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Redemptive—Redeeming love 

In my last article on the above mentioned subject I emphasized that, whether one uses the term redemptive or redeeming love of God, it is certainly Love. 

With this Prof. Dekker fully agrees, as is not only evident from his chief proposition: “God loves—all men,” but also from his latest article in the Reformed Journal under the caption “Redemptive Love and the Gospel Offer.” In this article he first of all mentions and criticizes the “Three Points” of 1924, and then he continues: “But is not the offer of the gospel redemptive in character? Does it not pertain directly to redemption? Is there not then ample reason for speaking of divine redemptive love toward all men? 

“As a matter of fact, I am ready to go one step further and say, as I have said previously in the Reformed Journal discussion of the love of God and missions, that there is only one love of God to sinners and that this one love may be characterized as redemptive.” 

I have also explained that the term “redemptive” is never used in Scripture. The Bible speaks of redemption and redeeming love of God, but never of God’s redemptive love. 

It almost seems that Dekker identifies “redemption” and “redemptive.” For in the quotation mentioned above he writes that the “offer of the gospel is redemptive in character,” and that it “pertains directly to redemption.” 

Now, I have no objection that “there is only one love of God to sinners,” and that this one love of God is surely redeeming. However, Dekker, when he writes that there is only one love of God to sinners, means to say that God loves all sinners; and this is neither Scriptural nor Reformed. This is, as I wrote before, pure universalism. 

What is the love of God? In answer to this question I would briefly say the following: 

1. First of all: “God is love.” I John 4:8, 16. This means that love is the most essential virtue or attribute of God. It means, too, that God lives the life of pure love. It, finally, implies that God loves Himself, and that as the triune God He lives the life of most perfect and intimate fellowship within Himself and loves the creature for His name’s sake. 

2. Secondly, God loves Christ, His only begotten Son in the flesh. Repeatedly He announces from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And in that high priestly prayer we find in John 17:23 we read: “That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” And in vs. 24 we read: “For thou lovest me before the foundation of the world.” 

3. God loved, not all men, but His people, those whom the Father has given Him. Thus we read in I John 3:1: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” That this love is not for all men is evident from what follows in the same verse: “therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.” In I John 4:9: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” And in vs. 10 of the same chapter: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” And that the personal pronoun in these verses does not refer to all men is very evident from the context. There we read of “false prophets” that “are gone out into the world.” In vs. 5 ff. we read: “They are of the world (the world of evil men, H.H.): therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” 

4. The fruit of this love of God to us is, of course, that we love God and also love one another. For this I do not have to quote: for, in the first place, this is evident from all Scripture, and, in the second place, we are writing about the love of God to men. 

Now, how in. the light of Scripture as quoted above, Dekker can maintain that God loves all men is, I confess, impossible for me to understand. Nor can I understand the distinction which he makes between “redemptive” and “redeeming” love of God. Fact is, I doubt very much whether he understands this himself. If he does, I wish he would make it clear. Thus far he has failed to do so, at least, as far as I am concerned. 

In the next article, published in the Reformed Journal of March, 1964, Prof. Dekker expresses himself very boldly and also very heretically. In the very first paragraph he writes: 

“THE GOSPEL IS GOD’S GOOD NEWS—THE GOOD NEWS that He ‘so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16) ‘and that Christ Jesus . . . gave himself a ransom for all’ (I Tim. 2:5). For whom is this news? For the world—for all men. God loves all! Christ died for all! It is our joyful task to tell all men the, news.” It stands to reason that, if it be true that God loves all men, He can hate no one. It is for that reason, no doubt, that Dekker, in a footnote attempts to explain away the meaning of the term “hate” in Scripture. He makes three observations. First, he writes that there is a difference between hating sin and hating the sinner. Secondly, he observes that “hate” in Scripture sometimes has the meaning of ‘love less?’ And thirdly, he writes that the word “hate” in Scripture; at least in the Old Testament, must be seen in the light of progressive revelation. Of course, the reader understands that even so Dekker does not and cannot deny that in several passages of Scripture the word means “hate persons.” He merely does not mention this. 

