A Pamphlet and a Report – A Comparison

The pamphlet to which we refer is a 12 page booklet published some years ago by the Revs. M. Gritters and A. Cammenga when they were members of our Protestant Reformed churches in good standing. The pamphlet was entitled: The Answer, and contained some twenty-one questions and answers the gist of which was to show up the fallacy of the doctrine of Common Grace and positively set forth the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches as they conceived of it then. 

The Report to which we refer is the report of the committee of those who left us in the schism of 1953 which has since 1957 been meeting with a committee of the Christian Reformed Church in an attempt to iron out their differences on the Three Points in the hope of a reunion. Both committees are reporting to their respective synods which meet in June of this year. The Reformed Guardian of April 10, 1959, published by those who left us, contains the report of the committee of which the Rev. M. Gritters is a member and the Rev. A. Cammenga an alternate member. Concerning the latter, we gather from the report that he has had a voice in the combined meetings and has met with the committee regularly. The Banner of the Christian Reformed Church of April 24 and May 1, 1959 contains parts of the report of the Christian Reformed Committee. The report will be completed in subsequent issues of that paper. Also in The Banner of April 24th appears an editorial relative to the report and the progress of the two committees to which the editor gives the significant title: “Christian Reformed and Protestant Reformed Churches Draw Closer Together.” 

Having all this material before us, we had planned at first to give our readers a rather careful analysis of all that has been written and that in a series of two or three articles. However, when we noticed in the last issue of The Standard Bearer that the editor plans to give this material his personal attention we decided to give our readers only this one article which we will call—A Comparison. It will be interesting to see how those who have left us have changed and by that very change show that they no longer have the right to call themselves Protestant Reformed. Before we show this, however, we take time out to show our readers first how the editor of The Banner and the committee of the Christian Reformed Church have also observed this change and are ready to express their firm belief that it’s only a matter of time and the group that left us will be safely tucked away within the fold of’ the Christian Reformed Church. 

The editor of The Banner conceives of the reunion as a “Gratifying Prospect.” Writes he, “The possibility of a reunion of Christian Reformed and Protestant Reformed believers is a gratifying prospect for more than one good reason. 

“For years there must have been those who have longed ardently and also prayed fervently for the good and pleasant sight of brethren dwelling together in unity. The separation of our two churches dates back to 1924, thirty-five years ago. This separation of those who have so much in common has caused deep wounds and has been characterized at times even by deplorable bitterness and grievous estrangements. It could not be other wise than that brethren committed so largely to the same faith and filled with the same Spirit should find such a situation to be untenable and pray for grace and guidance to be delivered from it. 

“That those of the Reformed faith feel the need of being united as closely as possible with each other is to be understood also for another reason. To live in peace together and to bring together that which belongs together can be not only pleasant for ourselves but also profitable if not imperative to make our Reformed witness effective for those round about. Zeal for the truth cannot be expected to be contagious when it is characterized by bitterness and strife rather than love for the brethren which makes one eager to forgive and easy to be entreated . . . 

“The possible reunion with our Protestant Reformed brethren should be a gratifying prospect especially inasmuch as there is good reason to believe that this can be pleasing to our common Lord. Ecumenicity made possible by a disregard of God’s Word is an abomination in His sight. But it is just as true that His favor will surely rest upon the ecumenical efforts of those whose first concern is that the teachings of Scripture be held in honor. 

“The fact that the Christian Reformed and Protestant Reformed churches are drawing close together is an answer to prayer. Not only God’s people have prayed for this, but we think also of the prayer of our High Priest, Jesus Christ: ‘. . . that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may also be in us.'” 

We have a remark or two to make about this quotation in a moment, but first notice that it is the judgment of the committee of the Christian Reformed Church also that the two groups are getting closer together. The committee reports the following: “We have been drawn closer together as a result of our conferences. That questions still remain and differences still obtain is obvious and was to be expected. We are hopeful of the eventual unification of the Christian Reformed and the Protestant Reformed churches.” 

The reader will note how piously the editor of The Banner talks about the prospective reunion with the Protestant Reformed Churches, but all the while he is not talking about the Protestant Reformed Churches at all. He has in mind the schismatic group that left the Protestant Reformed Churches. He is talking about the separation of the two churches in 1924, but with those whom the Christian Reformed Church cast out in 1924 he and his church will not talk, much less seek a reunion with them. It should also be noted that he considers it a “gratifying prospect” that with all their ecumenical maneuvering they are drawing closer to those who indicate there are only differences of approach and emphasis, but not principle difference. But with those who are really Protestant Reformed and who for 35 years still maintain that there is principle difference between them and the Christian Reformed, he and his churches will have nothing to do. This position is to be deplored. That those with whom the Christian Reformed Church is dealing are not Protestant Reformed any longer is plain from what they have written in committee on the Three Points as compared with what they believed and expressed in writing when they were still associated with those who are really Protestant Reformed. 

