From The Banner we have learned that the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands have adopted a decision which favors membership in the World Council of Churches.
The World Council of Churches is the largest ecumenical council of Protestant Churches, and perhaps also the most liberal—although the National Council of Churches in this country runs a close second. It is an organization that accepts into its membership practically any kind of denomination with any kind of religious belief. The range extends all the way from the Russian Orthodox Church (which many accuse of being a tool of Communist conspiracy against the free world) to outright Modernists from this country.
Prior to its meeting in New Delhi, India in 1961, the Council’s doctrinal basis read: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of Churches which accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior.” The doctrinal basis was changed at New Delhi (a change that some claimed was formulated by Visser ‘t Hooft, the former head of the Council on the back of a scrap of paper in a restaurant in Russia during conversation with a Russian Orthodox prelate) to read: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of Churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior, according to the Scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
There were many more conservatively inclined churchmen who considered this somewhat of a victory in that it was just a bit more explicit about fundamental evangelical doctrines. But the Council had absolutely no intention of returning to any conservative line with this change; for it retained another decision which explained this doctrinal basis in a very liberal way. This decision reads: “As its brevity shows, the basis is an affirmation of the Christian faith of the participating churches, and not a creedal test to judge churches or persons. It is an affirmation of the Incarnation and the Atonement. The Council desires to be a fellowship of those churches which accept these truths. But it does not concern itself with the manner in which the churches interpret them. It will therefore be the responsibility of each particular church to decide whether it can collaborate on this basis.”
There are thousands of liberal churches which deny the divinity of Christ and the blood of atonement who can and who actually have accepted this basis and joined the WCC. It means absolutely nothing.
The decision of the Gereformeerde Kerken reads as follows, (quoted from The Banner):
The Synod declared . . . that, when one keeps in mind the special character of the World Council as an attempt to make the fallen and divided church in the whole world fulfill the requirements of her mandate and being, and (if one considers) the basis of the World Council of Churches, namely, in its form as modified in New Delhi in 1961, how it can serve as the basis of this particular ecumenical relationship, and (when one observes) the manner in which its basis functions according to the data provided to the Synod (he should see) that there is no decisive hindrance for the Reformed (Gereformeerde) Churches to join the World Council of Churches.”
We have come to expect from the churches in the Netherlands increasing evidences of apostasy. There, where the truth of the Reformation was valiantly defended, where the Reformed Churches in this country have their spiritual origin, apostasy has become increasingly apparent. No wonder that the editor of The Banner (for the Christian Reformed Church has sister relationships with the Gereformeerde Kerken) gently chides the Netherlands Churches. He writes:
It is this writer’s considered judgment that we will serve them best if we tell them in love, with carefully adduced evidence, and also in no uncertain terms of our convictions that they have not spoken according to the Word, and that it is our hope and prayer that they will reconsider the position they have taken.
A gentle chiding is really not enough. But then the Christian Reformed Church also has within her fellowship certain proponents of membership in the WCC.
Another evidence of the speedy apostasy of the Netherlands Churches is to be found in the growth of evolutionistic views within the Church.
In the 1920s (1926 to be exact), a certain Dr. Geelkerken was deposed from the ministry by the Synod of Assen and his views condemned when he taught that the first three chapters of Genesis were not necessarily historically true. He doubted, specifically, whether there really were such trees as the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Paradise.
But these views so shortly ago condemned by the Gereformeerde Kerken are now openly taught in the Universities and in the churches. And in fact, many have gone beyond these views. Dr. Ridderbos defends what he calls a “Framework Hypothesis,” which, in effect, also denies the literal historical truth of the creation narrative and substitutes a view that maintains that there is only one single truth taught inGenesis 1: the truth that God created everything. Just how and in how long a time he did that is not revealed in Genesis. It must be learned through science.
Dr. Lever goes even beyond this and openly espouses evolutionism. He will not condemn the view that man descended from the animal world, although he does not want to maintain it as being certain. He wants to leave room for both possibilities. His hesitation is a subterfuge.
Dr. Manten carries the whole thing to its end and openly accepts the entire structure of evolutionary thought; and Dr. Van der Linden has taken it upon himself evidently to bring Dr. Manten’s views in harmony with Scripture—or Scripture in harmony with these views.
And all are members in good standing in the church.
Recently however, Rev. Delleman, a student chaplain in the University of Gronigen, asked the Synod through a formal letter, whether the Reformed Churches were still bound by the decision of the Synod of Assen in 1926 concerning Dr. Geelkerken.
