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Pelted with Questions

We have been receiving the Standard Bearer for only two or three months (plus extra copies sent to us by the Evangelism Committee of the South Holland Protestant Reformed Church). We eagerly anticipate the arrival of each month’s issue; for we are learning a great deal from them. Your magazine has very encouraging, inspiring articles that cause us to think deeply about the Word of God. Thank you!

My husband and I are new to the Reformed faith. After we had studied the “5 points of Calvinism” for maybe two years, God introduced us to the full plan this past October, as He brought along ministry materials from the Protestant Reformed Churches and placed us in an Orthodox Presbyterian Church near where we are living. We love it! We’ve never seen the Bible so clearly as we are now beginning to. The Reformed faith “makes sense”; the other parts of Christianity (fragmented with truth and non-truth) left large gaps in the Bible and in a godly life-style.

However, we are full of questions. We were wondering if someone there would mind fielding some questions that have arisen as we have read the Standard Bearer? Please forgive our ignorance; at times we really feel like “babes in arms.” Thank God we are in His everlasting ones!

1. What does it mean (in a negative connotation) the “offering of the gospel”?

2. There seems to be controversy about something referred to as uncommon grace.” Could you please enlighten us?

3. In your most recent edition, you warned against postmillennialism. Our pastor is amillennial; we understand much of the Reformed community is. We haven’t had opportunity to discuss this with him yet (he is fielding so many other of our questions!) Could you please explain further: do the Protestant Reformed Churches stand in the amillennial position, or another? What exactly do these terms mean scripturally? (We used to be premillennial dispensationalists, and that went out the door when we joined the OPC)

4. Finally, the PRC seem to have made a stand to sing only psalms put to music, rather than hymns. Please understand, we mean no disrespect, but does not Colossians say “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs…”? If you object to the Arminian influence in some hymns, there are many that clearly (at least to our infant understanding) do proclaim the sovereignty of God (Isaac Watts’ hymns, hymns by other Reformers, etc.). Are those allowed at home, or ever at church with PRC people? Can you please explain—scripturally—your stand?

We sincerely hope we are not pelting you with too much at a time. We so appreciate the hard labor of study in the Word and prayer that obviously accompany each issue of the Standard Bearer. Thank you for your time with our multitude of questions; and also in your faithfulness in proclaiming God’s Word.

Mr. and Mrs. David Lee

Mountain View, CA

Response:

1) The “well-meant offer of the gospel” is a teaching (and practice) found in Calvin&tic circles that holds that God in the preaching of the gospel loves every single person who hears the preaching, that God sincerely desires to save every single person who hears the gospel, and that the preaching of the gospel is a gracious offer by God to every hearer to accept the salvation that God wants to give him or her.

The Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) reject this doctrine (and practice) as sheer Arminianism. Arminianism, or “free-willism,” is the heresy condemned in the Reformed creed, the Canons of Dordt. It is the lie that Martin Luther fought in his great Reformation work, The Bondage of the Will.

The PRC believe that the church must preach the gospel to everybody, calling, or summoning, everybody to repent and believe on Jesus Christ, but that God is gracious in the preaching only to the elect, even as His desire with the preaching is the gathering of His elect church for whom Christ died (see Matt. 22:14Rom. 9:13, 18).

We are sending you the pamphlet, “Jesus Savior and the Evil of Hawking Him,” by Herman Hoeksema. We recommend the book, Hyper Calvinism & the Call of the Gospel, by David J. Engelsma, available from the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA).

2) “Common grace” is the broader error of which the “well-meant offer” is one (main) element. The doctrine of “common grace” is the teaching that God has an attitude of favor, or love, toward every human (and devil?) throughout life and as long as history lasts and that, therefore, God blesses every human in several important ways. He gives the reprobate ungodly material gifts, e.g., health and riches, as tokens of His love for them. He works in each unregenerated unbeliever by His Spirit to keep him from being totally depraved and to enable him to perform good works. He works by His Spirit in the wicked world so that there is great wisdom and significant goodness in the world that crucified Jesus. Because of this “common grace” goodness and wisdom in the unbelieving world, the church today can and should learn from the unbelieving world. The church should learn that the Bible is a thoroughly human product of history and, therefore, not the inerrant Word of God, e.g., in Genesis 1-11. The church should lean from the world that the explanation of origins is evolution including the descent of man from primates. The church should learn that the wife is not in subjection to her husband in marriage and that women have every right to the offices in the church. The church should also learn from the “common grace” wisdom of the world that homosexuality is a perfectly innocent condition of some persons and that homosexual practice in committed relationships is pleasing to God.

The PRC judge the doctrine of “common grace” to be the denial of the biblical truth of total depravity, the bridge over the antithesis (the spiritual separation of church and world), and the despair of afflicted Christians (for if health is blessing to the unbeliever, cancer is God’s curse upon the godly).

We are sending you the pamphlets, “The Curse-Reward of the Wicked Well-Doer,” by Herman Hoeksema, and “Grace Uncommon,” by Barrett Gritters. We recommend the book, Saved by Grace, by Ron Cammenga and Ron Hanko, and the three-volume work by Herman Hoeksema on the Heidelberg Catechism, The Triple Knowledge. (These books are available from the RFPA.)

3) Perhaps the recent editorials in the Standard Bearer on postmillennialism are helpful to you in understanding the truth about the last days and, particularly, about what you and all other true believers must expect. Postmillennialism is the teaching that soon a majority of humans will be converted, the entire world will be “Christianized,” and a very long period of earthly power, peace, and prosperity will be enjoyed by the church before Christ comes again. There will be no Antichrist and no persecution.

Amillennialism teaches that the “thousand years” ofRevelation 20, like much of the book, is figurative. The earthly future for the true church consists of Antichrist (II Thess. 2Rev. 12, 13) and great persecution.

The PRC are confessionally amillennial.

We are sending you the pamphlets, “The Millennium,” “The Antichrist,” and “The Mark of the Beast,” by Herman Hoeksema, and the pamphlet, “The Antichrist,” by Barrett Gritters. We recommend the commentary on Revelation, Behold He Cometh, by Herman Hoeksema. (The book is available from the RFPA.)

4) It is the official position of the PRC to sing only the Psalms in the worship of the churches. Thus, they maintain the official stand of the Reformed churches as expressed in Article 69 of the Church Order of Dordt: “In the churches only the 150 Psalms of David . . . shall be sung.”

Our reasons are the same as those that motivated Dordt. First, the Psalms are the one and only songbook given to the church for use in worship by the Holy Spirit in inspired Scripture. Second, the Psalms are God-centered. Third, although some hymns are sound, invariably the church’s opening up of her worship to hymns results in the singing of sentimental, man-centered, “free-willist,” and even frivolous hymns. Heresy has often been sung into the church before it was preached. What also happens is that the God-glorifying, profound Psalms are driven out of worship. Hymns drive out the Psalms just as bad money drives out good.

We wince at your mention of Isaac Watts. Watts was a foe of exclusive Psalm-singing. He was also heretical in his doctrines of the Trinity, the person of Christ, the atonement, and total depravity.

PR people sing good hymns in their homes, schools, and various gatherings for fellowship, although even here we are (or should be) determined to give the Psalms pride of place.

We are sending you the pamphlets, “Psalm Singing,” by Jason Kortering, and “Music in the Church,” by David J. Engelsma. The latter explains that the “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” of Colossians 3:16refer to the Psalms only.

You have indeed “pelted” us with questions. But they are good questions about vital issues in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches today. We are glad you wrote.

We rejoice with you over your conversion to the Reformed faith. Isn’t it grand?

—Ed. Comm.