The Declaration of Principles Discerned

Concordia reports in its June 17th issue some of the decisions of the schismatic Synod which met in the month of June in Grand Rapids, the Rev. J. Howerzyl being reporter. There are several items in this report on which we could comment, but we single out only one which we consider most revealing. We refer, of course, to this Synod’s rejection of tile Declaration of Principles. 

Howerzyl reports the following concerning this matter: “Synod then took up the matter of the Declaration of Principles, the Study Committee Report and the supplement to their report. Synod decided in this whole matter the following: 

1. To thank the committee for their work. 

2. Synod expresses that since sufficient evidence has been given to show that the Synods of 1950 and 1951 erred in originating, treating and adopting the Declaration of Principles, that therefore the Declaration of Principles is without force as a synodically approved expression. 

3. Synod expresses that since sufficient evidence has been given to show that the Declaration of Principles may not be adopted as an expression of our Basis of Unity on certain doctrinal points. These doctrinal points are explained more fully and better in the Three Forms of Unity in the light of their Scriptural context: and we have always expressed that these are sufficient for the organization of new churches when in the Public Declaration of Agreement with the Forms of Unity we declare as follows: ‘In conformity with the belief of all these congregations, we, as members of their synod, declare that from the heart we feel and believe, that all articles and expressions of doctrine, contained in the three above named confessions, jointly called the Three Forms of Unity, in all respects agree with the word of God, whence we reject all doctrines repugnant thereto; that we desire to conform all our actions to them, agreeably to the accepted Church Order of Dordrecht, 1618-19, and desire to receive into our church communion everyone that agrees to our confession.'” 

Our readers will remember that when the Synods of the Protestant Reformed Churches in 1950-51 deemed it necessary to adopt this Declaration it did so chiefly on the grounds that it was necessary to build our denominational walls so high that the Liberated doctrine which flowed to us from the Netherlands would not seep into our churches. At that time there were especially two of our ministers who advocated the breaking down of that denominational wall to allow an influx of Liberated emigrants to join our churches. These were the ministers who had traveled to the Old Country evidently with the purpose to sell our churches to the Liberated. It appears now that when they returned they also succeeded in selling the Liberated and their doctrine to several of our ministers and a large number of our people. 

Those of us who have given careful scrutiny to the developments in our churches in recent years recall that when the dangers of this Liberated doctrine were brought to the attention of our Synod in 1950 there were several of our ministers and elders, who have now become schismatic, but who then declared themselves in favor of the contents of the proposed Declaration and at that time insisted that it should be adopted as a safeguard for our churches. The assistant secretary of the above mentioned schismatic Synod of 1954 and his elder, who also was in attendance at this Synod, both strongly advised the adoption of the Declaration because they foresaw that our churches would be swallowed up by the Liberated. It is also a matter of record that the vice president of the above mentioned Synod reporting for his consistory relative to the Declaration as it was treated in Classis East declared without any reservation of his own that his consistory had no objection to the content of the Declaration. Another minister, also in attendance of this schismatic Synod, at the February 1951, meeting of Classis East, declared the same from his consistory. One of the elders from the West above referred to declared in 1950 that he could not understand men like the two salesmen who had visited the Netherlands who wanted to lower the ecclesiastical walls. These are facts which none of these men can deny. 

Now they sit in Synod and without any pangs of conscience simply declare themselves in favor of discarding the Declaration of Principles and that, too, on doctrinal grounds. Yes, they threw the Declaration out also on Church political grounds. But in the light of all these erring brethren have said in the past relative to the doctrinal issue, their decision now is most revealing. 

That there were some ministers and laymen in 1950-51 who vehemently opposed the Declaration we know from personal experience. They boldly expressed their fear that should the Declaration be adopted it would stop all correspondence with the Liberated in the Netherlands and in Canada. One minister even went so far as to admit that here we had a wonderful opportunity to become big. For many years we were a struggling group of churches, small in number and in power. We were just getting to the point of being recognized in the church world. We had even gotten so far that we were considering of entering into foreign mission work. And here suddenly opportunity offered itself in the communion of the Liberated to have a foreign mission field laid in our laps. All we would have to do is take up the collections for it. Men who talked like this you can understand as being in wholehearted agreement of getting rid of the Declaration. 

