Single track theology is a theology that, while it is based on Scripture, at the same time applies the rules of logic, exegetically, to all its principles. It proceeds from the sound supposition that Scripture itself is logical and that there are no contradictions in the Word of God.
On this presupposition I have always labored and explained the Word of God.
Double track theology, on the other hand, which is Kuiper’s, proceeds from the supposition that there is a fundamental contradiction in Scripture, which, although we may never be able to explain it, we must nevertheless accept by faith. On the one hand, there is the doctrine of the sovereign grace of God, the truth of election and reprobation; on the other hand, however, there is also the doctrine that God, in His love to all men, seriously and well-meaningly offers salvation to all men: He wills that all men shall be saved!
The latter is the doctrine of Arminius, the former. is the doctrine of R.B. Kuiper and also of Prof. Dekker. In other words, Kuiper pretends to believe both: Arminianism and the Reformed truth.
But Kuiper contends that the fathers of Dordt, in the Canons, teach the same thing.
2. And, therefore, the question is: Is this true? And my answer is: By no means.
It is true that the Canons use the word “offered.” They do this in III, IV, 9, which reads as follows:
“It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of Christ, offered therein, nor of God, who calls men by the gospel, and confers upon them various gifts, that those who are called by the ministry of the word, refuse to come and be converted: the fault lies in themselves; some of which, when called, regardless of their danger, reject the word of life; others, though they receive it, suffer it not to make a lasting impression upon their hearts; therefore, their joy, arising only from a temporary faith, soon vanishes, and they fall away; while others choke the seed of the word, by perplexing cares, and the pleasures of this world, and produce no fruit. This our Savior teaches in the parable of the sower. Matt. 13.”
What, we ask, is the meaning of the word “offer” as used in the Canons at this place?
As Kuiper uses it, and also as it is used in the First Point of 1924, it denotes:
a. That God, on His part, is willing and eager that all who hear the gospel should be saved.
b. That, therefore, He causes the gospel to be preached to them. This preaching of the gospel is motivated by love and grace on the part of God.
c. That, in this preaching of the gospel, God “offers” Christ to all. He, as it were, extends His hand to all the hearers, and in this hand are all the blessings of salvation. He wants all to take those blessings. But if they refuse, He can do nothing more about it: they are lost.
This is what Kuiper teaches. If this is not his interpretation of the term “offer,” I wish he would let me know, for it is not my purpose to misrepresent him.
However, this is not the teaching of the Canons. The term “offer” in this article of the Canons simply means “to present,” nothing more or less. In the gospel or in the preaching of the gospel, Christ is “presented” to all the hearers.
And to be sure, by nature they can and will surely reject that presented Christ as is also explained in that very article of the Canons in which the term “offer” occurs, but by nature they will never and they can never accept Him. How, then, it is possible that God, on His part, sincerely and in love to all without distinction and without exception “offers” Christ in the sense in which Kuiper would explain the term? Does God mock the sinner? Be it far from us even to make such a suggestion!
But this surely is not the meaning of the Canons!
In general, and emphatically so in the Canons, the Reformed Confessions teach the following:
a. God from all eternity predestinated a people in free and sovereign love. Them, and them only, He chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world. He chose them, and them only, unto eternal glory and that, too, through the deep way of sin and death and grace.
b. For them, i.e., in their stead as well as in their behalf, Christ came into the world in the likeness of sinful flesh. He took all the sins of the elect upon Himself and for these sins He suffered all His life but especially on the accursed tree. By His suffering and death He fully satisfied for all the sins of the elect and theirs only, so that in Him they have the right to everlasting righteousness and glory.
c. But there is more, and there must be more. For if God merely “offered” all the blessings of salvation and did nothing more, no one would ever be saved: for they would all reject the proffered salvation. But Christ did not only die. But He was also raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, was exalted at the right hand of God and received the Spirit. Through that Spirit of Christ and by the Word preached in the gospel, the elect and they only, are irresistibly and efficaciously called into the fellowship of Christ through the bond of faith, are justified, sanctified, and ultimately glorified.
d. All this is, according to Scripture and the Reformed Confessions, absolutely sure. If they were left to themselves, they would surely perish; but now, by the same efficacious grace, they are preserved and through the power of this divine grace they will persevere unto the end.
e. It follows, and is certainly in harmony with Scripture and the Reformed Confessions, that the preaching of the gospel is, neither in God’s intention, nor in actual fact, a mere “offer” of salvation in the sense in which Kuiper would have it, nor is it grace to all the hearers. But it is and is intended to be grace for the elect and for the elect only.
