Torch and Trumpet hereby grants Dr. William Masselink the courtesy of reply to the Rev. Adam Persenaire’s review of General Revelation and Common Grace, which appeared in our previous issue. This “reply” goes far beyond the scope of the review in question, however, and we print this article in full because we wish to avoid any possibility of conveying the impression of partiality. Actually Part II of this article alone constitutes an effort to reply to Persenaire. Although we regret the rather negative tone of this material, we have agreed to publish it in its entirety so that the opinions of the late Dr. Hepp as adopted by Dr. Masselink may be expressed in our paper on this issue. In our opinion this article is not free from injudicious statements, for which we assume no responsibility. Dr. Masselink’s judgment that certain originators and proponents of that which he terms the “new philosophy” plainly and deliberately hold to anti-confessional positions can scarcely, in our opinion, stand unchallenged. Our readers will have opportunity to evaluate Dr. Masselink’s charges when they read Dr. Cornelius Van Til’s forthcoming contribution to our symposium on common grace.
The last issue of Torch and Trumpet contained a review of my book, General Revelation and Common Grace by the Rev. Adam Persenaire. This review contains some misconceptions regarding the current issues as, well as misunderstanding as to what I wrote in my book. In this article I propose to make certain necessary corrections. Three matters will be discussed: (1) A presentation or some of the main issues in the light of Reformed teaching as I see it; (2) Apparent misconceptions regarding my position in Persenaire’s article; (3) A brief statement of the philosophic issues involved in this discussion.
I. The Present Issues in the light of Reformed Theology
A. The Issue Regarding the Absolute Ethical Antithesis
Van Til considers this the starting point of his whole system of thought. He writes, We must begin by emphasizing the absolute ethical antithesis in which the “natural man” stands to God (Cf. Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 25). With this premise I cannot agree.
1. Why this Antithesis Is Principal and not Absolute
Reformed theology never spoke of the antithesis as it exists now between God and natural man as absolute. It considers this antithesis to be principal. This is related to the Reformed view of total depravity. By that is not meant that natural in all at present is as bad as he can be. He is not equal to the devil or identical with the lost in hell. Natural man, however, is absolutely depraved in principle. Dr. Abraham Kuyper rightly compares him to a dead corpse. The process of decay is not yet complete, but the principle of decay is most assuredly present. So is the natural heart. The principle of absolute corruption is curbed by God’s common grace to such a degree that natural man can become a recipient of the testimony of God’s Spirit. Through this Spirit’s testimony by means of the media of history and creation, natural man receives God-consciousness and moral-consciousness. Through this he knows something of God and something of the universe. This knowledge of God has some faint ethical content-our Confession calls it “civil righteousness” and Calvin speaks of this as “external virtues.” These external virtues in natural man are principally different from the Christian virtues which result from special grace or regeneration. If this “God-consciousness and moral-consciousness” were entirely devoid of ethical content, our Confession would-be untrue when it speaks of “civil righteousness.” In hell the antithesis between God and natural man is absolute. There is no common grace nor civil righteousness in perdition. The theory of “absolute ethical antithesis” excludes common grace, because if it were true, there could be no virtue whatsoever left in natural man. The antithesis between God and natural man must therefor be called principal and not absolute.
