Rev. Langerak is pastor of South Holland Protestant Reformed Church in South Holland, Illionois.
The Oppositions of Science Falsely So-Called
In an astoundingly candid article in the Grand Rapids Press entitled “150th birthday of ‘On the Origin of Species’ prompts area colleges to assess Darwin’s impact,” the author of the article exposes the dominance of Darwinian evolution on Christian college campuses. The title is a reference to the book On the Origin of Species by the unbeliever Charles Darwin, in which he rejects the history of creation as it is given in the Scriptures and instead teaches what has become known as the theory of evolution by natural selection. The article demonstrates that Darwin’s book and not God’s Book controls the science curricula. A few quotes from these professors will establish the point.
For us, it’s a fundamental guiding principle for understanding the diversity of life on the planet…. How all these species got here—the best explanation for that is the theory of evolution (Thomas Bultman, chairman of the biology department, Hope College, Holland).
All of our coursework is constructed around that as a central foundation, of how we see the biological systems (Neil MacDonald, chairman of the biology department, Grand Valley State University, Allendale Township).
It’s the central theme…. In any biology program, you couldn’t teach it without weaving in the theory (Gregory Forbes, professor of biological sciences, Grand Rapids Community College).
The way we teach…is very much influenced by Darwin’s theory. Evolution is the paradigm out of which we teach biology (David Warners, biology professor, Calvin College).
While it is not surprising that at the secular universities evolution is the regnant theory in the science departments, it is surprising that Darwin’s theory dominates the science curricula of the area Christian colleges. According to professors in these Christian universities, it dominates to such an extent that it is the “paradigm out of which we teach biology,” and, “it is the fundamental guiding principle for understanding the diversity of life on the planet…how all these species got here.”
This evolutionary paradigm, however, causes a “great deal of frustration” among the students who enter these Christian colleges with a creationist—biblical—worldview. Such frustration is understandable. One would think that at a college that bears the name Christian and Reformed the biblical account of creation would be taught and the world’s account of evolution would be exposed as unbelief. The problem, though, we are assured by Hope College biologist Thomas Bultman, is not Darwin’s erroneous theory of evolution, which has been baptized by these Christian colleges and is taught by the science departments as gospel truth,
But much of the controversy…is rooted in how Christians interpret the book of Genesis. Many view it as a literal account of creation, which is a mistake…. “It’s not a story about how the world came to be,” he said, “but of what our place in the world is.”
Evidently also the Holy Spirit was mistaken when He said about that account of creation in the Law that God created in six days (Ex. 20:11); in the Psalms, that by Word of the Lord were the heavens made (Ps. 33:6); when He asked Job where he was when He laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4); when He said that by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God—and specifically denied that things that are seen were not made by things that do appear (Heb. 11:3); and when He warned believers that in the last days, scoffers would arise who would say that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (II Pet. 3:4).
The pressing question for the professors and universities, though, is: How do we staunch defenders of Darwin at the Christian universities deal with these students who come with this “mistaken” view of Genesis—and of the rest of Scripture? Mr. Warners of Calvin College tells us that this is done “sensitively.” Supposedly that means that “sensitively” the students who come believing that God’s word is true—He framed the worlds by His word in six literal days, and not by the evolutionary process over millions of years, and who think that God’s word is the fundamental principle to understand creation—sensitively they have that “mistaken” notion eroded in their minds by being immersed in evolutionary theory as the fundamental guiding principle for understanding the diversity of life on the planet.
Darwin’s evolutionary theory is science falsely so-called that profanely and vainly babbles against the word of God. By his unbelieving theory Darwin intruded himself upon the domain that belongs exclusively to God’s revelation in Scripture. According to Scripture, “by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3). By faith in God’s word—by faith alone—the origins of the world are known. The origins of the world cannot be known at all by scientific speculation or investigation. Submitting to that knowledge the Christian can diligently investigate God’s world and explain it logically and coherently. This is the true science, and not a science falsely so-called that contradicts the word of God.
