But for the rest, Dr. Daane is dead wrong!
He is wrong, in the first place, because he surely ought to begin with a confession of his own failure. For either he himself did not preach these truths in these twelve years of shuttling, or he did not listen to his own preaching. In either case he is wrong—dead wrong! In the former case, I would quote him the proverb, “Physician, heal thyself!” In the latter case, I would remind him that a preacher must preach to himself and must heed his own preaching: otherwise he cannot even be a good preacher. But part of the explanation of the fact that Daane did not hear these truths preached must lie in one of these two factors: for Daane himself tells us that he preached as well as sat in the pew.
The same is true with respect to Christian Reformed journalism. Daane is right in his serious criticism on this score. But he is dead wrong when he sets himself up as judge. He should have come with the confession, “I am the chief of sinners.” For he is one of the editors of the Reformed Journal, a magazine which surely is not famous for its sound theologizing on the very truths which Daane rightly claims should have a large Reformed emphasis. And when very occasionally Daane himself attempted some theologizing on these very subjects, it was surely always of such a kind as to theologize the truths of the Covenant and Grace and Election—especially the latter—right out of the pulpit, and, in fact, out of anyone’s thinking.
But Daane is dead wrong, too, in his diagnosis of the reasons for this grave illness in Christian Reformed preaching.
In the first place, Daane makes the diagnosis that these three characteristically Reformed and closely related truths of the Covenant, Grace, and Election were “put through the grid of the theologians” in the course of theological controversies. And the result, according to Daane, was that they were “theologized out of the pulpit and out of the vital religious interest of the membership of our churches.” He applies this, first of all, to the Covenant:
The Covenant was long a matter of theological controversy—the names of W. Heyns, H. Hoeksema, A. Kuyper, and K. Schilder come to mind. The Covenant was dissected, atomized, anatomized, and analyzed in terms of elect and reprobate, particular grace and common grace, internal and external covenant, and in terms of legal instrument and instrument of life.
And Daane then goes on to claim that the Covenant “came out of the controversy so encumbered by abstractions and qualifications that the pulpit said less and less about it.”
And on this Daane is wrong, dead wrong.
First of all, of the four men named there were only two that had anything directly to do with covenant theology in the Christian Reformed Church, namely, Hoeksema and Heyns. Dr. Schilder was twice boycotted and shunned by the CRC; and besides, when, after World War II his views of the covenant became known in this country, it was discovered that they were largely the views of Heyns. A. Kuyper’s covenant view never found much acceptance in the CRC. Hoeksema, although from his student days he opposed Heyns, never fully developed his covenant view until after the Christian Reformed Church cast him out. It was the covenant view of Prof. Heyns that won the day in the Christian Reformed Church—the very purely soteriological view which Daane later in his article says is so essential for the preaching of the covenant! Heyns, the theologian, and Heyns, the professor of homiletics, probably influenced more preachers in the Christian Reformed Church in yesteryear than any other man! Daane could hardly be more wrong on his facts of history!
But worse than this, Daane is dead wrong on the subject of theological controversy and on the matter of the truth being “put through the grid of the theologians.” The simple fact of history is that it has always been through this process that the truth has been refined and developed and brought to clarity of confession in the consciousness of the church. It is not controversy that has silenced the precious truths of God’s Word in the preaching of the church. It never has been thus. But when, in the process of theological controversy, a church—any church—forsakes the truth and embraces the lie, then it is inevitable that the truth will more and more be muted in the pulpit! And this is what has happened in the pulpits of the CRC. And it is traceable directly to theological error that has been taught by Christian Reformed theologians at Calvin College and Seminary! If Daane had written this, he might have done his church a service.
Daane applies this same theory to the truth of God’s grace. And there, if anything, he is even more wrong. Writes he:
This was followed by a controversy about Grace—the names of H. Hoeksema, K. Schilder, C. Van Til, H. J. Kuiper, and L. Berkhof come to mind. For the first time in the history of the church, common grace was officially and creedally posited alongside particular grace as orthodox doctrine. Out of this controversy came the Protestant Reformed Churches, and a CRC commitment to a view of grace its pulpits rarely, if ever, preach.
In the PRC the awareness eventually surfaced in the pulpit that even particular grace as they defined it, cannot be preached. At this point the PRC divided. After the CRC posited a divine grace for all men, decades followed in which a divine love for all men was regarded as heretical. Given such confusion, the pulpit said less and less about Grace. Explicit sermons on Grace were theologized out of the pulpit.
It is hard to imagine, even from an intellectual point of view, how Daane could be more wrong more often than in these two brief paragraphs.
First of all, he is wrong on his history again. K. Schilder and C. Van Til had nothing to do with the common grace controversy in the Christian Reformed Church, i.e., until long after “common grace was officially and creedally posited alongside particular grace as orthodox doctrine.” Again, K. Schilder was boycotted in 1939, mainly because the CRC leadership was afraid he might lend some support to the views of the PRC. And though I was only a high schooler, I can still hear him in his peculiar Dutch accent growl his complete disgust at the refusal of the Christian Reformed leaders at the Pantlind Conference even todiscuss the issues. And of course, against Dr. Van Til, Daane also has long held objections; perhaps that explains his mention here. But surely, Van Til had no effect as such upon the controversy of 1924. And why did not Daane think in this connection of C. Bouma and E. van Halsema—yes, and also of Heyns, whose “soteriological” covenant view is so closely similar to the well-meant offer of the First Point of 1924?
Wrong Daane is, secondly, about the preaching of common grace. It was preached and taught so much—if not explicitly, then implicitly—that the antithesis, which is inseparable from sovereign, particular grace, was virtually preached right out of the pulpit and out of the vital religious interest of the membership of the CRC.
Dead wrong Daane is, thirdly, with respect to the general grace theory of the First Point. Does he not know this? Does he not know that H. J. Kuiper began to preach the Three Points already in 1925? Does he not know that H. J. Kuiper spoke of a divine love for all men, all sinners—and was never regarded as heretical? Does he not know that in pulpit and journal and radio broadcast the well-meant offer, (het puntje van het eerste punt!), was often preached?
And more wrong he could not be than in his analysis of the reasons why the De Wolf group left us and returned to the Christian Reformed Church! Such unadulterated hogwash I have rarely read! Imagine! The awareness eventually surfaced in the pulpit that even particular grace as they defined it, cannot be preached! Does not Daane remember that De Wolf was disciplined for preaching a general, conditional promise and conditional salvation? Does not Daane know that this is the very doctrine of Heyns? Does not Daane know that this is essentially the teaching of the Christian Reformed First Point? Does he not know that long before they returned to the CRC, we predicted that they would do so, because of a doctrine of particular grace that could not be preached, but because of a doctrine of grace which was principally Arminian that De Wolf was disciplined and his group left the PRC.
Nor was it due to confusion that “the pulpit said less and less about Grace.” Grace was indeed theologized out of the CRC pulpits, but by the false theology of the Three Points! For it stands to reason that according as salvation becomes a matter of man and his free will, and according as grace and salvation are made dependent upon man, so grace is not and cannot be preached. For under such theology, grace is no more grace!
Nor is it true that decades followed 1924 in which a divine love for all men was regarded as heretical. Daane could not be more wrong. On the contrary, the development of doctrine and of the pulpit was such that finally it became completely impossible in the concrete case of Prof. Harold Dekker to declare heretical the teaching that God loves all men and that Christ died for all men. Indeed, there were those who publicly vowed that Dekker’s doctrine had to be declared anti-confessional. I recall that one even openly declared that if this were not done, he would be compelled to go up and down the country speaking against it. But when it came to a show-down, all the opposition dissipated like the morning mist. And all the infamous Synod of 1967 was able to agree on was a non-doctrinal and non-ecclesiastical statement that Dekker’s statements were “ambiguous and abstract!”
Traceable merely to theologizing? No. To theological controversy? Not at all.
But traceable directly to the First Point of 1924. Since that black day in the history of the Christian Reformed Church, truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
Dead wrong Daane is, too, in his diagnosis of the silencing of Election. He writes:
And much the same is true about Election. How many CRC pulpits preach Election these days? How many preach reprobation? After Election went through the grid of the controversies over Covenant and Grace, the pulpit reacted to it with increasing silence. After the theologians had wrought their work on Election, the pulpit did not know what to do with what it was left with. Hence the current state of affairs in which a man can be removed from his pulpit for denying what in his pulpit he never mentions. This surely points to something profoundly wrong.
I confess that I do not know to what Daane refers in the last part of this paragraph.
But for the rest, Daane is dead wrong again in his analysis. For the reason for pulpit-silence on this doctrine is not the mere fact that it passed through the grid of the controversies over Covenant and Grace. The reason is that once the universalism of grace was established in 1924 as official church doctrine, it became utterly inconsistent to speak of particularism, that is, of election and reprobation. The reason lies in the fact that once it became established, a la Heyns, that the promise is for al& it became impossible consistently to speak of the sovereign distinction of election and reprobation. Ultimately, you see, it is impossible for a church to run on two theological tracks. As you try to follow them, they become more and more divergent; and a choice has to be made. Faced by such a choice in its pulpits, the CRC chose the Arminian track.
Herein lies the reason why the CRC is less and less distinguishable from so-called evangelical churches. Herein lies the reason why the CRC can cooperate with and support such movements as Campus Crusade and the Billy Graham campaigns and Key ’73. They have indeed abandoned their distinctiveness. They abandoned it in their theology; and inevitably they abandoned it, and continue more and more to abandon it, in their pulpits. And I make bold to say that no one can stem the tide, and no one will be able to stem the tide—UNLESS he goes back to the root issues of 1924 and undoes the horrible sins perpetrated against the Reformed faith .at that time. It is spiritually and ethically impossible!