I still want to come back to, that sentence of the reply to the protest of brother Meninga by the former consistory of the First Church of Kalamazoo: “And therefore, it may be true, but certainly not the truth.”
Camouflage and evasion of the definite truth of Scripture and the Confessions always characterizes heretics.
And this sentence surely shows all the earmarks of camouflage and evasion.
Let us not forget that the truth to which this sentence refers is the very heart of the Declaration of Principles: That the promise of God is unconditional and for the elect alone.
Of this truth of Scripture and the Confessions the former consistory of Kalamazoo declares, first of all, that “it may be true.” They do not say that it is true, but it may be true. This implies, of course, that, as far as they are condemned, it may also be not true. They leave a loophole. They evade the issue. When, later on, someone will say to them: “Once you declared that the promise of God is unconditional and for the elect alone,” they can always say: “No, we never said this; all we said was that this may be true.” And again, when someone approaches them later on and says to them: “Once you denied that the promise of God is for the elect alone and unconditional,” they again can say: “No, we never agreed with this Protestant Reformed truth: all we said was that this may be true.”
This double faced and evasive answer must serve as an answer to a protest!
But the rest of this sentence is worse yet.
For there the former consistory reveals that, after all, they do not believe that the Declaration of Principles is the truth of Scripture and the Confessions. For they declare that, although it may be true, it is not THE TRUTH.
What does this mean?
Remember that this statement concerns the Declaration when it maintains that the promise of God is unconditional and for the elect only. This, the former consistory of Kalamazoo declares is NOT THE TRUTH.
Let us put the most charitable construction upon this statement that is at all possible.
In that case, the former consistory of Kalamazoo meant to say that the contention of the Declaration of Principles that the promise of God is unconditional and for the elect alone “may be true” but it is not the WHOLE truth.
In other words, one can also speak the truth, another part of the truth, when he maintains, that the promise of God is for all and conditional. This is what De Wolf said and emphatically meant when he declared from the pulpit of the First Church of Grand Rapids that God promises to every single one of the hearers in the audience salvation, “if they believe,” i.e., “on condition of faith.” Well, then, according to the former consistory of Kalamazoo, the Declaration states one part of the truth, but the other part is the conditional promise for all.
But this is only more camouflage, for the Declaration of Principles meant exactly, over against the Liberated and all Arminians, to insist that the promise of God is never general but always particular and that it is for the elect only, that this is not part of the truth but the whole of it, and that the Protestant Reformed Churches have always maintained this truth, especially over against the first point of 1924.
We ask: Why could not the former consistory of Kalamazoo be honest with brother Meninga and with the entire church, and answer that they must have nothing of the Declaration of Principles?
Then we could, at least, have respected them.
The same evasion characterizes the last paragraph of this part of the answer by the former consistory of the First Church of Kalamazoo. We will quote it here once more: “That the Declaration of Principles has no bearing on the case in question as is evident from the Preamble of the Declaration which reads as follows: ‘Declaration of Principles, to be used only by the Mission Committee and the Missionaries for the organization of prospective Churches on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions as these have always been maintained in the Protestant Reformed Churches and as these are now further explained in regard to certain principles.'”
The Declaration has no bearing on the case?
If the former consistory of Kalamazoo had said that the statement made by De Wolf from the pulpit of First Church could not officially be judged and condemned on the basis of the Declaration of Principles, but only on the ground of Scripture and the Confession, they would have spoken the truth. And their quotation from the preamble of the Declaration suggests that this is what they meant. Nor did the consistory of the First Church of Grand Rapids, or Classis East ever judge those statements on that basis. Throughout their struggle with De Wolf, they referred to Scripture and the Confessions, and to nothing else.
But this is something quite different from saying that the Declaration has no bearing on the case.
Fact is that the contents of the Declaration are in direct contradiction to the statements by De Wolf. Personally, I am confident that the statements were very consciously made for that very purpose.
Let me once more remind you of the two statements made by De Wolf. The first is: “God promises to every one of you that, if you believe, you shall be saved.” The second is: “Our act of conversion is a prerequisite to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Now, it surely is evident to all that in these statements De Wolf meant to propagate his conditional theology. The first statement proclaims a general conditional promise. The second statement proclaims the entering into the kingdom of heaven on condition that man converts himself.
Anyone that is at all acquainted with the Declaration of Principles knows very well that this document was composed for the very purpose of condemning this conditional theology. To prove this I will take no time or space, for this is unnecessary.
But how the former consistory of Kalamazoo can make the sweeping statement that the Declaration has no bearing on the question is a mystery to me.
It is true that the Declaration was composed for the Mission Board and for the missionaries.
But does the former consistory of Kalamazoo conceive of the possibility that the missionaries in the field proclaim one gospel, that of unconditional salvation for the elect, while the ministers at home preach another gospel (which is no gospel) that of conditional salvation for all? Do they conceive of the possibility that the Mission Board organize churches on the basis of the Declaration of Principles while the church at home repudiates that Declaration?
What sort of a chaos would be the result, do they think?
Is it not crystal clear, then, that the Declaration, although it be no formal basis for the condemnation of the statements by De Wolf, has very direct bearing on the case and that the consistory of the First Church of Grand Rapids could not permit its former pastor openly and publicly to refuse the Declaration of Principles officially adopted by the Church.
Let us proceed to the nest part of the protest and its reply.
Brother Meninga wrote his consistory as follows:
“By action of the consistory, which took the stand of the Rev. De Wolf who was condemned by Classis East for his heretical statements, our consistory separated itself from the true Protestant Reformed Church. The true Protestant Reformed Church loves the God who loves the truth. And this is the truth expressed in the Declaration of Principles.
