Election and Reprobation Inseparable in Calvin
In the current discussion about reprobation in connection with the Boer Gravamen there has been the attempt on the part of some to maintain a certain doctrine of election without the doctrine of reprobation. Dr. Boer himself claims to maintain the doctrine of election as taught by the Canons, while he denies the doctrine of reprobation as taught by the Canons. Others, such as Dr. James Daane, teach a different brand of election as well as denying the Reformed doctrine of reprobation. Along with this denial of reprobation, Reformed theologians have been criticized for maintaining that there is an inseparable connection between election and reprobation and that the doctrine of election logically implies the doctrine of reprobation. This criticism has taken various forms and approaches. James Daane, for example, tried to make a big point of the argument that the logic of election is not the logic of numbers, although he has to this day never made plain how there could be election in any real sense as a “choosing out,” without a reprobation at least in the infra- sense of a passing by. Now I don’t happen to believe that the doctrine of reprobation is merely a logical implication of the doctrine of election and that it cannot be proved from Scripture. Nevertheless, those who are so quick to criticize this idea of a logical implication are morally obligated to demonstrate the flaw in this logic — something which they have never done and, I make bold to say, cannot do.
But the point I wish to make in this editorial is that John Calvin strongly maintains that election and reprobation are inseparable. He insists that we cannot hold to election unless we confess that God separated from all others certain persons whom it pleased Him thus to separate.
The reason I make this point is not that I consider Calvin to be the end of all argument. I definitely do not believe this. Only Scripture is the end of all argument, and only before it must we bow. But my reason is threefold: 1) There have been those who suggest that there is a difference on this score between what, they call the Reformed scholastics, on the one hand, and Calvin, on the other hand. Not infrequently, in fact, it is claimed that there is a difference even between Beza (Calvin’s immediate successor in Geneva’s school) and Calvin. This is not true. 2) In close connection with this, I want to point out that the Reformed tradition which maintains the inseparability of election and reprobation may literally be traced all the way back to Calvin. And remember: this is a tradition of Reformedexegesis. While in the abstract, perhaps, it is possible that this tradition has been mistaken for, lo, these many years, it is certainly no light thing to throw it overboard. 3) Those who deny this inseparability of election and reprobation ought openly and honestly to admit that they are not disciples of Calvin and that they are abandoning the Reformed tradition which can be traced back to him.
I wish to quote two passages from Calvin. Both are from that gem among his writings, his treatise on “The Eternal Predestination of God,” which constitutes the first part of the volume Calvin’s Calvinism, translated by Henry Cole. By the way, no one’s theological education is complete unless he has made acquaintance with the treatises of Calvin found in this volume.
The first quotation is from page 45, in the context of Calvin’s discussion of Ephesians 1:3-4.There Calvin writes:
In the first place, there is, most certainly and evidently, an inseparable connection between the elect and the reprobate. So that the election, of which the apostle speaks, cannot consist unless we confess that God separated from all others certain persons whom it pleased Him thus to separate. Now, this act of God is expressed by the term predestinating, which the apostle afterwards twice repeats.
The second quotation is from page 75, in the context of a lengthy discussion of that classic passage on election and reprobation, Romans 9. Calvin writes:
The mind and intent of the apostle, therefore, in his use of this similitude, are to be carefully observed and held fast — that God, the Maker of men, forms out of the same lump in His hands one vessel, or man, to honour, and another to dishonour, according to His sovereign and absolute will. For He freely chooses some to life who are not yet born, leaving others to their own destruction, which destruction all men by nature equally deserve. And when Pighius holds that God’s election of grace has no reference to, or connection with, His hatred of the reprobate, I maintain that reference and connection to be a truth. Inasmuch as the just severity of God answers, in equal and common cause, to that free love with which He embraces His elect.
Thus wrote Calvin, the prince of exegetes.
No true spiritual descendant of Calvin would use different language.
Ecumenism With a Vengeance
The church news columns of The Grand Rapids Presscarried the following item on Saturday, March 29:
Basilica of St. Adalbert — The Rev. John Kromminga, president of Calvin Seminary, will preach at 7:30 p.m. Good Friday at St. Adalbert’s in a service sponsored by West Side Fellowship of Churches. Clergy and choir members from the following churches will participate: Evangelical Covenant, Faith United Methodist, Holy Trinity, Alpine, Trinity Reformed, Remembrance Reformed, Saint James, Saint John’s United Church of Christ, Wallin Congregational and St. Adalbert’s.
It has become increasingly common, especially in urban areas, to hold some kind of ecumenical Good Friday service. This year again more than one such service was announced in the same issue of The Grand Rapids Press mentioned above. Not infrequently such services are conducted during the noon hour or during the traditional hours from noon to three o’clock.
Whatever the reasons for holding such services may be, I must confess that I have always been somewhat mystified by this practice, even when it is followed by so-called conservative and Bible-believing churches, and even in some instances when ministers of various churches of Reformed persuasion are involved. Mystified I am, because I always wonder within my soul what is especially ecumenical about Good Friday services. Is Good Friday a more ecumenical occasion than, say, Ascension Day, or Pentecost Sunday, or even Christmas? Yet such ecumenical services are not nearly so common — if they occur at all — on any of the latter occasions. Or, to put it bluntly, is Good Friday a more ecumenical occasion than the Lord’s Day, the sabbath? Is the preaching of the cross on Good Friday different from the preaching of the cross on Sunday? Do the differences with respect to the preaching of the cross on Sunday which prevail among different churches somehow tend to disappear or to become less important on Good Friday?
Or — God forbid — is the occasion of Good Friday used by some in a deliberate effort to ignore or to blur significant differences with respect to the preaching of the cross in the interest of promoting an ecumenical spirit? Is it the desire and aim of some that the apparently ecumenical feeling on Good Friday may also spill over into other areas and other occasions of ecclesiastical life?
I do not know what the motivation and what the justification for such ecumenical services may be. I have never heard a carefully expounded basis and motivation. And until I do hear one which satisfies my Reformed sensibilities, I could never justify such services nor cooperate in them.
But of this I am convinced, that the kind of service described in the news clipping above should be an offense to any Reformed Christian. And it is an abomination in the sight of the Holy One! Why? Because it involves cooperation in a Good Friday service between one who is supposed to be a Reformed seminary professor, bound by the creeds, the Roman Catholics (not to mention others), who are characterized in the Heidelberg Catechism as guilty of “a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.” (Question and Answer 80)
How is such cooperation possible on the very day when we remember in a special way that one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ?
The only explanation I can think of is that this is ecumenism with a vengeance.