The word—Responsibility—since 1924has become one of the three words today used, also in our religious vocabulary. It fits neatly in our language, vividly expressing ideas and thoughts; pertaining to our activities in life. As was said, the word is especially used denoting religious ideas and sentiment, depicting a kind of religious exaltation, exhibiting some kind of pious satisfaction. In this capacity it is much used in connection with the sovereignty of God, in combination with the by God declared total depravity of men.
The word applied in this sense, is theologically used to convey the idea and to uphold the thought, that a mere human being accomplishing a pious considered act, is able to establish a God approved harmony and attitude between the sovereign God and totally depraved man.
The word also means to place man over against man, the church over against the world, Cain over against Abel. It intends to arrange a spiritual life over against carnal life, morality over against immorality, etc.
As we planned to describe briefly the use of the word responsibility as applied to its religious use, we will pass by the other uses of the word and center our thoughts and remarks upon the line of its religious reasoning. Regarding the sovereignty of God and man’s total depravity, we find that laymen as; well as ecclesiastics use the word—responsibility—as a CRUTCH, synodically delivered as a means to lean on upon the troubled journey through Mesech toward New Jerusalem.
That, of course, conveys the hidden thought and the imagined idiom, that man, although unable, depraved, is still capable, more or less, to accomplish something, somewhat and somewhere to his own salvation.
Surely, we know that this hidden thought and idiom is openly denied when confronted with the bold and bald question: Is man able to do something toward his own salvation? Yet and notwithstanding, that deftly denial does not remove the crutch, nor does it dissolve the hidden thought, the imagined idiom, and neither does it rescind the doctrinal declaration of the Three Points of Synod of 1924, which openly announce and confess the ableness of even the unregenerate to please God in civic life boldly ignoring and annulling.
The word, Responsibility, bids us to look into the past. It brings us in Eden. We find that God commanded Adam and Eve in paradise to abstain from eating of a certain tree. Our parents did not listen to the commandment of God, but paid close attention to the lie of Lucifer. They did eat of that tree and fell into sin, being disobedient. Adam, as the representative of the human race fell into death, being consequently totally depraved.
The fall of Adam did not stop his, nor our responsibility as they would say. But, we rather would say: The fall of Adam did not stop his nor our calling and our duty. He and we must yet obey God’s commandments. Adam could not nor would he, and we neither can nor will obey the commandments of God.
When Christ, from eternity knew that Adam could not nor ever would obey the law of God, then, in due season He appeared upon the scene, saying: Lo, I come, in the volume of the Book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will O my God; yea Thy law is written in my heart..
Christ Jesus, coming in the place of Adam, obeyed God, and in Him as Mediator and Savior, the elect alone find reasons a plenty to glorify God, for in Christ are they enabled to obey God in principle, comprehending their calling and their duty performing both, so to speak, in a measure. Those without Christ cannot in the least attain in doing their duty and fulfilling their calling to obey and love God and their neighbors.
It seems that the theologians, for reasons perhaps known or unknown to them, did away with the Biblical terms of calling and duty, instituting for these plain words the more elegant and higher sounding phraseological term of Responsibility.
But, is it not always true that the sweet speech of philosophical inventions of mere men, as exhibited in some synodical declarations rather obscure the Word of God instead of spreading light upon it?
This simple truth is literal and spiritual shown in the theological terms of responsibility, common grace and Invitation, today honorably used in our religious vocabulary. The words, responsibility and common grace are not used in the Holy Scriptures, and the word invitation; is found three times in the Word of God, but never meaning what theology accords to it. These three words belong to our present pulpit oracle oration. Yet, and after all, and notwithstanding these three words or terms, seem to be the foundation upon which our present Christian Reformed Theology is erected.
Why not use the plain Biblical words?