THE CHRISTIAN REFORMED SYNOD
This brief summary of the Christian Reformed Synod is not intended to be a complete survey of all the business which was transacted in Pella, Iowa this year. The official reports are not yet available. But some reports on the more crucial issues before Synod have appeared in religious periodicals and we offer the information available. The evidence leads emphatically to the conclusion that this year’s Synod of the Christian Reformed Church took the denomination another big step down the road of apostasy. It was very liberal; it opened the, door yet further to propagation of false doctrine; it approved officially of a degrading form of worldly sin.
One decision was taken on the “Dekker Case.” We shall not enter this matter extensively since this is being done by our editor. It will suffice to make a few observations. The committee which had been appointed to study this whole problem brought a report to Synod which occupied some seventy pages in the printed agenda.
The committee report was not only lengthy, but was also very unclear in many instances, even though in its final recommendations (quoted before in the Standard Bearer) it was condemnatory. An illustration of this was in the committee’s assertion (which was also a concession to Dr. James Daane) that grace is not an attribute of God. It seems to me increasingly clear that at this point we come to the crux of the matter.
However, the Synod decided to refer the entire matter back again to the same committee. Dr. Henry Stob had pleaded in recent issues of the Reformed Journalfor freedom of theological discussion and had pleaded that no binding decisions be taken. This advice was evidently heeded, and the matter continues for another year. A summary of this part of Synod’s work appeared in the RES News Exchange:
The 1966 Synod of the C.R.C. considered a report concerning certain writings of Professor Harold Dekker of Calvin Theological Seminary. .The advisory committee of Synod reported that it deemed the report to express “substantially the Reformed tradition in the areas discussed.” It also judged that the grounds of the recommendations fail to reflect adequately the Biblical and confessional support found in the report. It furthermore pointed out that there are related problems which arise out of this context which need theological clarification and precise statement. Among these were mentioned: the relationship and distinction between the love of God and the grace of God; the relationship between election and the sincere offer of salvation; the specific role which each person of the Trinity has in the atonement and its effectuation in the lives of men; the universal implications of the atonement.
The advisory committee made a serious attempt to reformulate adequately some of the Study Committee’s propositions and to support them with adequate Scriptural and confessional grounds, but this proved to be impossible in view of limited time and research facilities available. The Synod therefore recommitted the report to the Study Committee for further reflection and improvement, taking into account the above observations, and asked the committee to report in 1967.
To all intents and purposes this means that Prof. Dekker’s views will never be condemned by the Christian Reformed Church. His heresy, against which the entire Canons of Dordt were written, shall be allowed to prevail.
The Christian Reformed Church also faced the problem of theistic evolution. This problem was brought to Synod via two overtures which were directed against the teachings of theistic evolution in Calvin College and against the writings of a member of the board of trustees who openly supported this form of evolution. It ought to be understood that this is a matter also of vital interest to the Church, for it does not simply involve the question of creation vs. evolution—a question important enough in its own right; but it also involves the more basic question of the infallibility of Scripture and the absolute authority of Scripture in all matters of faith and practice.
Again Synod hedged. It has long been Synod’s practice to postpone decisions on these prickly questions by referring them to a study committee and thus letting the matter die. This is what was done again with the whole “Dekker Case.” But in this instance Synod invented yet another way to postpone action of any kind. It did not appoint a study committee to come with mature advice to next year’s Synod; rather it appointed a committee of six members to study the question of the constituency of a study committee and the mandate which would be given to such a committee. So this committee will presumably, make preparations for a study committee to be appointed next year. Then the study committee, to be appointed (hopefully) next year will have another one or two years to consider the problem. But even then the purpose of such a study will not be to define the truth of Scripture on this question, but will only be to provide assistance to pastors in counseling their congregations and to serve ecclesiastical assemblies with guidelines.
It seems sometimes as if the Synod wants to postpone consideration of these fundamental questions of the truth until the Lord returns.