2. The Common Ground Issue
This is immediately connected with Van Til’s view of the “absolute ethical antithesis.” If there is an absolute break between God and natural man, then of course there can be no “common ground” between the Christian and natural man either. If however, because of common grace, natural man still possesses “civil righteousness,” then there is still some basis of co-operation between the Christian and natural man. Briefly stated it is this: the Christian can move in the sphere of special grace and in the sphere of common grace. Dr. P.Y. DeJong seems to think that all of the activities of the Christian are confined to the sphere of special grace. He seriously Objects to the view: “that the regenerated life operates sometimes in the sphere of special grace and sometimes in the sphere of common grace,” (The Banner, Sept. 26, 1952, p. 1180.) Such a view, says Dr. DeJong, involves “a dualistic conception of the believer’s life for which we can find no support in Scripture” and consequently “fails to appreciate sufficiently the biblical teaching of the radical difference (antithesis) between the regenerate and unregenerate life.” In Persenaire’s guest editorial in The Banner (March 30, 1953) the same view seems to he set forth. The question therefore is, can a Christian consistently move in the sphere of common grace and of special grace? My answer is affirmative and is based upon the following considerations:
Civil government certainly belongs to the sphere of common grace. It was instituted immediately after the establishment Df the Covenant of Common Grace in Gen. 9:6ff. This proves conclusively that it belongs to the sphere of common grace. Can a Christian consistently assume a place in civil government? Jehovah’s Witnesses say no! They insist that government belongs to the realm of darkness, and therefore the Christian has nothing to do with it. This is substantially an anabaptistic view. The Bible, however, teaches differently. Paul writes that we must be subject to the “powers that be.” Jesus says “Render to Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s.” To Pilate he says, “Thou hadst no authority except it were given thee from above.” On the basis of Scripture as well as confession, we assert that a Christian may participate in the affairs of government because it is a divine institution of God, instituted for the purpose of curbing sin in this world. When the Christian votes for a government official or when he holds office, he moves in the sphere of common grace.
This however does, not at all mean that the Christian, when he participates in the affairs of government, is not governed by the principle of the renewed life. Our citizenship, says Paul, is in heaven. Living out of the principle of special grace, we are to labor on the plane of common grace that sin may he restrained, that justice may be promoted, and that also here Christ’s authority may be established and recognized.
Therefore, I believe that a Christian can participate in those matters which belong to the sphere of special grace as the instituted church, as well as in matters which pertain to the sphere of common grace, such as government. Never may he however act apart from the principle of his regenerated life.
3. The Issue Regarding the “Testimonies” of the Holy Spirit
Bavinck and with him all Reformed theology claims that natural man has knowledge o[ God because of the “testimony” of the Holy Spirit. Reformed theology rejects the term “theistic proofs” to describe the well-known arguments designed to establish the existence of God. The existence of God needs no mathematical, exact, compelling reasoning to be established. Natural man knows this, by the Spirit’s witness within him. Van Til calls this reasoning of Bavinck unchristian. ‘With this objection of Van Til I find my· self in complete disagreement. Also Dr. S. Ridderbos rejects Van Til’s line of argumentation concerning this. He writes: “Because Van Til denies that believers and unbelievers have anything epistomologically in common, he therefore can’t accept the so-called ‘proofs’ as ‘testimonies’ either. But if one with Bavinck correctly acknowledges a certain epistomological communion, then the question can be asked, how far do these ‘proofs’ for God’s existence extend. Then one must come to the conclusion that there is no mathematical proof here…” (cf. Rondorn Het Gemeene Gratie Probleern, p. 47ff., translation mine, ,W.M.).
Instead of saying with Van Til that this reasoning of Bavinck is “unchristian” I would like to call it eminently Christian. Here we have Bavinck at his best. Calvin teaches the same truth in his Institutes as well as in his commentary on Ram. 2:14, Acts 17:25 ff. and Acts 14.
Van Til’s disagreement regarding this is by no means confined to Bavinck, but extends, as far as I know, to the whole of Reformed theology.
4. The Issue Regarding “Natural Blessings”
The Bible speaks of natural blessings that are shared by Christians and non-Christians. Regarding these natural blessings there exists some difference of opinion. Van Til speaks of this as a “difficult point” (Cf. Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 25) This point is indeed difficult if one accepts with Van Til “an absolute ethical antithesis” between God and natural man. The ground for the bestowal of such blessings upon the ungodly is thereby obliterated. God can bestow these natural blessings upon the non-Christian because he is still an image-bearer of God in the wider sense of the term. There are still faint traces of the Divine image left in man. God loves himself, and therefore can also love his image wherever it appears. To this Divine image in its less restricted sense belongs God-consciousness and moral-consciousness. Natural man has some civil righteousness. This is the ground for these natural Divine blessings.
