The brethren, exponents of the theory of common grace and of the well-meaning offer of salvation, have been told over and over that, through their marshalling Scripture on the side of their theory, they set the Bible at variance with itself. In defending themselves against this charge, the brethren have conceded that there is indeed conflict between their theories (the brethren, of course, call their views not theories but doctrines) and Scripture. Their contention is, however, that this conflict is only apparent and thus not actual. They correctly maintain that there can be no actual contradictions in the Bible.
What I wish to make plain in this writing is, that, despite their contention to the contrary, the brethren are foisting not apparent but actual contradictions upon Scripture. The data which will be needed to substantiate this charge will be gathered mainly from the recent articles of Rev. Zwier,—articles appearing in De Wachter.
The brethren have begun to distinguish between real and apparent contradictions. Their contention is that the latter are indeed to be found in Scripture and that therefore no one need be alarmed by the discovery that the teaching of common grace is at variance with Scripture, as the conflict can be but apparent. Wrote Zwier, (I translate), “The Bible is one whole; it is the product of one author. In explaining any part, therefore, one must take account of the whole. This is what we mean, when we say, that we must explain according to the analogia fidei, or, if you will, de analogia Scripturae, the agreement of the Scriptures. In the Scriptures we have to do with a perfect, consonant whole.
“There are in the Scriptures no actual contradictions. There can be no contradiction between one part and another. In a human writing this is possible, for human logic is defective, as it was impaired by sin. Hence, we at times happen upon contradictions in the works of the best scholars. But in Holy Writ, inspired as it is by the Holy Spirit, contradictions are impossible. In the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation there is perfect harmony.
“There are, however, apparent contradictions in Holy Writ. But if we encounter these two doctrines, which we cannot possibly harmonize with our defective human logic, then we confess our impotence, without risking an attempt to harmonize the two. All such attempts end in tragedy. The history of the past as well as of the present yields many examples of this. In such cases therefore we acknowledge both truths to be the teaching of Holy Writ, and though we cannot perceive the oneness of the two, we nevertheless believingly affirm that they merge in a higher, divine unity.” So far the reverend.
In the above excerpt, mention is made of apparent and actual contradictions. According to the writer of these lines, the former only are to be found in the Bible.
In dealing with this sentiment, it is well to have before our mind the answer to the question: when is it allowable to speak of the existence of a contradiction. The question is to be answered thus: “A contradiction exists when two sentences or propositions stand in relation of opposition, so that only one can be true.” We may take as an illustration the two propositions, “All men are by nature totally depraved,” “No men are by nature totally depraved.” Now it is obvious that both cannot be true. Here, therefore, we have to do, certainly, with an actual contradiction. So, an actual contradiction exists when only one of two propositions can be true and thus when one of the two must be false. Hence, as Zwier tells his readers, there can be no actual contradiction in Scripture, for if there were, it would have to be said of Holy Writ that it sets forth the lie. But the reverend informs his readers that Scripture does contain apparently contradictory pairs of propositions, and these, according to the reverend, are again of two kinds: a) those that man by his defective logic is unable to reconcile, or, otherwise said, the oneness of which man is unable to perceive, but which, as they merge in a higher unity, that is, stand in a relation of harmony to each other according to God’s logic (but not according to the defective logic of man), are not to be classified with the actual contradictions; b) the apparently contrary pairs of propositions which man, the believing student of Scripture, can and does harmonize, that is, the unity of which he does perceive.
Now the reverend in his writings sets before his readers specimens of both kinds of apparently contrary pairs of propositions. The specimen of those apparently contrary pairs of propositions (contained in Scripture) that defy man’s defective logic, that is, the unity of which the mind of man cannot discover, is found in a writing from the reverend’s pen, appearing in De Wachter for Nov. 29, 1938. “The Reformed Confession,” wrote Zwier, “which, as we know, maintains two truths, which we cannot possibly reconcile with each other, on account of the fact that the two seem to exclude each other, namely, on the one hand God’s sovereign, unconditional, and immutable election, and on the other hand the full responsibility of man respecting his choice, leaves in this respect man’s mind unsatisfied.” (I translate as literally as possible. The meaning of this sentence evidently is that the Reformed Confession fails to satisfy man’s mind in respect to what it teaches regarding God’s election and man’s responsibility, namely that God’s election is sovereign and that man, nevertheless, is fully responsible for his choice. G.M.O.) Here then we have to do with a pair of propositions that, according to Zwier, defy not God’s but man’s logic. Zwier calls them apparently contrary propositions of a class that cannot be harmonized by human logic. But does this reasoning of Zwier make sense? Let us show that it does not, by getting at the bottom of the matter.
