Somewhat inexplicably there appears in the “NEWS” department of The Banner (Jan. 30, 1976, pp. 24, 25) an article from the pen of James Daane under the title, “The 50th Birthday of the Protestant Reformed Churches.”
I say “somewhat inexplicably” for more than one reason. In the first place, our 50th birthday was no longer news at the time of this article: our year of celebration was almost past. In the second place, the article is not actually a news article at all, but a kind of book review of God’s Covenant Faithfulness, our anniversary book. And, in the third place, it is hardlynews when James Daane writes articles which are sharply critical of what he alleges to be Protestant Reformed theology. Dr. Daane has been busy for a good many years already constructing straw men, dubbing those straw men “Protestant Reformed Theology,” and then knocking down those straw men with mighty karate strokes—meanwhile flattering himself, I imagine, that he has done a masterful job of demolishing Protestant Reformed theology. That is, of course, a very interesting but self-deceptive pastime.
It is a matter of policy with me not to debate in response to book reviews. After all, when we send out books for review, we do not expect all the reviews to be favorable; we expect to “win a few, lose a few.”
Nor will I depart from that policy at this time. I have previously stated that I will debate with Dr. Daane concerning Protestant Reformed versus Daaneish theology under the provision that our articles be carried in both The Reformed Journal and The Standard Bearer. And then, of course, there would be some back accounts to be reviewed.
But a few comments are in order, nevertheless.
Somehow or other when James Daane writes, I find it difficult to resist reading him. In attempting to assess the reasons for this, I came to the following conclusions.
In the first place, Dr. Daane writes interestingly, I think, because he almost always writes abrasively. And that kind of writing results in making readers pay attention. True, he does not always employ the proper abrasives. But he gets results. In this instance he probably gained a few readers for God’s Covenant Faithfulness, for which we will be thankful. I could well imagine that if Dr. Daane would be allowed to substitute his abrasive literary productions for some of the bland pablum that frequently appears in The Banner’s editorial department, he could have the whole Christian Reformed Church in a dither with a few editorials.
In the second place, Dr. Daane’s writings are difficult to lay aside because he has a propensity for telling fairy tales. Did you ever hear the fairy tale that Prof. Hanko writes ambiguously? In fact, so ambiguously that his entire chapter in God’s Covenant Faithfulnessshould be passed by? Or did you ever hear the fairy tale—and Daane has various versions of this one—that we deny the “historical fabric of the covenant” or that for us God’s covenant is an “idea, not a historical reality”? Or again, did you ever hear the fairy tale which imputes both ontological theology and existential theology to one and the same theologian? You see, Daane occasionally betakes himself to a theological never-never land; and when he does so, he truly produces some “whoppers”—all of which isinteresting, provided the reader does not allow himself to be misled into confusing fact and fiction. In fact, I became so carried away by Dr. Daane’s caricature of our covenant theology that I had to pull God’s Covenant Faithfulness from my library shelf and bring myself back to reality.
But there is, I believe, one more reason why Dr. Daane’s writings are interesting, especially to a Protestant Reformed reader.
That reason is that Dr. Daane invariably proves to beright, but dead wrong.
Dr. Daane is invariably right on one count. He has an almost uncanny ability to recognize Protestant Reformed theology when he sees it.
But he is also invariably wrong on two counts. In the first place, he always creates a caricature of that Protestant Reformed theology instead of representing it accurately and truly. In fact, his caricature is so remote that one would almost say that any similarity between it and the real product is strictly coincidental. As a result, he is wrong on a second count: his criticisms are never accurate and pertinent, because they are criticisms of the caricature, not of the genuine product.
And this is of special interest to me.
Why? Because it is an evident token to me that my theology is right on course. When I read Daane’s fulminations against what he alleges is Protestant Reformed theology, then I come to the conclusion that he, must have read some truly Protestant Reformed theology and that he must have recognized it as the genuine product, and that this, in turn, must have sent Dr. Daane off into never-never land. For it has become axiomatic for Daane with respect to Protestant Reformed (Reformed!) theology to be . . . right, but dead wrong!