“We propose that our Synod send a letter . . . which contains, among other things, the following: 1. A request that our two denominations be reunited only upon the basis of the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity . . .”
“We do urge Synod . . . To propose . . . that . . . the three points should not be made a binding document and a standard for church unity; but that contact be sought on the basis of Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity alone . . .”
“The Consistory . . . comes to your gathering with the earnest plea . . . That our two denominations be reunited on the basis of the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity . . .”
What do such statements mean?
It is quite evident what the statements as such mean. The Church of God must be united on the basis of the Word of God and of the Three Forms of Unity, the Heidelberg Catechism, The Netherlands Confession and the Canons of Dordrecht. The Word of God is and must be the rule of our life and the basis for our church affiliation. But there are hundreds upon hundreds of ways in which the Infallible Word of God is interpreted. And we believe that the only correct and Divinely approved interpretation is the one you will find in the Three Forms of Unity. To adopt anything more than that is to adopt the lie. To deny any part of that is to deny a part of the truth. And churches that agree that these Three Forms of Unity are the pure and unadulterated interpretation of the Word of God not only may but by all means must join together as one denomination. We find no fault therefore with the statements above as far as their literal expression is concerned. Would to God that our denomination could and would join with this same denomination referred to above, the Christian Reformed Church, upon the basis of the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity. The angels in heaven would rejoice in that, and we would with them.
But when we ask the question, What does that mean? we are speaking in the full consciousness that something new has been added which is not simply an additional interpretation of some unexplained or partially explained phase of the truth of Scripture not sufficiently covered by tie Three Forms of Unity, but as something that, conflicts with the doctrine of those Three Forms and mean’s a denial of it and of the scriptures upon which they are based.
That is the sad yet very real state of affairs.
What can it mean then, in light of this fact, that reunion is sought upon the Basis of the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity? In itself it could mean a demand that the three points be retracted and declared to be the lie and on that basis reunion could be realized upon the basis of the Word of God and the Confessions. However this is not the case at all. Those who left us have no doubt in their minds that this will not be accomplished. The Contact Committee gained absolutely nothing in that respect at all. But instead concern has been expressed and published that the committee yielded and embraced that lie, at least in part. Which indeed is the case. When upon that background the statements are made and advice to the classis and synod is submitted that a reunion be realized upon nothing more than the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity, then that becomes a very big question to ask, What does that mean?
Does it mean, You let us in without signing those three points and we promise not to agitate against them? You demand nothing more of us than that we declare that we believe the Word of God, as interpreted in the Three Forms of Unity, to be the true and perfect doctrine unto salvation, and we promise not to argue about your three points? We will let you believe what you wish about the grace of God if only you let us also believe what we wish about that grace. We can still be united on all the rest. And we will bring our children to you to be taught, and we will not contradict what you teach them. We promise not to interfere with your work amongst our children and grandchildren, if only you let us have your church roof over us. What is under that roof, we do not agree with, surely not wholeheartedly; but to be under your roof we desire, and our children better look out for themselves. If they can harmonize the three points with the Three Forms of Unity and Scripture, we will not argue with them either. We promise you, you please promise us.
Is there any possibility that this plea will be heeded?
Time alone will tell. No one at present is in a position to say whether such a door is to be made through the “three-points-wall” or not. It surely is in the realm of the probable. There may be an assist from another faction in the denomination, one that seeks the same thing from a different angle and for a different reason.
But reunion on that basis is impossible.
In the abstract such a reunion can be made. Tolerance of divergent views can be practiced. An undenominational attitude can be practiced even in a denomination. People with fiercely opposing views can be very democratic in their church life and respect the other fellow’s opinion without believing a part of it. The spirit of “live and let live” even seems quite the teaching of Jesus Himself.
But before God such a reunion may not be accomplished. In His fear there is union only on the truth. And those who believe the three points to be the truth of the Word of God must before God’s face and for conscience’ sake demand it of every single member who comes to reside under the roof of that church. And those who before God are convinced that this is the lie may not be silent about it, may not â€• as we said last time â€• subject their children to it and support it with their contributions and presence. The very desire to keep silence, and the promise of either side to keep silence and to tolerate the other view is to militate against these very Three Forms of Unity and the Word of God. Articles XXVII through XXIX of the Netherlands Confession have something very definite to say about this matter of reunion and ought to be read thoughtfully and carefully by all who fear that reunion and rebel in their souls at the very thought.