We are going to quote from the little pamphlet above referred to and show our readers what the Revs. M. Gritters and A. Cammenga (and we are sure we could add the rest of the committee, Revs. H. De Wolf, J. Blankespoor, E. Knott, and elders E. Howerzyl, H. Knott and J. Kok, as agreeing with them) believed and wrote. We will then quote what this committee proposes as a reformulation of the Three Points, and then let the reader judge whether or not we are correct when we say that they have changed and are no longer Protestant Reformed. 

On page 4, question 8, we read: “What is actually taught in the ‘Three Points’ of the Christian Reformed Churches? 

Answer: In brief, the following: Point I teaches that besides the saving grace of God shown only to the elect there is also a certain favor of God which He shows to His creatures in general, including the wicked reprobate. As proof of this contention Point I refers to the so-called general offer of the Gospel, Point II teaches that through the operation of the Holy Spirit, without renewing the heart of man, God protects the good that remains in man since the fall so that the progress of sin is checked and restrained, with the result that man did not become as corrupt as we might expect, and therefore did not fully die as God had said. Point III teaches that man would have been and would be totally depraved, that is, wholly incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil, if there were no general operation of God’s Spirit in the heart of unregenerated man; but now, through God’s common grace, man is not totally depraved which implies that man is able to do a measure of good in the sight of God.” 

That the authors of the pamphlet strongly objected to the Three Points as explained by them above is plain from what we read on page 5 under question 9. “Why do the Protestant Reformed Churches so vehemently oppose these ‘Three Points’? 

Answer: Because the ‘Three Points’ imply all the fundamental errors of Arminianism and Pelagianism. The First Point is principally a denial that the grace of God is particular, since it teaches that the preaching of the Gospel is grace to all that hear the gospel, while Scripture itself teaches that for many it is a savor of death unto death. (II Cor. 2:16). The Second and Third Points are fundamentally a denial of the Scriptural doctrine of the total depravity of natural man (Rom. 3). And these errors are all the more dangerous because they pretend to be in conformity with the Reformed Confessions while in reality they are contrary to the Reformed truth and undermine the church of Christ.” 

And again on page 6 under question 11: “Why do Protestant Reformed Churches object to the theory of Common Grace? 

Answer: Common grace is a denial of sovereign election and reprobation and of particular atonement and naturally implies that Christ died for all and therefore salvation depends upon the choice and free will of the sinner. It is contrary to Scripture and the Reformed Confessions which teach that God is gracious only to His people and is a God of wrath to all those who choose to walk in sin. (Prov. 3:32-35Ps. 146:7-9Ps. 147:6Ps. 73:18-20).” 

Now notice what they say in the reformulation of these Three Points. I quote from The Guardian of April 10th. 

“We propose a reformulation (interpretation or limitation) of Point I somewhat as follows: ‘Besides the saving grace of God shown only to the elect there is also a certain favor or grace shown to the creatures in general. This is taught in Ps. 145:9Matt. 5:44, 45Acts 14:16, 17, etc.’ . . .”

The reformulation of Point II as proposed by them is as follows: 

“There is a restraint of sin, which, within the providence of God, brings about a degree of good order and decency in society. It curbs the dissoluteness of man and makes human society possible, but serve’s especially to defend and preserve the church in the world. This expression is not to be interpreted to mean that there is any essential improvement in the depraved sinner.” 

And as to Point III they propose the following: “Concerning the so-called civic righteousness of the unregenerate, it appears from Scripture and the Confessions that such good is performed by them. This civic good, although acceptable to us and beneficial to society in various ways, and in certain instances characterized by Scripture as ‘good’ and ‘right’ (II Kings 10:29, 30Luke 6:33), but in as far as it is not done from the root of faith, neither according to the law of God, nor to God’s glory, is sinful. Moreover this does not in the least change the sinner’s depravity, neither the need for repentance from dead works, nor does it enable him to turn to God.” 

The reader will no doubt agree that the position of those who left us has changed considerably on the matter of the Three Points as compared with their position expressed in the pamphlet. And we would advise the Christian Reformed Church not to take those who left us too seriously when they object to het puntje van het eerste punt. Analyze that first statement of Rev. De Wolf with which they all agree and you will see that it is much worse, much more Arminian than the Arminianism of the First Point.

—M.S.