To whom could these words refer but to Dr. James Daane? It has become, it seems, a bad habit with him to be right. . . but dead wrong.
This time he pontificates in the Banner (Sept. 1, 1972) about the faults of the Christian Reformed pulpit and the reasons thereof.
And one hardly knows which of the two proverbs about answering a fool should be applied in his case—whether to answer, or not to answer him according to his folly. Possibly it should be the latter: for it seems utterly hopeless to turn him from his foolishness.
Yet for the sake of the truth, and for the sake of those who will receive instruction, and also so that Daane himself may be left without excuse, I will try to set the record straight.
From the viewpoint of a man who for twelve years has shuttled between Christian Reformed pulpit and pew (Dr. Daane is professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, but also holds ministerial status in the Christian Reformed Church), he writes about “Things I Didn’t Hear.” Writes he:
I did not hear a sermon on the Covenant, nor on Grace, and only one on Election—and that was more lecture than sermon (and there is a difference!). Yet these truths, Covenant, Grace, and Election, bespeak the distinctively Reformed understanding of the biblical faith, truths that should be always implicit and often explicit in the Reformed pulpit.
On this Dr. Daane is right, I think.
He is certainly right on the second statement. The truths of the Covenant, of Grace, and of Election (and Reprobation!) bespeak the distinctively Reformed understanding of the Biblical faith. And these are truths that should always be implicit and frequently explicit in the Reformed pulpit.
Presumably he is also correct in reporting on what he did not hear. At least, I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of his report. Moreover, I can readily believe that Daane’s sampling of Christian Reformed preaching is an indication of what is characteristic ofmost Christian Reformed preaching. It would be strange indeed if Daane would have heard only the bad Christian Reformed preaching as, over a period of twelve years, he sat in CRC pews from coast to coast. I can, in fact, go Daane one better—or should I say “worse?” Personally, I do not sample Christian Reformed preaching very often. But I have done so twice in the past few years. Both times I was bitterly disappointed. But in the course of those two samples I learned that it is possible to sit under Christian Reformed preaching without hearing any gospel whatsoever! On a Florida vacation I heard the “gospel” that today is the day of opportunity to do all kinds of good works—but no sin, no cross, no atonement, no grace, and surely no covenant and no election! So I can readily believe that Daane’s assessment of Christian Reformed preaching, based on a rather large sampling, is true.
And when the doctor says that this is “a cause for concern,” he is also right. In fact, he should have changed that “concern” to “great alarm.”
Dr. Daane is also correct on a third item in his article. He writes as follows:
For twelve years I have also moved in and out of the evangelical church world, on occasion sat in its pews and more frequently stood in its pulpits. In this church world I have never felt altogether at home theologically. Yet the difference between the theological atmosphere of these churches and that of our churches seems, to me at least, a diminishing difference. This diminishing difference, I believe, stems from a growing Christian Reformed pulpit-silence on Covenant, Grace, Election. Since these three truths distinguish the Reformed from the Evangelical Faith, the Reformed pulpit that mutes these truths becomes indistinguishable from the evangelical pulpit. I suspect that it is this state of affairs that enables many Christian Reformed people to leave the CRC and join an evangelical church in good conscience.
On this Dr. Daane is also correct, though rather mild. He might have pointed to the fact that this fundamental flaw in Christian Reformed preaching is the root of many, many other ills. But let that be; the main thrust of his comparison is, I believe, right.
Dr. Daane is even right on a fourth item, when he writes:
What my ear did not hear in the pew, has been almost invisible in our religious journalism. With some exceptions, the religious press of the Christian Reformed community has shown scant interest in these distinctive ingredients of the Reformed Faith.
I can testify to the truth of this statement. For I read theBanner, the Outlook, the Reformed Journal, Calvinist Contact; and one looks almost in vain for any writings on the Covenant, Grace, or Election in these magazines, let alone any sound writings.
So. Dr. Daane is quite right.
He is even right on one element in his diagnosis of the reasons for this evil. He writes, “I fault not so much the man in the pulpit as the theologian who stands behind the pulpit and largely shapes and determines what the pulpit does and does not preach.” That is correct, too! It is especially correct with respect to the theologians who occupy the seats of learning in the seminaries. They are the men who largely shape and determine what the pulpit does and does not preach.
On all these matters Dr. Daane is right. Up to this point his article is one of the most significant contributions to the Banner that has appeared in a long time. The readers of the Banner, both pew-sitters and preachers,—and especially theologians!—may well pay attention to what Dr. Daane writes. He has 20/20 vision on these matters!