The Rev. Daane still makes an attempt to discuss and make plain to his readers my view and position on “common grace”. As I said before, I can only appreciate and welcome such a discussion. But in order to conduct a fruitful and intelligent discussion, it is certainly essential that we understand each other’s position, and present it truly and fairly to our readers. Up to the present time I have as yet nothing positive to offer to our readers about the position and stand of the Rev. Daane on the question of common grace. This, I suppose, will come later. For the present, however, the Rev. Daane merely attempts to offer a critical presentation of my conception of so-called common grace.
Hence, when I write that for a fruitful and intelligent discussion it is necessary that we understand and present each other’s view correctly and fairly, I refer especially to the Rev. Daane’s understanding and presentation of my conception.
This, I am sorry to say, he fails to do.
Instead, he really presents and works with his own notions, and tries to shove them down my throat,—notions such as timeless logic, lack of proper historical sense, individualism, etc. If he continues along this track, I must needs let him go alone. I cannot and will not follow him in that case. Only, if he continues the discussion along the same track and on the same basis, I must kindly ask him to substitute “X” or “N.N.” for my name. For he certainly is not discussing the problem of common grace with me, but with some other, abstract personality.
But perhaps the situation can still be saved, and the matter be remedied, so that we can continue our discussion. And therefore, I propose to ask the Rev. Daane a few questions on the basis of his latest contribution on the question of common grace in the Reformed Journal (No. 3). And at the same time I wish to point out some inaccuracies in his writings.
The Rev. Daane writes: “This Declaration is an interpretation of the covenant on the basis of a denial of Common Grace.” My question is: will the Rev. Daane please prove this statement? I deny this. I maintain that the Declaration is simply an expression of the basic principles as found in our confessions, especially concerning the promise of God. It is not interpretation of the covenant, and especially not a specific interpretation of that doctrine on the basis of the denial of common grace. I suppose that this statement by the Rev. Daane is supposed to be proved by the following sentence; “The Declaration teaches that there are no ‘conditions’ within the covenant because God realizes His covenant unconditionally.” But does not the Rev. Daane know that many Reformed theologians, even though they professed to believe in the theory of common grace, maintain that the covenant and the promise of God are unconditional? Why then should my conception of the covenant be based on a denial of common grace? Will Daane please account for this?
The Rev. Daane further writes: “This denial that God ever uses this method in dealing with men means that in Hoeksema’s definition of God’s method of dealing with men, God’s successive responses and actions are never conditioned by what man does. In his thought, God’s responses and actions are eternally decided out of all relationship to what man does in time. At this point it already becomes clear that in Hoeksema’s theology eternity remains aloof from time, that God’s works never seriously recognize, enter, and become involved in the temporal-historical process.” My question is: will the Rev. Daane please quote from whatever I wrote to prove these statements? And will he at the same time explain them? To me this is simply nonsense. I refer especially to the statement that “God’s responses and actions are eternally decided out of all relationship to what man does in time,” and also to the statement that in my theology “eternity remains aloof from time,” and again to that statement “that God’s works never seriously recognize, enter, and become involved in the temporal-historical process.” How would that be possible?
Will the Rev. Daane please explain also the following paragraph: “Even the most ardent Supra, however, cannot completely avoid recognition of conditions. The sin situation within time is surely a condition produced by man. Thus, even in working Redemption, God must reckon with conditions.
To insist at this point that God’s method of working with men is always unconditional, would lead to the absurd position that God could redeem even if there were no sin condition to redeem. If in the initiation of salvation God recognizes and works with the sin condition, why object to God’s recognition and operation with conditions in the salvation process of the elect individual?” Will the Rev. Daane please explain what he means by the term condition in this paragraph? Does he use the term in the sense of prerequisite, or does he rather use it in the sense of a state or quality? If he uses it in the former sense, the paragraph becomes nonsense, because in that case a condition is not a prerequisite imposed by God upon man, but on the contrary, a prerequisite imposed by man upon God; and this, of course, is pure nonsense. So I ask: will the Rev. Daane please define the meaning of his term in this paragraph?