“Therefore, dear consistory, repent of your sins and go back to the true Protestant Reformed Church, to the glory of God who loves the truth and the Church which is the body of Christ.”
To this final part of the protest the former consistory of Kalamazoo has a very lengthy reply which we shall, D.V., quote and discuss in separate parts.
C. In connection with the second paragraph of your protest where it is maintained that we have severed connection with the Protestant Reformed Churches by the action of the majority of the consistory, we maintain the following:
1. That Rev. De Wolf and his elders were not legally deposed . . . .
a. The meeting of June 23, 1953, at which Rev. De Wolf and 11 elders were supposed to have been deposed, was not a legal consistory meeting.
1) All the consistory members were not notified of that meeting . . . . it was therefore a secret meeting composed only of those members of the consistory who were known to be sympathetic to the position of Rev. H. Hoeksema and to be ready tom vote for the suspension of Rev. De Wolf and the elders that supported him.
a) It is not held that the rest of the consistory had to be present although in view of the fact that the Fourth Consistory was going to be present it might be argued that those members thought worthy of suspension and deposition should be present to present their case to the Fourth Consistory who was supposed to judge in the matter.
b) But a lack of notification to all the legal members of a certain body irrespective of what action they might be thought worthy, certainly invalidates the actions taken at such a meeting.
2) Those present at the meeting did not constitute a majority of the members of the consistory of the First Protestant Reformed Church . . . . from the minutes taken by Mr. G. Stadt at the June 23rd meeting, we quote the following:
a) “Article 2; Present at this meeting are: Reverends Hoeksema and Hanko; Elders S. Veltman, Rev. G.M. Ophoff, G. Bylsma, O. Vander Woude, M. Doezema, D. Rietema, J. Faber, G. Stadt, and G. Vink. Also present, upon our invitation, are Reverends G. Vos and M. Schipper and Elder D. Langeland as representatives of the Classical committee on advice.”
b) “Article 5: Motion is made that the Consistory expresses that the Rev. H. De Wolf is worthy of suspension from his office of minister of the word and sacraments; . . .”
c) “‘Article 6; Motion is made that the Consistory expresses that the following elders of this congregation are hereby declared worthy of deposition from their office;—F. Sytsma, A. Dykstra, G .Sikkema, H. Knott, H. Bastianse. J. Bouwman, W. Stuursma, S. De Young, A. Voss, A. Vermeer, and L. Mulder.”
1) It must be remembered that Mr. John Flikkema was at this time also a member of the consistory. His name appears in neither group.
2) But on the basis of the information contained in the minutes you have a group of 11 elders suspending a deposing a group of 12 . . . members of the same consistory . . . , which can never be legal . . . . the church order always speaks of a majority vote: see decisions under Article 4 (The Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches); also Article 31.
b. Fourth Consistory gave no advice to proceed with deposition as required by Article 79 of the Church Order . . .
1) From stenographic notes of Classis East, we quote Rev. Richard Veldman as follows: “So we came with this decision: ‘It is clear to our Fourth Consistory (we thought we were stating facts) that neither Rev. De Wolf nor the elders involved made the apology demanded by the consistory as advised by Classis.’ That was clear. ‘That Classis advised the consistory to proceed with suspension in case the Rev. De Wolf should refuse to apologize and therefore we said ‘(3) in so far as these facts were concerned and the apology was not made, the consistory has the right, the legal right to proceed with suspension on the basis of the classical decision.’ You don’t need Fourth Consistory for this. ‘However, we are not prepared to say that a consistory meeting could be called legal, that a suspension can be called in order when those involved were not notified.’ ‘(2) . . . .’, another reason why we could not say. My point is this: If I say in English in so far the consistory has the legal right’ and then say ‘however’ then you get a limitation upon that which has been said. As far as the classis is concerned, they had the legal right, if all was all right. We did not say it was all right. We said we don’t know. It must not only be right, but after you have the right, you must do it in the right way; and if you don’t do the right thing in the right way, the right thing becomes wrong. I don’t say it was wrong. We were not ready to say it was legal. If it were not it could not be done, so we said nothing. We could not.”
2) From the same notes: “By no stretch of the imagination was the presentation concerning our Fourth Church the truth and the fair presentation. Rev. Ophoff said, “Why you did nothing.'”
When I read this part of the reply to the protest of brother Meninga I cannot help being amazed, especially for two reasons.
The first is that, tit the October session of Classis East, when all the material concerning this particular phase, of the case was presented and discussed and finally decided in favor of our consistory, neither the Rev. Knott nor his fellow elder-delegate protested and appealed to synod. On that particular day I was not present at classis, but it is safe to say that they did not even open their mouth. It is true, they finally bolted, when they refused to recognize the legal delegates from the consistory of First Church and refused to submit even with the right of appeal to the decision of classis. But they never protested legally as was not only their right, but also their obligation before God.
The second reason why I am amazed when I read this is the awful corruption and distortion of the facts in the case, a distortion which is effected by quoting the facts only in part.
This is done in spite of the fact the former consistory of Kalamazoo was thoroughly acquainted with all the facts!
For all the facts were in detail reported to the October classis.
Moreover, all the facts have been published black on white.
Let me present them once more.
The former consistory of Kalamazoo presents the flimsy ground that the consistory meeting of the First Church, held on June 23, 1953, was not a legal consistory meeting, and that De Wolf and his elders were not suspended and deposed by a majority vote.
But let us have all the facts.
Then we must begin by the consistory meeting of June 1.