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Love, redemptive, redeeming 

Dekker tries to make a distinction between redemptive and redeeming love. De Jong writes about this, too, in his article in “Torch and Trumpet.” And I quote him: 

“It seems to me that Prof. H. Dekker’s distinction between redemptive and redeeming love does not do full justice to all the facets of the problem. Perhaps if he would employ the distinctions indicated above, he could more adequately emphasize his point that there is a real redemptive love displayed to all who hear the gospel (remember that his original intention was geared to missions) and still unambiguously articulate the unique character of God’s love to the redeemed (the elect) for whom complete redemption was secured in Christ’s work. It seems to me that when all is said and done Dekker must hold to some qualitative distinction when he speaks about God’s love to sinners. It will be both instructive and interesting to hear more from our Professor in this matter . . .” 

Here we must stop for a moment. 

De Jong writes that it would have been better if Dekker had employed the “distinctions indicated above.” 

He refers especially to the preceding paragraph, which we have already quoted before. There he speaks of an “apparent contradiction,” and the apparent contradiction consists in the seeming contrast between God’s decretive will and the revealed will. According to the former, God loves only the elect, while according to the latter we may certainly speak of “the genuine redemptive character of God’s love in the preaching situation.” And he concludes this paragraph by the words: “‘Both aspects of this apparent contradiction must receive their accent if we are to do’ full justice to the adorable greatness of God’s love to sinners.” 

As I understand Dekker, he will have very little objection to De Jong’s explanation as expressed in the above words. After all there is really no difference between De Jong and Dekker. Both teach, to put it simply and clearly, that God loves all men with a redemptive love. De Jong says virtually the same thing as does Dekker although the approach and the phraseology is a little different. 

But let us now continue, for De Jong has more to say on this subject. 

He writes: 

“By saying ‘God reveals a genuine redeeming love in the gospel offer and yet he reveals this love in a unique way which does not cancel out or ignore the particular redeeming love of his decree or Christ’s atoning work,’ we can deal with Editor Vander Ploeg’s question. In his analysis of Dekker’s views he raised this question: ‘If God actually bestows his infinite love that isredemptive upon someone, how could this possibly stop short of being at the same time a redeeming love? (The Banner, March 1, 1963, p. 9).’ It seems to me that if we respect the theological formula (if there is a better one I would be most happy to learn of it), namely, God wills earnestly and genuinely in his revealed will that which he is not pleased to will in his secret or decretive will, then we can say in answer to the Editor: “We don’t know. God’s love as his will is so ineffably great, so adoringly variegated, so multiform in its oneness, that we can only bow before his unsearchable ways. The love of God, revealed, displayed, bestowed in the preaching situation freely comes to all, and yet we know that his love is irresistible and insuperable as it works itself out according to the counsel of his good pleasure. This attempted answer to Vander Ploeg’s legitimate question is only a confession of faith, devoid of logical consistency, hopefully unrelated to theological irrationality, and elicited by the ways of our Triune God whose judgments are unsearchable and whose ways are past tracing out.” 

What shall we say to all this? For the present, I will briefly make the following remarks: 

1. First of all, I would say that De Jong does not answer the question put by the Editor of The Banner. Vander Ploeg asked a question about the redemptive and the redeeming love of God. This distinction is made by Dekker, and, as we have seen, De Jong virtually agrees with him. But Vander Ploeg does not, as is evident from his question. Now, De Jong claims that he answers Vander Ploeg, but in reality he does not. The editor of The Banner virtually states that there is no difference between redemptive and redeeming love of God. The redemptive love of God is the same as his redeeming love. One that is the object of the one is also the object of the other. De Jong, first of all, says that there is both a redemptive and a redeeming love of God: “God reveals a genuine redeeming (I think he means redemptive love. H.H.) love in the gospel offer and yet he reveals this love in a unique way which does not cancel out or ignore the particular redeeming love of his decree or Christ’s atoning work.” 

When in quoting the above sentence I wrote in parentheses: “I think he means redemptive love,” I may be mistaken. But if this is the case, if he really meant to write redeeming love, then: 1) He does not answer Vander Ploeg at all, for he wrote exactly about the distinction which Dekker tries to make between redemptive and redeeming love. And, 2) Who does not know or who denies that the redeeming love of God is revealed in the gospel? 

2. De Jong finishes his-supposed answer to Vander Ploeg by saying in very flourishing-style: “We don’t know.” God’s love is great, so ineffably great! And that great love of God is revealed and displayed in the preaching situation (I wish that De Jong would expliain what he means by “‘the preaching situation,” for I do not understand this term) and that great love comes freely to all, yet it works itself out according to the sovereign and decree of God! In other words, this is really a mystery: ‘We don’t know.” This; then, is the final answer to Vander Ploeg’s question. 

But what is so mysterious about Vander Ploeg’s question? He simply states in question form that redemptive love is the same as redeeming love. And there is surely nothing mysterious about this whatsoever. A child can understand this. 