Van Til with his “absolute ethical antithesis” must find the reason for bestowing these blessings elsewhere. He writes: “God’s rain and sunshine come, we know, to his creatures made in his image….it comes upon the unbeliever that he might crucify to himself the Son of God afresh,” (d. idem p. 25ff). This is basically the same as the position of the Rev. Herman Hoeksema. He writes: “God’s Word wills that we shall understand that the Lord enriches the ungodly with earthly blessings in order that he might destroy them in eternity,” (Cf. Niet Doopersch maar Gereformeerd, p. 55). Van Til as well as Hoeksema look upon these blessings of common grace upon natural man too exclusively from the point of view of the final judgment. This is a basic error in all such reasoning. We may not fail to appreciate these present blessings.
5. The Issue Regarding the “Well-meant Offer of the Gospel”
In 1924 our Christian Reformed Synod confirmed the declarations found in dIe Canons of Dort that God comes with a well-meant offer of salvation to all. This offer comes to the non-elect, too. According to the well known “Three Points” this offer of salvation is a manifestation of God’s common grace. Hepp makes the fallowing comment: “Is there not a sort of grace in the hearing of the Gospel by the non-elect? They hear that God has no pleasure in their death, but rather that they may be converted and live. As temporary believers the Word may bring them joy….Let us not look at the lot of the non-elect in the congregation only from the view-point of judgment, Truly that judgment is a reality. But the enjoyments which they sometimes have under the preaching also have temporary reality as a non-saving work, brought about as they are by the Holy Spirit,” (Cf. Credo, July 1, 1940). Van Til makes the following comment on what Hepp says: “Hepp here speaks as though it were already known who are and who are not elect. He speaks as though a preacher may approach a certain individual whom he knows to b’c a reprobate, and tell him that God has no pleasure in his death. But this is to forget the difference between the earlier and the label.
The general presentation comes to a generality Cf. Evangelical Quarterly, Nov. 1946, p.45, (italics mine, W.M.)
What Van Til’s Criticism of Hepp Involves
(1) Van Til says that a preacher would not be able to say to one whom he knows to be a reprobate (an impossible case, W.M.) that God has no pleasure in his death. Consequently God who surely knows who is elect, cannot say to the reprobate that God has no pleasure in his death. Therefore this passage in Ezekiel 33, according to Van Til, is exclusively limited to the elect. Of them only can God say, that he has no pleasure in their death. This interpretation coincides with that of the Rev. Herman Hoeksema.
(2). The offer of salvation, according to Van Til, does not come to the individual, but to the “generality.” This, too, I regard to be in conflict with the declarations of the Christian Reformed Synod of 1924. The “Three Points” certainly mean that the offer of salvation comes not only to a generality, but to the individual as well. This is also the teaching of Calvin in his commentaries on: Psalm 81:14; Psalm 117:19,20; lsaiah 65:2; Jeremiah 7:25,26; Jeremiah 23:33; Ezekiel 3:25,26; Matthew 23:27; Romans 10:21.
Van Til and Hoeksema view the offer of salvation just as they view the natural blessings to the ungodly, too much from the viewpoint of judgment. They fail to appreciate the present blessings (even though they are not saving) contained in this well-meant offer of the Gospel.
