GKN Synod Spends Much Time With Kuitert
The following is a quotation from the RES News Exchange Letter of Jan. 6, 1976, Vol. XIII, No. 1, page 1136:
(Grand Rapids) Kuitert’s theology was a central topic in the synodical meetings of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (GKN) during the latter part of November of the past year. A synodical committee presented a rather lengthy analysis of the thought of Prof. Kuitert. The report concluded that Prof. Kuitert favored the suspension of all ties to the confessions as practiced in the Reformed churches, for he regards this as a dead-end, a way of defending the truth which is in conflict with the “in part” of man’s knowledge of God. It also raised questions regarding Kuitert’s emphasis on the human form of Scripture. The committee proposed that synod ask Prof. Kuitert to answer questions on five different points of his theology. The synod, however, shied away from this course in the fear that it resembled the beginning of a disciplinary process. It wished to continue the theological discussions without hanging the Damoclean. sword over Dr. Kuitert’s head. Strong disappointment was also expressed at the committee’s failure to conduct further discussions with Kuitert on the contents of its report. Finally, the matter of Kuitert was referred back to committee so that such discussion could take place.
A full day was devoted to the discussion of Prof. Kuitert’s latest book Zonder Geloof Vaart Niemand Wel—None Fares Well Without Faith, H.V, (reviewed in RES News Exchange 10/8/74). Reactions ranged from praise to, strong critique. The purpose of the book, Kuitert explained, was to try to approach and explain the attractiveness of the Christian faith from the viewpoint of secular man. He wished to show that Christianity is a faith and not a superstition. To do this, he asserted, he could not very well argue from the basis of the authority of Scripture for this is to argue out of the world of faith. “My book” he claimed, “stands in the Reformed tradition.” And he compared his effort to explain faith with that of Herman Bavinck. Several letters objecting to Kuitert’s role as a pre-advisor to Synod were dismissed by the synod since the grounds were inextricably associated with the whole issue of Kuitert’s theology. To exclude him would be to prejudice him. Moreover, at the beginning of synod, it was pointed out, Prof. Kuitert had indicated his agreement with the confessions.
In order to continue the theological debate on a non-disciplinary level, the GKN Synod also planned a conference for the beginning of 1976 in which the diverse viewpoints would be expounded by various spokesmen.
Envisioned is not so much a polemical skirmish as a positive exposition of their central concerns. Previously such debate occurred only at the instance of, an official protest and then under the aura of a disciplinary investigation. The format of a conference hopes to avoid such an atmosphere. (RES News Exchange 1/6/76).
In connection with the above quotation, we have the following comments. In the first place, we read that Prof. Kuitert had indicated at the beginning of synod that he was in agreement with the confessions. However, this report states that Prof. Kuitert favored the suspension of all ties to the confessions as practiced in the Reformed churches, for he regards this a deadend, a way of defending the truth which is in conflict with the “in part” of man’s knowledge of God. Besides, Prof. Kuitert is simply not in agreement with our reformed confessions. He is certainly not in agreement with what our confessions set forth in regard to the creation and fall of man as set forth inGenesis 2 and Genesis 3. And how can a man with the beliefs of Prof. Kuitert serve as an advisor to a reformed synod? Finally, we must never allow a heretic to tell us what he believes. Prof. Kuitert assured the synod that he was in agreement with the reformed confessions. Of course! A heretic will never tell you that he is not a heretic. A synod will never be able to cope with him along these lines. How weak of a synod to refuse to begin disciplinary action!
Secondly, the GKN Synod also planned a conference for the beginning of 1976 in which the diverse viewpoints would be expounded by various spokesmen. To me, this is hopeless. Prof. Kuitert will also attend this conference? He will attend as one of several reformed spokesmen?
One more thing. Prof. Kuitert asserted that he could not very well argue from the basis of the authority of Scripture for this is to argue out of the world of faith. So, there you have it. My question is this: if Prof. Kuitert argue not out of the world of faith, upon what basis will he argue? There is no such thing as neutrality. The only alternative to faith is unbelief. The only alternative to the acceptance of the authority of Scripture is the denial of the authority of the written Word of God. There is no position between them.
Five Churches Finalize NAPARC
We pass on to our readers the following news item as it appeared in the same RES News Exchange Letter of Jan. 6, 1976, page 1138:
FIVE CHURCHES FINALIZE NAPARC
(Grand Rapids) Representatives from the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (WNA), met in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, to formally constitute the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC).
The constitution and by-laws had earlier been approved by the Synod/Assembly of each of the churches. The council is an organization of Calvinistic/Reformed churches for the purpose of facilitating discussion and consultation on those issues and problems that divide them as well as on those they face in common and promoting cooperation wherever possible.
Also present were representatives from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARJ?) which had hoped to be one of the founding churches of NAPARC. But because members have to be approved separately by each of the Synods/ Assemblies of the member churches, the ARP application cannot be finalized for at least two years.
A suggestion of the RPCES to strengthen the NAPARC statement on biblical infallibility was referred to a study committee. NAPARC took note of and encouraged the work of the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship (see story on page 1135).
Chairman of the council is Rev. John P. Galbraith (OPC), secretary in Rev. J. Baron Payne (RIVES), and treasurer is Albert A. Be1 (CRC). (RES News Exchange 1/6/76)
Local Conferences Planned by NPRF
To the above we may add the following, appearing in the same RES News Exchange Letter, page 1135:
LOCAL CONFERENCES PLANNED BY NPRF
(Grand Rapids) Meeting in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the Board of the National Presbyterian and Reformed Fellowship planned a series of conferences on the Reformed faith for the Bicentennial year. The conferences will be built around a nucleus of recognized authorities in various aspects of Reformed faith and life. A list of these speakers will be made available to local committees in order that two-day meetings may be arranged in different localities on a wide range of topics. At present conferences have already been projected for Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Miami.
The Board also elected a new president. Rev. Edward Heerema, a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church, replaces Rev. G. Aiken Taylor, the editor of The Presbyterian Journal. (RES News Exchange l/6/76)
It will be interesting to follow developments of this movement. Incidentally, as far as these conferences are concerned, may I suggest that our churches could supply speakers who can give some truly reformed speeches.
Lower and Higher Criticism
In the Reformed Journal, Harry R. Boer writes on the subject: The humanity of the Bible. In the issue of December, 1975, page 23, he writes:
There is a hiatus to be bridged between the original manuscripts of the Bible and the copied manuscripts which we at present have. The bridging of that gap is the task of lower or textual criticism. But there is an equally significant gap between the way the writers’ contemporaries were expected to read these writings and the manner in which we, after more than nineteen centuries, can understand them. The bridging of this cultural, literary, historical, social, religious, and other kind of gap is the task of higher criticism.
So, the church has two tasks: lower and higher criticism. We concede the task of lower criticism. The church surely has the task of attempting to determine which text is more in harmony with the original, inspired manuscript. But higher criticism means that we sit in judgment upon the Word of God and then determine which parts of the Bible are to be accepted as authoritative for our doctrine and life and which parts are to be rejected. And this is surely not the task of the church of God.