A LOUD, CLEAR PROTEST
One aspect of the controversies within the Christian Reformed Church which has deeply troubled many within and outside that denomination is the absence of any effective opposition to the liberalism which is troubling the church. Often the fervent wish is expressed that someone could act as an articulate and forceful spokesman for conservatism and orthodoxy. At times, it is true, various voices of protest have been raised against the evils in the church. But these voices have often been bland and weak, urging only caution and restraint. While the grievous doctrinal errors which threaten the church require voices strong and clear, courageous in the defense of the faith and in the condemnation of evil. When one’s house is burning down, it will not do to reflect upon whether the fire is really as grave a threat as is imagined; it is not sufficient to call for an investigating committee to inquire into the seriousness of the fire. It is not even adequate merely to whisper hoarsely: “Fire, Fire.” All efforts must be put forth to extinguish the blaze.
But now and then such a loud and clear voice is heard calling out to the church concerning the dangers which threaten her. One such article recently appeared in the Torch and Trumpet written by Merle Meeter, professor at Dordt College, and entitled “The Winds Of Change.” He points to various liberal writings which have appeared in the Reformed Journal and exposes their evils.
In the first part of the article, Meeter attacks the influence of Bultmann in the Seminary of the Christian Reformed Church. Commenting on an article by Bastian Van Elderen (professor of New Testament in the Seminary), he points out that Van Elderen is ready to concede that Bultmann has made a considerable contribution to Biblical hermeneutics:
Such commendation of neo-orthodox paganism has become fashionable. It seems that orthodox theologians are not worth quoting anymore; only those who deny Christ’s deity can afford us valuable insights into theological truth. One cannot repress the text: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. . . for. . . what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
Meeter further points out that Van Elderen has increasingly adopted the “Sitz-im-Leben idea” which maintains “that the Biblical writers were limited in knowledge by their cultural and historical situations, and that some of their consequent, inevitable misinterpretations of reality and that some of their naive misconceptions have been perpetuated in the Bible.”
With this low view of the inspired writers, of course, Van Elderen can hardly defend the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures. Nor is it inexplicable that, as a result, young men in their classical examinations should ask brightly: “Do you want a theological or a scientific answer?” A young Christian Reformed minister said to me a few summers ago: “Of course, you know the Bible’s not infallible. Words crumble….”
Meeter continues by referring to an article in which John Timmer and William La Fleur (Christian Reformed missionaries to Japan) defended the multiple authorship of the prophecy of Isaiah. (This is an old modernist position which is intended to deny that the passages in Isaiah — especially the ones referring to Cyrus and the return from captivity — are prophetic. It is taught by these modernists that the second part of Isaiah was written by someone other than Isaiah who lived after the return from captivity and was speaking of past events.) Meeter rejects this view which Timmer and La Fleur propounded and writes:
And now our missionaries come before us excitedly dragging the mouldering corpse that they have exhumed.
Meeter writes too about the late Peter Berkhout’s plea for theistic evolution. Berkhout had argued it was impossible to obtain a Ph.D. unless one believed in some form of evolution. This Meeter denies, pointing to several professors in Dordt. Berkhout had also pleaded that the young people in the church clamor for such revision of the church’s position. Meeter comments:
Irrefutable logic . . . . Some young people are clamoring for the right to premarital sexual experimentation; shall we stop trying to suppress that natural “truth”?
Lewis Smedes had joined with those who desire the church to become a member of the World Council of Churches. Smedes considered the W.C.C. “as the only really ecumenical movement in our world and in the light of that fact it must be evaluated as the best answer available to our Lord’s undeniable demand for unity among his people and his flock.” Meeter will have none of this:
Does Smedes know what the “plain Christianity” of the W.C.C. means? It means social, economic, and political ideals, not the Gospel message to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Savior; it means consorting with many denominations that sanction avowed humanists, agnostics, and atheists in their memberships; it means being joined with men who smirk indecently at the Virgin Birth, who grimace with loathing at the blood Atonement, who guffaw with derision at the historical, bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus. This is the “plain” Christianity that we are to accept and oppose to secularism. What conceivable form of secularism could be more heinous than the blasphemies countenanced by the World Council of Churches?
. . . Smedes’ approbation is plain. But God save us from going to the devil to find our unity.
On the Dekker case, Meeter is astounded that even though Dekker, in order to defend his position, admitted to the study committee that “the atonement as such has no efficacy” nevertheless the Synod refused to treat the matter and postponed action. This was following advice offered before Synod in the Reformed Journal. And this advice was given on the basis of the contention of Henry Stob and others that complete doctrinal freedom should be permitted in the church. Meeter concludes that this was really also the position of Synod.
Everyone who has experienced Synodical workings acknowledges that the contingent, who chorus: “Theology is a science!” and “Make way for free inquiry!”, successfully effected procedural delay by gaining postponement. For in another year a new flock of theologically befuddled young men (For Dekker, of course, continues to propound his views, unimpeded by any interim ecclesiastical restriction) will be boosted aboard the bandwagon of the detractors. Also in that year, a few more old laymen who have studied, understood, and professed the Biblically-grounded Confessions of the Church will die.
Finding that James Daane and Harry Boer are also a part of this plea for theological freedom, he writes:
. . . Behind James Daane and Harold Dekker are Lewis Smedes purveying his incipient universalism.. .; and Harry Boer, who adroitly presents his allegations against the doctrine of reprobation “in the form of a report.”
Meeter ends his article by speaking of the growing opposition to these heresies and praying that God will preserve the church from them.
There will, no doubt, be some within the church who find this article “harsh, unbrotherly, lacking in charity” etc.; but we find it a refreshingly courageous condemnation of the evils in that denomination. It is not in the hope of trouble for troubles sake that we write this; but in the hope that this kind of trouble will alert the church to her dangers and be a first step towards a return to the faith. But there must be more of such writing, and it must be followed by ecclesiastical action.
A REPUDIATION OF DORDT
A news item appeared in a recent Newsletter of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod which we quote:
The Synod of the Netherlands Reformed Church (Hervormde Kerk) decided earlier this month at its meeting in Driebergen, the Netherlands, to establish closer ties with the Remonstrant Churches. The Remonstrant Churches have their origin in the dispute in the years 1618 – 19 when the Reformed churches adopted the Canons of Dordt which set forth the biblical doctrines on the depravity of man and God’s election and sovereign grace. The ‘closer ties’ mean that a remonstrant minister may conduct services and administer the sacraments in a Netherlands Reformed Church and is also eligible to receive a call to one of the Netherlands Reformed Churches. He may even serve there as a pastor for a certain length of time. The decision was taken after an extended debate in which it was said that either the proposal to establish closer ties would have to be rejected or the Canons of Dordt would have to be changed or rejected. The proposal was adopted by a vote of 35 to 6.
The Hervormde Kerk still officially stands on the basis of the Canons of Dordt; but this was evidently ignored by the Synod even though it was called to their attention. Dordt means nothing to them anymore.
But we cannot help but wonder whether the same decision could not be taken by other Reformed churches both in the Netherlands and in our own country. In these Reformed churches the doctrines of the Remonstrants (Arminians) are openly held: Billy Graham is supported, reprobation is denied, no censure is applied to those who maintain universal atonement, etc. It is just possible that these Remonstrant ministers would preach very similar sermons to what are now being heard rather generally in the Reformed churches.