Sterile Theology

In Torch and Trumpet (April, 1966, p.13) there appears an article entitled “The Gospel Call And The Wrath Of God” from the pen of Mr. Isaac De Mey, “long an elder in the Grandville Ave. Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. I do not intend to comment at length about said article. Neither, however, can I pass it without comment, for it comes highly recommended by Torch and Trumpet. Let me remark, however, that my comments are not directed against Mr. De Mey personally. I know him only from his articles in Torch and Trumpet, articles which were obviously written with the Dekker Case in mind. Besides, Mr. De Mey has evidently “been to school” and “learned his lessons well.” For what he presents in this and his previous articles he has obviously learned in the church in which he has long been an elder. To what different conclusion can one come? 

However, I can hardly understand why the article is so highly recommended by “T and T.” In my opinion, two things are true concerning the article in question: 1) If it is intended to be an answer and an antidote to the “rank Arminianism” which Prof. Dekker has taught and which especially Dr. Daane has supported (along with others), then it is an utter failure. The article is neither openly and frankly Reformed nor frankly Arminian. Or perhaps it attempts to be both. Even the language of the article reminds me of the proverbial Janus-kop” mentioned in, the past in connection with the First Point of 1924. For in the introductory paragraph we read this: “On two previous occasions it has been our privilege to write on ‘The Love of God’ as it is related to the well meant gospel offer. (Note that already the “gospel call” has become the “well meant gospel offer.” H.C.H.) We would now call attention to the other side of the coin. (The other face of the Janus-kop? H.C.H.) One of the main reasons that spurred us on to write on ‘The Gospel Call and the Wrath of God’ is that lately (as we see it), a one sided emphasis has been placed by some of our leaders on God’s love without so much as mentioning God’s wrath.” (Shades of “the tendency to one-sidedness” of 1924; only now, I suppose, it is the other side? H.C.H.) 

Notice, however, that from this introductory paragraph it appears that Mr. De Mey’s differences with “some of our leaders” are not a matter of principle at all, but only one of emphasis. As long, however, as Arminianism is not recognized for what it is and is not acknowledged as being diametrically opposed to the Reformed faith, it can never be successfully fought and rooted out. 

2) The entire article is written to combat the Dekker theology, but it is written with at least one eye on the First Point and its “well meant offer.” The result is that while the article must not be too Arminian (because it intends to combat an over-emphasis on the love of God), it dares not be too Reformed (for fear of contradicting the First Point and its well meant offer). In this sense, the article represents the type of sterile theology which has come out of the Christian Reformed Church ever since 1924. It is sterile: it tries to be neither-nor in its presentation. At the same time, however, it is dangerous. For after all, in part its presentation is rankly Arminian. And it is this Arminian tendency that always gains the upper hand in time. The Dekker Case itself, with all of its Arminianism, is a pointed example. It was conceived in 1924 and born of the First Point. And the travail that it causes to any in the Christian Reformed Church who at heart love the Reformed truth must be great! 

At this point I do not know what the Study Committee in the Dekker Case will produce. But I am convinced of one thing: whether the Dekker case is smoothed over for the time being, or whether Prof. Dekker’s views are condemned, ultimately you cannot successfully oppose Dekker’s position on the basis of the First Point. My question always is: when will Torch and Trumpet wake up to this realization? 

Let me briefly point to the most fundamental flaws of this article. 

1. Mr. De Mey first cuts the very heart out of the entire gospel, namely, sovereign election (and, of course, with it, sovereign reprobation), and then proceeds to try to speak of the wrath of God, the lifting of the wrath of God, and the abiding of the wrath of God, etc. No Reformed presentation would ever do this. Let Mr. De Mey, or anyone else, compare this article with the presentation of our Canons; there is an obvious and complete difference of approach. It is because of this basic flaw that the article can speak such utterly un-Reformed language as this, for example: “This is for the simple reason that the day of grace for them has passed. God’s love has been withdrawn and his wrath has come upon them.” This is said, note well, with respect to those who perish and who are hardened in impenitence. But if words have meaning, then this statement certainly means: 1) That God’s love was once upon these reprobate. 2) That His wrath was not upon them. 3) That, however, there came a point in time that God’s love was withdrawn, and that in its place His wrath came upon them. And what, pray, is the difference between this and Professor Dekker’s teaching that God loves all men with a redemptive love? 

2. Mr. De Mey avoids and obscures the whole issue of the atonement, to say the least. He never answers the question objectively, “For whom did Christ die?” Instead, while he never says so in plain words, he leaves the atonement so vague and undefined that any Arminian could agree with what he says. Here are examples: 1) “The second Adam through obedience bore the wrath of God against sin and established righteousness and justice (Rom. 5:15-21) (but: for whom? H.C.H.) so that God could (could or did? H.C.H.) remove his wrath and impart his love to hell-bound sinners. On this basis, we conclude that the wrath of God in its first stage is liftable” (liftable or objectively lifted? H.C.H.). 2) The wrath of God is said to be “lifted from all those who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the second Adam.” But is this the answer to the problem? No one denies that the promise of the gospel is for those who believe and repent. But who aye they? Does De Mey mean to say that the gospel is that the wrath of God is liftable and that it will be lifted and is lifted only if man is willing to have it lifted? He does not say this in so many words. But all that he writes leaves this impression, and he certainly leaves the door open wide for this thoroughly Arminian presentation. 3) “God from his side has done everything necessary for man’s salvation. (whose salvation? reprobate man? elect man? all men? H.C.H.) If it had pleased God to save all humanity, every individual sinner, he could have done so on the basis of the reconciliation brought about by Christ. It is also on the basis of this reconciliation that the good news of the gospel can be preached to every sinner, namely, that Christ died for the ungodly and now calls sinners and not the righteous to repentance.” Again, there is a total lack of definition and precision here. For whom was reconciliation made? This question is not explicitly answered; but these statements leave the impression that there is a possible reconciliation for any and all sinners, What is the difference, pray, between this and Prof. Dekker’s view, except that Dekker is more precise? 

3. There is in this article which purports to speak of the “gospel call” a total failure to work with the fundamental Reformed and Scriptural concept of the efficacious calling. I am utterly at a loss to understand how a Reformed man can speak of the call of the gospel without emphasizing that this call of the gospel makes a distinction in its sound and that men are brought to faith and repentance by the effectual call of the Spirit, while others are hardened through the means of that same sound of the gospel. 

There are many other serious errors in the entire presentation of this article. I mention the above to illustrate my point. 

But I certainly cannot understand how “T and T” can recommend an article like this so highly. At best, it is confusing in its sterility.