Besides, there is a denomination that subscribes to the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity that does not have the three points and will never demand signing them of you. In fact they will ask you to repudiate them instead of confess them. And you need not raise that argument that they have the Declaration of Principles. This they do have but not as a fourth form, and not as something that contradicts and denies the Scriptures of the Three Forms of Unity. And its strong stand in regard to these three points of “common grace” ought to please you highly and assure you that in these churches the desire to preach and maintain the truth of God’s Word still, by His grace, is to be found. We suggest that you read once again that document, and we assure you that you will not need to sign it to be a member in our denomination. But it will reveal to you what is being taught in our churches. And it will give you an idea of what your children and grandchildren will be taught in these churches.
In His fear, before God’s face is there any acceptable reason why you should not seek for a church roof those churches that still repudiate the three points and all the practices which have sprung forth by their adoption, defense and acceptance as the rule of life?
What of the future? Let us assume that congregations are taken into the Christian Reformed denomination intact, but the congregation has no minister. She calls one from the greater denomination. But on what basis? Remember that entering in through the gate of not being bound by the three points, no agitation against this theory may be voided or practiced. You have not signed, but your new minister has, and he is full of that doctrine. Will you really find a reunion or a resumption of the old battle? And the individual who enters through that door, if he does not find a resumption of the battle will find that it is due only to the fact that he has changed and that he was more concerned with a church roof than the truth after all. And the ministers . . . .?? To be accepted and to be welcomed, will they be able to be positive or evasive? Will they have a message or struggle for forty-five minutes to avoid a message, to please man or to please God? Dr. Peter Y. De Jong, in the Torch and Trumpet of April, 1960, writes on page four, “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.” Will these ministers agree with Dr. De Jong that this matter of “common grace” is not an essential but a difference of emphasis? Then it has not been a reunion on the basis of Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity but on the basis accepting the Arminian-emphasis of the three points. We say again, Reunion on the basis of the Word of God and the Confessions is impossible between a group that denies the theory of “common grace” because it is contrary to the Scripture and Confessions and a group that holds to these three points as the proper interpretation of Scripture and the Confession.
Or does it mean that once inside the Christian Reformed Church through the door of non-binding-three points it is yet your intent to oppose that theory of “common grace” and to continue to warn your children against it? To ask to be allowed to come in without signing the three points is one thing, to deny those in their own church the right to maintain and propagate their view is quite another thing. In His fear we advise you to be honest with the Christian Reformed brethren. They have a right to know and to ask you before you join what you are going to do and promise to do in regard to the instruction they will give to your children. Entering in by their good graces without agreeing to anything more than the statement that you subscribe wholeheartedly to the truth of Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity, you will have to concede their right to their own interpretation of that Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity. And you know that their interpretation is expressed in their three points. To substantiate those three points they quote from the Scripture and the Confessions. You may not deny them the right to teach in their own sphere what they believe to be the truth. And you do not simply come in without signing. Consider that those three points are not simply a wall through which you must enter and having entered you are through with them. They are the whole city behind that wall. All within the city is characterized by those three points. We say again, Be honest with the Christian Reformed brethren. You want to be in the city, under the whole roof and not simply get through a wall. Be sure for God’s sake that you enter for the good of His Church. Be sure for your own sake that you enter for your spiritual wellbeing and growth in faith and righteousness. Be sure for your children’s sake and their faith and covenant joy. Be sure for the Christian Reformed brethren’s sake so that you deal honestly with them and seek their good and peace and prosperity.
If in His fear, if before God’s face you cannot and may not repudiate the statements that separate us since 1953 and confess that you have been deceived, then be sure that you belong in that city built upon the three points and consider that this theory of “common grace” is more than a wall. It is the whole city. If you belong in that city, seek to get in as soon as possible. Only go through the gate in broad daylight and only because you believe that there and there alone will you live and thrive to the praise of the glory of God’s grace. Only because there and there only your children will grow up in His fear and thrive as covenant seed. Do not deceive yourselves, and do not try to deceive the Christian Reformed Church. No good can come from that. Unite on their basis or continue a separate existence. But better still, reunite with us in the repudiation of all well meaning offers of salvation to all who hear the preaching of the gospel and all conditional promises to all who hear that preaching of the gospel. In His fear what other course is open to you? May God grant the grace and courage and the joy of such a reunion.