As I brought out in my previous writing, we have every reason to believe that Prof. Schilder is willing to answer questions put to him by me. So I addressed myself to the task of preparing for the professor a list, which I shall now complete.
For a reason that became plain in my previous article, all my questions have a bearing on the Heynsian view of the covenant. I quoted from Reyns’ “Geloofsleer” (as cited by Meulink), to show what this view is. I summarized it as follows: The promise of the Gospel, as given in the same sense unto all the children of the believers—elect and non-elect alike—and as sealed unto all by the sacrament of baptism, places as a testament all the benefits of Christ’s death in the objective possession of all indiscriminately. All have a right to be saved; and are actually saved objectively in Christ. As was pointed out, Ds. Meulink (liberated) tells his readers that Heyns’ Geloofsleer made a great hit in the Netherlands among the Liberated and that the late Dr. H. Bouwman called it soundly Reformed. I added that Meulink’s testimony agrees with my own discoveries; that I find this Heynsian view of the covenant expounded and defended by the Liberated in every booklet and pamphlet of theirs on this subject that has come in my possession. I quoted from two such pamphlets. Before I proceed allow me to quote from one more.
In a booklet from the pen of Prof. C. Veenhof I come upon these lines: (I translate), “What is baptism? What does God say? What does God do when He baptizes us? This can be stated very simply: baptism is a seal! This little sentence provokes a question. It is this: Of what is baptism a seal? What does it seal? To what is it affixed as a seal? The Reformed unanimously reply: Baptism is a seal of God’s promise! A right understanding of this sentence requires that we thoroughly know and always maintain that in His wonderful love it pleased the Lord to give His promise to all the children of the believers; in other words, He thought it well to give to them a glorious declaration (toezegging). He says, namely, to all these children, head for head, day in and day out, sincerely and uprightly: I am the Lord your God. I establish with you my covenant. I wash you of all your sins in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. My Holy Spirit wills to dwell in you. In a word, I promise you (Ik zeg U toe) full forgiveness of sins, and eternal life: all the treasures and riches, that I am willing to give men and can give them.
“Of course, it must not for a second be forgotten that God does not speak His word of promise alone and separately. In and with this promise He also says something else. For when He gives to us His promise, He at once calls us to love Him, believe in His Word, and walk in His ways.
“And take notice, that we may be thoroughly convinced that the Lord has given this promise really and truly…. He gave baptism as a seal of the promise.
“When the Lord baptizes us, He gives us His sealed promise.
“O, He knows how difficult it is for us, how our hearts always rebel against actually and firmly believing that God is truly our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ actually washes us from all our sins, and the Holy Spirit will dwell in us (italics supplied).
“Therefore the Lord helps us.
“In baptism He gives us a sealed promise!” So far the professor (Veenhof).
What have we here? Heynsian doctrine through and through. Take notice of the sentence in italics. The thought it conveys is this: God is the Father of all the baptized indiscriminately; Jesus Christ actually washes them all of all their sins, objectively, of course; meaning, if words have meaning, that all are legally saved in Christ; and that accordingly the Holy Spirit will realize in them all—elect and non-elect alike—the virtues of Christ’s cross on the condition that they believe in His name.
But all are not saved. Many of the baptized perish in their sins. But this is not to be ascribed to the unwillingness of God that He be their Father and they His redeemed children; nor to the unwillingness of Christ to wash them in His blood from all their sins (fact is, He has washed them from all their sins in His blood objectively, so that they are saved legally); nor to the unwillingness of the Holy Spirit to realize in them all the fruits of Christ’s cross. Far from that. For “He says to all of them, head for head, day in and day out, sincerely and uprightly: I am the Lord your God. I establish with you my covenant. I wash you from all your sins in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. My Holy Spirit will dwell in you. In a word, I promise you all full forgiveness of sins, and eternal life; all the treasures and riches, that I am willing to give men and can give them”. (Take notice. I am not quoting Veenhof here). The reason that many of the baptized perish is that they believe not; that in their unbelief they spurn and reject the heavenly inheritance that is theirs in Christ.
