As To Total Depravity
One of the chief objections raised against the doctrine of total depravity is the truth of original sin.
What is meant by this?
We must call attention to the following elements:
1. God is not the cause or author of sin, but man is. He created man good and after His own image. Man, therefore, was able to serve the purpose of his creation. That purpose was that he was to serve and glorify God in the covenant relation, the relation of friendship with his Creator. For that purpose God had created him after His own image in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.
2. Man, as he stood in paradise, was created with a peculiar free will, that is, with a will according to which he was able to love and to serve God, but he could also choose sin. This does not mean that he was neutral. On the contrary, he was created positively good but, nevertheless, with the power to turn away from God and to choose sin and the devil. Such a free will the natural man has no more: he can only will evil. Nor, on the other hand, does the believer in Christ have such a free will: principally, he can only will the good, according to the principal of regeneration through the Spirit of Christ in his heart.
3. Man was created in Adam. In this respect he was different from the angels who were, evidently created as individual spirits, as is evident from the fact that part of the angels could rebel against and fall away from God, while the rest remained faithful. But man was created in the first man Adam. He was the head and the father of the whole human race.
4. The result is (and this is the truth of original sin) that all men sinned in Adam. The sin of Adam is imputed to every individual of the human race; all became guilty in him; and all died in him, became corrupt and totally depraved. All therefore, are born in sin.
5. This is the element in the doctrine of total depravity to which the natural man most strenuously objects. Always he asks, in rebellion against God: how can God demand of me that which I cannot perform? Or as the apostle Paul has it in Romans 3: “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say then? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? . . . For if. the truth of God bath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, . . . Let us do evil, that good may come?” And again, in a different connection, Romans 9: “Why doth he yet find fault? For who bath resisted his will?” But unto all these objections the apostle and Scripture in general respond “God forbid! We may not be able to solve the problem, but we do maintain that God is righteous and, at the same time, that the sin of Adam is imputed to the whole human race!”
That the whole human race became corrupt in Adam is, of course, denied by all Pelagians. According to them, sin is only in the act, or deed, of sin, not in the human nature. And if you ask of them, how they then explain the universality of sin, they answer: by imitation and following bad examples.
But this is not according to Scripture which plainly teaches that all men are by nature totally depraved.
However, it is certainly true the doctrine of total depravity is and always has been a stumbling block for the natural man.
Once More: The Dekker Case
Once more I wish to call attention to the Dekker case that was before Synod last summer.
This time I want to refer, first of all, to the report of the minority of the committee that was appointed by Synod in, this, matter.
Although Synod probably cannot be held responsible for the, whole report, because, as I understand the action of Synod, it was not adopted and was, not even discussed on the floor of Synod; yet, in the first place, it was read on the floor of Synod and in so far it was responsible for its contents; and, in the second place, the committee that had prepared the report surely was responsible for it.
Moreover, I have no doubt at all that the committee wants to be responsible for every word they wrote in that report; and as such I will criticize it.
Strange to say, the committee, of which the Rev. L. Doezema was the reporter, defends the position of Prof. Dekker even though they claim repeatedly that “they do not enter into the theological position of Professor Dekker,” and “Without passing judgment on Professor Dekker’s position” etc. They certainly do this very thing in the here following paragraph:
“We should turn to the Bible first of all, and read such passages as Romans 5:18, ‘So then as through one trespass judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so ‘through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life.’ I Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive;’ I Timothy 2:1-6, ‘I exhort therefore, first of all that supplications intercessions; thanksgivings be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who would have, all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be borne in its own times.’ John 1:29: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world;’ I John 2:2 . . . and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.'”
On this paragraph of the committee’s report we make the following remarks:
1. To quote texts from Scripture, at random, without any exegesis, and without taking into consideration the context, either the immediate or broader context, is indeed very easy, but it is also very superficial. In this way one can make Scripture say anything you wish.
