Of Arminianism And “Logic-Chopping”

When all the dust being raised about the Boer gravamen clears, it will, I trust, still be necessary to deal with the burden of Dr. Boer’s gravamen, which is an exegetical one. 

Meanwhile, there is much dust being raised; and at least some of it ought to be exposed as just that—dust. An example may be found in the editorial department of The Banner (April 6, 1979, pp. 10, 11). Far, be it from me to agree with Harry Boer’s doctrinal position, but I believe that Editor De Koster does his former colleague of The Reformed Journalinjustice by accusing him of basing his gravamen on his own logic. In the meantime, Dr. De Koster’s own references to Arminianism and to logic-chopping—whatever that may mean—are fir from accurate. 

In the first place, it is news to me that “Arminius and his followers . . . filed a gravamen against the teaching of Belgic Article 16 and related doctrines.” If only they had filed a gravamen, things might have gone differently at the time of the Synod of Dordrecht. But my history books and my “Acts of the Synod of Dordrecht, 1618-19” show, for one thing, that it was all but impossible to get the Arminians to put their views black on white, and that even at the Synod itself they had to be admonished and reproved and threatened in order to get them to present their views. 

In the second place, while the Arminians themselves wanted to be treated as equals at the Synod and wanted simply to “review” the confessions along with the Counter-Remonstrants, the fact is that the Arminians (with the erudite Simon Episcopius at their head) were hailed before the Synod as defendants, who were on trial for heresy. Would that the Christian Reformed Church today were strong enough to imitate Dordrecht! I assure you that there would have been multiple heresy trials (and convictions) long ago! In the second place, however, when Dr. De Koster writes about “logic-chopping”—whatever that may be—he sorely misrepresents both Arminianism and the Bible. De Koster writes as follows:

When it came to logic-chopping, Arminius outdistanced most others in his time—while accusing them of falling victim to . . . logic! 

You will discover that the Arminian mind produces a number of logical objections to the mind of the Canons; like these: 

1. If God reprobates, He forecloses the well-meant offer of salvation to all men. But, in fact, the Bible teaches both reprobation and the well-meant offer. 

2. If God decrees from all eternity, He abrogates man’s choice and responsibility. But, in fact, the Bible teaches both God 3 decrees and man’s free will and responsibility. 

3. If God elects, He must reject, and therefore reprobation is only the logical implicate of election. But, in fact, the Bible makes no such connection. In ways higher than we can lay hold ox God chooses and God passes by—and affords no “reason” for either except His own good pleasure. 

4. If God reprobates, He may be charged with responsibility for man’s sin. But, in fact, the Bible repudiates even the suggestion: God forbid! 

And so on. All of these are logical efforts to lower God’s thoughts to the level of our thoughts, and to reduce God’s ways to our ways. And you will find, I think, that when all the talk subsides, the critics of the Canons have been moving on logical assumptions like these all along—while charging, of course, that it is the Canons “that bend any desired Scripture to its foreordained meaning.”

Of the four examples of logical objections produced by the Arminian mind, numbers “2” and “4” and their replies may stand, provided that “free will” in “2” is correctly understood. 

However, number “1” is not an objection raised by the Arminian mind, and its answer is not an expression of the Reformed mind, or mind of the Canons. The reverse is true. “If God reprobates (sovereignly), He forecloses the well-meant offer of salvation to all men.” That is indeed the Reformed mind, the mind of the Canons. More specifically, it is the Protestant Reformed mind—and we were never accused of having an Arminian mind, only of being Reformed in the fundamentals, with a tendency to one-sidedness. The “Arminian mind” is the very opposite: God’s well-meant offer of salvation forecloses sovereign reprobation. 

The italicized reply to “1” is not the mind of the Canons nor the mind of God (the Bible). It is the Christian Reformed mind, adopted in 1924. And while I am glad to see the First Point of 1924 come out of hiding in the current discussion, I must needs point out that it is a contradictory mind, which no rational human being can accept. Furthermore, it involves ascribing contradictions to the Bible, and thus to God Himself. Simply put, it means: 1. God wills the salvation of the reprobate. 2. God does not will the salvation of the reprobate, but their damnation. Men like Berkhof and H. J. Kuiper tried to escape this, contradiction by calling it a mystery. R. B. Kuiper spoke of a paradox. Editor De Koster, I fear, is suggesting the same thing in different language when he speaks of God’s thoughts and ways being higher than our .ways. Men like Boer, Daane, Stob, and Dekker are at least honest enough to face up to this obvious and intolerable contradiction. But they choose the Arminian position, and foreclose sovereign reprobation. 

Example “3” is a true statement if only it would becompletely stated. Completely stated, it would read: “If God elects some out of the mass of mankind, it follows that He rejects (passes by) the rest. In this sense reprobation is nothing but the logical implicate of election.” God does not merely elect and reject, choose and pass by. Election and reprobation have personal and definite objects; and those objects are mutually exclusive. James Daane’s objections to the “logic of numbers” to the contrary notwithstanding, as surely as election is personal and definite (and this is the teaching of the Canons), so surely are the rest of mankind the “non-elect,” or the reprobate. Moreover, the Bible itself makes this connection many times. In fact, as often as it uses the verb “eklegein” (to choose out of), it makes this connection; and it also makes the same connection in various other passages of Scripture. 

Incidentally, while the claim is made (also by Dr. De Koster) that the “great theologians” do not draw this conclusion, a careful study of John Calvin himself will reveal that in his treatise on “The Eternal Predestination Of God” he not only makes this connection, but ascribes it to Scripture. Commenting on Ephesians 1:4, in reply to Pighius, he states: “‘In the first place, there is, most certainly and evidently, an inseparable connection between the elect and the reprobate. So that the election, of which the apostle speaks, cannot consist unless we confess that God separated from all others certain persons whom it pleased Him thus to separate.” (p. 45) And again, p. 75, he writes: “The mind and intent of the apostle, therefore, in his use of this similitude, are to be carefully observed and held fast—that God, the Maker of men, forms out of the same lump in His hands one vessel, or man, to honour, and another to dishonor, according to His sovereign and absolute will. For He freely chooses some to life who are not yet born, leaving others to their own destruction, which destruction all men by nature equally deserve. And when Pighuis holds that God’s election of grace has no reference to, or connection with, His hatred of the reprobate, I maintain that reference and connection to be a truth. Inasmuch as the just severity of God answers, in equal and common cause, to that free love with which He embraces His elect.” 

Personally, I would rather be in the company of Calvin than that of Pighuis. How about you?