In the past, as anyone will be able to verify when he peruses the volumes of the Standard Bearer, we have been accustomed to direct our criticism to others, rather than to ourselves.

The object of our criticism was often the Christian Reformed Church and its publications; especially the Three Points and anything that was connected with their pernicious doctrine was the object of our attack frequently. Yet, we did not confine ourselves to this. If we peruse the volumes of our Standard Bearer in the past, we will notice that our criticism, both positive and negative, was rather wide and varied. It included also, and especially, a judgment and evaluation of many controversies in the Old Country—particularly, of course, in the Reformed Churches there.

Now, it was but natural that in our early history our critical attention should be directed to others, rather ourselves. This must not be attributed to the fact that we were, or thought ourselves as churches, perfect, and that there was nothing to criticize within them. But we were in our first love; and, in that first love, we were apt to overlook our own faults. Besides, as newly established churches, cast out by the Christian Reformed Church connection, we had been so maltreated and suffered so much injustice, that we felt very much inclined to concentrate all our attention upon those that had inflicted this injustice upon us. Nor may our attitude, especially over against the Christian Reformed Churches, ever be different than critical as long as they do not officially repent of their evil works, and as long as they do not retract the dangerous and pernicious doctrine embodied in the Three Points. We are not of those that are inclined to forget the past; still less do we condone the attitude of those that for any reason can leave our churches and join the Christian Reformed Churches. What was for us the truth in 1924 is still the truth today: never may we compromise; always we must be watchful and militant.

Now, however, since we have passed the age of our first youth, and, the Lord willing, will celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of our churches next year, it may be well and salutary to cast a look at ourselves. No doubt, we are old and experienced enough by this time to stand a little well-meant, brotherly, and upbuilding criticism. And how could criticism passed by the Standard Bearer upon our own churches ever be anything but brotherly and well-meant, and positive and upbuilding criticism. Moreover, if the critical remarks of Standard Bearer should be judged to be out of place and unfair, anyone can set himself to write a well-founded and well-motivated contradiction.

And then I want to subsume my remarks under the heading placed above this article, “A Tendency Toward Individualism”.

By this I mean a tendency to go one’s own individual way rather than to work in unison as churches. A tendency, moreover, to ignore or to forget the decisions of the churches in general, reached in their major assemblies; a tendency that is often rooted in lack of historical knowledge and a certain disrespect for historical precedent. This evinces no evil intentions on our part; on the contrary, we are all equally zealous for the cause which our churches represent, and certainly seek their welfare. But that this tendency exists, nevertheless is true; and, it cannot but be harmful to our churches in the long run. As a denomination we are very small, and we need to unite all our efforts and all our resources to become strong and to accomplish effective work. As an illustration of what I mean, I may point first of all to the new system of catechetical instruction that has been introduced in some of our congregations. Thus I read in the bulletin of my own congregation, the First Prot. Ref. Church of Grand Rapids; “For some classes the lesson material has been changed. We have planned to begin teaching doctrine at an earlier age.” The proposed change is rather important. It seems that our children will be taught the Biblical History only during the ages of 6 to 9 years; while from the age of 10 until the time that they make confession of faith they will be taught nothing but doctrine.

Now, it is my purpose to point out first of all that this is an illustration of what I call a tendency toward individualism in our churches. It ignores entirely the decision of a major assembly, I think it was by the general classis, before our churches organized as synod, that a committee was appointed to compose catechism books on Biblical history. The committee consisted of the Reverend J. De Jong, the Reverend P. De Boer, and myself. The proposed schedule of the new system of catechetical instruction ignores this decision completely, and also ignores the work of the committee, especially of Reverend P. De Boer, particularly as far as his books on Sacred History for Seniors are concerned. The result is, too, that hundreds of dollars worth of catechism books are put out of use; and this money was supplied by a private fund, which the undersigned happened to have, and which was given to him for the special purpose of books for instruction in our churches.

In view of this, and in view of the former decision and work which was accomplished by the committee, it would have been but proper to submit the new system to consistory, classis, and synod before it was introduced into our churches by private and individual initiative.

Besides, the new system is based on a mistaken notion of proper catechetical instruction and of instruction in Biblical History. I appreciate the fact, of course, that the writers of those new catechism books, as well as those that are in favor of introducing them, are motivated by the desire to instruct our children and our youth thoroughly in the Protestant Reformed truth; and for this I will give them credit. I nevertheless think that it is a serious mistake; and, as I said, it is an illustration of individualism, when something so radically new is introduced into our churches without the advice of our major assemblies.

Why did the Lord give us such a large part of His revelation in the form of history, if it was not His purpose to instruct our children, the children of the covenant, thoroughly in the works which He has accomplished for our salvation in the past? Moreover, and in close connection with this, all the main doctrines of the church, as revealed in the Bible, are historical and should be thoroughly taught in their historical form, in order, before we teach our own system of doctrine. What else are we taught in so-called Biblical History but the truths of creation and the fall, the truth of the covenant, the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Israel; the giving of the law, the apostacy of the old covenant people, and their rejection in the end? What else are we taught than the great doctrine of predestination as manifest in the line of Seth and Cain, the line of Shem and Ham, the line of Abraham and the nations, in the line of Jacob and Esau, in the line of the children of the promise and the children of the flesh? Besides, are not all the great truths concerning our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ taught in the historical form in Scripture? I mean such truths as the incarnation and the cross and the atonement, the resurrection and the exaltation, the truths of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost and the establishment of the Church of the new dispensation: all these truths are revealed in Scripture, not in the form of a dogmatics system, but in the form of historical facts, revealing to us how God established His covenant and kingdom in the ages of the past. Besides, are we to omit and to ignore such important parts of Scripture as the miracles and the parables of Jesus and the discourses of our Lord and of the apostles? On the contrary; especially the older children should be taught all these things and become acquainted with the riches of Scripture as the living Word of God, rather than with the dead intellectualism of cold dogmatic system.

Nor should it be said that we can safely leave the instruction in Biblical History to the Christian School. For apart from the fact that many of our Christian School teachers are not competent to teach Biblical History in a proper way, the children of our own Protestant Reformed Churches should be instructed by the church.

Looking over the new system and the proposed books for catechetical instruction, I venture to predict, in the first place, that during the ten years of proposed doctrinal instruction our catechumens will find so much repetition of the same things that in the end they will get weary of that instruction. And, in the second place, I predict that by the new system we make little dead intellectualists and dogmaticians, rather than believers that live from the Bible as the living Word of God.