* Not Anabaptist but Reformed was a pamphlet written by Danhof and Hoeksema in 1923 as a “Provisional Response to Rev. Jan Karel Van Baalen Concerning the Denial of Common Grace.” Translated here from the Dutch by seminarian Daniel Holstege. Previous article in this series: August 2008, p. 450.
The chapter in which Rev. Van Baalen thinks he can prove that our view is against Holy Scripture is concluded with the profoundly grave statement, “Once again, acknowledge that you have erred.” The author is therefore quite convinced that his line of argument is conclusive and his proof is binding. After Van Baalen has written this, there is only one way that still remains open to us, and that is the way of remorse, repentance, and reform from our erring way.
Now we have already said that we very much appreciate this grave concern of the brother for us. In this call to return you can feel the heart burning with brotherly love toward us, and that is moving. But it must also be said that Van Baalen has gotten a bit carried away by this brotherly love, calling for repentance too quickly. That, of course, is also possible. One can be so driven by love out of concern for someone that at the slightest sign of danger he cries out, Repent! And also it happens once in a while that one receives a sharp and serious application in a less than sharp sermon. And this latter is indeed the case in the chapter of Rev. Van Baalen’s pamphlet bearing the title “Against the Holy Scripture.” We want to demonstrate the weakness of the “sermon” here.
Let us first give an overview of the contents.
Rev. Van Baalen quotes twelve texts in all, apart from the reference to the book of Jonah. Exegesis (interpretation of Scripture) the brother does not give anywhere at all. He does not go into a single concept. The concept of “grace,” which is certainly the main issue, is not discussed by the brother. But also, the brother simply never goes into the related concepts of goodness, mercy, kindness, etc. He does not either give any explanation of a text, unless we must accept as the brother’s explanation what he sometimes says about a text. Much less does he even somewhat work out any of the fundamental ideas of Scripture that stand in close connection with our subject. Concerning the image of God, sin, the development of sin, election and reprobation, and so forth, the brother makes no mention. As we have said, he simply quotes twelve texts. At times he says something about it, at times nothing at all, and at times he merely refers to a text without even quoting it.
Now our first remark is that this method all by itself is condemned from the Reformed standpoint as totally reprehensible. It is indeed an easy way of getting something from Scripture and seeming to prove it before the simple folk. The writer who uses such a manner of giving proof from Scripture naturally needs to devote very little study to his subject. And the method has this intention: that it should reach its goal very easily, so that with a single text it moves anyone out of the way. But this does not take away the fact that, to anyone who piously considers it, it is very weak, and in fact it does not supply any proof. A Baptist uses the same method to demonstrate that infant baptism is condemned, and an Arminian that God wills all men to be saved, and that therefore there can be no mention of personal election in Scripture. The fact is that the Scripture forms an organic whole, and that therefore you cannot treat all the parts as standing loosely next to each other.
It is also very peculiar that the method that Van Baalen follows in his pamphlet is that of the old scholastics and of the Methodists and Pietists from the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. In his Encyclopedia (II.518-519) Dr. A. Kuyper writes the following:
The manner in which the Scholastics ordinarily brought up proof from Holy Scripture consisted almost in the citation of this or that specific statement appearing in this or that verse of Holy Scripture. Now the Reformers are not known to be completely free of this method; indeed they make much use of this method; but not one of the Reformers uses this method exclusively. They compare Scripture with Scripture. They look for an analogia fidei. They are constantly trying to penetrate deeper into the organic life of the Scriptures. And whoever has even hastily paged through Voetius’ writing (Quosque se extendat autoritae Scripturae) at once perceives the much more correct standpoint to which our theologians of that time had set themselves. But insofar as the teller of this legend (previously named) was similar, as actually in the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, this unscientific method found more and more entry especially under the influence of Pietism and Methodism. Few thoughtful people among the simple believers promoted so odd a notion of Holy Scripture. Such people then deem that scriptural proof has first been supplied when one quotes a specific verse from Holy Scripture which literally and fully expresses what is asserted. It is a strict requirement which, on the other hand, releases you from all further inquiry, and as long as you just cite the Scripture, no one will ask whether your citation is taken from the Old or New Testament, whether it was said by Job’s friends or by Job himself, or whether it appears as an absolute or with application to a specific case. The Bible is then your codex, the concordance your index, and with the help of that index you can cite from the codex whenever it sounds right.
