Under the heading “Confusion” the editor of The Banner recently wrote the following:

“Those who know what Professor L. Berkhof has written and believes on the subject of common grace and also read De Reformatie must have smiled when they read a recent article in the latter, written by its editor-in-chief, in which Prof. Berkhof is represented as having doubt, to say the least, whether there is an attitude (“gezindheid”) of favor in God toward the reprobate.

“A quotation from Prof. Berkhof’s book on common grace is supposed to prove that strange contention. The statement was found that there is only one grace in God, not a twofold grace. Those among our readers who followed the common grace controversy of some years ago recall how often the defenders of this doctrine have stated that the distinction between common grace and special grace must be understood to mean that there is a double grace in God.

“The word “grace” in Scripture does not always have the same meaning. For one thing, it often indicates the manifestations or fruits of the grace which we have in Christ Jesus. But it also is used to indicate a divine attribute; namely, that love of God which he shows to the guilty and unworthy. Now, that grace as one of the attributes of God is one, even as the love which it manifests is one. But the grace as well as the love manifests itself in various ways and various degrees. When it pardons the sins of the elect, on the ground of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, when it renews the heart and saves the soul, we call it special grace; but when it (that same grace) postpones punishment, retrains sin, enables the unregenerate to do moral good, offers them the blessings of salvation on the condition of repentance and faith, we call it common grace. The grace is one, but the manifestations are many and various.

“The grace of God, in its most fundamental sense, is an attribute of favor toward the unworthy. Those who deny common grace say that there is in God no inclination of favor toward the non-elect. If therefore Prof. Berkhof, by stating that there is only one grace in God, had denied or questioned God’s favorable attitude toward the non-elect, he would have denied the most basic thought of the doctrine of common grace. Even the leaders in the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands can know that Prof. Berkhof not only does not deny this but that he affirms it most emphatically.”

One can have a measure of respect for the Rev. Kuiper’s consistency in defending the “Three Points” and the theory of “common grace.” He maintains his stand on the doctrine of his churches. He never tried to compromise or change them to create the impression that they were in agreement with the views of Dr. Schilder. For this he deserves credit.

And I fully agree with him when he states, that we all know that Prof. L. Berkhof believes in “common grace.” More than sufficient proof for this is what (in his brochure on the “Three Points”) he writes on God’s universal love to sinners. According to Berkhof God has no desire in the death of any wicked. His great love for sinners and His desire to save them is for all, and not only for the elect. And this great love and desire to save all sinners becomes manifest in the preaching of the gospel. We refer you for these statements to his “De Drie Punten,” etc. pp. 21, 22.

But I am, nevertheless, afraid that the article from which we quoted above does not serve to clarify matters, but rather creates more confusion.

As I read the Rev. Kuiper’s article I understand him to teach the following tenets:

There is only one grace in God.
This grace is love to the guilty.
This one grace manifests itself in various degrees.
In the highest degree of manifestation it is “special grace.”
In a lower degree of manifestation it is “common grace.”
Hence, “special grace” and “common grace” differ only in degree.
“Special grace” pardons sin.
“Common grace” postpones punishment, restrains sin, offers the blessings of salvation conditionally.

If I fail to present the views of the Rev. Kuiper correctly, I would be grateful to him if he would point out my error, for I am earnestly endeavoring to understand what he means.

Now, these things are not quite clear to me.

First of all, the Rev. Kuiper writes about the following terms as if they all mean the same thing to him: love of God, grace, attitude, inclination, manifestation, ways, degrees. He makes no distinction at all. Now, my question is: Am I right when I understand the Rev. Kuiper as teaching that God hates no living man, that He loves all men, only in various degrees? Is there in God only a disposition of grace with regard to men in this life? Is there in Him no hatred toward any man as long as he is in this world?

Then: do I inform my readers correctly when I tell them that the editor of The Banner teaches that “special grace” and “common grace” are essentially the same and that they differ only in degree?

Then: what does the Rev. Kuiper mean when he says that in His “common grace,” which is but a lower degree of grace than “special grace,” God offers to all the blessings of salvation on condition of repentance and faith? Does he mean “conditions” which men can and must fulfill? Does he mean that this lower degree of grace is still an earnest desire in God to save all men?

I am not asking these questions to find fault or to lead the Rev. Kuiper into a trap. I earnestly seek to know the Rev. Kuiper’s mind, and the mind of the Christian Reformed Churches on these matters. And, therefore, I do expect the Rev. Kuiper to answer clearly and definitely. And, therefore, I ask him, whether I present the matter correctly if, putting the whole thing in the form of a series of true and false questions the difference between the Christian Reformed and Protestant Reformed Churches is as follows:

Questions                                                                                Chr. Ref. Answers       Prot. Ref. Answers

1. God loves all men, only in degrees.                                            True                             False

2. God hates no man, only his sin.                                                  True                             False

3. God loves the elect only.                                                               False                            True

4. God hates the reprobate.                                                              False                            True

5. “Common grace” is a lower degree of                                        True                             False

the same grace as “special grace.”

6. God earnestly desires the salvation of all men.                       True                             False

7. God desires the salvation of the elect only.                              False                            True

8. The preaching of the gospel is proof of God’s                          True                             False

gracious desire to save all.

9. Faith and repentance are “conditions” which                          True                             False

man can fulfill (every man).

The Rev. Kuiper may notice that the Prot. Ref. Churches do not hesitate to answer these questions unequivocally. May I ask for the same unequivocal answers from the editor of The Banner?

Let us, at least, clearly understand each other.