The reader will ask: what is this all about? What are these untruths of which Rev. Kok is here accused by you openly in this magazine? I shall lay them bare. They concern me, the undersigned, and they occur in an article from the pen of Rev. Kok—an article that he had printed in the Concordia of May 28 1952, under the caption Conditio Sine Qua Non.
The article is formed of three main sections: 1. Preliminary remarks by Rev. Kok; 2. a rather long quotation from an article of mine written 21 years ago; 3. concluding remarks by Rev. Kok.
Here follows the gist of the first section (Rev. Kok’s preliminary remarks):
“The Latin phrase quoted above (the phrase Conditio Sine Qua Non—O) means ‘indispensable condition,’ i.e., a condition which we cannot possibly do without . . . . Today there are those who would have us believe that to use the term ‘condition’ in connection with the doctrine of salvation is per se Arminian and Pelagian. In spite of all that has been written on this subject in the past few years, I am still convinced that we can speak of a Conditio Sine Qua Non in the Reformed sense. . .
“God forbid that we should ever teach ‘conditions’ in the Arminian or Pelagian sense as though salvation in any sense ever depends upon the will of the dead sinner. . . . But we do emphatically maintain that in the covenant of grace there are requirements that must be fulfilled, commands that must be heeded . . . Are these conditions that man of his own free will must fulfill, before God can save him? . . . No, but these are ‘conditions’ in the Reformed sense, which teaches that man can only fulfill these requirements through the quickening power of the Holy Spirit . . . . That is what we mean when hereafter we speak of ‘conditions’ in the Reformed sense, and anyone who says that that is Arminian is either willfully, or ignorantly speaking an untruth.
“It is my purpose in a series of articles . . . to prove conclusively from our Protestant Reformed literature of the past twenty-five years, that those who now so vehemently, and unreasonably oppose the use of the term ‘condition’, and deny that it can ever be used in the Reformed sense, that they themselves used it again and again in the past twenty-five years. Time and again they spoke of a conditional, or particular promise, when they defended our Protestant Reformed position over against the ‘Three Points of 1924’. They even emphasized that there are conditions in the Covenant of Grace, over against those who erroneously maintained that grace was unconditional. (See quotation below).” So far Rev. Kok.
The italics of this last statement are from my pen. But the statement as such is Rev. Kok’s. And an amazing statement it is—amazing on account of the atrocious untruth that it tells. Take notice what it asserts. Verily this: that in the quotation below (a quotation that I shall presently quote) the author (of the quotation. And that author happens to be me) emphasized (mark you, emphasized) that there are conditions in the covenant of grace (mark you, that there are conditions in the covenant of grace). This is the first untruth as I shall make plain in a moment. But this is not nearly the half of it. The statement asserts also that I emphasized this over against those who maintain that grace is unconditional. This is the second untruth.
Having done quoting me, Rev. Kok repeats his untruth in these words: “From the above quotation it is evident that the writer emphasizes that there are conditions in the covenant.”
The question is whether I did what Rev. Kok alleges. I certainly did not. To make this clear we must take notice of what I actually wrote.
First it may be well that I state the point that I was arguing in that article of mine. Someone had placed in my hands a booklet displaying the title “Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Common Grace.” In this booklet the author, Dr. M.R. De Haan, at the time pastor of Calvary church (undenominational), derided the doctrine of Infant Baptism as claiming that it is a teaching taken not from the Scriptures but fabricated by the fathers of the Christian Church. In putting his thoughts into words, the author used some strong language as for example the following: “This little treatise on the much discussed and little understood subject is sent forth, not for the purpose of starting a controversy or an argument. Rather we sent it forth to show that there is NO ARGUMENT (bold type De Haan’s) at all for infant baptism. We firmly believe that the bulk of Christians have just taken for granted that what their church believes must be right.” So far Dr. De Haan.
One of the links in his chain of reasoning was the following: The covenant of Sinai, as it depended for its fulfillment upon man’s obedience as a condition and not upon the faithfulness of God was a conditional covenant; it was, in a word, a covenant of works. And the same is true of the Adamic covenant.
