28 March, 2016



Rev. Herman Hoeksema


The comparison we propose to make is to limit itself, for the time being at least, to the teachings of Calvin, Berkhof and Kuiper with respect to the so-called well-meaning offer of salvation on the part of God to all men indiscriminately.

To accomplish this purpose we shall first of all quote from the writings of Berkhof and Kuiper, in order then to let Calvin speak on this subject.

We shall remain as objective in the representation of the views of these men as can possibly be expected of us. It is not at all our purpose to ascribe any convictions to Berkhof and Kuiper, which they do not have. And, therefore, we shall interpret their own statements as little as possible, and let them speak to us for themselves and in their own words. When we are through presenting their views to our readers, they will surely admit, that we have not misrepresented them, but that their teachings are actually as we placed them before the public.

To attain to this object it is necessary that we read them in the proper light, that is, in connection with the First Point of 1924. It is in that First Point that the free and well-meaning general offer of salvation to all men is mentioned for the first time, and that it was officially accepted by the Christian Reformed Church as a dogma. And it is in defense of that first point that both Berkhof and Kuiper published their views on this subject.

They agree with that First Point.

They believe in a free and general and well-meaning offer of grace on the part of God to all men without distinction in the same sense in which that first point teaches it.

Hence, it is but fair that we first of all recall to our minds the contents of that First Point, especially in as far as it expresses itself on the question we are now discussing.

It reads as follows:

“Concerning the favorable attitude of God toward mankind in general and not only toward the elect, the Synod declares, that it is certain, on the ground of Scripture and the Confession, that there is, besides the saving grace of God, shown only to those chosen unto eternal life, also a certain favor or grace which He shows to all His creatures. This is evident from the quoted Scripture passages and from the Canons of Dordt, II, 5 and III and IV, 8 and 9, where the general offer of the Gospel is discussed” . . . .  (Acta, 1924).

All creatures in this declaration means all men. This is evident from the fact that this point deals with a favorable attitude of God toward mankind in general and not only toward the elect. This is also admitted by Berkhof and Kuiper.

There is, then, a certain grace of God which He shows to elect and reprobate indiscriminately.

It is not a saving grace, the point emphasizes, for this is shown only to the elect.

And the point does not explain what sort of grace it is. It merely speaks of a certain grace.

But it certainly is a gracious attitude which God assumes toward all men, a gracious inclination of His heart, not only to the elect but also to the reprobate. Whatever He bestows on any man in that attitude He certainly gives him in His love. This, too, is plain from the declaration itself, for it speaks of a favorable attitude of God toward all mankind. And this is also the meaning attached to this point by both Berkhof and Kuiper, as is evident from their writings. (See: The Three Points of Common Grace, Kuiper; and: De Drie Punten in Alle Deelen Gereformeerd, Berkhof.)

Now, what does He bestow on all men indiscriminately? The general offer of the Gospel, among other things.

Hence, the First Point teaches, that when God has the gospel preached, not only to the elect, but also to the reprobate, He does so in His grace and lovingkindness, also to the latter.

It is not clear, what kind of grace the reprobate actually receive, when the gospel is preached to them. The declaration by Synod does not explain itself in regard to this question. Neither did Berkhof or Kuiper attempt to explain this. They really admit, that the reprobate actually receive no grace, when the gospel is preached to them. But, however this may be, God bestows grace upon them, or rather, assumes an attitude of grace toward them, when the gospel is preached to the reprobate. He loves them, somehow. He is gracious toward them. And because He is gracious toward the reprobate He has the gospel preached to them.

If you inquire further: what does this gracious attitude of God toward the reprobate, manifest in the preaching of the gospel, imply? The First Point again is silent.

But we conclude, and the conclusion is the only possible one for any sound mind, that it implies, that God seriously wills the salvation of the reprobates. He is filled with loving kindness concerning them. In that loving kindness of His heart He seeks their salvation. Seeking their salvation He offers them the Gospel. The First Point teaches, that God, loving the reprobates and earnestly desiring their salvation, offers them salvation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Such is the implication of the First Point. Such is its clear teaching.

And this is our serious objection to that First Point.

In spite of all that Berkhof attempted to prove to the contrary, this is, to us, pure Arminianism.

God, in His grace seriously seeks to bestow salva­tion on some men through Christ. For this purpose He has the Gospel preached to them. But He fails. They are not saved, though God seeks to save them, explicitly has this proclaimed to them. Our conclusion (Berkhof and Kuiper are unwilling to draw this, but we claim that any sound mind is compelled to draw it) is: man is stronger than God!

The will of man frustrates the gracious purposes of God!

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