The two propositions or truths with which we now have to do are: a) God’s election is sovereign, b) Man is responsible for his choice. Consider now that Zwier’s contention is that these two truths, contrary though they be according to human logic, merge in a higher, divine unity, “zich oploissen in een hoogere, goddelijke, eenheid.” Thus the expression “hoogere eenheid” must denote in Zwier’s thought-structure God’s logic. In this structure then we come upon two kinds of logic, God’s and man’s. And from the circumstance that, according to Zwier, the two truths in question merge only in that higher divine unity, it must of necessity follow that God’s logic and man’s logic stand in relation of opposition, so that what is logical and true according to God’s logic is illogical and untrue according to the logic of man and vice versa. But this compels us to face the question, “Whose logic is actually characterized by illogicalness, God’s or man’s?” And Zwier’s answer shall have to be and also actually is, “Not God’s but man’s. God’s logic is perfect.” This is in substance Zwier’s answer, derived from his writings. In these writings the expression “gebrekkig menschelijke logica” occurs over and over. The term “gebrekkig,” however, is out of place here. What Zwier should say is, “Taking the divine logic as our criterion, then human logic is altogether and absolutely illogical, that is, contrary to the laws of thinking according to which God thinks.” This is what Zwier should say; and he actually does say it through his affirming that two truths can defy human logic and can still be merging in that higher, divine unity. Now if this be true, man’s logic and that of God stand in relation of opposition; and if so, man’s logic is not merely “gebrekkig”; it is thoroughly false. What man thinks is always in accordance with laws of thinking that are wrong.
So then, human logic, if Zwier’s appraisal of it is correct, is a complete failure, absolute darkness. I can’t understand how Zwier, should he be attaching any value whatever to his appraisal of human logic, dare think and not alone think but pen and publish what he thinks as well. But he dare. He even, wonderful to say, dare tell the people, despite his total lack of confidence in “de menschelijke logica” his reasoning to the effect that we incline toward rationalism, that, as students of Scripture, we are rationalists. The daring of the brother!
The explanations of the brother’s doing may be the following. Zwier has thought on our case. And the conclusion at which he arrived is that as students of Scripture we are rationalists. But consider that Zwier holds to the view that man, through sin, has lost his capacity to think cogently. Now I take it that Zwier felt assured that all his readers were fully aware of his holding to this view, and that therefore they would say when reading what Zwier wrote about us, “What Zwier means is that the deniers of common grace are rationalists according to Zwier’s corrupt logic and that thus, according to divine logic not they but Zwier and his colleagues are the people with rationalistic inclinations as theologians.” Now I assure Zwier that the majority of his readers are not aware of his estimate of the capability of the human mind. This being true, Zwier finds himself under the necessity of making this plain to his readers, that they may know how he wants them to understand his appraisal of us.
But let us proceed. Zwier, as was shown, affirms with emphasis that, whereas there can be no actual contradictions in Scripture, the two truths in question, cannot be actually contrary. But, whereas Zwier’s view is that there are two kinds of logic, human and divine, the questions must be put, “according to whose logic is there no actual conflict?” This question calls for but one answer: “There is no actual conflict according to God’s logic. According to God’s logic the two truths are, must be, certainly, in perfect agreement.” This must be Zwier’s answer. Now whereas Zwier’s conception is that God’s logic and man’s logic stand in relation of opposition, this answer of his is equivalent to the statement, that according to human logic, the two truths in question are not merely apparently but actually contrary. Zwier also literally asserts this.
Attend once more to this statement from his pen, “Maar als we deze ontmoeten, twee leerstukken, die wij met onze gebrekkige menschelijke logica onmoge lijk kunnen rijmen. . .” Now if words have meaning, then the thought here expressed is that these “twee leerstukken” are actually contrary doctrines according to human logic. This must be, as these two truths merge not in “een hoogere menschelijke eenheid” but “in een hoogere, goddelijke eenheid.”
So then the teaching of Zwier is that the two truths are in actual agreement according to God’s logic and in actual disagreement according to the logic of man. This, of course, is not what Zwier literally teaches. But it is implied in his reasoning.
As has been shown, what Zwier literally affirms is the very opposite, namely that the two truths in question are only in apparent and thus not in actual disagreement but in actual agreement with each other and this certainly not according to God’s but according to man’s logic. How could two truths seem to be in actual agreement according to God’s logic? This cannot be. What Zwier must have meant then is that the two truths seem to us (not certainly to God. Things do not seem to God) to be contrary according to human logic and thus are not, according to this same logic, actually contrary.
