Classis Orange City adopted the following overture to the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church which, at the time of this writing, is already meeting in Grand Rapids:
“Classis adopted an overture to synod regarding the position of Professor Harold Dekker, as expressed in articles of the Reformed Journal, December, 1962, and February, 1963, under the title ‘God so loved—All Men.’ Classis is of the conviction that the position of Professor Dekker regarding redemptive love, as expressed in these articles is contrary to the creedal statements in articles 8 and 9 of chapter II in the Canons of Dordt. Since Professor Dekker has signed the Form of Subscription, classis petitions synod that it require Professor Dekker to give further explanation of his position, so that if Professor Dekker’s position is truly Reformed and scriptural, synod may clear him of suspicion; and should synod find his position not in harmony with the Scriptures and the creeds, that synod take appropriate action, to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine in our church and seminary.”
1. That classis Orange City virtually already condemns here the position of Professor Dekker by stating that it is not in harmony with the Canons of Dordt.
2. That, however, it gives him an opportunity to clear himself of suspicion by allowing himself to be examined by Synod.
3. That, if Synod should find the examination of Prof. Dekker unsatisfactory, it then should “take appropriate action.”
4. This action of classis Orange City is based on the Formula of Subscription to which also Prof. Dekker subscribed when he accepted the position of professor in the Calvin Seminary. This Formula is rather strong and concise. It reads as follows:
“We, the undersigned, professors of the Christian Reformed Church, ministers of the gospel, elders and deacons of the Christian Reformed Churches ………………………, of Classis ………………… do hereby sincerely and in good conscience before the Lord, declare by this our subscription, that we heartily believe and are persuaded that all the articles and points of doctrine, contained in the Confession and Catechism of the Reformed Churches, together with the explanation of some points of the aforesaid doctrine, made by the National Synod of Dordrecht, 1618-19, do fully agree with the Word of God.
“We promise therefore diligently to teach and faithfully to defend the aforesaid doctrine, without either directly or indirectly contradicting the same, by our public preaching or writing.
“We declare, moreover, that we not only reject all errors that militate against this doctrine and particularly those that were condemned by the above mentioned synod, but that we are disposed to refute and contradict these, and to exert ourselves in keeping the Church free from such errors. And if hereafter any difficulties or different sentiments respecting the aforesaid doctrines should arise in our minds, we promise that we will neither publicly nor privately propose, teach, or defend the same, either by preaching or writing, until we have first revealed such sentiments to the consistory, classis and synod, that the same may be there examined, being ready always cheerfully to submit to the judgment of the consistory, classis and synod, under the penalty in case of refusal to be, by that very fact, suspended from our office.
‘And further, if at any time the consistory, classis or synod, upon sufficient ground of suspicion and to preserve the uniformity and purity of doctrine, may deem it proper to require of us a further explanation of our sentiments respecting any particular article of the Confession of Faith, the Catechism, or the explanation of the National Synod, we do hereby promise to be always willing and ready to comply with such requisition, under the penalty above mentioned, reserving for ourselves, however, the right of an appeal, whenever we shall feel ourselves aggrieved by the sentence of the consistory, the classis or the synod, and until a decision is made upon such an appeal, we will acquiesce in the determination and judgment already passed.”
I quoted the entire Formula, for, although many of our readers are able to consult and read it in our Church Order, I proceed on the assumption that the majority of them have no Church Order.
But, I repeat, that this Formula is very complete and concise.
That Prof. Dekker himself does not realize that by his articles in the Reformed Journal he violated this Formula is almost unbelievable.
But what is the synod going to do now?
As soon as we know the answer to this question we will inform our readers.
Single Or Double Track Theology?
Emeritus Professor R.B. Kuiper has a very long article in Torch and Trumpet in which he discusses the present controversy in the Christian Reformed Church occasioned by the articles in the Reformed Journal written by Professor Harold Dekker and Dr. Henry Stob, the former on the love of God to all men, the latter on the theme that God hates no man.
