Two Loves or One?
Dr. James Daane, treating the theological position of Prof. Harold Dekker, has found three reasons why Dekker’s position has raised questions and uncertainties in the Christian Reformed community. The first, namely, that Dekker asserts that there is but one love of God, we considered in the August 1 issue. Daane treats the second reason also in the November, 1964 issue of the Reformed Journal; and to this very speculative treatment by Daane we give our attention in the present editorial. However, we should keep in mind that this second reason stands closely connected with the third. The second is: “. . . this love is said to be a redemptive love for all men, though it redeems only the elect.” The third is: “. . . the distinction between ‘redemptive’ and ‘redeeming’ does not, it is thought, protect his position from the charge that it violates the doctrine of limited atonement.”
First of all, let us listen to Daane’s own presentation of this second reason for Christian Reformed questions and uncertainties:
The second reason Dekker has raised questions and uncertainties in the mind of the churches by his doctrinal assertions, lies in his introduction of the terms “redemptive” and “redeeming.” He has asserted that God has a redemptive love for all men but that this love redeems only the elect. Some feel that these terms are inadequate and misleading, particularly as they touch on the doctrine of limited atonement. They ask how God’s love for all men can be redemptive, if in fact it does not redeem all? For many it seems that the mere raising of this question settles the matter. Yet one could ask the very same question of the late Professor Berkhof when he asserts that the one grace of God effects the salvation of some men and bestows only “natural blessings” on others. Hoeksema raised this question too. But the matter can be put even more sharply. We are here discussing the nature of God’s love—as 1924 was discussing the nature of God’s grace. In 1924 it was asked how the one grace of God could be two grades, having two different results. Dekker is now being asked how the one love of God, redemptive in nature, can be extended to all men and have two different results and not the single result of saving all men. But notice that if we think of the nature of God (not of His freedom or sovereignty) and grant—as we all do—that God is in a real sense the God of all men, the same question returns: How can God be true to His nature, how can He be what He is, the God of all men, if in fact He does not save all men?
The correct theological response to this question is surely not to posit two kinds of grace, two kinds of love, each qualitatively different, in the nature of God; nor to posit two Crosses, two Holy Spirits, and two Gods, to explain the difference between the final end of the elect and that of the non-elect.
Such an explanation would be rationalistic, for to explain something is to show why it is necessary. But one may not from the biblical perspective thus explain either the salvation of the elect or the non-salvation of the non-elect. The former are saved by grace, and it is never necessary. What Christian would appeal to the nature of grace to demonstrate that his salvation was necessary? Nor is it permissible within the biblical perspective to make the nature of God the referent that explains the lostness of the lost, for within the biblical perspective it is impermissible to look beyond their sin and unbelief.
It is not my purpose to enter at this point into all the details of this highly speculative bit of philosophy. For one who is very concerned about method I must confess that I find Daane’s method here a profoundly unbiblical, anti-confessional, rationalistic, and confusing one. More about this later.
But let us, for the moment, take Daane at face value. Where do we end then?
Again, let us note that there are certain elements in Daane’s position that are, when taken by themselves, one hundred per cent right. The doctor seems to have 20/20 vision on the following:
1) There is only one love of God. On this Daane has insisted all along. In the light of Scripture and the confessions this is a correct proposition. The same may be said of God’s grace. And Daane’s criticism of 1924, as far as it goes, is to the point.
2) It is incorrect to posit two kinds of grace, two kinds of love, in the nature of God, even as it would be incorrect to posit two Crosses, two Holy Spirits, and two Gods, to explain the difference between the final end of the elect and that of the non-elect. This negative statement is also true in the light of Scripture and the confessions. I could not imagine a Reformed theologian who would dare to challenge this. Two loves or two graces in the nature of God? This would be a denial of the essential attribute of God’s simplicity! The very suggestion would be sheer heresy!
But do not overlook the fact that Dr. Daane is nevertheless dead wrong here again.
Mind you, I am taking Daane here on his own basis.
And then I insist that what he sees so well apparently in Berkhof and in 1924 he fails completely to see in Professor Dekker and in himself. He becomes guilty of the error of the pot calling the kettle black. He comes indeed very close to seeing the light when he writes: “They ask how God’s love for all men can be redemptive, if in fact it does not redeem all? For many it seems that the mere raising of this question settles the matter. Yet one could ask the very same question of the late Professor Berkhof . . . .” Perhaps if Daane, who seems to delight in philosophical speculation, had confronted the above question in the light of his criticism of Berkhof a little more carefully, he might have come to better conclusions. Apparently “the mere raising of this question” did not even cause Daane to pause, much less “settle the matter” for him.
Notice, now, that Daane and Dekker propose a doctrine of two loves in God. This is the plainly logical implication of the proposition that God has a redemptive love for all men that is redeeming only for the elect. These two loves are:
1) God’s redemptive-redeeming love (for the elect).
2) God’s redemptive-but-not-redeeming love (for the reprobate).
Daane, therefore, with all his speculation, stands theologically condemned out of his own mouth.
All this is very serious.
I am not interested in merely proving Daane’s position to be logically absurd. My interest is in the Reformed faith,—also as far as the Christian Reformed Church is concerned.
Notice the seriousness of the error involved here.
In the first place, what a terrible contradiction one arrives at with this theory. For “redemptive” means:serving to redeem. Apply this definition once to the second kind of love mentioned above, and you get this: God’s serving-to-redeem-but-not-redeeming love for the reprobate. And if, then, we keep in mind that the subject under discussion is the love of God, one can only conclude that here is a flagrant denial of the power and efficacy of that love of God. God’s love serves to redeem, but it does not achieve its goal: for it does not redeem.
In the second place,—and this is far more serious,—what does this theological position do to the honesty of the preaching?
This, after all, is the original issue: the preaching of the gospel, not merely some theoretical and abstract theology. Dekker proposed that the preacher must say to all men and every man, “God loves you,” and “Christ died for you.”
But in the light of the above, this is only a half truth; and therefore to preach this would be dishonest,—unless, of course, one would take the out-and-out Arminian position that makes all of salvation dependent in last analysis on man. (When I say “half truth,” you understand I am arguing from Daane’s own position.) According to this position of Daane and Dekker, it certainly would be short of honest merely to proclaim that God loves all men and that Christ died for all men. One would be bound before God to qualify that in one fashion or another.
I leave it to Daane to tell us how this must be qualified:
1) By saying, “God loves His elect redemptively and redeemingly, but the reprobate redemptively and nonredeemingly?” I am afraid this would defeat the generalistic purpose of Daane and Dekker.
2) By saying, “God loves you redemptively, and Christ died for you redemptively; but I do not know whether God loves you and Christ died for you redeemingly or non-redeemingly?” But this is no gospel, but the mere expression of doubt.
3) By saying, “God loves you redemptively and Christ died for you redemptively; but only if you fulfill the condition of faith and repentance does that ‘redemptively’ become ‘redeemingly?'” But this is sheer Arminianism, and a denial both of the efficacy of God’s love and the efficacy of Christ’s atonement.
And how does Dr. Daane arrive at this two-loves theory? By theological hocus pocus.
But about this next time, D.V.