Not Anabaptists But Reformed (12)* Chapter 6. A Sad Conclusion

* 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: January 15, 2009, p. 184.

Except for the questions that Rev. Jan Karel Van Baalen thinks he must put to us, and which, as he seems to think, must be resolved by us, the brother really concludes his pamphlet with a chapter that claims to demonstrate that our view is Anabaptistic.

After all that we have read and criticized up to this point, we did not have high expectations for this chapter. For, in the first place, Rev. Van Baalen never took pains to form an accurate depiction of our view, which he thought was “single track” and rationalistic. Hence the two chapters that followed, which were supposed to demonstrate that we oppose Scripture and the confessions with our view, were a complete failure. Proceeding now to this chapter, we do not expect that Rev. Van Baalen will make it clear that we are Anabaptistic.

Yet, even though we did not have high expectations, we are still disappointed by the brother. The attempt on his part to smear us with the paint of Anabaptism is definitely sad from almost every point of view. We will explain the reason for our disappointment.

Rev. Van Baalen begins once again with his resentment of our having attacked Dr. Janssen. It is certainly clear that the brother intends to defend Dr. Janssen with this pamphlet. We will not get into that. That matter is truly finished. Rev. Van Baalen will certainly have to be much bolder if he hopes to advance the cause of Janssen. It simply amazes us all the more that our church papers have so highly recommended this pamphlet. Especially Dr. Beets ought to be rebuked for this. He even thought it should have been written in English. He offers no criticism. Gratuitously this veiled defense of Dr. Janssen is again recommended to the people!

Moreover, the first section of this chapter merely serves to inform our people that Rev. Hoeksema once wrote a challenge in the Banner for someone to show that he is Anabaptistic. Rev. Van Baalen says he will gladly take that challenge. Now that we can accept.

The content of the chapter amounts to this. First of all, Rev. Van Baalen says it is his conviction that an Anabaptist can indeed be a Christian. No one should think, then, that Rev. H. Danhof and Rev. Hoeksema no longer belong to Christendom. We are thankful for that. But an Anabaptist, so writes the brother, is not a Reformed man. He does not belong to our churches. And we heartily agree with that as well.

Furthermore, Rev. Van Baalen says that the main characteristic of an Anabaptist cannot be identified with a single word. The question, “What actually makes an Anabaptist an Anabaptist?” cannot be answered so easily. Not all Anabaptists thought alike. There were many differences of opinion among them. They did not all think alike even concerning such things as the incarnation of the Word, or on a matter like polygamy. Therefore, if Rev. Danhof and Rev. Hoeksema are accused of Anabaptism, one must not think that this accusation implies that these brethren also are inclined to polygamy, or defend it. And also, according to Rev. Van Baalen, Rev. Danhof’s claim went much too far when he wrote that the Anabaptists actually did away with the Scriptures, and especially the Old Testament.

So, according to Rev. Van Baalen, Prof. Berkhof is also quite wrong. Berkhof wrote on “The Spectre of Anabaptism” in The Witness and wanted to give the impression that there are absolutely no Anabaptists among us, because there is no one among us who agrees with the Anabaptists in everything. But this means nothing. According to Van Baalen, Prof. Berkhof just wants to lull our Church to sleep. He says: “There is no fire in the city! Just go back to bed! Rest easy!” And brother Van Baalen says “no thanks” to that. He does not want to go to bed before he is certain that there is no fire. Now that is certainly commendable of the brother. But we would still like to remark that a citizen who continually screams “fire,” whereas he only sees the moon shining through the trees, and who gets the citizens of the city out of bed with his fire-cry, will eventually become quite a nuisance. The main characteristic of an Anabaptist, which is so difficult to find, has indeed been found by Rev. Van Baalen. For him it resides in one’s interpretation of grace. If, therefore, the brother can just demonstrate that we think exactly like the Anabaptist on the doctrine of grace, then the prosecution has won and we stand forever branded as Anabaptistic. To this endeavor Rev. Van Baalen now devotes what follows in this chapter. Therefore, it is important that we pay close attention here. If the evidence that the brother provides here is conclusive, then we stand condemned. If it is no evidence, then the endeavor is a failure.

What then is the Anabaptistic view of grace?

Rev. Van Baalen gives us two sentences in which the chief characteristic of that view must come to light, which are as follows:

“All salvation is from grace, but that grace is common to all; in so far he [Adam Pastor] goes along with Hoffman.”1

“This universal call presupposes the power to answer it. The cause of one’s damnation never lies with God. Many claim that they have not sufficient grace to accept the gospel, and thus they are unwilling to use what they have got.”2

Now you must note well, reader, that, in the whole chapter, these are the only two quotations in which Van Baalen draws out the Anabaptistic view of grace for us. These two sentences give us the characteristic view of the Anabaptists on the doctrine of grace. Now read them once again. What is the main characteristic in those sentences? Most certainly this: that they held to the view of the Remonstrants and denied the doctrine of free grace, of election and reprobation. Apart from that, there is nothing distinctive in these sentences.

Well then, Rev. Van Baalen himself says that we differ radically from the Anabaptists on this point. Read it yourself: “Fairness demands that we emphasize this point of difference. For the Anabaptists it was the one grace which was offered but not accepted so that the sinner did not will to be saved. And for Rev. Danhof and Rev. Hoeksema it is the one grace which is offered but cannot be accepted so that the sinner cannot be saved.”3 But apart from this there is nothing distinctive in the sentences quoted by Rev. Van Baalen. Everyone will assent to that. Both Pastor and Hoffman universalized saving grace. Well then, we do not agree with the point of this distinctive; we differ radically from it.

What, then, has Rev. Van Baalen proven? Up to this point his argument goes like this:

a) The main characteristic of an Anabaptist is his view of grace.

b) Rev. Danhof and Rev. Hoeksema differ in principle from the Anabaptists on this point.

c) Conclusion (of Van Baalen): both brothers are Anabaptist.

But our conclusion is that Rev. Van Baalen proves the exact opposite here of what he wanted to prove. So far the endeavor of this chapter is a complete failure.

But we have still more criticism for this section.

Rev. Van Baalen writes: “And for Rev. Danhof and Rev. Hoeksema it is the one grace which is offered but cannot be accepted so that the sinner cannot be saved.” This sentence is in the first place evidence of Rev. Van Baalen’s thoughtlessness and inaccuracy in writing. Certainly we have never said that grace can be offered but not accepted, and that the sinner cannot be saved. And the author does not mean it that way either. What he meant is undoubtedly that the sinner cannot accept grace and be saved of himself, even though it is preached to him. But in the second place, we would like to ask whether Rev. Van Baalen’s view is different. One gets the impression that he also condemns that view of grace. And that view, brother, is indeed Reformed. You should not write, then, that Rev. Danhof and Rev. Hoeksema think of it that way, but rather that this is the only Reformed position that has ever existed. We think here also of the way in which Van Baalen quoted “God wills that all men be saved,” and we ask: Is there not something wrong with you too, brother? Is not something also wrong with your position in regard to election and the total inability of natural man? It makes such a strange impression.

But we are not to the end of the chapter.

. . . to be continued.

1 Van Baalen’s pamphlet, p. 80. Van Baalen quotes Dr. Dosker, who is writing about the Anabaptist Adam Pastor. 

2 Van Baalen’s pamphlet, p. 81. This is also a quote from Dosker’s work.

3 Van Baalen’s pamphlet, p. 81.