But how shall we explain those erring brethren who were out-spokenly in favor of the Declaration, and that, too, on doctrinal grounds? And, who now sit in on a Synodical discussion as to what to do with the Declaration, and who apparently voiced no objections when the decision is passed to throw it out, and that, too, for doctrinal reasons? How is it possible for men at one time to say with emphasis “we need that Declaration, because our Three Forms of Unity are not adequate to keep out the Liberated with their doctrine because they also agree with the Three Forms but give another interpretation to them,” and now turn around and say with even more expression “we do not need the Declaration for doctrinal reasons?”

It seems to us that there is but one explanation. It is that they have been sold on the idea of becoming big by letting down the ecclesiastical wall. It means that at heart they have become cold to the unique and fundamental concepts of the Protestant Reformed faith. And let us understand it well, these are men who know better. They have not had the wool pulled down over their eyes as has happened to many of the laymen belonging to the schismatic group. What they did, they did deliberately and with full knowledge. What makes their sin that much more terrible. Would that they would repent and bring back with them those sheep that have been led astray not only by the speeches and writings of those who were bent on destroying the Protestant Reformed Churches for carnal reasons, but also by their apparent pious conduct in the matter. We understand there are some in the West who are beginning to see the light and are at the verge of returning to us again. May the Lord open the eyes and hearts also of their leaders and bring them to an open break with the lie which they are now living.

Believing Parents and Infant Baptism 

On this subject the Rev. Peter Y. De Jong writes in. his department of the Banner of July 9th. Generally we enjoy reading his articles, though sometimes we wish he would be a little more specific. This he could have been in the article above referred to. 

He is reflecting on the well-known three questions parents are required to answer in the affirmative when they present their children in baptism. Under the subtitle “A Public Profession” he makes several comments anent these questions. We are especially concerned now with what he writes relative to the second and third questions. 

The second question in the form as used in our churches (and I presume is still used in the Christian Reformed Church, though they seem to be in the process of changing forms) reads literally as follows: “Secondly. Whether you acknowledge the doctrine which is contained in the Old and New Testament, and in the articles of the Christian faith, and which is taught here in this Christian church, to be the true and perfect (complete) doctrine of salvation?” De Jong writes rather superficially, I think, when he refers to this question and says: “In the second question parents are required to express their wholehearted allegiance to the Reformed faith, as the true and complete interpretation of God’s word.” He neglects to comment on: “and which is taught here in this Christian church.” We are left to conclude that according to De Jong all that is required of parents seeking baptism for their children is the profession of allegiance to the Reformed faith without any particular emphasis on the point that his church has a particular understanding and expression of that faith. 

The third question in the form reads literally as follows: “Thirdly. Whether you promise and intend to see these children when come to the years of discretion (whereof you are either parent or witness), instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?” 

Here again Rev. De Jong is not too specific when he writes: “The third question is based in a sense upon the second: Now parents are asked to promise that they will instruct their children in that doctrine. This begins, of course, in the home. Yet the phrase ‘to the utmost of your power’ plainly includes more. Parents obligate themselves to insure Christian training for their children in both the Church and the school. Only churches and schools where the ‘aforesaid doctrine’, that is, the Reformed faith, is taught and championed, can satisfy the requirements of covenantal education for our seed. When parents minimize the need of church attendance and catechetical training for their children, they are breaking their solemn vow. And how is it possible for parents who have made this promise in sincerity to be lukewarm to the necessity of distinctively Christian schools in an age when godlessness and secularism like a plague have infected tens of thousands who bear the mark of the covenant? No means at our disposal may be neglected.” 

It appears that the reverend is satisfied so long as the school teaches a general “Reformed faith.” Should he not have said “the Reformed faith as taught in the Christian, Reformed Church?” That would have been specific. Or does the Rev. De Jong simply assume that the instruction given in the Christian schools is predominantly Christian Reformed? It is possible that he did, but he doesn’t say so. 

And this leads me to write what I intended to in this article, namely this: that our understanding of this second and third question of the Baptismal form as it should be read and interpreted in our Protestant Reformed Churches necessitates that the doctrine believed and professed in the second question is strictly Protestant Reformed, not Reformed in general. And the promise in the third question necessitates Protestant Reformed Christian schools wherein we can fulfill “unto the utmost of your power” this promise to instruct our children in the aforesaid doctrine.