There is one segment of Dr. Daane’s evaluation of Tuininga’s view of reprobation which demands special attention. In writing about decretal theologians’ insistence that God must be regarded as the ultimate cause of all things, including the fall and reprobation, Daane writes:
Some of my readers may perhaps back off and say that these matters are too deep for them to evaluate. But there is a very simple and valid way to evaluate decretal theology. Would you dare, or have you ever heard a decretal theologian, say such things in prayer? Can you conceive of anyone confessing his sins and saying to God, “But You, God, are the ultimate cause of my sins”? Decretal theology betrays its unbiblical character by its inability to come to expression in our prayers and in our worship of God. But what cannot be said in prayer and worship is surely not good theology. The view of God’s sovereignty which says that God is the ultimate causation of everything and thus also the ultimate cause of reprobation is not a part of the content of your Christian faith or mine. If it were, we would express it in our prayers and worship of God. But who does? Not even those who argue for this kind of theology!
What about this argument, or test, proposed by Dr. Daane? We may leave aside the precise terminology, about which there may be difference of opinion. Not everyone may agree, for example, on an expression like “ultimate cause.” The basic question is whether the facts and events of sin and the fall have a place in the sovereign decree of the Most High. On this all decretal theologians (including infralapsarians, who prefer to speak of “permission”) agree. Against this Dr. Daane proposes the test described in the above paragraph.
In the first place, let me point out that Daane’s argument, if you analyze it, proves to be nothing but a very old argument in a new garb. What is that old argument? It is the argument that decretal theology makes God the author of sin. Or, in another form, it is the argument that decretal theology denies the responsibility of the sinner and—for this is its corollary—ascribes the responsibility to God instead.
In the second place, what is the uniform answer of confessionally decretal theologians to this argument? They repudiate it! In connection with reprobation (Canons I/A/15) they say: “. . . which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy). . . .” And in the Conclusion of the Canons they state that “the Reformed Churches not only do not acknowledge, but even detest with their whole soul” such a doctrine. Scripture deals with principally the same argument in Romans 9:19, 20: “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?”
In the third place, Daane ought to be ashamed of his scholasticism. For the argument proposed by Daane is essentially rationalistic and thus scholastic. And that from the man who so often rebukes decretal theology for its scholasticism! Any Reformed man should know that the “very simple and valid way to evaluate decretal theology” is the time-honored test of Scripture and the creeds., And since the creeds themselves are in question in the basic issue here (the Boer Gravamen), the test becomes that of Scripture directly. Besides, even in his rationalistic test Daane makes a very serious logical error. He makes an illogical jump from the specific to the general: 1) We cannot say in the particular instance of confessing our sins that God is the ultimate cause of our sins. 2) We cannot say this in prayer and worship in general (an unproved assumption). 3) What cannot be said in prayer and worship is not good theology. 4) Conclusion: decretal theology is not good theology.
In the fourth place; we may apply the test of Scripture and ask the following questions: 1) Does Scripture itself ascribe the facts and events of sin to God’s decree? 2) In Scriptural prayers and worship are the facts and events of sin accomplished by sinful men ascribed to God’s decree and providential activity? 3) Does Scripture in any way in prayer attribute the sins of God’s people to the sovereign God?
The answer to all three questions is Yes.
Numerous passages of Scripture might be cited in answer to the first question. But let me cite one which refers to the central sin of the ages, the crucifixion. By the way, it took place in worship: Peter was preaching! I refer to Acts 2:23, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”
In answer to the second question, I refer you to Acts 4:24-30, where we read in part: “And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is . . . For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. . . .”
In answer to the third question, I refer the reader to Isaiah 63:17, which is part of a prayer of Isaiah and the remnant: “O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?” In this connection I want to point out, too, that according to the original Hebrew the idea of causation is plainly present here. For both the verbs in this text are in the hiphil degree, the degree of the verb in Hebrew which plainly denotes causation.
There may be many questions which we cannot fully understand about the relation of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. But two things are abundantly plain from Scripture: 1) Scripture frequently teaches both truths, but never places them in contradiction of one another. 2) Scripture itself does not hesitate to employ far stronger expressions concerning God’s sovereignty and sin than many a theologian, even Reformed theologian, dares to employ.