An alert reader quickly pointed out after yesterday’s post that Rev.Herman Hoeksema had made reference early in PRC history to the Roman god Janus, and that set me to finding that quote. I was able to find it on the PRC website and share it with you today, not only because it follows nicely from Wednesday’s word feature post, but also because it ties in well with our “historical archive” features on Thursday this year.
Rev.H.Hoeksema refered to the two-headed god Janus in his early pamphlet A Triple Breach in the Foundation of the Reformed Truth, (the images are of two recent reprints of this work-cjt), a powerful critique of the CRC’s three points of common grace adopted at the Synod of 1924. As he is defending the Reformed truth of God’s sovereign, particular grace (i.e, that God’s grace – which is only of one kind, viz., saving – is only ever given and shown to His elect people in Jesus Christ) over against the serious error of the first point of common grace (as adopted by the CRC and defended by Prof.L.Berkhof of Calvin Seminary) that the preaching of the gospel in its general proclamation is grace for all who hear it, Hoeksema found in the Roman god Janus a fit illustration of this self-contradicting position.
Here is the pertinent part from The Triple Breach:
It is even emphasized that Synod plainly declared in the first point that the saving grace of God is shown only to the elect unto eternal life.
Is all this not thoroughly Reformed and free from the taint of Arminianism?
We answer affirmatively. What Prof. Berkhof writes in the above citation is undoubtedly Reformed. And the same is true of the first point in as far as it declares that the saving grace of God is bestowed on the elect only.
But let us not be deceived by these declarations of soundness in the truth.
For, the fact is, that the first point reminds one of the two-faced head of Janus. Janus was a Roman idol, distinguished by the remarkable feature of having two faces and looking in two opposite directions. And in this respect there is a marked similarity between old Janus and the first point. The latter is also two-faced and casts wistful looks in opposite directions. And the same may be asserted of the attempts at explanation of the first point that are offered by the leaders of the Christian Reformed Churches. Only, while the two faces of old heathen Janus bore a perfect resemblance to each other, the Janus of 1924 has the distinction of showing two totally different faces. One of his faces reminds you of Augustine, Calvin, Gomarus; but the other shows the unmistakable features of Pelagius, Arminius, Episcopius. And your troubles begin when you would inquire of this two-faced oracle, what may be the exact meaning of the first point. For, then this modern Janus begins to revolve, alternately showing you one face and the other, till you hardly know whether you are dealing with Calvin or Arminius.
The quotations cited above from Prof. Berkhof’s booklet on the three points show you only one of the faces, the Reformed face of this Janus; and if you inquire of him when he turns this face towards you, he speaks: the saving grace of God is only for the elect unto eternal life and is bestowed on them alone!
But now compare the following from the same booklet: “The general and well-meaning offer of salvation is an evidence of God’s favor toward sinners, is a blessing of the Lord upon them” (page 21). Lest we should misunderstand the professor and imagine that he has reference only to elect sinners, he adds in the same paragraph: “Scriptures teach us without doubt, that we must consider the offer of salvation a temporal blessing also for them that do not heed the invitation,” that is, therefore, for them that are designated by the Word of God as reprobate ungodly.
To prove this assertion the professor continues on the same page of his booklet: “That God calls the ungodly to repentance is presented in the Holy Scriptures as a proof of His pleasure in their salvation.” Of course, this may pass, as long as you demand no further definition of “the ungodly.” No one, to be sure, denies that God has pleasure in the salvation of ungodly men. But as soon as you generalize this and say that God has pleasure in the salvation of all the ungodly, that on His part He is willing to save all sinners, you depart from the plain Reformed line of faith and thinking. I am confident that no Reformed man will deny the truth of this statement. And yet, Prof. Berkhof departs exactly in this way from the Reformed truth.
I realize that I have somewhat pulled this out of its context, and so there is a lot more you need to read to understand fully the point “H.H.” is making. But I hope you get the gist of Hoeksema’s point. For all its mythical status, Janus is indeed an apt picture of the error of the first point of common grace.