But let us see. 

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for “hate” is SANEE. It is used of both persons and things. In some forms of this verb it means a hater, one that hates, an enemy. And derived from the same verb is a noun that means hatred. But always the word simply means “hate” and never “love less.” Thus the word is used in Ps. 5:5: “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight, thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” Does God love all men, Prof. Dekker? Are not all the workers of iniquity excluded? 

Then there is the passage of Malachi 1:2, 3: “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau.” Dekker likes to interpret this passage as meaning “I loved Esau less than Jacob.” Writes he: “Perhaps, Romans 9:13, which quotes Malachi 1:1-5, is to be understood in the same way.” But this is impossible as far as the text in Malachi is concerned for as I said above, the verb SANEE used in Malachi never means anything else than hate. For the same reason also the verb used in Romans 9:13 (emiseesa) must mean the same thing. 

In this connection I, too, would adduce a few quotations from Calvin as Dekker also does. It is true that Calvin wrote many things, and he is not always the same. I prefer to quote from the book that was given to me by Henry Atherton after I preached in Grove Chapel, London, on July 21, 1929. This work of Calvin is almost entirely controversial and that, too, on the important subject of predestination, election and reprobation. He also writes on the passage of Scripture found in Romans 9 and the truth that God loved Jacob and hated Esau. And this is the reason why I quote him in this connection. 

Here, then, follow a few quotations: 

“Now let that memorable passage of Paul (Rom. 9:10-13) come forth before us. This passage alone should abundantly suffice to put an end to all controversy among the sober-minded and obedient children of God. And although it is no wonder that that eyeless monster, Pighius, should mock with contempt the words of the apostle himself, yet I hope I shall bring all readers of a sound mind to abhor such barbarous audacity in profaning the Scripture as this monster evinces. . . .” 

Then Calvin first of all cites and explains the promise to Abraham that Sarah shall have a son. And then he continues: “And not only this (saith the apostle), but when Rebecca also had conceived. by one, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might, stand, not of works but of him that calleth), it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Rom. 9:10). 

Then, after Calvin has contradicted Pighius’ contention that such passages as these are better left alone, because the reader cannot properly understand them, he continues: 

“The apostle places before us the two sons of Isaac, who, when begotten together in the secret and sacred womb of nature, as in a temple. of God, as it were, were nevertheless, while in the womb together, separated by the oracular word of God to an entirely different destiny. Now the apostle assigns the cause of this difference (which otherwise might have been sought in the merits of the lives of these two children) to the hidden counsel of God. ‘That the counsel of God might stand.’ We here distinctly learn that it was determined of God to choose one only out of these two children. And yet, Pighius by a senseless cavil, as by a hog’s snout, tries to root up these words of the apostle with all their positive plainness of meaning. He replies that the election of grace here means that Jacob had merited no such thing beforehand. But since the apostle commends this electing grace of God on the very ground that while the one was elected, the other was rejected, the vain fiction of Pighius falls to the ground at once. The apostle does not here simply, say that Jacob was appointed heir of life, that the election of God might stand, but that his brother being rejected, his brother’s birthright was conferred on him. I am fully aware what some other dogs here bark out, and what are the murmurings of many ignorant persons, that the testimonies of the apostle which we have cited do not treat of eternal life, nor of eternal destruction at all. But if such objectors held the true principles of theology in any degree (which ought to be well known by all Christian men), they would express their sentiments with a little less confidence and insolence. For the answer of God to Rebecca’s complaint was designed to show her that the issue of the struggling which she felt in her womb would be that the blessing of God and the covenant of eternal life would rest with the younger. And what did the struggling itself signify, but that both the children could not be heirs of the covenant at the same time, which covenant had already, by the secret counsel of God, been decreed for the one.” 

