Pitching Away From Sodom – The Reformed Life of Antithesis (3)

Because it negates any argument for antithetical instruction, indeed, is the sworn foe of all antithetical instruction; because it destroys the antithesis in the lives of the members of the church; because it devastates the safety of the church; because it brings the world into the church, the Protestant Reformed Churches—and every member of the Protestant Reformed Churches—rejects the failed fiction of common grace. Common grace is the mutual and bitter enemy of the antithesis; it is a worldview in opposition to the worldview of the Reformed.

For their unqualified rejection of common grace, and of its offspring of the well-meant gospel offer, the Protestant Reformed Churches have been charged as “Anabaptists!” In fact, the Protestant Reformed Churches are not Anabaptist, but Reformed. They are confessional. The proponents of common grace have absolutely no confessional basis whatsoever for their theory. Oh, in 1924, when the Christian Reformed Church adopted as official doctrine the “Three Points of Common Grace” the Synod of 1924 of the CRC pretended to give creedal proof! They did, by misquoting one article from the Canons of Dordt:

There remain, however, in man since the fall the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment.[4]

But that half-hearted attempt was only a charade, as the second part of this very same article—which was deliberately not quoted by the Christian Reformed Church at the Synod of 1924—exposes it to be:

But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.[5]

Nowhere in the Canons, indeed, possibly, in all of the Confessions, is found a more damning rejection of common grace than Heads 3&4, Rejection of Errors 5:

The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod [of Dordt] rejects the errors of those… Who teach that the corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (by which they understand the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, namely the evangelical or saving grace and salvation itself. And that in this way God on His part shows Himself ready to reveal Christ unto all men, since he applies to all sufficiently and efficiently the means necessary to salvation.

Rejection: For the experience of all ages and the Scriptures do both testify that this is untrue. He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his ordinances unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his ordinances, they have not known them (Ps. 147: 19, 20). Who in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways (Acts 14:16). And: And they (Paul and his companions) having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia, and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit suffered them not (Acts 16:6, 7).[6]

Indeed, the Protestant Reformed Churches are not Anabaptist in their rejection of common grace.

They are Reformed.

They are antithetical.

Moreover, the PRC reject common grace because common grace as a way of living—as a worldview—has failed. The above-mentioned Rejection of Errors notes this: “For the experience of all ages…[testifies] that this [common grace] is untrue.” It is a fiction. A failed fiction. Prof. David J. Engelsma writes:

After 100 years, since the invention of the common grace worldview by [Abraham] Kuyper and Herman Bavinck, the worldview of common grace has proved to be a failure. It has not “Christianized” the Netherlands. It has not “Christianized” the United States. It has not “Christianized” Grand Rapids, Michigan. On the contrary, it has made the people, churches, and schools that advocate and practice it thoroughly worldly.”[7]

Common grace has failed because common grace allows the world into the church. This is the honest admission of James C. Schaap, author of the official history of the Christian Reformed Church and zealous adherent to and advocate of Kuyperian common grace:

I must admit that my own position as an Outward believer [which elsewhere in the book he paradoxically calls “Outward Antitheticals”—JL], one who places significant emphasis on the Christian’s place in the culture at large…[that this] is the soft underbelly of the believer whose basic orientation is toward the world.”[8]

It was through the “soft underbelly” of Mussolini’s Italy that the Allied powers ultimately laid waste to the Axis nations in World War II.

Colorfully exposing this vulnerability of the churches and institutions who have swallowed common grace to inevitable invasion of those churches and institutions—especially schools and colleges—by the world, Prof. David J. Engelsma writes:

They are attempting to live by a wrong and wholly inadequate power, as though a soldier would go to war with a squirt gun, rather than a machine gun, or would clothe himself with a nightgown, rather than armor. They are vulnerable to the destructive influence of the wicked world.[9]

Why is this so? Because common grace drives out the antithesis! And any philosophy which drives out, does not mention, or does not emphasize the antithesis is “not only false. It is also spiritually dangerous in the extreme.”[10] “God has stamped upon common grace his ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.’”[11] If God so judges common grace—the failed fiction of common grace—is not his church obligated, indeed demanded, to do the same?

The PRC have done this in their history, in 1924. For their rejection of common grace, the PRC were cast out of the CRC and have been largely shunned ever since by the majority of Reformed and Christian Reformed theologians as Anabaptistic. We continue nevertheless to utterly repudiate common grace in our doctrine. Let us continue to do so in our life in the world. Let us as members of the PRC repudiate the world’s friendships, especially in our dating and marriages! Let us thank God daily, on our knees, for the membership he in his sovereign and particular grace has given to us in the midst of the PRC. Let us show this thankfulness by faithful and engaged church attendance; by eager participation in our faithful, antithetical catechism instruction both as instructors and instructed, and in our societies; by cheerful support of our missions and of our poor and of our own good, PR Christian schools. Primarily and emphatically—indeed, urgently—let us show our thankfulness by our diligent study of our PR distinctives and of our Reformed doctrines as explained and defended from all the ingenious lies of Satan’s heretics in the Three Forms of Unity and in the good literature and periodicals published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association and other institutions. Let us know our own history, the record of how God has preserved us in the purity of these doctrines, especially in the teeth of controversy in 1924 (the rejection of common grace and affirmation of the sovereignty, particularity, and irresistibility of God’s grace) and in 1953 (the condemnation of Arminianism in the covenant in the form of the conditional covenant and assertion that the covenant of God is gracious, with the elect children of believers in Jesus Christ only). Finally, let us live in the world, being faithful in our marriages and in our careers, living a full life in the world in teaching, in business, in medicine, in art, in music, in cosmetology, in the factory, and on the farm.

But let us not be of the world!

In but not of: this is how the Reformed believer shall live in the world.

This, and only this, is how the Reformed believer will avoid “pitching his tent toward Sodom”! This, and only this, is the power by which the risen Jesus Christ will preserve us in holiness toward God!

This, and only this, brings honor and glory to the name of Jehovah!

This is the antithesis!