In previous issues of The Standard Bearer, we have given an extended defense of the doctrine of reprobation against the attacks made upon it within the Reformed churches. We may be permitted to take the offensive for a moment.
Denial of an eternal decree of reprobation is, by virtue of this fact, denial of Biblical election as well, specifically election as the choice of definite individuals out of the human race. It is the denial of the Divine counsel of predestination.
Denial of the counsel of predestination is the denial of the whole counsel of God. For God’s election in Christ of a Church out of the whole human race is the heart of the counsel of God. All else in the counsel, the determination of creation and history, is related to the decree of Christ and His Church; the decree of providence, in every detail, serves the decree of predestination. “When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (Deut. 32:8, 9).
That the current attack on reprobation is, in fact, an assault on the counsel of God as such is indicated by the enemies of reprobation themselves. Openly, they state that the object of their enmity is “decretal theology.”
Since the counsel of God is nothing other than the decreeing God Himself in His sovereignty—God willing, God planning, God ruling—the denial of reprobation, and with it the denial of the whole counsel of God, is the denial of the decreeing, sovereign God of Holy Scripture. Where the denial of reprobation entrenches itself, that God is overthrown of Whom the saints have ever confessed, “our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3) and Who says of Himself, “I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9, 10).
The denial of predestination is part of a war that is raging along the entire front of the historic Reformed faith. The objective of the enemy is the sovereignty, that is, the Godhead, of God. The kingdom, the power, and the glory of God must be seized and destroyed in the confession and preaching of the Church.
It is the sovereignty of God that is at stake in the denial of the inerrant inspiration of Holy Scripture and in the denial of Scripture’s clarity and trustworthiness that accompanies the denial of inerrancy. God was not able to inspire a book that is holy and divine. He was not able to breathe forth a Word that is His Word and His Word only. Corrupted as it is by the fancies, follies, and falsehoods of men, the Bible cannot be thought perfectly to reveal the glory of God, clearly to set forth His works and ways, authoritatively to prescribe His will, and reliably to teach truth in everything it says. Nor can it command an un-critical, childlike belief and obedience. Stripped of His Word, God loses His scepter and sword. He is now a powerless king.
It is the sovereignty of God that is at stake in the rejection of the Reformed, Biblical doctrine of creation for the notion of theistic evolution. Banished are the majesty, wisdom, power, and goodness of the God Who spoke and it was done; Who covered Himself with light as with a garment, stretched out the heavens like a curtain, and laid the foundations of the earth; Who gave “unto every creature,” to use the elegant, but factual language of the Belgic Confession, “its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator.” What is left is a remote deity who presided over the beginning of things by natural causes in a distant age (or merely witnessed the beginning, if we are to believe Jan Lever) and a god who is lost in the evolutionary process by which that beginning developed into the world of today.
It is the sovereignty of God that is at stake in the denial of the historicity of the account of the fall in Genesis 3 by denying a speaking serpent. Denial of the historical truthfulness of the fall breaks the Word of God, indeed makes a shambles of Scripture’s trustworthiness, clarity, and authority. Nor is the Word that is broken only the Word concerning man’s disobedience, guilt, and death. It is also the Word concerning God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Does no one see that the mother-promise itself of Genesis 3:15, out of which developed all the gospel that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, although it was addressed to Adam and Eve standing by, was spoken by God to the serpent? If there was no serpent, to what, pray tell, was the Lord speaking when He said, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”? Obviously, to nothing, so that denial of the speaking serpent is denial as well of the speaking God. Those who openly are robbing the Church of the truth of the fall are secretly stealing the truth of the gospel.
Denial of the fall wars against God’s sovereignty in yet another way. It exalts man in his relationship with God; thus, it abases God. No longer is man to see himself as a creature .who has plunged from the heights of a glorious creation in the image of God to the depths of a fearful guilt and wretched depravity, by his own willful disobedience. No longer is he to see himself as completely exposed to God’s wrath and wholly dependent upon God’s grace. No longer is he to see the God before Whom he lies as the God of awful justice—yet requiring the perfect obedience man cannot give; offended in His most high majesty by man’s original and actual sins; demanding that sin be punished with hell. (It is not surprising that denial of the fall is followed by a denial of the cross of Christ as satisfaction of the justice of God.) At the most, where denial of the fall obtains, man is the morally weak product of the evolutionary process, retaining some savagery from his animal ancestors, more to be pitied than blamed. Although he has been inclined to sin against God from the beginning (this is what the “myth” of Genesis 3 is supposed to teach), man has many noble qualities, representing, as he does, the high point heretofore of the evolution of all things. His future is bright, if only he will exert himself to eradicate his social sins—racism, capitalism, sexism, and the like. God will lend man a helping hand in this struggle for “salvation.” Is not God obliged to do so? Why else does He exist? And, when you get down to it, is not He really to blame for man’s present condition, since He is the One Who has made man through the evolutionary process?