Calvin mentions still other objectors who hold that the covenant referred to the land of Canaan. Thus according Malachi. To this Calvin replies that the land of Canaan was, indeed, promised to Abraham but, nevertheless, it was only a symbol of a better inheritance. And then Calvin continues: “These great ends and objects are those which the prophet is revolving in his deep and reflective mind. In a word, the prophet is holding Canaan to be the sacred habitation of God. And as Esau was deprived of this habitation, the prophet sacredly gathers that he was hated (not loved less, H.H.), because he had been thus rejected from the holy and elect family on which the love of God perpetually rests. . . . The apostle expressly declares that the brothers were thus separated, and this difference made between them, before either of them had done any one thing good or evil. From these facts the apostle solemnly settles it, that the difference made between the children was not from any works whatever, but from the will of him that called.” 

Pighius also avers that God’s election is based upon the foreseen works of the elect. To this Calvin replies: “Why does Paul so particularly say that the children had done neither good nor evil? but that he might do away with all respect of merit in them? Why? But that he might positively affirm that God drew his reasons from no other source than from his own mind and will when he pronounced so different a judgment on the twin brothers. . . . But I would first of all ask this question, If Esau and Jacob had been left to the course of their own common nature, what greater amount of good works would God have found in the latter than in, the former? Most decidedly the hardness of a stony heart in both would have rejected salvation when offered.” 

He also quotes from Augustine (as, in fact, he does more often), as follows: 

“That the redeemed are distinguished from the children of perdition by grace alone, which redeemed ones that common mass of original corruption would have gathered to the same perdition but for the free grace of God. Whence it follows, that the grace of God to be preached is that by which he makes men elect, not that by which he finds them such.” 

To this Calvin adds the following comments: 

“If God foresees anything in his elect, for which he separates them from the reprobate; it would have been quite senseless in the apostle to have argued that it was not of works, but of him that calleth,’ because God had said, ‘the elder shall serve the younger,’ when the children were not yet born.” 

Hence, Calvin rejects the theory proposed by the opponents of election and reprobation that predestination is based on foreseen good or evil and finds the only ground in the absolutely free and sovereign will of God. 

Calvin, moreover, also refers to the case of Pharaoh as it is quoted in the further context by the apostle: 

“We have next to consider the remaining members of the apostle’s sentence concerning the reprobate. Of these Paul brings before us Pharaoh as the most signal instance. For God himself thus speaks of him, by Moses: ‘And in very deed, for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power.’ . . . Pharaoh, therefore, is declared to be put forth openly and prominently as one whom God makes a memorable example of his power. . . . 

He continues: 

“If Pighius be anxious here to dwell upon the longsuffering of God, I fully agree with him; this fact, nevertheless, remains fixed and unaltered, that the reprobate are set apart in the purpose of God, for the very end that in them God might show forth his power. And that the longsuffering of God is, in the present instance, far removed from the apostle’s mind and argument is evidenced from his immediate inference, when he observes ‘Whom he will he hardeneth.’ . . . . . And most certainly the expression ‘raised up’ comprehends not less distinctly than summarily, what he had touched upon both concerning the elect and the reprobate, since he is claiming for God the right and the power to have mercy on whom he will, and to harden whom he will according to His own pleasure and purpose.” 

. . . . . “After the apostle had shown that God had made a distinction between the elect and the reprobate by his incomprehensible will, he draws in the same context the inference: ‘For he hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will he hardeneth.'” Calvin’s Calvinism, pp. 55, ff. 

I could quote a good deal more, but let this be sufficient. 

Sufficient it is to prove that Calvin certainly does not agree with Prof. Dekker’s main proposition that God loves all men. 

Sufficient it is, too, to show that Calvin does not teach that God loved Esau less than Jacob, as Dekker suggests, for he says repeatedly that God hated him. 

Finally, Calvin speaks repeatedly of election and reprobation, which Prof. Dekker does not and cannot believe.

But we are not finished yet with Dekker’s latest article. More next time, the Lord willing.