From time to time I receive inquiries, both orally and in writing, as to why the Standard Bearer speaks out critically and sometimes rather sharply on various issues related to the subject of the free offer of the gospel and common grace. Occasionally it is not even inquiries which I receive, but rather bluntly critical accusations. Some will inquire as to why, when various other publications express themselves in one way or another in favor of the well-meant offer, the Standard Bearer speaks out often in reply and criticism. Others inquire as to what we hope to accomplish by speaking out. They ask, for example, whether I hope to convince men like Dr. Daane or Dr. Boer of their error. Or do I hope to convince Pastor Hulse, of Reformation Today,that he is on the wrong track? Or do I hope to make the Christian Reformed denomination see the error of its way? Others are averse to controversy in our columns, quite in general. Still others express that controversy with respect to “liberals” is all right, but that with respect to the “conservative” family controversy and criticism are to be avoided.
Hence, although upon occasion I have dealt with these and similar questions before, it may be helpful to do so again and in greater detail.
First of all, and from a purely practical point of view, it happens from time to time that we write on a controversial subject because we are asked to do so. Sometimes a reader-friend will send us a church paper or a clipping to call it to our attention. Sometimes a reader will specifically ask us to reflect on a certain writing. Thus, for example, when several months ago I commented on a couple articles inReformation Today which were plainly Arminian, this was in response to an urgent request from a reader in England who has learned to know our Standard Bearer as a champion of the Reformed faith. And when we receive such requests to write on crucial issues, we try to be helpful.
In the second place, why do we write? Because others write, and because it is our perfect right to reply and to take issue. It seems a bit strange and inconsistent that there are those who have no objection when in certain quarters men promote their errant views on such a subject as the general, well-meant offer of the gospel (free offer), but take great umbrage when a magazine such as ours takes issue and sharply contends against such writings. Simple fairness would seem to dictate that we have as much right to write and to be read on such issues as those of opposite views.
In the third place, we write not only because we consider it our right to do so, but still more because we consider it our calling and our duty. This is true, first of all, quite in general. It is our calling to condemn and expose the lie and to vindicate the truth. But more specifically, this is our calling particularly with respect to those aspects of our Reformed faith which are most intimately connected with our origin and history as Protestant Reformed people, and therefore with respect to those errors which are most intimately connected with that origin and history. I refer to the truth that God’s grace is sovereign and particular, for the elect alone, never common. I refer to the truth that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation unto everyone that believeth, that it is the sure and unconditional promise of God to the elect alone, never a mere, general offer, dependent on the will of those who hear. I refer to the truth of the antithesis, the truth of world-fight, as over against either the error of synthesis and amalgamation or the error of world flight. I refer to the truth of total depravity, the truth that the natural man is incapable of any good and inclined to all evil by nature, as over against the error that the natural man by a non-saving operation of the Holy Spirit is capable of doing much good. It is for the vindication of these truths that our Standard Bearer was called into being; and it is for the exposure and refutation of these errors that our Standard Bearer was called into being. Though times have changed, and though there has been development both with respect to the truth and with respect to the lie, principally the battle is the same and our calling is the same. And as the Lord gives us grace, we shall be faithful to that calling. Should we fail, the Standard Bearer would lose its reason for existence.
But there is another viewpoint from which we may ask this question, “Why?” We may ask it from the point of view of our readership. With respect to our readers, why do we write about these matters, matters of concern in other churches and in other magazines, matters which might seem to some to be of no concern to us, and perhaps even none of our business?
In the first place, taking into consideration the fact that by far the largest part of our readers is Protestant Reformed, we answer that we write for their instruction. They must know what is going on. And this is particularly true with respect to the very issues which I mentioned above. Why? In general, because these controversial issues directly concern our heritage. Specifically, this is true because we do not live in isolation, but in close contact with others, outside of our small Protestant Reformed circle. This makes it imperative that we know what we believe, that we understand the times, that we are aware of the issues, and that we discern the connection between various errors in 1980 and the errors of 1924. This is even, more imperative when we take into account the passing of generations. The generation which has to any degree a direct knowledge of the events and issues which brought about the origin of our churches is almost gone. New generations, the second and the third and even the fourth, are taking their place. It ought to be a matter of great concern to us — to our pulpits, to our catechism rooms, to our parents, to our schools — to see to it that these new generations know and understand thoroughly what being Protestant Reformed is all about. And it is one of the chief concerns of our Standard Bearer to assist in this.
