The long awaited report of the Study Committee appointed two years ago with respect to the doctrinal position of Prof. Harold Dekker appears in the Synodical Agenda of the Christian Reformed Church for 1966. This report is some seventy pages long; and it is, of course, impossible to present a detailed summary and critique in this issue of our Standard Bearer.
Because, however, this is a matter of great interest, I will, even though my editorial space is more than used up, present the bare conclusions of this report, so that our readers may be informed of what is happening. Those conclusions, with the grounds omitted, are as follows:
“I. That, in the light of Scripture and the Confession, there is a qualitative distinction between the general love of God for all His creatures and His special love for the elect.'” Comment: This, of course, is the traditional common-and-special grace distinction of 1924; and it stands opposed to Dekker’s conception of one redemptive love of God to all men.
“II. That, in the light of Scripture and the Confession, the doctrine of a definite or particular (limited) atonement must be maintained.” Comment: This, as it stands here, is Reformed; and again, it stands opposed to Dekker’s general atonement. There is, however, some significant maneuvering in the alleged grounds of this second point, which nevertheless compromises, or attempts to compromise, this particularism. Treatment of this must come later.
“III. That, in the light of Scripture and the Confession, it is unwarranted to posit a universal atonement and a particular redemption.” Comment: This is over against Dekker’s doctrine of a universal atonement that is efficacious only in the elect.
“IV. That in the light of Scripture and the Confession, it is unwarranted to say to each and every man without distinction, ‘Christ died for you.'” Comment: Again, some rather strange grounds are adduced for this point; and oddly enough, there is no single reference to Scripture and the Confession in these grounds. Of course, this fourth point stands directly opposed to Dekker’s claim.
“V. That, in the light of Scripture and the Confession, the doctrine of definite atonement is an incentive for rather than a hindrance to mission enthusiasm and endeavor.” Comment: The grounds again fail to refer to Scripture and the Confessions; instead they try to show the other face of the Janus-head and maintain the general offer of 1924 in juxtaposition to the gospel of definite atonement.
A few concluding remarks must suffice for the present:
1. It will be interesting indeed to see whether the Synod adopts these points, and to see whether or not they will also follow these points by what would seem logically to follow, namely, discipline of Professor Dekker, unless he recants his position.
2. It will be interesting to observe the reaction of theReformed Journal to the above recommendations,—particularly of Daane, Boer, Stob, and, not the least, Prof. Dekker himself.
3. It is significant that it required seventy pages of theological meanderings,—I call it hocus pocus,—to try to maintain the position of Dordrecht and at the same time to maintain 1924. The committee speaks in its conclusions of avoiding the Scylla of undue universalism and the Charybdis of an undue particularism,—whatever that may mean. Frankly, the whole report leaves the impression of the old Janus-head. When Dekker must be condemned, then the committee reveals Janus’s Reformed face. But when it appears that they might be too purely Reformed and that 1924 is being forgotten, they quickly expose Janus’s Arminian, universalistic, face. Quite a game, if it were not so serious.
4. If I were Christian Reformed, and if I were bound to stand on the fundamental position of 1924, I would surely plead Prof. Dekker’s cause. Granted the premise of the First Point, Dekker is much more consistent than the committee.
However, I am not Christian Reformed. Nor do I stand on the basis of 1924. I stand on the basis of Dordrecht. And on that basis, I repeat what I have said before: Dekker, Daane, Stob, and Boer, cum sociis, are right, but dead wrong.