The trouble with those that hold a double track theology is that they claim that they are Reformed and, at the same time, they also agree with the doctrine of Arminianism. When the train of their doctrine runs on the one track they are Reformed; when, however, it runs on the other, they are Arminian. They claim that they believe the doctrine of predestination, election and reprobation; but they also defend and hold the error that God loves all men, as Prof. Dekker does: God wants and desires to save all men.
An example of this double track theology which attempts to be Reformed and, at the same time, agrees with Arminianism, I find in the article by Prof. Kuiper in “Torch and Trumpet,” we are now discussing, May-June, page 9. I will quote the entire paragraph:
“However, that was not the entire picture. A significant phase of a radically different kind of universalism, Scriptural universalism, also came into purview. The Arminians contended that the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination cannot possibly be harmonized with the universality and sincerity of the gospel offer. They argued that, if God decreed irrevocably from eternity that only certain persons would be saved and that all others would be lost, it is inconceivable that God would in all sincerity invite all men without discrimination to eternal life. Therefore, embracing the latter doctrine, they rejected the former. And they told the Calvinists that, in case they held to the former, they would by all the rules of logic have to renounce the latter. From the viewpoint of finite human reason the Arminians were right. Thus the Calvinists confronted a strong temptation. Did they yield? By the grace of God they did not. They subjected human logic to the divinelogos. Convinced that the two doctrines concerned were both of them taught unmistakably in the infallible Word of God and therefore in reality could not be contradictory, they accepted both uncompromisingly.”
Here, then, you have an illustration of the double track theology, according to which both the Arminians and the Calvinists are right. According to the Arminians, God does in all sincerity invite all men without discrimination to eternal life. This is the one track. According to the Calvinists, God did not want to save all men, but only some. But the fathers of Dordt accepted both, Arminianism and Calvinism.
And Prof. Kuiper also attempts to prove that the fathers of Dordt taught both these doctrines. First, he proves that God wants to save, not all men, but only some. He does this by the article of the Canons of Dordrecht that speaks of reprobation, I, 15. And, further, he quotes from the Canons, III, IV, 8, which reads as follows: “As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God has most earnestly and truly declared in his Word, what will be acceptable to him, namely, that all who are called should come unto him.” Thus far Kuiper quotes. But the article itself continues as follows: “He, moreover, seriously promises eternal life, and rest, to as many as shall come to him, and believe on him.”
Now, I would ask Prof. Kuiper whether he really believes that all “who are called” are the same as all men. I would like to ask him whether he seriously believes that God desires all. men, without discrimination, to come unto Him. Thirdly, I would like to ask him whether the fathers of Dordt in this article of the Canons, really taught that the promise of eternal life is for all men or, at least, for all that hear the preaching of the gospel. Or is it not true that “as many as shall come to him and believe” refers to the elect only?
Did not the fathers of Dordt condemn the doctrine of those who teach: that “the difference between meriting and appropriating,” is used “to the end that they (may instill into the minds of the imprudent and inexperienced this teaching that God, as far as he is concerned, has been minded of applying to all equally the benefits gained by the death of Christ; but that, while some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life, and others do not, this difference depends on their own free will, which joins itself to the grace that is offered without exception, and that it is not dependent on the special gift of mercy, which powerfully works in them, that they rather than others should appropriate unto themselves this grace?”
This and this only is what the fathers of Dart maintained to be the truth.
The Canons surely do not teach “that the Calvinistic doctrine cannot possibly be harmonized with the universality and sincerity of the gospel offer.” They do, indeed, maintain that God “decreed irrevocably from eternity that only certain persons would be saved and that all others would be lost,” but they do not teach “that God would in all sincerity invite all men without discrimination to eternal life.”
Nor did Calvin teach this.
It is true that Calvin wrote very much, and I do not always agree with his interpretation of Scripture. But he certainly does not teach that God indiscriminately invites all men unto eternal life.
To prove this I will quote a few passages from “Calvin’s Calvinism.”
Writes he, p. 50, 51: “Pighius will himself confess that there is need of illumination to bring unto Christ those that were adversaries to God; but he, at the same time, holds fast the fiction that grace is offered equally to all, but that it is ultimately rendered effectual by the will of man, just as each one is willing to receive it. Christ, however, testifies that the meaning of his words is very different from this. He adds immediately afterward, ‘There are some among you who believe not. Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me. except it were given unto him of my Father,'” etc.
