibility that this might be innocent ignorance or misunderstanding on Daane’s part. I no longer will concede that: for Daane will not repent of his misrepresentations even when they are pointed out. I pointed out in detail in a review in our Protestant Reformed Theological Journal how Daane misrepresented Hoeksema’s views in The Freedom of God. I have done so elsewhere. But Daane continues to misrepresent Hoeksema. He does so in this article, pp. 6, 7:

Does the Bible ever suggest that the nature of election is such that it demands reprobation? Could there be no election without reprobation? Must some men be damned if some are to be saved? Herman Hoeksema’s answer is Yes. If so, the salvation of the elect is grounded no less in the damnation of the reprobate than in the death of Christ. But does a populated heaven depend on a populated hell? . . . To put the same question in different words: Is the nature of election such that it necessitates reprobation? Would the nature of election and would the grace of election be any different than it is, if all men were elect? Even more to the point: Would the nature of Jesus, of His death and resurrection, be any different than they in fact are, if all men were elect?

And in the third column on page 7 he writes:

. . . But I am arguing that the logic of election is not the logic of number, that the ground of reprobation does not lie in election, that it is not true that none can be saved unless some are damned, that there can be no people in heaven unless there are also people in hell. Herman Hoeksema endorsed all that I am here rejecting, but he has the perception to accept the consequence—which he freely admitted—that God could not save some without damning others.

Understand well: Daane is trying to say, as he does inThe Freedom of God also, that Hoeksema taught that God was under the necessity of reprobating some, that God could not save some without damning others. This is a barefaced lie! If there was any truth which Hoeksema emphasized without wearying, it was the truth of God’s absolute freedom and sovereignty. Negatively put: God was never under the necessity of doing anything. Daane knows this. But he so hates Hoeksema’s theology that in his madness he will go to any length to fight it. 

The same is true of that other statement: “If so, the salvation of the elect is grounded no less in the damnation of the reprobate than in the death of Christ.” Daane knows very well that this was never Herman Hoeksema’s position. 

3) In his madness against Hoeksema’s theology Daane forsakes not only the logic of numbers, but all logic. Consider the fact that in column one on page 7 he presents Hoeksema (by Daane’s admission the consistent logician, the stringent decretal theologian!) as teaching that “the salvation of the elect is grounded no less in the damnation of the reprobate than in the death of Christ.” But in column three Hoeksema is said to have endorsed “that the ground of reprobation lies in election.” Now if there was one thing Hoeksema never did, it was to teach such contradictions. But in his fulminations against decretal theology Daane cannot even see straight. I cannot even write any longer, as I formerly did, that he is “right, but dead wrong.” 

Nevertheless, at bottom Daane’s article is not an attack merely on Hoeksema or Berkhof. It is not even an attack merely against “Reformed theology.” It is an attack on the Canons of Dordrecht. I mean by this not only that it is an attack on the doctrine of reprobation found in Canons I, 6 and 15; it is that indeed. But I mean that Daane in this article plainly contradicts the doctrine of election found in the Canons. 

I am glad about this. 

No, I am not glad that Daane disagrees with the Canons; I would much rather see him agree with the Canons one hundred percent. 

But I am glad that it is becoming plain that Daane not only disagrees with the Canons’ doctrine of reprobation, but also with the Canons’ doctrine of election. We have always maintained that an attack on reprobation is per se an attack on election, that the denial of sovereign reprobation implies the denial of sovereign election. In his gravamen Boer apparently only attacks the articles which speak of reprobation. In his article Daane does the same thing: he claims that “the doctrine of reprobation should go the way of other errors.” And in the past, men like Berkouwer and Daane, appealing to a statement in the Conclusion of the Canons, have tried to say that the doctrine of reprobation in the Canons is really not in keeping with the rest of the Canons and that this statement in the Conclusion was an attempt to remedy that situation. 

But in Daane’s article it becomes abundantly plain that he also rejects the doctrine of election as set forth in the Canons. 

First of all, let Daane quit talking about the “essence” and “nature” of election in the abstract. The concrete question is: what are the characteristics of the only divine election there is? What are the characteristics of the only divine election of which Scripture and the Reformed confessions speak? 

