Recently The Banner editorially put up a defense of the Reformed truth that salvation is by grace only, over against what the editor evidently considers manifestations of Arminian tendencies in the Christian Reformed Churches. The first editorial on this question was written in connection with and as a criticism of the hymn: “Let Jesus come into your heart.” The editor finds that this hymn expresses a “thoroughly Arminian sentiment.” For “where does the Bible teach that we can let Jesus into our hearts? The phrase implies that Jesus wants to come in but is unable to do so as long as we are unwilling to give him entrance.” And this implication, according to the editor, is based on a number of assumptions that are contrary to the Word of God. The first, of these is that; the decision, whether a man shall be saved or not, rests with him, not with Christ. The second is that man is not so depraved that he cannot open the door of his heart. And the third is that it is Christ’s intention to save all sinners. The Bible never presents the Savior as standing at the door of a man’s heart, waiting to be admitted, not even in, of which passage by the way, the editor offers a very unique explanation. All this is about the “hymn” to which I refer in the superscription above this editorial.
The second article, written more than a month after the first, deals with the “latch.” The editor received letters that criticized his attempt to defend the Reformed view of salvation by grace only. A “lay mission worker” even sent him a copy of a tract published by the Faith, Prayer and Tract League, entitled: “Just Outside the Door.” The tract tells the old story about the artist who painted the picture of Jesus knocking at the door of man’s heart, and who, being criticized for not having painted a latch on the door, remarked that the latch was on the inside. Well, as one might well imagine, the tract finally offers such cheap and sentimental, but also wicked nonsense as this: “My friend, is Jesus just outside of the door of your heart? Yes, He is standing there, if you have not opened the door, and let Him in. Can you see Him standing there at your heart’s door, knocking? How long have you been causing Him to stand there? How long must He stand there before you let Him in? Must He stand and knock all in vain? The latch of your heart’s, door is on the inside!” And to this the editor of The Banner replies that “this is Arminianism pure and simple. The latch of our heart’s door is not on the inside but on the outside. . .and if it is true that the latch to the door of every sinner’s heart is on the outside, the picture of Christ standing at the door vainly seeking entrance is a thoroughly false representation of the offer of salvation.”
Thus far the story of the hymn and the latch.
Now, we sincerely rejoice to notice that the editor of The Banner does not want to go all the way along with “Arminianism pure and simple,” and to read articles of this nature in the official organ of the Christian Reformed Churches. And we wish that these churches, and especially also the editor of The Banner would return altogether from the errors they adopted in 1924, and forsake the slippery path of Arminian and Pelagian doctrine which they chose at the synod of Kalamazoo. If they would receive sufficient grace to confess that they erred when they adopted the Three Points, and when on their basis they expelled from their midst brethren who had always championed, and still do champion the cause of Reformed truth, as their opponents themselves are forced to admit, our hearts would, indeed, rejoice.
However, it is not in the heart of the editor of The Banner to repudiate the doctrine of the Three Points. And because of this, he is not able to defend his cause, the cause which he intended to defend in his articles: that salvation is purely by sovereign grace. One feels this all through the articles. His position is weak. One even receives the impression that he himself was conscious of his weak position when he wrote the articles. The tone is after all too apologetic. The thought of the Three Points was evidently constantly before him while he wrote. The result is, that while he condemns Arminianism as un- scriptural, i.e. as it is expressed by the hymn he criticizes, and by the painting of the door with the latch on the inside, he virtually admits by way of apology that the Arminian viewpoint is correct nevertheless. And that is deplorable.
Let me point to a few instances that may prove this contention.
The editor writes: “A third mistaken assumption is that it is Christ’s intention to save every sinner to whom the plea comes, to believe and be saved. The thought is that Christ paid for the sins of all, wants to save all, and stands at the door of every heart, but that whether he will be admitted depends entirely on whether the sinner makes up his mind to receive him.” And this the editor rightly condemns as Arminian. But, according to him, the “truth is that, though the blessings of the gospel are sincerely offered to all who hear the gospel, Christ died only for his people in the sense that for them only did he actually pay the price of sin.” And a little further: “salvation is sincerely offered to all on the condition of faith and repentance.” Again he writes: “We do not deny that Christ pleads with sinners. Nor do we deny that his pleadings are sincere, earnest, and insistent, and that those pleas often fall on deaf ears.”