Closely connected with this, in the second place, stands the fact that in a negative kind of way the history and developments of the present are vindicating our Protestant Reformed battle of 1924 and our stance today. I have referred to this phenomenon before. In 1924 and the years immediately thereafter, our leaders warned and prophesied that inherent in the Three Points of Common Grace there was a denial of particular atonement, and that some day the error of general atonement would rear its ugly head in the Christian Reformed Church. That prophecy came true with the Dekker Case of the 1960s. In those same years our leaders warned that implicit in the First Point of Common Grace was a denial of sovereign reprobation, and that some day this error would be openly expressed. That prophecy is coming true today before our very eyes.
Now when the Standard Bearer calls attention to these things, this is not merely by way of warning to what is after all a very limited Christian Reformed readership. But it is for our own instruction. And it is for our own encouragement. For the very fact that these prophetic words of a Hoeksema and an Ophoff of yesteryear are fulfilled is a very strong and clear indication that they saw correctly with respect to the Three Points. It is a vindication of their position — and ours.
But there is more.
Although our circulation is small, there is nevertheless a considerable number of readers of our magazine outside our Protestant Reformed denomination. These readers are found throughout our own country and Canada. They are found in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and Australasia and South Africa and Singapore and elsewhere, throughout the world. They are found among Reformed and Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist people.
And we have something to say to them. I dare say that it is something which they cannot hear from others — not because we are better than others, but because of the peculiar struggle and history of our Protestant Reformed movement. Perhaps some of our readers are surprised and even taken aback — and possibly even mistakenly offended from time to time — at our incessant battle and our controversy against the free offer and its proponents. They ought not to be, but in a way I can understand this.
Let me point out to such readers, in the first place, that we occupy a unique position as Protestant Reformed Churches. I know of no other Reformed denomination which has been, through the doctrinal struggle through which we passed in 1924, which continued as a denomination ever since that time, which passed through a closely related doctrinal crisis again in 1953, which was compelled in the process of that struggle to develop the Reformed truth positively and to defend it, and which continued to exist in close proximity to the mother denomination which expelled us for the sake of the truth. By God’s grace we have consistently maintained our position as churches.
Closely connected with this, in the second place, stands the fact that in the course of our struggle we have had the opportunity to observe firsthand the devastating effects of the doctrine of a free offer. As I mentioned earlier, in our mother church it has led to the further errors of general atonement and a denial of sovereign reprobation. Do you wonder, then, that we speak out sharply against this error, no matter by whom it is promoted? I know there are those who do not deem the matter so important, who have thought the Standard Bearer was too sharp in its polemics. There are those who like to be satisfied with being conservatively Reformed, or Presbyterian, in a general kind of way, those who fear the divisiveness of an issue of this kind, those who think we should be satisfied with being evangelically Reformed without being polemical and without attacking those who take an opposite stand with respect to common grace and the free offer. But let them consider the fact that ultimately this is impossible. And let them consider the fact that we of the Protestant Reformed denomination are able to speak from experience. We know from experience and from observation that it is impossible ultimately to deviate or to maintain a weak stand or a neutral stand or even a discreet silence with respect to the error of the free offer and at the same time to maintain such fundamentals of the Reformed faith as particular atonement and sovereign predestination. Eventually he who attempts to hold to a two-track theology will be forced to the point of either . . . or.
To witness of these things, both within and without our Protestant Reformed circle, is one of the primary tasks of our Standard Bearer.
This issue has now come home in concrete form to our country. Not long ago there were news headlines concerning the success of attempts in England to produce a “test-tube baby.” It was to be expected that before long this scientific “advance” would result in a proliferation of attempts by medical science to imitate this feat, and that before long the attempt would be made in our own country also to experiment with the production of such “test-tube babies.” Recently it was reported that in one of our eastern states approval was granted for the establishment of a lab, or clinic, devoted to this purpose. You may depend on it that this is but a beginning, and that the attempts to promote what is called “in vitro fertilization” (the fertilization of a human egg outside of the womb in a test-tube by the implanting of the thus initiated fetus in a woman’s womb) will multiply.
