Our editor has been commenting on the study committee report to the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church. I have no intention of duplicating that. I would only present part of the report as found in the Grand Rapids Press, June 18,1980:
The Synod of the Christian Reformed Church Tuesday turned back a challenge by a Grand Rapids minister to a 350-year-old church tradition concerning salvation.
The ruling body of the C.R.C. in North America, meeting this week at Calvin College, refused a request by the Rev. Harry Boer…to proclaim the theory of reprobation—concerning the divine election and rejection of persons for salvation—nonbonding in church doctrine.
The change is fine, theological point, and as the Rev. Carl Tuyl of Toronto put it, reprobation is “not something people talk about over coffee.” But the change would have meant rejecting a basic tenet of the Christian Reformed Church which dates back at least to the 1600’s.
The 152 delegates spent Tuesday morning discussing Rev. Boer’s official grievance—known as a gravamen—and then rejected it by a voice vote.
The idea that some persons are elected to faith is basic to Christian Reformed belief. Rev. Boer contends that election implies that God rejects others out of hand, without regard to their merits or demerits.
But Rev. Tuyl, who spoke for an advisory committee on the issue, maintained that the idea of rejection does not necessarily follow from the idea of election. He said a person must earn rejection or condemnation by God…
Note especially that last paragraph. Let anyone compare that with the traditional teaching of the Christian Reformed Church, let him compare that with Berkhof, let him compare that with what the Canons actually teach. A certain general is supposed to have said, after losing half his army in a victorious battle, “Another victory like this, and we will have nothing left.” So in the C.R.C.: apparently the Canons are vindicated—but at the cost of a new interpretation which effectively destroys what the Canons teach concerning reprobation. One more such victory, and the whole cause would be lost—if it is not already
It seems that when our books are reviewed in theBanner, inevitably Dr. James Daane is asked to write the review. This is true again in the June 13, 1980 issue of the Banner in which he reviews the recently published book, God’s Eternal Good Pleasure by Rev. Herman Hoeksema. His comments are not only interesting with respect to the book itself, but also some of his recollections of the past. The review is interesting, too, from the point of view that it comes precisely at the time the Christian Reformed Synod was treating Boer’s Gravamen concerning reprobation. Dr. Daane fully supports Boer’s position—and rejects the teachings of Rev. H. Hoeksema as these appear in the book. This he has to say:
By any standard, these are sermons of substance, and quite unlike much current pulpit fluff. In the late 193Os, Herman Hoeksema preached a series of sermons on the Epistle to the Romans. I recall hearing many of them, a fact that so disturbed the Christian Reformed classis from which I was being supported at the rate of $200 a year that a committee visited me to inquire whether I was using CRC money to prepare for ministry in the Protestant Reformed churches. What disturbed them then theologically, disturbs me now but seems to disturb them no longer.
This book contains H. Hoeksema’s sermons on
through 11. They reveal a concept of divine sovereignty which still lies deep in the CRC soul, namely, that Gods sovereignty explains all that happens in this world and the dual outcome of the world’s history. Even the 1980 Study Committee’s report on Dr. H. Boer’s gravamen cannot wholly shake loose the idea that God is at least the “insufficient cause” of the reprobate’s unbelief. Somehow deep in the CRC and the PR theology lies the notion that in Biblical thought divine sovereignty means that God is, in one fashion or another, the cause and thus also the explanation of man’s sin and unbelief.
These sermons also reveal the theologically dominant notion in both CRC and PR theology that election is individualistic and thus excludes the Biblical idea of corporate election. Hoeksema with a sweep of the hand dismisses the idea that Jacob and Esau can stand for nations, and that in Paul’s thought they are not mere individuals. After all, says Hoeksema, “Is not a nation composed of the sum total of its individual members?” This sounds much more like the Baptistic John Locke, or American individualism thought, than that of the Bible. In Biblical thought, election is always informed by the structure of the covenant, the interconnection between “Abraham and his seed,” and the unity of Christ with the nation of Israel. When Paul says that “They are not all Israel,” the second “Israel” refers to unbelieving, rejected individuals, but the first “Israel” is obviously more and something other than a number of Israelite individuals, namely, the elect nation of Israel is no more merely the sum of its parts than the Church, as God’s elect, and the Body of Christ, is the mere sum of its parts. (In Biblical thought, even ordinary marriage in which two become one flesh is not the mere sum of its parts. In a recent Standard Bearer, its editor, the Rev. Homer Hoeksema, expressed his total inability to understand what I meant by the corporate election of Israel as a nation.) But until this is recognized, both the CRC and the PRC can reduce election to a numbers game. Had the PRC played this game more diplomatically and less belligerently, I think they would have made serious inroads into the membership of the CRC.