Now, if those that insist on singing and speaking of Christ’s standing at the door of the heart, knocking, have the power of discernment and distinction, they will reply to the editor of The Banner: but you are teaching the same doctrine as we do! And they will be quite right in replying (thus. Or what does it mean that Christ sincerely offers salvation to all that hear the gospel? And what does it mean that He sincerely, earnestly, and insistently pleads with sinners, and that, too, with those that reject Him, so that His plea falls on deaf ears? What does Christ sincerely offer? Salvation, the editor replies. Very well, but does not salvation include regeneration, the indwelling of Christ, the coming of Christ into our hearts? According to the editor of The Banner, therefore, Christ sincerely offers to the sinner, even to him that is never regenerated and called, to come into his heart. But what else is this than to stand at the door of the sinner’s heart and knock, and to ask him to open the door? Is not the question quite in order: why does the editor of The Banner make so much noise about a hymn and a latch, while he himself teaches the same doctrine that is expressed in the hymn and represented by the latch? May only Christian Reformed synods and ministers teach Arminian doctrine, and must laymen be bluffed into silence when they follow the example of their leaders?
The Christ presented by that painting which the editor of The Banner criticizes is weak and helpless, to be sure. For the latch is on the inside, and He cannot open the door to come into the heart of the sinner. But He is at least plainly sincere. His plea is evidently in earnest: He is willing to come in, if only the sinner will open the door. But what to think of the Christ the editor of The Banner presents, Who stands, pleading to come in, at a door whose latch is on the outside, and that cannot be opened from the inside at all? If any man would thus stand pleading with one within, at a door with the key on the outside, would you not say to him: man, why don’t you prove your sincerity by simply turning that key, and opening the door? The Christ of The Banner is not sincere. His actions belie His words.
Yes, indeed, the defense put up by the editor of The Banner is very weak, because it teaches the very same error it purposes to combat, and it denies the very faith it would, champion.
Or what must one think of a sentence like this: “But though Christ pleads with sinners to repent of their sins and believe on him, he does not plead with them to do what He alone is able to do: namely to open their hearts to his regenerating Spirit?” (Italics are the editor’s, not mine.) Must this statement be ascribed to mere carelessness and lack of clear thinking on the part of the editor? I think not. I am inclined to think that the attempt on the editor’s part to fight Arminianism and champion the cause of Reformed truth was frustrated throughout by his own Arminianism and that the specter of the Three Points constantly confused his mind as he was, writing his articles. Plainly, in the above sentence the editor teaches that the sinner is able of himself to repent and believe. For; to put it in the form of a syllogism;
- Christ pleads with sinners to repent and to believe.
- Christ never pleads with them to do what they cannot do.
- They are, therefore, able to repent and believe. But this, too, is “Arminianism pure and simple.”
Does it do any good to finish such a sentence by saying that Christ alone is able to open the hearts to his regenerating Spirit? Is not that in flat contradiction with the rest of the sentence? Or is, perhaps, the editor consistently Arminian here? Taking the sentence by itself, and proceeding on the assumption that the editor knew what he was writing, one comes to the following conclusions as to his views:
1. Christ pleads with the sinner to repent and. to believe.
2. This the sinner is able to do.
3. If he does repent and believe, Christ opens his heart and regenerates him.
And this would, be quite in accord with another statement that occurs in these articles by the editor of The Banner, namely, “that salvation is sincerely offered to all on condition of faith and repentance.” A truly Reformed man would never make a statement like this, for he knows that there are no conditions to salvation by grace whatsoever. Even faith and repentance are gifts of grace, part of the salvation of which the editor of The Banner declares that it is “offered to all on condition of faith and repentance.”
I am sincerely sorry that I have to write all this. Some had assured me that the editor of The Banner was opposing Arminianism and championing the cause of Reformed truth. And in this I heartily rejoiced, before I had myself read the articles, for nothing there is that I could desire more fervently than to see the Christian Reformed Churches return from their evil way of false doctrine chosen in 1924. But as I react the articles I became more and more disappointed. For they are characterized throughout by the same duplicity as the Three Points, will confuse the minds and hearts of the Christian Reformed reading public, and result in a more hearty singing on their part of the hymn “Let Jesus come into your heart,” and a deeper admiration for the painting of the door with the latch on the outside. As long as the Three Points are the pattern of Reformed teaching, on the pulpit, in the catechism room, or through the press, there is no hope that the tide of Arminianism, and of modernism ultimately, that is flooding the churches, can be stemmed. The editor of The Banner is trying to fill a hole in the dike with dirt obtained by digging another hole in the same dike.