The covenant with Abraham, on the other hand, as it depended for its fulfillment on God’s faithfulness and not upon man’s obedience as a condition, was an unconditional covenant; it was, in a word, a covenant of grace. So De Haan taught.
I replied to this strange reasoning of Dr. De Haan in an article that I had printed in the Standard Bearer for May 15, 1931, (Vol. VII, pp. 368-372). I examined the Scripture passages that he adduced in support of his contention that in distinction from the covenant with Abraham, the covenant of Sinai was a conditional covenant, that is, a covenant of works. I put this question (and now I quote from my article the very passage quoted by Rev. Kok, but which he quoted incorrectly, as we shall see):
“What is De Haan’s proof that the Lord instituted with His people of old a covenant of this kind?” A clarifying remark. As appears from the paragraph immediately preceding, I had reference here to the covenant of Sinai that the Lord instituted with His people assembled at the base of this mount. I continued: “And the answer is ready: the command with which this covenant was interwoven, to wit, the command to obey and to keep covenant fidelity; further, such conditional clauses as: ‘If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to keep his covenant . . . .’ ‘If thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . . .’ ‘If ye will obey my voice indeed.’”
I continued: “De Haan should know, however, that to the covenant of grace as well the Lord attached a command to obey his voice, to keep his covenant, to hearken unto His voice. Abraham was commanded to get him out of his country, and from his kindred, and from his father’s house, unto the land that the Lord would show him . . . . He did so, and the Lord made of him a great nation, blessed him and made his name great . . . . Certainly, if Abraham would have cleaved to his father’s house and continued as a resident in the land of his nativity, he would not have been blessed. At a later period the Lord again appeared unto him and said: ‘I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.’ ( ). And on the way to Sodom, the Lord turned to his heavenly companion and asked him whether he should hide from Abraham the thing that he was about to do; seeing that Abraham should surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth should be blessed in him. ‘For I know,’ the Lord continued, ‘that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.’” ( ).
I continued: “Mark you, the covenant established with Abraham, De Haan admits to be a covenant of grace. That this covenant as well involves those whom it includes in well-defined duties; that the kind of phrase of which the Lord availed himself in stating these duties was often the conditional sentence, is evident from the epistles. A single passage: ‘And ye that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight; if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel . . . .’ ( ). So far the quotation from my article that Rev. Kok took over and inserted in his writing to prove his allegations.
Now what is the point that I argue in this part of my article? It is as clear as the sun in the heavens that the point I argue is precisely this: the fact that the covenant of Sinai involved all those included in it in well-defined duties, that in stating these duties the Lord often availed Himself of the conditional sentence is no proof that this covenant was a covenant of works (De Haan’s contention), that is, a conditional covenant, dependent for its fulfillment on man’s obedience as a condition, thus a covenant with conditions in it (De Haan’s contention). For the covenant of grace (covenant with Abraham) also involved those included in it in well-defined duties. And the Lord often availed Himself of the conditional sentence also in stating the requirements of this covenant. Yet, certainly, it was not a covenant of works, that is, a conditional covenant, dependent for its fulfillment on the obedience of man as a condition, thus a covenant with conditions in it. As Dr. De Haan also well understands, and insists on, it was a covenant of grace, dependent for its fulfillment upon the faithfulness of Cod alone, thus an unconditional covenant without any conditions in it. And so, too, the covenant of Sinai. It was a covenant of Grace and not, in contradistinction to the covenant with Abraham, a covenant of works.
This, to be sure, is precisely the point that I argue also in the section of my article quoted above and which Rev. Kok also quoted.
That this is the point that I argue is as plain as can be from my entire article. It is already plain from the paragraph immediately preceding the above quoted section. This paragraph reads as follows:
“Dr. De Haan then, discovers in the Scriptures covenants of works: the Adamic covenant and the covenant of Sinai. In distinction from the covenant of grace, these covenants, according to De Haan, repose upon the condition that man keep its requirements.” Let us pause here. We must take particular notice of this phrase “according to Dr. De Haan” occurring in this sentence. It gives to the sentence this meaning: According to De Haan the Adamic covenant and the covenant of Sinai, in distinction from the covenant of grace (covenant with Abraham) were conditional covenants. But De Haan is sorely mistaken. Fact is that the Adamic covenant and the covenant of Sinai were as little conditional as is the covenant of grace. All three covenants were unconditional, the one as well as the other.