Ironic, is it not, that the same society promotes unlimited abortion and murders countless infants in the womb also promotes the production of such test-tube babies? And is it not ironic, too, that the very production of a test-tube baby involves (see below) abortion?
Yes, the Lord snares the wicked world in its own worldly wisdom and wickedness.
From time to time we receive a little paper calledNational Christian Action Coalition ALERT. The December, 1979 issue carried an article from which we think it worthwhile to quote at length. The article begins as follows:
The traditional Christian family, as we know it, is quickly becoming a memory. One of every two marriages now ends in divorce. The increase in the use of contraceptives has made procreation purely voluntary, rather than natural and affectional. Feminist Betty Friedan applauds “the pill” as one of the most important scientific developments of this century, for it made the “women’s liberation” movement possible. In the last decade, we have seen the family further eroded by public acceptance of “alternative lifestyles,” “open marriages,” “no-fault divorce,” cohabitation, and public promotion of “non-traditional families.”
The article then goes on to quote the opinion of a Dr. William Marshner, Chairman of the Department of Theology at Christendom College, as follows:
“such is the societal tinder to which today another major innovation, the test tube baby, may well apply the match. Alterations of the style in which human life is transmitted have come closer and closer, through layer after social layer, to the biochemical core of the process itself. Now, with the test tube baby, it is no longer a question of not choosing the family but of obsolescing it technologically.
“For the first time, human gametes, utterly disengaged from the persons at their source, can circulate freely and congregate in vitro. Embryos so initiated can be transferred to the womb of any woman willing, or coerced. Famous persons can be paid handsome fees to put their sperm or their ova into circulation. An ordinary woman, living a dull life in middle America, can begin to ask herself new questions, remarkably independent of her love life or even of her marriage: When she wants a child, shall she go to bed, or shall she go to the lab? Shall she ‘know’ a man she knows, or shall she conceive by a man she admires? Shall her child spring from a man as ordinary as herself or from the seed sold at the International All-Star Sperm Bank, a subsidiary of Upjohn?
“With such thoughts and plenty of private capital, eugenic crusades, heretofore distastefully elitist and repressive, can be given a show-business sparkle. Moreover, laboratory embryos can be transferred to the wombs of lesbian women, repealing the law as old as protoplasm which binds maternity to heterosexuality.
“Or, more ominously still, the same technique of embryo transfer can be nationalized and employed solely by government license, to give children to women previously sterilized by government decision. The total control of population can become government policy.
“But if this latest step toward societal mutation, or, to change the figure, this match against the tinder of a nation already, in the long view of history, reproductively abnormal, is to be kindled by federal grants for research on in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer, in this year when the first test-tube baby was successfully carried to term in England, it will not be done in the name of vast possibilities like these, nor will it be averted by prophetic cries against them. The technique for winning public acceptance for morally dubious policy innovations is by now familiar. Attention is distracted from the long, historical perspective and the broad, social impact; attention is concentrated on a small number of hard cases. Advocates of abortion law reform hammered away at the rape case, the incest case, the case of severe damage to maternal health. Today the advocates of in vitro fertilization and the back-up research to perfect it are ethically acceptable:”
Perhaps some of the above may be deemed imaginative. Nevertheless the tremendous potential for evil involved in this newest success of medical science is vividly pointed out. The article concludes by pointing to the evil of abortion involved in the very production of test-tube babies, as follows: Why are we opposed?
Other than the clear anti-family indication expressed above, in vitro fertilization opens the door to mass-produced abortions. Human life begins at the point of fertilization. These “researchers” and doctors who are experimenting with test tube babies don’t just fertilize one egg; they work with several, choose the “best”; and destroy the rest. These eugenic abortions are based solely on human judgment. The child is treated as a consumer object whose worth depends on the color of its eyes, its sex, and “healthy” appearance.
The ethical and moral implications of in vitro fertilization are staggering. . . .
Certainly, no child of God can be lured by this latest medical advance. When you have the opportunity, raise your voice against its promotion and approval — on Christian grounds.