The assault against the doctrine of election is never ceasing, which is not surprising because more clearly than any other doctrine it demonstrates God’s indisputable sovereignty. Against this, man has ever rebelled. Man’s chief lust has always been to be his own “god.”
The chief difficulty in denying this doctrine is that every Bible student has to admit that the Bible teaches that God elects (Romans 9; Ephesians 1:4). So, desperate attempts are made by many to deny the doctrine of election as historically maintained in the Reformed Creeds (namely, eternal, sovereign predestination), while at the same time they profess to maintain all Biblically revealed doctrines. Many of these are found among those who claim “No creed but Christ.” But far worse it is that not a few who are guilty of such deceit insist that they are yet “Reformed.” They resort to the age-old ploy of appearing to be orthodox by using the terminology of the truth, and then filling the old terms with new definitions. Through such the Liar comes, transformed as an angel of light.
One of the recent desperate attempts to sound Protestant without being what we may call “Calvinistic” has been made by a certain Dr. Harry M. Kuitert. In his book, Signals from the Bible, he has introduced this verbal equivalent: Election means preference. With this man’s theological mathematics we take sharp issue. To give you a taste of Harry Kuitert’s duplicity we will insert a few brief quotations. (p. 73ff.).
First something about the word “preference.” This is without doubt the basic sense of the word “election,” at least in the Old Testament. . . . The notion of preference provides the content of the word “election.” A Hebrew dictionary tells us this, but so do the many places in the Old Testament where “to love more than” and to “choose out” are parallels. Deut. 4:37, 7:8, 10:15
To elect means to have preference for. It is in this sense that Israel is the elect people. They are the people of God’s preference. ; Ps. 147:19, 20
This main issue of the Bible’s message of God’s election is not what we sometimes call predestination. It is rather God’s preference, as He brings it to light.
From the history of Jacob and Rachel and Leah (cf. Genesis 29:30, 31) Dr. Kuitert also deduces that in the Bible “To hate seems to mean not to prefer someone. Jacob prefers Rachel; he does not prefer Leah.” Dr. Kuitert intends that we apply the same interpretation when the word “hate” is used in connection with God’s disposition towards those whom He has determined to cast off.
Now such a notion ought to endear Dr. Kuitert to twentieth-century Protestants who want to dissociate themselves from those doctrines which offend the ungodly, as eternal predestination does. This is quite a harmony also with the common declaration of the day that God loves everybody—though perhaps He loves some more than others. But obviously it departs radically from the Reformed notion of predestination as God’s foreordination of some to eternal life and of others to everlasting perdition.
A question comes to my mind. While today most would enthusiastically applaud Kuitert’s proposition that “to hate” means “to love less,” I can not help but wonder what the Canaanites of Joshua’s day would have thought of such an explanation of their being driven ruthlessly from their land and given over to the slaughter. Surely it would be small comfort to them to have Dr. Kuitert explain to them that this was not that God actually hated them with fierce indignation but merely that God did not “prefer” them as much as the Israelites. All of Dr. Kuitert’s linguistic sleights of hand do not change the fact that it was according to Jehovah’s command that the Canaanites were made the objects of Israel’s cold steel, and that, mind you, historically since the day Noah cursed Canaan the son of Ham. The truth of Scripture is that the election of Israel revealed itself not only by the blessedness that flowed unto Israel but by the judgment that fell upon the Egyptians and Canaanites. “And because He loved thy fathers, therefore He chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in His sight with His mighty power out of Egypt; to drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day” (Deut. 4:37, 39). Notice, because God loved, He chose; and because He chose in love, He disinherited the nations.
The same perspective must be kept when considering the Biblical statement, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau’ have I hated” (Rom. 9:11). It must be remembered that Jacob’s “election” meant Esau’s disinheritance. All Dr. Kuitert’s euphemistic terminology can not change the facts of Biblical history. What saith the Scriptures? “Yet I loved Jacob. And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation forever” (Malachi 1:2-4). Here is a very clear definition of what it means to be the object of God’s eternal hatred. For elect Jacob’s sake He disinherited Esau’s generations with indignation.
Upon examining Dr. Kuitert’s proposal to redefine “electing in love” as “preference,” I have a threefold response.
In the first place it is clear that Dr. Kuitert irresponsibly ignores the history which is the actual revelation and realization of God’s declaration of His divine love and hatred. I say “irresponsible” because Dr. Kuitert is not unschooled in Bible history. He is after all a Doctor of Divinity. We can presume, I should think, that knowledge of Bible history is a prerequisite to receiving one’s “parchment.” To one with even a cursory knowledge of the Old Testament it ought to be apparent that Dr. Kuitert’s notion in no way does justice to the fury with which God dealt with the heathen for elect Israel’s sake. He has simply swept away Old Testament Bible History as if it does not exist. To arrive at his proposal, he must.
In the second place Kuitert’s position makes by implication an assault upon the character of God’s righteousness, almost making a mockery of His justice. Maintaining that to “hate” means to “love less”‘ divorces God’s judgments from His holy indignation. You have struck at the consistency of God’s character if you maintain Kuitert’s .view. God loves some less, He does not prefer them as much as the elect, and therefore He has determined to cut them off and feed them to the furnace of everlasting torment! Does God really deal with His creatures in such a detached, one might almost say, careless manner? Where is the simplicity (perfect harmony) between God’s character and His judgments? Kuitert has done violence to this truth of God.
This brings us to our final criticism, which is also the most serious. Kuitert’s proposition that “election means preference” is a scurrilous slander against God’s eternal love for His people. Kuitert abuses the truth of God’s love. What is that truth? It is that the love wherewith God loves His people is a jealous love. And here you have the heart of the truth and of the Reformed faith. If one does not declare to God’s people that He loves them with a jealous love He is not Reformed, he has not the gospel. This is Scripture. “Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. . . . Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: My house shall be built in it. . .” (Zechariah 1:14, 16). To declare anything less, after the manner of Kuitert, is to speak not as an ambassador of God, but as a false prophet.
The clearest description of godly love is set forth in the Song of Solomon. “. . .for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love; it would utterly be contemned” (Song of Solomon 8:6, 7). This celebrates God’s electing love in Christ for His bride. It is fierce and possessive, selective and exclusive. Surely anything less is an inadequate description. God is not looking for someone to love, God has fixed His love on some, namely the elect members of the body of Christ Jesus. To her He says, “You are mine; you are the apple of My eye; for you yearn the bowels of My mercy; you are My Beloved.”
To men who make suggestions of the sort Kuitert has, the church ought to react as a Bride would react to some guest who only hours before the wedding ceremony tells the bride that in his opinion the groom’s love for her is only a matter of preference, and that he loves the girl across the street only somewhat less. Kuitert’s head ought to be ringing. And is it likely that the Groom, Who laid down His life for the bride, and Who suffered many reproaches for the right to her hand, and Who is utterly ravished with love for her would take too kindly to the suggestion? A man who would cast the electing love of God and the everlasting love of our Lord into such spurious light as does Dr. H. Kuitert ought to receive no hearing in Christ’s church. He knows not that whereof he speaks.