Again, I would like to ask him to explain the following paragraph: “Again, even the most ardent Supra admits that God does not damn the reprobate exclusively on the basis of his decree to do so, but on the basis of the reprobate’s sins. Even Hoeksema does not place election and reprobation on the same level. But if sin is the condition for the reprobate’s condemnation, why object to the idea that God operates conditionally with the reprobate in the historical process. If at any point God’s responses are conditioned by man’s action in history, the construction of an unconditional theology would seem to be a dubious venture.” Here the Rev. Daane interchanges the terms “basis” and “condition”. And, when he does, he makes the statement: “But if sin is the condition for the reprobate’s condemnation,” etc. But is that possible at all? I too teach that the damnation of the reprobate is certainly not exclusively based on the decree of God, but is judicially based on the sin of the reprobate. But does that mean that sin is the condition for the reprobate’s condemnation? Again, in my terminology that would mean that the sin of the reprobate is a prerequisite on the part of God for his condemnation. And that, of course, is nonsense. It is not only nonsense, but it implies a very serious error. For it would imply that God demands that the reprobate sin, in order to be able to condemn him. But let the Rev. Daane explain his own statements, please.
And now I must quote a rather lengthy passage from the article by Daane, in order to do him justice, and in order to ask him to explain his statements: “It should be carefully noted that the covenant is defined in terms of its eternal essence. The fact that God establishes it in time and history, thereby giving it an historical structure means nothing. A definition of the covenant should give its meaning. In Hoeksema’s definition of the covenant the historical aspect of the covenant does not enter into the definition. The historical aspect of the covenant means nothing.
“It would seem that a definition of the covenant exclusively in terms of its eternal essence, out of all reference to its temporal-historical aspect, is rendering the temporal-historical less than its due. If the essence of the covenant is so eternal that the historical aspect is incidental, then the historical interaction between God and man within the covenant is also incidental. And if the history that transpires within the covenant is incidental, how much more the history that transpires outside the covenant!
“Hoeksema writes, ‘An everlasting covenant, therefore, is not a way or a means, but is the destination. In this definition the word ‘everlasting’ is curiously the end itself’ (Standard Bearer, Nov. 15, 1949) equated with ‘eternity’ to the exclusion of the temporal. It seems to have escaped notice that the covenant as ‘everlasting’ does not mean that it is only eternal. It is also temporal.
“It is only when the covenant is defined as something eternal without reference to the temporal, that the covenant can be only a ‘destination’ and not a ‘way’ to that destination. When the covenant is defined as the end itself’, then of course no temporal- historical means are required to reach the ‘end’. If the ‘end’ is given at the beginning then no temporal process is needed as a method of arriving at the end. If it is insisted that the essence of the covenant is eternal, then time can make no essential difference to it nor possess any serious validity for it.”
This passage from Daane’s article involves a piece of sophistry. It is based on the well-known sophistical syllogism: 1) Is this your dog? 2) Is that dog a mother? 3) Then that dog is your mother. The same is true of the reasoning in the above passage by Daane. It is based on the syllogism: 1) The covenant is eternal. 2) Eternity is not time. 3) The covenant therefore has no historical realization.
But let me set the Rev. Daane straight. In the first place, I would like to have him criticize the following definition of the covenant, which is mine: The covenant is that living relationship of most intimate fellowship of friendship which is a reflection of His own triune life, according to which God makes Himself known and blesses His people, and they know Him and find their delight in His fellowship and service. How Daane can eliminate from this definition the historical realization of that same covenant is a mystery to me. But let him explain. In the second place, I want to call his attention to the fact that my contention that the covenant is everlasting, and therefore cannot be a means to an end, but is the end of all things itself, is based upon scripture and upon our confessions, especially the Baptism Form. I refer to: “I will make an everlasting covenant with you;” , “I will make an everlasting covenant with them;” , “1 will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them.” And in the Baptism Form we read: “For when we are baptized in the name of the Father, God the Father witnesseth and sealeth unto us, that he doth make an eternal covenant of grace with us.” Will the Rev. Daane explain how on the basis of scripture and the Baptism Form he can deny me the right to speak of an everlasting and eternal covenant of grace?
Moreover, I plainly state that the covenant is not a means or way in itself, but is the end or destination. Does not Daane understand that the terms “end” and “destination” presuppose a way to that destination, and that therefore, although I maintain that the covenant is itself not the way, there is nevertheless the historical process that leads to that final destination? Will Daane answer the question how he can maintain that the idea of end and destination excludes any historical process? I am afraid that Daane throughout works with his own false notion of timeless logic, and that he does not understand that I maintain that history is the unfolding of the everlasting counsel of the Most High.
Again, the Rev. Daane writes: “As is well known, Hoeksema denies the doctrine of the covenant of works. The reason is as follows: In the generally accepted formulation of the covenant of works, God deals with man conditionally. God says to Adam, If you fulfill the condition of obedience, I will give you eternal life. Because God’s method of dealing with Adam here rests on a condition, Hoeksema rejects the covenant of works.”
