Skip to content

A.C. de Jong on the Call of the Gospel in Response to Herman Hoeksema

November 21, 2007

1) The gospel offer, as it creates the dynamic situation of decision, is such a serious matter because the offer is part of the minister of reconciliation in which Christ and the Spirit of Christ are daily engaged. The offer is not par of the reconciliatory work itself as if the believing response of the sinner were man’s contribution to Gods program of reconciliation. Much less does reconciliation come to pass through the apostolic word. In the offer of the gospel, one of the constitutive aspects of the ministry of reconciliation, it appears as if man alone were speaking. Actually it is God who speaks. “We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us: we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God.” God in Christ speaks through his heralds, his ambassadors, his prophets. What .the Savior said to the seventy whom he sent out to preach the gospel is valid today. “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that rejecteth you rejecteth me; and he that rejecteth me rejecteth him that sent me.” In gospel preaching, and in the offer as one aspect of this activity, Christ comes to sinners. For this reason the messengers are called heralds. Behind the herald stands the sender. In so far as the herald loudly proclaims the sender’s message the sender himself speaks and addresses the sinner in the gospel offer. In this awareness Paul thanks God that the Thessalonians received the word of his preaching “not as the word of mens but as it is in truth the word of God which worketh. in you that believe.” The Lord God offers his gospel and thus brings us to the point of genuine decision.

This means that the offer made by Christ in and through gospel preaching possesses the same unique power which marked Christ’s words on earth. While on earth our Lord said, “It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirt, and are life.” The flesh of which Jesus speaks in this passage refers to his flesh and blood. In the synagogue of Capernum he said to the Jews: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal lie (vs. 54)”; and he “abideth in me, and I in hi (vs. 56):’ In order to release his hearers from their confused questionings as to the possibilities of literal physical mastication he points them to the Holy Spirt. He makes the sinner spiritually alive. He does ths by employing the words of Christ. These are his instruments. The Lord emphasizes ths by declaring that his words are spirt and are lie. Here he identifies his word with the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit, God himself, carries the word, the speech, to the sinner and thus the word becomes pregnant with lie. Grosheide says that Jesus’ word “staat met het werk des, Geestes in het allernauwste verband, fa valt darmede samen.” Peter understood th unique coalescence. In reply to Jesus’ question, “Would ye also go away?” he answered, “Lord to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternity” The Holy Spirt speaks the word of Christ.  A.C. de Jong, The Well-Meant Gospel Offer (Franeker: T. Weaver, 1954), 102-103.

2) This love of God comes to sinners as members of the world which God so loved in Christ It is a carried to them in the proclamation of the gospel. Christ is administering his work. He carries on th ministry though his heralds. As we saw previously it is Christ himself. the world-Savior who stands behind the herald and is present in the proclamation. There is the one message which members of a sinful world which Christ redeemed. It is not addressed to them in their specific quality as either chosen or rejected in God’s world plan. It is a message in which the Christ himself calls sinners to live in him. It is a ca to faith. And it is the proclamation which relates al sinners to the work of Christ. The redemptive universality of the New Testament is a kerygmatic universality which calls the sinner to repentance and faith. The Son of Gods love, the Savior of the world, now meets the sinner who lives under the wrath of God. and summons him to salvation. It is the sinner where he is, that is as member of a world in the process of being saved by the reigning Christ, who is called to live in Christ. It is the sinner as a redeemable son of the first Adam who is confronted by the Second Adam and summoned to faith. It is the transgressor of the Old Adamic covenant who is offered salvation by the Mediator of the new and better covenant (Hebrews 8). He offers ths sinner salvation in the way of faith because God keeps his word and deals with the postlapsarian sinner in the same way as he dealt with him in the prelapsarian situation of Paradise. Man must believe. A.C. de Jong, The Well-Meant Gospel Offer (Franeker: T. Weaver, 1954), 109-110.

3) He [Hoeksema] proceeds to fashion an artificial constriction of preaching as consisting of a universal call and a particular promise. He admits that all sinners are called to repent and believe. But immediately we wonder as to the object of their faith. Not all sinners are called to believe the gospel promise because th promise is always particular, that is, it obtains for and terminates only upon the elect. The only answer which Hoeksema can give is that the called are summoned to a decision for or against a set of truths in which the herald explains what God does. A call to repentance and faith which is universal demands a promise of salvation which is as universal as the call. If God calls sinners to turn, they must have someone to turn to. The call to repent and believe is a call to salvation. Thus God s promise of salvation must be as universal, common, and general as the gracious summons to believe it. In faith we know that God’s offer is as unfeigned and serious for the unbelieving rejecter as it is for the believing accepter. Preaching is not in the first instance an explication of an objective set of circumstances and then a decision for or against the news report. Pleaching is not in the first instance a communication of a certain truth, that Christ died only for the elect or that all sinners are elected and reprobated in Jesus Christ. It is a gracious summons to accept Jesus Christ with all his benefits–faith inclusive–in the way of faith. To believe is to accept HIM, not some truth about him. As the sinner rests in Christ the truths concerning him light up the knowledge of faith. A.C. de Jong, The Well-Meant Gospel Offer (Franeker: T. Weaver, 1954), 111-112.

