A LESSON IN APOSTASY
The Christian Reformed Church adopted the three points of common grace in 1924. It was claimed at that time by Revs. Hoeksema, Ophoff, and Danhof that these three points vitiated the truth and destroyed the foundation of the Christian’s antithetical walk in the world. The Christian Reformed Church hotly denied this and insisted that there, was no threat at all to the doctrinal and spiritual well-being of the denomination.
History has sadly proved the charge that was made to be correct; history has conclusively shown that the forcible denial of the charge amounted to little more than batting the air.
To anyone who is at all acquainted with what is going on in this denomination, it is evident that the road of apostasy begun in 1924 is being swiftly traveled to a terrible destination. The “liberals” in that Church have seized the banners and are marching boldly and relentlessly the way of false doctrine. They are taking the Church with them. And no one seems able or willing to stop them.
The last issue of the Reformed Journal was, from cover to cover, an illustration of this. In article after article the push is one to hurry the Church on the way of heresy and worldliness. And, so often, the appeal is made to the doctrine of common grace to justify this conduct.
A brief sampling of this current issue will demonstrate the truth of this.
Prof. Harold Dekker is writing again about his current heresy of God’s love to all men. We need not go into a discussion of this; our editor has been and still is showing the falsity of the whole position. But a few quotes show how insistent Dekker is on his position and how easily he brushes aside all the careful exegesis that has condemned his position.
In commenting on John 3:16, Dekker writes:
So the question remains: Which people are the object of God’s love in Christ, all or some? If we emphasize cosmic totality, are not all people included? If we emphasize sinful totality, are not all sinners included? No matter how agile one may be in elaborating the concept of totality as an interpretation of “world,” sooner or later he must face the basic question as to .which persons this totality includes. To this question there are two possible answers: all men or the elect. The former is the plain, common sense reading. The latter seems to be essentially theological exegesis. . . . When faced with the alternatives that “world” in
means all men or the elect, I hold that it means the former.
I am, therefore, ready to say to any man, “God loves you!” In so saying I believe .that I am saying what God has said in His Word and what He wants me to say. For God has declared that He loves all men and He has given me, and all believers, the task of telling them that He loves them. . . .
A little later he writes:
For whom did Christ die? The usual answer to this question in the Christian Reformed Church is that Christ died for the elect. That answer, in fact, has been given official sanction in our synodically published Compendium of Christian Doctrine. . . .
To answer the question, “For whom did Christ die?” by saying, “the elect,” is an answer that is neither complete nor accurate according to Scripture and the confessions. . . . “For whom did Christ die?” Will the believer then quote the answer he learned from the Compendium as a catechumen? If he does so, he will distort the gospel, confuse the unbeliever, and he may lose the opportunity for further witness. It seems to me that the proper answer, with suitable elaboration, would run something like this: “Christ died for all men. This is what the Bible tells us. His death is sufficient for you. He desires your salvation. God will forgive your sins if you repent and believe. Christ died for you!”
In a footnote on the subject of the wrath of God, Dekker writes:
Scripture passages which speak of the hatred of God must be taken into account. Without giving them detailed consideration here, the following factors may be noted:
(a) There is a difference between hating the sin and hating the sinner. . . .
(b) “Hate” in Scripture sometimes means “love less” rather than the very opposite of love. . . .
(c) “Hate” in the Old Testament must be seen in the light of progressive revelation. . . .
By point (c) Dekker means that the hate of the people of God in the Old Testament was changed by command of Christ to love in the New Testament. The whole footnote is, of course, a complete denial of the hatred of God. It is difficult to understand why Dekker does not honestly say that he stands in basic conflict with our Canons and that he desires that the Church dispose of them at once.
In connection with this same point, James Daane has also a few brief comments in another article. He is afraid that the doctrine of common grace has often been misinterpreted by the people of the Christian Reformed Church. In fact, even by the Synod. The misinterpretation has been that the Church distinguished between common grace and special grace. This is correct, as is evident from what the Synod said on this point in 1959:
“The doctrine of irresistible grace would indeed be jeopardized, if we held that the grace shown to the elect is the same as that shown to creatures in general. We would then be guilty of the error of the Arminians who teach that all men enjoy the same grace.”
But Daane thinks this is a serious mistake. Such a distinction undermines the sovereignty of God. And the same thing is true of God’s love. In the current discussion concerning Dekker’s views on God’s love, some want to make a distinction (and, at times, it seems as if Dekker also makes this point) between a kind of love that is shown to all men but does not save, and a love shown only to the elect which does save. But Daane does not want anything of this distinction. The concept of sovereignty is then, sacrificed.
It seems to escape notice that when the two kinds of grace or love are posited, the free sovereignty of God, which the distinctions were intended to protect, is in fact surrendered. If there is a divine love or grace that is in its nature an electing and saving love, then election and salvation are necessary. Rut a divine love and grace that by its nature necessarily elects and saves, undermines the free sovereignty of God. Similarly, a divine love and grace that by its nature cannot elect and cannot save also undermines the free sovereignty of God.
