Under the above caption Dr. Janies Daane writes in the Reformed Journal of September, 1953. We gather that the theology of which he speaks has to do with the matter of common grace, while the schism to which he refers is the one which has recently taken place in the Protestant Reformed Churches. We have not the room to quote his entire article which is indeed very interesting, but here are a few quotes:
“The recent breakup of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids is a sad event in the history of Reformed Churches. It is cause for more than a localized grief. There should be a general sorrow in Reformed Churches over this new rending of the body of Christ within the family of the Reformed Churches. Although it would seem that this event is a historical justification for the Three Points of 1924 it would be less than Christian if we of the Christian Reformed Churches viewed it as merely an event of self-justification. Such an attitude would be sinful. For whatever else this event may be, it should be experienced as a rending of the body of Christ, whose body we are.
The story of the division and sub-division of the Reformed Churches in Holland and America is not a pleasant story. While separation is not limited to the history of these Churches, it is significant that so much separation has taken place within the churches who possess such a strong denominational consciousness. This new event of separation which has taken place within the Prot. Ref. Churches is cause therefore not only for grief but for careful reflection. It thrusts questions upon us which we ought to face anew. Why do Reformed Churches continue to break-up? When is a separation necessary and legitimate, and when sinful?”
Such are the opening remarks in Dr. Daane’s article. He then proceeds under separate headings to deliniate on his subject. Under the first, which he titles “Our Centennial”, referring of course to the centennial which is to be celebrated next year in the Christian Reformed Churches, he warns against “mutual admiration and self-praise, coupled with a thanking of the Lord that we are not as other churches,” and exhorts to a careful reflection on such a question as: “When and on what grounds is it legitimate to raise up an independent. Reformed church alongside of an existing one?” Writes he: “Proper centennial thinking will require that we think on the schisms that appeared within our own churches. The history spelled by the
Berean and Protestant Reformed Churches should not be ignored. It is a part of our history. These went out from our Church, not from another. Their theologies were developed within our denomination, not m some other denomination. This part of our history which gave birth to these theologies and these Churches may not be regarded as forgotten pages.”
Under the next heading which he titles “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” Dr. Daane seems to be pained by the treatment his churches have given those who were cast out of her midst. Writes he: “We shall need the humility and courage to ask ourselves whether we have forsaken and abandoned the churches that went out from us to the hurt of their own errors. Have we disassociated ourselves from them as though they were no concern of ours, perhaps the more easily to take pride in our rightness? Have been our brother’s keeper or has our brotherly love stood still at our denominational borders?” Dr. Daane then continues and makes this startling observation: “The record shows that we have not and our failure deprives us of an opportunity to render real service now. Although they do not admit it, those of the Protestant Reformed Churches who now disagree with the Rev. H. Hoeksema have taken at least one theological step back toward the Christian Reformed Church. For this we can take no credit. Long ago we terminated the theological conversation about common grace. This places us at a distinct disadvantage now, for the present situation in the Protestant Reformed Church is hardly the best psychological moment to enter the discussion. Yet there would be point in demonstrating, if it could be done within the context of an existing theological conversation, that those who differ from Hoeksema and affirm the rightful place of ‘conditions’ within Reformed theology have thereby theologically conceded that grace can after all be offered inasmuch as a condition is in its very nature of the essence of an offer. None can predict what might have been. But in view of what has now happened, it is not too fanciful to think that something very good might have come from a continuation of the common grace question with the Protestant Reformed Churches. In any case, it would have been no more than brotherly concern for those who are of us, though they went out from us. If the theological issue of 1924 was significant enough to warrant a church split, it was also of sufficient significance to warrant a continuation of the theological conversation in the hope of a healing of the breach.
Dr. Daane seems quite certain that the common grace conversation was terminated for the sake of the peace of the church. But with this he is not at all satisfied. He claims that the doctrine of common grace is no “small bit of theology with no large importance.” Tie says: “If we should come to think so, then we would have to regard the action of 1924 which resulted in the creation of the Protestant Reformed Churches as a very large mistake…………Truth is something to believe, and something by which to live. If common grace was a truth which warranted a break within our denomination, then it was a truth of large theological stature, something by which to live…The claim that common grace should not be stressed too much should sound very strange in a church which in 1924 stressed it so much as to make the Three Points of common grace an occasion for split in our denomination.”
Daane argues that “the doctrine of common grace is no mere appendix to Reformed theology. It is a vital organ in the body of Reformed Theology. Surrender of the doctrine of common grace would affect the very nature of our theology.”
Dr. Daane wants the common grace discussion to be continued. Writes he: “The denial of common grace arose out of a theological spirit that existed within our churches. Although the denial was so strengthened by the considerable theological ability of Herman Hoeksema that his name has both in America and Europe come to be associated with a definite theological position, yet the fact remains that the denial arose out of a theological spirit that existed in the bosom of our churches. This should guard us against the unrealistic fancy that only one or two of that generation were touched by that spirit, and that the next generation, trained by the preceding one, would be wholly immune to that spirit. Present differences concerning common grace indicate that the spirit of Hoeksema’s denial are not yet dead…Looking back over the years it is not too much to say that our languid post-1924 interest in common grace at least suggests the possibility that if Hoeksema had moved more slowly and the issue had not been settled in so hurried a fashion, Hoeksema might well have brought a much larger sector of the church under the banner of his thought.”
Dr. Daane writes much more which we are sorry we have no more room to quote. But this much is plain. In the first place, it is our opinion that he has correctly observed that those in our present controversy who have disagreed with Hoeksema “have taken at least one theological step back toward the Christian Reformed Church.” Whether they will admit it or not, those who believe in and teach a conditional theology have no right of separate existence from the Christian Reformed Churches. And we would advise them to leave us and go where they can live in agreement under one ecclesiastical roof.
In the second place, we are happy that Daane admits that his churches have neglected the Protestant Reformed Churches all these years. Every overture our churches sent to them reminding them of their sin was ignored. Let the Christian Reformed Churches in their Centennial acknowledge this.
Thirdly, we agree with Daane that the common grace issue in not a small thing. We have always maintained that the Christian Reformed Churches have an entirely different world and life view than we do.
Fourthly, we can also agree with Daane that if the Christian Reformed Churches had not so prematurely cast out the Rev. Hoeksema he “might well have brought a much larger sector of the church under the banner of his thought.” People whose eyes the Lord opens have no trouble following him in his thought because it is generally based upon the truth of Scripture and the Confessions. He is a Reformed man, you know, the Synod of 1924 being witness. And why shouldn’t those in the Christian Reformed Churches who still love the old Reformed truth not follow him. It is still not too late for them to repudiate the error of common grace, to come out and follow him. We advise them to do so.