4) Hoeksema reasons deductively from a suparalapsarian a priori, produces a logically consistent construction of God’s counsel, and argues as if God does not will all men to be saved in the way of repentance and faith. He removes one aspect of the apparent contradiction. God does not will the salvation of those whom he sovereignty “decreed” to pass by with the insuperable activity of his saving grace.

The theological problem here is a vexing one, and we ought not to camouflage it. It is the matter of the will of God’s decree and the will of God’s precept, and it becomes especially acute for the Reformed theologian who believes in the Scriptural truth of double predestination. According to God’s decretive will God wills  to pass by some with the gift of salvation,and yet his revealed will in the gospel offer is that he wils these sinners to be saved. This is a seeming paradox for human logic and offensive for many. Hoeksema elites one aspect of the apparent paradox and argues that Cod does not really will that the gospel be accepted in faith by every gospel called sinner. According to Hoeksema God sends gospel preachers with the expressed intention of saving some and damning others. The gospel message becomes a balanced compound of good and bad news which logically accords with a coordinated double decree. Hoeksema eliminates one aspect of this apparent contradiction because he denies the existence of common grace. We shall speak of this presently, and more in detail when we discuss the matter of the gospel offer and God’s attitude (gezindheid) in the next chapter.

Some of the difficulty which attends the effort to harmonize the decretive and the preceptive wil of God can be alleviated if we theologize more concretely than Hoeksema. His argument against the well-meant gospel offer suffers from abstraction.  He argues as if Cod offers salvation to sinners who are already elect and reprobate. This is a serious inaccuracy. In gospel peaching God confronts sinners who are en route to their eternal destinies. These sinners who are on the way are all addressed with the same gospel promise. He calls all unto salvation. “Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else.”  “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters… Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live… Seek ye Jehovah while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near.” And the saving God is near for he comes to us sinners in his word (Rom. 10 : 8; Deut. 30 : 14). There are those who accept, believe and are saved. This is pure grace. This is God’s gratuitous love even as he chose us in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Their faith is the gif which flows from the fountain of electing grace. In no way whatever is it a synergistic act of human cooperation in the process of salvation. In faith the believer enjoys salivation in actual fact and in future hope. A.C. de Jong, The Well-Meant Gospel Offer (Franeker: T. Weaver, 1954), 127-129.

David: This book was very helpful to me when I was crawling my way out of Hoeksemian hypercalvinism. There are a few things which de Jong taught me that still stand with me today. The first one was that God in Christ calls and offers through the ministerial call, such that one cannot posit a sharp dochotomy as many do. And secondly, that the called are called to come to something. Hypercalvinism cannot call a sinner to Christ.  When I saw this, I realised how devastating this point was, as it shows how unbiblical hypercalvinism really is, indeed, how ridiculous and rationalistic it is.

David

Advertisements
9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2007 10:00 pm

    De Jong says, “To believe is to accept HIM [Christ], not some truth about him.”

    How exactly does one “accept Christ” without accepting some truth about him?

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  2. November 23, 2007 4:57 pm

    Bnonn,

    Perhaps it is better said that “To believe is to accept HIM [Christ], and not MERELY some truth about him.”

    I would agree that accepting Christ presupposes that we have some grasp of his identity, and therefore some truth about him is perceived as well. It’s a both/and, not an either/or.

  3. November 23, 2007 5:00 pm

    Bnonn,

    I think there is a tendency, on the part of some, to be reductionistic, such that believing in Christ is MERELY assent to the propositional dimention of the gospel. It’s as if it ONLY amounts to assent to some truths about Christ, rather than ALSO accepting him personally.

  4. November 23, 2007 7:19 pm

    Tony, thanks for your reply. I wonder if you could help me understand what you are suggesting “accepting Christ personally” involves. You evidently believe that it entails more than assenting to certain propositions; but I am at a loss to see what else it could possibly involve. In what way is accepting Christ personally not one and the same with assenting to certain propositions about him?

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  5. November 24, 2007 12:37 am

    Bnonn,

    It’s one thing to acknowledge that it is the true, biblical Christ knocking at one’s door through the external gospel call, and it is more to welcome him in, and give one’s soul to him in loving trust, allegiance and adoration. It’s one thing to acknowledge facts about a person and quite another to receive that person into one’s soul and spirit, so as to abide there personally.

    Take the Thessalonians for instance. They not only assented to the Pauline facts about a historic Christ and his work, but they gave themselves over to trust and serve this living Christ. It was a thorough welcoming of a living person, and not merely a bare assent to facts about Christ and his work. Not only that, but they also accepted, in their initial act of evangelical faith, that what Christ did was done for them. This last point, I think, is key to De Jong’s statements. Faith says, “not only did Christ suffer for sin and rise that sinners may live [merely considered in abstraction], but he did that FOR ME! For me PERSONALLY!”

    Does that help yet?