The absolute reprehensibility of this method hardly requires any explanation.
The quotation above applies precisely to the chapter of Van Baalen’s pamphlet bearing the title “Against Holy Scripture.” This quoting of a few texts, many of which do not have anything to do with our subject, is unworthy of the brother. In the first place, over against the passages which the brother quotes, there are indeed also other passages to be mentioned that refute Rev. Van Baalen’s notion clearly enough. His notion is that God actually wants to show grace, goodness, and mercy also to the reprobate in this life. He sends grace to them, is graciously inclined toward them, and lavishes goodness upon them in this life. Now at this moment we will not yet ask how the brother reconciles this notion, which would then be an explanation of the text, “He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35), or of the text from Matthew, “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” with any Reformed thinking. But we would like to ask him how he would reconcile this with Psalm 92:5-7, which says, “O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this. When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever.”
Note well that this last clause expresses God’s purpose. It is He who accomplishes this purpose. He carries it out Himself. He makes the wicked spring forth; He makes the workers of iniquity flourish. And indeed that means to say that He makes them great in earthly gifts, in rain and sunshine, in money and goods, in honor and influence. And God does that with the purpose of destroying them forever. Scripture says that here. For Scripture is not talking here about the thoughts or ways of a man, but most certainly about the thoughts of God. It is concerned with the depth of the riches of the knowledge and the ways of God, which are past finding out.
Do not now say that this belongs to the hidden things of God, for Holy Scripture reveals this to us here and wants us to know it. God’s Word wants us to understand that the Lord enriches the wicked with earthly blessings in order that He might destroy them for ever. And how would you like to reconcile this with your explanation that God lavishes goodness upon the reprobate; that He also truly intends to bless them and is favorably inclined toward them?
You have the same thought also in Psalm 73. Certainly the concern there is over what you would call universal grace (algemeene genade). But the poet complains about the fact that he has very little of it. The ungodly have everything. And that too is a thoroughly scriptural idea, is it not? That so-called universal grace is not very common either. This is what Scripture teaches. And so it was with Asaph. The ungodly had rest, peace, and prosperity in the world. Their eyes stood out with fatness. There was no end to their wealth and prosperity. But with Asaph it was just the other way around. His chastening was renewed every morning. This now grieves the poet. He murmurs against it. He does not understand it. It seems as if there is no knowledge in the Most High. But soon he goes into the sanctuary of God. And then he sees that same contrast in an entirely different light. Then he sees two things. Concerning himself he sees that God tightly holds his right hand and guides him by His counsel in order afterward to receive him in His glory. And concerning those ungodly men, he sees that God does exactly the opposite. Peace and prosperity are never blessings for the ungodly, and are not intended by God as such either. They are not proof that God looks down upon them in kindness and wants to bless them in His favor. On the contrary, “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors” (Ps. 73:18, 19).
Now, you must understand that these slippery places in this context are that same earthly wealth and prosperity. God has set them therein. He casts them down into destruction exactly through that. Therefore, this is the same thought as in Psalm 92.
One more time: how do you reconcile this scriptural notion, which appears again and again, with your idea that God is actually good to the reprobate? Do not immediately say, brother, that here again we have rationalism, which wants to reconcile everything and bring it toward a unity of thought, because that does not apply here. It is not rationalism to compare Scripture with Scripture and to look for the analogia Scripturae (analogy of Scripture). Scripture does not have all kinds of absurdities and contradictions, but most certainly it has one root idea. Scripture certainly does not say in one place that God lavishes goodness upon the same men whom it tells us in another place God casts into destruction through those gifts. It is a question of scriptural interpretation here, brother.