That I do not misrepresent the professor (Veenhof) is plain as the day also from the following lines from his pen: “If in their baptism forgiveness of sin and renewal of life is given (geschonken is) to all the baptized, how comes it then that many baptized perish?” The professor gives answer: “Omdat heel veel gedoopten deze genade door hun verdorvenheid de weg versperren, maken zij haar tot een ledigen vorm” (Appel p. 12). Translated this reads: “Because many baptized by their depravity obstruct the way of this grace, they reduce it to an empty form.”
When Prof. Holwerda a while ago wrote in to tell me that I do not know the A. B. C. of the Liberated covenant theology, he could not have had reference to the doctrine I find spread over the pages of Prof. Veenhof’s “Appel”, and over the pages of as many booklets and pamphlets of Liberated authorship on this subject as have come into my possession. I understand this doctrine—understand that it is Heynsian through and through. Unless, of course, these writers were using words according to meanings that they have in private vocabularies of their own, so that, to illustrate, their way of saying that snow is white is that snow is black. But certainly, they were guilty of no such thing.
As I stated, when I view this Heynsian covenant theology in the light of the Scriptures, it raises in my mind many questions even in addition to those I have already put to Prof. Schilder. Here are some of them.
1. Isn’t the sovereign reason of the perishing of the non-elect baptized this: that God according to His good pleasure appointed them to everlasting desolation and in His wrath prepares them for this destiny through sovereignly hardening them by His Gospel as proclaimed by His servants? If so, how is it to be accounted for that the Liberated (as many as I have read) in explaining why many of the baptized perish in their sins make mention only of the unbelief of these baptized even going so far as to say that by their unbelief they obstruct the way of grace as if grace were resistible? Is not this the reason, namely, that the doctrine of reprobation is out of line with the doctrine that God establishes His covenant also with the non- elect baptized and washes them in the blood of His Son so that they, too, are objectively saved?
2. In other words, are not the doctrine of reprobation and the doctrine that God establishes His covenant also with the non-elect baptized and washes them in the blood of His Son contrary doctrines?
3. If two doctrines are contrary, can both be true? Must not either be a lie?
4. Is it right to evade this difficulty by calling it a mystery, or by an appeal to the incomprehensibility of God, or by taking recourse to the reasoning that according to God’s logic and in His mind the conflict resolves in a higher unity?
5. Does the incomprehensibility of God imply that the laws of thought according to which God thinks are contrary to the laws of thought according to which man thinks, so that, to illustrate, twice two are four according to man’s logic but zero according to God’s logic? Were this true, how could God communicate with man and man with God? How could we know what God is talking about in His Scriptures?
6. If the incomprehensibility of God can imply no such thing, is not the doctrine of reprobation as set forth in the Scriptures truly a denial of the doctrine that God establishes His covenant also with the nonelect baptized and washes them in the blood of His son (objectively)?
7. Is it not true that the Scriptures over and over literally deny that God washes also the non-elect baptized in the blood of His Son, for example at : “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people—mark you, His people—from their sins.” And again at : “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. . .” If God washes also the non-elect baptized in the blood of His Son, should not the apostle have slated that they, too, are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father in connection with the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus?
8. In a word, did Christ die also for the non-elect baptized? If not, how can God wash them, too, in the blood of His Son even objectively without involving Himself in a denial of His own righteousness?
9. Would you say that my asking this and similar questions is due to my wanting to comprehend God and to my wanting to live by my human logic instead of by the Scriptures?