Thus there is a strange conflict in Zwier’s thought-structure. He teaches that the two truths in question are according to human logic actually contrary and at once not actually contrary but only apparently so. If the latter be true, why cannot the two truths be harmonized by human logic? If two such truths—truths at bottom one—defy human logic, this logic must be “gebrekkig” indeed. If Zwier has any confidence in his appraisal of human logic, it is hard to understand how he dare think one thought. But he dare think!
It is safe to say that Zwier will experience considerable difficulty in getting himself to admit that this contradiction is actually present in his thought-structure. But he will have to come to it. Any attempt on his part to bring unity in this structure without purging it from the conception that two truths, which cannot be harmonized by human logic “zich oplossen in een hoogere, goddelijke eenheid” must of necessity result in his piling nonsense upon nonsense.
Zwier ought to purge his thought-structure from this contradiction. I am well aware that Zwier has been endowed with the kind of a mind capable of believingly winding itself about two truths actually contrary according to human logic. But it seems to me that in this case he is asking far too much of that mind of his. He ought to be more considerate of his mind. There is also such a thing as a man trying to stretch his mind too far, supposing that mind should snap. What then? Zwier ought to say one of two things: either that according to human logic the two truths in question seem to exclude each other and thus actually according to this same logic do not, or that these same truths according to this same logic (human) actually exclude each other and thus do not merely seem.
Now if Zwier should resolve to address himself to the task of purging his thought structure from this contradiction, his first act should be to carefully examine the expression “gebrekkige menschelijke logica.” What does Zwier have reference to when he avers that human logic has been impaired by sin? Dr. W. Thomson distinguishes between pure and applied logic, “Pure logic is the science of the form, or of the formal laws, of thinking, and not of the matter. Applied logic teaches the application of the laws of thinking to those objects about which men do think.” Thus applied logic signifies: a) the laws of thinking as applied; b) the objects about which men do think; c) what men think of these objects; d) the thinking mind.
A question. Does in Zwier’s thought-structure the expression “gebrekkige menschelijke logica” concern pure logic or applied logic? Otherwise said, when Zwier maintains that the two truths in question cannot be harmonized by impaired human logic, was he thinking of man’s mind or of the formal laws according to which the process of thinking should be conducted? Now it is plain from Zwier’s entire reasoning that he had not the above distinction before his mind when he penned his articles. So the question is: what is the view or conception which Zwier either wittingly or unwittingly broached in his articles? This can be known. Zwier avers, does he not, that the two truths in question cannot be harmonized by human logic. Now such a statement must be made to apply not only to practical logic, that is, to the mind of man and to the capacity of man’s mind to think but also to the laws according to which the process of thinking must be conducted (pure logic). Hence, Zwier’s statement to the effect that the two truths in question cannot be harmonized by impaired human logic, must also mean that as a result of man’s fall the two truths in question cannot be harmonized by the application of the laws of thought (the pure logic of man), and that thus not only man’s mind but also these very laws were affected by sin. Consider that the state of things Zwier describes is due to sin. When man was still uncorrupted, the state of things, according to Zwier, was different. Then, such truths as now defy man’s logic could be harmonized by the application of the laws of thought (human logic). Then such truths merged not only in the mind of God but in the mind of man as well. What then, according to Zwier, has happened to the laws of thought, man’s pure logic? From Zwier’s teaching to the effect that since the fall the two truths in question merge in God’s mind only and thus cannot be reconciled by the pure logic of man, it must follow that, in Zwier’s thought structure, the laws of human reasoning have been literally reversed by sin. Now I ask, is this true? Assuredly not. Yet this is what Zwier actually teaches. According to Zwier, when man fell, it ceased to be true that if all men are mortal and if I am a man, I am mortal; ceased to be true that, if a reasoning is to be valid, the syllogism must have three propositions and only three; that every syllogism must have three terms and only three; that the middle term of a syllogism must be distributed at least once; that no term may be distributed in the conclusion that was not distributed in one of the premises; that from two negative premises nothing can be inferred; it ceased to be true, when man fell, that twice two is four, that the shortest distance between two points is a line; that when two things are equal to the same thing, they are equal to each other.