This verily is the meaning that the phrase “according to De Haan” gives to the sentence. This is as plain as the sun in the heaven especially if the sentence be explained in the light of its context. And of course it must be explained in the light of its context. And the context is the entire article especially its last section. In this section I am addressed to the task of proving this very thing, namely that all three covenants were covenants of grace and thus unconditional. In this section I strike with all my might at the conception of a covenant of God with man reposing upon man’s obedience and faith as conditions. I set forth the conception as an insult to God, as destructive conceptionally of God. Allow me to show how true this is by quoting here and there from this last section of my article. (Standard Bearer, Vol. VII, pp. 370-372):
“It will be seen at once that the kind of Scripture proving that God actually made with Israel a covenant of works is a scripture in which God appears not merely as commanding His people to obey Him, but in which He appears as declaring: Sinner, the power to obey and to serve thy God is not of me but of thee. If by an act of thine own free will thou choosest to keep covenant fidelity, thou wilt come to eternal bliss. The Lord thy God is mighty, but His might is not infinite, so that He is able to work in thee both to will and to do . . . .
“With some such statements the law promulgated from the summit of the mount should have to be interspersed, if it constituted the nucleus of a covenant of works.
“Now then, I ask De Haan in all candor, was this the message of the law? If so God denied Himself . . . .”
Then also this from my article: “Attending to the discourses of Moses, it is seen at once that there was nothing of the pay master God about the God of the covenant of Sinai. We quote: ‘And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen. . . . But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. . . . For the Lord thy God is a merciful God; he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.” (for thou art a stiff-necked people” ( ff).ff), ‘Speak not thou in thy heart after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee . . . that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand therefore that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness;
“These passages teach,” so I continued, “that Israel came into the possession of the land of Canaan not because of its own righteousness but because of the word that the Lord sware unto Abraham; because, in a word, this people was included in the covenant of grace. Canaan, such are the unmistakable teachings of these passages, was a gift of grace bestowed by a merciful God upon a people altogether destitute of righteousness.”
So I wrote in this same vein throughout my entire article identifying the two covenants—that of Sinai and that with Abraham—and insisting that the one as well as the other was unconditional and as such depended for its fulfillment on the faithfulness of God alone.
Yet, notwithstanding, Rev. Kok, even with the argument of my article before his mind, had the audacity to tell his readers, to tell the world, also Dr. De Haan, that: 1. I emphasized—mark you, even emphasized—that there are conditions in the covenant of grace, and 2. that I emphasized this over against De. Haan who (erroneously, says Kok, but I say correctly) maintained that grace is unconditional, and that the covenant of grace is unconditional in that it depends for its fulfillment on the faithfulness of God alone. Even with the argument of my article before his mind, Rev. Kok had the courage to tell the world that I denied all this truth and maintained with the heretics of all ages that grace is conditional; and that likewise the covenant of grace is conditional in that it depends for its fulfillment not upon the faithfulness of God but upon the obedience of man as condition. So did Rev. Kok.
And what did he find in my article to use as a basis for his contentions? The statement appearing in the section of my article that he quotes, namely the statement that “the covenant of grace as well as the covenant of Sinai involves those whom it includes in well-defined duties; and that the kind of phrase of which the Lord availed Himself in stating these duties was often the conditional sentence.
