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Seminary Building Dedication Rescheduled

The above photo shows the main entrance of the new building of our seminary nearing completion. Actually the building is much nearer completion than this picture indicates. The exterior is complete, and the finishing work is nearing completion inside. It will probably be a close squeeze, but we hope to move in between semesters. 

To our consternation, after we could make no more changes in the last issue of the Standard Bearer, we discovered a conflict in dates. The new date of the dedication program is February 15, the Lord willing. The program will be at First Church, Grand Rapids. Why at First Church? Well, frankly we are looking for a capacity audience! After almost 50 years with no home of its own, our Theological School is at last going to have its own brand new building! What a wonderful occasion! What reason for thanksgiving the Lord our God is giving us! And by “us” I mean not only the personnel of the school, but our entire denomination, to whom the school belongs, We have reason for a joyous celebration and for thankful dedication! Let as many of us as possible — from near and far — join us on the evening of February 15! And let us make the auditorium of First Church reverberate with praises to our covenant God! 

A brief and worthwhile program of dedication has been planned, at which our new professor, Professor Robert Decker, will give the dedicatory address. 

Open house is also being planned. 

For out-of-town visitors there will be open house at the new building on the afternoon of Friday, February 15, from 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. For any who are unacquainted in the area, here are directions. Coming from the west on M21 from Holland, take the expressway at Jenison to 28th Street. Turn right down 28th Street to Ivanrest Ave. You can recognize Ivanrest by the pedestrian overpass just before you reach it. Turn right down Ivanrest past 44th Street. After that, you can’t miss it! Coming from the south on the US 131 expressway, exit at 54th Street. Go west on 54th Street to the end; jog over to 52nd Street. Follow 52nd Street to the third stop sign, which will be Ivanrest Ave. Turn right on Ivanrest, and you will be in sight of the building. 

For local visitors the open house has been set for Saturday afternoon, February 16, from 1 to 5 P.M. 

For those unable to attend, we will try to furnish more pictures of the finished building in the near future. 

But by all means, try to be present at this historic occasion!

The OPC and the “Free Offer” (5)

In this section of our critique we propose to examine, first of all, the Scriptural evidence that is adduced by the proponents of the offer-theory and to face the question whether their Scriptural evidence and their exegesis is valid. A second question, however, is necessarily involved, namely: is the exegesis of the Scriptural passages cited in harmony with the current thought of Scripture? To this question we shall also address ourselves. 

From time to time in the course of this discussion we shall also refer to the recent booklet by Pastor Errol1 Hulse, The Free Offer. Pastor Hulse is not Reformed, but Baptist; but he is rather widely acknowledged as a “Calvinistic Baptist,” to my mind a contradiction in terms, but a name which is used by some to denote a Baptist who holds to the doctrine of sovereign grace and the so-called Five Points of Calvinism. Because this booklet has received rather wide distribution and because its teachings continue to be acknowledged as representative of true Calvinism, we shall include it in our present critique. This can rather readily be done because the position of the booklet does not differ substantially from that of the Murray-Stonehouse booklet. Both would be termed by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia, which is critical of the offer-theory, as “Modem Modified Calvinism,” — in my opinion, too good a name for what is actually a fundamental denial of Calvinism. 

We begin with the Murray-Stonehouse pamphlet, and we allow the authors to present their first item of proof:

The Committee would now respectfully submit some exegetical material bearing upon this question and with a view to the resolution of it. 

Matthew 5:44-48

This passage does not indeed deal with the overtures of grace in the gospel. But it does tell us something regarding God’s benevolence that has bearing upon all manifestations of divine grace. The particular aspect of God’s grace reflected upon here is the common gifts of providence, the making of the sun to rise upon evil and good and the sending of rain upon just and unjust. There can be no as elect, are the beneficiaries of this favor, and it is that fact that is distinctly stated in verse 45. 

The significant feature of this text is that this bestowal of favor by God on all alike is adduced as the reason why the disciples are to love their enemies and do them good. There is, of course, a question as to the proper text of verse 44. If we follow the Aleph-B text and omit the clauses, “bless them who curse you, do good to them who hate you” as well as the verb “despitefully use,” the sense is not affected. And besides, these clauses, though they may not belong to the genuine text of Matthew, appear in

Luke 6:27-28

in practically the same form. Hence the teaching of our Lord undoubtedly was that the disciples were to love their enemies, do good to those who hated them, bless those who cursed them, and pray for those who despitefully used them and persecuted them. And the reason provided is that God himself bestows his favors upon his enemies. The particular reason mentioned why the disciples are to be guided and animated by the divine example is that they, the disciples, are sons of the Father. The obligation and urge to the love of their enemies and the bestowal of good upon them are here grounded in the filial relation that they sustain to God. Since they are sons of God they must be like their heavenly Father. There can be no doubt but that the main point is the necessity of imitating the divine example and this necessity is peculiarly enforced by the consideration of the final relation they sustain to God as their heavenly Father. 