If Article 31 of the Church Order is still in force in these churches, there surely was no need of asking the question; but the church’s failure to do anything about these views evidently is making people wonder. Anyway, Synod did not answer that it was; it rather appointed a committee to study the whole matter and report to the next Synod.
What a strange decision. But it appears as if the Gereformeerde Kerken what to change their stand about Geelkerken.
In commenting upon all this Dr. Klass Runia and Rev. Gerard Van Groningen co-author several articles inThe Banner. The whole issue these men consider important also for the Christian Reformed Church. And indeed it is. For in that denomination the “Framework Hypothesis” is fast gaining adherents; and the theory of some form of evolution is taught in Calvin College, many of the existing high schools, and grade schools that have predominantly Christian Reformed parental support. And it is being preached (or at least the traditional view is being questioned) from the pulpits.
These two men are at some pains to establish the orthodox position—particularly that the first chapter of Genesis (and succeeding chapters as well) must be taken literally and historically.
We are grateful that there are those in the Christian Reformed Church who are trying to maintain the truth on this important point of doctrine.
But . . . .
When it comes down to the decisive issue—the issue of whether or not the days of the creation week were days of 24 hours, the authors of the above articles, hesitate, stumble and fall.
Shall we then take
literally, for example, day means twenty-four hours, as the whole story seems to suggest? (cf. “there was evening and there was morning”). In the days of the Geelkerken conflict, men like Bavinck and Aalders, and since then Reformed scholars like Noordtzij and Ridderbos, find it too difficult to answer with an outright yes as, did Dr. V. Hepp and Prof. Louis Berkhof. We today, too, should hesitate in accepting a literal interpretation of
for this categorically rules out too much material the scientist places before us, material we must deal with openly, courageously.
How sad. Cannot these brethren see that they have capitulated to Geelkerken, Ridderbos, Manten, et. al. with this seemingly minor hesitation? Cannot they see that it is just the little toehold that is needed to bring the whole theory of evolutionism into the Churches? Cannot they understand that this is exactly a principalconcession that has led to all the trouble? Why hesitate and draw back? Then, even as in battle, all is after all lost at the moment of victory.
This ought to be obvious.
If the word “day” cannot be taken literally in Genesis 1, what assurance is there that any single part of Genesis 1(or Genesis 2 and Genesis 3 and Genesis 4 —and the rest of the book) ought to be taken literally? It has to be either all literal, historical narrative, or there is nothing at all literal about it any more. There is no sound reason either in the text or under the rules of sound Reformed exegesis for taking parts of the chapter literally and parts symbolically.
Besides, it is once again obviously a question of the relation between science and Scripture. The authors write that they dare not adopt a literal meaning of the word “day” because “this categorically rules out too much material the scientist places before us.” Whether this is true or not is highly doubtful. But this is not the point. The point is that even if a literal interpretation would rule out science, Scripture is the rule of faith and life. Not science. And this is after all the fundamental question: Are we ready to bow unreservedly before the final and absolute authority of Scripture? or are we going to make science (and man’s reason therefore) an additional authority? Are we going to let Scripture speak to us? or are we going to insist arrogantly on our right to speak to Scripture?
The authors want courage to face the questions of science. Fine. But before we can have this, we must have the humility to bow before the Word of God.
The WCC recently carried on a study of church mergers. They discovered that there are at present 38 separate negotiations involving 102 churches in 30 countries striving for church union. Strikingly, of these 38, there are 12 negotiations going on between churches who stand on the same confessional basis. An example of this is the talks going on between the Reformed Church in America and the Presbyterian Church US (Southern). Other merger talks are between churches with different confessional bases and with different church political structures.
The report is rather pleased to see that there is such a swing away from union between confessionally similar churches to union between confessionally different churches. In the past 40 years there have been 37 church unions, 25 of which were between churches with the same or similar confessions.
The pleasure of the report is based upon the fact that this must be an indication that the deeper differences which separate churches are being discussed in the hope of bringing about more radical unions.
The fact is that in most, if not all, mergers, the emphasis on doctrine has been all but non-existent. Churches are not interested in merging to preserve and develop the glorious truth of Scripture. Doctrine is ignored. Confessions are pretty much shoved aside. For the road to union is paved with pious platitudes, hypocritical compromises, cynical disregard for truth and righteousness. What kind of church does that produce?