It is surely to be hoped that the readers of The Bannerdo not simply swallow uncritically what Dr. James Daane writes on the subject of reprobation and related subjects. For his writings are filled with more fiction than fact and more error than truth, and as such are very, very misleading. In fact, Dr. Daane is promoting an altogether new theology: not only new in comparison with the theology which has been traditionally Christian Reformed, but new in that it is a definite departure from all that has ever been Reformed, all the way back to John Calvin. For this reason I insist that if Daane’s views are consistently held and applied to the body of theology, the result is another gospel, which is not the gospel.
An example in point is Dr. Daane’s second article on “Tuininga and Reprobation,” (The Banner, Nov. 16, ’79, pp. 16, 17). That article is replete with errors. We cannot take the space to refute them all in detail. But permit me to list a few and to comment briefly.
1) “. . . although our creeds are infralapsarian rather than supralapsarian, one cannot hold to decretal theology and be an infra-.” Our creeds are indeed infralapsarian (especially the Canons), but they are all thoroughly “decretal,” and there have been many Reformed and decretal theologians who were infralapsarian.
2) “One cannot hold to Cornelius Van Til’s and Herman Hoeksema’s view of God’s decree, and with consistency be an infralapsarian.” Cornelius Van Til can speak for himself. As far as Herman Hoeksema’s view is concerned, a statement like this is sheer nonsense. Why? Because Herman Hoeksema was a supralapsarian. So the statement comes down to this: one cannot hold to a supralapsarian view of God’s decree and with consistency be an infralapsarian. It is like saying that one cannot be a cow and with consistency be a horse!
3) “A second consequence of decretal theology’s shaping of the Christian Reformed mind is that anyone who articulates non-decretal, infralapsarianism gets a heavy-handed treatment and large variety of heretical labels from the supralapsarian, hyper-Calvinist theologians in our Reformed community.” The errors here are numerous: a) There is no such thing as a non-decretal infralapsarian. b) Supralapsarians are not to be identified with hyper-Calvinists, especially not in the Reformed community. c) Supralapsarians have historically not given infralapsarians heretical labels. One gets the impression that Daane does not know the difference between supra- and infra-, and even that he identifies infralapsarianism with Arminianism. But whatever may be the case, notice that Daane merely makes a claim but offers no evidence.
4) “They (decretal theologians) sometimes seek to soften this (that God must be regarded as the ultimate cause of all things, including the fall and reprobation) by urging that man is the secondary cause of the fall and of reprobation.” No decretal theologian would make man the cause—even secondary cause—of reprobation. This would amount to conditional reprobation, which is anathema to decretal theologians (both supra- and infra-), even as is conditional election.
5) “. . . reprobation is the ultimate expression of individualism.” Reprobation is indeed individual, but not the expression of individualism. According to God’s decree, the body, the church, the elect race, the organism, is saved, while some individual branches are reprobate and go lost. Reformed theology is never individualistic: Pelagianism and Arminianism are individualistic to the core.
6) “: . . our view of election . . . is dominated by our view of reprobation.” Then why, pray tell, does reprobation have such a small and limited place in the Canons? A statement like this is sheer nonsense.
7) “. . . no Reformed theologian in all the centuries since the Canons of Dordt has been able to construct a theology which shows the Biblical relation of your and my election to the election of Jesus Christ.” This is simply not true. I am well aware that Dr. Daane likes to present himself (as in his The Freedom of God) as a theologian who stresses the election of Christ and the relation of our election to it. But Daane’s view is both unbiblical and confused. Fact is that Herman Hoeksema stressed the primacy of the election of Christ in relation to our election and in relation to the covenant for many years. It is high time that Dr. Daane should come to grips with this view of Hoeksema instead of forevermore misrepresenting his views. Isn’t it strange that the man whom Daane regards as the epitome of decretal theologians is the very one who has done for years what Daane says no Reformed theologian has been able to do? Daane can find this view very clearly set forth in the first chapter of Hoeksema’s Christology in Reformed Dogmatics.
There are more errors, but it would require extended discussion to enter into them.
Let me conclude by calling attention to Daane’s contention that it is individualism which has made Reformed churches easy victims of an “American evangelicalism that is characterized by its individualism.” There is truth in this contention. It is true, as Daane also states, that “many of the more ‘conservative’ Reformed and Presbyterian churches have a theology which is far more evangelical, in the typical American sense, than Reformed.” Let it be noted, however, that this “typical American sense” is the characteristically Arminian sense, the sense of crusade evangelism and decisionism. Daane is even correct when he fears “that this process is also going on in Christian Reformed churches.” But he is wrong, dead wrong, as to the cause. He ascribes this to the “basic individualism that lies so deeply in the Reformed doctrine of election.” This is both doctrinally and historically incorrect. When does it happen that Reformed and Presbyterian churches begin to become victims of American evangelicalism (Arminianism)? It happens exactly when they begin to veer away from the Reformed doctrine of election and reprobation and to teach in one degree or another that salvation or the possibility of salvation is universal, that the gospel is a general, well-meant offer of salvation, that there is a love of God revealed in the gospel to all men, etc. This is what happened in the Christian Reformed Church in 1924. It is what happened in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in this country in the crisis of the Clark Case. It is what has happened repeatedly in other forms and at other occasions in other denominations. Why, doctrinally speaking, does it happen? It happens not because the Reformed doctrine of predestination is individualistic. But it happens because the incipient Arminianism toward which they veer and with which they compromise the doctrine of predestination is, like all Arminianism and Pelagianism, inherently individualistic. When once these churches turn in the direction of such individualism, it becomes impossible to stem the tide. Some fifteen years ago the Christian Reformed Church was powerless to condemn the error of universal atonement (a typically American evangelical doctrine, to use Daane’s expression). Today the Christian Reformed Church—regardless of what their synod’s decision is going to be on the Boer Gravamen—is showing itself powerless to maintain the doctrine of reprobation. When did all of this begin? Fifty-five years ago, when the Synod of 1924 attempted to say “both . . . and” with respect to the truth of sovereign, particular grace versus Arminianism .