It is just here, however, that it becomes necessary to note the implications of the similarity established and enforced as the reason for such attitude and conduct with reference to their enemies. The disciples are to love their enemies in order that they may be the sons of their Father; they must imitate their Father. Clearly implied is the thought that God, the Father, loves his enemies and that it is because he loves his enemies that he makes his sun rise upon them and sends them rain. This is just saying that the kindness bestowed in sunshine and rain is the expression of divine love, that back of the bestowal there is an attitude on the part of God, called love, which constrains him to bestow these tokens of his lovingkindness. This informs us that the gifts bestowed by God are not simply gifts which have the recipients but that they are also a manifestation or expression of lovingkindness and goodness in the heart or will of God with reference to those who are the recipients. The enjoyment on the part of the recipients has its ground as well as its source in this lovingkindness of which the gifts enjoyed are the expression. In other words, these are gifts and are enjoyed because there is in a true and high sense benevolence in the heart of God. 

These conclusions are reinforced by verse 48. There can be no question regarding the immediate relevance of verse 48 to the exhortation of verses 44-47, even though it may have a more comprehensive reference. And verse 48 means that what has been adduced by way of divine example in the preceding verses is set forth as epitomizing the divine perfection and as providing the great exemplar by which the believer’s attitude and conduct are to be governed and the goal to which thought and life are to be oriented. The love and beneficence of God to the evil and unjust epitomize the norm of human perfection. It is obvious that this love and beneficence on the part of God are regarded by our Lord himself as not something incidental in God but as that which constitutes an element in the sum of divine perfection. This is made very specific in the parallel passage in

Luke 6:35-36

where we read, “And ye shall be sons of the Most High, because he is kind towards the unthankful and evil. Ye shall be merciful, as your Father is merciful.” This word translated “merciful” is redolent of the pity and compassion in the heart of God that overflow in the bestowments of kindness. 

The sum of this study of these passages in Matthew and Luke is simply this, that presupposed in God’s gifts bestowed upon the ungodly there is in God a disposition of love, kindness, mercifulness, and that the actual gifts and the blessing accruing there from for the ungodly must not be abstracted from the lovingkindness of which they are the expression. And, of course, we must not think of this lovingkindness as conditioned upon a penitent attitude in the recipients. The lovingkindness rather is exercised towards them in their ungodly state and is expressed in the favors they enjoy. What bearing this may have upon the grace of God manifested in the free offer of the gospel to all without distinction remains to be seen. But we are hereby given a disclosure, of goodness in the heart of God and of the relation there is between gifts bestowed and the lovingkindness from which they flow. And there is indicated to us something respecting God’s love or benevolence that we might not or could not entertain if we concentrated our thought simply on the divine decree of reprobation. Furthermore we must remember that there are many gifts enjoyed by the ungodly who are within the pale of the gospel administration which are not enjoyed by those outside, and we: shall have to conclude that in respect of these specific favors, enjoyed by such ungodly persons in distinction from lovingkindness must obtain, a lovingkindness, too, which must correspond to the character of the specific gifts enjoyed.

Let us get the passage from Matthew 5:44-48 before us: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” 

What is to be said about all this? 

First of all, let us notice that the authors themselves admit that “This passage does not indeed deal with the overtures of grace in the gospel.” But they go on to state that “it does tell us something regarding God’s benevolence that has bearing upon all manifestations of divine grace.” This is important, in the first place, because it is a departure from the traditional dogmatic position with respect to “common grace.” Dogmatically, so-called grace has always been distinguished from anything connected with the gospel. It is supposedly only temporal, and it has to do only with the things of this present time. In fact, Dr. Abraham Kuyper, Sr., wanted to insist on, this difference by using a different name (gemene gratie, common grace), in distinction from general grace (algemene genade). But here the two are confused from the outset. We point this out, of course, not because we agree even with the traditional distinction; but we do so to show that this pamphlet represents a departure in this respect. Personally, we believe that the direction which this pamphlet (and also that of Erroll Hulse) takes is inevitable. After all grace isgrace. And if that grace, favor, lovingkindness, is universal (common) in one respect, what real reason is there to hold that it is not universal (general) with respect to the gospel as well? In fact, if God is at all gracious to the reprobate, how can one possibly avoid the idea that God also wants to save the reprobate ungodly? And the history of doctrine has shown that the latter position has been the inevitable development of the common grace position. This was the case in the Christian Reformed Church in 1924 amid all the confusion of that synod’s delegates. It has been the case in the Netherlands also; in fact, as I have shown in writing about the Netherlands situation, today they even speak of an “anonymous word of promise” that goes out to the non-Christian world. You see, any kind of universalism with respect to God’s grace is an extremely virulent poison! 

But what about the exegesis of this “exegetical material” submitted in support of the offer-theory? As stated, we shall also judge what is stated in the lengthy quotation above in the light of the current teaching of Scripture. But even if we leave that aspect out of consideration for the time being, can the explanation as such of the passages in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 be accepted? If we consider these two passages all by themselves, can this explanation of the Murray-Stonehouse pamphlet be considered valid? Can it indeed be called exegesis, an exposition of the text? 

Our answer is negative. 

And our fundamental reason for this negative evaluation is the fact that in this entire “explanation” the authors are guilty of the error of begging the question. That is, they assume that which they set out to prove. And after they have assumed it, they proceed to read it into the text. 

This can be readily demonstrated. 

It is done already in the opening paragraph of their explanation. The authors are on the right track when they speak of “the common gifts of providence, the making of the sun to rise upon evil and good and the sending of rain upon just and unjust.” Sunshine and rain are indeed matters of God’s providence. But they already confuse matters when they say: “The particular aspect of God’s grace reflected upon hereis the common gifts of providence . . .” (italics added) This is not exegesis whatsoever: they have alreadyassumed that the “common gifts of providence” are a matter of common grace. And then they make another unwarranted assumption in the last sentence of the same paragraph: “There can be no question but all without distinction, reprobate as well as elect, are the beneficiaries of this favor, and it is that fact that is distinctly stated in verse. 45.” We will pass by the termbeneficiaries, although even that term is already suspect. Correct it would be simply to say that all arerecipients. But notice that the sending of sunshine and rain has suddenly become a matter of “favour.” This is surely not the same as common sunshine and rain. Nor is it the same as “providence.” This is a term which says something about the attitude and the intent of Him Who bestows the common sunshine and rain. Putting aside for the moment the question whether common sunshine and rain are indeed a matter of common favor, let us simply note that the authors areassuming this and reading it into the text, not drawing it out of the text. Hence, when the authors conclude the paragraph by saying, “. . . and it is that fact that is distinctly stated in verse 45,” their conclusion is simplynot true. The text nowhere states this, either distinctly or indistinctly. 

This is not exegesis, but “eisegesis.” And a child can understand this. 

This same begging of the question permeates all that is written about Matthew 5:44-48. In the next paragraph the terms “bestowal of favour” and “favours” are simply substituted for the bestowal of rain and sunshine. And in the following paragraph this unproved assumption is made still more boldly. Notice: “Clearly implied is the thought that God, the Father, loves his enemies and that it is because he loves his enemies that he makes his sun rise upon them and sends them rain. But notice that the text nowhere states this or even implies it. Murray and Stonehouse simply state that this is “clearly implied” without an iota of proof. Again: “This is just saying that the kindness bestowed in sunshine and rain is the expression of divine love.” But nowhere does the text say that sunshine and rain constitute kindness and that this alleged kindness is the expression of divine love. Again: “. . . that back of the bestowal there is an attitude on the part of God, called love, which constrains him to bestow these tokens of his lovingkindness.” But the text neither states this nor hints at it. 

One could go on throughout this alleged explanation and show again and again how the authors simply make unfounded statements about these passages, rather than allow the passages themselves to speak. 

Paired with the above error is the second unproved assumption in connection with Luke 6:35-36. There we read: “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” The authors treat this passage along with the one fromMatthew 5. And while they do not state this literally in connection with Luke 6, yet from their entire argumentation it is plain that they assume, without proof that Luke 6:35 states that God is kind unto all the unthankful and the evil. But again, regardless now of whether it be true or not, the text does not state this or imply it. 

Finally, we should note how the authors slip in ideas at the end of their discussion of these passages which have nothing to do with the text and which are left entirely without proof. They write: “Furthermore we must remember that there are many gifts enjoyed by the ungodly who are within the pale of the gospel administration which are not enjoyed by those outside, and we shall have to conclude that in respect of these specific favours, enjoyed by such ungodly persons in distinction from others, the same principle of divine benevolence and lovingkindness must obtain, a lovingkindness, too, which must correspond to the character of the specific gifts enjoyed.” This, of course, is pure philosophy; and. it certainly cannot be classified under the “exegetical material” which the authors are supposed to be submitting. I suppose it would have to be called a non-exegetical bonus?