6. The Issue Regarding Natural Man’s Knowledge
Van Til has much difficulty with the [act that natural man also knows something of God and of the universe. He speaks of it as a “difficult point” (cf. Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 25) He writes “all we can do with this question is to hem it in, in order to keep out error.” With Schilder he seeks his solution to this question in Schilder’s exegesis of Romans 2:11ff. Man has this knowledge “by nature.” Van Til is in complete agreement with Schilder in finding the starting-point for God-consciousness and moral-consciousness in man himself, instead of in the twofold witness of the Holy Spirit. This attempted solution brings both Schilder and Van Til in endless confusion and inconsistency. Berkouwer is correct when in this connection he points to the danger of the denial of total depravity. If natural man has ethical knowledge apart from common grace and general revelation, it must logically follow that he is not dead in sin (cf. Berkouwer, Algemene Openbaring, pp. 155, 174). This point will remain “difficult” indeed as long as Van Til begins with the premise of “absolute ethical antithesis.”
The Reformed answer to this question, however, is not “difficult.” Natural man as image bearer of God (in wider sense) retained the disposition to receive the Spirit’s testimony through the media of nature and history. Consequently man still has some conception of both God and the universe. This is principally different from the Christian’s knowledge. The Christian views everything in its relationship to God. The Christian has an enlightened understanding through regeneration, and possesses the Bible. In the final analysis God and creation can only be truly known in the light of the Scriptures. Natural man however also knows something about God and creation. All his knowledge concerning this is not absolutely false even though it is qualitatively distinct from the knowledge of the Christian.
7. The Issue Regarding the “Essence” of Common Grace
The disagreement between Schilder and Van Til on the one hand and Reformed theology on the other band concerning the very “essence” of common grace is all important. This logically affects the whole thinking on this doctrine. Reformed theology believes that common grace is always related to sin. It speaks of this as “the essence of common grace.” Schilder and Van Til have repudiated this view.
B. Brief Statement of the Reformed View as Presented by Kuyper
1. Kuyper first speaks of the negative element in common grace. By this is meant that God through his. common grace restrains the devastating effects of sin in both creation and in the social world of mankind. This negative element is especially developed in Gemeene Gratie, VoL 1.
2. According to Kuyper and Reformed theology in general, common grace also contains a positive element. There is the operation of the Holy Spirit upon creation and all mankind. Through this work of the Spirit creation is not only preserved but also in a measure is subject to some development. Think of some of the achievements of science regarding this. Through this Spirit’s operation natural man receives “civil righteousness” and “external virtues”—principally distinct from the Christian.
Schilder and Van Til
Both Schilder and Van Til speak of common grace before the fall. Reformed theology never identified this pre-fall grace with its conception of common grace. By this they separate common grace from sin because before the fall there was no sin. Therefore sin does not belong to its. essence. In other words, the new thought means something with the term “common grace” completely different from the established meaning in Reformed dogmatics.
This essential disagreement between the new movement and historic Reformed theology carries with it tremendous results in all their other thinking. This is exhaustively developed b’y the late Prof. Hepp in his Dreigende Deformatie. Hepp comes to the correct conclusion that Schilder’s system of common grace with its unique philosophy or history in which it is rooted, leaves no room for the Reformed doctrine or common grace. With the denial that sin belongs to the “essence” of common grace, we have placed our finger upon one of the basic differences between the: views of this new theology and the Reformed faith.
II. Apparent Misconceptions in Persenaire’s Book Review
Frequently I am completely misunderstood by brother Persenaire in his review. Numerous erroneous conceptions are ascribed to me that have never been stated nor intended in my book General Revelation and Common Grace. Permit me to make some corrections. There are also some apparent inconsistencies in this article of the reviewer.
Two matters will be dealt with in this section: A. Questionable statements in the book review; B. Apparent misconceptions regarding my position.
A. Questionable Statements Found in This Review
I. Persenaire regards the difference between Van Til and the Reformed theology as represented by Kuyper, Bavinck and Hepp to be “slight.” This, I believe, is wrong. Van Til himself speaks of this difference of opinion regarding the doctrine of common grace as something basic. This is confirmed by the fact that he devotes almost one third of his book on common grace to a detailed criticism of the historic Reformed way of thinking concerning this doctrine. Van Til calls their manner of thinking regarding this: “UnChristian,” “Platonic,” “Aristotolian,” “Roman Catholic” and “Kantian.” He even says that Kuyper was under the “drag” of Kant’s philosophy.
