This is the third and final article we write on this. subject in which we continue our quotations from The Contender, a paper edited by the Rev. Malcolm R. MacKay of Nova Scotia, an independent Presbyterian minister. Rev. MacKay, so we have seen, agrees with the Rev. H. Hoeksema that the three points of 1924 on common grace is really a triple breach, that the well-meant offer of grace in the preaching of the gospel is the doctrine of Arminius. He contends that the doctrine of common grace not only militates against the truth of Scripture but it also “disparages the righteousness and justice of God and denies to them their positive and glorious place in ‘His character.” Rev. MacKay tells us further that “this teaching says, in effect, that the revelation of God’s justice in the damnation of the non-elect is not a ‘sweet savor’ to God.”
It is especially to this last idea that the Rev. MacKay devotes the major part of the rest of his articles. After a rather lengthy quotation from Calvin’s Commentary on the text in II Cor. 2:15, 16, which deals with the truth that the Word of God is both a savor unto death as well as life, the Nova Scotia pastor asserts that the disparaging of God’s justice must of necessity confound the eternal purpose of God. Referring to the well-meant-offer-people, he says “their teaching would put God into the position where He actually is greatly disappointed in, regard to His eternal purpose for mankind . . . . They say that He ardently desires the salvation of those whom He does not purpose to save. This would confound His eternal purpose. What is all this, in reality, but saying that mankind has gotten himself into such a complicated situation that to a certain extent, at least, God is put into an awkward, baffling position? He really wills to save all mankind—intensely so—but there are certain considerations which have been caused by the fall of man in Adam (these considerations being known only to God, they vaguely say) which prevent Him from saving all and make it necessary for Him to damn some. These considerations, they darkly hint, have to do with His justice. His love wills to save all, but His justice wills not to save all. This teaching fails to present a balanced picture of God’s attributes, sovereignty and purpose. Obviously, it does despite to both His love and His justice . . . . .”
Rev. MacKay further claims that “the Arminian conception of God as baffled, to a degree, is found inThe Free Offer of the Gospel by professors Murray and Stonehouse.” After giving a brief quotation from their writings and a brief criticism of them, the pastor concludes by saying: “As a matter of fact, the non-elect are never brought to salvation. If we take the professors’ words at their face value, they would have God baffled, to a degree, for, at the same time, He equally wills that the non-elect be saved and He does not will that they be saved. And who has put God into this awkward, baffling position? Obviously man, by falling into sin (in Adam). This is sheer Arminianism.” MacKay accuses Murray and Stonehouse in their “Conclusions” of summarizing and adopting the Arminian theory about God. And he adds, “However, they also try at the same time formally to maintain the Calvinistic doctrine of the reprobation of the non-elect. Thus we see the two-faced god, Janus, appearing. We may apply a bit of Rev. Hoeksema’s criticism of the, Kalamazoo declaration as given in A Triple Breach. In The Free Offer of the Gospel, as well as in the Kalamazoo declaration Janus turns now and again revealing the Arminian face and the Calvinistic face. However, the face which shows itself the more frequently is that of Arminius. And when Janus comes to a full stop; it is the face of Arminius, not Calvin, that is looking steadily at us.”
Rev. MacKay, writing in the November, 1955, issue of The Contender under the subtitle “How Reprobation is Denied by Reformed Ministers,” says: “The ancient Christian faith (known also since the Reformation as ‘Calvinism’) teaches without fear or favor the solemn Biblical truth of the eternal reprobation or damnation by God of the non-elect. However, this truth is conspicuous in modern times by its absence from the preaching and teaching of even many of those who profess to hold the Calvinistic Reformed faith. It is not surprising that Arminians reject it and pour their denunciation upon it for they are humanists and therefore naturalists. But it does seem strange at first sight that many ‘Calvinists’ by their attitude toward and handling of predestination (election—M.S.) and reprobation should be actually advancing the cause of Arminianism. This explains why these Calvinists are quite acceptable to the Arminians and in good favor with them. An excellent explanation of this strange and contradictory attitude of Calvinists toward predestination (election—M.S.) and reprobation is found on page 19 ofPredestination which is a booklet containing a number of addresses on this subject given by the Rev. Herman Hoeksema.”
Then follows a quotation from Rev. Hoeksema’s booklet on Predestination in which the latter asserts among other things that “this false and ambiguous position (of present day so-called Reformed preachers—M.S.) has proved more dangerous to the maintenance of the pure truth of Scripture concerning Gods sovereign predestination than professed free willism. For under the Reformed flag the entire cargo of Arminian heresy is smuggled into the Church.”