If the laws of human thinking have been reversed by sin, if from the point of view of pure logic God’s yea is equivalent to man’s nay, how could God ever make Himself understood by man? How could we know what God is saying to us in His Word? What is the logic of Scripture, human or divine? He who says that it is divine and then adds that the laws of thought have been reversed by sin, declares that for man the Bible is a closed book. On the other hand, he who says that the logic of Scripture is human and thereupon maintains that the laws of thought have been reversed by sins, declares that the Bible is a concoction of lies. What have the brethren, what has Zwier come to in their endeavor to give their theories a show of plausibility?
Now the above observations concern pure logic. As to practical logic it can be extremely faulty. The practical logic that one encounters in the articles of Zwier is in one word wretched. I will adduce more proof of this in the sequence of my article.
What is the explanation of the wretchedness of Zwier’s practical logic? The answer: The failure of Zwier’s mind to function according to God’s laws of valid thought. How is this failure on the part of Zwier to be accounted for? According to Zwier himself, the reason is that man’s mind has been impaired by sin to the extent even that it has become impossible for him to conduct his process of thinking according to the laws of thought. Is this true? Now we all know it to be a fact, of course, that there are men of extremely low intelligence. Grown up men and women there are with the mental capacity of a child of five or seven years old. We call these people stupid. On the other hand, there is also to be found among mortals men with fine minds. We call them capable people. Some of the men in this group are so very capable mentally that we call them brilliant. To this group Zwier belongs. He is a man with a fine mind. Zwier is a capable man. Why then did his mind fail to function according to the laws of valid thought? According to Zwier, the reason is that his mind has been so impaired by sin, that he is incapable of this. Now is this true? Assuredly not. If Zwier believes what he says, he has no regard for his mind whatever. Now this is not right of Zwier. He should have a high regard for his mental capacities. For he has a good mind. It seems that I think much more of his mind that he does. He disqualified his mind in his articles. I, on the other hand, hold high that mind of his. And in doing so, I am sincere. How I wish that Zwier would correctly appraise his mental capacities! A man with an inferior complex can’t do good work.
What then may be the reason that man’s mind fails, or, better said, refuses to function according to the laws of valid thought? The reason is that man’s ethical nature has been totally corrupted by sin. The result is that man loves the lie and hates the truth. So, as under the sway of his great antipathy to the truth and in his spiritual blindness and stupidity, man, we all by nature, cannot will to conduct the process of our thinking according to the laws of valid reasoning, if we discover that in doing so we advance the cause of the truth. Man by nature will engage in cogent thinking only when he sees that by doing so he advances the cause of the lie. The result is that what the flesh thinks about God is always a lie. And the essence of this lie is that God is darkness.
So then, the reason that the natural man’s practical logic (what man thinks) is always corrupt when the objects of thought are the things of the Spirit, is not that, as Zwier has it, the laws of thought have been reversed by sin, is not further than man’s mind, pure reason, has been so impaired by sin that he is no longer mentally capable of conducting the process of thinking according to the valid laws of thought, the reason is man’s corrupt heart, his antipathy to the truth together with the resultant spiritual blindness.
The fault lies with man’s heart. And of this Zwier seems to be unmindful. According to Zwier, the fault lies firstly with the laws of thought and secondly with man’s pure reason. Attend to this from the brother’s pen, “Wat de geloovigen betreft, zij zijn ten eenenmafe onbekwaam om het woord Gods te kunnen waardeeren. Hun verstand is verduisterd, hun logica is verdorven, hun zinnen zijn verblind, zoodat ze wanneer ze de Schrift lezen, van de heerlijkheid van Gods onenbaring niet begrijpen” (De Wachter for Feb. 7, 1939).
Notice the expression, “hun logica is verdorven.” Let us translate here, “The logic of the natural man is corrupted.” Now it is evident from the clause that follows (hun zinnen zijn verblind), that the term logic in the above sentence, must be made to apply to the mind. Zwier has it then that the reason the natural man cannot understand the things which are of the Spirit, is not that he is hateful of the truth and of God, is not that he is prejudiced against Christ on account of his being dead in sin, but the reason, is that his mind, his mental capacity to think in agreement with the laws of thought, has been too much impaired by sin. And in the next paragraph Zwier tells his headers that this is the teaching of Paul. He quotes Paul to the following effect, “Maar de natuurlijke mensch begrijpt (the original has receive, accept) niet de dingen, die des Geestes God’s zijn; want zij zijn hem dwaasheid, en hij kan ze niet verstaan, omdat zij geestelijk onderscheiden worden” (I Cor. 2:14). Does the apostle teach here that the natural man cannot understand the truth on account of his being devoid of the mental capacity to think cogently? Indeed not. Mark the clause, “for they are foolishness to him”. . . The thought set forth by this clause is that man by nature mocks the things of the Spirit of God. Why does he mock? There can be but one reason: he hates these things. And hating, he can neither will to receive, accept nor know, and spiritually discern them. Thus the fault lies not with man’s reasoning power but with his corrupt will. Christ teaches this, too, and even more pointedly, “And in this is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias. . . . seeing (that is perceiving rationally) ye shall see (ye shall have rational understanding of the truth), and shall not perceive (that is, spiritually discern, appreciate, evaluate correctly).” The truth here set forth is that what the natural man rationally perceives through the glass of the wordy to wit, the things heavenly, does not stand out in his mind as a blessed reality. If man through sin lost his mental capacity to think in agreement with the laws of thought, he has become like unto the irrational beast and, if so, he according to Christ, has no sin. Zwier should realize that through his affirming that as a result of the fall man lost his reasoning power, his rational intelligence, he denies human responsibility. How strange that Zwier does the very thing against which he in his most recent articles over and over warns.