The article shows, too, that unbelief about the origin of the world and the diversity of species is pervasive in the science departments at these Christian colleges. Since we understand the origin of the world by faith alone, to teach that the origin of the world is by evolution is unbelief in God’s word.
Let students and parents know that at these Christian colleges they must “keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (I Tim. 6:20). Evolution is the paradigm out of which they will be taught science.
Defense of Marriage
The push to legalize homosexual marriages and the fight to define marriage as between one man and one woman is repeatedly in the news as the two sides clash at the ballot box, in the courtroom, and in the media around the country. On May 26, 2009 the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, which enshrines in the California Constitution that, “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California” (http://caag.state.ca.us/). According to a recent World magazine article, our President, Mr. Obama, at the annual dinner for the Human Rights Campaign, “pledged to appeal the Defense of Marriage Act.” This is the bill passed in September 1996 that defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for purposes of all federal laws, and provides that states need not recognize a marriage from another state if it is between persons of the same sex. Mr. Obama additionally made this promise to the attendees of the Human Rights Campaign dinner: “You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationship between a man and a woman” (worldmag.com/2009/10/12/obamas-pledge-to-redefine-marriage).
The attempts to legalize homosexual marriage, or to roll back the laws already passed, as Mr. Obama has pledged to do, are the objects of a great deal of protest and hand-wringing among evangelicals. The fight to defend marriage is the new crusade.
Marriage is a creation ordinance of God, and the state therefore has the duty before God and for its own welfare to uphold this ordinance of God. The state that refuses to uphold marriage undermines, by God’s own just judgment, its own foundations. As such, then, we have no com plaint against propositions to define marriage legally.
What is strange in this furor over homosexual marriage is the anger and outrage of many evangelicals. This is strange because the controversy over homosexual marriage is an evil fruit of the abandonment of God’s definition of marriage by the toleration and advocacy of divorce. Those who joined in dismantling and defiling marriage by the sin of divorce, which the Lord hates (Mal. 2:15), now are outraged that marriage is being given to homosexuals. Those who have defended the right of a man or woman to have two or more spouses by divorcing one and marrying another are now up in arms about homosexuals wanting to marry. Those who are silent about divorce and remarriage are loud in their protests against homosexual marriage.
Let the opponents of homosexual marriage also be enemies of divorce!
Repeal the no-fault divorce laws. Let us see that put on a ballot initiative. Let that be written on blogs, and posted on the Internet, and be the subject of editorials in magazines, and the title of books.
In the churches themselves, preach the truth that the Lord hates putting away. Teach that divorce destroys children. Teach, instead of explaining away, the Lord’s own teaching in the Gospel accounts about marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
Let churches discipline and excommunicate those living impenitently in the sin of divorce and remarriage.
Stop fellowshipping with those divorced and remarried.
And be willing to suffer as the prophet John the Baptist suffered for the word and testimony of Jesus Christ about divorce. The divorced Herodias was at war with the prophet—he was put in prison and beheaded on account of that evil woman—because he told Herod that it was not lawful for him to have his brother Philip’s wife (Mark 6:18).
While we are not interested in fighting the world’s culture wars, we do have a profound interest in God’s good institution of marriage and in testifying against its abuse and defilement by homosexual marriage—and divorce and remarriage. Let this be the message of the church.
Pay the Piper
It is the longstanding position of the Protestant Reformed Churches that union membership is evil in the light of Scripture’s teaching with regard to the oath, with regard to the duty of the worker to submit to the God-ordained authority of the employer, and with regard to the violence and rebellion of which unions are guilty and of which every member of the union makes himself guilty by his membership.
This ought to make the cover story in the October 24, 2009 issue of World magazine of interest to the Protestant Reformed Churches and the Protestant Reformed working man. In her article, “Save the Unions: The big business of big labor backed by big government,” Emily Belz writes,
After doling out $450 million in 2008 to elect Democrats in Washington, unions are looking for payback…. Unable to keep union membership from long-term decline, big labor is counting on a friendly administration and Congress to make workplace changes in its favor. And this is bad news for many of the independent business owners who drive economic growth.
