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On the truth of predestination

The articles on Rob Bell bring out the importance of preaching double predestination. When the truth of election and reprobation are maintained, the church is kept from error. The church is to have a love of the truth. My first question has to do with a statement on page 463. “Is it offensive? It certainly is! It offends me daily!” What is the daily offense of which you speak?

My second question has to do with a statement later in the articles (p. 486) where you are writing about the witness of the PRC and the way the PRC has been mistreated for its witness. You continue on about God’s judgment on the Reformed churches for their rejection of the truth. And then, “And I do not mean by this that the PRC is the only church that has the truth.” Are there yet other Reformed churches in the Grand Rapids area that have fought the battle for the truth of predestination and against the well-meant offer, that stand with the PRC today?

Neil Meyer

Grand Rapids, Michigan

RESPONSE:

Brother Meyer asks two questions about the editorials dealing with Rob Bell. I am happy for the opportunity to clarify.

The first has to with the statement found in the following context having to do with the doctrines of sovereign, particular grace. There I wrote:

…Will the preachers listen? Let them turn and seek the old paths of sovereign, particular grace. Let them call the people to worship the true God who is holy, just, and truly sovereign. And let them honor the God who revealed not only that He is love, but that He is also the one who “hath…mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth”,

Rom 9:18.

Is this a hard doctrine? Of course. Is it offensive? It certainly is! It offends me daily!

The offense of which I write is the offense that the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty is to every sinner. The sinner imagines himself to be ruler of his own life and destiny. He can go on in much of his life pretending that he is god. But the doctrines of sovereign grace—especially that God has the right and the power to have mercy on whom He will—those doctrines make us sinners know that God is God, and we are but creature.

The Reformed believer, changed by grace, is not only reconciled to that truth, he glories in God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty alone is our sure hope of salvation. At the same time, Reformed believers must know that it is offensive to our sinful natures. That is the offense of which I wrote. It is a sin that I must confess and reject, daily.

The other question deals with the matter of where truth can be found. It concerns a statement from the following passage:

The same emphatically applies to the thousands who follow Rob Bell in Grandville, Michigan, particularly those from a Reformed background. They had true and faithful preachers living in their land. Some of these preachers wrote books that set forth the truth clearly. They published the Standard Bearer twenty-one times a year in order to set forth the truth over against the lie. Worship services have been held in this area for the last 85 years in which the solid, biblical (i.e., Reformed) truth has been faithfully expounded. Everyone who drives to Mars Hill Sunday morning will have to pass such to get there. The radio informed them of the truth Sunday after Sunday.

Yes, I am talking about the Protestant Reformed Churches. And I do not mean by this that the PRC is the only church that has the truth. But I do know that, by God’s grace alone, these churches still proclaim that truth faithfully, boldly, and antithetically….

Specifically, Mr. Meyer asks: “Are there yet other Reformed churches in the Grand Rapids area that have fought the battle for the truth of predestination and against the well-meant offer, that stand with the PRC today?”

My answer is: None of which I am aware.

I feel compelled, however, to say a bit more simply because some may understand this to mean that there are therefore no other true churches in the Grand Rapids area; the Protestant Reformed Churches stand alone; all other churches are false. I do not believe that. That is a position that has been consistently repudiated by the PRC. Two examples will suffice.

About thirty years ago, Prof. H.C. Hoeksema wrote:

For my part, I do not believe that the Belgic Confession means that the true church is and can be represented in only one church denomination or communion of churches; nor does it mean that the false church is and can be represented in only one church denomination or communion of churches. Nor do I believe that the Belgic Confession precludes the idea that there may be various degrees of purity and various manifestations of the true church. Nor does the Belgic Confession compel one to believe that a given church, or communion of churches, in the midst of the world becomes completely and totally false all at once. Also in this respect there are degrees (SB, vol. 58, p. 173).

In the same year, (then) Rev. David Engelsma wrote on the Belgic Confession, Article 29:

The “problem” of the article of our Confession of Faith quoted above is its absolute distinction between the true church and the false church. It does not speak of purer and less pure churches, of manifestations of Jesus’ Body that vary in degree of faithfulness and doctrinal purity; but of “two Churches,” the true and the false. Applied to the present situation of many, separated churches (denominations), the article might seem to teach that one particular institute is the only true church, while all the others are the false church. Such an interpretation of the article has been given by certain Reformed in the Netherlands; and, now and again, voices have been heard in the Protestant Reformed Churches expressing this position….

It is a mistake to identify one particular institute as the true church in distinction from all others which are then regarded as false (pp. 256, 258).

In his recent book Bound to Join, Prof. Engelsma answers various questions put to him about church membership in the twenty-first century. One such question was this: “Do the Protestant Reformed Churches regard those Reformed and Presbyterian churches that maintain the doctrines of a well-meant offer of the gospel and of a common grace of God as false churches?” His response: “The answer is No. The Protestant Reformed Churches do not regard churches that hold the well-meant gospel offer and common grace as false churches” (p. 10).

In conclusion: All churches that fail to stand for the truth of sovereign grace, including double predestination, and fail to reject the errors of common grace and the well-meant offer are unfaithful to the clear teaching of the Bible. In that respect, such churches are to be rebuked for their errors and admonished to turn. But it does not immediately follow that they have lost all truth. Some hold aspects of the truth inconsistently. Yet the grave warning of Rob Bell to these churches is: Eventually, they will lose the truth of the gospel of Christ, and will hold to universal salvation.