In the “Poortwake”, a weekly paper of the Girl’s Societies of the Liberated Churches in the Netherlands, in the issue of February 6th, page 384, we came across a little article under the caption: “Een Zichtbare Of Onzichtbare Kerk”, a Visible or Invisible Church. The article is reflecting on another article appearing in a Canadian paper, also sponsored by the Liberated Group, written by a certain Rev. Selles who is answering a question of a Girl’s Society which had to do with the subject: Is the Church visible or Invisible?
We are not primarily interested in the answer of the Rev. Selles gives to this question, but more particularly in the comment the author of the department “Drie Starren” makes in respect to Rev. Selles’ article.
He comments that the question of a visible or invisible Church is as timely in the American world as it is in the Netherlands. And he remarks further that “if there is any place in the world where they go out from a so-called ‘Church pluriformity’ viewpoint then it is in the American world.” The author then makes a statement which we could not leave unchallenged. He continues: “One of the reasons why Rev. Hoeksema through his foolish ‘binding’ can so easily let go from his Church a group of brothers and sisters is the argument: they can quietly establish their own Church where they can teach what they want to? Here lies one of those dangerous reefs our Canadian brethren and sisters will do well to steer clear of.” (The translation is mine.—M.S.)
You will notice first of all that the author of these lines is speaking of “a so-called ‘Church pluriformity’ viewpoint.” He means by that word “so-called” that it is really not a viewpoint but it is just called that. He evidently does not think much of the conception of Church pluriformity on this side of the Atlantic. In the Netherlands they have a better, the real conception. Notice, too, that he is speaking of the American world. That’s pretty big, isn’t it? That includes Canada too, doesn’t it? Or, are the Canadian Liberated excluded from the American world?
And then with a sweep of the binoculars over the entire American world the author of the above quotation suddenly pin points his vision on a “so-called Church pluriformity viewpoint” of the Rev. Hoeksema. Hoeksema’s viewpoint must be the worst of the bad. Hoeksema’s conception of pluriformity comes to manifestation in his “foolish ‘binding’,” whereby the writer means the Declaration of Principles adopted by the Protestant Reformed Synod.
I don’t know if the reader of this article noticed the question mark (?) which appears in the above quotation, but you should. It belongs there even if it does not make good sense. In our opinion the author of that question does not mean to ask a question at all, he rather attempts to spit out all his gall. He is simply ridiculing Hoeksema’s conception of pluriformity.
But be that as it may, what right did the author of “Drie Starren” have to call the Declaration of Principles “Hoeksema’s foolish binding”? Does he not know that not Hoeksema but our Synod adopted this Declaration? Doesn’t he know that the request for such a Declaration came not from Hoeksema but from our Missionary and Mission Committee? Does he not know that Rev. Hoeksema is only one member of the Protestant Reformed Churches, and when he is delegated he is only one member of Synod? Why then attach to the Declaration the name of Hoeksema? All our Churches, Ministers, Consistories and Congregations adopted that Declaration, and should also subscribe to it and maintain it. Not one man, as the author of “Drie Starren” seems to imply.
Again, what right does he have to call it a “foolish binding”? What’s so foolish about it? The author doesn’t tell us except to say that it is a medium “to let go from his (Hoeksema’s) Church a group of brothers and sisters so they could quietly establish their own Church where they can teach what they want to?” But that’s not so foolish, is it? Wouldn’t the Liberated, who claim to be the ‘true’ Church, do the same thing if they had people in their membership who didn’t want to agree with the doctrine of their Church, who persistently transgressed the Church Order, who without any pangs of conscience would* allow their ministers to be put out on the street, etc.? Or can everybody do what is right in his own eyes in their Churches?
But I must say more. Does the author of “Drie Starren” not know that his heretical brothers and sisters in Canada were not dismissed from Protestant Reformed Churches either by the Rev. Hoeksema or by the Declaration, but that they cut themselves off from us before the Declaration was even adopted? Does he not know that they loved their Arminian Covenant conception so much that they hated our Protestant Reformed doctrine, and wanted to establish their own Churches? Let’s get the facts straight!
In our opinion it’s about time that the Liberated people of the Netherlands and Canada cease being so conceited as to think that their conception of the Church is the only one that is Reformed. When I think back on the corrupt manner in which these erstwhile members of the Protestant Reformed Churches in Canada acted, how unethically they treated our ministers, my blood temperature rises. And then the gall to tell the world what is wrong with our Churches and pile the blame on the head of Rev. Hoeksema. Shame on them! And shame on everyone who can give these people any sympathy!
In the Banner of March 6th, the Rev. Henry Baker delegate of the Christian Reformed Churches to the Reformed Synod of the Netherlands in its 1952 session, reports briefly on the agenda and some of the decisions of that Synod.
Among the items he reports was the matter of Woman Suffrage in the Church. Rev. Baker writes as follows: “A notable decision, whether we are in agreement with it or not, was that which allows consistories to grant women the privilege of voting at congregational meetings. What surprised all was that the decision was made by a nearly unanimous vote, only three delegates dissenting. Although many believed (Synod would concur in the conclusions of the Committee, few, if any, anticipated such a large measure of agreement on the part of the delegates.”
The Rev. Baker writes in the introduction to his report very favorably of the Netherlands Reformed leaders as follows: “We remain indebted to their past and present leaders—men of stature and great ability in the field of learning—who steeped in the Reformed tradition will continue to make an impact on our thinking and on the development of our Church.”
One wonders when he reads the above decision whether the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, which are so “steeped in the Reformed tradition”, have not decided to forget the traditions of the past. One wonders also whether their “impact” on the thinking of the Christian Reformed Churches will not also lead the latter to break with the tradition. We predict the matter will soon be settled in favor of the Netherlands.
In the same article in the Banner above referred to, under the sub-title, “Churches Maintaining Article 31”, the Rev. Baker calls attention to the great concern manifested in the Reformed Synod of the Netherlands over the Liberated group that separated from them under the leadership of the late Dr. Schilder.
He writes: “The agenda contained some 50 letters, overtures and petitions from Particular Synods, consistories and individuals suggesting ways and means whereby the breach can be healed. These and sentiments expressed by every minister we met reveal the universal desire for reunion.” He points out further: “In every worship service we attended, in the prayers at Synod, in committee meetings and homes, the ‘burdened’ were remembered at the throne of grace. It was evident from the fraternal spirit that prevailed at Synod and from the patient, sympathetic hearing given each appellant that all are deeply grieved that brethren who belong together live apart. Mistakes have been made. Errors committed must be confessed, but it should not be difficult for Christians to do that. When bitterness is laid aside and provocation is solemnly avoided we may expect that brethren will at least attempt to resolve their differences and dwell in blest accord.’ We in America look forward with eagerness to the day when reunion is affected.”
We, too, believe that the two groups in the Netherlands belong together. We never understood why they went apart in the first place. What’s the difference if you believe in ‘presupposed regeneration’ or that all children born under the covenant are in the covenant? People that have conceptions like that shouldn’t live apart.
But when we read the report of Rev. Baker we were reminded of the man who was so enthusiastic in his missionary zeal to save the poor Chinese who were miles from home, while at the same time he was stamping on the head of his next door neighbor. If the Rev. Baker imbibed some of that “fraternal spirit” that prevailed at the Synod did he leave it on the boat that took him to our shores, or would he also offer a prayer for his Reformed brethren on this side of the ocean? Better still, would he admit that “mistakes have been made” in the past by the Christian Reformed Churches when they expelled faithful brethren from their midst? Would he be ready to confess these errors and seek for a reunion with the Protestant Reformed Churches, the reunion the Rev. Greenway also longs for?