The unions have piped and now they must be paid. They have piped the virtues of their friends to the tune of some $450 million, and now they want their friends to pipe their virtues, preferably in the form of tough laws enforcing the rights of unions. This is bad news for business owners.
It is also bad news for the Protestant Reformed working man who will also feel the pressure. This is especially true in the hard-hit construction sector of the economy. According to the article, “Construction businesses were some of the first to feel the economy’s free fall but haven’t been the first to recover. Nationally, the unemployment rate in construction is at 16.5 percent, compared to the overall unemployment rate of 9.8 percent.”
A sign of this new climate favorable to unions is an executive order encouraging federally funded projects over $25 million to be given to union companies. One such project is the $35 million Job Corps Center in New Hampshire that was recently commissioned by the Department of Labor. “Only unionized construction workers will be allowed on the site, according to restrictions the federal agency imposed on the project.” There will undoubtedly be other signs of this in the construction industry and wherever the unions will have their presence felt.
This and other pressure from unions is unjust suffering for the Christian working man who will not join the union because it is against God’s word. God’s word also comforts the Christian working man in this suffering, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh…ye have heard of the patience of Job, and that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:7, 8, 11).
Time For Discipline…But Will It Happen?
The question concerns the heresy of the Federal Vision. It is no longer a “new” heresy. It has been allowed to fester within Presbyterian and Reformed denominations for a shamefully long time. Scandalous is the failure of Presbyterian and Reformed denominations to remove this pestiferous error by disciplining its proponents in their midst. It is time…past time…for discipline. Will it happen?
All eyes are focused on the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), where there are at least two “live” cases in which charges have been brought against advocates of the Federal Vision heresy. Will discipline happen?
We hope, we pray, it will. But we are apprehensive. We do not wish to look down our noses at other denominations as they deal with this deadly heresy. In fact, in this article and in all of our writings we strive to encourage those who share with us the heritage of the Reformation to stand strong and to take firm action by disciplining and, if necessary, excommunicating those who spread this toxic error. But we take the wait-and-see approach.
Our apprehension is based on the fact that Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, seminaries, and theologians have written documents condemning the error of the Federal Vision, but have yet to exercise discipline to the degree of actually deposing or excommunicating any of its proponents. Perhaps this is true because some of the heretics felt the heat and left their respective denominations without allowing the disciplinary process to run its course. For example, Steve Wilkins was facing charges in the PCA when he fled to another denomination. Yet, the PCA and other denominations are not without fault in this matter, for they should have implemented discipline long before some of these men made their getaway.
Our apprehension is also due to the repeated occurrence of Federal Vision men being exonerated when charged with their sin. Instead of being condemned, they are declared orthodox! They are given a clean bill of health. So we wait and see.
What we see in the PCA in particular, where the cases are ongoing, is not very encouraging. At least three Presbyteries (similar to our Classes) have handled cases. The Louisiana Presbytery dealt with Steve Wilkins. Despite the fact that Wilkins corrupted the doctrine of election and denied the perseverance of the saints, the Louisiana Presbytery declared that Wilkins’ views were consistent with the Westminster Standards. A committee of the PCA’s broader assembly was dealing with this case, and it is possible that Wilkins would have ended up being convicted of heresy. Nevertheless, this case came to a close when Wilkins left the PCA, and we can only wonder if he would have been convicted. The last official word said about Wilkins in the PCA is that he was orthodox.
