While proofreading the copy of an article that will appear in the Standard Bearer, the question does occasionally arise, “How widespread will the reading of this particular article be?”
From the pages of other magazines we often find evidence that our Standard Bearer is eagerly received outside the circle of our churches, that its articles are deeply appreciated, and that from a geographical point of view the magazine certainly gets around for a paper with such a relatively short subscription list, covering our country from north to south and from east to west, spanning the wide oceans, and then continuing inland to eager hands and eyes, hearts and minds.
At times there are also indications that the articles are read, reread and then carefully (though not necessarily faithfully and with the right kind of care) copied over in another article wherein the author wishes to reveal his opposition to the position taken in one of the Standard Bearer’s articles. And, indeed, often to ridicule the truth an article is written as a response to what appeared upon the pages of theStandard Bearer.
Thus in the December, 1971 issue of the Reformed Journal under the title, “Universalism: Two Versions,” above the signature of James Daane there appears an attack on our article in the October 15, 1971Standard Bearer that bore the title, “The Perfect Beginning.” In this article Daane is bold to state that the position of our churches is worse than heretical in that it is demonic! And it is to this wholly unfair and incorrect charge of his that we would address ourselves at this time. An extended siege with the “flu” bug delayed our answer till this time.
We would, first of all, give Dr. Daane a very serious and brotherly warning by calling his attention to the fact that the despicable, self-righteous Pharisees who did not believe the truth Jesus preached ascribed His works to demonic power. And on several occasions they declared that He was under demonic influence and power. Unwittingly, and yet very really, Daane put us in some very wonderful company and himself in a class that is not to be envied. But let him understand two important truths while he does this:
(1) All the charging that Jesus did His works by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, did not make it so. Talk is cheap, and all Daane’s calling white black is not going to make it black. What is more, each time the Pharisees said that Jesus had a devil they only revealed how fully they themselves were under the influence and power of the devil. It is quite easy to call another’s doctrine demonic when one has not the truth oneself. And Daane may be sure that calling devilish the truth, which we presented, and which is taught throughout Holy Writ and the Reformed Confessions, does not come from the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
(2) It is exactly in the connection with this evil charge of the Pharisees that Jesus warns about a sin that cannot and will not be forgiven. See Matthew 12:22-32. And a man who ridicules the truth of God’s sovereign, eternal, good counsel and who calls demonic the doctrine which teaches that he has perfect control over all His creation to realize His eternal good pleasure in Christ is skating on some very thin ice!
Would to God that the truth of Scripture and the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day XLIII—which calls his works of falsifying our words and of publicly slandering us the “proper works of the devil”—would bring Daane up short, even as the statement of Ellwood did, so that he would repent of this evil and make the apology which he owes us.
We need not defend our article, for Daane does not even make a suggestion of trying to prove from Scripture that our position is incorrect. He perverts our writing, as we shall show. But he gives no exegesis of Ephesians 1:9, 10, Colossians 1:15 and Revelation 13:8, which we used and presented as shedding light uponGenesis 1:1. Daane preferred ridicule to exegesis. And when one has before one a jig saw puzzle with over a hundred pieces, and then selects a few of the pieces, some of which that one will cut in half, and others which that one will reshape so that a new picture can be formed, the artist who painted the full picture need not defend his work. But he has a right to be indignant at the one who corrupted his work and passed off the composite of changed pieces as an example of the artist’s lack of knowledge of perspective and proportion. That is what Daane did with our article.
Daane writes of our article, “In it we are told that God made a perfect Adam because He made Adam fallible. Adam was ‘very good’ because the first Adam must fall . . . (Here Daane deliberately cuts off half of one of the pieces because it does not fit the picture he wants to make from our article) . . . lose his righteousness so that through the cross of the Last Adam God might display His perfect righteousness.'”
Now we did not write, and Daane cannot find it in our article, that God made Adam perfect because He made him fallible. Had Daane wished to paraphrase our words, it would have been fairer and more correct to write, “God made a perfect Adam whenHe made him fallible.” And his “because” should have been the phrase he deliberately left out, namely, “so that the grace of God in Christ may shine forth.” He should have informed his readers that when we were writing of God calling all things good, including a man who could fall into sin, we wrote, “What can that mean but that after each act of creating God saw that what He had called into being would serve perfectly the realization of that glorious kingdom of Christ?” And again that we wrote, “A creature is good only when that creature is able to serve the purpose for which it is made and intended. God saw that all was exactly as it had to be in order to serve the purpose of bringing in ultimately the fulfillment of that mystery (the one of which Ephesians 1:9, 10 speaks)”. If Daane does not want that truth and wants to ridicule the sovereign, eternal good counsel of God, he had better not only get off that thin ice at once, but also throw his skates away!
