Rev. E. Knott’s Position Regarding Re-Union in Question.
Under the “title “The Long, Hard Road to Church Re-Union” Dr. Peter Y. De Jong informs us in the April, 1960 issue of Torch and Trumpet of his reactions to the position expressed by the Rev. E. Knott in theReformed Guardian respecting the proposed reunion of the Christian Reformed Church and the Protestant Reformed Churches (De Wolf group).
Our readers have been informed from time to time of the fact that committees of the two above named groups have been meeting with a view to ironing out the obstacles that appear to subsist between them, which if removed, will open the way to ultimate reunion.
Dr. De Jong informs his readers that though the Christian Reformed press has been almost silent on the activities of these committees, the Reformed Guardian is rather prolific in its utterances on the subject. Dr. De Jong, it appears, does not feel very strongly for the position of Rev. Knott which the latter revealed in the Reformed Guardian. Dr. De Jong reveals Knott’s position in the following paragraph:
“After expressing his reaction again to the Three Points of 1924, the Rev. Knott raises the question whether reunion should take place at once even if the Christian Reformed Church should decide to ‘remove the three points as a condition for membership.’ He rejects the view that then ‘reunion would be automatic and immediate,’ arguing instead that such a step would ‘open the possibility for real discussion with the Christian Reformed Church.’ Because of the presence of ‘different emphases’ in the two denominations, arising from different convictions on the labor problem, divorce and remarriage, ‘woman suffrage, and the authority of classis and synod, he suggests entering into a sister-church relationship during which all these and possibly other differences would be discussed before organic union could be consummated.”
Dr. De Jong expresses his position as follows:
“Much as we appreciate the defense of basic doctrinal agreement as a necessary condition for reunion, we wonder whether the course suggested by the Rev. Knott could ever prove fruitful. As long as the substance of the decisions of 1924 is regarded as suspect by the Protestant Reformed brethren, serious consideration on their part to reunion with the Christian Reformed Church appears very unlikely. Should unanimity of ’emphasis’ be required, all hope of reunion will vanish like summer morning mist. Unity among Reformed believers has never implied uniformity of opinion on all matters. Although apt to be misapplied, the motto ‘In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity’ may well serve as our guide along this thorny path of seeking understanding. If and when the two churches can agree on what are the essentials, then differences of emphasis need not stand in the way of reunion. Within the framework of the confessional standards there is room for differences. These will be better understood, evaluated, and appreciated by becoming one than by going our separate ways.”
In respect to the above quotations we remark, first of all, that it appears that Rev. Knott in distinction from the rest of his colleagues stands practically alone. If the rumors we hear are correct, then most of those who left us in the recent schism are ready and eager to return to the Christian Reformed Church. But, Knott has serious objections. Not only is he dubious about the matter of accepting the Three Points, but he fears that even if the Christian Reformed Church should remove these Three Points to open the way for their return, there are still obstacles of just as great proportions which they will have to hurdle before he is ready for reunion. Rev. Knott sees, and I believe correctly, that since 1924 the Christian Reformed Church has developed in the way of error in other directions. They have taken a very weak position in respect to worldly labor unions. They have gone off the track in regard to the matter of divorce and remarriage of divorced persons, and other matters. Rev. Knott would rather discuss these matters as well as the initial difference on the common grace question at greater length before he is ready to be organically one again with the Christian Reformed Church. Whether Rev. Knott will be able to maintain his position in the face of majority opposition in his group will have to be seen.
In the second place, it appears that Dr. De Jong does not like Rev. Knott’s interference in the attempts at reunion. In fact he is sure that if the negotiating committees give heed to Knott’s plea to consider all the differences then he sees no hope of reunion at all. He says “as long as the substance of the decisions of 1924 is regarded as suspect by the Protestant Reformed brethren, serious consideration on their part to reunion with the Christian Reformed Church appears very unlikely.” What does he mean by “the substance of the decisions of 1924”? I understand this to mean the doctrine of common grace as set forth in the Three Points. You may change a word here or there if it does not suit you, but don’t monkey with the doctrine. You must embrace the doctrine of common grace and never question it if you will be one with us. If that is what Dr. De Jong means, and I think he does, then he says exactly what the Christian Reformed Church synod said to our synod when we asked them for a conference. They don’t want rehearsals. They don’t want to be shown where the doctrine of common grace is in error. You can be one with them only if you agree on the basis of that doctrine. If that is De Jong’s position and the position of the Christian Reformed Church then, of course, there will be no reunion so long as the Three Points are regarded as suspect.