Things are much the same in the current cases. The Pacific Northwest Presbytery studied the views of Peter Leithart, another public proponent of the Federal Vision. Leithart is an ordained minister in the PCA, though he primarily works in the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, which has become a haven for proponents of the Federal Vision. In October of 2008 the Presbytery adopted a majority report that determined that although Leithart is not always as clear or careful in his teachings as they would wish, his teachings cannot be declared to be heretical. The Presbytery rejected a minority report that recommended first that Leithart’s views be declared “out of accord with the fundamentals of the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards” and, second, that Leithart be directed to reconsider his views “with the understanding that if his views continue to be out of accord with the fundamentals of the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards, Presbytery will proceed to depose him from its ministry without censure.”¹ The decision to uphold Leithart’s orthodoxy was appealed in April of this year. The appeal was rejected.² In effect Leithart has twice been officially exonerated in the PCA. This case is being appealed to the PCA’s general assembly.
The second ongoing case is taking place in the Siouxlands Presbytery. The Siouxlands Presbytery appointed a committee to study the views of Pastor Greg Lawrence. On September 28 of this year the committee “reported to Presbytery with a recommendation passed by a 4-2 margin that [Presbytery Siouxlands] find a strong presumption of guilt that TE Lawrence was teaching contrary to the Standards.”³ The committee’s recommendation was rejected. Instead the Presbytery adopted the motion of Pastor Joshua Moon to declare his teachings to be in accord with the Westminster Standards. Although Lawrence’s views are not as public as those of Wilkins and Leithart, it is clear from Moon’s presentation of his views (which Moon defends) that Lawrence is a proponent of the Federal Vision and worthy of censure. The pertinent statement by Moon is as follows:
In attributing to all the baptized some form of union, adoption, new life, and forgiveness, [Teaching Elder] Lawrence is speaking the language of our tradition and of our Scriptures. By refusing to attribute absolute and final union, adoption, new life, and forgiveness, TE Lawrence is directly in line with our standards.
This is a clear assertion of both universal and resistible grace, both of which are clearly rejected by all the Reformed Standards. Despite these heretical views, Lawrence (and Moon by implication) was officially exonerated by the Presbytery by a vote of 24-13. The status of this case is unclear, because it was reported on October 20 that the Presbytery met again and “repented of its hasty actions.” Apparently the case is being reconsidered and will be dealt with again in January.4 Rev. Wesley White, pastor of a PCA congregation in Spearfish, South Dakota, has valiantly pursued this case, and if necessary, it is very likely that he and others will see to it that it is brought to the General Assembly of the PCA.
So the PCA’s General Assembly (its broadest assembly) will likely consider two cases of men who are clearly transmitters of the Federal Vision contagion. All eyes are on the PCA. If necessary, will these two men be deposed and excommunicated? We are apprehensive, but we hope and pray that discipline will be exercised. It is way past time this step is taken. In fact things have developed to a point that this will only be a beginning step. It is clear that the PCA in particular, but also other Presbyterian and Reformed denominations, are going to have to do more than simply discipline the most public proponents of the Federal Vision heresy. There is more work, harder work, to do. The disease has spread. There are many who are tolerant of it and unwilling to administer the strong medicine [discipline] that is necessary to kill it. Much instruction must be given, and yes, more discipline will likely have to be exercised. Will it happen? May God give the strength.
The Banner asks, “Was the Reformation Necessary?”
The cover of the October 2009 edition of the Banner actually asks this question. This is the question that Dr. Ronald J. Feenstra explored as he interviewed “members of the Reformed-Roman Catholic Dialogue to talk together about the Protestant Reformation.” Evidently Dr. Feenstra is not satisfied with John Calvin’s clear answers to this question. Most clearly did Calvin answer this question affirmatively in his treatise entitled, “The Necessity of Reforming the Church.” Dr. Feenstra turned to a contemporary panel consisting of Dr. Richard J. Mouw, as the sole representative of the Reformation tradition, and of Sr. (sister?) Joyce Ann Zimmerman, Dr. Ralph Del Colle, and Fr. (Friar) Dennis Tamburello as three representatives of the Roman Catholic tradition.