I ask: is the statement that in promulgating the duties of the covenant the Lord often availed Himself of the conditional sentence equivalent in meaning to the statement that the covenant of grace is a covenant of works, in a word, a conditional covenant depending for its fulfillment not on the faithfulness of God but on the obedience and faith of man as a condition? Rev. Kok knows better certainly; he knows that the expression “conditional sentence” was coined by the grammarians to do service as a technical designation of all the various kinds of “if sentences,” of those not truly conditional as well as of those truly conditional, that is, conditional as to the thought conveyed. In a word, Rev. Kok knew that I was simply using the expression “conditional sentence” in that technical sense without at all meaning to say that the Scripture passages that I quoted were truly conditional. He knew this from the very point that I argue throughout my article.
A remark in passing. Since the expression “conditional sentence” has once come into use as a technical designation for all the various kinds of “if sentences,” it will not do to discard the term. Yet today I have selected for my own personal use the expression “if sentences;” I no longer speak of “conditional sentences,” except when the sentence is truly conditional. My reason for doing so is precisely such doings as that of Rev. Kok. Think of what he does to me and to the cause of the truth on the mere ground that some twenty-one years ago I used the expression “conditional sentence,” merely in that technical sense.
And this brings us to the question whether Rev. Kok told these untruths knowingly and deliberately with the purpose to mislead or unawares. It is difficult for me to believe that he wrote and published these untruths without realizing what he did. It is hard for me to believe this for the following reasons:
1. First, Rev. Kok’s failure to reveal that I was controverting in my articles the errors of Dr. M.R. De Haan. This doing of Rev. Kok was deliberate certainly.
2. Second, his failure to reveal to his readers the point that I was arguing in my article that he quoted. Also this doing of Rev. Kok was deliberate certainly.
3. The way he dealt with the section of my article that he quoted.
I wrote this: “What is De Haan’s proof that the Lord instituted with his people of old a covenant of this kind? And the answer is ready: the command with which this covenant was interwoven, to wit, the command to obey and keep covenant fidelity; further, such conditional clauses as: ‘If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to keep his covenant . . . .’ ‘If thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . . .’ ‘If ye obey my voice indeed.’”
Quoting this same paragraph, Rev. Kok erroneously represents me as having written this: “Also to the covenant of grace God has attached the following conditional clauses: ‘If thou shalt hearken unto the Lord thy God to keep his covenant . . .’ ‘If thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thy heart . . . .’ ‘If ye will obey my voice indeed.’”
Let us observe the discrepancies. The sentence in italics of Rev. Kok’s quotation does not at all appear in the paragraph as it left my pen. On the other hand the long italicized sentence of the paragraph as I actually wrote it does not at all appear in Rev. Kok’s quotation. Yet the sentence was important on account of its revealing that I was controverting Dr. De Haan. The omission of this sentence makes it appear as if the point that I was arguing is simply that the Lord attached to the covenant of grace conditional sentences and clauses; that I thought this to be of such vital importance that I wrote a whole article on the subject and had it printed in the Standard Bearer.
Further, I wrote this: “De Haan should know, however, that to the covenant of grace as well the Lord attached a command to obey His voice, to keep His covenant, to hearken unto His voice.”
This sentence does not at all appear in Rev. Kok’s quotation. Yet it should have as it forms a part of the excerpt as I wrote it. The insertion of this sentence would have brought to light that the point that I was arguing was not at all that the Lord had added to the covenant of grace conditional sentences and clauses.
Further, quoting my article, Rev. Kok wrote this: “Mark you, the covenant established with Abraham is a covenant of grace. That also this covenant involves those whom it includes in well-defined duties; that the kind of phrase the Lord availed Himself of in formulating these duties was often the CONDITIONAL sentence, is evident from the epistles.”
Let us take notice of the word “conditional”. The bold type in which it appears is of Rev. Kok and not of me.
But hasn’t one the right to italicize or print in bold type a word or words of the author whom one quotes? This, of course, is permissible. But then one must inform his readers that the italics or the bold type is his and not the author’s whom he quotes. Kok failed to provide his readers with this information, and thus made it appear as if the bold type was mine. And he also failed to indicate that he was omitting certain important sentences and adding others. And he made it impossible for his readers to check on his quotation by his failure to inform them where the article of mine that he quotes could be found.
