In a third article in The Reformed Journal Prof. Dekker discusses the question whether the love of God is “one or two,” that is, whether there is one love of God to the elect and another to the reprobate. He refers to the matter of common grace and to the “Three Points” adopted by the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church of Kalamazoo in 1924. In this connection he also mentions me and, therefore, I will quote him once more.
By the way, in a footnote by the managing editor, C.P.B., we read: “The entire April issue has already been committed to a series of articles on literature and therefore Prof. Dekker’s next article will not appear until the May-June issue, at the earliest.” From this it appears that Prof. Dekker intends to write still more on the subject of “The Love Of God—To All Men.” We shall look forward to it.
In the context of the paragraph from which I will presently quote, Prof. Dekker criticizes the “Three Points” as follows:
“The three points on common grace enunciated by the Christian Reformed Church (Synod of 1924) have left US a heritage of ambiguity regarding the nature of divine grace. Although the three points do not teach it, they permit the view that the general offer of the gospel belongs to common grace, for they use the general offer of the gospel as an evidence for a certain favor or grace of God which He shows to His creatures in general. If one holds that the general offer of the gospel is an expression of common grace, and if one also holds that common grace is generically different from special grace, then the general offer of the gospel is rooted in and expression of nonredemptive divine love. Can non-redemptive love offer redemption? Is this not a sheer anomaly? Is it not, moreover, destructive of the very character of the gospel offer as sincere and well-meant to all men?”
I would say “pas op!” Dekker! You are here denying the very heart of the “First Point.” And do not forget that for this very reason I was cast out of the Christian Reformed Church. But, perhaps, you can get away with it. Times have changed. Besides, although Dekker criticizes the first point of common grace, he himself makes the grace and love of God more general still than was the intention of the first point.
But let me now quote what Prof. Dekker writes about the difference between himself and me:
“It is instructive, I think, to cite at this point Rev. Herman Hoeksema’s criticism of my views as ‘rank Arminianism.’ His criticism is understandable and I do not take it ill of him, for he is only being consistent and frank. His definition of what is Reformed involves a similar judgment regarding any view which affirms a love or grace of God which is universal. Perhaps what accounts for the word ‘rank’ in his estimate of my view is that I unambiguously consider the universal love of God in regard to men to be redemptive in character. But both of us agree that God’s love is not two but one, although he limits this one love of God to the elect while I ascribe it to all men. Hoeksema and I also agree that the proclamation of the gospel is rooted in this one love of God, although he would not agree that this proclamation brings an offer of salvation, either to the elect or to all men. Then, too, Hoeksema and I agree that those who ground the proclamation of the gospel to all men in a non-redemptive common grace are in a position which is biblically and logically untenable.
“It appears that Hoeksema and I also hold equally unambiguous views regarding John 3:16. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for everyone who has commented on this crucial passage in the present discussion. Hoeksema holds that John 3:16 means ‘God so loved the elect.’ I hold that it means ‘God so loved all men.’ It is only right that those who differ from my view (or Hoeksema’s) should declare unequivocally whether they understand ‘world’ inJohn 3:16 to embrace all men or only some men. Once this basic question is cleared, discussion can proceed. As long as it is evaded discussion will be confused and inconclusive.” Again I say that I quote Prof. Dekker extensively and fully because, in the first place, I want our readers to understand what he is teaching about the universal love of God, and secondly, because not many of our readers receiveThe Reformed Journal.
On the whole, Prof. Dekker describes the differences between his views on the love of God and mine quite correctly.
Only, I have a few questions which I would like him to answer from the Bible and the Reformed Confessions. He writes that he “unambiguously considers the universal love of God in regard to man to be redemptive in character.” On this and similar items in his articles I have the following questions, some of which I have asked before but to which I have as yet received no reply.
1. Do you, Prof. Dekker, believe the Scriptural and Reformed truth of reprobation or not? If so, would you say that God loves the reprobate? If the latter is true, according to your opinion, will you, please, give me a clear definition of what you mean by reprobation?
2. Do you or do you not believe in the free will of the sinner? By free will in this connection I mean that, according to your view, God loves all men with a redemptive love so that in this love He desires to save all men, but if they do not care for that redemptive love of God, and, therefore, do not want to be saved, God can do nothing about it.