In the second place, let us note carefully that this only divine election of which Scripture and the confessions speak is an election—to use Daane’s terminology—of “only some of the total number of men.” Article 7 of Canons I teaches: “Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, he hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen, from the whole human race,. . . . a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ. . . .” (italics added) Article 10 of the First Head teaches the same thing: “. . . but that he was pleased out of the common mass of sinners to adopt some certain persons as a peculiar people to himself. . . . .” (italics added) And both of these articles also cite Scripture in support of this doctrine. Again, Article 7 speaks of “this elect number.” Article 3 of the Rejection of Errors explicitly rejects the error of those “Who teach: That the good pleasure and purpose of God, of which Scripture makes mention in the doctrine of election, does not consist in this, that God chose certain persons rather than others. . . .” (italics added)

In the third place, Daane exactly repudiates this kind of election—the only election which our confessions know and the election which especially our Canons explain and defend in great detail. He calls this an error: “Grant him (because of a printing error, it is not clear whether Berkhof or Hoeksema is meant by “him”) the propriety of his initial error, then none can gainsay his contention that if only some of the total number of men are elect, then some men are reprobate. But recognize his error of thinking that the logic of number is the logic of election, and his argument for reprobation loses its force.” Notice: Daane does not want a definite, personal, numerical election. Again: “But it will lose this force only if we recognize that the Bible never defines election in terms of number, in terms of limitation . . . .” Again: “Since the logic of numbers is not the logic of election, none who believes in election ought to feel compelled by logic to believe in reprobation. And none should hesitate to endorse election because he thinks it entails an endorsement of reprobation.” 

From this it is plain that the object of Daane’s mad attack is not Berkhof, nor Hoeksema, nor “Reformed theology” in general, nor even merely the Canons’ doctrine of reprobation, but the Canons’ doctrine of definite, personal, numerical election. Daane may endorse his own private kind of election (which no one, not even he, can understand), but he does not endorse the only Reformed doctrine of election, that set forth in the Canons of Dordrecht. 

We may thank him for at last making this crystal clear. 

Now if Daane will honestly and forthrightly admit this, we will at least have gained this, that we all know that he makes no claim to being Reformed. Then we can ignore his rantings from now on and turn our attention to more important things. 

Meanwhile, even Daane can not escape the logic of numbers. But his numbers are vague, indefinite numbers. 

I must confess that I do not understand Daane’s doctrine of election. I seriously doubt whether Daane himself understands it. If he does, he certainly fails utterly to define it and make it plain. The same is true, by the way, of his The Freedom of God; Daane is free with page after page of criticism of decretal theology, but utterly fails to produce anything positive and clear. Yes, Daane holds to a kind of national election of the Jews, an old, thoroughly discredited error. He also claims that he is not arguing that election means the election of every human being. This, by the way, is negative numbers already; and I suppose his conditional reprobation fits in somewhere in this scheme. But, apart from all his other errors, he never does tell us precisely who are included in election.

Writes he:

There is indeed only one elect nation, the Jews (Watch out:”only one” is an exclusive number, Dr. Daane. HCH), only one who is par excellence, the Elect of God, Jesus the Christ, and only one elect, holy, catholic church, but in Biblical thought this one is not the basis for logic of numbers (if one is, the rest are not) but the basis for the logic of election.

Now I contend that no human mind can make any sense of this. Logic—not just what Daane calls the logic of number, but just plain, ordinary logic—demands that if there is “only one,” then all the rest are excluded. Furthermore, let Daane state what is meant by “the logic of election” in distinction from the “logic of numbers.” 

But Daane continues:

And the logic of election, unlike the logic of numbers, does not bespeak limitation but openness, fullness, pleroma. The election of the one Jewish people bespeaks the election of non-Jewish peoples; Christ’s election bespeaks the election of His brethren, and the election of the church demonstrates the truth of both.

I ask: openness to what, to whom? Fullness of what or whom? A fullness must have some content? What is that content? Daane denies that he argues that election means the election of every human being. If not every human being, does it mean some human beings? If some human beings, not the rest of human beings? Further: who are “His brethren”? All men? Potentially all men? Some men? What about the rest, then? And: who are those non-Jewish peoples? And seeing that those “non-Jewish peoples” must be composed of individual persons, are they all included, or only some? Besides, even though the number of these non-Jewish peoples is unspecified and indefinite, it is indeed a finite, limited number, is it not?

Now Daane himself claims not to be Arminian. I believe him, even though I cannot find out what he really is. I suspect he is worse than Arminian. But one thing I know: his doctrine, especially in the light of the fact that Daane holds to conditional reprobation, reminds me strongly of one of the Arminian errors condemned in the Canons. I refer to the Arminian doctrine of a “general and indefinite” election. But whatever his doctrine, even Daane cannot escape the fact that election involves numbers. And if Daane does not hold to universal election, then also Daane’s doctrine of election involves a limited number. And if it involves a limited number, it excludes those not part of that number.

The question is: who does the including and the excluding? 

A Reformed man will: God, by sovereign election and reprobation. 

But this doctrine Daane hates.