THE LOVE OF GOD
The love of God is a very popular subject today. And there is all kind of reason that this should be so,
In most instances we find a discussion about the love of God manifested to his creatures, the love of God for all mankind and for his people in particular. And I am sure that we are all agreed that this is an inexhaustible subject. We shall never fully comprehend the love of God for his handy work. Especially his love for those whom he has known from eternity and chosen to everlasting life. Beholding his patience, grace and mercy we join in the song of the angels: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” We repeat the words of the psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies.”
However a question arises in connection with this manifestation of the love of God, which is seldom raised and yet is of the utmost importance. What is the reason for the love of God manifested in the sending of his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh? The answer to this question is found in the Scriptures. We read f.i. in Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake.” God loves Himself as no creature may. It is for this reason that God in his law demands that we shall love him above all. It is this love for himselr which makes God a consuming fire overagainst all sin. God is love, therefore do not touch him. The fact that God is love makes him the God of wrath overagainst all that is not in harmony with his will.
Because of this we, who are sinners, ought to tremble before him. This is all together too often forgotten. This is undoubtedly the reason why we can carry the burden of our sins without a great deal of discomfort. We confess to be sinners, but what of it? There is Jesus, the Christ and he cleanseth us from all our sins. So why should we be burdened. It is true that God declares: “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” But this does not mean that we shall not suffer because of our sins. Remember David, the man after God’s own heart. He sinned grievously and upon the confession of his sin he receives forgiveness. But God declares, “The sword shall not depart from thy house.”
Because God is love, we as sinners should walk in fear and trembling before him. So often the necessity of this fear is reasoned away. But the Scriptures speak continually about the necessity of this fear. Jesus warns: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
QUO VADIS, CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH?
Do we need any reminder that there is a doctrinal discussion going on in the Christian Reformed Church? Late consistory meetings, heated debates on the floor of classis, not too infrequent discussions over cups of coffee and articles in the various periodicals of our denomination all attest to its importance.
Yet, while much ink has been spilled over the topics of the love of God and the particular atonement of Christ, are there still people who fail to admit the importance of the issue at hand? True, there are some people who have very strong convictions on the issue. Many, however, remain unmoved because they see no reason to become excited. The issue is doctrinal and doctrine is the farthest thing from their mind. Sorry to say, these folks are very much like the proverbial ostrich who buries his head.
The Christian Reformed Church stands at a fork in the road. Quo vadis, Christian Reformed Church? Will we stand on Biblical ground or will we say that with some dubious new light we must change our doctrinal position? Immediately, in answer we hear: the truly Reformed Church is always reforming. There is not a man with Reformed blood who would deny this. By the Spirit’s leading we must always be reforming so that we will be more and more submissive to Scripture. But now, is it really true that suddenly we have a completely new understanding of what the Bible says about God’s love and Christ’s death?
In the past when the Church resisted heresy of onc form or another was it because she refused to listen to Scripture? A true reformer has never refused to be submissive to Scripture. It has been said that the new ideas struggling for acceptance in our denomination carry a sound of some of the heresies earlier set aside as being false. Just because they have a new sound and everyone is searching after new things today are they now to be accepted as valid?
It is no secret that the current discussion grew out of an article on missions. Development of missions from the Biblical, Reformed perspective ought to be applauded. Yet, are the questions that were originally raised necessary for the sound development of Christ-glorifying missions? Is it necessary, for instance, to have license to say “God loves you?” Though it is true that the book of Acts does not record every apostolic word that was spoken, it gives no hint of the approach which has been proposed in the articles subjected to synodical security as a pattern to follow in mission work. The Gospel was proclaimed and explained but no “gimmicks” were deemed necessary since the Church knew that the Holy Spirit did the work unto man’s salvation! “And the Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved!” Is it not true that the sinner’s mouth waters for the marvelous salvation when he truly hears the Gospel proclaimed? What is the standard of judgment in mission work? Is it faithfulness to the Word of God, or a concern for larger numbers?
Quo vadis, Christian Reformed Church? We are at the fork in the road. One arrow points us to the way of change. Farther down that road will we find the crumbling decay which other denominations have experienced in the past? The other arrow points to the way in which we will remain a Reformed Church—Reformed according to the Word of God—always reforming. Here the apparent immobility of the past few years is deadly!
YOU’RE WRONG, MR. DE KOSTER
Lester De Koster, director of the Calvin College Library, has concluded a four-part series of articles dealing with the report of the Synodical Committee on Doctrinal Matters which was considered and acted upon by the Synod of 1966 (d. Reformed Journal, January–April, 1967).
The sum and substance of De Koster’s “bone of contention” with the Committee of Synod is well expressed by the opening lines of the first paragraph of his concluding article. He says, “The Christian Reformed Church asked its Doctrinal Committee for a study of a significant theological problem, entirely relevant to our times and not outside the scope of our gifts and heritage.” The Church received in response a Report which narrows the mandate to a presentation of one side of what the Report designates as a “bone of contention” presumably between itself and Professor Harold Dekker. In consequence, a study was supplanted by a brief. (Italics–LDK.)
It ought to be clearly observed that De Koster is wrong when he states, “The Christian Reformed Church asked its Doctrinal Committee for a study of a significant theological problem, entirely relevant to our times and not outside the scope of our gifts and heritage.” Simply to read the mandate which was actually given to the Doctrinal Committee will adequately demonstrate how wrong be is. The mandate given to the Committee can be read on pages 88 and 89 of the Acts of Synod—1964. Here Synod instructed its Committee “to study in the light of Scripture and the creeds the doctrine of limited atonement as it relates to the love of God, the doctrinal expressions of Professor H. Dekker beginning with and relative to his article entitled, “God So Loves—All Men,” and other related questions which may arise in the course of their study…” (Italics–R.L. )
It is entirely unwarranted for De Koster, or anyone else, to reformulate this mandate to his own liking and then to score the Committee of Synod for not doing what he thinks it should have done. De Koster’s conception of the Committee’s mandate is obviously quite different from that which the Synod did, in fact, give to the Committee.
It ought to be noted that Synod does not study something in abstraction. Synod deals with specific and concrete matters which are properly presented to it. The specific matter before Synod in 1964 was the doctrinal expressions of Professor H. Dekker as set forth in his article entitled “God So Loves—All Men.” It was this article which occasioned the debate in the first place and which demanded the attention of Synod. To ignore this fact is to raise the question why Synod became involved in the matter at all.
It is quite obvious that the Committee had to relate its study to the doctrinal expressions of Professor H. Dekker. This was its mandate. If it had failed to do this it would not have been an obedient servant of Synod.
The Committee, however, did relate its study to the doctrinal expressions of Professor H. Dekker in its Report of 1966 and it is again recommending that Synod express itself on these same doctrinal matters in its Report to Synod in 1967.
De Koster has constructed a brief over against the Doctrinal Committee which betrays an alarming lack of objectivity. A simple reading of the mandate given to the Committee demonstrates that De Koster missed the point of the whole matter. His articles are then quite beside the point.