3. Is God’s love for the redemption of men efficacious or not? If the former, how do you explain then that all men are not saved? Or do you believe that all men are actually saved, head for head and soul for soul? If this is your conception, the question arises: are the majority of men saved without the preaching of the gospel?
4. Is the redemptive love of God changeable or unchangeable? If your answer is that the love of God is unchangeable, then it is also eternal in God. Then my question is: how do you explain HELL? Does God have those that are damned in hell eternally before Himself as those whom He loves? And, please, do not seek refuge in what you, perhaps, might call mysteries. They are no mysteries for the answer is clearly revealed in Scripture: God loves only His own elect and not the reprobate or, if you prefer, God loves the righteous and He hates the wicked. God does not love all men!
5. But let us have a few examples from the Word of God. a. Did God love the world of the ungodly before the flood or did He love only Noah and his family? Of this you may read in II Peter 2 in connection with the false prophets of whom the apostle speaks. I will quote the entire passage beginning with vs. 1: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (By the way, did God love these false prophets and teachers also with an unchangeable redemptive love? Remember: “God loves—all men!”). And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now for a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them up into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment: (Again by the way, did God love them, too?) And spared not the old world but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” The question is: did God love the ungodly world, upon whom He brought the deluge, with an unchangeable redemptive love? How do you explain then that they all perished?
b. Did God also love the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah of which the apostle speaks in the same chapter as follows: “And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly.” And the general application of all this may be found in vss. 9, 10: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.” Again, I ask the question: did God love all these false prophets and ungodly men with an changeable redemptive love? If you answer YES, then how do you explain that they are not saved? The only answer it seems to me, that you can give is that they do not want to be converted and saved. That, however, means that you believe in freewill: God loves them and desires to bring them to salvation, but man is stronger than God. But this is in conflict, not only with all Scripture, but also with our Confessions, especially with the Canons of Dart. For in Canons III, IV, 3 we read that they are to be condemned “Who teach: That in spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not separate from the will of man, since the will in itself has never been corrupted, but only hindered through the darkness of the understanding and the irregularity of the affections; and that, these hindrances having been removed, the will can then bring into operation its native powers, that is, that the will of itself is able to will and to choose, or not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may be presented to it. This is an innovation and an error, and tends to elevate the powers of the free will, contrary to the declaration of the Prophet: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt, Jer. 17:9; and of the Apostle: ‘Among whom (sons of disobedience) we also once lived in the lust of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind,’ Eph. 2:3.”
If Prof. Dekker can give any other Scriptural interpretation of the passages I quoted thus far, I will be glad to receive it.
c. That God did not love Esau but hated him I have already shown and I will not repeat it. But in the same connection I also briefly wrote about Pharaoh. On this I will elaborate somewhat. The question that must be answered by Prof. Dekker is: Did God love Pharaoh with an unchangeable redemptive love? In other words, did God intend to save Pharaoh with an unchangeable redemptive love? In other words, did God intend to save Pharaoh and, in fact the Egyptians, seeing that He loved them? There is not a trace of it in the 6rst chapters of Exodus, nor inRomans 9. In the passage from Romans 9 we read that God had raised up Pharaoh in order to show His power in him and in order that His name might be declared in all the earth. It is, no doubt, with regard to what the apostle had written about Pharaoh that he generalizes the matter and writes in vs. 18 that God hardens whom He will.
I do not have to go into detail about the history of the children of Israel recorded in the first chapters of Exodus. Only two matters must be mentioned in this connection. The first is that, according to Ex. 7:3, the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the people go; and He did this before Pharaoh hardened his own heart. And the second is that the ultimate result was that the king and his host were destroyed in the Red Sea.
And now I ask again: did the Lord love Pharaoh and the Egyptians with an unchangeable and redemptive love? My answer is a very emphatic NO. But how about Prof. Dekker? Will he answer that question with an equally emphatic YES? He must if he wants to maintain that “God loves—all men.” I have still more on this subject. But this must wait until our next issue comes from the press.
And this, by the way, is July the first.