Nonsensical, Simplistic, Paranoid, Theologically Biased, Rationalistic

Re “The Date is 1924” (Standard Bearer, May 15), I find it both distressing and annoying that the editor does the very thing for which he castigates other churches. It is ludicrous to suggest that there is one single date that accounts for all the woes of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). I wish to God that the Protestant Reformed (PRC), Canadian Reformed, and others would stop this nonsense. I wish they would cease being so myopic and realize that church history is far more complicated than suggested by this editorial. Not every thing that took place in 1924 was above board and pleasing to God, but that surely wasn’t the beginning of liberalism in the CRC. Nor was 1944 for that matter. The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN) never had a “1924,” so what caused the apostasy there? And what about the Presbyterian Church which ousted Machen: It never had a 1924 or 1944, yet it became apostate too. Let’s stop being so simplistic in our analyses.

I also ardently wish that the PRC would get beyond 1924 once and stop, riding their hobby-horses. Their “fixation” with 1924 borders on the paranoid. A “Vrijgemaakte” (“Liberated”) student once put creation, the Reformation, and 1944 in the same category. Sometimes the PRC do the same with 1924.

Though I have no illusion that it will ever take place, I wish our PR brothers would come to see once that there is indeed a proper, biblical view of common grace, and that this in no way threatens the biblical teaching of the antithesis, nor does it in any way jeopardize the emphasis on the sovereign, particular grace of God. The sad fact is that the PR teachings on these points (including the well-meant offer of the gospel) arose from a preconceived theological mold (bias) where the teachings of Scripture have to fit into a logical, rational (istic) scheme. There is no room for paradoxes or for truths which appear to us to be contradictory. Our minds are the final arbiter of what is true and not true. Would to God that our PR brothers would face up to this once.

(Rev.) Jelle Tuininga
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

Response:

The Rev. Tuininga, leader in the Alliance of Reformed Churches (ARC), must not call names, but discuss the issues.

I propose the following as a start:

1) The doctrine of a grace of God in the blessed gospel for all who hear the preaching as adopted in 1924 by the CRC in the first point of common grace has led to the teaching of universal atonement; the denial of double predestination (election and reprobation); the silencing of the bold, faithful proclamation of the doctrines of sovereign grace; and the utter inability to refute Arminianism, semi- Pelagianism, and outright universalism when they appear.

2) The doctrine of a work of the Holy Spirit within unregenerated humans—the world outside of Jesus Christ—restraining sin and enabling unbelievers to do good as adopted in 1924 by the CRC in the second and third points of common grace has led to the breakdown of the antithesis as regards separation from and hatred of both the world’s thinking (universalism, a human Bible, evolution, feminism) and the world’s behavior (movie attendance, dancing, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality).

3) These pernicious fruits of the doctrine of common grace adopted by the CRC in 1924 are not only natural fruits but also the judgment of God upon the sin of deposing officebearers and casting out believers and their children for the “offence” of holding fast the Reformed truths of sovereign, particular grace.

– DJE

PRC Truth

I have recently begun reading your magazine and would like to tell you that I enjoy it; however, I have a question. On page 295 of the April 1, 1993 issue, there is a reference to “the pure PRC truth of God’s eternal covenant.” What is “PRC truth?” Is the Protestant Reformed Church the custodian of some special knowledge (gnosis)? Please comment.

V.P. Agricola
Alberta, Canada

Response:

The phrase, “pure PRC truth of God’s eternal covenant,” originally appeared in an article by Herman Hoeksema.

What he meant was that the PRC faithfully confess the biblical doctrine of the covenant. Tested by Scripture and the Reformed confessions, the doctrine of the covenant held by the PRC proves itself to be the pure Word of God.

Similar would be the expression, “the pure Reformed truth of God’s predestination.” The theologian or church using this expression would mean that the doctrine of election and reprobation found in Reformed churches is God’s own pure truth.

The PRC have a distinctive conception of the covenant. Hoeksema confidently claimed that it is nothing less than the (special) revelation of God in Holy Scripture.

This claim is subject to the testing of Scripture and the creeds.

– Ed.

Roman Catholic Baptism

When I became a member of my church I took a vow to receive the body of doctrine contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith along with its catechism as being in agreement with the Word of God. Therefore, I must voice disagreement with your editorial response to the subject of rebaptism found in the Standard Bearer, April 1, 1993.