3. But now it becomes high time that we analyze this phrase: redemptive and redeeming love of God somewhat. And then I would emphasize the following: 

a. In the first place that it is love, love of God. Whether you speak of redemptive or redeeming love, it surely islove. God loves all men! This is the fundamental tenet of Prof. Dekker and also of De Jong, and others with them: God loves everybody! He hates no one! Let no one fail to understand this. And let not Dekker and De Jong and others with them camouflage or cover this up in order that, for the time being, at least, they may appear to be Reformed or even Scriptural, for it is neither! As long as God gives me life and breath I will shout from the housetops: anyone that claims that God loves all men is neither Reformed nor Scriptural, but is simply a heretic and nothing else! 

Of course, the beginning of all this doctrinal corruption must be found in the “Three Points” of 1924, especially in the first of them. As I advised Prof. Dekker more than once: if he were ever attacked officially in regard to his heretical view that God loves all men, he could safely appeal to the “Three Points” which virtually teach the same error. 

However, I confess that it makes me unspeakably sad that in such a comparably short time the Christian Reformed Church, in which I used to have a place, has so far departed from the truth that they can now embrace the error that God loves all men. 

Principally, the doctrine that God loves all men is a denial of the doctrine of reprobation. What is reprobation? It is the sovereign and unchangeable decree of God according to which He determined from all eternity to lead the nonelect, in the way of sin, to everlasting damnation. The relation between election and reprobation is not such that they stand on a par with each other, but rather such that reprobation serves election. But the question is: why is reprobation denied? Why is it never mentioned? And why is it not preached? My answer is that if one believes that God loves all men, reprobation must be denied. It would be a contradiction in terms to maintain that God loves the reprobate wicked. 

But how about Scripture? Does it teach that God loves all men, that He loves the wicked reprobate? Did He love all men in the predeluvian world who, evidently, so hated the people of God that, ultimately, only eight souls remained whom God saved in the ark? Did He love the people of Sodom and Gomorrah whom He utterly destroyed? Did He love Esau, as some claim He did, even though the Scriptures plainly declare that God hated, him? Did God love the Pharisees of Jesus’ day although He pronounces an eightfold woe upon them? Did God love those whom Paul mentions in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans? And how about the author of Psalm 139, who exclaims: “Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” May we say the same thing? Or must we condemn these words of the psalmist?

b. And now a few words about “redemptive” and “redeeming.” 

According to Webster, to redeem is to rescue and deliver us from the bondage of sin and from the penalties of Gods violated law. And it even quotes the text from Gal. 3:13: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. “And as to the adjective “redemptive” he has the explanation: “Serving or tending to redeem; redeeming; as the redemptive work of Christ.” We may, perhaps, also quote Webster on the noun “redemption.” On this he has: “The procuring of God’s favor by the sufferings and death of Christ; the ransom or deliverance of sinners from the bondage of sin and the penalties of God’s violated law”; And again he quotes a text from Ephesians 1:7: “In whom we have redemption through his blood.” 

Now, it is rather striking that the adjective redemptivedoes not occur in the Bible. It is not found in the original, either in the O.T. Hebrew or in the N.T. Greek. There is more than one word for, the idea of redeem, redeemer, and redemption, the verb and the nouns; but the adjective redemptive is never found. And this is true, not only of the original, but also of the English translation, as far as I can find. 

Is this, however, so important? Even though the term for redemptive is not used in the Bible, it is, nevertheless, a good English word and, therefore, may legitimately be used. 

This is true, of course. 

But it is quite different when it is employed to build upon it an entire philosophy about the love of God to all men, as does De Jong, and also Dekker. The last mentioned writer we will discuss in our next article. However, De Jong is quoted by Dekker in theReformed Journal of Jan. 1964 (or, perhaps, I should say “referred to”) in the following paragraph: 

“The excellent contribution of Dr. A.C. De Jong to this discussion (Reformed Journal, May-June 1963) is relevant here. He notes that the term redemptivemeans simply ‘connected with redemption’ and recognizes the legitimacy of using it to describe the love of God for all men. In the section of his article entitled, ‘God’s Love and the Complexities of History’ he sets forth a concept of universal redemptive love which has my full and appreciative approval.” 

The reader will understand how vicious and corrupt it is to build an entire doctrine upon a term that is not even found in the Bible. Scripture speaks of “redeem,” of “redeeming” love of God, of “redemption,” and of the “Redeemer,” but never of “redemptive love of God.” Just put it to a test by replacing the term “redemptive” by the Biblical word redeem and you get the following: 

“He notes that the term redemption means simply ‘connected with redemption’ and recognizes the legitimacy of using it to describe the love of God for all men. In the section of his article entitled ‘God’s Love and the Complexities of History’ he sets forth a concept of universal redeeming love. . . .” (I underscore). 

This is not only absurd, but is also worse than Arminianism. It is Barthian. 

Next time we will discuss what Prof. Dekker writes on this subject, the Lord willing. 

—H.H.