Speaking of Hepp the criticism becomes sharper. I quote: “Now if we develop the doctrine of common grace in line with the teachings of Hepp with respect to the general testimony of the Spirit then we are incorporating into our scientific edifice the very forces of destruction against which that testimony is bound to go forth. Then we might as well blow up the science building with an atom bomb. I have apologized for that statement. But to the meaning intended then, I subscribe today…” (cf. A Letter on Common Grace, p. 66). This language speaks for itself. The disagreement between Van Til and Hepp is far from “slight.”
2. Hepp speaks of an “Internal and External General Testimony of the Holy Spirit.” Regarding this Persenaire writes: “Neither Scripture nor Reformed writers know of it.” This statement is wrong. Bavinck uses the equivalent terms, “Objective and Subjective General Revelation.” Hepp uses this terminology of Bavinck interchangeably with “External and Internal General Revelation.” Hepp wrote his doctoral dissertation, The Testimony at the Holy Spirit under the direct supervision of Bavinck as his promoter. Bavinck heartily endorsed this work. Prof. John Waterink (at present with us) uses the identical language of Hepp: “Het testimonium Spiritue Sancti externum en het testimonium Spiritus Sancti interum.”Waterink speaks of this as something basic in Reformed Science (cf. De Paedagogiek als Wetenschap, p. 50). Dr. P. Prins in his standard work on conscience makes it the very basis for his dissertation. Everyone or the above mentioned Reformed theologians are indebted to John Calvin for this theological distinction. (cf. Institutes, book 22, Section 16 & 16, 6th American Edition).*
3. Persenaire and Van Til claim that general revelation, Creation and history alone is sufficient to introduce knowledge within natural man. In this they err. The Holy Spirit is the author of all knowledge. Objective revelation apart from the Holy Spirit is insufficient to produce this knowledge. The generaIIy accepted Reformed view regarding this has been clearly expressed as follows: “To this objective general revelation corresponds an enlightment of the Logos, John 1:9, or of God’s Spirit ill mind and conscience…The objective general and special revelation is constantly accompanied by the subjective enlightenment of the Spirit of God and of Christ.” (H. Bavinck, Dogmatiek, Vol. 1, p. 368). By affirming that natural man has innate knowledge and morality apart from the Holy Spirit and common grace, one must logically come to the denial of tile Reformed doctrine of total depravity. Persenaire and Van Til both accept this doctrine. The advocates of this new system of thought, however do not appear to realize the grave logical consequences involved in their line of thinking.
4. Persenaire is far from correct when he writes: “Masselink claims that this capacity to receive general revelation is due to God’s common grace” (cf. p. 2). My claim is just the opposite. The capacity to receive this general revelation is due to the wider image of God in its “restricted sense,” namely man’s soul or disposition to receive this general revelation. This belongs to the very essence of man and is retained even in hell. Permit me to quote what I have said: “By the fall of man, the disposition to receive God’s General Revelation was not eradicated, but it was corrupted through sin. Man can never be absolutely loose from God. There must always be a point of contact through which God can communicate to him. If this disposition, or receptivity, in man were completely lost, how then could one apart from Christ feel the revelation of judgment of God? Through this disposition which in spite o[ sin, natural man retains, lost man in Hell will receive the full revelation of God’s righteousness and wrath. The unbeliever might wish that this disposition could be lost. They then would be partially or completely feelingless to the sharpest pangs of Hell” (pp. 111, 112).
Through common grace, however, this evil disposition is curbed to such a degree that natural man by means of God’s general revelation, receives as Bavinck says: “God-consciousness and moral-consciousness.”
5. There is no difference between Van Til and myself regarding “worldliness” and the Christian’s separate life. We both believe this to be consistent with the regenerate principle within the new heart. Both of us maintain without compromise that all of the Christian’s actions must be governed by these principles of regeneration. “With gratitude to God we may affirm that Van Til and I both bow before God’s infallible Word.