Let me now prove that when man departs in his thinking from the laws of thought, the fault lies not with his mind but with his will. Scripture affirms that “whatsoever is not out of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23b). Zwier, to be sure, accepts this scripture. Now the pronoun “whatsoever” refers to every conceivable work of man, even to his eating and drinking. Hence, according to the laws of thought it follows that, whereas the natural man always acts from the principle of unbelief, all his works are sin. But Zwier’s conclusion is that all the works of this man are not sin in the sight of God. How is this departure from the laws of thought on the part of Zwier to be accounted for? Not, certainly by his mental incapacity to think cogently but by his love of a theory—the theory of common grace. Hence, not his mind but his will is at fault. Zwier will reply that his illogical reasoning is found in Scripture. Doesn’t Zwier realize that to maintain this is to rail at Scripture, is thus to rail at God? Doesn’t he realize that the laws of thought are as sacred as the ten commandments and that thus to violate them or to use them for the advancement of the life, is sin? If so, should the sacred writers of Holy Writ be accused of departing from the laws of thought? Is the Bible a wicked book? There is not one illogical reasoning, not one pair of contrary propositions to be found in the whole of Scripture.
One more illustration. Zwier believes in a well-meaning offer of salvation to the reprobated: that thus God in His love wills to save them. On the other hand, God also wills not to save them, according to Zwier. According to the laws of thought we have to do here with contrary propositions. But according to Zwier, the propositions are only apparently contradictory and thus not actually. How is this departure from the laws of thought on the part of Zwier to be accounted for? Again by the love of a theory.
The two propositions last cited are, according to God’s and man’s logic actually contradictory. This, too, as was shown, is Zwier’s teaching, despite the fact that he tells his readers that there are in Scripture no actual contradictions. And, as was said, he tries to put the people at ease by telling them that they need not worry as there are more such contrary “truths” to be found in Scripture, namely such truths as “God’s election is sovereign” and “man is responsible for his choice”. However in a following article, I shall let Dr. Gerhardus Vos of Princeton tell him that rightly considered these two truths are not contrary, not even apparently so. By quoting from his works I shall let Vos tell Zwier, that it is exactly the Pelagian who, as driven by malice, puts these two truths over against each other.
One word in conclusion. In his most recent article, Zwier had much to say on the subject of rationalism. What he wrote was meant, of course, for our eyes. What, in effect, he tells his readers is this: “Know well, that those men are smitten with the contagion of rationalism. They and their teachings are therefore to be shunned as a noisome plague. I, Daniel Zwier, warn you.”
What now according to Zwier is it to believe? To believe, according to Zwier, is to affirm from the heart that God’s logic and man’s logic exclude each other and that thus from the point of view of pure logic, God’s yea is equivalent to man’s nay. To believe, according to Zwier, is to affirm that through sin God’s laws of thought for man were reversed, that twice two became eight, black white and white black. To believe, according to Zwier, is to suspend God’s laws of thought and to glory in the illogical. And who, according to Zwier, is the rationalist? He it is who, when minding the things of the Spirit of God, places his intellect in the service of his faith and conducts the process of his thinking according to God’s laws of thought. I want to say, however, that, if this is rationalism, then all the prophets and apostles including Christ Himself were rationalists. What is rationalism? What is faith? These are questions to be answered in a following article.
So, through his insistence that Holy Writ is in conflict with itself, through his pointing his finger at us and crying, rationalists! rationalists! People beware! Through the above vicious descriptions of rationalism and faith, Zwier seeks to shield his expositions of his theories against attacks upon them by this magazine and to gain his readers for these theories.