On p. 81 ff. Calvin writes: “Now let us listen to the Evangelist John. He will be no ambiguous interpreter of this same prophet Isaiah. ‘But though (says John) Jesus had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him, that the saying of the prophet might be fulfilled which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He bath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts,’ etc. Now, most certainly John does not here give us to understand that the Jews were prevented from believing by their own sinfulness. For though this be quite true in one sense, yet the cause of their not believing must be traced to a far higher source. The secret and eternal purpose and counsel of God must be viewed as the original cause of their unbelief. It perplexed, in no small degree, the ignorant and weak, when they heard that there was no place for, Christ. John explains the reason by showing that none believe save those to whom it is given, and that there are few to whom God reveals his arm. This other prophecy concerning ‘the arm of the Lord,’ the Evangelist weaved into his argument to prove the same great truth. And his words have a momentous weight. He says, ‘Therefore they could not believe.’ Wherefore, let men torture themselves as long as they will with reasoning, the cause of the difference made—why God does not reveal his arm equally to all—lies hidden in his eternal decree. The whole of the Evangelist’s argument amounts evidently to this: that faith is a Special gift of God and the wisdom of Christ is too high and too deep to come within the compass of man’s understanding. The unbelief of the world therefore ought not to astonish us, if the wisest and most acute of men fail to believe. Hence, unless we would elude the plain and confessed meaning of the Evangelist, that few receive the gospel, we must fully conclude that the cause is the will of God; and that the outward sound of the Gospel strikes the ear in vain until God is pleased to touch by it the heart within.”
Perhaps Prof. Kuiper will say that he fully agrees, yet, at the same time, he also maintains that God in all sincerity invites all men to eternal life.
But this is quite impossible. For Calvin in his explanation of the text in John insists that, under the preaching of the Gospel, God hardens the hearts of the reprobate and blinds their eyes so that it is impossible for them to believe. And in the last sentence quoted, Calvin states that the sound of the Gospel is vain unless God by it touches the heart.
But what about Ezekiel 18:23? I have already offered my own interpretation of this well-known text. But how about Calvin’s interpretation?
Pighius remarks in connection with this passage: ‘What else is this but making God a mocker of men, if God is represented as really not willing that which he professes to will, and as not having pleasure in that in which he in reality has pleasure?”
But Calvin answers as follows:
“But if these two members of the sentence be read in conjunction, as they ever ought to be—’I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;’ and, ‘But that the wicked turn from his evil way and live’—read these two propositions in connection with each other, and the calumny is washed off at once. God requires of us this conversion or ‘turning away from our iniquity.’ And in whomsoever he finds it He does not disappoint such an one of the promised reward of eternal life. Wherefore God is as much said to have pleasure in, and to will, this eternal life, as to have pleasure in the repentance; and He has pleasure in the repentance, because He invites all men to it by His Word. Now all this is in perfect harmony with His secret and eternal counsel, by which He decreed to convert none but His own elect. None but His own elect, therefore, ever do turn from their wickedness. And yet, the adorable God is not, on these accounts, to be considered variable or capable of change, because, as a Law-giver, He enlightens all men with the external doctrine of conditional life. In this primary matter He calls or invites all men unto eternal life. But, in the latter case, He brings unto eternal life those whom He willed according to His eternal purpose, regenerating by His Spirit, as an eternal Father, His own children only . . . . It is quite certain that men do not ‘turn from evil ways’ to the Lord on their own accord, nor by any instinct of nature. Equally certain it is that the gift of conversion is not common to all men,” etc. pp. 99: 100.
Now, one may not entirely agree with this interpretation of Ez. 18:23 by Calvin. But this is not the point. The point is that he finds no contradiction, not even a seeming or apparent contradiction, between this passage of Scripture and the counsel of predestination.
The external calling, through the preaching of the gospel, comes, indeed, to all that hear, but without the internal calling by the Spirit of God, regenerating the heart, this external calling is worse than vain; it is a savor of death unto death. And this is, too, according to God’s purpose.
Such is the teaching of Calvin.