B. Apparent Misconceptions Regarding My Views
Several erroneous views are ascribed to me in this book review for which I do not wish to be held responsible. I mention the following:
1. I am supposed to deny that “conscience is revelational.” I believe this as much as Van Til does. It is claimed that this is the issue between Van Til and myself regarding “conscience.” This, too, is a mistake. The issue is: is conscience to be identified with general revelation, or not? Van Til does not sufficiently differentiate between these two. Reformed theology has always made a sharp distinction between them. Conscience is subjective and general revelation is objective. Conscience is fallible and general revelation (the two-fold witness of the Spirit) is infallible. These two may never be identified as Van Til does. Neither may conscience and moral consciousness be identified. This too is done by Van Til.
2. The issue regarding “common ground” has nothing to do with the question whether there can be “common ground without qualification” between the Christian and the world. Van Til and I accept this. Our difference is this: According to Van Til, the laws of logic are no longer functioning in the non-believer. The “technique of reason” has been destroyed by sin. Van Til’s views regarding this are expressed in his sharp criticism against Kuyper on this point. Kuyper’s contention that the non·Christian can weigh and measure as well as the Christian is designated as “Roman Catholic” thinking. With this line of thought I cannot agree.
I believe that the Christian and the world can participate in civil matters such as government, etc., on the basis of common grace. That the Christian in doing this is governed by principles if the new life is believed by me as much as it is by Persenaire.
1. I do not at all subscribe to the statement attributed to me: “Science need not he built upon a Christian foundation.” The opposite view has been emphatically asserted in my writing. The Christian only has a true system of science. The ungodly have “fragments” of science. They can never have a system since a system involves unity and that is lacking in all non-Christian science. Their science is never united to God—therefore the true unity or system is wanting. The Christian may, however, incorporate these “fragments” into his system. For example, the many contributions in medicine, chemistry, etc., may and must all be placed in our Christian system and be related to God.
2. That there is only a “degree of difference” between the knowledge of a Christian and of a non-Christian, is another wrong assumption ascribed to me. Repeatedly I have emphasized the qualitative or principal difference between the two kinds of knowledge. I fail to understand how brother Persenaire could have overlooked this. General revelation comes to the Christian’s regenerated disposition, whereas it comes to the non-Christian as an unregenerate. Besides that, the Christian knows God in Christ, and this is all important. The Christian not only has a saving knowledge of God, but he also knows the cosmos differently than the ungodly. The believer has special revelation. In the light of the Bible he obtains a correct conception of God’s universe. In short, the Christian’s knowledge of God and of his creation is basically different from the knowledge of the world.
3. Persenaire writes that the Christian Reformed church has not officially adopted all of Kuyper’s Common Grace. That statement is of course self-evident. The church dogma can never incorporate all of the material of dogmatics. It would then become far too bulky. The implication, however, seems to be that there is some difference between the stand of our church and the views of Kuyper regarding the doctrine of common grace. If that is meant by the reviewer, then I must disagree. The official declaration of 1924 is in basic agreement with Kuyper’s conception. This has been correctly emphasized by the Rev. Herman Hoeksema and, as far as I know, never been denied.
I repeat that this review contains many misconceptions in regard to the contents of my book. I hope that some of these misunderstandings have been clarified. Persenaire wrote in a Christian spirit. I hope that my answer maintains the same level of brotherly love. As I re-react this review it became difficult for me to recognize my own book. At times the real meaning was almost obliterated by the reviewer. This can easily be done. Because of this, I am saying to myself and to others: let us be on our guard not to read in each other’s writings what was not expressed nor intended.
III. Brief Summary of the Philosophic Issues
The theological issues have now been somewhat discussed. Permit me to add that there are not a few disconcerting elements in the new philosophy that is related to this new theology. Against these foreign elements we must also be on our guard. This new philosophy, together with this new theology, has been introduced to our reading public with much approbation.