The matter of affiliation with the World Council of Churches was also up for consideration. This matter came about because of recent decisions of the Gereformeerde Kerken (a sister church of the Christian Reformed Church). A move was under way in the Christian Reformed Church to warn the Gereformeerde Kerken against affiliation. But the- Synod, never got around to warning her sister denomination in the Netherlands; Instead, this was taken as an opportunity to appoint yet another committee to study the Christian Reformed Church’s own position in. regard to this aspect of the ecumenical movement. The result is that it is entirely conceivable that the Christian Reformed Church shall, in the future, seriously consider membership in the W.C.C.
The World Council of Churches is no place for a denomination of the Reformed faith. It is the one association of Churches which, at present, comes closest to being a universal church and which presents the best avenue to union with Roman Catholicism. Surely there is no need to consider the matter of affiliation with this, apostate organization. That Synod decided to do so bodes ill for the future.
Finally, there was a decision which the Synod took on the matter of movies. A couple of quotations will aptly illustrate what Synod did on this matter.
Christianity Today reports:
After long holding a standoffish position against Hollywood movies, the synod adopted an extensive, positive document on “The Church and the Film Arts.” It asserts, “If our Christian witness is to have relevance and redemptive value in modern society, it is necessary for us to make the meaningful distinction between the film arts as art forms, which are to be judged as legitimate media of culture,” and as “products, which are in each instance to be subjected to the moral judgment of the Christian community.” The report also declares that “although the film arts as a cultural medium is largely under secular control, its products are no more secular than . . . the daily newspaper, the radio, or the literature of our western world, and can be used similarly for cultural edification.” One delegate asserted that the adoption of this document was a clear sign that the CRC has really changed. Another delegate was overheard calling home, “Ma, movies are legal now.”
Concerning this matter, Martin Woudstra writes in theRES News Exchange:
The Synod considered an extensive report on the Christian’s relation to the film and to the world and adopted a set of directives. These directives recognize the film arts as actualized in the cinema and television as a legitimate cultural medium to be used by the Christian in the fulfillment of the cultural mandate. They further recognize that since the film arts are largely under the control and administration of non-Christian agencies, the Christian must exercise a Spirit-guided and enlightened discrimination in the use of the film arts. They state that the Christian should reject and condemn the message of those film art products which sanction sin and subvert the Christian interpretation of life. They declare that it is imperative that the Christian community engage in the constructive critique of the film arts, being led by those who are specialists in art and in Christian ethics. They also formulate a number of declarations with respect to the pastoral task of the church in this area.
From all this it is obvious that the Church made basic concessions in this important field of Christian ethics. It never faced, which, to my mind, is the fundamental question, the problem of drama itself. In a way this was inevitable since participation and attendance in movies and drama have long been advocated and even encouraged in the high schools and Colleges. The matter was not really considered a problem any more. What is ironic about the whole decision is that it was made. When it comes to the calling of the Church to condemn false doctrine, the Church hedges and postpones. When a matter of worldliness is up for approval, the Church jumps at the opportunity to make a decision. It becomes increasingly apparent that the bridge of common grace built across the abyss of the antithesis is made of sturdy stuff—strong enough to lead the Church into the world and the world into the Church.
THE REFORMED CHURCH AND COCU
In the last issue of the Standard Bearer we made reference to the decisions of the SouthernPresbyterian Assembly to join the COCU talks—”Conversations on Church Unity.” This was important for two reasons: 1) The liberals strongly favored it within the Southern Presbyterian Church while the Conservatives were fiercely opposed. This is understandable since the COCU talks embrace churches who retain leaders who deny the truths of the trinity and the virgin birth and deity of Christ. 2) The conservatives were afraid that the decision to join COCU would endanger or, perhaps, scuttle other merger talks with the Reformed Church of America, a denomination considered to be somewhat more conservative.
The fears were entirely unjustified. The Reformed Church not only decided to continue these merger talks with the Southern Presbyterians, but decided to study its own participation in the COCU talks. It is therefore entirely possible that the Reformed Church of America shall, in the not too distant future, join in these super church plans. However, a fraternal letter was sent to the Southern Presbyterians asking for some clarification of their decision.
The other decisions of the Reformed Church had to do mainly with political and social issues, which have become rather standard procedure today for ecclesiastical bodies.
One is amazed how swiftly the Reformed Churches are departing from the faith. How urgent becomes our calling to maintain our heritage without compromise