I recommend this book to the CRC readership. It may learn something about itself from which it may wish to rid itself.
Interesting! It may be also that the CRC- readership might find in this book that which attracts—for it does indeed emphasize the old Reformed truths which once were held in high esteem in the CRC as well. Obviously, Daane recognizes within the CRC many who still believe the traditional Reformed truths—which we believe to be Scriptural. But Daane considers these, obviously, to be in the minority. Perhaps he is correct.
One wonders, too, what might have happened had Daane not been reprimanded by a classical committee about too frequent attendance at the Protestant Reformed Church. He seemed attracted then to that which now constantly disturbs him.
A reader in Australia sent in a clipping from a paper there which points out the growing unity within churches—but a unity not based on oneness in the faith. The article states:
Three Toorak churches yesterday confirmed a unique ecumenical agreement which brings close cooperation between the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Uniting Church congregations.
The agreement, which is believed to be the first of its type in Australia, allows for regular joint-worship, monthly meetings of ministers and combined community work.
A joint meeting of the congregations in St. Peter’s Catholic Church yesterday formally accepted the scheme.
The three congregations have been working together for some time, but the formal agreement established guidelines for local ecumenical agreement
…The minister for the Uniting Church…said yesterday that the agreement put into practice what had been discussed at higher levels of the church. It was the first time he knew of it happening in Australia.
“We are sharing our convictions and moving closer together in human terms. We recognize and accept each other.”
“There were probably 600-700 people there in St. Peter’s. It was standing room only,” he said.
“We have now affirmed our intention to continue and deepen our relationship.”
From Liberty, May/June 1980, published by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the following interesting article appeared (written by Gordon Engen):
I can hear it now:
“All right, fifth grade. Today we are going to cover word meanings and usages by two groups you find on pages 547 and 654 of Volume XIX of your manual from the state department of education. The first part of your assignment was to develop a list of words used only by women. Then you were to list usages by women that differ from those used by men. You were to do the same for the religious minorities in the world from the list you found in appendix WZ. Now, how many of you have completed—–?”
This is no hare-brained bit of speculation dreamed up by some fanatic or reactionary or inventor of wild rumors.
If Michigan Senate Bill No. 358 should become law, stranger things than the above fantasy could take place. Mind you, S.B. 358 seeks only to amend a law (Section 380.1174 of the Compiled Laws of 1970) that already provides for such an assignment.
The current law says, “The state board may develop guidelines for expanding the existing school curriculum to include materials on the culture of ethnic, religious, and racial minority peoples, and the contributions of women, as defined by the state board…for grades K to 12 in every public or nonpublic school. The guidelines shall include (a) History and heritage of, …living conditions, beliefs and customs of, …problems and prejudices encountered by, …word meaning and usages as employed by, …culturally-related attitudes and behavior of ethnic, religious, racial minorities and women.”
Bill No. 358 would change may to shall in the introduction and mandates that “the guidelines shall be incorporated into a regular course of instruction in which every pupil shall be involved for not less than two years.”
Can you imagine a kindergartner in a Michigan Catholic parochial school learning about the beliefs, customs, and word meanings and usages of the Hare Krishnas, or the Moonies, or the Hindus?
…What would high school seniors be taught regarding the living conditions and beliefs of religious minorities? Which religions would be chosen? Which left out? Who would be certain they were correctly portrayed? How would so-called cults be treated? Who would distinguish between so-called cults and “legitimate” religions?….
Some of these laws, long on the books, now being amended (often without our being aware of what is being done), are of a nature that could soon make it impossible to continue to operate our Christian Schools. Let us use wisely and diligently what we have while we may—before those days come when the state makes such demands which might make continued operation of our schools impossible.