As of this writing, “all systems are go” for the Seminary Dedication Program at First Church, Grand Rapids, at 8:00 P.M., Friday, February 15, the Lord willing. And this is a last reminder and urgent invitation to participate in this historic event, and also to attend the open house at our new facilities. Prof. R. D. Decker’s dedicatory address will be entitled, “That All The Earth May Know That Jehovah Is God.”
Of Book-Offers and Subscriptions
Does the propaganda by our Business Office help? Do the special offers, the combination book-subscription deals, the 10 for $2 campaigns increase the subscription list?
Our dedicated Business Manager recently furnished some facts and figures to answer these questions. As a direct result of our last “greensheet” we sold 62 books, received 34 renewal subscriptions, and 11 new subscriptions. Books and subscriptions went to Michigan, Iowa, Maine, California, Washington, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois, and Tennessee, and even to Canada and Australia. As of December 28, we have received 404 “10 for 2” subscriptions, which have yielded a total of 76 new full subscriptions.
Gigantic growth? No, but steady growth for ourStandard Bearer; and our over-all increase has been comparatively larger the last couple of years than in many a previous year, — reflecting also an increasing interest in what our magazine has to say.
With a little consistent effort, our Board and our readership could cooperate in this 50th Anniversary Year to produce the largest increase and the largest subscription-list our Standard Beaver has ever had. How about it, Board? And readers?
The OPC and the “Free Offer” (5)
Last time we pointed out that in their purported exegesis of Matthew 5:44-48 and Luke 6:35-36 the authors ofThe Free Offer of the Gospel beg the question, i.e., assume the very thing they are supposed to prove by means of these passages. Hence, we concluded that this part of their proof is a failure. They did not establish their claim of a divine love, or grace, to all men.
We shall also point out later that their proposed exegesis of these passages is completely contrary to the current thought of Scripture. Before we proceed with our discussion, however, we wish to present the correct explanation of the two passages in question, so that the reader may compare. We will do so very briefly, leaving for a later time some further reflection on the meaning and significance of these passages.
The following, in brief, is the Murray-Stonehouse explanation:
1) We must love our enemies.
2) The reason why we must love our enemies is that we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. We are children of the Highest, and therefore must be like Him.
3) Hence, if we love our enemies, we will be children of God and reflect His love: for He loves all His enemies in this present life.
4) This love to all men is manifested in God’s common rain and sunshine on all men without distinction.
5) Although these passages do not speak directly of the gospel offer, yet here we are given a disclosure of goodness in the heart of God toward all men (something we cannot see if we merely concentrate on the divine decree of reprobation), and a disclosure of the relation there is between gifts bestowed and the lovingkindness from which they flow.
And what has always been our interpretation of these passages? Permit me to quote a brief explanation from Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s God’s Goodness Always Particular, pp. 195; 196: ”
1. God revealed His love and caused His people to know and to taste that love as a love that is capable of being merciful and kind to His enemies. [Note: not allHis enemies. The point is rather that this is thecharacter of the love of God as His people experience it. HCH] And this is the only love of God that is mentioned in the text and in the context of both passages.
“2. The children of God, in whose hearts this love of God is poured out, and who experienced and tasted this love of God as a love to His enemies, must manifest this love in their life and walk in the world. Hence, they must love not only those that love them, but also their enemies, that revile and persecute them. They must do good to them, pray for them and bless them. In doing this they manifest the image of their Father which is in heaven.
“3. As a most general example of this they must look at God’s work in nature, where He causes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
As we said, we shall have occasion to return to this subject later, as well as to point out that the Murray-Stonehouse presentation is contrary to the current teaching of Scripture.
Now, however, we want to turn to the pamphlet by Pastor Erroll Hulse on this same subject, and to point out that in connection with this same subject of common grace and the offer he is guilty of the same error of begging the question. In fact, this error is even more glaring in his pamphlet.
There is a certain amount of confusion in this pamphlet. Thus, for example, the author certainly sounds a good note when he writes: “Now this beautiful thing (preaching) is marred by two horrible errors which we should seek always to avoid. The one is to attribute power to fallen sinners which they do not have and make it appear that God is unable to save the sinner until that sinner gives him permission. ” This is sound language, and clearly anti-Arminian. Yet the author later in the pamphlet insists that God is gracious in the preaching of the gospel to all who hear; and he never resolves the difficulty that arises from the obvious contradiction here. He never explains how it is that the “common grace” of the gospel offer is anineffectual grace, does not save those whom God is allegedly desirous of saving.
Another item of confusion. On page 4 the author writes: “The term free offer, of course, means that the Gospel should be preached indiscriminately to all men.” Now if this were the meaning of the term, we would have no quarrel with it. In fact, there would be no controversy about the whole matter. Nor would the term be necessary. As we have said again and again throughout our history, and as our Reformed confessions plainly teach, the gospel must indeed be preached promiscuously and to all those to whom God in His good pleasure sends it. This is, however, by no means the doctrine of the free offer in the history of dogma; nor is this by any means the same as saying that God wills the salvation of all to whom the Gospel is preached or that God is gracious to all in the preaching. Nor is this mere truth of the promiscuous preaching of the gospel the doctrine which Pastor Hulse sets forth later in his pamphlet. On page 7 he writes, to cite just one example: “That God should thus address every creature with a saving Gospel is gracious and it is here we see the connection between common grace and the free offer of the Gospel.” In fact, Mr. Hulse cites almost all the passages in support of the idea that God wills all men to be saved with which we have become very familiar in our Protestant Reformed Churches.
