Before I continue my discussion of Prof. Dekker’s view that God loves all men, I like to refer to an editorial in The Banner in which the editor, the Rev. John Vander Ploeg criticizes and condemns the view of Prof. Henry Stob as set forth in the article in The Reformed Journal. It is the view that God hates no man: He hates sin, but not the sinner. This is, of course, the negative side of the position taken by Prof. Dekker that God loves all men. And, therefore, it is not at all surprising that the latter agrees with Prof. Stob.
However, the editor of The Banner apparently does not agree with him.
I say apparently because, although he writes many good things on this subject, he fundamentally weakens and destroys his own position by writing that God is gracious to all men in His “common grace.” Writes he:
“First, let it be clearly understood that this is in no sense intended as a denial of common grace. While hating the sinner, it is possible for God at the same time to show a favorable attitude which He extends to mankind in general. If, according to Scripture, these two exist side by side, then the matter is settled for us, no matter how difficult it may be for us to comprehend the mystery of this twofold divine relationship . . . The question whether God loves men in general with what has come to be known as common grace is definitely not the issue.”
And again: “But—and this is a serious though not an insurmountable but—does the Bible not say that God shows his love even to sinners? Indeed it does.
“Not that God loves all men with a redemptive love that is infinite, but He does show His favor to men in general by bestowing many blessings upon them, by restraining the full development of sin, by enabling even the reprobate to perform civil good, and also by coming to them with the Well-meant offer of salvation.
“Does this mean, then, that God loves and hates sinners at the same time? That’s what the Bible teaches. It is a mistake to suppose that it must be allone or all the other. That will be true in the hereafter when the antithesis will be absolute, not only in principle as it is already now, but also in its consummation. However, while he is still in the day of grace and on this side of his eternal destiny, the sinner may still be the object of God’s love as well as of his hate at the same time
“. . . Even so, while God hates sinners, God still loves them with the love of benevolence, and He graciously bestows His blessings upon them.”
What shall we say of all this? I will make the following remarks:
1. Is it not striking that, in this controversy, always the “Three Points” of Kalamazoo, 1924, must needs enter into the discussion? Is it not very evident that those “Three Points” are not Reformed, but principally Arminian? What principal difference is there between saying that God loves all men and saying that God is gracious in the preaching of the well-meant offer of grace and salvation to all that hear the gospel. Or, what difference is there between the theory which Prof. Dekker proposes and that which the editor of theBanner wants to emphasize in his editorial: “Even so, while God hates sinners, He still loves them with the love of benevolence, and He graciously bestows His blessings upon them?”
2. Prof. Stob writes, in The Reformed Journal, that God does not hate the sinner, but his sin. But does not the Rev. Vander Ploeg know that the late Rev. H.J. Kuiper, in his interpretation of the “Three Points,” wrote the same thing? Vander Ploeg must have none of this. But instead he writes—”that God both loves and hates the sinner at the same time.” This, according to him, is what the Bible teaches. But to me, this is sheer blasphemy. The Rev. Vander Ploeg would complete the text in Rom. 9:13 as follows: “Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated, though I have loved him too.” The same is true, of course, of all the texts which the editor of The Banner quotes himself. Thus, for instance, he quotes Ps. 5:5: “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” This he would complete by: but Thou lovest them, too. He quotes also Ps. 11:5: “Jehovah trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth,” to this, too, the editor of The Banner would add: but he also loveth the wicked. Again, he quotes Prov. 6:16, 19: “There are six things which Jehovah hateth . . . A false witnes that uttereth lies, And he that soweth discord among brethren;” this, too, means, according to the Rev. Vander Ploeg, that the Lord loveth a false witness that uttereth lies.
I can add many more passages of Scripture which the editor of The Banner would distort in the same way. Thus, for instance, in Prov. 3: “For the froward is abomination to the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous.” vs. 32. This according to Rev. Vander Ploeg must mean the very opposite also, so that we must add: the froward is also pleasing to the Lord. And in the same chapter, vs. 33, we read: “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.” According to Rev. Vander Ploeg, we must add: but the blessing of the Lord is also in the house of the wicked. But why quote more? The whole Bible condemns the view of Prof. Stob and also that of the Rev. Vander Ploeg.