Kuiper may call this “one track theology,” but it is nevertheless the only theology Scripture and the Reformed Confessions know and support.
First of all, I will refer to Scripture, and I will explain those texts to which Kuiper and also the Christian Reformed Synod of 1924 refer.
The first of these texts to which Kuiper refers, although he does not interpret, but rather lets Calvin explain it, is the well-known passage from II Peter 3:9. But before I go into this I must needs quote from the context of Kuiper’s article in “Torch and Trumpet” to prove that he very really teaches such a conception of the “offer of salvation to all that hear the preaching of the gospel” as stands in irreconcilable conflict with the truth of sovereign grace or with the doctrine of predestination, election and reprobation. He writes:
“However, that was not the entire picture (Kuiper is writing about Arminianism). A significant phase of a radically different kind of universalism, Scriptural universalism, also came into purview. The Arminians contended that the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination cannot possibly be harmonized with the universality and sincerity of the gospel offer. They argued that, if God decreed irrevocably from eternity that only certain persons would be saved and that all others would be lost, it is inconceivable that God would in all sincerity invite all men without discrimination to eternal life. Therefore, embracing the latter doctrine, they rejected the former. And they told the Calvinists that, in case they held the former, they would by all rules of logic have to renounce the latter. From the viewpoint of finite human reason the Arminians were right. Thus the Calvinists confronted a strong temptation. Did they yield? By the grace of God they did not. They subjected human logic to the divine logos. Convinced that the two doctrines concerned were both of them unmistakably in the infallible Word of God and therefore in reality could not be contradictory, they accepted both uncompromisingly.”
Now, I could wish that Kuiper would have quoted the Arminians particularly about their basing their doctrine on human logic rather than on the Word of God. As it stands now, we simply have to take his word for it.
But what I wanted to point out is that Kuiper’s doctrinal train runs, indeed, on a double track and that, while on the one track runs the doctrine of predestination and on the other that of sincere offer of salvation the two doctrines are in irreconcilable conflict with each other. Kuiper claims that they are not contradictory for there can be no contradictions in Scripture, but this is a mere statement without any support.
And now the text in II Peter 3:9.
As I already mentioned, Kuiper does not explain this passage himself, but quotes the interpretation of Calvin. In brief Calvin explains this text as referring, not to the hidden, but to the revealed will of God. In other words, according to the so-called secret will of God, all men are not saved and are not intended to be saved; but, according to the revealed will of God, as in this text, God does, indeed, not will that any man should perish, but that all should be saved. I beg to differ with Calvin on this interpretation. The distinction between the secret and revealed will of God is false, for the simple reason that also the so-called hidden will of God is revealed. It is true, of course, that there are many things in regard to the counsel of God that are not revealed: the number of the saved, who will be saved, the day and manner of one’s death, etc. But the fact that God wills not that all men should be saved and that some must perish, in other words, the counsel of predestination, election and reprobation, does not belong to the hidden but to the revealed will of God.
As to the text in II Peter 3:9, the following:
1. There are in the main three different interpretations of this passage of Scripture:
a. There is the explanation that makes this text of universal application. God as far as He is concerned wills that every human being shall be saved. For this reason He gives to every man abundant opportunity to come to repentance. This is the interpretation of all Arminians.
b. Secondly, there is the explanation that finds in this text an expression of the revealed will of God. According to the secret will of God’s decree, He does not will that all men should be saved, but according to the revealed will of God He does will that all come to repentance and should be saved. These two wills of God we cannot harmonize, neither do we need to harmonize them; we accept them by faith. This, as we have seen, is Calvin’s explanation. And Kuiper agrees with him.
c. Thirdly, there is also the interpretation that explains the word “all” in the text as referring to the elect only, the people of God. God is longsuffering over His people: He will not let the end of the world come until all the elect, all the people of God, are brought into the kingdom and are saved. This is the interpretation of men like Dr. A. Kuyper Sr.
Let us investigate this text and see which is de correct interpretation.