I have been looking for articles in The Reformed Journal by Prof. Dekker that would further explain his view concerning the love of God to all men. If I remember correctly, he promised to elaborate further on the above mentioned proposition. Naturally, I am interested in the case, not because I like to see Prof. Dekker disciplined or deposed from his office as professor in Calvin Seminary; but, first of all, because I certainly would like to see how Dekker himself would harmonize his stand with the Reformed Confessions; and, secondly, because I would also like to know what stand the Christian Reformed Church will ultimately take in this matter.
But thus far I have looked in vain for any material on the matter by Prof. Dekker.
But, perhaps, it will come yet. As soon as it appears I will inform our readers.
The only article that was written in regard to this case appeared in the last Reformed Journal I so far received and was written by Dr. Boer. He does not enter into the contents of Dekker’s teaching, but brings up a church political question. According to him, Classis Orange City as well as the consistory that brought the Dekker case to classis did wrong by bringing the case to Synod. They ought to have contacted the consistory of Neland Ave., Grand Rapids, under which Dekker resorts. According to him, moreover, the Formula of Subscription has nothing to do with the matter.
In this, however, he is in error. True, if Prof. Dekker is to be disciplined in regard to his life and walk as a member of the church, the case must be dealt with by the Consistory of Neland Ave. But that is not the case here. It does not concern Dekker as a member of the church, but as a professor in the Seminary. And this does not belong to the Consistory of Neland Ave., but to the Curatorium and, ultimately, to Synod. I do not wish, at the present time, to go further into this matter, but this can easily be proved.
Now, what did Synod decide in the Dekker case?
The answer is: nothing . . . as yet.
Let us, in this connection, first of all, remind ourselves of the overture which Classis Orange City sent to the Synod. It reads as follows:
“In regard to the theological position reflected in Prof. Harold Dekker’s articles in the Reformed Journal, Dec. 1962, and Feb. 1963 under the title God so loved—all men we register serious objections. We cite as crucial expressions of his position the following: ‘By no strain of exegesis can God’s redemptive love be confined to any special group. Neither the language of this verse nor the broadest context of Scripture will allow any other interpretation but that God loves all men.’ (See Reformed Journal, Dec. 1962, p. 5.) The latter expression ‘God loves all men’ in the context can mean only redemptive love. Again we quote from theReformed Journal, Feb. 1963, p. 14, ‘Nevertheless, those who do not believe are included in the number of those whom God loves with a redemptive love, for they are included in the category of the “world.'” This we believe is an unscriptural interpretation. Since we believe that if God loves all men redemptively all men must be saved, Prof. Dekker’s position conflicts with the creedal statement of articles 8 and 9 of Chapter II of the Canons of Dordt.
“We are of the conviction that the voices raised in objection to Prof. Dekker’s articles within our own denomination are indications of suspicion. Since Professor Dekker has promised by signing the Form of Subscription ‘that upon sufficient ground of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine we do hereby promise to be always ready and willing to comply with requisition,’ namely, of ‘further explaining our sentiments respecting any particular article,’ we petition Synod that Synod require Prof. Dekker to give further explanation of his position, so that if Prof. Dekker’s position be truly Reformed and Scriptural, Synod may clear him of, suspicion, and should Synod find his position not in harmony with the Scriptures and the creeds, that Synod take appropriate action ‘to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine in our church and seminary.”
Now, again I ask: what did Synod do with this overture?
And the answer is: nothing . . . . as yet.
But why not?
Well, let us see. The Synod gave the overture of Orange City in the hands of a committee and the committee could not agree on the matter. The result was that the committee came to Synod with a majority and a minority report.
The majority report was in favor of granting the Classis Orange City their request that Prof. Dekker should be examined concerning his views by Synod. The minority report advised Synod that it should reply to Classis Orange City that it should supply grounds for its charge or submit sufficient grounds for its suspicion.
What became of the majority report? It was “tabled.” And it was never taken from the table; it must still be there.