One more discrepancy. I wrote: “Mark you, the covenant established with Abraham De Haan admits to be a covenant of grace.” As quoting this sentence Rev. Kok wrote: “Mark you, the covenant established with Abraham is a covenant of grace.”
So we see how Rev. Kok deals with that section of my article that he quoted. He added or changed a sentence here and omitted a sentence there and some other place, changed into bold type the cardinal term “condition” all to make it appear that he was justified in stating: 1. that I “even emphasized that there are conditions in the covenant of grace; 2. that I emphasized this over against those who maintain that grace is unconditional; 3. that from the quotation he quoted it is evident that I emphasize that there are conditions in the covenant of grace.”
Mark you well, Rev. Kok says that I emphasized while the fact is that not I but that he, Rev. Kok emphasized. The bold type is his and not mine.
Now all this is terrible. It is dishonest.
But this is not all. Having put unto my pen and mouth his own conditional theology, Rev. Kok makes this remark: “I agree with him (meaning me—O), wholeheartedly. He speaks thoroughly Reformed language.” So wrote Rev. Kok. Yet he well knows that I loathe his conditional theology like a plague.
And even this is not all. In the first section of his article Rev. Kok writes this: “In spite of all that has been written on this subject in the past few years, I am still convinced that we can speak of a “conditio sina qua non’ in the Reformed sense, and that those who deny this . . . are definitely harming the cause of our Reformed churches . . .” According to this statement, Rev. Kok is of the conviction that the concept “condition” is indispensable to Reformed theology. Well, if this is his conviction how then could he write in the final section of his article: “I know that today the brother (meaning me) would not use the term condition to express the same truth but I refuse to strive about words, in which there is no profit, but to the subverting of the readers. ( .”
The point is this: if it is Rev. Kok’s conviction that the term condition is indispensable to Reformed theology, how can he then refuse to strive about the term? On his position he should certainly want to strive about the term in order to save it for Reformed theology. And therefore on his position he should see great profit in striving for the term.
And attend also to this statement from his pen: “If anyone does not agree that the term condition is the correct term to express the inseparable connection between promise and demand, faith and salvation etc., he is entitled to his opinion, but he does not have the right to impose his opinion on me.” According to this statement of Rev. Kok, it is his stand that whether the term ‘condition’ is the correct term is a matter of everyone’s own opinion to which also everyone is entitled—entitled, that is, to his own opinion. But if it is Rev. Kok’s belief that the term condition is indispensible to Reformed theology, how can he allow that the question of whether it is the proper term be a matter of everyone’s opinion?
And finally this. To let his readers know what an enemy he is of all Arminianism, Rev. Kok in the first section of his article makes statements such as the following.
“God forbid that we should ever teach ‘conditions’ in the Arminian or Pelagian sense, as though salvation in any sense ever depends upon the will of the dead sinner.” Rev. Kok should know that the Arminians also deny with just as much vigor that salvation in any sense depends upon the free will of the dead sinner. I shall prove this with quotations from Ralston. Rev. Kok therefore must not imagine that just because a man denies this, he is Reformed. He may still be an Arminian.
And so it is with the following statement from Rev. Kok’s pen, and I quote: “But we do emphatically maintain that in the covenant of grace there are requirements which must be fulfilled . . . . Are these ‘conditions’ which man (mark you well, Rev. Kok here speaks of the man dead in sin—O), of his own free will must fulfill, before God can save him, as the dammed lie of the Arminians would have us believe?” Rev. Kok is mistaken. This is not the “damned lie” of the Arminians, as I shall prove from Ralston.
Farther down Rev. Kok continues: “No but these are ‘conditions in the Reformed sense, which teach that man can only fulfill these requirements through the quickening power of the Holy Spirit . . . .” This is what the Arminians also affirm and with just as much zeal, as appears from Ralston. The point is that I can affirm and deny all that Rev. Kok here affirms and denies and still be an Arminian.
As I have been saying in my recent articles, Arminianism is a subtle heresy. And let me also repeat my word of warning. It was this: “Well may we watch and pray that we as a Protestant Reformed people, be not deceived and destroyed by it (Arminianism)