But how does this coincide with the other statement of De Jong, namely, “within the framework of the confessional standards there is room for differences”? It seems to me that if the confessional standards determine that there is such a thing as common grace, then there is no room left for differences. That was the position of the Christian Reformed Church in 1924 when they cast out men who differed with the church on this question. And apparently that is still the position of the church. Why then speak of room for differences? Moreover, it is also a question what he means by “differences of emphasis” and “non-essentials.” Maybe Rev. Knott would like to ask him that question too. Does this mean matters such as labor unions, divorce and remarriage, etc.?
“Rome Speaks With Authority.”
Such is the title of one of the editorials appearing in the April issue of the Christian Herald, written by Daniel A. Poling.
The editorial informs us that the first diocesan ecclesiastical council ever held in Rome was held under direction of Pope John XXIII on January 24.
The Pope endorsed certain recommendations of the council which will be published in the form of a “constitution” and which will be fundamental law of the diocese of Rome.
We are told that the news releases from Rome carried the statement, “Although the new rules will be valid only for the Rome diocese, it is expected that other dioceses throughout the world will follow suit.”
The editor informs us that “of particular interest to Protestants are the articles of this ‘constitution’ which apply to ‘all Catholic laymen.’ As published in the New York Times, they are:
1. Obligated on pain of excommunication to enact no laws harmful to the Church.
2. Forbidden to read publications inspired by Protestantism, illuminism, existentialism, atheism or materialism.
3. Forbidden to take part in services, sermons or discussions of non-Catholic cults or in sessions of spiritism, magic or divination.
4. Liable to excommunication if they join or vote for political parties or persons that promote heretical principles or doctrines, even though they may not go so far as apostasy and atheism.
5. Subject to excommunication also if they back doctrines or views in contrast with the Catholic dogmas in the press, in lectures or in public speeches.”
The editorial closes with “And finally, as of the TimesJan. 27, ‘Catholics should deal with social questions on the basis of the Church’s teaching and may not favor political or other organizations condemned by it.’ ”
It certainly appears from the above there is a concerted attempt on the part of Roman Catholicism to dominate the State. And incidentally, though Poling does not mention it, it seems that these articles of the “constitution” have reference to the tiff between Dr. Poling and Senator John Kennedy concerning which Poling has written rather prolifically of late, both in theChristian Herald and in his autobiography entitled,Mine Eyes Have Seen.
Having lately finished the preparation of the material that must appear in the Yearbook which will find its place in the Acts of the forthcoming synod of our churches, and comparing the figures with those appearing in The Banner of March 25 under the title “Statistical Information” which sums up the facts concerning the Christian Reformed Church, we consider the work involved negligible and the figures of almost no account. The following comparison will show you what we mean:
Families – 661
Increase in Families over 1959 – 14
Communicants — 1,447
Total Souls — 2,774
Congregations – 19
Ministers (active) – 15
Vacant Churches – 5
Catechumens – 826
Sunday School Enrollment – 491
Emeriti Ministers – 1
Missionaries – 1
Families — 52,689
Increase in Families over 1959 — 1,361
Communicants — 124,268
Total Souls — 236,145
Congregations – 541
Ministers (active) – 442
Vacant Churches – 94
Catechumens — 48,744
Sunday School Enrollment — 64,287
Emeriti Ministers – 72
Missionaries — 92
The above is only a partial report of both churches. Many other facts of statistical interest appear in the reports. But this will suffice to show that as far as size is concerned the Protestant Reformed Churches do not weigh much on the scale of numbers. It is perhaps for that reason that the church world about us does not appear to reckon with us.
We have not called your attention to these facts in order to scare the little band of Protestant Reformed Churches which may be compared to a Gideon’s band. The reader may remember that the Lord was not pleased to use a huge army in Gideon’s day to fight the Midianites, but depreciated the host down to a mere 300 to accomplish His purpose and reveal His strength. We believe we are such a little band holding forth the sword of the Lord which is the truth He has so graciously entrusted to our hand to wield.