Yet Another Candid Confession about the Covenant

This one by Dr. Jelle Faber, emeritus professor of theology in the Canadian Reformed Churches. 

It appears in the recent book, American Secession Theologians on Covenant and Baptism & Extra- Scriptural Binding - A New Danger (Neerlandia, Alberta, Canada: Inheritance, 1996). I intend to review the book in a forthcoming issue of the Standard Bearer. 

The confession is that the doctrine of the covenant held by the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands ("liberated") is essentially the same as the doctrine of the covenant taught by Christian Reformed theologian William Heyns. 

This admission is of extraordinary importance to the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC). 

In the controversy over the doctrine of the covenant that convulsed the PRC in the early 195Os, the agreement of the "Liberated" doctrine with the doctrine of Heyns was vehemently denied both by the PR ministers who were trying to introduce the "Liberated" doctrine into the PRC and by leading "Liberated" theologian Klaas Schilder.

Now the Canadian Reformed dogmatician, himself an ardent champion of "Liberated" covenant theology, candidly acknowledges that there is fundamental agreement between Schilder and Heyns on the covenant of God with the children of believers. 

Faber speaks of Schilder's "kinship" with Heyns in the doctrine of the covenant (p. 52). He declares that "Hamilton" (Canadian ,Reformed seminary, teaching the "Liberated," conditional doctrine of the covenant) stands in the tradition, among others,. of William Heyns (p. 53). Dr. Faber even criticizes Schilder for Schilder's condemnation of Heyns (pp. 47- 52). 

Faber is correct. As Herman Hoeksema always insisted, the covenant doctrines of Heyns and the Christian Reformed Church and of Schilder and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands ("liberated") are the same. 

Heyns taught that all baptized children receive "subjective grace," that is, a gracious operation of the Spirit of Christ within themselves, in their hearts or souls, so that they are able to repent and believe, if only they will use this "subjective grace," rightly (American Secession Theologians, pp. 38-41; also, H. Hoeksema, Believers and Their Seed, pp. 13-33). 

The "Liberated" doctrine of a conditional covenant is that God establishes His covenant with every physical child of believers by promise, promising every child at baptism Christ and salvation on the condition that the child will one day believe. 

These two doctrines are essentially the same. Both teach grace for all the children, the one as "subjective grace," the other as a favorable attitude of God. Both teach that grace is resistible, the one in that "subjective grace" can be lost, the other in that the favorable attitude of God fails to save many children. Both teach that the actual salvation of a child depends upon the child, the one by basing salvation on the child's good use of "subjective grace," the other by making the; promise dependent upon the child's performing the condition of faith. 

Of both these views, the PRC judge that they are "Arminianism injected into the covenant." 

Dr. Faber urges that those churches holding the doctrine of a conditional covenant of universal grace unite. Referring to the churches by the name of the city where their seminary is located, he calls on the Free Reformed Churches (Apeldoorn), the independent Christian Reformed Churches (Grand Rapids), and the Canadian Reformed Churches (Kampen, Hamilton) to manifest ecclesiastically their "confessional unity."

Again, he is right. One doctrine of the covenant, of grace, and of salvation certainly calls for one church organization. 

And then, there is Grandville. 

- DJE