In the meantime the minority report was discussed and, after some revision, was adopted. In its revised form the decision of Synod now reads as follows:
“Synod did not accede to the overture of. Classis Orange City because Classis did not supply adequate grounds for its charge or submit sufficient evidence for its suspicion.”
To my mind, this is a very poor decision that is wholly unworthy of a Synod!
1. Because the decision is entirely negative, and that, too, in such an important matter as the doctrinal instruction of a seminary professor! If I had been Professor Dekker, I would have demanded that the Synod would have passed a motion something like this: “Synod express that, in the light of the fact that Classis Orange City has cast suspicion on Prof. Dekker’s instruction in Calvin Seminary, it has complete confidence in Dekker’s instruction because it is Scriptural and Reformed.” As this merely negative decision stands, Synod makes the instruction of Prof. Dekker appear more suspicious than ever.
2. Because all the terms used in this decision are themselves suspicious, hesitant, uncertain, ambiguous. Mark you, Synod did not express that Classis Orange City had no grounds at all for its overture, but merely that it did not have adequategrounds. It did not say that the Classis did not submit any evidence at all for its suspicion, but that it did not submit sufficient evidence.
O, how wholly unworthy of the broadest gathering of any church is this negative and ambiguous decision!
But let us look once more at the overture of Classis Orange City. Is it really so inadequate and insufficient that Synod could not and should not have treated it?
The overture contains the following elements:
1. There is an introductory sentence stating that Classis Orange City has serious objections against the instruction of Prof. Dekker.
2. Secondly, the Classis Orange City presents the reasons or grounds for objections! They do this by quoting from Prof. Dekker’s articles in the Reformed Journal.
3. They state that Prof. Dekker’s position is in conflict with the Creeds of the Church. They refer especially to Canons II, 8, 9. These articles read as follows:
“For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will of God the Father, that the saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly unto salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen unto salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.”
This is Article 8. And Article 9 reads as follows:
“This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell, so that the elect may in due time be gathered together into one, and that there never may be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.”
4. Further Classis Orange City calls attention to the fact “that the voices raised in objection to Prof. Dekker’s articles within our own denomination are indication of suspicion.” The voices, by the way, are raised not only by individual members within the church, but also by the editors of the official organs of the church, The Banner and De Wachter.
5. Finally, Classis Orange City appeals to the “Formula of Subscription” according to which Prof. Dekker promised “that upon sufficient ground of suspicion” he would always be ready to comply with the requisition of further explaining his sentiments concerning any particular part of the Confession of the Church.
The overture concludes by saying that, if the Synod finds that Prof. Dekker’s sentiments are really Reformed and Scriptural, he should be cleared of suspicion; but if, on the other hand, Synod should find that his position is not in harmony with Scripture and the Confessions, it should take appropriate action “to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine in our church and seminary.”
Now, I ask: what is so inadequate or insufficient about this overture?
What else could Classis Orange City have done to prove that the sentiments of Prof. Dekker are rightly under suspicion? The only thing they could have done and which might still be done is that, instead of referring merely to the Reformed Confessions, they also quote from Scripture.
If I were in the committee that is already appointed by Classis Orange City to serve as advice in the case of Dekker, I would say:
1. Let them advise the classis to elaborate on their original overture so they come with overwhelming proof from both Scripture and the Confessions that God does not love all men, but that He loves the elect only.
2. That then they ask Synod to “untable” the motion of the majority report which as far as I know must be still on the table; or, if this is impossible, which it probably is because the Synod already reached a decision, to ask Synod:
a. To retract the decision of Synod 1963.
b. To ask Synod to accede to the request of Classis Orange City to have Prof. Dekker examined according to the Formula of Subscription.
Once more, I want to emphasize that I have nothing against the person of Prof. Dekker. I am interested only to know whether the Christian Reformed Church, since 1924 and the adoption of the notorious Three Points, has so far gone off the Reformed track that they now subscribe to the out and out Arminian teaching that God loves all men.
P.S. My other editorials must wait, the Lord willing, till the next issue.