It is the sovereignty of God that is at stake in the denial of the cross as the satisfaction of the justice of God. On this front also, the war rages today in the Reformed churches. Men deny that the death of Christ was the suffering of the punishment of God’s wrath, at God’s hands, in the stead of a guilty people. This is to denythe revelation of the matchless righteousness and amazing love of God. Such is His righteousness that, as our Reformed form for the Lord’s Supper puts it, rather than sin should go unpunished, God has punished it in His beloved Son Jesus Christ, with the bitter and shameful death of the cross. Such is His love toward us that He “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:9, 10). Also, denial of the cross as satisfaction is denial of the efficacy of the cross as the saving work of God. What did the cross actually accomplish? Why did God have Jesus die at all? If the cross was not atonement, it was a cruel stupidity.
It is the sovereignty of God that is at stake in the denial of the miracles, the “wonders,” to use Biblical language, of Scripture. As the sceptics laugh a speaking serpent out of the garden, so do they repudiate, publicly, the speaking of Balaam’s ass; the swallowing of Jonah by a great fish; and many others wonders, too numerous to mention. They have a little god; and the god they leave with Reformed saints, after they have ruled out the miracles of the Bible, is a god no bigger than the mind of 20th century men and no more potent that the allowances of 20th century’ science. This is their god, and they are welcome to him. We are determined that they shall not establish this vanity in the Reformed Church in the stead of Him “Whose wondrous works my soul amaze.” Now they carry their assault on God’s wonders to the wonder of wonders—the incarnation of the eternal Son of God. Craftily masking their purpose as difficulty with the formulations of the Council of Chalcedon (which confessed the incomprehensible union of two distinct natures in one divine Person in Jesus, by the wonder of the eternal Word becoming flesh), speaking gravely of the influences of Gnosticism and Greek philosophy on the church fathers, these enemies of the works of God lay hostile and profane hands on the mystery of godliness itself: “God was manifest in the flesh” (I Tim. 3:16).
It is the sovereignty of God that is at stake in the setting aside of the law—the will of God for the life of the Church and each member. In the public, official disregard in Reformed churches for the law of God concerning the inviolability of marriage; God’s hatred of divorce; the subjection of the woman in marriage; the monstrous wickedness of homosexuality; the teaching and rule of the Church by men only; the authority of employers; the evil of political revolution; the right of private property; the duty of the Church to stick to her spiritual task; the responsibility of the magistrate to execute the murderer; and even the bloody murder of unborn babies—in all this disregard for the law of God, the authority of God over men, over His own people, is challenged.
Jehovah is dethroned in Reformed Israel. His covenant is forsaken; His altars are thrown down; and, if His prophets are not slain, they are hated and slandered, while the seminaries ruin those who ought to be His prophets.
A new god is raised up, a Baa1 imported from the Zidon of Pelagianism, humanism, modernism, and the spirit of the age (which is the spirit of Antichrist). In his nature, the new god is Man glorified; as to his word, he says whatever his interpreters desire him to say at the moment; concerning his will, it is the sanctioning of all the lusts of sinful flesh. Infinitely pliable is this very un-sovereign god before the pressure of modern culture. His wisdom is the most recent insight of the theologian, the scientist, and the philosopher.
To this strange god, the Reformed people are bowing—hearing his prophets in the pulpit, worshipping him at church, knowing him by instruction in catechism class and schoolroom, honoring him in synodical pronouncements, and obeying his precepts (permissions!) in daily life. Once again in the history of the Church, it is true: “They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee” (Deut. 32:17, 18).
Since this is the issue in the Reformed churches today (to say nothing of Protestantism at large), those sleek preachers speak falsely who cry, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Woe to them. This must be the motive that rouses up the fainthearted in the churches, both officebearers and laymen, to contend earnestly for the faith. It is not a time to think of ecclesiastical place and prestige, of earthly ease, or of friend and kindred dear. It is a time to confess the great Name of God by word and deed—”My God is (the sovereign) Jehovah.” It is a time to return, if we have sinfully departed, to the Rock of our salvation. It is a time to keep ourselves from idols. It is a time to reject the heretic. It is a time to believe, love, tremble at, proclaim, confess, defend, and obey the Reformed faith, the glorious truth of the holy Word of the ever blessed God.