This is a very gross misrepresentation of my conception of the relation of God to Adam and Adam to God in the state of rectitude. My objection to the theory of the covenant of works does not hinge upon that term condition, although I deny that there was such a covenant between God and Adam according to which he could merit eternal life on condition of perfect obedience, as is the story. My main objections against this covenant of works are twofold: 1) That man can never merit anything with God. And, 2) that it was impossible for Adam ever to reach the state of eternal life, which can be had only in Jesus Christ our Lord. If the Rev. Daane wants to know my objections to the theory of the covenant of works, he can find them in the first volume of my work on the Heidelberg Catechism, “In the Midst of Death”. And I challenge him to meet those arguments which I there present.
Again, Daane writes: “Since the covenant is in essence fellowship, and since its temporal nature is no essential part of it, the reprobates (although born under it) are not, in Hoeksema’s view, in the covenant. Therefore, the reprobate and the elect have nothing in the covenant in common, and consequently there is no Common Grace. There is no room for Common Grace in a theology that defines the covenant in terms of eternity and places the historical reprobate outside the eternal covenant.”
Now, in the first place, I like to ask Daane the question whether, according to him, the reprobate as well as the elect are in the covenant. He must know that many Reformed theologians, also those that maintain the theory of common grace, maintain that the covenant is established only with the elect. And therefore, according to him it must follow that also those Reformed theologians have no room for the theory of common grace, because also they define the covenant in terms of eternity and place the historical reprobate outside of the eternal covenant. And in the second place, I want to remark that the statement of Daane that “the reprobate and the elect have nothing in the covenant in common, and consequently there is no common grace,” is certainly incorrect. Such is not my view. On the contrary, in my opinion the elect and reprobate have all things in common, except grace. In the historical dispensation of the covenant, reprobate and elect have in common that both are circumcised and baptized. Both therefore receive the outward sign and seal of the righteousness which is by faith. Both elect and reprobate hear the preaching of the gospel, are instructed and admonished, and receive all the means of grace. All things they have in common. But grace is not common, but according to scripture and the confessions is always particular. Now will Daane criticize that view, and not the distortion of my conception which he presents in his article?
Finally, I must call attention to the following passage in the article of Daane: “The same contention that God never deals with men in terms of conditions, necessitates Hoeksema’s denial of the ‘offer of salvation’. Hoeksema denies not only a general offer of salvation; he also denies that God offers salvation to the elect. God never offers salvation; He himself works salvation. God alone fulfills the covenant.
“It is difficult to see how any Protestant Reformed minister can plead for the recognition of conditions within the covenant since they stand committed to the Protestant Reformed position that God never offers salvation, not even to the elect.”
Also in these paragraphs my conception is not presented correctly. In the first place, I have no objection to the word offer in the original sense of the Latin offerre. For in this sense it simply means to present. And in this sense it is used even in our confessions. For in Canons III, IV, 9 we read: “Quod multi per ministerium evangelii vocati, non veniunt et non convertuntur, huius culpa non est in evangelio, nec in Christo per evangelium oblato;” which is translated in our English version of the Canons: “It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ, offered therein, that those who are called by the ministry of the word, refuse to come, and be converted.” Now the term oblato occurring in this passage is, as Daane very well knows, the past participle of obferro or offerre, which simply means “to present”. In that sense I have no objection to the word offer. But the Rev. Daane does not present me correctly when he writes that I simply deny the general offer of salvation, not only to the elect but also the reprobate. My objection in this connection, as Daane ought to know, is against the First Point in connection with the proof from the confessions that is offered to substantiate the First Point by the Synod of 1924. And taking this into consideration, Daane ought to have written not that I object to a general offer, but that I object to the view that God on His part offers salvation well-meaningly to the reprobate. That is the point. And as far as the sentence is concerned in the above paragraph, “God never offers salvation; He Himself works salvation,” to this I still subscribe, and I hope that also Daane subscribes to this. For in that sentence the offer of salvation is contrasted to the work of God in salvation. And that contrast cannot be maintained in Reformed theology.
Once more, I still hope that the Rev. Daane will continue his discussion on common grace, and also clearly present his own view. But again I state that in order to have a fruitful and intelligent discussion, we must know and present each other’s conception correctly and fairly. And this the Rev. Daane certainly did not do in the article from which I quoted.