Present Truth is a magazine which apparently has a rather wide readership among people of Reformed persuasion, including not a few who are also readers of our Standard Bearer. Although the originally favorable opinion of this magazine which some Reformed people had has probably changed somewhat, nevertheless occasionally I still hear favorable comments about it. Besides, the magazine itself claims to go under the banner of the Reformation. Its masthead boasts that it is “dedicated to the restoration of New Testament Christianity (why not Old Testament also? HCH) and committed to upholding the great Reformation principle of justification by faith.” Again, it claims to proclaim boldly “those great principles upon which the Reformation was founded—namely: 1. Sola gratia. God’s saving activity outside of us in the person of Jesus Christ is the sole ground of our salvation. (A very poor definition of sola gratia when you analyze it. HCH) 2.Solo Christo. Christ’s doing and dying on our behalf is the sole basis of our acceptance and continued fellowship with God. (Again, a defective definition, as analysis will reveal. HCH) 3. Sola fide. The Holy Spirit’s gift of faith through the hearing of this objective, historical gospel is the sole meanswhereby Christ’s substitutionary life and death are imputed to us for justification unto life eternal . . . .”
However, if there were any doubts about the heterodoxy of this magazine until now, these should now vanish like the morning mist in the light of the September, 1976 issue, which is devoted to the subject of election.
From a Reformed point of view, it would be difficult to find a more complete catalogue of errors with respect to cardinal Reformed truths.
It is not my purpose to offer an extensive critique of all that is stated by Editor Robert D. Brinsmead in his lengthy third article on “The Legal and Moral Aspects of Salvation,” in which he especially writes about the subject of Election. To do so would require more time and space than it is worth; one could, in fact, fill an issue of our magazine with such critique.
But this is not necessary. I only wish to point out several very obvious errors which any Reformed reader could discern, and then sound the warning not to be misled by the alleged loyalty to Reformation principles of this widely distributed magazine. Whatever Present Truth may claim to be, it is our contention that it actually is an enemy of the principles of the Reformation.
In the space of this one issue one can without difficulty discover the following errors:
1. The denial of sovereign predestination. And as you might expect, this denial concentrates on the denial of sovereign reprobation! That viper is everywhere clasped to the bosom!
2. The denial of total depravity under the guise of teaching it. This is plain in the footnote on page 9, where we are told that total depravity “does not mean that man is as bad as he can be but that the whole man, even the best in man, is tainted with human sinfulness.” That is a far cry from being by nature “incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all evil,” as our Heidelberg Catechism puts it.
3. The denial of definite atonement. “Christ did not only purchase some men by His blood, but He bought the whole race of men and thereby gained the right to be the Judge of all.” (p. 13).
4. The denial of regeneration and, with it, the denial that faith is the gift of grace. Mr. Brinsmead. insists that justification by faith precedes regeneration, and he denies that the sinner must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit before he can believe and be justified.
5. The error of a sort of general offer of the gospel. This is couched in different terms than those to which we are accustomed, but the error is no less Arminian. Notice: “In Christ humanity is already justified and freed (Rom. 5:18; Rom. 6:7). When, by the power of His intercession and the agency of the Holy Spirit, Christ comes in the power of the gospel to sinner, justification and freedom verily draw nigh to him, and—irrespective of his moral condition—he is given the right to exercise the freedom which humanity has in Christ,” (p. 14). And if there remains any doubt about the above error, let it be noted that the next paragraphs make it plain that there can be and is a reaction of unbelief as well as a reaction of faith when Christ through His Spirit comes with the above objective gospel. After all, you see, it is up to Man!
I have one more grave objection to Present Truth in this issue. That objection is of an ethical nature. It is two-fold:
1. In the article to which I have referred above, the writer challenges Reformed Christians to depart from the position of Luther, Calvin, Westminster, and Dordrecht under the ruse of the Reformed motto, “reformed and always reforming.” This, is deceit. Departure from the Reformed faith and “reformed and always reforming” have nothing in common. Be not deceived!
2. In his “Editorial Introduction” the writer tries to leave the impression of objectivity when he writes: “We have reprinted several articles on the subject of election by some notable scholars, not because we necessarily agree with them, but because (1) we should all know what significant points are being taught in the Christian church, and (2) we think the articles are significantly stimulating to challenge our thought and study on the question of election.” And later he writes: “We have not repeated the orthodox Reformed view of election, because that is well known.” And what happens? Without exception,Present Truth presents the writings of those who are enemies of the Reformed view. Besides, in his own article Mr. Brinsmead presents the views of men like Hoeksema and Van Til through the misrepresentationof that arch-enemy of the Reformed view, Dr. James Daane. Moreover, Brinsmead makes it very plain that he cites Daane with approval. Well, if Brinsmead thinks that Daane’s caricature of Hoeksema (and Van Til) is a correct representation of their “orthodox Reformed view of election,” then Mr. Brinsmead is only betraying his own ignorance of the orthodox Reformed view.
The trouble is that Mr. Brinsmead’s appeal to enemies of the Reformed view is no accident. He is in their camp!