2. I will not, at this time, offer what, to my mind, is the true interpretation of the texts quoted by the committee. I will only give an explanation of one of the texts, I Timothy 2:1-6. And even then I will not give my own interpretation but rather quote from Calvin’s Calvinismp. 105. There we read:
“The knot immediately before us, however, is not yet, I confess, untied. I have nevertheless extorted from Pighius this much: that no man but a man deprived of his common sense and common judgment (sic, committee! H.H.) can believe that salvation was ordained by the secret counsel of God equally and indiscriminately for all men. The true meaning of Paul, however, in the passage now under consideration is perfectly clear and intelligible to every one that is not determined on contention. The apostle is exhorting that all solemn ‘supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men: for kings and all that are in authority.’ And because there were, in that age, so many and such wrathful and bitter enemies of the Church, Paul, to prevent despair from hindering the prayers of the faithful, hastens to meet their distresses by earnestly entreating them to be instant in prayer ‘for all men,’ and especially ‘for all those that are in authority! ‘For (saith the apostle) God will have all mento be saved! Who does not see that the apostle is here speaking of orders of men rather than of individuals? Indeed, that distinction which commentators here make is not without great reason and point: thatnations of individuals, not individuals of nations are here intended by Paul.” etc.
This was intended against Pighius whom, together with George and their fellows, Calvin calls “unclean beasts” and “barking dogs.’ pp. 27, 33ff.
Calvin refers to this passage from Timothy once more on pp. 66, 67, now particularly against George, or Georgius. Writes he:
“But Paul teaches us (continues Georgius) that God ‘would have all men to be saved.’ It follows therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in his wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should reply that God wills all men to be saved on His part or as far as He is concerned, seeing that salvation is, nevertheless, left to the free will of every individual; I in return ask him why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached to all men indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? Why He suffered so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death? Now it follows, in the apostles context, that God ‘would have all men come to the knowledge of the truth.’ But the sense of the passage is perfectly plain, and contains no ambiguity to any reader of candor and of a sound judgment. We have fully explained the whole passage in former pages. The apostle had just before exhorted that solemn and general prayers should be offered up in the Church ‘for kings and princes,’ etc., that no one might have cause to deplore those kings and magistrates, whom God might be pleased to set over them; because at that time, rulers were the most violent enemies of the faith. Paul, therefore, makes divine provision for this state of things by the prayers of the Church, and by affirming that the grace of Christ could reach to this order of men also, even to kings, princes and rulers of every description.”
With this interpretation of Calvin I fully agree.
The same is the case with every one of the other texts which the committee quotes. There is no need of giving to these passages an Arminian interpretation as is, evidently, the idea of the committee.
Prof. Dekker also presented a letter to Synod. I will not quote the entire letter which is rather lengthy. However I will call attention to one paragraph, in which Prof. Dekker alleges that he is in agreement with articles 8 and 9 of the Canons of Dordt, Chapter 11.
The paragraph referred to reads as follows:
“It seems strange that Classis has not indicated on what items in Articles 8 and 9 of Chapter 11 of the Canons of Dordt it desires ‘further explanation.’ How can Synod, even if it should be inclined to do so, obtain further explanation on points which are not even stated in the overture? As far as my sentiments on Articles 8 and 9 as a whole are concerned, inquiry is unnecessary. I subscribe to them.”
It is, probably, not necessary to quote the articles in question. Yet I will do so, especially since Prof. Dekker blames Classis Orange City for having not indicated exactly to what items Classis Orange City was referring; and also in view of the fact that Prof. Dekker states rather vaguely that be subscribes to these two articles “as a whole.”
Here they follow:
“Art. 8. For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby be confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he, purchased for them by his death, should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in his own presence forever.”
And article 9:
“This purpose proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell; so that the elect in due time may be gathered into one, and that there never may be wanting a church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ, which may steadfastly love, and faithfully serve him as their Savior, who as the bridegroom for his bride, laid down his life for them upon the cross, and which may celebrate his praises here and through all eternity.”
And now I have two questions which I would that Prof. Dekker would answer:
1. Is it not plain from the overture of Classis Orange City “on what items in Articles 8 and 9 of Chapter II of the Canons of Dordt it desires ‘further explanation'”? Is it not the contention of Prof. Dekker that God loves all men? and does not this contention stand in plain contradiction to articles 8 and 9 of the Canons. Do these articles plainly state that God does not love all men but the elect alone; and that salvation is for the elect and them only? Unless I misunderstand and have misunderstood Prof. Dekker all I through this controversy the contradiction between his stand and the Canons is very plain.
2. Will Prof. Dekker, please, explain: 1. How he can subscribe to these articles of the Canons? and 2. What he means by the phrase: “as a whole?”