Daane does not draw the conclusions of this position. He says that he does not want to enter into the controversy. But he is surely carrying the whole matter to its logical end. The conclusions are obvious: there is only one kind of grace and one kind of love after all. Common grace is special grace, and special grace is common grace. There is only one love of God. And this love is the same to all men. No fine theological distinctions on this matter of love and grace. It is the same always to all.
In 1951 the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church made a decision with respect to movie attendance. This decision followed upon another decision taken in 1923. I do not have these decisions before me; but evidently Synod did not condemn movie attendance outright, but rather issued a strong warning against them. Synod refused to condemn them as always sinful.
At present an argument is once again going on as to the interpretation of Synod’s decision. Rev. J.B. Hulst, representing a committee from Northwest Iowa which is studying the question, wants to maintain that although Synod did not condemn movies per se, their decision was tantamount to this. Daane dissents, and insists rather that this is exactly what Synod did not do. He rather maintains that Synod precisely encouraged movie attendance, if proper selectivity was exercised.
I have no desire to enter the discussion as to what their Synod meant with these decisions. Much less do I care now to condemn or defend Synod’s position. The point is that the Reformed Journal wants to go on record as encouraging movie attendance. This may be Synod’s fault, but the additional step into the world is being encouraged by this “periodical of Reformed comment and opinion.” The paper ought to be condemning it and urging Synod to retract’ its decision. But this is what common grace is doing.
In past months, a heated argument has developed between the editors of the Reformed Journal and certain individuals in the Christian Reformed Church over the question of separate Christian organizations—particularly Christian political parties and Christian labor unions. Those who are carrying the burden of the defense of Christian organizations in labor and politics are two men from the Canadian Christian Labor Association—Messrs. Antonides and Vandezande, and Mr. Joseph Gritter, Secretary of the Christian Labor Association in this country.
It is not my purpose to enter into this discussion eider. Especially I have no intention of coming to the defense of separate Christian organizations. But I do wish to comment on the strong pleas being made by theReformed Journal editors for participation in so-called “neutral” labor organizations. The editors do not want to condemn Christian organizations out of hand. They are good in their way; they have their place; they may serve a useful purpose, under certain conditions. But, not only is membership in neutral labor unions a thing to be permitted; it is to be encouraged. Once again the blame for this position must be laid. at the feet of the Christian Reformed Synod which refused to condemn membership in neutral labor unions; but the fact remains that the editors of the Reformed Journal are militant in their defense of such membership and are determined to wave the banner of these unions in the Church. They want to hasten the ride down the road of worldliness.
Prof. Henry Stob discusses the matter at length. Surprisingly, he frankly admits that the unions are organized for the express purpose of bringing force to bear on the employer so that management is compelled to capitulate to union demands. This lies in their very nature.
The fact is that labor unions and political parties, whether Christian or not, are “power structures.” They are this because they have, and of necessity must have, in their possession certain instruments and techniques of constraint. Without these instruments and techniques of constraint, without the “force” and “compulsion” that they can bring to bear upon people, they would cease to be what they are.
It should be obvious that without the “strike weapon” a labor union ceases to be a labor union. Without the power to “compel” management to yield to its demands a union is nothing but an educational institute or a propaganda agency; it is not a union. A labor union, from its very nature is unlike a Church or a School or a Newspaper or a Radio Station or any other such thing. Churches, schools, and similar organizations teach, proclaim, witness, persuade, convince, and thereby “exert influence,” but they do not have the capacity or the right to “constrain,” “force,” or “compel.” This is because they are not in their nature “power structures” as labor unions assuredly are.
His conclusions are:
My own position is that separate Christian organization is neither principally impermissible nor principally mandatory. I hold that separate Christian organization represents responsible Christian strategy; that it constitutes a way or method by which to implement a Christian concern for society and the state; that in some countries and at some times it is the best way to implement this concern, but that in other countries’ and at other times this may not be the case. . . . I hold that separate Christian organization is not itself a principle nor immediately derivable from a principle. . . .
I hold furthermore, that labor unions and political parties can be neutral. This does not mean that any man can be neutral. Every man is either in Christ or out of Him and is, deep down, operating either in the service of de City of God or of the City of the World. But these two sorts of men must co-operate in this world, and I hold that they can do this, and sometimes should do this, in neutral, i.e., non-ideologically structured, organizations that are established to achieve goals common to Christians and non-Christians.
This matter of neutrality of labor unions is the key point. But how in the world an organization can be neutral while a member of it cannot be is a mystery to me. Is not the organization exactly its members? Would there be an organization without any members? And surely the very fact that a labor union is a “power group” to force its position on the employer already makes mockery of its neutrality.
Prof. Lester De Koster writes even more passionately in defense of membership in these unions. We have not the space to make any quotes from his article; but he turns his able and fluent pen to a defense of the proposition that we must exert our Christian influence in these “neutral” organizations. He wants no part of any contention that membership in these unions involves one in their sin. He reacts vigorously against any talk of the antithesis in this connection—at least inasmuch as membership might be a denial of the antithesis; and he pleads with the membership in the Church to accept their Christian responsibilities in joining in these movements because “God has used others to give of their sweat, of their blood, and of their women’s tears to erect the far-flung battlements of labor.”
The Christian Reformed Church has gone a long way in a short time. Why do not those who deplore all this stand up and shout? Can they? Will they?