In the Reformed Journal of February 1971 (pp. 21, 22) Dr. James Daane makes a few of his typical comments about my editorial of May 1970 concerning the repudiation of the Canons by the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands. In said editorial I made the point that the GKN principally repudiated the Canons when they repudiated sovereign reprobation.
Daane writes under the title, “Something Happened to the Canons.”
And as usual, he is right, but dead wrong.
This is true, first of all, as to his title. It is correct that something happened to the Canons. But it happened to the Canons only in the Gereformeerde Kerken. And besides, something happened, but it was something BAD: the Gereformeerde Kerken principally cut the heart out of the Canons.
But this is true also as far as the contents of Daane’s article are concerned.
I believe Daane is right, first of all, when he writes that the Standard Bearer offered the only critical coverage of the decision of the GKN in the American religious press: at least, I also know of no other coverage. Daane is correct, too, when he expresses agreement with my criticism of the failure of the GKN to consult other Reformed churches. He tempers the latter element of agreement, however, by adding: “Had this occurred, however, nothing would have been achieved if the immediate response would have been that the Synod was about to repudiate the Canons.” To the latter remark I can only reply: elementary! And I would assure Daane that if the Protestant Reformed Churches had been consulted, we would have been at pains to demonstrate carefully and with thorough Scriptural proof that the position which Synod was contemplating was incorrect and that it would result principally in a repudiation of the Canons. If any church wants to consult us, we would surely be ready to consult! However, in my editorial I was reflecting upon the accomplished fact of Synod’s decision, not upon a contemplated action. And then I insist that the attitude of the GKN—which vaunts itself for its ecumenicity to the extent that it joins the WCC—was one of haughty conceit and proud highhandedness; and I will add to that: highly un-ecumenical, as well as inconsiderate! What king of ecumenicity is it when they do not even consult sister denominations about their common ecumenical heritage, the Reformed creeds? And what kind of consideration is it, even from their own point of view, when the GKN, supposedly having new insights into the Canons, does not even share these insights with and consult sister churches in the Reformed family?
But for the rest, Daane is dead wrong.
He is wrong, first of all, in the following quotation:
Hoeksema believes that reprobation concerns the very heart of the Reformed faith because “the crucial test of whether one actually believes the truth of sovereign election is in the question whether he believes the truth of sovereign reprobation.” This test would seem to be on a par with a contention that belief in hell and the devil determines whether one really believes in heaven and in God.
Now apart from that little inaccuracy of speaking of belief “in” hell and the devil (I believe in God and inChrist), I would certainly contend that the man who does not believe in the existence of hell and the devil does not truly believe the existence of heaven and does not believe in God: for all of these are revealed truths of Scripture. But I deny Daane’s analogy. For when you speak of God’s predestination, you speak of His decree with respect to the members of the one human race. He elected His people out of the whole human race. Speak of it in infralapsarian terms, if you will; but this surely means that He did not choose, orpasses by, the others. If He sovereignly did not choose, passes by, the rest. And if you deny that He did the latter, then it follows that you necessarily deny the former. This, by the way, is why I emphasized that historically the two have always stood and fallen together and that traditionally it has been sovereign reprobation which has been so distasteful and which is the first object of attack and the evidence that men do not really want sovereign election. This is true in the GKN, so that either the doctrine of election is silenced or it is corrupted into a conditional election. Moreover, I make bold to say that if Daane himself wants conditional reprobation, he also wants (though he probably will not admit it) conditional election.
In the second place, Dr. Daane is wrong in the following quotation:
…Hoeksema contends further that one does not truly believe in a sovereign reprobation unless he believes in an eternal reprobation, that is, in a reprobation that is not conditional, or contingent, upon something that happens in time and history.
The above quotation is followed by a long and involved piece of confused reasoning about God acting sovereignly within the conditions of temporality and against the contingencies of history. I must confess in regard to the latter that I do not understand Daane at all; I wish he would clarify what he writes.
But in the above quotation Daane is wrong. He misses the point. In the first place, the language equating “sovereign” and “eternal” is not mine, but Daane’s—though I gladly accept, of course, the truth that God’s predestination is both eternal and sovereign, as God is eternal and sovereign. But, in the second place, Daane misconstrues the problem. The problem is really very simple: how can God’s decree of reprobation be sovereign if it is not unconditional, that is, if it is not dependent upon man’s sin and unbelief? Daane must not simply say, “contingent upon something that happens in time and history.” The question is this: is God’s decree of reprobation contingent upon man’s sin and unbelief? If so, then it is by definition not sovereign, not free and independent. As everyone knows, this was the issue with respect toelection in the Arminian controversy. There the question was: is God’s decree of election dependent upon man’s (foreseen) faith and obedience and perseverance?
In the third place, Dr. Daane is wrong on the subject of infralapsarianism when he writes as follows:
Moreover, if, as Hoeksema suggests, reprobation is only sovereign and eternal because it is not a response to the condition of human sinfulness, then the infralapsarian position is heretical, for infralapsarians wanted nothing of a reprobation that is eternal in the sense that reprobation is in no way contingent upon sin. But infralapsarianism generally characterizes all Reformed creeds.
Daane is right, of course, when he writes that infralapsarianism generally characterizes all Reformed creeds. This is true of the Canons also. And to these Canons I subscribe. But if the above is the infralapsarian position, and if the position of the Canons is the position of infra-, then why, pray tell, did the GKN reject the Canons on reprobation? Polman and Berkouwer and their kind have been for years attacking the Canons on reprobation. Now the GKN have repudiated precisely the position of the Canons on reprobation; and Polman and Berkouwer are glad. Why?—if the Canons teach a reprobation which is contingent upon sin? Has this not aiways been the stumbling-block to men like Berkouwer and Polman? Has not Berkouwer long been twisting the so-callednon eodem modo in the Conclusion to the Canons precisely in order to teach a conditional reprobation and to destroy the teaching of the (infralapsarian) Canons on reprobation? Secondly, what Daane sets forth as the infra- position (reprobation contingent upon sin) is nothing but Arminianism. And the infralapsarian Synod of Dordrecht exactly rejected Arminianism.
But I would suggest two things: 1) Let Dr. Daane demonstrate that the Scripture passages cited by the Canons (and other similar passages) do not support sovereign (unconditional) reprobation. 2) Let him explain what these Scripture passages do teach.
One more item. Dr. Daane writes: “. . . ‘eternal’ does not simply mean ‘timeless’ (Agreed! HCH); ‘eternal’ carries a connotation of the relationship of eternity to time and to the conditions of history.” Please explain what you mean by that last statement, and then demonstrate its truth from Scripture. In addition, please furnish a good working definition of eternity,”—based, of course, on Scripture.
Perhaps then we could continue this journalistic exchange.