I have read the unqualified endorsement given to this new philosophy in Torch and Trumpet with not a little concern. It is my solemn conviction that in this new philosophy which is directly related to this new theology there are elements which appear unReformed and unScriptural. In this concern I do not stand alone. Objections have been raised against this new philosophy by the following leaders of Reformed Theology: the late Prof. H.H. Kuyper, Prof. John Waterink, the late Prof. B.J. de Klerk of South Africa, the late Prof. V. Hepp, the Rev. Dr. Steen, minister in the Gereformeerde Kerk in The Netherlands, and others.
The most serious objections come from Hepp and Steen. The following grave charges have been lodged by them against this new philosophy:
1. This new philosophy is “anti-Confessional” and “unscriptural” and logically leads to both pantheism and deism.
2. This new philosophy denies the immortality of the soul.
3. This new philosophy denies the continued existence of the soul after death.
4. This new philosophy denies the substantiality of the soul.
5. This new philosophy denies the Heidelberg Catechism’s teaching regarding the meaning of the Christian’s death.
6. The new philosophy denies the one person and two nature doctrine in our Reformed Christology.
7. The new philosophy asserts that what is taught in our Confessions regarding the soul comes from pagan philosophy and not the Bible.
8. The new philosophy has a creation-centered instead of a theocentric view of God.
9. The new philosophy denies man’s unique place in the cosmos.
These and many other solemn objections have been raised from authentic sources in our Reformed theology. I have reproduced some of this material together with my own convictions regarding the matter in my book on General Revelation and Common Grace. This material is supplemented with the necessary quotations as they appear in the writings of the new movement.
It is my conviction that no system of “Reformed” philosophy concerning which there is so much grave doubt may be presented to our people as thoroughly Calvinistic, or may be circulated through the church without first following the channels of procedure that lie at the very basis of Reformed church polity. By that I mean, since Vollenhoven and others accept new views regarding the soul and other matters that are in such apparent conflict with our creeds, they have the duty and right to bring their grievances to the proper ecclesiastical bodies such as consistory, class is and synod. They, however, do not have the right to make propaganda for these views throughout the church without following the recognized Reformed course of procedure.
The advocates of this new philosophy tell us in the plainest possible language that the soul does. not continue after death. After death, it is even said of the Christian that he becomes a “dead soul.” We are also told that the immortality of the soul is not found in the Bible. Neither does the Bible speak of the continued existence o[ the soul, they say. Vollenhoven says that in Christ, our Mediator, there are two persons: one to be written with a capital “P” which is the Divine Person, and the other must be written with a small “p,” because it is the human person. This is in conflict with the Catechism when it speaks of one person and two natures in the Mediator. There may be some latitude of opinion as to what is meant by “person” and “nature” here, but to say the least, this language of Vollenhoven shocks and alarms. It may be that this philosophy means something else with the term “soul” than our creeds mean. This would indeed be the most charitable interpretation. But even then it causes grave concern. Not only the contents but also the form of our dogma has authoritatively been established by the church. If everyone has the right to interpret our confessions according to his own judgment, we may soon have, to quote Hepp: “A Calvinism without Calvin.”
My book on General Revelation and Common Grace was not written because of love for controversy had long hoped that some one else would publicly defend the historic Reformed Faith as we know it and love it. Only a burning desire to perpetuate that Reformed Faith prompted me to do what I did. I believe that much of the divergent material that is circulated among us is purely based upon misunderstanding of the contents of our Reformed Faith. We have met similar issues among us before. The Christian Reformed Church is not easily dislodged from its historic moorings.
I regard all the brethren who may disagree with me not only as Christians, but also as members of the same household of faith. May God give us grace to meet these present issues soberly and objectively. May we face these issues as we have faced other issues before, in the light of his infallible Word and our Confessions.
*We are unable to locate this reference, editors.