From the Letterbox

Mr. Editor: Having read Henry R. Van Til’s article, “Testing the Teachers,” in the August-September issue of Torch and Trumpet, I feel constrained to respond, since I am the author of the review which is particularly under fire. I should like to call attention to the following particulars.

Professor Van Til’s question, “Whose judgment shall I accept?” is facetious. He knew whose judgment he would accept long before the last three reviews mentioned were published, as is evident from his letter to The Banner, January 26, 1951. This conclusion was apparently reached without having read Calhoun’s book itself, since he says, “This review saves me a lot of time and money.” Unfortunately, I did not have the advantage of having read either Vos’s review or Van Til’s comments on the same before submitting my review. My review was written during the first week in January. although not published until March.

Concerning my review itself, Van Til’s suggestion that it contains no adequate warning is erroneous. Of the five paragraphs in the review, the two longest are distinctly critical, mentioning besides the strictures which Van Til cites, the fact that human sin is underestimated and that the book is completely faulty with respect to special revelation. Two shorter paragraphs seek to express the stimulating qualities of the book. The fifth is a brief summation of both attitudes.

Although there are many fine exhortations and admonitions in Van Til’s article—I admit I have much to learn about reviewing books—let us beware of the consequences of accepting his attitude. Must we assume that there is no truth intermixed with error? If so, much of the history of the Christian Church will have to be rewritten. Must we assume that the Christian Church today has said the last word on everything which is good for society, has developed its heritage to the last degree, has completed its task of evaluating and and applying the Word? Can we now stand static and declare that our times present no new challenge to us? If so, this is the first age in which the Church has had this privilege. Granting—and I do grant—that Calhoun does not speak the language of the regenerated Christian, must we assume that God’s common grace cannot speak to us through him, and must we declare all attempts to recognize a message to be utterly contraband?

If I were reviewing a child’s book, I would write as for children. For adults, I refer to the last sentence of my review, “But if it cannot be read with discrimination, it should not be read at all.” The only way an adult could gain the totally wrong impression against which Van Til warns would be by stopping after the first two paragraphs of the review. If that sin makes the reviewer remiss in his duty as a watchman on the walls of Zion, then not otherwise—I must beg pardon.

I have enjoyed reading the other reviews of the book, and find in them no more disagreement than is usually to be expected in various reviews of the same book. I have also enjoyed and been stimulated by Van Til’s article, and expect to profit from it in the future. But let me say no more, lest once again I be accused of double talk.

J. H. Kromminga




Mr. Editor: After I have carefully reread the review of Dr. Kromminga, I am confirmed in my original judgment. Even the critical paragraphs referred to by brother Kromminga in his letter do not sound a clear note of warning, but are measured statements of evaluation. Paragraph three, for example, begins: “There are, however, definite shortcomings which make it impossible to lend wholehearted approval to the thesis and its development. Discussion may obviate some of the difficulties” (italics added). Also paragraph four, which is referred to as one of the longer critical paragraphs, begins: “We must repeat, there is much here that has genuine value. There is an understanding of general revelation and its witness concerning God which is refreshing and challenging. Christian thought will do well to pursue this understanding with might and main.”1 These lines constitute two-fifths of the critical paragraph.

My reply would be that since Calhoun has no personal God, since for him God is part of the universe, since Calhoun has wiped out the distinction between Creator and creation, his concept of general revelation cannot possibly be refreshing and challenging to a Calvinist, but totally misleading and false. I am frank to confess that I have no enthusiasm for such contributions. Besides, I do not believe for a moment that Calhoun is making a great discovery when he says that Christianity is basically social rather than individuaL There is no such antithesis in Scripture.

I find a basic difference of interpretation between Dr. Kromminga and myself. He speaks of obviating difficulties by discussion (some, of course. cannot be obviated that way), but to me there are not only a few difficulties. Rather,this book is heretical from cover to cover. The central thesis is wrong, its central idea of God is radically unsound! For that reason it seems to me that Dr. Kromminga’s review suffers from intellectualism, that is, an intellectual analysis in which the whole of the Christian personality is not mobilized against evil. This is a basic issue in the churches today.

Dr. Kromminga is afraid of accepting the consequences of my attitude, and I am concerned about his lack of attitude and seeming unwillingness to take a strong stand against men of Calhoun’s conviction, although Kromminga grants now “that Calhoun docs not speak the language of a regenerated Christian.” And that is exactly the point! We must warn God’s people against false teachers! We must say to them that this teacher is not of God! That is biblical language.

I fail to find any great concern in the Bible to salvage some of the truth intertwined with error. But there is great concern that we should be on our guard against error. Hence I would not say that God’s common grace speaks to us through Calhoun et al (cf. Dr. Kromminga’s reply). Such identification of common grace and general revelation is extremely dangerous, to say the least. But I would say that God’s special revelation warns us against Calhoun as one who expresses the spirit of antichrist whom we are to abhor and to oppose with might and main.

Henry R. Van Til