The Hocus Pocus Method
Hocus pocus is magic!
It is sleight of hand, the following of a trick and a devious method and means, in order to make what is not true appear as true, to make it appear that what has not happened has indeed happened, or what has not been proved has indeed been proved.
In exegesis it is the following of a devious method whereby the end is attained of making a text say exactly the opposite of what it says. Thus, for example,hocus pocus is the method whereby Scripture is made to say, “Esau have I loved too,” whereas it actually says, “Esau have I hated.”
In theology (which, if sound, is based on exegesis) it is the same. It is the use of and following of devious reasoning in order to make an untrue theological proposition appear to be true, or to make an unproved position appear to be proved.
Dr. Daane’s Hocus Pocus
I maintain that Dr. Daane is guilty of such hocus pocus. Actually, of course, 1924 was guilty of the same kind of theological hocus pocus: for the First Point ends with the contradictory proposition that God is gracious to those whom He eternally hates, namely, the reprobate. And the fact that Daane proceeds on the basis of 1924 undoubtedly explains the fact that he also follows this method. Only, in Daane’s case it is more emphatic. I will limit myself to his writings in the last part of his November, 1964 article for the time being, He continues to follow this method in subsequent articles also, of course. But for the present let me point out some of the main elements in his devious theological meanderings:
1. He furnishes no definition (Scriptural or otherwise) of redemption, redemptive, redeeming, and atonement. Instead he immediately proceeds to discuss the whole matter of redemptive-but-not-redeeming love with 1924 as the referent.
2. He makes the fundamental question that of thenature of God’s love.” While it cannot be denied that in this entire discussion there are very serious implications with respect to the nature of God’s love, and while certainly careful attention to and definition of the nature of God’s love would be beneficial with respect to this entire question, nevertheless the fundamental question is thus avoided and by hocus pocus disappears from the discussion. That question is: who are the objects of God’s love? In logic this is the error of begging the question, i.e., assuming what ought to be proved. Daane assumes that God loves all men,—something which no one can ever prove; and proceeding on this assumption, he devotes his attention only to the question whether there are two loves or one.
3. He divorces the nature of God from God’s freedom or sovereignty. This is indeed hocus pocus. But it is worse than that: it is a flagrant denial of God’s simplicity, according to which all God’s attributes are one in Him. You ask: but does Dr. Daane actually do this? He assuredly does. Listen: “But notice that if we think of the nature of God (not of His freedom or sovereignty) . . . . . . . . .” I ask: how can any Re formed theologian think of the nature of God and exclude from that thinking God’s freedom or sovereignty?
4. He from the outset ignores and eliminates from the discussion completely God’s sovereign counsel or decrees. This follows, of course, from the preceding point. But how different the entire picture would appear if Dr. Daane had raised this question: Granting that God is in a real sense the God of all men, how can God be true to His counsel if in fact He does not save all men? This question is very simple to answer: because it is not His counsel to save all men. Instead the doctor raises this question: “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?”
5. He obviously wants to eliminate from the discussion especially the doctrine of sovereign reprobation. For, having divorced God’s sovereignty from God’s nature, he proceeds to write further: “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.” Now it is fine to speak in broad terms of “the biblical perspective.” But Dr. Daane should offer clear Biblical proof in speaking of this perspective. Let him show us from Scripture that this is true, and let him do so by dealing with every Scripture passage that touches on this lostness of the lost and upon their sin and unbelief, What he writes here is mere assumption. And it is an assumption which he can never prove. It is hocus pocus.
6. Finally, all that Dr. Daane writes about the true purpose and end of Christian theology is not only a mixture of truth and half truth; but as far as the issue under discussion is concerned, it is hocus pocus. The doctor takes us far afield, and he deals in all kinds of generalities. But he never addresses himself to the real issue, never proves his many assumptions from Scripture, never proceeds exegetically, and never really proceeds confessionally.
But, of course, hocus pocus never wants to “get down to brass tacks.”