Concerning this quotation MacKay writes, “Certainly in the above quotation Rev. Mr. Hoeksema puts his finger upon a radical contradiction in the position of many Presbyterian and Reformed ministers. It is the same contradiction that we noticed last month in the Kalamazoo Synod’s declaration of the Christian Reformed Church and also in The Free Offer of the Gospel by professors Murray and Stonehouse. On the one hand it is rightly believed, in accordance with the Bible and the historic Presbyterian and Reformed doctrinal standards, that the love and mercy of God is particular, not universal, and is directed only toward the elect. It is also rightly maintained that since the mercy of God is directed only toward the elect, the design of the atonement of Christ is likewise particular, not universal, and is directed toward the elect only. That is to say, God’s will, desire; purpose and intention in regard to the atonement is that it applies only to the elect, not universally to all mankind. To summarize, Reformed men are correct in maintaining that the mind of God is absolutely different all down the line in relation to the two classes of men into which His eternal purpose or decree has divided them. However, along with this revealed truth of particularism, Reformed men are also holding the false Arminian doctrines ofuniversalism. That is, they are teaching that the love and mercy of God are also directed toward the non-elect as well as the elect. And they are teaching, in line with this universalism, that God’s will, desire, purpose and intention is for the salvation of the non-elect as well as the elect. Certainly Professors Murray and Stonehouse? for example, teach this in clearest language. This would wipe out the eternal distinction which God has made between the elect and the non-elect. To summarize, they are teaching that the mind of God is the same in relation to the two categories of men into which His eternal purpose or decree has divided them. This alleged sameness or universalism in the attitude of God toward all mankind is the spirit of Arminianism and is the forerunner of modernism. It is this, in short, which contradicts the historic Presbyterian and Reformed teaching, and many Presbyterian and Reformed men have either wittingly or unwittingly gone over to this teaching. They say that God universally loves all men, universally desires the salvation of all men, has wrought out a salvation in Christ’s atonement that is suited to the needs of all men, and is genuinely and sincerely offered by God to all men. Furthermore, they say that there is nothing to hinder anyone from accepting it and being saved, except his own sin. All this is Arminian to the core, and is being taught by these Presbyterian and Reformed men. And, as Rev. Hoeksema says, in the quotation above, this universalistic teaching of Arminianism is emphasized to the exclusion of the particularistic teaching of the Biblical and Reformed faith. These men have long admitted that the Arminian heresy contradicts the Calvinistic position at every point of doctrine. However, they are attempting to adhere to both positions at the same time. And they are attempting to justify this impossible procedure on grounds that are subtle and ensnaring. They say that although this appears to be contradictory, it is not really contradictory, and that one must hold this apparently contradictory position in order to avoid what is really contradictory,—the clear-cut, consistent position of Hoeksema (who is in reality only teaching what the Bible reveals) they assert, being really contradictory! Dr. Van Til criticizes Rev. Hoeksema’s position in this manner by saying that Mr. Hoeksema imposes a timeless logic upon Scripture. In other words, Van Til is saying that Hoeksema is resorting to rationalism to explain what cannot be humanly explained,—at least not this side of eternity, so Van Til contends. We cannot agree with Van Til in this criticism of Hoeksema. Van Til claims in effect, that it is rationalism for Hoeksema to say flatly that Godcannot have an attitude of favor toward the non-elect whom He does not intend to save.”
MacKay then proceeds to answer the question: “Who is Right: Van Til or Hoeksema?” He considers Van Til’s position quite contrary to the plain teachings of Scripture. And goes on to prove that there is “NO FAVOUR OUTSIDE OF CHRIST.” Says he, “The new doctrine of a favorable attitude in God toward the non-elect runs counter to the great truth of revelation that the infinitely righteous and holy God cannot show favor to sinful creatures except that His justice be perfectly upheld by the sacrifice of a Mediator to satisfy the requirements of divine justice that has been violated by man’s sin. Scripture thunders forth the truth that there is nothing but wrath—no favor—to sinful man outside Christ . . . . Yet the common grace theory definitely teaches that God looks not only with favor but with great favor upon those who are outside Christ, and thus have no Mediator. The Bible teaches that the non-elect are not ‘in Christ’, that is, that they are neither in this world nor in eternity partakers of the work of the Mediator . . . .”
Rev. MacKay concludes his articles with showing up “THREE DEADLY RESULTS OF COMMON GRACE.” He claims that it: 1. Denies Man’s Total Depravity in Sin. 2. Teaches Morals are Relative, not Absolute. 3. Mingles and Unites Church with World.
Since our space is about used up we will not quote what he has to say on these points.
We close with saying once more that we enjoyed very much what Rev. MacKay has written on the matter of common grace and the general offer. We agree with him perfectly on what he wrote. One naturally desires to know more about this writer. Perhaps we will have occasion to read more of his writings, and that too on other subjects. Taking in consideration our different backgrounds it is refreshing to hear from one outside of our immediate circle who understands the Scripture as well as he on the matter of grace. I, for one, would be interested to know what are his thoughts on the Covenant and other related doctrines. If Rev. MacKay reads our comments; maybe he will be so kind to give us this expression.