10. But isn’t it as plain as the day that in setting forth his doctrine, Paul, to limit ourselves to this apostle, allows himself to be bound by the same laws of thought according to which every human thinks, when he thinks straight? And was not God thinking according to these same laws in communicating the thoughts of His heart to Paul? If not, how could it be maintained that the Scriptures truly reveal to us the mind of God. Since we do have in the Scriptures the mind of God as revealed through human logic, isn’t living by the mind of God at once living by human logic—the inspired and infallible logic of the Scriptures ? Is it true than, that living by human logic—the inspired human logic of the Scriptures—makes a man a rationalist? Isn’t this the fault of rationalism, namely, its vainly imagining to be able to originate truth by logic and in this imagining actually originating the lie? The rationalists wants to be as God. Is it the contention of the Liberated that this is our fault just because we insist that God, being what He is—truth and verity—does not contradict Himself in the Scriptures? Has it not always been the stand of Reformed theology that the contradiction spells the lie in God?
I have more questions. There is really no end to the questions that this Heynsian doctrine continues to raise in my mind.
11. According to the Heynsian view, the promise, which is always conditional, gives to all the baptized an unconditional right to all the benefits of Christ’s atonement. How is this possible? How can a conditional promise give an unconditional right to anything? And is there not also this question: why does God fail to give to the non-elect baptized what, according to His promise to them, is rightfully theirs? Are there not but two conceivable reasons? 1) Either God has no regard for right; 2) or He is unable. The perverse will of man is too much for Him. It obstructs the way of His grace.
12. Must not then, on the basis of their theology, the Liberated, in order to escape the conclusion that God is unrighteous, allow the term “condition” in their thought-structure to stand for an action of man whereby he originates his own faith or refuses to originate his own faith as the case may be?
13. Since, according to the Heynsian view, the promise is always conditional; and is given to all indiscriminately, it really promises nothing to anybody in the way of actual salvation. How can God by such a promise awaken and build up faith?
14. What comfort and security can the contrite of heart derive from the preaching of such a promise? Nothing, as far as I can see. As I see it, this Heynsian view completely nullifies the Gospel for everyone who, by the grace of God, has come to feel the need of a word of God whereby he can live and die. If I see wrong, make it plain to me, I beg.
15. The Liberated maintain that the promise as they proclaim it is a great thing in the life of the baptized. So Prof. C. Veenhof. He writes and I translate: “There is nothing more glorious imaginable for us then having this word of promise permanently addressed to us by our heavenly Father” (Appel, p. 5). But, I ask, how can this be, if God saves men only in the way of faith, and if the promise, according to the Heynsian conception of it, is always as to its fulfillment conditioned on faith and therefore does not include also the promise of faith ?
16. According to the Heynsian view, Peter’s declaration to the multitude: “For the promise is unto you, and to your children,” is a promise given to Christ unto all the seed of believers, elect and non-elect alike. So Prof. Veenhof. He writes and I again translate: “Just read For the promise is unto you and to your children. This promise I give to you all without any exception and I give it also to your children, also to all without any exception.” So this Scripture is being interpreted by the Liberated. But it raises a question. How is this interpretation to be harmonized with the apostle’s concluding statement: “And to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Second, how is this interpretation to be harmonized with , a passage that reads: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” Do the Scriptures say one thing in one place and the contrary thing in another?! The Lord Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, and speaking by the mouth of Peter says there:
17. The Liberated accuse the Synodicals of reducing by their teaching baptism to a mere appearance (schijndoop). But don’t the Liberated, despite themselves, actually do likewise by their teaching that, if baptism is to be real in every instance, the promise must be the possession of all and be sealed unto all by baptism? Is Baptism, on that position, also not a mere appearance as often as the water of baptism is sprinkled upon the forehead of non-elect,—an appearance, and for this simple reason that the promise is only unto the elect? I am simply asking. Of course, there is nothing in the Liberated view corresponding to the idea of presumptive regeneration of the Synodicals. The Liberated do not suppose that the promise is unto all; they state it as a fact. But is it a fact? That is the question.
I really have several more questions that I would like to put to the professor, but lack of space compels me to put a period here.