Writing in response to the article “Deadly Poison” by Mrs. Dilys Watson in the January 2002 issue of Beacon Lights, I shall confine myself to the points that I regard as a misrepresentation of my views.
I do not believe that God is ignorant of anything. In particular, I do not believe that God is ignorant of who the elect or reprobate are. This would, in fact, make these terms meaningless.
The section of the tape to which Mrs. Watson first refers was as follows:
God shows love to the non-elect in this world and we are to be patterned after God in this world. He shows love to the non-elect in this world; therefore we love our neighbor, including our non-elect neighbor (we don’t know what he is, whether elect or non-elect), because God does it. But in the eternal world, God will show no love or favor whatsoever to the damned in Hell. And in Heaven, our hearts and minds will be perfectly conformed to God. And because God does not show kindness to the lost in hell, therefore we will not love the lost in Hell and will not be disturbed by the knowledge of their condition.
Mrs. Watson has misquoted and perhaps misheard “God does it” as “God doesn’t” and then added the word “either” which is not there. I realize that the view stated above differs from the PRC position, but I did not say and do not believe that God does not know who are the elect and reprobate. Such a view would be blasphemous indeed.
To make the matter abundantly clear, at my ordination I subscribed to the Westminster Confession of Faith and hold to Chapter III without reserve. If required, I could also wholeheartedly endorse the Canons of Dordt, Article 6, when it states, “That some receive the gift of faith from God, and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree (Acts 15:18, Ephesians 1:11). According to which decree, he graciously softens the hearts of the elect, however obstinate, and inclines them to believe while he leaves the non-elect in his just judgment to their own wickedness and obduracy…”
Even making maximum allowance for Mrs. Watson misunderstanding a rather cumbersome sentence, she ought to have known from statements elsewhere on the tape that I could not possibly be saying what she has suggested. Also, her misquotation stands in contradiction of the whole of the first tape, where the foundation truth of God’s sovereignty over all is explicitly stated. Charity, as well as carefulness, ought to have prevented Mrs. Watson from concluding that I had contradicted so much of what I had previously said.
A second misrepresentation is when Mrs. Watson refers to what I said about the PRC position and the Westminster Standards. What I actually said was, “That is why the Protestant Reformed Churches’ position is utterly incompatible with the Westminster Confession of Faith.” The context of this statement is the PRC position regarding conditional promises in the covenant of grace. There is no suggestion that the PRC position as a whole does not share a large amount of common ground with the Westminster Confession. Nevertheless, to say that the PRC view is at variance with the Westminster Confession on this point is only saying what the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema acknowledged. Having quoted the Westminster Confession, Chapter VII, paragraphs 1-3, he stated, “Here, then, we meet with the notion that the covenant is something secondary, a means to an end, a way of life, a device unto salvation. And since then this has been the prevailing conception of the covenant.” A little later he states, “Grave objections may be raised against this presentation of the idea of God’s covenant” (The Covenant—God’s Tabernacle With Men, p. 2f).
The quotations from “more modern men” as Mrs. Watson calls them, were of 17th century writers, including some who actually helped to produce the Westminster Confession.
I have never made any secret of the fact that, notwithstanding my respect for the Protestant Reformed Churches, I disagree with the PRC position on the free offer of the gospel. The purpose of this letter is not to defend my views, but to make clear what those views are, in the light of Mrs. Watson’s distortions. Fairness and accurate representation of those with whom we disagree should be a characteristic of Christian doctrinal discussion.
“Speak not evil one of another, brethren” (James 4:11).
Yours sincerely in the gospel,