However, he devotes several paragraphs to a discussion of the well-known “common grace” controversy and criticizes my and the late Rev. Danhof’s view on the subject of “common grace.” Our view is “single track theology” implying, of course, that the only proper conception (which is also and emphatically so Professor Kuiper’s) is “double track theology.” And he accuses me of rationalism and absolutism.
This cannot be left unchallenged. And, therefore, I intend to offer my criticism of the article of Professor Kuiper and his “double track theology.”
First of all, I will present a brief outline of the article.
He writes under the theme “Is the Glory Departing?” By the glory he refers to the glory of the Christian Reformed Church, and that glory consists especially, as the whole article shows, in the double track theology of which Kuiper is one of the chief champions.
In his article he starts out by referring to the well-known biblical narrative of the priests, Hophni and Phinehas and their taking the ark into the camp of the Israelites, the result of which was that the ark was taken by the Philistines. And when the wife of Phinehas, who was pregnant, heard of this she gave birth to a premature son and, dying, she called his name Ichabod expressing that the glory had departed from Israel.
Now, Kuiper hastens to explain that he does not mean to say that the glory has departed from the Christian Reformed Church, but he raises the question nevertheless.
He, then, explains that the glory of the Christian Reformed Church is its theology and that its theology is eminently biblical. Scripturalness is the essence of the theology of the Christian Reformed Church.
In the next paragraph he briefly reviews the Arminian controversy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Kuiper characterizes Arminianism as universalism; and universalism, according to him; is based, not on Scripture but on human logic. But the fathers of Dordt must have nothing of this. They were convinced that both doctrines, predestination and the sincere offer to all men of salvation, were taught in Scripture. And to this they adhered.
Next, Prof. Kuiper discusses the “common grace” controversy. The issue in 1924 concerned again the question of particularism and biblical universalism. Danhof and the undersigned surely believed and taught the truth of salvation by sovereign grace. But they denied Scriptural universalism. But thus they subjected Scripture to human logic. They adhered to a single track theology. They destroyed certain Scriptural paradoxes. “In short, in their interpretation of Scripture, they failed to subject finite and faulty human reason unreservedly to the divine logos.” He is well aware, evidently, that I vehemently would and do deny such insinuations, for he writes that I ‘would resent any and all of the foregoing statements.” And he asks the question: “Yet, are they not true?” My answer to this question is an absolute NO!
But let me not now criticize. At present it is my purpose simply to acquaint our readers with what Kuiper writes.
He further mentions, without quoting them, the notorious “Three Points” adopted by the Synod of Kalamazoo in 1924. He even admits that they are not beyond criticism. Nevertheless; according to him, Synod upheld the doctrine of common grace “without detracting in the least from the historic Reformed doctrine of special or saving grace.” I ask: is this true? For an answer to this question the reader must wait till I offer my criticism.
After this long and very untrue criticism directed at me, occasioned perhaps by the fact that I wrote, in my articles on Prof. Dekker’s view that, if the matter ever came before Synod, he could always appeal to the First Point of 1924, he, Kuiper, comes to the present controversy in the Christian Reformed Church.
He introduces this matter by a paragraph under the heading “Our Present Plight.” In this paragraph he asks several questions, which, however, all amount to the same thing, namely, that we must always subject our human logic to the whole of Scripture even if Scripture presents what Kuiper calls “complementary truths,” but which I would designate as flat contradictions. And, by the way, I do not believe that the Bible ever contradicts itself.
But of this later.
In a following paragraph Kuiper briefly mentions the subject of the infallibility of Scripture. This subject was discussed, as most of us know, at the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in 1959. In this paragraph, however, he expresses doubt as to, whether or not there is still “discord among us on so basic a doctrine as Scriptural infallibility.”
Next, Kuiper briefly discusses the articles of Prof. Dekker in the Reformed Journal on the subject “God So Loved—All Men.” He mentions in this connection the following items:
1. The conception of Dekker’s universal love in relation to the atonement of Christ is not Scriptural, or to quote him verbally, “did not excel in Scripturalness.”
2. Dekker as well as Hoeksema “obviously . . . . employ the same logic,” with regard to the conception of the love of God, even though they fundamentally differ.
3. He quotes from the Canons to show that God’s love for the elect is not the same as His love for the reprobates. Writes he: “In reality there is nothing strange about the fact that many reject the gospel. The depravity of the human nature fully explains it. The wonder is that not all men do so. And that is a wonder indeed. It is a wonder of divine grace.” Here he quotes the Canons once more as well as some Scriptural passages.
4. Nevertheless, Kuiper contradicts the immediately preceding when he quotes from Berkhof and H.J. Kuiper that God’s love is one. This, indeed, is also the contention of Prof. Dekker. But this, according to Kuiper, is a mystery. “That there is a mystery here need not be denied. In studying the transcendent and incomprehensible God we are beset by an unfathomable mystery.” Kuiper forgets that we are not studying and never can study God. We are dealing with God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. Indeed, the Word of God deals with profound mysteries. But a biblical mystery is something quite different from a contradiction, which is the meaning of the term in Kuiper’s article. But about this later.
Kuiper briefly sums up what he wrote on Dekker’s conception of the love of God in the following paragraph:
“Professor Dekker errs in emphasizing Scriptural universalism as expressed in the universal and sincere offer of the gospel, to the detriment of Scriptural particularism, as summarized in the five points of Calvinism, notably limited atonement and efficacious grace.”
Now Professor Kuiper devotes some space to “Dr. Henry Stob on God’s hate.”
As our readers know, Prof. Stob denies that God hates any man.
Kuiper, first of all, asks the question: where does Stob get his definition of hate. Certainly not from Scripture for the Bible clearly teaches that God hates certain persons.
However, Kuiper fundamentally agrees with Prof. Stob, for he claims that God loves all men. He differs from him in that he proposes that God also hates the same persons whom He loves. Writes he: “The Bible tells us that God hated Esau . . . It also tells us that God loves all men, Esau of course included.” This, of course, is another mystery. Stob cannot accept this because, like Hoeksema he employs human logic, and, like Hoeksema’s, his exegesis is marred by absolutism. But we shall see later about this.
In another section of his article, Kuiper speaks of the equal ultimacy of election and reprobation. By this he does not mean that God takes delight in the damnation of the non-elect as he does in the salvation of the elect; nor that He effectuates the damnation of the reprobate as he does the salvation of the elect; but that the salvation of the elect and the damnation of the reprobate are equally certain: both are unalterably determined in God’s eternal counsel. To deny this is a serious departure from the truth. Perhaps, Kuiper refers to such views as those of Weidenaar C.S. This is also taught in Calvin College and no one takes action against it, not even Kuiper.
Another paragraph tells us that some in the Christian Reformed Church are of the opinion that love is the all-controlling attribute of God in distinction from His justice. In this connection, Kuiper writes: “May God keep us from Modernism. To say the very least, we are in peril of incipient Modernism.” But while Kuiper knows all this, does he do anything about it? He does not, except that he discusses it.
Again, another error in the Christian Reformed Church consists, according to Kuiper, in the denial of the kingship of Christ in every sphere of life. Writes he: “Am I wrong in surmising that there is an inclination among us to distinguish between two areas, the one under the direct rule of Christ, the other religiously neutral, and to seek to justify that limitation of the rule of Christ by an appeal to the fact of common grace?” But I would also ask a question: Am I wrong in declaring that, principally, all these errors in the Christian Reformed Church find their cause in the decisions made by the Synod of Kalamazoo in 1924 and in the pernicious Three Points? My answer is emphatically No!
The rest of the article is of little significance. First Kuiper mentions the student paper Stromata, become notorious in connection with the infallibility question. And finally, he has a paragraph on “Of Babes And Theology.” And he concludes with the following paragraph:
“Such is the glorious heritage of the Christian Reformed Church. Shall we not maintain it uncompromisingly? Shall we not in complete loyalty to the Word of God seek to augment it? Shall we not with holy zeal impart it unsullied to others? God grant that we may do all that in deep humility, as mere babes.”
Next time I hope to begin my criticism, the Lord willing.