3. One more item I must mention. The Rev. Vander Ploeg writes in the editorial from which we already quoted: “It is a mistake to suppose that it must be allone or all the other. That will be true in the hereafter when the antithesis will be absolute, not only in principle as it is already now, but also in its consummation,” etc. See above.
On this I have a remark and a question.
a. The remark is the following: the antithesis is not in the hereafter, but only in the present time. God be thanked that there will be no more antithesis in heaven, nor in the new creation, but there will be only the eternal thesis.
b. And the question is: does God love the wicked no more in the “hereafter” or in hell? If not, why not? Is the mere fact that the wicked dies and that too, after he has done civic good by the “common grace” of God, sufficient for God to withdraw His grace from him and to love him no more? At any rate we now have three propositions: a. God loves all men and hates no one: Dekker, Stob.
b. God loves and hates the wicked at the same time: Vander Ploeg.
c. God love the righteous and hates the wicked: The Prot. Ref. view; Scripture.
Now we must continue our discussion of Dekker’s proposition that God loves all men.
The last time we discussed Prof. Dekker’s conception of the atonement of Christ. It includes, according to him especially four elements, namely, sufficiency, availability, desire, and efficacy.
The first of these ideas, namely, sufficiency, we have already briefly discussed.
Now, therefore, we come to the question of availability. On this Prof Dekker has the following to say:
“Second, is the salvation which the atonement provides available to all men? Indeed it is. Otherwise the well-meant offer of the gospel is a farce, for it then offers sincerely to all men what cannot be sincerely said to be available to all. Moreover, Scripture, such as Titus 2:11 is very precise at this point: ‘for the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.'”
Now, the question is, first of all: what is the meaning of availability? Or, in this connection: what is the meaning of the availability of the atonement for all men. It seems to me that the term, in the connection in which Prof. Dekker uses it, is rather ambiguous. According to Webster the chief idea of the verb to avail is to be of advantage, to profit. And the noun availability, therefore, denotes the quality of being of advantage, of being profitable.
Apply this to the sentence: “The salvation which the atonement provides is available to all men,” and what do you get? This, that the atonement of Christ is of advantage or is profitable to all men. Would even Prof. Dekker dare to maintain this? I hardly think so. If he would maintain this, he would be worse than Arminian, he would be a universalist. He would be a Barthian. For, mark you well, the proposition is not that the preaching of the gospel is available, is of profit to all men, but that the atonement of Christ itself is of advantage to all. And that means that the atonement of Christ is profitable for every single individual of the whole human race that ever lived, that does live now and shall live in the future. This would be Barthian. For Barth teaches that there is no reprobation. Of course, if Dekker maintains that God loves all men, he can, strictly speaking, not maintain reprobation either.
But let us suppose that Dekker does not mean this. Let us say that he means that the atonement of Christ is available for all that come under the preaching of the gospel. Even then the proposition that the atonement of Christ is available, i.e. is of advantage or profit to all men, i.e. to all that hear the gospel, is not true. It certainly is not of advantage or profit to the unbeliever, to him that rejects the gospel, to the reprobate. For, do not forget that the preaching of the gospel is a savor of death unto death as well as a savor of life unto life.
You know, of course, that I do not believe in the so-called “well-meant offer of the gospel” in the Christian Reformed sense of the word: to me that is, indeed, a farce. But I will pass this up for the time being.
Of more importance is the text which Dekker quotes,Titus 2:11. There is, first of all, a question as to the text itself, not only with regard to the proper translation, but also as to the original Greek. The King James Version translates: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” But the Revised Version which Decker quotes (and I can readily see why) has it: “For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men.”
I cannot enter into a discussion of the text-critical question. But I will remark the following:
1. Thayer’s Lexicon prefers the reading that must be translated, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation.”
2. To my mind, the reading of the Revised Version is somewhat clumsy even though it follows the text literally. It leaves the grace of God standing all by itself, without any modifier: “the grace of God hath appeared.”
3. But even if Dekker prefers the reading of the Revised Version, to which he has the perfect right as far as the original is concerned, it does not help him to support his proposition that the atonement of Christ is available, of advantage to, or profitable for all men. For:
a. As I explained above this simply is not true even for those that hear the preaching of the gospel.
b. Because the context reveals very plainly that “all men” in the text does not mean all human individuals, but all classes of men.
We hope to continue this discussion time, the Lord willing.