  6. November 24, 2007 8:02 pm

    Hi Tony. Yes, that helps. However, I would again have to ask how accepting Christ personally, rather than “in abstraction”, is not one and the same with assenting to certain propositions. It seems you are drawing a distinction between assenting to some propositions about Christ, and assenting to all of them. To accept Christ “in abstraction” merely means to assent to the truth of the gospel, but to not assent to its demands upon oneself. To accept Christ personally, on the other hand, is to assent to the truth of the gospel and also to assent to its demands on one’s life.

    I understand the distinction you are drawing, but the reason I have been asking these questions is because it seems to me very dangerous to talk about “mere” assent, as if accepting the gospel is somehow more than an intellectual act (remembering that whatever we do with our mind also works itself out in our bodies, and thus in our lives). If we talk about “mere assent”, people are apt to start to think that there is some mystical element to the gospel which works apart from our minds; as if the “true” gospel is itself non-intellectual in nature. But this is not the case, and to think this tends to lead to anti-intellectualism, and the “dichotomy” of faith and logic.

    I do agree with you that there is a kind of assent which is insufficient for salvation—the kind that even the demons have, yet shudder. It is quite appropriate to speak of this as “incomplete assent”. But “mere assent” is misleading, because there is also a kind of complete assent, which we might also call “mere assent”, which is sufficient for salvation, because it is to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. This is something we can only do with our minds. There is no other part of us with which we can do this.

    Hopefully this does not come across as too critical. I don’t mean to be negative or disagreeable. It just seems to me that this is an important point to emphasize. We ought not to so mysticize what it means to accept Christ that we speak of it as something non-intellectual.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

  7. November 25, 2007 9:17 am

    Bnonn,

    I must confess that it seems rather obvious to me that a person is more than a collection of true propositions. So, receiving a person into fellowship with oneself is more than assenting to the propositions that are true about that person. Believing Christ is not less than believing some true propositions about Him, but it is more than that. It’s reductionistic to say that believing Christ is merely assenting to the true propositions about Him conveyed in the gospel message.

    Nothing I have said about either leads to or tends to anti-intellectualism. What De Jong is concerned about is hyper-Calvinistic reductionism, as is the case in the theology of Gordon Clark and Herman Hoeksema, and even Vincent Cheung these days. These men, out of a concern for the intellectual dimension of the Christian faith, have reduced it to belief in a set of propositions. While the Christian faith is not less than propositional, it is more. it is intensely personal.

  8. November 25, 2007 9:32 am

    “It seems you are drawing a distinction between assenting to some propositions about Christ, and assenting to all of them.”

    No, that’s not what I am doing. I am saying that there is MORE to receiving Christ than assenting to propositions about him. Persons are not mere propositions or syllogisms, and believing Christ is more than assenting to all or some true propositions about Him. We are to know Christ THROUGH the true propositions conveyed in scripture. Clarkians, given their scripturalism or biblical deductivism, don’t seem able to see that. Knowing Christ is not merely knowing the truths predicated about Him in scripture. Reducing Christianity to the propositional may safeguard us from the anti-intellectualism so prevalent in our day, but it may also give us a dead orthodoxy.

    God help the man in a “relationship” with a woman who thinks receiving her can be reduced to assenting to propositions about her :-)

  9. November 25, 2007 9:10 pm

    Tony, again, thanks for your reply. I think I now understand what you mean by “accepting Christ personally”. The meaning was quite unclear to me before, I’m afraid.

    You are saying (and correct me if I’m wrong) that accepting Christ personally is to enter into a relationship with him. If this is so, then I agree. However, although I cannot speak for Clark or Hoeksema, I think you will find that Vincent Cheung would not disagree with you on this point. I suspect, rather, that he, like myself, would say that a relationship is itself predicated upon assent to various propositions. For example, you would agree that you and I have a rudimentary relationship. It is predicated upon belief in (assent to) the propositions that we both exist and are communicating. The communication itself is predicated upon the belief that we exist and have communicated in the past. So I am by no means reducing you, or our relationship, to a set of propositions—but assent to propositions about you is still the foundation of the relationship. As I said before, whatever we do with our mind also works itself out in our bodies, and thus in our lives.

    I agree that the relationship we have with Christ is not, itself, the assent we give to the gospel. But that assent is indeed the cause of the relationship. One cannot “merely” assent to the gospel in a way that does not produce a relationship with Christ. If one does not have a relationship with Christ, one has not assented to the gospel. Is this not what James says? One might have assented to some of its propositions, but not the ones which demand a relationship.

    For this reason, I don’t think it is accurate to describe the position of, at least, Cheung (again, not knowing Hoeksema or Clark’s exact positions) as reductionistic. It would appear that comparing our relationship with Christ, and our assent to his gospel, in the way that you have is actually a category error. The relationship is predicated upon the assent, so they are not on an equal footing. For this reason, I think it quite unwise to talk about “mere” assent being insufficient, and saying that we must accept Christ into a personal relationship as well. It is true that an assent which does not produce such a relationship is insufficient, but then why not simply say that insufficient assent is insufficient? Why not say that an assent which does not produce a relationship is insufficient? I think there is some equivocation here, which was the cause of my confusion to begin with.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to discuss this.

    Regards,
    Bnonn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: