...

Among the grounds which are given for the adoption of the Declaration there is, first of all, the assertion that it is based solidly on our Confessions and hence that it offers nothing new. Now although I may believe and endorse these statements they do not yet present a ground or give a reason why the Declaration should be adopted. As statements of fact they do justify and defend the Declaration as such, but do not offer grounds for its adoption. In fact, they rather suggest a reason not to adopt the Declaration. For since the Declaration offers nothing new and is merely the clear and simple expression of the Confessions, we have no need of the Declaration—our present Confessions are sufficient.

There is, in the second place, the Church political argument. It is claimed that the Declaration came into being in the regular ecclesiastical way as the result of Synodical action upon the request of the Mission Committee; which is a Synodical committee performing duties which concern the Churches in general and, hence, directly responsible to Synod. To bolster this argument an appeal is made to the cases of the Rev. Bultema and Prof. Janssen which also resulted in Synodical action and declaration upon points of doctrine. I believe, however, that it has been shown that in presenting the Declaration, Synod did not fulfill the request of the Mission Committee but rather went beyond its mandate and presented an entirely new and different document than that which was requested. It should be evident that the Declaration of Principles is not a form for the organization of Churches for which the Mission Committee asked. Hence, the request of the Mission Committee, which is not answered by the Declaration, cannot be a ground for the present Declaration. (See also article in Standard Bearer of Jan. 15 entitled: “Among The Immigrants”.)

But apart from this it may even be granted that the Declaration is Church-politically proper before our Churches. Technically, perhaps, it is true that no rule of our Church Order has been violated. But certainly the procedure is highly irregular. In fact, the appeal to the Bultema and Janssen cases, rather than proving the regularity, emphasizes exactly the irregularity in the case of the Declaration. In the cases of both the Rev. Bultema and Dr. Janssen specific charges were brought against specific individuals regarding specific false teachings; upon which Synod acted and declared itself. And they came through the proper channels; in the Bultema case of Consistory, Classis and Synod and in the case of Prof. Janssen, of Curatorium and Synod. In fact in the latter case the complainants were at first rebuked for failing to come in the proper way.

Therefore, even though it may be granted that the Declaration is Church-politically proper it can hardly be said that the way it came was regular, but, on the contrary, quite irregular. And again, even though we may be able to maintain that technically the Church Order was not violated this is not yet ground for the adoption of the Declaration. Just because it is Church-politically correct does not yet answer the question why we should have it and cannot be a ground. On the other hand, the irregularity of the way in which it came into being should caution us.

In close connection with the above it is argued that the Declaration, will serve as a clear and sound basis for the organization of Churches. One might ask in this connection whether the implication here is that Scripture and our present Confessions are not such a clear and sound basis. But that they are has been abundantly proven by the many fine Protestant Reformed Churches that have been organized upon the clear and sound basis of Scripture and the Confessions. Our strength of appeal has always lain in the fact that we are able to prove upon the basis of Scripture and the Confessions that others have departed from this clear and sound basis. Neither does the appeal to the history of the congregation in Hamilton substantiate this argument but rather proves again that the Declaration is not necessary. It has been publicly stated on more than one occasion that the history in Hamilton has nothing to do with the Declaration. And; in the second place, the case is Hamilton is being disposed of without, and apart from, the Declaration; revealing again that our present Confessions are entirely adequate to cover specific cases. Hence, it would seem, that the Hamilton history exactly proves that we do not need the Declaration to maintain distinctiveness.

Furthermore, I believe it has already become evident that a great objection to the Declaration is its lack of clarity. Because of this it has aroused much discussion and many questions within our own circles. And even though it might be quite clear to us as Protestant Reformed people it is certainly questionable whether it is clear and unambiguous for those who are without and for those for whom it is intended. That it is not so clear and simple is attested by the discussion that it has aroused also in the Netherlands.

Two grounds that are closely connected with one another are that the Declaration will serve as a testimony of our adherence to the Reformed faith and that it will also safeguard encroachments thereupon. But again this cannot be a ground or reason for its adoption. Our Confessions express that the marks of the True Church (i.e. that which is her testimony and witness to those that are without) are the pure preaching of the Word, the proper administration of the sacraments and the faithful exercise of Christian discipline. And where these three are exercised there Christ gathers, defends and preserves His Church. On the other hand, if these are neglected, no amount of declaring will avail one wit. Hence, I consider these arguments a reflection upon the preaching in our Churches and upon the faithfulness of our consistories, as well as an implication that our Reformed Confessions are adequate. And this is in contradiction to all of our history as well as that of the historically Reformed Church since its inception.

Finally, it is stated that the Declaration will serve as a basis and starting-point for correspondence, especially with the Reformed Churches (Art. 31). However, once again this cannot be a ground, nor was it the purpose of this Declaration. For in this connection we should notice the following. In the first place, the original plan of the Committee of Correspondence was to visit the Netherlands last summer hence, before the Declaration could have been adopted or used for the purpose of establishing such correspondence. For this reason alone it is evident that this cannot be a valid ground for adopting the Declaration.

In the second place, it is also evident from the last Synodical Acts that Synod never intended the Declaration for this purpose. Further, that Synod exactly did not so desire to proceed in the matter of correspondence. For along with the suggestion that the Committee be sent to the Netherlands was the request for a definite mandate. However, Synod decided in a substitute motion (substitute for giving definite instructions and charge): “to express that this committee . . . discuss the question of correspondence with the deputies in the Netherlands”. (Acts, 1950, Art. 97, page 78). This would certainly seem to indicate that Synod did not desire to send its Committee to the Netherlands with a pre-declared basis but rather that the Committee would discuss the possibility and basis for correspondence through mutual contact with the Netherlands deputies. This also was evidently in the mind of the Committee itself when they state in their report, in connection with the suggestion that they be sent to the Netherlands, that the purpose would be to “talk to the brethren over there in order that we might, if possible, come to a better, fuller and clearer understanding and appreciation of each other as churches”. Once again, therefore, this cannot be a ground for the adoption of the Declaration.

We must conclude that the question why we should adopt the Declaration still remains, for such action would be a departure from the official status quo and a departure from the sound and worthy tradition of the true, historical Reformed Church of over 300 years standing.