But I will pass this by for the time being. I will also pass by what I would criticize as a very defective definition of grace. And I will concentrate on his error of begging the question, of simply assuming what ought to be proved.
On page 5 Pastor Hulse begins to answer the question whether there is a grace of God which is common to all men as follows:
At the time of the fall Adam and Eve are not cut off completely. God speaks to them and confirms his judgment upon sin; but he also announces the promise of the Gospel. Abel is saved through Jesus Christ, represented in the sacrifice of a lamb
Cain on the other hand is rejected but, nevertheless, God reasons with Cain and. -protection is afforded him
We see then that God continues to deal with men as men, even though they are reprobate. That he should do so is surely gracious.
We will pass by, for the sake of argument, Hulse’s interpretation of God’s dealings with Cain. We will accept at fade value the statement “that God continues to deal with men as men, even though they are reprobate.” But notice that the next statement is a pure, unproved assumption. This is precisely the point that Pastor Hulse must prove, but fails to prove. Why and how is it necessarily gracious that God deals with men as men? How does the example of God’s dealings with Cain “even though reprobate” show that God was gracious to him? I would ask the question: how else could God deal with men but as men? Surely, He could not deal with men as animals, or as devils, or as stocks and blocks? Does God not always deal with each of His creatures according to the nature which He Himself gave that creature? Or I could ask the question: is God, then, also gracious to the reprobate in hell? Also there, remember, He continues to deal with men as men, that is, He causes them as men to suffer the everlasting torments of hell-fire. But is this perhaps gracious?
There is simply a total lack of exegesis here, that is, a complete failure, to draw the meaning out of the text, and that, too, in the light of the whole of Scripture. I assure Pastor Hulse that he cannot find in Genesis or in the whole of Scripture an iota of proof that God was in any sense gracious to Cain — provided that he faithfully interprets Scripture with Scripture. But certainly there is no point proved in the above paragraph; there is only a point assumed.
The same is true of the next paragraph, which fails to give the reference, Genesis 6:3. Pastor Hulse writes:
In Genesis the Holy Spirit is described as striving with men and women that they might repent. [Note: The text does not say: “that they might repent.” HCH] “The Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man.” [A half quotation, HCH] God set a limit of one hundred and twenty years in which he would strive with man, “whose every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” But that he should so strive is surely gracious. Hence emerges the concept of common grace.
A clearer example of begging the question could hardly be found! Pastor Hulse simply assumes his conclusion without any proof and without so much as beginning to explain the text: “But that he should so strive is surely gracious.” It is not my purpose at this time to explain the text. My point is that Pastor Hulseshould explain the text and not simply draw conclusions. Let us grant, for the sake of argument, that this is indeed proof of common grace. It is not, of course; and we are well acquainted with this passage because it was used by the Synod of 1924 in support of the error of a common-grace-restraint-of-sin. But let us grant this for a moment. Then Pastor Hulse shouldshow from the text, and that, too, in the light of Scripture, that this striving is gracious. The term graceis not so much as mentioned. One might even argue that the very term strive, which would seem to indicate opposition and conflict, indicates the opposite of a gracious attitude. My whole point is that there is an utter lack of exegesis and a mere assumption of what should be proved.
As one who is responsible before God rightly to divide the Word of truth, Pastor Hulse has no right to deal thus with the Scriptures. And he must not and may not expect people of God to accept his claim of a common grace of God merely on his say-so.
The same error pervades the following paragraph:
Such is the all-pervasive depravity of man that “it repented God that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Destruction, which came by the flood, was inevitable. Subsequent to the flood it was necessary that a covenant be established whereby God could continue to deal with mankind. A proper basis was needed upon which to provide for the whole fabric of the world, because of the evil effects of the fall. That the earth should not de destroyed again is part of this covenant
Forbearance such as this toward a fallen world is gracious.
Again, it would be difficult to find a paragraph with more unproved assumptions and total lack of real exegesis. I have an idea that Pastor Hulse here accepts the whole (Kuyperian) notion of a covenant of common grace (sometimes called “the covenant of nature”). But this is beside the point. This one little paragraph contains Hulse’s view apparently of the whole passage of Genesis 9:8-17. But the paragraph of “explanation” is not even as long as the passage itself! Note the following unproved assumptions:
1) Subsequent to the flood it was necessary that a covenant be established whereby God could continue to deal with mankind. Not an iota of proof is offered that this was necessary, that this is any other covenant than that of Genesis 6:18, or that this was a covenant “whereby God could continue to deal with mankind.” For the sake of argument, let us grant that all this may be true. The point is that Pastor Hulse does not showthis from Scripture. And for my part, I do not believe either that it is true or that he can show it from Holy Writ. But I will stand corrected if he will come with Scripture, before which both he and I must bow.
2) A proper basis was needed upon which to provide for the whole fabric of the world, because of the evil effects of the fall. Proof, please?
3) This was a matter of divine forbearance. Proof, please?
4) Forbearance such as this toward a fallen world is gracious. Proof?
You see, if we are to deal with these questions correctly and convincingly, then we must come with more than human claims and assumptions. To me, it is nothing short of irresponsible to try to cover such a key passage of the Word of God in a few brief statements without an iota of proof, and then to build such a crucial and debatable doctrine as that of common grace and the offer of the gospel on such a flimsy foundation.