The answers of the panelists seem to indicate that they agree that in the sixteenth century it was necessary for reforms to take place within the Roman Catholic Church (with regard to both doctrine and life), and the Reformation may have been necessary to institute those reforms. Yet, the panelists agree that the Reformation was an unfortunate and unnecessary breach that ought to be healed as quickly as possible.
The Roman Catholic panelists reveal that, despite the Roman Catholic Church’s seeming willingness to make compromises as it engages in ecumenical talks with Protestant churches, it is actually interested in reconciliation only on its terms. Protestants must compromise on essential positions of the Reformation.
Ralph Del Colle says Protestants are guilty of separating Scripture and tradition and “driving too much of a wedge between things that belonged together.”
Justification by faith without works?
Del Colle says, “I don’t think the New Testament really distinguishes faith and works to the extent that Luther was claiming.”
Dennis Tamburello says, “I see Catholicism as having a more optimistic anthropology—human nature was damaged but not totally destroyed by sin. Protestantism, as I understand it, holds that human nature was virtually devastated by sin.”
Christ as the only Head of the Church?
Del Colle is optimistic that there will be full communion between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches under the “Holy See,” that is, the pope. He goes on to say, “I still see the Petrine office (the pope) as the site of unity.” Thus, these RC panelists make clear that, to reconcile with Rome, Protestants will have to tolerate false doctrine and submit themselves to the tyranny of the pope.
With the above in mind it is exceedingly shocking and reprehensible that Dr. Mouw (the supposed representative of the Reformation) gleefully expresses a desire for reunification with Rome, while harshly criticizing those in the Reformed tradition who oppose this reunification. Despite the fact that the RC panelists sitting with him for the interview gave very clear evidence that the doctrinal positions of the Roman Catholic Church have not changed one iota, Dr. Mouw states, “Things are very different today.” Vatican II (a council held by the RC in the 1960s), he claims, is “one of the great spiritual and theological renewal events in the history of the universal church.” Yes, Mouw claims, Rome has made important theological changes. We are so close now we can ignore our differences and work together. Those who deny that Rome has essentially changed on the basis that it continues officially to hold to all of the false doctrines that were condemned by the Reformation in the sixteenth century (Rome has yet to retract any of its doctrines) are denounced by Mouw as “the most fanatical and mean-spirited Protestants.” So Mouw treats Roman Catholics as friends and denounces Protestants. We will give him the Roman Catholics, and we will keep John Calvin.
Was the Reformation necessary? Calvin answered that. Yes, mainly because of Rome’s false doctrine. Is the Reformation still necessary? Yes, the main issue is the same, Rome’s false doctrine. Those who recognize this are not “fanatical” or “mean-spirited” but instead
in standing with Calvin. Calvin received pressure from Roman Catholics to repent. Today we receive pressure from within the Protestant Church. Let our answer be the same as Calvin’s. “We will never repent of having begun [the Reformation], and of having proceeded thus far.” Let us be so convinced of what Calvin called the “eternal truth” that we are willing to be called “fanatical” and “mean-spirited.” Let us be willing to say with Calvin that we will go even further in suffering for the truth. He speaks for us when he says, “We will die, but in death even be conquerors, not only because through it we shall have a sure passage to a better life, but because we know that our blood will be as seed to propagate the Divine truth which men now despise.”5
¹ Links to the majority and minority reports can be found at http://deregnisduobus.blogspot.com/2008/10/more-on-pnw-presbyterys-leithart-debate.html.
² The rejection of the appeal can be found at http://deregnisduobus.blogspot.com/2009/04/report-to-presbytery-of-judicial.html.
³ Brian Carpenter. Presbytery of the Siouxlands Exonerates Member Suspected of Federal Vision Teaching, Complaint to the SJC Considered. http://theaquilareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=481
4 Brian Carpenter. Siouxlands Presbytery Sustains Complaint, Answers Overture. http://theaquilareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=660.
5 For this and the quotes above see John Calvin “The Necessity of Reforming the Church” in Tracts and Treatises vol. I, pp. 233-234.