The Westminster standards teach that there are certain qualifications as to who may be baptized and who may perform a baptism. I would refer any interested parties to chapter 28 of the Confession and questions 165 and 166 of the Larger Catechism. There one may read, “There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the gospel; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord: neither of which may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained.” A Romanist minister does not meet this qualification. We also read, “…whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church . . . .” Once again, the Romish church may claim to be the visible church, but we know better. Finally, we can find the qualification that the one baptized must be a professing believer or the child of one. If this were the case, except someone be an uninformed babe in Christ, there is no reason for him to be in a Romish church. It is for this reason that I would say that someone from the Romish church was never baptized at all but rather went through a ritual mockery of the sacrament. Just as the Lord’s Supper has become invalid when conducted by Rome, so has baptism.

Now if you refer to the argument of John Calvin I would answer that it was valid for his day. The church was still cutting its ties from Rome. For many Rome was the visible church during their youth and as such met the qualifications to conduct baptisms (which also answers the question of the validity of apostate O.T. priests conducting circumcisions). Once the church had reformed and broken ties for several generations this was not longer true.

I would be interested in receiving a copy of your 1988 “Acts of Synod and Yearbook of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America” to learn more of how you arrived at your stand on this issue.

Ric Kostbar
Howell, NJ

Clear Calvinism

I wish to offer my thanks for your magazine, the Standard Bearer. It reflects your position which is clear Calvinism, a view which is ever becoming rarer. Indeed there is a species of Calvinism “which neither satisfies a Calvinist nor offends an Arminian,” to quote a Scottish Free Churchman of the past.

However, I would like to ask your opinion on a, matter which I came .across recently. Did Cornelius VanTil espouse the doctrine of “common grace”? I would appreciate your knowledge on this area and any information you can offer.

James Frew
Springside, Irvine, Scotland

Response:

Cornelius VanTil took his own approach to the issue and expressed himself in his own philosophical manner, but he certainly embraced the theory of common grace. His views on the subject are found in his Common Grace and the Gospel (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1972), a collection of his essays and articles on common grace. According to VanTil, God expresses a favorable attitude toward the reprobate, not only in the bounties of providence (rain and sunshine) but also in the well-meant offer of the gospel. With reference to what the Christian Reformed Church called the “general offer of the gospel” as the manifestation of God’s common grace, which VanTil describes as “this most perplexing aspect of the perplexing problem of common grace” (p. 75), VanTil declares that “we may think of the universal offer of salvation as an evidence of common grace” (p. 82).

Throughout, VanTil is critical of Herman Hoeksema’s rejection of common grace.

Hoeksema devoted no fewer than 14 editorials in volumes 19 and 20 of the Standard Bearer to an examination of VanTil’s view of common grace.

-Ed.

The Age of the Earth

In his article, “Our Constant and Certain Safety” (the Standard Bearer, Jan. 1, 1993), Rev. John Heys wrote this:

In the beginning God created, the heavens and the earth in six days; and the seventh day He rested. As we are coming near to the day when 6,000 years have passed since that week in which God created all things in heaven and on earth….

How does Rev. Heys come to have confidence in the approximate date of Creation being 6,000 years ago? Does he do this by the biblical genealogies or by some other means?

I am not opposing his date. In fact, I am delighted to see him put the figure of 6,000 years in print, for it is, I believe, correct. But I am interested in knowing his proofs and defense of the age of the earth.

Al Salmon
Moorestown, NJ

Response:

In reply to Brother Salmon’s request that I give the reason for my assuming that the world is now about 6,000 years old, I suggest that it is indeed a matter of the genealogies. There are in the Old Testament repeated references to time, both in the genealogies and in the recording of significant events. Though there are some differences of opinion as to the exact number of years in the genealogies, many Bible scholars agree that the time from creation to the birth of Christ is about 4,000 years. I have, for example, a Bible printed by the World Publishing Association. That Bible presents the first chapter of Genesis as revealing what happened 4,004 B.C. Similarly Alfred Edersheim, D.O., Ph.D., in his book, Old Testament History, puts creation at 4,004 B.C. Nave’s Study Bible, published by Baker Book House, makes it 4,045 B.C. rather than 4,004.

Even as God rested the seventh day after six days of creating heaven and earth and all that they contain, it is evident that now, 6,000 years since the creation of all things, we are coming close to that everlasting Day of Rest of which we read in Revelation 22:5-7.

– Rev. John A. Heys