If one reads again “Van Zonde En Genade” (alas that this book was not translated into the English), one feels that at the bottom of the Three Points of Nineteen-Twenty-Four there lay a certain world-and- life view. That our leaders at that time had to fight again for the truths of unconditional salvation, absolute sovereignty of God, and the total depravity of man, was due, in no small part, to the prevailing false world-and-life view. In nineteen-twenty-four the error root was there and it shot forth Three Points above the ecclesiastical ground. Now another World War has come and gone, a new world order presses for attention and the world-and-life view which first appeared in nineteen-twenty-four is still there and the Three Points are gradually reaching their fruition.

The world-and-life view which is common grace is there as much today if not more than it ever was (for things develop do they not?), but there is this difference that it is not always labeled. And therefore the more dangerous.

The Three Points were three gross errors. The world-and-life view which lay at the bottom of them, which produced them and since has sustained them is the greatest error of all. It is the ground-error. The events of nineteen-twenty-four point not only to doctrinal differences, they point to something ethical no less. The doctrinal differences which came out in the Three Points point to ethical issues.

We do well therefore to keep these things clearly before the minds of our people and especially before the minds of the coming generation.

We are about twenty-five years removed from nineteen-twenty-four.

We must not forget what the Christian Reformed Churches expressed in their Three Points about a generation ago. Neither must we forget the Common Grace world-and-life view which gendered them. That world-and-life view is there today as much and even more than it ever was. Our people, and especially our coming generation must acquaint themselves and keep themselves acquainted with the issues which are so vital to the service of God and His truth in this world.

Now and then, here and there, Common Grace is mentioned by name. Very seldom do they mention the Three Points. In fact it seems to be their policy not to mention these things very much. But their world-and-life view expresses itself everywhere and all the time. Therefore we must constantly be on our guard. There is a way of presenting the unscriptural world-and-life view without notifying you that they are really developing Common Grace. Common Grace can be preached and taught very well without mentioning it by name. In other words, not everything which is radically Common Grace is labeled as such.

In the early years during the heat of the conflict the things were wont to be mentioned by name; confessions were supposedly cited and texts were adduced to bolster the Three Points. Everybody knew what was going on and everyone could be on his guard. But now, by and large, the things go unlabeled. Men present Common Grace in all its forms of error yet seldom is it identified for what it is. Worse yet, that which should really be labeled as Common Grace is marked as being the reformed philosophy of life to which no one would object—unless you want to be an Anabaptist.

It is our calling therefore to teach ourselves and especially the coming generation to identify the Common Grace world-and-life view wherever it presents itself. We have to label it. Labeling it we must reject if and instead of it embrace the view which Scripture presents us and which God has graciously preserved for us as Protestant Reformed Churches.

We want to cite a few examples of this unlabeled Common Grace.

The “Back to God” radio program of the Christian Reformed Churches is a consistent exposition and a diligent development of the pernicious theory of Common Grace, yet, strangely enough, it is never mentioned by name. This program is public, everyone can listen to it and printed copies are always available. We have listened to it often and we have printed copies which are a cross section of what is presented over several years of work.

Several things arrest your attention.

One of these is that the listeners are constantly induced to make this earth, if not this world, the center of their attention. Naturally we as Christians are in the world and have our labor in the midst of that world and in the midst of America, but that is something else than to set our hopes upon that world. During the last War our enemies were said to be Hitler and his Nazism, now it is Communism and the communistic ideologies. To be sure Nazism and Communism present ideologies which are anti-Christian, and therefore it is our duty to contend against them. That could not be different. But the error is that the “Back to God Hour” wants to put Nazism and Communism out of the way in order to obtain a world of peace and security. Read sermon after sermon of their air-program and you ever remain only in this world. It never reaches higher than what is under the sun. When the “amen” comes your horizons are the natural horizons of things visible with perhaps an occasional hope for something better for America. But we remain on this ground. The “better country[1]* of which Abraham was such a proponent, you seldom hear of it.

Scripture teaches us that the church has no world- program in that sense of the word. Neither can the church takes sides with existing world-programs. For the church is not an organization which exists alongside of myriads other organizations, neither is it an institution which can be listed alongside of other institutions. For Paul tells us that we have received not the spirit of the world but the spirit which is of God; and John says: we are of God and the whole world lieth in wickedness. How then shall these two, so opposite and so contrary work together on some world-program?

But above that, how dangerous to send the church off on a mission of capturing the world and possessing this earth. The only result will be that it loses itself in the world. Whether men do this under the guise of the “sovereign claims of a sovereign God” (as they are wont to say) or whether men do this under no guise at all, but merely because they love carnal things, ultimately it makes little difference. Both are seeking the things which are below. And that was Common Grace.

Just to cite one concrete illustration of this, let me refer you to the “Back to God” radio speech of March 6, 1949, page 2. The speaker tells us that “God is the absolute sovereign. And because man was made in the likeness of God, the creator has ordained that man must share His ownership. It is the expression of our spiritual kinship to God that we are to inherit the earth, possess it, develop it and explore its powers”. Then follows a speech in which Communism is condemned (which is all right of course) and in which Capitalism, in its ideal state, is championed, and it ends with a prayer that “our world . . . be blessed with a new birth of freedom . . .” And so we remain on earth. And this was Common Grace. It links the church with the world, regenerate with unregenerate. But it stirs up the church also to seek to inherit this earth. That we shall inherit the earth means something vastly different than that the children of God shall stake their claims finally on American soil or any other. This philosophy, intended perhaps to make the world churchly, actually will make the church worldly. And that after all was the meaning of Common Grace back in 1924. It means that today in increased measure.

Another thing which strikes one’s attention is that the coming back of Christ, especially as the book of Revelation presents it, is very seldom presented. The exceptions, I think, will establish the rule that the Back to God Hour presents no eschatology. Certainly the Christian Reformed world-and-life view as it is presented over the air does not stem from nor center around the coming back of Christ with all that this parousia implies.

One can read sermon after sermon and never even find it hinted at that our world order is bound for the chaos of the judgment of God, and for the purging of fire of which Peter speaks. Little about the chaos which will come, little about the Christ Who will make His appearance in this chaos to redeem His Church. It seems that the parousia of Christ does not fit into the philosophy of America back to God.

Common Grace no doubt commits the advocates thereof to a world-and-life view which is actually postmillennial, at least in theory. One can easily see that a world-and-life view which centers our attention on gaining America for God does not agree very well with the eschatology which the book of Revelation presents us.

This same world-and-life view glares at you from almost every page of the Course of Study which the Union of Christian Schools has prepared and which it hopes the teachers will teach in our Christian schools. It too is in theory postmillennial. It has no room at all for the Scriptural idea of the antithesis. It wallows in Common Grace, but without labeling it.

There then you have a world-and-life view, carefully developed, permeated with Common Grace, but not labeled and therefore the more dangerous.

Over against this we do well to be well founded in Scripture, well posted in the errors of Common Grace and equipped with a world-and-life view which is given us of God Himself. We are twenty-five years away from nineteen-twenty-four. Know how to label things.

More about this in a future article, D. V.

[1]  Besides this Synod of course considers the routine reports of the mission committee, the theological school committee and especially with a view to the future of our school we may expect some discussion and decisions.