In common with all who have thus far written about the Dekker Case, Dr. James Daane also sees a connection between Prof. Harold Dekker’s theology of the love of God and the atonement of Christ and the First Point of 1924. And in this mere fact as such, Daane is undoubtedly correct. We have repeatedly called attention to the very striking fact that no one is able to write about Prof. Dekker’s theory of a general love of God and unlimited atonement without reference to 1924, and, of course, our Protestant Reformed position over against 1924. Besides, we have repeatedly emphasized that any attack on Prof. Dekker’s position must needs suffer shipwreck, from a Christian Reformed point of view, on the reef of common grace, particularly “het puntje van het Eerste Punt,” namely, the general, well-meant offer of the gospel.
Dr. Daane is a clear illustration of both propositions.
In the first place, he discovers such an inherent connection between 1964 and 1924 (Dekker and the First Point) that one comes to the conclusion that Mr. Daane has a common grace fixation. With the First Point as his point of departure, Daane theologizes, that is, engages in theological speculation and theorizing until he arrives indeed at a theology of grace that may well be called “a theology of common grace,” or perhaps more aptly, “a theology of general grace,” (algemeene genade in distinction from gemeene gratie). At this writing five articles have appeared from Daane’s pen; and of the five, four make direct mention of 1924 in their titles, while the fifth (“What Doctrine of Limited Atonement?”—Reformed Journal, Dec., 1964) also cannot avoid the subject of the well-meant offer of the gospel. Time was when the attempt was made to relegate common grace and 1924 to a comparatively minor place in Reformed theology; and the attempt was even made to explain our differences with the Christian Reformed Church as a mere matter of terminology. But Daane has a common grace fixation. He stares himself blind on common grace, as he sits in his theological ivory tower. The result is that Daane elevates common grace (but now in the Arminian sense of general grace, which is inherent in the well-meant offer of the gospel) to a major place, in fact, the dominant place in his theology. The result is, too, that Daane’s theology is, if anything, even more rankly Arminian than that of Prof. Dekker.
But, in the second place, Daane makes plain the futility of any attack on Prof. Dekker’s position on the basis of the First Point. Mr. Daane, of course, does not purpose to attack but to defend Dekker’s position. In so doing, he takes his starting-point in 1924. He uses the First Point as his springboard. He demonstrates,— would almost say with evastating accuracy,—he inconsistency of the First Point, in order then to carry that same First Point to its consistent and logical consequence, namely, a saving grace of God to all men. But thereby he, with all his speculating about the nub of the First Point, i.e., the grace of God, demonstrates the inconsistency and the futility of an attack on Dekker’s position by anyone who stands on the basis of the First Point.
In the light of the above, I would certainly advise the Christian Reformed constituency to listen to Dr. Daane and to pay very careful attention to what he has to say on the subject of the First Point of 1924 in connection with the Dekker Case. They may indeed learn from him! His current articles in the Reformed Journalought to be spread far and wide among the Christian Reformed membership and studied very carefully and critically.
Lest there be any misunderstanding of the preceding statement, let me emphasize that I mean this seriously. This is not a tongue-in-cheek or a sarcastic statement.
Let me explain.
After all, the deepest issue in 1924 was this: is God’s grace for the elect only, or is His grace also for the reprobate? Whether you have in mind so-called common grace in the sense in which Abraham Kuyper Sr. taught it (gemeene gratie), or whether you speak of a common grace (really a misnomer; it should be called “general grace”) in the so-called well-meant offer of the gospel, this basic issue remains: is God’s grace for all men, including the reprobate, or is His grace only for the elect? This basic issue was repeatedly stressed in our Protestant Reformed Witness by the pointed questions: 1. What grace do the reprobate, who are eternally and sovereignly destined for destruction, receive in such good gifts as rain and sunshine? Or: How are temporal things (rain, sunshine, prosperity, health, etc.) grace, a blessing, to the reprobate in the light of the Scriptural truth that with all these things God sets them in slippery places and casts them down to destruction? 2. What grace, blessing, do the reprobate receive through the preaching of the gospel when through that very preaching of the gospel their sin and unbelief are aggravated, they are hardened; and their condemnation is made the heavier?
The First Point intended (but could not succeed) to maintain that there was such a grace, but that it was not saving grace. And the first generation defenders of the Three Points (e.g., Berkhof and H. J. Kuiper) strove to maintain this distinction, although they never could make plain especially how even any kind of common grace was connected with the preaching of the gospel and frequently made statements about the offer of the gospel which were essentially the same, though not as blunt, as those of Prof. Dekker about the love of God. (Cf. Standard Bearer, Vol. 39, p. 247, “Dekker, Berkhof, and H.J. Kuiper—A Comparison”)
Now Dr. Daane comes along and very boldly says in effect: Nonsense! We must forget about any qualitative distinction in God’s grace (and love), any common-grace-and-special (saving)-grace-distinction. That is inconsistent; and the First Point of 1924 is inconsistent and wrong. There is only one grace of God and one love of God to all men!
And Daane is right-wrong. He is right when he says the First Point is inconsistent. He is right when he says there is only one grace and one love of God. But he is dead wrong and completely Arminian when he wants to include all men in that one grace of God.
Anyone with a grain of Reformed feeling should sense this and discern it. It is plain as the sun in the heavens.
And so Dr. Daane is assisting in bringing the Christian Reformed Church to the cross-roads toward which they began traveling in 1924 when they adopted the First Point.
That cross-roads confronts the Christian Reformed Church with the choice: the pure and simple Reformed truth of one grace of God for the elect only, or the old Arminian error of one grace of God for all men.
The old, traditional explanation of the First Point has brought the Christian Reformed Church to a dead-end street. It is now either to the right or to the left. Another choice there is not. If a choice is made for the left (Arminianism), they must understand clearly that the right (the Reformed truth) is left behind. And the dead-end street is also left behind. 1924 and the First Point and common grace in the traditional sense will never be a live issue again.
It is for this reason that I wrote above that the Christian Reformed constituency should listen carefully to what Dr. Daane has to say. There are currently claims being made that the Christian Reformed laity is becoming aroused. And well they might be! But let them study Daane’s writings. Let them learn from him the utter inconsistency of the First Point. And then, if there is any love for the Reformed faith in them, let them become truly aroused to the fact that Daane will take them completely down the road of Arminianism,—all in the name of common grace. Let them become so thoroughly aroused that they return to the pure Reformed truth as we have consistently maintained in our Protestant Reformed Churches ever since 1924. If there is an element of the Christian Reformed laity that can still become thoroughly aroused for the pure Reformed faith, so aroused that they cannot rest satisfied with this Arminianizing tendency; I assure them that they will find support and sympathy from theStandard Bearer,—not because we wish to capitalize on Christian Reformed troubles, but because we love the Reformed faith and sympathize with all who will maintain it without compromise.
For this reason, as well as to keep our own Protestant Reformed people posted, I want to comment on Dr. Daane’s theologizings in detail.