Daane continues, “So, ‘the beginning was perfect.’ But not only the beginning: ‘so is every step of the way from that moment of the beginning onward through all time.’ Not only creation as it came from the hand of God, but the fall, and every sinful moment (Not our expression, but Daane’s) that issues from the fall is also ‘very good’ and indeed ‘perfect.’ Hence says the writer, ‘Of the cross God also said, as He looked down from heaven, ‘Behold it is very good’. Of the fall of man He said the same thing!”
Now here we have some amazing revelations. Daane ridicules the idea that God would say of His ownworks that they are good, and the idea that every moment of time God has all things perfectly under His control to bring forth the new Jerusalem and make man, who was created a little lower than the angels, enjoy highest glory with Christ. BUT this same Daane is quite ready to say, and is emphatic to insist upon saying, that the man described in Romans 8:7, 8 (The man with a carnal mind, not subject to the law of God, nor able to be subject to that law, the man that cannot possibly please God) can do something because of which the holy God from heaven will look down and say, “Very good.” In fact Daane, as a strong proponent of the unscriptural theory of “common grace” is ready to say that this spiritually dead man can do civic righteousness, and that is saying a whole lot more than that he can do things that look good to man, and bring material good to man! We, in our article were speaking all along—and Daane knows it—of that which is good and perfect because it is complete, is as planned, and is able to serve its purpose. Daane stumbles over this while he still insists that without the regenerating grace of God the totally depraved sinner can do something that isethically perfect in God’s judgment. Let him look up the third infamous point of 1924 and he will find that synod spoke of good in the sense of righteousness, that which is right according to the judgment of God’s law, that which pleases Him because it is ethicallyperfect. God cannot say of His own works that they are good, according to Daane, but He will call ethically, spiritually good and perfect the works of unregenerate men!! No wonder Daane has that question in his last paragraph of his brief article!
Still more, God have mercy on those precious souls of the Christian Reformed constituency who must call Daane in when they suffer loss and bereavement. For not only has his sharp scissors cut pieces out of the picture we painted and altered them, he has also removed from his Bible The Triumph Song of the Redeemed which we find in Romans 8. He is not able to come to his sorrowing people and say, “we know that all things work together for good to those that love God.” When his sorrowing sheep come to him after a bereavement by the violence of a criminal, he will have to say to them, “Every sinful moment” is not under God’s control. Some things work for your good, but you better decide for yourself which do. I do not believe that ALL things, sinful deeds of men included, work together for the good of those that fear God.” What will he say to them, then, when they say, “Yes, but did Joseph not tell his brethren, ‘As for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people Alive'”? Faith sees how perfectly, yes how perfectly, Dr. Daane, everything—all the hatred, the deceit, the cruelty, of Joseph’s brothers—served the sparing of the lives of God’s covenant people. Did Joseph spout forth a devilish doctrine when he so informed his brothers? Did Paul have a devil when he not only says that WE KNOW, but also somewhat later speaks his firm convictions of being PERSUADED that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ? Again we warn Daane against denying God His glory of sitting on the throne ruling all His creatures, the spiritually good, and the spiritually evil as well, to fulfill the mystery of uniting all things in Christ.
We cannot answer Daane’s question in that last paragraph, that is, we cannot answer it according to the way he asks it. Plainly when he asks, “Why is it that in conservative Reformed churches heretical expressions about God’s love and grace bring forth immediate response and sharp criticism, but worse than heretical expressions about God in terms of sin evoke only silence, no matter how often and loudly proclaimed as Reformed orthodoxy?” Daane’s implied answer is: “Because they are not fair. Because they are not consistent.” The real answer is that the conservative Reformed churches are exactly that, churches that want to conserve (preserve) the Reformed Faith, and the liberal “Reformed” churches want to be liberated from that Reformed Faith. Having lost a sovereign God—a God Who does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3) and has a right to do as He pleases (Romans 9:18-24)—these liberal “Reformed” churches no longer understand either God’s sovereign grace or sin. Daane’s brief article shows this. That is why Daane’s title is all wrong! It should have been, “God’s Grace: Two Versions.” Ellwood gave a version of God’s grace that makes it so common that it is universal and ultimately saves every human being. Protestant Reformed truth, which is a defense of what Christian Reformed doctrine was some sixty years ago, maintains a particular, sovereign grace of God so wonderful that in His perfect control over all creatures God uses the devil and all sinners (confer the book of Esther) in their very sinful deeds to cause all things to work together for the good of this people that is called according to His sovereign, eternal purpose of election. Let Daane carefully and seriously exegete Ephesians 1:9, 10; Colossians 1:15 and Revelation 13:8, letting Scripture interpret Scripture; and let what he then finds bring him up short before he skates to still thinner ice of calling other doctrines of Scripture devilish doctrines. It will do him personally much good to listen to God speak from Holy Writ.